Friday, April 30, 2010

Find Barney. Give him the bullet.

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When Thelma Lou is getting robbed by a guy named Shirley (now there's a motive right there) in the real-life Mayberry, you know we must be living in a time somewhere near the end of the world.

And good riddance.

'The following is not public'

The Mobile Press-Register today got its hands on what the government isn't telling you.

It isn't pretty.

If what the experts fear might happen does happen, we will never have seen anything like this. Ever.

I RECOMMEND a good, stiff drink before reading the Press-Register story:
A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could be on the verge of becoming an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf. A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster in the Gulf makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf.

"The following is not public," reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Emergency Response document dated April 28. "Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought."

Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks described were reported to the public late Wednesday night. Regarding the possibility of the spill becoming an order of magnitude larger, Smullen said, "I'm letting the document you have speak for itself."

In scientific circles, an order of magnitude means something is 10 times larger. In this case, an order of magnitude higher would mean the volume of oil coming from the well could be 10 times higher than the 5,000 barrels a day coming out now. That would mean 50,000 barrels a day, or 2.1 million gallons a day. It appears the new leaks mentioned in the Wednesday release are the leaks reported to the public late Wednesday night.

"There is no official change in the volume released but the USCG is no longer stating that the release rate is 1,000 barrels a day," continues the document, referred to as report No. 12. "Instead they are saying that they are preparing for a worst-case release and bringing all assets to bear."

The emergency document also states that the spill has grown in size so quickly that only 1 to 2 percent of it has been sprayed with dispersants.

The Press-Register obtained the emergency report from a government official. The White House, NOAA, the Coast Guard and BP Plc did not immediately return calls for comment made early this morning.

The worst-case scenario for the broken and leaking well pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico would be the loss of the wellhead and kinked piping currently restricting the flow to 5,000 barrels -- or 210,000 gallons -- per day.

If the wellhead is lost, oil could leave the well at a much greater rate.

"Typically, a very good well in the Gulf can produce 30,000 barrels a day, but that's under control. I have no idea what an uncontrolled release could be," said Stephen Sears, chairman of the petroleum engineering department at Louisiana State University.
GOD HELP my home state.

Lovely. Just lovely.

Every time the experts take a closer look at the Gulf oil spill, it gets five times bigger.

And now, according to this story in The Wall Street Journal, we have a true "Holy crap!" moment:

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be leaking at 25,000 barrels a day, five times the government's current estimates, industry experts say.

Basing their calculations on government data and standard industry measurement tools, the experts say the Gulf spill may already rival the historic 1969 Santa Barbara, Calif., and 1989 Exxon Valdez disasters.

The massive spill began washing ashore Friday along the Louisiana coast, reaching the mouth of the Mississippi River delta. The disaster also threatens to blunt new oil drilling along coasts, a politically sensitive issue as Congress debates climate change legislation.

The slick started oozing near Louisiana's fragile islands and barrier marshes overnight. Boats patrolled coastal marshes Friday looking for areas where the oil has flowed in, the Coast Guard said, and the state diverted thousands of gallons of fresh water from the Mississippi River to try to flush out the wetlands.

Reiterating the U.S.'s efforts to respond to the spill, President Barack Obama said Friday that the federal government is "fully prepared" and doing "everything necessary." The president said he has ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to report to him in 30 days on "what if any additional precautions and technologies should be required to prevent accidents like this from happening again."

Sunset on Louisiane

When I was young and full of dreams,
My whole life in front of me.
But things are not always the way they seem,
Some things will always change.

My papa’d been a trapper living hand to mouth,
But when I made shop foreman, I had it all figured out,
I thanked God each and every day
When the industry came to town.

Sunset on Louisianne,
The sun going down on the promised land,
I’ve given you everything I can,
I’ve got nothing left to lose.

Married a girl from Pauché Briide,
Raised a family of Cajun kids,
Nobody did no better than we did,
But things can always change.

My sister lost her baby premature,
And my papa got the sickness that got no cure,
And what they told us about it at the plant,
We could not be sure.

Sunset on Louisianne,
The sun going down on the promised land,
I’ve given you everything I can,
I’ve got nothing left to lose.

Smokestacks burning on the river,
From New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
How can I go on believing
When the won’t tell me the truth.

I take my grand son fishing down at Camanida Bay,
I hope some of this beauty will last,
But, lord, it’s changing so damn fast,
Each and every day.

