What is the state of gay online media?

Spurred a lot of discussion, so thought I’d share a piece cross-posted yesterday and today at The Bilerico Project and Pam’s House Blend. Many responses after the flip apply to non-LGBT media, as well

In the last few years, there has been a lot of ink (some of it digital) spilled on the decline of print media as news and entertainment outlets, and the shifts to online. Last week’s piece by Michael Lavers in the Village Voice, specifically on the topic of gay print media, was among the latest to lament this shift. It also sparked a lot of response and challenges to his assertion. Matt Comer went through many of the responses at Bilerico last week (including mine here at OL), and yesterday Kevin Naff at the Washington Blade responded with a detailed rebuttal, including an assertion that Lavers did not present a well-rounded view by eliminating quotes disagreeing with his premise.

As someone who enjoys my Sunday papers and picking up newsstand copies of other papers and newsmagazines, I’m as concerned as others. But for all the assessments of print media, and assumptions that everything is moving to online, one question has never been asked: how is online gay media faring?

So I thought it would be an interesting detour to ask a range of those who work in gay online media. Out of concerns resulting from the Lavers piece, I did not want anyone to be quoted out of context or misinterpreted, so I used the “Topic A” format from the Washington Post with a simple question “What is the state of gay online media?” Responses in about 300 words or less are printed below. While unfortunately not as in-depth as a full exploration of the topic, it does give a window into gay online media, and I hope inspires a longer piece. Some look at misconceptions of online media, while others explore the relationship between print and online. They are all interesting, and they are all on the flip.

Question: What is the state of gay online media?

John Aravosis, AMERICAblog Gay:

I’m not sure whether gay print media is dead, but I do think its influence has waned at the national level.  Ten years ago we had hundreds of gay papers, and if you wanted to blow a story up nationwide, they helped, a lot. Today, I never think of contacting a gay publication outside of the [Washington] Blade or the Advocate if I want to push a story, simply because I don’t know who’s still out there. Instead, I contact a handful of influential gay blogs, an even smaller handful of gay journalists (three to be exact), and I’ll often turn to “straight” media, both online and off.

At the national level, we’ve seen an explosion of the gay Netroots, and a consolidation of influential traditional gay publications and journalists.  I’m not entirely convinced that the two are directly linked, rather, the economy has been terrible for all media (offline, online, and new) post-9/11, and the advent of blogging as a low-cost journalism model (assuming you give your time for free), has made it easier for blogs to fill some of that gap.  But we can’t fill all of it.   Partially because we’re not exactly getting rich blogging, but also because while some blogs do some original reporting, a lot of what we do is news analysis, commentary, and activism.  We need the traditional media, gay and straight, to write the stories that inspire the majority of our blog commentary.

Bil Browning, The Bilerico Project:

The state of gay online media is constantly changing. As the popularity of queer media has bloomed, online journalism has grown to be a daily part of many LGBT people’s news gathering resources. If the gay newspaper industry is a dying elder, then online media has finally hit it’s toddler years.

While a few years ago the independent blogger was the norm, many multi-author or corporate-owned blogs are booming now. AfterElton, QueerSighted, and Queerty are all owned by media giants – Viacom, AOL, and Jossip respectively. Pam’s House Blend, Towleroad, and Bilerico Project all feature multiple authors and editors. Plenty of those “dying” newspapers now have online homes – some with fresh and exclusive content that’s helping to keep the paper afloat.

Is one form of media better than the other? No, of course not. It’s one more spin around the information gathering highway; we started at scrolls and God knows where we’ll end up. The point of it all is to enjoy the ride.

Matt Comer, InterstateQ;

LGBT online media has become influential in many places and is helping to shape our local, state and national communities. Even in its strength, however, LGBT digital media — like print media — faces its own set of unique challenges. The overwhelming majority of online-only LGBT media outlets are not financially viable on their own. Without solid financial bedrock, online media will not have the same impact print news publications have had throughout their existence and their continued operation is never guaranteed. First as a blogger/citizen journalist and now as the editor of a print publication, I’ve seen both sides of this (false) media dichotomy pitting “journalists” and “bloggers.” (It is possible to be both at the same time.) I believe both online news and print news operators will need to work together if either ever hopes to survive and thrive. Journalism, whether it comes from a print product or a website, is a valued treasure that offers a public service for the common good. I say let’s stop focusing on the death of “this” or the rise of “that” and instead put our focus where it really belongs: ensuring the survival of good, quality journalism.

