Monthly Archives: May 2012

WI Recall Debate Crack Van

Listen/watch live here, here or here. Suggest other streams/sources in the comments. 

Update: VAN CLOSED. Be here next Tuesday starting at probably 6 p.m. or whenever Doc gets in for our Election Night van!

A.

WI Recall Debate Crack Van

Listen/watch livehere, here orhere. Suggest other streams/sources in the comments. 

Update: VAN CLOSED. Be here next Tuesday starting at probably 6 p.m. or whenever Doc gets in for our Election Night van!

A.

Valuing Journalism: David Simon

David Simon, who I love as a storyteller:

And this slow suicide — as the great Molly Ivins called it — will continue unabated until the industry swallows hard and takes its product — every last newspaper — behind a paywall.

And if they don’t do that?

If not, then it is the day of the “citizen journalist,” which is to say, the day of the amateur. And American institutions, or for that matter the world as a whole, will not be held accountable by individuals doing this as a hobby.

Paywalls have nothing to do with what happened to the Times-Picayune. I saw a lot of carping last week about “how many people bitching about this on the Internet actually subscribe” and whatnot, as though commenting on Twitter was itself an act destructive to Noble Print. I saw a lot of whinging about how “people don’t read” anymore. I saw a lot of eulogizing about newspapers being a dying form, as if the Times-Picayune wasn’t profitable.

Make no mistake here: The Times-Picayune is not the victim of the Freedom Loving Internet or changing times or reading habits of the young’uns or anything other than a rapacious corporate desire for profit over the public good, and that’s a problem that afflicted journalism long before the Internet came into being. Speaking as someone who worked in newspapers when we went from cut-and-paste to actual computer layout, who saw two newspapers create their very first web sites, both before and after the same problem existed: The people in charge were greedy, venal, lazy and stupid, and liked playing with matches.

They liked fudging circulation numbers and screwing up distribution routes, undermining newsroom budgets when they weren’t outright stealing. They liked telling reporters there was no money for journalism while buying drinks for their parties. They liked firing people who had been in place too long, hiring young cheap college grads, and then telling the older folks still left that it was the younger folks’ fault for taking a job that was offered to them. They liked changing what was covered from one day to the next. They liked letting minimum-wagers “sell” their subscriptions and they liked delivering so inconsistently that even if people wanted the paper, they couldn’t find or get it.

And they could get away with all this because even with TV and radio, they were still the dominant form, and there was enough money to cover up all but the most catastrophic of their mistakes. When the dot-com bubble burst and American manufacturing went into a death spiral and the economy started to tank, the money started to dry up and people started seeing fire where before there’d only been smoke.

The idea of that “industry” (really a disparate collection of corporations that have no incentive to cooperate in any way and in fact share little beyond a medium) “swallowing hard” and coming to one conclusion about improving itself is impractical at best, even if you believe paywalls are the answer. Any smart companies will let the stupid, greedy ones burn, and paywalls or no, the stupid greedy ones will end up as charcoal because this isn’t about form, it’s about managing money and mission, and these people suck at that and have no incentive to change.What incentive is there, when you can gut a company and walk away with millions?

While that fire’s raging, where does that leave those of us who do care about journalism, as I have no doubt Simon does, deeply? It leaves us with people wanting to do journalism. To hold institutions to account. To do what freelance reporters and “amateurs” — like newspaper publishers always are before they buy presses and file incorporation papers — have always done, which is to find out something that’s going wrong and tell as many people as possible.

What do they do? Some of them will publish online. Some of them will form nonprofit collectives and fundraise from those who do care about supporting this kind of work. Some of them will continue to work for the profitable papers that aren’t run by stupid hacks. Some of them will freelance and have day jobs, as many people who call themselves journalists already do. Some of them will start their own newspapers, which by the way w ouldn’t be the worst idea for a well-connected, successful reporter and producer to do in New Orleans.

Knocking those people as hobbyists before they’ve made their bones, and telling them they have no chance of accomplishing their mission, is not helpful to them and it’s not helpful to journalism. Internet triumphalism is tiresome, yes, but so is Internet fatalism, and it’s hard not to take this sort of thing personally when you’re out there busting your ass online BECAUSE nobody in print gave a shit what you were trying to do, back when it was rude to point out that the war on terror was bullshit.

Let’s be clear about this: When we have fights about amateurs versus professionals, when we have fights about print versus online, about paywalls that make pennies, about subscriptions instead of ads, about form and function instead of mission and management, we are having the fight the people in charge want us to have while they run away with the piggy bank.

We are letting the arsonists decide who gets to be on the fire brigade.

A.

Crunch Time

From Album4

So, a week to go and Norman Bates lookalike Scott Walker is in a dead heat…hanging on by the skin of…barely managing to stay even despite an absurd amount of mostly out-of-state money that might be able to purchase an election…but can’t buy back Walker’s credibility.

