Sunday, September 30, 2007

Growing a Startup

A quick status report... We're GROWING!

Group News Blog made its first post July 1, three months ago tomorrow.

We just broke into the the top 15K List on Technorati which is massively fast growth (there are roughly 8 million blogs ranked on Technorati, plus many unranked.) We have 30K absolute unique visitors as our baseline, and grew by one-third last month.

I've been getting questions as to how GNB is growing so fast, often accompanied with a request I exchange blog links. Primarily, I defer to the concept that "If you write it, they will come" which I deeply believe.


Steve taught us to keep our Blogroll very limited. We modify our roll occasionally, but we like that it fits completely on one screen. Who is on our blogroll? Blogs we visit all the time, writers we personally like, and an occasional wild card. There are sites on our blogroll I hit 15-20 times a day; the same is true for my colleagues.

How to get on our blogroll? Write amazingly well and post great content. When you start getting lots of links from us, you're likely to end up on our blogroll eventually. If we don't give you links, the next time we reorganize our blogroll, you may well drop off no matter if we're friends or you're a big dog among blogs. GNB bloggers use our blogroll on a daily basis. They are truly our working links.

But how is GNB growing so fast?

Read Paul Graham's essays on startups (all of them; one a day till you're done) and Joel Spolsky's essays on software & business (all of them; one a day till you're done, even the ones which seem to just be about software and you don't understand or care about software. Trust me: a) they're all about growing a business, and b) even the one's which aren't, you'll learn something from.)

I have stuff to say and lessons we've learned about how it is we're growing this fast. Yeah, we are pretty much calling our shots (13 ball in the corner pocket) in the sense that this growth is planned, not accidental.

The details -- the what and how -- of our growth, needs to wait:

  • 'Cause it would be the height of hubris to say we've got it wired, before actually, like um, winning the game,
  • I'm at my absolute physical limit and simply don't have anything left to put into laying out how we're doing what we're doing. There is very specific method to our madness. Often several.
  • I'm keeping semi-accurate notes and once we hit at least the 5K list or better, the 2K Technorati list and 50K absolute unique visitors, and I'm getting regular sleep (and if Mary-Sue ain't in Jail, Pregnant and the Creek Don't Rise), then I'm open to discussing how we got there, and
  • It's the writing, fool.
The GNB Bloggers, my perspective:
  • Hubris brings in a perspective on the war which schools me all the time, plus a deep grasp of international & U.S. politics. He's even better in person. Plus he's a serious foodie. As is his wife.
  • Sara is coaching me on finding a possible fill-in for vacation relief, and gives me notes on my essays. She turns out flawless work with professional ease. She's so good I sometimes hate her.
  • Lower Manhattanite leaves me holding my breath each time he posts. Sometimes I spit up on my keyboard; other times I weep. Sometimes both within minutes.
  • And me.
Each of these people is my friend. How fortunate am I?

Our first quarter is over. Our next quarter is beginning.

We know where we're going and are glad you're here with us. I'll call one of our shots in public: No later than one month from now, Halloween/Nov 1, GNB will be on the Technorati 10K list.

Thank you for an amazing first three months. Here's to a terrific fall quarter.
There's more...

Truth, Reconciliation, and Jim Crow 2.0

Double lynching of Abram Smith 19, and Thomas Shipp 18 --Lynched to death in Marion, Indiana August 7, 1930. Photo courtesy

Marion is 45 miles from my father's birthplace in northwestern Indiana. This happened the summer my grandparents got married.

LM's latest post on the Jena outrage brought back to mind a talk I heard Sherrilyn Ifill give back in June (and blogged over at Orcinus at the time). Ifill -- yes, she's Gwen's cousin -- is a civil rights attorney and law professor who was deeply involved in the UN-sponsored truth and reconciliation process that finally allowed South Africa to begin to let go and move ahead. In recent years, she's been bringing that same process to American towns that are trying to put this crap behind them for good. In the wake of Jena, she's got a few things to say that we all need to hear.

Because, see, the thing of this is: Jena and all the rest of its Jim Crow sisters exist for the same reason dysfunctional families keep mangling the souls of their children for generation after generation. The wounds don't heal; they just fester, and keep being re-inflicted over and over. And it goes on for just as long as people keep dancing around those stinking skeletons that have piled up so long in the family closets and attics that you can't even shove any more in there, and are forced to arrange them artistically on the sofa and the in the dining room and anywhere else you can stick 'em -- all the while pretending that nothing ever happened and they're really not there at all. Even the neighbors are in on the ruse. Anybody who dares to mention that your house is festooned with more skeletons than the local Elks Lodge haunted house at Halloween is, by definition, too tacky to understand the aesthetic, and probably a Threat To Our Way of Life, and maybe even at risk of joining the Ghost Party in the attic themselves.

Ifill's job is to get the black and white folks in places like Jena to drag their skeletons out into the street, and start telling each other their stories. Because -- as those of us who are suddenly aware of the deeper meanings of green houses and campus shade trees are disgusted to learn -- the residents of these town, both black and white, still carry the scars of those decades like it all happened last week. Faulkner called it true when he said of the South, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."

Ifill says these things are never going to be past until those old haints are finally called out by name in public, then laid to a dignified rest. And denial and threats and bogeyman stories told to children (like little LM and his Uncle R.) and pretending that "we don't do that kind of thing around here anymore" aren't gonna be the way any of this finally ends.

Working on voting rights cases in the South, Ifill found it peculiar that the black folks she talked to remembered every detail of ancient acts of Jim Crow violence in their towns as vividly as LM's family remembers the ethnic cleansing of Wilmington in 1898. "Everywhere I worked, I heard from my clients about lynchings," she said. "Invariably, they'd tell me about some horrific act of racial terrorism that had happened in the past." Even in places that hadn't seen a lynching since the 1930s, Ifill found that the current black residents had shared memories that were still as fresh as if it had all happened yesterday.

"When I spoke with my [African-American] clients, I deliberately used the word "memories" -- even though my clients often weren't even alive when these things happened," Ifill said. "Still, I discovered that they 'remembered' details in great detail. They'd heard the stories directly from their parents as tales of how to survive life in the towns they lived in." These "memories" were invariably extremely vivid, recalled with such specificity-- where the bodies were found, how the corpses looked -- that even people born years after the event thought they'd been there themselves, even though they knew it wasn't possible." LM's account of his Uncle R's "memories" are right in line with this: those of us who are confronting this for the first time need to know that these stories are common as gospel among African-Americans with rural roots.

Predictably, the whites in town "remembered" things so differently that they might as well have been talking about an entirely different set of events. Ifill found that they had conveniently vague memories, even if they or their kin had been actual witnesses to the lynching. (No: make that especially if they or their kin had been present, and even more so if they'd actually participated.) The differences were stunning. "Nobody knew anybody involved. Usually, the lynch mob comprised 'people from the next county' or 'over the state line' -- people not from around here." (Always, of course, the people from the next county would point the finger right back.) Even when photos were available -- and, see above, photos with discernible faces were very often available -- nobody recognized anybody. "They closed ranks, and never opened them," explained Ifill. "The lynching was not really about their community, so there was nothing to talk about."

Ifill saw this same denial at work when she was in South Africa trying to catalog the crimes of apartheid. "I couldn't find anyone who'd supported the regime. Either they didn't remember, or they didn't know -- it was just all very vague. Whites were living in a fantasy that they didn't know." In South Africa, the truth and reconciliation process demanded that people let go of these fantasies, and deal in facts. The process provided a structured way for blacks and whites to share their memories, name names, agree on a full official record of what had happened, publicly acknowledge that history, settle accounts, restore some basic trust, and then figure out how to move forward together.

And they did it -- because they understood their future as a nation depended on it.

Unfortunately, Ifill says she has yet to see anything like that South African brand of courage and candor anywhere in the US; but she believes is absolutely critical if healing is to occur. When you count us what racism has cost this country in the past -- and stands to cost it in the future -- it's not an overstatement to say that our future as a nation depends on it, too.

Breaking the silence is the first and hardest step. Acts of racial terrorism set up an instant curtain of silence between a town's black and white communities. In the days and weeks after a lynching or purging, it was typical that neither community would speak about it out loud -- even among themselves. Blacks would whisper the details to their children as a warning, which perpetuated the horrific memories for generations. On the white side of town, silence brought deniability, safety from prosecution, and sweet insulation from the hard truth that their civil Christian town could also be beastly and lawless. Newspapers would refuse to report on these events entirely: Ifill quoted one Maryland newspaper advising its readers to "return to normal" as soon as possible after a 1932 lynching -- without even mentioning that anything "abnormal" had occurred.

