No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post. A copy of this was mailed as a letter to the editor this morning.
My parents always subscribed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, so I grew up around newspapers; they were as regular a part of our household as our cats. As a kid I’d look at the Sunday comics, and later on the 1980 Browns would prompt me to grab the newspaper every day. I first started reading “real” news in 1984, when the front page of the second section had a columnist slot called “Focal Point”. Mike Royko was featured three times a week, and when that year’s Olympics rolled around he touched off a huge controversy with a series of columns about how he and his buddies decided which of the women’s teams to cheer for based on which ones had the nicest butts. (Memorable headline from a column he wrote at the conclusion: “The Bottom Line”) When his column moved inside to the Op-Ed pages I moved with him. So yes, I first started going to the most high-minded section of the paper when my teen eyes were lured there by T&A.
In college I lived a few houses down from a convenience store, and it was my source for a newspaper in the morning, beer in the evening and cigarettes just about any time. I always thought the first of these would be a constant, though I’ve since given up the others. Instead it was interrupted by a couple of years in Tanzania, a wonderful time that unfortunately also required me to substitute my morning newspaper and coffee with short wave radio and indifferently brewed tea. When I got back to America I eagerly resumed my ritual and it has since been a fixture in my life. But it is with genuine sadness I now write that this habit will go the way of the latter two.
I think papers are best for analysis, investigative pieces and long-range, trend-related reporting. Basically anything that can’t be summarized in two minutes gives newspapers an advantage over TV and online reporting (which may end up with its most popular use in the “email the headlines to my Blackberry” model). They seem to be going in the opposite direction though, trying to “prove” they can summarize news as quickly as their electronic competitors. To me that’s a losing game since newspapers will never be as immediate, and it’s a shame that the industry seems to be so rattled by the “gee whiz” novelty of the Internet. A newspaper is an astonishing piece of technology and can deliver a certain kind of news very efficiently. Its basic form hasn’t substantially changed for several centuries for good reason. There seems to be no confidence left in that fact.
Instead they have engaged in a race to the bottom. In the same week the LA Times announced its latest round of cuts the PD gutted itself and called it a redesign. The result is almost literally unreadable. The sports pages seem least affected (make of that what you will) but there is now a single forum page. Competing for space on it are letters, editorial cartoons, editorials, charts, statistics, and syndicated writers. Even distinctive in-house voices like Elizabeth Sullivan’s are increasingly banished to remote electronic outposts. The front section now has lots of little stories delivering little news. Business is a Potemkin section with a front page and nothing behind it, and Arts & Life is a reduced and chaotic mess. Start to finish I now go through the paper in about fifteen minutes.
Over the weekend the public editor wrote “[n]ewspapers do not have the luxury of standing still…The challenging part of that responsibility is that it often runs headlong into a reality that every newspaper editor learns early in his or her career: Readers Hate Change.” His slightly condescending tone seems to put those of us objecting to such wholesale diminishing of the paper with, say, the cranks who were pissed off when Marmaduke was dropped.
”Rightsizing” seems to be the trend, though, and what ails the PD is ailing most newspapers now. But clearly these new models are not designed with people like me in mind. I may well be a dying breed - someone who wants to sit down at a table and spend at least a half an hour every day reading articles (not summaries) and interested in hearing a variety of voices on lots of topics. Maybe the vast majority who plunk down money for a paper want it packaged to go, as convenient to hold and consume as an Egg McMuffin. If papers have no other choice, if they can no longer cater to my kind, I understand even if I’m not very happy about it. But they won’t have me along for the ride anymore either.
Please cancel my subscription.
