The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has got you covered. So dig deep and give generously.
Thursday, October 8, 2015 12:00 pm
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 5:45 pm
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?
Thursday, September 10, 2015 5:08 pm
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Long story short, no reason is good enough, and I say that as someone who has looked into this particular abyss off and on for a long, long time. If you’re looking, too, drop what you’re doing and call 800-273-TALK.
Thursday, August 27, 2015 9:44 pm
Tuesday, August 18, 2015 8:00 pm
Newspaper editor and publisher Jeff Ackerman caught some crap for using the word “pansy”; accordingly, he is tired of pansies.
A “JEFF ACKERMAN MUST GO” bumper sticker is a personal reminder of the ongoing assault on free speech under the guise of political correctness.
As you may have discovered, I am not Politically Correct. …
I have developed a recent distaste for pansies, however. I don’t like whiners or snivelers or “poor me” complainers.
A pansy is someone who is probably offended by the term pansy. In fact, someone like that would probably run out and print a “JEFF ACKERMAN MUST GO” bumper sticker just because I used the word in a column … the pansy that he is.
The guy who printed and distributed the “JEFF ACKERMAN MUST GO” bumper sticker at my last place was kind of a pansy and did that because he didn’t like what I had to say and wanted to shut me up. That seemed better than … say … writing a letter to the editor, or maybe reading something besides my column.
In other words, he wanted to censor me.
If you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of censoring going on in the name of hurt feelings. …
It’s gotten so bad that the University of California at Berkeley now has six possible answers under the enrollment application that asks for gender.
It used to simply be “Male” or “Female.” Now the options include:
- Trans Male
- Trans Female
- Gender Queer
- Different Identity
I’m not sure I want to know the options under “Different Identity,” but my guess is our colleges will need to start building a lot more bathrooms.
Might be good to pause here, in case anyone is offended by what I just detailed.
Un-wad those tighty whiteys and let’s continue, shall we? …
A Harvard law professor detailed an example where she was unable to teach about rape laws because it caused some students stress. In fact, one student had a problem with the term “violate” (as in, “that violates the law”) because it was also stressful.
It’s why I’ll just stick with pansies. The only one who could possibly be offended by that is a pansy and … as I said … I really don’t care what a pansy thinks.
Jeff Ackerman’s paper wants you to be a paying subscriber to comment on their site. Screw that. So I sent Jeff Ackerman a letter. It said:
I don’t know if you are, in fact, a pansy. I suspect so, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute. But I’m pretty sure you’re a jackass.
As any newspaper publisher worth a damn ought to know, freedom of speech means only that the government can’t censor you. It doesn’t protect you, legally or practically, from any other consequences of your speech, including but not limited to:
- opposing speech
- name calling
- calls for you to be fired
- your actual firing (except in the case of an employment contract that gives you a shooting license, speech-wise).
- canceling subscriptions to your paper.
- boycotts of any companies/products/services/advertisers with which you are affiliated
None of these things constitutes violation of your freedom of speech. In fact, they’re currency in the same marketplace of ideas in which you’ve offered your thoughts for sale.
As for political correctness, take it from this Southern Republican: 99% of what people like you call “political correctness” is just good manners. Manners, as my mother and grandmother from Charleston taught me, are the art and skill of making other people feel comfortable. That’s all.
So the fact that you defend your bad manners as “being politically incorrect,” rather than rudeness that you somehow think is justified, makes you a jackass, not the victim you claim to be.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, being a jackass is not always a bad thing — or, at least, not the worst option available. I myself have been a jackass many times in my life, but since escaping college nearly 35 years ago, I’ve tried to limit my jackassitude to situations in which there are more important things than manners and civility. And I’ve known in advance that my jackassitude would not be well-received at times and I’ve taken the response like an adult. Calling out war criminals would be a good example. Making fun of other people’s gender identities — and, more broadly, their desire to be treated equally and decently — not so much.
Yet instead of taking the blowback like an adult, here you are whining and sniveling about the treatment of your ideas in the marketplace of ideas — the very behavior you decry. That makes you a pansy by your own lights. By my lights, the lights of a guy who spent 25 years in your line of work, it also makes you too goddamned dumb to be a newspaper publisher.
Grow up and stop sniveling, son.
Friday, July 10, 2015 10:28 pm
It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that my ideas might get a better reception if I would say them a little more … nicely.
I get it. I am a Southerner, after all, and I was not born in a barn. I was raised and remain a Christian ( albeit, as shall become obvious in a moment, a deeply flawed one).
But I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to those whose governmental policies carry a nontrivial body count, particularly when those bodies are defenseless.
I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to bullies. Bullies deserve nothing more or less than a kick in the teeth.
I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to sociopaths. Sane societies lock their sociopaths up where they can never harm anyone else again. Our society, by conscious choice, is not sane, and whatever else that is, it certainly isn’t nice.
And I am, we definitely shall say, disinclined to respond with niceness toward people who meet all three criteria.
There are a couple of reasons for my disinclination.
One is that, being from the South, I know firsthand how the premium we place on getting along and being civil is still, even today, used way too often to paper over legitimate grievances. The Duke University historian William Chafe literally wrote the book on that topic with respectd to my adopted hometown, “Civilities and Civil Rights.”
My 80-year-old mother grew up in Charleston. Girls of her generation were brought up to “be sweet.” Being sweet meant not only being civil, courteous, and polite, but also, “Don’t rock the boat.” That was the case even if that boat needed torpedoing.
Long story short, my mother decided a good while back that being sweet was overrated, and my sibs and I are all better off for that decision.
Another reason for my disinclination is that in my experience in covering and living with the consequences of politics, I have found that pleas for civility are too often the last refuge of a scoundrel who, as they used to say in pro wrestling, desperately needs to be hit with the chair.
