Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It's Not Just Those People, Over There .....

That's the point Missioner seems to be making with this post at West Texas Missioner. Apparently, a group of West Texans gained tremendous insight into the problems of human trafficking and child exploitation while on Christian mission to Thailand. They also learned about possible solutions to those problems - solutions that need to be applied in southeast Asia, and right here, in the Lone Star State.

Some might say Thailand is a long way to go - and I guess I can see their point. But if it helps keep more 13-year-old girls off the stages of Dallas strip clubs, I think it's well worth the trip.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Virtual Wisdom vs. Actual Reality .....

The hunt has been on in recent months for what some virtual punditz claim is a mythical creature. I'm not so sure about that.

I'm talking about the 'conservative Democrat.' The phrase came up earlier this year when a local politician announced his candidacy for office. The phrase drew more than a few responses, a substantial number of them to the effect of, "there ain't no such thing as a conservative Democrat."

Me? I'm not so sure. I guess it's because - on this topic, at least - I find virtual wisdom at odds with actual reality. I'm a big fan of actual reality, and I truly believe it's something we should all try to embrace more often and with more enthusiasm. Doing so has led me to a startling and contrary conclusion ..... "yes, Texas, there IS a conservative Democrat." There always has been and there always will be.

True, there aren't nearly as many of them as there used to be. Once upon a time, they ranged across the American landscape by the millions. And they occupied positions of great power. I still remember Philadelphia during the term of 'the Super Cop,' Mayor Frank Rizzo, a no-nonsense, law-and-order, conservative Democrat. Some claim he even considered supporting Republican President Richard Nixon's bid for re-election in 1972, rather than Democratic challenger George McGovern. Though I've never lived in Chicago, I've spoken to one-time residents of the Windy City who share similar stories of their one-time mayor, Richard J. Daley (the Elder Mayor Daley).

Okay, that was then ..... what about now? Oh, yes, they're still out there, still living and working, directing government and making a difference in this world. It's hard to believe, really, that our local band of neo-con Republicans can so quickly and so easily dismiss the existence of the Yellow Dog Democrat.

In the late 90s, I spent five years covering Pecos County YDD's as managing editor and chief reporter for the Fort Stockton Pioneer. A majority of the people in Pecos County and the City of Fort Stockton were conservatives ..... but they were also Democrats. At election time, most local, municipal and county races were won by Democrats, while most state and federal races were won by Republicans. Time and again, the decisions by local governing bodies - dominated by Democrats - reflected conservative values.

And let's not forget another conservative Democrat in West Texas, former Congressman Charlie Stenholm.

Sure, there are plenty of those conservatives who jumped the Democratic ship over the past thirty years, and swam for Republican shores. But there are still those who remain faithful to their conservative values and outlook ..... and remain Democrats.

And sure, it flouts virtual wisdom ..... but actual reality has a way of doing that from time to time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Really Not Into Reality, But .....

If the ratings are any indicator, I'm one of about seven people nationwide that is not a fan of "American Idol," arguably one of the most successful of the 'reality TV' programs to hit the airwaves.

Actually, the same holds true for most of the more successful reality shows ..... I remember, from the very beginning, I was never able to embrace "
Survivor." I remember writing in my weekly column for the Fort Stockton Pioneer, that having known too many real survivors - whether they were U.S. Marines or West Texas pioneer ranchers - I just didn't have much patience with all the posturing and pontificating from the TV show's contestants.

There have been exceptions, though. I used to love watching "
Junkyard Wars" ..... but that series eventually ran its course, and was retired. I was a big fan of Monster House and Monster Garage, until the shows' producers started spending more and more time on personality and confrontation, and less and less time on product and construction.

Production, production, production ..... needless to say, when "
Making News: Texas Style" hit the airwaves, I was interested. After all, it was about my business, and about people I knew and had worked with ..... but the show's producers, for the most part, made sure I didn't watch more than two-and-a-half episodes - I thought they did a terrible job.

But, the thing about television programming ..... there is a lot of it out there, and there's bound to be something for everyone. For me, it's "
Top Chef" which airs Wednesday nights at nine (central) on BravoTV. Why? Part of it is the content - I have always enjoyed shows about cooking - and part of it is the genuine competition and the creative challenges that are presented to the contestants. A big part of it is the production ..... there is A LOT of the attitude and the posturing that I dislike on other programs, but somehow the producers have added just the right portion of that ingredient to the mix, and maintain the show's focus on the product.

