August 29, 2014

Never say "Can't"

Good friend Dan Contonis shared a link to this heartwarming story of a little girl who never learned the meaning of "can't." She and her remarkable parents share a story worth knowing!
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October 5, 2013

Fox & MSNBC: Latecomers to the Blame Game


As one who grew up near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I’ve been in proximity of both the racism and victimization that seems to remain festering in the hearts of some Native Americans and Anglos even into the 21st Century.

Since these are hot button issues that can consume those who elect to enter in to dialogues about them, I’ve declined to offer any observations or opinions about them on Black Hills Monitor.

However, after just posting a story and photograph on another website about Joe American Horse, a superb athlete from yesteryear, something interesting happened.

Mount Rushmore - 1929
A Google “Alert” notification arrived in my Inbox for another “Black Hills history” story.   

It was a story about Mount Rushmore posted on a site named Indian Country Today Media Network.  I don’t recall having visited this website before.  However, rummaging through its many topics and pages was fascinating – if a bit disappointing – so I’ve decided to offer those long-delayed “observations” …..and an opinion or two.  Nonetheless, Indian Country Today is worth visiting.  There's lots of good stuff there.  But...

I’m a white guy.  My interest in things relating to American Indians, however, is more than just passing.  I’ve dabbled in genealogy for decades and remember vividly some of the stories my mother used to tell about her childhood – and her Indian playmates.  My great-grandfather’s homestead was “in the gumbo” about 14 miles northeast of Chadron, Nebraska, adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

If it hadn’t been for the Indian kids, I often wouldn’t have had anyone to play with,” I recall her telling me over the years.  And my grandfather did business with tribal members.

As a kid growing up in Chadron, I don’t think I ever stopped to consider the plight of the Indians.  Usually, their circumstances were perceived through a local prism of strong cultural snobbery.  You might call it racism  Like Gordon and Rushville, towns not far from Pine Ridge, Chadron was a favorite trade center for reservation residents.

That also meant it was a favorite watering hole not just for area farmers and ranchers – but Indians from Pine Ridge, too.  And while I’m not a scientist or sociologist, I do believe that there was/is a propensity for alcoholism among our neighbors from Pine Ridge. Coupled with a mutual lack of understanding about cultural differences and a widespread abuse of the U.S. government’s food commodity program, it seems that almost everything I learned about relationships between our races was tinged with abuse, indifference, and illegalities.

There were many exceptions, of course.  One American Indian classmate was an exceptional artist.  He later served in the Army and then worked with computers for many years.  I had looked forward to seeing him at our 50th high school class reunion a few years ago, but he didn’t make it.  I later saw his obituary.  Another Indian friend was a fine athlete and is a good friend.  He went on to graduate from the University of Nebraska and years later would return to the Pine Ridge area and work to improve the health of reservation residents.   

Having lived eight years in Mississippi later in life, I learned much about southern racism – although I think Mississippi often gets a bum wrap, when one considers rampant racism that has afflicted Detroit, Los Angeles and other areas of the country.  Author Shelby Foote put it well when he once talked about confronting racism in Mississippi:  “We aren’t where we want to be……we’re not where we should be…..but we sure aren’t where we used to be!

Newspaperman Bob Gordon
Many of my best friends in Mississippi grew up around the racism that seemed to inundate Mississippi back in the 1950s and '60s.   One of them was a man named Bob Gordon, one of the finest men I’ve ever known.  I’ll not recount his story, but if you want to know more, visit Saying Goodbye to a Friend.  And another good friend, a Jackson attorney, grew up in the thick of racism.  He and I visited about that occasionally, and I often wondered why he -- a very liberal and caring fellow -- wasn’t even more outspoken in his position against racism. 

Then, at some point, I stopped to reflect on my own upbringing, remembering the things I experienced as a youth.   As children, I suspect all of us grow up adapting to the culture we’re dealt.  As a teenager, I couldn’t understand how “whites in the south could be so racist against negroes.”  I never seriously reflected on  the plight of Indians and their relationship with whites in my own community.  Partly, as a teen, I was too involved with sports, girls, and my own circumstances.  In Mississippi, I finally confronted that inconsistency.

All of this to offer up this:

As thought-provoking and well done as it is, Indian Country Today provides for its readers much the same fodder as Fox News offers its viewers.  And as MSNBC feeds its audience.  Especially, it seems, during these confrontational days inside the Washington, D.C. beltway:  "I’m right.  You’re wrong.  Now I'm going to tell you who's to blame."  