I love the river and I love the swamp,
The snowy egret and the old bull frog,
But they’re harder to find one and all
Since the industry came to town.

Put this in your Post and stick it

On this blog, I don't, as they say, "work blue."

However. . . .

When I run across the likes of this in Friday's
Washington Post, keeping things clean doesn't seem to do nearly enough justice to the magnitude of the sphincterlicious inside-the-Beltway shit peddling that's America's "new normal":
The worsening oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday threatened not only the shores of five states but also President Obama's plan to open vast stretches of U.S. coastline to oil and gas drilling.

Hours before the spill started washing ashore in Louisiana late Thursday, members of Congress issued new calls for Obama to abandon his plans for expanded offshore drilling, and White House officials conceded that the spreading oil slick could cause the president to rethink his position. "We need to figure out what happened," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "Would a finding of something possibly affect that? Of course."

The outlook in the Gulf of Mexico remained bleak in the wake of the April 20 explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and killed 11 workers. A change in the weather and choppy waters prevented a second burn of oil at sea and slowed efforts by a flotilla of ships to skim the oily mixture from the surface of the gulf, federal officials said. Continuing efforts to use remote-controlled robotic submarines to activate a malfunctioning blowout preventer lying on the sea floor in 5,000 feet of water failed.

The Coast Guard approved an experimental plan by petroleum giant BP, which had leased the rig, to apply chemical dispersants underwater near the places where oil is gushing from three breaks in the well pipes at an estimated rate of 5,000 barrels a day.

In Washington, the White House held a series of high-profile media events aimed at communicating that the administration is fully engaged in the crisis. Obama went to the Rose Garden and said, "While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the Department of Defense, to address the incident."
WELL, there you go.

Because a multinational Big Oil conglomerate was too cheap to install state-of-the-art blowout protectors on its mile-deep oil well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, and because the federal government is too craven to insist they just fucking do it, my home state --
at least according to the experts -- is about to face the biggest environmental, economic and cultural shitstorm ever unleashed on one of these United States.

Well, at least since 1865.
Or 2005, if you're from Louisiana.

In southeastern Louisiana, people are still living in trailers five years after Katrina washed away half the damned region -- and the Army Corps of Shitty Engineers ravaged the rest -- and now they get to watch the fishing industry destroyed perhaps for a generation, the wetlands destroyed maybe forever, the wildlife smothered in a tarry layer of petroleum and a genocidal knife plunged deep into the heart of their very culture.

All because, basically, Gordon Gekko wrote the rulebook for America 2.0.

This is what's happening. This is what may be happening for the next generation . . . or more. And New Orleans --
what's left of New Orleans -- is going to be sitting there with the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico lapping at "hurricane-protection" levees the Army Corps of Shitty Engineers is rebuilding only slightly less shittily than previously.

THE BOTTOM LINE here is that New Orleans is pretty much doomed because America couldn't care less. All we need is a Category 3 to just come close enough -- to the west this time.

Because in the United States today, being in government -- or traded on Wall Street -- means never having to say you're sorry. Or invest in Soap on a Rope.

These are the stakes now as the Crescent City sits under a stinking petroleum haze -- fumes from the black-tar slick just now starting to kill Louisiana's coast. And the livelihoods of its shrimpers. And its oystermen. And its coastal tourism industry.

we live in a Gekko world, so you want numbers, right?

How about this, then: According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the state's fishing industry has a total economic impact of $2.3 trillion.

That's with a "T."

And amid all this -- amid all the implications of all the stuff the g**damn Eastern press can't be bothered to much think about -- we hear from
The Washington Post that this is the most important damned thing about the whole deal:
Hours before the spill started washing ashore in Louisiana late Thursday, members of Congress issued new calls for Obama to abandon his plans for expanded offshore drilling, and White House officials conceded that the spreading oil slick could cause the president to rethink his position. "We need to figure out what happened," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "Would a finding of something possibly affect that? Of course."
I WENT to journalism school. I used to work for newspapers. I know all about the hierarchical design of the "inverted pyramid" method of newswriting. And that, my friends, was the second paragraph.

An entire ecosystem -- and many of the creatures living in it -- may be in the process of being destroyed.
Is this Obama's Katrina?

The culture of southeastern Louisiana is being petro-choked to death.
Will BP be able to weather this public-relations storm?

