Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, January 31, 2009 10:58 am

More like this, please

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 10:58 am

Gulfport, Miss., Mayor Brent Warr and his wife have been indicted on Hurricane Katrina-related fraud charges.

Warr is a Republican, but I have no doubt that significant numbers of people from both major parties and some unaffiliated folks besides have been up to tricks like this. Lock ’em all up.

The real fraud, however, likely rests with corporations, not individuals. In times past we hanged looters from the lampposts. Perhaps it’s about time we started doing the equivalent with corporations (chartered, after all, by the public) that steal from the taxpayers — revoke their charters, confiscate their assets and leave their board members and officers to the tender mercies of the stockholders. I think here in North Carolina you could use the public-nuisance statute if there isn’t a more direct mechanism.

This law-and-order Republican thinks it’s time we stopped coddling criminals.

Until today I’d never heard of Alan Grayson …

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 10:34 am

… but he’s my new hero:

Bonus: Barney Frank’s near-incomprehensible “Yeah! Yeah! What he said!” at the end.

UPDATE: More on Grayson here, here and here (h/t: Athenae). About time someone started looking after my investments.

Thursday, January 29, 2009 5:37 pm

Just in case you wondered whether he can hit NBA 3-pointers …

Filed under: Wildcats — Lex @ 5:37 pm

Stephen Curry, sharpshooter:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 11:37 pm

Sometimes a good fight is exactly what you need

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 11:37 pm

Bipartisanship can be very expensive.

“See the oilfields at first light …”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 2:11 pm

… or at least Greensboro’s petroleum tank farm. At last light, not first. But still.

Sunset over the Greensboro tank farm, 1/23/09

Sunset over the Greensboro tank farm, 1/23/09

Sunday, January 25, 2009 10:05 pm

Ten Thirty years after

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:05 pm

My friend Tony Patterson has posted some photos from our ’77 Governor’s School experience and the class’s 11/77 reunion in Winston-Salem. I’m in one of them, looking a lot … well, younger.

There’s a reason it’s called World Nut Daily

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 5:59 pm
Tags: ,

So this guy is perfectly willing to overlook the war-criminality of George W. Bush et al. to pray for the failure of a new president he says is evil because of … well, he never quite says.

Heathen. Come to Jesus. You might like Him.

UPDATE: It ain’t just religious nuts who want Obama to fail.

Kay Yow, 1942-2009

Filed under: Sad,Salute! — Lex @ 2:38 pm

The loss of Kay Yow to cancer is a tremendous blow to Wolfpack Nation (which includes both my brothers), no doubt. But it was more. As Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski noted, Yow’s willingness to fight her cancer in public was a boost and inspiration to cancer patients, and their loved ones, from all over.

In fact, her example was an inspiration to everyone, from the 8-year-old running the point for his rec-league team to the guy sitting up late every night trying to keep his fourth-generation family business afloat in an era of dried-up credit, who has ever been handed the ball, six points down, with a minute to play.

Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:15 am

Davidson 83, Furman 43

Filed under: Victoria,Wildcats — Lex @ 8:15 am
Tags: , ,

Took Victoria down to see the Davidson-Furman game last night. I’m perfectly good with blowouts, and that’s what this one was. Davidson led by as much as 48 points late.

Here’s Victoria with the Wildcat statue across from Belk Arena before the game:

Victoria with the wildcat statue outside Belk Arena vs. Furman, 1/21/09

Victoria with the wildcat statue outside Belk Arena vs. Furman, 1/21/09

Here’s Victoria with her face painted:

Victorias cat-claw face paint vs. Furman, 1/21/09

Victoria's cat-claw face paint vs. Furman, 1/21/09

And after the game, Stephen Curry (30 points, 5 rebounds, at least 2 steals) was officially recognized as the Sporting News 2008 College Athlete of the Year:

Stephen Curry is officially recognized as Sporting News 2008 College Athlete of the Year

Stephen Curry is officially recognized as Sporting News' 2008 College Athlete of the Year

V. had a blast, the ‘Cats won big and Steph got some well-deserved recognition. It’s all good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 7:46 am

Roadmap for prosecution

Filed under: I want my country back.,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 7:46 am

One of the two banned commenters on this blog is fond of saying that the question of whether Bush and his top officials committed war crimes is simply a matter of opinion.

