Friday, March 02, 2007

More Blogrolling

Ever since the Great Blogroll Massacre at Daily Kos I've been spending more time reading smaller blogs instead. Among the blogs I've been reading are The Needs of the Few by Evil Spock, Blue Gal and Shakespeare's Sister so I figured it's time to add them to my highly valuable blogroll.

Give 'em a visit.


From a Bygone Era

I recently read The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. It tells the story of the print and electronic press as the civil rights movement developed in after World War II. The story begins with the near complete absence of news about black Americans in the mainstream media. In the early postwar era, only black owned newspapers covered the happenings of their community. Roberts and Kilbanoff highlight the pioneering contributions of the black journalists and publishers of that era.

As the civil rights movement grew, however, black journalists were largely excluded from the story, except for isolated instances like the Emmett Till murder trial (where they were greeted with “Good morning, niggers” by the local sheriff). All too often, black journalists were singled out by white mobs and could not get close enough to the events to report.

In their absence, the white mainstream media began paying attention, coverage was limited and spotty at first, led by a few courageous southern editorialists and publishers but as the story developed, other media soon joined in. The Race Beat profiles many of the reporters such at Claude Sitton of the New York Times, Hank Fleming of Newsweek, Jack Nelson of the Atlanta Constitution and later the LA Times and John Chancellor of NBC who made civil rights their beat.

The story is gripping and detailed but moves along well. Having grown up in the south and experienced some of the events first hand, The Race Beat offers an interesting view of that experience. Even more, it shows how television came into its own as a news medium. The civil rights era was a time when television news was just emerging and reporters were not only covering the story but becoming part of it, either by telling the world what was going on and occasionally coming under attack by those who did not want them reporting on the story. It was also an era of dramatic photography splashed across front pages of newspapers and in Life magazine feature stories.

What impressed me most about the narrative was the correspondents’ dedication to, first, understanding the events they were covering and, second, to making sure that story went out over the air and into print. The black press and its reporters, who were often barred from the scene still managed to provide important information, reporting on what they could see and where they could get. Often, their reports provided background and detail from a community where white reporters had limited access and one with which most Americans were wholly uninformed.

Reading this book, I am struck by the contrast between the “race beat” reporters and today’s correspondents. Forty years ago, the press was far more aggressive in its work, it seems to me. Yeah, it took a while for the civil rights story to emerge but once it did, the press was diligent in getting the story out. Contrast that with today’s media which operate more as megaphones or stenographers for the corporate-industrial government that more than ever seeks to manipulate and conceal information. The media still show occasional signs of life–Dana Priest’s stories in the Washington Post about secret prisons and the neglect of veterans at Walter Reed come to mind–but those few instances only highlight the contrast between then and now.

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This humble blog achieved a few milestones this week. In addition to the Carnival of the Liberals, I recorded my 3,000th visitor since adding a sitemeter in February 2006. Not exactly a significant volume in the world of big box blogs but welcome nonetheless. February was the second record setting month in a row--over 800 visitors dropped by in the past two months. And this blog is now averaging about 20 hits per day. At this rate traffic should be into the middle two digits in a year or so.

One of our visitors this past week was notable. After posting this piece on my meeting with Representative Shadegg, someone from the US House of Representatives checked it out three times in short succession, spending 18 minutes during one visit before clicking over to my profile. Here's hoping that what the visitor found there reinforces the message our group delivered to Rep. Shadegg last week. On the other hand, I'm probably on some sort of watch list which more than likely puts me in good company.

Speaking of company, courtesy of Kindea, I have learned that Unsolicited Opinion is a "C-List Blogger" based on the number of links in the past six months. I have some good company, including Evil Spock, Harp and Sword and Whole Wheat Radio.

C-List Blogger.

As long as we're talking abour ratings, Technorati ranks Unsolicited Opinion at 297,641 in blogtopia (y!sctp!) based on links. Pretty far down the list but it's a damn big list with over 50 million blogs in 2006. That puts this blogtopian backwater in the top one percent. I'll go with that.

So there you have the fruits of almost three years of blogging. I'm not making any money at it but I am having fun and, most important, I have the opportunity to put my ideas and opinions out for anyone to see.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Hereby Announce...

