The Same Rowdy Crowd

Ruminations and Fulminations on Communication

Deep Breathing Exercises

I keep repeating the following:

  • Twenty-six percent of voters identify as Republican
  • Thirty-two percent of Republicans support Donald Trump for President
  • That means only 8.3 percent of the electorate has lost its mind


My question to the CDC is simply this: Have you begun an investigation into what is clearly a pressing public health issue? If 18 million of our friends and neighbors had been infected with some other form of infection that affected their judgement and rationality, we’d be hell-bent on finding the source of the bacteria.

C’mon guys, you took on ebola; surely your field teams can figure out Trump.

  • Austin

“Just when I thought I was out…”

…along came Donald Trump.

I’m not sure how much longer I can resist the urge to write about “The Thick-Fingered Vulgarian” as Spy used to refer to him. Can you imagine what it must be like to be Jon Stewart knowing that he’s about to walk away from…all this?

Hopefully, the urge will pass. Maybe I should get a hobby. Opiates maybe.

– Austin

This Site Under Construction

Crowdies –

The facts that 1) there hasn’t been a post to this site in more than a month and 2) there hasn’t been a general outcry over Fact #1 strongly suggests that we are talked out.

There’s no shame in this conclusion. Over the course of the last seven years we’ve had more than 780,000 visitors and almost 24,000 comments in response to 1,720 posts. That’s a pretty long-running cocktail party.

We, your humble hosts, thank you for coming and hope that you had a good time. We’ll leave the door unlatched and the light on for the off chance that one of us will feel moved to say something here in the future, but I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about that possibility.

– Austin, for the Crowd

PS – I’m actually in a conference room doing real work for a client so the post above comes across a little more rushed than I intended.  While I have a few minutes between Wave 1 and Wave 2 let me add that – by far – the most enjoyable and valuable part of this site over the years has been the people who have shown up to comment on whatever silly topics your hosts have seen fit to post. The smartest, funniest commentary has come from you. The best ideas and the most thoughtful positioning have come from you.  Even the people I’ve disagreed with – especially those people – have taught me much.  Thank you.

Back to Wave 2.

That Damn Hippie Pope

NEW SLAUGHTERMy guess is that Pope Francis was well aware of the appalling orgy of fevered consumerism — Black Friday and the onset of our sacred “Holiday Season” — when he dropped his 50,000 word rip job on “trickle down” economics and our “idolatry of money.” The timing was just too ideal to be a coincidence. And that, you have to hand it to him, demonstrates some shrewd marketing chops, along with a bona fide Christian conscience.

I am not expecting it to do much good though, unless he requires his “shepherds” in local parishes to hammer that message … to the dwindling audience that still sees moral authority in a church degraded by medieval sexual politics.

Coincidentally, news of the Pope’s hippie-like attack on the foundation of American exceptionalism — i.e. unbridled acquisitiveness and status through possession — came on the same day I caught a nakedly cynical Christmas-y ad that began with a lament for the sad state of Christmas today.  (Open with: A montage of Norman Rockwell-like imagery; happy nuclear families, cherubic kiddies, fresh snow, tree trimming). The clear inference being that we’ve fallen a long, long ways from “the true meaning of Christmas”.

Where, I wondered, was this leading?

Cut to a scene from today … inside some tricked out big box super store, with … you know t, a fake Santa and excited shoppers stockpiling massive amounts of crap (excuse me, “gifts”). It was an ad for Gander Mountain or Cabela’s or some much enterprise, which, I think you can see the irony here, has nothing whatsoever to do with the “true meaning” of Christmas and everything to do with what’s wrong with this blessed season and what the Pope was getting at.

Popes routinely bemoan crass consumerism and exploitation of the lower classes. But soon they move on … to negotiating Vatican politics, managing the church’s vast real estate holdings, meetings with attorneys fending off sexual abuse claims and battling homosexuality. The priority stuff.

Maybe Francis, who is off to a good start, will be a transformative figure. Maybe he’ll push this them, especially when he makes his first visit to the United States. But the odds are against him.

Especially here in America, where to watch the network and local news there is no greater unalloyed good than storming the mall — or WalMart — in support of the economy. Sure they all reported the fistfights over 40″ Funai TVs and laughed at the video of the guy loosing his drawers in a WalMart brawl and flashing plumber butt — but nowhere did I see anyone come back from any of this and say, “This is nuts.”

Obviously, TV news has an enormous stake in shilling for any excuse to spend money. But, Barry Ritholtz in the not exactly hippie-dippy Bloomberg View tells us again, it’d help if “news” was actually based in some semblance of fact instead of junk numbers made up by random shoppers and repeated endlessly everywhere you looked.

I still think it’d be interesting to get someone like Barack Obama into a candid conversation about values. Not just the usual platitudinal stuff about “democracy” and “a thousand points of light” but the essential message leaders have an obligation to convey to their citizens.

Once away from the White House (and you know he’s got scratch marks on the cell wall counting off the days ) I suspect he’d agree with the Pope. There’s almost nothing about inciting mass psychosis and the constant pornographic exultation of the super rich that meshes with actual Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim) values.

You had to feel . . . NOT!

There are too many life-and-death things happening in the world to be concerned about trivial matters, but I love sports, and so I feel compelled to indulge my revulsion at too many broadcast interviews of athletes.

I sometimes conduct workshops in sportswriting and the craft of interviewing.

A cardinal sin in interviewing: instead of asking a direct question, the interviewer states the answer he is looking for, leaving the athlete an opportunity only to grunt, or lamely say, “Yes.”

Example: “You had to feel great when you made that catch in the seventh inning.”

This approach robs the athlete of a chance to tell his or her own story.

Instead, a reporter should ask: “Tell me what happened when you saw the ball come off the bat.” Now the athlete gets to communicate the experience. And the listener gets to feel it.

Why do so many interviewers cheat athletes and listeners out of feeling an experience? 1) they feel insecure and compelled to let the listener know how smart they are; and 2) they have adopted as models bad habits learned from elders in the business who have risen to high positions despite work that has been mediocre.

The latest version of this wrong-headedness oozed from my radio just this week.
A reporter previewing the football game between the University of MInnesota and the University of Michigan was interviewing the Minnesota quarterback, Philip Nelson, a sophomore who had started only a few games and who could still be considered a wide-eyed rookie.

The interviewer wanted to know how Nelson felt about playing at Michigan, in the biggest stadium in the country — 109,000 seats. Minnesota’s stadium seats only 50,000, and I doubt that Nelson ever played a high school game in front of as many as 5,000. But Nelson never had a chance to answer what was a very good question: the interviewer (as if he were the quarterback), instead of asking a question, laid out his own set of expectations, in great detail and at great length, leaving Nelson merely to agree with the interviewer’s premises and sound like a nonentity.

What I wanted was the raw feeling Nelson could have expressed if he had had to come up with his own answer. That would let us get to know him, instead of getting to know the interviewer.

