Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, July 31, 2017 6:50 pm

What I would like to do on my summer vacation

The summer of 1981 should have been so much better for me than it was. But it could have been so much worse than it was, too.

As Tony, who has his own take on it, describes, he and I were sharing an apartment in Chapel Hill, trying to hold down jobs while also raising as much hell as humanly possible. At least that was the plan. Go read his post; it’s worth it, and I’ll wait.

You back? Good.

As he says, I only lasted about a month. He’s correct that being a day laborer didn’t agree with me, but I’ll add something to that: With the exception of 1980, when I got to be a full-time disc jockey in air-conditioned comfort, I’d spent every summer for the previous decade doing manual labor in the hot sun or slaving over deep fryers in fast-food joints at Carowinds that either weren’t air-conditioned or may as well not have been. Hard physical work wasn’t the issue.

Another thing he’s not telling you, because he’s such a good friend: I bailed on him. In the middle of the night, while he was at work, leaving him in the lurch rent-wise. Without, as I recall, even leaving a note. It was a dick move, no question. But I did it because at that point, I saw that as one of only two options, the other being suicide.

Depression runs in my father’s family. In hindsight I had had symptoms as early as age 12, and I’d already thought a great deal about suicide, including exactly how to go about it so as to minimize the mess I’d leave behind for whoever found me, well before graduating from high school.

Many years later, I was talking with my mother about that, and said, “Well, son, it was the ’70s, everybody was crazy, and frankly, you just didn’t stick out all that much.” She was joking, but there was more than a kernel of truth to that. Even in my fairly well-off, fairly well-adjusted neighborhood, I saw and heard things.

And in 1981, the summer before our senior year of college, I was still 15 years from being formally diagnosed (and farther still from getting on the medications that have kept me alive). And there you have it: the context in which I experienced my worst depressive episode yet, without even the words to say what was going on.

Sure, some events in my life contributed. That spring I broke up with a woman, regretted it immediately, then couldn’t walk it back. The woman I started dating after that dumped me unceremoniously within weeks. I ran for three different positions in my fraternity and lost all three. I drew dead last in the frat-house room lottery, leaving me with no place to live for my senior year. My full-time deejaying hours, which I had been counting on to allow me to graduate from college with merely manageable student-loan debt instead of the bankrupting kind, got cut back by half. I’d have been having a tough time even without chronic depression. With it, I was lucky I lived.

So, yeah, I took off in the middle of the night, leaving what was supposed to have been an idyllic summer in Chapel Hill with my best bud to try to figure out which disastrous aspect of my life I was going to try to fix first IF I didn’t kill myself. And I left Chapel Hill because I figured the closer I was to home, the less likely I was to kill myself. I can’t explain that logic, but it made sense at the time.

Long story short, I didn’t kill myself — not because I got help, but because, by luck or fluctuations in brain chemistry or the grace of God or a combination of all three, the pit I was in got a little shallower. Not a lot, but enough for me at least to climb a little farther from the darkness.

Tony also was kind enough not to mention that we didn’t speak for months after that. I think I finally called him that fall because another friend of mine nagged me into it; God knows I was too ashamed to do it on my own. Let’s just say he was way more gracious about it than I deserved.

And, slowly, bit by bit, piece by piece — and, again, with luck, fluctuations of brain chemistry, and/or the grace of God — I started pulling things back together. A couple of my frat brothers who had won a room in the house ahead of me bailed, and the alumni board offered me the double room as a single to cut their losses. The chapter treasurer bailed, and the alumni board offered me that gig, too — an executive for what’s now Bank of America made the pitch in New Orleans later that summer at my frat’s national convention; I remember I was drinking tequila when he made the offer and I about snorted it out my nose. My social life, well, it took more time and more work, but long story short, I ended up having an uneven but pretty sociable senior year. And I got enough work hours back that by the time I graduated, my student-loan debt was still manageable even for a kid with an English degree.

