Monthly Archives: February 2012

Just kill it and move on to the next one

Because I’m an American, I know there’s all sorts of international folks who would gladly kidnap and behead me. On TV. I know there are white supremacists in the United States who would happily hunt me down in the woods. But that’s so minuscule—the number of people who are like that. The chances are so small. I think the bigger problem is that, on both sides, we fight people whose politics are different than ours with the worst of that. Like their efforts to equate Obama with Ayers, or to equate McCain with Timothy McVeigh. Or, you know, to call Bush “Hitler.”The need to make someone who disagrees with you into something extreme—to turn him into a monster.

Sherman Alexie (emphasis mine)

That last bit of Alexie’s quote has bounced around in my brain pan since I first read it. A lot.

Won’t speak to, can’t speak to, what’s behind the behavior of anyone else, but me personally, I’ve spent a lot of time in the monster-making workshop. I’d go so far as saying that making monsters of the opposition, along with jeering, ridiculing, trash-talking and exaggeration, constituted the bulk of my online participation here in Netrootsville, Left Blogtopistan. Political crack is a helluva drug.

And now? Now I slouch before you a changed woman. Not that I’m not still a card-carrying member of the hoi polloi and certainly not that I’ve come to some enlightened moral high ground. That’s not it at all.

It just stopped working for me, the monster-making. It stopped being motivating. The vegetable throwing stopped being fun. It stopped making me feel part of a community. I got bored with it. I got bored with the part of me that it came from. I have no idea about anyone else, but for me, that stuff comes from the lazy part.

I didn’t see this coming. It’s kind of an unanticipated side effect of a much larger set of changes I’ve made during the last year, and I guess it’s the lazy factor that connects it all together. Things started out really simple. I didn’t want laziness to be my default setting anymore. I just wanted to get healthy, eat right, lose weight. So I started doing it.

Then I decided to clean up my act around money stuff. Then I felt I really needed to rededicate myself to my job and career goals. Next thing I know, I’m going to the gym, working with a trainer three times a week, and cutting grains out of my diet. All along, I sort of thought it would all end the way countless other self-help binges have in the past but it didn’t. Or at least it hasn’t yet, which is good, since lately I’ve started considering grad school.

I still spend way more time on the internet than most “normal” people but it’s a whole lot less than I used to. I still watch too much TV but again, much less than before, and I’ve completely lost all patience with political coverage. If you had told me a year ago I’d be this person, I’d have laughed at you. What? Me not spend the evening getting cozy with MSNBC? But I just cannot sit still watching that stuff anymore.

You know what my favorite kind of television is now? Women knocking the holy crap out of stuff, stuff that deserves to have the crap knocked out of it. Hot kick-ass ladies beating shit up, if there was a channel that showed that 24/7, I’d probably go back to being a couch potato.

And if there were kick-ass Dems beating shit up, I’d start paying attention again. Not monster-making, not crack. Just sack up, get the job done, and move on. And for the record, I don’t entirely agree with Alexie about the monster thing. Sure we waste a lot of our energy creating monsters out of simple differences. But sometimes the monsters are real. The problem is we (us, the people we vote for, the process, the pundits, that “we”) still waste a lot of energy on them, and we still don’t ever seem get rid of them. Kill it with fire, hit it with a rock, shoot it in the eyestalk with an alpha-meson burst, I don’t care.

Just take it down and move on.

NOTE to the NSA, FBI, or whoever is listening in: above references to killing and maiming in politics are strictly rhetorical and do not refer to actual violence.

NOLA Notes: Ash Wednesday Edition

I’m not Catholic, or much of anything, so I don’t observe Lent. I am, however, exhausted from a week of more or less non-stop Carnival revelry. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been MIA from First Draft. Here’s why: Dr. A and I live near the start of the parade route so our days have been devoted to entertaining, dodging traffic and devising ingenious ways to get home after work from the Quarter.