Years ago I made a documentary film on the values in big-time college football, and the program was memorable, I believe, because it allowed players — without helmets obscuring their identity — to communicate their experiences and feelings.

A few years before that I interviewed the great athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who competed in the long jump at the University of Minnesota. After the meet, in a quiet moment when I caught her alone, I asked her to describe exactly what she felt from the moment her foot struck the take-off board.

She took a deep breath and said, with obvious delight, “No one has ever asked me that before.” She proceeded to explore her experience, moment to moment, and as she spoke she beamed with pleasure at having the chance to explain the passion she felt as she soared through the air.

Interviewers should understand and embrace the principle that they are not the story; the interviewee is. What we’re after is not good questions, but great answers.

I’ve been scrutinizing interviews since I broke into the business, always eager to learn from the best, and from the worst.

A final observation, from an example of the worst: During the Vietnam war a CBS News reporter covering combat was interviewing a an 18-year-old Marine whose buddy had just been shot and killed right in front of him. The reporter said, “How would you characterize your feelings when you saw him die?”

That young Marine may not even have known the meaning of the word characterize; if he did not, the very question may well have intimidated and inhibited him.

Why didn’t the reporter — instead of playing the sophisticate — simply say to the Marine: “Please tell me exactly what happened.” In that way, the Marine could have told his story, and his feelings would likely have become clear . . . and unforgettable.

JFK 50 Years Later: It’s Still … Means, Motive and Opportunity

NEW SLAUGHTERWith the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination comes a lot of predictable commentary.

We’re getting the inevitable re-resurgence of Camelot-era hagiography. “Oh, the glamour!” “Oh, the grace!” “They were our royalty!”, “They were so rich and so beautiful!” Likewise we’re enduring the usual musty, journalistic eulogizing about the immensity of the tragedy and how it was a “turning point” for American culture, our “loss of innocence”, the beginning of our distrust of authority, etc. Ditto another round of conclusive-sounding assertions of the veracity of Warren Commission’s ruling on who-dunnit, assertions that, like the Commission itself, seek to reassure us in the absence of any kind of real certainty.

I was 12 when Kennedy was killed and as stunned as everyone else. (The old Vaughn Meader comedy record was a staple at the Lambert boyhood manse.) A lot of people were still on edge after the previous autumn’s Cuban missile crisis, so word that the accused/likely assassin was a “communist sympathizer” … kicking around 1963 Dallas … had almost everyone fighting back fears of another nuclear showdown.

… and then Jack Ruby killed “the killer.”

I watched it happen that Sunday morning and when it was announced that Oswald had died my first thought was, “Now we’ll never know why he did it.” And we don’t. And there are good reasons to believe that’s why Ruby did what he did.

Respectable, responsible journalism venues, your Time and Life magazines, your New York Times and Washington Posts and your network newsrooms have accepted Oswald as the assassin since the moment he was collared in the Texas Theater. I’d like to say that appropriate, intense skepticism was applied at some point over the past 50 years, but I really can’t. Oswald has always been the one and only.

In my personal experience, discussions with other journalists on the minutiae of JFK killing have been a bit underwhelming. Few if any could explain what Arlen Specter’s Magic Bullet Theory was all about. Most had heard of it, but after that their eyes got pretty glazey. And the glaze got even thicker once I wandered off the plantation and started talking … means, motive and opportunity.

Mainstream journalism runs on conventional wisdom, and after the Jim Garrison meltdown in New Orleans in 1967 every theory counter to the Warren Commission’s became professionally toxic. The accepted default in newsrooms was, and remains, that Oswald acted alone, the government said so, it’s yesterday’s news  … let’s move on. To suggest you remained skeptical, to suggest that the 24 year-old Oswald’s associations in  New Orleans and Dallas were exceedingly odd and that there were parties with far — far — higher levels of … means, motive and opportunity … who might find it useful to manipulate a guy like Oswald was/is pretty much like saying, “I just saw Elvis, Janis and Jim Morrison land a flying saucer in front of the White House.”

So, about 20 years ago, or soon after Oliver Stone’s loony-but-provocative “JFK”, I finally let it go. I’ve rarely talked about it since. Certainty will never be achieved. I’m not interested in convincing anyone of anything. Believe what you want. The ratio of skepticism-to-acceptance we have today is, I’m guessing, pretty much what it’ll be 500 years from now. Moreover, it no longer matters. Where maybe something could still have been accomplished 10 years after the assassination, or even 15 — when the House Select Committee on Assassinations asserted that there was a conspiracy, and even ID’d those with means, motive and opportunity — at 50 years out the horses have long since left the corral and been reduced to glue.

G. Robert Blakey, counsel to the 1978 House Committee has often said that the JFK murder has become a kind of Rorschach test for those looking at it. What we see is in many ways more illuminative of our individual prejudices and beliefs than the reality of the event itself.  There’s a hard truth in that, that I accept.

Just as I accept that I’ll remain a skeptic of the Warren Commission theory for a long time to come.

Without re-litigating the whole case, here’s why:

Over the years CBS, ABC and most recently PBS’s NOVA have argued in favor of the Commission’s view based on the only aspect of the crime testable by science — namely the forensics of the shooting in conjunction with the Zapruder film. Each has hired experts, staged reconstructions, fired rifles, extracted bullets and established in ways that would be convincing in any courtroom that it is possible for one bullet to do everything Arlen Specter and the Commission said it did.

… and each therefore concluded that … Oswald did it.

To which I always say … wait a minute.

It’s one thing to make a case that it is possible for one man to have done all the damage recorded on camera (and in the mangled autopsy) and a whole other thing to say that man was Lee Oswald. But the two are almost invariably mashed together as inseparable conclusions … based on a problematic palm print on the rifle found stashed at the Book Depository and the circumstantial evidence collected and vetted by the Commission.

Comedian-actor Richard Belzer (“Homicide”, “Law and Order: SVU”) has had a second career for years as a kind of Howard Zinn  of contemporary American politics. He has churned out several books on the JFK hit and when interviewed invariably returns to one moment that for him most undermines the Oswald-as-shooter scenario (as well the Commission’s choice of who and what evidence to accept as most accurate). The moment was when a Dallas motorcycle cop dropped his bike in front of the Book Depository seconds after the motorcade gunned it for Parkland hospital, ran in, yelled for the boss, a guy named Roy Truly, and ordered him to accompany him upstairs. Upon reaching the second floor cafeteria they encountered a guy at a vending machine. The cop asked Truly to identify the man, which Truly did as Oswald, an employee, and they continued on up.

What it means is that within 90 seconds of shooting … the President of the United States, kind of big deal for which a person might both be (and look) a little excited, a not so great a marksman has run across to the opposite end of the sixth floor, stashed the rifle behind some boxes, run down four flights of stairs, dropped coins in a vending machine and appeared composed and unflustered when confronted by a cop. While the speed required to accomplish those actions hasn’t been recreated without signs of obvious exertion, I suspect it is, like other aspects of the Commission’s case possible under a certain set of circumstances.