Thousands of people will lose their jobs -- and a way of life that survived generations but couldn't survive the explosive mixture of Big Oil and the free market.
Will this cause the president to rethink the White House's position on expanding offshore drilling?

Asshat bastards. There's a sea of suffering humanity -- and suffering wildlife -- waiting to slip under the oily waves and these fuckers can't see past the political posturing and Gallup polls.

"We need to find out what happened"
ought to be the epitaph on America's tombstone. Written in oil.

You know,
the oil industry and the ass-kissing politicians just as well could march all of southeast Louisiana at gunpoint to the giant dust bunny that is Oklahoma, and the g**damn national press would be speculating whether the added demand for walking shoes would be a boon for Nike.

Then again, nobody much paid attention to the original Trail of Tears at the time. Cherokees, coonasses, blacks, Croatians, Isleños, Vietnamese . . .
the wogs begin in Northern Virginia, right?

IT'S A DAMN PITY, Louisiana, that over a century ago when you sold your soul to the devil -- or to John D. Rockefeller, I forget which -- you wasted all the money on hookers and booze. And on second-rate schools, second-rate hospitals, third-rate roads and lots of all-pork boondoggles that kept brothers-in-law everywhere in high cotton.

Because right now, as after Katrina, it would be really helpful to have a diversified economy, an educated workforce, a decent infrastructure and a functioning civil society.

But you don't. And you're fucked. And America doesn't give a shit that you're shit out of luck.

That's because America is the devil. It's a self-righteous country full of little satans, and they're -- we're -- all going to tea parties and chanting "Drill, baby, drill!"when we're not tooling around hell in air-conditioned SUVs.

And The Washington Post is riding shotgun.

God, does it suck to be you, or what?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rich Man, Poor Man . . . invisible man

Channel 7 went to the videotape, and its story about Big Mama's was as I expected.

Which means they got about half the story -- the North Omaha half.

KETV didn't notice was the South O half of the story -- a half that may be even more illustrative. Because in South Omaha, it wasn't that the area was ignored completely -- it wasn't -- but what restaurants there were ignored, amigo.

HERE'S WHAT the TV folk reported -- or some of it, at least:
She said her restaurant wasn't the only one in the area left out of the Berkshire Hathaway guide.

"North Omaha is here," she said. "We're on the map. We've been here. Why were we left out?"

Her daughter contacted Warren Buffett's office directly, twice in the last two years, but she wasn't able to get an answer.

After KETV NewsWatch 7 got involved on Wednesday, Barron received a surprising voice mail from the head of Berkshire Hathaway himself.

"Hi, this is Warren Buffett. I was calling Patricia Barron," the message went. "I'd appreciate if you'd give me a call. Thanks."

"I'm just thrilled," she said. "He called me."

She said she plans to ask Buffett to get north Omaha in the loop.

"That I'd like to be included on his list, this year and next year, and that I want him to come down and have a meal at Big Mama's," Barron said.
ALAS, this is a story older than ol' Jim Crow. It, in fact, is as old as the Good Book.

It's as old as Lazarus begging for crumbs from the rich man's table and getting none. And in what might be a nice visual hook for television audiences, it also features the fantastic spectacle of rich people and trying to squeeze camels through the eye of a needle.

Stuff rich white people like

The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha is the epitome of "Stuff White People Like."

Specifically, stuff rich white people like.

And judging by the annual shareholder's meeting visitor's guide, rich folk got no use for soul food restaurants in North Omaha, or for Mexican restaurants owned by actual Mexicans who set up shop in Omaha's Latino quarter. "White" restaurants in South Omaha, on the other hand, are recommended to the Berkshire stockholders and Warren Buffett fanboys. Latino joints are not.

One in "deepest, darkest South O," Piccolo Pete's is among Buffett's faves.

But no El Aguila. No El Alamo. No Maria Bonita. No Taqueria Tijuana, or any of the other authentic-as-you-can-get Mexican eateries up and down S. 24th Street and, indeed, all over South O.

THE SAME goes for an acclaimed soul-food joint in North Omaha -- Big Mama's Kitchen. It's notable enough to be featured on the Food Network, but not notable enough that the Berkshire meeting organizers might think it worthy of wealthy, largely white palates.

Neither was another beloved Omaha joint featured on
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives -- California Tacos. And what might be the connection between two eateries featured on national TV but not featured in the Berkshire visitor's guide?