Which brings me to Pat Buchanan’s latest screed for one of the right wing’s more virulent fever swamps, World Net Daily, known among the sane as Wing Nut Daily for demonstrable reasons. For a former speechwriter, Pat has not the first goddamned idea what a topic sentence is, so he’s kind of hard to excerpt. So I’ll paraphrase, and feel free to click the link, read behind me, and tell me if I got this badly wrong:
He is predicting, and calling for, civil disobedience against the Supreme Court’s striking down of bans on same-sex marriage. And he is saying that such a movement would be morally equivalent to, among others:
- Harriett Tubman’s work as part of the Underground Railroad.
- Northern abolitionists’ support of John Brown.
- The original 13 colonies’ rebellion against the English crown — to which, he goes out of his way to claim, the Confederate rebellion was morally identical.
- The civil rights movement, particularly Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Yeah. He went there.
But are people who celebrate the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village as the Mount Sinai moment of their movement really standing on solid ground to demand that we all respect the Obergefell decision as holy writ?
And if cities, states or Congress enact laws that make it a crime not to rent to homosexuals, or to refuse services at celebrations of their unions, would not dissenting Christians stand on the same moral ground as Dr. King if they disobeyed those laws?
Already, some businesses have refused to comply with the Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. Priests and pastors are going to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Churches and chapels will refuse to host them. Christian colleges and universities will deny married-couple facilities to homosexuals.
Laws will be passed to outlaw such practices as discrimination, and those laws, which the Christians believe violate eternal law and natural law, will, as Dr. King instructed, be disobeyed.
And the removal of tax exemptions will then be on the table.
If a family disagreed as broadly as we Americans do on issues so fundamental as right and wrong, good and evil, the family would fall apart, the couple would divorce, and the children would go their separate ways.
Something like that is happening in the country.
A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural and political views and values, is taking place.
America is disuniting, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote 25 years ago.
And for those who, when young, rejected the views, values and laws of Eisenhower’s America, what makes them think that dissenting Americans in this post-Christian and anti-Christian era will accept their laws, beliefs, values?
Why should they?
I’ll give Buchanan the benefit of this doubt: As the late Molly Ivins said of his speech at the 1992 GOP National Convention, this piece probably sounded better in the original German. Leaving aside for a moment his claim that some things will happen that are by no means certain — ministers and chapels being “forced” to perform same-sex marriages being the big kahuna among a bunch that contains few small ones — what kind of moral illiterate equates the denial of rights with the expansion of rights? The phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” comes to mind.
Scot Eric Kaufman poses that question and related ones in this essay at Salon, which I linked to earlier today on Facebook. My doing so brought a rebuke from a friend of mine, who wrote that Kaufman “sounds like one bigot bashing another.” Apparently he took that position because Kaufman dared to allude to the fact that we do not have conclusive proof that the man many of us (myself included) worship as the Son of God actually lived on Earth.
The implication of his remark, upon which I challenged him and to which he has not responded as I write, is that because Kaufman said something that hurt his feelings with respect to his Christian faith, nothing that Kaufman said about Buchanan is valid. Because Kaufman wasn’t nice enough.
That notion merits three words of basic Anglo-Saxon: Bull. Fcking. Shit.
Part of the reason that evil runs as unchecked in this country as it does is that too many people, including my friend, are too nice to call out evil for what it is. Too many are far too nice to do anything but accept any vice whatever as long as it is clothed in Christianity. And too many are willing to be so nice that they will accept the dangerous notion that false equivalence, particularly false moral equivalence, is still equivalence.
Pat Buchanan worked eagerly for, and to this day defends, Richard Nixon, the most soul-sickened individual to inhabit the White House in the 20th century. Buchanan’s entire career is a testament to bigotry, anti-Semitism — a word that, unlike many people all along the political spectrum, I do NOT use lightly — and opposition unto death to all of the highest and best aspirations this country ever has had for itself. As I observed earlier today, Buchanan seems hell-bent on becoming the first person to ruin his party’s presidential nominee’s chances singlehandedly in two different millennia. If there is anyone in America outside of a few neo-Nazi groups who deserves to wear the brown shirt, it’s Buchanan. And Buchanan has been richly rewarded for this evil. He writes columns. He publishes books. He appears on TV. He commands princely speaking fees.
For all I know, Kaufman is just as evil. But the odds are against it. Moreover, he has nowhere near Buchanan’s reach and platform, even if Buchanan’s reach isn’t (thank God) what it once was.
But some smart people who ought to know better, including my friend, apparently think that what Kaufman did is exactly as bad as what Buchanan did, because Kaufman dared to raise the same question that millions of honest, educated Christians already struggle with every day. Their position seems to be that not only was what Kaufman wrote “bigoted,” it also was just as bigoted, and just as morally flawed, as what Buchanan wrote and what Buchanan has been pretty much every day of his long and benighted adult life.
If you think this way, you are intellectually silly and morally obtuse. It is literally laughable to think that raising a question about the physical existence of Jesus Christ equates in any moral way with Buchanan’s likening of legalizing gay marriage to slavery and Jim Crow. And if you think this way, you don’t deserve “nice.” You deserve mocking. You deserve ridicule. And here in this little corner of the Interwebz and whatever other digital real estate I control, you’ll get it.
Because I’m a nice guy, but even nice guys can only tolerate so much bullshit before they turn mean.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 8:34 pm
A couple of folks in the local blogosphere — e.g., George Hartzman, here — have suggested that SB 36, State Sen. Trudy Wade’s misbegotten monkeying around with the city of Greensboro’s election system, will be good for Greensboro because it will rid the city of a corrupt City Council. Their thinking is that because the redistricting that SB 36 calls for would place several council members in one district, forcing them to run against each other, several inevitably would be voted off the council.
If in fact most or all council members are corrupt, then this is a legitimate point. So let’s examine it.
Caveat: I’m not prepared right now to say as a fact that one or more members of the council are corrupt — or not corrupt, for that matter. So, for the purposes of this post, let’s posit that all nine of them are dirtier than a ’57 Buick’s oil pan. Let’s further posit that, for whatever reason, law enforcement cannot or will not deal with the corruption for us.
SB 36 still would be the wrong solution to the problem.