Today it’s over and as always I’m relieved. Below is a picture of my friend Craig Giesecke (on the left) and some random dude we met on St. Charles Avenue yesterday. I’m usually a shitty photographer but I took this snap with Craig’s camera and it turned out pretty darn well:

420673_10150811207264325_642094324_12373472_1137534721_n

How to Win at Newspapering: Just Do Your Job

Do what you’re good at. Do it well, don’t steal all the money for stupid shit, don’t bitch out your customers if they leave for someplace else, and value the customers you have. This shouldn’t be some kind of revolutionary thing, and yet:

Eight years ago, David Jacobs, publisher of the weekly Boston Courant, paid a web designer in Ukraine to create a website for his newspaper. On that initial investment, and on subsequent research and development, the Courant spent a total of $50,000. The result is a slick, user-friendly layout.

But no one — save the Courant’s small staff, a few consultants, and me — has ever seen it.

“I won’t launch until I find a viable business model,” Jacobs told me. “We’ve never come close [to launching].”

BostonCourant.com — or whatever the heck Jacobs might call the site, if he ever buys a domain name for it — exists only on Jacobs’ desktop. The paper has no Twitter feed, no YouTube channel, no mobile app. Itsort of has aFacebook page, but only because one was autogenerated from the Courant’sWikipedia page. The Courant doesn’t control it.

But if the oldfangled Courant is doing journalism all wrong, someone forgot to tell its accountant. Circulation is at 40,000 and rising, the newsroom just moved into aswanky downtown office building, and the paper — which already covers four of Boston’s most affluent neighborhoods — is about to add two new full-time reporters to reach more of the city.

Look, nobody and I mean nobody loves the Internet more than me. I love what it allows journalists to do. I love the freedom it grants people to get their messages out. But I would never say it’s the only way, or that you have to use it, or that any information you can’t get online is bad information. I would never say that in order to do journalism you have to do it online. I hate the “print is dead” triumphalism/fatalism just as much as I hate the “everything online sucks” argument. There is no reason for us to all be at war with each other over this because EVERYBODY CAN STILL WIN.

In order to do journalism you have to do journalism, and that’s it, and we make all this harder than it is by wanking about the Internet and how Craiglist ruined everything and we’re all being forced to tweet now. No, you’re not. Your rapacious, head-up-the-ass bosses may be forcing you to tweet, but that’s a question of the priorities of your employer, not of the state of journalism.

The point is, these are decisions people are making. You can in fact decide not to suck. You can decide not to crash your valuable business into a tree because your stock dipped a quarter of a point. You can decide to do what works and fuck what the competition is doing. You can get up every morning and run a paper without lying to your employees and fucking over your readers and doing everything wrong. I’m sick of the inevitability in the way that we talk about this stuff. It’s hard to not suck, but you’d think it would be easier than sucking.

A.

Both Sides Always

Who can tell what’s really going on?

Religious liberty has been a leading topic in recent weeks because of the Obama administration’s mandate that insurance companies provide free birth control even to people employed by church-affiliated organizations, including schools and hospitals. Opponents frame the debate as one of religious liberty while proponents of the mandate say it’s about women’s health and access to contraception.

Figuring out who’s right is WAY TOO HARD, you guys. Especially right after quoting shit like this:

Romney rarely ventures into social issues in his campaign speeches, but people participating in a town hall-style meeting one week before the Michigan primary asked how he would protect religious liberty.

“Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion,” Romney said.

A.

Stop the Presses, Somebody’s Making Sense

Whip me, beat me, take away my charge card, I would like to kiss this entire speech by Digital First CEO John Paton with tongue:

All of us have been subjected to the annual spectacle of a gaggle of print publishers gathering on a panel – Doug Knight, our moderator this evening, has officiated over a couple of these – to declaim they are not dead yet.

It’s an embarrassing display played out time and time again at conferences where our industry heads look like aging ingénues at Stratford declaring they can still play Juliette. And nobody has the heart to break it to them.

