Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Day of Miracles

It seems that today is now becoming more remembered as the day of this miracle, instead of the one that produced the father of this nation. There's a nice little write-up here. (It's not long. I promise it won't hurt...you can do it.) I'm tempted to rant, or at least lament the fact that what was once a holiday to honor the man had to be combined with another one of a fairly influential commander-in-chief to produce yesterday's ambiguously nondescript day off. But I won't. No one cares but me...

Moving on...briefly. I don't feel enough people fully understand the depravity and utter uselessness of the United Nations. Wait, it's worse than useless it seems, detrimental, yes, let's go with that. Top-level officials getting handsy is one thing. But your "peacekeepers" requiring sex from pre-pubescent girls for two eggs or a loaf of bread is quite another. You can do the former and we might still elect you President, but the latter has me thinking one might deserve a little less prestigious station. Like...oh...I don't know...Hell? And not the comfortable Hell, either. My theology may be a little off there, but God is a just God so surely He's got something worked up. Provided my prayers for they're souls don't work....of course. Oh, and lest you just think the "peacekeepers" in this story are some over-the-edge soldiers, the civilian "senior UN worker Didier Bourguet, who was thought to be among the worst offenders..." was caught red-handed.

What else does the U.N. need to do to prove its ineffectiveness? Let a vicious dictator rule for over a decade while ignoring threats of action....oh wait...and then assist said dictator in laundering money while keeping a chunk for yourself? Allow genocide of the highest order to go on in Africa?...Dangit (Of course you would have to ask, "Which time?"). Funding terrorist activities?...I promise I'll find one sooner or later.

But until then...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Rise of Evil

Ok, I think I've made valid attempts to explain why the "blogosphere" is good, or at least could be...like here, for instance. There seems to be a new cry from the rooftops. I don't like...and more importantly, it makes no sense. Basically, that blogs will be the downfall of journalism, a dog-eat-dog world gone mad that would sink to the level of accusations and counter-accusations with little news ever seeing the light of day. A couple of examples are Mark Cuban's most recent entry, and an unsigned piece in the Wall Street Journal. Mark compares political bloggers to paparazzi, the Journal piece paints blogs as "...the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs," and contrasts itself to bloggers by stating "...we make grown-up decisions about what is newsworthy, and what isn't." That's right, they're grown-ups and the Hewitt's and Instapundit's are just kids messing their diapers in the sandbox. Hardly. As Mr. Hewitt states in his column on The Weekly Standard website (that sounds moderately respectable, no?) these accusations smack of jealousy and disregard that, while the may not have attended J-school, many bloggers credentials greatly outweigh the scribes, even Jayson Blair, but I digress.

As I was pondering the best way to defend the "blogosphere" I came across this, in which Peggy Noonan does it for me(ironically, in the Wall Street Journal). I give you some of the highlights since I know clicking the link is so damnably hard for some of you...

-"The bloggers have that freedom. They have the still pent-up energy of a liberated citizenry, too. The MSM doesn't. It has lost its old monopoly on information. It is angry.

But MSM criticism of the blogosphere misses the point, or rather points.

Blogging changes how business is done in American journalism. The MSM isn't over. It just can no longer pose as if it is The Guardian of Established Truth. The MSM is just another player now. A big one, but a player."

"The blogosphere isn't some mindless eruption of wild opinion. That isn't their power. This is their power:

1. They use the tools of journalists (computer, keyboard, a spirit of inquiry, a willingness to ask the question) and of the Internet (Google, LexisNexis) to look for and find facts that have been overlooked, ignored or hidden. They look for the telling quote, the ignored statistic, the data that have been submerged. What they are looking for is information that is true. When they get it they post it and include it in the debate. This is a public service.

2. Bloggers, unlike reporters at elite newspapers and magazines, are independent operators. They are not, and do not have to be, governed by mainstream thinking. Nor do they have to accept the directives of an editor pushing an ideology or a publisher protecting his friends. Bloggers have the freedom to decide on their own when a story stops being a story. They get to decide when the search for facts is over. They also decide on their own when the search for facts begins. It was a blogger at the World Economic Forum, as we all know, who first reported the Eason Jordan story. It was bloggers, as we all know, who pursued it. Matt Drudge runs a news site and is not a blogger, but what was true of him at his beginning (the Monica Lewinsky story, he decided, is a story) is true of bloggers: It's a story if they say it is. This is a public service.

