My Aunt Carol, married to my mother’s older brother Pete, is a remarkable woman who had led a singular and sometimes even dangerous life. Now, she suffers from dementia. My cousin Kathy has written a piece that is a tribute to her mom, a retelling of the story of how her mom inspired the formation of the nonprofit Our Mother’s Voice, and a call to carry on the work that Aunt Carol, Kathy, and many other inspiring women have carried out in lives of service to an often deeply ungrateful society. Today, International Women’s Day, the least I can do is recommend that you read Kathy’s story of Aunt Carol. Hie thee hence.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 8:00 am
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 10:27 pm
“Pete was an angry man. He did something great with his anger.” — writer Jeff Sharlett
Friday, November 1, 2013 7:55 pm
Six months ago, the Toronto Star published a story claiming that a video existed of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack. Ford not only denied it, he bitterly attacked the media, most especially the Toronto Star, which he tried to convince subscribers and advertisers to boycott.
Until Thursday, when Toronto’s police chief confirmed that the video exists.
To me, that’s not the news; to the extent I thought about it, I thought Ford was guilty as sin.
No, the news is this open letter from the Toronto Star’s publisher, John Cruickshank:
The truth finally found a few more friends in Toronto yesterday. It badly needed them.
For the past six months, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has waged a brilliantly cynical and manipulative campaign against the Toronto Star and any other media who dared to question him.
Exploiting character assassination, defamation and a numbing stream of self-serving lies, Ford obscured the truth and befouled the truth-tellers.
Until yesterday. …
Six months ago, Mr. Ford might have ’fessed up, done a stint in rehab and emerged to a chorus of congratulations. Everybody loves a redemption story around election time.
But the mayor did not own up to his behaviour. Instead, he turned on the messengers.
And in the success of his malign campaign, he proved how fragile the truth can be if our chosen leaders lead their followers astray.
Mr. Ford and his thuggish brother, Councillor Doug Ford, used their media access to label the news reporters of this city as pathological liars and anti-democratic maggots.
The Fords urged their loyalists to cancel their subscriptions to the Toronto Star and to pull their advertisements.
The Star’s owners and journalists were accused of pursuing an ideological vendetta against Ford. Star reporting was denounced as harassment. Called delusional.
Ford acolytes hauled the paper before the Ontario Press Council, charging that the Star’s use of unnamed sources was unethical and that the media’s focus on the issue was detrimental to the democratic life of the city.
Toronto’s divided and querulous council proved powerless to call the mayor to account or defend their own integrity.
Painful as it is, we must acknowledge as a community that the mayor has been startlingly successful in his deceit.
Many citizens, perhaps a majority, have gullibly given credence to Mayor Ford’s lies about his drug use and about the reporters and editors he vindictively targeted.
The public was persuaded to ignore his erratic behaviour and the intense secrecy he insisted on about the hours he kept and the people with whom he spent his time. Episodes of public intoxication were laughed off (though members of his inner circle conceded the mayor urgently needed intervention).
Latterly, we have heard a little bit about some of the potential harm that comes when a leading official surrounds himself with criminals. Letters of recommendation have gone out from the mayor’s office for a killer and a drug dealer.
We are likely to learn a good deal more about what has been at risk at city hall in the days ahead. …
This is work of a scale and seriousness that can only be undertaken successfully by what is now called “the mainstream media.” Others lack the resources, the experience and the credibility to call a senior official to account.
We feel tremendously proud today of our unwavering pursuit of a shocking story about a popular mayor.
It’s a good day for the city of Toronto despite this bitter period of deception we’ve been through.
And it’s a good day for journalism.
That letter 1) flips Ford and the paper’s critics the middle finger; 2) honors all the Star journalists who have worked on this and related stories; 3) re-emphasizes the value of quality investigative reporting from an outlet with enough financial and legal resources to do hard stories right and make them stand up.
Now, I don’t know Cruickshank from Adam’s housecat, and for all I know this is as much a personal vendetta for him as it is a journalistic endeavor. It would be a shame if that were so.
But I’m trying to come up with publishers in this area — hell, the state — who would have the stones to 1) pursue, publish and defend a similar story in the face of similar opposition; and 2) flip off in print the people who were wrong. I can think of maybe one, and I’m not even sure about him. That’s sad. To some reporters working on difficult and unpopular investigative stories, a big ol’ public “Get bent!” from the publisher to the paper’s critics might be even more valuable than a raise.