That seems to be the mantra.  Whatever our plight; whatever our woes; we’ve got to blame someone, so let’s focus on the other guy!

Indian Country News is well done, but there is, not surprisingly -- but disappointingly, an undercurrent that seems to focus more on blaming whites rather than seeking solutions to the problems that face Native Americans – and our country.

All of us, at one time or another, have viewed ourselves as victims.  And few in our society have as much justification for that posture as Native Americans.  But until the crutch of justification and blame is put in the closet, it’s difficult to see meaningful improvements in the lives of our Native American brethren.

But the purveyors of blame at Fox, MSNBC, and others, know that controversy can lure more eyeballs and, thus, more advertising revenue.   And the good folks at Indian Country News probably believe, too, that a little invective and controversy can't help but strengthen readership.

And all of society is the worse for it.

April 6, 2013

Being able to choose your channels...

I have long believed that unbundling of cable and satellite channels would be a good thing.

The model for years has been for subscribers to pay a flat fee for a cable lineup that originally might have included a couple of dozen channels or so. As technology advanced, the cable industry was able to expand the number of channel offerings with a modest increase in cost.

When my wife and I were parents of young children, we would gladly have paid an additional fee to have the cable system filter out the burgeoning number of channels that contained content promoting violence, sex, and morbidity. While each of us has slightly different standards with regard to what's objectionable, there were ways that concerned parents and cable companies might have compromised.

Campbell Brown in action:
(see video below)
"Unworkable" was the basic response from the cable systems to proposals to unbundle channels, suggesting that the technology simply wasn't available to create a viable business model. That was back in the 1970's and '80's. Fast forward to 2013. Not only is the technology available to allow subscribers to pick and choose individual channels and pay only for those channels -- the need for doing so was never greater. It's often called "cherry picking."  The social cost of not offering subscribers this choice is potentially devastating. It's already left a mark on our society.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the current debate over gun control. Alas, the culpability of the media and entertainment businesses has been marginalized in the the national debate. Stepping up to focus on the issue is former NBC and CNN correspondent Campbell Brown. She was interviewed on MSNBC earlier this month (April 2013); while she didn't push hard on the "unbundling" of cable channels as a way to help parents -- and society -- she did have some cogent observations about the entertainment industry and some strategies that might work for reigning in an industry that displays little concern over the consequences of its product -- except the box office receipts.

November 1, 2012

You've come a long way, baby...


I must confess that Women’s Equality Day in August escaped me this year.  It celebrated passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, giving women the right to vote.  No matter, perhaps it’s better celebrated next Tuesday, November 6, when men and women march to the polls in the 2012 general election.

You’ve come a long way, baby” was an advertising slogan developed by the Leo Burnett advertising agency for Virginia Slims cigarettes back in the 1960’s.  It was designed to encourage women to further break away from traditional female roles -- and, of course, smoke their brand of cigarettes.

It’s interesting that we’ve seen a resurgence of gender issues in this political season.   Probably an indication that while much has been accomplished – much needs yet to be done.

There are, indeed, still challenges for women in “breaking through those glass ceilings,” but there have been some successes over the years. 


Dean Finley Herbst
I was reminded of one such lady this week when I learned that Dean Herbst had died in Austin, Texas.  The wife of my boss at the University of Texas–Austin Communications Center back in the 1970’s, Dean was a lady who “broke out of the mold” many years earlier.  She had a remarkable professional career – and yet managed to also embrace the importance of rearing children and focusing on family.  Dean Herbst died earlier this year at the age of 88.

First, a disclaimer.  While I did not know Dean well, her husband and I worked closely at KLRN-TV/KUT Radio in Austin, where he was Station Manager and General Manager for many years.  Much of what I recount here was shared in her obituary.

Dean Finley was born in Houston, the daughter of Frank and Lila Finley.  Frank worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and spent most of his career in the federal building in Austin.  Dean graduated from Austin High School in 1940 and then went to the University of Texas, majoring in Journalism and serving as the first female night editor for the Daily Texan newspaper.

With her bachelor’s degree in hand, she headed for New York City, where she worked as a publicist for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  She later moved in to the top floor of Washington Irving’s old home and became associate editor and production manger for Tide magazine.