Could it be proximity to the near north side, otherwise known as "the 'hood"?

In fact, there's not one North Omaha restaurant on the list. Not even a couple of good joints in the affluent Ponca Hills area of town -- nothing, in fact, that you can reach from downtown only by traversing the 'hood.

I'm just sayin'.

Channel 7 has been promoting a story on their late edition about just this tonight. Apparently, Patricia “Big Mama” Barron is not, shall we say, pleased about her eatery's omission from the Berkshire Hathaway guide. Film at 10.

IF ALL THIS turns out to be what my gut tells me it is, you have to wonder about some things.

When I was growing up in the Deep South decades ago, I remember how everybody spent inordinate amounts of time obsessing about "those people." Black people. The N-words.

Obsessing about what they were doing, what they might do to us white folk, and whether they were interested in somebody's white daughter. The rest of the time, white folks obsessed on the best means of maintaining the status quo, which meant keeping the black man -- and the black woman -- down.

But this is a different place more than four decades down the American timeline. We've got more minorities to consider and, besides, the whole George Wallace act is so passé.

Still, it looks pretty segregated to me in Omaha, by God, Nebraska. Very polite, very nice, very civilized . . . and very separate.

And very unequal.

You have to wonder. Wonder what's worse, the Southern obsessions of my youth, or the genteel, upper-class racism of not having to --
or even feeling the need to -- take notice of some people at all.

The accidental Van Gogh

If you're at a party, and you're having a fine time but suddenly get the notion to tell some chick she's fat . . . don't.

It could be that there's a very good reason she packed on a few extra pounds.

Like . . .

YOU CAN just go ahead and file this story from The Associated Press under "People in Lincoln, Neb., Are Just Weird."

And hungry, obviously:
Police say a 24-year-old Lincoln man is missing a chunk of his right ear that was bitten off by a woman who didn't like being called "fat."

Police spokeswoman Katie Flood says officers were called to a Lincoln hospital around 3:25 a.m. Wednesday to talk to the injured man.

He told them that he'd been bitten at a party.

Flood says officers later learned that the injured man and two others had been arguing with other people at the birthday party. Flood says the man or one of his friends told 21-year-old Anna Godfrey that she was fat.

Officers say Godfrey then tackled the man and bit his ear.

Flood says the ear chunk was not found.
NOW, Miss Godfrey -- who is kinda cute for a girl who absolutely, definitely IS NOT fat, not in any way, shape or form . . . no way, no how, no siree, Bob -- is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and must not be prejudged, etc., and so on (and please don't eat my ear).

But if it does turn out that someone saw her putting a little bit of mustard on a chunk of ear and scarfing it down like a Cheez-Whiz canapé, the young lady has just lost the argument.

Real Americans don't 'like' this

My old high school pal (Deleted), for the sake of democracy, really needs to lose his bid for legislature in that upper-Midwest state of his.

There isn't a whack job out there today in the fever swamps of American paranoiac politics to whom he can't pander.

And now, on
Facebook, he "likes" the group page for "ReFounders." ReFounders says it's the "unified voice of Constitutional, Conservative Americans. We are a united movement of pro-Constitution, Conservative women and men of various faiths and traditions, race, ethnicity, age and political affiliation."

SOMEHOW, I don't think Jews or African-Americans need apply. Probably not anyone named Garcia or Gonzales, either.

Here are some photos from the ReFounders
Facebook albums and "fan" photos:

among the "fan" photos is the tea-party's anti-"ObamaCare" staple, the poster of President Obama as an African witch doctor. That, of course, is not racist, because the tea partiers say it isn't.

Just like the following "fan" photo isn't highly anti-Semitic.

LOOK at Hillary Clinton's earring, as well as Joe Biden's and Rahm Emanuel's lapel pins. Each is the Israeli flag.

Follow the link on the bottom of the "artwork" and you'll find your explanation for that.

In brief, the explanation is that the "artwork" is the product of a stone-cold, conspiracy-theorizing, anti-Semitic Holocaust denier named David Dees. Dees says he's not anti-Semitic -- that he actually is "PRO-Jewish, but extremely ANTI-Zionist."

Because, of course, all "PRO-Jewish" people are Holocaust deniers.

Here's some more of his handiwork:

THE DAVID DEES "artwork" appearing on the ReFounders page did not go unnoticed by the page administrator, whose only possible line of defense would be to claim an extreme lack of attention to the picture's detail, as well as a total lack of curiosity about the "artist."