Why? Simple. Although it might get rid of some incumbent council members, there’s no guarantee that it would get rid of those who actually are corrupt. Moreover, because it would give voters a say over fewer seats on the council (one district member plus a mostly-non-voting mayor, as opposed to a district member, three at-large members and a voting mayor on the nine-member panel under the current system), it would make unseating future corrupt council members even more difficult than it is now — to say nothing of the fact that council members would face voters only every four years, instead of every two as they do now.
So SB 36 would be, at best, an uncertain and temporary solution to a problem that, history shows, tends to recur among politicians. And it would make dealing with recurrences of the problem even harder.
Look, if you think that a council member is corrupt, your path is clear: WORK TO GET HIM/HER VOTED OUT. Unlike congressional and legislative districts, Greensboro City Council districts aren’t gerrymandered. Nobody’s seat is safe, particularly if he or she is corrupt. We already have a sufficient mechanism in place to replace corrupt council members. SB 36 remains what it always has been: a solution in search of a problem and an attempt by anonymous corporate interests to win through their puppet legislature what they cannot win in Greensboro’s ballot boxes.
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.
Sunday, April 5, 2015 8:10 pm
He is risen. He is risen indeed.
Cops in California are using a 1930s-era anti-lynching statute to intimidate protesters. Prosecutors so far have declined to press those charges, but it’s only a matter of time until a right-wing nutjob decides to try to make an example of someone.
Speaking of California, its people are in serious denial about its extreme drought, now in its fourth year. About 94% of the state considers the drought serious, but 61% still favor voluntary measures to deal with it. Y’all need to wake up.
Likely presidential contender and perennial horse’s ass Mike Huckabee thinks I’m a member of the “militant gay community,” inasmuch as that’s whom he’s blaming for the backlash against Indiana’s bigoted “religious freedom” statute. Who knew that Christians who take the Second Great Commandment seriously were militant gays? My wife certainly had no idea.
In Florida, relatives of officers of for-profit charter-school companies are enacting legislation to divert money from public schools to charter schools. But none dare call it a conflict of interest, let alone a crime.
Randi Harper, somewhat unwillingly turned into an activist by GamerGaters and perpetrators of online violent and/or sexual threats, got SWATed — someone called in a false tip to police that led a SWAT team to raid her apartment. Her experience could have ended with her dead, or at least her dog. Fortunately, both are alive and well. She talks about what you need to do to protect yourself from such potentially deadly “pranks.” For the record, given the risk of gunplay anytime heavily armed cops storm a home, I think this “prank” should be treated as attempted manslaughter, at least. (h/t: Chip)
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh draws a useful distinction between what he does and much of the “news” you see in print and online today: Instead of taking a tip and building it into a story, too many reporters just run the tip.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 6:30 am
Polls are now open in North Carolina, so if you haven’t already, VOTE! It annoys the bastards.™
Thursday, October 23, 2014 9:14 am
Monday, September 29, 2014 8:19 pm
Thursday, September 18, 2014 12:15 pm
(Via my Facebook friend Melissa Hassard)
To bring further awareness to the issue of domestic violence within the football culture, and to open up a dialogue with our young players, Jacar Press, a community-active press, and Women Writers of the Triad are teaming up to create an essay competition open to all high school football players, on Why Domestic Violence is Wrong.
Submissions open through November 30, 2014. There is no fee for submission but a $1 donation is encouraged. Winning essay will be awarded $75, and all donations collected will go to the local domestic violence shelter in the winning writer/athlete’s hometown.
E-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and donations may be made via Paypal on the jacarpress.com website.
Ideally, education about this link will start earlier and at home, but at this point anything helps. The NFL, by “suspending” convicted players while allowing them to keep getting paid, as in the case of the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy, is screwing the pooch. Yeah, if Hardy misses the rest of the year, as now appears likely, team owner Jerry Richardson will, in effect, have contributed about $13 million to a domestic-violence awareness campaign, but the league, and all of us, can do a lot better.
Monday, August 25, 2014 8:12 am
For a good while, a number of other local bloggers, most prominently Ed Cone and Roch Smith Jr., have taken the News & Record to task for publishing letters to the editor that contain untrue assertions of fact. I’ve even sent editorial-page editor Allen Johnson a private email or two on that subject.
Well, today we get a twofer. We hear from one Steven M. Shelton, who complains that smoking shouldn’t have been banned on county property because notions that second-hand smoke is harmful are “the old cliche” and “nonsense.” And we also are treated by Gary Marschall to the already-debunked notion that “recent findings” involving carbon-14 testing of T-rex tissue indicate that the fossil in question was only about 6,000 years old. (In point of fact, the people pushing that line are distorting what researcher Mary Schweitzer said to the point of mendacity — and ignoring the fact that she said her own findings are not to be taken as evidence that dinosaurs existed as recently as 6,000 years ago.)
I think we can safely assume that now the News & Record is just trolling us.
Memo to N&R editor/publisher Jeff Gauger and owner BH Media: I get that you want the N&R to be a community paper. And that’s exactly what you should want; we’re all going elsewhere for national and international news. But “community” means focused on local people, events, and businesses. It does not mean giving a voice to every mouth-breathing knuckle-dragger with a keyboard and an opinion. It does not mean mindless boosterism or abdicating the paper’s responsibility for accountability journalism. As you aren’t from ’round here, I feel obliged to point out that not all that long ago, a North Carolina newspaper with a circulation of about 10,000 won a Pulitzer Prize.
People in small and medium-sized communities need, and deserve, journalism as good as — or better than — what people get in major metropolitan areas. And because so many such communities have few or no other news outlets capable of, or willing to engage in, accountability journalism and an overall level of trustworthiness that translate into engagement with readers and advertisers, it falls to the newspapers to do the job. Like it or not, BH Media, this is the business you have chosen. It might not be realistic to expect a Pulitzer from the N&R, but it damned sure is realistic — in fact, it’s a pretty low bar — to expect that the paper refrain from adding to the ever-growing pile of bullshit that now constitutes our public discourse.
Sunday, June 1, 2014 11:26 am
You don’t owe me a favor, but I’m asking for one anyway: Go read the essay “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic.
(Yeah, I’m late to it. I was on vacation. Sue me.)
