Friday, March 11, 2005

Iranian Protesters Dissed by the Mainstream Media

I was a mainstream journalist for awhile, and I typically try to defend the Mainstream Media (as it's been well dubbed). But I can't come close to defending this.

Yesterday and into the wee hours of this morning, 56 Iranian dissidents hunkered down on a Lufthansa A320 that had arrived from Frankfurt in Brussels, Belgium. They refused to deplane until the United States and other western nations signed a pledge not to help Iran's "Islamic regime of mullahs."

The dissidents have since been hauled off the plane by 90 Belgian security officers, and Lufthansa is considering suing them for fouling up its departure/arrival schedule.

I didn't get this from CNN or the New York Times or the AP. Not even (gasp!) Fox News carried it. I got it from a friend's wife who happens to be on an Iranian dissident group's email list. Then I Googled and found the Edmonton, Ontario paper carried it and the Malaysia Star carried it. That's it! What the hell is going on here?

Is this story not important? You bet it is! And for any number of reasons: recent news on Iran and its nuke programs; the U.S.'s political approach to Iran as a terror threat; the E.U. and its maturing economic and political stature; Belgium's and Lufthana's actions.

Not to mention the cause of freedom and democracy in the face of tyranny.

Who is running the news rooms? Is anybody awake? Is anybody home? Don't make me speculate that there's some kind of political reason for this. Don't do it! Don't get crazy on me!

HELLO!!!!

UPDATE: I did find the story on CNN's international website, but not their U.S.-based CNN.com site. My complaint holds.

UPDATE #2: I found it by searching through CNN's U.S. site, going to "World," then "Europe News." It's the same story its international website carried.

I'm still annoyed. This is clearly not a story that the United States media cares about. It is being treated as incidental, and that's unacceptable in the current international political climate.

A Backdoor Maneuver

UPDATE: I'm not the only one freaked out about this. See althippo for the most comprehensive and convincing look at the ANWR issue that I've found.

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The Senate Budget Committee yesterday voted to keep language in the $2.56 trillion budget to make sure Senate Democrats cannot filibuster legislation allowing drilling in ANWR. Sen. Russell Feingold, who opposed the lanuage, said boot-strapping the highly devisive ANWR issue onto the budget was "a backdoor maneuver." I agree.

It feels just like a pork-barrel project pinned to a completely unrelated, legitimate piece of legislation. Despite the 12-10 vote, it smells like a midnight rider.

Clearly, whether to drill in ANWR is controversial. But why make it more controversial by using questionable procedural techniques to limit normal debate on the Senate floor? I know that there has been debate about filibustering itself and whether filibustering rules should be changed. But that's another issue altogether.

As it stands, if the proposal to open up ANWR is so controversial that it might cause the Democrats to filibuster it, why would Republicans want to undermine what they obviously believe are the merits of their case by procedurally ham-stringing their opponents? If it passes now and the Dems can make the case that the "backdoor maneuver" made the playing field unfair, honest debate and sober convictions will take second seat to politics, dishonesty, and trickery.

Where does that leave the ANWR debate? Tainted. Where does that leave the American public? Disgusted.

Such a technique begs the question whether the proposal is sound enough to pass at all, regardless of one's political or ethical motivations. If you have to change the rules mid-game, you must be pretty desperate.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"No Amount of Make-believe Can Help This Heart of Mine"

UPDATE: Check out the ANWR posts at althippo. Pretty insightful stuff.

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Today, Bush pushed Congress to pass his energy bill, which has been stalled since the beginning of his first term. The hangup, of course, is ANWR.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

According to CNN, Bush said, "[d]eveloping a small section of ANWR would not only create thousands of new jobs, but it would eventually reduce our dependence on foreign oil by up to 1 million barrels of oil a day." The American Petroleum Institute agrees, saying the refuge sits on enough oil to replace U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia for two decades.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups say hogwash, that the number is off-the-charts exaggerated. They argue that oil reserves beneath the refuge's coastal plain would last less than a year -- and expose the refuge to oil exploration that would irreparably damage it.

As appeasement, Bush said oil exploration can be limited to a 2,000-acre site -- "the size of the Columbus [Ohio] airport" -- and could be done "with almost no impact on land or local wildlife."