3. Bloggers have an institutional advantage in terms of technology and form. They can post immediately. The items they post can be as long or short as they judge to be necessary. Breaking news can be one sentence long: "Malkin gets Barney Frank earwitness report." In newspapers you have to go to the editor, explain to him why the paper should have another piece on the Eason Jordan affair, spend a day reporting it, only to find that all that's new today is that reporter Michelle Malkin got an interview with Barney Frank. That's not enough to merit 10 inches of newspaper space, so the Times doesn't carry what the blogosphere had 24 hours ago. In the old days a lot of interesting information fell off the editing desk in this way. Now it doesn't. This is a public service.

4. Bloggers are also selling the smartest take on a story. They're selling an original insight, a new area of inquiry. Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles has his bright take, Andrew Sullivan had his, InstaPundit has his. They're all selling their shrewdness, experience, depth. This too is a public service.

5. And they're doing it free. That is, the Times costs me a dollar and so does the Journal, but Kausfiles doesn't cost a dime. This too is a public service. Some blogs get their money from yearly fund-raising, some from advertisers, some from a combination, some from a salary provided by Slate or National Review. Most are labors of love. Some bloggers--a lot, I think--are addicted to digging, posting, coming up with the bright phrase. OK with me. Some get burned out. But new ones are always coming up, so many that I can't keep track of them and neither can anyone else.
...That you get it free doesn't mean commerce isn't involved, for it is. It is intellectual commerce. Bloggers give you information and point of view. In return you give them your attention and intellectual energy. They gain influence by drawing your eyes; you gain information by lending your eyes. They become well-known and influential; you become entertained or informed. They get something from it and so do you.

6. It is not true that there are no controls. It is not true that the blogosphere is the Wild West. What governs members of the blogosphere is what governs to some degree members of the MSM, and that is the desire for status and respect. In the blogosphere you lose both if you put forward as fact information that is incorrect, specious or cooked. You lose status and respect if your take on a story that is patently stupid. You lose status and respect if you are unprofessional or deliberately misleading. And once you've lost a sufficient amount of status and respect, none of the other bloggers link to you anymore or raise your name in their arguments. And you're over. The great correcting mechanism for people on the Web is people on the Web.

There are blogs that carry political and ideological agendas. But everyone is on to them and it's mostly not obnoxious because their agendas are mostly declared.

7. I don't know if the blogosphere is rougher in the ferocity of its personal attacks than, say, Drew Pierson. Or the rough boys and girls of the great American editorial pages of the 1930s and '40s. Bloggers are certainly not as rough as the splenetic pamphleteers of the 18th and 19th centuries, who amused themselves accusing Thomas Jefferson of sexual perfidy and Andrew Jackson of having married a whore. I don't know how Walter Lippman or Scotty Reston would have seen the blogosphere; it might have frightened them if they'd lived to see it. They might have been impressed by the sheer digging that goes on there. I have seen friends savaged by blogs and winced for them--but, well, too bad. I've been attacked. Too bad. If you can't take it, you shouldn't be thinking aloud for a living. The blogosphere is tough. But are personal attacks worth it if what we get in return is a whole new media form that can add to the true-information flow while correcting the biases and lapses of the mainstream media? Yes. Of course."

You should read the whole thing, or at least what's left of it.

If you're still one of those that sneers at the blogs while thinking the nightly broadcast, CNN, and the fat newspaper are the real news; you might want to rethink that. You can be well informed, and you can be a media snob. But soon you may not be able to be both.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Give up...

Well, I'm gonna try something new. Basically, try not to be so married to the essay. I fatigue easily. Plus, at least there will be something here with a date attached that's within two weeks of today's date.

Couple of things.

One. The blogs have done it again. A CNN executive had to resign because he said some things he shouldn't have and the blogs found out and wouldn't let it go. Here's a pretty decent rundown of how things went down. This is just one more in the long line of reasons that everything that happens at a major media outlet should be questioned. If not for the reason that some of the guys seem to have some very un-American ideas, then for the mere fact that reporters at these institutions found out about this story after I did.

Two. Just read this. American needs to protect itself because no one else seems to be able to completely commit to this whole liberty thing.

Three. (Random office happening) This morning at the coffeepot, my boss filled his cup, then I mine. This left the only non-decaffeinated pot with one cup worth of coffee. I began dutifully refilling the maker so a fresh pot could be brewed. As I was doing so, a fellow employee walked up, cup in hand. He struck up a conversation with my boss as he waited for me to exit the area. As this is going on, another fellow employee approaches, steps in front of the other guy and around me, grabs a cup, and proceeds to finish off the pot and walks away. I was semi-shocked. As someone who has been tagged at times as a grade-A jackass, I would never do such a thing, and if I got so far as pouring the cup, I would offer it up or apologize profusely for my inconsiderate actions. So the question is: does this mean maybe I don't rise to the level of upper jack-assdom, or… am I just second?

Oh well. Gotta go. You should probably go buy some candy or flowers or something.