Friday, December 25, 2009

And Merry Christmas, too

Yes, yes...I know liberals are screaming bloody murder about the Senate health bill and selling out to ass clowns like Liberman and Ben Nelson.
They need to relax. Eric Alterman has a good point about that here.
The bill is headed to conference, were it will be merged with the much better House bill. No, there won't be Medicare for Everyone in the final version, but preexisting condition discrimination goes bye-bye (speaking as someone with a nasty autoimmune disorder, that's a damn good thing). Drug reimportation from Canada is going to get badly needed support from the White House next year, I'm guessing as a result of the insurance and drug lobbies rolling Obama so well on this bill.
The Stupak abortion language is likely to stand, although a return to the Hyde amendment is possible, I guess -- abortion is still legal and accessible in every state. Make Planned Parenthood one of your good causes to support and the insurance problems with Stupak will quietly go away by 2012 or 2014.
I think this whole experience will give Obama the cover he needs to be superpartisan on the stump next year, when he's out raising money for Democrats running against Republicans beholden to the Tea Baggers. After all, you can't be bipartisan when the other party says "NO!" to EVERY FUCKING THING you propose.
Sure, the president's poll numbers are off. That happens when all the cable news nets talk about for weeks on end is how bad you're doing. And he has bent over too far to engage Republicans. And he hasn't reasserted the government's power over Wall Street -- yet.
Consider what's he has done: saved GM and Chrysler, passed the first real healthcare reforms since the 1960s, somewhat reintroduced the notion that the rest of us don't exist to serve Wall Street, injected real money into infrastructure and renewal energy development and greatly rehabilitated the U.S. as a good, serious presence in world affairs.
The Obama you're disappointed in today is not the guy who will seek reelection in 2012. He will run on a record that you won't have much trouble supporting, against an opposition beholden to a minority of voters who insist on believing made-up stuff.
Chill, my friends.
And have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Respite

I'm back at the North Pole after a brief holiday respite with the wife and kids in the Circle City. The 16 hours in the car coming and going sucked, but a little QT with Josie, Jmo and Josh more than made up for it.
Thanksgiving dinner with the Springmans was excellent, as always. No matter how urbane and sophisticated I get, I'll never be too uppity for the turkey gravy or the wife's chocolate pie and homemade whipped cream. That blender I bought her a decade ago keeps paying dividends.
Back to work Monday. It's hectic, there's never enough time to do anything and the company couldn't care less, but newspapering in a small town is pretty satisfying. We do it justice (mostly) and everyone knows just about everyone else. New Macs, an extra reporter, a rebuilt Goss Community press, an ImageSetter and a full-time news clerk would be much better, but there's no sense in dreaming.
If I can't be back home with the family, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather work.
No really, I'm serious.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stupak isn't the Devil

There is all kinds of Hell being directed at Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) for getting public funding of abortions services separated from the rest of the historic health care reform moving through the House today.
Abortion is as old as sex and no amount of governance or money will ever change that. Whether we know it or not, most of us know someone who has been a party to an abortion. The thought of it makes me sick, to be honest; but I understand why it needs to be safe, legal and readily available.
I get why Stupak, who is center/left on most other issues, is catching the aforementioned Hell. The Stupak amendment does discriminate against women who can't afford abortion services out of pocket. It is a slap in the face to the majority of Democrats across the country...at least for now.
I hate to be crass, but Stupak is doing his party a favor. This health care reform package is less than Medicare for Everyone, which Obama supporters expected, but it is a tremendous move against the vampires who run private health insurers. You can't be denied coverage anymore because you have diabetes...or autoimmune disorders like mine. Your boss gets some more and better options to make sure you have coverage. You don't have to stay in a crappy job working for assholes anymore to keep your kids insured.
Stupak's move takes out the one big thing Republican politicians and their K Street pimps would hammer Democrats about in midterm elections. Abortion has historically been the hottest button the GOP pushed to shake money out of the hicks and zealots and Stupak effectively killed that.
This reform is better for everyone who doesn't run an insurance company or suck insurance company cock for campaign money. That will become evident and the Dems will be much better off for it...maybe not in 2010, but definitely in 2012 and beyond.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Podcast Nirvana

I'm addicted to podcasts, plain and simple.
I can't get to sleep at night without hearing an episode of Mervyn Bragg's BBC4 program, In Our Time. When I'm playing the PlayStation, I have to have the Napoleon Bonaparte podcast going.
I rush to my MacBook and hit 'Refresh' first thing every morning to see if Marc Maron has offered up a new installment of WTF, which is quickly becoming the podcast-equivalent of heroin.
I've swooned to Bart Ehrman lectures on St. Paul, laughed to Rude Pundit visits to the Stephanie Miller Show and succumbed utterly to the genius for James Howard Kunstler and his Kunstlercast.
Do a Google for something or someone you're interested in, add 'podcast' and you'd be amazed at what pops up. Between your kickass iTunes music library and a few hundred podcasts, you'll never have to listen to crappy commercial radio again.
Praise Jesus!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stuff is coming

I know, I know...long time, less than jack shit posted.

Come back around Sunday and I'll have some prescient, insightful crap to fling at you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It ain't snowin' yet

Lazy day today...except for updating the website for the day job, I did jack shit. I have to say, however, that I probably should have been out here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sleep would be good

I made the fatal error of falling asleep too early and now I'm wide awake at 2:30 a.m. I guess that gives me time to do notlapsednewsguy stuff, like going over some notes and prepping questions for an interview with the county hospital guy in about nine hours.
Things are actually kinda groovin' up here at the North Pole. I'm in a bigger place, as I outgrew the shoebox I've spent the last year in. News is breaking out all over the county and we're actually covering some of it. I've got Thanksgiving covered so I can spend a holiday with Josie and the kids in Indy.
This is the part of the personal post where I type "but", but there's no "but" today...at least not yet.
Have a nice day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

$5

I'll give $5 to the first person who can tell me what I mumbled in this video:

Now you know why I'm a newspaper guy instead of a broadcasting guy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hypocrite? Huh?

It's happening again.
Michael Moore has a new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, and the mouthbreathers are in full Greek chorus mode before they even see it (read the comments in response to the above linked story).
As I understand it, Michael Moore is a hypocrite because he's rich and he criticizes the supply side economics the U.S. has practiced for the last three decades. If Moore were heavily invested in the stock market and criticized it in his film, that would be hypocrisy; however, he isn't heavily invested in the stock market (or so he says). He's made his money in filmmaking, rather than investing.
There is also the point that FDR was more wealthy than Moore and much more critical of the wealthy exploiting the poor. Rich people can have shame about their peers' exploitation of the poor, and poor people can rabidly defend rich peoples' rights to exploit. I don't know why seniors on fixed incomes and working poor people rally around the half-assed economic theories of clowns like Limbaugh and Beck, but I don't think they are hypocrites for doing so.
Moore is candid at all times about his politics, and he uses his films to advance those politics. You know that going in, just as you pretty much know what you're going to hear when you tune into the aforementioned Limbaugh and Beck.
This is yet another example of a trend I'm noticing more and more at the day job: anti-Obama/anti-Democratic reactionaries who cannot bear even the existence of conflicting ideas. I run one letter to the editor defending Obama and a reactionary will scream bloody murder about liberal bias. I run a letter to the editor opposing Obama and I might get one response from a liberal objecting, with much more civility, to an assertion made against the President.
I don't really despair over this; it's mostly a symptom of slow, but steady, decline of the George Wallace/Richard Nixon/Ronald Reagan voting bloc. Our political culture is comprised of pluralities and this one is dying out, in part due to age but primarily because working class whites are slowly coming around to the realization that they have been fucked hard by corporate flunkies posing as Reagan's heirs. The smaller the group gets, the more shrill the diehards are going to be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No idea

I had no idea just how oppressed insurance companies are.

