Ten cents a dance.

Perhaps in preparation for the Great Delamination, I went through one of my periodic stints of tree-shaking yesterday, scanning Monster, CareerBuilder and Craigslist for any freelancing opportunity I might be unaware of. I found one asking for freelance writers willing to turn out five 400-word pieces per week, for $2 per.

I e-mailed and asked for clarification. Surely, I asked, that $2 figure was a mistake?

No, it wasn’t, came the reply: “These are very simple articles that won’t require any research,” and that was the going rate. Two thousand words = $10.

I’m consistently amazed by the economics of this thing. To this day, when there’s a big layoff at a newspaper or some other catastrophe in the life of someone who writes for a living, someone will pipe up in the comments on a blog somewhere: They should start a blog and join an ad network, and then they’ll be working for themselves. Win-win!

Meanwhile, Bossy, who gets 10 times the traffic I do — yes, 7,000 to 9,000 uniques a day — can’t make a living from her blog. (Even though she brought this reader great pleasure with her examination of “Something’s Gotta Give,” a film that made me insane, for many of the same reasons. I mean, sure, playwrights have kitchens like that. If their name is Neil Simon.)

Meanwhile, journalists, would you like to be insulted? Take note of the TypePad Journalist Bailout Program. Subhed: “Because your Tumblr and Tweets, while clever, will not pay your bills.” Here’s the bailout: If you’re a recently severed journalist, TypePad will give you a free pro blogging account and access to their ad network, which “pays a lot more than simple Google text ads,” a retail value of about $150. After that, it’s all up to you! Take flight, little journalist! And if you learn that your TypePad blog, “while clever,” will not pay your bills, either, perhaps Starbucks is hiring.

Mommy’s in a bad mood today. Mommy thinks she should go lift weights.

So a little bloggage:

While Mitch Albom was pretending to be Woody Guthrie in the paper — a new low for phoning it in, I might add, and I don’t even want to think how much he makes — he was actually down in Florida hangin’ with his cool celebrity friends at the Miami Book Fair. (See video.) I also wouldn’t rule out the idea that he’s using makeup (man-kup?) or, possibly Botox. There’s something odd about the way his face moves, or doesn’t move.

Finally, a favor for a friend, another former colleague:

My oldest son Derek is a graduating high school senior, and he has been nominated to participate in a video scholarship contest. The scholarship could net him a nice chunk of college cash. ($20,000 to the first place winner). He created what I think (father or not) is the best on the site (certainly the “corny”-est), but the contest is decided solely upon popular vote, not on quality or creativity. (which right now seems to mean which student can get the most people to vote, and vote, and vote … oh yeah, and vote as many times as they can) … between now and November 28th.

The video is here, and it is indeed corny — I say that with love, because corniness seems to be the point. The scholarship is offered by King Corn, so no matter how you feel about high-fructose corn syrup, you can point your browsers in the direction of a good cause. You can vote as often as you like, and you don’t have to sit through the whole video to do so. And certainly, his dad is going to need all the college-finance help he can get, seeing as how he works in journalism.

Posted at 9:41 am in Current events, Media, Popculch |

64 responses to “Ten cents a dance.”

  1. Jeff Borden said on November 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

    The freelance market is awful right now. I just finished a 1,500 word piece for a university alumni magazine and a 500 word sidebar for $1,000. At least it was a pretty easy assignment — a profile of an admired alum. Right now, I’m in trade publication hell, sweating out interviews that never come or are yanked at the last minute, for what the editor hopes will be a 2,500 word profile of a major agribusiness company. The fee is $1,200 but does not include the free ulcers and anxiety attacks as the deadline looms and your hero has almost nothing in his notes.

    My part-time gig teaching broadcast news to college students offers its own kind of pain. These are some very bright, very motivated, very nice students. I really like them as people. But the seniors are terrified of the world they are entering. And with good reason. They are weighing graduate school, which will add another $100,000 to their debt load, or unpaid internships, if they are lucky enough to find them. It’s no small trick to try to keep their spirits up and encourage their dreams –who knows who among them may become a great journalist– while also trying to manage their expectations and prepare them for the professional indifference they will encounter from Day One.