Monday, October 7, 2013 7:31 am
Sunday, September 8, 2013 9:44 am
Well, THIS is kind of cool. Jens Kruger, a banjoist and member of the Kruger Brothers band, has won the above-named prize, which comes with $50,000 in cash and the opportunity to appear onstage and on TV with Martin. The band’s PR is handled by my friend and classmate Julie Macie, whose job, I suspect, just got both harder and more rewarding. Here’s the news release:
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Jens Kruger has been named as the fourth recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Kruger is known for his innovative banjo composition and performance that integrates folk music with European classical music. Kruger is the first North Carolina resident and first winner that born outside of the United States.
Kruger is known for his inventive, hard to categorize musical style of composition and performance, which can be described as thoughtful and lyrical. His virtuosic playing style ranges from the very complex to the simple and profound. Jens Kruger and The Kruger Brothers have raised awareness about bluegrass music by writing and performing classical pieces that incorporate the instrumentation of banjo, guitar and bass. The Kruger Brothers consist of Jens Kruger (banjo, harmony vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Joel Landsberg (bass, harmony vocals).
Born in Switzerland, Kruger and his brother Uwe left home to become street musicians. As adults they were billed as the Kruger Brothers, adding the third “brother,” Joel Landsberg, from New York City. Their interest in the music of Doc Watson motivated them to relocate near where near Doc’s home in North Wilkesboro, NC in 2003. They had the honor often playing with Doc.
The Steve Martin Prize, created and endowed by Martin, includes a $50,000 honorarium and recognizes an individual or group for “outstanding accomplishments in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music.” Each year’s winner is selected by a committee of noted banjo players, including Martin, Pete Wernick, Béla Fleck, Alison Brown, J.D. Crowe and others.
Regarding the award, Kruger said, “Coming to this country as an immigrant and to be accepted so warmly is amazing, and quite humbling.”
Sunday, August 4, 2013 9:14 am
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:03 am
My friend and former co-worker Andy Duncan, about whom I’ve written a time or two, is what those of us who write for a living call a real writer. I mean, yeah, we’re good enough to put food on our tables with writing in some form or fashion, but we also stare at the work of Andy and writers like him, shake our heads, and mutter, “Daaaaaamn …” Writing is a craft, and a lot of people without any special gifts can become, like me, good, workmanlike writers. Lots of writing and rewriting for 30 years, with some decent editing along the way, can, indeed, allow you to wake up one day at the age of 50 and say to yourself, “Why, yes, I am a writer.” But as far as hard work can take you, you also need a gift to break the surly bonds of Earth and go out into space, where the stars and the nebulae lie.
Andy works as hard at his writing as anyone I know, and harder than most. So do I, for that matter. But Andy has the gift.
Andy’s fiction falls into the general area of sci-fi and fantasy, but much of it is as firmly rooted in the American South and its storytelling traditions as are the work of Faulkner or Agee or O’Connor. When he writes about a blues musician in Hell, Hell is the Mississippi Delta. When he writes a ghost story, it’s set in the Depression-era studios of WBT-AM in Charlotte, with painstaking details that match up with what that studio really was like then. And when an anthology editor got in touch with him once, wondering whether he might have a story on the shelf that involved someone having sex with a ghost, he reported, “I was both proud and ashamed to admit that I had three.”
Six times my friend has been nominated for a Nebula Award, the top prize given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for outstanding work. Six times he was the bridesmaid, not the bride. But 2012 was different: His story “Close Encounters” won the Nebula Award this past weekend for Best Novelette.* What kind of company does that put him in? Well, let’s just say you’ll recognize some of these names even if you’ve never read a sci-fi or fantasy work in your life (and although I’m generally not a fan of the genre, I freely admit that far too many people haven’t). I’ll let him explain the rest of it.
Congratulations, my friend. You are, now and forever, Nebula Award-winning writer Andy Duncan. You’re also a helluva great guy, although they don’t give out cool trophies with astronomical bodies embedded in them for that, more’s the pity.
*A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,499 words. A novella is between 17,500 and 39,999 words. Anything shorter than a novelette is a story. Anything longer than a novella is a novel. You’re welcome.
Thursday, March 7, 2013 8:52 pm
New York magazine profiles Carol Rosenberg, the reporter for the Miami Herald who has been on the Gitmo beat for 11, count ‘em, 11 years, with no end in sight:
How long do you think you’ll continue covering Guantanamo?
There are people who call the War on Terror the “forever war”; if this is the forever war, then this is the forever prison. I want to stay here for the 9/11 trial, which I think is years away. I feel like I have an institutional knowledge. Everyone else rotates in and out of here. The soldiers come and go, the lawyers come and go, most of the reporters come and go. I feel a responsibility to stay. I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.
Camp X-ray was built for the specific purpose of getting around the Constitution, full stop. The people who created it committed crimes, full stop. And if the people who continue to defend it today aren’t criminals, they’re moral pygmies at best.
