Saturday, May 14, 2005

Got no reason to blog...

Georgia10 of Daily Kos has finally embarked on the waters of a blog of her own, akou (www.akou.blogspot.com) The blog is attractive and features the good writing and analysis one would expect from Georgia.

Monday, May 09, 2005

NYT accountability

Instapundit has blogged the NYT story on its report on how to establish credibility and has linked to Jeff Jarvis, who approved of most of the changes. The moves toward greater openness such as better email for reporters, having editors discuss the journalism process, and fewer anonymous sources are very welcome. Anything the paper can do to defeat plagiarism and false reporting is also welcome. The paper was doing well IMHO with its religion coverage(for example, coverage of the new Pope was good and complex), but further coverage is good, and further coverage of rural areas and red-state America is excellent. I am in terror of the new initiative to broaden arts and lifestyle coverage. I read the NYT arts and lifestyle coverage, however middlebrow, because it represents New York! The foreign arts coverage is sometimes interesting. I hope that the arts coverage does not regress to the level of the Post-Dispatch or USA Today. The NYT can also be advised to fix its proofreading. I have seen several monster errors over the last month.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Growing Up Red"

Taking a break from the continuing adventures of Charlotte Simmons (she is about to join the Millennial Mutants), we have Tim Schilke's "Growing Up Red". Mr. Schilke is known as ColdFusion04 on Daily Kos and posted a few pleadings related to said book, which he self-published. I gave him $25.00 which could have gone to two other worthy causes publicized on DKos recently, Community Prep in NYC and gregpalast.com.
Mr. Schilke is an IT guy from Milwaukee who grew up in a Republican household but changed his mind during the Gulf War of 1991 when studying journalism at Valparaiso(there is something there other than Bryce Drew :)). He has my entire sympathy, because although I supported this war more than the current war in Iraq, the triumphalist attitudes about it were very disturbing to me as well. He got up on the morning of November 4, 2004 and decided to write a book, just as I decided to write a blog. He is to be commended for the courage to write a book. If I had the thought to write one along the same lines, I would easily be dissuaded because Garrison Keillor already wrote it, it was called Homegrown Democrat, and it was five times as good as anything I could come up with. I would also say that I am not sure my values are "blue" values per se. They are academic values. To cross the line into blue values I would have to have more solidarity with the less educated members of the Democratic coalition.
The first time I sat down to read the book, it suffered from an unflattering comparison to Colm Toibin's The Master, which I had just finished. I had two reactions: he desperately needed a better editor, and this is a good warmup for advisorjim's book, which is not being self-published. Advisorjim's book, "Confessions of a Former Dittohead", has the following advantages: he believed both liberal and conservative worldviews strongly as an adult, he is often witty, and he can spin out a sustained argument, especially about financial matters where Mr. Schilke is not well-researched. Advisorjim's diary on "The Right-Wing Reasoning Chip" is worth about half of this book.
In his prologue, Mr. Schilke describes how he wrote a paper on a controversial issue for his Freshman English class. The only one he could think of was evolution vs. creationism, so he wrote that "God created the world to look like it evolved". His professor gave him a D- for not using any facts. He also states that unlike his Red relatives, he can use facts to create a conjecture. Accordingly, the book is filled with facts. I already knew most of them, but on the Patriot Act he did a fine job. This chapter is the best in the book, although the quotes from Senator Leahy are treated as if they are facts. This will not slip by any Republican. He himself is the best fact. He is a liberal because he could not accept blind partisanship, not because of any "anti-God, anti-American" prejudice that his cohorts may believe that liberals have. However, with all of his facts, he states that rational people ought to have certain Blue beliefs(which I think is clear) or he conjectures things that he cannot prove. An example is his treatment of the "Ownership Society". He states flat out that the "Ownership Society" is a society for the original owners because individuals will be loyal to their corporate property interests. However true this is from his own Republican experience, it is not the whole story. Individuals can own their skills and education or their entrepreneurship. These personal characteristics make them less dependent on corporate America and more skeptical of the way that businesses are run. A true "ownership society" would mean that the individuals own their assets regardless of which party is in power, as has been the case with Social Security for its whole history, and call the government to account for protecting the assets.
A useful part of the book was its description of how Red voters relate to politics. They have a few news sources which they trust, which includes the evening news, surprisingly enough. Mr. Schilke believes that if it is not in the evening news or on the front page of the NYT or WaPo with a picture, it didn't happen for them, and even some of the things that did happen, such as Abu Ghraib, must be explained away. I got a laugh when he mentioned that people tell him all the time, "You can't believe everything you read on the Internet". He sees his suburban voters floating on a current of anxiety about their entire lives, which Bush feeds expertly. He also sees that finding the truth is not a high value, and that people vote the way they do as a result of social pressures and do not see the point in being highly interested in politics. Of course, dumb partisanship is not unique to Red voters. The book is interesting as a compilation of arguments which he thinks these voters are not aware of.

Mis-nagid, zichrono l'bracha

I was shocked at going over to Dov Bear yesterday to find that mis-nagid had deleted his blog and his domain. Only on Sunday, I was happily posting there. Could it have been something I said? ("I won't be condescended to by blueenclave anymore, especially since she kept that herring in the wine sauce in the refrigerator through all of Pesach when her husband was supposed to eat it before then...") I was often scared to go over there because I know nothing about the DH, so I could not refute him. Also, in my current state of ignorance I can accept that the Torah of the Talmudic generation is not direct from Sinai, but that does not mean that I can read a page of Gemara. I would argue that it is more important to acquire this skill when you don't have automatic faith in the Sages than when you do, because you can see directly what they accomplished. Mis-nagid served as a reflection of my yetzer hara--I am not as frum as I could be because I am lazy, certainly, but also because I have a sneaking suspicion that it is not real, but a culture that one can accept or reject. I will learn Chumash and miss things utterly which Rashi finds important because I do not have enough concentration on why something would be phrased by G-d the way it is. I will often take repetitions as a literary device. I liked mis-nagid for his energy and his willingness to investigate things. Perhaps he got tired of it all.