Not being such a Foucaltian, I’ve taken the position that this is a factual question with only one true answer. Now comes one-stop documentation. Bonus: the intro, by a former Nuremberg prosecutor.

Is this blackmail, extortion or just generic criminal behavior?

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 7:45 am

Outgoing CIA chief Michael Hayden: “If you tell us not to torture, we won’t torture, and then the boogeyman will blow something up.”

Moron. If you really think torture is necessary, then be prepared to take your chances in front of a jury. If it really was necessary, no jury in America will vote to convict. And if a jury does vote to convict, it’ll show the world that we mean what we say we mean.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 5:15 pm

Glen Beck, Teh Loathesome

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 5:15 pm

I’d’ve loved to have liveblogged the inaugural. Instead, I watched it with the kids, answering questions, plugging in fun little factoids that the networks neglected to share, and then going and playing in the snow with Hooper while V. went to play at a friend’s.

(Fun fact: I tried to get the kids to believe that it’s really called an inauguramation. But V&H? Not buying.)

So a little while ago I was folding laundry and watching Fox, and Glen Beck  was  going all concern-troll on us, worrying aloud that Joseph Lowery, who has more  moral authority in his little finger than  Glenn Beck’s  entire family could muster  with all its  appendages intact,  was  doing something outrageous by praying  for  true racial equality.

Glen, son, Teh Stoopid is leaking out of all your orifices. Go clean yourself up. You’re an embarrassment to primates everywhere.

Monday, January 19, 2009 5:25 pm

Rants? Dennis Miller is a piker.

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 5:25 pm

Here’s your real ranter, commenter Gasman at Nance’s blog: “I have no sympathy or patience for anyone that was not outraged by the last eight years.”

Bailout ripoff

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 5:18 pm

I am so proud that our national banks, which are granted the right to do business by the taxpaying public and insured by that same public, are taking the public’s money and striving so mightily to use it in the public’s best interests.

Oh. Wait.

Must … use … powers … for … good …

Filed under: Fun,Hooper — Lex @ 3:35 pm

So we and the kids are over at a friend’s for a brunch gathering, and after a while, I find that as a result of Hooper’s powers influence charisma, I must have the following dialogue with another parent:

Me: So, does [your 5-year-old daughter] take off her shoes and socks and leave them in strange places, shoot people with Nerf dart guns, rave about Transformers and yell, “Me! Want! Brownies!”?

Friend: No.

Me: Well, she does now.

Not only that, but said 5-year-old daughter has come over this afternoon to play Transformers with Hooper. And they’re having a blast.

UPDATE: Hooper and this girl are now out in the backyard with swords, playing pirate. And he might have met his match. As I was attending to the girl’s bleeding thumb after a minor hangnail-related incident, she announced, “I’m only 5 and I can read chapter books. I’m a very interesting kid.”

Sadly, it’s believable

Filed under: Fun,Panthers — Lex @ 2:17 pm
Tags: , ,

From The Onion, but still:

CHARLOTTE, NC—Claiming that he felt “rushed,” Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme failed to connect on a 5-foot pass to his Capital Grille restaurant valet Sunday, instead sending his car keys into the hands of the wrong parking attendant. “It’s frustrating, because I knew as soon as I let go of the keys that the throw was off target,” said Delhomme, adding that he should not have been throwing off his back foot.

iHate iTunes

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 11:10 am
Tags: ,

Frustration the latest: A song I long ago ripped from a CD and burned to Victoria’s Shuffle shows up and plays just fine on her Shuffle but now is nowhere to be found in my iTunes music library. Possibly relatedly, on the contents list for the Shuffle, the song shows up in the list with a little exclamati0n-mark icon on a gray background to the far left. What does that mean, and what in pluperfect hell is iTunes doing with my (not only legal but also paid for with my hard-earned dollars) songs?