Anyway, even though I hate having to settle for moral victories — and literally bang my head on the table when “our” side doesn’t even bother to show up, much less bring a knife to a gun fight — the people of Wisconsin have scared them. Scared them enough to throw an ocean of money into…Scott Walker, who again, might well eke out a victory, but no amount of spin will make him anything other than Norman Bates crossed with maybe a bit of Peewee Herman…an awful lot of ego but not much intellect…or street smarts.

If he’s the best they’ve got, I’ll take my chances.

We Fucked Up The System and Now It Don’t Work No More!

SHOCKING:

Public pensions are like paper currencies: They work well when managed by principled fiscally responsible people, if you can find them, but are vulnerable to political decisions to boost spending, cut income, and leave the program unsustainable for future generations.

Pennsylvania is a prime offender: Under former Gov. Tom Ridge (R), the state in 2001 boosted pensions even as it cut taxpayer support. (Public workers also pay more than 6% of their paychecks into the fund, but it’s not enough to pay all the future checks.)

To replace lost state revenues, the plans hired hundreds of expensive private-sector money managers, some of them political donors, to jack up assets.

That hasn’t worked. The result is a multibillion-dollar and growing shortfall between what the pension plans have amassed and what they’re going to have to pay hundreds of thousands of surprisingly healthy retirees for decades to come; along with rapidly increasing demands on taxpayers that are driving local school taxes up, outraging citizens.

Outraging citizens, natch, at all those greedy teachers and cops and firefighters and whatnot, who SO TOTALLY HAD EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THIS. Who should be punished for the shitty decisions made by politicians because hey, “we” all need to suffer, right? I mean, let’s share the pain, by which I mean you need to hurt so that I can feel properly superior to you.

The comments are perfect, too:

“Guaranteed-pensions” are unsustainable! Period. They are only “sustainable” due to the taxpayers. If they were only funded by those paying into them, they would be a small fraction of what they are currently, or not exist at all. Public school teachers especially are paid very well and have amazing health benefits. Why should the public also have to fund their pensions? The money that will be paid out by these pensions will far, far exceed the money that these employees will have paid in. A 401k or 403b is good enough for the vast majority of Americans, but not for the six-figure teacher in Lower Merion, Central Bucks, Council Rock, Wallingford-Swarthmore.

A country of assholes, indeed.

A.

49’r state

A new poll shows the state’s in a dead heat at 49% per. From Greg Sargent at The Plum Line:

A new poll taken by pollster Celinda Lake — who is a Democrat but is well respected by polling professionals — has found that the battle between Scott Walker and challenger Tom Barrett is now deadlocked, at 49 percent each.

The poll — which will be released later today and was comissioned by the pro-labor Greater Wisconsin Committee’s political fund — also finds that independents are breaking towards Barrett, 49-44.

VOTE!

Walker thinks you won’t…

New ad: Behind the Recall: The Rise and Fall of Scott Walker

Crunch Time

FromAlbum4

So, aweek to go and Norman Bates lookalike Scott Walker isin a dead heat…hanging on by the skin of…barely managing to stay even despite an absurd amount of mostly out-of-state money that might be able to purchase an election…but can’t buy back Walker’s credibility.

Anyway, even though I hate having to settle for moral victories — and literally bang my head on the table when“our” side doesn’t even bother to show up, much less bring a knife to a gun fight — the people of Wisconsin have scared them. Scared them enough to throw an ocean of money into…Scott Walker, who again, might well eke out a victory, but no amount of spin will make him anything other than Norman Bates crossed with maybe a bit of Peewee Herman…anawful lot of ego but not much intellect…orstreet smarts.

If he’s the best they’ve got, I’ll take my chances.

Interesting Times

As I posted over at my place this morning, Mr. Beale and I have just returned from a long weekend in New York City.

New York is both America’s cultural and financial center, so the stuff I see there always resonates on a bigger level with me. It’s a place that always makes me think about where this country is and where it’s going. And sometimes what I think is, WTF? For instance, this, seen somewhere around West 53rd and 7th Avenue:

IMG_0715

I couldn’t see that and not think of Andrew Breitbart ranting, “stop raaaping people … stop raaaping people …” at Occupy Wall Street protestors before his death.

These are strange times we live in and mostly when I write it’s my way of trying to understand What It All Means, which is a very unsatisfying exercise. I just don’t feel like I have the knowledge base required to make sense of this strange world we live in.

For instance, in this era of Scott Walker-style union busting rolling out nationally, corporate media flogging astroturf as populism, and Newt Gingrich waxing nostalgic about child labor, I never thought we’d see a highly commercial hit Broadway musical about … a union organizer. One who organized child laborers to strike against Joseph Pullitzer, the Rupert Murdoch of his day. And did I add it’s produced by Disney, no less?