She returned to Austin in 1946 and became a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and later was promoted to Women’s Editor.

But in 1951, Dean was offered the job “of her dreams.”  She was off to Kabul, Afghanistan to become Assistant Information Officer at the U.S. Embassy.  She would become the Head of Public Affairs at the embassy and the “only ranking woman” in the Kabul diplomatic corps.

Dean Herbst’s obituary noted “At the request of the Queen of Afghanistan, she offered an informal seminar for wives of Afghan diplomats who were going to serve in foreign embassies.  When Dean left Afghanistan, she was presented parting gifts of jewels and needlework form the Queen and the Prime Minister in appreciation for her contributions to Afghan culture.”

In a story reminiscent of the many adventures of Julia Childs, young Dean Finley made friends with the King of Nepal during the sea voyage home from the Middle East.  It occurred only after she apparently “ordered him out of her assigned deck chair, causing great consternation among his attendants.  The only person laughing was the King himself.  After the incident, Dean joined the King and his entourage and became his dancing partner for the evening.  It was an experience we might have more likely expected of Julia McWilliams Childs during her O.S. S. adventures during World War II!

Flight to Afghanistan
When she got home, Dean went to work again for the Austin American-Statesman.  In 1955 she married Harvey Herbst, another “media type” who worked for an Austin television station.  They would have two children:  Frederick Lawrence and Marian Alice. 

While raising her children, Dean wrote Flight to Afghanistan, a novel of mid-air adventures for a high school girl on her way to Afghanistan to visit her parents.  The book apparently received good reviews and was honored at the “Writer’s Round-Up” of best Texas writers of that year.

Tapped to conduct research for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board regarding medical education in the state, Dean accepted the three-year challenge, which resulted in her later being offered the job as Assistant Commissioner for Health Affairs at the Board.  She remained there until her retirement.

Dean's many achievements were impressive, but one particular event seemed to reflect her priorities at the time.

With children still in school in the 1960’s, Dean agreed to take a leadership role with Theta Sigma Phi, the woman’s national honorary journalism society that was based in Austin.  She presented the board with a plan to reorganize the society, which resulted in relocating its headquarters to Washington, D.C. in 1972 – and changing its name to Women in Communications (WIC).  The organization pushed hard for the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Not surprisingly, WIC also chose to allow men to become active members of the organization.

Dean’s obituary notes that she was offered the position of national director of the organization, which she declined, saying, “I’m first a mother and a wife, and both those jobs are in Austin, Texas.

Lorraine Collins
Good friend Lorraine Collins, whose book Gathering My Wits reflected her sound judgment, clear thinking, and crisp writing, is another woman who comes to mind during the election discussion about gender equality.  Her achievements, too, have been quite remarkable. 

While Lorraine no longer pens her thoughtful essays for the Black Hills Pioneer or our Black Hills Monitor website, her commentaries on South Dakota and the “outside world” are always fun to revisit.  You can read many of Lorraine's essays here. 

Her years as a journalist  -- including stints at Time magazine and as a free-lance journalist  – were achieved during those years when women were seldom found amongst the throngs of men who dominated journalism.

Alas, she recently moved from the Black Hills to Billings, Montana to be closer to family as she cares for her ailing husband, Keith.  Keith and Lorraine were good neighbors, and they are good friends.  We miss them both.

Like Dean Herbst, Julia Childs, and many other women of 20th century journalism, Lorraine broke that “glass ceiling.”   We’ll soon be telling you about Lee Hall, another lady who left her mark on journalism in an era when it was unusual for women to be in the newsroom – let alone leading the way.

Perhaps all of these ladies were ahead of their time.  See you at the polls!

October 4, 2012

Charles E. "Eddie" Clay (1922-2012)

South Dakota has lost one of its outstanding citizens.

Charles "Eddie" Clay of Hot Springs passed away this morning (10/4/12) at the Rapid City Regional Hospital after suffering a stroke yesterday.  He was 90 years old.

And most of those 90 years were dedicated to his family, his country, and his community.

It's sad to see the passing of such a remarkable person, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife, Clara, his daughter, Bobbi, and the entire Clay family.

Born in Missouri and raised in Iowa, Eddie served with the 8th Air Force in the Pacific during World War II.  Another assignment to Ellsworth Air Force Base allowed him to meet and later marry Clara May Hagen.  Eddie was also called up and served during the Korean War.