Paul Hogarth, BeyondChron:

With major LGBT papers folding across the country, print gay media has been hit hard in what is already a struggling industry.  Newspapers are an outdated business model, and small independent papers that cater to a particular niche – like the LGBT community – are suffering in even greater proportion than publications like the New York Times.

Gay online media, however, is thriving.  Why?  Because on the Internet, writers actually get rewarded for carving a niche.  Bloggers who want to build a following must pick a topic that few other people (or no one else) write about regularly, and make themselves an “expert” in that field.  Online readers will come to your site if you offer something unique – that’s why LGBT blogs like Towleroad, Pam’s House Blend and Unite the Fight are successful.

At Beyond Chron, we have built an online following by writing about marriage equality – covering both the legal and political battles in California and elsewhere.  We are far from being the only ones to cover this, but good consistent coverage that a niche audience will seek can thrive on the Internet – as opposed to print media that is expensive to distribute.

Does gay online media have its problems?  Just like everyone else in the blogosphere, we are still trying to find economically sustainable models – so many of us still don’t get paid for this work.  But with LGBT papers folding, the gay online media gives me hope.

Zack Rosen, The New Gay:

The state of gay online media is, simply, that it exists. This is a much more notable fact that such a simple statement belies. A niche community (as it were) such as the gay one can often find itself defined from the inside, and understood from the outside, by its media. Both a closeted highschooler and a Fred Phelps nutjob can look to publications like Out or The Advocate to understand the population they seek to join or revile. The increasing cache of online media means that any queer person can create their own forum for their voices, and the voices of those like them, to be heard. Rather than splinter us, I believe that this niching ability will strengthen us as a whole by allowing people to represent themselves rather than wait for a few existing outlets to do it for them.

Pam Spaulding, Pam’s House Blend:

When I see a question like this, I often wonder what impression people have of non-traditional LGBT media in the first place. While we do original reporting and interviews just like traditional media, placing us in competition with them, the vast majority of LGBT blog content is commentary, analysis and online activism. We have more of a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship to LGBT news publications. Blogs simply don’t have the resources or staff to cover all of the stories we write about.

Ironically, not a day goes by when I do not receive an email with a link from an LGBT news outlet to one of its stories, hoping it will be featured on the Blend. And that suits me just fine — I’d prefer to link to LGBT news media than the AP, to give them the traffic.

I have no idea why this meme persists that bloggers are making a killing doing this full time through ads or donations by readers. I certainly don’t; the Blend doesn’t feature beefcake (or cheesecake, for that matter) to enhance revenue, and there are no annual fundraisers. I work a full-time day job and fit blogging in when and where I can — that means that my real-world job in essence subsidizing my ability to work and do activism on the Blend. What it also does is allow me to publish without constantly thinking about the ebb and flow of advertising.

That comes at a price — I’ve managed to keep the blog going since 2004, adding contributors who also freely give their personal time and resources to produce their work. But it’s a recipe for burnout.

Also, I don’t see serious sponsorship on the horizon to support independent LGBT online media/citizen journalism. The bottom line is that a blog can disappear tomorrow, no matter how influential the blogger, if the pace or quality of content cannot be sustained.

This would be nice to have

Joe Biden, as reported:

“I know at least 7 [GOP] senators, who I will not name, but were made to make a commitment under threat of losing their chairmanships, if they did not support the leadership on every procedural vote,” Biden said at a fundraiser Monday night.

“Every single thing we did, from the important to the not so important, required for the first time in modern American history, majority votes required 60 votes. All the sudden a majority became 60 instead of 50,” the VP added, according to a pool report of the event.

Someone get me a fainting couch, for I am aghast at the power politics being displayed here. But then I think of Joe Lieberman and I stop myself.

I can’t wish for the Republicans’ intractability as the country goes to hell, but I can sure wish our side had their discipline when they sometimes need it.