I'm not gonna argue about the impact on land or local wildlife. Having worked in a tundra research lab where we studied the impacts from Prudhoe Bay, I know the impacts are real, long-lasting, and damaging.

I'm passionate about the environment. I studied environmental science and policy in college and graduate school. I've advocated for environmental protection as a lawyer. As an attorney I've also helped defend the U.S. government's environmental-policy agencies from environmental groups. I've seen both sides.

And I love playing and working outside, thinking about being outside, and contemplating all the wonders offered by the earth and its plant and animal inhabitants.

I'm also passionate about finding ways to convince others that "the environment" (an overly generalized term, but it connotes enough meaning for this post) is worth preserving, and natural resources are worth conserving. I leave no option off the table in this endeavor. I welcome all ideas. Social incentives, religious incentives, cultural incentives of other kinds. Economic incentives are potentially the most ethically challenging, but I welcome them most because they work.

Having read this so far, the reader knows where I stand on ANWR. I think opening it to exploration and oil development is ridiculous. But let me reframe the question. Because I don't want you to take my word for it.

Let's say the oil industry is right, and that ANWR could produce enough crude to "replace" our dependence on Saudi Oil for two decades.

First, two decades is an incredibly short time period. My understanding is that estimates show fully alternative-fueled vehicles--if they do at all--will not replace gasoline-fueled combustion engines for at least twenty years, and more like 50 years or more. So where do we get the oil we need beyond the 20 years? I'm not counting fuel oil. And the conversation never seems to include our reliance on other countries' oil, like Venezuela's.

Second, the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia insists that we purchase their oil and they contribute to stability in the Middle East. If it weren't for Saudi oil, I have no doubt that Saudi Arabia, which already tends in many ways toward de facto recognition of radical Islam and anti-Americanism (think of their support for Egypt in the war against Isreal) would tilt the power balance in the Middle East (even further) away from pro-American interests.

Third, consider this (typical NIMBY) analogy. You own fifteen acres. Your home sits on an eighth of an acre. The rest is wild, beautiful forest. You love it. You spend your free time galavanting in its bounty. You searched high and low for this and you will never move. You also know an oil reserve sits under your land. You know that you could make a million dollars--money beyond your wildest dreams of money--if you sold the rights to that oil and let an oil company suck it up and sell it. However, you also know that there are no other 15-acre lots with wild forest on them. None. And the only lots with forest are not wild. They are used, full of old tires, dead campfires, the shells of cars, the trees are second-growth, rutty dirt roads rip through the heart of them. You get the picture. You wouldn't sell. You are happy with your good fortune and money couldn't change that.

Now add to the analogy. You're one-hundred million dollars in debt because you invested in a bad deal. You could sell the oil, make the million, and pay down a tiny bit of the interest on your debt. But it would barely make a dent. And your beautiful forest would never be the same. So you don't do it. And you try to find a way out of the deal.

We're in deep with fossil fuels. I'm not gonna complain about it because I drive a car, heat my house with natural gas, and own a billion plastic items made from petroleum derivatives. But the cost-benefit analysis doesn't play out in favor of wasting wild lands for one free foot forward in the first mile of the marathon that is reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

The point is, American citizens own ANWR. It's certainly not forest. I spent a month on the North Slope of Alaska and the closest thing you get to a tree is either a tall bush or a female barren-ground grizzly standing on her hind legs looking at you over the tall bush (which happened to me). But it is incredible, and wild, and virtually untouched.

Sure, there's Prudhoe Bay and its assemblage of oil-industry metal, the National Petroleum Reserve, Atkasuk, and Ivotuk and other native villages and camps, and there are scientists. But east of there, there's nothing but rolling tundra, rich with plant and animal life. It's alive. It's wild. And it's untouched. And ANWR is greater in area than most western states. It's a jewel. Whether you think it's God-given or just there, it's a jewel.

So we shouldn't drill there. 20 years. 50 years. 200 years. No time divorced from Saudi oil is good enough. Because once the drilling starts, ANWR is no longer a jewel. It's a jewel with a chip in it. And that's not good enough. Because no amount of make-believe will make it a whole jewel again.

