Apples in search of a barrel.

Every so often I wonder what the fallout will be from all these newspaper journalists being thrown from the train. A few will drown themselves in drink and self-pity, a few more will find their rightful calling in a tollbooth somewhere, a few more will land on their feet in other media outlets, but most will leave the business entirely, and I wonder how that will work out.

(Shout-out to one of my old editors, Carolyn Focht, for the tollbooth reference. She once used it to dismiss a particularly low-performing copy editor — “that guy should be working in a tollbooth” — and I don’t think I’ve yet heard a more succinct dismissal of a certain sort of office dullard. She was always funny. When she was a reporter, a disgruntled reader sued her and the paper for libel, seeking $6 million in damages. A reporter from the other daily asked her for a comment. She said, “I don’t have six million dollars.” The case was dismissed.)

One of the things about newspaper work is, it’s the best job possible for a generalist. If you’re interested in a little bit of everything, if you can hold up your end at a cocktail party discussing everything from ophthalmology to opera, a newsroom is paradise for you. So while you might expect reporters and editors to disproportionately end up in fields that require communication skills and running one’s mouth — i.e., law school — I’m not so sure. Plenty are too old to make that sort of 90 degree turn, for one. I think ex-journalists are going to be widely scattered throughout the economy, doing everything from police work to teaching to cooking. When I talk to my bought-out colleagues, most of them solidly middle-aged but still years from retirement, I’m always interested in what they really want to do. Many want to write novels, but more than a few want to water plants in a greenhouse. Or run a little beer joint with bowls of nuts on the bar. Or advocate for the oppressed and underserved via a non-profit.

What I think is going to be really interesting is how the skills from both jobs mesh, or don’t mesh. I wouldn’t hire a journalist if I were running a Ponzi scheme, for instance. They’re such nosy employees, and they have all the law-enforcement phone numbers on speed-dial. I also wouldn’t seek out an ex-reporter if I wanted a sir-yes-sir type; it kind of runs contrary to the DNA. But you might want an ex-reporter if you needed a bird dog; my luckiest bought-out pal segued gracefully from investigative reporting to just plain investigating, for a state government office, and now has subpoena power, and let me tell you, that is a man to be feared.

If nothing else, we might get some good bloggers out of the Great Delamination. Meet Heather Lalley, former features reporter in Spokane, now bought-out and headed for culinary school in Chicago, specializing in baking. Check out her blog, Flour Girl, about the journey, with a recipe in nearly every entry.

Here’s something else I’m thinking about of late: Populist rage. Everyone I know is walking around in a state of low simmer, hoping someone wearing a T-shirt emblazoned Lehman Brothers Team Building 2003: Bon jour, Monte Carlo! wanders through their field of vision, just to give them something to punch besides the wall and sofa cushions. But the thing about rage is, sometimes it gets a little unfocused. So I was intrigued by this WSJ story today, about the reaction to the spreading ubiquity of red-light cameras:

The village of Schaumburg, Ill., installed a camera at Woodfield Mall last November to film cars that were running red lights, then used the footage to issue citations. Results were astonishing. The town issued $1 million in fines in just three months.

But drivers caught by the unforgiving enforcement — which mainly snared those who didn’t come to a full stop before turning right on red — exploded in anger. Many vowed to stop shopping at the mall unless the camera was turned off. The village stopped monitoring right turns at the intersection in January.

The story goes on to point out this is one more municipal service that’s been privatized. The cameras are frequently run by private companies that take a cut of the haul, as much as $5,000 per month per camera. And so the argument about having nothing to fear from the law if you keep your nose clean tends to fall apart in the face of such obvious money-grubbing. Note this detail, too:

Municipalities are establishing ever-more-clever snares. Last month, in a push to collect overdue taxes, the City Council in New Britain, Conn., approved the purchase of a $17,000 infrared-camera called “Plate Hunter.” Mounted on a police car, the device automatically reads the license plates of every passing car and alerts the officer if the owner has failed to pay traffic tickets or is delinquent on car taxes. Police can then pull the cars over and impound them.

New Britain was inspired by nearby New Haven, where four of the cameras brought in $2.8 million in just three months last year. New Haven has also put license-plate readers on tow trucks. They now roam the streets searching for cars owned by people who haven’t paid their parking tickets or car-property taxes. Last year 91% of the city’s vehicle taxes were collected, up from “the upper 70s” before it acquired the technology, says city tax collector C.J. Cuticello.

This is dangerous stuff. One of the conservative movement’s many shivs to the body politic has been the demonization of government in all cases, undermining we-the-people in favor of them-the-low-bidding-corporation, which, we’re told, always does the job better than some lazy public employee, who probably has a really good health plan, too. Municipalities that privatize their dirty work, particularly for such offenses as rolling through a right turn on red, are breeding a culture of resentment and discontent among their own residents, and that’s a nasty chicken that will be coming home to roost one of these days.

However, until it does, we have spring, full sunshine and a lovely-but-chilly day to look forward to. That’s how it is in Michigan, anyway. So I’m going to make beds, drink one more cup of French Roast, write two stories, rewrite another and go to a meeting. Woo, Friday!

Posted at 10:10 am in Current events, Media |

92 responses to “Apples in search of a barrel.”

  1. Connie said on March 27, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I have to agree about watering flowers in the greenhouse. I did five of years of middle management before my now 25 years of being head honcho at various places. I figured out long ago that I needed to either be the boss or be the lowest of low. My retirement job will be checking out books at some small library (yes, in Michigan), not being the boss.

    Those journalists would make great reference librarians. Thought there’s not much future in librarianship either in my humble opinion. After all, it’s all on the internet isn’t it?

    I had an email the other day from a long lost friend and co-worker, who has as many years managing science libraries as I do public libraries. Over the years she has run and then organized the shutdown of corporate science libraries at Battelle Institute, Kellogg, and most recently Merck. She is now running a medical research library in Manhattan.

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  2. moe99 said on March 27, 2009 at 10:43 am

    On the horrors of the privatization of government: for weeks I have been hearing (from law related blogs) about these two judges who got kickbacks for sentencing juvenile offenders to a private jail. They raked in $2.6 million by sentencing kids who should have been put on probation. There was one horrific story about a young girl who had acted up in class and got 3 months. I would say the state of Pennsylvania is looking at a jillion private lawsuits brought by these kids and their parents.

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  3. adrianne said on March 27, 2009 at 10:46 am

    my favorite use of nanny-cams is one they’ve set up in Middletown: it’s a motion-activated camera that has been used to hunt game. Now it’s being used by police to hunt graffiti taggers, vandals, and the like on a busy street corner.

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  4. Dorothy said on March 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Didn’t we start out this week talking about what plants we were putting in our gardens this year? Maybe that was last week. Anyway I just did an online order for a case of 4.5″ Thermoformed square nursery pots for our ever-expanding vegetable babies. Suddenly our dining room isn’t going to hold all the plants we started two weeks ago from seed. And instead of giving away about half or 2/3 of our hatchlings, I think I’ll ask for $2 a plant, so as to recoup some of the investment.

    Nancy I, too, think frequently about what my daughter could do if her newspaper job should come to an end. She’s just four years out of college, her major was Journalism and she double minored in American Studies and International Studies. Who knows what is in her future? She loves being a copy editor – it’s like she was born to it. But I imagine all the laid off copy editors are inundating the media industry in very high numbers. Complicating it a little is the fact that her live in boyfriend works at the same paper. In the last year or two he was approached by several papers to jump ship and come design for them. I feel pretty sure those job offers are no longer on the table in this economy.

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  5. cconfoy said on March 27, 2009 at 11:03 am

    A recent story (NYT?) detailed how one of these private companies set up to catch red light runners had shortened the length of the yellow from the accustomed 9 seconds to 7 seconds, thus creating a dangerous, and need we say totally unfair situation, in order to maximize revenue.

