There’s A New Blog In Town

Well, OK, that’s a headline that I could put up almost every day, or several times a day, based on the current growth rate.

But the little discussion between me, Jeff Jarvis, Bill Quick, Jackson Murphy (not to mention blog nobility Andrew Sullivan) on whether or not media bias is fact or fiction has brought another one out of the woodwork.

From his website:

The Media Minder is a copy editor at one of America’s largest daily newspapers. He has over 12 years of experience in print journalism, including stints at newspapers both small and large. He has been a reporter, but has focused on copy editing almost exclusively for the past eight years. Because the Minder posts a lot from work, he wishes to remain anonymous.

Well, I guess we know that it’s a “he.” That narrows down the mystery a little…

There’s A New Blog In Town

Well, OK, that’s a headline that I could put up almost every day, or several times a day, based on the current growth rate.

But the little discussion between me, Jeff Jarvis, Bill Quick, Jackson Murphy (not to mention blog nobility Andrew Sullivan) on whether or not media bias is fact or fiction has brought another one out of the woodwork.

From his website:

The Media Minder is a copy editor at one of America’s largest daily newspapers. He has over 12 years of experience in print journalism, including stints at newspapers both small and large. He has been a reporter, but has focused on copy editing almost exclusively for the past eight years. Because the Minder posts a lot from work, he wishes to remain anonymous.

Well, I guess we know that it’s a “he.” That narrows down the mystery a little…

Taxi Driver G2

Megan McArdle notes, in reference to a post about Argentina:

TNR describes the social chaos in Argentina. It all boils down to this one delicious quote (from a taxi driver, of course; P.J. O’Rourke says that all third world taxi drivers are under contract to UPI to provide memorable quotes)…

It’s not just a third-world deal–I get good info from them even in the first world (i.e., between my house and LAX). This reminds me that about a week before 911, I flew down to San Juan from LA, and since I was going to be gone for longer than I wanted to pay parking, and the flight was too early in the morning for the bus, I took a cab. When I got in, I heard music from his cassette that sounded vaguely Persian. I asked the driver, and he said that it was.

“Are you Iranian?”

“No, I’m from Afghanistan, but the music is very similar.”

Oh.

“So, how long have you been in America?”

“About twelve years. We left in 1979 when the Russians invaded, and went to Germany. Then I came here.”

“Do you think that the Taliban will remain in power?”

He was surprised at this question. I suspect that most of his fares couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map of Afghanistan.

“No, sir. The people are very unhappy. They may last a month, they may last a year, but they will not be there long.”

“But you like Persian music. I assume that you must be Pashtun. The Taliban are Pashtun. What’s the problem?”

Now he’s really weirded out.

“They are Pashtun, but they do not have the support of the Afghan people, in the west or the north. They rule by force and cruelty alone. They are not acting in the interest of Afghanistan.”

About this time, we were pulling up to the terminal. In retrospect, it might have been instructive to continue the conversation, but who knew…?

A friend of mine has a theory about third-world unrest. He claims that you can tell what country will be the next trouble spot, by counting ethnic restaurant openings (by expatriots), particularly in DC, as a leading indicator.

The last time I flew, when I went to St. Louis, the driver was from Bangladesh. But that’s another story…

The Palace Of Arrrrggghhhh

While reading a piece in Opinion Journal about the Taliban destruction of Afghanistan’s artwork, I ran across this, which is apparently describing a real place.

The Argh Palace here bears some of the worst scars of the frenzy to obliterate.

First the crack suicide squads, then the Taliban blustering with its limbs cut off, and now this.

(Remember the scene where Eric Idle was reading the last words scrawled on the wall in the cave, in The Holy Grail, after fighting off the killer rabbit with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch?

“He wouldn’t have written ‘arrrrgggghhh.'”

“Maybe he was dictating.”).

Life and this war continue to imitate Monty Python.

Half Twain

As a non-(modern)liberal, and someone who regularly rails against PBS and NPR (and still thinks that they should receive not a dime of taxpayers’ money), I have a guilty confession to make.

I like Ken Burns documentaries. Parts of “The Civil War” brought tears to my eyes.

Tonight I watched the first part of his two-part series on Mark Twain.

This is not a subject with which I’m unfamiliar–as a high-school and college student, I read every word of Clemens that I could lay my hands on, including several biographies and critiques, both by his colleagues, such as Howells, and contemporary. One winter afternoon, after class, I went up to the fifth floor of the graduate library in Ann Arbor, and dug out of the stacks an unpublished (and uncheckoutable) copy of the forbidden “1601.” I started to read it there, and before I got through the first several lines, realized that I would have to spend the geld to make a copy so that I could take it back home, because I would have otherwise disturbed the other, more serious students with my uncontrollable, lachrymose laughter. (Now of course, one need not dig through musty stacks of university libraries–it can be found at web sites like this.)

But I also realized that he was not just a humorist–he was a great (in the most profound sense of that overused word) writer. I realized this not in reading his greatest work, “Huckleberry Finn,” but in a more obscure passage, in “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.” And I can’t even say quite why the passage moved me, though I think that it encapsulates many of the themes of both the everyman and unhereditary nobility that made him such a universal spokesman for the American ideal. I can only offer it here, and see if it has a similar effect on others. It is from a part of the book where the Yankee is traveling with King Arthur, and they are both incognito. They have come upon a hut infected with smallpox, and despite the Yankee’s warnings, the king enters the hut to try to help his subjects.

