Picking Up the Slack

It is no secret that the Main Stream Media (MSM), the news reporting services in print, television, and radio, have for years been cutting back on the kinds of stories that require more time and thought than can be summarized in a 5 second sound bite.

Greg Palast has an opinion piece about how the “U.S. media have lost the will to dig deep.”

I know some of the reasons why investigative reporting is on the decline. To begin with, investigations take time and money. A producer from “60 Minutes,” watching my team’s work on another voter purge list, said: “My God! You’d have to make hundreds of calls to make this case.” In America’s cash-short, instant-deadline world, there’s not much room for that.

Are there still aggressive, talented investigative reporters in the U.S.? There are hundreds. I’ll mention two: Seymour Hersh, formerly of the New York Times, and Robert Parry, formerly of the Associated Press, who uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal. The operative word here is “formerly.” Parry tells me that he can no longer do this kind of investigative work within the confines of a U.S. daily newsroom.

One of the biggest disincentives to doing investigative journalism is that it jeopardizes future access to politicians and corporate elite. During the I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby trial, the testimony of Judith Miller and other U.S. journalists about the confidences they were willing to keep in order to maintain access seemed to me sadly illuminating.

Reading Marcy Wheeler’s “Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy,” a detailed and damning examination of how Valerie Plame Wilson’s cover was blown in the service of smearing her husband for daring to criticize the Bush administration’s basis for going to war against Iraq in 2003, serves to underline this point. Marcy describes how the leak was planned and executed, and how ultimately Libby became the Fall Guy, so that Karl Rove could remain free. (I know that my “Currently Reading” link above has Divine Days. I am still reading that rewarding behemoth. I took a short break as I am want to do to read something else. Lately, I have also been dipping into Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon” here and there. It’s how I read.)

Had the MSM been doing its job (acting as watchdogs as opposed to managing their Washington Cocktail Party careers), a lot of this mess, and the current War in Iraq, would probably not have happened.

In other news, it was noted a week ago that the Atlanta Journal Constitution eliminated its Book Editor position.

Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution did a staff reorganization, eliminating its book editor position, which is demoralizing beyond speech. The AJC’s section was run by long-time NBCC member and former board member Teresa Weaver, who put together one of the best-edited literary pages in the country, giving Atlanta — which was #15 on the list of most literate cities in the U.S. (far ahead of New York(#49) — the cultural dialogue it deserved.

The LA Times has also “re-organized” it’s Sunday Book review, combining it with the Opinion section. So the incredibly shrinking book review lives on.

Shying away from big complicated stories and shrinking book review sections might seem to be two dissimilar things. But they are related to the clear dumbing down of the MSM to cheap soundbites, judgments reduced to simply thumbs up/thumbs down. Anything that even has a whiff of complication is cut or ignored. It is deemed too costly; not a significant Return On Investment (ROI). What’s stupid with this trend in print media is that, newspaper readers are in fact “readers.” Why the continuing insult to them by shrinking reviews of books, things readers read, seems just plain idiotic.

We also don’t get to read long interviews with fiction writers in print on a regular basis and we don’t get reviews of books in the big reviews of books other than those with “significant push” by their publishers and those of the generally accepted heavyweight writers.

Every page cut from a Book Review, every resource pulled from investigative reporting, only makes the blogosphere and the web more necessary in this country. It’s people with little or nothing to lose that can write long detailed reviews of books, and spend time sorting out the intricacies of the U.S. Attorney Firing Scandal, as TPMmuckraker did.

So bloggers like Marcy Wheeler get to live-blog the Libby Trial. Or they form a co-op to bring attention to deserving works of fiction. Or they publish a 4-part interview with their favorite writer. Or they get invited to take part in political roundtables like Liberal Lucy and Marcy Wheeler on Off the Record. Even the U.N. has given press credentials to a blogger [NY Times, reg. req.]. Or they write a highly-acclaimed book like Laila Lalami did with “Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits.” These are all things that show how bloggers can earn legitimacy in the marketplace of ideas.

