Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Primal Progress and the Addiction: A Draft

“And you Mr. Speaker, cannot say you love freedom and permit this genocide to occur!�

“I, sir, do not compromise my belief in freedom Senator! Rather, you are the one doing so by not allowing such an action to take place. I am a patriot!� he said, with a strong hand to the desk to match rhetoric – which shook his gold trimmed pen from a gentle position on the paper bed,

where the head rest as another night comes to an end – after a long, long, day confined to specialized routines with no escape and no room for non-specifics, for ‘other things’. Around the room, hang the paintings of modernists. Life as a liquid, roll on the floor as the small, apartment dog, licks the wetness around the outer lip of the bottle – chasing it slowly around the room in a slow, methodical fashion. The tongue licks were counted in beat – one lick, two licks…

…three votes, four votes in dissent. [time elapses] seventy votes, [time elapses] the entire country has voted.

And on the news today a voice has dissented, and the popular motion has exploded and imploded as the individuals confront disunity.

“Why did you vote for genocide?� the reporter asks. Another one fires an arrow. “Why have you voted against these atrocities?� an angel asks another, and in the background the contrary argument builds again. Another sigh.

“And these students,� says the dignified teacher, “are both sides of the argument. I present no wrongs to you, the unlearned, so you may learn better,� she explains as she clasps both sides of the oversized teacher’s edition book and graciously closes it with a smile. “But why do they fight?� asks the innocence. A smile comes, and though tears are shed, time heals. Finally, Friday has come.

Another weekend passes, and the passion was good on the pillow where rest occupied last weekend. The sensations were better than the animal’s of last week which were heard while drifting to sleep – an advancement, yes – yet with no proof. Another day – greeted with a different smell but the same shallow sunlight and space to roll over. The brain feels lighter, the circumstances less complicated and simply eliminated… gone, through time. With a toll, the drink has mastered time travel.

Back to the Future was a lovable classic, and memories could thrive over and over in the mind. This wasn’t something worth watching at two in the afternoon though, besides, the ending never really changes. The news was a thought exploration for a minute. The remote raises. How does one confront the world around oneself?

And instantly the chemicals were dropped through the push of the button, extinguishing a culture and a whole civilization. Lives lost, destroyed – never to be remade again. Click - onto another channel.

Doctors say the brain loses thousands of cells which can never be replaced every time a drink is consumed. They all signed documents, proving their lives work which is made ‘available upon request’. After all, they couldn’t just give it to everyone could they? Would the document be ---

--- on the next channel, a reporter described the view of a Senator, walking out of the hall in protest of the lives lost – the highest move a Senator could have done.

Meanwhile, in the living room – the hand raises again, with a remote attached to turn off the madness. The dog jumped up to chance of connectivity and brought the leash over. “Perhaps a trip to the store would satisfy my needs… the dog could come.� The tie-out lay dormant in the backyard.

In the park, the dog procreated with another after a brief barking match, and he laughed at the speed in which the simple animal did such a thing before reaching contention. She laughed at the ridiculousness of their lives – the animals that is. Looking around, on the calm day, the mind recalled the experience last night as the breeze blew. He relived the intimacy of his meeting and he relived the grinding – the finger nails gently grasping the back of his neck, the drink, and the loss of time. She relived the care in his touch, the warmth, the connectivity and the repetitive merging with what they wanted, over and over.

The dog pulled on the leash, (the captivater) trying in desperation to sniff another blade of grass and see another piece of the big world… and the single, free human, followed.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

A Journalist Perspective: On Newspapers and Modernity

So I might want to be a journalist later in life. I like to write. I like to seek the truth. Yet as I stick a finger into the water, I can sometimes be repulsed by the contamination that has occurred through the years. What has happened to the journalism world? I will speak as a journalist in this piece.