The silence continued into the churches. In both black and white congregations, nothing would be said on Sunday. White clergy would not challenge the immorality of lynching. Usually, ministers were adamant about not mentioning events at all, especially if their own members had been involved. (They were often in denial about their members' participation.) But black ministers wouldn't like to talk about it, either. Ifill recalled one black minister whose only comment the Sunday after a lynching was a short acknowledgement that "the community has suffered a strain."

And the strain lingers far longer and more strongly than most of us can even imagine. "Trying to talk about these events takes a lot of courage," said Ifill. She knows people who've tried to get these conversations going in recent years, and paid a terrible social price for it. Invariably, opening these conversations -- even after many decades and generations have passed -- deeply, seriously pisses people off. "Sharing the stories means pulling the scabs off. You need to provide psychological support to help people deal with what gets stirred up. It complicates the process, but it's part of it."

Even so: finding the courage to look the truth in the eyes and not blink is absolutely necessary for any kind of healing to occur. Because nothing is going to change until we change the way we tell (or don't tell) these stories. That's what's happening in Jena -- by sheer brute force, in that case -- and it's also what LM is doing when he takes his family's old secret stories and puts them out here on the Web for the rest of us to hear. Ifill notes that these conversations don't always have to be public: they need to happen within families, in neighborhoods, in churches and schools, between races, in private, and in public. The most important thing is that they happen. We gotta start talking. All of us. Everywhere. The ghosts lose their power to haunt when we start calling them out by name.

It's going to take a long time. The formal process of reconciliation will ultimately happen one county, one town, one terrorist act at a time. "I don't think we can have a national conversation on race," Ifill mused. "But we can have lots of local ones." And by "lots," she means thousands, because these stories are everywhere -- not just in the South, but as far north as the covenanted communities of Connecticut and as far west as the logging towns of the Pacific coast and the plantations of Hawaii.

"In any town you recall with some nostalgia, there's most likely some alternative story about your town you haven't heard," Ifill points out, holding up Bill Clinton's home town of Hope, Arkansas as one example. "Hope was the lynching capital of the entire south. I wonder if Bill Clinton's mother knew that?" Of course, the glowing stories of "A Town Called Hope" that accompanied the cultivation of Bill Clinton's personal legend never included this fact. Ifill muses: "I have to wonder: when do we start talking about this?"

Ifill's experiences in South Africa also convinced her that local institutions usually played a huge (but often unacknowledged) role in perpetuating the violence. Churches and businesses, cops and prisons, lawyers and judges, and doctors and hospitals all supported the infrastructure of apartheid. Healing was not possible until these institutions were brought into the conversation, examined their roles, and began to actively find ways to restore the trust they'd lost with the country's black population.

Likewise: Jim Crow was perpetuated through local crimes committed by specific individuals. Allowing people to keep diffusing the responsibility behind that curtain of silence will not heal the wounds. African-Americans are no less wary of both public and private institutions; restoring this broken trust needs to be one of the goals of reconciliation.

And somewhere along the line, we also need to recognize and accept the ways in which these experiences made our grandparents -- both white and black -- the way they are. "Many small-town Americans harbor experiences they've had to swallow and get on with. Truth and reconciliation is largely about putting down those burdens," says Ifill. The process goes more easily if we start by respecting and acknowledging the courage of people who went through these horrible events and survived. Sometimes it helps to have outside facilitators to start and guide the conversation -- people who can take the heat, help people work through the emotions, and then leave town when it's over. Ifill cites the Alliance for Truth & Reconciliation as one group that facilitates this process for communities that are ready to do the work.

LM touches on another of Ifill's observations -- the odd fact that throughout the South, lynchings more often than not happened on the courthouse lawn. Victims were often brought from jails many miles away to the county seat for the occasion. Ifill says, "This was a deliberate choice of venue -- a statement that 'we are in charge of justice; we decide who is guilty and not guilty.'" Lynchings, like all other forms of terrorism, are message crimes: this choice of venue sent a clear message to black communities across the south that the only justice that mattered was mob justice, and that appeals to law would be fruitless. (One of the lynchings she described occurred in the front yard of the judge's house: another message sent, this time to the judiciary, about who was really in control.)

What does reconciliation look like? For one thing, Ifill says, we need to commemorate these events. "This history has largely been erased," she notes. "There are markers for all kinds of things in small towns -- but never for these events. Reparation is about repairing the harm -- and one way to do that is to acknowledge in the public space that these things happened." Other commemorations might include annual remembrance days, community scholarships, and special exhibits in local museums.

It's probably not a coincidence that the last lynchings in the US occurred in the 1950s -- and that two generations have passed in silence, leaving the third one to begin the process of uncovering the truth and cleansing the wounds. This pattern is a familiar one to people who work with adult children of alcoholic or abusive families; and also those who have worked with families who were victimized by the Holocaust or the Japanese internments. The first generation survives, often in silence; to speak of these things is simply too painful to endure. The second generation is often aware of the terrible things that happened; but respects their elders' silence, even as they set about the hard job of reasserting the "normal" life of the family.

In all these cases, it typically falls to the third generation to break the silence, and begin the process of confronting the past and putting the ghosts and skeletons to rest. Since the bulk of overt racial terrorism against black America is now half a century behind us, that third generation is us -- the current cohort of white and black Americans for whom this old history is now just tiresome, and who are sick to tears when we reckon all that gets lost in the vast chasms still separating us.

In a way, the folks in Jena (and elsewhere) who are bringing us Jim Crow 2.0 are doing us a favor. They're forcing all of us to come in there with a bunch of lawyers, the press, and a crowbar, and jimmy open the conversation they've spent the past century desperately trying not to have. Now, finally, maybe we'll get to take a look at the ways racism went underground after the Civil Rights movement -- and dig that fetid shit up before it pollutes yet another American generation.

It's time for this to stop. NOW. We know the history of how we got here. We know that, starting in the 1880s when the black middle class first began to rise, the folks at the top deliberately and specifically set up Jim Crow to prevent to keep propertied whites and blacks from forming a unified front (which was, in fact, happening) that would threaten their political power. It's obscene, stupid, and infuriating that -- fifty years after the last lynching in America -- this simple, ugly racist crap still works just as well to divide us as it did in the 1920s. As long as we don't get ourselves over this shit, the Man wins -- and keeps winning. And we won't have a hope in hell of taking back this country until it stops.

Our ability to create a progressive American future depends, completely and utterly, on whether we can summon the will to confront the past -- to open up our overwhelming load of shared baggage, examine its wretched contents with honesty and courage, and then agree on ways of putting these things in their proper historic place -- always remembered but never perpetuated -- so we can all move forward together, shouldering a much lighter load.

There's more...

Reflections On Being Happy

Scientists aboard U.S. NASA Shuttle Discovery on Mission S116 to the ISS.

“As I've gone through life, I've found that your chances for happiness are increased if you wind up doing something that is a reflection of what you loved most when you were somewhere between nine and eleven years old.”

  • Three-time Academy Award winner Walter Murch interviewed in The Conversations - Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film
  • by Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient

For me it was music.

From age eight through thirteen, I sang in the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus. Under the baton of Jeff Haskell we were world-class artists, touring throughout the United States & Canada, hitting the studio to record, then filming an Easter Special for CBS, touring England & Scotland, appearing on the BBC. We sang in the world's best concert halls and the critics opened their hearts and pens to our young pure voices.

We of course were anything but pure. But I loved music and I had a genuine world-class a first alto. My voice broke two days before I turned 14 and my one year of touring with the TABC Touring Group at 13 was my last. (I am now an adequate baritone, with delusions of singing second tenor. But I had the voice of an angel, if not the temperament.)

Starting at 12 there was sex and violence and by 14.5 it had swept me completely up into a different dangerous world. But before my life was swept up by testosterone, not to settle down into being anything more than a protracted teenager quite literally for 31 years, I was a choir boy and I loved music first before everything.

I didn't think this assignment had much for me. Just thought I could throw it together quickly, then get back to sleep, wake up tomorrow and surf the comment thread, dropping in bits of wisdom occasionally. I'm such a jackass.

Not only has it taken me four hours just to write (so far), the more I dwell in it, the more shit from my past comes up to be dealt with. Aaaargh! Stupid assignment.

I love writing for the Group News Blog. One might say (and I often do) my entire life has been training for this gig. Even two years ago I wouldn't have been ready. I know Lower Manhattanite and Hubris Sonic feel much the same way -- we've spent our entire lives, unknowingly, preparing ourselves for this opportunity.