Eddie and Clara owned and operated Fall River Abstract in Hot Springs for more than 43 years.  He was devoted to Clara and Bobbi and his grandchildren.

Our sorrow at Eddie's passing  should be quickly tempered by celebration of his numerous and enormous accomplishments during his time on this earth. He was a champion for a wide array of community activities.  The list of his many causes is far too long to enumerate here -- and so we mention only a few.   They each elicited deep passion and commitment from Eddie.  He was not a half-way kind of fellow.  

We wrote the following when Eddie was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2007:

"A tireless worker in civic affairs, Eddie has provided vision and leadership to the Mount Rushmore Society, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, and numerous other organizations.

His service in the legislature and on Boards of Directors for many educational, tourism and arts organizations has been remarkable. A Mason for 50 years, Eddie Clay has been a role model for me and many South Dakotans. In addition to daughter Bobbi, the Clays have four grandchildren and four great children."

Eddie also served on the powerful Appropriations Committee in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1967 to 1974.

Funeral services for Charles "Eddie" Clay will be at 10:00 a.m., Monday, at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs.  A viewing is scheduled for Sunday evening.  

You'll find additional information in this news story broadcast earlier today (10/4/12) by KOTA-TV, in which they appropriately acknowledged Eddie as a "visionary."   You'll also find a few photos and narratives that we posted in 2007 in this Hall of Fame gallery.

June 23, 2012

Juvenile justice in America: a Florida case

by Larry Miller

I remember once starting to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and asking myself, “Why am I reading this?  It’s as depressing as sitting through a screening of Rosemary’s Baby."  Not a fun thing to do.

But fun sometimes has to take a back seat to the necessity of examining the human condition and what it is that causes humans to sometimes become so misguided.

“Misguided” may be a bit euphemistic when describing juveniles who commit heinous crimes.  What are those things that make some youngsters stray from “normal” teen years and end up spending life in prison?  The answers are not simple.  And the U.S. legal system struggles for a path to true juvenile justice.   

Good friend Bill Kunerth recently shared excerpts of a book written by his son, Jeff, who is a writer for the Orlando (FL) Sentinel.  I was intrigued by what I started to read -- but had those flashbacks to In Cold Blood.

Then, a few weeks ago, I received a copy of the book from Jeff.  It’s entitled Trout, and it’s a true story of “murder, teens, and the death penalty.”  

I started the book late one evening, read the first chapter, and was lured into the story by Jeff’s riveting style.  It reads like a novel.  It’s anything but.

I’ll not provide details about Trout, other than to share that it’s a revealing story about high school-age boys in Pensacola who become wrapped up in an horrific event that ends tragically for almost all the families involved. 

“…I thought I was writing about a case of mistaken identity murder-for-hire by three Pensacola teens in 1991,” said Kunerth, who acknowledges that the book evolves into scrutinizing juvenile justice within the U.S. adult court system.

Jeff Kunerth - Orlando Sentinel
The writing style is called “creative nonfiction,” and it’s well suited for journalist Kunerth, who has sourced the story extensively.  He assembles just the right tools to tell the story of a gruesome murder of a clerk at Trout Auto Parts in Pensacola, Florida.

I don’t fancy myself a literary critic, but Jeff Kunerth’s style reminded me of Barbara Tuchman's work.

Like Tuchman, Kunerth may not consider himself an historian, but his detailed recounting of this event, accompanied by nagging questions about the implications for juvenile justice, are every bit as compelling as Tuchman’s “Guns of August” dissection of the events leading up to World War One.  And like it or not, juvenile violence is as much a part of our history as war -- and its impact is just as devastating.

The topics for both books were meticulously researched, thoughtfully written, and both authors spared no ink in assembling and listing their sources.  At just 195 pages, Trout is a fast read.  Twenty-two of those pages are source notes.

Like any good book, it leaves you wanting to know more.  And more is to be found online at www.jeffkunerth.com where visitors can ask questions, make comments, and get additional information, including links to the PBS Frontline documentary, When Kids Get Life.

June 21, 2012

We should listen to Kenny Rogers


by Lorraine Collins

I've never been a great fan of what we call country and western music because I thought it all seemed to be about broken hearts and broken promises, loneliness, trains missed and dogs that died. But sometimes it does reflect common human experiences and things that are true and important. One good example is a song made famous by Kenny Rogers---"The Gambler."