I tell you all of this not to justify my behavior at the time, but as a kind of public-service announcement. Behavioral disorders — things like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and so on — often manifest in really severe ways for the first time in people who are of college age. (I noted that my depression wasn’t formally diagnosed for another 15 years. Well, my generalized anxiety disorder, which in hindsight was manifesting quite nicely even in my teens, thank you very much, wasn’t diagnosed for another 32.) If you’re a college student, you need to know that. If you’re the parent of a college student, you really need to know that. I don’t recall that this was common knowledge in 1981; certainly, I didn’t know it, and I don’t think my well-educated parents did, either. But people need to know it. They need to be aware. And, particularly if such disorders run in the family, they should be on the watch for signs and get help, or see that a loved one gets help, when those signs become evident.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). And there are a lot of other resources on the Internet for people with these problems, or who think they might have these problems, that didn’t exist when I was 21. If you’re in the pit or think someone you care for might be, say something, do something, anything. I never believed that college is the best years of your life, but it shouldn’t be the worst, either, and God knows it shouldn’t be the end.

As for the idyllic summer month in Chapel Hill that Tony advocates, I long for it, too, and I’m fortunate to have a job now where, if he and I can get all the moving parts lined up, we might even be able to make it happen next year or the year after — to do 1981 over again and do it right this time. Or maybe that’s a pipe dream. The point is, we’re both here and in a position at least to see if it’s doable. As it is, this weekend or soon thereafter, we’ll be toasting 40 years of friendship, our wives with us and the shadows, at least for now, at bay.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 6:54 pm

America’s next top blogger

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 6:54 pm
Tags: ,

Ladies and gentlemen, my niece Whitney Alexander. She’s got game.

Sunday, November 23, 2014 10:38 am

“You have the right to remain silent … and wouldn’t that be a nice change.”

Grandmother Attempts Citizen Arrest of Ted Cruz for Being an Arrogant [Expletive]

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?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 11:34 am

“This is the world I want to live in.”

*sniff* Dusty in here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014 11:23 am

“Guns and Butter,” or, What freedom cost my friends

Great article in Charlotte magazine about the Suarez family, next door to whom I lived from seventh grade until well after I had left for college (Raul and Teresa were in my class at school). Their story is amazing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:13 pm

If only the public flaying were not metaphorical

So recently, Politico, not known for either journalistic ethics or simple human decency, sat down to have a chat with Dick Cheney, his harridan erstwhile-lesbian-porn-writing wife Lynne, and his inept erstwhile political-candidate daughter Liz.

To talk about foreign policy.

With “noted mortgage fraud concern” Bank of America as sponsor.

I’m sorry to report that fricassee of feces was not on the menu, but the “chat” was utterly full of it. So, boy, howdy, was I happy to see Charlie Pierce at Esquire give the unindicted war criminal, his vile relatives, and Politico the hiding they so richly deserved. I’m delighted to say that no one was spared, not even the children.


Just a few gems:

[Politico’s] puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks.

… and …

It’s not just that TBOTP[“Tiger Beat on the Potomac” — Pierce’s epithet for Politico] invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It’s not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it’s not as though this was a mere interview—a “get” that could help you “win the morning (!).” In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of [Politico editor] Mike Allen’s little grift-o-rama special events—a “Playbook lunch,” sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There’s an upcoming TBOTP “event” in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price.

… and …

That’s the freaking problem? That Dad and Mom and Exemptionette got together, but The Gay One didn’t show up. The problem was not that your publication decided to publicize itself, and suck up some of that sweet sponsorship cash from Wall Street, by putting a coward and a torturer on display with the more unpleasant members of his family? The problem was not that the alleged journalists running your place decided to give a platform to a man whose only public appearances in the near future should be unsponsored events at the Hague?

It goes on like that, a righteous rant to rank with the best of Thompson and Taibbi. I didn’t even quote the best parts.

I have not had a lot of energy or attention for blogging of late. (I’m actually finally reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and I also just discovered “Breaking Bad.” Sue me.) But I’m glad that Pierce is on the job. And some of the commenters give as good as Pierce does; I particularly liked the notion that Cheney will outlive even Keith Richards for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, go read and get mad all over again — at the war criminal, his family, and the whores who give him a platform. They’re all deserving targets of wrath. For as Liz Cheney says herownself, “You can’t be responsible about the future if you don’t understand what happened in the past.”


Sunday, June 1, 2014 11:26 am

Please do me a favor: Read “The Case for Reparations”

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.

