Tag Archives: journalism

Truths

Have you ever noticed how much crap is out there on these here internets? Oh my Lord, so so so much crap.

But every once in a while, the crap is fantastic. Or dare I say, CRAPtastic.

I recently saw this post somewhere on some … page … somewhere …. about the worst things ever. One of them was a house centipede. You know what I am talking about, right? The bug with 1,000 legs? Moves faster than any naturally occurring creature should ever be able to move without an injection of some sort of nuclear power by-product. You see it, you grab a shoe, it is gone. And all you know now is that it is there. Somewhere. In your house.

I saw that on this list of awful things and thought — icky. Then, that night, there was one in my room. I picked up a shoe to smash it, and it was gone. An hour later it was crawling up the wall. So of course I woke up Jim to kill it. The next night — another one. The next day — A THIRD. That one was in the bathroom, and I was neekid. No shoes around! Ick. It is like that internet post created those evil bastards IN MY HOUSE. They really are one of the worst things ever, and that is the truth.

Which inspired me to think of other truths.

Truth — I have writer’s block. It is a real condition, but most people only associate it with famous writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, as if it is really only a first-world problem for the writing elite. I mean, seriously, between all the craptastic stuff out there on the internet, and in print, and in e-print or whatever you would call stuff that you can only get on an electronic device, there is SO MUCH CRAP available. It makes the idea of writer’s block seem ridiculous, because the wealth of what is out there is so immense that there is never nothing to read.

These days, everyone is reading some idiotic porn book called 50 Shades of Gray. I read an excerpt. Holy crap is it bad. They keep calling it “mommy porn” and all I can think is, why don’t these women just watch porn? You can get it for free. But my real irritation comes with the fact that someone wrote a fan fiction trilogy (read — she didn’t even come up with the idea herself, she just stole the Twilight story, added a few throbbing appendages and BAM … mommy porn) which is embarrassingly bad, and half the women in the country have decided to pick it up, read it, and covet the hell out of the characters. Meanwhile, I have writer’s block.

NOT. FAIR. Seriously ladies, just go have sex with your husbands.

My writer’s block has gotten in the way of a lot of things. It does not help that I write for a newspaper. I am getting my copy written, but it sucks. And I am pushing the deadline every week, because I cannot think of how to start a story. Headlines alone are killing me. I think I have struggled on my by-line, for Pete’s sake. I am lost in a sea of  “what the hell am I doing.” I think it is fair to say that every story I have written in the past month has been half-assed. But it is not because I am half-assing my work. It is because I am blocked.

It sounds really stupid, but when your outlet for “creativity” is writing, and you cannot write, or write well, it’s fairly maddening. Even the stupid post about the awful things — I could have written that. But I didn’t. Because I have writer’s block. I have writer’s block so bad, I am struggling to write a blog post about writer’s block.

I think I need a vacation. A week in the sun. I am frustrated. I am writing poorly. I am working poorly. I am not winning any awards any time soon.

There is a saying that applies to how some people make it though really tough times — Fake it until you make it. I think I need to take this approach. I need to bust through my writer’s block by writing like a crazy person. I need to try to work on this here blog every day.

So I am apologizing in advance. The next month (or months but Lord I seriously hope not), this blog will be disorganized, idiotic dribble, as I try to work through this blockage. I think I need to write it, and put it out there. Even when what I write is crap. Because let’s face it, it won’t be the only craptastic crap on the internet.

Truth.

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Freedom!

As most of you know, I am a writer. Not just like a “hey look at my blog” writer or even an “I have a manuscript but I cannot get it out there” writer. I’m not a writer like Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter is a writer. I am a real writer.

I work for a small town newspaper. I find that there seem to be two schools of thought on this career:

1 – It’s a weekly, six page paper that only a 3,000 people (max) read a week, it’s hardly a real journalism job.

-or-

2 – It’s old-fashioned story telling and digging up the truth, it’s as honest a journalism job as you can find.

You can imagine which of those ideals I think applies to my job.