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  2. alex said on November 18, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I’d been a successful free-lancer for many years, although I was successful because I didn’t turn my nose up at writing catalog copy, which paid $40-$50 an hour back in the 1990s. It helped support my journalism habit. I wonder if it’s even possible to find a catalog copywriting job these days.

    Everything went kablooie after 9/11. I finally threw in the towel in 2004, moved to Indiana where it’s cheaper to live and got an office job. I never would have foreseen this. I used to say I was glad I didn’t waste my money on a master’s at Medill, and that’s when I was writing catalog copy. I’m really glad about it now.

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  3. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I’ve been at this job nearly three years now. Before this I was pretty much a free lance recruiter for health care positions, and in some years I made considerably more than I’m making now, but then I started getting burned on commissions. Smaller companies would not pay me, then go chapter 11. Have that happen a few times in one year and things go south real fast. I’m in an office now, so lots less freedom, but the paychecks are steady and the bennies are very welcome. The company I work for used to use free lancers like I used to be, but we’ve stopped and it looks like this is the trend. No more 20k fees to fill jobs. The free lancers in recruiting are hurting.

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  4. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 11:39 am

    You were a headhunter! I used to have a colleague that knew everyone worth knowing in our corner of the universe. Watching him work a room (at a trade show, for example) was a beautiful thing – he had names/faces/stories for every practically every person he saw, whether the last time he met them was yesterday or 15 years ago. (I’ve read that successful politicians have this same talent)

    I can see how a hefty commission would make sense, when the recruiter knows the ground.

    Anyway – amidst the gathering delaminating gloom, Nance’s Bossy link was pretty funny!

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  5. Rana said on November 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I’ve never been able to make any money with my writing, for all that people claim to enjoy it, and finding writing work that isn’t technical writing has proved challenging. As for blogging as a way of making a living… if my blog is making me any money right now, it’s not from the writing, but from the traffic I direct to my online photography stores.

    It did take me a while to even believe that my writing was, in fact, something that people might pay for, because academia functions largely because scholars are willing to donate their words and expertise for free. Oh, yes, supposedly those articles and book reviews are the foundation stones on which career advancement is built, but that system’s been broken for a while now. I’ll still write an occasional review to keep the skills sharp, but the renumeration consists of the book itself and whatever goodwill is generated with the journal editor and perhaps the author.

    Blogging full time can entail a surprising amount of work (see this, for example – but be warned that an enormous, slow-loading comments thread is attached; you might need to go do something else while it loads, and tell it to stop loading an unresponsive script to boot), and, unfortunately, blogging for pay can look an awful lot like blogging for free, because there are so many talented writers doing it for fun and personal gratification rather than to make a living at it. (This is not unlike what happens at sites like Etsy, where the presence of so many hobbyists has the unfortunate effect of keeping the price norms lower than they should be.)

    I seem to have a knack for being good at things that no one wants to pay for! *laughs* and am learning what I probably should have known long ago, that it’s more about the marketing, than it is about the product.

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  6. Jeff Borden said on November 18, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Okay, now I really am sick.

    There are published reports that Sarah Palin will be paid $7 million to write a book, which would have a release date in time for Christmas 2009.

    No word on the publisher, but I’d bet it will be Regnery or some other rightwing house. This kind of payday assures our favorite moose-killing hockey mom has the financial wherewithal to remain relevant in the GOP, which is probably a great thing if you’re a Democrat. Ms. Palin fires up the base, but drives away everyone else. Go for it, Republicans, go for it.

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  7. nancy said on November 18, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Take heart, Jeff! Maybe she needs a ghost!

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  8. Catherine said on November 18, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Now THAT’S a book it wouldn’t kill me to see banned.

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  9. Catherine said on November 18, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Enjoyed the Bossy link as always, but here’s why Nancy’s in my favorites and she’s not: I don’t enjoy the comments or the commenters there, and I do here.

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  10. paddyo' said on November 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Book title contest, anyone, for the name of Caribou Barbie’s forthcoming tome? (Or will it be a graphic novel, aka comic book?)

    I’ll go with

    “Accessories Sold Separately: Caribou Barbie’s Most Excellent Shopping Adventure!!!”