It's been running through my mind quite a bit lately because of the advice the gambler offers to the narrator: "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Apparently the gambler didn't learn that too well himself because, after he's bummed a cigarette and a drink of whisky from a fellow he met on a "train to nowhere", he dies.

Yet,  his advice is still good: know when to hold and when to fold, not just in poker, but in life. I've been trying to figure that out myself lately, and I know if we could all learn that, everything might be easier for us. For instance, in the last year we've witnessed events in Egypt and Libya when dictators just refused to give up their power and ended up dooming themselves and their countries to a long ordeal. Still, the boss of Syria hasn't seemed to get the message that there's a time to fold.

In the recent Republican presidential nomination contest, one fellow might have bailed out a bit early, but others hung on way past the bitter end. So sometimes we do give up too soon, maybe because of a lack of grit, or because of a sudden realization that the goal is most likely unattainable, so we cut our losses. But in most cases we don't fold too soon but just hang on too long because we hate to give up whatever we have enjoyed doing.

There are a lot of examples. Many of us can name a famous professional quarterback who didn't know when to retire, and in music and the arts we've seen performers who would have been better off leaving their reputations intact with a graceful exit. Great literary works have been written about faded geniuses or warriors trying to regain former glory. It's not that we lack examples. It's just hard to recognize those same tendencies in ourselves.

I remember when I was a kid not wanting to come home from playing kick the can even though it was getting pretty dark. When my mother called me to come in, I protested that I was still having fun. She said, "Always quit when you're having fun." That's pretty good advice, too, though many of us wait until everything isn't quite as much fun as it used to be.

Of course I'm leading up to something here. It's been hard to decide to leave the Black Hills after enjoying 26 years living in Spearfish Canyon and Spearfish, but the time has come for my husband Keith and me to do so, as we've recognized it's time to fold. We've had a lot of fun here, flying airplanes, driving Model Ts, riding bikes, hunting deer, playing golf, attending plays, concerts, and even opera here in the Black Hills. But to tell the truth, as time has gone on the years have accumulated in our bones. It's just about too late to quit while we're still having fun.

One thing that has been fun for me is writing this column for the last six years. For the first several months I wrote a column once a week, then faded to twice a month and I eventually  realized that writing a column once a month is the best I can do if I'm going to do anything else, like laundry. There certainly has been a lot to write about. When I put together a collection of my columns last year there were 90 commentaries in seven different categories and it's really hard to think of something I haven't written about. I've enjoyed it and I really appreciated the response from readers over the years. Thanks.
           
Now it's time to start cleaning out the house and the garage and to pay attention to another line in "The Gambler." It's about "knowing what to throw away and what to keep." Good luck with that one. 

Lorraine Collins is a writer who lives in Spearfish. She can be contacted at collins1@midco.net

June 13, 2012

A small sign of the times...


By Larry Miller

Another setback for journalism has occurred with news that the New Orleans Times-Picayune is cutting back to publishing a print version of the newspaper just three days a week.  That sad news was delivered by visiting southern friend Jimmie Ray Gordon, whose late husband Bob was a respected veteran wire service reporter and newspaper editor in the south.

I confess that one of my long-time pet peeves has been the abandonment of local community service obligations by radio stations in favor of becoming part of a larger corporate operation.  Typically, such stations rely on satellite programming and minimal overhead to meet the bottom line profit expectations of shareholders.  Serious local news coverage is often the first “belt-tightening” step.

Clearly, technology evolution and a bad economy have significantly and negatively impacted many newspapers and broadcasting stations – particularly those that were not well run in the first place.

It was no big surprise, for example, to learn that KZMX Radio in Hot Springs, South Dakota, was slapped with a big fine last month (May 2012) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its “failure to make the stations available for inspection” and for “failure to operate in accordance with station authorization.”   The forfeiture was set at $21,500.

For those of us who remember the early years of the station, then KOBH-AM in Hot Springs, it stirred memories of a station that was once well-operated and reached a pretty good audience across the Black Hills and beyond, including many listeners in Wyoming and Nebraska.