Not too long ago, a friend of a friend on the facepage ripped me apart for my job, when I mentioned I was writing an obituary. He scoffed at me, “Oh, way to be on the OBIT desk… yeah, I did that 20 years ago… I’m sure you’ll go far.” And I was fairly stunned by the ignorance. For one thing, I was a bit taken by his overt elitism that he was simply better than the people who write obituaries. And for another thing, the obituary I was writing was for a woman named Lenore Weiss. Lenore had, with her husband John, personally rehabbed several roadside attractions along Historic Route 66 in Illinois. This woman and her husband had been credited with increasing tourism in more rural parts of Illinois that sit along the famous highway, and they had funded multiple projects, saved historic sites, got several places placed on the National Register of Historic Places, helped build a museum in Pontiac, Illinois (which is a really cool museum) and helped to create more than one annual festival along the road. She did a lot of this while she was riddled with cancer. I was not too good to write about her. If anything, I can only wonder if I did her justice.

Needless to say, that facepage guy blocked me after I said all that to him. Whatever. That’s how elitism works, I guess.

Anyway, while there is an obvious fun side to writing for a small town newspaper, it is still a job I take quite seriously. When I was a kid, I would occasionally sneak out of my room to go downstairs or into my parents bedroom to watch the 10 o’clock news. While other kids had dreams of being singers and actors and firemen and athletes, I wanted to be Mary Ann Childers. I used to record my own newscasts on my tape recorder, complete with news, sports, weather and commercials. I had several spots written for my own product:

“Toppy. The Yellow Sponge. For all the times you need it.”

It even had a song… one that I am sure is now stuck in my sister Amy’s head, as I did not know better than to not sing it to her. She may have starred in a commercial or two. Come to think of it, it seems that I may have created Sponge Bob without realizing it.

Anyway, this was always what I wanted to do.

In college I was an anchor on the college TV station, and even though I did well, I was not really all that comfortable in front of the camera. So when I went to work in TV, I was a producer and a newswriter. Then one day, as happens to some of the best of us, I got canned. Three months pregnant and irritated with the business at the time, I withdrew from news and worked at other things, including being a stay at home mom, until one day the Weekly Shopper showed up in the mail with an advertisement: Reporter Needed.

And so I made my return to news.

There is a pretty distinct difference in the style of writing you use for print media and broadcast media, and the transition — aided by the fact that I hadn’t stepped foot in a newsroom in six years — was a little rocky for me at first. But I got over it and started getting back into the swing of writing the news. As I suspect is typical of most reporters, I think I ask lots of good questions, but usually come up with that absolutely fabulous, must-ask zinger about 30 seconds after the person I am interviewing has driven off in their car. That always sucks. But I am fair, and I am super comfortable with the weekly newspaper and it’s extended deadline and the way that I can really dig in and get to know not just one or two local players, but nearly all of them. And as I did back in those days when I watched a young Mary Ann Childers work her magic at WLS-Channel 7, I take the job of the press very seriously.

I think most people misunderstand the First Amendment, at least in part. The First Amendment doesn’t say that I can print whatever I want or you can say whatever you want or just do whatever you want regarding any of its other freedoms (religion, assembly and petition the government, in case you don’t know them). The First Amendment says that the government cannot stop you from exercising those rights. So after what happened to me this week, I heard some “Freedom of the Press” type remarks from folks in the town where I write.

What happened was, at a forum for local candidates running for City Council, when I started to ask a question, I was shut down. Two of the candidates are not fond of me. One of them accused me of never writing anything positive about the town. The other suggested I shouldn’t be asking at all, as I am not a resident, despite the fact that I write the local paper for that town.

These people did not infringe on my First Amendment rights. But they did attempt to censor the press, which is not exactly the same thing. They are two private individuals who essentially told me to shut up, not the government trying to stop me from doing my job.

But, even with those definitions sorted out, I still feel like a free press was assaulted by these two candidates, even if ever so slightly. So, I did something I have never done. I wrote a commentary. Here are my favorite parts, as they appear in this week’s edition:

“This is one of the many duties of a free press – to hold those who wish to speak for the people accountable before the public decides to give them the authority to take office. When you pick and choose who can ask what your intentions based on geography, you are censoring the press. You are taking away the public’s right to hear the answer to a question not because you dislike the question, but because you disapprove of the person asking it.”

-and-

“It is my job to ask tough questions. The candidates can choose not to answer these questions if they feel they are inappropriate. It’s not the job of the candidates to decide that the questions are not worth asking. It is the job of the public to decide if the answers are worth hearing.”

