Friday, December 26, 2008


I trust your Christmas was rewarding, as it should have been. I did the day job...which is just part of being a newsguy who is no longer lapsed.
I'm off today and trying to screw up the energy to go do some laundry. So far, however, I can't pull myself away from the House marathon on USA. I love Hugh Laurie's title character. Laurie forwards that fine English tradition of making the biggest assholes into the most appealing characters. It's a talent shared by too few American actors.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Robert Fisk

Just like you, I am woefully ignorant of the particulars of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Aside from the late Yasser Arafat and odious Benjamin Netanyahu, I usually find the combatants very much worthy of empathy.
Robert Fisk, a British writer and historian without peer, has made a career of mapping out the morass that is Middle Eastern politics. His tome, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, is just a wonderful, if demanding, read. It's the book I fall back on in between books; I hope to finish someday, but I am in no hurry.
Fisk just posted a piece at Truthdig that is a good introduction to both his work and the aforementioned struggle.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A holiday requirement

Here's the feel good Christmas column (from 12/15 CDT) that every editor is required by law to write:

I have a confession to make: I'm a Christmas baby. I'd like to think I'm the best present my mom ever got, but that would be slighting my sister, Emily.
My great-grandma Radkovic was a big believer in omens and always said my birthday was a sign that I was destined to become a priest. She died before I had to decide whether or not to go to a seminary. I don't think she would be too disappointed with my career choice.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. My mom and dad both come from large families and all of my aunts, uncles and grandparents spoiled me rotten. My mom and dad were far from rich, but Emily and I had plenty of what we needed and more than a little of what we wanted.
Later on, when I had a family of my own, I loved Christmas shopping for my two kids, Josh and Jamison. My wife, Josie, and I never had enough money to get the kids everything we wanted for them, but they always got as good a Christmas as I had when I was a kid. And, miraculously, Josie and I did it without credit cards.
Josh and J-mo are teens now, back in Indiana with their mom. They don't care as much about Christmas as they used to. They will care about it again someday when they have their own kids.
I went out shopping Saturday. The stores weren't any busier than they would be on an average summer day. Being the nosy newspaper guy that I am, I asked a couple of cashiers how the season was going. "Up and down" and "okay" were the responses I got...two weeks before Christmas.
Everyone knows how tough things are today, and how they are likely to get worse before they get better. Speaking for myself, I am kind of relieved that Josie and I don't have to spend so much on the kids nowadays.
My heart aches, however, for those of you with young kids at home. Christmas is the one time of year when kids should be spoiled, but who can afford it? Jobs are disappearing, credit is shrinking and everything is getting more and more expensive.
I don't have the numbers to prove it, but I'm guessing there will be more families than ever before in need of help this Christmas. In small towns like ours, neighbors look after one another more so than anywhere else.
If you have even a few extra bucks in the bank, go out and buy a toy to drop in one of the Toys for Tots bins around town, or call the Salvation Army and see if you can help out a family in need with a present, or two.
Christmas is too special of a time to think about a child going without. Do what you can and know that it will make the world a little better, if only for a day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Criminal stupidity

This video, originally posted at Crooks and Liars, sums up how our economy got so fucked so quickly. It features Peter Schiff, an investment guy who lives in the real world, vs. Arthur Laffer (the architect of the last three decades of supply-side bullshit) and several other idiots speaking on behalf of the media/investment junta that was too stupid to see how stupidly our economy has been run since 1981 (Clinton years very, very much included).

Moral bankruptcy

I made myself stay away from the office today (ok, I went in to check my work email, which is non-web based), did a little Christmas shopping and a shitload of reading.
I read about half of Joseph Ellis's excellent biography of George Washington, His Excellency. It turns out that he didn't walk on water. All snark aside, our first president comes off much more interesting and, dare I say, Lincolnian than he is given credit for. He was largely self-taught, which made him much more open to change and adaptation than his rivals--just like Honest Abe. I hope to finish it this week.
I also boned up on the national political scene. Don't be shocked, but it turns out that southern Republicans hate unions so much that they are willing to watch the Big 3 die and take three million or so American workers with them. I hope Richard Shelby and Bob Corker and the rest of their enablers get ass cancer and die.
Oh yeah, I also read that the governor of Illinois is an asshole. It must be Obama's fault because he's from Illinois, too -- at least that's what they said on Fox News today. Honestly, does anyone really think Obama would hitch his wagon to a corrupt idiot like Blagojevich? Even if you don't like the President-Elect, you have to admit that he is a pretty smart guy.
What does all of this mean?
The national Republican party is rapidly disintegrating and grasping for any lifeline it can get. The opposition to the bailout is rooted in those senators' desires to show their continuing usefulness to big money donors and groups who hate government. If Shelby and Corker and their buddies can't beat the United Auto Workers, then said rich white guys are likely to give in and play ball with Obama and the Dems.
As for Blago, Fox will try to bleed that turnip for another week or so. In the meantime, Blago will resign and there will continue to be no evidence of Obama's involvement in this mess because he wasn't involved. By Christmas, no one will even remember what Blago did and Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly will slink back to blaming Obama for the looming Depression and the ass cancer that I hope Shelby and Corker get.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Touching base

Hey kids, long time no blog.
I've been pretty busy with the day job. We've gotten a faceful of winter up this way and I've been working and fighting off the second round of the flu to blow through town so far this season. The paper is coming along nicely; we're still a ways away from where we need to be with each edition but I am pleased with the progress thus far.
Anyway, I've updated my blogroll to include The Daily Beast. This is Tina Brown's big play for internet domination. Brown, a British expat, set the table for Graydon Carter at Vanity Fair, then moved on to other publishing projects of varying degrees of success. I don't want to diminish Carter (he was the editor of the best magazine ever -- Spy), but Brown left him a very strong foundation to build on.
Magazine denizens know, and may loathe, Brown's reputation for self promotion, but the girl knows how to edit. She's a fair writer, too, as her columns for the Washington Post ably attest. I think she has come up with a sharper, more interesting version of what Arianna Huffington has done with her website.
I like HuffPo well enough, but it does lapse into virtual starfucking quite a bit. For every two or so interesting pieces, HuffPo posts the stale, uninspired notions of some celebrity with too much time on their hands.
If the web is your primary news source, give The Daily Beast a look.