Monthly Archives: November 2005

What We Need In Newspapers

I was gonna do this whole thing. You know, work up a good and righteous head of steam about newspapers needing to get back to their roots and quit blaming readers for not liking them when all they do anymore is bitch about their own stuff like that meta crap is interesting to anybody with a real job and a social life. But I think commenter BlackSheepOne said it best when I asked you guys last night in this post about what you wanted in newspapers:

I want the local news. I want to know what’s going on in my town today, and what’s on the agenda for tomorrow. I don’t give a frell about Ann Coulter’s opinion or George Will’s opinion and I could give a frack about the recycled WSJ bloviations as well. Spare me those odious filler trivia blocks.

I want to know what’s on the school lunch menu. I want to know what’s on the school board agenda. I want to know what the budget for the county’s road and bridges fund is buying. I want to know what the hours are at my local public library. I want to know what movies are showing in town and what time they start. I want to know what the phone numbers are for the food bank and what the city bus route map looks like, and if you could give me a decent weather forecast that would be a bonus. Put in the phone numbers for the school, and include the names and contact information for the paper’s editorial staff (not just circulation, advertising and the obit desk, thankyouverymuch). While you’re at it, run the names and district numbers, AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK, of my city councilmen, state legislators, and federal Congresscritters.

I want to have the legal notices in print big enough to read; save the effin’ agate for the blankety-blank stock closing notices, and put the girls’ high school basketball box scores in 10 point or better.

And *damn* your eyes, you editors and reporters and newsroom managers, if a man is shot dead in his front yard in my city and you get the call an hour before deadline, I want to know who he was and where he lived and why he was shot and what the police are doing, and whether I need to be on the lookout for the last vehicle seen in the vicinity — I do NOT want to have it swept under the rug as “oh, that’s just one nig– shooting another one.” If a woman reports a sexual assault, you keep your arrogant crack about “the hooker’s check bounced” up your own piehole and print the description of the suspect and the location of the attack so every other woman in town has a decent warning. It’s not your fracking job to bottle up the news because of the neighborhood where it happens or because your precious advertisers might be boycotted by some Self-Identified-Christian nutcase(s).

Your job is to report the news, and if you do your job right I should know as much about your personal politics and your financial aspirations as I know about the personal politics and financial aspirations of the tape in the videocassette: NOT ONE IOTA, because that’s not what the news is. What the news is is what’s happening, and whether you like what’s happening or not, whether your advertisers are thrilled with your coverage (particularly of them when they’re at fault) or not, doesn’t matter a bit. The news is the news, and your job is to report it. Report all of it that will fit, and don’t frell around with fillers and ‘features’ and canned editorials.

Write the truth. Challenge your readers to think for themselves, don’t spoon-feed them the corporate line. In the long run the world will be better for it and you will have helped.

To which I can only add, pretty much, yeah.


Cheesehead Preznit

Feingold says the time is right.

Hell, it can’t look sillier than this:


Chimnpeachment — It’s the New Black

From Holden:

Via, Tony Trupiano, Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan’s 11th District, finds impeachment to be a crowd pleaser.

Tony held a “Take Back the House” rally last Monday. It was the first event of his campaign, and “the best part,” he said when I spoke to him on Saturday, “was the Q & A.” One of the questions that someone asked Tony was what three pieces of legislation would be the first he would introduce.

The first that Tony named was a bill to restore value to the federal minimum wage. He never got to the third, because the second issue he named received such a huge response that the conversation took a new turn. That second issue was impeachment.

“The crowd went crazy,” Tony said, “I mean the crowd absolutely went nuts. Some people who are consulting for the campaign said they cringed when I said impeachment, but when they saw how the crowd reacted they breathed easier. You know, we shouldn’t be afraid of impeachment. Impeachment is there for a reason. If the President has not lied to us, if he is innocent of all of these charges, give us a chance to investigate. Impeachment is a non-partisan idea. It is the way to hold the government accountable.”

Of the current Congress, Trupiano said, “They have blindly let this man lead, and he has led us into disaster. It is time we had the truth!”

If Corruption Is A Magnet

From Holden:

Dick Cheney is pigiron.

The Washington Times reports that on Dec. 5, Cheney “is scheduled to speak at what promises to be a lucrative re-election fundraiser in Houston” for the Texas Republican, who was sidelined as House Majority Leader by the indictment.