No, to the admin, Dees' whack-job foray into anti-Semitic paranoia instead "speaks volumes, and serves to inspire us."

Click on screenshot to enlarge.

conservatism has come to -- such blind hatred of a sitting American president that it's oblivious to the sorts of demons with which it has hopped into bed. Then again, that first demon, blind hatred, was the killer.

The kooks and the racists and the anti-Semites and the conspiracy nuts are all just icing on the cake.

Therefore, it's really, really important that folks like my old high-school chum never, ever "take back" this country. To the extent that the United States claims moral high ground over Hitler's Germany, Botha's South Africa and Davis' Confederate States of America, this never was the hatemongers' country to begin with.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free press and the 'fun' of sexting

If anyone in the journalism universe is thinking about making the squelching of the March edition of Omaha North's student newspaper a First Amendment cause célèbre . . . don't.

This is no fit hill on which to die.

Take lazy student "journalists" who can't be bothered with more than a single viewpoint. Add an "in-depth" section on sex. Season with prurient photos and a condoms-on-bananas tutorial.

Then leave out all information on -- for just one example -- sexually transmitted diseases. Serve with a side article about the "fun" and risks of "sexting."


You mean "fun" like five years in the state pen on a child-pornography rap if someone forwards an explicit photo to a buddy?

IT TAKES some doing to make prior restraint seem the lesser of evils, but the staff of the North Star just may have pulled off something special here.

No, after
reading this morning's Omaha World-Herald article on the complete lack of professionalism (and good taste) at the North Star -- produced, regrettably, as part of the school's journalism curriculum -- you won't want to be organizing a First Amendment campaign on the students' behalf. Besides, there's also this.
The Omaha North High School journalism teacher has been disciplined after the principal stopped distribution of the March edition of the student newspaper.

A copy of the North Star viewed by The World-Herald included a four-page “In-Depth” section about teens and sex.

The main headline: “Life on the Sheets. Everyone has hormones, but learning how to control them is what matters.”

Articles and graphics focused on sex drive; masturbation; the district's pro-abstinence human growth and development curriculum; the fun and risks of sexting; and how to put on a condom, using a banana in step-by-step photos. Each article was written by a staff member.

There was no mention of the high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in Omaha and no perspective from teen parents or from teens committed to abstinence.

The main photo, taken by a North Star staff member, shows the back of an unidentifiable female, with her partner's hands reaching around her to remove her bra.


Nelson said that the school has a “very diverse student body” and that the material would have been offensive to some North students and their families.

Aerts is “back in the classroom,” Nelson said. She declined to elaborate on how the teacher was disciplined, saying it was a personnel matter.
JOURNALISM ISN'T just about freedom of the press. Journalism is equally about the obligation its practitioners have to their public . . . and to the truth.

If the World-Herald writers have kept faith with
their public and gotten this story right, it's pretty clear North Star staffers violated the trust of the North High audience. And if the March issue of the North Star actually had gotten into the hands of the Omaha North community -- too many of whom know first-hand the serious repercussions of "Life on the Sheets," repercussions the newspaper staff apparently couldn't be bothered to investigate -- that breach could have been even more significant.

Prurience plus sloppy reporting equals misinformation. That's serious matter . . . and serious journalistic malfeasance.

The right to freely put pen to paper -- or type to page, or pixels to a computer screen -- is a lot like the sex act. It is exhilarating. It can be great fun. It is of great import. It is the exercise of tremendous power. It can be an act of love. It can be a wonderful, joyous thing.

Holy, even.

And it also can be exercised irresponsibly, thereby becoming the immediate cause of great pain. Great injustice. Even, you might say, of great evil.

Sex isn't exactly rocket science, despite its potential to blow up in your face if misused.
Ditto for journalism. There are important prerequisites for engaging in either, but they are pretty basic.

The lack of maturity exhibited by the would-be "journalistic" exhibitionists of the
North Star, however, reveals a bunch of snot-nosed kids who obviously have no business experimenting with either.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Goodbye, Magic City, it's hard to die

It's not surprising that The Birmingham News spiked a column about what the latest round of buyouts will mean for the newspaper -- and its readers.

First off, no one likes to air the family's dirty laundry.

Second, more and more newspapers nowadays have a policy of not reporting teen-age suicides for fear of prompting copycats. And to be sure, these are days when newspapers -- the News is just one amid a legion -- seemingly are being led by adolescents hell-bent on "showing the world" by doing themselves in.