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  6. Dorothy said on March 27, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Call me a goody-goody but when I learned to drive a yellow light meant to put on the brakes ’cause it’s going to turn red soon. People should stop trying to “beat the light” and hit the brakes instead of the gas pedal when a light turns yellow. That’s where the danger comes in, not shortening the length of time between lights.

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  7. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Oh, hell, Chicago takes this stuff to the ultimate level. Mayor Daley successfully pushed through in very short order a deal to privatize all the parking meters, which netted the city more than $1 billion. The deal is the lease owner gets the quarters from the meter. The city gets the revenue from expired meter tickets. Immediately, the parking meter operator jacked rates sky high. It’s now 25-cents to park for a mere 7 minutes. Do the math to figure how many quarters you’ll need to park for an hour, much less two.

    The result has been extraordinarily interesting. There is a meter boycott underway. Streets where the very idea of ever finding a space was laughable are now chockablock with empty spaces while the meters languish. Vandals are attacking the meters faster than they can be repaired with a favorite trick being smearing a quarter with SuperGlue and putting it into the slot.

    Meanwhile, city leaders are discussing putting speed cameras along Lake Shore Drive. Now, lest anyone think this is an effort to actually slow down speeders, listen to this. Each camera ticket would cost $100, but it would not count as points on your license. So, speed demons can shoot down the Drive at high speeds all they want if they can spare an extra hundred to get to work quicker and never fear losing their license to drive.

    The rage is bubbling over. Just as the AIG bonuses are a drop in the bucket in the overall bailout scheme yet they have infuriated everyone, these seemingly minor irritations in the city are pushing people into the red zone.

    The old axiom about the straw that broke the camel’s back has never been more appropriate.

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  8. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 11:14 am

    The good news here is that I saw my first truck-pulling-a-fishing-boat yesterday, a better sign of spring around here than those robins, who always come around way too early, poor cold things. The bad news is that SE Wisconsin is under a winter storm watch this weekend, and my area could get 6 – 8 inches. Sigh.
    Connie, when you take that job checking out books, choose your library carefully. A poorly-run small library means you get all the flack, all the shit and absolutely none of the backup. So be prepared to explain policy until you’re blue in the face and then have that fine forgiven because the person lives next to a friend of a cousin of a board member.
    I don’t like privatized government, it seldom delivers as promised, but two departments that function very well under an outside contract, preferably from a company outside of the municipality: assessment and building inspection. Much less likely to have to cave to the mayor or other big fish/small pond person.

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  9. Jen said on March 27, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Connie, it depends what kind of librarian you are. My little sister is a couple of semesters away from getting her Masters of Library Science degree from IU, and she’s specializing in something with computers. (It’s all kind of over my head.) Anyway, according to the School of Library and Information Sciences, over 90 percent of grads get a job within 3-6 months, and the salaries are going up in the field. They still need people to be librarians, but they have to be well-versed in all sorts of digital things. The face of the job has changed dramatically over the years.

    I’m always trying to come up with contingency plans should my newspaper job disappear (though our company is doing as well as can be expected and it seems that the layoffs have stopped – but who knows!).

    My biggest problem, as Nancy alluded to, is that reporters tend to be generalists. I don’t really have much expertise in any one subject – I know a little bit about lot of things. One of the reasons I didn’t get a master’s degree in history (my second major in college) was because I would have had to pick only one thing to concentrate on. I’d much rather know a smattering of this and a pinch of that. Also, as much as I sometimes think I would like to have a more normal job with normal hours and a set task every day, I know in my heart that I would be incredibly bored.

    ALSO: Speaking of spring, my daffodils and crocuses are starting to bloom, and my hyacinths are growing nicely. It’s a very great thing to come home from work and see that another flower has popped out!

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  10. Connie said on March 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Well, I have 25 years as a public library Director, with an MLS, and I currently run a large public library with 7 buildings, 125 employees and an almost 7 million dollar budget. So I am probably too experienced for that small public library job I yearn for. I am very aware that the lower paid folk at the checkout desks take a lot of flack, and sometimes the angry folk call me. I have turned out to be really good at explaining policy.

    I truly miss being on the front end where employees actually deal with people and books. But that’s not how you end up being the highest paid employee in the place, as I am.

    In other news my brother got a job after a year and half out of work except for some Christmas retail. And he’s in Michigan!

    I will have two librarian openings in the next few months, and I am about to look for a half time communications/marketing/pr person. Perhaps I will hear from some of those journalists.

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  11. alex said on March 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Well, I just got a new (slightly used) tiller at a wonderful price, so my veggie garden plot just doubled to 20′ x 40′. (Also got a new cement mixer, so I’m building a shed to house the growing array of power equipment.)

    Little green thingies are sprouting up everywhere, but save for a few crocuses and grape hyacinths, no actual blossoms yet.

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  12. LA Mary said on March 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    If companies ever start hiring again, journalists should consider recruiting. Not in-house so much, but head hunting. Interviewing and research skills come in very handy, and a natural nosiness is a big plus.

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  13. brian stouder said on March 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Hell, anymore, likely as not Facebook or MySpace will tell you way, way more than you really wanted to know about a prospective hire.

    Didja read the story about the fellow who was offered a job at Cisco and was stupid enough to ‘twitter’ [whatever that is] some trash talk about the hard decision between a “fat” paycheck for a job he hates, or waiting for something else?

    In short order, the smarty-pants folks at Cisco saw the “twitter” [however the hell that is done] and rescinded their offer

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  14. Rana said on March 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I figured out long ago that I needed to either be the boss or be the lowest of low.

    Connie, I know exactly what you mean. Either put me at a desk and tell me to do x, y, and z, or let me call the shots. The two most frustrating jobs I ever worked at were ones where my bosses gave me really long leashes and encouraged me to run… which worked until I reached the end of the leash. There is nothing more dispiriting than being encouraged to pour all your enthusiasm and intelligence into a project only to have it canceled or given to someone else at the last minute – which happened multiple times.

    That “interested in everything” aspect of journalism is one of the things that I find appealing about it – unfortunately the “interact with the public” angle of it dissuaded me when I was young enough to be making college decisions. I may be outspoken and extroverted with my friends, but interacting with strangers in unscripted situations brings out my shy side.

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  15. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    My daughter has a friend who is interested in everything, and they laugh about how often the topics change. I tell her that her friend is lucky to have a “questing mind”. It’s a great attribute, in my opinion.

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  16. Danny said on March 27, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Oh, hell, Chicago takes this stuff to the ultimate level. Mayor Daley successfully pushed through in very short order a deal to privatize all the parking meters, which netted the city more than $1 billion.

    Yeah, I was thinking about that as I read what Nancy had to say about conservatives “undermining we-the-people in favor of them-the-low-bidding-corporation.” Daley is such a conservative douchebag…

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  17. Peter said on March 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Nancy, while I like your former colleague’s tollbooth reference, I prefer Matt Groening’s caption of “born to pump gas”. Which leads to a friend of mine’s favorite expression when someone is job hopping: “going from Gomer to Goober”.

    Jeff, I live in Chicago, and the meter thing is just the last straw. When I drive to work I either pay a load to park in the lot of bring a roll of quarters, as the dang machines say they take dollar coins but don’t. AND THEN (I’m on the soapbox now), sure you can the “L”, but to park in their lot is now $4.00 instead of $1.00, and sure you can take metra, but most lots are reserved, and sure I can bike to the train, but they bust your lock and take the bike if you don’t park at the bike stand, which is way undersized…

    But the killer is that on my block, there’s meters most places, but a couple of places where there’s no meter. Park there and – you get a ticket – because where there’s meter’s you can’t park where there’s no meter – WTF!

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  18. moe99 said on March 27, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Speaking of changing topics, one of the other sopranos in my church choir has a song on indieheaven and if you are so inclined, could you vote for it by going to the site?