(I should also say that I believe the Political Sphere gets blogs and the web much better than the Literary Establishment does. You only have to look at the sites for the Obama, Edwards, and Clinton campaigns versus the recent dust-ups over N+1 mag and the cluelessness of the NY Times Book Review editor to see that vast difference.)

Elements of the MSM can complain about the influence of blogs and the web, but we’re only picking up the slack they keep leaving behind.

Note: I am not shocked that the election was rigged in Florida in 2000 in favor of Bush. Any half-wit could see that. (Maybe it’s the Chicagoan in me.) Besides, rigging elections is as American as baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and hating the Yankees. From the Founding Fathers restricting voting privileges to only white male landowners, to the ballot-stuffing of Tammany Hall, to Poll Taxes and “Literacy Tests” in the South, to denying women the right to vote, to the dead voting in Chicago, to systematically purging voter rolls along racial or ethnic lines, vote-rigging (through both legal and illegal means) has a long and storied history in the U.S.A.


Essay Writer Dopped from the Marines

In another strange turn to this strange case, the high school student who was arrested for writing a violent essay, has been dropped by the Marines.

The U.S. Marines have dropped the 18-year-old Cary-Grove High School student whose controversial essay got him a disorderly conduct charge from McHenry County authorities.

Allen Lee, a straight-A honor student, had enlisted, passed all of the tests and was scheduled to start basic training in October in California.

So as part of a free-writing assignment, Lee writes a violent essay about killing people and having sex with their bodies and then ends it with a comment about his teacher inspiring a shooting spree (“No quarrel on you qualifications as a writer, but as a teacher, don’t be surprised on inspiring the first cg shooting”). Here’s the original document he wrote along with the instructions for it. His handwriting is worse than mine, something I didn’t think possible as my handwriting has been characterized as chicken scratches. Thankfully, the Sun-Times provides a readable version here.

I think the kid is guilty of extremely poor judgment and of attempting to get a rise out of his teacher. (He clearly succeeded in the latter.) When I was a senior in high school, smart-assed metal head that I was, I once wrote in my journal, a journal that was graded weekly by my English teacher, my own extended definition for the word “fuck.” She labeled it obscene but did not tell me to rip out the pages, nor did she turn me in to the dean. Why did I write it? I was probably bored, and I hated school and couldn’t wait to get out and I didn’t really care too much about my grades. (I would later get an F for the last semester of that class for failing to turn in a thesis project. There is a slim volume I’m sure that could be written about this…)

Kids with attitudes like Lee’s are always going to try to push the boundaries of what they can get away with. It’s not like Lee posted his essay on some internet forum or blog. He wasn’t making public threats. Clearly, he only meant for his teacher to read it. He doesn’t have a history of psychological problems, even passing the Marines’ psychiatric exam.

The teacher is a first-year instructor, which means she doesn’t have a whole lot of experience. A more seasoned teacher might have rolled with Lee’s provocative essay, given him some props for creativity and spunk and just let it go. Though from what I’ve read about this controversy so far, we don’t know if there was any tension between the teacher and the student to begin with. That’s another possibility.

I realize that with the recent shooting at Virginia Tech everyone is jumpy. But it doesn’t look at this point that arresting Lee and keeping him from joining the Marines is the best thing for all involved. Lee looks like a kid with an attitude problem that a few months in Marines Basic Training will straighten out, the teacher looks overly-sensitive, and McHenry county looks downright draconian and silly.

No More Articles!!!

Yes, it’s time once again to turn over my blog to someone from the other side of the political spectrum. Please welcome again, well-known GOP operative Paul “Paulie” Rudis of “That’s Paul, Folks” fame.



No more “articles”!
Harry Reid is Traitor!
Granholm is Drama Queen!
John Edwards House smaller than Dick Devos’sss????


From now on, no more articles! It’s clear “articles” like “a”, “an” and “the” are idiotic and unnecessary and make no sense, created by LIBERAL English teachers to keep our language bloated and inefficient. Why use more words than necessary???? Typical of liberals and Democrats always spending more your hard-earned taxpayer money than necessary?! So for me, no more articles, just straight…honest…Republican Message!