Or worse still, mediocre journalists, wrapping themselves in the flag of long-form journalism, to deride the value of social media as a reporting tool. A tool they don’t understand or care to understand.

And then having to watch them use that ignorance to dismiss the phenomenon of participatory journalism.

When I hear these hacks cry out that their work can’t be reduced to 140 characters I always think – if only – and pine for the useful hours I could get back in my life if spared their thumbsuckers.

And while these false, zero-sum arguments play themselves out, Rome burns.

And in the United States of America, where I work, the fire is burning faster and fiercer than ever before.

I wish I could quote the whole thing. It’s glorious in its righteous fury and assignment of blame exactly where blame is deserved: On the people who killed newspapers on purpose, for years, and then had the temerity to encourage reporters to turn on their fellow writers, in many cases their fellow journalists, and blame them for the deaths.

It continues to boggle my mind that we spend more time attacking one another — endless defensive pieces railing against “citizen journalists,” who one acquaintance sneered were like “citizen surgeons” — than we do attacking the powerful interests who stymie the public’s pursuit of free exchange of information. We would rather sit around the table and sort out who is and who isn’t a journalist than we would actually go out and do some journalism ourselves.

We would rather fight over who truly has earned an Extra Shiny Real Journalist’s Cracker Jack Badge than talk about whether the revelations uncovered by a blogger, or someone with a Twitter feed, are true or false. The Authenticity Olympics, I suppose, being easier to compete in and win than the Talent ones, but how pathetic is that? The work is what matters, at least to the people you’re supposed to be serving. And they are what matters to you:

If it is not core to your business- and in newspapers core means content and sales – then reduce it, stop it, sell it or outsource it.

And for God’s sake stop listening to newspaper people. We have had since the mid-90s to get this right and clearly we are no good at it.

Put the digital people in charge – of everything.

They can take what we have built and make it better.

It is so very important we get this right – not just for the industry and investors – but for our communities.

Swooning, viaRomenesko.

A.

x-posted to FireDogLake

I Guess I’ll Walk Away

Something I’ve got on continuous repeat right now. 

A. 

How Life Began at Conception

ViaNtodd, here’sa great piece of history:

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author ofThe Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even theirreaders — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his bookBroken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 withChristianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

Quite frankly I think the debate over when life begins is a way to distract people from the fact that this entire debate is about the power of the state, and whether government should have the ability to force you to bear a child against your will. Not to mention prevent you from obtaining much-needed medical treatment in the guise of morality, should your pregnancy go terribly wrong in the way that pregnancies can.

Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to see the way the desire for power has shaped the public positions of evangelical Christians who claim their authority comes straight from God. Go read the whole thing.

A.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Palin Drone Edition

Good morning, all – it’s been a quiet week in Freeperville, and I thought I would have to do another Putrid Potpourri Edition, when suddenly, a gift from the gods whistled out of the sky and fell into my pond with the resounding smack of a dozen King Logs.

Suit up, and we’ll find out what the hubbub is all about!

It’sThe Great White Mope!

Sarah Palin, could she be …
Nolan Chart ^ | February 15, 2012 | Mark Vogel

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:39:38 PM by2ndDivisionVet

If Sarah is flirting, I was seduced a long time ago! For everyone who doesn’t want Romney, this is huge!

A huge horselaugh, maybe.

It’s only in the modern era that Presidential nominations have been locked up before most American voters even tuned in.

You need a helmet with a flashing red light and “Hopelessly out of touch” stenciled on it. Most “conservatives” only want to go back to 1956 or so. These yahoos want to go all the way back to 1948 and Thomas Dewey. How did that work out for you guys, by the way?

So this year, for the nation, the Republican Primary is kind of a return to older times, when all Americans counted, not just the few power brokers. The race has been a very rich blue blood from New England ( where he would not carry one state in the general election ) and a group of three, Newt, Rick and Ron scrambling for the 60 plus percent of Republicans who won’t be bought!