Paul Springman, an appreciation

Paul Springman went to sleep Sunday night and woke up in a much, much better place. Hopefully, he's sitting at the bar in the ultimate K of C council, drinking his third or fourth stein of Stroh's and taking pride in what and who he left behind.
The lapsednewsguy owes his grandpa a lot, which is sort of surprising considering that we couldn't have been more different. I run my mouth about everything, while my grandpa (whom I always called Hans for some reason) usually held his tongue unless it was really, really, really important. He endured the Great Depression and the slaughter of World War II in the Pacific and was grateful for the chance to raise his family and have a home. I still seethe because my boss fucked me out of a raise eight years ago.
He came home from the Pacific and worked for his pop at the family grocery store as a meat cutter. When Pop died in the early 50s, the grocery store succumbed to supermarkets, the suburban exodus and more than a few unpaid accounts receivable. Hans moved on to plumbing. He bartended on the side, too. By the he was 40, he had seven kids and a wife at home. He never laid in bed with a cold and often nodded off as he untied his boots after a long day on the job.
I can honestly say that the only mean words I ever heard from him came when he and Grandma fought (which wasn't rare and never amounted to much) and when I would get in a hurry on a jobsite and cut a piece of PVC too short.
He was a guy whose respect you treasured, not because his standards were high but because he did things the right way...no matter how long it took. One of the great honors of my life came on my graduation day from IU, when he braved the steep home stands of Memorial Stadium to watch me get my bachelor's degree...about three weeks before he finally got the hip replacement he had been putting off for a decade.
Alzheimers took his mind and spirit away and, to be honest, I grieved that loss years ago and was glad to hear yesterday that his body finally followed along.
Hans wasn't perfect; no man is. I could probably come up with a list of his faults if I thought about it, but they would pale in the his totality. Anyone who knew Hans was better for it, me very much included.
Rest in peace, Hans.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And?

So Pres. Carter said that some of the rabble rising up against every fucking thing Obama does is rooted in racism?
And?
I awoke in my very comfortable hotel room this morning to hear MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and company pooh-poohing the former president for making the most obvious point in the history of American political discourse. I'm guessing Scarborough is behind the whisper campaign at Politico.com and other mainstream outlets pimping him to run for President in 2012, so he doesn't want the rednecks and mouthbreathers to think he doesn't agree with them.
There are teabaggers genuinely concerned about our nation's finances, to be certain, but they are inextricably tied to others who can't stand the idea of a charismatic black man in charge and they are doing everything they can to dehumanize the president in the eyes of the public.
The loyal opposition, which hounded Bill Clinton incessantly for eight years (as was their right), used to be a very effective harassing tool for the corporate Republican establishment. The problem today is that rabble is taking on a life of its own and the corporate Republican masters are losing their control. The way things are going, whomever wants the GOP nomination in '12 is going to be the teabagger candidate (Palin and Huckabee leap to mind).
A teabagger candidate would be Nirvana for Obama. They would be lucky to crack 35 percent in the election and Obama would cruise to reelection.
My only fear is that some teabaggers would get so distraught that they would try to foment armed rebellion, on the mistaken assumption that the (white) people secretly support them. They would be wrong, of course, and only succeed in becoming martyrs to a cause rooted in fantasy and ignorance.
One Timothy McVeigh was despicable enough; a thousand would be a senseless tragedy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Attack of the Mouthbreathers

I know how much you must miss the lapsednewsguy, but he is anything but lapsed these days. The day job has been busy and will send me on the road for most of this week. I shook things up a bit at the paper recently, but it's too soon to tell if it will do any good.
In my quiet moments, which usually come before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., I am almost too bummed out about the general drift of things to put together any post resembling insight. I grew up in Indiana and still don't understand why some working class whites are so upset about having a black president. Make no mistake, my friends; this health care hysteria is shoddy camouflage for racism, plain and simple.
I used to get mad at the attention lavished on mouthbreathers who rant incessantly like spoiled children when they don't get their way (or win elections). Now all of the air time just depresses me. I almost hate living in a country that rewards people for being willfully ignorant.
The solution? Ignore the crybabies and do the right thing. The brilliant James Howard Kunsler make that point in his column this morning:
The most dangerous illusion, of course, is a belief that we can return to a hyped up turbo debt "consumer" economy -- and perhaps the most disappointing thing about Barack Obama, is his incessant cheerleading for a "recovery" to what is already lost and unrecoverable. The man who ran for office on "change" doesn't really have the stomach for it. But, of course, events are in the driver's seat now, not personalities, even charming ones. I'd venture to say that if Mr. Obama thinks he's seen a crisis, and gotten through it, then he ain't seen nothin' yet. We are for sure not returning to the kind of credit orgy that made the last twenty years such a nauseating spectacle -- of which, by the way, the misfeasances and wretched excesses of Wall Street were just one manifestation.
Some theorists out there say that economy follows mood, not vice-versa, and that the anger and sourness on display around the USA, in events like the weekend Washington march, is a clear sign that tectonic shifts in the structures of everyday life are sure to follow. There are too many truly good and intelligent people in this country, to leave our fate to the Palins and the Glen Becks. But the good people had better man up and start telling the truth with some conviction that the truth matters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teddy

Sorry for the hiatus; I've been busy with the day job.
Anyone who has wandered by a TV today has heard about Teddy Kennedy. I won't recount all of the good work he did on this Earth. America is a much better place today for his having been here.
Kennedy's detractors won't cut him a break, even in death, so there's no point complaining about them; however, in search of a hate buzz, I cruised Foxnews.com and Freerepublic.com comment sections and read all about Chappaquiddick and William Kennedy Smith.
As much as I detest the mouthbreathers who post this stuff, I have to admit that they are right to point that Kennedy had a hand in a young girl's death. Did he drive her off the bridge? It sure looks that way. Could he have saved her? Only God knows.
Does Teddy's good work outweigh what happened that night? To be honest, I think it does. I'm sure the girl's family disagrees and I won't quibble over their point of view.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Done

Well, my Hellish week is finally over. The pill story I started three months ago went in today's paper, just in time for Garrison Keillor's arrival to town. I'm sure one or two locals will complain that I'm making the town look bad.
The story wasn't what I wanted it to be, but it still turned out pretty well. I found a girl in recovery who had really bottomed out. She was candid, which is key to any such story. The cop and doctor were serious, but very empathetic. There's no Pulitzer in my future, but I'm still proud of it.
The last couple weeks have convinced that I need to make some changes at the day job. No firings, but definitely reshuffling. I've put it off too long.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

So when does summer come to the North Pole?

We haven't cracked 80 degrees here yet all summer. I knew the summers were mild here, but Jesus Christ...
I had another busy week at the day job, dealing with production headaches while trying to do some honest-to-God journalism.
The publisher and I have been haggling a bit over best editing practices, with him pushing and pushing and me holding to my "you're getting a lot for what the company wants to invest into the product" line. As my dearly-missed Grandpa used to say, "you pay for shit and you get shit." Well, corporate pays for shit and gets back more than it deserves from me...whadyagonnado?
Anyway, I'm on the verge of writing up a feature on the prescription pill problem plaguing the North Pole. It could be an award winner, but I'm almost afraid to write it. I hate not having the time and resources to do things right. This story really requires a few drafts to dial in, but I'm so fed up with 55-60 hour weeks that I don't want to give the company anymore free labor than I have to.
Speaking of prescription pills, I've been increasing my intake recently as the chaotic weather is amplfying with my rheumatiz. I really hope the coming winter isn't as bad as the last one.
It's Hell getting old, kids.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day job

Long week at the day job. I was down a woman and had to do some reporting about our local up-and-coming RoveBot.
To make a long story short, RoveBot is using the anachronistic office he won last year as a platform to chase after bigger and better things; in fact, he announced his candidacy for a state house seat about two weeks after being sworn into his county office.
RoveBot has gotten crossways with the county administrator and commissioners with his management of the office, pretty much using it for political purposes and attacks on his predecessor. I decided to call him on it this week and got the Young Republican playbook thrown at me: obfuscation, half truths, personal attacks, etc.
Now, I'm a big boy and can handle that. God knows I have before. What always bowls me over, however, is that no matter how painstakingly you stick to facts there are always readers who get upset because they are being forced to reassess preconceived notions about a given subject. Some people get angry when confronted with truth. I had people call me and defend RoveBot as "not a politician." Nevermind that he launched another political campaign just weeks after swearing into his first political seat.
I can't help but think how much better this country would be today if adults weren't so threatened by the idea of being wrong about something, or at least willing to admit that the other guy might have a point, too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Facebook

God help me, but I think I'm hooked on Facebook.
I got into it a few months ago primarily to keep tabs on old friends back in Indy. Not that I kept in close contact with them when I was in Indy, but I thought it might be a nice distraction from the day job. I'm too pooped and broke most days to do anything after work, so chatting with old friends on the ol' Mac seemed to make sense.
Well, Facebook has thrust me back into high school mentally. It's as if I haven't done all of the grown livin', lovin' and lyin' in the intervening 25 years. I'm even having the same daydreams I had when I was 17. I'm surprised the whiteheads and stuttering haven't come back yet, to be honest.
I think I know the problem. My relationships with these people, with a few exceptions, never went beyond high school. I was off to IU and bounced around for years after that before resettling in Indy for good about 12 years ago. I have no context for these people outside high school. We, of course, chat about bills, kids, etc., but I guess I assume teenage Mike is imprinted on their brains, because teenaged versions of them are still burned into mine.
Anyway, I don't dread or fear the old days nor do I miss them. High school was tough for me, as I'm guessing it was for them. I had a lot of fun, to be sure, but it was everything I could do to overcome my almost crippling shyness and insecurity. I guess that's what these good people remind me of when I think of them.
Maybe Vonnegut was right? Maybe we never really do graduate high school?
I must do better to know these old friends and acquaintances as the grown ups they have become. I'm sure I'll be glad I did.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Couldn't have said it better myself