I’m furious with Bagdad Harry Reid!! He told world we lost War on Terror. If we leave Iraq, it and oil will go to Terrorists. Thank God he isnt President?!? He wants America to lose??? People who want America to lose are losers and traitors. They don’t believe in their own country? Pathetic??? They don’t deserve freedom we all share. Maybe AG Gonzalez can charge him with treason?!?!?!?!?!?>

Governor Granholm’s own tax/budget weapon of mass destruction hits Michigan…and now we send in taxpayers??? I don’t know who she think pay bill.

Now Governor Granholm can take advantage of her acting train and create “drama” for taxpayers. She’ll announce prison closing, lay off trooper, kick out foster kid, close school and even shut down state governments…while ignoring real spending problems of our state…Should she win Oscar?!?!? Can we have AG Cox arrest her?!?!?! How about hat for solution?

The Democrats apparently refuse to deal with real issues that are costing real state of Michigan TENS of MILLIONS if not HUNDREDS of MILLIONS or pmore likely GAZILLIONS OF MILLONS of real dollars. What do YOU think???? Tell them! Be heard!

Deception and deceipt in political process is what causes such distrust of political process by most citizens. So it maybe “catch 22” senerio?

Keep reading THIS BLOG to see through deception and deceipt…

Trail Lawyer John Edwards, Mr. “Two Americas”, Mr. $400-Hair Cut, has big house, really really HUGE house.

But guess what folks?…..It smaller than house of Michigan’s own proud son Dick DeVos. And Dick and Betsy have MANY big houses, including FOUR in Michigan. I should know, I visit them frequent!! See, here’s one????

DeVos can afford MORE $400 Hair Cuts than Edwards. Who would you rather have run our state? or better yet country??!? Guy with one big house or guy with MANY big houses?

Draft Dick Devos for President in 2008!!!

Paul “Paulie” Rudis

Literary Theme Parks

Dickens World is opening in the UK. I had no idea this was even being constructed. It’s a theme park based on the books of Charles Dickens. No pick-pocketing games with prizes. No old women wearing their wedding dress for years and years. But a lot of other strange stuff like this:

Purists don’t even appear that perturbed by a soft play area called Fagin’s Den. That’s the same Fagin who ran a petty-theft sweatshop and beat children with a toasting fork – not an obvious person to name a creche after. “There’s something very attractive about Fagin and about the atmosphere that he creates for children in his employ,” says Leon Litvack, trustee of the Dickens Museum and professor at Queens University Belfast. “There is a sinister motive but Dickens treats that with humour. Oliver’s life there is better than it was in the workhouse.”

Attractive to whom?

Anyway, it go me to thinking about building a literary theme park here in the U.S. Which U.S. author would yield the most fun theme park?

A Don Delillo Theme Park could have attractions like Dodge the Left-Hand Shooter and Run from the Toxic Cloud. It would be dark, grim, and paranoid-inducing, similar to getting a case of The Fear while smoking too much pot sometimes. I’d still prefer the pot over the park in that case.

A park based on Phillip Roth’s books (I can see the rides already: the Circle Jerk, the Overbearing Mother, the Extra-Marital Affair, and Make That Damn Feminist Academic Shut-up) could be conceivable only in a state like Nevada where the prostitution laws would allow certain things deemed indecent in other states but not in literature. Note: this also would apply to a Henry Miller or John Rechy Theme Park.

A William S. Burroughs Theme Park would be modest in size, basically the size of an opium den with rooms so that people could experiment with all the different drugs they want, with paramedics at the ready for any ODs. I don’t think a Dr. Benway ride would be much fun though…

The Ernest Hemingway Big Game Park might be fun for those trying to return us to a more Manly Culture, complete with drinking games, deep-sea fishing, and bull fights. It would of course have to be clean and well-lit.

