Thursday, March 22, 2007

Are Bloggers Journalists or Opinion-Slinging Hacks?

This weekend I made myself look foolish by posting a comment on another blog, failed to make sure it was coherent, and was subsequently slammed by another reader. Luckily I don't know anyone involved so I'll retain my dignity amongst my friends and acquaintances but the experience made me think about a debate that has been going on since the "Blogoshpere" emerged:

Where do bloggers rank in the literary caste system?

Are we journalists with an obligation to check facts, edit our work, and disclose conflicts of interest? Or are we simply opinion-slingers, something akin to a bartender or the town gossip, with no special responsibilities or need for veracity. Should readers seriously consider what we write here, or are we just the big-mouthed cranks of cyberspace?

Naturally, some blogs are better than others. Some bloggers consistently post top-notch articles, up to the minute news, and even have sponsors. Others are just one guy's random rants, devoid of thoughts and puntuation. But can we really separate the good from the bad, or is every blogger a reject from the legitimate world of print? Maybe there are already blog rankings or ways to get your blog certified so that you are considered better than the rest. However, it seems to me that some very popular blogs can be somewhat crass and sophomoric . . . not exactly up to civilized standards.

I also don't know how one defines journalism in a day and age defined by the internet. I read time and again that writers on the staffs of some big time print newspapers constantly check the Drudge Report and some major blogs for up-to-the-second news. So, have they lifted internet dwellers into a new sphere? Or should we all come to grips with our second class citizenship?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hot Air Redux

Lord Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher during her years as Prime Minister of the UK has challenged Al Gore to a public debate of global warming saying, "A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore's film, 'An Inconvenient Truth', is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide."

Here is Lord Monckton's challenge to Gore as quoted by

"The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question, 'That our effect on climate is not dangerous,' to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President's choosing."

"Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President's prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet. God Bless America! God Save the Queen!"

My guess is that Gore will find some way to avoid the confrontation, as he isn't the kind of guy who likes a fair fight.

Read the entire story here

Monday, March 12, 2007

Giotto: 1267 – 1337

This is just a short homage to another genius occupying a special place in my pantheon of outstanding artists. Giotto di Bondone opened the door to the Renaissance; a movement that injected realism and proportion into the world of art. Giotto used light and shadow in a revolutionary way to show depth and passion, breaking with the medieval tradition that favored a flat and unrealistic form. Giotto is known for his frescos in the Scorvegni Chapel in Padua. And anyone who has been to Assisi will remember his indescribably beautiful frescos, coating virtually every wall of the main basilica, that depict the life of St. Francis of Assisi. In addition, Giotto designed the famous, multicolored bell tower of Florence’s cathedral.

I’ve always been captivated by the powerful expressions that are frozen on the faces of Giotto’s subjects, especially the angels hovering around the Crucifixion. His works appear to be a balanced, yet stunning hybrid of Byzantine mysticism and Western realism. There’s a passion that complements a deeper and otherworldly serenity found in Giotto’s work. Here are a some samples.


A month or so ago, a friend of mine passed along to me the first two seasons of LOST. I had heard a good deal of positive things about the series from some friends, but I remained skeptical. I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with the quality of television dramas (and with television shows in general) and I thought it unlikely that I would be taken in by what I presumed was an overly hyped show. And the whole premise of LOST seemed somewhat contrived, like a Gilligan’s Island for the 21st century: some people get stranded on an island and have to survive…very original. But I decided to give it a go and watch just the first episode to get a taste for it and perhaps, I thought, just perhaps if I needed a break from my studies, I would watch another here and another there. Well, about six hours later, I finished watching almost the entire first season. I guess it’s fair to say that I am hooked.

By now, I’ve watched the first two seasons and am anxiously looking forward to viewing the third when I get home. What makes this show so unique? Well, I think that the character development cannot be described in terms other than brilliant. The writers for the show are truly fantastic. Each person is studied inside and out, as his or her past is thoroughly delved into and weaknesses and strengths are delicately exposed. Once on the island, it’s hard to tell who the main character is, since everyone’s personal history is covered so carefully. The viewer really feels like he knows each person. Another element of the show’s success, I believe, is that despite the occasional need for suspending disbelieve (for example, Jack using a sea urchin’s spine to perform an unsuccessful blood transfusion, although maybe that’s why it was unsuccessful), the show is, at its core, very real. Each person wrestles mightily with, and tries to overcome, his or her personal demons. Whether it’s Charlie’s drug abuse, Kate’s criminal past, or Jack’s failed marriage and subsequent struggles reconciling with his father, each person is facing a particular trial and for the most part, is trying to do the right thing.