The Bubble Bursteth

From Holden:

Buh-bye real estate bubble.

U.S. previously owned home sales fell a larger-than-expected 2.7 percent last month and the number of unsold homes rose to the highest since April 1986, evidence that rising mortgage rates and skyrocketing prices are putting buying out of reach for some.

Whither Little Scottie?

From Holden:

It’s been nineteen days since Scott McClellan last graced us with a gaggle.

Although no one in the Bush Assministration has yet taken Harry Truman’s advice about just where the buck stops I see Scottie has taken Truman’s advice about vacating a hot kitchen.

What Do You Want In A Newspaper?

Bill Mitchell asks the question.

My own answer will come probably tomorrow, when I’ve unpacked and gotten some sleep. But post yours, and then we’ll see where we are.


Would You Change?

To the sick the doctors wisely recommend a change of air and scenery. Thank Heaven, here is not all the world. The buckeye does not grow in New England, and the mockingbird is rarely heard here. The wild goose is more of a cosmopolite than we; he breaks his fast in Canada, takes a luncheon in the Ohio, and plumes himself for the night in a southern bayou. Even the bison, to some extent, keeps pace with the seasons cropping the pastures of the Colorado only till a greener and sweeter grass awaits him by the Yellowstone. Yet we think that if rail fences are pulled down, and stone walls piled up on our farms, bounds are henceforth set to our lives and our fates decided. If you are chosen town clerk, forsooth, you cannot go to Tierra del Fuego this summer: but you may go to the land of infernal fire nevertheless. The universe is wider than our views of it.

— Thoreau

I had my change of air and scenery these past four days, spent eating and talking and drinking and drinking and talking and cooking and wrapping presents and driving through snow-covered farm fields to stand silently beneath a crucifix while a priest poured water on a baby who slept through her initiation into the world. I realized then what I realize every now and again, that my solitary writer’s life grows too solitary sometimes, and I forget how the richest stories I know come not from inside my own head (I’m a non-fiction girl, the NaNoWriMo languishes at a hopeless 13,784 words) but from this world from which I retreat to try to make sense of it.

There are reasons, I said recently in a discussion with somebody smart who disagrees with me, reasons I believe what I believe. I was at a dinner party Friday night with The Upstairs Neighbor, who split a bottle of champagne with me the first day of Fitzmas, and after we established that all seven of us were reasonably on the same page or at least willing to argue it out, we started talking politics. And the Upstairs Neighbor mentioned that for a long time, the conflation of Christianity with a particular brand of vicious sexual politics made her uneasy to identify as a Christian. When in truth, much of her (and my) liberalism comes from the Christian tradition.

We miss leadership, another neighbor who was at the table said. We miss having people to look to who we can emulate. At heart we are quarrelsome and selfish creatures, and we want good examples. The next night I lay in a hotel bed, insomniac to the nth degree, and watched a program about the Kennedy assassination. Why Oliver Stone Is Full Of Shit, tonight on The History Channel. And a commentator whose name I didn’t catch said part of the reason a conspiracy theory is so attractive there is that we want there to be a balance. We want a man like Kennedy to be undone not by a lone nutball, but by some larger force, something worthy of what it brought down. Not knowing any one conspiracy theory much less enough to debunk any, I nonetheless understand that impulse. There had to be something bigger, because look, look what we lost.

And so I come home to this and this and this and it strikes me what a rudderless people we are now, with three more years of this administration to face, no confidence in those who purport to lead us, no appetite for anyone else. Who will we listen to? Politicians, entertainers, priests? Our religious leaders have for too long concentrated on sex behaviors instead of the real problems of this world, preferring to rail at what we call a thing, Christmas or holiday, instead of what it is. These are the easy things, the excuses we make for ourselves. It’s violent video games, it’s saying “Happy Holidays,” it’s not leading a prayer each day in school. People starve while we argue. People drown in New Orleans, their homes washed away from Florida to Texas. And we get people telling us God did that because New Orleans deserved it, people telling us it was a hard day for them, they had to find someone to watch their dog while they took unpleasant press questions. Who are our leaders now? Where do we look? And do we look up or down?

At the baptism, the sermon was about poverty, about the homeless in the wealthy college town and about the poor of a sister church in Haiti. The baby, comical in a ruffled white dress and flat lace bonnet, opened her eyes and flung out her hands, eager to greet the world.