How else to explain an John Q. Editor's decision to, in effect, pull the beater into the garage, close the door and just sit there . . . for almost 30 years. Three decades. More than a generation of knowing what was coming down the pike -- what logically
had to come down the pike -- and knowing that if he sat in the car, in the closed garage, for long enough, he and everybody else in the car eventually would leave in a hearse.

Perhaps what's happening to the newspaper industry is just a "cry for help." But to qualify as a cry for help, it seems to me that
you can't keep hanging up the phone every time somebody tries to call 911.

Talk about "teen-age stupid."

IN THAT CASE, maybe it's more instructive to show, before the exhaust fumes have finished their deadly work, what will happen to the loved ones. What is happening to the would-be suicide's innocent friends, passed out drunk in the back seat.

Maybe knowledge, in this case, indeed would be power. Maybe someone would check the garage. Maybe the next angst-filled teen would think twice before "showing the world."

That, I think, is what Birmingham News columnist John Archibald was trying to do. Maybe it was a cautionary tale. Maybe it was something more urgent, like a call to 911.

Whatever the case, Editor Tom Scarritt hung up the phone.

I guess the management of the News, like all the rest of the pissed-off newspaper adolescents out there, would rather you find out what happened from the suicide note. In the ink-stained universe, this is known as the final edition, when the suicide gets to tell the world it used to be a contender.

That "we had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun. . . ."

The suicide never hurts just himself. The suicide is going to drive a stake through your heart, too. And you have a right to know.

Here's John Archibald's column . . . before you get to read another suicide note from the mainstream media.

John Archibald: You have a right to know about News buyouts

It’s hard to look at Ginny MacDonald today and not hear the Neville Brothers in my head, singing their version of that old hymn, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Undertaker, undertaker,
Won’t you please drive real slow?
That Miss Crazy, that you carry,
I sure hate to see her go.
I hate to see her go.

Plus, I want to see the bumper snicker on her hearse. What does it say?

Reports of her death have been greatly exacerbated.

No. Ginny Mac — Birmingham News transportation diva and Driver’s Side columnist — is not exactly dead. Not to you, anyway.

But today is her last day as a full-timer in the newsroom. She’ll keep writing a weekly column on Mondays, but no more front page stories from her about bridge collapses, speed traps or trooper madness.

Why do I tell you this? Because you buy the paper, most of you, and you know Ginny. You have a right to know that she, like so many experienced and trusted news gatherers, has taken a company buyout.

Today is a dark day at The News. It marks the last day not only for Ginny, but for health writer Anna Velasco. By May veteran political writer Tom Gordon — with more stored memory than an iPad — will be gone. So will young Erin Stock.

It’s not just a News thing, it’s a news thing. They tell us, in fact, that our readership is good and ad revenue is rebounding. But technology and economics have worn on profitability in all news operations. Ours is no exception.

But it hurts. In all, since buyouts were offered in 2008, The News has lost more than 500 years of reporting experience. Decorated reporter Dave Parks — who pretty much discovered “Gulf War Syndrome” — went. State editor Glenn Stephens, who could pilot a newsroom through a storm with an even keel, is gone. Food writer Jo Ellen O’Hara left us, as did outdoors writer Mike Bolton.

We’ve lost 32 people in the newsroom. Twenty were reporters, the real workhorses.

That may look small next to losses at the Raleigh News and Observer, which has seen its news staff fall from 250 to 115, or the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which cut 93 news staffers in one chunk last year. But it hurts.

If there is good news, it is that The News still has 125 people working to gather the news in Alabama’s largest newsroom.

Still, we mourn the losses to the News family. We mourn the loss to readers, to this community, to the republic.

As legendary editor Gene Roberts told a group of journalists last week in New York, journalism job cuts are more than economic news. They’re a matter of public interest.

“This not just a problem for journalism, this is a problem for democracy,” he said. “What a democratic society does not know, it cannot act upon.”

He is right. You need to know. Think of what you know of your government, and try to separate it from the news. Alabama’s most notable corruptions — Don Siegelman, Guy Hunt, Larry Langford, Jeff Germany, the 2-year college system — all started with reporters on the ground. Issues such as the county’s bond debt and crime in neighborhoods bubble to light in the press.