Sunday, May 4, 2014 5:42 pm

“This town needs a better class of racist.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling and related events:

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” John Roberts elegantly wrote. Liberals have yet to come up with a credible retort. That is because the theories of John Roberts are prettier than the theories of most liberals. But more, it is because liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.) … Ahistorical liberals — like most Americans — still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 6:11 pm


Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 6:11 pm
Tags: , ,

My college friend Whit Trumbull has begun blogging at Spreading Shalom. She’s Christian, but Rosh Hoshana, the Jewish New Year, seems as good a time as any to start a new blog, particularly one that I presume will be, like Whit herself, focused on matters of the spirit.

Monday, August 12, 2013 6:04 pm

Julia Ioffee is my new blogging hero

I’ve not had much use for The New Republic ever since they published that crap that was reputed to have eviscerated Clinton’s health plan (and did nothing of the sort, not that I’m bitter), and to be honest, before today I don’t recall hearing of Julia Ioffee despite subscribing to The New Yorker, for which she spent time in Moscow. But — and speaking of evisceration — her takedown of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell is one of the most righteously satisfying things I’ve read on a blog — or anywhere else, for that matter — since Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” If they ever find a way to turn this post into a movie, Morgan Freeman’s status as an icon may be in serious danger. Just go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:03 am

Andy Duncan: Seventh time’s the charm

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 9, 2013 7:29 pm

Maybe Allie’s little piece of corn can explain it all to you

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.

Friday, February 22, 2013 8:41 pm

Want to run a newspaper? Here’s how you do it right.

Finally, finally, finally, the owner of a newspaper has told the geeks, waterheads, nematodes, mouth-breathers and knuckle-dragging readers who masturbate to gun ads but can’t STAND the possibility that their local newspaper might publish a story about two happy people doing something that’s none of their damn business to take their whiny, misprioritized complaints and shove them north toward their tonsils.

God, I need a cigarette. And I haven’t smoked in almost 35 years.

Our story begins when Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven — yes, that’d be two people with ladyparts — got married in, believe it, Jones County, Missafreakingsippi, the left ventricle of Bat Country. The Laurel Leader-Call newspaper did a front page story, acknowledging the historic (albeit legally unrecognized) nature of the event, and then basically letting the protagonists speak for themselves and for each other — not an approach recommended for political coverage, but perfectly acceptable for a wedding story. (Bonus pathos: Craven has Stage 4 brain cancer.)

Well, Leader-Call readers freaked out. They called. They wrote. They virtually spat on the paper’s Facebook page.

So how did the paper’s owner, Jim Cegielski, respond?

Did he pretend there was no controversy? Or that if there was, it was OK to ignore it? Did he, God forbid, send an underling out to lie to people about his position or lack thereof instead of manning up and doing his job?

Oddly, no.

He stood up. He took responsibility. He told the people who were wrong that they were wrong. He told them to stop misbehaving toward his employees just because they’d read a story they didn’t like. And he told them that if they didn’t like all of the above, they could get bent. (If the link doesn’t go directly to Cegielski’s column, flip to page A5, where it’s at the top.)

And the horrible financial price the paper paid for this optimally competent exercise of its privileges and duties? Fifteen canceled subscriptions. Even in Laurel, Mississippi, that’s the equivalent of a few households going away for a long weekend.

So here’s a suggestion to people who want to run newspapers that both make money and bond with with their communities in ways that make long-term profitability even possible: Do your jobs. Be right. And when you are right, take no shit from those who are wrong, particularly when it’s aimed at your underlings. Even most of those who disagree with you will respect that; wanting your boss to have your back is a nonpartisan policy goal in and out of newspapers.

I’m sure Warren Buffett’s BH Media already has some decent ideas about how to dig the News & Record out of the hole it has dug for itself in the past five or so years (not all of which, I hasten to add, is local talent’s fault). But I’m betting that sending someone to Laurel to buy Jim Cegielski lunch and listen to him talk for an hour would not be a bad strategy at all.

(h/t: Gawker via Athenae)


Tuesday, March 6, 2012 8:31 pm

Limbaugh sliced, diced, dissected and wreckeded

I’ve never met John Cole, the proprietor of the blog Balloon Juice. But this much I know: I never want him to become my enemy.