I concede right up front that this isn’t a simple request. Consequently, as you’re about to see, this is the longest “y’all go read this” post in this blog’s 12-year history.
Likewise, “The Case for Reparations” is a long article — 15,000 words or so. And it deals, obviously, with race, a subject that makes most people uncomfortable and, in the U.S., should discomfit everybody.
But there are some other things you should know.
First, the title is a little misleading — perhaps deliberately so — in that most people probably think that “reparations” means cash payments to make up for black people’s having been slaves. In point of fact, Coates does not call for any such thing, let alone specify an amount, an eligibility standard for individuals, or a distribution mechanism. (This fact, should you see the article discussed elsewhere, will be an easy way to tell which commenters have read the article and which have not.)
Second, even if one brings to the article a broader understanding of “reparations,” one should know that Coates, who is black, has only the vaguest idea of what reparations of any kind might look like, that he sees the concept as too complex to be defined by any individual. Moreover, he opposed the idea in principle himself until only a couple of years ago. Even today, he thinks, for example, that affirmative action doesn’t really address the needs created by the circumstances he describes.
Third, the article is less an argument for some form of reparations — though it is that — than it is a piece of historical investigative journalism that explains the widespread, longstanding, and ongoing, theft of wealth from black Americans. Coates’s work, as he himself points out, is not entirely original and builds on the work of professional historians. Unless you’re in academia, you’ve probably never heard of many of those he credits. But Coates adds original reporting to the research of his sources to create a plain-English piece of journalism that would be a shoo-in for a National Magazine Award even if it weren’t advocating a thing.
And let me emphasize again his subject: the widespread, longstanding, and ongoing, theft of wealth from black Americans. This piece isn’t just about slavery, and another way to separate those commenters who have read the piece from those who have not will be that the extent to which a commenter dwells on slavery likely will be in inverse proportion to the likelihood that that commenter has read the article.
The article does several important things. Primarily, it outlines the economic case for some form of restitution for black Americans. But in explaining the basis for that restitution, it also points out how utterly inconsequential arguments about “pathological culture” (my words, not his) as a cause for the woes of black Americans are in this context, like arguing the merits of a rezoning case when the sun is about to explode. And it shows in striking granularity how some ordinary people lived long lives in an era of supposed equality and fairness while still being robbed blind — not just by slavery, not just by private corporations, but also by their own government even as that government claimed to be working for fairness and equality of opportunity.
To call this article a home run would be to grossly understate its significance. Some home runs barely clear the fence. A few reach the upper deck of stadium seats. This one won’t fall back to Earth for years.
So go read it. I’m not asking you to do anything about its subject, not least because I myself have no idea, at this point, what should be done. But just read it and think about it and ask yourself what should be done. The article suggests one starting point, one that wouldn’t result in the transfer of a single dime from anyone to anyone. But every thinking American ought to think about this.
It’s been said in many places by many people that slavery is America’s original sin. That’s true, but it’s only part of the truth, in that the original sin actually encompasses more than slavery. Americans who truly want this country to be what it told the world almost 240 years ago that it wanted to be must grapple with this original sin and how we go about expiating it. I cannot think of a better place to start than this article.
Friday, March 21, 2014 11:16 pm
Long story short, a high-school publication in Fond du Lac, Wisc., is, in the words of regular contributor Doc at First-Draft.com, “being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.” And, more specifically, that at Fond du Lac High School, lots of people make jokes about rape, which REALLY sucks for those students who have been, you know, raped.
The school system is imposing a sweeping prior restraint on student publications because a student magazine dared to make an issue of this. Here’s the issue in question; the story at issue begins on page 11. Read the article — indeed, read the whole issue, or at least skim it to get a feel for the kind of publication it is trying to be — and then judge for yourself who’s being responsible here and who is not.
Doc, who works with student journalists in some capacity elsewhere in that region, and his First Draft companions who are scattered around the country, are keeping the heat on, with subsequent posts here, here, and here.
I weighed in with my own missive to the school system’s superintendent, Dr. James Sebert:
Dear Dr. Sebert:
I write as a lifelong red-state Republican, the father of a high-school daughter about to turn 16 — and a former journalist who won a lot of awards for publishing unpleasant truths. And I have one very simple question for you:
What in the pluperfect hell do you think you’re doing?
It is not your job to ensure an environment full of nothing but rainbow-colored unicorns. It is not your job to try to shield students from life’s unpleasant realities because they might somehow interfere with the educational process.
In fact, the very idea that you could is laughable. By the time they cross Fond du Lac’s thresholds for the first time, nontrivial numbers of students at the high school will already have endured more unpleasantness than most U.S. adults could possibly imagine, including but not limited to starvation, bullying and other physical abuse (including from family members), sexual abuse and incest, date rape, stranger rape, psychological abuse, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and pretty much anything short of a mass murder. Are you seriously arguing that those aren’t already interfering with the educational process? And if not, then why don’t you want to talk about them? Certainly we won’t stop them from interfering with the educational process until we do talk about them.
Are you seriously arguing that students shouldn’t talk about these issues, issues that are a real, and damaging, part of their lives, issues that are harming and will continue to harm their educational processes whether Cardinal Columns discusses them or not? Because if you are, you forfeit all moral claim to the title of “educator.”
It’s that simple. Sure, a misbegotten Supreme Court ruling might give you the right to censor student publications. But keep a couple of things in mind. First, this is basically the same Supreme Court that more recently has stated as a fact that campaign finance does not cause corruption, which is on an intellectual par with the high court’s declaring that the sky is chartreuse with purple polka-dots. Second, having the right to do something is not the same thing as saying you must, you should, or that it might not be a bad idea.
Anyone who seriously considers himself an educator and engages in prepublication review ought to presume news items publishable unless they are proven otherwise, and ought to require no more than the minimum change necessary to make unpublishable items publishable. Topics in general shouldn’t be reviewed at all because high-schoolers are high-schoolers: They’re going to write about what’s important to them, whether or not you like it and maybe even because you don’t. What should you do about that? Nothing. Let. It. Go.