Ferretblogging: Post Holiday Edition

Little Joe, who’s obviously not in need of extra turkey this season, stretches out for a nap. Fox pokes around in the background.

Stripe licks his chops after a satisfying meal.

I’m on the road this weekend, visiting friends who’ll be christening their first child. Consider this your open thread.


Fess Up

Does anyone do the insane 5 a.m. shopping spree?



From Tena:

In 1969, I was living in a big old frame house with 11 other adults, 4 children, two babies, and an assortment of dogs and cats. Instead of rent, we turned over our food stamps to the older couple who rented the place (ok – I know, but all the hippies got food stamps in the Bay Area in 1969.) They fed us on mung beans, and macaroni and butter. My boyfriend and I used to get our stamps real early on the day they came out, go down to the Coop grocery store on Shaddick Ave, buy a cherry coffeecake for a couple of stamps and devour it in the parking lot, then go back and turn over the rest. We were starving for real food most of the time, and broke.

I don’t know where the money came from, but somehow that Thanksgiving everyone scraped up some, and between that, some hoarded food stamps and some creative shoplifting, we put together a turkey dinner. Everybody we knew showed up – there must have been close to 35 people there, and everyone brought something. We took two doors off their hinges and laid them on bricks in the two big downstairs rooms (beautiful old formal rooms), opened the doors, and partied like it was 1969.

It was about as far as you can get from that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving we all have in our heads. My mother had called that morning, upset because I wasn’t going to be with my family. I had to get up at 5 AM to get enough hot water to bathe. Half the people in the house hadn’t been speaking to the other half. We stole quite a bit of the meal.

But that all got forgotten when we got in the kitchen and that turkey started to smell good and there were actual potatoes being mashed and bottles of wine going around. I know I’ve never tasted a more delicious Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve had as much fun on Thanksgivings since then, but I’ve never had any more fun than I did that day.

We lived on tortillas and jack cheese between the time the leftovers ran out, and the first of the month. The dishes didn’t get washed until two days before Christmas. There was a huge battle over the cleanup. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Happy Thanksgiving


For Fox, Stripe, and Little Joe. For turkey and trimmings, for turkee from readers, for a hosting company that doesn’t suck. For readers in general. For Republican parents and Democratic in-laws. For a beautiful sister and a hella funneh brother. For the upstairs neighbor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and a bottle of cheap champagne. For candles on dark nights, good pens, a husband who helps find lost glasses. For a dinner table too small to hold all the friends around it. For the new back porch, just in time for the snow. For Fraggle Rock on DVD, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my fifth attempt to read The Lord of the Rings. For phone calls to Grandma, for the doctor who took out her appendix, for the nurses and aides who took care of her. For hot cider and cold white wine, crushed red peppers, a pasta machine, a worn out old comfy couch. For Star Wars Legos all over the floor. For staying up all night to watch the World Series. For working 28 hours straight and still taking the time to send me an e-mail, Jake. For that beautiful goddaughter, Zoe. For my oldest friends and my newest ones and everybody I know just through pixels. For Joss Whedon’s fucked up brain and Aaron Sorkin’s enchanted pen and Neil Young’s guitar. For editors who don’t mind getting ten e-mails in an hour. For copy editors and photographers. For Atrios, Kos, Steve Gilliard, Susie Madrak, Amanda Marcotte, and everybody else on the blogroll. For Post Road Pumpkin Ale. For pizza. For snow on the ground this morning. For the song the security guard at the grocery store sings at 2 a.m. For the downstairs neighbor’s piano. For homemade dinners at Stephanie and Lance’s. For talking about politics with a sense of humor and warmth. For hope, Harry Reid. For balls, Barbara Boxer. For Congress, Paul Hackett and Patrick Murphy. For President, John Kerry and Russ Feingold and Wesley Clark and anybody and everybody who wants in. For gingerbread and chocolate chip cookies. For an office with a chair by the window. For overcoming writer’s block, then getting blocked again, then overcoming it once more. For singing in the shower. For hardwood floors. For coming home late and getting up early. For the kids at the paper. For the kid next door. For the eventual implosion of Bill O’Reilly. For petblogging, movie reviews, and everything else besides politics that goes on here. For you. For all of you.


‘I’m Not Going To Lose Sleep Over It’

Scout gives Drownie as much quarter as he deserves. From his interview with Frontline:

Well, I’ll tell what we’ll do. Next time there’s a really big disaster, we’ll put you in charge of it. We’ll not give you any sleep, and we’ll put you on this side of the camera. And we’ll pepper you with questions for a couple hours at a time and see how tired you are.