Rosenberg (who, earlier in her career, reported for the Charlotte Observer) can’t do anything about that, but she’s doing the next best thing: surrendering a significant chunk of her life, and a lot of creature comforts most Americans take for granted, to tell people what’s going on down there. Metaphorically, she’s almost as much a prisoner as the inmates. She seldom talks much about herself — her tweets tend to be about the court proceedings she covers — but I have a feeling that even if the trials ended tomorrow, Gitmo would be with her the rest of her life.
She’s not a prisoner, of course. Subject to the military’s irregular flight schedules, she can and does return to Florida from time to time. But I suspect that for the rest of her life, a significant part of her psyche and self will be living in those nasty tents, tweeting from a makeshift courtroom, knowing that every conversation, call or email she gets or receives will be monitored.
At some point, years from now, perhaps after the 9/11 trials are over, she’ll check out. But the Eagles were right, and so I suspect the only a part of her leaves Gitmo is via death or Alzheimer’s.
Friday, February 22, 2013 8:41 pm
Finally, finally, finally, the owner of a newspaper has told the geeks, waterheads, nematodes, mouth-breathers and knuckle-dragging readers who masturbate to gun ads but can’t STAND the possibility that their local newspaper might publish a story about two happy people doing something that’s none of their damn business to take their whiny, misprioritized complaints and shove them north toward their tonsils.
God, I need a cigarette. And I haven’t smoked in almost 35 years.
Our story begins when Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven — yes, that’d be two people with ladyparts — got married in, believe it, Jones County, Missafreakingsippi, the left ventricle of Bat Country. The Laurel Leader-Call newspaper did a front page story, acknowledging the historic (albeit legally unrecognized) nature of the event, and then basically letting the protagonists speak for themselves and for each other — not an approach recommended for political coverage, but perfectly acceptable for a wedding story. (Bonus pathos: Craven has Stage 4 brain cancer.)
Well, Leader-Call readers freaked out. They called. They wrote. They virtually spat on the paper’s Facebook page.
So how did the paper’s owner, Jim Cegielski, respond?
Did he pretend there was no controversy? Or that if there was, it was OK to ignore it? Did he, God forbid, send an underling out to lie to people about his position or lack thereof instead of manning up and doing his job?
He stood up. He took responsibility. He told the people who were wrong that they were wrong. He told them to stop misbehaving toward his employees just because they’d read a story they didn’t like. And he told them that if they didn’t like all of the above, they could get bent. (If the link doesn’t go directly to Cegielski’s column, flip to page A5, where it’s at the top.)
And the horrible financial price the paper paid for this optimally competent exercise of its privileges and duties? Fifteen canceled subscriptions. Even in Laurel, Mississippi, that’s the equivalent of a few households going away for a long weekend.
So here’s a suggestion to people who want to run newspapers that both make money and bond with with their communities in ways that make long-term profitability even possible: Do your jobs. Be right. And when you are right, take no shit from those who are wrong, particularly when it’s aimed at your underlings. Even most of those who disagree with you will respect that; wanting your boss to have your back is a nonpartisan policy goal in and out of newspapers.
I’m sure Warren Buffett’s BH Media already has some decent ideas about how to dig the News & Record out of the hole it has dug for itself in the past five or so years (not all of which, I hasten to add, is local talent’s fault). But I’m betting that sending someone to Laurel to buy Jim Cegielski lunch and listen to him talk for an hour would not be a bad strategy at all.
Sunday, December 16, 2012 3:00 am
Beethoven is (probably) 242 years old today.
Oh, and this, kids, is how you do a flash mob.
Friday, December 7, 2012 6:35 am
On Dec. 7, 1941, Elizabeth McIntosh was a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin when the Japanese bombs began falling at Pearl Harbor. A week later, she wrote a story aimed at Hawaii’s women, to help them understand what had happened and what they could do. It was graphic. Her editor killed it. Today The Washington Post publishes it for the first time.
McIntosh went on to serve in the Office of Strategic Services and its offspring, the CIA. She’s still alive and well at 97.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 6:17 pm
My friend and fellow blogger Billy Jones has been through a rough few years. He just had an experience most of us who are more comfortable would describe as somewhere between bad and awful. And yet, in a message to me, he calls it a small victory.
Monday, November 19, 2012 6:15 am
Berkeley economist and World War II student J. Bradford DeLong:
And so, 70 years ago [today], the million-soldier reserve of the Red Army was transferred to General Nikolai Vatutin’s Southwestern Front, Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky’s Don Front, and Marshal Andrei Yeremenko’s Stalingrad Front. They went on to spring the trap of Operation Uranus, the code name for the planned encirclement and annihilation of the German Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army. They would fight, die, win, and thus destroy the Nazi hope of dominating Eurasia for even one more year – let alone of establishing Hitler’s 1,000-year Reich.