Working with Fernando Flores, Ph.D. in my late 20s, early 30s was terrific, but I was still an arrogant fool (Yes, more than I sometimes am now. Really. Shut up.) Being on Staff for that LGAT in my mid 20s was amazing (even if they were & their successor company remains massively controversial) but I was screwing everyone who moved and got my ass fired, twice, a very smart move on their part. Still, I loved giving my heart over totally to something (someone), even though in retrospect my trust was naive & misplaced (not good) (and I betrayed my colleagues by screwing around; double not good.) The amount of affection the Staff had for each other, the results we produced inside that trust; astonishing. Like the love veterans have for each other.

Few of my paramedic experiences were joyous, except the moment of delivering babies. In the end I stopped being a medic because I was burned out and no longer competent (Accuracy of 80-85% in most fields is fine. Heh. But I'd lost my edge and just couldn't get it back, and the more we tried the worse I got.) The paramedics in Oakland recognized my symptoms and made me quit. Worked dispatch for a little over half a year (memory fades), then was gone. Took over ten, closer to twelve years for the memories to stop having command value when triggered, waking me up, stop moving for cover on certain noises. I still get crazy about certain drivers (which look like drive-bys in progress), and just hate being inside crowds, especially mall crowds at holidays. I don't watch television or movies which take me back to those long years of being a medic, and I don't stop to help hurt people unless it's serious and there simply is no one else. I'll do what I must when it must be done; otherwise I'm done.

Same with my military tours. I did my duty and that's that. I address military issues here at GNB because it's political and we're a political blog. I work with troubled vets because they're my brothers and sisters at heart.

Without question, the most joy in my life were the years I spent singing for Mr. Haskell. He didn't accept excuses. We either had what it took or we didn't. Credentials? At ten? Don't be silly. Yet he demanded competence of us which would be difficult -- I know now -- of experienced vocalists singing professionally as studio musicians day in and out, or in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. Mr. Haskell believed in us and under his baton we flourished, growing from boys into young teens with confidence and poise quite literally able to take the world stage under spotlights and sing as though the Gods were lending us voice.

And for a few years, they did.

I was happy. I was thirteen years old, music permeated my heart, and I was happy.

Now, here at Group News Blog, thirty-five years later, I am happy. I am forty-eight years old and happy. Even more, I am a full-grown adult, full of joy and love, and have no anger towards anyone, not even those assholes in the Bush Administration. (I am past anger with them at the bottom of everything. I have compassion for the lost souls they are, and for all the souls they've taken with them. Read Maggie for more.)

This work challenges me every day. I'm running a media startup with partners I trust! We have readers I cherish who trust us. (And all but one child has moved out of the house. Heh. Now if they'd just stop bring home stray kittens. Grrr. Including the two-legged kind.) Our dreams for what GNB can become are enormous, yet day to day we are grounded solidly in the hard work of turning out quality journalism. This is joy unbounded. This is waking up happy in a way I long ago forgot was even possible.

GNB Media is the work each of us has spent our life preparing -- to be the kind of human being you trust to bring you truth through noise.

Yet creating this assignment which I though was, um, not for me (jackass; really, it's the only word which fits) I realize even here at GNB where I'm happy for the first time at best since I was in my mid-20s and on Staff (raising children is a different kind of happy; I love my children, but I wasn't ever personally happy in my life since a long long time ago), and at worst, since I was 13, a full 35 years ago... I realized in writing this post, that even now, I don't have music.


I have writing. I have cycling with my children. I have movies which have music. I have photographs; almost every post depends in significant part on the photograph. We have videos we put up. I have books; I've always had books; air, water, books, food. In that order. I have over 700 DVD's here in my room alone, many of them a full year-long series, that is 22 episodes in one DVD case, and probably 50-75 musicals, including The Commitments, one of the best musicals ever made. But I don't have music. And even when I do listen to music -- I have iTunes on my computer with probably 500 songs -- that just isn't MUSIC to me.

Music for me is performing music. Making music, singing music and playing it on the piano, singing it with other people, standing at a microphone and hearing someone count down the beat. Getting a rhythm going off the drums which the piano picks up, the base player joins, then the clarinet comes in with a sweet, soft riff while the horns slide in behind as the backup singers smile sweetly schoolin' all the girls and more than one boy not to mention several stage hands and a assistant producer named Sam. Then the lead singer spins, growwwwls in the mic, tears down the house, and the place goes bug.freaking.wild. Music! What my mom used to do as the Assistant Concert Master in the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, practicing for days and days, then sitting down with 100 other people and bringing it together LIVE for 3,500 people. Or when Elton or George Harrison came to town, Mom playing her violin just off stage in the Tucson Arena, for 20,000.

Music happens at the piano in my living room, alone or in a duet, trio or quartet in the practice room at the Juilliard School, Berklee College of Music, a conservatory, with other people in a rehearsal hall or on stage. Music is something created, something actively listened to, not background listening distracting me from life. When I'm walking, in conversation or focused at work, I don't want music pulling me away. Music is too important for it ever to be background noise from a top-40 computer playlist. It can't be just part of life. Music is life. Before writing, music.

I don't have an answer to this. It's part of why I love Venna Teng SO much. She loves, simply loves playing live. For her, live shows make people happy. Making people happy is music. Music cuts emotionally straight to the bone.

The deeper I go, the more Walter Murch seems right on point. In the midst of everything else... music -- live music: music I perform and listen to -- suddenly occurs as missing.

Damn. Going to have to do something about that.

How about you?
  • Are you happy?
  • Does your work reflect your dreams and aspirations?
  • Do your relationships, at home and in life, bring you joy?
  • In your late childhood - early teens, what did you love most?
  • Does anything in your life now presence what you gave your heart to as a young person?
  • What do you imagine your life might be like if you had that present in your life again?
  • What would it take? What's stopping you? (Chop away all the excuses; now chop away anything that wouldn't stop you if your life or someone you loves was at stake.)
  • Now ask again: How much or how little would it truly take to give your heart away to that which you've always loved?
This week's assignment:
Give your heart away to that which you love, that which brings you joy.

What does this conversation presence for you?
There's more...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Reduction in violence in Basra

Predictably, and we did predict this back in August as an argument for withdrawal. The British pullout in Basra has caused a significant drop in violence. So much so even Bush's general, Petraeus was forced to comment on it.

General Petraeus, giving the Government his own assessment of the way that things are going in the south, said that he had personally blessed the decision to pull out the remaining 500 troops from the Basra Palace base, and was pleased that it had been carried out "in an orderly way". He also said that the level of violence in the city in recent weeks had dropped significantly. -- timesonline
Not that it's all hearts and flowers. There are increasingly reports of cholera outbreaks and still no regular clean drinking water and power issues. There have been a few suicide bombings that threatened the peace but that has seemed to have passed for the moment. There is also an increase in fundamentalism in and around Basra. Billboards with women being painted over, music CD's being banned. This is clearly the Iranian influence. Which is much more pronounced there in the south due to the proximity and many Iranians actually living in Basra. Between that and the support for Shiite leader Moqtada Al Sadr, there is a distinct decrease in social freedoms. Whether this translates into a radical Islamic state ala' the Taliban is unclear. My sense of the Iraqi culture would be no. The Iranians went very strict after their revolution but didn't go near as far as the Taliban. But does Petraeus think that the rise of the Sadrist's is something that should concern us?
General Petraeus said he would not put it at the top of his list, but that it was one of several factors that would dictate when conditions were right for any reduction of forces. "But I wouldn't rank it in any particular order," he said.
Sounds more like he has too much on his plate rather than good assessment. Or maybe he is getting confused by all the spin.

Once again we see (excepting the suicide bombings) removing the irritant, the focal point of the violence, foreign occupiers, causes a reduction in violence. We have seen this in Al Anbar and now in Basra. Remember all the sturm und drang we heard about the Brits pulling out? How they are betraying us and that the area would devolve into a orgy of religious murder and violence. I guess the war bloggers are wrong again. Instead of faking trend lines showing decreases in violence in other areas, the Pentagon and the administration are avoiding drawing attention to these successes because they show that disengagement is clearly becoming the most viable strategy.
There's more...

Traditional Media Sucks, Example #73

CBS Ratings Continue Fall; Couric An Idiot Again

On Monday, September 24, CBS Anchor Katie Couric led off the broadcast with:

President Ahmadinejad of Iran, an enemy of the United States, arrived tonight....
Really? Leaving entirely the matter of her grammar -- is "the enemy of the United States" President Ahmadinejad or Iran? -- since when is it the job of CBS to make these declarations?

Seriously, I want to know. Talk about spinning the news.

(Thanks to both Amygdala and for the Hat tip.)

