… Here’s the Red Army Chorus singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
Monday, November 11, 2013 10:56 pm
Monday, August 26, 2013 6:41 pm
At one point this morning, my cell-phone clock was five minutes behind my office computer clock, which in turn was six minutes behind my office phone clock. Each of these devices is part of an Internet-connected network, so they should, at least in theory, be running on more or less the same time. Certainly there shouldn’t be an 11-minute spread. That’s enough of a spread for mischief to happen. And I am not in the mood today for mischief (at least, not of my own making). So attention, all electronic devices: Get your lies straight. There is no room in my calendar this week for addressing a rift in the space-time continuum, even if I use that rift to try to do so.
Monday, July 29, 2013 6:08 pm
Mujeeb Shah-Khan, the Greensboro city attorney, is now following me on Twitter. I’m not sure why that would be, unless it has something to do with this. But, whatever, Mujeeb. You’ll probably find my Twitter stream the same thing others do: a bewildering boullibaisse of failed humor, tweets about my kids, interesting examples of data visualization, commentary on national and state politics, bizarre odds and ends, and retweets of most of the foregoing types of tweets by other people, most of whom I don’t know in real life. If that floats your boat, then anchors aweigh.
Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:42 pm
Yeah, OK, I’m mixing my faith references here. Sue me. But I got tickled when my friend, ex-colleague and former boss Teresa Prout, then and now the city editor of the News & Record, posted on Facebook the other day about getting an email from a man who claims his father is one of four prophets who have been designated by God to carry out His will before the end of the world, which is coming March 11. (Naturally, one of my midterm projects is due March 7. But, noooooo, the world couldn’t end a week earlier.) The prophet in question is in prison for killing his wife and a judge, by the way.
Nobody spends much time in the newspaper bidness without encountering religious zealots, and it can be hard sometimes to distinguish the merely overzealous from the outright insane. But her anecdote reminded me of an incident when I was the N&R’s religion writer (and Teresa was my editor at the time) that led me to write a column that, as it happens, was published 15 years ago last week. Unlike a lot of my older stuff, it actually has held up pretty well:
One busy afternoon just before Christmas, one of our receptionists called to say that a man had come in who wanted to talk to someone immediately about an important religion story.
I walked downstairs to the lobby, where I met a man about my height but heavier, with long, slicked-back, salt-and-pepper hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. He was dressed in black from his jacket and shirt down to the pointed toes of his boots. In fact, he cut such a Mephistophelian figure that I shouldn’t have been surprised when we had sat down in the lobby’s only two chairs and he announced that he was Jesus Christ.
A number of questions began running through my mind, the first one being the question of why there was no guard at our lobby security desk. The second one was: How can I get this man out the front door? The third one was: OK, even if this guy isn’t Jesus, he’s still a human being toward whom, according to Christ’s second great commandment and the dictates of good customer relations, I have some obligations, so how can I meet those obligations gracefully and compassionately?
And — hey, I am a reporter — the fourth one was: What if he’s telling the truth?
“I see,” I said. “Have you always known that you were Jesus?”
“Found out about 10 years ago,” he said.
“And where were you when you found out?”
“I was in prison,” he said.
“No kidding. Where was that?”
“Butner,” he said. Butner, just northeast of Durham on Interstate 85, is the home of a well-known state mental hospital and a lesser-known federal prison and mental facility.
“Why were you there?”
“I beat a man up in Eden pretty bad” — Eden being the Rockingham County town, not the garden, I ascertained.
“But you didn’t yet know you were Jesus when you did that?”
“That’s right,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that now, of course.”
“Well, if you are Jesus, that’s obviously a big story,” I told him. “But see, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got to convince my editors. We can’t just write a story saying that you’re Jesus. We need proof. Now, the Bible says there will be signs and wonders to accompany the return of Christ. Got any of that?”
No, he said. He couldn’t really prove he was Jesus.
“OK, as Jesus Christ, what is it you’re here to do? Anything in particular?”
“Judge the world,” he said, shifting a bit in his chair. As he did, I realized there was some kind of bulge under his jacket near the left armpit, and what had been a mild situation suddenly felt threatening.
Was it a gun? I couldn’t tell. But now, in addition to my obligations to this man, I had other obligations, namely protecting my co-workers — two receptionists were behind the desk nearby, and other people were walking casually through the lobby — and myself.