Then I quoted Thomas Jefferson:

“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

These ideals are very important to me. I know I am just a small time newspaper reporter. More importantly, I believe I will always be a small time newspaper reporter. I’m not winning any major awards, I’m not getting woo-ed by major news outlets. Working the news desk where Mary Ann Childers once worked will always just remain a dream. This is my job, and I am good at it.

But my duty to find truth and inform the public is no less important than that of  Brian Williams or Dan Rather or Katie Couric. I am just as bound to report fairly and completely as are the multitudes of talking heads on local news and cable outlets across the country. Sometimes, I think more so. Because if we don’t hold the people closest to us accountable, then we are destined to fail when it comes to those who hold a higher office.

So thanks for the inspiration, Mary Ann. And to all the bigger city journalists and world-wide correspondents, please keep asking the questions that need to be asked. I’ll be holding the fort down here at the local paper.

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The Beck stops here

I’m not a fan of GleN Beck.

It’s not just because I am a tree hugging, Dixie Chicks album owning, blue state living, Barack Obama picture hanging on my fridge lefty.

It’s because he is bat shit crazy.

I have some other words I like to use to describe him. Shrill. Hack. Narcissistic. Shock Jock. Opportunist. Vainglorious.

Ok, I looked that last one up.

Those words might seem like insults, but they aren’t really.

Shrill – He screams. He really does. All the live long day. He doesn’t just scream at the people he hates. He screams at his own fans.

Hack – He does an easy job that requires little if any work and is greatly rewarded. Heck, he just stuck his name on a novel that someone else wrote. He just had to come up with an idea. Which is “socialist America.” Then he picks up an additional six-figure paycheck for saying “buy gold.” Way to go there, Hack.

Narcissistic -GleN Beck thinks God talks to him. And not in the loony-tunes, padded room, purple crayon carrying way. But as in, GleN Beck believes that he is chosen. He’s a genuflect away from Tim Tebow territory.

Shock Jock – Self-explanatory.

Opportunist – Overly self-explanatory.

Vainglorious – That’s a pretty word, huh? It means boastful or proud. And GleN sure does love himself. And his message. And his gold. And his ratings. And frankly, he earned them, so he should be proud. Now that’s vainglorious.

But keep in mind that even though I think Beck is bat shit crazy, I mean that in a qualified way. As in, crazy like a fox, and not just the super-flashy-with-the-production-elements Fox that pays him more than I’ll ever see in my life for a single afternoon of shrill, narcissistic, opportunist, vainglorious, shock jock hackery.

Enter Beck’s 8/28 rally. If you haven’t heard of it, I am terribly jealous of you. Beck is hosting a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC tomorrow, August 28, the same place and the same date, 47 years later, of the famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Junior. Beck says the rally is to “Restore Honor.” Because we need to restore the honor in this country, because it’s gone, I tell you. ALL GONE.

Of course, when Michelle Obama even suggested that she had not spent her entire life proud and gushing in love with the good old USA, she was berated as being shameful. How DARE someone suggest they haven’t always been proud of a nation while our soldiers are in the midst of fighting for the freedom that we are blessed with. We should all LOVE our country. Here we are, two years later, same country, same boys overseas fighting the same war, but now the country is honorless.

Whatever.

Back to Beck.

Beck, a self-described student of history who wraps himself in the American Flag while scribbling the names of the most important and influential men in the country on his chalkboard had no idea of even a time frame for the most famous speech of the Civil Rights movement?

I’m sure Tim Russert is smiling from heaven that Beck stole his whiteboard idea and passes it off as his own on a chalkboard, by the way.

But here’s the thing. Everyone who is angry about this is furious of Beck’s alleged attempt to hijack MLK, the Civil Rights movement, and apparently, the spirit of MLK’s speech itself. Because we all know Beck is a strong black man, fighting oppression and working for peace and equality.

But me? I think they’ve got it all wrong.

It’s not about Martin Luther King, Junior. It never was. Of course Beck knew August 28 was the anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech. But he didnt’ pick that day to try to cling to the Civil Right movement. GleN looked at August 28 in Washington, DC and saw gold as sure as the overpriced nuggets he hawks on the Fox News Channel. He saw thousands of faces. Faces of color. And he wants in.