With stunning journalism such as this, it's no surprise that:
Media Bistro - TV Newser

Who Is TV's Highest-Paid Journo?

It's Katie Couric, according to the new Forbes TV 20 list of television's highest earners. While Oprah Winfrey tops the rankings, five journalists make the list. Couric lands at #14, with a reported $15 million annual salary.

She's followed by Matt Lauer (#17 - $13 million), Barbara Walters (#18 - $12 million), Diane Sawyer (#19 - $12 million), and Meredith Vieira (#20 - $10 million).

Because it makes sense to reward incompetence with higher pay, benefits and career visibility, instead of making compensation dependent upon how well you do your freaking job.

Absolutely no surprise is that CBS's ratings suck. (A quick introduction to television ratings and share points, measured during "sweeps.")
Media Bistro - TV Newser

Evening News Ratings: 2006-2007 Season

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams wins in total viewers, while ABC's World News with Charles Gibson takes the A25-54 demo crown for the 2006-2007 season. The season ran from Sept. 18, 2006 to Sept. 23, 2007.

Network Total Viewers A25-54 Viewers HH Rating
NBC 8,400,000 2,590,000 5.8/12
ABC 8,360,000 2,620,000 5.8/12
CBS 6,740,000 2,140,000 4.7/10
People don't trust the traditional media as we once did:
Mediabistro - TV Newser

Trust... But Verify

From the USA Today/Gallup Poll:

In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media such as newspapers, T.V. and radio — when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly — a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

Date Great Deal Fair Amount Not Much None at All
Sept. 14-16, 2007 9% 38% 35% 17%
Sept. 12-15, 2005 13% 37% 37% 12%
Sept. 7-10, 2001 12% 41% 33% 14%
The new media -- quick responding, personal viewpoint, blogs ranging from GNB to Huffington Post, all the way to sites obsessively focused on a specific issue -- are in many ways a response to the traditional media's failure and identification with the Powers That Be.

I don't trust the traditional media, and the polls say neither do most Americans.

Spin such as Katie Couric's last week -- where one could say she was parroting the Administration's line for them as if it were fact -- is just one of the hundred of thousands of reasons why.

Bad Anchor. No cookie.
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Book Thread, Bitches!

Okay, so Doc' posted up the books he currently is working on getting through below. I just finished reading Juan Coles' book Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East and really enjoyed it. A great read and stunning how the Bush administration has fallen into some the exact same traps that Napoleon did more than 200 years ago. Highly recommended.

These other books were written some time ago but I enjoyed them a lot and also recommend you read them, if you haven't already.

This is about a Leo Marks' experience with the SOE during the war. I liked this book so much I have actually read it 3 times.

John McPhee has alot of books Uncommon Carriers and Founding Fish are just 2 recent ones. My introduction to McPhee was the 1990 title "Looking for a Ship" which is about the U.S. Merchant Marines.

oh, and although I can recommend one of the books Doc is reading "The Zen of Fish". I found "Sushi Economy" interesting but more a collection of magazine articles than a book.

Anata wa? (and you?)

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Friday, September 28, 2007

To Understand Where You Are...You Must Know Where You've Been.

Jena's Tree of Division has been cut down...but the roots are deep, and its seeds have scattered about...

Ever put a pot of sauce on the stove?

You put the flame on low, and it simmers there, with the occasional wisp of steam to let you know that things are actually heating up—but it's actually quite benign for a while. You can look away...maybe start preparing some other things...sip at a glass of wine as you gather yourself. Perhaps you take a phone call, and drift away from the stove for a few minutes—but hey! Just for a few minutes.

And when you come back to the stove, that pot of sauce isn't simmering anymore.'s a bubbling, spattering cauldron of goo. What happened? the heat was on low! Never mind, you turn the burner off, but it's too late—the stove and floor is stained with just-spattered-from-the-pot sauce. It looks like a crime scene. You move to snatch the pot away from the stove, and it's still bubbling—big, fat, steam filled bubbles a' popping away. Pop! POP!

“Owwwww! Goddamn!”

Yes, the boiling sauce has bubbled up and popped a spray of superheated liquid right onto your hand, scalding you—but you can't drop the pot. Take the pain, deal with the mess.

How did this happen? The flame was on low. How did I get burned?

The Jena Six case is just like that pot. The incident itself is a year old, occurring last September and simmering long and low on the stove of America's racial discourse. Simmering until the contents of the pot—the ugly, Jim Crow 2.0 lashing-out, the ensuing reaction of the not-docile local Black citizens, the naked prosecutorial injustice, and the outrage following that, boiled over with the protest of some 15 to 20 thousand defiant people marching on the town of Jena, in a show of solidarity against the “Shhhhh! We don't talk about that 'roun civilized folks” institutionalized racism in the area.

Spatters everywhere, even with attempts by certain parties to douse the flame. On the stove. On the floor. And most painfully, on our hands as we try to “handle it”.

It's got our attention, now.

I was on the phone with Jesse on Wednesday night when the bulletin broke over CNN about the last imprisoned “Jena Six” member Mychal Bell having his case downgraded to the status it should have been in the first place—as a juvenile court case (he was a juvenile when he arrested for the “crime” he is alleged to have committed), and his being released on $45,000 bail after nine months in jail.

Bell you'll recall was jailed initially on attempted murder charges, for being part of a “mob” that beat a White classmate so badly that he went to the hospital, and then to a party later that day. Bell's co-defendants had all had their charges downgraded considerably, and his were too—but the prosecutor, Reed “Extra Starch in Mah Sheets, Please” Walters found it absolutely necessary to see to it that “with a stroke of his pen, he could make (a Black) someone's life disappear.” Thus, his (mis)treatment of Bell. Until that is, 20,000 people descended on his town and shamed him into backing off from his egergious over-stepping.

Of course, having to sit down and eat a heaping plate of Jim Crow kind of made Mr. Walters gag a bit. Actually he regurgitated a helluva lot, especially at his petulant press conference announcing the downgrading of the charges—flanked as you would expect by a bunch of his pasty, fundie pals.

It wasn't “talking in tongues”, but it was pretty damned close:

“I firmly believe that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened,” Walters said of a protest in support of the teens which drew thousands last week. “The Lord Jesus Christ put his influence on those people, and they responded accordingly,” he continued.

Walters' remarks came during a press conference during which he announced he would not challenge an appellate court ruling that 17-year old Mychal Bell, one of teens accused in the attack, should be tried as a juvenile. Bell had originally been convicted of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy charges, but the verdict was thrown out by a Louisiana appeals court earlier this month. Earlier in the news conference, the prosecutor had thanked local Christians for their support.

“The only way -- and let me stress that -- the only way that I believe that me or this community has been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community,” he said. Rev. Donald Sibley, however, a minister from a local Jena church, took exception to Watlers' comments that Jesus was solely responsible for maintaining order.

“I think everyone handled themselves very professionally," he called out from the assembled crowed. "I think it's a shame for you to say only Jesus Christ caused what happened there last Thursday. I think it was behavior of 30,000 people.”

“The only point I was trying to make is that both sides pray,” Sibley told CNN following the news conference.

“I can't diminish Christ at all,” he continued, “but for him to use it in the sense that because his Christ, his Jesus, because he prayed, because of his police, that everything was peaceful and was decent and in order -- that's just not the truth.”

“Obviously, we're serving two different Gods here," he added.” My Bible says that we should be loving.”

Did Prosecutor Walters and Bill O'Reilly take the same “This Is How N*ggers Act” class from an online diploma mill? Where there is—“gasp!”, shock!—and hosannas to the Almighty when Black folks aren't chucking spears and roasting people on a spit in fits of melanin-fueled anger?

And for the record, it shouldn't be lost on you that Walters is sadly, not alone in his proud and nutty abuse of Christian imagery and scripture in the defense of craven, racist misdeeds. You see, the Klan is also plenty fond of debasing the cross and scripture to put their ideology across.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE—if you must)

The backlash against people daring to protest this injustice, which shamed this pissy little bigot and his supporters in the wingnuttosphere has been something to see. They can't believe that the world has changed so much from the un-punished racist idyll their moms and dads reveled in, a mere generation or so ago. And thus, they lose it, spewing JV-level racist nonsense that doesn't even rise to a tenth of the level of the “Deadwood”-class language of their venom spitting forefathers. We're left with the empty equivocating of a Reynolds, and the snarly hisses of the toothless Malkin—who to her credit, has inspired some of her lesser, yapping peers to take a page from her book of personal destruction and give that damned Jena Six “Whut Fer!”

