Thursday, March 03, 2005

Tidbits from the Web

Just a few interesting tidbits collected whilst surfing the Web:

The Santa Barbara Independent is promoting an appearance by Bill Moyers at UC-Santa Barbara's Campbell Hall on...oops...March 1 by running an interview with the man. Seventy-years-old and still pretty fiesty, Moyers has some interesting comments about mainstream media:

"I think mainstream journalism has been driven to the lowest priority on the scale of values of the mega media companies that own them. Journalism and the news business don’t always mix. And we now have big media companies that own the journalistic organs and that’s not their top priority. When Michael Eisner says he doesn’t want ABC news covering Disney activities you realize there’s a chilling effect on corporate journalists that proscribes their boundaries. With a few honorable exceptions, you cannot count on the big media companies to put journalism above other values in their hierarchy of values. There was a study done a year ago in which one-third of the journalists who responded said they were asked to kill stories that were offensive to the clientele of their corporate bosses. So you have a very neutered mainstream media, and you have a powerful ideological megaphone in Fox News and talk radio for the right wing. So there’s an imbalance today and the right wing has the dominant megaphone in America."

the reelection (I mean, the election) of President Bush and the Big Lie:

"There are always a lot of people who prefer the comfortable lie to the uncomfortable truth. In this case, a majority of voters knew exactly what you’re saying, yet voted for him none the less. They did so for one of two reasons. First, Bush had America scared to death. And fear was the dominant issue in that campaign, not moral values. Second, many of Bush’s supporters buy into the belief system that he and his allies have propounded. And in that belief system — which is supported by Fox News and talk radio — no evidence to the contrary can be permitted. Ideologues embrace a worldview that cannot be changed because they admit no evidence to the contrary. The Washington Post had a story about a study recently about how even if what people first hear turns out to be wrong, they still tend to believe it’s true. That’s because, if it fits their value system, they don’t change it after they learn it’s not true. It’s a weird phenomenon. I’d also say conservatives have never been more politically dominant and more intellectually and morally bankrupt. Because of that they can keep their troops believing the Big Lie. The Big Lie is that the threat of Al Qaeda is greater to us than the threat of low wages, environmental pollution, the growing inequality in America, or the terrible failure of the Bush policies on schools. People just didn’t want the uncomfortable truth to disturb the comfortable lie."

and staying informed in the Internet Era:

"You have to work hard to stay informed in this society. You can’t take any one newspaper or any one magazine and expect to be informed. You have to work at it. Anybody who has the energy and the time and the will can be informed today. But you can’t do it by listening to one broadcast or watching one cable channel or reading one newspaper. You really have to become your own editor today. I think that’s both exhilarating and exhausting. It is also a necessity. You can’t rely on the networks. You have to read the other side and listen to the other side. I spend as much time with conservative Web sites and conservative journals as I do with the New York Times, Washington Post, or the L.A. Times."

After the WMDs in Iraq proved to be nonexistent, removing the evil dictator Saddam Hussein and installing democracy in Iraq moved to the top of the list of reasons for going to war. Why stop there? Saddam isn't the only bad guy in the world. When are we going after these other guys on Parade Magazine's annual list of "The World's 10 Worst Dictators?" Wait a minute, some of these guys are our allies. Here's the list with last year's rankings:
  1. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan (7)
  2. Kim Jong Il, North Korea (1)
  3. Than Shwe, Burma (2)
  4. Hu Jintao, China (3)
  5. Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia (5)
  6. Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya (Dishonorable Mention)
  7. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan (Not mentioned)
  8. Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan (8)
  9. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe (4)
  10. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea (6)

And remember that other war? Afghanistan? Three years after the U.S. drove out the Taliban and promised to rebuild the country, Afghanistan ranks 173 out of 178 nations in the U.N. 2004 Human Development Index in living standards, outranking only five countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The report warns of "anarchy if its dire poverty, poor health and insecurity (are) not improved."
Much has been done since the war (54% of school-age children are enrolled in school, and the non-drug gross domestic product grew 16% in 2003), but much work remains:

"Average life expectancy is 44.5 years, at least 20 years lower than in neighboring countries. One out of two Afghans can be classified as poor, and 20.4 percent of the rural population gets less than the benchmark of 2,070 calories a day to eat. Most glaring are inequalities that affect women and children...One woman dies from pregnancy-related causes about every 30 minutes, and maternal mortality rates are 60 times higher than in industrialized countries, the report said. One-fifth of the children die before the age of 5, 80 per cent of them from preventable diseases, one of the worst rates in the world."

If you decided to quit learning when you got out of school (and you probably didn't if you're reading blogs), you won't care too much for the VARK Learning Test. Answer a few simple questions and the VARK Test (which stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinesthetic) tells you your best strategy to use to learn new material. I have a multimodal learning preference - very high marks in Read/Write and Kinesthetic, very low in Visual and Aural. That means that if you were giving me directions to your house, I would have a much better chance of getting there if you wrote down the directions or drew me a map than if you just told me the directions.

And to wrap up this little Web journey, here's a tidbit of Weird News: The FAA has concluded its investigation into the beach-ball-sized chunk of frozen human waste that dropped from a passing plane and totaled a parked car. They narrowed it down to about five carriers, but were unable to get to the bottom of it - so to speak.


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