Sunday, January 18, 2009 5:56 pm

Pardon me while I tell a Nobel Prize-winning economist he’s full of it

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 5:56 pm
Tags: ,

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has written a letter to our new president. Most of it’s about economics, and to the extent I understand what he’s saying on that subject, I agree with him.

But he runs right off the rails of justice and decency with this:

There is, however, one area where I feel the need to break discipline. I’m an economist, but I’m also an American citizen — and like many citizens, I spent the past eight years watching in horror as the Bush administration betrayed the nation’s ideals. And I don’t believe we can put those terrible years behind us unless we have a full accounting of what really happened. I know that most of the inside-the-Beltway crowd is urging you to let bygones be bygones, just as they urged Bill Clinton to let the truth about scandals from the Reagan-Bush years, in particular the Iran-Contra affair, remain hidden. But we know how that turned out: The same people who abused power in the name of national security 20 years ago returned as part of the team that, under the second George Bush, did it all over again, on a much larger scale. It was an object lesson in the truth of George Santayana’s dictum: Those who refuse to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

That’s why this time we need a full accounting. Not a witch hunt, maybe not even prosecutions, but something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that helped South Africa come to terms with what happened under apartheid. … The White House created a climate in which abuse became commonplace, and in many cases probably took the lead in instigating these abuses. But it’s not enough to leave this reality in the realm of things “everybody knows” — because soon enough they’ll be denied or forgotten, and the cycle of abuse will begin again. The whole sordid tale needs to be brought out into the sunlight.

We do not need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What we need is to use the institutions we have. We have a justice system that is perfectly capable of both exposing and punishing the crimes against humanity that have been committed by the Bush administration, and putting that system to work on those crimes is absolutely essential to the future of the rule of law and therefore of this country. Congressional investigations are worthwhile only to the extent that they lead to criminal prosecutions.

Senior officials up and including our outgoing president have admitted to crimes including torture. They must be prosecuted. Getting the whole story out isn’t enough, although we must do that. We also must show the world that in our system, no one, no one, is above the law. If we don’t do that, we make a mockery of everything this country stands for. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to make Nuremberg possible. If we don’t prosecute these crimes, which certainly differ in scale, but differ not at all in type, from some of the crimes for which we hanged Nazis, then Nuremberg, and the sacrifices that made it possible, will have been in vain. Rod Blagojevich is prosecuted while these people walk free? That’s unspeakable.

That’s not the country I want to live in. That’s not America. We’re better than that. We owe it to the people we have wronged, we owe it to our friends — and adversaries — around the world and we owe it to ourselves to prove it.

Investigate them. Arrest them. Indict them. Try them. And when they’re found guilty — and they will be; the evidence is simply too great — punish them to the full extent of the law, even if that means the gallows.

Bestest. Inaugural. Evah.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 4:36 pm
Tags: ,

Peter Cashwell. He has designed it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009 6:00 pm

Sully the pilot/hero: the subject of the Quote of the Day

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:00 pm
Tags: , ,

From commenter BOHICA at Firedoglake: “… reading about this, I sometimes wonder how these pilots can work the pedals with balls that big.”

Reopening the doors

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 1:44 pm

Akismet has been doing an admirable job of filtering spam, so I’ve de-moderated the comments to see what happens. Y’all play nicely.

Friday, January 16, 2009 5:18 pm

Question of the day

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Religion — Lex @ 5:18 pm

Why does Rick Warren hate America?

Thursday, January 15, 2009 5:44 pm

He doesn’t know what?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 5:44 pm

President Bush says he doesn’t know whether we’ve ever gotten close to capturing Osama bin Laden.