As always, the Rude Pundit speaks truth to the retarded:
Over on MSNBC's Morning Starbucks, Mika Brzezinski, who always looks like she's just aching for a spanking, said yesterday that if Palin were a man, we wouldn't be judging her so harshly for resigning. She's wrong on that account, but she's right that we'd treat a man differently. We'd call him a "pussy." (Bonus points: Brzezinski declared that she's not a feminist.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Common fucking sense

There is an article by Matt Taibbi in the current issue of Rolling Stone that chronicles how the creeps at Goldman Sachs have gamed financial markets for decades. He has been all too predictably attacked for being "slanted."
He defends himself quite reasonably here.
He's right, of course, in positing that the national media is woefully lazy and incompetent in dealing with subjects such as this. Sadly, it has been compromised by the Greek chorus of politicians, PR hacks and mouth breathers who shriek hysterically whenever someone points out how badly fucked our nation's economic policies are.
Yes, they are correct in pointing out that the Soviet model was a failure; they are wrong in saying that regulating markets is tantamount to Stalinism. It's not. Propping up mobsters like Goldman Sachs encourages them to fuck over working and poor people even harder, which is stupid because 99 percent of the country is working and/or poor.
We don't exist to serve the economy and you're not going to be rich someday. The economy exists to serve us and should be run in such a way that benefits you and I more than hedge fund managers and trust fund babies.
I've always assumed that point is too obvious to miss, but I guess my faith in the common sense of the American people was misplaced.
Go figure.

Caribou Barbie

Here's a piece in Vanity Fair that buttresses what I have posted on this blog previously about the soon-to-be-former Governor of Alaska. None of it suprised me, nor should it surprise you.

Happy Birthday, America!


So it is the Fourth of July.
We have been blessed with gorgeous weather here at the North Pole, and the streets of Cheboygan and Indian River were both filled with locals and fudgies rooting on the towns' respective parades.
I, of course, was out taking pictures. You can see a few here.
There was one float that particularly caught my eye, the one I've posted here with the soldiers praying in the Iraqi desert. The folks at the church who built this float are good, sincere Christians who no doubt see the soldiers' plight as much spiritual as it is physical. I won't quibble with them, although I do disagree.
It got me to thinking, however, about how people can see the world in such different terms. No matter how old I get, I never fail to be amazed at how stubbornly some people cling to their repeatedly and thoroughly discredited preconceptions. I tried to understand how the folks at the church could cast our country's Iraq experience in such Crusader-like terms. I'm a smart guy and I couldn't come up with so much as one credible arguement.
I am equally perplexed by the cult of personality surrounding Sarah Palin. She is resigning her seat ahead of what I'm guessing is yet another scandal (she's tried running a state as if it were a grade school PTA and it's blown up in her face....repeatedly). She bullshitted her way through her resignation announcement Friday and what happened? The right wing blogosphere and Fox News hailed the move, ascribing non-existent political acumen to this woman who is clearly unable or unwilling to make even a half-assed attempt at running her state.
I really, really don't understand how any sentient being with any kind of awareness of the world today can take her seriously. Has she ever said anything intelligent, in public at least? If she has, please send me the quote because I can't find it.
I know the public generally is leaving Palin and her ilk behind, but a twit like her having any kind of constituency really bugs me. It's a free country, but why on Earth would you cast your lot with this insincere, addle-minded woman?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Huh?

So Gov. Sanford is King David now?
Jesus Christ, man, have some shame. Just resign and get it over with.
David? You've got to be fucking kidding me...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welles

It is my good fortune to have gotten home tonight just in time for Turner Classic Movie's salute to Orson Welles.
I fear I won't be able to sleep; it starts with Citizen Kane and is followed with The Lady from Shanghai (not perfect, but too interesting to tune out), The Magnificent Ambersons (his best, IMHO), The Trial (based on the novel by one of my favorite writers, Kafka) and Macbeth (I liked his Othello and Falstaff both much better).
Kane, obviously, is the one he's most remembered for. I could drone on about why it's the most influential film in cinema history, but I think I'll settle for looking at how it came to be.
Welles was considered a bit of a prodigy as a child. He finished prep school at age 16 and toured Ireland alone. On a whim, he walked into the Gate Theater in Dublin and managed to get himself an audition. The Gate was run by Michael MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards, two of the most progressive and well regarded theater types in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. He won them over, despite no professional experience.
In time, Welles found his way to New York. Barely in his 20s, he and John Housemann (a shipping clerk at the time) were able to start up their own theater company in Harlem, thanks to the Federal Theater Project (an arm of the New Deal). He found radio work, too, becoming the star of that medium in the 1930s. He couldn't fail if he had wanted to.
RKO, then flagging well behind Warner Bros. and the other Hollywood studios, lured Welles to Hollywood with the promise of complete control of whatever films he wished to make. He brought his theater comrades with him, and found Greg Toland, maybe the best cinematographer ever, seeking him out. The Kane film was written primarily by Herman Mankiewicz, a veteran writer who knew where all of the bodies were buried in Hollywood and New York. The film editor RKO assigned to him was none other than Robert Wise.
Everything fell together for Welles. Critics, including Pauline Kael, point to all of the above as good luck on Welles' part. I contend that it was Welles who brought all of the above together. He had every advantage and make the best of it. Sure, you could argue that going after Wm. Randolph Hearst was stupid; but it took a character of Hearst's magnitude to bring the story off.
I think Kane is a film to be savored. I can think of maybe one or two false notes in the whole thing. Welles took what he liked from Ford, Eisenstein and others, orchestrated superior actors, a great script (which he rewrote and edited), terrific camera work and wonderful editing into something unmatched before or since.
But The Magnificent Ambersons is still my personal favorite, for reasons I'll get into some other time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

We're really fucked

In a country that believes credit cards don't have to be paid off, home prices will always go up and The Secret (wish for it and it will happen), it only stands to reason that millions of our teenagers believe that vampires actually exist. Millions of our kids would watch this video and be utterly not in on the joke.

Addiction

I tried quitting cold turkey. I tried exercise, church, knitting, etc. and I just can't quit it. I'm in Hell.
Please, whatever you do, don't ever mess with Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup!
It's just not worth it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Healthcare

The whole health insurance debate is finally getting going, thank the Lord.
During the presidential campaign, John Edwards (yeah, I know, he's a douche) proposed allowing people to enroll in Medicare/Medicaid if they didn't like their private insurer options. Pres. Obama kinda, sorta latched on to the idea as the campaign progressed.
The genius of this proposal is that it would give the working poor access to affordable coverage and pressure private insurers to lower their rates and improve coverage. It is a tentative first step toward single payer, which is where we are headed anyway.
Conservative Democrats are once again trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to make the Medicare/Medicaid option a last resort, only after private insurers get several more years to prove how much they don't care about people getting decent medical care. Their plan is to use Obama's wild popularity to raise money and get re-elected, all while continuing to do the bidding of K Street lobbyists who wine and dine them and get them laid.
It looks like Obama is going to shut the door on that move. As I've said many times before, this guy knows he's in charge. He's jumping into the debate very early on to disabuse the aforementioned conservative Dems that they will get to milk K Street by screwing the rest of us again.
At least I hope that is what he is doing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Finest

Charles Pierce is one of the best essayists in the United States, period. He's just released a book, Idiot America, that examines how easily-threatened, mouth-breathing dunderheads have taken over our country.
Here's a sample from his 2005 essay for Esquire that the book is sort of based-on:
The dinosaurs are the first things you see when you enter the Creation Museum, which is very much a work in progress and the dream child of an Australian named Ken Ham. Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis, an organization of which the museum one day will be the headquarters. The people here today are on a special tour. They have paid $149 to become "charter members" of the museum.
"Dinosaurs," Ham laughs as he poses for pictures with his visitors, "always get the kids interested."
AIG is dedicated to the proposition that the biblical story of the creation of the world is inerrant in every word. Which means, in this interpretation and among other things, that dinosaurs coexisted with man (hence the saddles), that there were dinosaurs in Eden, and that Noah, who certainly had enough on his hands, had to load two brachiosaurs onto the Ark along with his wife, his sons, and their wives, to say nothing of green ally-gators and long-necked geese and humpty-backed camels and all the rest.
(Faced with the obvious question of how to keep a three-hundred-by-thirty-by-fifty-cubit ark from sinking under the weight of dinosaur couples, Ham's literature argues that the dinosaurs on the Ark were young ones, and thus did not weigh as much as they might have.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

