Hooper Alexander III
April 27, 1930-June 4, 2005
Darrell Issa needs to be impeached, and every screaming RWNJ who was accusing the Obama administration of persecution and yadda yadda yadda needs to sit down and drink an icy cold, 1-liter mug of STFU. I have had it with you people.
Outsourced, in the wake of the charging of Frazier Glenn Cross, the guy we North Carolinians knew as Glenn Miller, with three shooting deaths at Jewish centers in Kansas City, to Charlie Pierce:
I think this is a particularly good day to look back to, say, April of 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano presiding, put out a nine-page report in which the DHS pointed out that veterans were being recruited by rightwing terrorist groups around the country. (This was about when people started noticing that the real crazy had come out of the jar when this particular president had been sworn in.) Oh, the fuss that this raised.
John Boehner said of Napolitano that he wanted an “explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”
Professional rage puppet Michelle Malkin wrote: Moreover, the report relies on the work of the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center to stir anxiety over “disgruntled military veterans” – a citation which gives us valuable insight into how DHS will define “hate-oriented” groups. The SPLC, you see, has designated the venerable American Legion a “hate group” for its stance on immigration enforcement. The report offers zero data, but states with an almost resentful attitude toward protected free speech: “Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.”
Well, if ol’ Frazier Glenn Miller had had his way, Malkin wouldn’t have had to worry about the left-leaning SPLC any more.
The fauxtrage did succeed in making the DHS withdraw the report, forcing Napolitano to apologize, and get everyone else to stop paying attention to the genuine extremism that had filtered into the conservative base of one of our two major political parties. This is a very good week to remember it, however.
And so it is.
Between 1984 and the early 1990s, I covered a lot of cluckers and other white supremacists. Most of them, to be charitable, couldn’t find their own asses with both hands and a flashlight. The late Virgil Griffin, perhaps the most famous clucker of his day and certainly the most famous gas-station owner in Mount Holly, might have had the leather-lunged capability of shouting creepy racist, anti-Semitic, anti-feminist stuff until his face was so red that he looked like he was going to stroke out, but he also always looked like one good shot to the head with a beer bottle would shut him up.
Glenn Miller, on the other hand, looked like one good shot to the head with a beer bottle would just piss him off.
He scared the bejesus out of me the one time I talked to him, and I was very glad that there were uniformed law enforcement personnel around. For those of you not from around here, Miller took part in the 1979 Klan-Nazi killings here in Greensboro in which five Communist Workers Party members were killed but no one went to prison. I don’t recall now whether the evidence ever put his finger on a trigger, but that doesn’t matter, because when I met him I didn’t know that history. All I knew was that the guy in front of me was both capable of great aggression and batshit insane, that to him shooting me would be like stepping on an ant.
But the greater issue is that although he’s being charged with murder and hate crimes, both the media and law enforcement have stopped short of calling what he is charged with doing “terrorism.” There’s some history in that that predates even 9/11.
America’s long campaign of lynching African Americans, for any reason or no reason at all, as a de facto legal mechanism of social control, was terrorism, but show me five high schools in the U.S. today that teach it as such. And, of course, post-9/11, “terrorism” became “that which those brown Mooooslims do to hurt us.” No word about Timothy McVeigh. No word about Eric Rudolph. No word about Scott Roeder or James Kopp. And now we’re not using the “t-word” with respect to Glenn Miller. But the fact is that the only meaningful difference between those guys and Osama bin Laden was that bin Laden killed more people.
Law enforcement and the media need to start calling this what it is, and dealing with it accordingly.
And John Boehner, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham and their ilk need to sit their asses down and drink a liter mug of STFU, because Janet Napolitano was right and you bitches were wrong. And all this whining in the media about the “deadliest assembly of al-Qaeda in the history of, like, ever” needs to stop ignoring the terrorists already in the open in our midst, some of them holding responsible positions in one of our nation’s two major parties.
It’s a more complicated question than it appears, and who better than Jay Rosen to make complicated questions of journalism easier to understand?
Officially, the prize went to The Washington Post and to the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. for reporting on the National Security Agency’s lawbreaking and overreaching, based on documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.
But this case illustrates how the process of news gathering, editing, and publishing/distribution has changed in the Internet age. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is that the Pulitzer committee hasn’t caught up yet. The good news, and we definitely want to call it that, is that those agencies that want to suppress the publication of material whose publication is in the public interest, such as the British agents who smashed the Guardian’s MacBook Pros despite knowing that Snowden’s cache of records was alive and well elsewhere on the planet and in cyberspace, haven’t caught up yet, either.