GleN Beck is going to count the people who are there to mark the “I have a dream speech” as part of his audience. Let’s say he gets his 300,000 attendees that he’s predicted will come to see him and the mom of the newest Dancing with the Stars early cast-off candidate Sarah Palin. At that very moment, there’s also a civil rights rally, not in the same place, but near by. Very near by. And naturally most of those folks will float to the Lincoln Memorial. Some to honor MLK, some just to see what’s going on, some for both reasons. And as they do, Beck will count them (and their much darker faces) as part of *his* rally. Boom, 1 million people have attended his event. Hoo-yow!

It’s not about him hijacking MLK’s speech, or the Civil Rights movement, or anything like that. It has always been to make the Tea Party look more credible by scheduling it on a day and place where a few hundred thousand people were set to be anyway. It’s like setting a rally for Grant Park during the Taste of Chicago. Maybe it’s just you and a few dozen people for your cause, but you can say, LOOK AT ALL THE PEOPLE. Hell, hand out a few fliers to passers-by, and you’ve “spread the word” even.
 
People have been arguing that his ulterior motive was to hijack the anniversary of MLK’s historic speech. But in reality, it’s about hijacking people who are simply trying to remember a Civil Rights legend. It’s a scam to inflate his numbers and make the Tea Party look like they have more support — and more support from people of color — then they actually have. I feel 100 percent competent that, come Monday, Beck will be showing the overhead video of his crowd, and it will be ENORMOUS, and he will say something along the lines of “look at what has been inspired here! Honor is OURS!” And he won’t qualify that many, heck, maybe most, were there not because they feel America has no honor, but because they want to pay their respects to a man who had more honor in his little finger then GleN Beck will ever have in his entire (former) coke-sniffing race-baiting body.
 
Like I said, though. Crazy like a fox.
 
I leave you with a little nugget of Beck’s fool’s gold. Beck has been advertising that his rally will benefit the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), a non-profit that aids the families of fallen and injured soldiers (the ones who are fighting for the country with no honor). So when you get to the rally, make sure to buy your “Restoring Honor” merchandise to benefit these families. Just don’t read the fine print on that merchandise:
The purchase of Restoring Honor Rally merchandise is not a donation to SOWF, but all net proceeds from the sale of Restoring Honor Rally merchandise is being donated to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. All contributions made to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) will first be applied to the costs of the Restoring Honor Rally taking place on August 28, 2010. All contributions in excess of these costs will then be retained by the SOWF.
Millionaire Beck isn’t paying for this massive rally by himself. No no no. He’s going to get those in attendance to pay for it for him. Then he’s going to play his pipe, and off the cliff they shall jump! GleN’s going to have to sell a LOT of t-shirts and bumper stickers to pay for the fees for security management and clean-up and everything else that comes with his big rally. Hope SOWF isn’t depending too much on that donation.

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Naked politics

For the past several days, news has been non-stop over the idiotic new scandal irritatingly and ridiculously named, “bondage-gate.” I mean, for real….

Anyway, the jist of the story is, a Republican National Committee staffer spent nearly $2,000 at a naked-nudity bondage lesbian bar (what kind of business license do you think that requires?) called “Voyeur,” turned in her receipts, and got paid back for the expenditure. And OH MY GOD you would have thought she spent the money dipping babies and puppies into vats of acid.

Look, I am about as lefty-liberal as it gets. I puffy heart me some Barack Obama and would personally like to punch Sarah Palin in the face — or at least, punch her stylist in the face because for real, why does she keep wearing Michael Jackson’s clothes? But you have got to be kidding me that there is some sort of scandal involved with taking out “clients” and showing them a good time. Isn’t that all that happened here? The staffer took some potential donors out to a nudity club to show them some fun, get them a few drinks and a lap dance, and hopefully get them to bust out their own checkbooks at the end of the night. I’m not saying I necessarily approve. But it’s hardly a scandal, is it? I mean, am I missing something here? Isn’t the practice of convincing people to give you money by showing them a good time as age-old as nudity bars themselves? It’s not like she bought them hookers.

I was irritated when I heard that the staffer was fired, and get even more irritated with the incessant calls for RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s resignation. I like Steele about as much as I like Sarah Palin (though he dresses much better), and I don’t think he is nearly as smart as he thinks he is. But why should he lose his job because a staffer got people to donate money in a way that raises the collective eyebrows of America’s moral compass? And on top of it all, I have yet to hear if the outing was successful. Did the “bondage for bucks” fundraising effort work? I’ll bet it did.