I gauged the distance between my left hand and the flowerpot on the table between us. I gauged the angle. And I resolved that if his right hand so much as twitched toward his jacket, I was going to smash that flowerpot against his temple as hard as I could.
“Judge the world,” I repeated. “And how are you going to do that?” He looked confused, so I added, “I mean, are you going to judge the world collectively or individually? Everybody at once or one person at a time?”
“Oh, one person at a time,” he said. “That seems fairest.”
“Well, won’t that take a long time?”
“Yeah,” he said. “But I’ve got a long time.”
Whom would he start with? He wasn’t sure. When would he start? He wasn’t sure about that either.
We talked about 10 minutes more, and I kept steering the conversation back to the point that unless we had some kind of objective proof that he was Jesus, the News & Record wouldn’t be doing a story about him. He wasn’t terribly unhappy about that, but he wasn’t taking the hint, either, and there still was no security guard.
Finally, I mentioned that I might entertain the notion of his writing a guest column for the Religion page. That prospect brightened him a bit, and he agreed to consider it. We stood up and shook hands, and he walked out the front door.
No reporter stays long in this business without hearing — usually by mail — from someone claiming to be Jesus. And after almost every one of these contacts, I have speculated upon the exact manner in which Jesus might choose to make himself known if he were to return today. (In my more disgruntled moments, I even draw up an agenda for him.)
The Book of Revelation foretells the manner of Christ’s return, and its account bears little resemblance to the manner of my black-clad visitor. It certainly doesn’t suggest that he might come back as a rough-hewn man of the street with a simple, powerful and disturbing message.
But then, that’s pretty much how he came the first time.
Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:46 pm
Don’t ask me how, but this blog is, at least at the moment, the 27th most authoritative on matters related to science out of 12,200 or so blogs registered on Technorati that actually deal with matters related to science.
Well played, Mayans. Well played.
Friday, October 26, 2012 6:02 pm
It might seem strange to you that there’s a nontrivial chance that a combined hurricane/nor’easter/snowstorm could hit the New York area the day before Halloween. And indeed, even in the era of climatic instability caused by global warming, it is strange … though not unheard-of.
However, things got a lot stranger than that barely seven years ago. It’s a comic strip, but all “dialogue” really happened.
Friday, January 27, 2012 7:56 pm
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is taking increasing fire … from members of his own party. And MoJo’s Kevin Drum has a plausible explanation for why:
What’s most ironically amusing about all this, though, is that underlying a lot of the attacks on Newt is the complaint that he’s not conservative enough. Weirdly enough, there’s some truth to this by modern GOP standards. Newt’s tone and temperament are perfectly suited to the no-compromise-no-surrender spirit of the tea party-ized GOP, which is why he’s so appealing to the base during debates. But the truth is that for all his bluster, Newt was perfectly willing to do deals during his time as Speaker. He likes to think of himself as a world-historical figure, and that means getting world-historical things done. Simple obstruction is not really his MO. That makes him doubly unreliable, since obstruction is the sine qua non of movement conservatism these days.
The GOP Establishment can read polls as well as anyone. And they’re in damage-control mode: They know they’ve got a good thing going from a financial standpoint (free money for Bank of America, et al., from the Fed just for starters), and they know they’ll have to at least appear to give a little to keep the gravy train running. So you have Bob Dole — a SOB in his day but fondly remembered by Democrats now compared with today’s GOP — coming out and trashing Newt.
But Newt, although he almost certainly wants the same thing, is willing to tell the GOP primary voting base otherwise. In South Carolina, they wanted to hear that badly enough to believe him. It’ll be interesting to see whether Florida GOP primary voters respond likewise.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:48 pm
Got this today:
Dear MoveOn member**,You should run for office.No, really. You, Lex Alexander, should run for elective office: maybe city council or school board in Greensboro, or the state legislature in Raleigh.
Monday, August 15, 2011 8:29 pm
Thursday, June 9, 2011 8:39 pm
HOQUIAM, Wash. – Police say a man was carrying a dead weasel when he burst into an apartment and assaulted a man in Washington state.
The victim asked, “Why are you carrying a weasel?” Police said the attacker answered, “It’s not a weasel, it’s a marten,” then punched him in the nose and fled.
If people would just carry ferrets, we wouldn’t have this problem.
Thursday, January 13, 2011 8:09 pm
… just consider this: Kay Bailey Hutchison is now too liberal for Texas.
Monday, December 13, 2010 8:37 pm
… maybe you need to rethink. Particularly when your partner is a killer. Just sayin’.