I reviewed the article in question and found it not perfect, but excellent for high school journalism, with due consideration obviously given to the journalistic imperatives to report the truth while minimizing harm. And if you want to argue that the article was not necessary, you need only consider the results of the accompanying poll, which is about as rigorous as polls of students at a single high school can get. Rape jokes are everywhere at Fond du Lac High — and so are the rape victims who have to listen to them and are degraded by them. As an educator, you ought to find THAT intolerable, not a piece of journalism about it.
You’ve still got a chance to make this a teachable moment — for yourself, the school system, the high-school faculty and administrators, and the students. If you’re truly an educator, then that’s what you’ll do. If you need to consult outside experts — rape-crisis experts, clinical mental-health counselors, whatever — for context and advice, swallow your pride and do it.
The kids at Fond du Lac High deserve better. So do their parents. So does their community, whose taxes pay your salary. How you handle this situation going forward can make a nontrivial number of students’ lives easier than they are now — and, oh, by the way, improve the educational process. So get going.
Obviously, I don’t expect either a response or a change of heart. But this sorry excuse for an educator is now all over the Internetz as a stick-up-his-butt censor, which may well give pause one day to any larger school system that might consider hiring him. And I think it’s important for reporter/editor Tanvi Kumar and her fellow student journalists, who performed admirably not only in their original journalism but also in how they have handled themselves so far in the resulting dispute, to know that there are people out here watching them with pride and admiration.
I’m sharing the story of these kids with my own high-school-age daughter. I want her to know that the adults in her life (other than me, of course) are fallible, and that this is what one very important kind of fallibility looks like. But I also want her to understand the merits of what these student journalists were trying to do, and why, and how well they went about it, and to learn from them as well — things like responsibility and curiosity and courage and judgment that to date have been utterly absent from the people running that high school and that school system.
I want her, in short, to learn very quickly at least as much as these Fond du Lac student journalists already know about how, when, and why you speak truth to power. Because everything I see in our society suggests to me that we need more of that, not less, and will need more for many years to come. I want her and her generation prepared, for one small and simple reason: The future of the country and the well-being of their fellow citizens depends on it.
Thursday, May 9, 2013 7:29 pm
For those of you who don’t know me well and have occasionally wondered what in the pluperfect hell is wrong with me — other than being a jackass, I mean — I have struggled with chronic, severe depression on and off since age 13 and continuously for about the past 20 years. (There have been some other issues, too, such as manic episodes, during which I spent money I didn’t have and behaved in risky and hurtful ways that haunt me to this day, and generalized anxiety disorder, more on which in a minute, and even a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder. But depression, like The Dude, abides.) So, if you’ll keep in mind that her experiences and mine are not identical but are alike in many, many ways, I invite you to read Allie’s graphic (which is to say that it includes not only details but also cartoons) explanation of her depression at her blog, Hyperbole and a Half.
Now, Allie kind of implies that what I’m about to say about myself is also the case for her, but I may be reading too much into what she writes. At any rate, for me, the difference between depression and GAD is that the former makes me wish I were dead but the latter makes me actively want to do something about it. GAD is a relatively new development for me, at least to this extent. When it got really bad for the first time, last fall, I had done enough reading at least to know what was going on. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time prescribed medication that is the exact opposite of what I should have been getting for the condition, so I fired his ass on the spot. (In my own mind. All he knows is that I haven’t been back or been in contact. Interestingly, his office has never once tried to contact me.)
Problem was, the only way to get to see a new p-doc quickly was to go to the emergency room and thence to the local loony bin for a few days. That was bad, but not as bad as you might think if your only exposure is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” For one thing, the food was actually pretty good. For another, the staff was quite nice. And I did get to see a p-doc who referred me to a new p-doc out in the real world whom I could see reasonably quickly (more on whom in a minute).
The down side, and this really was a downer, was spending several hours a day in group. For one thing, I didn’t need group; I needed medication that would make my skin stop crawling and make me stop wanting to kill myself. For another, I am an introvert. For another, the dayroom TV was tuned to USA, which was running an NCIS marathon of which I only got to see bits and pieces. I love NCIS. and watching NCIS would have helped me a lot more than listening to the unrelated problems of a bunch of weird strangers whose problems weren’t like mine. Instead, they included everyone from recovering substance addicts to active psychotics, the kind of people who see sentient, carnivorous piles of Jell-O in the corners that no one else can see.
Me: “You know it’s not real, right?”
Him (not at all offended): “It’s not real to you, sure. And that’s OK. It doesn’t want you.”
(In hindsight, I sound like some of the people in Allie’s piece who were trying unsuccessfully and cluelessly to be helpful. But I actually asked the question out of curiosity; I was trying to understand. I neither knew nor cared whether asking would help.)
Long story short, the new p-doc got me on a pharmaceutical regimen that keeps both depression and anxiety in check. I haven’t been badly anxious but a time or two in the past couple of months; I haven’t been suicidal in many weeks, except once for, like, 20 minutes or so. I know I need adequate sleep, which I’m generally getting, and I know I need exercise, which I was getting up until I started grad school two years ago and will resume getting after comps next week.
Depression is kind of a big deal. In any given year, almost 7 percent of adult Americans have it, and of them, 30% have severe cases. No treatment works for everybody. It took me a year to find an optimum treatment, which worked right up until it didn’t; now, I’m on a medication that didn’t exist when I began taking depression medication more than a decade ago.
But, anyway, go read Allie’s story. Odds are, you or someone you know can relate.
Monday, April 15, 2013 5:57 pm
This isn’t, as they say on Twitter, a subtweet. It’s not intended for anyone in particular. It’s not related directly to anything in the news (although it could relate to almost everything). I just read it at Charlie Pierce’s place — he concludes each day with a Madison quote, which is a nice and thoughtful way to conclude a day, and this one is from Friday — and I liked it and thought you’d like it, too:
In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
— James Madison, Papers, March 29, 1792.
Monday, April 1, 2013 7:35 pm
Then, boy, have I got a gift for you to give her: The Official Southern Woman of a Certain Age Certificate:
Customizable, printable on a variety of papers or skins, and suitable for framing. You’re welcome.