In order to answer this, I will ask you first to look at society at large. What has happened to the business world? What has happened to politics? What is happening to values and standards? Before you point the blame on journalists, look at the water you yourself drink and then ask how contaminated the journalism world is. To journalism’s benefit, we are often self critical and after we take a hit, we are not afraid to bash ourselves for problems. This was seen in all the editorials written nationwide after the Judy Miller issue. If a journalist is found guilty of violating ethics, his or her career is ruined for good. Do you see Martha Stewart agreeing to wrongs and eliminating herself from the spotlight? Or instead do you see her newest show being promoted on NBC’s “Apprentice� show a few weeks before she gets released from Prison? I saw the latter. Politics also has become a problem too - look at Tom Delay. Popular culture is no different as well and the media in particular, is responsible for a lot of problems. Keep in mind though, the "media" is different than the "journalism world". Yet I cannot let journalism off the hook here...

It appears in this country that journalists are becoming too timid, and often not confronting the authority – and sometimes ‘daydreaming’ and not even looking to authorities. For example: Bennifer, and celebrity gossip. It is also very common to see feature articles on absolutely nothing relating to modern news, but rather created purely out of a journalist’s need to appeal to an editor. What appeals to an editor to some degree I would say, is sales.

Tom Rosensteil, executive of the Project for Journalism Excellence, stated in a recent journalist forum at the University of New York, that when you look at Pew research, it’s not that people have rejected the values of journalism, or that they think checking the facts is a bad idea. What it boils down to, he argues, is people think the press does what it does to make money and not to serve the public interests – plus some think individual journalists do what they do for their own interests.

After 911, though, the New York Times was a leader in reporting strictly the news and published a paper without ads. The public responded well to this. Rosensteil believes that this type of attitude, combined with a “swashbuckling pirate press,� like how things used to be, is what this country needs to get journalism the respect it deserves. I agree.

This can be accomplished. If you look at most of the newspapers in this country, they are largely independent of the need for subscription. Say a public bombshell was dropped in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for example, the most new paper buys the Sentinel will receive is probably around 1,000. Multiply this by 50 cents for a weekly paper, or even $1.75 for a Sunday edition and the end result is at most around $1,750 dollars at most – roughly equivalent to one full page ad in a paper perhaps – depending on the market. Therefore, there is no need for papers to use yellow journalism tactics. What papers need to do instead is focus on integrity. It is a losing battle to try to go ideologically biased and win for a paper on these grounds as well. If an advertiser sees integrity and a responsive public overtime connected to the high values of a paper staff – that advertisement space will be bought. Advertisements make up roughly 70% of newspaper revenue.

There is another option as well. In this era of blogs and specialization, I see this trend as a direct result of the decline in societal values as mentioned above. As a reaction, people are frustrated and trending towards ideological isolation and contentment in their own views and the shying away from dealing with real, murky facts. A great example is Rush Limbaugh. In addition, people are trending towards general apathy and rejection of all ideology in favor of a modernist approach – which equates to specialization in the long run. A great way to counter all of this then is for some media companies to decide to cover only one specialized area of society and cover it well. One problem with journalism is that the major journalism outlets and even webpages are being controlled by relatively few corporations. Once these corporations have a monopoly, they tend to start cutting staff – leaving about 5 reporters to cover the entire city for example. The end result then is some weak reporting not very much different than one sitting in their basement with enough time on their hands can do. If we can push into the public realm a renewed sense of high level information, then journalists can reclaim their dignified position and the public will be attracted to this higher intellectualism.

Be careful in what you read from this though. The specialized area I am proposing some journalists to dive into should not be ideological and should be fair in the specific niche covered. Take perhaps the economy. The Wall Street Journal has done well to simply concentrate on financial advice and analysis and they are one of the few papers in this country to actually gain a profit from subscriptions. (However, this is in large part due to the fact that their subscribers can write a subscription off as business expenses.) Now the Wall Street Journal has so many resources that it can start to overflow into news and create an excellence there as well. Even if the Wall Street Journal is not the best example of this centering of content then, I believe this centering of a newspaper’s scope will prove to be effective – especially today as a competitor to blogs, and cable television shows. This will in turn, ensure that there is no hardcore bias one way or another, and it will give the respect back to journalists if they jump on this opportunity and devote their hours of time at work to a subject compared to an ideological banterer who simply sits down and goes off about something, then goes back to his or her full time job.