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  11. Catherine said on November 18, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    “Math is Hard; and So Was Bill Kristol”

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  12. Jeff Borden said on November 18, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    “Simple Sarah: Why America Needs Another Incurious Ignoramus With a Manichean World View”

    “You Betcha: Sarah Palin’s Incredible Odyssey From Small-Town Mayor to National Political Embarrassment”

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  13. Gasman said on November 18, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I think that Sarah Palin needs to take it a little more slowly. Maybe she should actually READ a book before she tries her hand at writing one. Nobody said that she lacked ambition.

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  14. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I think Catherine has the book title contest won!

    Pam (reading over my shoulder) suggested “Let Me Check on That” with a subtitle

    “and I’ll Get Back to Ya”

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  15. coozledad said on November 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Why am I thinking it’s going to be a picture book with laminated pages?

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  16. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I’m doing Beta testing on new applicant tracking software and I have to create fake applicants. Sarah Palin is one. I have her down as having heard about the job she’s applying for from a newspaper and when the software asked for the name of the paper, I put in, “all of them.” Under special skills I entered “field dressing caribou.”

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  17. Peter said on November 18, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    $2 for 400 words? If you type 60 words a minute, that works out to about $18.00 per hour. Just to type the damn thing, never mind composing it.

    WTF?! They don’t even do it that cheap in India!

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  18. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    A book question for the women: Have y’all been as taken and beguiled with the latest, hot vampire books (Twilight, etc) as all the women I know are?

    The movie is coming this weekend, and woe unto me (or anyone else) if I get between them and their movie plans!

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  19. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Brian, unless Philip Roth is a vampire, no. I’m on a rereading Philip Roth binge, inspired by the Nobel committee dumping on American writers a few weeks ago. They were so wrong.

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  20. Julie Robinson said on November 18, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Eh–last time I was interested in vampires was “Dark Shadows”, and I was about 10.

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  21. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I had a moment to look at Mitch Albom. More than ever I am outraged that he gets paid for that crap.

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  22. Danny said on November 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Nothing to do with today’s discussion, but I watched an old Sherlock Holmes movie last night and after the second utterance of “it’s elementary my dear Watson,” I was wondering if there is a later installment of the series where Sherlock is not around to solve the crime because Watson kills him by shoving his pipe stem all the way up his nose.

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  23. nancy said on November 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    The Miami book fair video is even worse, Mary. There is something so pathetic in that level of smug self-satisfaction.

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  24. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Danny, there should be. On the other hand, the relationship between those two always struck me as a little off, so maybe they like keeping a certain level of tension going. I know couples like that.

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  25. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    mary – OK –

    you made me look!

    I was thinking you were being dramatic.

    But no;

    your reaction was polite!

    And restrained (if anything)

    (as always)

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  26. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I’m protected from most video here at work by the happy elves in the IT department. I managed to watch the corny video and vote for it, though, and I passed it along to everyone in my office so they could vote. Three of us have kids about that age, so we know what a scholarship means.
    Good luck Derek.

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  27. Rana said on November 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Brian, no. Too many vampire books fall into the category of softcore rape porn, and these ones certainly do. I like some vampire books, yes, but not this kind.

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  28. Julie Robinson said on November 18, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Apparently the same girls that go ga-ga over Grey’s Anatomy are primed to make Twilight as big a hit as Harry Potter. Or so I am informed by our college son. He figures he will be dragged to it at some point, so I’ll report back.

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  29. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    I dunno; it escapes me. (For me, movies have to have voluptuous brunettes, fast cars, and/or space ships; and books have to have 19th century American presidents and assorted politicos)

    But Twilight will make lots o’ money while the sun shines, if the women I know are any indication…

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  30. Danny said on November 18, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Hmmm, reminds me of one critic’s blurb on A Knight’s Tale: If you’re dumb and a teenaged girl, you’ll love it.

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  31. Gasman said on November 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    For the conservatives who’ve been predicting liberal gloom and doom, the Ds voted to let turncoat Joe Lieberman keep his committee chair. Both Obama and the Senate Ds were far more magnanimous than I thought they should be. They need Lieberman like they need a boil on their collective ass; he’s a pain and his usefulness is truly doubtful. They may yet have to smack him down. Why reward his backstabbing and lying? I am of the opinion that what we say matters and we should be held accountable. We already have enough officious lying pricks on the other side of the aisle, we don’t need to go out of our way to keep a token asshole (ostensibly ) on the left.