And yet, “Newsies” is a box office hit, has been nominated for eight Tony Awards, and my theater-industry friends tell me it’s a shoe-in to win Best Musical. Furthermore, while Mr. Beale and I prefer edgier fare, the audience was thoroughly into the show. I’m not talking snooty theater critics, these were families and a large contingent of teenage girls, bused in from the suburbs, cheering and clapping and whistling and wolf-calling all through the show. They loved it.

As a pop culture observer I find this very bizarre. On the one hand we have the ownership class telling us unions kill jobs, taxes hurt job creators, greed is good, and focusing on profits at the expense of workers lower down on the food chain is all part of our free enterprise system. Sure it sucks if hundreds of people lost their jobs so Bain Capital could make a profit but “the free enterprise system can be cruel.” Suck it up and stop whining. The alternative is Socialism and while no one is entirely sure what that is, everyone agrees that it’s Very Bad.

That was not the messge of “Newsies.” The message we heard was, maybe if your dad was in a union the kids wouldn’t have to support the family when he got hurt on the job. Maybe if everyone pulls together and sticks together the ownership class as embodied in the character of Joseph Pullitzer can no longer “treat us like we don’t exist.”

Of course, populist messages have been literary mainstays since forever. I’m just surprised that in this age of the Tea Party and Citizens United and right-wing smearing of Occupy Wall Street that a blatant pro-union message was not just presented from the Broadway stage but so thoroughly embraced. Of course, this fall when they revive “Annie” we’ll see the other side of the 1%, the benevolent Daddy Warbucks. I’m sure that will be a big hit, too. Still, I couldn’t witness the enthusiastic applause and cheers for a successful union strike and not think someone is a little out of touch with the zeitgeist.

Tagged , , ,

Progress!

You know, I’m pissed off enough that the Jetsons lied to me, and that in the 21st Century we are not, in fact, being served by robot nannies and flying around in jetpacks and shit. I’m pissed off enough that society hasn’t advanced to that point yet. Meanwhile, not only have we not weaned ourselves off fossil fuels and created world peace, we can’t even stop handcuffing kids to stuff if they get out of hand:

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, will no longer handcuff students to poles or other objects and will train staff at its alternative school on better methods of discipline.

[snip]

The Mississippi lawsuit was filed in June 2011 by Jeanette Murry on behalf of her then-16-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It said staffers routinely restrained students for hours for offenses as minor as dress code violations, forcing them to eat lunch while chained to a stair railing and to shout for help when they needed to go to the bathroom.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, says all district employees will stop handcuffing students younger than 13, and can only handcuff older students for crimes. In no case will employees shackle a student to a fixed object such as a railing, a pole, a desk or a chair.

Here’s a dumbass question: Why are “district employees” allowed to handcuff students “for crimes” at all? Are we talking about police officers/psychiatric wardens in the pay of the school district? If so, okay, maybe, but why else on earth would anyone be empowered to cuff your child to a pole?

A.

49’r state

A new poll shows the state’s in a dead heat at 49% per. FromGreg Sargent at The Plum Line:

A new poll taken by pollster Celinda Lake — who is a Democrat but is well respected by polling professionals — has found that the battle between Scott Walker and challenger Tom Barrett is now deadlocked, at 49 percent each.

The poll — which will be released later today and was comissioned by the pro-labor Greater Wisconsin Committee’s political fund — also finds that independents are breaking towards Barrett, 49-44.

VOTE!

Walker thinks you won’t…

New ad: Behind the Recall: The Rise and Fall of Scott Walker

Scapegoating: Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit

Via the Crack Den, here’s about the best encapsulation of where we are right now I’ve yet read:

More widely, it raises some troubling questions about the way that the media and politicians talk about poverty and benefit claimants. While outrage has, rightly, been focused on the fact that Thorpe was misrepresented since she is not unemployed, that is not the only problem with the interview. It perpetrates lazy assumptions about single mothers: scroungers who should hide themselves away and not ask for anything. On Twitter, Thorpe says that in the full interview, Stratton asked her why she chose to keep her child. Is that ever an acceptable question to ask someone, particularly when the reasoning behind it is so clearly class-based? Stratton is clearly pushing an agenda, and has no interest in the fact that in this case, the issue is the extortionate rents charged by private landlords.

So here’s about where we are:

If you live with your parents past age 18, you’re a lazy entitled “millenial” brat who has been coddled by bad parenting until you’re unable to function in the real world.

If you move out, but take advantage of perfectly legal rent aid to do so, you’re a scrounger.

If you have an abortion, you’re a terrible person who deserves to be punished.

If you keep your child, you’re just some freeloading welfare queen who popped out a baby to stay on welfare.

If you dare talk about the cost of things being too high for you to afford, you should have made better choices in life.

If you don’t try to have luxuries, you’re a lowlife slob.