The white supremacist who posted the home addresses of five members of the so-called “Jena 6” on a website says he also plans to reveal the personal information of Rev. Jesse Jackson. He has already posted what he claims are addresses for Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III on his blog, which also carries the Jena addresses.

“I know where Sharpton lives,” Bill White, head of the American National Socialist Workers Party, said in a phone interview late Sunday night. "Jesse Jackson, too.”

On his blog, which is part of Google's Blogger network, White published four separate addresses for Sharpton, including a listing that purported to be the home of the reverend's mother.


“That addresses for my residencies and offices are now publicly listed on the web page of the Neo-Nazi group that continues to list the addresses of the Jena Six and their families is outrageous,” said Rev. Sharpton in an email statement on Tuesday to RAW STORY. Sharpton added that the new development “shows they are now tagging leaders that have come to the aid of the Jena Six.”

“This illustrates why FBI efforts aren't taken seriously,” he continued, referring to a recent announcement from the FBI that it was launching a probe into White's website. “We are in Washington, DC, today asking for intervention by the federal government because this is tantamount to mocking them. It also jeopardizes me and those that travel with me.”

During the call, White stopped short of directly calling for violence against the three civil rights activists, saying only that it was important that those angered by the leaders' support for the Jena students “knew where to find them.”

“I'm just going to put the information up there so people can tell them how they feel,” he said, adding that he had just spoken with members of his “Illinois unit" about "going outside of Jesse Jackson's house.”

White was far less cautious in discussing his posting last week of address and phone information for the five teenagers charged with beating 17-year-old fellow student Justin Barker.

“If they're acquitted,” White said of the black teens, “they should be murdered. Hang them in the public square.“

“Like dingbat, racist, violence-mongering mom, Like dingbat, racist, violence-mongering son”, I guess.

The spatters from the boiling Jena pot landed other places, too. The U.S. Coast Guard is dealing with some tolerant swabbies who “all in good fun” left nooses in the bag of a cadet on board a cutter stationed at the New London, Connecticut base, and in the office of a White superior who held a race relations seminar after the incident.

A Coast Guard probe was unable to determine who left the nooses, said Chief Warrant Officer David M. French, a spokesman for the Coast Guard Academy.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, on Tuesday urged Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen to address the full academy and asked for a more intensive probe.

"Racial discrimination and intolerance have no place in either the Academy or the Coast Guard, and these incidents run directly against the efforts being made to increase diversity throughout the Coast Guard," Cummings said in a statement.

"I have asked Admiral Allen not only to conduct a thorough investigation into the incidents, but also to address the entire academy to convey that such behavior will not be tolerated in the service," he said.


The first noose was left in the cadet's bag July 15 on board the Coast Guard cutter Eagle, French said. The second was found in early August on the office floor of a female officer who had been conducting the race relations training in response to the first incident, he said.

Let me address something here to those who want to compartmentalize things and go “Hey, it's just a piece of's not like somebody got killed or anything”, in their attempt to diminish the depth of feeling that White folks brandishing nooses at Black folks prompts in America.

The noose is not a benign, ironic symbol like the peering eyes and clutching hands of a “Kilroy Was Here” scrawl. The noose, thrust in the face of Black Americans is the ultimate message from a murderous racist.

What it screams to Black folks is, “You will silence yourself. You will cede whatever rights I want you to cede. You will behave, move, walk, stand, work, eat, live where I say you will, or I will kill you and get away with it, as this punishment is extra-judicial

It is the curlicued, bow-mouthed cousin of the hard-sided swastika—both sharing the same evil DNA—death to the perceived inferior because the wielder says so.

The nooses on the now cut-down tree in front of the school in Jena were a message. “Bad things will happen to you if you step out of line and demand equality”. It flies in the face of the democracy and equality America preaches to the world about. This great, and painfully flawed country that we call “home”. My antecedents gave their slave-worked blood, sweat and tears to this land, and for that reason alone, I'm not going anywhere. We're not going anywhere. In spite of what evil people like Prosecutor Walters and his ilk will visit upon us.

And in spite of what his forebears tried to do as well. While reading the Times this week, I stumbled across a review of what looks like a stunning, new documentary. It's called “Banished” and deals with, in light of recent events— you say, interesting subject:

There are ghosts haunting Marco Williams’s quietly sorrowful documentary “Banished”, about the forced expulsion of black Southerners from their homes in the troubled and violent decades after the Civil War. Dressed in what looks like their Sunday best, in dark suits and high-collar dresses, they stare solemnly into an unwelcoming world. A couple ride in a cart along a pretty country road, and others stand awkwardly before houses with peeling paint. There are few smiles. Photography was then a serious business, though being a black landowner, part of a fragile, nascent Southern middle class, was more serious still.

It’s stunning how loudly the dead can speak, and with such eloquence. I couldn’t help comparing these images with those in one of my own photo albums of a large family of stern-looking Midwesterners dressed in what looks like their Sunday best.


Unlike the young men in Mr. Williams’s documentary, my grandfather raised a family and ran a business not far from where his photographs were taken — an upstanding white citizen in a nearly all-white land. The young black men in “Banished” never had the chance to take root. Some were falsely accused of molesting white women and were lynched. We see a few of these dead in other photographs, hanging from trees and lampposts, their bodies sometimes surrounded by a visibly excited white crowd. (A crude sign under one corpse warns not to wake him.) As Mr. Williams explains, his measured voice-over calm as ever, lynching was an instrument of terror, used against blacks as a means of control and “racial cleansing.”


In late 2006 The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., published a series about an 1898 white riot to destroy a political alliance between blacks and poor whites in Wilmington, N.C., where the literacy rates for black men were higher than those for whites. One agitator, a former Confederate soldier and the future mayor of Wilmington, vowed that he and other like-minded whites would never surrender “even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.” What followed was a coup d’état, possibly the only time that a municipal government was toppled in American history. Black residents were murdered; the local black newspaper was torched, and survivors exiled. Reconstruction died, and Jim Crow moved right in.

The Lord moves in mysterious ways...and sometimes he just steps up and slaps you dead across your grille. You may recall in my previous post on Jena: “Do You Understand Where You Are?”, I cited an incident that happened at my Family Reunion in a small town in North Carolina. I noted the following:

There was a note about the local nightspots. Namely, that there were none. Save for the juke joint down the road a piece across from the “Fish Shack”, and of course, the few spots some 35 minutes away in Wilmington. But one of the note's points of interest got some of the young people going. It stated, that after 8:00 P.M., NO ONE WAS TO GO DOWN ACROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS, PAST THE GREEN HOUSE (an actual green-colored house), AS THAT WAS THE DEMARCATION LINE BETWEEN FREE-GOING COUNTRY, AND KLAN TERRITORY.

Doing so was, according to the note, “tempting fate” and “taking your life into your own hands”.

Yes. It was the same Wilmington mentioned in the review. My breath caught in my throat when I read that. “A coup d’état, possibly the only time that a municipal government was toppled in American history. Black residents were murdered; the local black newspaper was torched, and survivors exiled.”

My grandfather was 15 years old when it happened. My father was born 21 years later. Some 200 yards from that “green house”, just a ways west of those railroad tracks. This “ethnic cleansing” occurred a mere 20 or so miles from where my parents grew up. Black folks. People, being told “you do not belong”, “you can not be here will be killed.

I asked my mother about this incident last night. Whether she knew anything about it, or whether it was something that was discussed “down there”. She sighed, and asked with a worried tone, “Why are you asking me about this? What? How did you hear about it?”

I told her that there was a movie out that dealt with it.

“Oh, Lord.” she said. “Really?” She sighed again. “I'm not the person you should be talking to about this. Your Uncle R. can tell you what happened. It was like the boogeyman story for us kids. (Mom is 65 years old) But for your uncles and aunts on your daddy's side...well...they're a little older. They can tell you about it. But I don't think they'll want to. They knew people who were involved.


My Uncle R's table-pounding “Do You Understand Where You Are?” resonates a lot deeper for me now. The family elders warning about the Klan's doings down there carries extra weight. The scalding spatters from the boiling pot that is The Jena Incident have landed everywhere—and now, burned my hand, too. It resonated personally before when I recalled the reunion tale, but in studying the case more, and in my heightened sensitivity through researching it, I have walked headlong into the thicket—at this late day, 2007—of an incident from this country's past I had no idea occurred. A apparition...a haint—that's drifted to and fro for a a hundred-plus years, with its cold, bony hand touching us still.

Touching Jena. Touching us all.