For real — if you are shocked that ANY political fundraiser would try to raise those funds by taking young-to-middle-aged men to a club where the ladies are spanking each other, then you are pathetically naive. And you know who REALLY knows that? Democrats. Dudes, we practically INVENTED the idea of tricking people into giving us money by showing them a little skin. So let’s try to reign in the false shock and indignation a little, shall we? It just seems like we have a lot bigger things to worry about, and being incensed that people like to look at the boobies is pretty stupid.

I mean really, if there is a lesson here, it is more about the importance of saving your receipts. I mean, that’s just good practice.

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Why Rush doesn’t matter

I have been hesitant to write this week about the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti, only because I am so frustrated with the responses of certain individuals with over-sized personal pulpits that reach coast to coast who seem to not really care, and was afraid that the point of the matter would be lost in my venting. But I’ve calmed down to the point that I think I can articulate it without, you know, freaking out.

I can’t believe that in the wake of such a tragedy, GleN Beck would air an hour-long interview with Sarah Palin rather than scrap that show for a day or two and talk about the rescue efforts. Honestly GleN, 37 seconds? That’s how much time he devoted on his show to the crisis in Haiti before getting on with the interview, which I assume was pre-recorded. I mean, Sarah Palin WORKS for Fox now. They couldn’t wait a day or so for that one?

Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were about the same, carrying on their shows as usual while other networks devoted most of the same news hours usually reserved for commentary to live reports and updates from Haiti.

Pat Robertson. I mean honestly. What the hell? The worst part about his statement about how Haiti pretty much asked for it because of their “pact to the devil” is that he was historically inaccurate. The Haitians who revolted against the French to pull themselves out of slavery didn’t make a pact to the devil. They made an animal sacrifice as part of a Vodou (voodoo) ritual. And despite what Hollywood and even the fabulous city of New Orleans has done to promote voodoo as some sort of extension of devil worship, it’s not. It’s actually a blend of African tribal rituals and Christianity. Apparently to Mr. Robertson, praying to anyone other than HIS Christian God is akin to devil worship. These few sentences are really more mention than he deserves.

But the most notable of the on-air comments devoid of decency and common sense, in my opinion, were those of Rush Limbaugh. When Rush first spoke about the tragedy in terms of Obama gaining favor with both “light-skinned and dark-skinned” blacks, he was making a statement about the recently disclosed comments of Harry Reid about Obama being a good presidential candidate in part because he was a “light-skinned” black man. To this comment, I could have said to Rush, point taken. He was right, the left was far more forgiving when Harry Reid used the exact language, and Rush efficiently exposed a glaring double standard. You’ve got us, Rush.

But the man just wouldn’t shut up.

He continued on about how anyone who goes to the White House website to donate money for Haiti relief was risking having their money stolen by Obama himself. He said that the U.S. already gives to Haiti in the form of the United States income tax (a remark that frankly, I don’t get). When a caller asked him why he would tell people not to donate to the Haiti relief effort, he told her she had “tampons in her ears” and said he never discouraged donating, just said it should go to private organizations. So (taking the tampons from my ears), I hear Rush saying that the United States government has no business leading the way or even supporting the relief effort at ALL in Haiti. Just churches and civic organizations and anyone who can raise funds. Let them do it. The government needs to stay away.

But here are 2 reasons why Rush doesn’t matter:

1 – I know lots and lots of people who are conservative, republican or both. Not a single one of them seems to feel this way. I know that Rush, GleN, O’Reilly, Hannity, Pat Robertson and their entire ilk have millions of followers. But I don’t know a single one of them. What I do know is that people by the thousands have texted “HAITI” to 90999, an instant way to donate $10 to the Red Cross. In the past few days, that simple act has raised, at last count, more than $8 million, all one $10 donation at a time. Yes, I know that people who listen to Rush and Pat Robertson are likely among those contributing as well. But I have yet to hear anyone agree with the vocal vomit that either of those men spew.

2 – We are Americans. This is what we do.