Weekly Pulse: Kagan Hearings: Gags, God, Guns, and Gays

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings kicked off on Monday. Her nomination has been met by glum resignation on the left and indifference on the right, as Adam Serwer notes in the American Prospect.  Kagan is hoping to replace the Supreme Court’s most prominent liberal, Justice John Paul Stevens, who stepped down earlier this week. Progressives are counting on Kagan to shore up the pro-choice faction on the court.

Kagan has never been a judge and she hasn’t published very many academic law opinions. As a result, the confirmation process is leaning heavily on her counsels to President Bill Clinton as a White House adviser, her clerkship with legendary liberal Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and her stint as Dean of Harvard Law School.

Kagan on choice

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RH Reality Check has video of a key exchange in Kagan’s confirmation hearing yesterday, in which Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) pressed Kagan on her views about life and health exemptions for the mother within abortion bans.

“Do you believe the constitution requires that the health of the mother  be protected in any statute restricting access to abortion?” Feinstein asked Kagan.

“Senator Feinstein, I do think that the continuing holding of Roe and  Doe v. Bolton is that women’s life and women’s health have to be  protected in abortion regulation,” Kagan replied.

That’s a good start, but it’s hardly the ringing endorsement of choice that progressives would have hoped. Kagan went on to talk the special case of “partial birth abortion bans,” which she encouraged Bill Clinton to support while he was president. “Partial birth abortion” isn’t even a medical term. It’s a marketing term coined by anti-choicers in their bid to chip away at Roe v. Wade. For pro-choicers, it’s disappointing to see Kagan uncritically buying into that frame.

Title X and the Gag Order

Jodi Jacobson discusses Kagan’s record on choice issues  in greater detail at RH Reality Check. She notes that the Center for Reproductive Rights reviewed Kagan’s record and raised many questions about her views on abortion. On the bright side, CRR believes that Kagan would have struck down the Title X gag rule. Title X was established in 1970 to provide public funding for reproductive health care, including birth control.

In 1988, the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposed a so-called “gag rule” that prevented doctors from talking about abortion and required them to refer patients to services for the welfare of “the unborn.” Kagan argued in a 1992 law review article that the gag order violated the First Amendment because the government was trying to silence one point of view while promoting another.

However, in a memo for Justice Thurgood Marshall, Kagan said it was “ludicrous” that a lower court found that the Eighth Amendment guarantees elective abortions for women in prison. Kagan disagreed with the lower court’s finding that elective abortions are “serious medical needs.”

Obamacare all over again

A Supreme Court confirmation hearing is like Shark Week on the Learning Channel. Chum’s up!

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized Kagan for rejecting the fringe legal theory of  “tentherism,” a position that opponents of health care reform have used to argue that Obamacare is unconstitutional. As Ian Millhiser observes in AlterNet, it’s ironic that Sessions also criticized Kagan as an incipient “activist judge.” Embracing “tentherism” would be nothing if not judicial activism. It’s extremely unlikely that any tenther-based challenge would make it to the Supreme Court.

Outside the Senate chamber, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera is demanding to know whether Dean Kagan schemed to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, reports Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones.

Some Republican senators questioned Kagan about her decision to bar military recruiters from school-sponsored recruiting events at Yale Law School over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. On the outside, a  Yale grad and Republican activist named Flagg Youngblood has taken to the talkshow circuit to complain about how he had to attend ROTC drills at another school. It’s not clear why any of this is Kagan’s problem, seeing as she was Dean of Harvard and took a much weaker stance on military recruiting.

That’s not cooling Youngblood’s apocalyptic anti-Kagan rhetoric, though, Adam Weinstein reports in Mother Jones. “In the last 18 months, the president and his plotting comrades have  dragged the United States to the edge of Constitutional oblivion.   America’s in the eleventh hour, and Elena Obama must be stopped from  pushing us over the cliff,” Youngblood recently proclaimed.

Part of the plan

Meanwhile in Nevada, Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle is in hot water for asserting that women who get pregnant through rape must be forced to give birth because these pregnancies are all part of God’s plan. Good catch by Vanessa Valenti of Feministing.

“You know, I’m a Christian, and I believe that God has a  plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede  in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many  things,” Angle said in an interview with a conservative broadcaster in January.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members  of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse  for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The   Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of   leading independent media outlets.