Saturday, November 24, 2012 5:16 pm
If you take generic Lipitor (atorvastatin), STOP RIGHT NOW. The generic version has been recalled because it might have bits of ground glass in it.
Do I have your attention now? Good. More info here.
OK. As you were.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 6:42 pm
A sensible solution to a vexing and expensive intellectual-property problem? By God, we can’t have that!
For a brief moment last week, a House Republican group that serves as an idea shop for the party was on record proposing a remarkably far-reaching reform of American copyright law. The memo (PDF), written by a young staffer named Derek Khanna, was released Friday afternoon by the Republican Study Committee and noticed by The American Conservative’s Jordan Bloom.
Khanna’s memo begins by laying out the original constitutional purpose of copyright protection and how the current legal landscape has strayed from it. It then proceeds to challenge several widely-held beliefs about copyright law, including the claims that it promotes the greatest possible levels of productivity and innovation and that it represents free market ideals at work:
[A]ccording to the Constitution, the overriding purpose of the copyright system is to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” In today’s terminology we may say that the purpose is to lead to maximum productivity and innovation.
This is a major distinction, because most legislative discussions on this topic, particularly during the extension of the copyright term, are not premised upon what is in the public good or what will promote the most productivity and innovation, but rather what the content creators “deserve” or are “entitled to” by virtue of their creation. This lexicon is appropriate in the realm of taxation and sometimes in the realm of trade protection, but it is inappropriate in the realm of patents and copyrights. […]
Today’s legal regime of copyright law is seen by many as a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer. It is a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and added value. We frankly may have no idea how it actually hurts innovation, because we don’t know what isn’t able to be produced as a result of our current system.
But by Saturday afternoon the RSC had pulled the memo, citing an inadequate review process and apologizing for the “oversight.” …
The memo lists several specific examples of the damage done by copyright law: Stifling the DJ and remix markets in the United States, making the creation of public libraries — and in particular Project Gutenberg — more difficult, and penalizing legitimate investigative journalism. It concludes with suggestions for reform such as significantly shortening the length of copyright claims, expanding “fair use” doctrine, and reforming statutory damages. (Those damages can currently rise as high $150,000 per infringement.)
The email announcing the removal came from RSC executive director Paul Teller, who said the memo “was published without adequate review within the RSC.” …
However, a source “with knowledge of the RSC’s operations” told Tim Lee at Ars Technia that content industry lobbyists had brought pressure to bear on the RSC’s leadership to disavow the memo.
Among the many manifestations of genius in the United States Constitution is its provision for ““promot[ing] the progress of science and useful arts” by giving an innovator a fair early share of the benefits of his creation, but then later allowing others to build on that innovation without prohibitive legal or financial obstacles. It’s that second part that has come under attack, primarily via industry lobbying (so much so that not that long ago Greensboro’s Rep. Howard Coble’s political affiliation was being mocked in some quarters as “R-Disney,” after one of the primary offenders).
This is both bad public policy and, if you’re a Republican, bad politics. Coble sits on the Judiciary subcommittee that oversees intellectual-property law and chairs the subcommittee that oversees commercial and administrative law (as well as the courts). Peeps in the 6th District might want to drop him a line on this subject.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 6:30 am
The polls are open, so if you haven’t already, go vote. It annoys the bastards.
Monday, August 6, 2012 8:08 pm
How about a whole new life?
Between what’s in this video and the Mars landing* this morning …
… I think maybe we need to remind ourselves that amid all the horrible news about the economy and politics and climate change and nuts with guns, we live in an age of wonders, and that, if we can avoid killing ourselves and throw off the short-sighted, greedy bastards now dampening our affairs and blinkering our vision, we may yet achieve even greater wonders, on this world and beyond.
*UPDATE: My online friend John Burns, a fellow Davidson alum, posts on Facebook:
Hey, rest of the world. Nice job in the Olympics, really. You’re doing great. Great to see all countries competing in the spirit of harmony. Hey, that reminds me, how did YOUR landing of a 2,000 pound robotic vehicle on another planet go? What’s that? You don’t have one? [Drops mike]
Saturday, April 28, 2012 12:02 am
What with Cinco de Mayo coming up (a/k/a Amateur Night for gringos), if anyone offers you a choice between a bottle of Sol beer and a bottle of horse pee, take the horse pee. And then hit the guy in the head with the Sol bottle. The horse pee has substantially more character than the beer.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 9:23 pm
I mentioned some time back about how Rachel Lee of Vote for Marriage NC flat-out lied to the Greensboro City Council when she spoke in favor of Amendment One, which voters will decide on May 8.
Economist Arthur Laffer, a leader in the private efforts to eliminate Tennessee’s inheritance tax, told a state legislative committee Monday that FedEx president, chairman and CEO Fred Smith told him last week that “he’s gettin’ out of this state” if the bill repealing the tax doesn’t pass the legislature.
Laffer, who gained fame as a supply-side advocate in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan, moved a few years ago from California to Nashville, where he is chairman of Laffer Associates, a consulting firm, and Laffer Investments, an institutional investment management firm.
He made a 25-minute talk to the House-Senate Fiscal Review Committee Monday in support of legislation that phases out Tennessee’s inheritance and estate taxes by 2016.
Laffer has been a world-class bullshitter for more than 30 years. He lied about the “benefits” of the Reagan tax cuts and he’s lying now.
So here’s my proposal: Everyone who speaks before an elected body, in any capacity, has to be put under oath that he or she will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, on pain of five years in prison for perjury. And then start locking some liars up.
It won’t fix everything that ails our politics, Lord knows. But it will end some of the most egregious abuses and provide some salutary examples of what happens when you try to screw your fellow citizens and the system of government our ancestors died to create and defend.
Friday, April 13, 2012 5:50 am
For those of y’all who aren’t from around here, North Carolina will vote May 8 on a proposed amendment to its constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, and refuse to recognize any other type of civil arrangement. Not only does this push the state even farther into the marriage business, a place I’ve believed for years it has no business, it also would undo arrangements some localities have here that allow for domestic partnership benefits and would eliminate the possibility of civil unions. (Same-sex marriage already is banned by statute.)