Rush Limbaugh has been an enemy of Cole’s for a while, but his baseless attacks last week against Sandra Fluke have made Limbaugh Cole Enemy No. 1.

I don’t often say this (12 times in 10 years of blogging, in fact — this is the 13th), but, seriously, go read the whole thing. Not only is it a serious contender for Blog Post of the Year, it also is an encapsulation and indictment of just how thoroughly debased, divorced from fact and context, and vicious (in the older sense: vice-ridden) our public discourse has become, and how few consequences there are for severe, serial social deviance therein.

And that was on top of this public challenge to Hot Air (sorry, I ain’t linking to them) proprietor Ed Morrissey:

For those of you who can not watch videos, here is a .pdf of the transcript. At no point anywhere in her testimony did Sandra Fluke make any mention of her sexual activity. Never.

I challenge Ed right now — show me where she talked about her sex life in that testimony, and I will write a check for $1,000.00 to the RNC [Republican National Committee]. She simply didn’t make her sex life the topic of discussion, and Ed is lying out his ass. You could watch that video or read the transcript, and as far as you could tell, Miss Fluke might very well be a virgin.

Ed is lying. The people who made this issue, which was about medical health, into an issue about Sandra Fluke’s sex life are Rush Limbaugh and all the amoral cretins like Ed who decided that just like Graeme Frost, anyone who goes against what the right wants RIGHT NOW, is a target who needs to be destroyed.

So take the challenge, or apologize for lying, Ed. $1000.00 to the RNC the moment you can show me where she discussed her sex life, you lying sack of [excrement].

In a sane society, people like Limbaugh would live in locked, padded rooms, and whatever Cole is doing, we’d find a way to incentivize him to do more of it.

Friday, February 24, 2012 7:26 pm

A “Modest Proposal” for the new millennium

Filed under: Cool!,Fun,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 7:26 pm

My friend David has figured out a way to get rich the Romney way. I am in awe:

Based on the two main things I have learned from Mitt Romney as a bishop in the Mormon church and CEO of Bain Capital, I have stumbled on a sure fire, high profit business model. A paradigm shift in investment grade financial instruments which can make us all filthy rich, but will NOT damage the environment, or break any existing laws.

My plan is simple:

We sell Mormon souls to the devil.

Hey, I know what your first question is going to be, “But David, you can’t sell someone else’s soul to the Prince of Darkness.” Silly commie liberal, you don’t understand the business concept of “leverage” or other modern investment strategies like those used by Bain Capital.

You NEVER invest your OWN money in a business venture, you invest OTHER PEOPLE’S money.

In this case, why sell our own souls, when we can sell other people’s souls?

Of course, anything that can be monetized also can be collateralized, and such financial instruments must be rated for investors. David’s way ahead of you: “Obviously souls of politicians and Mormon Elders would not be investment grade.”

If S&P or Moody’s were rating them, I bet they would be treated as investment grade, but I think the regulatory authorities in this field have many more teeth than does the SEC. Not to mention claws.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:30 am

He’s back

Filed under: Salute!,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 6:30 am
Tags: ,

John Robinson — my longtime boss, editor, co-conspirator and friend — left the News & Record recently after 27 years, almost 13 of them as the paper’s top editor. He was among the nation’s first and most prolific blogging newspaper editors, and although the project ultimately fell victim to a resource crunch tied to the Crash of ’08, his leadership on the N&R’s Town Square project got national attention not just in the industry, but also in such general-interest publications as the The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.

JR believes in sharing credit, and he backs his people to the hilt. Any good reporter from time to time will have to write unflattering things about powerful people with thin egos, thinner tempers and the resources to make life difficult if they choose. Any good newsroom employee, regardless of discipline, also, in this day and age, must spend time looking around corners for what the next important thing in the news business might be. I did a lot of both, and slaying those dragons was much easier knowing that no matter the stakes, as long as I was prudent and ethical, JR had my back. He took a lot of crap over me, and he never once complained to me about it. And during my dad’s final illness, when I spent the better part of a month bedside in an ICU 100 miles away, the only thing he said was, “Do what you need to do. The office will still be here when you get back.” That’s not just the mark of a great boss. That’s also the mark of a great friend.