    The back story is her brother, a professor at the Univ of Washington, was killed several years ago when a load of logs came loose on the truck ahead of him and his coworker. Both died when the load crashed into his truck.

    Laurie had a very hard time accepting his death and wrote a group of praise songs as part of her long grieving process. I’m not a real fan of this type of music, but she has worked very hard to get them recognized and right now her current offering is no. 2 on the list. You can go there and listen to it, and if you feel so inclined, vote for it:

    You vote by clicking the 5th star after “People We Love” (even if the star is gray, votes count once a day per each computer)

    Her husband, was recently let go from his job as a sound technician at KOMO tv, so this has been a bit of a positive light in her life. It was at no. 5 when she sent her plea out on Wed and today it’s at no. 2. It would be nice to have it go to no. 1, so if you are so inclined, thank you very much.


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  19. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    My wife and I have generally referred to these civic intrusions as a “tax on fun” because we love Chicago and all it has to offer, but it’s really getting out of hand.

    Last summer, my dad called my cellphone to tell me the results of his latest chest x-ray. Within three minutes, a CPD cruiser and two coppers had pulled me over for a $75 ticket because, of course, I had neglected to put on my “hands-free” device. It took them more than 25 minutes to do this, which is 25 minutes they weren’t patrolling Uptown, which is where I was nabbed.

    I parked at a meter while giving blood last summer, but failed to note the small sign that it was a street-cleaning day. All the other meters were filled, too. When I emerged, all the cars were gone. The ticket was $50 and the towing fee was $165.

    Last week, I was a few minutes late to my meter after dropping off some tax documents to our accountant. There already was a $50 ticket hanging on the mirror.

    The tax on fun line isn’t so amusing any more, particularly since I have been “underemployed” for the past few years. I can’t fathom how the working poor make their way through the city when we are being nickel and dimed every time we turn around.

    And Danny? Mayor Daley was tight with George W. Bush. They apparently got on quite well personally and professionally. He is not a conservative in the way the term is defined today –he has no trouble with gays, for example, or immigrants and he doesn’t make a public show of his religious faith– but he is conservative when it is pragmatic to do so. He’s not a vicious authoritarian like Rudy Ghouliani, but more of a nanny stater like Michael Bloomberg.

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  20. Danny said on March 27, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Jeff, so long as you and Nance are not making the argument that conservative priciples are to blame for municipalities privatizing money-grubbing schemes.

    George W. Bush also had Ted Kennedy over to the Whitehouse for movie night. That doesn’t mean anything.

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  21. nancy said on March 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Point to Danny. In my defense, I’ll say that the rush to privatization of municipal services was led by the GOP, and a lot of people of both parties jumped on the train.

    I won’t even condemn it out of hand. In an area of increasing specialization and economies of scale, it makes sense to privatize some city services. I certainly don’t care that garbage pickup in my small suburb is handled by a private firm — it represents a cost savings. But when privatization means selling off municipal assets, I get suspicious — it’s like selling a kidney. And privatizing this sort of high-tech money-grubbing for minor traffic offenses just seems unfair, and I can’t say exactly where the line is crossed, but I know it when I see it. Put red-light cameras at problem intersections, sure. But nailing people for rolling through a right turn on red? No. Maybe a private company can run the toll road better; that’s defensible. But selling your meters knowing the new leaseholder is going to triple rates immediately? Get ready for a lot of superglued quarters.

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  22. LA Mary said on March 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I think Mayor Daley is in a class of his own, as was his father.

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  23. Dorothy said on March 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Rana you bring up an interesting point about interacting with strangers and journalism. My daughter answered a ringing phone a couple of weeks ago when someone else was away from their desk. Some nutso woman on the other end of the line was ranting about needing a reporter to come out and talk to her about her theories about an assortment of things, and Laura was doing her best to explain that it was a weekend, and that the reporters were not around at that time of the evening. She was trying to get her name and number so someone could call her back, but the lady was persistent. Finally the woman said “Would someone come out immediately if I told you my neighbor has raped five kids?!?” Laura immediately said “Ma’am you don’t need to be calling the newspaper if that is truly happening – you need to call 9-1-1!!”

    I’m not sure how she managed to bring the call to a close, but she said that as soon as she got off the phone she burst into tears. She was so very upset by the woman’s ravings. She said “I could never be a reporter, Mum, I could not keep my cool in the face of that kind of people!”

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  24. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Done. Is this a contest, or a show of support and appreciation? I’m not real clear on some of these things.

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  25. moe99 said on March 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Sue–I think Laurie views it as a possible way to get her music noticed and perhaps to make it more of a career. I have no real clue, but she’s trying all sorts of ideas to make it work for her family right now.

    It’s a very scary time. They announced that layoffs are coming in our office. We’ll know more after the state legislature announces the budget in April.

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  26. nancy said on March 27, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Dorothy, she is indeed tenderhearted. One of our city editors in Columbus would listen for a bit, put the phone down, go out for a break and hang it up when he got back. Sometimes the ranter would still be at it. There was one guy who called to rave about Queen Elizabeth every night around dinnertime, a schizophrenia-meets-Lyndon-LaRouche sort of tortured soul.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 27, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Moe — done, and forwarded to a whole lotta folk who actually know lots of folk who like this stuff (the praise team leader i work with most often would add a screaming guitar solo in 2/3d thru, but my wife would like it for an offertory, since her worship team is a bit more laid back, which works with that song).

    It is a kind of Worm Ouroboros moment for conservatism with the red light cameras, where you’ve got privatization a la Mitch and the IN Toll Rd, but you’ve got an intrusive governmental function sticking itself further up your, um, wallet. Or nearby.

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  28. Jean S said on March 27, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Nancy, get thee off of my wavelength. I was pondering the coming flood of ex-journalists myself this am. I’m still doing some editing and will probably keep that up. Also dipping my toe into teaching. And yeah, the novel (or novels). And I fully acknowledge that I have no business working for anyone else as a full-time employee. I wasn’t terrific at it when I was young and pliable, and that was long ago.

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  29. Danny said on March 27, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Moe, I’ll check that out this weekend from the home ‘puter.

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  30. brian stouder said on March 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    If NND was the President of the United States, and made that ‘toll booth’ wisecrack (engaging in good natured bantering on Letterman’s show, say), her White House would have to issue an apology and clarification, for highway department workers across the nation – before an hour passed

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  31. alex said on March 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    To ex-journos, I recommend (as one possibility) becoming a paralegal. That’s what I did when my career stalled a few years ago and I find it’s a very good fit.

    Your interviewing skills and analytical abilities will get a thorough workout. You’ll have plenty of variety in your work and you’ll learn about new and interesting subjects constantly. You’ll be the eyes and ears of the attorneys you work for, alert to the sorts of details that help make their cases. And they’ll appreciate the fact that you get it the first time they tell you something, that you always ask the right questions, that you’re capable of working independently and (most of all) that you know how to write even better than they do.

    And you don’t have to go to some crap-ass diploma mill to become a paralegal. The best firms are glad to hire and train someone with a bachelor’s and a journalistic background.

    I chose this path after consulting with a career counselor and taking a battery of tests; paralegal was one of the options at the top of the list.

    EDIT: I’ll add that, in general, attorneys are highly intelligent (and less threatened by their subordinates’ intelligence) than the sorts of people who work in management in publishing.

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  32. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Unfortunately, dealing with insane rantings on the phone (or in person) is not limited to journalism. I am one of those workers who is actually ok being at or near the bottom, taking orders and making my boss look good (usually), and off-the-wall individuals are so common that I once suggested that we assemble and sell a “greatest hits” voice message cd to help make the budget. That said, it’s not like I enjoy that aspect of the job. If I make it to retirement without my job being eliminated first, it will be one of those “she’s been here forever” things where someone decides to call the newspaper or local tv station to come and interview the oldster. You know the drill, the person-about-to-retire is always asked “What will you miss the most?” and she/he always says “Oh, the people!” Well, heaven forbid they do that for me, because I’ll give the stock answer and proceed to put a spin on it that will leave me the least embarrassed of all the people involved. Watch for the viral video on Youtube.