I'll be talking with Uncle R. some time next week. I'll have to frame the discussion carefully. But...I'm going to talk with him. I'll see what comes of it.
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Spineless Democrats

Its more than a year before the election and this is the size of the crowd at a political rally. People are engaged in politics again, and thats a good thing. A really good thing. It also is the reason the beltway Democrats look like spineless cowards. As usual they are behind the times. They think people aren't keeping track of what the are doing or rather what they are not doing. They couldn't be more wrong. They think they can just smile and make some murmuring noises and go harrumph, harrumph that we will be appeased. Look at the size of that crowd. Yes, they went to see Obama, but what they are looking for is change. They believe they are looking at the future. It doesn't involve spineless, do nothing, go along with Bush Democrats.

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Weekend GNB Caption Contest

Click PHOTO to view full size or CLICK HERE to jump to Comic Strip

Questionable Content By J. Jacques, comic strip writer-artist

It's a blogging weekend and we're running a Group News Blog Contest. Create a Caption based on Questionable Content Comic Number 810 (shown above.)

If the winning caption is good enough -- in GNBs' sole editorial opinion, and there are enough entries, not um, just four or five of you -- we'll send something to the winner.

Yes, an actual, physical prize.
(Not some cheap lame-ass virtual prize like we tried to pan off to the winner of our last GNB contest.)

Contest rules:
  • Read the above cartoon. (In full size.)
  • Come up with your own "Worst possible thing you could say."
  • Submit your entry (entries) in comments.
  • You may have as many entries as you want in one comment; just make sure there's a full white-space line between one entry and the next. (Remember to save your work as you go, because if HaloScan eats it, we're not entertaining any whining.)
Winner announced middle of next week.

Winner shipped an ACTUAL PHYSICAL PRIZE. Our choice of:
  • a shiny babble,
  • a book,
  • or the package we got yesterday -- the one with the small air holes addressed to me personally (GNB Liberal Asshole In Seattle), scribbled in Red & Yellow crayon: "Personnel & Confidental -- Non-Vemonous" (sic).
I swear, it's pure coincidence we're running this contest the very next day, plus, what are the odds you're actually funny enough to win?

I'm arguing with Sara we keep the box here; what with Hubris and his onion-following monkeys, she can come down from Vancouver and we can have us some tasty bar-be-cue.

Come on GNBers... Lay it on us. Win a shiny prize.

(Anti-venom not included. All medical expenses and health care the responsibility of a failing U.S. health care system and/or the Presidential Candidate of your choice.)
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Eff The Effing Yankees

photo Mark Garfinkel/in the Boston Herald

This One's For Gilly

I hate the Yankees.

It isn't because the Yankees buy championships.


-- if you haven't yet read Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, order it today; thank me by email telling me how what you've learned makes an enormous difference being successful in your job after you've read it (not kidding; send me an email detailing the difference; a thoughtful letter please. *smiles* I'll explain why once I have your letter. *smiles some more*) --

...Oakland proved a team with very little money can compete against the Yankees consistently at the very highest level.

I don't like the Yankees because they fail to appreciate history. They're playing baseball, by the sacred ovaries of Penélopê, in Yankee Stadium. And they just.don't.get it.

But what ever.

I really don't like the Yankees because they've got A-Rod playing for them. But that's personal. That fuck fucked over Seattle in his last season here, both in terms of production and by lying to us about what we could expect come contract renegotiation.

I'm rushing to get this post out so I don't have time to tell the story of how I, Jesse Wendel, personally fucked over A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, the very first game the next season when the Texas Rangers & Alex came back to town. And don't try and get me to tell you in comments either. Ain't gonna. Either on the front page or nothin. Or, feel free to bribe me with sushi.

Speaking of the goodness of sushi, currently I'm reading:

A fraction of what is on order for the next 30 days:
That's just what I can find on my bed that isn't totally buried under the bed covers, dictionaries, Supreme Court rulings, clippings, screenplays, magazines, and other detritus.

Returning to point...

There are as many reasons to dislike the Yankees as there are baseball fans. But to hate them. To actually hate a team... that takes something special.

I hate the fucking Yankees.

Let's define some vocabulary. NOTE: This will show up again in a GNB essay.

: Linguistically, an assessment; made of someone by a competent observer(s) in a specific domain of action or human concern; an arrogant person claims competence they simply do not have, according to the grounded assessment or interpretation (opinion) of competent observers in that specific domain.

A "grounded assessment" is itself yet another an assessment, grounded both in still other interpretations (opinions) and in assertions (facts.) A grounded assessment by a competent observer in a particular domain is not easily subject to challenge. A better way of saying this might be, "expert witness" or "the opinion of a subject matter expert." All of us rely on grounded assessments all the time, e.g.: an instructor pilot's FAA 6-month check-ride on a 747 in specific type for night-time approaches under emergency conditions, or an oncologist saying, "That is a type-x cancer cell, not a type-y cancer. Therefore we must do cancer treatment z."

Arrogant people may or may not be aware they are not as competent as they claim in the assessment of competent observers in the domain; it is this assessment which by definition makes someone we reflexively think of as arrogant, "arrogant." An arrogant person also may or may not be aware that people think they are arrogant. Blindness to their public identity (full or partial) frequently goes hand and hand with the assessment of arrogance.

Penultimately, it is vital in the way we will speak of arrogance and other distinctions in the GNB Essay Series, to not think of arrogance as something someone IS. Arrogance is a distinction made in language by an observer, grounded in observation of a person's action over time in a specific domain of human action. Someone may be assessed as arrogant in one domain and assessed as a nice gal or nice guy in another domain. No one is perfect at everything. Everyone is a beginner or not even on the mat for learning in something else.

Everyone has the possibility of change. Our personalities, in the way we will speak in this Essay Series, are not fixed or immutable. (Except of course for the fucking Yankees.)

  • Most people think arrogant means, "I think I'm smarter/better than you."
  • It does not.
  • Arrogance means, "I think you're certain you're smarter/better than you really are. And you ain't. Asshole."
I hate the New York Yankees because they are arrogant. They are certain they're better than anyone else just because they wear pinstripes. Doesn't matter if they're batting .200 with 2 dingers in 2 years. "I'm a fucking Yankee. Who the fuck are you?"
Boston Herald

Griffin Whitman, a 10-year-old Red Sox [team stats] fan from Swampscott, was excited to attend his first Yankees vs. Red Sox game Friday night. The young autograph -collector was even more thrilled to score Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan’s signature before the game. That is, until Griffin read the message from the 27-year-old rookie: “Red Sox suck! Shelley Duncan.”
Punch and Jude

Fuck the Fuckin' Yankees, Part MDCLXVIII

Thanks for being such a class act, Shelley.

Yeah, you're a New York Yankee.

Yeah, the Boston fans always give you shit.

But when a kid asks you for an autograph, just be a man, sign the fucking thing, smile at the kid, and go on with your life. Asshole.

The goddam game hadn't even started yet. Way to ruin a kid's night at the park. It's only Monday, and you've won Douchebag of the Week.
He's a kid... A rookie dissed a 10 year-old boy who was thrilled to be at a ballgame.

What a low class scumbag asshole. His mother should slap him. If I did that, my mother would make me come home to Tuscon, grab me by the ear, and knock me silly. Except of course, I'd never do that.

I hope the rookie gets hit with a quarter million dollar fine, titled, "Stop being an asshole."

Gilly -- this one's for you pal: Fuck the fucking Yankees.

PS. I'm running late this morning which is why there aren't two more posts here. Don't think I'll be able to post up till this afternoon. Maybe during my lunch; we'll see. Got to go get Kyle to school now. --jwe
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's A Tough Watch...But You Should Watch It

James Gandolfini's and HBO's “Alive Day Memories”

Every once in a while, I'm struck with a bout of insomnia. I find refuge in TV, seeming to always catch a showing of the execrable Denzel Washington vehicle “Ricochet”, or one of the “Ginger Snaps” trilogy of films.

I couldn't sleep about a week ago, and found myself flipping around, and landed on HBO, at about 2 a.m., and watched the documentary “Alive Day Memories”, produced by “The Sopranos” James Gandolfini. Getting to sleep afterward, was the least of my problems...that wasn't going to happen. It was where it took my mind for days afterward.


If you have issues with seeing the human body in states of post-trauma disrepair, this program is probably not for you. We walk around all day long, and take for granted what out healthy, intact limbs and appendages enable us to do. When you see these soldiers...and their war-broken bodies—sometimes with a momentary flash to a photo of their moments in triage after being injured in will touch something deep inside you. You may have to look away for a moment. You will grind your teeth. You will thank God that you are relatively healthy, and then your mind will wander to thoughts about these soldiers families and loved ones, and you will start to ask how in the hell these people are coping with the events that have so changed their loved one. So altered them visually, tangibly...and worse than that...intangibly, and within.