The following people (and their colleagues in the House) deserve for their current terms to be their final ones based exclusively on their “yes” vote for HR6304. Whether motivated by laziness, cowardice, corruption, contempt for the Constitution, government aggrandizement or some combination these people have disgraced themselves and are unworthy of the offices they hold. This particular vote is so important because in addition to its gutting of the rule of law, contempt for the Fourth Amendment and further establishment of a separate tier of justice for the sufficiently moneyed it is symbolic of the shoddy work that has characterized Congress for several years now. (Note: Kennedy, McCain and Sessions were not present. Kennedy is not on the list because he missed it for medical reasons. The other two are included because if you really think they were opposed to it you may be a candidate for brain surgery yourself.) The HTML for this table is available as a plain text download over here.
For everyone who tried to get the bastards to do the right thing:
“But I tried, didn’t I? Goddammit, at least I did that.”
- R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) - One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Maybe we should send them something. Any ideas?
No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post
LATE UPDATE: Marcy notes that DNI Mike McConnell and AG Michael Mukasey wrote: “As we have previously noted, any FISA modernization bill must contain effective legal protections for those companies sued because they are believed to have helped the Government prevent terrorist attacks in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.” (My emphasis.) Since the companies were doing surveillance before then as well wouldn’t they be subject to civil suits over any lawbreaking prior to 9/11? (Last update: Marcy writes “My guess is the stuff that happened pre-9/11 had more to do with the hardware side of things, and less with the data mining and lack of probable cause. But that’s a guess.” What that means as far as civil suits go is left to more knowledgable people than me. Since there aren’t any lawsuits filed from that period there isn’t any smoking gun we know of. And if I’m not mistaken the statute of limitations is five years, so all this could be moot anyway. As I said, better minds.)
Larisa Alexandrovna has a lovely meditation on patriotism. A naturalized citizen who puts us born here to shame.
According to Salon Richard Myers “helped quash dissent from across the U.S. military as the Bush administration first set up a brutal interrogation regime for terrorism suspects, according to newly public documents and testimony from an ongoing Senate probe.” A few bad apples indeed.
LA Times: “A federal appeals court said Monday that the U.S. military improperly labeled a Chinese Muslim held at Guantanamo Bay an ‘enemy combatant’ and it ordered that he be released, transferred or granted a new hearing.” Your War On Terror dollars at work.
Here’s a quick review of the moral bankruptcy on the right when it comes to civil rights. The story:
A federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that sought to prove President Bush acted illegally in 2001 when he ordered the wiretapping of phone calls between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without court approval.
The only reaction I could find on the right:
I always love it when activists sue over some alleged harm to them, but find that they can only articulate the harm in the most general terms. Was the harm here that they were being wiretapped (because it was believed they were diverting funds to terrorists) or that they knew they were being wiretapped?
(Don Surber didn’t comment directly on it, but he did demonstrate that he’s incapable of understanding a story containing more than one fact.) There’s a good segment of the right that literally does not believe in liberty, as evidenced by a “if you’re not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t worry about being monitored” attitude. In other words, authoritarian. The assumption for those who believe in liberty is that the government doesn’t get to crawl up your ass with a flashlight unless there’s a damn good reason that can be demonstrated in a court of law if need be.
Read this relentlessly dishonest editorial from the Washington Post to get an idea of just how abysmal commentary on the FISA bill has been.
We understand the heartfelt arguments of those who believe that closing the courthouse door to Americans who claim the warrantless wiretapping invaded their privacy rights represents “an abandonment of the rule of law,” as Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said last month.
But the fact remains that no one can claim with certainty that his or her communications were monitored…The telecommunications companies complied with a government request after being assured, in writing, that the activities had been authorized by the president and deemed lawful by the attorney general.
Simply wretched. Cato has a good takedown but this was some seriously low-hanging fruit.
Finally on a non-executive power note, this from our President: “We’re strong dollar people in this administration.” Listen, dummy: The value of the dollar is not something you have faith in like God or WMD in Iraq but something that exists independently of your thoughts on the matter. And if you really want for that value to be high then you don’t spend eight years cutting taxes and increasing spending and ignoring deficits as they mount. The fact that we’re taking our wallets into the bathroom with us in case we’re out of White Cloud is on you, baby, and you ain’t talking your way out of it.