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  33. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    As an ex-newspaper guy I’ve found the university teaching arena to be the place I’d like most to be, but it will require my earning an advanced degree, which is a significant obstacle. The vast majority of adjuncts where I’m teaching part-time now are going to be replaced by full-time faculty, which I’m told means the school will be rated more highly by the people who compile those lists.

    Teaching smart, committed college students offers immediate gratification as you can see their progress. Two of my public speaking students are ESLs –a young man from Poland and a young woman from Ukraine– and to see them gaining confidence and poise behind the lectern is incredibly moving. The rest of the class does well, too, but I have a soft spot for these kids, who have only been speaking English for a few years.

    It’s also a window into another world, of course, with myriad surprises. Yesterday, one of my students came to the classroom early to discuss the films of Billy Wilder, because I’d mentioned “Sunset Boulevard” in the previous class about the change from silents to talkies. This young man of 21 has seen every Wilder film multiple times and his favorite is “The Lost Weekend.” I could never had predicted I’d be sitting around for a half-hour with a kid more than half my age discussing the morality at play in “The Apartment.”

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  34. Bruce Fields said on March 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I understand that it’s hard to wait for an important phone call, and it’s boring coming to a full stop at every. single. right. turn. But that’s the price we pay for the privilege of piloting huge hunks of metal with the potential to kill people.

    If people can make a profit enforcing that kind of thing, I’m not complaining!

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  35. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Bruce, entertaining way to put it. As to your last sentence, I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy the reaction, especially from the Chicago delegation.

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  36. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Bruce and Sue,

    If these rules and regulations were truly intended to make motorists and pedestrians safer, it would be a nice debate, but they are nothing but new ways to generate income. To satisfy Bruce’s viewpoint, we’d better eliminate radios and stereos from cars, as fiddling with the dials is dangerous. Rip all those cupholders out because clearly sipping hot coffee while driving is dangerous. The new-fangled GPS systems need to go because it is dangerous to glance at them while in traffic, much less program them. A soundproof safety shield between parents and children in the back seat also is a good idea as the distractions kids pose can be quite dangerous.

    Where, exactly, do you want to stop with this?

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  37. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Hey! I’m just sitting back watching the show! Don’t drag me into this!

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  38. brian stouder said on March 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    There is a Sheriff Taylor/Deputy Fife element to this.

    If the goal is to ding people for every last infraction, period, then red light cameras are great. But, what if you are 50 feet from the intersection, within the speed limit – let’s say 35 mph – and the light goes yellow.

    Slam on the brakes, and pray that you don’t get creamed by the beer truck behind you?

    If you proceed, you will almost certainly get a tickey.

    If it is legitimate to shorten the yellow interval, then my question is, why not eliminate the yellow altogether? Go right from green to red, and to hell with the suckers, eh?

    If you ask me, the police and the law need to be seen as “on our side”, and not as out to pounce on us, at every opportunity

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  39. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    You’re collateral damage, Sue, lol.

    I’m mostly kidding, but my parents’ car was rear-ended several years ago on an off-ramp because the woman in the car behind them dropped a CD case and had reached down to pick it up. Nobody was hurt and the car was repaired.

    I’m not an advocate of multi-tasking while driving. But the idea that giving out tickets for using a cellphone without hands-free device –particularly since recent research underscores that drivers can be just as distracted even if they are not holding the phone– is a public safety measure is laughable. It’s all about the Benjamins.

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  40. brian stouder said on March 27, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I saw on FWOb that Fort Wayne’s Bishop made the cover of the Drudge Report today.

    Pull my finger, and I could go all ‘gasman’ about this, for 5 or 6 paragraphs…but – it’s Friday, baby!

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  41. Sue said on March 27, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I know, there’s nothing more annoying than dealing with a pesky steering wheel when you’re busy with your phone, cigarette, eyeliner, coffee and a bowl of oatmeal while you’re trying to get to work.

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  42. LA Mary said on March 27, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I know, Sue. It makes reading the paper really difficult.

    On another topic: Last night my son and I came up with an idea for a great new product. Pho-breeze. It’s like Febreeze, but your couch smells like a Vietnamese take out place.

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  43. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    You must’ve seen the lady behind us last week! She had a cigarette dangling from her lips, a cup of coffee in one hand and some kind of makeup thingie in the other. The rearview mirror was twisted toward the wheel so she could use it for the makeup. She was bopping her head up and down, too, so I’m guessing the tunes were blasting. She must’ve been steering with her knees. Luckily, it was rush hour and we were all traveling approximately 2.462 miles per hours, so I had no near death experience.

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  44. MichaelG said on March 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the link to the “Flour Girl” blog, Nance. I like it.

    I also read a story about cities shortening the yellow light interval in order to trap people into running the red. It led to a dramatic rise in rear enders. Don’t like the cameras, and meters and such? Wait until they start tapping into your “On Star” and other similar devices.

    Pretty good, Mary. Gonna have an asparagus flavored one?

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  45. LA Mary said on March 27, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    We came up with the phobreeze idea by spilling phobreeze on the couch. I don’t want to have the same sort of reason for making the asparagus pee scented stuff.

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  46. Lex said on March 27, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    We had some red-light cameras here in a number of cities and towns, but they went the way of the dodo after the state Supreme Court ruled that, yes, indeed, the state Constitution meant what it said when it said that all fines and forfeitures go to the public schools, not the cities and their contractors.

    As for the red-light-related accidents, they dropped off pretty significantly after the yellow lights here were set at something like 3.6 seconds instead of the previous 2.7 (I think). If you’re not doing 65 in a 45 zone, that gives you plenty of time to make the right call.

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  47. jeff borden said on March 27, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    One big issue with the red light cameras at busy intersections is the impact on drivers making a left turn. We’ve all been taught to cautiously ease into the intersection and wait for a break in traffic, but what happens when it’s a steady stream and your vehicle is in the intersection when the light changes to red?


    You’re out one hundred bucks, baby.

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  48. Linda said on March 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Toledo is racking up huge collections–and public resentment–with traffic cameras. And, as one poster already wrote, it’s all about the collection. When you get a ticket for this in Toledo, they tell you that IF YOU DON’T FIGHT IT, AND JUST PAY, NO POINTS COME OFF YOUR RECORD. That’s like getting a letter from a sleazy detective, saying that if you just pay the cash, your wife never has to see those pictures.

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  49. crinoidgirl said on March 27, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Sorry to hijack this –

    Alex, I would be interested in talking about paralegalism. I’m currently an (unemployed) tech writer, but I’ve always thought it would suit me.

    If you’re interested in me asking you questions, could you forward your email thru Nance, or I’ll forward mine if it’s OK.

    Thank you.


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  50. basset said on March 27, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Newsroom callers… I didn’t mind the nutbars as much as the ones who’d demand that we give them some fact to settle an argument, or a sports score, or the lottery number. And on that last, they always said the same thing – “I just caught the tail end of it…”

    First job after bailing out of tv was with the local school district, where we eventually had to send the police after some poor desperate hillbilly woman who would call in the middle of the night and leave us thirty- and forty-minute phone messages complaining because we served pizza in the school lunches. And what was her problem with pizza?

    “Them pizzers got cheeeeeeese in ’em, an’ when them poor babies eat that cheeeeeeeese, they git all bound up an’ cain’t have no bowwwel movement. Whah do you keep on givin’ them babies cheeeeeeeese when you know it binds ’em up?” Variations on that for half an hour or more, most entertaining, the first couple of times anyway.