Sunday, October 10, 2010 12:57 pm
Putting aside everything we know about the status quo, consider exactly what Republicans think we should be doing right now: keep Bush-era tax rates; slash public-sector employment; stop infrastructure investments; let the private sector grow without any additional economic stimulus.
Then consider the status quo: we have Bush-era tax rates in place (in addition to middle-class and small-business tax cuts Dems passed over GOP opposition); the public sector is shedding jobs by tens of thousands of people per month; infrastructure investments are being blocked (see here and here); and the private sector is trying to grow without any additional economic stimulus.
In other words, the GOP is getting its way and it’s complaining about the results.
I have my own serious problems with Washington Democrats, not the least of which is that the top one is trying to assassinate American citizens unconstitutionally and wiretap every last one of us, either of which is an impeachable offense in its own right.
But where the economy is concerned, here’s where we are: Many, many things are wrong. Pretty much every one of them is probably going to get dramatically worse if Republicans take control of Congress. And Americans, unable or unwilling to ascertain who is to blame, may well let them do it anyway.
Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:17 pm
So according to a new book by former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Obama gave up on the so-called “public option” as part of any health-care reform package no later than July 8, 2009:
In his book, Daschle reveals that after the Senate Finance Committee and the White Houseconvinced hospitals to to accept $155 billion in payment reductions over ten years on July 8, the hospitals and Democrats operated under two “working assumptions.” “One was that the Senate would aim for health coverage of at least 94 percent of Americans,” Daschle writes. “The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.
I asked Daschle if the White House had taken the option off the table in July 2009 and if all future efforts to resuscitate the provision were destined to fail:
DASCHLE: I don’t think it was taken off the table completely. It was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others. I mean I think that part of the whole effort was based on a premise. That premise was, you had to have the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past efforts is that without the stakeholders’ active support rather than active opposition, it’s almost impossible to get this job done. They wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and this was the price some thought they had to pay. Now, it’s debatable about whether all of these assertions and promises are accurate, but that was the calculation.
Daschle later “clarified” his comments by saying, “I did not mean to suggest in any way that the President was not committed to it. The President fought for the public option just as he did for affordable health care for all Americans. The public option was dropped only when it was no longer viable in Congress, not as a result of any deal cut by the White House.” That’s some clarification: It means that Daschle either was lying when he wrote his book or he’s lying now. For the purposes of this discussion and because I see no reason to do otherwise, I’m going to presume that the book is accurate and the “clarification” was issued only because he’s getting some blowback from the White House.
I get that whether or not it actually was necessary to trade the public option to get some kind of reform passed, the Obama team might have thought it was necessary … and acted accordingly.
But if that were the case, why didn’t they just say so at the time? Why did they keep so many other people in the dark, both in and out of Congress? Because as late as December 2009, some prominent House Democrats were publicly stating that they wouldn’t sign off on any House-Senate health-care reconciliation that did not include a public option.
Did Obama’s people honestly think no one would ever find out? Or did they just not care that people (including prominent congresscritters of their own party), once they found out, would be furious about having gone to a lot of trouble to fight for something that was never going to happen and thus having been made to look like fools?
Seriously, I absolutely do not get this. What is the upside in this approach? What policy or political gain could possibly be derived from it — for Obama, for congressional Dems, for consumers?
Meanwhile, the White House, which badly needs its base voters in this midterm election, has been telling them publicly to shut up and be grateful for what they got, when what they got was a little bit of progress mixed with a lot of continuation (and, in some cases, worsening) of Bush policy and constant dismissal. No damn wonder the Dems have an “enthusiasm gap.” If I were a base Dem voter and had been treated this way, I’d be telling the president right now to Foxtrot Oscar Alpha Delta.
Am I missing something here? Because the only scenario in which this makes any sense is if Barack Obama is on Karl Rove’s payroll.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 8:56 pm
In an era in which a major-party nominee for a U.S. Senate seat is taking heat for her public opposition to masturbation (as opposed to her opposition to public masturbation, which, frankly, even I am not wild about), naming a website BeatBoehner.com is either major dhummitude or true genius.
Monday, September 6, 2010 7:23 pm
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 9:22 pm
When Alan Keyes starts making sense:
The 14th Amendment is not something that one should play with lightly. I noticed, finally, that Lindsey Graham, used the term — as people have carelessly done over the years — referring to the 14th Amendment as something that has to do with birthright citizenship, and that we should get rid of birthright citizenship. Now let me see, if birthright citizenship is not a birthright, then it must be a grant of the government. And if it is a grant of the government, then it could be curtailed in all the ways that fascists and totalitarians always want to.
