news organizations should fight the shallowness of the format by providing the facts — not embrace it by reporting on a presidential race as if it were a high-school popularity contest

No Confidence Vote on Gonzalez this Monday

“If all senators who have actually lost confidence in Attorney General Gonzales voted their conscience, this vote would be unanimous.”

“However, the President will certainly exert pressure to support the Attorney General, his longtime friend. We will soon see where people’s loyalties lie.”

True enough if those people, meaning if Republicans such as Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Sununu (R-NH) and Arlen “talks a good game” Specter(PA) would actually have the courage to back up their words with actions the No Confidence vote shouldn’t just squeak by it should pass so hard and fast that it knocks the smirk off the Chimp-in-Chief’s face. Everyone does it, the blogs, the pundits, the print and TV media… such and such Republican was critical of Bush on this or that issue and we never hear much about how those Republicans, supposedly of independent mind and principle actually voted. The vast majority of the time they voted how their masters at the Whitehouse told them to vote ( the current immigration bill the glaring single exception of the last six years). Republicans have nothing to lose by playing this little game. Come election time they can playback their little snip of criticism if that is the way the political winds are blowing or they can brag about voting along with the Bushies should the political winds shift that way.

I readily admit that I was one of those who thought that Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (originally published in 1953) was largely a commentary about censorship, authoritarian government and to some degree about the dumping down of society. On the last bit, the watering down of ideas into “factoids” I was right, but otherwise me and quite a few other people got it wrong, Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted L.A.’s august Pulitzer honoree says it was never about censorship

Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

As some people might find this too incredible to believe from a newspaper Bradbury has put up a video clip of his thoughts here. Bradbury’s great fear was that television, still in its infancy in 1953 would kill off books. While TV may not be the great informer many wish it would be it has contributed to an increase in book sales. Most people whether they would like to admit it or not rely too much on a few minutes of TV news to inform their opinions about issues. That said TV also serves as just background noise and night light, Public’s Grasp of Current Issues Unchanged Despite Internet, Cable TV

Despite the emergence of 24-hour cable television news and fast-growing use of internet news sources, the U.S. public’s knowledge of national and international personalities and issues is little changed from nearly 20 years ago, according to a new survey released by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press.

Indeed, the survey, which was conducted in early February, found that in some areas public knowledge may actually have declined somewhat.

While three out of four U.S. respondents could name their state’s governor in 1989, for example, only two-thirds could do so today. Similarly, nearly half (47 percent) could correctly identify the president of Russia 18 years ago, compared to only 36 percent today.

Fifties toys and books 

Don’t Ask, Don’t Translate

IMAGINE for a moment an American soldier deep in the Iraqi desert. His unit is about to head out when he receives a cable detailing an insurgent ambush right in his convoy’s path. With this information, he and his soldiers are now prepared for the danger that lies ahead.

Reports like these are regularly sent from military translators’ desks, providing critical, often life-saving intelligence to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military has a desperate shortage of linguists trained to translate such invaluable information and convey it to the war zone.

The lack of qualified translators has been a pressing issue for some time — the Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators in 2001. Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.

I was an Arabic translator. After joining the Navy in 2003, I attended the Defense Language Institute, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and then spent two years giving our troops the critical translation services they desperately needed. I was ready to serve in Iraq.

But I never got to. In March, I was ousted from the Navy under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which mandates dismissal if a service member is found to be gay.

To paraphrase John Stewart, that would be the worse possible event in the world, a gay hero saving America. Or at least that is what the current herd of wing-nuts running for president think and is a nightmare shared by many of their so-called patriotic supporters.

Lies, Sighs and Politics

Now fast forward to last Tuesday. Asked whether we should have invaded Iraq, Mr. Romney said that war could only have been avoided if Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction.” He dismissed this as an “unreasonable hypothetical.”

Except that Saddam did, in fact, allow inspectors in. Remember Hans Blix? When those inspectors failed to find nonexistent W.M.D., Mr. Bush ordered them out so that he could invade. Mr. Romney’s remark should have been the central story in news reports about Tuesday’s debate. But it wasn’t.

Krugman also points out Senator Clinton’s avoidance problem when it comes to health-care. I don’t have a absolute favorite at the moment, but the one big issue that I have with Senator Clinton is her politics as usual approach. I’m looking forward to a new president for many reasons, but It would also be great for the country to turn the corner, stop hedging on the issues, stop playing the same old game. It seems like Obama, Edwards and even a new invigorated Al Gore ( should he decide to run) could do more to accomplish that then Clinton.

“…news organizations should fight the shallowness of the format by providing the facts — not embrace it by reporting on a presidential race as if it were a high-school popularity contest.” – Paul Krugman