If you get those luxuries, like buying an air conditioner or a microwave, you’re obviously not poor so shut up about your problems.

If you have health insurance, you’re freeloading off healthier people who have to pay for your birth control.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’re just sucking up emergency room dollars and are part of the reason costs are so high in the first place.

You know, all day long I read one half-educated rant after another, about pressing 1 for English, about drug testing for welfare, about how anyone with a pension is somehow kidding, about how kids today are lazy and entitled, about who didn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance right, about how everybody is getting away with something, and none of it’s based on any kind of data at all. None of it holds up to even the most casual question along the lines of, “Where did you read that?” None of it is backed up by any kind of numbers whatsoever, by anything more than a chain-letter anecdote and a glib “see, I said it, huh?” crack.

It’s just this angry mishmash of stuff everybody is doing wrong, all the time. It’s just one excuse after another to flail around being pissed at the world, because somebody somewhere is fucking things up. Somebody somewhere is having a baby they “can’t afford” and somebody somewhere is buying a house that’s really too much for them. Somebody somewhere is doing something wrong. We know this, we know it in our bones, and so we present to each other these endless examples of all this terrible injustice, and none of it matters one bit.

We’re told all day long that we’re too partisan, too “divided,” too angry, too strident. Then we turn on the news and we’re told we have to have an opinion about some missing child, somebody’s marriage, some kid’s wild party. Vote in this poll! Tell us what you think! Talk back, shout out, speak up!

When real things come along — should nurses’ and firefighters’ pension funds be raided so that politicians can keep giving their friends “tax incentives” just to throw one out there — we don’t know how to talk about it at all, except in this loose-cannon fashion that admits no fact and only uses punchlines. That people need rent assistance, that landlords are often gouging people, that if you want people to be out on their own the law of large numbers says some of them are gonna need a push and if you think you never will you’re being dishonest about your own past and blind about your own future, that’s not an argument we’re having.

The argument we’re having is whether this girl is scrounging or not, because that’s something very specific we can debate, without ever once addressing that shit will be just as fucked up and bullshit if she moves back in with her mom and ceases bothering us with her need to be a real person in the world and not something we can use to prove a point. If suddenly everybody stopped having to press 1 for English (and more often than not, morons, it’s press 1 for Spanish, okay?) that would alter our country’s demographics not one bit.

Here’s the secret: Shit IS fucked up and bullshit. Somebody somewhere is doing something wrong. But it’s not some girl who moved out on her own and broke absolutely no laws to do so. It’s not some company making the decision to let its Spanish-speaking customers have a fucking dial-in menu. It’s not some kid wearing his pants the “wrong” way. It’s that when we looked for injustices, these were the greatest we found. When we looked for outrages, these were what we decided would serve. When we looked for causes, we were told these were the equivalent: How much Kim Kardashian spent on her wedding, and where we could sign an online petition declaring that Casey Anthony was a shitty whore.

A.

The Weight of Our Choices

I’ve not followed the HuffPo’s advice to not watch The Weight of the Nation, in no small part because I was hoping it would focus more on this:

The fourth section:

“… CHALLENGES, examines the major driving forces causing the obesity epidemic, including agriculture, economics, evolutionary biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture, and the strong influence of the food and beverage industry.”

This part of it is FASCINATING, though short shrift is given to the inherent race and class distinctions in health-related amenities in rich and poor communities. I could watch a whole series just about the disparity in parkland between lower-income communities of color and wealthy, primarily white communities, in the profit margins between soft drinks and bananas and how that figures into where they’re sold. There are a billion Dunkin Donutses and fried chicken places on every corner one neighborhood east of me and swanky little local organic lunch places one neighborhood west. If the store on the corner only stocks one kind of thing, that’s the kind I’m going to take.

I talk all the time about how my grocery store is badly lit and sticky and the produce is less than appetizing while the Jewel one town over is practically a Whole Foods and you could eat off the floors. Same with the park sitch: I run in the mornings in a park that has a walking path and a sledding hill and baseball diamonds and all kinds of jungle gyms and stuff. I take the train downtown in the afternoon past vacant lot after vacant lot, rusty chain link fences, busted, littered sidewalks. And I’m lucky enough to live in an urban hellhole where running and walking to and from the train and biking around is the norm, where there are several grocery store chains to choose from and if one store sucks I CAN go one town over.

Forget paying to go to a gym or a boot camp or whatever; what if it’s not safe to go outside after dark where you live? Then your excercise hours are limited, especially if you’re working long hours. Forget that, even; what if your neighborhood is safe as houses but you have no sidewalks and it’s dangerous to run or walk your dog in the street? It’s not that it makes healthier ways of living impossible; it’s that when you make one thing inconvenient of course people are going to choose another.