Together, these 1.2 million Red Army soldiers, the workers who armed them, and the peasants who fed them turned the Battle of Stalingrad into the fight that, of any battle in human history, has made the greatest positive difference for humanity.
The Allies probably would have eventually won World War II even had the Nazis conquered Stalingrad, redistributed their spearhead forces as mobile reserves, repelled the Red Army’s subsequent winter 1942 offensive, and seized the Caucasus oil fields, thus depriving the Red Army of 90% of its motor fuel. But any Allied victory would have required the large-scale use of nuclear weapons, and a death toll in Europe that would most likely have been twice the actual World War II death toll of perhaps 40 million.
May there never be another such battle. May we never need another one.
The battle had been engaged a month previously, when 200,000 Red Army soldiers crossed the Volga River at Stalingrad under heavy artillery and aircraft attack (a scene rendered quite faithfully in the movie “Enemy at the Gate”) and met the Wehrmacht head-on. Of those initial 200,000, more than 80 percent died. (In fact, of the roughly 40 million who died in the European theater during World War II, 20 million were Soviet. For comparison, perhaps 450,000 U.S. service members were killed in action in all theaters in the entire war.) The fighting wasn’t just house-to-house, it was room-to-room, with houses and rooms frequently changing hands multiple times. One Soviet regimental commander, finding his unit surrounded by the Germans, fought until his unit ran out of ammunition, then called in artillery fire on his own position.
From the standpoint of today, knowing as we do what transpired in the Soviet Union under 70 years of Communist rule and knowing as we do (thanks in part to my sister-in-law) what transpired on the Eastern Front during World War II, it is easy to say there were no good guys. But much of the good we and millions of other people on every continent of the world enjoy today was made possible by some of the bad guys at Stalingrad. Such are the ironies of history.
Sunday, November 11, 2012 5:08 am
It’s Veteran’s Day, and I’m outsourcing my comment for today to Ginmar, who is a veteran and a hero and who has some deep insight into the nature of heroism:
The military is a creature of the most extreme factors one can find. In peacetime, it offers discipline and training. In war, it offers bravery. Always, it offers its service, and it is eternally at the mercy of those with the power to mobilize its forces. There’s bad, good, shining gallantry, and horrible evil in the military, all at once. The best seems impossible to believe; the worst shocks the conscience. In the military, we must confront the simple fact that they are us, that they are who we are at our best and worst, and that great good and great evil often exist in one person. Their evils spring from the seeds our society planted in their souls, and their achievements are a reflection of what we would aspire to do and to become.
People are basically good. Some people are not content without something more, though. Some people wish to serve. They want to cast away the cares of their own daily drama and petty concerns, assume the camouflage not just of uniformity but of duty and discipline, and become an actor in larger, greater things. They hunger for the ability to become greater, not for themselves, but for the good of all.
The military has been used wrongly and savagely, but the very strength it gives its soldiers produces the kind of heroism that does not depend on bullets: Hugh Thompson , Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn fought not just against the enemy on the other side, but against the worst foe of all; they opposed their own, and they were outnumbered. Many civilians never attain that courage; wrongs go unchecked daily where only words are involved, and soldiers like Thompson and his crew faced evenly-matched opponents in their actions. The unarmed peasants he and his crew saved represented were no risk to he or his crew. In saving them, he, to my mind, achieved one of the greatest acts of heroism the military of any country has seen. He rejected the unlawful order that had set US soldiers against innocent civilians. There was no fog of war for Thompson, and sadly, there was not nearly enough recognition either. We want our heroes to be pure, shiny, clean, and untouched by reminders of what we ourselves are capable of, both good and bad. We want the enemy to be alien, remote, non-human, but in seeking that comfort we dehumanize not just them but ourselves and make more wars and conflicts inevitable.
People forget that soldiers formed the backbone of the resistance to the Viet Nam war. They were forced to serve and they were forced to obey. Who better to speak of an unjust war than those who fought in it, often unwillingly? There was a wide anti-war movement within the active duty military that many people don’t know anything about. People forget that, perhaps deliberately. The desire to simplify the enemy finds its twin in the same desire to simplify our heroes. Pure gallantry—-such a good word—-as Thompson’s often takes years to be appreciated. It’s also a reminder of just how much good one person—or in this case, three honest, and honorable people—-can do. Evil is weak at the same time it is powerful, but it’s power is negative. Evil is destructive. It builds no hospitals, treats no sick, shelters no homeless. In the aftermath, good is hard work and sweat and unglamourous labor. When people recognize only battlefield heroism, as worthy as it is, they also bury moral heroism. They also make heroism look clean and pure and pretty. If you go in believing that, the reality of it can be horribly shocking.