    Never did hear her mention asparagus, though. Or pineapple, which is said to have a similar effect on another bodily discharge…

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  51. beb said on March 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Several men I know made nursing their new career after being redundancied.

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  52. Deborah said on March 27, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    I’ve been busy since returning from Abiquiu. I can’t believe I didn’t have time to respond to the last few posts about architecture and graphic design. As I’m a graphic designer working for an architecture firm. Then just now I’m reading all the comments about Chicago, another connection I can make. All you folks complaining about parking/driving in Chicago all I can say is do what I do, don’t drive. It’s a lot easier (and less expensive in many ways) to walk, take buses, rapid transit or cabs to get where you need to go in the city.

    As for fonts (earlier post) my faves are Centaur (serif) and Univers (sans serif). I admire Times Roman as a classic font but it has been devalued for me over time by all the ways it has been used badly.

    Regarding weird architects (ditto, earlier post) there are a bunch of them, some have something to say, some are just looking for fame and fortune.

    Peter, are you an architect living in Chicago too?

    While I was on vacation in New Mexico I read T.C. Boyles novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, called “The Women”. Excellent.

    That’s all I have time for, things are picking up at work.

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  53. Gasman said on March 28, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

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  54. brian stouder said on March 28, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Say – here’s a publishing boomlet/profit opportunity that I just noticed the other day.

    I regularly stop in at one of three gas stations on Fort Wayne’s northwest side, where I live and work, to purchase icy cold soda pops from their fountain; Circle K offers crushed ice, which is nice, but Marathon on Goshen Road has the least expensive drinks, while Speedway on Sherman has good ol’ Diet Coke on fountain.

    A week ago or so, I began noticing a folded full-color publication on the counter right up by the cashier – they’re same size as those Senior Times or real estate freebies that you always see…and all it consists of is mug shots of people with warrants or wants outstanding.

    These publications are $1.50 each(!) – and they look like they might run 6 or 8 pages on smaller newsprint (maybe two or three 11″ X 17″ sheets folded in half).

    This week, notcing them again – and noting that the stack looked to have a fresh batch of mugs on the cover -I asked the clerk if those things actually sell – and her eyes widened (in a “let me tell you” way) and she said they sell LIKE HOTCAKES! They get 50 at a go – and they fly off the counter top! Her theory was that people want to see if they know anyone featured in there.

    I was astounded! Presumeably these are folks who don’t have internet access, or find it easier to buy one of those things.

    So there you go – add a “Grosse Pointe’s Most Wanted” feature to GP2Day – and you can go to print!

    edit: gasman – hah! My other “pull my finger” subject is Member of Congress (and National Disgrace) Michele Bachman’s latest deranged ranting, and her enabler Sean Sh*t For Brains Hannity…but I digress! And in any case, KO worked her over pretty good tonight, which was good to see

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  55. Gasman said on March 28, 2009 at 1:37 am

    It turns out that Michael Steele’s recent affliction with foot-in-mouth disease was all part of cunning, subtle master plan. Ah yes. The old “I’ll make them think I’m a moron by doing moronic things” plan. It appears to be working. He had me convinced. Give the man an Oscar.

    Michael Steele revealed that all of these gaffes were intentional. They were all part of his carefully orchestrated strategy to gauge, “…where the enemy camp is and where those who are inside the tent are.”

    The man is a veritable Machiavellian master.

    And I thought he was just an asshole.

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  56. Dexter said on March 28, 2009 at 2:16 am

    Iggy Pop: “In the Death Car , We’re Alive…”

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  57. Dave K. said on March 28, 2009 at 2:54 am

    I just watched the Michael Steele interview. Now I cannot get the phrase “You are a lying motherfucker”, out of my head. Sorry, but nothing else fits. Amazing.

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  58. Gasman said on March 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I watched Olbermann’s critique of Bachman and I too was struck by her open call for armed rebellion against the Constitution. At what point is it appropriate to lock her up? In the early 90’s the conservatives were rallying their base with anti-government rhetoric, but it wasn’t as incendiary as Bachman’s. The well armed deranged kooks – like McVeigh – that populate the base of the Republican Party don’t take too much provocation to act inappropriately.

    We’ve already had a right wing nut who shot up a church because he couldn’t shoot the 100 liberals that Bernie Goldberg thought should be shot. If Bachman’s words are taken as a call to action, she should have her crazy ass tossed into a federal prison for inciting violence.

    I would also note, with no small degree of satisfaction, that in response to the campaign by to boycott advertisers on Bill O’Reilly’s show, UPS has dropped its sponsorship. It sounds as if others may follow suit. Not because of content – although that would be reason enough – but because of the stalking techniques that O’Reilly used in ambushing’s managing editor Amanda Terkel. O’Reilly’s producer and crew staked out her home and then tracked her for two hours across state lines to ambush her while she was on vacation.

    O’Reilly appears to be coming unhinged over this whole affair. Murdoch reportedly doesn’t like O’Reilly anyway. I wonder how many advertisers he would have to lose before Murdoch would yank him off the air, or at least yank his prime spot in the Fox lineup?

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  59. Linda said on March 28, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Thought there’s not much future in librarianship either in my humble opinion. After all, it’s all on the internet isn’t it?

    Connie, as a working public librarian, I have to disagree strongly on this. I see tons of stuff that google and paid commercial services DON’T do that librarians need to do, like gather information on local resources. See my website if you don’t believe me. (and yes, this is shameful web whoring). But the electronic age gives us the professional opportunity to create easy-to-share and update sources of information. We need to explore that more.

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  60. MarkH said on March 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Not gonna happen, Gasman. Have you looked the Nielsen cable ratings lately? Not only are Fox in general, and O’Reilly in particular, gaining, MSNBC is dropping. My view is that during the election cycle, Olby, served a purpose and now that the liberals won the election, that ideaology wore thin on centrists and undecideds mistrustful of republicans. At least, as presented on MSNBC. So, they have moved on, perhaps over to Fox. In any case, Murdoch may not be an ideaologue, but he certainly isn’t stupid. While he did make a dismissive remark about O’Reilly, he can’t argue with the ratings. Regardless of what you think, O’Reilly’s not going anywhere. While the UPS’s of the world may not have an appetite for controversy and find another venue of impact for their message, others won’t, and any void will be quickly filled. Your conservative media nemeises will not go away until their audiences genuinely lose interest. Personally, I find the O’Reilly ambushes meaningless because a.) who, in that situation could think fast enough to not look bad, and b.) Bill never does them himself.

    BTW- Wow. I read Bernie’s book, and I don’t remember him calling for anyone, let alone those 100 people to be shot. He just described how they’re screwing up America. Did the church shooter really say he was trying to do Goldberg’s bidding? And, really, gas, broadbrushing an entire group for the actions of individuals like McVeigh or your church shooter, is unbecoming. I may be a measure right of center, but, like the vast majority of the population, abhor the actions of those individuals.

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  61. Gasman said on March 28, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Before castigating me, you might want to get your facts straight. We know the following about the Tennssee church assassin, Jim David Adkisson:

    A suicide note left by shooter Jim Adkission says he planned to be shot by police and that the shooting was a hate crime, a political protest, and a symbolic killing.

    In his note, he wrote “Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate and House, the 100 people in Bernard Golderg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I knew these people were inaccessible to me”

    That sounds to me like he took Golberg’s words as a call to action. Read the full text of his note here. Goldberg and O’Reilly should be held responsible for the violence that they incite. They consciously whip their feeble minded followers into a frenzy. They cannot claim innocence, especially when they use openly violent rhetoric and/or ambush tactics in their attacks on their foes.

    As to my “broadbrushing” conservatives for inciting the marginalia in their own movement, in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, Republicans – sitting congressmen and senators – drastically toned down their anti-government rhetoric. That had been one of their primary attacks against President Clinton. Does that tactic sound familiar? There is a connection. How many liberals get a gun or a truck bomb and murder innocent victims because of real or imagined instructions from media personalities? The current spate of anti-government rhetorical attacks from Republicans is incendiary and dangerous, especially when they actively court the angry, disaffected far right wing of our society.

