Kerry grandstands; The Boston Globe cheerleads

Sen. John Kerry’s decision to not meet with “a whole bunch of lobbyists right now” and not fundraise while serving on Congress’ deficit-reduction “supercommittee” fails to impress. And the story by his hometown cheerleader, The Boston Globe,” equally fails to impress.

The Massachusetts Democrat may have scored a few points with voters. But his decision is really only inexpensive grandstanding. He said in August he’ll seek a sixth term in 2014. And he’s a shoo-in to win. He won his fifth term in 2008 with 66 percent of the vote and faced a primary opponent for only the first time in decades.

And who would want to face a sitting senator who has, thanks to his leadership PAC and campaign committee, $3 million in the bank and zero debt? And whose personal wealth, tops in the U.S. Senate, hit nearly $190 million entering 2010?
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Put down the phone: To write well, read more

I am in the room where I teach. You stop at the door and knock.

“Come in,” I say. You stride in and sit in the chair next to me. The phone in your hand chirps. You glance at it, then at me. I frown. You sigh and put your phone in your pack.

“What can I do for you?” I ask.

“I want to write well,” you say. “How do I do that?”

I nod. “How much do you read?” I ask.

“Not a lot,” you say.

“Why do you not read more?” I say.

“I do not like to read,” you say. “It takes too much time.”

“That is too bad,” I say.

“Why?” you ask.
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'Oh, Congress! Oh, Congress! God mend thine ev'ry flaw'

When the national anthem is sung, I place my hand over my heart. I didn’t always. But I’m old enough now to appreciate, to be grateful for, what being an American citizen has afforded me.

If I wish, I can own a firearm. I can assemble peaceably with others. I can criticize the government. I can practice a religion — or not — without governmental dictation. The Constitution protects me from unreasonable search and seizure (Patriot Act not withstanding). When I was a journalist, the government could not abridge the freedom of my press. I can own property. I can depend on contracts being enforced. I have more constitutionally guaranteed rights as an American than any citizen of any other country.

Yes, I have duties as well. I must pay taxes for the general welfare and the common defense. I must be willing (and able) to stand in judgment of a citizen charged with a crime by the government. I ought to be sufficiently knowledgeable and intelligent to vote wisely.

I love my country. Most of us do. But I no longer have faith that my elected leaders love it as much as they love power and the ability to demean those they oppose. I don’t like, respect, or trust my elected leaders any more, and their public personae and political actions show they don’t give a damn about me in any way beyond my ability to cast a vote.
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A quick shout-out: thinking and writing about our frustration with Obama

Here at S&R we try and generate as much original content as possible and, unlike a lot of blogs, we don’t dedicate much energy to linking other stories around the ‘sphere. Aside from Mike’s Nota Bene series, anyway. But earlier today three other outlets linked to my “Will you vote for Obama (again)?” piece, and since these places are trying to broaden what I think is a critical discussion for our nation, I thought I’d take a moment to say thanks and encourage S&R’s reader to backtrack with us.

NASA, American exceptionalism, and me: older, and less viable

Fourth in a series

As a child turning teen in the late 1950s, the black-and-white RCA in the living room received only three channels … well, four, but we didn’t watch PBS. So I read. Newspapers, of course (after Dad finished sports and Mom finished news). And books. The library was only two blocks away, so I spent afternoons there sampling the stack. I was a small-town boy at the end of the idyllic “Father Knows Best” decade of Eisenhower placidity, a geeky kid feeling the first pangs of puberty.

I longed for adventure beyond being a Boy Scout or tossing a football with neighborhood pals. In the library I found adventure stories set in space, spun with well-chosen words and exquisitely crafted plots.

I discovered Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End.” Then Robert A. Heinlein’s “Methuselah’s Children,” Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” and Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation and Empire.” Science fiction (or, in Clarke’s case, science prediction) captivated me. I became a sci-fi cognoscente.

Then, in 1957, came the shocker: Sputnik. Continue reading

Haste, cost erode editing of online and mobile news

In 1976, I was a general-assignment reporter of limited experience and minimal accomplishment. So my editor kindly fired me, then said: “Now get your ass up on the copy desk where you belong.”