We don’t know about the other properties owned and operated by Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting – licensee of KZMX-AM-FM – but the notice from the FCC seemed to make a compelling case that KZMX fits the profile of a station that “willfully or repeatedly fails to comply with…the provisions of the (Communications) Act.  They wrote the following in their Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture:

On Tuesday, May 31, 2011, in response to a complaint, an agent from the Enforcement Bureau's Denver Office (Denver Office) attempted an inspection of the Station KZMX(AM) and Station KZMX-FM main studio, during regular business hours. The Stations’ main studio is located approximately one mile north of Hot Springs, South Dakota, and is clearly marked in large letters “KZMX” and a sign on the front door reads “Mount Rushmore Broadcasting.” The door to the main studio was locked and there was no staff or management present at the building. There was no contact information posted at the main studio location, consequently, the agent was unable to gain entrance to the main studio. The agent stayed at the main studio site for several hours, monitoring Station KZMX(AM), which was operating on the frequency 580 kHz, and Station KZMX-FM, which was operating on frequency 96.7 MHz.2 The agent telephoned multiple phone numbers, including two published phone numbers associated with Mount Rushmore and the Stations several times, but none of his calls were answered.3 During the time the agent was at the main studio location, an individual identifying himself as a former employee stopped by the main studio location and informed the agent that no one had been present at the main studio for more than a year.

On June 1, 2011, during regular business hours, the Denver agent returned to the Station KZMX(AM) and Station KZMX-FM main studio and again attempted an inspection of the Stations’ main studio. The agent stopped by the main studio several times throughout the day, during regular business hours. Each time, no employees were present and the agent was unable to gain access to the main studio.  Both Stations were in operation and during each visit, the agent telephoned several phone numbers associated with the Stations but his calls were not answered. The agent then visited a non-affiliated business in the area owned by the president of Mount Rushmore. After being informed that the Mount Rushmore president was in the area, the agent left his business card with an employee who agreed to have the president contact the agent, however, the agent never heard from the president.

You can go to the FCC web site to read their Notice of May 17, 2012 in its entirety, but it’s not a happy story.  Not for Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting, nor especially for the public, which apparently has been shortchanged by KZMX for a long time.

I received a copy of the FCC Notice from a long-time friend on May 19 – just a few days after it was adopted – so I thought I’d share it with a news outlet that purportedly covers news in the Black Hills region.   I sent a copy of the notice to the Rapid City Journal, which also owns the Hot Spring Star newspaper.  I was operating on the assumption that Hot Springs area residents were not likely to hear about the event from KZMX-AM-FM, and it seemed logical to me that the Journal might have an interest in the FCC action.  I e-mailed the notice to Kevin Woster at the Journal.

His response came two days later with a terse question:  “So what’s the issue?

I replied that I thought the Notice of Forfeiture from the FCC was self-explanatory.  He responded that he gets a lot of mail, indicating that he hadn’t bothered to open or read the attachment.

Kevin is a good reporter.  I think he’s an even better writer.  But I was disappointed that nothing ever appeared in the Journal. Perhaps it was a pure editorial judgment call that this $21,500 forfeiture by a federally-licensed station in Hot Springs was too parochial – that the significance of the story was minimal.  And  maybe he’s right.

I never saw a story appear in the Rapid City Journal about the forfeiture.  Admittedly, I don’t read the Journal from front to back, so maybe I missed it.  Nor do I subscribe to the Hot Springs Star, where it may well have appeared. 

When I cranked up various online search engines to see just who might have reported the forfeiture, I found only the FCC website and…….Wikipedia?

The fact that Wikipedia somehow captured and shared information about the KZMX forfeiture order – and not the Rapid City Journal or Hot Springs Star – may well be a subtle clue as to why traditional media are struggling…….and online sources are thriving.  Even the likes of Wikipedia.

May 18, 2012

...a battle worth fighting, nonetheless

by LARRY MILLER


Every now and then we read something in the newspaper that catches our eye, and which we think is worth repeating.

That was the case this week, when Aaron Orlowski of the Rapid City Journal penned an article quoting a couple of folks about the Rocky Mountain pine beetle infestation that has devastated much of our beloved Black Hills of South Dakota.  Flights of the pesky beetle are a recurring event and seem to plague the region a couple of times every century or so.

John Ball is a forestry extension specialist with South Dakota State University.  He was quoted as saying, “Every 40 years we have this problem,” suggesting that the infestation is part of a natural cycle for the beetles.  He noted that thinning the forest is one thing that definitely helps the situation, but that the Black Hills National Forest in recent years has had particularly dense stands of trees.  

He said that the only way to slow tree deaths would be to kill 97 percent of the beetles, but that would be an "unfathomable feat."