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  32. coozledad said on November 18, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I used to wonder if there would ever be pornography that might be regarded as fine art. When the cretin at the video store register started smirking at you, you could just shake your head and mutter ‘philistine!’ sotto voce.
    But the only thing I’ve seen recognized film artists make that bordered on porn required way too damned much concentration, or had that bastard Gerard Depardieu in it.

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  33. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Or Mickey Rourke. What woman sees anything in Mickey Rourke?

    PS – I LOVE all movies by David Lynch – he almost always comes through with hot women who become nekkid in the course of his artful movies (I say almost, because the lawmnmower guy movie has no naked women that I can recall, but it is marvelous nonetheless)

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  34. alex said on November 18, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Gasman, I wasn’t all that keen on the idea of punishing Lieberman. It’s his right to endorse whomever he pleases, after all. Doesn’t it bother you when the Republicans crucify dissenters in their own ranks?

    That said, Lieberman was an asshole for some of the things he said about Obama.

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  35. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Lieberman is an example of President-elect No Drama Obama selecting his fights carefully. No sense wasting political capital – before his presidency even begins! – on a symbolic (and self-indulgent) purge….especially considering that President-elect Obama has another marker he can call in

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  36. coozledad said on November 18, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    I keep hoping that Lieberman is somehow twisting in the wind, but it would give me even more satisfaction if Harry Reid was dumped as Majority Leader. He’s another Quisling.
    Maybe in 2012.

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  37. Julie Robinson said on November 18, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Brian, as a lifelong brunette (okay, so now it’s from Loreal), may I say how much I appreciate your appreciation of brunettes!

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  38. LA Mary said on November 18, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t think they want to lose Lieberman as a Democrat before the newly elected senators are sworn in. Lose Lieberman and lose the Dem majority for now.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I’ve got three recurring annual freelance writing contracts, none of which has paid a dime more each of the last four years; one asked if “for the budget” i could take a “small” cut and i was fortunately in a position to say “if you need to go with someone else cheaper, i certainly understand” which meant it didn’t come up again.

    But alum mags are tightening wickedly, with usual editors telling me “i’m being told by admin they’d rather we run a less well-written piece by a student intern than pay an outside contractor.” My newspaper column pays zilch, as of last June, with a “we’ll understand if you don’t wish to provide this column if there’s no compensation,” and i thought about it and decided the exposure paid me enough in other gigs to make it worth continuing, and i have — if i’d dropped, they would have filled the Saturday faith page with more AP national copy.

    But i haven’t written for pulp for pay in almost a year; glossy and on-line and grants are where the money is that i can find (he said, turning over rotting logs).

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  40. moe99 said on November 18, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    With all these Clinton retreads being mentioned for high office, it’s just like Hillary won.

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  41. Jolene said on November 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    It’s not quite like that, moe. The “retreads” did, after all, choose sides in the primaries. Greg Craig, who is to be WH Counsel, has known the Clintons since they were in law school, yet he signed on w/ Obama very early in his campaign. That seems to me to be a fairly strong statement of loyalty to Obama.

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  42. Dexter said on November 18, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    A couple months ago I defended Mitch by saying I was a fan for years, and while I was disappointed when Mike Downey left and Mitch came aboard at The Freep, I had gotten used to him.
    He really has written some remarkable stories about sports stars, my favorite was his interview and story with Chris Webber of Michigan infamy and NBA stardom.
    But this latest…he’s just rubbing shit in his readers’ faces. As another sports guy , Warner Wolf would say…”C’mon , Mitch! That’s crap!”

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  43. Dexter said on November 18, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    The Ike Corn video was so corny I laughed out loud…give a little look-see and vote for Derek…he’s stuck in third place.
    Maybe some of you don’t know much about Albom. Here’s a seven year old Columbia J. Review of his life….

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  44. brian stouder said on November 18, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    That video was a little corn-flakey – but GRRRREAT nonetheless!

    PS – Dexter – thanks for the Mitch review; it was interesting

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  45. Linda said on November 18, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Also, Moe, while there are lots of Clinton “retreads,” they actually know their way around Washington from previous experience, which is not all bad. Clinton himself, and Jimmy Carter, came to Washington with people who were total outsiders, and the learning curve was steep. I think Obama doesn’t want to waste a minute, both for the economy’s sake, and so that Republicans don’t get a chance to get traction. That’s my guess, anyway.