As simple as that sounds, it’s true. When people say “send in the calvary,” they’re talking about us. We go to places where hope seems lost. We send soldiers in to keep peace and deliver goods and clear dead bodies from the road and hand Beanie Babies to small children. We send in the Navy on a floating hospital. We send in the Coast Guard to evacuate people and deliver aid. We send in volunteers and doctors and nurses. When a Belgian medical team leaves a field hospital for security reasons, it is an American doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, there as a journalist, who puts down his microphone and forgoes his reports to CNN so he can treat victims. When others step back, Americans step forward. We promote this quality about ourselves as the one thing that makes us better. Then for some reason, Rush asks us to stop. What makes him think we would do such a thing?

I remember reading an online article after September 11, the author of which I cannot remember for any reason, but I am pretty sure it was a British guy. He basically talked about how the United States often gets the short end of the stick. Other nations will curse America and what it stands for as they burn our flags and effigies of our leaders in protest. Americans are snobby and priggish and unworthy. Americans are fat and lazy and cruel and barbaric. Worldwide, disdain and disrespect for the United States and its people is widespread. But when a crisis hits, the first thing those same people want to know is, “Where are the Americans?”

And you know what? That’s fine. Because it’s our job. As Americans, we didn’t be asked to be born to this nation that is so heavily relied upon worldwide. But neither did the people of Haiti ask to be born to such extreme poverty. It’s just how it is. When it comes to Rush and his nonsense about how the U.S. shouldn’t take the helm, the fact of the matter is, most of us are better than that. Of course we’ll take the helm. It’s what we do. Why in the world would we wait for someone else to do it, when we can. When people beam with pride about how awesome it is to be an American, THIS is what they are talking about — our unwavering determination to do the right thing when the right thing needs to be done. Someone needs to help these people, so here we come. When it is the other way around, and it is the U.S. who needs the help, we know some others will of course come to our aid. But the bulk of the work will have to be done on our own. And we’re ok with that. This is who we are.

I suppose it is that attitude that makes others think that maybe Americans are a little bit full of themselves. But of all the names that those who dislike Americans can call us, I don’t mind being thought of as a snob. If the way the U.S. aids the needy of the world makes us snobby, then it’s a title we should proudly wear.

Rush doesn’t need to shut up. I mean, how great to live in a country where even the most primitive among us are allowed their own platform to say whatever they want, no matter how stupid or silly or ridiculous. But not send government aid to Haiti? What a foolish notion. That’s not us. We’re incapable of NOT helping where help is needed. We’re incapable of that, and we’re damn proud of it too.

We are the calvary. Haiti is where we belong right now.

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Save the Earth? Bah, humbug!

Because I have an affection for all things political, especially politically scandalous, I throughly enjoyed the movie Frost/Nixon. And one of the best lines out of the movie, in my opinion, came at the end, where it is noted that one of Nixon’s biggest legacies is having the suffix “-gate” attached to any scandal. It’s so very very true. My very favorite was Nipplegate, the name given to that wardrobe malfunction involving Justin Timberlake, a boobie, the Superbowl and Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty).

The newest of these -gates is a scandal involving the alleged manipulation of scientific data regarding global warming, aka, Climategate.

The insane people at the Fox Nation have dedicated thousands of posts to this subject, all declaring that global warming is a HOAX! A hoax I tell you!

The story, in short: Someone hacked into e-mail accounts at the University of East Anglia and stole a whole lotta e-mails containing information about global warming theory that indicate that numbers and information may have been faked, altered or thrown out all together in an effort to boost the credibility of the theory itself. Depending on who you pick as your news provider, the media is either saturated with this story, or it’s rarely mentioned. There is no in between.

I’m amazed at the insistence of people that global warming is a hoax. No it’s not. Even climate experts who think Al Gore is full of it don’t dispute global warming itself. The argument is not whether global warming exists, it s whether man is having an impact on it. But it’s real. It’s happening. Personally, when blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and GleN Beck and, well, Fox News, call it a hoax, they’re being misleading and neglecting some important distinctions. They’re leading people to believe that there is no such thing as global warming, when that’s not true. They never never NEVER make the distinction between global warming and man-made global warming. It’s shoddy journalism at best. You can side with the scientists who don’t think man is affecting global warming if you so choose, but when you have such a huge platform and you keep insisting that global warming does not exist, now you’re just being irresponsible.