I think we ought to be real careful before we adopt a view we want to say that citizenship is not a reflection of our unalienable rights. It is not a grant of government, but arises from a set of actual conditions, starting with the rule of God, that constrain government to respect the rights of the people, and therefore the rights that involve the claim of citizenship. Those are really deep, serious issues, and when the amendment was written, and when it was first referred to in the Slaughterhouse cases, the Supreme Court declared that they knew they were touching on something that was absolutely fundamental. And I think before we play games with it in any way, we need to remember that ourselves.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 8:52 pm
A friend mentioned on Facebook today that she’d been the victim of credit-card fraud (that is, someone else using her credit-card number) for the second time in two years.
That happened to me earlier this year: Somebody used my VISA number to buy stuff at an organic grocery store in Miami. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that; I always sort of figured the credit-card system had an alert system that would flash something up on the screen like, “DUDE: If he’s not buying bacon and Cheese Dorts, he’s not the real Lex Alexander.”
Thursday, July 8, 2010 10:10 pm
“The problem is, we don’t have any frogs. Not a one. And we’re not going to get any frogs until September.”
Friday, July 2, 2010 6:41 am
There was no damn reason for Nancy Pelosi to do this. It will directly plunge more than a million older Americans into poverty and hurt many others financially, just so that billionaire Pete Peterson can have more money.
Heck of a job, Nancy.
Friday, June 25, 2010 8:36 pm
They’re contaminating the purity of our essence; or, Memo to the Democrats: Sometimes, nothing can save you from your Stoopid.
It is an indication of what a monumental screwup Harry Reid has been as Senate Majority Leader that his opponent, Sharron Angle, could be this batsh*t insane and still have a decent chance of unseating him:
The 16-page flier, available at TPMM, accuses gay people (aka “sodomites”, “perverts”) of everything from child molestation, to serial murder, to debasing rodeos, to contaminating the water supply by exuding HIV. Blood libel, or urine libel, as the case may be.
TPMM contacted Angle for comment, but received no reply from her campaign.
Angle personally denounced fluoridated water as a Communist conspiracy in 1999.
Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:29 pm
… but, boy, do I have some questions:
A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria when he ‘mooned’ a group of Hell’s Angels, hurled a puppy at them and then escaped on a bulldozer.
Monday, June 14, 2010 11:27 pm
… because apparently they can make antibodies out of plastic now and keep you from dying of bee stings.
I probably will feel better about this once Deepwater Horizon stops erupting.
Plus which, I don’t know what else we have in the pharmacopoeia that will save people who have tried to become clairvoyant for gambling purposes by smoking dried endangered vultures’ brains.
Friday, May 14, 2010 10:50 pm
Do it! Now! Do — wait, what? They already are?
Oh. OK, well, let’s see how it comes out, then.
Monday, May 10, 2010 9:26 pm
Apparently I have been away from the medical beat for too long, because while I was not looking, the presence of Lyme disease in North Carolina somehow went from “Well, duh” to “medical controversy.”
Public health officials and doctors in the state have been reluctant to diagnose Lyme disease, citing evidence that ticks carrying the bacterium are scarce here and that the few that exist feed on reptiles instead of humans.
I’m having trouble following this logic.
I remember being warned about ticks and Rocky Mountain spotted fever 40 freakin’ years ago when I was a Boy Scout. Lyme disease is similar and also is tick-borne, and everyone knows the state’s growing, and increasingly encroached-upon, deer population is a tick’s favorite ride, the late-autumn increase in the incidence of atmospheric, high-velocity heavy metals notwithstanding.
If there’s anything at all that should be controversial, at least from this reluctant outdoorsman’s layman’s perspective, it’s the strong possibility that both Lyme and RMSF have been underreported in this state.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 8:51 pm
If you put Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Fox News talk-show host Glenn Beck in a room, who do you think will sound the most reasonable?
The morning after the arrest of 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad at John F. Kennedy airport on Monday evening, the usual suspects in the GOP took to print and the airwaves to whack away at the president and his top lawyer. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) mocked the idea that Attorney General Eric Holder might read the suspect [in this past weekend's failed Times Square car-bombing attempt] his Miranda rights or consider trying him in a civilian court.