You can always recognize that kind of heroism by its quietness. It serves, it works, it speaks quietly, it rebuilds, it heals, it soothes, it refuses to stand down. It is attainable not by special training or extraordinary acts, but by every day people. The weakest of children can be a greater hero than the strongest of soldiers. It is based on the premise that when one sees something horrible, one cannot then turn away. One is now responsible to act. Legally, that is not the standard, but morally, it is. To be aware is to be responsible. This is why so many people seek out lies and embrace them.
Most of all, true courage does not result in acclaim and medals and ceremonies. Often, it is punished. People can simultaneously desire to know themselves, and yet at the same time, flinch from it. The military requires that first of all, one must take that long deep look into one’s soul and see if what is there can and is worthy of being changed and molded. Often time, there is no external enemy that poses more of a challenge than one’s own weakness. The military confronts weakness and forges it into strength. People who claim or coyly hint at heroic virtues maintained by deprivation rather than challenge and effort don’t impress me. Only the tempted know what temptation is. For every person who felt the freeze of terror and yet still did the right thing, for every person who felt the burn of physical injury and still got up and kept going, for every person who did a kindness and then walked quietly away without praise or recognition, the only recognition is often the brief sensation of having helped another selflessly.
Want to honor our veterans today? Go be a hero for someone.
Want to honor our veterans every day? Go be a hero for someone.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:04 pm
I am financially successful now; I pay a lot of taxes. I don’t mind because I know how taxes helped me to get to the fortunate position I am in today. I hope the taxes I pay will help some military wife give birth, a mother who needs help feed her child, help another child learn and fall in love with the written word, and help still another get through college. Likewise, I am in a socially advantageous position now, where I can help promote the work of others here and in other places. I do it because I can, because I think I should and because I remember those who helped me. It honors them and it sets the example for those I help to help those who follow them.
I know what I have been given and what I have taken. I know to whom I owe. I know that what work I have done and what I have achieved doesn’t exist in a vacuum or outside of a larger context, or without the work and investment of other people, both within the immediate scope of my life and outside of it. I like the idea that I pay it forward, both with the people I can help personally and with those who will never know that some small portion of their own hopefully good fortune is made possible by me.
So much of how their lives will be depends on them, of course, just as so much of how my life is has depended on my own actions. We all have to be the primary actors in our own lives. But so much of their lives will depend on others, too, people near and far. We all have to ask ourselves what role we play in the lives of others — in the lives of loved ones, in the lives of our community, in the life of our nation and in the life of our world. I know my own answer for this. It echoes the answer of those before me, who helped to get me where I am.
Friday, April 13, 2012 7:32 pm
But Popehat points out that Marc Randazza, as a lawyer and as a person, is a Doc Holliday for the 21st century, a loyal friend and a dead shot, First Amendment litigation-wise. This is a litigator who dropped a brief containing a history of penises on the Patent and Trademark office in support of a client’s desire for a phallic-looking trademark, including this sentence, with which even the priggiest bluenose would find it hard to argue: “One may invoke the symbol of strength, the phallus, without it being a literal tallywhacker.”
Unfortunately, I suspect we’re going to need more Marc Randazzas in coming years. Large corporations, never content to do with their own money what they can spend taxpayer money on, will, I predict, increasingly attempt to use government leverage to silence speech with which they disagree. I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m right, Randazza and those who do the kind and quality of work he does will be in more demand than is good for them or the country.
Ken modestly does not place himself in their number, but on the basis of this post, in which he willfully and intentionally violates a new Arizona law about online behavior and then dares that state’s legislature to have him arrested, I think his modesty might be misplaced:
You’ve been swept up in the moronic and thoughtless anti-bullying craze and consequently passed a bill that is ridiculous on its face, a bill that criminalizes annoying and offending people on the Internet. That’s like criminalizing driving on the road.
Why, yes. Yes, it is.
After annoying and offending the legislature in violation of its shiny new law and giving it some anatomically and geographically improbable suggestions, he concludes:
There. I’m a criminal in Arizona. Send some of your cops to collect me. I know it may be temporarily confusing for them, as I’m not brown, but perhaps they can manage.
Come get me.
To paraphrase James Goldman, when ridicule is all that’s left, the ridicule matters.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 6:21 am
Congratulations to former Page High School and Greensboro College head football coach Marion Kirby, who is among five people who will be inducted May 14 into the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame. [Disclosure: I work for GC.]