Stranded on the island, everyone is forced to recognize, and be guided by, a primal awareness of basic right and wrong, and interdependence. It’s emphatically not an “every man for himself” or “survival of the fittest” message. In fact, whenever a character selfishly pursues such a path, disaster follows. Faith and religion are not slighted in the show either. It’s hard these days to find faith, Christianity in particular, taken seriously by the entertainment industry or portrayed as something of import beyond just the sentimental. But LOST seems to understand and respect the simple truth that faith plays a central role in many people’s ordinary, albeit flawed and troubled lives. And as random as the circumstances in which the characters find themselves may seem, most believe, or come to believe, that they are there for a reason. Fate, some might call it Providence, has brought them together and now they have to deal with it; there’s no escaping it.

LOST is certainly worth checking out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Catholic" Schools in the US

This comes from an all-girls Catholic highschool in Milwaukee. It goes to show how far Catholic schools have fallen in the US. Is there any talk about God, defending the truth, objective morality, educating women about the Catholic faith, etc.? No, but they want you to be sure that they are "DIVERSE." It's funny and embarrassing at the same time...but I can't stop laughing when I read this! Oprah Winfrey couldn't have done better herself. This is meaningless fluff at its best! Enjoy (and weep!)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hot Air

Global warming is the latest cause célèbre for activist movie stars and politicians. Things sure change quickly though as environmental doomsday scenarios seem to morph from one generation, and extreme, to another. For all the apocalyptic forecasts of melted icecaps and flooded American metropolises on the horizon, it was only in 1974 that TIME and Newsweek reported on an alarming consensus among the “experts” of the day that the world was facing the imminent threat of a new ice age. That never came to pass, so it’s on to the alternative calamity. In-between flying from coast to coast on private jets, or cruising the nation’s highways in gas-guzzling SUVs, environmental fear-mongers like Al Gore routinely lecture Americans on ways they should conserve energy and cut down on “dangerous” greenhouse emissions. Equating the fight against global warming with a “moral crusade,” Gore and the rest of the apostles of environmentalism are surreptitiously cloaking their cause in what can only be described as religious parlance. I’ve long believed that for radical liberals, environmentalism is something of a religion and my experience of living in a heavily secularized Europe has only confirmed my initial suspicion. The wave of hysteria currently slamming into the shores of Western society over global warming is sad and pathetic, as it evinces a completely roundabout, topsy-turvy arrangement of priorities by a post-Christian culture searching for purpose, forgiveness and absolution. Another striking feature of the pseudo-religion of radical environmentalism is the ferocity with which its proselytes attack and suppress arguments that arrive at conclusions other than their own. The environmentalist’s hyper-defensiveness and anger, unleashed at the doubting Thomases of the man-made global warming theory, reveal the ideological and emotional underpinnings of the entire movement: a stinging irony for a “crusade” alleging strict fidelity to science and empiricism.

The vitriolic assault on global warming skeptics is extraordinary. Scott Pelley of CBS’s 60 Minutes compared skeptics of global warming with deniers of the Holocaust. Dr. Heidi Cullen, who works for the Weather Channel, advocates that the American Meteorological Society strip their seal of approval from any weatherman publicly expressing doubts about man-made global warming. Probably the most bizarre threat came from the popular environmentalist blogger, David Roberts, who wrote that war crime trials, (what he coined a “Climate Nuremburg”) eventually be brought against skeptics as punishment. Such threats and intimidation tactics call to mind the modus operandi of Communist dictatorships: so much for the renowned “tolerance” of the left.

In fact, Dr. Roy Spencer, a highly acclaimed climatologist and former NASA scientist, currently at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, is quite critical of the “experts” and celebrities who caterwaul ad nauseam about supposed man-made global warming. The characteristic action line on global warming asserts that humans (Americans in particular) because of their avaricious consumption of fuel and energy are directly responsible for the higher quantities of carbon dioxide in the air. This, consequently, leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect in the earth’s atmosphere and, since the natural atmospheric filtration has been weakened by human activity, infrared sunlight radiation “overheats” the earth. Taking a different approach, Dr. Spencer believes that stabilizing, atmospheric precipitation systems and weather patterns have everything to do with natural climate change and that these factors are not endangered or effected by human activity. He suggests that the green house effect is determined by precipitation systems (whereas the global warming crowd believe it to be the other way around) and that together, they keep the earth’s climate naturally balanced. He believes that these precipitation systems keep the earth cool, as they compensate for the heating resulting from the greenhouse effect, which exists naturally as a result, principally, of evaporated water. Dr. Spencer’s sophisticated understanding of the true reasons behind climate change eviscerates the smoke and mirrors sophistry of the global warming crowd. But for radical environmentalists, irrevocably convinced of the righteousness of their “moral crusade,” rational or scientific proofs play second fiddle to their insatiable need to fill the void in their hearts for something that can give greater purpose to their lives.