No surprise, really

I have no trouble believing this. The press guy at work found a buddy fishing on the river this week. Jerry asked him what fish he was going for and the guy said, "Dinner, I hope."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama

Anyone who has already started writing off Pres. Obama is blind and clueless.
The peerless Al Giordano makes the case better than I can, but the President presents his own case here even better than Al:

Consider the context: Barack Hussein Obama, a political unknown five years ago who was repeatedly slandered by Fox News and the Republicans as being a foreign born closet Muslim, strides into the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood (one of the forebears of al Queda), acknowledges past American transgressions and debunks much of the case that extremists try to make against us on the Arab street. He puts Israel and Palestine into a context that no reasonable person can argue with.
I hope, in time, that even Obama's detractors will come to admit that he is a considerable improvement over the bullies and half-wits who preceded him. He isn't waiting for consensus; he's leading with the knowledge that it will come in time. He knows there won't be a Republican backlash in next year's midterms. He also knows he is capable of handling whatever comes his way, without hubris or delusion, and that will carry him easily into a second term and the time he needs to try and set things right.

Wrong

My predecessor at the day job still writes a weekly column for us. He's a good egg, but we don't always see eye-to-eye. Case in point: His column this week argued that the UAW fucked up the Big Three.
Here is my response:
My learned predecessor Rich Adams weighed in Tuesday with his insights on how things got so bad for the Big Three, placing most of the blame at the feet of the United Auto Workers. I re­spectfully disagree.
I come from Indianapolis, which was once home to almost as many auto workers as Flint. I knew a lot of guys who were UAW members and they all did well until the early 90s, when the plant layoffs and closings began en masse. Aside from a wildcat strike at a Chrysler plant when I was in high school, I don't ever recall any of the locals refusing to give back to companies to keep their plants open, even when it meant permanent layoffs. Profits surged, but layoffs and other cuts kept coming and coming.
Crappy management played a big part in putting GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. By the late 90s, GM was making its money with auto and home loans through GMAC. It kept making SUVs built on car platforms be­cause the profit margins were better. It surrendered the com­pact and subcompact markets to Toyota and Honda and, lo and behold, they now have huge shares of the U.S. market.
People around here prefer trucks and SUVs for obvious rea­sons. Winter lasts 13 months per year and we need the bigger vehi­cles to get around (usually). Go south of the 45th parallel and you will see a big change. People who live in bigger towns and have to drive 20-25 minutes to get anywhere like smaller vehi­cles that burn less gas. Sure, you see a lot of SUVs there, but sedans and compacts are solidly in the majority.
As for Chrysler, it has suffered for years from increased compe­tition from Korea and Japan. It’s final owner, Cerberus Capital Management, bought it on the assumption that the federal gov­ernment would never let it go under...ooops.
The men who ran these compa­nies structured their pay around stock performance, in order to to pay the capital gains tax rate, which is lower than the top in­come tax rates they would pay otherwise. The result was an Enron-like artificial pumping up of stock prices with borrowed money for over a decade and the inevitable mountain of unse­cured debt. The federal government and states like California have tried for years to get Detroit to make smaller, more efficient cars to fight pollution and cut gasoline consumption. The Big Three and the oil companies spent billions lobbying against change, all while their European and South Ameri­can subsidiaries were producing said cars.
Who's to say where GM would be today if it had put it's EV­1 plug-in into serious production 15 years ago, rather than killing it?
I do find it interesting that GM's survival hinges, in part, on the rollout of a new model next year: The Chevy Volt.
What's so special about the Volt?
It's an electric/gas hybrid.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wise words

Sam Seder is my internet Jesus, or John the Baptist at the very least:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

15 pounds

I think I lost about 15 pounds during this now mercifully done bout with the flu. Five more pounds and I'll fit into that bikini!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Damn good

I'm taking a half day today to make up for the half day I worked on my day off the Friday before Race Weekend and what do I find on On Demand? Season 3 of the Sopranos!
This show is damn good, as many of you already know. By season 3, Tony is firmly in control of the family, his dreaded mother Livia (named after Augustus's dreaded, conniving wife) is dead and he has more or less made peace with Uncle Junior.

This is probably the best series ever produced for American television. I could go on and on about why I think that, but I would sound like some half-assed comp lit major and ruin your Sopranos buzz. Just rent a season the next time you're at the video store.

Aftermath

The flu has flown away, or so it seems. I woke up feeling alright and my appetite appears to be back.
I don't remember being that sick in a looonnnggg time. One of the few benefits of having an autoimmune disorder like psoriatic arthritis is that my immune system is too strong. I typically get the sniffles for maybe one day per year. Sore throats and earaches are rare. Infections never happen.
This bout of flu absolutely hammered me, however. I couldn't sleep, wanted nothing to do with food and probably lost 10 pounds (not by puking, if you get my drift). I don't know if it was swine flu. My fever never quite hit 101 and I wasn't congested.
I think that North Pole living, combined with the weekly injection I take for the arthritis, probably compromised me more than I realized. It's still early spring up here, weatherwise, and the long winter did zap my overall energy level.
I dunno. All I can say is that I hope you all are spared what I dealt with over the weekend.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ugh

Hey kids,
I've been dealing with some kind of flu since Thursday night. By the time I finished the paper Friday night, I was miserable. No puking, although I got close yesterday. I've eaten twice today and my stomach seems okay, but I still feel I've been hit by a truck. If this is the swine flu, I don't think we have much to worry about. It's the first time I've been too sick to get out of bed since I can't remember when, but I'm slowly getting better. Not better enough to go to the laundromat, mind you, but better nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I hope this isn't a joke

I really, really, really, really hope this is for real and not some cruel internet joke.

Nice job, Scott

I gave Scott Powers his first job in the newspaper business, and I shoved him out the door when he got too good to remain stuck at a twice weekly.
He's becoming Errol Morris now. Here is a film well worth a bit of your time:

The Western Warrior - A boxer's journey to Northern Ireland from Scott Powers on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Man

Not seeing your wife and kids for several months makes you appreciate their presence more than I can sum up here.
Josie and I split up over a year ago for some good reasons, and reconciliation isn't likely, but I still love her and being around her. Not in a pining or desperate way, but in a "we were together a long time and she knows me better than anyone else" way.
I really miss the kids, but I think I miss their miniature versions more. Josh and Jmo (whom I did not get to see) are teenagers well into their own worlds, as they should be. Joshie is driving his mother and I crazy, but that's always been his role in life. I wish he took school seriously, but he doesn't and we can't make him. I know in my heart he will do just fine out in the world, but I wish he would work more now to make it not so hard later. Jmo is Josie Jr.; anyone who knows Josie probably gets what I mean by that.
I miss the little versions of the kids. The ones who relied on Josie and me, who would come up with some insight about the world and seek us out to share it. When you think about your kids, isn't that really the time you miss most? You know, when just your presence was so reassuring to them that they craved you like a drug? When you craved them like a drug?
Those days are gone, sadly, but those kids are heading out into the wonderous, maddening, scary world and I couldn't be happier for all of the things they will get to see and do and learn.
I just wish I could have one more day at the beach with six-year-old Josh and five-year-old Jamison. I think I would give the moon and stars for that.
Oh well...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reminder

I just want to remind everyone who is not watching Sam Seder's Pilot Season followup on mydamnchannel.com that they are missing out on the reason why streaming internet content is the best thing since sliced bread.

Thanks

I want to thank all of the men and women past and present who serve in our country's military. America would be a much better place if our commitment to you was as strong as yours is to us. Here's hoping that Obama is serious about fixing the VA.
Anyway, today's a holiday. If it's raining, pass the time by going here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The curse

Just got in from Indy. The Crown Vic ran pretty hot the whole way, but was fine otherwise. I think I need to replace the thermostat this week.
Got back to the North Pole in time to catch the end of the Danica Patrick 500...er, I mean Indianapolis 500. No offense to Danica, she's legit and doing what she needs to do to insure money for a quality car every year, but the race is compelling enough on its own.
Looks like Helio is The Man. Good for him.
Marco crashes on the first lap? The Curse lives.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Welcome Race Fans!