But enough of that already. Fellow blogger Erin has a great site that is predominantly a food blog, but she also talks in detail about the environment and a process called “ethical eating,” where (correct me if I am wrong Erin) she deliberately makes carefully considered food choices that revolve on having as little a negative impact on the environment as she can, ie, shopping her local markets, buy meat from local farms, eating organic foods whenever possible, avoiding food from animals that have been treated with hormones or kept in cages and finding local food sources where the food itself was not transported long distances. Like that. I know Erin does a lot more to protect the environment than just how she eats, though I cannot speak for her and every choice she makes (go to her blog, she speaks for herself just fine!). My favorite part about Erin’s choices are that they are hers and she shares them, but she doesn’t force them on you or get all judgy if you disagree with her. But she makes really, really good points.

I deeply admire Erin’s committment, though I do not share her enthusiasm for one reason and one reason only: I AM LAZY. Dude, I have two little boys and a WalMart a mile away and a tight budget. I buy a lot of WalMart brand stuff, and frankly, I know nothing about where things like my clothes come from. My WalMart usually has signs in the produce section noting that they support local farmers, but we are in Illinois. I’m pretty sure the avocados and citrus fruit aren’t from around here, and while the zucchini is delicious, it’s not exactly in season right now. During the summer, I do make an effort to support my local farmers. Unfortunately, a trip to the farm is a good ten-mile hike. So I can either buy food that is locally grown, but have to drive far, or food that is not locally grown, but I can walk…. Dilemma! I think when you balance it out, the farm is still the better option, and their vegetables are thousands of times better than the grocery stores vegetable selection. But right now, it’s December. The farm is closed for the season.

I do make an effort to do something, most notably I use canvas bags at the store. I also recycle pretty vigilantly, and I donate old stuff rather than toss it.  I am really hoping that the garden that I intend to plant in the spring is not an enormous failure. I’ve tried once before and failed miserably, though, in my effort, I did toss a stone at a squirrel that was destroying my zucchinis and hit him. He squeaked and kept on eating.

So somewhere between those who balk at global warming all together, and those who are committed to the environment, there is a happy place where many of us fit in, where we try to do good things and not pollute and have a nice, clean earth… but we could probably try a little harder. But this brings me back to those who are excited about Climategate, and how they think it has dealt global warming a huge blow, and exposed it as a hoax! Let’s assume they are right. Let’s assume that Erin’s efforts are completely unnecessary, that she’s not having an impact at all, positive or negative. Let’s assume that there’s no difference between when I shop at the grocery store and when I shop at the farm. Let’s assume that smog just ain’t that bad. Don’t these people still want a clean earth?

I mean, think about it. Let’s assume that it doesn’t matter if there are piles of plastic in a landfill. Wouldn’t you still rather have a park than a dump? Let’s assume that there’s no negative impact from harvesting lumber for paper products. Wouldn’t you still rather have a big pretty national forest than empty, unusable land? Let’s assume that emissions from automobiles are not affecting the environment. Wouldn’t you still rather have a fuel-efficient car and save money on gas?

Green choices aren’t just about saving the earth. They’re common sense. Even if you wanted to argue that litter doesn’t impact the enviroment negatively, it’s still litter!

In our household, we’ll try to make better choices. Sometimes we will win, and other times we will fail miserably. But I wouldn’t allow my house to become a big trash bin. Why risk it with the entire world.

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Who wears short shorts?

I’m fairly intrigued by the latest “controversy” regarding one Mrs. Sarah Palin and that nasty, mean, lefty media. I mean, I don’t know if this new “scandal” has been dubbed with a name followed by the word “gate,” but let’s give it a try. Covergate? Picturegate? Short-short-gate. Yes, I like that one.

The unfair, sexist, demeaning SHORT-SHORT-GATE, which started with this snapshot:

We’ve all seen this by now, right? Sarah Palin posed for this photo for a story about running in Runner’s World. Then, Newsweek took this photo and pasted it on their cover, with the phrase, “How do you solve a problem like Sarah Palin?” written next to it.