The term “Alive Day” refers to the day each of these soldiers was injured/damaged in a war event—be it an IED, a sniper's bullet, a vehicle rollover, or witnessing a person you have come to call friend during the hell of war, have their life snuffed out—“whiff!—while mere inches away from you.

The truncated, gnarled and pockmarked bodies will visually arrest you. But what hit me doubly hard was the damage to the psyche of some of the people Gandolfini interviews on the stark set. Prosthetics you see. Sleeves and pant legs tucked and pinned to neatly cover where missing limbs once were, are on display.

But it's the haunting words of these for the most part, young soldiers that will stay with you and echo coldly in your quiet moments. A couple of those interviewed will at first scan as “the lucky ones” , as their physical damage is somewhat less than that of the more egregiously wounded ones on camera. But you need to hear their words. And look into their eyes. Do that—and you will understand the complexity of the damage a war—particularly this criminally unnecessarily war has wrought. You will worry for these young people, and worry even more about the ones yet to come home.

You will see the shattering effects of this war on their bodies, and on their minds in terms of what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder looks like when it's playing out in front of you. Gandolfini does a great job, just letting the soldiers speak, and following them around for a bit as we see them live their lives. And he lets you see it there in the raw.

The anguish...the trepidation...the “this is what I will have to live with from here on out” fear is so thick you can palm it. And whether our so-called “candidates” for the presidency get these soldiers out of there quickly or not (last night's “debate” has tempered any optimism I may have had on that hope in a BIG way), these troops will be coming home someday. All 170,000 of them. And after watching “Alive Day Memories”, your concern will go from “Oh, thank God you're back!”, to “How do we fix the damage that has been done to them, and lessen that damage's effect on us as a whole.

There will be tales that lift your spirit...and tales that will make you cry because you just KNOW that for some of these is going to get a much, much worse.

It isn't family viewing. It's tough. And unflinching. If you have sensitivity issues, again, take a pass.

If you can deal and want to see this eye, and psyche-opening piece of television, here's the upcoming schedule for it.


Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr, Edwards? You can do something should you be elected, to lessen the number of people who will end up like the soldiers shown in this film. Bodies torn, brains skewed, thanks to one man and his handlers' hubris.

Watch this, and don't tell me—tell them—some more of your “I just don't know when we'll getcha home” platitudes, as they suffer in the sand, on your watch, for nothing.

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Boom Chicka Boom

Atomic Bomb Code Name Baker, Bikini Atoll, Height Minus 90 Feet Underwater,Burst 21 kilotons Yield. July 23, 1946 0835 local time. photo US Military.
Atomic Bomb Code Name Baker, Bikini Atoll, Height Minus 90 Feet Underwater,
Burst 21 kilotons Yield. July 23, 1946 0835 local time. photo US Military.

Oh My Gods

The photo shown above is Baker, the second shot of Operation Crossroads, the world's fifth nuclear explosion, third nuclear test, and first underwater nuclear explosion.

Atomic Forum

Baker was the second shot on Bikini Atoll, the location for the nuclear tests fired during Operation Crossroads. The atoll is situated in the Marshall Islands group, in the western Pacific Ocean, some 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii and 4,150 miles from San Fransisco.

Baker Day was 25 July, 1946 and designated shot time was 0835 local. There were 68 target vessels in the array for Test Baker. Twenty-four small craft were beached on Bikini Island. The submarine USS Searaven (which had been submerged on 24 July), partially surfaced later in the day. It was finally resubmerged by 2300 on 24 July. Of the eight target submarines, six were submerged and two were on the surface for the test. Weather was not quite as important for Baker as for Able because the underwater detonation was expected to limit the cloud height and thus localize the radioactivity. Good visibility, however, was important for photography.

Baker was detonated on schedule at 0835 on 25 July 1946. The detonation command was sent by radio using coded signals.

The flash seemed to spring from all parts of the target fleet at once. A gigantic flash -- then it was gone. And where it had been now stood a white chimney of water reaching up and up. Then a huge hemispheric mushroom of vapor appeared like a parachute suddenly opening. . . . By this time the great geyser had climbed to several thousand feet. It stood there as if solidifying for many seconds, its head enshrouded in a tumult of steam. Then slowly the pillar began to fall and break up. At its base a tidal wave of spray and steam rose to smother the fleet and move on towards the islands. All this took only a few seconds, but the phenomenon was astounding as to seem to last much longer.”

- Oberver's account of the Baker detonation from a Navy PBM 15 nmi away
Another aircraft observer reported seeing a major ship "on [its] nose" before it sank and saw a water wave pass over one of the small islands between Bikini and Eneu islands about 2 minutes after the detonation. When the air over the fleet cleared, Arkansas, LSM-60, and four LCTs were not in sight. Saratoga was listing to starboard and her stern was low.

The underwater explosion inflicted heavy damage on the target fleet. Eight ships were sunk or capsized. Eight ships were immobilized or seriously damaged. Generally, ships beyond 1,500 yards were undamaged. Those between 1,100 and 1,500 yards sustained only slight damage. Those between 900 and 1,100 yards suffered moderate damage. Those inside 900 yards were seriously damaged or were sunk.

Baker Video
(Click the link or photo.Takes you to a different page. Start the video from there.)

This color footage of the Baker test shows the explosion from several different angles. The first three sequences were filmed from photographic aircraft; one of these was filmed directly above the explosion. The last two sequences were filmed from photographic towers built on several of the islands surrounding the lagoon. The shock wave wave racing toward the camera position is clearly visible in the last sequence.

Please allow 30 seconds to 2 minutes for video to load depending on connection speed. Adobe Flash is required to play video.
Several weeks ago the Group News Blog reported two stories to you.

First, Oops!, how six hydrogen bombs -- VASTLY more powerful than Test Baker -- were flown across the continental United States slung under the wing of a strategic B-52 Bomber. And no one, apparently, had a clue for hours, possibly even a day.

Second, Dial-a-Bomb, where the initial story being told started to break down, questions were raised, and left unanswered in a very, pretty damn scary way.


Since September 11, 2001, your ability to know when it is appropriate to be legitimately concerned (or afraid) has been systematically fucked with by the Bush Administration for their own political gain.
Aesop's Fables - 210 in Perry's numbering system. (Wikipedia - The Boy Who Cried Wolf.)

The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf

A Shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains. The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.

There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.
*talks calmly*

For 61 years the United States has been told we have perfect Command & Control over our nuclear arms.

On August 29, 2007, the unthinkable happened. The United States of America lost control of a plane full of nukes.

The Front Page of The Washington Post has the story. GNB will tease only; hit the jump to The Post and read the entire story please.
The Washington Post

Missteps in the Bunker

By Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 23, 2007; Page A01

Just after 9 a.m. on Aug. 29, a group of U.S. airmen entered a sod-covered bunker on North Dakota's Minot Air Force Base with orders to collect a set of unarmed cruise missiles bound for a weapons graveyard. They quickly pulled out a dozen cylinders, all of which appeared identical from a cursory glance, and hauled them along Bomber Boulevard to a waiting B-52 bomber.

The airmen attached the gray missiles to the plane's wings, six on each side. After eyeballing the missiles on the right side, a flight officer signed a manifest that listed a dozen unarmed AGM-129 missiles. The officer did not notice that the six on the left contained nuclear warheads, each with the destructive power of up to 10 Hiroshima bombs.

That detail would escape notice for an astounding 36 hours, during which the missiles were flown across the country to a Louisiana air base that had no idea nuclear warheads were coming. It was the first known flight by a nuclear-armed bomber over U.S. airspace, without special high-level authorization, in nearly 40 years.

The episode, serious enough to trigger a rare "Bent Spear" nuclear incident report that raced through the chain of command to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Bush, provoked new questions inside and outside the Pentagon about the adequacy of U.S. nuclear weapons safeguards while the military's attention and resources are devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Three weeks after word of the incident leaked to the public, new details obtained by The Washington Post point to security failures at multiple levels in North Dakota and Louisiana, according to interviews with current and former U.S. officials briefed on the initial results of an Air Force investigation of the incident.

The warheads were attached to the plane in Minot without special guard for more than 15 hours, and they remained on the plane in Louisiana for nearly nine hours more before being discovered. In total, the warheads slipped from the Air Force's nuclear safety net for more than a day without anyone's knowledge.

"I have been in the nuclear business since 1966 and am not aware of any incident more disturbing," retired Air Force Gen. Eugene Habiger, who served as U.S. Strategic Command chief from 1996 to 1998, said in an interview.

A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation's early results show.