“I hope that Holder did discuss this with the intelligence community. If they believe they got enough from him, how much more should they get? Did they Mirandize him? I know he’s an American citizen but still,” King said.
Notorious for jumping into the political fray in the wake of attempted or successful terrorist acts, King was quickly joined in the ring by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who called the idea of reading Miranda rights a “serious mistake.” …
[But] the two lawmakers found themselves on the opposite end of the argument from no less a conservative voice than Beck.
“He is a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens,” the bombastic Fox News host said to the stunned co-hosts of “Fox and Friends”. “If you are a citizen, you obey the law and follow the Constitution. [Shahzad] has all the rights under the Constitution.”
“We don’t shred the Constitution when it is popular,” Beck added. “We do the right thing.”
Now, as it happens, the Constitution applies to citizens and noncitizens alike domestically. At least, the courts have said it is supposed to. But here are King and McCain, who consider themselves America-loving, pro-Constitution kinds of guys, being dopeslapped by Glenn Beck on a matter of constitutional law. Either we’re all the way through the looking glass, or King and McCain should just go crawl under a rock and hide in shame.
Monday, May 3, 2010 10:06 pm
From long experience covering law enforcement, I was well aware of the various ethnic groups and subgroups into which prison populations divide, but I confess I’d never much thought about where a Jew might fit in (I mean, for starters, being Jewish is not always visibly obvious).
David Arenberg finds a place to fit in, but he’s never wholly comfortable and, like Stephen King’s fictional Andy Dufresne, he has a talent — Dufresne knew finance; Arenberg was once a lawyer — that people who otherwise would just as soon kill him as look at him find useful. But some pretty basic parts of one’s day take on existential stakes in prison:
It is an inviolate rule that different races may not break bread together under any circumstances. If you eat at the same table as another race, you’ll get beaten down. If you eat from the same tray, you’ll be put in the hospital. And if you eat from the same food item, that is, after a person of another race has already taken a bite of it, you can get killed.
This makes it difficult for me, of course, to fit into the chow hall. Jews, as we all know, are not white but imposters who don white skin and hide inside it for the purpose of polluting and taking over the white race. The skinheads can’t allow me to eat with them: That would make them traitors of the worst kind— race traitors! But my pasty complexion makes it impossible for me to eat with other races who don’t understand the subtleties of my treachery and take me for just another wood. So the compromise is that I may sit at certain white tables after all the whites have finished eating. In exchange, I must do free legal work as directed by the heads and remit to them a portion of the legal fees I collect from everyone else I do legal work for on the yard.
This compromise was brokered by the more “mainstream” Nazis on the yard, the Aryan Brotherhood. They became involved because when I first got here, one of the first cases I handled resulted in getting a 21-year sentence for one of their members vacated. This gave me instant credibility: Even if a “hands-off-the-Jew” policy could not be established, a “hands-off-the-Jewish-lawyer” policy could be and was.
One of my favorite definitions of “realism,” other than the obvious, is that, in fiction, any alternative universe you create has to abide by its own internal logic. And prison is, if nothing else, an alternative universe; where else would you find “mainstream” Nazis and “fringe” Nazis?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 8:51 pm
You know why there are no great humor novels about state legislatures? Because real life outdoes anything a novelist could conjure:
Last Wednesday, the [Georgia] House Judiciary Committee entertained SB 235, the bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville) to prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in human beings. …
At the House hearing, state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Kennesaw), who is shouldering the legislation in the House, spoke earnestly for better than a half hour on microchips as a literal invasion of privacy.
He was followed by a hefty woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County. “I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip,” the woman said. Slowly, she began to lead the assembled lawmakers down a path they didn’t want to take.
Microchips, the woman began, “infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body.”
She spoke of the “right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices.”
She continued. “Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission,” she said.
It was not funny, and no one laughed.
“Ma’am, did you say you have a microchip?” asked state Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold).
“Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area,” she replied. Setzler, the sponsoring lawmaker, sat next to the witness – his head bowed.
“You’re saying this was involuntary?” Weldon continued.
The woman said she had been pushing a court case through the system for the last eight years to have the device removed.
Wendell Willard (R-Atlanta), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, picked up the questioning.
“Who implanted this in you?” he asked.
“Researchers with the federal government,” she said.
“And who in the federal government implanted it?” Willard asked.
“The Department of Defense.”
… it might make them smarter.