But it is means, motive and opportunity that carries the day for me. Oswald barely had the first (a for-shit rifle and very limited skills as a marksman), is deep into dime store psychology on the second (“he was a nobody who wanted to be a somebody”) and, were it not for his second floor cafeteria appearance, has indisputable credibility only on the third. He was employed right there on the motorcade route.

As Daniel Schorr, the bete noir of the Nixon White House once told me when I asked about his interest in the JFK killing, “I like stories that are ascertainable”, which the JFK saga most definitely is not. The unascertainable, reputation-sullying quagmire of every theory other than the Warren Commission’s may explain why so few news organizations have aggressively pursued the most tantalizing of the “means, motive and opportunity” angles.

Oliver Stone lost me with his “LBJ gave them their damn [Vietnam] war” angle. Not even in 1963’s subservient media culture would there be a way to keep chatter of an assassination cabal from leaking out of government offices. Governments keep paper records (and recordings). Every reporter has sources of some sort within or close to the CIA and the White House. Ascertainability is possible.

Not so with organized crime.

If you want a practicing, professional journalist to glaze over in disdain, bring up the role of the mob in anything that went on in 1963 or even today. As limited as my press colleagues’ knowledge has been on the topic of JFK forensics, the first mention of Carlos Marcello and the mob always has them scanning over my head for an emergency escape. Since almost none of them has even heard of Marcello, the longtime head of the New Orleans mob … I’m another whacked out “grassy knoller” counting UFOs in the Rose Garden.

I have found very few journalists who know that Bobby Kennedy, prior to becoming Attorney General vowed and immediately upon being sworn in made a top priority of throwing Marcello out of the country … and that he actually did it. RFK literally had Marcello kidnapped off the streets of New Orleans and dumped in Guatemala, simultaneous with an unprecedented, coordinated effort to take down his sprawling operation … which besides the usual racketeeering included seedy strip clubs across the South and Texas. In fact, the 1978 House Committee specifically ID’d Marcello, along with Jimmy Hoffa and Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana as people with … means, motive and opportunity to kill JFK.

But — a reality check here — no ink-stained newsroom beat reporter does ascertainment on the Mob. As I say, to follow the news even today you’d be inclined to believe organized crime has ceased functioning in the United States … a turn of events which truly would make us exceptional in human history. Crime kingpins are brown, scarfaced, moustachioed guys like Pablo Escobar. They operate in sweaty Latin American countries. Based on the lack of reporting we could easily believe they have no peers within our borders. No stateside kingpins. Just street level distributors like Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale in “The Wire”.

More to the point in the JFK era, it was the official view of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI that organized crime was a non-factor in the United States, a view that infuriated Bobby Kennedy especially since the FBI’s “investigations” of Marcello’s New Orleans operations were consistently misdirected and thwarted.

For me this is, ironically, the Occam’s Razor phase of the story.

In order to accept that Oswald acted alone you have to ignore/outright dismiss his very strange associations with Dallas’ very right-wing “White Russian” community and the crowd he assorted with in New Orleans, as well as his lack of expertise as a marksman, his jailhouse assertion that “I’m just the patsy” [an interested choice of words] and accept as his motivation that he was … suffering from low self-esteem. It’s not what you call a neat scenario.

By stark contrast, in the Marcello-driven version of events you have a bona fide, serious-as-a-heart attack adversary, requiring by far the fewest assumptions to reach a conclusion … if …  if it is a conclusion you’re comfortable making.

Means: Organized crime, should you choose to believe it exists, has professionals it can call upon to kill anyone. (Ask Whitey Bulger’s FBI compatriots.) And you don’t need an Oliver Stone-sized conspiracy. Just maybe a half dozen guys doing what they do.

Motive: Not only is this little prick Bobby Kennedy coming after one of the leaders of the American mob in that era, he’s a damned Kennedy who appears to have forgotten all the business the Mob and his father did back in the day. Getting harassed and dumped in Guatemala is not a way you treat friends. More to the point, by hitting the brother, you neuter the Attorney General.

Opportunity:  Open car. Parade. Plenty of cover … and a chump, set up to think he’s a player in some spy game, primed not only to take the fall, but be killed off in quick order. (By the mobbed-up owner of a seedy strip club … who did it, we are asked to believe, in order to spare poor Jackie Kennedy a return to Texas for Oswald’s trial.) The hand-the-cops-the-dead-patsy ploy is classic mob architecture. Plus, as a plot, it understands quite well the cultural climate of that era. The “communist sympathizer” angle virtually guarantees  that responsible elder statesmen like Gerald Ford, CIA Director Allen Dulles, segregationist poster boy Richard Russell, and all-purpose Cold War counselor John McCloy will see the peril of super-power confrontation and gravitate to the lone, glory-seeking-nut explanation, which is infinitely easier to make with that particular guy dead.

Also, should there be even the faintest interest in pursuing an organized crime angle, those same statesmen will quickly appreciate that an aggressive mob inquiry means a wholesale re-write of the “fallen King of Camelot” narrative, with the shocked public getting a highly disillusioning education in how Joseph Kennedy made his fortune and how cozy the sexually compulsive JFK was with the seamier side of the show biz-Vegas interface. Bobby Kennedy seemed to grasp the dilemma.

Given the low likelihood that courtroom-worthy evidence would ever to spill out of the mob — no files, no recordings, and no witnesses — the choice for the Commission was actually pretty easy. Build a credible-enough case that sets the long-dead Oswald as the lone shooter, calm the country, let everyone mourn and savor a fallen hero and move on. It’s what patriarchal leaders are supposed to do.

But as Rorschach tests go … this version of the story paints an exceedingly different view of the United States than most people care to entertain.

Lara Logan Has it All Over Dan Rather

NEW SLAUGHTERIf there was ever an example of the quantitative difference between the rage-stoking machinery of the right and the left its in the reaction to Lara Logan’s big Benghazi blockbuster on “60 Minutes”.

Where literally within minutes of its airing nine years ago, “60 Minutes II’s” story about George W. Bush’s essentially non-existent National Guard “service” was under fire from right-wing bloggers pointing to a specific fake document, Logan’s far more amateurish blunder, in using an oddball mercenary’s story as the sole source of a startling new perspective on the Benghazi incident, is fast receding from public attention. Internally, CBS, which can not be pleased with the transparent inadequacy of  Logan’s reporting, may eventually take further action. But lacking a sustained furor, it has the luxury of doing so quietly and in a way it can manage, and … without explaining how it happened.

Lacking any serious of level of heat from outraged liberals — beyond David Brock and Eric Boehlert at Media Matters — this botch, which smells at least as politically inspired as “60 Minutes II” producer Mary Mapes’ shot at Bush — is going nowhere.