Assuming your body can tolerate typical amounts of physical activity (another “choice” that’s often overlooked), one thing people usually don’t realize is the investment of time in serious exercise. A friend who does triathlons was getting up at 5 a.m. to put in hours of workouts every day before work. When I was commuting an hour each way in my old job, or when that job stretched to 18-hour workdays, I was eating fast food in my car all the time and the idea of spending another hour at the gym made me itch. As people work longer and longer hours at jobs (that are not primarily physical), the amount of time they have to devote to their own health deteriorates. And that’s before we get into wingnuts calling anybody who eats an organic apple an American-hating pansy.

It’s easy to talk about making better choices, like of COURSE we should all have more bananas and zucchini and go swimming three times a week, and another to face the reality of not being able to make those choices because society has dictated we live another way, has rewarded developers who create walk-less communities, has subsidized farming conglomerates that overprice healthy food and underprice unhealthy, has rigged the game and then pitted us all against each other in it.

A.

Scapegoating: Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit

Via the Crack Den, here’s about the best encapsulation of where we are right now I’ve yet read:

More widely, it raises some troubling questions about the way that the media and politicians talk about poverty and benefit claimants. While outrage has, rightly, been focused on the fact that Thorpe was misrepresented since she is not unemployed, that is not the only problem with the interview. It perpetrates lazy assumptions about single mothers: scroungers who should hide themselves away and not ask for anything. On Twitter, Thorpe says that in the full interview, Stratton asked her why she chose to keep her child. Is that ever an acceptable question to ask someone, particularly when the reasoning behind it is so clearly class-based? Stratton is clearly pushing an agenda, and has no interest in the fact that in this case, the issue is the extortionate rents charged by private landlords.

So here’s about where we are:

If you live with your parents past age 18, you’re a lazy entitled “millenial” brat who has been coddled by bad parenting until you’re unable to function in the real world.

If you move out, but take advantage of perfectly legal rent aid to do so, you’re a scrounger.

If you have an abortion, you’re a terrible person who deserves to be punished.

If you keep your child, you’re just some freeloading welfare queen who popped out a baby to stay on welfare.

If you dare talk about the cost of things being too high for you to afford, you should have made better choices in life.

If you don’t try to have luxuries, you’re a lowlife slob.

If you get those luxuries, like buying an air conditioner or a microwave, you’re obviously not poor so shut up about your problems.

If you have health insurance, you’re freeloading off healthier people who have to pay for your birth control.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’re just sucking up emergency room dollars and are part of the reason costs are so high in the first place.

You know, all day long I read one half-educated rant after another, about pressing 1 for English, about drug testing for welfare, about how anyone with a pension is somehow kidding, about how kids today are lazy and entitled, about who didn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance right, about how everybody is getting away with something, and none of it’s based on any kind of data at all. None of it holds up to even the most casual question along the lines of, “Where did you read that?” None of it is backed up by any kind of numbers whatsoever, by anything more than a chain-letter anecdote and a glib “see, I said it, huh?” crack.

It’s just this angry mishmash of stuff everybody is doing wrong, all the time. It’s just one excuse after another to flail around being pissed at the world, because somebody somewhere is fucking things up. Somebody somewhere is having a baby they “can’t afford” and somebody somewhere is buying a house that’s really too much for them. Somebody somewhere is doing something wrong. We know this, we know it in our bones, and so we present to each other these endless examples of all this terrible injustice, and none of it matters one bit.

We’re told all day long that we’re too partisan, too “divided,” too angry, too strident. Then we turn on the news and we’re told we have to have an opinion about some missing child, somebody’s marriage, some kid’s wild party. Vote in this poll! Tell us what you think! Talk back, shout out, speak up!

When real things come along — should nurses’ and firefighters’ pension funds be raided so that politicians can keep giving their friends “tax incentives” just to throw one out there — we don’t know how to talk about it at all, except in this loose-cannon fashion that admits no fact and only uses punchlines. That people need rent assistance, that landlords are often gouging people, that if you want people to be out on their own the law of large numbers says some of them are gonna need a push and if you think you never will you’re being dishonest about your own past and blind about your own future, that’s not an argument we’re having.

The argument we’re having is whether this girl is scrounging or not, because that’s something very specific we can debate, without ever once addressing that shit will be just as fucked up and bullshit if she moves back in with her mom and ceases bothering us with her need to be a real person in the world and not something we can use to prove a point. If suddenly everybody stopped having to press 1 for English (and more often than not, morons, it’s press 1 for Spanish, okay?) that would alter our country’s demographics not one bit.

Here’s the secret: Shit IS fucked up and bullshit. Somebody somewhere is doing something wrong. But it’s not some girl who moved out on her own and broke absolutely no laws to do so. It’s not some company making the decision to let its Spanish-speaking customers have a fucking dial-in menu. It’s not some kid wearing his pants the “wrong” way. It’s that when we looked for injustices, these were the greatest we found. When we looked for outrages, these were what we decided would serve. When we looked for causes, we were told these were the equivalent: How much Kim Kardashian spent on her wedding, and where we could sign an online petition declaring that Casey Anthony was a shitty whore.