I'll be watching tonight ..... and someday, maybe - just maybe - I'll try one of their recipes in my kitchen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Go Ahead, Hug That Tree - It's Okay .....

Quick ..... picture an 'environmentalist' in your mind, and what do you see? ..... Who are these people, anyway? ..... And where do they get their crazy ideas?

All too often, people deal with stereotypes formed from incomplete and inaccurate observations. For example, because one totes a firearm (and, maybe, hunts), does that make one some kind of NRA-cold-dead-fingers-off-the-trigger fanatic? ..... maybe not.

Because one is an environmentalist, does that make one some kind of wild-eyed-tie-dyed-bare-footed-tree-hugging-leftist-leaning-granola-eating hippie? ..... again, maybe not.

That's not to say there aren't some individuals out there who might fit those stereotypes ..... but you have to ask yourself if they are the 'rule' or the 'exception' ..... are YOU an environmentalist, even just a little bit? ..... you may be, even if you haven't spent much time at an outdoor concert in Woodstock; a commune in Taos, or a revolutionary neighborhood in San Francisco.

Me? My environmental roots took hold in very different soil, in lessons learned from my family, my parents and my grandparents. They were people who experienced first-hand the Great Wars of the 1910s and the 1940s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. My father's family were farmers, and that provided an added lesson for me to respect the blessings that are the earth and its resources, and to do whatever I can - within reason - to nurture those resources, to use them well and wisely .....

..... to be a good steward. My family had never heard of Gaia (that was something I learned later, in college), but there was still something spiritual - a matter of fundamental faith - in their relationship to the Earth and its resources. They had read in the
Bible (KJV), the Book of Genesis, that their dominion over the Earth and its resources, and their command to replenish and subdue, came from God ..... pretty heady stuff, and a topic that is still the subject of heated debate today.

Spirituality ..... and frugality ..... wasting nothing ..... helping to make limited ends meet by finding a way to use (or re-use) anything and everything before you decide to dispose of it ...... to repair/rebuild/restore the old before having to buy the new - a decision that is taken more and more out of our hands in the modern electronic age, where car maintenance (for example) is not as easy it was in my father's day. And frugality extends to the kitchen, as well ..... recipes my grandma shared with me, and strategies for re-using products, and stretching limited amounts of meat, and serving leftovers in a creative manner, reflected the days when household budgets were especially tight.

Spirituality ... and frugality ... and patriotism. World Wars I and II were fought on many fronts, including the home front, where we were asked (and, in some cases, required) to conserve valuable resources such as gasoline, needed to aid the war effort. In retrospect, it seems to me that recycling efforts of the past thirty years (which I have experienced) were nothing compared to those of the 1940s (which I did not experience, but were described to me by my parents and grandparents). And Victory Gardens (some as big as a house lot, some as small as a window box) provided fresh produce that might be lacking on store shelves.

Spirituality ... frugality ... patriotism ... and good economic/business sense. Take
aluminum recycling, for example. Some are surprised that the process has been used since the early 1900s - it only gained a high profile in the 1960s and 70s as environmentalism became more and more a part of the public consciousness. According to industry statistics, recycling aluminum uses 95% less energy, and a lot less money, than making new aluminum through the mining and refining of ore products. And recycling aluminum (or any other recyclable product), rather than just throwing it away, also makes good sense to taxpayers who have to pay for growing waste/landfill services in their community ..... and even those who make fun of 'tree-huggers' can appreciate anything that reduces our shared tax burden.

Spirituality ... frugality ... patriotism ... good economic sense ... and pride. Environmentalism reflects my love for, and pride in my community and its appearance. And that includes efforts to pick up the trash that others have discarded along our roadsides, in our parks, and around our town ... and recycling ... and promoting reasonable alternatives ... and including environmentalism in the issues that guide my vote.

Anyway, that's why I AM an environmentalist ..... and proud of it.

CLICK HERE for more on Earth Day 2008.
CLICK HERE for a neat, related feature, "Earth as Art"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lessons Learned .....

It's been a long time since a West Texas town has been the focus of so much attention from across the country, and around the world. The last couple of weeks have been full ones for news makers, news reporters and news consumers as the story of a run-in between church and state in Eldorado, Texas, continues to develop.