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  46. beb said on November 18, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Even in the depth of the Depression most pulp mags tried to hang on to a penny a word for average stories. People like Max Brand actually got 6-8 cents a word. And that was when a penny could actually buy you penny candy. That someone today is offering 1/2 cent a word for freelance writing is appalling.

    The thing about Leiberman is that where the Republicans will crush anyone who deviates even a little from party line, Democracts can’t find it within themselves to punish a man who has been making cause with the enemy for the last — how long has the Iraq war been going on?

    I’m also disappointed by Obama hints that he won’t prosecute criminal actions by the CIA on torture. The only way to prevent torture again becoming something that Americans (but not the rest of the world) do — is to try all the people who tortured. The truth is I wanted a fire-breathing leftist as president. Not some middle-of-the road good-ol’-boy.

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  47. Gasman said on November 19, 2008 at 12:02 am

    alex & brian,
    I thought that Obama’s benevolent pronouncement toward Lieberman was masterful, but that didn’t mean that he would have shed many tears if the Senate Ds had kicked his sorry ass out of the caucus. Even if it means they don’t get to 60 seats, they don’t need him and they certainly can’t count on him. There are several R Senators that are worried that their states are turning blue. They won’t have trouble getting to 2 or 3 Rs on most issues to break filibusters. I’m not sure how eager the Rs will be to trot out that strategy for awhile anyway. They don’t need to look even more petty and nasty than they already do.

    Lieberman wasn’t just spouting BS about Obama, he was actively campaigning against those who were ostensibly his caucus buddies. If I’d been one of those Senators, I’d have wanted Joe the Turncoat castrated.

    Lieberman is a loathsome prick and deserves to be tossed out on his ass. With all of New England trending very blue, his chances of being re-elected as a Republican are not good. He was not going to bolt the party. They could have stripped him of his chair and left him in the caucus, but damn it, he should have suffered some consequences for his actions.

    I hope that Obama is not above reminding him that he is now Obama’s bitch for some time to come. Maybe that was Obama’s strategy all along.

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  48. basset said on November 19, 2008 at 12:39 am

    now for something completely different… was in the Fort this weekend for the first time in about thirty years, just passing through as we were going back and forth to visit my wife’s family in Michigan.

    walked out of the La Quinta motel in Auburn this morning and saw a Journal-Gazette rack advertising that the paper would announce its presidential endorsement on Monday.

    maybe they’re waiting for the provisional ballots.

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  49. mark said on November 19, 2008 at 7:13 am


    no, the democrats never eat their own, even when a member sides with the opposition on an issue. I mean, it’s not like the entire democratic leadership abandoned lieberman two years ago, backing, with endorsements and party funding, his primary opponent instead, because lieberman dared to disagree about the Iraq war. Oh, actually it was exactly like that.

    And Americans just love torture unlike, as you point out, the rest of the world. The crew on that hijacked Saudi tanker are probably praising God that they are being held by civilized Somalian pirates, and not in the custody of the degenerate US Navy. Who hasn’t heard the horror stories about the US Navy and the blazing ring of tires trick?

    If only we were as good as the rest of the world…

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  50. Jolene said on November 19, 2008 at 9:05 am

    mark: Lieberman lost in a party-sanctioned primary, despite support from many mainstream Democrats including Barack Obama. That’s the way the candidate selection process is supposed to work.

    Supporting the winner of a legitimate electoral process is quite different from supporting the candidate of the opposition party.

    Lieberman ignored the outcome of that election, just as he ignored the usual constraints of being a leading member of a political party—that is, don’t campaign for the other guy.

    The idea that Lieberman is still taken in by the Democratic party after ignoring the results of the 2004 Connecticut primary and campaigning for McCain is, well, either a testament to Obama’s generosity or a sign of spinelessness among Senate Democrats.