There was a slight noise from the direction of the dim corner where the ladder was. It was the king descending. I could see that he was bearing something in one arm, and assisting himself with the other. He came forward into the light; upon his breast lay a slender girl of fifteen. She was but half conscious; she was dying of smallpox. Here was heroism at its last and loftiest possibility, its utmost summit; this was challenging death in the open field unarmed, with all the odds against the challenger, no reward set upon the contest, and no admiring world in silks and cloth-of-gold to gaze and applaud; and yet the king’s bearing was as serenely brave as it had always been in those cheaper contests where knight meets knight in equal fight and clothed in protecting steel. He was great now; sublimely great. The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition–I would see to that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon, like the rest, it would be a king in commoner’s garb bearing death in his arms that a peasant mother might look her last upon her child and be comforted.

As I watched the program, I gained some new insights into the author and the man.

He was wholly representative of the America in which he grew up. There may have been places as good as the 1840s river town of Hannibal, Missouri to serve as a childhood home of an iconic American writer, but there were certainly none better. He matured as the country did. He was born in its adolescence, and he lost his innocence as it did, in the hellish cauldron of the war that resolved our original sin, though he spent it in the new frontier out west, avoiding the fighting itself. He lent a voice to the young nation, and with “Innocents Abroad,” almost singlehandedly transformed it from an uncertain, self-conscious adulator of old-world culture, to a brash and self-confident skeptic of the ancient verities, proud of its own virtues and ready to lead the world. He truly was the first American writer, who unlike Hawthorne or Poe or Melville, had no pretensions or desires to imitate the stale Europeans. With Huck Finn, he both invented modern American literature and provided the first real black character, while setting out, (both figuratively and literally) in black and white, the moral choices that would have to be made by our nation over the next century, even as the war over slavery remained fresh in peoples’ minds.

He represented the America of the nineteenth century–a mythical boy playing in bluffs and caves, on idyllic islands in a mighty river that both defined and divided the nation; a riverboat captain; a gold miner; an entrepreneur; a lecturer. He worked with deck hands and supped with kings.

The documentary focuses on the tragedies of his life, which were many, but that is also part of the character of our young nation. Few children today are familiar with death, which is why we have to bring in “grief counselors” at school shootings, or when, due to the wonder of television, they see Space Shuttles blow up, or skyscrapers fall down. But in Mark Twain’s day, and even in the day of many of our parents or grandparents, depending on our age, it was not unusual to attend the funerals of many childhood friends–death was a fundamental and inescapable part of life.

But he was a man for the ages. One has a sense that if he were somehow plopped down in the year 2002, he would take no longer than an hour or so to quickly become acclimated–get a car, a cell phone, a computer, get himself booked on Larry King, set up a web site, and tear into the politicians, preachers and plutocrats with the same zeal as he did a century ago. And he would retain fully the power to make us laugh. And cry.

If you didn’t see it tonight, watch the second half tomorrow, even though it’s on PBS.

[Update at 11:48 PM]

De gustibus non disputandum.

Ken Layne just did his own review, and he hated it. Actually, “he hated it” is an extreme understatement. But he also seems to hate Ken Burns in general, particularly for “Jazz,” which I didn’t see.

So, we report, you decide…

More Media Bias Confusion

In his failed attempt to debunk the notion of media bias, Jeff Jarvis misses the point entirely. He does, however, unwittingly make the point of Goldberg, and those of us who do claim bias:

…journalistic integrity — or bias — is the product of the consciences of individuals far more than of the conspiracies of institutions.

Exactly. Media bias exists, but it isn’t caused by editorial pressure, or some kind of conspiracy, so most of what Jeff says is utterly irrelevant. It is caused by the intrinsic staff composition of the major media organs. Most reporters and editors are liberal, both by their nature (many go into journalism to “change the world”) and training (most journalism professors, like most humanities professors, are liberals to one degree or another of extremity). Also, if you’re not a liberal, in the social circles that journalists hang out in, you will not get invited to the right parties, or get access to the best sources. How else to explain that 89% of the Washington press corps voted for Bill Clinton in 1992?

It’s not a conspiracy–it’s just an emergent trait of the profession. Jeff doesn’t see it because he is immersed in it. Fish are similarly unaware of water.

More Gun Control Success

In the most recent year, nine out of ten of shooting fatalities in Kenya were police shootings, according to this story.

One must get a certificate in order to own a firearm in Kenya. This is issued only after a detailed personal investigation and must be justified.

But police and other public officers and members of rifle clubs are the exception to the rule.

One Down, Two To Go

We haven’t found Osama or the Cyclops yet, but here’s something better. The true evil genius behind Al Qaeda, Bert, has been captured and jailed. Based on the URL of the link, the SAS must have gotten him.

[Update at 11:33 PM PST]

I’m informed by an unreliable source that he was actually captured by MI6 and Austin Powers. Judge for yourself–it looks like a phaked photo to me…

Our Friends The Iranians

With apparent government complicity in Tehran, Al Qaeda are slipping into Iran (and Pakistan, which we already knew), according to this article in today’s Christian Science Monitor. Perhaps we should not worry about Somalia, or even Iraq, for now, and go after the next possible domino in Tehran. It’s probably got the most potential for a pro-western government of all the current middle eastern dictatorships, and its situation on the border of Afghanistan, where our enemy is fleeing, makes it a more immediate next war aim.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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