Why we need to pass the Wall Street reform bill

In the extended entry, you will find a very lengthy description of what victories were won in the Wall Street reform bill, what compromises were made, and what defeats were suffered.  It is, on balance, an argument for why we should pass the Wall Street reform bill, and a roadmap of where the fight continues.

Senator Russ Feingold is a personal hero of mine.  Today, he posted an editorial explaining why he is opposing this bill.  I am not going to pick a fight with Senator Feingold over what he could have done, or should have done on the bill.  While this is a rebuttal of sorts, mainly it is to let people know that there is a lot of good in this bill, and it is possible to present that information in an honest, self-aware manner that acknowledges where it falls short.

There are a lot of victories in this bill.  We need to pass those victories into law.  If the bill is defeated by pro-Wall Street forces over the next two weeks, the only parts which will be defeated are the victories, while all of its shortcomings will remain in place.  If it is defeated, the 1999 financial deregulation package will remain the basic framework under which our financial system operates, and we all know how that worked out.  If it is defeated, no one will ever really take on the banks again, as their victory even after a financial meltdown, even at the trough of their popularity, and even during wide Democratic control of Congress, would demonstrate their invincibility.

The list in the extended entry was prepared by numerous people associated with Americans for Financial Reform.  It is a work in progress, but I hope you find it to be a useful touchstone.

Pass the bill.

What happened on Wall Street Reform? Battles won, lost and somewhere in between…

Systemic risk regulation

  • We won:
    • Systemic risk monitoring: A new, council of regulators will both monitor system-wide risk

One more (big) reason to Buy American

I see the WTO finally came down with their ruling on EADS that they have been thinking about and processing for what seems like most of the millennium. It’s really bad for EADS, and really good for Boeing.

Normally I wouldn’t be interested in this kind of thing, but my old union is the International Assocation of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and there are still many thousands of good union jobs at Boeing. The other thing about this issue is that I remain clueless why this country doesn’t have a stronger Buy America policy, something virtually every other industrialized country has some stronger version of, and I couldn’t fathom why we would be contracting with foreign manufacturers to make something as important as a new fleet of tankers for the military. The competition between Boeing and EADS thus caught my eye, and I ended up getting involved on behalf of Boeing and my old IAMAW friends. I think it is a critically important issue not only for the short term jobs it will create, but for helping maintain and rebuild America’s industrial base.

The ruling today is strong, it’s 100% clearcut, it leaves absolutely no question marks: EADS has been cheating its ass off. Rewarding the tanker contract to Boeing should be an easy call for the Obama administration.

Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

In Zambia, sorghum-a drought resistant cereal that thrives in the country- was considered a “poor man’s crop” in the past, often shunned by small-scale farmers for the more commercially viable maize. But an article in the June issue of Farming Matters explains how a Zambian brewery with a new brand of beer is changing the way small-scale farmers think about sorghum.

While most clear beers such as lagers and pilsners are made with expensive, imported malts, the Zambian Breweries‘ Eagle Lager is made from sorghum. A subsidiary of the South African-based SABMiller, Zambian Breweries purchases sorghum  from local farmers, increasing farmers’ income and providing local grocery stores with an affordable lager.

To help farmers partner with the brewery, the Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides loans for farmers’ start-up expenses, as well as agricultural training to make sure their crops meet the brewery’s quality standards. With CLUSA’s support, the brewery gets a consistent supply of sorghum to produce its beer and farmers gain access to a secure market, a fixed price for their crop, and a consistent income.

To produce larger crop yields of higher quality sorghum, CLUSA and the brewery, encourage farmers to implement conservation agriculture-a combination of simple techniques such as minimal or zero-tillage, ground cover, crop rotation and inter-planting.  Conservation agriculture can reduce the need for inputs, including artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. And it benefits the other crops farmers are growing by helping improve soil fertility, controlling pests and weeds, and improving water management. In Zambia, maize yields have been increased by 75 percent and cotton yields by 60 percent thanks to conservation agriculture. (See also: Using the Market to Create Resilient Agriculture Practices, To Improve Competitiveness of Rural Businesses, Linking Farmers to the Private Sector, and a Sustainable Calling Plan.)