I knew little about copy editing. So I asked my newsroom godfather: “Neil, what do copy editors do?”

He looked over the rims of those 1950s spectacles he favored and said, “Defend your reader.”

“Against what?” I asked.

Error,” he said. “Any error possible.”

The memory of, or, perhaps, even the desire to exercise that dictum may remain in today’s newsrooms. But the ability of copy editors today to defend readers against error has inexorably been eroded. That decimation of editing capacity has been fueled by computerization beginning in the late ’70s and continued in this past decade by the sacking of newsroom staffs and the insatiable demand of management to get stories online or winging to mobile devices right now.
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GBTV? Glenn Beck on the Internet? All Glenn, all the time?

Would you pay between $4.95 and $9.95 a month to watch conservative talker Glenn Beck for two hours a day on the Internet?

Beck will launch, with partner Mercury Radio Arts, GBTV, an online video network, on Sept. 12. Here’s Beck himself in a five-minute pitch describing his “global plans” and how he will be “champion of man’s freedom” for the mere cost of a “cup of coffee in today’s world”:

Whether Beck is certifiably insane is not the issue here: Rather, he and his partner need to insure that revenues exceed costs. Now that he’s leaving the ready mega-megaphone of Fox News on June 30, that’s not a certainty.
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Scholars & Rogues unveils new logo

Something we’ve wanted for awhile is a logo – not just the text logo, which we like, but something visual and iconic. Many ideas have been kicked around and set aside for one reason or another (my lack of design skill being at the top of that list). But not long ago, we hit on a rough idea and were able to call on the talents of one of Denver’s absolute finest graphic designers, Laura Manthey, to turn it into something that reflects the core principles of the S&R brand, which we have carefully nurtured for literally four years now.

So here, without further ado, is the new Scholars & Rogues coat of arms: Continue reading

Four years ago today

Happy Birthday Scholars & Rogues. We launched four years ago today, and since then we’ve offered up 4,103 posts and have seen 31,415 comments logged. Along the way we’ve done everything from cover the Democratic National Convention to wonder aloud whether or not democracy (as it’s practiced these days, anyway) is really a very good idea. We’ve run the gamut from ridiculous to sublime, and we like to hope that we’re just getting started.

Thanks for tuning in.

Homecooking vs. S&R Literature: a note to our readers

Scholars & Rogues recently launched its new literary journal and has so far published a short story and several poems. We’re ecstatic with the quality of the submissions we’re seeing and expect this to be a vibrant component of the overall S&R experience for a long time to come.

We want to take a moment to clear up a point of potential confusion for readers who may be thinking that S&R has always published original creative writing.

S&R has, in the past, published the occasional work of original literature, with my own poetry being the chief example. We will continue to do so, from time to time, because in addition to our broad range of political and cultural analysis interests, several scrogues are also creative writers and we enjoy sharing things with our audience here. It’s one of the things we feel sets us apart from other online outlets. Continue reading

Cyber warriors race to Mars

The Hundred Year StarshipNASA and its spooky Sith-lord counterpart, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, are teaming up to achieve the impossible: interplanetary colonialism. DARPA, known for its role in developing such technologies as the internet and GPS, has also funded cyborg beetles implanted with electrodes that control their flight by radio, battery powered human exoskeletons, and ravenous robots called EATRs which find and consume biomass (read humans) for fuel.

The stated purpose of DARPA is to maintain military supremacy through technological superiority. During the dark nights after Sputnik first blinked overhead, Americans gathered in their bomb shelters and grumbled that we should do something before the other guys do it to us. In our innocence, we had no idea what that something might be, so we put together a crack team of scientific geniuses to discover it. Continue reading

We're looking for poems that we didn't know we were looking for: Scholars & Rogues launches poetry journal

S&R readers have probably noticed that we like poetry around here. Something we have been talking about for quite a while, in fact, is why we didn’t take the next step and become a poetry publisher. Now, after months of planning, we’re doing precisely that.