Now, before I go on, I want to explain a little something. I have a bit of respect for Sarah Palin. More so, in my opinion, than a lot of people who actually support her political cause (whatever that may actually be). Go hopping around from site to site, and you’ll find a lot of people talking about the former Alaska Governor, about what a nice person she is and how she has such great values and morals and how she stands for conservatism. Those same people will note that she is attractive and young! She was a beauty queen! Heck, just this morning, I saw a few women on MSNBC talk about how they like her because she “speaks her mind.” Ladies. I speak my mind. Do you want to buy my book?

Those types of comments are about as far as they ever go. No one ever takes note of her actual accomplishments. And while I don’t think her political accomplishments come anywhere near close to giving her international credibility that she seems to hold (or at least crave), I do know that being the mayor for a town of 6,000 people is a really hard job. I sit in city council meetings every other week for the city of Braidwood, Illinois, and you know what? That mayor and those commissioners don’t have it easy.

After running Wasilla, Sarah Palin managed to become the first female governor of Alaska by beating the incumbent governor in the primary. People, that’s nothing to shake a stick at. That’s good stuff. And yes, she did accomplish a few things in office, for the little time she spent there. And in case you forgot, she was the first female VP nominee for the GOP. And while she couldn’t seem to answer simple questions from Katie Couric, she did hold her own with Joe Biden. So good for her.

Of course, she’s also a big whiny quitter. But let’s go back to the photo.

Of the thousands of photos of Sarah Palin to choose from, Newsweek chose one of her in shorts that probably accent her cheeks when she turns the other way. Mrs. Palin has responded by crying foul, or, more accurately, crying sexism! And I gotta admit, I think she has a point.

Joan Walsh at Salon noted that hell has frozen over  regarding this one — she agrees with Palin. Walsh argues that Sarah Palin is, in fact, very professional, and what she would wear to a Newsweek shoot and a Runner’s World shoot are quite the opposite. I agree. Walsh also notes that while Palin is obviously attractive, that is something her supporters and critics play up, not something she ever introduced. She certainly never campaigned in short-shorts. Walsh also notes the headline, “How do you solve a problem like Sarah Palin.” It is a take from the song “How do you solve a problem like Maria” from The Sound of Music, where Maria is just too flighty to control. I think it is actually pretty fair to say that if Newsweek were portraying a male GOP representative who is causing the party problems, like say, GleN Beck, they certainly wouldn’t find a saucy photo of him (though Time did find an extremely unflattering one).

But, all that said, there is ONE thing about this photo that makes me ok with its use on the cover of Newsweek. I do think it is sexist. I really do. But you know what the problem is? Here, look again:

Take a look at Sarah’s left arm there. It’s perched on an American Flag, draped over a chair in what appears to be Sarah Palin’s home office.

If Sarah Palin took this photo for Runner’s World, and meant it for and only for the issue of promoting running and health and fitness… then why the hell is she using the American Flag as a prop? Am I to believe that THIS is where she keeps her flag regularly, and she just happened to say, hey, let’s take the photo here, in my natural environment. While I don’t think that the picture was necessarily appropriate for Newsweek, I don’t think it was necessarily appropriate for Runner’s World either.

Sarah Palin wraps herself in her patriotism to the point that she literally uses it as a political crutch. Look at her. She’s not standing there, saying, LOOK AT ME, I’M A RUNNER. She’s standing there saying, LOOK AT ME, I’M A PATRIOT WHO RUNS TOO! When Sarah Palin took this photo, she exploited the American Flag to sell her position. Promoting a healthy lifestyle isn’t just non-partisan, it’s not a patriotic issue either. With this photo, Sarah Palin proved that she’ll use the flag to promote herself and any cause she believes in, even a cause not specific to the left or the right or the United States entirely. But when someone else uses the photo, which shows that she’ll use the flag to promote herself, she claims it’s unfair. And THAT is the point of the story. Sarah Palin, with her mixed messages and her contradictory behavior, is a problem for the GOP.

Sarah Palin is smart. She knows that sooner or later, someone would cry foul for HER posing for a picture in Runner’s World using the flag as a prop. So she struck first, crying SEXISM. Now everyone is so wrapped up in the controversy about her in her Daisy Dukes, people managed to turn a blind eye to her pimping out the American Flag.

Governor Palin, if you don’t want people to “misuse” photos of you, then stop posing for pictures expressing your patriotism when they are supposed to be pictures expressing your good health. I mean, I would kill for those legs — but you brought this on yourself.

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