    As for O’Reilly, he’s not my nemesis. I’ve never even seen his show. My exposure to him comes from his outrageous behavior that makes it to YouTube and other outlets. You think Murdoch wouldn’t pull the plug on O’Reilly? How about the stunning about face and apology by Murdoch for the recent NY Post cartoon? If Murdoch thinks that O’Reilly is a business liability, he will throw him under the first bus that comes along. O’Reilly’s behavior is becoming more bizarre each day. He is not invulnerable.

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  62. jeff borden said on March 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Mark H.

    The murderer in Tennessee stated outright he was committing a “hate crime” and that he targeted the Unitarian Church because he knew it was attended by liberals, which he said he wanted to kill. He also stated his desire to kill all liberal politicians in Congress and the 100 people in Goldberg’s “book.” It’s on the record in his statement to cops and prosecutors.

    McVeigh was another loser with a grudge and a chip on his shoulder, but he was motivated by the white supremacy ravings of William Pierce and apparently used the book, “The Turner Diaries,” as his template. “Diaries” is a Nazi gun nut wet dream nove about a group of brave “patriots” who take back America by inciting race wars. I’ve seen some pages of this “book” online and the writing is laughably bad even while the imagery is disgusting. At one point, the hero is walking through L.A. and comes upon a group of academics hanging from lamp posts. They are the UCLA faculty, judged “race traitors,” who were killed during the “day of the rope.” McVeigh, to my knowledge, never embraced any particular conservative viewpoints. He was a relatively uneducated goober who wanted to strike out at minorities and the federal government.

    Re: Michelle Bachmann. She is an idiot, a complete and utter dunderhead who makes Sarah Palin look like a Rhodes Scholar. A legal scholar on one of the websites says she probably did not commit treason because she is calling for an “orderly” revolution, whatever that means. She may well be close to sedition. Bachmann would appear to be the GOP’s answer to Cynthia McKinney.

    We never really know what sets off a fruitcake like the nut in Tennessee or McVeigh in Oklahoma. The lunatic who killed all those students at Virginia Tech was a lonely loser who apparently felt others were mocking him behind his back so he and his rifle would certainly show them what for. . .The killer at Northern Illinois was a former student with some kind of grudge against the school.

    I give enormous leeway to the First Amendment. But we ought to acknowledge that a certain segment of our population can indeed be moved to violence through the words of others. Bachmann and people like Glenn Beck, who really, truly, honestly does seem to be either insane or in the midst of a nervous breakdown, might be the spark that sets one of these dickheads with a gun off.

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  63. del said on March 28, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Well done Jeff B. I would only refrain from calling the VA Tech shooter a loser because he, and probably most of the others you mentioned were simply mentally ill. Those who push them over the edge bear some responsibility though. With McVeigh, for example, a short-wave radio guy called Mark Koernke(sp?) broadcast some kind of anti-government rhetoric for the self-proclaimed Michigan Militia that might have played a role in the kid’s delamination as I recall. He was also a Gulf War veteran, a fact that caused my grandma to lament that America would have a problem with its PTSD war returnees. What do you expect, she complained, when you teach boys to kill?

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  64. brian stouder said on March 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I give enormous leeway to the First Amendment. But we ought to acknowledge that a certain segment of our population can indeed be moved to violence through the words of others.


    Leaving Bachman aside – Sean Hannity, the guy who is making millions of dollars trafficking this stuff, and who is broadcast across the radio and TV airwaves every day, shirked HIS responsibilities as an American and as a professional communicator; and his employers and syndication partners are shirking THEIR responsibilities, when they market such ugly, unchallenged rhetoric with such unremitting regularity.

    From TPM:

    Bachmann: Right now I’m a member of Congress. And I believe that my job here is to be a foreign correspondent, reporting from enemy lines. And people need to understand, this isn’t a game. this isn’t just a political talk show that’s happening right now. This is our very freedom, and we have 230 years, a continuous link of freedom that every generation has ceded to the next generation. This may be the time when that link breaks. And I’m going to do everything I can, I know you are, to make sure that we keep that link secure. We cannot allow that link to break, because as Reagan said, America is the last great hope of mankind. where do we go–

    Hannity: The last great hope of man on this Earth.*

    Bachmann: Do we get into an inner tube and float 90 miles to some free country? There is no free country for us to repair to. That’s why it’s up to us now. The founders gave everything they had to give us this freedom. Now it’s up to us to give everything we can to make sure that our kids are free, too. It’s that serious. I hate to be dramatic, but–

    Hannity: It’s not — you are not overstating this case, Congresswoman, and you don’t need to apologize for it. And as a matter of fact, it’s refreshing. And I can tell you, all around this country, on 535 of the best radio stations in this country, people are saying “Amen,” “Hallelujah”, “where have you been?”

    What is “an orderly revolution”? Hmmmmm; I’d say that an “orderly revolution” is also known as a free election; sorta like the one that President Obama just WON, and which Republicans – almost including Ms Bachman – LOST.

    If President Obama was an ACTUAL tyrannical usurper (as opposed to the imaginary bogeyman of Bachman’s and Hannity’s imagination) – Ms Bachman wouldn’t be a “foreign correspondant” in Congress….maybe a weed puller at Gitmo…

    * Sh*t for Brains Sean Hannity credits that to the wrong president, but what’s new? It’s not as if he didn’t know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…

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  65. Gasman said on March 28, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    As two links seem to be the limit without sending a post to moderation, I opted for second post. How’s this for violent rhetoric from O’Reilly and Goldberg (“The O’Reilly Factor” 2/2/09):

    O’Reilly: The New York Times attacks me, Bay Buchanan, Jim Pinkerton. We’re all racists, white supremacists, because we don’t want blanket amnesty…if you were me…how would you have reacted?

    Goldberg: Well, I would probably gotten a baseball bat and gone down to The New York Times with it and found the person who wrote the editorial. But that’s me…

    O’Reilly: Well, I’m going to get your baseball bat. I’ve got a couple, but I have good ones and I don’t want to break them. We’ll be down there together. Because I think they are just corrupt.

    Those remarks are neither humorous or appropriate by any standards. How about Goldberg’s gem when defending O’Reilly against those who criticized Bill’O the Clown for his truly manly jokes against Helen Thomas (“The O’Reilly Factor” 2/11/09):

    GOLDBERG: You should send them flowers. You —

    O’REILLY: I just send them —

    GOLDBERG: Absolutely. You should send —

    O’REILLY: I want to send them a cake, but I want something to be inside the cake, and I might be put in prison if that happens.

    GOLDBERG: You should send them flowers — black, dead roses.

    So, if you disagree with O’Reilly or Goldberg, the violent, death-laden imagery from those two is OK? Olbermann was succinct in his characterization of Goldberg’s remarks in light of the content of Adkisson’s erzatz suicide note.

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  66. moe99 said on March 28, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Unfortunately, Seattle was way ahead of its time. I remember waking up Christmas day, 1986, to the news that the Goldmark family had been gruesomely murdered by a drifter who had been inspired by right wing writings, among them, something called The Duck Book that a colleague at the SEC was investigating at the time for suspicious securities activity in addition to its hate mongering. The killer, David Lewis Rice, confused Charles Goldmark, a prominent attorney in Seattle, with his father whose legislative career in the 50’s had been destroyed by false allegations of membership in the Communist party and being Jewish. Rice killed the parents and two little boys after he tied them up by bashing their heads in with an iron, and when that did not work, shoving sharpened objects into their brains through their eyes and/or ears.