Traditional religion, with its high demands for personal moral conversion, a lifelong commitment to living responsibly, the belief in objective truth and the subsequent conformity of one’s actions to that truth, is too onerous a path to follow for the extreme environmentalist, already seduced by moral relativism. Environmentalism sees the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition supplanted by the false god of “mother earth.” Traditional rituals and Sacraments are replaced with a litany of environmental protocols and commandments: recycle, use mass transit, buy strictly organic products, become a vegan, etc. Guilt over personal sin is eclipsed by guilt at the collective, societal level for having “destroyed” the planet. The Church is replaced by a Leviathan state that is empowered, by a guilt-ridden, or rather guilt-induced populace, to clean up the mess via excessive taxes and repressive government regulation and oversight, the inevitable consequence: less personal liberty. What’s left out though? Forgiveness. Despite their best efforts at crafting the perfect world-religion, the secularized environmentalists have nowhere to go for absolution. They cannot succeed in completely erasing their soul’s need for something greater than themselves, greater than even the created world.

The liberating, even revolutionary, message of Christianity is that the believer has, indeed knows, a Person, not merely a thing, to go to for forgiveness and lasting peace. The Catholic Church teaches that man is the earth’s steward and that he has a sacred duty to use the goods of the earth responsibly and well. This is environmentalism correctly understood. “God saw what He had created and it was good.” Indeed, the Christian understanding of the environment and man’s place in the created world is a far more elevated, beautiful and complete one than that of the secular environmentalist. In light of the Incarnation, God entered humanity, thus wedding Himself forever to creation, and supernatural grace permeates the entire world.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Vietnam and Iraq

Devoid of principle, integrity and patriotism, dexterous Democrats are looking to resurrect the sentiments of the Vietnam-era; a period that witnessed the precipitous decline of America’s prestige and power on the world stage. Why would they do such a thing? The answer is fairly straightforward: They believe that their Vietnam antics, treacherous yet highly effective, resulted in the consolidation of their position in power. For them, it’s all about gaining, retaining, expanding and consolidating power. It’s not about defending the national security interests of America. For Democrats, a cause is only worthwhile to the extent that it may tighten their grip on power. If a Republican is in office, national security plays second fiddle to the Democrat’s objective of regaining power. An American loss on a Republican's watch is merely collateral damage, and even a fortuitous turn of events, in the Democrat's insatiable quest to gain power. In the case of Vietnam, liberals, along with their willing accomplices in the media, poisoned the public's resolution to fight to win, hoping to profit from the consequences. And the Vietnam experience proved that if resolve is shattered back home, even the strongest military can be defeated. The Islamic terrorists obviously know this, as they employ the same Fabian tactics against the United States that proved successful in the past, hoping all the while that the liberals of the Vietnam era are the same today. In this, they are correct. Rep. John Murtha, a bloviating Democrat-fossil if ever there was one, was interviewed by the arch-liberal organization Speaking about his Party's plans to eventually tie the hands of the military in Iraq by denying the necessary funds and thus implementing a slow-bleed policy, he said:

"They (our military) won't be able to continue, they won't be able to do the deployment. They -- they won't have the equipment, they don't have the training, and they won't be able to -- to do the -- the -- the work."

This is not the kind of rhetoric that serves to rally a nation to victory. Murtha, perhaps to the frustration of his fellow Democrats for his indiscretion, revealed the ultimate aim of his Party in Congress. If our troops are denied equipment and training, and as a result, "won't be able to do the work," what kind of position would that leave them?

Rep. Murtha

The Vice President recently criticized the cut-and-run strategy of Nancy Pelosi as one that would “validate the al-Qaida strategy.” Pelosi and Democrats alike, as it is well known, are pressuring the President to set a timetable for retreating from Iraq before our objectives have been achieved and the country is stabilized. Pelosi was furious with Cheney’s comments and called the President to vent her frustration. “You can’t question my patriotism!” But Dick Cheney was absolutely correct. The objective of the terrorists in Iraq is to prolong the conflict indefinitely so as to break the resolve of the American public, which would eventually force the president to withdraw troops. We would leave on THEIR terms, not ours, and they would win. What about the Vice President’s comments can Pelosi honestly claim to find so offensive? Cheney merely stated the clear-as-day truth. While she may believe there’s a fine line between the ignominious retreat that she advocates and caving to the terrorist’s modus operandi, the truth is that they are one and the same.