Ball concluded by observing that mixed stands with different species of trees and different ages of trees will help the forest be more resilient, once the current outbreak has subsided.

Wisely, Ball said that doesn’t mean that we should give up and not try to combat the beetle.  In fact, there have been workshops across the hills advising property owners about how they can fight the beetle and help protect their property.

It reminds us of another hot topic that Mother Nature has had on our plates since the beginning of recorded time:  global warming.  And global cooling.  Fears of a looming “ice age” caused some concern back in the mid-20th century – much the way global warming has stolen headlines in recent years.

Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle
I believe we have a better chance – slim though it might be – of sending the pine beetle into oblivion than we do of having any significant impact upon the climate.

Nonetheless, it’s wise to be good stewards of the resources we enjoy on our planet, and to do whatever we can to preserve and protect a healthy environment.  So we’ll continue to engage in recycling and other environmentally-friendly activities.

And we're all for thinning the forest, making life a bit more difficult for the pine beetles, and maybe combating another hazard in Mother Nature’s arsenal:  forest wild fires.

April 27, 2012

Space junk and spring cleaning

by Lorraine Collins

I don't suppose there are a whole lot of people who remember when a satellite named Telstar provided the first transatlantic television transmission from the U.S. to Europe in 1962, but I was reminded of this the other day. Although the broadcast was just 14 minutes long, it included a dramatic scene of Mount Rushmore with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "A Mighty Fortress is our God" and it was thrilling. Telstar was in use for only a few months, but  it's quite possible that it's still circling the globe.

A story on Public Radio recently said the fellows in the International Space Station were told to get into their space lifeboats because some debris was heading their way. If this collided with the space station, they needed to be ready to abandon ship. Luckily, it missed. But it seems there is no shortage of space debris. There are 22,000 objects circling our globe, whizzing by at 17,500 miles per hour. About 1,000 are space craft of some sort, but the rest is just space junk, some of it only a few inches long.

I haven't checked lately, but Telstar was reported to be still orbiting the earth in 2010. I suppose it's true that what goes up must come down eventually, but meanwhile bits and pieces of defunct satellites and other debris continue to clutter up what we refer to as space. At least this belt of working satellites and debris may provide us some protection from invasion by space aliens who will have to wade through it all to get to us. Think of it as barbed wire around the perimeter.

We don't often think of the trash that is flying overhead, unless we are threatened with a chunk of a Soviet spacecraft plummeting toward earth, which happened recently. Fortunately,  since two-thirds of the earth is covered by oceans, that chunk, like many others, fell harmlessly into the sea. The bad news is, the oceans are being clogged up with millions of tons of debris that did not fall out of the sky but were deposited by more mundane means.

Those of us who live out here in the middle of the continent probably think more often of the sky than the sea, since we can see the sky. Yet we may be vaguely aware that there are very large garbage patches in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Miles and miles, acres and acres of mostly plastic debris float just below the surface, moving as the ocean currents direct. According to the Ocean Conservancy, volunteers picked up nine million tons of debris on seashores last year. I'm not sure what's being done about all the miles of debris floating in the middle of the oceans, and I sure don't know what's going to happen to all the sad detritus generated by the tsunami in Japan that has sent millions of tons of debris floating on the ocean, some of which is headed toward us. But sooner or later I think somebody is going to have to pay attention to all this.

           
It's depressing for me to think of all the clutter and junk in the garage, the basement, my office, let alone that heading inexorably toward me by air and sea. I have the accumulation of a lifetime to deal with, even though I have moved several times, have auctioned off possessions, given hundreds of things away, donated to libraries, rummage sales, carted trailer-loads of stuff to the landfill and have shown up at the farms and houses of unsuspecting relatives with a ton or so of excess stuff for them to store, as we claimed, for a year or so. All right, it was eight years but we did reclaim it eventually. Well, most of it. Some of it.

This is the time of year when we begin to look around and consider what changes we can and should make in our houses and gardens and lives, and since spring seems to have come so early this year, everything is coming at us even faster than usual. There's hardly time to think of what we should do, because we should already be doing it. Yet we could sit out of an evening and look at the sky and think about how we affect the only home we know---this planet---and how we can be respectful of it. I'll try that. It may inspire me to clean out the garage.


Lorraine Collins is a writer who lives in Spearfish. She can be contacted at collins1@midco.net.