People like Kevin Drum at “Mother Jones” and Jay Rosen have already laid out the fundamental complaints with Logan’s story, and CBS has endured the inevitable round of ridicule from comics. For me though the most egregious error — the brightest flare in the sky — was Logan basing her story on a guy who was about to publish a book through CBS’s sister company, Threshold Editions, which exists solely as a distributor of (often) paranoid, fact-deprived righter-than right-wing screeds. How was that allowed to happen?

Worse, Logan didn’t disclose that illuminating little detail either in her original story or in her explanation-free apology last Sunday night. As a consequence we have an episode that walks and quacks very much like something cooked and contrived by the producer/reporter.

And that is different — and worse — than what Mapes and Dan Rather got into in 2004. The tragic irony with CBS’s Bush Air National Guard story is that the central assertion — that Bush was all but officially AWOL from a cushy stateside service slot and far from combat during Vietnam — was all but “smoking gun” provable without the tarted-up memo that persons still unknown used to intentionally deceive CBS, Rather and Mapes. (I believe Doonesbury-creator Garry Trudeau still has the $10,000 he offered to anyone who could prove they saw Bush with his National Guard unit at any time he says he was there.)

With Logan, the rapidly-evolving view is that she was the driving force of the bogus Benghazi story, and that to make her story she consciously violated a basic tenet of Journalism 101. Namely, she allowed a single source, one with obvious personal motivations, to push a startling counter narrative with rabid appeal for a specific fringe audience. A stringer for Eagan Patch couldn’t get away with that.

While the controversy will soon evaporate among the general public, media-watchers who suspect Logan pushed the story far beyond what the facts could support will continue to believe she did it to curry favor (for herself?) with a conservative audience that normally sees “60 Minutes” as a threat to their intensely partisan world view. Her now famous, gung-ho, “let’s go get the bastards speech” isn’t doing anything to refute that suspicion.

We are living in a moment where celebrity reporters are routinely carving out brands (and fatter paychecks) for themselves beyond the walls of their day jobs. And Logan, who looks much better in a low-cut dress than Morley Safer, (and did you notice how much more demure her attire was for the “apology”), has all the ingredients for full-tilt, anchor-level stardom.

But since there is a vast difference in the rage machinery of the right and left, I doubt many will notice when Ms. Logan announces a year from now that she has decided to leave CBS and pursue “new opportunities”.

Finally, you can only laugh that FoxNews, which rarely if ever has something good to say about a story produced by actual professional journalists — and rushed to hype the “60 Minutes” piece —  is pretty much alone now in “standing by” the “facts” of Logan’s botched tale.



Hope and Branding

NEW SLAUGHTERBefore getting to the important stuff, as a member of “the single-payer left”, but also someone sees Obamacare as a substantial step forward, can I just say that I’m delighted to see a resurgence of skepticism among the “lamestream” press over the hysterical claims coming from Obamacare’s entrenched opponents?

First there was Eric Stern’s instant classic, “Inside the FoxNews Lie Machine”, where Stern fact-checked three sets of guests in a Sean Hannity interview. Then a couple of days ago Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post reported a story out of Rome, Georgia on a guy convinced his small business failing was entirely Obama’s fault.  (By all means read through the comments section on that one.) Then yesterday we had Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times doing the same thing as Mr. Stern in a piece titled, “Another Obamacare horror story debunked”.

Continue reading “Hope and Branding”

The LA Times Applies a Factual Standard

NEW SLAUGHTERTalk about setting dangerous precedents.

The Los Angeles Times recently declared that it was no longer going to run “factually inaccurate” letters about climate change. Anyone who follows the, uh, “debate” on that issue knows what the paper is talking about. Climate science is up there with abortion and gun control in terms of setting off an irrational, emotional explosion among a certain faction of the public … with the notable difference that there is actual science involved in the mechanics of human-caused climate shifts.

A reporter at Mother Jones then called around to nine other big mainstream papers to see what their policies are regarding … reader opinions that have no basis in fact. He got some great weasel-word quotes. The best/worst came from the Denver Post, who said:

Continue reading “The LA Times Applies a Factual Standard”

I’m a Bleeding Heart Liberal…Because Esquire Magazine Says So

Bleeding heart 2This feels so…not right…I think.

I have always thought of myself as a centrist in personal and political disposition.  I don’t care for extremism on the left or the right and I think “compromise” is a good word and a good way to get things done when it comes to governing.  I like notion that our leaders fight over questions of political philosophy and practical governance by day and then play softball on the Mall and share a beer afterwards.

But, according to Esquire Magazine’s survey of the “New American Center” I’m a classic “bleeding heart liberal.”  There’s apparently nothing to the left of me.

Continue reading “I’m a Bleeding Heart Liberal…Because Esquire Magazine Says So”

It’s the “Hysterical Delusional Affirmation” Syndrome

NEW SLAUGHTERThis was pretty good from Charlie Cook’s National Journal column today …

“Driving in to work Tuesday morning while listening to WTOP, Washington’s excellent all-news radio station, I heard my friend, the extremely able congressional reporter Dave McConnell, relate a conversation he had with a Republican House member. This member told McConnell that allowing the debt ceiling to be breached might “get the leadership’s attention.” That sounded like a kid saying if he threw his mother’s priceless vase against the wall, she might start letting him do what he wants. Political judgment this bad, coming from members of Congress, is a dangerous thing for a party. When it comes to dealing with something with enormous consequences, such as intentionally creating a situation that could lead to default on our national debt, we are no longer quibbling about minor differences of opinion.

Continue reading “It’s the “Hysterical Delusional Affirmation” Syndrome”

A Rowdy Crowd Pop Quiz

NEW SLAUGHTERWhat father of what politician preached this … ?

“There are some of you, as a matter of fact I will dare to say the majority of you, that your anointing is not an anointing as priest. It’s an anointing as king. And God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what’s the battlefield ? The battlefield is the marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion. If you remember the last time I was in this pulpit, I talked to you about Genesis chapter 1, verse 28, where God says unto Adam and Eve, “Go forth, multiply, TAKE DOMINION over all creation.” And if you recall, we talked about the fact that dominion is not just in the church. That dominion is over every area – society, education, government, economics…

Continue reading “A Rowdy Crowd Pop Quiz”

Not Just “Unconditional”, A Faceplant Surrender

NEW SLAUGHTERSo, it has come to this. A complete, unconditional, unequivocal faceplant surrender by John Boehner. I should feel more Schadenfreude and vindication than I do.

A few thoughts on the truly ridiculous debacle we’ve just lived through (and may have to live through again in January).

1:  Can a major political party get any closer to the life-or-death decision of whether to self-amputate a body part than the Republicans are today? I keep thinking about Utah hiker Aaron Ralston, sawing off his own arm from under an immovable boulder in order to live to hike another day. The Tea Party has made the Republican party an object of ridicule and contempt with truly perilous consequences for even “moderate”-but-enabling characters like John Kline and Eric Paulsen here in Minnesota.

Continue reading “Not Just “Unconditional”, A Faceplant Surrender”

CJR asks: What is journalism for?