That’s not especially surprising, given not only Kirby’s coaching career but also the fact that his game-winning field goal in 1960 gave Catawba County’s Lenoir-Rhyne University its only national championship in football.
But what was most interesting for me was what Kirby had to say about how his upbringing shaped his career:
All of my education except for my year of graduate school at East Carolina was here. I went to Viewmont Elementary, Westmont Elementary, Highland Elementary, Hickory Junior High, Hickory High and Lenoir-Rhyne College and I walked to every one of them.
“Over the years. I’ve realized how fortunate I was to grow up where I did. My backyard was connected to (the late) Clarence Stasavich’s family’s backyard, (the late) Frank Barger lived in an apartment condo at the end of the street.
“Luke Beam, the great band director at Hickory High, lived two houses up and C.O. Miller, whose name is on the YMCA, I could hit his front porch with a rock.
“So it occurred to me that as a youngster I had a lot of really great male role models in my life, and I’m really humbled to have grown up on the shoulders of giants in my neighborhood.”
And I wonder: How many of our boys today are growing up with those kinds of giants in their neighborhoods, those male role models who lead, mentor and inspire?
Probably not nearly enough of them.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 7:33 pm
Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:30 am
John Robinson — my longtime boss, editor, co-conspirator and friend — left the News & Record recently after 27 years, almost 13 of them as the paper’s top editor. He was among the nation’s first and most prolific blogging newspaper editors, and although the project ultimately fell victim to a resource crunch tied to the Crash of ’08, his leadership on the N&R’s Town Square project got national attention not just in the industry, but also in such general-interest publications as the The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.
JR believes in sharing credit, and he backs his people to the hilt. Any good reporter from time to time will have to write unflattering things about powerful people with thin egos, thinner tempers and the resources to make life difficult if they choose. Any good newsroom employee, regardless of discipline, also, in this day and age, must spend time looking around corners for what the next important thing in the news business might be. I did a lot of both, and slaying those dragons was much easier knowing that no matter the stakes, as long as I was prudent and ethical, JR had my back. He took a lot of crap over me, and he never once complained to me about it. And during my dad’s final illness, when I spent the better part of a month bedside in an ICU 100 miles away, the only thing he said was, “Do what you need to do. The office will still be here when you get back.” That’s not just the mark of a great boss. That’s also the mark of a great friend.
I mention all this because, now that he’s shed of the News & Record, JR has started a new, personal blog, called “Media, Disrupted.” (I’ve added a link to it in the blogroll on the lower right side of this page, to0.) Go check it out. And keep an eye on him. Even if he wanted to retire, which he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure Susan wouldn’t let him. So I’m betting that shortly after the new year, he’ll be into something new, different and very much worth watching. And he’ll still be tweeting (@johnrobinson).
Saturday, June 25, 2011 4:56 pm
On the one hand, WTF took New York, of all places, so long? OTOH, observes TBogg:
Someday, long after most of us are dead and gone and then reincarnated and then dead again and then maybe reincarnated once more, someone is going to have to explain to future generations why there was such a battle to treat everyone as equals and bestow upon them freedoms that are rightly theirs, and more importantly, why it took so long.
And it will have to be explained that some people sought out the opinions of bigots and homophobes and lunatics, a fringe religious cult and an ancient men’s club devoted to velvet robes and pedophilia and gave them a voice in the matter when instead they should have been sent from the room and not be allowed back in until they had put to rest their own demons.
Democracy is kind of stupid that way.
As Churchill observed, the worst form of government except for all the others. Well done, New York legislature. And memo to President Obama: If you want to know what a leader looks like — and I realize you really don’t — you could do worse than to look at Andrew Cuomo. This country is significantly less unfair and messed up today because of him and the bravery and persistence of the LGBT movement and the straight friends and loved ones (particularly GOP N.Y. Sens. Roy McDonald and Mark Grisanti, who face roughly a 100% chance of a primary opponent next time around) who had their backs.
Friday, June 10, 2011 7:07 pm
The body of Flight 1549, the US Airways jet that safely landed on the Hudson River in New York back in January 2009, approaches Charlotte on Interstate 77 earlier today. My
stepdad mom took this shot from the overpass at Exit 30 in Davidson.
And here’s video my stepdad shot:
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 8:04 pm
At times during my intermittent career as a manager, I have found it necessary to modify the performance of my direct reports. Although such modification does not, contrary to what you might have heard, actually involve whips, chairs or cattle prods, it can and usually does involve what we might discretely call incentives and disincentives. Rewards and punishments, in other words.
This is tricky business. My philosophy as a newspaper editor, given the relative rigidity of our deadline schedule and the high stakes involved with issues of factual accuracy, was to err on the side of harshness. My own adaptation of the credo approved by corporate HR went something like this: Bad behavior will continue until the pain of continuing the bad behavior outweighs the pain of altering it.