Fourth, (and this is perhaps the most minor point but also the most politically-frought one) we've fought and are fighting enough wars in the Middle East. Why give up what we've arguably been--at least in part--fighting for: oil coupled with stability.

I'm not going to argue the merits, whether the wars "should have" or "should not have" been fought, or whether we "should be" in Iraq. I think there are good reasons to be there now that we are there. But I have no doubt that if we didn't care so much about Saudi oil and Saudi Arabia as a power broker, we would think longer and harder about putting boots on the ground in the Middle East.

(I realize there's the Saudi price-control issue, the Isreali issue, the spreading-freedom-and-democracy issue, and the anti-terrorism issue; all valid points that I am not minimalizing here, but don't have time to touch.)

In sum: Congress, please, leave the refuge alone.

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"No amount of make-believe can help this heart of mine." Dreamworld, Midnight Oil.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

For All the Talented, Over-achieving, Alcoholic, Crack-addict Men Out There

UPDATE #3 3/9/05. I answered Lizzie McGuire's question below as a comment. Also, I jumped into the fray over at Brayton's site (see update #2, below).

UPDATE #2 3/9/05: See Ed Brayton's blog "Dispatches from the Culture Wars" and this conversation (look at AJM's comments, too) between AJM and the author of that blogsite. I'm tempted to jump in.

UPDATE 3/9/05: See AJM's comments today for his intellectual/Evangelical/orthodox take on sin. I'm somewhat satisfied. I'll either post further ponderings at some point or send the remainder in a note in a bottle out to sea.

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AJM's second response to my homosexuality post is fantastic. And challenging. Here I go.

First, I address (briefly), AJM's "aside": "the biological and psychological evidence on the inbred vs. learned question so far points heavily in the direction of homosexuality being learned as a response to life circumstances." I will not bother AJM to scrounge for, dig up, or otherwise manifest the biological and psychological evidence for this. I will surely not ask him to go far afield beyond links connected to Christian websites into what he and I could agree were objective studies. I do not question that AJM has considerable knowledge of this evidence. Without seeing it, studying it, and critically analyzing it, however, I am skeptical whether the "evidence" is supported by good science.

AJM then goes into a string of comparisons to other somewhat despicable characteristics (including being male, which I certainly understand, at least when I'm feeling particularly self-effacing).

AJM writes: "To begin with, how is the homosexual's circumstance distinguishable from that of any of the following?"

"The baby born to a crack-addict mother. This child is almost certain to enter the world with a pre-existing addition to cocaine (among other serious problems). Does that make resisting drugs more difficult for this child? Of course. Does the child's prediliction make drug abuse any less sinful for the child? Of course not."

First, while I agree that drug abuse is a terrible problem, I'm not sure how it's a sin. Perhaps, this is a point about which an orthodox Christain's assumptions differ from a United Methodists'. Second, there is a big difference between crack babies and homosexuals. If the crack baby's mother or the crack baby's mother or father had never smoked crack, the crack baby would not be a crack baby, and would not have the problems therein associated. It's possible the baby and her mother would still have addictive personalities. But maybe they'd be long-distance runners addicted to lunchtime runs instead.

The homosexual, following the hypothetical that he is "born that way" (which I believe to be true in most cases), does not depend on parents or grandparents who "partook" of anything. His orientation is simply genetic or otherwise biologically wired into him. A crack addict may be wired to be susceptible to addiction, but not to be addicted to crack. In the same way, a homosexual is wired to be one. That leads me to AJM's next comparison.

"The alcoholic. The evidence is conflicting to what extent genetic factors contribute to alcoholism, but they almost certainly play some role. Should the alcoholic therefore get a free moral pass to get drunk? Preposterous. In fact, one who is predisposed to alcoholism bears a heavier burden to avoid drunkenness because of his propensity toward addiction." I agree that the alcoholic should not have a "free moral pass," and that his burden is excrutiating. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics. Fortunately, I have never hungered for alcohol, and whether I have a beer or not does not cause internal conflict. Drinking brings pleasure but I could live without it without much consequence.

The homosexual could live without homosexual relationships, as AJM has aptly demonstrated in his writings (not by his actions, as I know AJM and know that he is devoutly, clearly hetero). But I believe the consequences are negative (no sexual relationships ever), while AJM says those consequences are good: not sinning. AJM suggests that homosexuality is a "predisposition".