As Rosen puts it, a writer or a paper/news outlet doesn’t publish a story anymore; a system does. And if the Pulitzer committee has trouble wrapping its head around that, that’s OK. I and many other former and current journalists I know would trade a Pulitzer in a heartbeat for the chance to be able to continue performing public-service journalism at least one step ahead of those entities who would unconstitutionally and illegally suppress it.
UPDATE, 4/16: Who really won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism? It damn sure wasn’t ABC News.
I think we ain’t, but it looks like we’ll know soon enough, because the leak even I could see coming is here:
A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn’t constitute torture.
The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.
The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”
The findings are among the report’s 20 main conclusions. Taken together, they paint a picture of an intelligence agency that seemed intent on evading or misleading nearly all of its oversight mechanisms throughout the program, which was launched under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and ran until 2006.
Some of the report’s other conclusions, which were obtained by McClatchy, include:
_ The CIA used interrogation methods that weren’t approved by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters.
_ The agency impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making regarding the program.
_ The CIA actively evaded or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
_ The agency hindered oversight of the program by its own Inspector General’s Office.
So, in plain English:
So CIA personnel ordered and committed hanging offenses and lied to everybody about it. That’s the bottom line, folks. All the rest is sound and fury signifying nothing.
Let’s be very clear about what needs to happen here:
If these things do not happen, then we are not a nation under the rule of law, plain and simple. I wish I could say that we are, but experience suggests that nothing will happen.
So let’s do ourselves a favor. Let’s put paid, once and for all, to this notion of American exceptionalism. We are not special. We are not a shining city on a hill. We are not a Christian nation in any way that Christ Himself would recognize. We are not even, to judge by both legal standards and OECD measures for quality of life, a particularly good example.
It is tempting to say that we are governed by a parliament of whores, but to do so would insult whores, who generally are not nearly as hypocritical about what they do as our leaders are. We are a plutocracy, an oligarchy, an outlaw nation, and the only differences between our genocide and that of the Nazis is that ours was less recent and less efficient. Indeed, it was ironic for me to read tonight on Facebook about my friend Rabbi Fred Guttman honoring the congressional service of my friend Howard Coble, when Coble, a former federal prosecutor, did nothing to stop precisely the kind of behavior on the part of Americans that got Nazis hanged at Nuremberg.
I’d love to be proved wrong on this. I really, really would. But if it hasn’t happened by now, it ain’t gonna. And Americans need to understand that and to plan their futures accordingly.
We here in the ‘boro have a chronic problem: We live in the ice belt — Virginia reliably gets snow in the winter, South Carolina reliably gets rain, but we’re as likely to get freezing rain and sleet as anything else. And with ice comes falling tree limbs and entire trees. And with those come downed power lines. In our most recent ice storm, a lot of people were dark for close to a week.
Duke Energy wanted to minimize this problem by trimming back trees that are near power lines. Residents (including me, in my ignorance) protested.
Now Duke proposes to reduce the problem by injecting a chemical called Cambistat into the ground near trees adjacent to power lines. The good news is, Cambistat will make blossoming trees blossom even more aggressively while slowing the rate of limb growth. This, in turn, will reduce the frequency with which trees near power lines have to be trimmed back.
(I and others have argued that, over time, burying power lines would save Duke Energy, and therefore ratepayers, money by reducing costs associated with repairing downed lines, utility poles, transformers, etc. I still believe that to be true, but not only would the trenching required to bury lines kill a lot of trees all by itself by damaging their roots, it’s also beside the point of this discussion.)
The bad news about Cambistat? Its active ingredient, paclobutrazole, is a chemical about which almost nothing is known but which might be toxic. Relatedly, not a few local residents grow ornamentals, and even herbs, fruit or vegetables, near trees that would be so treated. And pines and cedars, the trees most vulnerable to ice breakage, wouldn’t even be treated.
But remember: We simply don’t know what the effects of exposure to the chemical would be, whether pure or in the diluted form of an herbicide, whether short-term or long-term. On the other hand, with chemical toxicity, unlike in criminal trials, lack of evidence does not automatically equate to a not-guilty verdict.
So friend and local blogger Billy Jones asked a simple question of a tree service that had responded to a Facebook post of his: “How will Cambistat affect my nearby herb and vegetable gardens?”
From a pure PR standpoint, the response he got made the mendacity of the tobacco companies back in the day look urbane and collegial. That made Billy both angry and even more curious. Me, too, and I don’t even grow stuff.
Torture is a stain on this nation’s honor that can be bleached away only by full exposure.
To that I would add this: “Full exposure” means not only making the CIA report public in its entirety; that’s a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition.