Hey, Brown. Yeah, you, there in the clean dry shirt. I get that you had a shitty couple of days, okay? I get that it was tough deciding how much of a sex machine you looked like on TV, having to reschedule dinner reservations, having to get somebody to watch your dog. I get that you’re just not down with that whole idea of the service part of public service there, muffin. But I have to ask you something. Lean in close, so I can be sure you hear me.




Blogger Ethics, Now!

Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger leave newspaper board:

Frustrated shareholders of Hollinger International — which owns the Chicago Sun-Times –succeeded Monday in changing the board of directors. Now, some might push the company to put itself up for sale.

Chicago-based Hollinger International said Monday six members of its board of directors would not stand for re-election in January. The announcement followed months of pressure from shareholders, who claim the board failed to oversee management, allowing former Chairman Conrad Black to loot the company.

“These directors have made important contributions to the company’s significant accomplishments during the past two years,” Hollinger International Chairman Gordon Paris said in a statement.

The departing directors include former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former diplomat Richard Burt, Daniel Colson, Shmuel Meitar and prominent neoconservative Richard Perle.

Richard Perle who served on the Defense Policy Board as well as in any number of Republican posts over the years, and who was mentor to my personal favorite among all the incompetent Pentagon war planners, Douglas Feith, who is now being investigated by the Inspector General’s office.

You get the feeling these guys sit around in a meeting and say, eh, Richard’s friends are looting the newspapers, Henry’s are looting the government, so between them we’ve got it all worked out.

Somebody tell me the story again about how the thing with Bush was that he was going to have good people advising him.


Ditch Chinch Edition

I think, though I am not sure and am furiously knocking on wood as I type, that the upgrade drama is over.

Is it? Can y’all get in and on and comment and log in and tell me that everything’s working?


He’s Dead, And Life Is Possible. He Made It Possible.

Les Brownlee, 1915-2005

An African-American pioneer in mainstream broadcast and print media in the 1950s, Lester H. Brownlee became a mentor to thousands as a journalism professor at Columbia College.

Mr. Brownlee’s journalism career began as a reporter for Ebony Magazine, followed by the Chicago Defender. In 1950, he was the first black reporter to join the staff of the Chicago Daily News. Over the years he also worked for several radio stations, including WBBM, and television stations, including WLS-TV, where in 1975 he won an Emmy Award for editorial writing.

Mr. Brownlee, 90, the first African-American inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists and the first African-American president of the Chicago Headline Club, died of complications from lung cancer Monday, Nov. 21.


“Les was very keen on community journalism,” said Nancy Day, chair of the college’s journalism department, “in terms of getting out into the neighborhoods that he felt were uncovered by the major media … he wanted to expand the definition of who and what was covered.”

“He was a great teacher, but also just a very nurturing role model.”

I have a sort of collection in my head, a Bartlet’s Quotations of good advice I’ve gotten from people over the years. The first entry in that collection came from Brownlee.

I was sixteen, that summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and got a brochure from Columbia College in Chicago (a whole world away, a strange planet from my small Wisconsin town) about a journalism class for high school students. Two days a week, I could take the train to the city, walk eight blocks from the station to the college, and learn about reporting. Pitchforks and torches couldn’t have kept me away.

Les Brownlee taught that class.

The very first day, Brownlee said, “Don’t ever say you’re too tired. Have you fallen down and gone to sleep yet? Then you’re not really tired.” At the time, I laughed, as did all his other students. I thought he was kidding.

I would remember it later, when I had been going for three days without a break, when I thought, screw this, I just can’t take it anymore. I’d hear his voice, ask myself, have you fallen down and gone to sleep yet?

There were about a dozen of us in the class, from all over the city and the suburbs and me from the cow town, and Brownlee did another important thing when he encouraged us to talk to one another, to share stories about home and family as well as the usual bitching about homework assignments. It was a great lesson in journalism, that your job is not just to interview the person in front of you, to ask questions and get answers. It’s to find out their story, to listen, observe. He taught us that everything was interesting, everything was part of the story.

Anytime anybody had a question, he’d answer it. He’d been in the field, he knew what went on: how to get a job, how to deal with an editor, that you had to write something so that it would make people stop in their tracks and put down their morning bacon. And until the last time my husband and I moved, we still got a Christmas card from him, every year.