I would characterize it differently. I suggest that for most homosexuals, it is like color blindness. (Understanding homosexuals would take offense saying their sexuality is no "less" than mine.) Those who are color blind simply cannot see in the full range of colors that most of us can. Homosexuals cannot feel sexual feelings for anyone of the opposite gender. AJM says they shouldn't act on those feelings. Unless there is a naturally negative consequence (see prior posts) to homosexual action, that's like saying to a color-blind person: close your eyes. Because you're different, you should deny yourself any visual experience. If God thinks homosexuality is a sin, then God thinks homosexuality is a sin. But if humans think homosexuality is a sin, and God does not, and there still exists in homosexuals the blessing of sexuality, where does that leave the homsexual? Like an alcoholic needing to get drunk? Or like the dehydrated needing water?

"The man. Statistically, men are far more likely to think about sex than women and far more often. Does this excuse men from culpability for the sin of lust? Try telling that to your wife." O.K. But I bet the "sin of lust" wasn't so easily teased apart from all of the human feelings "man", you, or I had for our wives before they were our wives, either. In other words, our wives wouldn't be our wives if we weren't sexually attracted to them. And we were sexually attracted to them before they were our wives. There was lust blended in with the love and the admiration, I have no doubt. Are we "excused"? No. But we're happily married, yes?

"The talented achiever. A simple fact of life is that some people have more talent than others. Experience also tells us that some people will work harder and achieve more than others. Are the talented person, the hard worker, the success, and the overachiever permitted morally to indulge in pride? They certainly have more reason (and good reason, at that) to be proud than a slouch has." He's right. They have more reason. But--here's the human talking, perhaps--indulging in pride is different than having a loving, consensual, intimate sexual relationship.

THE REAL QUESTION

AJM knows what the real question is. He stated it:

"So, we see that the most relevant question is really not one of genetic predisposition but rather whether homosexual conduct is a sin. In fact, that is the only question. It is not an easy question, but if we can answer it all else falls into place."

He's right. I'm not at all convinced that homosexual activity--especially that undertaken within the framework of a committed relationship--is a sin. (A bunch of readers are going, "Ooo!" Others are saying, "Yes!")

Like I have a bunch of readers. . . .

AJM's upbringing, his early home life, his college and gradute studies, his experience, have all shaped his worldview. My upbringing, my early home life, my college and graduate studies, my experience, have all shaped my worldview.

Although I know a lot about AJM, I will let him explain himself if he cares to do so. What I can say about me, however, is that I did not go to Christian schools, or Christian colleges. I was raised in the United Methodist church. I was allowed to ask a lot of questions. But few of my peers or my elders had answers. And even fewer wanted to entertain my queries.

So my questions about God and His ways far outnumber my answers. But I am convinced that there is one Truth. And that it resides in the world and this universe for us to find. I am convinced that Biblical studies are important, but I believe they are only one tool with which to discern the Truth, including what God has done, is doing, will do, wants, or doesn't want. AJM wants the Truth, too. He is more sure of it than me. He is valuable that way. A good teacher. But I am a skeptic, so his work is cut out for him.

Sinners in the House!

AJM responded to my earlier post on homosexuality. His response was thoughtful and utterly logical, as expected. I appreciate. I reply here to his first response.

AJM wrote:

"The Accipiter . . . has, as usual, raised several good questions concerning both sin and homosexuality. Some can be dealt with quickly: the Church ought to refuse to ordain clergy who engage in any extramarital sex (or, in the Catholic church, any sex at all) regardless of their sexual orientation and not as a "punishment" for being homosexual (I realize this begs the ultimate question, which I will attempt to address later); the fact that many Christians find homosexual sin more offensive than other sins is a mark against Christians, not against Christ, and reflects our own sinfulness and ineptitude at sharing His grace; the sinful nature of homosexual acitivity does not depend upon homosexuality being learned, rather than inbred; that an alcoholic is more readily tempted to drunkenness does not make drunkenness any less sinful."