    I would urge every last one of you to find and read John DosPassos’ book USA particularly the part about the Wobblie riots in Everett and Chehalis, WA back in the early part of the 1900s, just to get some historical perspective on the violence that has arisen in this country as a result of economic instability. Guess who gets the shiv in the back? Yeah, right, not the blue collar worker, that’s for sure.

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  67. crinoidgirl said on March 28, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I have just spent four hours reading “The Hope Chest” –

    Fascinating copies of stories from old newspapers, with the originals reproduced.

    A theme of the late 19th to early 20th century seems to be the “Unwritten Law” – “whose simple precept was ‘The libertine must die!’ In the 19th century, American juries took it as a given that husbands, fathers and brothers were justified in killing a man who had been sexually intimate with their wives, daughters or sisters, and would nullify charges accordingly. The unwritten law was becoming a bit of a back number after the turn of the century, but there were still instances of its application in the 1920s and ’30s.”

    From one story – “Trial Unlikely in Hex Slaying”:

    “Arrested in Pittsburgh Wednesday night, Mrs. Thomsen said Miss Dilley had a strange influence over her husband Carl, and that she tried to have him assume the leadership of a ‘love cult composed of former school teachers.'”

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  68. brian stouder said on March 28, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    American juries took it as a given that husbands, fathers and brothers were justified in killing a man who had been sexually intimate with their wives

    I read an interesting book about General Dan Sickles – who lost a leg at Gettysburg in the Peach Orchard.

    Before the war, his wife was having an affair with Francis Scott Key’s son, Philip, and Sickles promptly shot and killed the (unarmed) fellow on the sidewalk, within sight of the White House in Lafayette Park…and in the ensuing trial, Sickles was acquitted – by reason of temporary insanity…a then-new defense tactic. His defense lawyer was Stanton (if I’m remembering correctly), and in later years Sickles reconciled with his wife!

    The ‘crazy’ Hindus and Muslims – with their ‘honor killings’ and all – would have fit right into 19th century America…such views were downright refined, doncha’ know!

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  69. beb said on March 28, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    *The* story of the day here in Detroit is our former mayor complaining that he can’t pay his $6000/month restitution because there’s only $6 left over from his $10,000/month income.

    $2700 for his rented house
    $900 for his rented Cadillac
    $200 for a telephone
    $200 for a cell phone (considering it was a cell phone that got him into trouble the first time I’d think he’s give one a pass this time around
    $900 for gas, water and electricity. Is this credible for Dallas?
    $240 for his student loan payments. (He’s been out of college for at least ten years. Why hasn’t he paid this off yet?)

    The list goes on. I saw it in the Freep. $400 in credit card bills. If that’s the minimum payment that means he’s carrying a hell of a lot of debt.

    But of course the thing is that is owes the money to the people of Detroit and ought to be drained of everything he gets beyond mere subsistence to pay us back. Better yet, send him to jail for the next five years.

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  70. crinoidgirl said on March 28, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    “Honor killings” –

    There’s some evidence that “Southern” honor stems from Scotch-Irish border life in the old country.
    for one.

    (Sickles as Union general notwithstanding.)

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  71. brian stouder said on March 28, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    I have read that ‘honor killings’ was mostly a Southern aristocracy thing, and indeed – the aristocracy part of that seems to be the ‘key’ (pardon the Sickles pun!)

    Wealth and/or fame always seem to define its own standards and morality – OJ leaps to mind!

    Years ago Pam and I visited the museum in Nashville, Tennessee, where they have a hand written letter from Andrew Jackson challenging a guy to a duel (for some offense or another) wherein Jackson states that he will kill him…and some text on this display goes on to tell you that indeed Jackson did just that.

    And indeed, was it James Shields (who went on to be a Union general) who challenged Lincoln to a duel (over some scurrilous things Lincoln had written about Shields for the local newspaper)? If you were the one on the receiving end of a challenge, you got to pick weapons (appararently) – so Lincoln chose broad swords – and the duel was averted.

    And Aaron Burr killed Hamilton – both of whom were north easterners and not southerners, per se…

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  72. MichaelG said on March 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Wait a minute, beb, do I understand you to say that Kwame Kilpatrick claims to be paying $240 per month for student loans?

    I sat here for a long time and tried to come up with something clever to say about that and couldn’t.

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  73. Joe Kobiela said on March 29, 2009 at 12:28 am

    All the talk about Mcveigh and the nut in Tenn, kind of makes me wonder how many of those fine upstanding citizens in Oakland Calif that marched in support of the Rapist that shot those four policeman, and called him a oppressed hero, voted for McCain??
    Pilot Joe

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  74. Gasman said on March 29, 2009 at 12:50 am

    As I recall, the libelous writings may have been authored by Mary Todd, the future Mrs. Lincoln, and her husband to be may have just been being chivalrous by dueling on her behalf. Since dueling was illegal in Illinois, they had to row out to an sandbar on the Missouri side of the Mississipi river. In another instance when challenged to a duel and asked his weapon of choice, Lincoln apparently replied “cow dung at ten paces.” His opponent canceled the duel.

    However, Shields would not be dissuaded and Lincoln did indeed settle on broadswords. When Shields saw the long limbed Lincoln display his much greater reach with his weapon of choice, Shields apparently re-thought his commitment to the duel and both sides agreed that by merely showing up, honor had been satisfied.

    This excerpt from Carl Sandburg’s The Prairie Years: I:

    The weapon with which Lincoln was to have fought Shields was a good deal like the ax he had handled so many years as a boy and young man. He told Bill Herndon : “I did not intend to hurt Shields unless I did so clearly in self-defense. If it had been necessary I could have split him from the crown of his head to the end of his backbone.”

    One man who made the trip to the sand-bar was asked how Lincoln behaved. He said: “I watched Lincoln closely while he sat on his log waiting the signal to fight. His face was serious. I never knew him to go so long without making a joke. He reached over and picked up one of the swords, which he drew from its scabbard. The he felt along the edge of the weapon with his thumb, like a barber feels of the edge of his razor, raised himself to his full height, stretched out his long arms and clipped off a twig from above his head with the sword. There wasn’t another man of us who could have reached anywhere near that twig, and the absurdity of that long-reaching fellow fighting with cavalry sabers with Shields, who could walk under his arm, came pretty near making me howl with laughter.”

    Lincoln, though a Southerner by birth, seemed to feel duels silly. Apparently choosing “shovels full of pig dung” or Lincoln’s “cow dung at ten paces” was a fairly common way for those who found the practice barbaric. As the challenged, they were within their rights, but who wants to fight a shit duel? Both parties lose. As it was, Lincoln’s long arms precluded any actual combat with Shields. They apparently became friends thereafter.

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  75. Gasman said on March 29, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Joe K.,
    There were apparently no more than 60 people marching in support of Lovelle Mixon, the murderer of the four Oakland Police officers. I certainly don’t know if any of these misguided souls voted in the last election or not. Do you have any such knowledge? It also sounds as if you might be casting aspersions as to their race. You wouldn’t do that, would you?

    I also don’t recall Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, or any other liberal media or political figure inciting these yahoos to violence. This mob’s actions were reprehensible but in no way justify any of the earlier actions cited.

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  76. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 29, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Interesting article from a journalistic pov —

    Anyone else liking “Kings”?

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  77. Carol said on March 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Back to the cameras, for a moment. I remember reading somewhere a man was sent a picture of his speeding and a demand for $100 fine. The man sent the cops a picture of a $100 bill. The cops replied with a picture of handcuffs. The fine was paid.

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  78. Connie said on March 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Linda quoted me and commented: Thought there’s not much future in librarianship either in my humble opinion. After all, it’s all on the internet isn’t it?

    Connie, as a working public librarian, I have to disagree strongly on this.

    Linda, sorry for failing to get across the sarcasm. And you know and I know what public libraries do these days, but we have failed to get that message across. As long as I keep hearing from politicians and powers that be – it’s all on the internet – I fear for the future of librarianship, at least as bodies and a building.