I'm home in Indy for the weekend, or most of it anyway. I got stuck at the day job for a half day yesterday before getting on the road, then had to run the heater for most of the eight-hour drive because the Crown Vic got a little too warm.
I got home around nine and caught up the wife and my super puppy, Butters. The house looks really good, as does Josie. She updated me on the local gossip and we discussed a few personal/financial matters. I was glad to be in the old house with the old dog and old wife. Very soothing, although ultimately fleeting.
Oh well, such is life.
I've written a bit about the contrasts between rural and metro living, but I really, really forgot how vulgar metropolitan Indianapolis is. It is so fucking loud. The town is extra packed with 500 fans this weekend, clogging the streets and bars.
As tough as the day job gets, I am grateful for it because it delivered me to the North Pole to enjoy the spring and summer. Don't get me wrong; I miss Josie and the kids, my mom, my sister and her boys, Starbucks, White Castle, Butters, Shapiro's Delicatessen, Iaria's, Colts and Pacers games on TV, Rita Eads and Mary Valeria Springman. But the actual bare essentials of North Pole life -- steady breezes off the Great Lakes, deer, eagles, skunks, no traffic, ridiculously nice and laid back people and all that water -- are terrific.
I'm about half way through my rounds. I saw Mom, Emy, Phil and the boys this morning, missed my Grandma Eads at her house and am about to deliver some Michigan scratchoffs to my generate gambler Grandma Springman. After that, I plan to connect with the noted military scholar James Tuttle and perhaps take in a party at one of our old classmate's homes. Tonight will be Josie and Josh time again, then on the road again tomorrow.
Cross your fingers for my poor old Crown Vic.

Torture

There's a scene in Reservoir Dogs where the late, great Christopher Penn cusses out his lackeys for torturing a cop, pointing out that the treatment would compel the poor guy to confess to starting the Chicago Fire.
Now we have a Chicago icon (and former skeptic) who has reached the same conclusion.
I know Reservoir Dogs a movie, but many a truth are said in movies. I quit taking torture (or 'enhanced interrogation techinques') advocates seriously years ago. Waterboarding is self-evidently torture, the U.S. executed Japanese soldiers for it after WWII and I'm appalled that my tax dollars paid for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another reason why the national media sucks ass

Cheney tries once again to defend his criminally mean and stupid conduct by taking pot shots at Obama. Who catches the shit for it? Obama's spokesman, of course!
Hannity and O'Reilly are right about the media, but wrong about who fucked it up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

13 Days

I'm cruising On Demand and what do I find? 13 Days!
This dramatization of the Kennedy White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis is worth any history buff's time.
Bruce Greenwood is terrific as Pres. Kennedy. His Boston accent is just about pitch perfect, which is no mean feat. He accurately recreates Kennedy's deliberate, but not quite tentative, demeanor in the face of very, very strong demands from virtually all of his advisers to bomb the shit out of Cuba, no matter the consequences with the Soviets. Greenwood's Kennedy makes use of every minute he was, just as the President did during the crisis.
The supporting cast is pretty good, too, despite Kevin Costner's execrable stab at sounding like a Southie (he's good as the heart of the movie and I like most of his work, but the accent sucks in this one). Steven Culp (Desperate Housewives, Star Trek Enterprise) offers up a fine depiction of Bobby Kennedy wrangling with the hawks.
The real standout is Kevin Conway as Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay was the Pentagon's top nuclear zealot for years. He never bothered to hide his disgust for the Kennedys and later ran as George Wallace's VP candidate in 1968. Sterling Hayden's character in Dr. Strangelove was based partly on LeMay. Conway gets him perfectly here, summing up the hawk's inability to grasp the impact of instigating nuclear war.
Dylan Baker is also very good as Robert McNamara. McNamara is only remembered today as the guy who sold LBJ on Vietnam and then changed his mind too late. During the missile crisis, McNamara served much the same role as Bobby Kennedy, buttressing their president against an almost irresistible chorus for war. Baker's McNamara is uncertain, but never panicked or paralyzed.
The clip below is the best I could find on YouTube. Ignore Costner's accent and look for the movie the next time you're at the video store or on NetFlix.

Not soon enough

I bitched and moaned about the winter weather here at the North Pole, so, in fairness, I must say that spring is all the way here and it is gorgeous. The trees are full of birds one never sees in the Corn Belt, the breezes of the Great Lakes are just strong enough to bring relief without distraction and the water, while very cold, is turning a brilliant blue.
The day job is getting on my last nerve. My rag is an earner for the company, which keeps slashing our expenses nonetheless. I'm sorting through some personal stuff ahead of a trip home this weekend. Don't get me wrong; I'm looking forward to it. The personal stuff has to do with just how much my time and talent is worth. It's a buyer's market, I know, but working for people who all but dare you to quit is frustrating. The local boss is good, but his masters know they have me and rest of the help by the nuts and they aren't about to let go.
This is no ordinary time. I know there isn't another day job waiting for me out there like in years past. I'm glad to have the job and like the town. It's the wondering why non-newspaper people make all the money in the newspaper business today that gets to me.
Accountants and financiers have fucked up this business royally and it really pisses me off. What's the answer? I doubt there is the public will necessary for show trials and firing squads, so I'm reduced to bitching.
It sucks.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another reason to hate the media

Anyone who thinks NPR is liberal really, really needs to read this.

The World's Toughest Milkman

I think Grandma Springman would have been much less of a bully had Golden Guernsey sent Reid Fleming with the morning's milk back in the day.

The Tick

Why can't the Tick run 24 hours a day somewhere?

Checkers vs. Chess

The peerless Al Giordano explains the whole torture photo kerfuffle rather well here:
I also feel fairly confident that those photos will see the light of day during Obama’s first term, whether by court order or by whistleblower leak. And I think the President knows that very well, too, and is not bothered by it. For the President, the matter is tactical: whether the photos, once out, are perceived as having been released by his decision, or by somebody else’s hand, and tactically, the latter is so much more desirable in the context of other moves he is making to regain civilian control over an Armed Forces brass with rogue tendencies.
That’s a very different motive than the simpleton accusation that the President seeks to “cover up for Bush crimes.” This is the very same President, after all, that recently released 250,000 classified documents that tell the story behind those photos in far greater detail than 29 images ever could. If that's a "cover up," then give me more, please. So those that accuse that the motive is “cover-up” can bite me. I have zero respect for them and their effort to be make-believe prosecutors in the tradition of Roy Cohn. It’s a childish impulse and I choose, once again, to disassociate myself from anyone that plays that petulant game. If they really believe that Obama wants to protect Bush, they're idiots and I'll leave them at the children's table with cookies and milk.

As I've said before, Obama is playing chess and the rest of political-media junta is playing checkers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Amen and double amen

Gee, who would have guessed that the banks we are propping up now don't give two shits about us?
Usury used to be against the law. Thanks to Bill Clinton, Phil Gramm, George W. Bush and several other cretins, it is now legal...and you and I are subsidizing it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prestigious

So, editing a newspaper sounds really glamorous and prestigious, huh?
Dig this little chestnut:
I'm doing a bit of shopping on my lunch break when I notice this guy out of the corner of my eye. He's staring daggers at me. He comes up and introduces himself as a regular writer of letters to the editor. He hates the paper, but wants his letters about Al Gore and the New World Order published. I told him that I read his latest screed and just could not run it...it was packed full of the unattributed crap you can find at freerepublic.com and townhall.com.
He starts screaming at me, accusing me of being a part of the new world order. He told me to go back to Indiana with all the other liberals.
Huh?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mouth breathers

Here is yet another reason why I don't take mouth breathers like Sean Hannity and his groupies seriously:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good fucking riddance

Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake has picked up on a piece from Brian Howey's Indiana politics website about Evan Bayh and his future in the Democratic Party. Hamsher speculates that Bayh might see the Republican Party as his path to the presidency he has been running for since 1986.
Indiana and Utah are the only two places in this country where Bayh passes for a Democrat; he's a solid Republican everywhere else. Good fucking riddance to him and he can take Lieberman and Ben Nelson with him.