The incident came on the heels of multiple warnings -- some of which went to the highest levels of the Bush administration, including the National Security Council -- of security problems at Air Force installations where nuclear weapons are kept. The risks are not that warheads might be accidentally detonated, but that sloppy procedures could leave room for theft or damage to a warhead, disseminating its toxic nuclear materials.

A former National Security Council staff member with detailed knowledge described the event as something that people in the White House "have been assured never could happen." What occurred on Aug. 29-30, the former official said, was "a breakdown at a number of levels involving flight crew, munitions, storage and tracking procedures -- faults that never were to line up on a single day."


Officials familiar with the Bent Spear report say Air Force officials apparently did not anticipate that the episode would cause public concern. One passage in the report contains these four words:

"No press interest anticipated."

'What the Hell Happened Here?'

The news, when it did leak, provoked a reaction within the defense and national security communities that bordered on disbelief: How could so many safeguards, drilled into generations of nuclear weapons officers and crews, break down at once?

Military officers, nuclear weapons analysts and lawmakers have expressed concern that it was not just a fluke, but a symptom of deeper problems in the handling of nuclear weapons now that Cold War anxieties have abated.

"It is more significant than people first realized, and the more you look at it, the stranger it is," said Joseph Cirincione, director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress think tank and the author of a history of nuclear weapons. "These weapons -- the equivalent of 60 Hiroshimas -- were out of authorized command and control for more than a day."

The Air Force has sought to offer assurances that its security system is working. Within days, the service relieved one Minot officer of his command and disciplined several airmen, while assigning a major general to head an investigation that has already been extended for extra weeks. At the same time, Defense Department officials have announced that a Pentagon-appointed scientific advisory board will study the mishap as part of a larger review of procedures for handling nuclear weapons.

"Clearly this incident was unacceptable on many levels," said an Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Edward Thomas. "Our response has been swift and focused -- and it has really just begun. We will spend many months at the air staff and at our commands and bases ensuring that the root causes are addressed."

Some Air Force veterans say the base's officers made an egregious mistake in allowing nuclear-warhead-equipped missiles and unarmed missiles to be stored in the same bunker, a practice that a spokesman last week confirmed is routine. Charles Curtis, a former deputy energy secretary in the Clinton administration, said, "We always relied on segregation of nuclear weapons from conventional ones."

Former nuclear weapons officials have noted that the weapons transfer at the heart of the incident coincides with deep cuts in deployed nuclear forces that will bring the total number of warheads to as few as 1,700 by the year 2012 -- a reduction of more than 50 percent from 2001 levels. But the downsizing has created new accounting and logistical challenges, since U.S. policy is to keep thousands more warheads in storage, some as a strategic reserve and others awaiting dismantling.

A secret 1998 history of the Air Combat Command warned of "diminished attention for even 'the minimum standards' of nuclear weapons' maintenance, support and security" once such arms became less vital, according to a declassified copy obtained by Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists' nuclear information project.

The Air Force's inspector general in 2003 found that half of the "nuclear surety" inspections conducted that year resulted in failing grades -- the worst performance since inspections of weapons-handling began. Minot's 5th Bomb Wing was among the units that failed, and the Louisiana-based 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale garnered an unsatisfactory rating in 2005.

Both units passed subsequent nuclear inspections, and Minot was given high marks in a 2006 inspection. The 2003 report on the 5th Bomb Wing attributed its poor performance to the demands of supporting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wartime stresses had "resulted in a lack of time to focus and practice nuclear operations," the report stated.

Last year, the Air Force eliminated a separate nuclear-operations directorate known informally as the N Staff, which closely tracked the maintenance and security of nuclear weapons in the United States and other NATO countries. Currently, nuclear and space operations are combined in a single directorate. Air Force officials say the change was part of a service-wide reorganization and did not reflect diminished importance of nuclear operations.

"Where nuclear weapons have receded into the background is at the senior policy level, where there are other things people have to worry about," said Linton F. Brooks, who resigned in January as director of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Brooks, who oversaw billions of dollars in U.S. spending to help Russia secure its nuclear stockpile, said the mishandling of U.S. warheads indicates that "something went seriously wrong."

A similar refrain has been voiced hundreds of times in blogs and chat rooms popular with former and current military members. On a Web site run by the Military Times, a former B-52 crew chief who did not give his name wrote: "What the hell happened here?"

A former Air Force senior master sergeant wrote separately that "mistakes were made at the lowest level of supervision and this snowballed into the one of the biggest mistakes in USAF history. I am still scratching my head wondering how this could [have] happened."
For 60 years we have been promised this could never, absolutely never ever happen.

I understand how it is the United States is in a Constitutional breakdown. I understand how our military has been badly damaged through being inside two wars simultaneously. I understand how the politicization of Flag Officer slots by the current administration is slow poison to hearing the truth from flag officers and long-term strategic thinking; the people who are genius level, the one's we need to stay in and dedicate their lives to our Service, just won't play that. They will resign rather after 20 or when asked to put their names to lies. You can destroy an entire military without it being at all obvious, simply by driving the top 15-20 thinkers out of the command & support structure, leaving the "almost as goods" running the show. A military to which that has happened will, quite literally, be slaughtered in the field by a military which has gives its genius full reign. This is the U.S. Military circa 2007.

I know all this.

But never -- not once, not in my wildest fantasy, never in even a passing thought -- did it occur to me, that the United States of America could even for a moment, lose Command & Control of a single weapon of its nuclear weapons. It. Simply. Doesn't. Happen.


This is worse than the United States being at war in Iraq. I'm giving you a professional military judgment. Worse than the roughly 1 million lives lost so far in Iraq.
Ozymandias -- Shelley - (Wikipedia; poem, other links)

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
That's what the United States is trusted with. By everyone.

Yes, we are hated now. The Bush's have put us in the world's doghouse. We may take three generations -- if ever -- to bring us back to that bright and shining city on a hill. We were beloved as no country in the history of the world has been beloved, and in seven years, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have destroyed us.

Today, I do not care.

We may be a decaying giant, a "colossal wreck, boundless and bare."

We sill control more actual direct force than any combination of nations the world knows or has ever known. At the command of the President and conformation from one other person on a very short list, higher animal life will simply cease to exist in large parts of the world. The President can order an entire country razed without a single American setting foot on its soil; afterwards, no human being will be able to walk there without protective gear for decades.
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
And that's just nukes. Every mammal alive could die in weeks to months if the contents of Ft. Meade are ever unleashed. Or not... perhaps just everyone with a particular genetic marker. Or everyone not vaccinated with x.

In the midst of the world hating the U.S. for our actions in the middle east, please understand this:


I didn't say the world trusts the political infrastructure of the U.S. not to nuke Iran till it fucking glows.

No one trusts Dick Cheney; Cheney is a liar who wants to off Iran. No one trusts President Bush; he's an angry self-righteous drunk, a failure of a man who blows with the wind. Hopefully Daddy & Mommy have him under control as well as the Joint Chiefs.

What the world trusts is the U.S. Military in this one specific domain of competence. The world trusts -- from necessity of course but with a 60+ year perfect record -- that we don't fuck up where our nukes are, ever. All that screeched to a halt one month ago.

This isn't the Challenger explosion. We knew space travel was risky. This is something we've been told simply can not happen, Murphy be damned.

This scares me. And I don't get scared. Want to ask your Congressman & Senators something?

Ask them, How the FUCK did this happen?

Be clear, we're talking not about the facts -- the what happened -- but about a deep, bone rotten and dripping with pus to the core attitude -- deep, deep problem which strikes all the way down across not just the U.S. Air Force, but through and through every branch of the service and their authorizing committees.

Yes -- we got nailed with nuclear weapons here. That's the slap-in-the-face can't be mistaken the whole world just bolted out of bed alarm. But that isn't it. What is it is the attitude and the staffing cuts and the attitude and the training cuts and the attitude and the lack of respect by civilians and the attitude and the lack of respect by the media and the attitude and the failure to conduct no-shit penetration testing by op teams determined to rip through and penetrate, instead of "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" testing by teams you know are coming. And the attitude.

It's a fucking farce and it has to stop.

The trust the world has had of the United States for 60+ years and still has in spite of 1 million dead in Iraq -- that our C&C over special weapons is inviolable -- simply is wrong.
  • How did we get here?
  • By when will it be fixed?
  • Who is accountable for fixing U.S. C&C before someone hacks it and, pardon me, uses it to Do.Terrible.Things?
  • We will never be forgiven if this happens.
Want something to be genuinely worried about? Worry about this. I am... And I don't worry.

This scares the shit out of me.
There's more...