While Zambia Breweries’ collaboration with local farmers is working, not all partnerships between companies and farmers go so well. Without appropriate regulation, companies may take advantage of a monopoly; farmers can become indebted to the company and lose control of their farms and crops;  and A BIG financial incentive to grow a specific crop can threaten overall crop diversity.

But  in Zambia, more than 4,500 small-scale farmers in 14 districts are currently seeing an increase in their incomes due to their contract with Zambia Breweries. Recognizing the significance of this benefit, the Zambian government recently lowered taxes on Eagle Lager in order to encourage Zambian Breweries to continue working with local small-scale farmers.  And SABMiller is trying to form similar partnerships with sorghum farmers in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

To read more about how partnerships between local companies and small-scale farmers can improve livelihoods and provide other benefits to the environment and community see: Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Improving African Women’s Access to Agriculture Training Programs, and Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets.

Photo Credit: FAO

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.  She has already traveled to over 18 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Burkina Faso next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.  

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on  Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates.  Also, please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you.

Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

In Zambia, sorghum-a drought resistant cereal that thrives in the country- was considered a “poor man’s crop” in the past, often shunned by small-scale farmers for the more commercially viable maize. But an article in the June issue of Farming Matters explains how a Zambian brewery with a new brand of beer is changing the way small-scale farmers think about sorghum.

While most clear beers such as lagers and pilsners are made with expensive, imported malts, the Zambian Breweries‘ Eagle Lager is made from sorghum. A subsidiary of the South African-based SABMiller, Zambian Breweries purchases sorghum  from local farmers, increasing farmers’ income and providing local grocery stores with an affordable lager.

To help farmers partner with the brewery, the Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides loans for farmers’ start-up expenses, as well as agricultural training to make sure their crops meet the brewery’s quality standards. With CLUSA’s support, the brewery gets a consistent supply of sorghum to produce its beer and farmers gain access to a secure market, a fixed price for their crop, and a consistent income.

To produce larger crop yields of higher quality sorghum, CLUSA and the brewery, encourage farmers to implement conservation agriculture-a combination of simple techniques such as minimal or zero-tillage, ground cover, crop rotation and inter-planting.  Conservation agriculture can reduce the need for inputs, including artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. And it benefits the other crops farmers are growing by helping improve soil fertility, controlling pests and weeds, and improving water management. In Zambia, maize yields have been increased by 75 percent and cotton yields by 60 percent thanks to conservation agriculture. (See also: Using the Market to Create Resilient Agriculture Practices, To Improve Competitiveness of Rural Businesses, Linking Farmers to the Private Sector, and a Sustainable Calling Plan.)

While Zambia Breweries’ collaboration with local farmers is working, not all partnerships between companies and farmers go so well. Without appropriate regulation, companies may take advantage of a monopoly; farmers can become indebted to the company and lose control of their farms and crops;  and A BIG financial incentive to grow a specific crop can threaten overall crop diversity.

But  in Zambia, more than 4,500 small-scale farmers in 14 districts are currently seeing an increase in their incomes due to their contract with Zambia Breweries. Recognizing the significance of this benefit, the Zambian government recently lowered taxes on Eagle Lager in order to encourage Zambian Breweries to continue working with local small-scale farmers.  And SABMiller is trying to form similar partnerships with sorghum farmers in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

To read more about how partnerships between local companies and small-scale farmers can improve livelihoods and provide other benefits to the environment and community see: Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Improving African Women’s Access to Agriculture Training Programs, and Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets.

Photo Credit: FAO

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.  She has already traveled to over 18 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Burkina Faso next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.  

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on  Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates.  Also, please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you.

GOP Candidate for OR 4th District sells racist book comparing Africans to retarded children

Running against Democrat Peter DeFazio for a congressional seat in Oregon’s 4th District, Art Robinson is one of the most influential leading Global Warming denialists in America and has proposed dumping radioactive waste and crude oil waste at sea.

But wait! There’s more.

For a the better part of a decade at least Robinson has been reprinting, marketing, and selling a virulently racist 19th Century English boys’ adventure novel that suggests Africans are like retarded children.