If that means 60% of GOPers who won’t be voting, I can live with that.

And now, a new card is thrown into the game,

PalinPlayingCard

Sarah Palin coming off the bench to be the choice at a divided GOP Convention! And with just a hint, she will stir the pot and drive the media nuts! Hurrah for Sarah.

In one of my most recent columns I told you about a conversation I had with a friend who had attended CPAC. He told me that Sarah had been the closing speaker, and the best. And he said, she had indicated she was not out of the game, and he even predictedshe would be the horse to mount for the General election race.

Wow.

That’s the only verb that describes this possiblity. Did the Governor from Alaska out fox the pundits, the consultants, and the power elite in the GOP to dance right around all the murderous press that she would have had to endure?

Because she certainly won’t have to deal with any press should she snag the nomination. Uh huh.

Looks like this lady is not someone to play with.

I have been a Palin supporter from the beginning. For me, she was the choice by lengths. None of the rest of the candidates have her charisma, her grit, her unique character. For America, in this time of crisis and cross roads, there is only one person who can truly change the course of the ship of state! And that’s Sarah.

So is this for real?

OhPleasePleasePlease

We can’t know. She did not hint towards jumping in now. She hinted that she could be the one to pick in a brokered convention.

But this does provide a ray of hope. It provides one more reason NOT to vote for Romney. But it also provides a reason to go to the polls and vote for anybody other than Romney.

These bozos are actually “Operation Chaos”ingthemselves. God can’t love me this much.

It does provide a real reason to be involved. For the grass roots, make your choice from Newt, Rick or Ron but do it and be there on Primary Day. Don’t let Romney buy you, or win because of apathy.

America does not have one flat tire. We have four flat tires, a blown engine, no battery, and a leaky gas tank where fuel is running …and may ignite if it hits something electric or hot.

Ignite, sweet prince!

We need someone with a renewed vision of the old America. Yes, the old America. The one that put a man on the moon. The one that on Decemeber 25, 1991 won the half century Cold War liberating 500 million souls in 13 nations! We need the old America that when I was born was unquestionably the wealthiest, most powerful, most successful nation in the entire world. And we need someone who knows why all that happened.

Huge revenues from a top marginal tax rate of 90%?

Sarah proved in Alaska she could be an executive. She went against corruption in her own party…and beat the oil companies at the same time! In her third year as governor her approval ratings in Alaska were over eighty percent!!!! 80 percent!

You’re kinda glossing over what they were after that (and now), aren’t you?


So… we wait. But now, on the horizon, we see a light. So GOP grass roots, get to the polls, and pick anyone but Mitt!!!

1 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:39:46 PM by2ndDivisionVet
HappyDance

To: 2ndDivisionVet

*Facepalm*

2 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:42:23 PM bythoolou (“I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous.” – David Bradley, inventor of Ctrl-Alt-Del)

Commie.

To: 2ndDivisionVet
First, I seriously doubt she would take nomination. Second, if by some very huge fluke she was nominated over her objection, I more seriously doubt that she could beat Obama.

I love her zeal, and would celebrate her as president – but, we Palin lovers are but a tiny piece of this nations citizenship.

9 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:48:59 PM byRon C.

BanHimPalin

To: 2ndDivisionVet

No, not likely.

You just cannot decide at a moment’s notice decide to run for president, especially after publicly denying she would. If she decided tomorrow to do it, she would not find enough support to accomplish this.

She is either better off to stay at Fox news and give the occasional statement of conservatives ideals or run for the House or Senate.

I hear there’s a position open at MSNBC.

That has always been my position about her.

10 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:49:17 PM byJonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
To: 2ndDivisionVet

Amazing she had no time for CPAC the last four years that they’ve asked her and now she does…she’s trying to play kingmaker.

There was a movie out a few years ago with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves called the the Devil’s Advocate where Al Pacino who plays the devil says at the end “Vanity my favorite sin of all.” That’s Sarah she can’t live without the spotlight.