Yes, let blogging continue though. The last thing we need is one defining roles for people. If a blogger ever wants to go into the White House and report on a press conference, let him or her do it. There is nothing that states bloggers can not be journalists. But as long as bloggers continue to sit down after school or work and write about what they think or feel – they will remain blogs and editorials at best. Yes, perhaps a biased few will claim large readership – but like a game of chess, if you have a strength it means nothing if your weaknesses are in danger of being exploited to a stronger degree. Perhaps bloggers will become personalities online at best – no different than a columnist, which the paper already has many of. A paper has a job much bigger than that.

Yes, I speak of newspapers because I believe they in particular need to take control. They are in the biggest danger of extinction due to low readership and outdated ways of transferring information; however, they are also in the best position to save the journalism world as they have the most freedom and are not directly tied to modern disseminations of information like 24 hour news over cable television for example.

Enter the modern times. I think this technology explosion has temporarily put everyone in an awestruck position – much the same way a child must see the entire world if suddenly they could look from above and instantly hear everyone’s viewpoints at once. We as a society are faced with this dilemma and it is reflected in everything we do – even our art (usually the highest form of culture there is). The time has passed for us to continue dissection of what has happened as we will not be able to go back. The time now is for a progression forward no matter what, and I think this progression starts with the leapfrogging of our most outdated ideas into the forward position to lead the way. After all, what Thomas Jefferson would have chosen over government was the paper press of his day. The papers therefore have the power to change things since they started it all, and papers must do this changing again through adaptations of modernity and strong adherence to professional standards over money issues. A paper should never have any kind of ties to big business. This kind of thinking will help keep the water in the journalism world a little less dirty than that around it. Is it really possible to ever get purity?

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Combatting Popular Culture: Shields Up

I found the best way to combat popular culture is to keep it isolated from you. It is a contagious disease - to be engaged in and fought only with the adequate defense of more popular culture. Go at it yourself and suddenly you get killed, with your soul immortalized in the depths of newspaper archives and video tape. You are more than that, and you are not another trend for the economy milk for originality. Here is my reasoning on this subject, perhaps similar to yours:

Originality has always been a subject I’ve always grappled with that has been fundamental in my thinking. Now, as I progress onward into the job track – I find myself testing these values and seeing how very easy it is to contradict myself. This leaves me to say: are those who claim independence and freedom really free?

Yesterday, I found myself writing and publishing a piece of work which really had nothing to do with my own personal views – but rather – advancing the views of a politician, in order to counter another, whose demise may spell the emergence of yet another. First of all, is this really my work? I asked myself this question long and hard, and while in the long run I could see how this piece may selfishly affect me and reflect my views, I cannot say that this work was really mine. I instead found a shell of writing, highly affected by the views around it and defined as my own opinion. Do I really feel that another’s opinion is my own? Do I really want to represent my name with this piece of work in which I serve as a tool for another? I cannot answer yes.

So instead of using my own name, I chose to use a penname: my first electric guitar I ever owned. Surely, this would be distinctive and personal. Yet, the irony is now not only have I used a hollow corporate name to define myself, I have also written a hollow piece of material with no independent voice showing through. What am I other than an advertisement for others whom I share viewpoints with to some degree – who in turn have sold these to me, at a price? My vote, my time, my money - it’s all my opinion being sucked up by these machines.

Today I found how easy it is to fall from an extremist position to an easy position of conformity. How narrow these two are, yet how deep one can rebel through this mentality.

However, I can claim that despite this creation of a shell – I am still who I am inside, and I have simply manipulated the world of images around me to get what I want without personally becoming those images. I have successfully turned a mirror in essence – in order to put more focus on what I want. Rather than become sucked in personally to become the image confronting the non-human images around me, I can create a shell to step into combat with, and then emerge from that shell to deal with issues which I truly hold to my heart like spiritualism, individualism, love, originality, social justice... among other things...