The William Faulkner Theme Park would be well, hmm…No one would want a Popeye Corncob Ride, or want to end up like Joe Christmas or Quentin Compson. And having somebody clinging to a fence crying and bellowing “Caddy! Caddy!” would be way too creepy. Okay, so no theme park based on Faulkner.

By that standard, too, a Toni Morrison Theme Park wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun either. Or a Richard Wright one. Or a Louise Erdrich one. And definitely not Cormac McCarthy. Rides based on “The Road” or “Blood Meridian” would not be much fun indeed. Or anything by Hubert Selby Jr. for that matter.

One based on Aimee Bender’s stuff might be trippy enough, though.

I guess that leaves us with the rides based on Dr. Seuss’s books in Orlando, FL.

Michigan Republican Demonstration

There was a Republican-led demonstration at the Michigan State Capitol today, what they called a “Taxpayers Rally” to supposedly mimic the Boston Tea Party.

While it was marginally interesting to see GOP Party Chairman Saul Anuzis hand Lt. Governor John Cherry his tea bag with Tim Skubick holding a microphone between them, it’s not like the Governor or the Democrats decreed a tax on tea. Tea doesn’t even have anything to do with the current budget debate. The tea-bags were for what? Symbolism?

Here’s what the original Boston Tea Party was about, courtesy of the the Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum,

On May 10, 1773, the British parliament authorized the East India Co., which faced bankruptcy due to corruption and mismanagement, to export a half a million pounds of tea to the American colonies for the purpose of selling it without imposing upon the company the usual duties and tariffs. With these privileges, the company could undersell American merchants and monopolize the colonial tea trade. Not only did this action create an unfair commerce to the merchants of the colonies but it proved to be the spark that revived American passions about the issue of taxation without representation. To fully understand the resentment of the colonies to Great Britain and King George III, one must understand that this was not the first time that the colonists were treated unfairly. In previous years, the 13 colonies saw a number of commercial tariffs including the Sugar Act of 1764, which taxed sugar, coffee, and wine, the Stamp Act of 1765, which put a tax on all printed matter, such as newspapers and playing cards, and the Townshend Acts of 1767 which placed taxes on items like glass, paints, paper, and tea. The Tea Act of 1773 was the last straw.

Last time I checked, the Republicans controlled the Senate and have a number of people in the House. This state also has a Republican Attorney General and Secretary of State. By that measure, the Republicans have plenty of representation. The people in this state, too, who are able to vote regularly in elections for those positions, have their views represented. There is no king or queen in this state, either. Given all of that, you can’t really say that we suffer from “taxation without representation” in Michigan.

So if anything, the Taxpayers Rally demonstrated Saul Anuzis’s and the GOP’s incomprehension of useful symbolism, our state’s political structure, and one of our country’s defining historical events. Which means they have how much credibility in this budget debate? Looks like zero right now.

Bishop’s (Former) Pledge

I have written before about how Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop signed the ATR Tax Pledge.

Well, it seems, he has changed his mind. He did not sign it for his current term in the Michigan Senate. Eric B. over at Michigan Liberal has a long post detailing this. The upshot is that Mike Bishop is not beholden to Grover Norquist during this time budget crisis.

So my earlier characterization of Bishop as serving Norquist’s interests instead of Michigan’s was wrong in this case. And I apologize to the Senator for it.

Michigan Press Still Responding to Fake News

How long, O Lord, how long before the editors of this state’s newspapers finally get this story right?
The Port Huron Times-Herald still believes Fake News. Note to the editors: it’s impossible to be wise to drop something when you were wise enough never to propose it in the first place.

At the ever so cheery Detroit News, while the editors are not still responding to Fake News, they continue to publish letters that slam Democrats in response to Fake News. The Detroit News loves nothing more than to slam Democrats, even when the slamming is based on false premises.

Over at the LSJ, on the same day they published this piece of Fake News, one of their own journalists published this lucid mea culpa on his blog.

Attention Michigan newspaper editors. Repeat after me:
“There never was a plan to give every child in Michigan an iPod.”