Idiotic

This is just idiotic. What does this guy's sex life have to do with his ability to translate? Honestly, what does it have to do with his ability to do his job?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Another scoop of my shit

Here's some more of my work in eternal progress, Black Helicopters:
Junior Kilborn had lived long enough to accept that his insufferable father outlived his sainted mother, but actually being around The Reverend Clayton Kilborn Sr. was still a chore. As a favor to his older and only brother, Junior invited their dad to dinner as a sort of test run for Thanksgiving, which was coming up in a few weeks.
It went okay. Junior was able to endure the Reverend's pious indignation and Lester's eager chatter with Kellie, Junior's girlfriend, about what the government had housed at Area 51.
By the time the men retired to the front porch, however, Junior was about done with his hosting duties.
“I think you’re both full of crap,” Junior grunted from his porch swing. “They’re ain’t no demons and there sure as Hell ain’t no little green men.”
“My God, I’m glad your mother can’t hear your filthy mouth,” the Reverend spat at his younger son. “You never heard such language in my house.”
Lester rose from his lawn chair and walked out under the clear, crisp Thursday night.
“Junior, are you tellin’ me that they aren’t other beings around any of these stars? As large as the universe is, there has to be other intelligences out there.”
“Lester, I’m more surprised at you,” the Reverend said, turning his attack to his older son. “All of those things in your books — rape, mutilation, kidnapping — how can you say that’s not Satanic? Any decent person should be able to see that…”
Junior spoke up to draw the fire away from his big brother.
“Like I said, you’re both full of crap. Les, if there is intelligent life out there, it’s too far away to git here. And there ain’t no such thing as demons; that’s jist some shit they say at church to scare people.”
The Reverend, perched precariously the old redwood bench at the end of the porch, was seething.
“My God, you don’t believe in anything, do you?” the Reverend said. “I can’t believe you’re my son.”
Silence fell over the porch like a wet blanket. Junior shook his head dismissively and took a sip from his vodka and grapefruit, making certain to look nonchalant and not to lose his rhythm on the swing. The Reverend glared at Junior and Lester shrugged his shoulders, knowing any comment would draw more fire from his brother or father.
With unwittingly bad timing, Kellie came out onto the porch and plopped down next to Junior on the swing.
The Reverend, already worked up by the whole discourse on aliens vs. demons vs. nothingness, stood up from the bench at the end of the porch.
“Lester, I’m ready to go home,” he announced.
Les looked over at Junior, who knew why his father could no longer take anymore of the conversation.
Junior had just enough vodka in him to bark, “What, Dad? She can cook your fuckin’ dinner, but she ain’t allowed in yer presence?”
“Clayton, I'm tired; it has nothing to do her,” the Reverend began icily as Lester helped him off the porch, “I’m sure Kellie is a nice girl, but as long as you brought it up, she had a husband when she took up with you. I will have no part of anyone with so little regard for marriage.”
Kellie, having heard this sermon before — many times before — grabbed Junior’s left arm in a feudal attempt to hold him down. Lester kept leading his father to the driveway.
“Yeah?” Junior barked. “Well she ain’t married to that drunk no more and even if she wuz it still wouldn’t be none of yer goddamn business.”
Junior was on his feet, despite Kellie’s best attempts to get him to sit back down.
Lester cringed as the Reverend glared back at Junior. Kellie was about to cry. The Reverend then uttered what they all assumed were the last words he would ever said to his namesake, Morgan County Sheriff Clayton “Junior” Kilborn:
“You have been nothing but trouble for me since your mother died. I have always tried to overlook the fact that you blame me — incorrectly — her death.
“When you got home from Korea, I arranged for you to get on with the Sheriff’s Department. You never bothered to thank me…
“THANK YOU?” Junior burst as he shot up off the swing. “I earned that goddamn job by almost gittin’ my ass shot off in Korea…and I earned every fucking promotion I ever got without you…”
The Reverend continued undeterred. “…for my help. I even kept quiet when you betrayed me and ran as a Democrat for Sheriff. God only knows what you promised that redneck Duffy to get him out of the race.
“But I will not ruin my good name by blessing your co-habitation with a married woman. Your brother here embarrassed me enough with the way that ex-wife of his carried on; at least she had the good taste to move over to the next town.”
Kellie could hear the white noise crackling in Junior’s brain, but she was able to keep him from lurching forward off the porch.
“Reverend, I think you should go now,” she said before things got any worse.
“Gladly,” he replied.
Kellie kept a firm hold on Junior's left arm as he stared daggers at his father, who crept slowly, but steadily, to Lester's truck.

Malloy

Mike Malloy won't allow for one second that Republicans and conservatives are reasonable, sincere citizens who just want a better world. That's why I worship him as my personal secular messiah.

Friday, May 8, 2009

5000

Check out the counter. I just hit 5000, which is not bad considering how sporadic my attention to this blog is. I want to thank my mom, Aunt Rose, Mike Bergen and myself for visiting everyday.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

As I was saying before

You just can't make this stuff up.

More proof that the national Republican Party will be dead in a decade

I'm sort of amazed at the Republican leadership's inability to recognize how really fucked it is. Their fear of and fealty to Rush Limbaugh is really puzzling. He's not going to run for anything. His audience, while substantial, is mostly fixed. There is no groundswell to him, aside from congressional Republicans afraid of being mocked. They've lost the last two election cycles badly with him as their lead shill, but they just can't quit him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The business as most of you know it is probably dying...maybe

Lapsednewsguy is a bit of a misnomer, as most of you know that I am currently editing a daily newspaper in northern Michigan.
The name reflects my conflicted relationship with the newspaper business, which has been wonderful and awful for me. It has fed my family, brought me professional recognition and respect, introduced me to thousands of nice, interesting people and, a few times, driven me very close to nervous collapse. There is no good without bad, I guess.
My work is different from most; brake pads and t-shirts can be made anywhere in the world, but local journalism has to be done locally. A rewrite guy on some desk in Chicago or Mumbai wouldn't be able to cover the school board well enough to attract the readership necessary to make any money. To sell ads and subscriptions, my readers need to know that I not only know my shit, but that I give a shit, too.
That's why my paper makes money. You heard me correctly: we make money every month. Take away the debt service of most corporate media parents and the big papers would make money, too. Most of the big newspapers you keep hearing about are operationally profitable. The idiots who run them racked up huge debt buying up other properties, stripping them down and trying to pump up ridiculous profit margins, all to justify oversized compensation and artificially high stock prices.
There was a time when a good year for a newspaper meant a 10 percent or so profit. That 10 percent today would get many publishers close to the chopping block.
Yes, the internet is hurting print products and said products may go away in another generation or two. That's the way our society is going; however, the daily newspaper's demise is not nearly as imminent as CNBC would have you believe. If the MBAs and salesmen who ran this business into the ground would get out of the way, you could probably read a newspaper every day to pass the time when you wind up at the old folks' home.

More writing on the wall

I have no use for Jane Harman, the conservative California Democrat who cares more about the Israel lobby than children, working people and students, but this story just fuels my inner tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy suspicions that the Bushies were using the Patriot Act to monitor and bully their domestic opponents.
I can't shake the notion that we are going to learn in the coming months and years that the political operation in Bush's White House was wiretapping every Democrat in D.C.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A glimpse into my muse

I've been working on one of my old literary classics, Black Helicopters, recently. Part of it deals with how much it sucks to be a young reporter working for a crappy paper owned by cheapskates. The young reporter in this story, Mark Wood (my dad's brother Mark attended Wood High School in the late 70s -- also the first and last names are monosyllabic and easy to remember), hasn't yet learned how to get older interview subjects to get to the point:
Mark needed to talk to someone who had actually seen a little green man. He went back out into the living room, opened the drawer to his little end table and pulled out the Morgan County phone book. He looked up Bill McCracken’s phone number. There was a slight problem: there were about 100 McCrackens in the county with listed numbers. Luckily for Mark, only three of them had the first name “William.” He dialed the first number. It was answered on the second ring.
“Hello? Is this the Bill McCracken residence?” Mark asked.
“Yes, who is this,” the person asked.
“My name is Mark Wood and I work for the Spotlight,” Mark said. “I’m calling about a report on the radio station about a big sinkhole out your way.”
“Oh, that was my son’s place. I’m Bill Senior, Mr. Wood,” he said. “Yeah, he’s jist across the road out here. I’ll tell ya, it was the damndist thing I ever seen. I was over there getting’ his copy of the Spotlight — ya know, I’m retired and I cain’t afford that $40 y’all want every year fer the paper — and we were jist out there talking ‘bout his family bein’ gone down in Florida an’ ya know how bad the corn was this year? Well, it was bad and we was jist talkin’ how everybody out here to Monrovia and Hall is doin’…
Mark was in Hell. “Why can’t this old man tell me what I want to know?” he thought to himself.
The senior McCracken just kept going. “…then all the sudden, the ground starts shakin’. Well, I don’t know where yer from, Mr. Wood, but the ground don’t shake ‘round here. I’m 75 and I kin remember maybe one little-bitty earthquake in my whole life. Now, if this was California, well then I could see it, but not ‘round here...