If true, that’s astonishing. It represents either a huge failing of our intelligence apparatus or willful ignorance on his part. (If it is in fact true, my bet would be on the former.)

It’s also possible that he did know but felt, out of national-security concerns, that he couldn’t truthfully say. But if that was the case, he could have said that.

Too much time on his hands, he has.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:39 am

Someone has gone to the trouble of mapping the entire Star Wars galaxy. And I suspect I have too much time on my hands for blogging about it.

A blog. He haz one.

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 11:36 am
Tags: ,

North Carolina’s senior senator, Richard Burr, has joined blogworld. I hope he finds blogging both useful and educational. I just wish it had comments, as much of a nightmare as they’d be for a U.S. senator to manage.

(h/t: Ed)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 5:04 pm

Six-word inaugural speeches

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:04 pm

I heard on the radio yesterday afternoon about some sort of contest that invited people to submit proposed inaugural speeches … limited to six words. Kind of like haiku, only even more circumscribed.

I was driving, so I couldn’t write them down, but one of the contest organizers said that one of his favorites (which didn’t make the final cut) was, if I’m remembering it right, “Life is a test. Study hard.”

Even though the contest is over, I thought I’d take a crack at it:

  • Tighten belts; we’re out of money.
  • Two wars, no economy: We’re screwed.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs here, not overseas.
  • Free ourselves from foreign oil now.
  • No more rigged games; everyone benefits.
  • Our great Constitution: it works, beehortches.
  • Now we take our country back.

Care to take your own shot?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:29 pm

The final edition

Filed under: Housekeeping,Journalism — Lex @ 12:29 pm

If you follow me on Facebook or the work blog, you know that Jan. 2 was my last day at the News & Record. The company offered voluntary buyouts several weeks ago, and I took one.

This obviously was a tough decision. My gut reaction when the announcement of buyouts first went out was, “You need to take this.” But I thought a lot about it, and talked to a lot of people, before pulling the trigger right before the end of the year.

My thinking went something like this, although I can’t swear it went in this order.

First, as even a lot of non-newspaper people now know, the newspaper industry is in a lot of financial trouble because circulation has been dropping more or less like a rock in most markets. A lot of places have laid off a lot of people. I won’t bore you with the details, nor will I belabor the point with statistics. But it’s grim, and the prospects of a substantial turnaround anytime soon look dim.

Historically, the N&R has weathered economic downturns better than a lot of places. During the 1990-91 recession, for example, there were retirement buyouts, but no layoffs, at a time when a lot of other newspaper chains were shedding jobs. Not being a stockholder in the paper’s parent (privately held) company, I didn’t know exactly what the numbers were for the N&R. But I knew they weren’t good. I also knew, and some of you will remember, that the paper laid off a number of people in mid-2007.

The details of the buyout are confidential, but as most such offers do, this one hinged on tenure with the company. I’d been with the N&R just shy of 22 years. With no guarantee that there wouldn’t be more layoffs sometime soon (with severance packages not nearly as generous), the math looked pretty compelling.

Finally — and I don’t want to use this to try to make me look noble or anything, but it did cross my mind — I figured that my taking the buyout might buy a little more job security for someone who couldn’t. I talked to a number of people who wanted to take the buyout but either hadn’t been with the N&R long enough for the money to be much help or who couldn’t leave because they would lose health insurance. And, of course, I talked to people who wanted to stay no matter what.