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  51. John said on November 19, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Not to defend Smokin’ Joe, but he is my senator. Joe got the Senatorial Nomination from the state Democratic Convention in 2006. Ned Lamont then forced the primary which he won. So Joe went third party beating Ned and Republican Alan Schlesinger. Unaffiliated voters outnumber the Ds and the Rs here in Connecticut (44% U, 34% D, 22% R) but they can’t vote in the primaries.

    If Ned had been more of a centrist or had any elected experience, he would have won.

    What Joe did in the last 3 months is unbelievable. Endorsing the opposing party’s candidate is one thing, but he went far beyond that. Had the Republicans not balked at a pro-choice VP candidate, we would have be spared the Caribou Barbie rise to fame as Joe would have been McCain’s choice.

    I believe Joe will not be re-elected in 2012 as his act has worn thin here. I’m having doubt about Dodd also, since he was tagged with an insider friendly loan from Countrywide Financial.

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  52. brian stouder said on November 19, 2008 at 9:52 am

    A genuinely pleasing interview, conducted by Nate Silver, featuring John Ziegler, the guy who is hawking an inexhaustible supply of tripe at howobamagotelected.com.


    The thing is unintentionally funny, since (thanks to Rachel Maddow’s show) I can just hear Silver’s even-toned matter-of-fact wonkish voice, while the other guy resorts to gutter language, and several taunts (or hopes?) that Silver will “never” publish the transcript.

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  53. Jolene said on November 19, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Brian, have you noticed how many TV shows Nate has been on lately. I’ve seen him on all the MSNBC evening shows (Matthews, Gregory, Olbermann, Maddow), and last night I saw him on The Newshour on PBS. It’s pretty cool that a guy who just had an idea and did the work is getting all this play.

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  54. brian stouder said on November 19, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Jolene – yes indeed! And the thing is – the cachet I infer (when I see him) is “the guy who was almost EXACTLY RIGHT” in his interpretation of the blizzard of polls we wade through, nowadays.

    All through the election cycle, he would say “discount this one” and “believe that one” and “here’s something to consider” and put all that into his statistical blender (set on “puree”) and run 10,000 tests….and produce a result that was almost PRECISELY CORRECT!!

    I think he is a cross between Edward R Murrow and Harry Potter

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  55. moe99 said on November 19, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Oh, and mark, you’re an attorney. Want to explain to the rest of us how torture trumps the rule of law in the US? I await your response with bated breath.

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  56. del said on November 19, 2008 at 10:41 am

    As for torture, mark, the overarching point is that it should be unlawful. And for those who do it their liberty should be in jeopardy. The Bush adminstration retreated from modern civilized norms by institutionally sanctioning torture. Even teens understand such modern civilized norms and that’s why they menace and threaten with the warning, “I’m gonna go medieval on yo’ ass.”
    Bush and Cheney think that they’re striking fear into the hearts of would be enemies of the U.S. with such tactics, but I think it only encourages them.

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  57. del said on November 19, 2008 at 10:59 am

    moe99, the justification for torture, and canard, that is often given, and that mark may invoke is the following doomsday hypothetical: A man knows that a weapon of mass destruction has been deployed that will soon cause a gazillion people to perish — may he be tortured if he refuses to disclose a means to prevent the mass destruction?
    This only happens in James Bond movies (along with comely espionage agents with names like, well, you know). To all those people I would say that it is imperative that certain things should be presumptively unlawful in our society. “Legal excuse” must be for the accused to assert.

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  58. Gena said on November 19, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Another freelance stone to turn –
    Many advertising agencies (in particular, smaller ones) like to have outside writers in their back pocket for things like newsletters, annual reports, advertorials and press releases. Stuff copywriters basically hate to do.

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  59. Gasman said on November 19, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    When we began torturing prisoners, we became what we said we abhorred. Likewise when we openly invaded a sovereign state without justification.

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

    Ironically, the very torture committed by Bush, Cheney, et al., might be the ticket to freedom for some truly dangerous terrorists. We are a nation of laws. All, including the president and vice president, are bound by the constitution. If we have an executive that can bypass constitutional strictures and requirements, then our entire structure of government is at risk.

    If torture was such a damn good idea, why have Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, et al. gone to such great lengths to cloak their involvement?