Those of us left in the newsroom will keep digging. For readers. For the republic. For ourselves, for Ginny and Dave and Anna.

We believe there will always be a need, and a market, for news.

There better be. News, as Roberts put it, is “democracy’s food.”

“If we are going to come up with solutions, then democratic society has to understand that there is a problem,” he said.

It’s not just our problem.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What dogs do

This is Molly and Scout. Mrs. Favog and I are their pets.

This is what they do as they wait for us to do their bidding on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No place to go, nothing to do

From Facebook:
I live in North Platte Noww. Im only 13 and its boring there is nothing to do.. Whats up with all the drugs people say we do.. Yeah we do hang out at the park but so does everyone else. Its a community we know each other its not a big exciting city, but its a great town to live. We have fun in our own ways. You make friends that you will probably have for a lifetime. I love North Platte.

Kid, everybody thinks the grass is greener somewhere else, but usually it's not.

In Omaha, which is about 20 times the size of North Platte, kids hang out at the park, or at the mall, or in the Old Market and complain that Omaha is boring and there's nothing to do.

You're right, North Platte is a great place. When I lived there nearly 30 years ago, I grew to love the place. I met people who are friends to this day.

Most importantly, I met my wife.

BASICALLY, North Platte took a kid from the Deep South seeing how far away from home he could land a job, and it turned him into a Nebraskan.

For that, I will be forever grateful.

But here's the beauty of a small city like North Platte -- it's big enough to offer opportunities but small enough for a 13-year-old and her friends to make a real difference and accomplish great things.

For example, it's small enough for you and your friends, and maybe your parents, too, to find an underused property -- or maybe an old, rundown building the city would like to tear down or fix up -- and offer your free labor and enthusiasm to fix it up for, say, a youth center. Which would give kids something to do.

Or maybe you could start your own low-power radio station. Or your own North Platte youth-oriented website. Or organize summer showcases for local bands.

Or maybe kids could all get together to volunteer helping the poor or the homeless.

Or maybe you could just ask the Union Pacific whether you could have a paper-airplane flying contest atop the Golden Spike monument.

Actually, that sounds like fun. Even to a 49-year-old.

3 Chords & the Truth: Blue Spanish radios

I've been rummaging around in a box of old reel-to-reel tapes again, and I've found another radio classic from Uncle Favog.

And I suppose I have Woodstock -- or at least the soundtrack LP thereof -- to thank for this glimpse into Unk's foray into middle-of-the-road radio disc jockeying.

And it is this glimpse, preserved on Mylar-backed sound recording tape, that comprises this week's episode of the Big Show, otherwise known as 3 Chords & the Truth.

From what I gather from my uncle, who when this aircheck was recorded was going by J. Favog, he got this gig at one of Omaha's AM old-school giants just a week or two beforehand. And that was about a week after he got fired from KOWH-FM, then known as Radio Free Omaha and now known as defunct.

IT MUST have been the first week of May 1970 when Radio Free Omaha got an advance promotional copy of the Woodstock soundtrack album. Uncle Favog had been much into the seminal 1969 music festival at the time, and gave much attention to it on his overnight shows on KOWH-FM.

So one night when he was running a little late for his air shift, he figured he'd throw it on the turntable and let it track through while he gathered his other music for the overnight. In fact, being a big Country Joe and the Fish fan, he figured he'd start with that band's Woodstock set.

Cool. Live version of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag," preceded by something called The "Fish" Cheer. Must have been "Country" Joe McDonald's humorous commentary on it was raining so much, Max Yasgur's farm was only fit for trout.

Or something.

Uncle Favog never did get to finish that air shift. He was bummed for a while, but got the overnight MOR job by promising to cut his hair and wear a tie to work.

The station didn't have a copy of the Woodstock LP, alas. Where Unk was concerned, that was probably a good thing.

SO LISTEN UP, and listen in, to my old uncle shoehorning his hippie-dippy self into a Frank Sinatra and Jerry Vale world on this vintage recording.

You know, I think "J. Favog" really came to love that gig. He found it counter cultural, in a weird sort of way.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coming this time on 3C&T

Here's a small hint about this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth, coming to this site - and to here, too -- in a matter of hours.

OK, here's another hint (at right).

If you're from these parts -- and by that, I mean Omaha -- you're starting to get warm. And maybe you're starting to get nostalgic, too.

But that's the hint. And the other hint.

And it's coming soon to the Big Show.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.