15 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:57:54 PM byLeclair10
Well, this is discouraging.
Have the Freeperati finally wised up? Have they, at long last, learned to detect when they’re being played?
Nah.

To: Leclair10

Actually during her 20 year in politics, Governor Palin earned her reputation as being a strong leader, a reformer, someone who can take on the establishment and beat them.

That, or a quitter. It was one of those two things.

Since Palin came on the national scene 3 1/2 years ago, she has helpedconservativesher bank account make historical gains.

FIFY.

Palin is currently playing an important role in the effort to defeat Mitt Romney.

By endorsing Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell.

21 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:06:44 PM byansel12 (Romney is unquestionably the weakest party front-runner in contemporary political history.)
To: 2ndDivisionVet

Dang man, this lady’s playing with me. We had a name for girls like that in high school.

Hmmm. Just did a Google Image search on the words “prick tease” and there were 5 pics of Grifterella on the first two pages. Try it yourself.

Problem is, I keep falling for her. She’s still got me hooked and knows it. Why doesn’t she just play nice, quit teasing me (us), and jump in?

27 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:18:04 PM byPapaNew
To: ansel12

Why did she show up at CPAC this year and not the last three despite being asked repeatedly? She thought she was to big for CPAC till the last year she saw her star fading she can’t live without that once you get that taste of power you do anything to keep it.

26 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:17:41 PM byLeclair10
PalinMeMeMe

To: onyx

If there is any reality to this, the convention will be a blood-fest worse than ‘64 ‘76 or ‘80.
.

35 posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:29:44 PM byeditor-surveyor (No Federal Sales Tax – No Way!)

Hell – why wait for the convention?
It’s not entertaining enough that Jim Rob jumped the gun endorsing Newtie, and that the resulting Newt/Santorum factional wars have torn Freeperville up the middle – now we have this??
Internecine wars continue after the convenient “Contnue reading” link thingy.

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A Losing Issue

In my frustration that we were event talking about birth control at all, I missed how completely sure those mythical “some Democrats” and “even the liberal media’s” Howard Kurtz thought for sureObama should capitulate to the bishops in order to secure the votes of … stuff:

Last week, even Democrats were nervous the White House was screwing the decision up. “Why aren’t we messaging this better?,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski demanded of President Obama’s campaign manager, Politico reported. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski sounded triumphant February 9, tellingABC News, “The reality is Democrats are starting to break from the president because he overstepped on a fundamental right we all believe in whether we are women, men, Republican or Democrat.” The Daily Beast’sHoward Kurtz declared his own colleague Andrew Sullivan “wrong” for arguing that the contraception debate would help President Obama in the longterm. “The White House gotkilled on this issue last week,” Kurtz said emphatically February 13. It was “a losing issue.”

If Kurtz meant “losing” the sense that“Republicans have become a national joke” and“Darryl Issa being a fuckstick is now an actual meme” and “seriously, you guys, the aspirin joke even my grandmother thought was oldsauce,” then yes, Democrats were losing horribly.

I know there’s no amount of being wrong about politics that can get you fired from being a political commentator so long as you continue to slap your byline on the table, but can we at least get together on the idea that one should understand what politics IS and that sometimes it involves standing back and letting your opponents fall dick-first into the bees’ nest?

Kurtz went on to say Obama was “losing the culture wars” and I have to say, I can’t fucking WAIT for everybody who was old enough to get media boners over Bill Clinton’s sex life to fucking retire already, because if there’s one surefire way for Obama to lose the culture wars, it’s to fucking HAVE the culture wars at all. We are sick of the culture wars, out here. We are done. We don’t have time to worry about other people’s abortions. We do not give a shit who you love. We cannot fathom why we have to keep talking about how the pill is a thing, like we’re our mothers and have to attach maxi pads to fucking belts.