Nicely

Here's a snippet from Frank Rich's NYT column this morning that buttresses the previous post rather nicely:
You can’t blame the president if he is laughing, too. As The Economist recently certified, the G.O.P. is now officially in the throes of “Obama Derangement Syndrome.” The same conservative gang that remained mum when George W. Bush praised Putin’s “soul” and held hands with the Saudi ruler Abdullah are now condemning Obama for shaking hands with Hugo Ch├ívez, “bowing” to Abdullah, relaxing Cuban policy and talking to hostile governments. Polls show overwhelming majorities favoring Obama’s positions. But his critics have locked themselves in the padded cell of an alternative reality. Not long before The Wall Street Journal informed its readers that 81 percent of Americans liked Obama, Karl Rove wrote in its pages that “no president in the past 40 years has done more to polarize America so much, so quickly.”

Bingo

I saw this item at Firedoglake.com this morning. It's a nice sample of just how deranged the wingnut right has become since it came to grips with its growing irrelevance.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Break Room Live

Another of my obsessions is Break Room Live, Marc Maron and Sam Seder's daily hour of fun and frivolity. Air America doesn't deserve them, but such is life, I guess.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rome is pretty damn good

My new addiction, along with Sam Seder's Pilot Season sequel running on MyDamnChannel, is the late, great HBO series Rome. While met with general critical approval, it was chided a bit for being bigger and glossier than the BBC's I, Cladius, but less substantial.
I disagree. While Robert Graves' novels -- I, Claudius and Claudius, the God -- will always be my personal favorites, the BBC series gave no context of the world the Julians and Claudians lorded over. I think Rome makes a good showing of the soldiers and plebes who enabled the ruling class. It was not some gleaming marble utopia; it was decadent, primal, pagan; sexuality and avarice were not just accepted, they were central to daily life. When Caesar triumphed after his victory over Pompey, he rode a chariot mounted with a giant phallus that signified his virility.
Having said all this, the video I've embedded below is the depiction of Octavian and Anthony's victory at Phillippi over Brutus and Cassius. It was the best YouTube video I could find. All the others were fan generated montages and music videos.
Ugh.

Thus ever so

The true dean of Western journalism, Al Giordano, live blogged Obama's press conference last night. He explains why you think the national media sucks so much.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The stench of death

That post rigor fragrance coming off the Republican Party is getting stronger and stronger.
Arlen Specter becomes a Democrat, which is not that big, in and of itself, because he's a reliable vote for them on most of the big stuff when he doesn't have a Republican president standing over him.
So why is it bad for the GOP? Well, they didn't see it coming. Look at Republican responses to Specter's announcement. They were scrambling around like chickens with their heads cut off. There was no message discipline at all.
Another reason for GOP doom? Specter's move strips leverage away from assclowns like Bayh, Lieberman and Nelson who like to flirt with the Republicans on close votes. The votes will be a little wider now, which means less currency for the aforementioned assclowns because the GOP will need to dip further into the Democratic caucus to find votes.
These idiots still insist checkers is the game, but Obama is playing chess and rather well at that.

Here it comes

A note of caution, friends: Yes, the swine flu contagion should be taken seriously, but take a deep breath (with your mouth covered if you must) and don't panic.
I know CNN and Fox and MSNBC are all telling you that the end of days is drawing nigh but it's really not. Wash your hands, stay home if you feel sick and call the doctor if you don't feel better in a few days.
As we speak, our socialistic government is working on getting a few hundred million doses of swine flu vaccine made and out to the people. We're going to be okay....probably.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

He puts the A in Asshole

This is all a big put on, right? You're doing some sort of homage to Stephen Colbert, aren't you, Glen?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Housekeeping

I've added noted commentator and self abuser Jim Earl to the blogroll. Earl was one of the creative forces behind Morning Sedition, the best thing by far to come out of Air America. I won't recount all of the terrific work he did for that show, or the stellar and all-too-brief Marc Maron Show, because I know I would forget something. The guy is tits.
Also, be sure to visit my new sponsors. The lapsednewsguy gets a (very) little something everytime you click a sponsor link on the display ads that have popped up on the page.
And, for God's sake, come here more often. How else will you know what to think about the important issues of the day?

Friday, April 24, 2009

He's good

I messed up. I was all set for bed when I stupidly took one last look at the TV guide.
Goodfellas.
I'm not a Scorcese maven, per se, but I can't think of a better filmmaker who is still with us (Welles will always be the best, rest in peace). There's almost never a false note or wasted motion in any of his films. Performances, sound, editing, camera work...it's always engaging and absolutely spot on.
Everytime I watch one of his films, I take away something new. Tonight I'm particularly impressed with the production design of Goodfellas. He takes a character from the 50s through the mid-70s and never once is there so much as one item in any frame that's out of place. The clothes are easy enough to get right, but the cars, building facades, interiors, even the cigarette packs, are always dead solid perfect.
I don't want to get too film grad student about it...it's too late for that and I have to work tomorrow, but savor that craftmanship the next time you watch one of Scorcese's films.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A slice of lapsednewsguy's life

Here's a comment posted at the day job from the website. Not only do I edit the paper, I also babysit the website. The context is unimportant, but the thoughtful commentary is typical of what I deal with:

benher2 at 2009-04-21T23:44:37: Now JUST WHY WOULD ANYONE >3 DROP ANYTHING OFF THERE???? THEY WILL USE IT AGAINST PEOPLE AND KEEP IT AND SAY YOU HAD IT IN YOUR CAR!!!!!!! DONT TRUST THE POLICE THAT DEPARTMENT WAS NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER DESIGENED TO SERVE AND PROTECT SOME OF THE MOST SMARMY SCUMBAGS I KNOW!!!!!!!! I SWEAR TO GOD! AND THATS WHY OVER HALF HAVE OFF SHORE ACCOUNTS!

And you wonder why I seem so blue sometimes?

This makes perfect sense

Did it ever strike you as odd that Congressional Democrats and the corporate media acted like whipped puppies every time Bush and GOP barked? Hmmm....maybe they were being blackmailed?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Update

It's been two hours since I checked my Facebook page. I'm hurting, but I'm gonna kick this.

Submission

I've never been one to succumb gladly to anything. I instinctively fight bandwagon jumpers; I've always been that way, for reasons I can't really explain. It's just how I am.
Having said that, I have just reluctantly jumped onto the Facebook bandwagon. It's nice to hear from old friends, see pictures of their kids (even Pierce's) and all of that. Please do me a favor: if you catch me posting too much over there, stage some kind of intervention.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A look around

It's funny, but sometimes you can cheer yourself up merely by taking a look around.
The day job has been a real grind lately. We're remaking our Friday edition and moving Monday's publication to Saturday and turning that into more of Sunday-type of paper. That work, on top of the all of the other shit I do, really piled up on me. Typos have flared up, largely because I don't have the time to really go over pages featuring copy I rewrote. Proofreading your own work is tough; on deadline it's impossible.
To top all of that off, I really miss my wife. We've been separated for over a year, but when I was home we still saw each other three or four times per week. I've seen her once since moving to the North Pole. The kids have been a handful (to be polite about it) and I'm no help 500 miles away. Keeping two households going sucks up every dime I make, so there's not even gas money to drive home.
Combine that stuff with the rheumatiz and a knee that is all but shot and things can get grim.
I was at work feeling sorry for myself Friday when I looked at a copy of the paper from last summer, before I arrived. I then looked at Friday's paper. There was no comparison. The paper is infinitely better today, and I deserve some of the credit for that. The editing is better, the mix and number of local stories is better and the layout is much better. The boss and composing manager deserve credit, too.
I've never been one to define myself by my work, but I will take some pride from it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The dark in the middle of the tunnel