I mention all this because, now that he’s shed of the News & Record, JR has started a new, personal blog, called “Media, Disrupted.” (I’ve added a link to it in the blogroll on the lower right side of this page, to0.) Go check it out. And keep an eye on him. Even if he wanted to retire, which he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure Susan wouldn’t let him. So I’m betting that shortly after the new year, he’ll be into something new, different and very much worth watching. And he’ll still be tweeting (@johnrobinson).


Saturday, September 10, 2011 2:24 pm

If you don’t want to read about 9/11 this weekend …

… (and I would not blame you if you don’t), then spend time instead with this piece by Mike Lofgren, a recently retired GOP congressional staffer. His 28 years of service include 16 on the GOP staff of the House and Senate budget committees. In every important respect, what he says comports with what I observed in 25 years of professional Congress-watching, particularly since the rise of the Gingrichites in 1994. Key points (and keep in mind that this is a career GOP operative talking):

  • “To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.”
  • “This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.”
  • “Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students. This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don’t want those people voting.”
  • “Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?”
  • The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. [Emphasis in original — Lex] The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public. Whatever else President Obama has accomplished (and many of his purported accomplishments are highly suspect), his $4-trillion deficit reduction package did perform the useful service of smoking out Republican hypocrisy. The GOP refused, because it could not abide so much as a one-tenth of one percent increase on the tax rates of the Walton family or the Koch brothers, much less a repeal of the carried interest rule that permits billionaire hedge fund managers to pay income tax at a lower effective rate than cops or nurses. Republicans finally settled on a deal that had far less deficit reduction – and even less spending reduction! – than Obama’s offer, because of their iron resolution to protect at all costs our society’s overclass.”
  • “If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté.[5] They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.”

Go read the whole thing. The kicker is that this guy retired because he figures that given what the GOP plans to do to the federal retirement system, it was better for him to be a current retiree (and thus grandfathered in) than a future one.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 7:52 pm

The next time someone asks me why we shouldn’t just abandon all hope …

Filed under: Love,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 7:52 pm
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… I’m pointing them to this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:06 pm

“On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans.”

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 9:06 pm
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Those pointy-headed academics, always messing the narrative up with their pesky facts:

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right. …

Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant. …

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

Obviously, not every self-identified Tea Partier fits this profile. But this research is long, wide and deep — and it strongly suggests that federal officials without large, self-identified Tea Party segments in their electorate are vulnerable.

Read the whole piece. It also strongly suggests that those of us who have dismissed the Tea Party as an artificial phenomenon, equal parts big-money GOP artifice and stupefying levels of Teh_Stoopid, were correct. Yeah, I’m gloating. Suck it.


Thursday, July 14, 2011 8:25 pm

This is why I can’t get any studying done

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 8:25 pm
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Because some blogger named Elizabeth Stevens at The Awl sucked me into a long essay on the subject of art and the Muppets, two subjects I don’t even care that much about, and kept me there for more than an hour.

Damn bloggers. Get off my lawn.

Monday, June 27, 2011 8:48 pm

Y’all listen up

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 8:48 pm
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My friend the Rev. Mark Sills has retired. Fortunately, Mark, who has spent a lot of years looking after the kinds of Greensboro people whom Christ called “the least of these,” has no plans to be retiring. Indeed, he has started a blog. Y’all hit it.

Monday, March 14, 2011 5:39 am

Going over like the proverbial lead balloon

Filed under: Fun,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 5:39 am

Each year I have to lead two of Hooper’s Cub Scout den meetings. And each year I dread it.

To get an idea of why, read my friend Ed Williams’s account of leading a merit-badge session this past weekend. Ed is both literally and metaphorically an Eagle Scout, and if anyone knows from “Be prepared,” he does. And yet:

And I’m falling flat, reliving a nightmare since college, the one where I’ve failed to attend class for an entire semester, or cracked a book, and now it’s final exams. God, that dream gives me the willies. And still it comes back, even into my 50s?

Only now, I’m the teacher, standing before a whole class room full of … me. …


It’s 8:25 a.m. We break at noon. I’m looking at three-plus hours to fill.