“By Sheer Pluck”, by George Alfred Henty, is set in Africa and features a sympathetic character patronizing Africans as “just like children” and declaring, “the intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old… Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.”

Over the last decade, Art Robinson’s homeschool curriculum business has sold thousands of copies of the book.  

Arthur Robinson has carved out a niche selling a Christian home schooling curriculum developed by his late wife, who according to Robinson compiled it curriculum from material culled from Christian homeschooling curricula published from Bob Jones University, the A Beka Book series, and other sources.

The Robinson Self Teaching Curriculum includes, as a reference for students, a 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica and a 1611 King James Version of the Bible which “is the foundational book of the Curriculum.” As a 2001 article in The American Spectator described,

[Art Robinson’s] family members have developed a home school curriculum consisting of over 250 books-among them the 30,000-page 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica-which the youngsters took turns scanning into computers. The curriculum was transferred to 22 compact discs, which are sold in a box for $195. Over four years, 20,000 sets have been sold. More recently, with typical single-mindedness, Robinson tracked down all 99 historical novels by the Edwardian writer G. A. Henty, and they in turn were optically scanned. Three thousand Henty sets (6 CD’S) were shipped in the first year. They retail for $99.

Here’s what Art Robinson’s Home Schooling Curriculum web site has to say about George Alfred Henty’s books:

Our initial printing emphasizes the wonderful collection of historical novels written by G. A. Henty. While some of these books have been in print, two-thirds of them have been out of print and generally unavailable to home school readers.

G. A. Henty wrote at a time when the teaching of a deep Christian faith, high moral character, sound ethical principles, a strong work ethic, simple personal humility, and self-confidence based on real accomplishments were considered essential to the education of each young person. This is in sharp contrast to today’s tax-financed schools where these values are deliberately excluded. The Henty books provide training in history and in many of the highest aspects of human character, while holding the attention of the reader with tales of adventure written by a master story teller. Not only do Henty’s heroes serve as excellent examples to people of all ages, his own vocabulary, grammar, and literary skills serve as outstanding examples to young writers, readers, and speakers of the English language. In learning to write, as in learning to speak, the examples that children follow are the most important factors in their accomplishments.


American young people should read not a few Henty books, but all 99 of them. Taken together, they constitute a superb course in world history and an education in some of the the highest aspects of human behavior in the heroes – and in some of the lowest aspects in the villains.

According to a PBS description of  Henty’s numerous formulaic 19th Century novels geared towards adolescent boys, “Henty’s books are notable for their hearty imperialism, undisguised racism, and jingoistic patriotism.” In his 1884 novel “By Sheer Pluck,” in a chapter titled “The Dark Continent” Alfred George Henty wrote,

“the intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old. A few, a very few, go beyond this, but these are exceptions…

Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable them to acquire a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.”

Read the rest of this story here, at Alternet.com

Wall Street reform to go on the road; replay of health reform townhalls in the works?

President Obama is giving a speech on the economy today in Wisconsin.  Conveniently, is the home state of the lone Democratic Senator, Russ Feingold, who has vowed to block the Wall Street reform bill (Washington’s Maria Cantwell is undecided).  This trip is reminiscent  of President Obama’s visit to Ohio late in the health reform fight, a trip which played a role in persuading Representative Dennis Kucinich to vote in favor of that bill.

Don’t expect any political pressure to move Feingold, however, given his long track record of taking iconoclastic positions.  Feingold voted against using military force in the Balkans and Iraq, declined DSCC “soft money” in his 1998 re-election campaign, voted against 1999 financial deregulation, was lone vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, first Senator to propose a withdrawal timeline from Iraq in 2005, introduced a censure measure on Bush in 2006, voted against TARP in both October 2008 and January 2009, etc.  Even if I do not approve of Feingold’s actions on the Wall Street reform bill, his overall record is truly inspiring.