Many Christians do find homosexual sex more offensive than other "sins." They are offended by it because it's different than "normal" sex, it's "gross," and it's associated with what many people discern to be culturally distasteful (too-effeminiate men; women with men's haircuts, etc.). I suggest that these reactions are more culturally based than they are scripturally based, however. I say again, I don't think the Bible is particularly clear on this. Especially in light of the difference between Old Testament legalisms in chapters such as Leviticus and the embodied spirt of the law in Christ of the New Testament. And that's saying nothing about what seems to be an eternal conflict regarding the inerrancy of the Bible (but that's a different posting that I won't get into, especially with a Christianity scholar like AJM).

But the bigger issue to me is why--if all sins are equal in God's eyes--humans can use any of them to preclude someone from being a member of the clergy. I don't think they can. Since all humans are sinners, and all sin is "equal," why allow any human to hold a clergy position? The obvious answer is that humans are all we have. God Himself doesn't take the pulpit every Sunday. While he might bless the words, it's Preacher Dave or Pastor Finnegan who's leading the flock. And the Church can't allow just anyone to preach or be a clergyperson, right? "Everybody stand and welcome John. He just killed his neighbor for borrowing his weed whacker and failing to return it. He'll give the message today."

Absurd, right? Well, maybe not. I'm just not sure where to draw the line. Or--more importantly--if the Church has any business drawing the line. If I lust in my heart, no one can see that, so they can't hold that against me. If I am a homosexual and keep it "in the closet," they can't hold that against me either. If I'm caught with my hand in the offering basket and bills are coming out, not going in, that's a problem. But where does the Church find its support for holding ANY sin against anyone who wants to participate in the celebration of God?

Perhaps it's because if the sin is known by others--if it is apparent--that person is not "fit to lead," being morally suspect. But that makes no sense. The given state of humanity is that everyone is morally suspect (at least for Protestants; Catholics play with that notion within their hierarchical system).

And who is to say sinners--sometimes the "worst" ones--aren't good teachers, leaders, and--in their approach to dealing with sin--Christian examples?

Revisiting Journalism in the Blog Age

UPDATE: Cronkite lambasts Dan Rather.

I posted a number of comments back in January 2005 to AJM's posts on the Dan Rather/CBS News debacle of late last year. I post the string here so that it is accessible through my site and so I can refer to it. Thanks for your indulgence. And, thanks, as usual, to AJM, for the conversation.

AJM began with this comment.

In response, I wrote:

First, the independent review panel found no evidence that CBS falsified any documents. There is also no evidence that the documents were falsified. There is evidence that CBS judged these outside documents to be true when they were not verified as true. By any good journalist’s rule of thumb documents must be considered false until verified by more than one source as true. Sadly, CBS blindly defended their veracity; hence “Memogate.”

Second, to the extend this is “Rathergate,” I take issue. Rather defended his staff’s representation of what was true. These are the same people he depended on for years to give him good information. Mary Mapes broke the Abu Ghraib story, which no one doubted was true. Rather had good reason to trust her. He failed when he didn’t verify a story with such obviously powerful political ramifications.

But he did not fail when he trusted a staff he had every reason to trust. (Nonetheless, read none of this to say that Dan–what’s the Frequency, Kenneth–isn’t particularly weird.) All in all, this was less Rather’s fault then this producers’. But he is Executive Producer, and the buck stops there. Or should.

Third, I agree that admission of one’s biases–and hiding nothing–tends to increase a person’s (or in this case, media outlet’s) credibility. I also agree that bloggers are doing some great things, and the future of mass media is driven in large part by the new ingenuity underlying faster, more interactive, more personable, more potent–and potentially more honest–information sharing.

That said, bloggers by and large are not professional journalists. Nor are they necessarily any good at finding a story that hasn’t already been “found” by the mass media, parsing good information from bad by interviewing many sources other than those already interviewed by the mass media, or interpreting information from all relevant perspectives other than their own.

Bloggers today–and the Conservative news outlets are–by and large–pundits and pundit sanctuaries. They comment on the news as it is reported by the mass media. They have become the news in many cases. And they–often with great skill–point out the inconsistencies and mistakes and biases inherent in humans reporting on the world.

But they do not–and in most cases cannot–“cover” the news. They can only comment on what’s been exposed by others. Andrew Sullivan doesn’t send field bloggers to Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. Real Clear Politics gathers op-ed pieces from the mass media outlets. While there’s a lot to be said for the value of personal punditry, talking heads depend on the news brought back from the front lines by others who dug it up and sweat it out. And those guys are usually professional journalists.