I’m the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Anyone? Anyone?” …


I ask about first names. “Christian, where does your first name come from?”

“My Mom named me for a Disney character.”

“Which one?”

“I don’t know.”

I get a lot of that this day. Anyone? Anyone?

“Gage, that’s an interesting first name. Where does it come from?”

“My Mom named me for a character in ‘Pet Sematery,'” he says.

And on break, I Google to see that, indeed, there is a demonic, back-from-the-grave, character in Stephen King’s thriller novel named Gage who goes on a killing rampage.

This leaves me disturbed. But everyone else is loosening up.

Nonetheless, little progress toward a merit badge.

In the past 30 years I’ve done presentations, given speeches and moderated dialogues in front of political bodies, committees of professors, boards of trustees and some of the most talented journalists in the world. And in no case, none, did I ever feel as nervous and unprepared as I did in front of the kids.



Monday, March 7, 2011 9:32 pm

Literature as real as it gets

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 9:32 pm
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From the Chronicle of Higher Education (paywall; temporary, I believe):

In our darkest moments, when our students have taxed us beyond taxing, when an outburst or a threat or a student stunt has rattled us, we who teach in community colleges will joke privately—only as a way to vent and find some perspective: Well, at least I don’t have an ax murderer in my class. In other words, whatever has happened, it could have been worse.

But now a suspected ax murderer was one of my students. What should I do?

The issue wasn’t just that a young man suspected of — but not charged with — patricide was on the rolls. The issue also was that in this course on short stories, everything on the syllabus addressed in some way themes related to crime, parent-child relationships or both. To add to the tension, the case had been and continued to be big news in the community, and the professor could gauge from class comments — or the lack of them — which other students in the class knew that the prime suspect was sitting at second row center.

Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” found us discussing whether tension between fathers and sons is inevitable, and the lengths to which some people will go to get what they want, if even for the short time of a flower’s “one splendid breath,” as Cather puts it. Through Tobias Wolff’s “Smokers,” we looked at the airs that some private-school students assume and how and why young people strive for a life different from that of their parents. We looked at theft and at lying as measures people routinely use to get to where they want to go. Only one student would risk discussing the inextricably dark nature of Arnold Friend, the presumed killer and rapist in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” But all appeared electrified by the real-life details of the serial killer Charles Schmid, the “Pied Piper of Tucson,” Oates’s inspiration for the story. No one floated the term “sociopath.” But it took no imagination to connect the dots between the issues examined in the fiction and the reports emerging in the news media that semester.

And so it went, day after day, story after story. Why do people lie? What happens when people act in anger? What lurks beneath brother-to-brother conflict? The stories hit it all. A “bloody hatchet,” for us a sick double entendre, even surfaced in Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation.”

The nature of students’ comments told me right away which students were aware that an alleged ax murderer was in our midst. Class discussions are generally free-flowing, dynamic, open. That semester we ground forward with the help of a few students who must have been in a blessed news blackout and a few others with exceptional courage and heart. Some struck me as frozen in place—always in class but never wanting to engage with the horror of the outside world that had found a physical and emotional presence in our classroom.

As for me, I did not hold back. I taught as though my life depended on it, and I had to believe that my life did not. My students needed those stories and the subsequent discussion and reflective writing. I needed to help them understand that, through literature, they were experiencing life in all its darkness and all its light, without suffering any of the consequences. Literature was fulfilling its best purpose, as I see it now.

The essay is a little gem, as tense and intense as Hitchcock. If the paywall’s still up when you read this, keep checking back.


Monday, August 23, 2010 5:55 pm

I don’t think hyperinflation is a near-term risk …

Filed under: I want my money back.,Y'all go read this — Lex @ 5:55 pm
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… but Zero Hedge guest poster Gonzalo Lira does. I find his how more plausible than his why, and I agree with him that IF it happened, some sort of dictatorship likely would be in our future. But he hasn’t sold me on the notion that hyperinflation before the end of 2011 is inevitable or even likely.

That said, read him for yourself and see what you think.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 8:00 pm

“Unlearning racism”

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 8:00 pm

Everyone has to follow his/her own path to racial reconciliation. A few of us, I think, may, by the grace of God, already be there. Some of us haven’t started. Some of us have and, lucky ones, know exactly where we’re going. And many of us have started and, while having no idea which direction to choose, keep faith that the path is there, that we will find it and that the journey will be worth the candle.