A.

Memorial Day: Who I Remember

We here at First Draft believe in recycling so I decided to repeat this Memorial Day post for the third year in a row. Just call it the trifecta:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy001

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clothed and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape.

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running a army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone but confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

NOLA Notes: Who needs a daily paper?

1337871585-screen_shot_2012-05-24_at_3

New Orleans does, that’s who. I was off the grid when the news started bubbling on the tweeter tube so I learned about the treachery, malakatude and douchebaggery of the suits at Newhouse from A right here on lil’ ole First Draft. My twitter and facebook feeds are on fire with the news plus the Gambit’s estimable editor, Kevin Allman, has posted a memo sent to staff by the retiring publisher and NOLA nob, Ashton Phelps:

The story, which can be accessed through this link, details the formation of NOLA Media Group, a digitally focused company that will launch this fall and that will develop new and innovative ways to deliver news and information to the company’s online and mobile readers. NOLA Media Group will be led by Ricky Mathews. Also this fall, The Times-Picayune will begin publishing a more robust newspaper on a reduced schedule of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

More robust? With 1/3 of the staff fired? This is known in the reality based community as blowing smoke up one’s ass. One of the many appalling things about this story is that NOLA.com is such a horrible web site. It’s ugly, items are thrown on the net without regard to importance and it’s very hard to search internally, I often have to consult with Mr. Google to find anything therein. In short, NOLA.com is user hostile as well as loaded with hateful and racist comments from its users. Some replacement.

The primary reason that New Orleans needs a daily paper is that it’s such a fucking great news town. The Picayune story is just one of the big headlines today. Here’s my favorite: Archie Jefferson, the brother of imprisoned ex-Congressman Dollar Bill is suspected of murdering his wife and got involved in a brawl at her funeral. You cannot make this shit up, y’all. Oh yeah, our shiny headed fool of a former Mayor, Ray Nagin, seems to be under investigation and at least one of his former minions has rolled.

You may have noticed that the previous 2 links are to WWL-TV news. We’re lucky in New Orleans that the local teevee news is pretty darn good:WWL is the leader of the pack but WVUE and WDSU also have good news teams. We’re also blessed with an excellent weekly in the Gambitand a fine online news site, The Lens but none of them can replace a daily paper. Despite all my carping and teasing over the the years, the Picayune is a good newspaper; especially its metro news team under Metro Editor and crack investigative reporter, Gordon Russell. I’m acquainted with Gordon and he’s been known to bust my chops for referring to the paper as the Times-Pravda for its slanted political coverage. I remain unrepentant about that but I’m very sorry that outside ownership is about to decimate a vital local institution.

Interesting Times

As I posted over at my place this morning, Mr. Beale and I have just returned from a long weekend in New York City.

New York is both America’s cultural and financial center, so the stuff I see there always resonates on a bigger level with me. It’s a place that always makes me think about where this country is and where it’s going. And sometimes what I think is, WTF? For instance, this, seen somewhere around West 53rd and 7th Avenue:

IMG_0715

I couldn’t see that and not think of Andrew Breitbart ranting, “stop raaaping people … stop raaaping people …” at Occupy Wall Street protestors before his death.

These are strange times we live in and mostly when I write it’s my way of trying to understand What It All Means, which is a very unsatisfying exercise. I just don’t feel like I have the knowledge base required to make sense of this strange world we live in.

For instance, in this era of Scott Walker-style union busting rolling out nationally, corporate media flogging astroturf as populism, and Newt Gingrich waxing nostalgic about child labor, I never thought we’d see a highly commercial hit Broadway musical about … a union organizer. One who organized child laborers to strike against Joseph Pullitzer, the Rupert Murdoch of his day. And did I add it’s produced byDisney, no less?

And yet, “Newsies” isa box office hit, has been nominated for eight Tony Awards, and my theater-industry friends tell me it’s a shoe-in to win Best Musical. Furthermore, while Mr. Beale and I prefer edgier fare, the audience was thoroughly into the show. I’m not talking snooty theater critics, these were families and a large contingent of teenage girls, bused in from the suburbs, cheering and clapping and whistling and wolf-calling all through the show. They loved it.

As a pop culture observer I find this very bizarre. On the one hand we have the ownership class telling us unions kill jobs, taxes hurt job creators, greed is good, and focusing on profits at the expense of workers lower down on the food chain is all part of our free enterprise system. Sure it sucks if hundreds of people lost their jobs so Bain Capital could make a profit but“the free enterprise system can be cruel.” Suck it up and stop whining. The alternative is Socialism and while no one is entirely sure what that is, everyone agrees that it’s Very Bad.