Let Us Atone For Our Screwup By Continuing It

Go read this and then come back.

In other words, the pro-war Right, amazingly, is now telling us: “what is happening in Iraq now is exactly what anti-war critics said would occur if we invaded and what we vehemently insisted would never happen, and as a result, you have to keep following our pro-war path because, given the utterly heinous mess we made in Iraq, we cannot possibly leave now.” [snip]

The new rationale the pro-war Right has concocted and which it is now assertively hawking for why we must remain in Iraq indefinitely can and should be used against them.


The reason this rationale is so infuriating is that it plays upon very sensible tendencies to want to fix what is broken and help those in need. That it’s based on an almost complete lack of facts about the situation at hand, that “we’re killing you to give you freedom” is the worst kind of imperial bullshit, that there’s no reason to believe the current crop of swindlers is capable of doing anything but continuing the truly epic string of fuckups that has been their unambiguous record from the first day onward, that’s harder to fit in the soundbite.

What we’re left with, I think, is just calling them liars, and asking why we should ever, ever, ever believe anything they say ever again.


Condi Channels Chimpy

From Holden:

Condi gave us the full gamut of tapdancing around Iraq — Freedom Isn’t Free!, We Mourn Every Loss!, Purple Fingers!, It’s Hard! (twice), Just Like WWII!, and Saddam Was a Bad Guy! — yesterday in China.

Q To follow up on that, what Congressman Murtha also said is that the war in Iraq, as you described it, he said is not as advertised, and he said, your policy is flawed and wrapped in illusion. And you know he’s very close with the military. So what do you make of that, the fact that he thinks —

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Dana, I’ve been with our military in Iraq, I’ve been with our military in Afghanistan, we were with our military in South Korea yesterday. I’ve never seen greater commitment and energy and dedication to a mission that they respect and believe in. And when you’re with the military in Iraq, as I just was, they understand that this is a hard struggle. Look, we understand that it is very difficult to see casualties of Americans that we have witnessed — we mourn every loss — but we also understand, and I think Americans understand, that nothing of value is really ever won without sacrifice.

And if you go to Iraq and you’re on the ground, you see the emergence of a political system that is quite remarkable, given that these people are coming out of tyranny. They’re building political compromise and political cooperation on a foundation of the ruins now of tyranny. And that’s hard. I expect that you will see again a reaffirmation of the commitment of the Iraqi people to their own political future when they vote in December. Let’s remember that they were threatened by terrorists in January; they voted 8.5 million strong. They were threatened again for the referendum; they voted 10 million strong. And I suspect they’ll vote again.

It’s hard — it is hard to replace tyranny and coercion and conflict with political compromise. But that’s what they are trying to do. And I would just note that if we look back historically, when you’re in the middle of it, it always looks very, very difficult. I’m sure that there were people who never thought that you were going to have a democratic Germany, or a democratic Japan. I am quite certain that there are many who never thought it possible to have a democratic South Korea in the way that we — in the place that we have just left.

It’s hard, but things that one day seem impossible, later on in our history seem inevitable. And I would just suggest that people step back and look at the historical changes that are taking place in the Middle East, recognize that it’s not as if the Middle East was somehow a stable, thriving, prosperous and free place before Iraq was liberated. And it’s certainly not that Iraq was no threat to its neighbors, where it was no threat to its own people, where it was a good citizen in the international system.

I think we sometimes forget what Saddam Hussein was like. We went to war in 1991 because he tried to annex his neighbor, Kuwait — or, actually, annexed his neighbor, Kuwait. We used force against him in 1998 because he threw out inspectors and the concerns of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein’s regime was a force of instability in the world’s most volatile region. When we look at today’s difficult course, I hope we remember what it was — what it was like before the liberation of Iraq.

The Shelflife of a Republican Promise

From Holden:

Rep. Jean Schmidt’s Maiden (first) Speech on the House Floor, September 6, 2005.

This House has much work to do. On that we can all agree. We will not always agree on the details of that work. Honorable people can certainly agree to disagree. However, here today I accept a second oath. I pledge to walk in the shoes of my colleagues and refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character. It is easy to quickly sink to the lowest form of political debate. Harsh words often lead to headlines, but walking this path is not a victimless crime. This great House pays the price.

Then in her second speech on the floor she called John Murtha a coward.