It’s bad business, it’s facially violative of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, and it’s bigots and bullies being mean just because they can. (In a state with double-digit unemployment, this is how our GOP-controlled legislature chose to spend its time.) I was born here, I”ve lived in this state all but 18 months of my 52 years, I’ve been listening to this shit my whole life, and I am sick and tired of it.
A lot of my friends and neighbors took part in this video. It calls North Carolina to be its best self, something with which this state has struggled all my life, and the victory, when it comes, will be all the sweeter for that struggle.
And here, recorded just yesterday, is a cover by Triad musician Jeffrey Dean Foster, whom those of you of a certain age will remember as guitarist/singer for the late, lamented The Right Profile:
UPDATE: I do not entirely agree with the sentiment my friend Fec expresses here, but I know where it comes from and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally feel this way myself:
It is obvious to those of us who value all our brethren that the Christian fundamentalists give us no choice but leave them behind in the pursuit of a more just society. I’m going to keep saying this because it is true: just as they seek to demonize those not like them with hatred and lies, so then must we judge the social retards as evildoers. Life is hard and we have difficult choices to make. The easiest one is to disregard those who go out of their way to unnecessarily make life harder, especially for those who are already suffering the most.
It isn’t just states that struggle to be their best selves. It’s also you and I.
Sunday, March 4, 2012 10:04 pm
In the past 72 hours, while I’ve struggled with work, school, my kids’ schedules and a migraine, a great exodus has taken place among Rush Limbaugh’s national advertisers after his abuse of law student Sandra Fluke for trying to stand up for basic health-care rights for women. I won’t rehash the merits of the issue, which by now are pretty well settled among those with ears to hear. (I’ve tweeted about it a bit if you want to go look.)
The question now is: What else can we do to put pressure on Rush and his parent corporations? One thing we can do is pressure the local advertisers on the stations that carry his show. Commenter “Jager” at Balloon Juice provides instructions on how to go about this [I’ve added a few clarifications in brackets], and as a former radio guy I can say he’s more or less on the money:
Go after the local advertisers on his show. There are very few local advertising [slots] on Rush’s show and they sell at a premium. Monitor the Rush station, make a list of the local advertisers and do the following:
1. Call the advertiser; be polite.
2. Write a letter to the advertiser; be polite.
3. Copy the station and the Federal Communications Commission with the advertiser letter.
4. Politely call the General Manager of the station, tell the GM what you are doing and why, tell them you have contacted the advertiser and copied the FCC.
5. If the local advertiser uses an agency, contact the agency, as well. Just ask the local business [whether] they use an agency.
[It’s not clear to me why the commenter thinks calling the agency will help, unless you’re also threatening to boycott any of the agency’s other advertisers, or any other stations with which the agency places advertising, or in some other way putting pressure on the agency’s revenue stream. — Lex]
It won’t take many letters and phone calls to get their attention and remind the station that the letters need to be placed in the station’s public file. (the public file is an FCC requirement)
Local stations don’t get many local [advertising slots] in Rush’s show and many [stations] pay a huge fee to Premiere [Radio Networks, the Bain Capital/Clear Channel Communications subsidiary that syndicates the show] to run the show. If they start losing business because of that [expletive], they will raise hell with Premiere.
Although I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that because I think 27% of Americans would be happy if Rush killed infants and ate their entrails live from noon to 3 weekdays, I do think the commenter’s suggestions are about the likeliest approach of any to get results. So if you want to apply financial pressure to Rush to at least start behaving like a civilized member of society, target the local advertisers on your local Rush station. I’ll update this post when I’ve had the time to even figure out who that is in this market — that’s how out of it I’ve been lately.
UPDATE: Well, duh, it’s Rush Radio — WPTI (94.5 FM).
2-B PAI Park
Greensboro, NC 27409
Sunday, October 23, 2011 3:24 pm
When last we spoke, Thursday evening, NPR had said that it was going to have a “conversation” about the fact that Lisa Simeone, the freelance host of “World of Opera,” her political involvement in her spare time and WDAV’s relationship with the network in supplying “World of Opera” for syndication by the network.
I emailed the general manager of WDAV, who promptly informed me that he and the college already had had their own conversation about Simeone, determined that what she did on her own time was her own business and were going ahead with business as usual.
And if things had been left to lie there, all would be well. But NPR being NPR, it ignored the First Rule of Holes: When you are in one, stop digging. Instead, it found a way to make itself look even stupider by announcing that it would stop syndicating “World of Opera” to 60 stations nationwide.
In stark contrast to that behavior, WDAV and Davidson College simply and quietly did the right thing yet again, announcing that if NPR didn’t want to distribute the show anymore, they would do it themselves. Station general manager Scott Nolan emailed me yesterday to specify that the new arrangement would take effect Nov. 11.
We’ve already established that Lisa Simeone has no formal relationship with NPR, as employee or as freelancer, which means NPR has no legal, moral or ethical justification for attempting to regulate her political involvement on her own time. Given the pontification of NPR news staffers — news staffers, not producers of opera shows — on Fox News and other outlets, it is difficult for anyone with half a brain to think that NPR cares about the ethics or appearance or bias of its news people in general and quite easy to believe that something altogether more sinister is at work, whether right-wing political conspiracy or simple petulance.
NPR never should have tried to make an issue of Simeone’s off-duty political involvement in the first place. And once it did, it certainly never should have expected WDAV and Davidson College to do its intellectually dishonest and journalistically unethical dirty work for it. It is difficult to understand NPR’s decision to stop distributing the program as anything other than a childish act of pique, the raving of a clueless dinosaur as it sinks into the tar pits of its own irrelevance and oblivion.
But we need to ask a question: Why is it OK with NPR for NPR employees Mara Liasson, et al., to do what they do and be paid for it, but not OK for Lisa Simeone, a freelancer, to do what she does on her own time for no money? What is the moral or ethical difference in the behaviors? Why is the NPR’s response to the differing behaviors so dissonant? And what does that dissonance tell us about NPR’s news credibility, ability to navigate ethical questions and overall common sense?