So now I come back to my original proposition: Am I a ghost behind the mirrors, or a human being carefully crafting my position to manipulate the overall sum? Perhaps the answers here reflect bigger answers elsewhere.

I find that by having access to the mirrors, one has to have had the keys to get there in the first place. With myself as a guide, once inside this funhouse, the job of resistance and advocacy can take place in careful – determined shifts of a few panes of glass which even the careful eye could never decipher.

My question to the audience now is simply, do you support your popular culture funhouse? Are you shaping the house, or are the mirrors shaping you? I urge you to find the will to dive beyond these questions and through observation, create your own outlet for others who were once like you. Is this crazy talk? I ask you to decipher it in your own way, yet I urge YOU to come out on top before the mirrors are shifted and the paths lost.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

George Bush's Avian Flu Strategy Lacks Wisdom

George Bush has realized he is in danger of checkmate, and at the last minute is desperately trying to move the pieces to delay the inevitable defeat. This time, his Avian Flu game has been defeated – mostly through the action Tom Harkin (D-IA), and the rest of the Senate, including some prominent Republicans. Just what is George Bush thinking nowadays?

For months before Bush’s latest call to recognize Avian Flu, Sen. Harkin has set up an elaborate pawn structure by asking the Bush administration for their plan to address a pandemic outbreak of the avian flu, and the Bush administration failed act or see the consequences of this. Before Bush said a word about Avian Flu, the Senate struck hard at Bush’s side of the board and passed an $8 billion Harkin amendment, cosponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Barack Obama (D-IL) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) which provides antiviral drugs for 50 percent of the population; improves the ability to produce and stockpile vaccines; doubles global surveillance to prevent or slow the spread of the disease from other countries to the United States; and invests in our state and local public health infrastructure – the first line of defense if avian flu reaches our shores. This bill is in addition to a $3.9 billion amendment he attached to the military spending measures that passed through the Senate earlier.


At this point, Republican senators are left unsatisfied with Bush’s game strategy. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), recently asked the health and human services secretary, Michael Leavitt, last Wednesday, why the plan had taken years to complete.

Bush not only failed to act first, but he has sacrificed a key chess piece as states will have to foot a large bill for Avian Flu since the administration's proposed fiscal year 2006 budget slashes funding for state and local public-health departments by $129 million from the previous year's funding levels.

George Bush, in addition to failing to act quickly for Katrina, you now expect states like disaster ridden Louisiana, to pay in money and lives if Avian Flu strikes. When former President Bill Clinton was in charge and required vaccination for smallpox, he made sure states would receive federal funding to support them.


In fact, Bush has a history of cutting relief in general. Looking back to post 9/11, President Bush cut millions from money put aside for emergency relief. About two weeks ago he has said, "I encourage Congress to push the envelope when it comes to cutting spending," while he expressed approval over the passage of a House bill which cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices, with chances of cuts to food stamps and Medicaid looming in the future.

These cuts are being made through Bush’s strategic lead, to cover the expense of the after-the-fact hurricane relief costs which could have been massively reduced if President Bush had paid more attention to looming disaster in the poverty-stricken city of New Orleans in the first place.


Bush is stalling his way to an inevitable checkmate by as he plays the larger, Republican values strategy the worst possible way. As a form of advice Mr. Bush, I suggest moving all of your pieces besides one and I suggest abandoning your avian flu strategy by standing behind recent Senate action on Avian Flu to assure your few remaining pieces will survive – at least another turn. You have shown quite well how going at it alone with your key pieces while sacrificing the pawns will never work in the long run. With your Avian Flu strategy easily defeated, you have your back against a wall.

My biggest hope is that Republicans will realize when Bush’s newest strategies are failing ones, by being able to recognize when a move is actually a losing move rather than a winning one. Failure to do this, will likely allow Bush to speed his way towards an inevitable -