While the trip to Wisconsin may be just a coincidence, it could also be the start of a two week long fight over final passage of the conference committee report on the Wall Street reform bill.  Continued demurring from a number of Senators (most notably Scott Brown), combined with memorial services for Senator Robert Byrd, has all but guaranteed that the Wall Street reform fight will continue over the July recess.   Those are the signals coming from top Democrats, too:

As much as Senate Democrats wanted to pass their Wall Street reform bill by the end of the week, the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) Monday morning made that almost impossible. Byrd will lie in state in the Capitol for most of tomorrow, and senators will spend much of Friday at a ceremony in West Virginia, eating up a great amount of the week’s remaining Senate floor time. As early as yesterday morning, Senate Whip Dick Durbin told reporters it would be difficult to finish up the bill before July 4, and last night after the conference committee adjourned, legislators suggested very strongly that the vote in the Senate would have to wait.

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the conference report today.  When Congress returns on Monday, July 12th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will most likely file for cloture on the conference report.  This will set up a vote on either Tuesday, July 13th, or Wednesday, July 14th.  This makes for an intervening period of at least 13 days when opponents of the bill will try to get three of the following five Senators to vote no on cloture: Scott Brown, Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, Charles Grassley and Olympia Snowe.  With Robert Byrd’s replacement likely to be sworn in before the vote, Democrats will also need three of those five in order to reach cloture, and send the bill to President Obama’s desk later in the week.

So, it’s a two week fight, and the terms are best three out of five.  We should be able to win this, but there is recent precedent for Democratic members of Congress getting scared by right-wing turnout at townhalls.  As I said in the post just below this, it ain’t over ’till it’s over.

President Obama, Please Call Their Bluff!

Yesterday, President Obama met with Senators at the White House and pushed them to pass comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Still, the skeptics are spinning a monotonous web of negativity regarding what is achievable on this front.  And, not surprisingly, the “mainstream media” once again has been asleep at the wheel in setting the record straight.  Fortunately, we know that when this President rolls up his sleeves, he gets stuff done and delivers on his promises. One thing’s for sure; President Obama is anything but an underachiever!

Along these lines, President Obama held a press conference following the G-20 summit in Toronto.  In response to a reporter’s question regarding how he would achieve his deficit reduction goals, the president responded:

For some reason people keep being surprised when I do what I said I was going to do. So, I say I’m going to reform our [health care system], and people say well gosh that’s not smart politics maybe we should hold off. Or I say we’re going to move forward on [Don’t Ask Don’t Tell] and somehow people say well why are you doing that, I’m not sure that’s good politics. I’m doing it because I said I was going to do it, and I think it’s the right thing to do. And people should learn that lesson about me, because next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficit and debt step up cause I’m calling their bluff.

To that list of accomplishments, we could also add:

  • Almost single-handedly saving the Copenhagen Climate Summit from failure.
  • Preventing Great Depression Part II. 
  • Creating or saving 2.2-2.8 million jobs, well on the way to Obama’s February 2009 pledge that he would “create or save 3-and-a-half million jobs over the next two years.” 
  • Reforming Wall Street (likely to pass Congress any day now)
  • Overhauling the student loan market 
  • Reaching a nuclear arms treaty with Russia

We could go on and on, but you get the point: anyone who continues, at this point, to be “surprised” when President Obama gets things done when he puts his mind to it is deep in denial. Or, as a previous president might have put it, they are wildly “misunderestimating” our 44th president.

Clearly, as we’ve seen over the past two years, underachieving is not a problem Barack Obama suffers from.  Of course, even a superachiever like Barack Obama has an awful lot on his plate to deal with. And right now, one of the most important things on Obama’s plate is figuring out how to push comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation through the U.S. Senate.   Along those lines, yesterday, Obama met with a group of Senators on this issue, reportedly holding firm in his call for putting a price on carbon emissions.

The question at this point is, will President Obama roll up his sleeves and deliver on another of his major campaign promise (as well as a major challenge facing our nation)?  Given the long list of accomplishments mentioned above, it certainly wouldn’t be smart to bet against him.  The fact is, Barack Obama usually succeeds in whatever he puts his mind to.

Given the nation’s increased focus on energy and climate issues – and the increased support by the American people for taking strong action as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster – now is clearly the time for boldness and for bluff calling by our nation’s leaders.  Today, President Obama has the opportunity to demonstrate once more that, when he rolls up his sleeves, he accomplishes what he says he’s going to do.  In sum, today is clearly the moment for President Obama to prove the doubters and naysayers wrong – to call their bluff – yet again!