At both the local and national level, there have been plenty of comparisons between the Mormon Fundamentalist compound in Eldorado, the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, and authorities' interventions into both. Me? As I watched this story unfold, I was making a similar - yet different - comparison ..... the Mormon Fundamentalist compound in Eldorado, the Republic of Texas compound in Fort Davis, and authorities' interventions into both.

I think there were some lessons learned in the Davis Mountains eleven years ago. It wouldn't hurt to reacquaint yourself with the ROT Standoff of 1997 ..... one of the best accounts is from our very own Captain Barry Caver, Texas Rangers, in this interview with Robert Nieman.

I think one of the lessons learned and affirmed was effective preparedness by those outside, for a variety of responses from those inside. Buses from local churches were standing by to transport the children to a shelter ..... but so was
an armored personnel carrier on loan from Midland County. The buses were needed, the armored personnel carrier was not, and both points speak well for how this operation was conducted.

I was impressed with the authorities' conduct in the 1997, as I covered the story ..... I was even more impressed with their conduct now, in 2008, watching the story develop - not as a news reporter, this time, but a news consumer.

That's not to say there won't be some new lessons to learn this time around. For example, the courtroom setting now is decidedly - almost completely - different from that of 1998, when the ROT separatists were put on trial. And I don't recall any sidebars from reporters at that time, writing about fashion statements being made, then, by the separatists ..... as is apparently the case, now, for the polygamists.

And, speaking of the media, there are still some lessons for them, too ..... I think it's high time for one of the West Texas stations to raise the stakes and get their own 'sat truck.'

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A New Mission for the Old Blog? .....

That's the question Missioner asks with this post at West Texas Missioner. Apparently, the blog was supposed to be a temporary thing ..... but now they're having second thoughts.

This reminds of the discussion that followed this post by e-friend Frank Wilson at Books, Inq. , announcing that he was retiring from the Philadelphia Inquirer. But what about the blog that provided a virtual complement to his actual work at the Inquirer's Book Review desk? Well, it's now called Books, Inq.: The Epilogue (subtitled "Proof There is Still Life After One Retires as a Newspaper Book-Review Editor") and is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Same, But Different, Sort Of .....

I'm a little late getting to this post by Stewart at Newsroom Stew, about results from the 'February book,' the latest of the quarterly assessments of local television viewing.

KWES (where I once worked) finished first, followed closely by KOSA (where I once worked), with KMID (where I once worked) following as a distant third. Stewart's post looked at the bare numbers ..... but those numbers did spur some thoughts.

For one thing, the gap between KWES (NewsWest 9) and KOSA (CBS7) is really quite close. In fact, depending upon how 'processed' those numbers are, there might not be any gaps in some cases, if you take into account the margin-of-error that accompanies most sampling ..... OR the gaps may be even wider.

This isn't the first time a station has made a strong move to take over as the #1 station in the market. It happened back in the 80s, when KMID knocked KOSA out of the top spot. And it happened again in the 90s, when KWES took over that top spot. KOSA must be hungry ..... for nearly a quarter-century, they've been the #2 station in this market. But over the past year or two, they've assembled a strong lineup of newspeople, and they have been making some inroads, taking - but not holding onto - the #1 spot in one time slot or another, in one book or another.

But that doesn't mean that KWES is going to step aside ..... quite the opposite, apparently ..... and there's plenty of strength in THAT newsroom, as well.

Differences since twenty years ago, or ten years ago? Yes. The internet, for one thing. Both KWES and KOSA are developing the online component of their news product, and promoting it with their on-air component ..... and using it to complement and supplement their on-air component.

Spanish-language broadcasting, for another thing. Once, it was confined to limited public affairs programming on the weekend. We now have Spanish-language networks with local affiliates, and a local news department that works in conjunction with its English-language partner ..... again, complementing and supplementing one another.

Another difference is a more personal one, for me ..... no John Foster. He was a major player - THE player, really - in KMID's dramatic move to the top, then the equally dramatic move by KWES to the top. John knew the business from the ground up ..... literally, with a career that started behind the camera, on the studio floor. And his stations were sort of like a big - and, sometimes, dysfunctional - family. But he always managed to get the best from us, and gave his best in return.