My longtime friend and colleague Susan Ladd, in a speech adapted from her master’s thesis, discussed her own path recently at the Diversity Forum Breakfast, which was sponsored by The HR Group Inc. and the News & Record:

There was a time when I was in love with all things Southern. When I really believed that “Gone With the Wind” was a wistful epic of a more fine and genteel era swept away by the dirty Yankees. I think I may actually have believed the unstated premise of “Gone With Wind” — that the end of slavery actually made things worse for black people, severing them from what had been a benevolent patriarchy.

There was nothing romantic or genteel about the racial landscape of my childhood. Blacks and whites lived in two separate worlds, and the worst thing you could call somebody was a nigger-lover.

These were fighting words, an insult of character that surpassed all other character flaws. It was often spat in anger, like a hard slap. Or it was said in a sneer of loathing by people who considered themselves self-respecting Southerners. Of course, it wasn’t really about love. Just showing kindness to a black person was enough to earn that designation in those days. Actually loving one was unthinkable.

We have come far. We have far to go. God willing, we will get there, all of us, together, free at last.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:28 pm

Robert E. Lee hated slavery (except when he didn’t) and other notes from Confederate History Month

Found while searching for something else: A C-SPAN program from 3 years ago featuring Elizabeth Brown Pryor, author of Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, a book based on previously unpublished Lee letters, manuscripts and records. In the transcript, scroll to about the 0:50:00 mark and click; the video will start there. Listen to about 10 minutes’ worth; you’ll see that Lee was just fine with slavery, no matter what the Texas school board or other revisionists might think.

h/t to Balloon Juice, which has been running a fine series of posts this month on the Republican Party’s efforts to sanitize and rehabilitate Confederate history. Unfortunately, they’re not all housed in one place; the best you can do is look at Balloon Juice’s “Good News for Conservatives” category and look for the posts with the GOP elephant logo emblazoned with a Confederate battle flag. It starts with this post, which takes note of the fact that Pat Robertsonite Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell omitted any reference to slavery from his proclamation regarding Confederate History Month and that fellow Republican Haley Barbour defended McDonnell in the subsequent uproar, saying, “To me, it’s a sort of feeling that it’s a nit, that it is not significant, that it’s not a — it’s trying to make a big deal out of something (that) doesn’t amount to diddly.” There are several other posts after that, touching not only on Lee but also on the fact that Mississippi never ratified the Constitutional ban on slavery and one with some historical perspective on how slavery was just one of many ways to steal another’s labor, a widespread practice of employers seeking to keep costs down and profits high.

Go check ’em out.

Monday, April 19, 2010 8:59 pm

The things they carried

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 8:59 pm
Tags: ,

You’ll need a Facebook membership to see it, but my friend Ed Williams’s essay, “Baggage,” is worth the effort to find, particularly if, at any age, you’re a college student.

The REAL liberal-conservative divide in higher education …

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 8:30 pm

… that is, the one that really exists and really matters.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 8:08 pm

A pound of flesh; or, Happy endings revisited

Paula Marantz Cohen revisits The Merchant of Venice and finds that today’s students look at Shylock, and at the good and bad of interpersonal relationships, in a way different from that of her students of a generation ago … and that neither generation really gets it right: “… if we want a happy ending, at some point we must draw a line and close our eyes to the injustices that it entails. We must accept accommodation to oppression and, in some cases, to evil itself.”

And now, having read this, I’m giving myself my first literature assignment in a generation: Compare and contrast Merchant with Better off Dead, emphasizing the parallels between Shylock and the paper boy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:02 pm

Why conservatives/free-marketers cannot deliver health-care reform

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 3:02 pm

ReaderofTeaLeaves offers an interesting piece at The Seminal, basically drawing a distinction between commodities (e.g., cars, shoes, diamonds) and such noncommodities as health and wellness. The gap in the piece is where he/she doesn’t examine the spot on the spectrum between where providing medical services equates to other kinds of service businesses and the “end product” (i.e., health/wellness) that the consumer is supposed to wind up with.

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