Monochromatic? Lacking in nuance? Guilty as charged. But it worked. The kid from the University of Georgia whose performance problems were driving me up a tree shaped up right quick once he realized he was facing the very real possibility of having to work every single Georgia home football weekend. Oh, yes, I did.
When you get to the level of government work, opportunities for bad behavior abound, and just about the worst behavior is torture. Unfortunately, Americans apparently have decided for political reasons that holding the torturers (including those who ordered torture) accountable for their behavior would be Bad Form, or whatever the current explanation is, blah-blah-blah-kharmacakes.
But there is, of course, a flip side to that approach, and that’s rewarding the behavior you want to see, in hopes of seeing more of it. We could, at the least, honor those who understood the law, remembered their training, opted to remember the law rather than soiling their drawers:
Throughout the military, and throughout the government, brave men and women reported abuse, challenged interrogation directives that permitted abuse, and refused to participate in an interrogation and detention program that they believed to be unwise, unlawful and immoral. The Bush administration’s most senior officials expressly approved the torture of prisoners, but there was dissent in every agency, and at every level.
There are many things the Obama administration could do to repair some of the damage done by the last administration, but among the simplest and most urgent is this: It could recognize and honor the public servants who rejected torture.
In the thousands of pages that have been made public about the detention and interrogation program, we hear the voices of the prisoners who were tortured and the voices of those who inflicted their suffering. But we also hear the voices of the many Americans who said no.
Some of these voices belong to people whose names have been redacted from the public record. In Afghanistan, soldiers and contractors recoiled at interrogation techniques they witnessed. After seeing a prisoner beaten by a mysterious special forces team, one interpreter filed an official complaint. “I was very upset that such a thing could happen,” she wrote. “I take my responsibilities as an interrogator and as a human being very seriously.”
I’m not naive. I understand that this probably won’t happen during my lifetime. Hugh Thompson Jr., the Army helicopter pilot who threatened, at the risk of his own life, to machine-gun U.S. soldiers involved in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam if they did not stop killing civilians, didn’t get official Army recognition for 30 years.
But if we can’t investigate, indict, prosecute and punish those responsible for torturing and, in some cases, killing prisoners in our custody — prisoners who in many instances had done nothing wrong — perhaps we can at least salvage something for those who tried to do the right thing, and for ourselves as a nation whose fraying reputation for morality, freedom and justice rests, if it rests at all, on their efforts. I don’t know if a Presidential Medal of Freedom means anything anymore — giving one to George Tenet, who signed off on torture, debases the brand — but there ought to be something we can do.
Monday, May 23, 2011 9:24 pm
Dick Wharton had been serving his community, his country, his church and his profession for decades before I ever met him. We met in the mid-1990s while serving together on a patient-care team for the Guilford Regional AIDS Interfaith Network. He was smart, wise (and understood the distinction), funny, compassionate, ethical and a model of Christ’s love in the world. Like me, he loved good writing of all kinds, and he was himself a pointed, pithy writer. His death is a huge loss for Greensboro, but that loss is leavened by his record of service and accomplishment and the fond memories with which he leaves us.
My sympathies to Peggy, Emily, Scott and their relatives. Thanks to all of you for sharing Dick with us.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 9:47 pm
It’s the bottom of the ninth, you’ve got a one-run lead and the bad guys have runners on. Whom ya gonna call?
OK, two questions: As long as whoever it is can strike out 14 batters in 22 innings, do you care whether the person you call has two X chromosomes? (Full disclosure: I’m the father of such a pitcher, but she’s 12 and I have only the vaguest idea what her stats are.)
The baseball coach at tiny Montreat College has offered a small scholarship to an 18-year-old girl from California. The girl, a right-handed pitcher named Marty Sementelli, has, at this writing, neither signed a letter of intent nor declined. Although the amount of the offer was not disclosed, apparently it’s not much for a school that costs about $33,000 a year. Moreover, she would have to play JV ball and earn a varsity roster spot; she’s not guaranteed one. And yet some Montreat College alumni are all butthurt about this.
The coach, to his credit, says the criticism he has gotten will not effect the offer. “She struck out 14 in 22 innings,” he said. “That’s good stats; I don’t really care where you’re at.”
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:41 pm
Hmph. Go away for a long weekend and my employer gets in all KINDS of trouble.
Congratulations to Coach Dirk Fennie and the 2011 Greensboro College men’s golf team: NCAA Division III national champions. They played with skill, they comported themselves with class and they represented the college in and with style.