Ira Glass CMU 2006

The Columbia Journalism Review published an article that compiled an incredible array of responses to the question “What is journalism for?” The answers came from people like Peggy Noonan, Arianna Huffington, Ben Smith of BuzzFeed, Matt Welch of Reason Magazine, Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic, Craig Newmark of Craigslist and so many more.

My favorite is Ira Glass, who said:

Journalism is to document and explain what’s going on in the world. The kind of journalism we do at our show also takes as its mission to entertain. On a weekly schedule, we don’t think you have to sacrifice the idealistic, mission-driven parts of the job in order to entertain.

Anyone who’s trying to get at the truth of a situation can be a journalist. It’s not fucking rocket science. Talk to people, write down or record what they say, use good judgment in picking quotes and evaluating the overall truth of what’s happening. Try to summarize it interestingly for others. A kid can do it.

Read the rest here. Then take your swing at answering the question below. Remember the specific wording: Not “what is journalism?” What is journalism for?

My answer, off the top of my head: Journalism is for making people smarter. Which means you assholes writing about Miley Cyrus have some god damned explaining to do.

End of Days for the Bubble-Saurii.

NEW SLAUGHTERAlong with the strategies, tactics and rhetoric, this whole shutdown/default crisis is a fascinating moral drama, at least for President Obama.

His level of exasperation with Republican malfeasance and ineptitude was pretty evident in his press conference yesterday, and mirrors what the public is saying in polls. You saw today’s? Where Congressional approval has hit … 5%? Scrape away a bit and you’ll find that number is an overwhelming condemnation of the Tea Party factor.

Obama certainly knows — and said — that we can’t go on like this, with the same bunch of “neo-confederates” (TM former Republican staffer Mike Lofgren) ginning up a national crisis every three months. I suspect he is factoring that into his thinking talk of a “deal” that kicks this can a month down the road. Why do that? What does that really serve? At some point enough has to be enough, and the public at large is clearly on board with that line of thought.

Continue reading “End of Days for the Bubble-Saurii.”

No problem? Sez who?

A few weeks ago, on one of my favorite TV programs, CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” the commentator Bill Flanagan deliciously lamented and skewered the younger generation’s annoying habit of answering reasonable requests with the expression, “No problem.”

He said that in almost every instance, there is no problem to begin with, so that an answer of “no problem” is inappropriate. What’s called for, he said, is an answer such as, “I’ll be happy to do that for you,” or, “Certainly.”

Well, I do have a problem, and it also has to do with choice in language.

I can best illustrate it by pointing to a Minnesota Public Radio program in its series of Q&A sessions with noted broadcast journalists. The featured guest was the NPR reporter Kelly McEvers, who has been covering the civil war in Syria.

I have no reason to doubt the courage or skill she has brought to that assignment. But I do recoil at the way she speaks: almost every sentence contains the word “like’,” as in the popular misusage regularly heard among high schoolers: “I was, like, surprised,” or, “I’m, like, what are you talking about?”

Further, she larded her sentences with “you know” –a crutch phrase that equates with “um.” And she used the qualifiers “sort of” and “kind of” as hedges, when no hedges were needed. If something is a fact, it’s not “kind of” a fact. Just state the fact.

For these lapses I blame not her, but rather her supervisors, who are failing to hold her (and, I presume, other on-air staffers) to a standard worthy of the pre-eminent American radio news operation. Her editors would never allow her written stories to contain these blemishes, nor can I imagine her ever writing THE stories in that way. But when it comes to speaking without a script, she suddenly morphs from professional journalist to Valley Girl.

People who speak in that way are creatures of a culture that has produced language slackers. Of course some people in every generation do master fundamentals and niceties.

I wrote to the NPR ombudsman, who replied that his office considers only concerns about ethics, but would forward my message to the NPR training officer. I thanked him for that, but urged him to send it first to the editors and producers who directly control the output of their first-line reporters.

If NPR’s news managers do not enforce strict standards for speech, they will undermine the network’s substance and image.

To my mind there’s no difference between hearing language slackers on NPR and seeing Jeff Daniels (lead actor in “The Newsroom”) accept his Emmy Award while chomping on chewing gum on camera.

It’s a problem — not “no problem.”

Shutdown and Default: Let Their Will be Done!

NEW SLAUGHTERI gave some thought to whipping up a super-clever comparison of Walter White, “Breaking Bad’s” abused-ego-driven meth king and Ted Cruz, he of the guffaw-inducing narcissism and putative leader of the Republican nihilist caucus. But the concept fell apart so damned fast.

Walter White, trail of bodies, ruined lives and psychic mayhem aside, was at least intelligent enough to remain respectful of science, the inflexible boundaries of hard mathematics and in the end … the very end … even managed to achieve the self-realization that he did it all “for me”. Because he was good at it and it made him feel “alive”.

Ted Cruz, by comparison, doesn’t appear to have respect for anything, other than himself, while still posing as a guy who like the early-Heisenberg, believes himself immune to the consequences of his nefarious actions.

Continue reading “Shutdown and Default: Let Their Will be Done!”

Building a Better American Male

NEW SLAUGHTERDuring Sen. Ted Cruz’ 21-hour fili-fake-buster against … health insurance, I fell down the rabbit hole of a(nother) conversation about what a godawful mess men are today.

Frankly, it is still tough to figure where exactly this one started. But somehow the news that Esquire magazine is launching a TV channel collided with news that Maxim magazine has lost its mojo and ran into Hanna Rosin’s year-old piece titled, “The End of Men” before ricocheting off news that Popular Science magazine (large guy readership) is axing its comment section because of witless brawling by (likely male) trolls determined to shout down liberal believers in mushy-headed ideas like … evolution and human-caused climate change. It was a tornadic tumble.

Continue reading “Building a Better American Male”

California’s “eraser button” law: well-intentioned, short-sighted


According to Mashable, California has passed a law that puts into effect what’s being called an online “eraser button”:

“It’s hard to erase the stain of embarrassing social media posts once they’ve hit the web. For minors in California, however, the task just became a little bit easier. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Monday that requires websites to both remove content and provide notice of the removal when a requested by a minor (under age 18). This includes social media sites.”

That’s nice of you, Governor. I’m sure the kids appreciate it. You know, because they cared enough to not publish the stupidity in the first place.

I know. I know. The remorse sets in later. Great. The “eraser button” law to the rescue, right? Well, Mashable adds (emphasis mine):

“The law does not, however, protect against posts by third parties. This means that if someone else — a friend, enemy or other — posts a compromising picture of a California minor, that minor can’t force the site to remove the photo, even if the minor originally published the content. Since most popular social media sites allow users to delete their own content at will, the “eraser button” provision is little more than an official stamp on something already widely practiced.

So it’s a law that mandates Facebook and its ilk let me do what they already let me do. I have a better idea: How about we outlaw employers who think your unemployable because you did a beer bong during your senior year of high school?