It also means holding accountable those who were responsible, and I don’t mean some poor E-2 working third-shift guard duty. I mean the people who planned and carried out the torture program: President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the functionaries like Jim Haynes and John Yoo who fabricated the “legal” justification for that for which there is no justification, moral or legal.
And if that means some of them hang, well, I’ve always been tough on crime, so I’ll sleep fine.
In fact, I’ll sleep better.
Chief Justice John Roberts, author of the majority opinion in McCutcheon, and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in McCutcheon, live in a fantasy world, Ian Millhiser explains:
In 1974, a Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC) revealed activities that nearly anyone other than the five justices who signed on to Roberts’ decision in McCutcheon v. FEC would unreservedly describe as corruption. In the early 1970s, for example, the dairy industry desired increased price supports from the federal government, but Secretary of Agriculture Clifford Hardin has decided not to give these price supports to the milk producers. In response, various dairy industry organizations pledged $2 million to Nixon’s reelection campaign — and then developed a complicated scheme to launder the money through various small donations to “hundreds of committees in various states which could then hold the money for the President’s reelection campaign, so as to permit the producers to meet independent reporting requirements without disclosure.”
President Nixon later agreed to a meeting with industry representatives, and he decided to overrule his Agriculture Secretary. The milk producers got their price supports.
The Ervin report “identified over $1.8 million in Presidential campaign contributions as ascribable, in whole or in part, to 31 persons holding ambassadorial appointments from President Nixon, and stated that six other large contributors, accounting for $3 million, appear to have been actively seeking such appointment at the time of their contributions.” Outside of the White House, the report uncovered “lavish contributions” to members of Congress from both political parties. The chairman of one oil company testified that executives perceived campaign donations as a “calling card” that would “get us in the door and make our point of view heard.” American Airlines’ former chair testified that many companies funneled money to politicians “in response to pressure for fear of a competitive disadvantage that might result” if they did not buy off lawmakers. In essence, businesses feared that if they did not give money to elected officials, but their competitors did, then their competition could use their enhanced access to politicians in order to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
And yet, according to Chief Justice Roberts and his fellow conservative justices, hardly any of this activity amounts to “corruption.”
Even the Court’s 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which famously created the law that money = speech (but also largely upheld post-Watergate campaign-finance reforms), conceded that Congress could regulate campaign contributions to prevent corruption or its appearance. But Kennedy and Roberts have gone much, much farther than that:*
Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon, however, defines the word “corruption” so narrowly that it is practically meaningless. In order to survive constitutional review, Roberts writes, a campaign finance regulation must “target what we have called “quid pro quo” corruption or its appearance. That Latin phrase captures the notion of a direct exchange of an official act for money.” Thus, unless a donor offers “dollars for political favors,” no corruption exists.
Lest there be any doubt, this narrow understanding of the word “corruption” does not capture cases where a donor pays off a politician in order to buy access. To the contrary, as the conservative justices held in Citizens United v. FEC, “[t]he fact that speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt” (The word “speakers,” in this context, is used to refer to what most people describe as “donors”). Indeed, Citizens United goes much further than simply claiming that dollars-for-access arrangements must be tolerated. At one point, it seems to view them as an objective good:
Favoritism and influence are not . . . avoidable in representative politics. It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies. It is well understood that a substantial and legitimate reason, if not the only reason, to cast a vote for, or to make a contribution to, one candidate over another is that the candidate will respond by producing those political outcomes the supporter favors. Democracy is premised on responsiveness.
Democracy certainly is premised on responsiveness. Though it is a strange definition of democracy that offers enhanced responsiveness to those who can afford to pay for it.
Under Roberts’ definition of “corruption” most of the corrupt activities of the Nixon era would be viewed as completely benign. Though an isolated incident, where a Nixon fundraiser promised that the president would make a donor Ambassador to Trinidad in return for $100,000, would qualify as an explicit “dollars for political favors,” arrangement, politicians who give greater access to their donors are not “corrupt” under McCutcheon and Citizens United unless they offer to exchange votes or similar favors in return for campaign donations. Indeed, even the dairy industry’s $2 million bid for a meeting with President Nixon may not qualify as “corruption,” as Roberts understands the word, because there is some uncertainty as to whether the $2 million donation was “conditioned upon or ‘linked’ to” the President agreeing to make specific changes to the administration’s policies. According to Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon,
Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties. And because the Government’s interest in preventing the appearance of corruption is equally confined to the appearance of of quid pro quo corruption, the Government may not seek to limit the appearance of mere influence or access.
So what Nixon likely would have gone to prison for in the 1970s had he attempted to stay in office is now the law of the land, per five Republican justices who no doubt also believe they are Tsars of All the Russias, to borrow a phrase from Charlie Pierce.
