First, let's close the loop on my rant from Wednesday on the way the editorial page editor of the newspaper in Redding, California, Bruce Ross, ignored the lessons learned working on his high school paper and went on a tirade about me.
After several of you forwarded the column to him, I got this e-mail from Ross:
The rules are indeed a-changin' --- the errors I make in early-morning replies to a comment on a blog post are spread around to ensure I am duly embarrassed for not knowing what I am talking about.
I don't believe I ever saw your e-mail, so I apologize if I overlooked it. I'd look to say for the record that you were indeed quite right and I was wrong.
I will add that out here in remote small towns on the West Coast, we must get an earlier edition than you do in Virginia, because the sports coverage on Sunday is woefully old.
Which is pretty good as far as an aw-shucks-crapola answer goes, but a close reading involves an apology for misplacing my e-mail, not for having practiced a different (and lower) standard between the print and web editions.
I followed up with this:
And the $100 bet you lost? Please send same to a local charity in both our names.
To which he replied:
It's a deal.
So, if someone out there in Redding can keep track of this and let me know to which charity I have donated, I'll pass it along to everyone else.
Dear Mr. Mullings:
What ever happened to that rule which said "Don't argue with a guy who buys his ink by the barrel?"
Bruce Ross' High School Newspaper Advisor
It's been a-changed to: Don't argue with a guy who's got 35,000 names on his e-mail database and gets about 6,000 page views per day to his website.
Unless your name is Matt Drudge.
The level of confidence in the US Congress, according to a Gallup Poll, has dropped to 14-percent. That means that the only people who have any confidence in them are those who are:
Actual Members of the House or Senate,
Employed by, and/or related to, Members of the House or Senate, or
Lobbyists who make their living telling Members of the House and Senate they are very excellent, smart, powerful, and good-looking over dinners at exclusive Washington restaurants which, surprisingly, cost exactly $49.99 (drinks, taxes and tip included).
While it is fun to make fun of Congress - especially now that the Democrats are in charge and have yet to figure out a way to blame their low approval ratings on Global Warming - there is no small danger to a society in which 86-percent hold its most important institutions in such low regard.
According to this poll, the "criminal justice system" is at 19-percent, the news media is at about 22-percent, and the Presidency is at 25-percent.
That means Americans have lost faith in the basic underpinnings of American society.
If we were to, God forbid, come under attack which led to a collapse - real or perceived - in the US economy, we would be ripe for a demagogue to rise up promising to fix everything.
We wouldn't believe warnings from the news media (four out of five of us don't believe them now). We would assume the howls coming from Capitol Hill were more of the same self-serving blather we already distrust. And who in the Administration would we turn to for guidance? The President? The Attorney-General?
I don't, for a second, believe that all reporters are evil, that Members of Congress lie, or that the Administration is unswervingly indifferent.
I do believe that part of the problem lies, not in our stars (or, in the case of Lindsay Louhan, our starlets) but in ourselves.
We demand perfection from our institutions. Perfection, as we've discussed before, is a religious ideal. It is not a healthy way to measure daily life.
We allow ourselves to be goaded into painting people as completely good or totally bad; and issues as absolutely right or abhorrently wrong even though anyone over the age of 12 knows that grey is much more common than black and white, and the edges of a discussion are far more often blurry than sharp.
We need real leaders to really lead, not just read the latest polls.
That will go a long way towards restoring confidence.