The honorable behavior of my alma mater and former employer stands in stark contrast to that of NPR. It is, yet again, a good day to be a Wildcat.
But it’s a bad day, and has been a bad decade, to be an American in need of smart, credible news and information programming produced by insightful, ethical people. Those Americans are screwed, and the Occupy movement of which Lisa Simeone has been just one small part is one big sign that a lot of Americans aren’t going to stand for it. If they Occupy enough voting booths, some things will happen on the political front, but I suspect the only thing that will change NPR will be extinction. The network certainly hasn’t demonstrated an ability to learn from experience.
Thursday, October 20, 2011 8:57 pm
UPDATE 2: Please click on the link below and join me in thanking President Quillen for doing the right thing. If you’d also like to thank her for making Davidson look good in the process, that’s fine, but I won’t insist on it. ;-)
UPDATE: DAMN. I had no sooner hit “send” on that email and begun copying and pasting it into the blog here when Scott Nolan called me.
Long story short, I am delighted to report that he, the station and the college are doing all the right things here for all the right reasons. They’ve reviewed the terms of their contract with NPR to provide content — i.e., the opera show Simeone produces. They have concluded that the college is in compliance with every stipulation of that contract, and they’re going to ignore the national media and keep doing what they’re doing.
It is a good day to be a Wildcat.
* * *
As a Davidson College alumnus and former employee of WDAV-FM during its critical early years as a high-powered broadcast outlet, I was more than a little dismayed to learn that NPR was “in conversations with WDAV about how they [sic] intend to handle” Lisa Simeone.
Here’s some free advice from someone with decades of experience in media and PR: You don’t. You listen politely to NPR, you then tell its representative to take a flying flip at a rolling doughnut and you let Ms. Simeone keep doing what she’s doing for WDAV without interruption or hassle. (If nothing else, I’m sure my late father, Class of ’52, founding member of the WDAV advisory board and a board member at Opera Carolina for about two decades, would appreciate it. He’d have loved her show, I think.)
There are so many things wrong about this situation that it’s difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, that’s exactly the kind of situation where I’ve eaten, professionally speaking, for the past 30 years.
First, if I understand the situation correctly (and I might not; I’ve seen conflicting reports in major media outlets), Lisa Simeone is a freelancer for WDAV and has no direct, formal relationship whatever with NPR anymore. That being the case, then absent any written agreement between the station and her with respect to how she will conduct herself off the air, the station simply has no jurisdiction — no moral, legal or ethical standing to tell her what she can and cannot say, what groups she can and cannot participate with, whom she can and cannot represent besides WDAV. If, going forward, the station finds it valuable to control that conduct, it is welcome to attempt to reach a contractual arrangement with her on that point and to attempt to compensate her accordingly. She, of course, is free to tell you to go to hell, and if you’re foolish enough to try to achieve that goal, then for reasons that have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with my having been a freelancer off and on for much of my career, I sincerely hope she does.
Second, although there are no true First Amendment issues here as no government agency is involved so far as I know, Davidson College and every college and university worth the name has a strong interest in defending freedom of expression, particularly unpopular expression. One of the unfortunate side effects of the evolution of the American economy from one based on manufacturing to one based on knowledge — and, therefore, frequently on relationships — is that otherwise rational people can and do sever perfectly productive professional relationships because overentitled jackasses get a bad case of butthurt over something someone said or wrote or blogged or tweeted about them. The academy, of all our institutions, ought to be the one that stands up and points out both the impracticality and the immorality of shutting down unpopular speech. If you have a problem with that, you’re welcome to seek employment in the for-profit sector. I hear it’s hiring. Oh, wait.
Third, moving from the general to the particular, what, exactly, is it of which Ms. Simeone stands accused? Depending on which news account you read, she’s guilty of being a “spokeswoman” or “organizer” for Occupy Wall Street — again, on her own time, separate and apart from her work for WDAV. Unfortunately, neither NPR nor anyone else has bothered to explain exactly what that even means, let alone why it’s a bad thing. Moreover, from everything I’ve read or heard about Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots (including first-hand accounts from my brother and sister-in-law in Raleigh, friends here in Greensboro, friends in New York and other participants), one of its defining characteristics is that anyone who wants to be can be an “organizer” or “spokesperson” for the movement. It’s a consensus movement, not a hierarchical one. While that might not bode well for its political effectiveness, it also makes defining moral and ethical transgressions on the part of any one participant problematic when we’re talking about an act of speech as opposed to, say, defecating on a police car. Put another way, the terms are meaningless. Two nights ago, as a joke, I created the Twitter hashtag #LWS — Liquidate Wall Street. (This was before Bloomberg Business News broke the story that Bank of America intends to try to stick taxpayers with a looming $53 TRILLION loss on its derivatives; in 24 hours, Liquidate Wall Street evolved with no effort on my part from joke to logical policy proposal, but that’s a different subject altogether.) Does my having created that hashtag make me an “organizer” or “spokesman” for the Liquidate Wall Street movement? If so, neither I nor the movement appear to be deriving much benefit.
Finally, I would point out something that I hope already has become obvious to you in your dealings with NPR: In matters relating to politics — a subject on which its news coverage purports to have some expertise — NPR cannot find its own ass with both hands and a flashlight. It has mishandled every major story of the past decade related to important political issues, from war crimes to the economy, health care to regulation. Probably not coincidentally, it has failed to recognize that it is facing ongoing, coordinated political attacks from one and only one side of the aisle that are bent on destroying it because they are bent on destroying accountability journalism entirely. I have been a registered Republican since 1978, but even I am not blind to this phenomenon, nor do I care for the likely national consequences if this effort succeeds. NPR is blind, willingly or otherwise, but you need not let your affiliation with the network blind you, too.
What you do, or choose not to do, is up to you. But you need to understand that your actions and those of the college in whose name you operate will be watched carefully and interpreted in the context of the values for which this country and Davidson College purport to stand.