And the American people know it, Millhiser concludes:
Very few Americans agree with Roberts’ view of what constitutes corruption. Indeed, a 2012 poll determined that 69 percent of Americans believed that the rule emerging from cases likeCitizens United allowing “corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.” Just 15 percent disagreed.
To put that number in perspective, another poll found that fully 19 percent of Americans believe in “spells or witchcraft” — a full four percentage points more …
Myself, I’m wondering, given how many presumably sensible Americans have, since 2000, been willing to give away so many of their own rights and to refuse to hold accountable a generation of the most corrupt and wicked pols and business leaders since the Harding administration, whether more Americans ought to believe in witchcraft.
*I’m “conservatives oppose judicial activism” years old.
I spent my 16th, 17th, and 18th summers working in food service at the Carowinds amusement park on the N.C./S.C. line near Charlotte. It was hard, hot, sticky, messy, occasionally dangerous work — hot frying fat is nothing to mess with, which doesn’t keep teens from messing with it, and I once got knocked back 10 feet into a stream cabinet when I accidentally touched a bare wire on a 440-volt grill I was trying to unplug. (Had I not been wearing rubber-soled shoes, an electrician told me, I might’ve been killed.) When I finished my first full day of work — 9 hours in a steamy kitchen on a humid April Saturday — I was in outstanding physical shape and still as physically tired as I would ever be in my life until I got E. coli food poisoning two decades later.
We had all kinds of rules about customer relations, grooming (sideburns no lower than the earlobe), our itchy-ass polyester uniforms, not sitting while on duty, and so on.
So when I read this post on working in retail by ex-journalist Joseph Williams, I didn’t find a whole lot that was new to me, other than the vastly increased amount of theft-prevention activity. But a lot of it was new to him, or forgotten since his last stint in retail 30 or so years ago. And there’s a small part of me that wants to criticize his ignorance, because retail and restaurant work is one of the fastest-growing segments of the labor force in an economy that is not, generally, creating enough new jobs even to match growth in the working-age population, let alone bring down the un- and under-employment rates. If journalists know nothing else about the economy, they need to know that, and what the ramifications are for the growing numbers of Americans for whom this is real life.
Obtaining work in retail had changed a lot since the 1980s. What used to require a paper application and a schmooze with the manager has turned into an antiseptic online process where human interaction—and the potential for an employment-discrimination complaint—is kept to a minimum.
That put me at a distinct disadvantage.
In person, thanks to good genes, people often assume I’m younger than I am. On paper, however, I’m just another overeducated, middle-aged, middle-class refugee whose last retail experience dates to the Reagan administration.
Not to mention retail employers these days have their pick of applicants: the Great Recession added countless numbers of desperate workers like me to the annual labor-market influx of college students and high schoolers. According to an Economic Policy Institute report, “In 1968, 48 percent of low-wage workers had a high school degree, compared to 79 percent in 2012.” Likewise, the percentage of people in these jobs who have spent some time in college has skyrocketed, jumping from under 17 percent to more than 45 percent in the same time. All of us are in a race to the bottom of the wage pool.
Although older job candidates bring experience and skills to the table, their job applications typically blink like red warning lights to retail managers: overqualified, overpaid, and probably harder to manage than some high school or college kid. In a word: trouble.
“Think about it, Joey—that’s why there are online applications,” my sister, a veteran human-resources professional, told me. “If you apply online, and you never hear back, they don’t have to tell you why they rejected you and face a discrimination lawsuit.”
I soon realized the only way I’d have a shot in retail is if I dumbed down my job application, met directly with the person in charge before applying, and used my journalism story-telling skills to sell myself, stretching the truth past the breaking point.
He also discusses how “wage theft” — essentially, employers ripping free labor from employees, works, and this, too, I remember from Carowinds:
Working in retail takes more skill than just selling stuff. Besides the mindless tasks one expects—folding, stacking, sorting, fetching things for customers—I frequently had to tackle a series of housekeeping chores that Stretch never mentioned in our welcome-aboard chat. Performed during the late shift, those chores usually meant I’d have to stay well past the scheduled 9 p.m. quitting time.
Mop the floors in the bathroom, replace the toilet paper and scrub the toilets if necessary. Vacuum. Empty the garbage. Wipe down the glass front doors, every night, even if they don’t really need it. It was all part of the job, done after your shift has ended but without overtime pay.
In at least one respect, I had it better than this guy: Once in a while, I actually did get overtime pay. Not always. Not often. But once in a while.