I hate what has happened to the newspaper industry. What’s ironic is that I’m awful at prognostication — I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve ever even bet on a sports event, and I’ve never publicly predicted the outcome of any election. But I can’t say I didn’t see this disaster coming a long time ago. I was reminded of this recently when I popped an old floppy into my home machine to make sure the new drive was working properly and found on it a letter I had written to friends of mine in October 1994. At the time, I was leading the team that was creating Triad Online, the N&R’s first Web site. We were still about two months away from soft launch, but we were about to become one of the first 25 or 30 newspapers in the country to put up a more-or-less functional, news-delivering Web site. Here’s what I said to my friends:

One hidden blessing of my work with the online service is getting to spend a good bit of time on the Internet, exchanging ideas with people in my line of work and people on the outside looking in. It has aroused hope and despair — hope, in that I can see that the way things work in cyberspace is different and, in most ways, better than the way they work in most daily papers and offers a model for what we could become; despair, in that the newspaper industry does an awesome job of killing off its best thinkers early in their careers. If newspapers go on-line and try to stay there, either they will be abandoned by their customers or forced by them to become more open and responsive. The process of deciding “what’s news” will become more democratized, with fewer such decisions made by a closeted, small group of isolated, middle-aged white men. Reporters will be challenged by their online readers to find better source materials, better human sources. Editors who make stupid decisions about, say, naming rape victims will be forced by online readers to defend those decisions publicly — will be forced, in short, to do something they haven’t done in years: think about the news. Scary thought for a lot of them. But the scariest thought of all is that newspaper editors won’t make the change. They have invested too much time and effort to gain this power; they don’t want to give it up. And I think what will happen is that before they do give it up, their readers will give them up. Online doesn’t need to kill newspapers, but it probably will, and the newspapers will have only their own editors to blame.

As predictions go, this one was fair-to-middlin’. Newspapers actually did become more open; their online interaction with the public really did evolve in the way I described. The News & Record was a national leader in that regard, and I’m proud to have helped make that happen.

And, yeah, the industry’s editors were to some extent to blame for the dive the industry has taken. But the industry is getting killed not because of its content, although that’s a factor in some markets. It’s getting killed because its traditional revenue sources got siphoned off by competitors like Craigslist. Its business side never found a way to make money online in sufficient quantities to support a news operation, even at margins lower than print had historically achieved.

It was a bad scene, and just how bad it was was driven home to me as the word spread that I was going to be leaving the paper. The first thing every single person who had heard the news said to me on getting to talk to me about it or leave me a message was, “Congratulations!” I was starting to wonder if I should be developing survivor guilt.

I am at peace with my decision to leave, but that absolutely does not mean I regret any of the time I spent there. In my almost 22 years at the News & Record, I got to do a whole bunch of stuff I loved and had looked forward to getting the chance to do.

For one thing, beats at the paper defined certain minimum obligations but were not by any means intended to be confining. During my time as an investigative reporter, I got to do a big ol’ story on the resurgence of pinball, for example. (Obviously this was years ago; pinball is now basically dead except for computer simulations.) In addition to my beat responsibilities, I spent three years covering PTL and Jim Bakker. Later, I got to turn religion into a hard-news beat and then cover it that way, which was also educational, and I got to write a wide-ranging religion column while I held that beat — almost a blog in print, before I or anyone else in our newsroom had heard of blogging. I got to learn database analysis. As regional editor, I got huge satisfaction out of hiring good people and helping them grow and learn. As assistant features editor, I got to work with some of the most talented pure writers in the newsroom, a job that involved just as much learning as it did managing. I got to be an investigative-projects reporter. I got to lead an enterprise team. (And you haven’t lived until you’ve cut a reporter like Stan Swofford or Taft Wireback loose on a story. It’s the journalism equivalent of getting to drive a Ferrari.) I got to lead the aforementioned Triad Online team, a diverse and creative bunch who made sure we got our first Web effort off on the right foot. And as citizen-journalism coordinator, I spent 2005 neck-and-neck with Rob Curley in terms of who had the coolest newspaper job on the planet AND got mentioned in the New York Times. (I just wish Dad could have lived another month to see that.)