In loosely related news, these kids and their dumbass parents are going to need a giant eraser after this shit-show. Short version: 300 kids break into someone’s uninhabited second home and throw a massive rager. They destroy everything, including a memorial to the homeowners’ stillborn grandchild. They post photos on the Interwebs. Who gets sued? The homeowner who invited the kids to the picnic-and-fixing-my-house party.

[photo courtesy of tonyamaker on]


Jim Souhan Isn’t the Problem

NEW SLAUGHTERI don’t know Jim Souhan, the Star Tribune sports columnist who kinda stepped in it by saying that the University of Minnesota should, at the very least, keep epileptic seizure-prone football coach Jerry Kill out of public view. But I have some idea how he got himself into a predicament that unleashed a hailstorm of blowback.

But first, let’s be clear, risking and then taking a hammering in the court of public opinion is not always a bad thing. Often enough it is quite the opposite. If no one ever cares enough to complain about you or argue against your point of view you’re really just writing Chamber of Commerce ad copy … which, unfortunately, is what a lot of today’s news managers regard as responsible journalism. The irony with this incident is that Souhan, filing from the sports/entertainment department, over-exercised one of the last remaining licenses left to push an informed, personal point of view in regional newspapers. He over-played a license the Star Tribune and other papers have steadily hobbled in their metro and opinion pages.

Boiled to its essence, the criticism of Souhan is that his tone was cloddish, an affront to both epileptics and common decency. And it’s easy to see how readers got that impression.

Here are some of the problematic lines and why:

” … where the University of Minnesota’s football program, and by extension the entire school, became the subject of pity and ridicule.” (Is “ridicule” really the word you’re looking for here? “Ridiculed” by who? What sort of thoughtless yob sees any level of humor in an epileptic seizure? What percentage of even our local, get-a-life football fandom engages in that kind of “ridicule”?)

“Kill suffers a seizure on game day as the coach of the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium exactly as often as he wins a Big Ten game. He’s 4-for-16 in both categories.” (Souhan’s working a context where Kill’s health issues are bad for the football program. But by elevating Kill’s winning percentage to the same level of concern as his health diminishes the appearance of concern for the latter. It’s what you call “playing too cute for your own good.”)

“No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground. This is not how you compete for sought-after players and entertainment dollars.” (College sports’ money issues are legendary and scandalous, even in a football wasteland like Minnesota. But again, mashing the two together — money and a man’s health — is callous, at best, and asking for trouble. Besides, as at least one commenter noted, fans pay top dollar every weekend with some expectation that they’ll see a 20 year-old kid carted off the field with shredded knee or worse.)

“Kill is unable to fulfill his duties.” (Really? I don’t think Souhan came close to proving that point. Or even trying.)

What I mean by the special license sports columnists have is this. They are writing for a heavily male audience that enjoys provocative writing reflective of a “man’s world”, i.e. a place where you call ’em as you see ’em, where lousy performance and incompetence are ridiculing offenses and where everyone’s tough enough to play again tomorrow after getting their feelings hurt. Look around the sportswriting landscape today. It’s one of the more talent-rich and compelling landscapes in the mainstream press because writers aren’t pulling punches, slathering their copy with consensus-conscious euphemisms and turning a blind eye to hypocrisy and incompetence. The contrast, as I say, with most papers’ metro and opinion columns is pretty damned stark.

But every provocateur risks going steps too far. It’s very much the nature of the broader media world today, outside stodgy daily newspapers. There’s career traction in upping the ante on “calling ’em, as you see ’em.” Hell, push it further and there might even be another paycheck in it, from sports radio, which is far less concerned with hurting feelings and sounding cloddish than mom and dad’s morning paper.

Souhan, who is still living in the shadow of Dan Barreiro, a guy who flexed a dagger with the best of them and has been well rewarded for it, simply “over-exploited” his provocateur license. It happens when you try to push itr “to the next level” to borrow a tired sports cliche. But there was no need to flex tough with an epileptic.

But my larger point here is the irony that Souhan style calling-out of sacred cows is now entirely the province of the sports department … where adults write about games.

The Star Tribune, which memorably prohibited its columnists from writing about the final stages of the presidential campaign in 2008, has taken a route much like every other regional, second-tier paper, avoiding partisan controversy by focusing on stories and themes with much higher levels of consensus. This, as I’ve said before, despite the presence of Michele Bachmann, and to a (slightly) lesser degree, Tim Pawlenty, people who should have been to any healthy “call ’em, as you see ’em” newspaper columnist what Les Steckel, Norm Green, Mike Lynn, Ron Davis and J. R. Rider have been to the sports department.

The fair question has always been, “Are you exercising journalistic responsibility by ignoring or grossly under-playing flagrant, unprecedented dysfunction and dishonesty by the highest-profile characters on your beat?”

It’s hard to get too upset over an outburst from the toy department, when the adults are hamstrung by their unwillingness to get seriously tough with people who actually matter.

Sampling the Alternative Universe

fox-logoI just did a survey of the three major cable networks…CNN, Fox and MSNBC…primarily to see how each of them were covering the Navy Yard shootings.  MSNBC and CNN are devoting substantial coverage to the shooting.  Fox, however, went nearly 30 minutes before even mentioning the event. Instead, they spent nearly 10 minutes covering House hearings on Benghazi and nearly as many minutes on a new report claiming manmade impact on climate change is insignificant and the “criticism” by two former Secretaries of Defense – Leon Panetta and Robert Gates – of President Obama’s decision to seek Congressional approval on Syria.  After all that, they did about 30 seconds on the shooting focusing on the question of how the shooter could get and keep a security clearance.

As I’ve often said, I think it’s very important for all of us to get our news from multiple sources.  I’m glad Al Jazeera is broadcasting (though I’m not impressed so far) and would love to see more news networks on my menu of choices.  Today’s anecdotal survey proves the point.

– Austin

You don’t know nothing about Affordable Care — unless you watch the Daily Show


Writing for MinnPost, my friend John Reinan declares the Affordable Care Act to have had “the worst new-product rollout in memory.” He writes:

[T]hree years after the passage of Obamacare — which itself took place after two years of heated, publicized debate — Americans understand very little about the program. In fact, a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half of all Americans (44 percent) don’t realize that Obamacare is actually the law of the land. Fewer than one in four Americans has gotten any information recently about the health care law from a doctor, a health care organization, a federal agency or a state agency.

That’s just nuts. With three years to inform the public about the new law, the federal government has failed miserably. If this were a new car, a new soft drink or a new movie, people would be getting fired.

Emphasis mine. Perhaps this is a bit different in Minnesota, where our state’s new health insurance exchange, MNsure, has launched a full-on marketing assault in the lead-up to Obamacare open season in October. According to

Minnesota’s marketing scheme was also designed to address another problem; Kaiser’s August survey also showed that a large proportion of respondents, 19 percent, said they got most of their information about the Affordable Care Act from comedy programs like The Daily Show, while just 14 percent said they got most of their information from state agencies.

The god damned Daily Show. With an un-American (literally) as its pinch-hitting host for the summer. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what your Daily Show can do for your country.