I’m not saying Obama should do nothing, any more than I agree with Kurtz that he should wade into this fight and find a way to surrender. It’s not having “the culture wars” to promote and defend common-sense healthcare for women. It’s not having “the culture wars” to sign legislation saying if you want to die for your country we really don’t care who you fuck. It’s not having “the culture wars” to not lose one’s damn mind every time a girl wears a low-cut top on TV and it’s not having “the culture wars” to refrain from using every moment at the presidential podium doing anything BUT denouncing hip-hop lyrics and talking about how ladies these days are such sluts.

The best way to win the culture wars is to just do the stuff that makes sense, and let others scream “culture war” and “God, guns and gays” and let accomodationist morons like Kurtz blither all over TV that Obama is sure to lose the presidential election in 1988. Out here in 2012, we’ll be getting back to work.

A.

Weekend Question Thread

Have you ever met someone famous, or someone you greatly admired? How did you react?

A.

The Golden Ticket (and what it took to get it)

“You are out of your goddamned mind!”

Not exactly the support I had hoped for when explaining my plan for this Friday to The Missus.

About six weeks ago, a company that does massive estate sales posted early pictures as to what was going to be present at a sale that kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday. I had made it a policy to avoid estate sales after my last few escapades had yielded a ton of shit that costs a decent amount of money and was slow in turning around. Still, I’m always on the look out for a good bit of luck and some nice dishware for The Missus. It turns out she grew a fetish for a Depression-Era glassware known as jadeite. Turns out, Martha Stewart had just done a big spread on it and she loved it.

“If you see any of that out on your shopping trips, could you pick it up?” she asked in that sweet and hopeful way that says “I love you” and “If you want to keep doing this, here’s an excuse that won’t make me want to kill you.”

Of course, I knew nothing about it, but as an intellectual, I attacked the problem with the idea that knowledge gain would be best. I bought about six guidebooks on this stuff, dug around on the Internet and kept looking for it at estate sales and flea markets.

The shit was ridiculously expensive. When Martha likes something, so do collectors.

Thirty-five bucks for a fucking plate? With a crack in it? Oh well…

Some savvy shopping, good digging and some luck later, she had a cabinet full of light green bliss. Still, you can’t wave off a hunting instinct just because the hunt is over and people are full. There are worlds to conquer, dammit.

Thus, I found myself sorting through the pictures this company posted online.

What I came to realize early in this set of photos is that they were clearing out a hoarder’s home. The place was piled with shit. The thoughts of what might be crawling under those mounds of crap had me thinking, “No fucking way.”

Still, I thumbed through the thumbnails until I noticed a copy of an old Green Bay Packer program. Then another. Then another. Good stuff, but I could probably live without it.

Then, I found a picture that had my heart in my throat and my stomach in knots for about six weeks.

To the untrained eye, they were scraps of paper. To me, it was like unlocking the Ark of the Covenant.


The Bible talks about the man who finds a treasure in a field, so he goes and sells all he had and buys that field. When he returns, he rejoices over the treasure and what it has brought him.

This parable was swimming through my head as I quickly Googled some information that I intuitively knew. The image was as clear as a bell and right as rain. The four scraps of paper scattered in the middle of this image were ticket stubs from 1959. They had info about the Packers on them.

They were the first four games Vince Lombardi ever coached in Green Bay, all four wins.

I did a quick search to see how rare they were and what they were worth.

Only one had been found. The first game. Certified. At auction: more than $500.

A unique item in the purest sense of the word.

It was then became determined: I had to have them.

And thus, I revealed to my wife how I planned to get them: I’d camp out in my car overnight and be the first person in this house.

And this is how I find myself in the driveway of a stranger in Kaukauna, Wisconsin at 11:30 p.m., waiting eight hours for a chance at a piece of history.

Here’s the running diary. As I write this thing, I don’t even know how it will end as I’m writing it in mostly real time. Typos will be likely. Verbiage will be wild. Click on at your own risk.