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  60. del said on November 19, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Agreed gasman. There was a time during the Bush years when our nation of laws had morphed into something very sinister, with apparent public approval. I’m haunted by a statistic that 74% of Americans approved of torture to prevent terrorism after 9/11. Despaired so much I bordered on nihilism — or something like it. Didn’t think Obama would win early on. But, wait now, YES WE DID.

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  61. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 19, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    (whimper, low) no, not annual reports . . . has it come to this?

    Really — i hate annual reports, except when they pay up front. Enough do to keep me writing some. But some people feel that way about grant boilerplate, which i can happily peck out all afternoon without serious indigestion.

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  62. mark said on November 19, 2008 at 1:32 pm


    I don’t claim that “torture trumps the rule of law in the US.” Actually, I’m not even sure what you mean by the assertion. (“No officer, your traffic laws don’t apply to me. I’m a torturer.)? I questioned the absurd notion that the “rest of the world” rejects torture.

    And gasman is wrong when he says the Constitution applies to “all.” It doesn’t. It always applies to US citizens in US jurisdictions. It sometimes applies to non-US citizens who are in US jurisdictions. It sometimes applies to US Citizens who are in non-US jurisdictions.

    The Constitution didn’t do shit for me when I was detained for several hours trying to leave Siem Reap. Having a friend at the State Department did. If you choose to marry a Saudi and move to his country, your Constitution is meaningless if you try to drive a car or travel without your husband’s permission.

    Cops in the US are constrained by standards that are ultimately Constitutional ones. Among other things they prohibit excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure. Those restrictions have absolutely no application to a Seal team operating in the mountains along the Pakistani border. Those guys are limited by laws Congress might see fit to pass, treaties to which we are a party and military law. Spying and espionage by a US citizen against the US government is a capital offense. Directed against a foreign enemy it may get you a medal

    Will one of you Constitutional heavyweights please reference the portion of the Constitution that prohibits anything in terms of the treatment of a non-US citizen captured and held outside the US? The “no waterboarding of terrorists captured while trying to kill US troops” section may be down by the “bombs away with atomic weapons on heavily populated cities” provisions.

    I’m pretty sure that Obama knows that his options for dealing with a belligerent Iran are far greater than they are for handling criticism from the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune or a riot in St. Louis.

    Try reading “Sole Survivor”. On the way to their target, that Seal team was stumbled upon by a man and a boy, ostensibly a farmer and his son. The Seals took a vote on whether to kill them or let them move on. They let them go. A few hours later the Seals were ambushed by 200 Taliban.

    Nasty business requiring nasty decisions. Compared with “the rest of the world” we have a pretty admirable record of balancing morality and the necessities of war. Those who currently claim higher moral ground are also those who depend upon us to defend them.

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  63. Gasman said on November 19, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I find it rather astonishing that you would claim that it is entirely respectful to the constitution to inflict upon non-citizens what is decidedly illegal for citizens. If the constitution has any meaning, then its precepts should be equally valid for all, whether or not they are U.S. citizens. True, the constitution is only legally binding for U.S. citizens, but does it seem just to then claim we can do whatever the hell we want to non-citizens?

    The Declaration of Independence states that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Note that the operative phrase is “ALL men are created equal,” not just some. Accidents of geographical birth or naturalization do not preclude unalienable rights.

    Parsing what is “legal” does not render justice. I would have expected somewhat better from a lawyer.

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  64. moe99 said on November 19, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Mark, the rule of law in the US, which I invoked and not the Constitution, includes the Congressional ratification of treaties, such as the much neglected Geneva Treaty governing the treatment of POWs, regardless of where they are captured or detained . We have abrogated and trampled on the rights we agreed to provide such persons and we are shameful in the world’s eyes, for not just doing so, but for trumpeting our “cleanness” in this regard for so many years. Lo, how the mighty are fallen.

    And you can pull a John Woo all you like, but all the legalisms and distinctions you will try to draw are nothing more than turds in dixie cups.

    Here are the applicable provisions, mark.


    Article 12

    Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them.

    Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention. When prisoners of war are transferred under such circumstances, responsibility for the application of the Convention rests on the Power accepting them while they are in its custody.

    Nevertheless if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.

    Article 13

    Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

    Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

    Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

    Article 14

    Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour. Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men. Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.

    Article 15

    The Power detaining prisoners of war shall be bound to provide free of charge for their maintenance and for the medical attention required by their state of health.

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