That was not the messge of “Newsies.” The message we heard was, maybe if your dad was in a union the kids wouldn’t have to support the family when he got hurt on the job. Maybe if everyone pulls together and sticks together the ownership class as embodied in the character of Joseph Pullitzer can no longer “treat us like we don’t exist.”

Of course, populist messages have been literary mainstays since forever. I’m just surprised that in this age of the Tea Party and Citizens United and right-wing smearing of Occupy Wall Street that a blatant pro-union message was not just presented from the Broadway stage but so thoroughly embraced. Of course, this fall when they revive “Annie” we’ll see the other side of the 1%, the benevolent Daddy Warbucks. I’m sure that will be a big hit, too. Still, I couldn’t witness the enthusiastic applause and cheers for a successful union strike and not think someone is a little out of touch with the zeitgeist.

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Progress!

You know, I’m pissed off enough that the Jetsons lied to me, and that in the 21st Century we are not, in fact, being served by robot nannies and flying around in jetpacks and shit. I’m pissed off enough that society hasn’t advanced to that point yet. Meanwhile, not only have we not weaned ourselves off fossil fuels and created world peace, we can’t even stop handcuffing kids to stuff if they get out of hand:

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, will no longer handcuff students to poles or other objects and will train staff at its alternative school on better methods of discipline.

[snip]

The Mississippi lawsuit was filed in June 2011 by Jeanette Murry on behalf of her then-16-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It said staffers routinely restrained students for hours for offenses as minor as dress code violations, forcing them to eat lunch while chained to a stair railing and to shout for help when they needed to go to the bathroom.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, says all district employees will stop handcuffing students younger than 13, and can only handcuff older students for crimes. In no case will employees shackle a student to a fixed object such as a railing, a pole, a desk or a chair.

Here’s a dumbass question: Why are “district employees” allowed to handcuff students “for crimes” at all? Are we talking about police officers/psychiatric wardens in the pay of the school district? If so, okay, maybe, but why else on earth would anyone be empowered to cuff your child to a pole?

A.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “Gruesome grab-bag II” edition

Good morning, gentle people – back to light duty, so a relatively short “Obsession” today.

Since it is Memorial Day, let’s lead off with the Freeperatis’ salute to the troops they so profess to love.

Soldiers? RINOS!!!!

Veterans Favor Obama Over Romney – They’re Sick of War
The Auburn Journal ^| May 13, 2012 | “Over_L”

Posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 8:38:42 AM by Colonel Kangaroo

YAY! The good Captain got a promotion!

(In related news, Mr. Green Jeans is now Corporal Green Jeans)

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, veterans favor Obama over Romney by as much as seven percentage points. They favor cutting the defense budget. Read more…

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) – Mack McDowell likes to spend time at the local knife and gun show “drooling over firearms,” as he puts it. Retired after 30 years in the U.S. Army, he has lined his study with books on war, framed battalion patches from his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, a John Wayne poster, and an 1861 Springfield rifle from an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.

But when it comes to the 2012 presidential election, Master Sergeant McDowell is no hawk.

In South Carolina’s January primary, the one-time Reagan supporter voted for Ron Paul “because of his unchanging stand against overseas involvement.” In November, McDowell plans to vote for the candidate least likely to wage “knee-jerk reaction wars.”

Disaffection with the politics of shock and awe runs deep among men and women who have served in the military during the past decade of conflict. Only 32 percent think the war in Iraq ended successfully, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. And far more of them would pull out of Afghanistan than continue military operations there.

While the 2012 campaign today is dominated by economic and domestic issues, military concerns could easily jump to the fore. Nearly 90,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Israeli politicians and their U.S. supporters debate over whether to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities as partisans bicker over proposed Pentagon budget cuts.

Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of “a dangerous course” in wanting to cut $1 trillion from the defense budget – although the administration’s actual proposal is a reduction of $487 billion over the next decade.

“We should not negotiate with the Taliban,” the former Massachusetts governor contends. “We should defeat the Taliban.” He has blamed Obama for “procrastination toward Iran” and advocates arming Syrian rebels.

Romney, along with his primary rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, had also accused Obama of “appeasement” toward U.S. enemies – a charge that drew a sharp Obama rebuttal. “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement,” the president shot back. He has reproached GOP candidates: “Now is not the time for bluster.”

If the election were held today, Obama would win the veteran vote by as much as seven points over Romney, higher than his margin in the general population.

FADING COOL FACTOR

The GOP’s heated rhetoric, aimed at the party’s traditional hawks, might be expected to resonate with veterans. Yet in interviews in South Carolina, a military-friendly red state, many former soldiers expressed anger at the toll of a decade of war, questioned the legitimacy of George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion, and worried that the surge in Afghanistan won’t make a difference in the long run.