It’s a Tough Moment for Liberals

NEW SLAUGHTERThis is a tough and perhaps evolutionary moment for liberals. Meaning the intramural conflict over what if anything to do about Syria.

It is fair to describe the standard progressive-liberal attitude towards American military intervention as one of intense if not intractable skepticism … to the point of knee jerk pacifism. And the rationale for that attitude is pretty solid.

Liberals, with a more nuanced view of history, aren’t just suffering from a Cheney-Bush Iraq hangover, where we were flat-out lied to and thrown into an incompetently managed war that when all is said and done (with veterans’ benefits and interest) may end up costing multiple trillions of (unbudgeted) dollars, but we also remember and continue to process the Tonkin Gulf charade that got us into Vietnam, followed by the atrocities of indiscriminate carpet bombing, napalm and white phosphorous attacks. And sliding further back, having studied history, we haven’t forgotten the blanket fire-bombing of not just Tokyo but four dozen other Japanese cities by Gen. Curtis LeMay/FDR in WWII, followed by two nuclear bombs.

After that we factor in all of this country’s nefarious, frequently counter-effective intelligence activities.

Point being; on a strictly historical basis, the United States stands on a very shaky pedestal from which to claim a moral prerogative to punish someone else for gross abuses of “accepted norms”.

But as much as those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it, history is never a precise mirror on the present. Time, social evolution and technology wear away at the perfect echo from then to now. 2013 is not 1943. Great nation states have not fought a war against each other for almost 70 years, the longest “peaceful” interlude in recorded history, and are unlikely to engage in one for the forseeable future, given the tight interdependency of the world economy. The respective populations of the United States, Russia, China, etc. are simply too well-informed about each other to accept the easy, jingoistic demonization of “the enemy” corrupt governments served up in the past, much less the likelihood of total annihilation.

Those are key facets of the liberalizing effect of technology.

Closer to the moment, Barack Obama bears no imaginable kinship to Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, the architects of the Iraq fraud and disaster. There is no case to be made that Obama is eager for military conflict. On the other hand he is not naive about the presence of abominable cruelty in human nature.

The split among liberals over Syria seems to break along the lines of those whose cynicism toward American motives is complete, and those who believe every new situation, with new characters in leadership in a different era is unique and must be dealt with in a way unburdened by the frauds, failures and genocidal slaughters of those who made military decisions in the decades before them. An irony is that a group for whom “nuance” is regularly embraced as a virtue is engaged in an internal debate over whether there are shadings and distinctions in a chemical weapon attack by a desperate dictator that make Syria distinct from … Iraq, Vietnam and so on.

The former say, “No. Our motives in this situation are no more pure or moral than Cheney-Bush’s in Iraq. No American president or administration can ever be trusted again. War of any kind at any time is wrong. So, no. Never.”

The latter argue that intervening against indiscriminate slaughters like Rwanda and Kosovo and like what Assad is perpetrating on his civilian population are actually far closer to having moral standing in the liberal concept of such a thing, than reacting with the full, profit-pumping apparatus of the military-industrial complex to the “Red Menace” in Vietnam or the oil-tainted imperative in Saddam’s Iraq.

For the latter group, and I count myself among them, the immorality of American/international inaction in Rwanda is still one of the most guilt-inducing memories of the last generation. By what standard was ignoring that “moral”? And how is that different from what Assad is doing in Syria? in the potential consequences to us? The price of gasoline?

And to be sure, the vitality of the debate is almost entirely among liberals. Conservatives, having long since sold their souls to reflexive, unexamined partisanship have, for all intents and purposes, no role in the current debate. They continue to say only whatever they need to say to weaken Obama and stay a step ahead of the next far-far right conservative primary opponent. Consequently, they have no credible standing in matters of practical morality. They are noise without signal.

Obama is going to have to make his case over the next few days, and make it far better than Colin Powell and George W. Bush made their’s for Iraq. Regardless of your views of the moral obligations of the lone mega-state in slaughters like this one in Syria, every liberal is well-advised to bring all the skepticism they can muster to whatever Obama says. And I believe he welcomes both the skepticism and the debate.

But … if they’re being intellectually honest, liberals also have to fully and honestly process the morality of inaction. As Obama said in his press conference in Russia the other day, there’s no one else the entire planet turns to in moments like this. Ever. We are the whole game, and therefore, the moral debate goes, we have a special responsibility to do what is reasonable to destabilize blatant state-sponsored homicide.

If progressive liberals want to sustain and build on their viability as effective leaders — not just on economic and social matters where they are clearly more far-sighted, but the whole range of leadership responsibilities — they/we are going to have to accept that episodes like Syria are a fact of life and may have to be dealt with in very unpleasant, antithetical-seeming ways when dialogue and diplomacy simply are not an option.

Syria: At Least Someone’s Actually Thinking About It

NEW SLAUGHTERMy good friend Jim Leinfelder kicked over this “dialogue” on what to do/not do with Syria, wrItten by the New Yorker’s George Packer.  It’s intended to engender a rational conversation about the situation, our “responsibilities”, morality, etc. Allow me to jump in

It begins …

So it looks like we’re going to bomb Assad.


Really? Why good?

Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.

And you don’t want to pound the shit out of him?

I want to pound the shit out of him.

Continue reading “Syria: At Least Someone’s Actually Thinking About It”

Pop Tarts and No-Shows

NEW SLAUGHTERAugust is the month when most people take a break. Here in the exceptional US of A, where the average Jack and Jill have only a fraction of the paid vacation of their counterparts living European Socialist hellholes, (and are told to be proud of it), the working class isn’t packed up and idle on a beach so much as it is making the appearance of productivity while mouldering in their cubicles not really doing much of anything worthwhile.

August is the time of year when adult-level critical synapses are so muted that the annual ritual of a bratty pop tart running nearly naked around the stage at a video award show is not regarded as the time-honored rite of passage it is. It is not seen as the moment when the flirtatious rebel tweener singer/stripper formally morphs into contender for hot mess vixen of the year. Rather it is embraced as a cultural scandal.

A regularly scheduled cultural scandal for which the tart’s publicists and manager will all receive high fives and bonuses for getting cultural watchdogs like … Matt Lauer and every “Good Morning, Dubuque” chat show in the country  … to express shock and paternal outrage … again this August, just like last August. (Meet the new boss … .)

Continue reading “Pop Tarts and No-Shows”

Welcome to the First 2016 Republican Debate

NEW SLAUGHTERAnd … welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first debate of the 2016 FoxNews/Clear Channel radio Republican Presidential candidates, live from the Federal Premium Ammunition grandstand on the Neshoba County Fairgrounds in beautiful, well-defended Philadelphia, Mississippi.

I’m Ted Nugent. Y’all know me, and I’ll be your MC this evening as we introduce an entirely new format, flushed clean of liberal bias and BS. A format that gets right to what you want to hear.