Crosstown rivals Guilford College did themselves proud, too, finishing ninth overall.
(Photo: Dan O’Shea/Fairway Outdoor via Greensboro Sports Commission)
Friday, May 6, 2011 8:41 pm
Ellen Schrecker, honored for her research on academic freedom of expression, responds when the academic freedom of expression of colleagues is threatened: Take your honors and shove them.
Because more than 70 percent of all the instruction in American institutions of higher education is now in the hands of men and women with part-time or temporary positions, academic freedom is particularly at risk. … Freedom of expression on our nation’s campuses is too fragile – and too important – for us to allow it to become hostage to external political forces with repressive agendas and an academic community too spineless to stand up against them.
“Tenured radicals,” the concept made popular, and used as a book title, by radical-leftist-turned-radical-rightist David Horowitz, are almost a myth. There are few true radicals teaching in American colleges and universities today, and fewer still with tenure. Barely more than one in four American college instructors anywhere on the political spectrum holds a tenured or tenure-track position. Most of the rest can be fired about as swiftly as a landscaper or bartender.
Moreover, we live in an era in which some of the most important ideas are under fire from powerful, monied interests who are threatened by those ideas, in areas as diverse as climate change, economics, worker safety and gender issues. Just to add a soupçon of irony, these interests often are even more adept at playing the victim than the real victims are, and when our national media aren’t too brain-dead to know the difference, they’re too hung up on “telling both sides of the story” to remember that that isn’t their job, that their job is to tell the truth.
So I thank Ellen Schrecker for standing up for freedom of expression. It probably won’t make a difference in Tony Kushner’s life one way or the other — the guy who wrote Angels in America probably doesn’t have to lift a finger again the rest of his life if he doesn’t want to. But it might make a huge difference for a lot of talented instructors you’ve never heard of and never will, some of whom might one day teach you or your children.
UPDATE, 5/10/11: The executive committee of the CUNY Board of Trustees has overturned the overturning. Kushner gets the degree. Sadly, the board member who prompted the vote of a week ago to try to rescind the award gets to keep his seat. Jackass.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 7:50 am
My Uncle Frank, my mother’s oldest brother, is retired in the Charleston area. He has a sharp mind, in part because he consciously works to keep it engaged. He has settled notions on a few things (most prominently, in our correspondence, the need for electoral term limits), but by and large, his willingness to re-examine things skeptically is a model for anyone half his age and blows the current crop of 2012 presidential candidates — of both parties — out of the water. He belongs to a vanishing breed: people who regularly write letters to the editor of the local newspaper.
He also belongs to a writing group, which recently assigned its members the exercise of writing about “The Best Day I Can Remember.” Because he and his wife, Frances, recently moved to assisted living, I reckon he has had a number of occasions recently to think about that subject, or related ones. What he wrote was short and sweet, and with his gracious permission I republish it here:
Most of the days of my life have been good days. I could never say that any one day was the best. The best day that I am aware of is today. As long as I can think, and move, and communicate as I please, I will be having a “best day.” I love to read, dialogue, touch, eat, drink, listen to music, and especially to be with Frances.
Some day, in the not too distant future, I will be ready for my days to end–for the chemicals of which my body is made to rejoin the chemicals of the earth. Regardless of when that time comes, I am happy for the life I have experienced.
May peace be with you all.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 10:25 pm
… in this case, my nephew Kevin Ange and everyone else, here and gone on ahead to walk cosmic point, in the U.S. Marine Corps, 235 years strong today.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 8:02 pm
… which matters not as much as the fact that it’s once again time to wish a happy birthday to a great American, a frequent Blog on the Run: Reloaded commenter and my friend and neighbor, Fred Gregory!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:53 pm
It would be just one shot.
Watching the Iraqi insurgent walking along the canal, Sgt. Brandon McGuire and his four-man sniper team knew that.
They had lain hidden for two days and two nights. On the third morning, when they observed the man uncovering a mortar, they knew, yes, he was the one, the insurgent who was very good with his weapon, having killed and wounded Americans and Iraqi civilians with it.
The shuddering kites flown by kids nearby showed the wind was stiffening. Sometimes nearly obscured by dust, the Iraqi kept walking — just a little under a mile away.
McGuire was very good, too. The barrel of his Barrett .50 caliber Weapon Sniper System shifted imperceptibly, the Iraqi’s robes swirled in his scope, his finger squeezed …
If you’ve got to fight a war, if you’ve got to kill for your country, this is the way to do it: quick, as clean as killing can be, no unintended innocent victims.
Sgt. McGuire, by killing a man responsible for setting off many IEDs, undoubtedly saved not only the lives of U.S. service members but also Iraqi civilians. I thank him for his service.