You'd never guess from the title that I'm a bit gloomy today, would you?
Gloomy is probably the wrong word -- pessimistic might be more appropriate. Money is tight and I'm ground down from the day job. Today was supposed to be my first full day off in two weeks and I still had to run into the office this morning. The problem got solved, but I didn't want to step foot inside the building again until Monday.
Corporate is squeezing again and it's starting to soak in that they aren't going to stop. Like some of you, I work for an allegedly autonomous unit within a big corporate family. My unit is short staffed and saddled with outdated equipment and software, but we're profitable and everyone gets along. Corporate is trying to pay down debt and keeping underperforming properties going by squeezing us. Sound familiar? Yeah, I'm sure it does.
This is how newspapers and broadcast outlets run today, and I came here to the North Pole resigned to that. I knew I would never be more than a number to the home office and was okay with that. Then I got to know the people I work with. They all give a good day's work for a mediocre day's pay and it goes without any notice. The vice just keeps getting tighter.
I've succumbed to a subversive notion: no matter how well any of us do our jobs or how much money we make, we're going to get screwed in the end. Now, my dad has told me that since I was a wee lad, but I always thought it was possible to do good work and be rewarded (however meagerly).
Some of you may have read about the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News scrapping home delivery four days a week. The move will free up a little cash, but they will fall short of their real goal of moving to an online only product. They'll never generate enough revenue online to finance a profitable and decent news product. The money isn't there in a good economy, let alone a depressed one. Now that they've taken the plunge, however, the rest of the corporate dickheads in this business are rushing in behind them with similar plans. The board room desperately wants to ditch the press room and make believe that online will make the world perfect again.
It won't.
I know print is supposedly to be dead. Ask any marketing asshole who's never actually done newspaper work. I will acknowledge that the newspaper's best days are behind it, but these companies are stuck with it until they are ready to throw in the towel on the news business altogether. Old people still read the newspaper and local advertisers know that. The cretins in the home office don't deal with local businesses; they deal with ad agencies and corporate marketing departments. The national guys love online because it's cheaper and supposedly reaches the younger demographic they all want. Corporate's bills are paid, however, by little dailies like mine that deliver news to the older readers who actually patronize local businesses because of print advertising.
What Gannett and CNHI and Journal Register and all of these others companies can't admit is they are not immortal. They have milked all of the money they will ever get from the union busting, consolidations and layoffs that artificially inflated their profits in the 90s. The days of 25-30 percent margins are long, long gone and the big corporations can't live without them. They will go away in another generation or two.
The local and regional publishers with lower overhead and salespeople on Main Street will endure a while longer, settling for the five to 10 percent margins that were the industry standard up until the late 80s.
What's in store for the lapsednewsguy? I plan on going back to work Monday, but beyond that I really couldn't tell you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wolcott

I was perusing my blogroll and saw that James Wolcott was not listed. May God forgive me for such a transgression.
Wolcott is a true critic: funny, unimpressed with himself, smart and ridiculously deft with prose. And he's not afraid to call an asshole an asshole.
I hope to be Wolcott when I grow up.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A freakin' genius

I've said it a few times before, and I am sure I will say it a few times more, but Al Giordano is the blogger/pundit/journalist you all should be reading.
The proprietor of Narco News has been the shrewdest observer of the Obama Administration since Inauguration Day, as evidenced by this post.
Giordano seems to be the only commenter in the Blogosphere who understands Obama's style, which is heavy on conciliation (when possible), steadfastness (rather than stubbornness) in the face of opposition, patience and, above all, a great view of the chessboard and his opponents favorite moves.
Please go read the post I've linked. You'll see all of the above mentioned traits. You could probably close your eyes and imagine the horrified looks on the bankers' faces when they realize that Obama doesn't work for them; in fact, he has all of their balls in his hip pocket.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's worth your time to read this

Uh, yeah, I doubt anyone on the fucking planet is surprised by this.
The story I'm trying to send you to is a bit complicated, but take your time and read it carefully. The motherfuckers who blackmailed the federal government last fall into saving them knew what they were doing was criminally irresponsible...and did it anyway.

I might go for a walk...Heaven forfend!

I think spring has finally come to the North Pole. It's bright and almost mild today.
Green is starting to creep in and trees are just days away from budding. All of the little woodland creatures are making their first rounds of the year. My chiropractor is eagerly awaiting the first visit of his neighbor/bear. All of the deer and elk are getting ready for rutting season.
The seagulls are out in force, crapping on everything in sight. Pine siskins, the ubiquitous little finches that wintered here this year, are emptying feeders all along the Straits of Mackinac.
After four decades of dealing with the pluses and minuses of big town living, this is all a nice change for the lapsednewsguy. It sounds idyllic, I know, but even nice small towns such as my new home have problems, too. There are no jobs here; a job fair drew nearly 600 applicants for seasonal jobs that are likely to be filled by temporary workers shipped in from the Carribbean and Central Europe. The job fair was the local chamber's attempt to convince the motel and restaurant owners to hire locals. We'll see if it did any good.
I don't want to pooh-pooh the good stuff, however. I have some day job stuff to do today, so I might walk to work and get some fresh air. If I stop for lunch at one of the diners, at least a few people will recognize my head shot and tell me everything they do and don't like about the paper. I might stop at the drug store to buy a Detroit newspaper; the gal at the pharmacy counter will ask how my rheumatiz feels today. When I'm done at work, I could go to the bar next door and talk to the manager about that business feature I've been putting off for two months. Even the U-M fans will wear Spartan green today.
All in all, it should be a good day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

From a small acorn...

For all of you crying for the government to "legalize it," I refer you to this.
Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) was guy who knocked off the odious George Allen in the 2006 elections. At the time, many lefties were both happy at Allen's demise and leery of Webb's resume, which included a stint as Reagan's Navy Secretary. They feared another Blue Dog conservative Democrat who would play both sides of the fence.
Webb has been a blessing, however. He was the guy who rammed through a long-overdue refit of the GI Bill that should help the VA better deal with the new wave of vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It's too bad there wasn't anything in that bill about stringing up Bush and Cheney for their craven exploitation of good, patriotic Americans.
And now Webb has put forth a shocking thesis: Our justice system doesn't work! Uh, yeah, me and about everyone else who has dealt with the system or dealt with anyone who has ever dealt with the system could've told you that. What heartens me about Webb's proposal is his argument that simply locking everyone up doesn't work, nor does ignoring the mental health needs of people in the system. There's nothing in his press release about legalizing it. However, should Webb get a commission with some teeth, that is the place to start with the decriminalization arguments.
Should it stop with weed, though? For a long time, as long as I have had opinions about drugs, I've thought pot should be legal but coke, heroin, acid, speed and the like should remain criminalized. I've changed my mind. I think it should it all be legal now.
The quick argument is that people can abuse tobacco and alcohol, so why not the other stuff? I agree with that, but my thinking has gotten deeper recently. Yes, I do believe pot, coke, heroin, pills and the rest should be continue to be controlled. Kids shouldn't be able to buy them at Wal Mart, but consenting adults should be able to buy them at a pharmacy.
In the grand scheme, is a coke head or pill head really any more of a threat to society than a drunk? Has locking up junkies done anything to curb drug consumption? Do poor addicts get the same treatment in the justice system that rich addicts get?
You know the answers to those questions, just as I do. I vote for maintaining current spending levels for cops, courts and jails and ditching the drug war. That leaves more money and time to fight crime and frees society from spending hundreds of billions per year fighting private behavior. The streets aren't going to fill up with junkies; I've never tried smack, never even been curious and wouldn't try it even I could buy it at the drug store.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vent

I am probably jinxing it, but I think Spring may be just days away from the North Pole. All of the squirrels, skunks, rabbits, etc. are coming out and I've heard a few seagulls this week.
The day job was a royal pain this week, with having to deal with gossipy mouthbreathers on the website and mediocre prima donna.
I've never been one to shy away from admitting mistakes, but it sucks when others don't have the grace to do the same. I've been a newsguy for a long time and have yet to write anything that couldn't use a bit of editing. I just don't understand the paralyzing fear that seems to grip some when it's pointed out that they are not yet perfect, or confronted by others who are willing to admit to mistakes.
Anyway, I spent much of this week dealing with a mess that was about five percent of my making and am done with it, thankfully. You're probably wanting specifics, but I don't think I'll share them.
Sorry, I just wanted to vent.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dunderhead for president in 2012

I decided after the presidential election to quit wasting time and energy commenting on Sarah Palin. I didn't think anyone would take her seriously enough to merit expending time and energy rehashing just how vapid she is.
Then I saw this at Huffington Post this morning.
After reading this item, a thought occurred to me. I think I know why all of the mouthbreathers love her so much: she doesn't believe in consequence or accountability. She not only is without shame; she is unaware of the concept.
Anyone who paid attention to the fall campaign last year would have to admit that Palin was ridiculously overmatched. She tried time and time again to bullshit her way through interviews, speeches, debates and the like, only to humiliate herself. Or did she? Any intelligent adult with even a trace of scruples would either retire from public life or resolve to improve themselves and be ready for the next national go-round. She isn't doing either. She intends to continue pursuing her presidential ambitions just as she pursued the vice presidency: by appealing to her supporters' addiction to willful ignorance.
Earmarks are bad, and how dare ABC News mention that she requests just like every other governor! The press should leave her family alone, but it's okay to have her family up on stage with her and pass her infant son around like a bong, as Sam Seder so eloquently observed. Talk up her average, middle class life, then go on six-figure shopping sprees and send the bill to the Republican National Committee. Talk up fiscal conservatism, then bill your state for driving to and from work and family outings to the lower 48.
Palin plans to run for president in 2012 without doing anything to better prepare herself to be president. It's tragic, really, because she will have several million supporters who will place their money and faith in her. They won't win, of course, but her candidacy will harden their heads even more in the belief that any facts that challenge their half-assed notions are evil and wrong.