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Tuesday, October 9, 2001

This might be a good week to stop watching the news. Every time I switch over to CNN or MSNBC (I never watch the Fox News Channel any more), my blood pressure goes up. I'm not sure if it's the news itself, or just the way it's being reported.

A little of both, I suspect.

They want us to be scared, and they want to dazzle us with how aggressively they're ferreting out the most sensational stories, even if it's nothing we need to know. How do we know if they're playing up minor items or painting an accurate picture of life in the twenty-first century?

So I guess the choice is either to be so fully informed that I can sift through the news and decide from a broad foundation of knowledge exactly what to believe and what to ignore, or to ignore everything and believe nothing. The middle ground is leaving me so muddled that I'm just a little lost and a little angry.

Let me try to sort through a few examples, just from today.

Bush is accusing members of Congress of leaking classified information from secret briefings. His response is to get all wrathful, as if he were king instead of an elected official (and barely that) with responsibility to keep the people's representatives up to date on critical developments. He uses the same tone talking about Congress that he's been using to rant against bin Laden and al-Qaeda. He tried to cut them off (Congress, that is), and then had to backtrack. But I guess he got his message across.

A man pulled out a bottle of carpet cleaner in a Maryland subway and started spraying it around, frightening passengers, initiating a gun battle, and eventually shutting down the train for a time. Deliberately spreading terror — especially now ... isn't that the very definition of terrorism? Anyone who would do something like this, not only scaring the hell out of everyone on the train but also giving authorities more reasons to clamp down on freedom of movement, is in the same category with actual perpetrators of terrorist acts.

Here in the Bay Area, BART security has been beefed up (as they say), with more police presence on trains and in stations. They've also closed all station restrooms and elevators, and removed trash containers from the platforms. What's next? No, I'm serious. How far are they going to go with these kinds of restrictions on everyday activities? How much of our way of life will we surrender to the fear?

All of this is just today's news. It doesn't include yesterday's outrages, like the guy who tried to break into the plane cockpit, or the on-again, off-again anthrax scare. Where are we headed with all this? And where does it end?

I have to stop watching the news for a while. It's so frustrating to see our way of life being eroded. Fear is chipping away at our freedom, and it's also opening the door to the enemy within, those forces that have long sought an excuse to tighten the vise. It won't stop if I look away, and it might even get worse. But at least I won't be angry all the time. And so very, very tired.


October sunset.

This would be a good week to quit the news cold turkey, for me anyway, because there's enough baseball to keep me distracted. The Fox networks are showing anywhere from two to four playoff games every day, and since they're all critical contests, I don't much care that they don't have enough competent announcers to go around. It is a little annoying, though, to hear these guys fumbling for the right words to say something so trite that it would be more enlightening if they'd just keep their mouths shut. (Example: "He used to be above average. Now he's better than average.")

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