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  79. nancy said on March 29, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I’m sort of in an internet backlash, myself. I’m getting really damn tired of all these open-source, information-wants-to-be-free people. Google wants to digitize all the intellectual property in the world — and cram it down the authors’ throats, to boot — and while that sounds oh so democratic, as someone who produces intellectual property, I’m thinking, what’s the end game? We can’t all be Stanford professors and give our work away. Where is the economic incentive to produce the stuff?

    I was lamenting salary cuts at newspapers, which are a nuisance at their very best and crippling at their worst, and when you’re making $22K, which far more reporters earn than, say, $122K, that’s what they are. Someone said, “Maybe that’s what we’re worth — $22K.” If so, sayonara motherfuckers, I got a mortgage to pay. Enjoy your celebrity gossip and Huffington Post, but I want my kid to go to college.

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  80. basset said on March 29, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Probably so, Connie. I expect it’ll go the way that video production has – everyone has access to the rudimentary tools so they devalue the work of the real professionals.

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  81. brian stouder said on March 29, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    That WSJ article about Google was interesting. Remember when the USFL “won” in court against the NFL – and was awarded $1?

    I think the Google settlement with regard to out of print books should boil down to “you win. You may digitize the book’s cover and spine, and nothing more, period.”

    I don’t particularly like Google’s digitizing of my street and my house at our particular address (and everyone else’s) – but at least they don’t also claim the right to digitize images of what’s inside of our house!

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  82. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 29, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Google Lifestyles (beta) — using special high powered infrared cameras from the street, we create color adjusted images that depict everyday life in this great land we call home, looking past the exterior of your house to show the inner details of your life, liberty, and how you pursue happiness! (Some brand name items may have their logos additionally enhanced for clarity, and could be updated to a current packaging graphic set in the event of older, out of date packaging. Most interior views will be edited for appropriate content: if you think you see inappropriate content*, contact us at and make sure to add the exact coordinates of the interior view that you think should not be posted on the web.)

    *No nightime image runs were made, and an algorithm was designed to exclude occupied restrooms from the original image generation. However, not all “inhabited” pictures were excluded, and the accidental inclusion of a “nooner” or other daytime adult activity cannot be ruled out — we appreciate the massive, distributed, alert editing function that our Google community of users can apply to help us make Google Lifestyles (beta) one of the most viewed applications on the internet!

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  83. Linda said on March 29, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Connie–sorry that my sarcasm/humor detector got busted. What fries me is not that politicans and journalists think that “everything is on the net,” but many people running public libraries think it is, too, including some of my bosses. Indeed, they hope everything is, so they can just buy novels and databases, and slough off everything else onto Google. I had a strenuous argument with an administrator at my library re: whether we needed a library-created listing of clubs and organizations, because, as she said, “Doesn’t Google do all that?” No, they don’t. Little organizations have no presence at all, or a puny one, and many are not searchable in a useful, orderly fashion. Peeps, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

    //Officially off my soapbox now.

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  84. Connie said on March 29, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Linda, my library has been created and updating such a list – searchable from our web page – for decades. FWIW.

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  85. Linda said on March 29, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Connie: Us, too, but some people upstairs. figured that “nobody does that anymore, and we shouldn’t, either.” You would be surprised how many “nobodies” do this, but I guess they don’t count.

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  86. Catherine said on March 29, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    My local PL used to have great list of little-known places to get married — women’s clubs for rent, that kind of thing. I sent someone to the library for it recently, and they don’t maintain it anymore. This list was so useful to so many people, and no, you can’t get it all from google.

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  87. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Hard to feel bad about this casualty of the Detroit downturn.

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  88. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 29, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    And Gasman will appreciate the last line of this article.

    Still wondering if anyone else finds “Kings” weirdly compelling, and i’m feeling even more so after tonight’s episode.

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  89. Dexter said on March 29, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Nothing shocks me anymore…but then again…

    So where was the intervention and forced management of AIG, as this link’s story attests to?

    I have never had anything good to say about GM management, but forcing Waggoner out …what good will that do?
    Is this a trend? All bailout recipients will be at the mercy of the US government , for the government to appoint leaders for them? This is more of what we saw earlier when the auto industry took the brunt of the offensive against poor R.O.I. while the New York institutions were handled with kid gloves…more bullshit.

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  90. brian stouder said on March 29, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Gotta agree with Dexter on that; looks more than a little odd (rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, at best)

    Speaking of cars, enjoyed the opening F1 race today, from Australia. Thank heavens (and Verizon/Direct TV) for tivo- it ran live between 2 and 4 in the morning.

    The cars look bizarre this year, and KERS looks like a good way to electrocute a pit guy or emergency responder – but we shall see.

    It WAS marvelous to see Ferrari and McLaren out of the picture, and scrappy little Brawn (ex-Honda) with customer Mercedes power dominate the weekend!


    edit: I see that Nance has Life Sentneces on her night stand, which is a fine book. I finished it a few days ago, and then plunged into Jon Meacham’s book about Andy Jackson – which is a great book so far. Ol’ Hickory wil (at the very least) be a palate cleanser before I proceed into Ms Lippman’s What the Dead Know

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  91. Gasman said on March 30, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Jeff (tmmo),
    I’ve seen Beck exactly once, on my last trip to Ft. Wayne watching cable at my mom’s house. That was when Beck was still on CNN and I couldn’t believe that anybody could sit through that crap. I lasted maybe 2 minutes. He was so ridiculously histrionic and over the top that he kind seemed like some weird parody of conservative talk TV. He is kind of like Rush Limbaugh and professional wrestling combined.

    If you take Beck’s quote from the article, “I’m a rodeo clown,” remove one word and add an ellipsis, “I’m a…clown,” I would be in total agreement with him. Actually, that kind of editing is par for the course at Fox, so it is entirely appropriate.

    I think it is easy to read WAY too much into his numbers. By his own admission, he is “a rodeo clown.” His schtick is this bizarre, insane moron coming unglued before our very eyes. It also appears to be a carefully crafted act. It is hard to imagine him being able to grow or even retain those kind of numbers indefinitely. His act would seem to have a kind of shelf life built in. Just because people are watching doesn’t mean that he is tapping into to anything.

    The problem I have with this type of programming, is as conservatism gets more desperate and the histrionics get more over the top on Fox shows, inevitably there will be some instance of violence or attempted violence by the deranged kooks that believe it all. We’ve already seen James Adkisson express regret at not being able to kill the 100 people mentioned in Bernard Goldberg’s book, so he sought out what he thought a suitable proxy in a children’s pageant at a church. Their only crime was that they were too liberal for his taste, and therefore, they deserved to die.

    What responsibility does Fox have for scaring these well armed morons shitless? How is this “fair and balanced?” Since it is all about the money, maybe it will take a few lawsuits by survivors to exact financial retribution. That would get their attention.

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  92. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 30, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Yoiks — our proprietor and James Lileks in general agreement!

    The idea that many newspapers might successfully go with a Sunday only print product, and weekday online strikes me as one model that might have some prospects ahead of it. What’s going to be challenging is the inevitable privatization of reporting itself with newsroom cuts — it occurred to me reading an article about baseball coverage (whose provenience i’ve now utterly misplaced) that in baseball towns without a vital newspaper staff, the team itself will necessarily end up assigning a staffer to “follow the team” and write material as a baseball writer once would have, to distribute to news outlets.

    And then what? Should they use it? Will they? And then i tried to imagine what this model would look like in the pharmaceutical industry, or the military — and remembered it’s a phenomenon that’s already been on the move for some time, esp. in the entertainment biz: PR departments create interviews and content of all different sorts, and try to “place” it. The ethical question is when or in what form it’s right to use this kind of press release news article or puff piece profile, and that question is going to be forced over a barrel in the current environment.

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