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Friday Ferretblogging: Super-Tiny Claire

Hello, I’m teeny and have little ears.

Claaaaaaaire

A.

Not All Unpopular Things Are the Same

Issa is a bag of assholes, not that we didn’t know this:

We heard from religious leaders whose positions might not be popular, like MLK’s position was not so long ago:http://bit.ly/yyNhUb#p2

This is a constant refrain from these professionally aggrieved penile implants, this “SEE, I SAID IT AND NOW I’LL BE ATTACKED FOR IT” wishful martyr bullshit. Their running around yelling the n-word or opining that rape is fantastic is somehow okay because being called a douchebag means they’re automatically awarded underdog points and we all have to root for them then, right?

And, no. Saying something unpopular is not, in and of itself, brave. There is nothing virtuous in hating something other people like full stop. We tend to romanticize the existence of the voice in the wilderness in and of itself, instead of actually listening to what that voice is saying. If a moron yowls in a forest and nobody agrees with him, that doesn’t mean he’s making a sound.

Some things — that birth control is evil, for example — are unpopular for a reason and speaking out in their defense is not a brave act but a middle-school cry for attention. Look at me, saying the unpopular thing! Yes, look at you, the lone voice against the world. Look at you, the fucking idiot.

A.

Voice for the Voiceless, Silenced

Anthony Shadid, New York Times foreign correspondent, Pulitzer winner, fellow alum of my beloved Daily Cardinal, and a personal hero of mine, has died in Syria:

The death of Mr. Shadid, an American of Lebanese descent who had a wife and two children, abruptly ended one of the most storied careers in modern American journalism. Fluent in Arabic, with a gifted eye for detail and contextual writing, Mr. Shadid captured dimensions of life in the Middle East that many others failed to see. Those talents won him aPulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2004 for his coverage of the American invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed, and a second Pulitzer in 2010, also for his Iraq reporting, both of them for The Washington Post. He also was a finalist in 2007 for his coverage of Lebanon, and has been nominated by The Times for his coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings that have transfixed the Middle East for the past year.

Mr. Shadid began his Middle East reporting career as a correspondent for The A.P. based in Cairo, traveling around the region from 1995 to 1999. He later worked at The Boston Globe before moving to The Post, where he was the Islamic Affairs correspondent and Baghdad bureau chief. He joined The Times at the end of 2009.

He was no stranger to injury, harassment and arrest. In 2002, while working for The Globe, he was shot and wounded in the shoulder as he walked on a street in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. During the tumultuous protests in Cairo last year that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Shadid was hounded by Mr. Mubarak’s police, and during a police raid, he had to hide the computers used by Times reporters.

Mr. Shadid, Mr. Hicks and two other Times journalists, Stephen Farrell and Lynsey Addario, were arrested by pro-government militias during the conflict in Libya last year and held for more than a week, during which all were physically abused. Their driver, Mohammad Shaglouf, died.

In the 2004 citation, the Pulitzer Board praised “his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended.” In the 2010 citation, the board praised “his rich, beautifully written series on Iraq as the United States departs and its people and leaders struggle to deal with the legacy of war and to shape the nation’s future.”

He spoke of the risks he took while reporting in aninterview in December with Terry Gross on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” “I did feel that Syria was so important, and that story wouldn’t be told otherwise, that it was worth taking risks for,” he said of an earlier trip to Syria in which he entered the country from Lebanon on a motorcycle across a rugged stretch of land.

In addition to being one of the best reporters and writers working today, Shadid was unfailingly kind to the place he and I both started out. Whenever I’d send a kid his way for some advice or encouragement he always responded, even if at the moment he was God knows where with the world blowing up all around him, and if he had time he’d give it, and if he didn’t have time he’d make it.