St. John McCain announced yesterday that he will run for president. However, he will not formally announce until April so we will have to live in suspense for a few more weeks.

In keeping with the spirit of St. John's statement, I feel that it is only proper that I announce now that at some point in the future, I will consider and perhaps futher contemplate declaring my inclination to pursue a line of thought that may precipitate a pronouncement on some topic to be determined at an appropriate time as defined by criteria that are relevant in the circumstances.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Carnival of Liberals 33

Your host has been recognized in the Carnival of Liberals 33 at Blue Gal. Always glad to be noticed.

Check out the other entries, too. Evil Spock, whom I have endorsed for president in 2012 is there. So is Doctor Biobrain with a very thoughtful piece on foreign policy.

All the entries I've read so far are good and I am honored to be in their company. It's a good way to see part of blogtopia (y!sctp!) that you might otherwise miss.

Besides, where else will you find results given in limerick form?

[Update 03.02.07: I omitted the link to Evil Spock's Carnival entry in the original post. It's there now.]


If You Live in Arizona CD 6

This came in my email this morning. If you can join in any way, please do so. I know these Republicans are pretty hopeless but encourage everyone who objects to this insane war not to give them a bye. They need to know what their constituents think and it's pretty likely that most agree with you that the Iraq war is a catastrophe that must end. Here's your chance to let your representative know.

Join us - As we visit Congressman Jeff Flakes Office! Wed Feb. 28th 11:30 AM

Representatives from the peace community in the East Valley including members of the End the War Coalition, Military Families Speak Out and Progressive Democrats of America have an appointment with Congressman Flake's staff tomorrow Wed Feb. 28th at 11:30. We know this is short notice but things are moving very fast and we are nearing the 4th anniversary of the War. Bush will soon be asking Congress for a $93 Billion supplemental funding bill to keep the war going for yet another year. We want to tell Congressman Flake - enough is enough ! Stop the War - Bring the troops home now. If you would like to be part of this delegation please e-mail or call me soon. You can meet us at the Congressman's Mesa/Gilbert Office at 1640 S. Stapley Dr. #215 at 11:15.
(his office is one of the buildings tucked in the back on the West side of Stapley between baseline and the 60)
We know that all of us can't be part of the delegation but the rest of us can make calls -

Washington D.C office - 202-225-2635 Mesa / Gilbert office - 480-833-0092

so, please call Jeff Flakes office this week - and tell his staff representative - Bring the troops home, De-fund the War, Redirect Funding to Social Programs - clearly ask -

1) will the Congressman support and become a co-sponsors of H.R. 508 - (Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee - D-Ca.)

2) will the Congressman support and become a co-sponsor of H.R. 746 - (Jim McGovern D-Mass.)

3) will the Congressman vote no on Bush's upcoming $93 Billion supplemental bill to continue funding the war.

Both H.R. 508 and 746 call for ending the war and occupation of Iraq by de-funding war and fully funding the safe and orderly (over six months) redeployment of our troops back home. The President has left the Congress few alternatives other than to use the power of the purse spelled out in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution to curtail U.S. military operations in Iraq. We hope Congressman Flake will make history, break with the hawks in his Party and distance himself from George Bush and his failed policy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Wish...

Wow. The new US Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell says that Al-Qaeda is the "worst threat" to the United States. That is actually good news. Yeah, I know they are dangerous and certainly committed to actions that will harm Americans and our interests but think about it. They are a rag-tag organization that can only operate from limited safe areas and have limited access to weapons and technology. I remember when the greatest threat to the US was a huge Eurasian nation armed with thousands of nuclear warheads capable of launching an attack that could destroy most America cities. In fact, many of those warheads are still around, perhaps not on hair trigger but still quite dangerous.

So if our worst threat is Al-Qaeda, then the US is fortunate indeed. At their worst, they have launched attacks resulting in thousands--not millions--of casualties and caused economic havoc from which we have largely recovered. But I don't agree with Mr. McConnell. I think that while Al-Qaeda is a threat, it is hardly the worst. The war in Iraq, nuclear proliferation (including the chance of organizations like Al-Qaeda may access nuclear materials and technology) climate change and America's declining economy are all greater threats in my mind.