This guy was paid $10 an hour in a state where the minimum wage is $7.25. He has an interesting take on whether the minimum wage should be raised, and once again, it involves wage theft (highlighted text below):
Proponents [of a minimum-wage increase] argue that three extra dollars an hour can lift hundreds of thousands of workers out of poverty. Opponents say a raise for hourly-wage workers would keep some businesses from hiring and force others to make layoffs to stay in the black.
As a worker who earned $10 an hour, I say: Neither argument is entirely true.
Sporting Goods Inc., I came to realize, was fine with paying me a few dollars more than the minimum wage—officially $7.25 an hour in Maryland—because it had other ways to compensate itself, including disqualifying me from overtime or paid sick days. Requiring me to play Cinderella on the closing shift also saved management the money it would have had to pay a cleaning company to maintain the store. Yet even $10 an hour—about $400 a week before taxes—can barely keep a single adult afloat in a city like Washington.
A modest studio apartment in a safe neighborhood would easily consume an entire month’s pay. Meanwhile, depending on circumstance, an annual salary of roughly $20,000 might not automatically qualify a retail worker for government assistance. One of my co-workers, a young single mother I called Flygirl, lived with her mom and commuted 40 minutes, one-way, from a far-flung suburb to make ends meet. Most of my co-workers, in their early 20s or 30s, had roommates, spouses, or second jobs. None of them seemed to be making it on their retail salaries alone.
Even though I was living rent-free in a guest bedroom, my every-other-Thursday paycheck couldn’t help me climb out of my hole, particularly after the state took half my pre-tax, $300 weekly salary for child support payments. Grateful just to have a job, I didn’t think twice when I noticed Stretch sometimes cut me from the daily crew and kept my hours under 30 per week—until Mike, a longtime friend and a former union shop steward, explained.
“You’re part-time,” he told me. “If you work 40 hours or more, they’ll have to give you benefits.”
Because I live across town, meanwhile, I had an hour-long commute that cost as much as $10 a day round-trip on public transportation.
“Dude,” my best friend Jamie said. “After taxes, you’re making just enough to get to and from work each day.”
And when the writer finally finds a new job, one that pays a living wage, he tells his boss, who promptly criticizes his work ethic and loyalty.
We seldom get to pick either the messages we receive or the messengers from whom we receive them. And it would have been nice if this guy hadn’t landed in poverty through his own doing, at least in part. But his story matters no matter his personal failings, because his story is pretty much the story of everybody who works in retail.
As was discussed in the Ideas section of Sunday’s News & Record, North Carolina still has about three unemployed people for every available job opening, and that doesn’t even count the so-called “discouraged” workers who have stopped looking for work and therefore are not counted as unemployed. Nor does it count the people who, though qualified for better jobs, are working part-time or minimum-wage jobs because that’s all they can find.
Their experiences are not hugely different from this guy’s. If you’re not one of them, you probably know many people who are. The American economy is screwing them to the wall, and it’s happening because of conscious and intentional decisions made by lawmakers in thrall to large corporations. It’s 21st-century peonage. And it needs to stop.
There is dignity and morality in honest work, even in retail, as long as workers are paid and treated fairly. But there is no dignity for the worker, and no morality for the employer, in taking from the worker what is rightfully his and debasing and degrading him while doing so.
AC/DC — Some Sin for Nothin’
Dictators — Search and Destroy
Chubby Checker — The Hucklebuck
Cinderella — Sick for the Cure
Pressure Boys — Fakin’ Dub
INXS — Three Sisters
Rolling Stones — Black Limousine
Joe Jackson — Look Sharp
Cream — Crossroads
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists — Parallel or Together
lagniappe: Warren Zevon — Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me
As if Greensboro College weren’t already having a fine weekend yesterday, what with Alumni Weekend activities and the celebration of the college’s 175th anniversary, the baseball team turned three against Maryville — a 9-3-2 triple play, at that. The play wound up on top of ESPN’s Top 10 plays last night. Here’s video, shot by my friend and colleague, sports information director Wes Gullett:
CORRECTION, 4/7/2014: Wes Gullett uploaded the video to YouTube, but the video actually was shot by a student assistant, Craig Gage. Nice work, Craig!
April 4, 1974, started off as a nice, ordinary early-spring day in Charlotte.
Actually, that’s not true at all. At Carmel Junior High School, where I was in eighth grade, that day was ’50s Day. Not only had we all been encouraged to come to school dressed in ’50s garb, there would be an actual sock hop after school.
Well, I was in homeroom before the day really began, and everyone was admiring everyone else’s getup. I never could get pegged jeans or boots. But I did score some honest-to-God butch wax with which to give myself a real DA hairstyle — and since my hair was almost to my shoulders at that point, my pompadour and DA were very well fleshed out. And, coolest of all, I’d scored a gen-u-wine leather biker jacket from a guy my mother was tutoring. (He went on to play football at Alabama.)
So I wasn’t the most perfectly styled ’50s icon that morning, but I was definitely in the top quartile. I was looking pretty good and feeling pretty good about looking good. Trust me, as unusual as that feeling is for me today, it was way more unusual when I was 14. And I was reveling in it.
That’s when I heard an unfamiliar noise — loud, roaring. It was a motorcycle. More to the point, it was a motorcycle being ridden by the teacher in the next room. Our rooms were on ground level, and he, also in full ’50s regalia, had driven his bike right up to the window of his classroom before killing the engine and lowering the kickstand. Because each room had a window at each end of that wall that could be opened, the students in his homeroom opened the window and he hopped in to take over the classroom.
I was watching all this while leaning into the doorway of his classroom, which I was accomplishing by holding onto the door frame of my homeroom. Unfortunately, I later learned, someone in my homeroom had complained about the bike noise, and someone else — who remains a Facebook friend today, although I won’t name her because I know this was an accident — shut the door without checking to see whether the door frame was clear of all vulnerable objects like, you know, the first three fingers of my left hand.
The door was solid oak. The door frame was solid steel. They fit so closely I don’t know if you could have slipped a credit card between them.
And the ends of my fingers were in there.
And I couldn’t get them out.
So I did what anyone else in that situation would do: I screamed like a baby. I do not recall whether I screamed actual words, like, “Open the door!,” or issued a long string of cuss words, or whether I just ululated incoherently until somebody outside in the hall with me figured out what was going on and started pounding on the door, which was locked, to get someone to open it.
I don’t know how long it took to get the door open, and I don’t recall how long it seemed like it took. I don’t even recall the pain being that great. (That would come later.) But when the door opened, I saw two things: a godawful amount of blood running down the door frame to puddle on the floor, and a single, entire white fingernail sticking to some of the blood.
I don’t remember who took me upstairs to the office. I don’t remember who called my mom. But she took me to the ER, and eventually, a surgeon arrived. He put tight rubber bands around the bases of all three fingers, then injected them all with anesthetic (Novocaine, I think). And then, once the fingers were good and insensate, he threaded a needle with black silk and set about stitching together the bleeding ends of the first three fingers on my left hand. Somewhere in all this, I remember a nurse remarking to a colleague on my getup, but I don’t recall now what she said.
Because the hand wasn’t hurting at all at that point (thanks, Novocaine!), I looked at him and observed three things. He appeared to be in his early 50s. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. And he had what appeared to be dried blood on his scrubs.
“Long day?” I asked.
“Well, before you, I had to take out a man’s stomach,” he said.
That was kind of a conversation-killer.
When the stitching was done, he dressed each finger, then wrapped the three of them together with gauze, then wrapped the gauze around my hand and wrist, thus instantly rendering me capable of flipping the world’s biggest bird. Then he x-rayed me. Sure enough, all three fingers were broken, but there was nothing more that he could do for them, so that was that. He gave me (well, Mom) a prescription for painkillers, told me to keep it the hand dry, scheduled a time for me to come to his office for a checkup and rebandaging, and sent us on our way.
Despite all that had happened, there were still a couple of hours before the sock hop started. I told Mom I wanted to go. She was dubious but said I could. And I did, and in my ninth-grade yearbook (the incident happened too late to make deadline for the eight-grade yearbook) there’s a picture of me at the sock hop with the bandaging on my left hand and my DA and my badass leather jacket. (I’m on the right. My friend Mark Asperheim is next to me.)
Toward the end of the sock hop, I didn’t feel so great. Later that night I was, to put it charitably, in a great deal of pain.
Recovery took weeks. And as bad as the pain from the injury was, it was nothing compared to the bandage change. They took the original dressings off my stitched, swollen, sensitive, nail-less fingers. The dressings, of course, were stuck on to the exposed nail beds with dried blood, and bathe those things in hydrogen peroxide as the doctor might, he could not get them off easily, gently, or painlessly.
I wasn’t just crying. I wasn’t just screaming. It hurt so badly that I literally wanted to die. If you had offered to shoot me at that moment, I would have taken you up on it without a moment’s hesitation if not snatched the weapon from your hand and pulled the trigger myself. Of that I had no doubt then and have no doubt now. And I also have no doubt that neither before nor since, in spite of numerous illnesses and injuries, have I ever wanted to die simply because of the pain the way I wanted to die in those few minutes in the doctor’s office. I’ve been sick a couple of times where I thought I was going to die, sure. But this was on a whole ‘nother level. If I hadn’t hit the bathroom just before coming into the doctor’s office, I’m sure I’d’ve soiled myself. Memo: It’s bad form to die with full pants.
At the time, I was teaching myself guitar. I wasn’t going to be quitting my day job anytime soon, but I actually was getting sorta kinda good. Even after I recovered fully from the injury and my nails grew back (two out of three look normal; my ring-finger nail has a squared-off shape to it), my fingers didn’t have the flexibility they had had before. And they never would again. I was gonna be a power-chorder from there on out.
And so it came to pass, until I gave up the guitar for good around age 27 or so. I played at my next-door neighbor’s turkey fry last Thanksgiving Eve, and I sounded awful, but everyone else was drunk and/or tolerant, so no one said anything unkind.
So what’s the larger lesson here? I honestly don’t know. But I have thought about this event every year since it happened. I don’t have nightmares about it, let alone anything like PTSD, but I remember. That said, I’m under no illusion that the accident ended a budding music career.
But I did learn that there are things worse than death, or things that at least seem so.
And I have learned not to grip doorframes for support when leaning.
And I have learned that I don’t look bad in a leather jacket.
In a sane country, the Supreme Court would recognize that the right of the people to a government free of undue influence by a tiny minority of the wealthy elite dramatically outweighs the right of one person to spend as much as he damn well pleases supporting political candidates, particularly when the spending creates at least the appearance, and almost definitely the certainty, of corruption: corruption in which the donor’s interest outweighs the public’s and the candidate, once elected, votes accordingly.
But we do not live in a sane country.
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Citizens United ruling, 2010: “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, in the McCutcheon ruling, just this week: “The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.
To both gentlemen: Are you farking blind?
Of course independent expenditures give rise to the appearance of corruption — and to the real thing. Of course aggregate limits would make it harder for apparent or actual corruption to occur. If it ain’t the money that’s causing it, gentlemen, then, pray tell, what is?
You morons have just declared as a matter of both fact and law that water is dry, that the sky is chartreuse with emerald-polka dots, and that the country and the public interest are but offal to be fed to the nation’s honeybadgers. Because honeybadgers don’t … well, you know:
UPDATE: Actually, this metaphor might do a disservice to honeybadgers, which at least do useful things like killing and eating cobras. I thought about substituting jackals, but then, generally, they only eat the dead, while our nation’s sociopath elite are at least metaphorically feasting upon the living as we speak. I don’t know what the appropriate animal would be for this metaphor, but I know what it does: It feeds on the living, particularly the poor, brown, female, and otherwise vulnerable, and it pees fracking chemicals and defecates coal ash.
In March, for the first time in 11 years, no U.S. service members died in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
That’s good. Hell, that’s GREAT.
On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
To commemorate them and raise awareness, 32 veterans from the group flew to Washington, D.C., to plant 1,892 flags on the National Mall today, one for each of the veterans that the group says took his or her own life in 2014. IAVA extrapolated that number from a 2012 Veterans Administration report finding that 22 veterans took their lives each day in 2009 and 2010, only a slight increase from years past, and a number that includes all veterans, not just those who served in America’s more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The event was part of IAVA’s 2014 Storm the Hill campaign, an annual week of action in which organization vets meet with lawmakers to push a veterans’ agenda picked for that year. In 2013, it was the Veterans Affairs benefits-claim backlog; this year, it’s veteran suicides.
“I know several individuals that have died by suicide,” Sara Poquette of Dallas, a video journalist who served in Iraq, said, adding that she herself considered suicide while experiencing the hardships of reintegrating into civilian life. “For me personally, it was more just getting through until I was really ready to get help, just realizing that my life was going down a path that I never really wanted it to go down.”
In Joining IAVA, Poquette said, she found a “new unit.”
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is pushing a bill, the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act, which Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., plans to introduce. Walsh commanded a Montana National Guard battalion in Iraq.
“When we returned home, one of my young sergeants died by suicide, so this is very personal to me,” Walsh told reporters on the Mall today, calling veteran suicides “an epidemic we cannot allow to continue.”
The bill would extend eligibility for Veterans Administration health care, create a pilot program for student-loan repayment if health care professionals work for the VA, instigate a review of certain behavioral discharges, and mandate a review of mental health care programs at the VA, IAVA said.
The group is calling on Congress to pass the bill by Memorial Day.
OK, so the numbers are extrapolations, not exact counts. But even if they’re off a good bit, they’re still intolerably high. God bless Sen. John Walsh for planning to introduce this bill.
But you know who else could do something about veterans’ suicides and other problems, particularly with disability payments, that veterans are experiencing and have been for years?
That would be the ranking minority member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
That would be the guy from Winston-Salem, home of the VA regional office with one of the nation’s worst backlog of disability claims cases and a record of illegally destroying claim files.
That would be my senior senator, Richard Burr.
How ’bout it, Senator? Time to saddle up, ya think?
Fred sent me this link (thank you, sir), which purports to claim “widespread” voter fraud in North Carolina during the 2012 general election. That link in turn links to a news release issued jointly on Wednesday by Phil Berger, the state Senate GOP leader and father of one of the Republicans trying to succeed Howard Coble in the 6th Congressional District race, and Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and one of the Republicans seeking Kay Hagan’s U.S. Senate seat this year. They write:
[We have learned of] more alarming evidence of voter error and fraud discovered by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
Initial findings from the Board presented to the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee today show:
- 765 voters with an exact match of first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in N.C. and the other state in the 2012 general election.
- 35,750 voters with the same first and last name and DOB were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in both states in the 2012 general election.
- 155,692 voters with the same first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state – and the latest date of registration or voter activity did not take place within N.C.
These findings only take into account data from the 28 states who participated in the 2014 Interstate Crosscheck, leaving out potential voter error and fraud in the 22 states that do not participate in the consortium.
My first reaction, which I admit is kind of geeky and inside-baseballish, is: Show your work, guys. Post the board’s findings online even if it’s in hard-to-search .pdf format. (As of now, the State Board of Elections itself hasn’t done it.) Otherwise, you’re asking me to trust a couple of demonstrably untrustworthy pols, although I’m gonna set that point aside and examine this argument as if it were being made by someone with no obvious political interest one way or the other.
That said, the massive gap between the number reported in point 1 (with SocSec numbers) and the number reported in point 2 (no SSNs) leaves an awful lot of room for speculation and even more for mismatched records. Cops have access to info that I didn’t have as a reporter, but when I was doing investigative stuff, particularly on people with very common names, I always tried to get an SSN. That’s the gold standard of unique identifiers.
All point 3 says — allowing for the elision between being registered and casting a ballot, which is actually enormous; I wonder why? — is, “and the latest date of registration or voter activity did not take place within N.C.” That’s a big-ass loophole, considering that “voter activity” can be as simple as changing a phone number and that N.C. counties, last I checked (which I admit was years ago), purge their voters rolls typically only once every four years — immediately after a presidential election.
But, OK, let’s put this in the light most favorable to the authors: Even with all my caveats, no fewer than 765 voters appear to have voted in both N.C. and another state in the 2012 general election, per elections data. Voter fraud is a felony, and if that report is true, all 765 should go to prison. I’d be happy to be the person to slam the door on ’em.
Problem is, it won’t be true, because — and this is a national shame and embarrassment, but a topic for another time — voter-registration data is some of the dirtiest mass public info out there. (The reason is that it attempts to gather a large amount of basic information about a lot of people, and in a society as dynamic and mobile as ours, that pool of data is changing in small but measurable ways thousands of times a day, on average.) Now, our friends Berger and Tillis claim to have attempted to “clean up” voter rolls, but they have done so in ways that give advantages to likely Republican voters while creating barriers for the young, the very old, racial and ethnic minorities, women, convicted felons and other likely Democratic voters. But that’s also an issue for another day, as is the Republicans’ reluctance to look into voter fraud in absentee balloting, where most of the real voter fraud takes place, because absentee voters are more likely to vote Republican.)
But don’t take my word for it that the 765 alleged cases aren’t real. Examining 765 records, one at a time, to determine whether or not the registrant committed a crime would take a while, but not that long. So I encourage — nay, challenge — the State Board of Elections to refer the case to the SBI and get it done. And assuming that happens, I think you’re going to find that many, and probably most, of those 765 are paperwork errors of some kind. A person was recorded as having voted in one state or the other — or at all — when he/she in fact did not vote. Whatever. Because that’s what almost always happens. Because the data is always that dirty.
That’s what I think will happen. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.
Pro-voter ID types hop on preliminary numbers like this because they look like proof of serious undermining of the very bedrock of democracy, the vote. Unfortunately, when it gets down to proving actual voter fraud, those numbers fold like a cheap card table into something a lot less impressive, interesting or dangerous, thereby undermining their rationale for voter ID as well as their rationale for other limits on voting rights alluded to above.
The bottom line here is that 765 cases is a manageable number to check into. So let’s check. Let’s have the State Board of Elections turn these cases over to the SBI for investigation. Let’s see what we learn. I’m eager to find out.
Heck, I might even be more eager than Phil Berger and Thom Tillis.
UPDATE, 4/3: Commenter George Barnett below wisely adds, “Keep in mind too that even if this does turn out to be true voter IDs would not have prevented it.” No, they wouldn’t have.