Professional journalists are taught in journalism school that objectivity is like perfection: a good goal that will never be achieved. However, Professional journalists are also taught that attempting to be objective in every story is essential to good reporting.It is true that whether in framing the story idea, articulating interview questions, or characterizing facts in a written or spoken piece, a journalist’s own world views inform his story. The “professional” journalist, however, will work hard to realize his own biases to the best of his ability and filter them to the best of his ability from his work. This is a job that should be–and most often is–taken very seriously.

On the other hand, many journalists see themselves as part of the “4th branch” of government. They have a watchdog role to perform and take it seriously, too. Some would say that such a role inherently breeds bias against the government or against an administration or a particular political party, depending on who’s in the majority. Ideally, such biases would not naturally flow from the journalist’s responsibility to keep an eye on those in power and make sure they’re playing straight. I think striving for objectivity goes hand in hand with the watchdog role, but that’s fodder for another piece.

To cut to the quick, my emphasis on professional journalism is meant to say one thing. I don’t want my news from people who have candidly and transparently admitted their biases. Once a journalist–not a pundit–admits her biases, she says to me, “Despite my attempts at objectivity, my biases will affect my reporting. I am not professionally committed to preventing my personal opinions from overwhelming me and distracting me from my job. Therefore, I cannot be trusted to deliver facts to you.”

I want my news from professionals. I don’t want commentary from these people. I want facts. (And that’s a huge subject in itself. Too many journalists can’t resist the temptation to be pundits as well. Brett Hume on Fox is a great example. Anchor one hour, talk-show host the next; And I dare say Fox does not openly admit its biases. How do they want me to read “Fair and Balanced”?) That’s it. Whether the journalist is a Republican, a Green Party member, an Evangelical, or an atheist should have zero affect on the information I receive. That’s what I expect.

AJM replied with this.

I responded as follows:

Bias is inevitable. That's why I wrote: "It is true that whether in framing the story idea, articulating interview questions, or characterizing facts in a written or spoken piece, a journalist’s own world views inform his story. The “professional” journalist, however, will work hard to realize his own biases to the best of his ability and filter them to the best of his ability from his work. This is a job that should be–and most often is–taken very seriously."

Professional journalists are committed to recognizing their biases and filtering them out. Does this mean that reporting the news is "unbiased"? Not necessarily. But that is the goal. And it is a noble goal. When reporting facts--not opinions of the journalist--this goal CAN be met. It is by no means EASY to meet, however. AJM's point that pure objectivity is impossible is absolutely true.
But that doesn't undermine my point that professional journalists are taught to recognize their own points of view and keep them out of the story.

Next, do I (me-myself-and-I) think the documents were fake? Yup. I do. But nothing has been done to prove unequivocally that they were faked. OR--which was more to my point--that they were real. CBS' failure is/was huge. But understanding the failure for what it really was is important. It was a failure to follow rote journalism rules and abide by ethics designed to give journalists credibility. Shame on CBS for it.

AJM lists a whole slew of bloggers who scoop real journalists because they're in the best circumstances to observe the "news." AJM misses my point. He lists American soldiers, American diplomats, and the Rocky Mountain Alliance. Fine and good. I love the fact that anyone can report the "facts" they see around them through their blogs.

However, the American soldiers are "reporting" on the wars and relief efforts IN WHICH THEY ARE PARTICIPANTS. The American diplomats reporting on the tsunami are "reporting" on THEIR OWN EFFORTS AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES THEY SEE AROUND THEM IN WHICH THEY ARE INVOLVED. The Alliance is reporting on ITS OWN INTERACTIONS WITH THE GOVERNOR.By "reporting" stories in which they are actors, these bloggers are NOT doing journalism. Not even close. They are reporting on direct observations and their feelings on these observations. Professional reporters--attempting to be objective--keep out of the story. Their are dispassionate observers. They are on the sidelines, attempting to look at the story unfolding around them from the perspectives OF ALL PARTIES INVOLVED. Are they perfectly objective? No. Do they attempt to be unassociated with the subjects about which they report? Yes.