A friend and I used to send his stories back and forth annotated with notes like CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW GOOD THIS IS, marveling at the depth of detail in his reporting and the unforgiving, unrelenting reality of his writing. He did what I tell students to do all the time, what I tried to do to the best of my own comparatively meagre abilities in my own work: Go there, and tell everyone you can everything you see. It sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s not easy to make people care about the victims of war, the ordinary people caught up in conflict, but he did it, by showing us our common humanity and never losing sight of that no matter what the political situation was.

We need more like him. My deepest condolences to his family and those he loved.

A.

Government Help at the End of the World

Jon Armstrongpulls something out herethat I missed when this article originally made the rounds with all the quick and easy commentary that a) conservatives are inherently fact-free and b) as long as a white person’s getting it, it’s not REALLY welfare. That’s all in there, too, but honestly, lately I’m sitting here staring at my screen just waiting for something different to say because of course, and it’s all hateful, and I am having such a hard time with everything being hateful things we know all about already. I can’t tell you. And from this, it sounds like a lot of other people are, too:

Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

They don’t want less help. They want to NEED less help, which means they want things to be easier. And they’re not wrong. I feel like this whole country just needs a goddamn nap. Like if we could just shut everything up for about 24 hours, let everybody get enough sleep and a sandwich, and then try this again. The economy, the unwinnable and clandestine wars, the presidential campaign, the health care fight, all of it. Gas prices, I mean, and how much a gallon of milk costs.

And this isn’t about technology or “the pace of life these days” or kids with their iPods or whatever. This about things that shouldn’t be fights being fights: Being paid fairly for the work you do, being able to buy food to feed your family, being able to see a doctor when you get sick, being able to take care of yourself when you’re old. Has anybody noticed that our culture, lately, is obsessed with the end of the world? I see where it’s coming from. Everybody is just so tired.

So what’s the answer? A lot of people are ready to burn the whole fucking place down and dance around the flames. If you say you’ve neve thought about it, you’re a liar to me or yourself and it doesn’t matte which. A lot of people are ready to tear the safety net down, take us back to some place they imagine that this shit was handled without them having to think about it, as if begging in the streets wasn’t something that in the timeline of the universe was the snap of two fingers ago. A lot of people would like to put a government in place with the express instruction to clap our national hands over our ears and yell LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

The trouble I think is the impulse to shame, to make “assistance” and “need” into things that give someone else the upper hand over you. We take that shame and we give it the power to stop us getting what we need, and we divorce “government” from “that thing we pay for with our taxes” and make each other the enemy that way. I’m just kind of thining out loud here. We’ve made compassion a weakness, and so anyone showing us compassion makes us weak or evil, and our own need just becomes one more burden to us.

One more thing to carry, when we’re already bent under the weight of the world as it is.

A.

Who Would Jesus Shoot?

FromAlbum4

According to Sioux City bishop Walker Nickless — hey, shouldn’t his last name begin with a D instead of an N? — anyway, according to him, the local pharmacist…

“Yes. This is Dog”

“You think dogs will not be in heaven?
I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

As skeptically humanist as I remain about heaven, I still want to believe that all dogs go there. And I believe it looks likethis. Or maybethis.

Casteel

There’s a reason both the links above went viral this week. This is what joy looks like. Throw the ball!

Yeah, we can pretend we’re that

My favorite music of any past year is the stuff I’m still listening to thenext year and the one after that, long after all the year end lists and taking account is past.Sharon Van Etten‘sepic has been on lots of “best” lists for the last two years, and her spanking brand newTramp is already making waves.

epic’s “One Day” is one of those songs that always sounds brand new, even after a couple years:

She’s the real deal. Go out and get to know her.

Wisconsin Protests: One Year Anniversary

Protesters marched on the state Capitol today gathering in the Rotunda to sing, chant and commemorate the one year anniversary of the start of the protests against Walker’s “Budget Repair” bill. It was a year ago on Valentine’s Day that UW students and community members delivered Valentines to Walker’s office that asked him“not to break their hearts” with budget cuts.

Here is my short video from the march and gathering in the Capitol Rotunda today: