Friday, December 18, 2015 11:52 am
Saturday, September 12, 2015 7:49 am
Hi, kids. Ever want to live the glamorous life of an investigative reporter but also wanted to, you know, eat? Well, know, Logickull.com and I are placing a powerful investigative tool in your hands, absolutely free. It’s the Freedom of Information Act! This graphic will tell you most of what you need to know to place a Freedom of Information Act request, what to do if your request is denied, and generally how to go about using this wonderful and powerful tool.
A couple of caveats, based on my experience:
The FOIA is not a panacea for several reasons. First, it applies only to the federal executive branch, not to Congress or the federal courts, nor to any level of state or local government. (Here in North Carolina, the law that applies to state/local governments starts at N.C. General Statute 132.1 and goes forward from there; that’s a subject for another post.)
Second, some agencies handle FOIA requests a lot more quickly and sincerely than others, which leads me to caveat 2A: sometimes you can get what you need a lot more quickly and easily by checking the agency’s website, or even chatting up a friendly clerk or secretary, than by going through the FOIA hoops, if you happen to be physically close to the federal agency you need info from. (For local folks, some regional U.S. government agencies are around here, notably the V.A. in Winston-Salem and the Department of Labor in Greensboro.)
Third, there ARE exceptions to the act; it’s not a blank check.
Fourth, your own FOIA request becomes a public document that someone else can request a copy of, so if you don’t want anyone to know you’re looking into something, you’ll want to think twice about going the FOIA route.
And then there’s the fact that if you can’t get into the agency’s face live and in concert, filing a FOIA request can be like flying a paper airplane into the Grand Canyon. True story: In 1991, I filed a FOIA request with the Health Care Finance Administration seeking information regarding federal payments to a local medical practice, Southeastern Eye Center. I nursed that request, calling and writing every few months, from then until I got out of the newspaper bidness in 2009. Southeastern Eye Center is now in receivership. My FOIA request technically remains open, to the best of my knowledge.
But don’t let that scare you. I once got a useful response from the Federal Aviation Administration within 48 hours. (Faxes were involved.)
So, hey, if you want to know what a federal executive-branch agency has been doing, knock yourself out. Why should starving reporters have all the fun? Besides, the National Security Agency, at the least, probably already knows everything you’ve been doing, so turnabout is fair play, right?
Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:30 pm
We have seen our enemies, and they are weak. Seriously. Relative to us, weak on a world-historical scale.
In Idaho, the batshittery of the right-wing nut jobs carries an eight-digit price tag.
New Mexico has become the second state to ban the civil forfeiture of innocent people’s property. This needs to happen nationwide.
When cops misbehave, body cams are not, by themselves, helpful. The video must be publicly available. D.C. appears headed in the opposite direction. (That issue is still up in the air here in Greensboro.)
Speaking of misbehaving cops, The Baltimorie Sun proves that there are still a few reporters out there kicking ass and taking names.
Researchers have found patterns in then-President Ronald Reagan’s speech that indicated Alzheimer’s disease years before Reagan received his diagnosis in 1994. I mention this not to take a dig at Reagan but to point out that this approach may be a way to diagnose Alzheimer’s in people sooner than has been possible up ’til now.
My friend Louis Bekoe is running for president, and I’ve got to say that right now he’s the best choice out there.
Speaking of running for president, supposed contender Chris Christie apparently will be campaigning on a platform to cut Social Security and Medicare. Unlike Bush 43, at least he’s being upfront about it.
Non-local folks, this is particularly for you: The National Folk Festival will be here in Greensboro this year and for the next two years as well. Here’s info. This is a big deal.
Damn. Percy Sledge is dead at 73.
Friday, April 10, 2015 8:54 pm
Vox.com has created an interactive map showing at least some information on each of more than 5,600 officer-involved homicides dating to 2000. The data are badly incomplete, and Steve Buttry and others have noted that it would be nice if the data were searchable in some ways that they currently are not. But what’s there is scary, and depressing, enough.
Looks like overzealous New York cops may have finally messed with someone with the resources to mess back.
It isn’t Facebook whose mantra is “Don’t be evil,” and here’s one reason why.
Some liberal sites like Newscorpse are arguing that this Roger Ailes statement means he’s admitting Fox News isn’t news but entertainment. That’s true, but I don’t think Ailes is admitting it. Rather, I think he’s talking about competing with TNT, USA, and ESPN merely in terms of audience ratings and share, not content, and that the other interpretation is an unsupported reach.
I admire Simon Schräder’s initiative and creativity even as I hope and expect that his freedom-of-information request will be unsuccessful.
So with its very viability under attack by the N.C. General Assembly, the UNC system decides that its biggest problem is … raising salaries for chancellors? Way to paint a bulls-eye on yourselves, guys.
Its leaders keep saying the legislature’s top priority is jobs, but as the man said in “48HRS,” we all know the truth’s a little different. My friend Susan Ladd continues to call out the legislature for its efforts to shrink state government until it fits inside your uterus.
Duke Energy got off with a $25 million slap on the wrist for contaminating groundwater in New Hanover County. Naturally, it is whining about that.
Two magistrates who left their jobs rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as now required in N.C. by court order are — duh — suing, claiming that their religious rights were violated. Here’s hoping a court swiftly and violently upsides them with the clue stick because I have had it with religious wingnuts and their oh-so-tender fee-fees. If y’all want to know what violation of religious liberty really looks like, Kenya can show you.
The News & Record’s Joe Killian eviscerates the Rhino Times’s fake poll on SB 36, Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill to create a GOP-controlled City Council in a city that’s two-thirds Democratic because they can’t seem to win at the polls.
My friend Linda Hoopes, a psychology Ph.D. with a special interest in resilience — how people respond to and recover from adversity — now has a weekly radio show and podcast, Resilience Radio. It airs live at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Mondays.
Monday, March 30, 2015 7:23 pm
The Klown Kar might have to be a stretch Hummer: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina puts her own chances of running for president at 90%. Fiorina famously crashed HP into the ground (stock price cut 50%, 30,000 workers laid off in five years), then ran an epically inept campaign for governor of California (who among us will ever forget the demon sheep?). She says Hillary Clinton has a “character problem.” Pot, kettle.
#FFS. All the crap that Indiana is getting over its so-called “religious freedom” bill in both the real and the virtual worlds notwithstanding, North Carolina now has its own version, HB 348. When the chairman of the world’s largest corporation tells you that that kind of law is bad for business, perhaps you shouldn’t take him at his word, but you at least should give his word due consideration. Heck, even Republican Gov. Pat McCrory says it isn’t needed, although I hasten to note that that’s not the same as vowing to veto it.
North Carolina’s senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, voted yes on same-sex marriage benefits for Social Security recipients and veterans, which sounds great until you learn that the measure was nonbinding.
At least two great Republicans think SB 36, state Sen. Trudy Wade’s hostile takeover of the Greensboro City Council, is bad for Greensboro: I and retired U.S. Rep. Howard Coble.
We have so little money that some of Guilford County’s worst-off students may get screwed. But God forbid we stand in the way of yet another $1 billion tax cut for the state’s wealthy and corporations. Jesus might love you, legislators, but I’m pretty sure he despises what you’re doing.
I have very little use for the band fun. (yes, the “f” is lower-case, and, yes, there’s a period after the name) — when their songs come on the radio, the word “lugubrious” comes to mind. But member Jack Antonoff’s solo project, Bleachers, is a lot more fun (ahem) to listen to even as the songs tackle some hard subjects.
Here’s “Rollercoaster” …
… and here’s “I Wanna Get Better” …
Friday, March 13, 2015 8:14 pm
Charlie Pierce at Esquire has written the best big-picture analysis of what the GOP is up to that I’ve seen anywhere. They really don’t want a United States as you and I think of it. Dana Milbank at The Washington Post also addressed this issue, but largely in silly fashion.
For the record, after re-reading the Logan Act, I have changed my mind: I now think the 47 senators who signed that letter to Iran violated it. No, Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Assad doesn’t count because a bunch of Republican congresscritters also visited Assad just days before and after she did. No, the Democrats’ 1984 letter to the Nicaraguan government doesn’t count because basically all they did was ask for free elections, which the Reagan administration also wanted, or said it did. I realize nothing will happen to the 47 (and that Obama would be impeached immediately if his Justice Department made any moves in that direction), but this is worth documenting as another case in which Republicans broke the law and got away with it.
Did Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor and likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, totally pull a story out of his rear end about having been anointed by Nancy Reagan to carry on in the spirit of the Gipper? Signs point to yes.
North Carolina is going to start issuing fracking permits on Tuesday. Not only do we not have, as promised, the best air-quality regulations in the nation regarding fracking, we don’t have any air-quality regulations regarding fracking at all. Your Republican state government at work, folks. And if they don’t care about the air, what makes you think they give a damn about your water?
The N.C. Senate officially doesn’t give a damn about at-risk kids in the state’s public schools. Ending the requirement for an individual education plan means nothing specific will be required to happen for any particular student and no one will be held accountable when it doesn’t. This doesn’t end the federally-required Individual Education Plans for special-needs students, but I’m sure Richard Burr, Thom Tillis and Mark Walker are working on that.
The N.C. GOP says it’s gonna start listening to people. That’s a laugh. If they wanted to listen to people, they could start by killing SB36 and SB181, the unsolicited, unnecessary, not-at-all-an-attempt-to-dilute-Democratic-voting-strength efforts to redistrict the Greensboro City Council and the Wake County commissioners, respectively.
So Florida has banned the use of the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” in state documents? Pikers. North Carolina did that years ago.
You can’t make this up: Indiana State Rep. Justin Moed, a Democrat, got caught sexting … with the same woman Anthony Weiner got caught sexting with.
This is cool, and I did not know about it before: In March 1944, in blatant violation of Jim Crow laws in force at the time, Duke University’s (white) basketball team played the team from N.C. College for Negroes (now N.C. Central University). And the Eagles gave the Blue Devils a righteous ass-whipping.
Tomorrow, 3/14/15, is Pi Day, so at 9:26:54 a.m. and p.m., you should eat pie. Just because. Also, no doubt to your vast relief, you can stop trying to square the circle; pi says it’s impossible.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 7:06 pm
Seasalt & Co. offers a grade-A example of how not to do corporate communications. Pro tip: Threatening to sue people for what they say about your marketing materials is never a good idea.
President Obama’s executive action on immigration is on hold while a lawsuit against it by a number of states proceeds. IANAL, but from what I could tell, this looked legal to me — and not horribly different from what Reagan did 30 years ago. A district judge thinks there are tryable issues of fact and/or law, but his opinion reads like a long string of GOP talking points and judicial activism, not a finding of fact and determination of law, so we’ll see.
N.C. gets a winter storm, and Transportation Secretary Tony Tata is … promoting a book on cable news. In fairness, 1) It hasn’t been THAT bad as storms go, 2) the Highway Patrol, local police, and local and state emergency-management are probably up to the job without Tony’s help, and 3) his appearance probably was scheduled well before we knew the storm was coming. But the optics aren’t very good.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has extended its no-bid contract with a D.C. consulting firm to roughly $8 million. The firm made a $12,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association in 2012 that found its way into now-Gov. Pat McCrory’s 2012 campaign. DHHS still hasn’t fixed its long string of problems, however.
N.C. state taxpayers should be glad the state’s business-incentive program doesn’t like to bet the ponies. We’d go broke fast.
Chapel Hill triple-homicide suspect Craig Stephen Hicks has been indicted on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of shooting a firearm into an occupied dwelling, a felony. The death penalty remains a possibility, although the DA hasn’t indicated whether he’ll seek it.
N.C. State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, was the only legislator to go to work during today’s snow day in Raleigh. To judge from his Twitter feed, he got an AMAZING amount of work done; I’ve Storified the relevant tweets here.
Sunday, January 25, 2015 11:03 am
Monday, January 5, 2015 6:21 am
Sunday, November 23, 2014 10:38 am
WASHINGTON — Tiny 83-year-old Ida Stanley was taken into police custody early today after she attempted to handcuff and haul away Senator Ted Cruz for “crimes against sanity.”
“Rafael Edward Cruz, I hereby arrest you for being an egotistical [expletive],” Mrs. Stanley shouted in front of media cameras as she approached the Junior Senator from Texas outside one of his D.C. homes.
It’s a satire site, in case that wasn’t obvious. But don’t you wish it were real?
Thursday, November 20, 2014 6:58 am
Because it’s Throwback Thursday (#tbt), y’all:
Friday, November 7, 2014 11:03 pm
This puppy has unashamedly staked out his top priority and is pursuing it with vicious, relentless focus that we all ought to admire.
In a few minutes, in fact, I’m going to emulate him:
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 8:36 am
Friday, August 22, 2014 7:07 pm
I’m not seriously how to take this blurb from Ancestry.com — not being content to have taken a good deal of my late father’s money, they’re now after mine — but it’s amusing, so I’ll throw it out there for whatever it might be worth:
Alexander Name Meaning
Scottish, English, German, Dutch; also found in many other cultures: from the personal name Alexander, classical Greek Alexandros, which probably originally meant ‘repulser of men (i.e. of the enemy)’, from alexein ‘to repel’ + andros, genitive of aner ‘man’. Its popularity in the Middle Ages was due mainly to the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great (356–323 bc)—or rather to the hero of the mythical versions of his exploits that gained currency in the so-called Alexander Romances. The name was also borne by various early Christian saints, including a patriarch of Alexandria (adc.250–326), whose main achievement was condemning the Arian heresy. The Gaelic form of the personal name is Alasdair, which has given rise to a number of Scottish and Irish patronymic surnames, for example McAllister. Alexander is a common forename in Scotland, often representing an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name. In North America the form Alexander has absorbed many cases of cognate names from other languages, for example Spanish Alejandro, Italian Alessandro, Greek Alexandropoulos, Russian Aleksandr, etc. (For forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988.) It has also been adopted as a Jewish name.
As long as I don’t repulse my family, friends, co-workers, and any potential future employers, I guess the rest of you can just suck it up.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 9:58 pm
So Rep. Steve Stockman wrote House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s PAC a check last November for $5,000.
Someone ‘splain to me again how the Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility?
I’m not a fan of commercials in general, but as a Panther fan, this Gatorade ad featuring Cam Newton had me chuckling.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 7:37 pm
From Brad DeLong’s 10-year-old archives, a fascinating alternative history by his brother, Chris, based on the notion that instead of taking the late-18th-century British Constitution, “dry-cleaned, brushed, and patched,” and adopting it, the Framers in 1787 instead adopted the Imperial Roman practice in which each Emperor “‘adopted’ the leading military politician of the next generation as his successor.” Oddly enough, for the most part we’d’ve been OK, it seems, although we still would’ve been screwed in the mid-19th century — Lincoln certainly did better than any career military man of the time could have, and we still ended up with 600,000 dead — and might well have been screwed during the Depression and the ’80s as well. YMMV, of course.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 6:26 pm
Not quite as cool as the flaming-bagpipes version, but damn fine musicianship nonetheless. Well played, boys. Well played.
Monday, June 23, 2014 7:01 pm
In which John Oliver shows Dr. Oz how to pander without making potentially life-threatening medical claims
Saturday, May 10, 2014 11:07 am
- The Black Crowes — Don’t Wake Me
- The Connells — Dull, Brown and Gray
- U2 — Fire
- Lyres — I Want to Help You Ann
- Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs — Stay
- Trammps — Disco Inferno
- Velvet Underground — White Light White Heat
- Cheap Trick — So Good to See You
- Toots & the Maytals — Sweet and Dandy
- Warren Zevon — Rest of the Night
lagniappe: Old 97s — Oppenheimer
Sunday, April 6, 2014 4:50 pm
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!
Monday, December 9, 2013 9:18 pm
I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of American Satanists than I am right now:
In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.
The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.
But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.
“We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”
I could have told the Oklahoma Lege that this would happen, had they but asked. But no.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 8:45 pm
My friend Dan Conover made this 7-minute video some time back, but I only just found out about it. It’s genius.
Sunday, November 10, 2013 10:43 am
So: There once was this British TV comedy called “Allo, Allo.” It was about people in a town in occupied France during World War II. (Yes, I said “comedy.” Apparently it was a much better execution of the “Hogan’s Heroes” concept.) The show’s run ended in 1992 (although I hear you might be able to find it on Netflix), so it’s not of recent vintage. The characters included a French cafe owner, a German general and his gay adjutant, a Gestapo officer and a couple of other folks. And one of the recurring plotlines had to do with a painting that Hitler desperately wanted to own that the Resistance was trying hard to keep from him. The painting, which was never actually shown on the show except from behind, was by an artist named Van Klomp. It was officially called “The Fallen Madonna” and known to those who had actually seen it as “The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies.”
Now, speaking of Nazis and art, this week we learned this:
A cache of 1,500 works of art — including masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse and Chagall — confiscated by the Nazis and missing for more than 70 years has been found in Germany, according to German media reports.
The huge haul of paintings, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, was discovered in an apartment in Munich in the spring of 2011 during a raid by Bavarian tax authorities, but its existence has only just come to light with an article in the German news magazine Focus.
The collection is said to include works by Modernist masters Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Marc, Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, many of which had been believed destroyed during World War II.
That’s the CNN version of the story, and obviously this was big news in Germany, but it was big news in England as well — not least because the topic of art purloined from other cultures is still a live and touchy subject there. So we have reports from the Telegraph …
… and from the Guardian:
There’ll always be an England.
Thursday, August 29, 2013 7:24 pm
… courtesy of Juanita Jean, who, if she keeps up, is going to start getting mentioned in the same breath with Molly Ivins:
With Jon Stewart gone for the summer, Fox News has stepped up to fill the humor void.
This week, they had on an “expert” doctor who explained that gender bias in health care costs is not only legitimate, it is fair. He said that women should have high health care costs because we have ta-tas, ovaries, and all manner of mysterious stuff going on inside us.
Men don’t have that messy stuff. Men “only have the prostate,” he said. Well, that does kinda explain why they are so freekin’ stupid. You know, lacking a brain and all. They are just one giant prostate walking around wearing socks with sandals.
I don’t know about you, but I find this notion even funnier than the giant, inflamed gall bladder walking around that I dreamed about last week while under the influence of Percocet and Trazadone after having my own gall bladder removed. And now that I’m healing up, that’s pretty damn funny.
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.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:57 pm
A documentary, “Dear Mr. Watterson,” has been made about the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes and its creator, Bill Watterson. C&H has to be among the top five comic strips ever drawn, and when Watterson quit, he, like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders in the NFL, went out prematurely and on top. Moreover, he never licensed his characters, meaning that the literally millions of Americans who would buy “Calvin & Hobbes” t-shirts, coffee mugs, whatever (and I’m one of them) never got to give Watterson their money.
Scheduled release date for “Dear Mr. Watterson,” theatrical and video-on-demand, is Nov. 15.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:03 am
My friend and former co-worker Andy Duncan, about whom I’ve written a time or two, is what those of us who write for a living call a real writer. I mean, yeah, we’re good enough to put food on our tables with writing in some form or fashion, but we also stare at the work of Andy and writers like him, shake our heads, and mutter, “Daaaaaamn …” Writing is a craft, and a lot of people without any special gifts can become, like me, good, workmanlike writers. Lots of writing and rewriting for 30 years, with some decent editing along the way, can, indeed, allow you to wake up one day at the age of 50 and say to yourself, “Why, yes, I am a writer.” But as far as hard work can take you, you also need a gift to break the surly bonds of Earth and go out into space, where the stars and the nebulae lie.
Andy works as hard at his writing as anyone I know, and harder than most. So do I, for that matter. But Andy has the gift.
Andy’s fiction falls into the general area of sci-fi and fantasy, but much of it is as firmly rooted in the American South and its storytelling traditions as are the work of Faulkner or Agee or O’Connor. When he writes about a blues musician in Hell, Hell is the Mississippi Delta. When he writes a ghost story, it’s set in the Depression-era studios of WBT-AM in Charlotte, with painstaking details that match up with what that studio really was like then. And when an anthology editor got in touch with him once, wondering whether he might have a story on the shelf that involved someone having sex with a ghost, he reported, “I was both proud and ashamed to admit that I had three.”
Six times my friend has been nominated for a Nebula Award, the top prize given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for outstanding work. Six times he was the bridesmaid, not the bride. But 2012 was different: His story “Close Encounters” won the Nebula Award this past weekend for Best Novelette.* What kind of company does that put him in? Well, let’s just say you’ll recognize some of these names even if you’ve never read a sci-fi or fantasy work in your life (and although I’m generally not a fan of the genre, I freely admit that far too many people haven’t). I’ll let him explain the rest of it.
Congratulations, my friend. You are, now and forever, Nebula Award-winning writer Andy Duncan. You’re also a helluva great guy, although they don’t give out cool trophies with astronomical bodies embedded in them for that, more’s the pity.
*A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,499 words. A novella is between 17,500 and 39,999 words. Anything shorter than a novelette is a story. Anything longer than a novella is a novel. You’re welcome.
Thursday, May 2, 2013 6:59 am
The Onion spills the beans on history’s greatest cultural fraud: ancient Greek “civilization.” Because these days, if it’s in the Onion, it’s got to be true, right?