On Monday, we will publish our first poem as a poetry journal. If you’re wondering, no, this won’t affect everything else we do. We’ll continue to be the same online magazine that we’ve always been, only now we’ll be offering up original literature.

Here’s how it will work. Continue reading

S&R is looking for guest writers (and artists, and photographers…)

Scholars & Rogues is in the process of refreshing, updating and expanding our operation (you’ll see some changes in the coming days and weeks, with any luck), and one of the things we’re doing is increasing our emphasis on guest contributors. We’ve always published outside writers, and the truth is that there’s a lot of talent out there, talent that could use an opportunity to connect with a larger audience.

So, if you’d like to write something for us, or if you know someone whose work might be a good fit here, have a look at our new submissions page. In general:

Pekar Tribute 12, the Finale: Bill Alger

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So you're 17 and want to be a journalist? Do it — you'll love it.

You’re 17 years old. For some reason you’ve decided you want to go to college to learn how to be a journalist. My hat’s off to you — first, for wanting to go to college, and second, for wanting to answer what I still consider to be a calling to public service.

Journalists find out things, then tell people what they found out. Often, it’s stuff people want to hear. But a good journalist must tell people what they need to hear — even if they don’t want to hear it. So I’m glad you want to become one of us.

Perhaps you’ve had training already. Your high school has a student-run paper, a radio station, even a broadcast television studio. You know Twitter and Facebook and perhaps write your own blog.

Your parents might be opposed to your choice. They’ve heard journalism is dying, newspapers are closing, and so on. They’ve heard journalists don’t get paid much. But you’ve done your homework. You believe opportunity will rise from the ashes of an outdated business model corporations imposed on journalism as a profession and a calling. And you’d like to be one of the pioneers who have a hand in its rebirth.

So (whether you like it or not) I have a few suggestions to offer. The first is simple:

If you’re not nosey, learn to be. Right now. Journalists must be curious about the world around them. So much of their work begins with an understanding of their own lived experience and observations.
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Pekar Tribute 11: James Smith

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2011: A more modest approach to "go big or go home"

by Kate Torok

I was going through some drawers in our hutch about two months ago, reorganizing and cleaning, finding all sorts of things. Candles, old Valentine’s Day cards, pictures, a frame we never used, and the—I found it. It was a crumpled up, torn-off, semi-folded piece of paper, and written on it, were my New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. Suddenly, I remembered the night I wrote it back in 2009. I remember being fired up that I WOULD achieve all of the things on my list.

And looking back, sadly, I achieved none.

At the risk of you losing you now because I’m not going to get into the list itself, let’s just say that I always aim pretty high. I have a “go big or go home” attitude. And to that end, I wrote things down that, in retrospect, I can now say I didn’t have a shot in hell at completing.

So, in the spirit of not dwelling on the past, and only looking forward—here is my New Year’s resolution list for 2011:

1. Read more. Continue reading

For 20 years, big-time political money still flowing from the same sources

We do not know the amount of invisible money injected into politics that resulted from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January that permitted anonymous corporate political spending.

But we can count the visible money, campaign contributions that the law requires be reported. No matter what the hot-button issue is on the public’s (er, media’s) agenda at any given time, the big money given to congressional candidates comes from the same sources.

More than three years ago, I analyzed data from the Center for Responsive Politics, looking at donations since 1990. Here were the top givers:

Since 1990, lawyers and law firms have made nearly $781 million in campaign contributions, ranking them No. 1. (Adding in the lobbyists makes that nearly $900 million.)

At No. 2 are the retired folks who want to protect what they spent a lifetime accumulating. The AARP faction has made nearly $662 million in campaign contributions since 1990.

At No. 3 is the securities and investments industry (which the AARP set leans on to protect its wealth), which has made $463 million in campaign contributions since 1990.

At No. 4: Real estate at $456 million.

At No. 5: Health professionals at nearly $360 million.

Nothing’s changed. The same groups are still pushing more money into congressional campaigns than another other special interests. But the game is different now: This is only the money we can see. Citizens United permits anonymity: Now we worry about political money we cannot see or count.
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