But, hey, WTF do I know? I'm just a schmuck with a computer.


Coming Home on the Appalachian Trail

When I saw the James River cutting through the Blue Ridge, I knew that I was home. Standing on a bluff 2,000 feet above the river gorge, I felt like my heart was about to burst with excitement. Twenty years after leaving Virginia, I realize that I remain in many ways a Virginian, emotionally connected to these mountains and valleys. The James River was central to the geography of my youth. Much of the history I knew then centered on the James. The next few weeks would be an emotional high point of my hike as I walked familiar trails and visited old friends.

Crossing the state line into a few miles south of Damascus was exciting. After all, I was back in the state where I grew up. But southwest Virginia is well removed from my experience so my excitement was the excitement of seeing new places. Walking through Virginia (or any state, for that matter) was a new experience for me. I saw the state’s rocks, roots, ridges and streams close up. I was part of the forest that surrounded me and attuned to its ever changing moods. As I walked north, I anticipated my arrival in the central part of the state where I had previously hiked and spent much time as a young adult. Each step brought me closer to that reunion.

In the meantime, however, Virginia had many new and interesting facets to show me. Damascus was a pretty little town nestled in the Virginia’s southwestern highlands The highlands around Mount Rogers offered gentle walking on a sunny day after a winter storm. I followed flowing streams through deep gorges as I made my way to Troutdale, enjoyed the warm sun on Chestnut Knob, dodged hail in Stoney Creek Valley and marveled at the view from Tinker Cliffs. As I walked, I gained an appreciation for parts of Virginia I had not known before.

My anticipation grew as I crossed the Shenandoah Valley and climbed on to the Blue Ridge. Crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway at Black Horse Gap meant that I was very close to familiar territory. Each time the trail crossed the parkway I looked for old memories of that place. Although I could rarely recall anything specific, the scene always looked familiar. Morning light filtering through the forest canopy, jumbled rocks, lichens and ferns all seemed familiar as I walked, marveling at the beauty of the forest and remembering here before moving to Arizona.

At Petite Gap, I began walking a section of trail that I had hiked twice years ago. The terrain felt vaguely familiar but all I really remembered were a few hazy images. The shelter at Marble Spring was long gone but the area was a good spot for lunch. The walk up Thunder Ridge was more exposed and hotter than I remembered. But I knew that the day’s hike would bring me to the heights overlooking the James River Gorge. I remembered that view and looked forward to seeing it again.

And when I did see it, I was awestruck. As much by my emotions as the scene’s beauty and power.. Below, a great body of water coursed over rocks. I could hear the water even at this height. The gorge dropped precipitously away from me and rose equally sheer from the north bank. It was a glorious scene to behold on a sunny summer day. More than just a beautiful scene, the James River Gorge spoke to me and welcomed me home after years of wandering. When I moved to Arizona, that state became “home”. I consciously avoided thinking of Virginia as home to avoid being homesick. I largely succeeded. But when I saw the James River that day, I knew that I had long ignored a central fact: Virginia was and always will be a big part of what I call home, which is more a collection of experience and emotion rather than a geographic place. Looking into that gorge, I saw a past, present and future. My heart was happy and filled with joy.

The next weeks brought me even closer to home. A few days later I walked through the early morning haze at Reed’s Gap. I had spent much time at Reeds Gap in the 1970's and early 80's. My father-in-law owned a cabin just below the gap where my wife, dogs and I would visit frequently. We watched many sunsets and gazed into the night sky from the open field at the gap. Even after we divorced, I frequently returned to Reed’s Gap for short hikes, to sit on the rocks looking across the Shenandoah Valley. I was highly pleased to return now as a through hiker, very happy to share that experience with long time hiking companions from Arizona.

Two days later I walked through into Rockfish Gap on a foggy morning. I had passed through the gap many times before, often in a fog like this. The gap looked deserted in the gray mist. A phone call to an old friend led to a joyful reunion and ride into town for breakfast, a shower, companionship and a familiar place to sleep. I was home.


Monday, February 26, 2007

I've Been Saying This For Years

Charles Pena says it so much more cogently at Taylor Marsh.