“We looked real cool going into Iraq waving our guns,” said McDowell, 50, who retired from the 82d Airborne Division in November with a Legion of Merit and two Bronze Stars. “But people lost their lives, and it made no sense.”

Now he worries. “I really don’t like the direction we are going, how we seem to come closer daily towards a war with Iran.”

In Columbia, where McDowell lives in a leafy subdivision, the streets are named for American Revolutionary war heroes, and the Confederate battle flag still flies on the capitol grounds. Pizza parlors offer a 10 percent discount to uniformed soldiers from nearby Fort Jackson, one of eight military bases that pump $13 billion a year into the state’s economy.

In exit polls, a quarter of voters in January’s primary identified themselves as veterans.

Among them were Karen and Kelly Grafton, devout Southern Baptists who live in the small town of Prosperity, outside Columbia, and spend their vacations at Nascar races. They voted for Santorum.

“He just came off a little bit better than the others,” said Karen Grafton, 51, a real estate agent who served 20 years in the Air Force. “He stuck to his story about what he has done and what he will do.”

The Graftons’ votes, however, like many veterans’, can’t be taken as evidence of a hard-line military stance. Registered Republicans, they cast their ballots for Obama in 2008 because he promised to bring the troops home from Iraq.

“I went to war for George Bush,” said Grafton, 48, a retired Army master sergeant who served in special operations units in Somalia and Iraq. “But we can’t keep policing the world.”

Karen Grafton, a retired Air Force recruiter, said she’ll be “glad when we’re out of Afghanistan.” The military budget? “I’m sure it can be cut,” she said. “Everyone has to make concessions.” Still, many former soldiers worry that Pentagon cuts could mean stingier salaries, pensions, and education and housing benefits.

*****************************************************

I can’t believe that there is any great enthusiasm among our military for Obama on his own merits. But there may be evidence that the strain of a decade of war is being felt by an undermanned military.And some may view the amateur Obama’s shaky level of competence to be safer than some of Romney’s connections to some of the more bellicose foreign policy elements from the George W. Bush admistration.
1 posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 8:38:48 AM by Colonel Kangaroo
As usual, there are two types of Freeper reactions to facts that contradict their preconceived notions.
1. Outright denial:

To: Colonel Kangaroo

What an absolute crock

What’s a “crock”?The Stars And Stripes? The poll?The interviewees, who said they’ve had enough of you keyboard kommandos’ prediliction for sending them out to die and get maimed to make the world safe for Sharia?

2 posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 8:42:42 AM by clamper1797 (Hoping to have some change left)

2. And vehementoutright denial:

To: Colonel Kangaroo

This is bull!. There is no way Veterans or Active Duty Military will vote for Obama. Many retired military people like myself are disenvhanted with the war in Afghanistan, but that doesn’t translate into a vote for Obama. Obama and the Democrats would “Gut” the military if they have their way. Veterans and Active Military aare for the most part conservatives and they will never vote for Obama.

5 posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 8:46:38 AM by Old Retired Army Guy

And of course – the good old “I’m a right-wing nutcase who finds other opinions treasonous, and have substituted Free Republic for any semblance of meeting / knowing anyone who is any different” type who live in the bubble, and will die in it :” , also known as No True Scotsman.

To: Colonel Kangaroo

The veterans I know don’t favor Obama at all.

60 posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 10:21:15 AM by rangerwife (Proud wife of a Purple Heart Recipient)

Occasionally the light of reality shines through:

To: Colonel Kangaroo

My gut reaction is to call BS on this story but I’m not so sure I will. In 2008 there were polls saying that retired military and active duty wifes in the Tidewater VA area were going for obama in big numbers and I sais BS. But then obama won Virginia, he won Tidewater and he did what no democrat had done since Jimmy Carter…he won VA Beach. And he won VA Beach with the help of military spouses who were sick and tired of the war and the multiple tours of duty.

63 posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 10:53:42 AM by pgkdan (ANYBODY BUT OBAMA!)

How could this BE??

To: Da Coyote
I hope you guys are right but I live near Ft Hood and it’s very surprising how many Obama stickers I see on cars here. Not so much on soldiers cars but their family members. When you drive through neighborhoods you see them in the driveway.A huge percent of the Army is African American and many Puerta(sic) Rican.
84 posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 5:46:20 PM by NativeTxn

Well, there you have it.

To: Colonel Kangaroo

Members of the 1st Transvestite diversionary farce all agree.

77 posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 11:39:57 AM by outofsalt (“If History teaches us anything it’s that history rarely teaches us anything”)

Santorum’s blue balls contingent and more after the jump.

Continue reading

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Memorial Day Reading

GO GET THIS NOW. It’s mindblowing.

I’m about 10 pages from the end right now, and practically ate the thing in the past three days.

A.