Journalism schools for about 5 years or so have been struggling with a new phenomenon called "Creative Non-fiction." "Old-school," "classic" journalists hate this new form of reportage. It is exemplified by stories like John Krakauer's 1998 book "Into Thin Air" in which he--as a reporter for Outside magazine--writes about the tragic deaths of his fellow mountain climbers on Mt. Everest, and his own escape from death in those same circumstances. In Creative Non-fiction, the writer is free to be part of the story, even the main subject of it, yet still attempt to "report" on the "facts" as they occurred. This is completely out of step with journalism, but is the very thing AJM cites most bloggers are doing.

Now, just for the record, I repeat myself. I do not think pure objectivity is possible. Every decision involved in every story--from the topic to the choice of reporter to the color of the rain suit the reporter wears while covering the hurricane to the turns of phrase an interviewer puts forth to his subject to the adjectives chosen to describe a bombing scene to the decisions made by editors to run the story at all--is informed by myriad biases. That does NOT mean, however, that journalists are not out there working very hard to fairly ignore these biases when reporting THE FACTS.

Candor, as AJM says, is what counts. OK. Reasonable enough. One can be candid in saying "I have this bias." One can also be candid in his actions. I can frank or sincere in my expression when I, as a reporter, inform the reader, the viewer in my everyday work: Here are the facts, presented by a professional journalist. I have made every attempt to filter my own biases from this report because that is my duty and I take it seriously.

AJM says all journalists should tell the viewer their biases. That's a nice idea. But it's like asking a police officer to admit he speeds and runs red lights and--by the way--doesn't happen to like African Americans. All before he arrests a black guy for speeding and running a red light. Do we expect him to do this? No. Do all cops have biases that might affect their work? Yes. But they are professionals who answer to a higher ethic than their own. That means they filter this stuff out AS MUCH AS THEY CAN.

And that's all we can expect of any professional, journalists included.But we can neither expect it nor ask it from the Marine in Afghanistan who's writing in his blog about carrying his dead comrade's body through heavy enemy fire to the safety of a Armored Personnel Carrier. And I wouldn't WANT him to put HIS biases aside.

And one last point: Just because the Bush administration calls the enemy "terrorists" doesn't mean the MSM should follow his lead. Are they terrorists? For the most part I think so. Most fit the basic definition: idealists willing to use force on innocents to create fear and coerce action in their favor from established powers. However, all of the "enemy"--whether actually part of an organized terrorist group, or simply those opposed to U.S. presence in the country--are "insurgents": those who revolt against civil authority.

Informational Capitalism

The White House has credentialed the first known blogger-journalist for access to the White House briefing room. Garrett M. Graff, 23, writes Fishbowl D.C. , a self-proclaimed gossip blog about the D.C. media. Now, I'm not sure sure of Graff's credentials as a journalist, see my views on this, but I'm impressed that he's there. Thanks, Scott McClellan, who said: "Historically, . . . the White House has admitted the traditional media and the nontraditional media, as well as colorful individuals with certain points of view from the left and the right."

Blogging finds its wings in what I call "informational capitalism." If your blog is worth reading, it will eventually gain recognition in the marketplace of ideas. This might take time, and the readers will initially only be friends and family, but the theory holds.

Simply because one individual's blogspace occupies the same physical space on your computer monitor as, say, CNN, the New York Times, The Nation, National Review, or RealClearPolitics, that individual has an opportunity to convince you his ideas are worth considering. Regardless of his worldview, her politics, his agenda, her characteristics, or whether she does this as a "real job."

This is unprecedented in the information age; indeed since the advent of the printing press it has never been so easy to publish one's own thoughts and commentaries so that they compete with everything else in the common pool of ideas readily accessible by the reading public. Concedely, a blogger's access to you, the viewer, is not on equal footing with CNN's. You know about CNN. You know how to find it. It's harder to find Graff's blog, AJM's, or mine. And we can't do much--other than convince others to look or to sponser--to attract you to us in the way of marketing or positioning ourselves more favorably in Google-search-land.

That said, if what we say has meaning, has impact, is credible, and is worthy of your interest, we stand toe-to-toe with any other information source out there. Andrew Sullivan, the first credible news commentator/blogger, is to be thanked for blazing the way.

What an incredible thing.