As all of you know, because we’ve told you, Republicans haven’t been able to get a fair shake from bought-and-sold New York-elite debate moderators for a good 20 years. Over the years too much time has been wasted talking about crap in 2000-page boondoggles and what a bunch of moochers in some damned ghetto needed you to pay for.

Continue reading “Welcome to the First 2016 Republican Debate”

A Little Transparency Please for the “American Experiment”

NEW SLAUGHTERHere in Minnesota, there’s an organization called The Center of the American Experiment. It describes itself as ” a nonpartisan, tax-exempt, public policy and educational institution”, which means it must live by a fairly strict set of guidelines to avoid taxation. Despite being “non-partisan” the Center is an avowedly conservative collection of people formed into what is commonly described as a “think tank.” The best known face of the group is Katharine Kersten, former full-time, now part-time Star Tribune columnist.

The principal executive and flesh-presser is founder and president, Mitch Pearlstein, an affable, engaging character who has managed to keep the group’s visibility higher than most of its ilk for 25-odd years. Well, Mitch is currently engaged in and I suspect enjoying a public tussle with one of the great conservative betes noires of his time, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, he of stifling-the-freedom-of-our-money-lenders-to-do-what-they-need-to-do-on-behalf-of-The People fame.

In a nutshell Durbin wrote Mitch a letter asking him to reveal, publicly and transparently, the Center’s financial relationship with the, some say, (hell, I say), notorious American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Durbin correctly smells the ALEC’s territory markings all over the “Stand Your Ground” laws that suddenly/simultaneously blossomed in practically every state in the country, red states first.

Mitch is outraged! So much so he fired off a commentary in the Strib this past week accusing Durbin of everything short of being an agent for the Stasi. (As I say, this sort of “heavy hand of big government” is red meat for The Center, so you can hardly blame them for making an assault on their fundamental freedoms a cause celebre.)

A couple of choice moments from Mitch (and COO Kim Crockett’s) piece.

Continue reading “A Little Transparency Please for the “American Experiment””

I know, wrong?

i_know_right_-_Google_SearchEvery generation has its annoying catch phrases.  The valley girls and their wannabes famously sprinkled every sentence with “like.”  More recently,  “not so much” has been used ad nauseum to express disapproval or disagreement.

“Whatever!”  It’s not “all good.” Admittedly, often it’s “my bad,” “yada yada.”

I have a house full of teens and young adults these days, so I’m particularly aware of a prevalent catch phrase.  When I assert something that meets with the youngsters’ agreement, a rare event, they invariably respond with “I know, right?”

The main problem with this, or any catch phrase, is that I know it’s only a matter of time before I hear those words coming out of my mouth.  Catch phrases are contagious that way.

I desperately don’t want to let this phrase into my lexicon, because it particularly irritates me.  It makes no sense to respond to an assertion with a question about whether the assertion is correct.

My mama taught me that it is polite to respond to direct questions.  So, it strikes me that the “right?” part of the response requires a response, which leads to mind-numbing exchanges such as this:

Me:  “The Twins starting pitching is crappy.”

Youngster:  “I know, right?”

Me:  “Right.  That’s why I just said it.”

Youngster:  “I know, right?”

Me:  (stink eye)

I know, it’s not really a question.  But then, why include the “right?” part.

I guess this is the “everyone gets a ribbon” generation that we raised.  Even when they are agreeing with us, they need still more affirmation that agreement is acceptable.


– Loveland

The Greatest Ever? “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad”?

NEW SLAUGHTERIn the pantheon of great, conclusion-defying debates this one ranks up there with “Who’s Better, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle?” from my Little League days,  “The Beatles or The Stones? ” from high school, and, shifting criteria a bit to contemporary matters, “Who’s More of an Embarrassment to Their District, Steve King or Michele Bachmann?” There are no definitive answer. Everything is subjective. The only thing to agree on is that in each case peerage is close enough to warrant a discussion.

So too is the argument over “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad”, the latter of which begins closing out its run as “the best show on television” this Sunday night.

The case I make for “The Wire” is that like anything aspiring to art it made a conscious decision push beyond established convention. It pulled its audience into places, points of moral perspective and reflection that others of its type had not, could not and would not. Specifically, the authentic, unhygienic, street-level culture of the black inner city.

The running joke is that “The Wire”, created and frequently written by crusty, cynical, ex-Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, is every white liberals’ favorite series, mainly because it is as close as any of them will ever get to scoring crack in the hood and the way it confirms everything we/they’ve ever wanted to believe about why hellholes like that exist. I.e. massive, chronic corruption up and down the political system, resulting in futile-to-non-existent social services, wretched schools, little to no community investment, counter productive police work and a gangland hierarchy that maintains its control by mimicking white-collar criminality.

Continue reading “The Greatest Ever? “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad”?”

Let It Bleed, Bud

Good PR move, Bud Selig. And bless the fans in Chicago.

Bud has flung out suspensions for a dozen players who cheated the game, but he leaves Alex Rodriguez on the field to represent the absolute worst in baseball for the rest of the season.

Crisis management 101 — get everything out and get it behind you. Don’t let a wound slowly bleed.

A-Rod deserves to buried up to his nose in a vat of mustard for the rest of the season and the rest of his career — see how long his testosterone lasts treading mustard.

Baseball is busy congratulating itself for being tough on cheaters. Right. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who somehow missed that players like Bonds and Clemens and Sosa and McGwire were juicing and ruining the game’s grace and history and spirit, is trying to reclaim his reputation by being tough on the current crop of cheaters. Dozens of players have spoken out saying they’re tired of the cheaters winning pennants and MVP awards and lifetime records while honest players plug along. Fans are sick of it. Every exciting performance by a new home-run hitter or mow-em-down pitcher comes with the question — is he juicing?

Selig could have bounced A-Rod for life. Could have bounced him for the rest of this season and next, not letting him play while he appealed. But, apparently fearing a lawsuit or trouble with the union, Selig took the easiest way out and gave a suspension that allows the arrogant sniveling thief to still play, likely for the rest of the season, while a slow appeals process drips on.

You thought a lawsuit or union troubles would be bad for the game, Bud? How about the spectre of one of the most dishonest disgusting disingenuous hypocritical greedy bastards to ever pull on a jockstrap slouching into stadium after stadium modeling how well cheating works from now until October? How good is that for baseball?

Our only hope is that what the fans in Chicago started Monday, when they riotously booed every step Rodriguez took out of the dugout, will continue for every inning of every game the lying crook plays the rest of the season. Let’s take it upon ourselves to shame this creep under a rock.

Reach in your suit pants and find a pair, bud. Rid the game of this shameful imposter.

Or watch the great American game bleed to death. On your watch.

My brother David and I have watched Class A minor-league games the last two nights in gorgeous little ballparks in Iowa. Baseball remains a beautiful and amazingly difficult game to play. But when cheaters are chemically inflating their performances, there’s nothing on that field of dreams that we can trust. So we’ll turn away.

Unless you stop the bleeding.

— Bruce Benidt
(Image from

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