Even more important than that, though, were the relationships I built over the years, with co-workers and with people in the community. I even met my wife on the job. (She was working for another paper then, and she and I both covered the 1987 Klan march in Greensboro, the first one since the 1979 Klan-Nazi killings.) Those friendships have been amazing. Just one example: On the June day in 2005 when I returned from burying my father after having been out of town in the hospital with him most of the previous month, I pulled into the driveway and found photo director Rob Brown and his son there with a lawn mower, preparing to take care of the chores I hadn’t been there to handle. You think I didn’t tear up?

I started in the newspaper business on Feb. 26, 1984, almost exactly 25 years ago. On the twentieth anniversary of that date in a post that apparently has been lost to Blogger, WordPress, the Google cache AND, (UPDATE: Post is here), I composed a list of things I had learned after 20 years in newspapers. If I remember the last two correctly, they were something on the order of “I can’t imagine ever leaving newspapers” and “I know the day will come when I will have to leave.”

That day has come. I have nothing but fondness for the experience. And now it’s time to leave.

(I’ve tried to insert the *.pdf of the parody front page my colleagues gave me when I left, but WordPress isn’t letting me, even though it supposedly will handle *.pdf files. Anyone got any suggestions on getting it to show up? Thanks.)

Monday, January 12, 2009 10:45 pm

Another mass grave

This one is sort of unusual, though: It appears to contain the remains of roughly 1,800 German men, women and children killed during the Red Army’s attack toward Berlin in 1944-45. Germans in the area had been ordered to evacuate ahead of the Soviet advance, but some never got the word and others simply couldn’t get out in time. (The site, now part of Poland, was part of Germany during World War II.)

At least 100 of the corpses had bullet holes in the skulls. It’s unclear how the rest might have died, although many could have been victims of a heavy Soviet artillery bombardment.

As it happens, one of the books I got for Christmas was Antony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945. One point it made repeatedly was that the Soviet Army committed many atrocities, including murder and rape, not only against Germans but also against Poles as Stalin plotted to solidify his western flank. Part of the reason was that the Soviets were seeking revenge for the way the Germans had treated the Soviet Union during their earlier attack on that country. And part of the reason was that the Red Army was just damnably undisciplined, containing large numbers of soldiers who would have committed atrocities even without the German example as a motivator.

The bigger picture is that the Berlin campaign was among the most savage in a war overflowing with savagery. I recall reading that somewhere between 16 million and 20 million soldiers were killed worldwide … and that the number of civilians killed was larger still. Entire regions, not just towns and cities, were reduced to rubble. Those of us who have grown up with Vietnam and the Gulf as the wars we can remember probably can scarcely imagine what that kind of total war was like.

Beevor is a good, if not flashy, writer. He appears to have written a number of books on World War II history, and after reading this one, the one I most want to read next is the one on Stalingrad.

Victoria the cartoonist

Filed under: Fun,Victoria — Lex @ 9:40 pm

I promised a while back that I would post the book that Victoria made and gave to me for Christmas. So here it is:

Shrugging off “Atlas Shrugged”

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 5:43 pm
Tags: ,

A million years ago I read “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.” Both at the time and now, I wonder why. Both books were horrible writing in service of questionable themes. Rand wasn’t just arguing that government run amok is bad; she was arguing that government itself is bad. (Tell it to the Marines.) She also seemed to be trying to make a case for greed and selfishness as virtues, which any properly raised Christian can tell you is bad in both spiritual and practical terms.

But something else about Rand bugged me, and I could never put my finger on it. But Pamela Troy has:

Rand did not write the book to convince people who disagree with her. She wrote it to convince people who already agree with her to loathe and despise people who disagree with her.

Bingo. Rand not only wants to make a (highly questionable) point, she also wants to demonize those who disagree with her. You’d think someone whose family fled an authoritarian regime would be a little more reasonable. You’d be wrong.

And the problem with demonizing the opposition is that if you do enough of it long enough, you sooner or later tip one of your more unstable ideological brethren into acting violently in service of that ideology. So Rand’s approach is not only stupid, it’s also dangerous.

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