Thursday, February 17, 2011

News Trend Alert: When States Go Wild

All of a Sudden, the States Don't Like Being States

Hey, newsies: I'll throw a trend out there before the Tea Party or Bill O'Reilly can lay claim.
Seems the wild and increasingly wacky West is also where governors are choosing to ignore federal laws that they don't feel like enforcing. No matter that that's not the way our system of government works. But don't let the Constitution stand in the way of a populist revolt.
Exhibit A: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he'll defy federal protections for gray wolf packs that he says have been hurting elk herds. He's cheesed off that the wolves haven't been knocked off the endangered species list even though their numbers have grown. So, he's encouraging livestock owners in the northern part of the state to shoot away, federal laws be damned.
That might be that kind of rabble-rousing you'd hear from a rancher, which Schweitzer also happens to be when he's not allegedly running his state. But his day job, for now, is governor. You'd think he'd lead by example. Suffice to say, this won't be a case study in local civics classes.
Ironically, Schweitzer received kudos from groups like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition for an order he signed Tuesday that blocked the importation of bison from Yellowstone National Park to Montana slaughterhouses. As the Associated Press reported:

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread brucellosis to Montana livestock. And he said he was sending a message to federal officials in Washington, D.C., to rein in a diseased bison population that regularly spills out of the park and into Montana.

Caught off guard by the governor’s action, park administrators scrambled Tuesday to craft a response. Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash noted that the slaughter plan was agreed to last month by the Montana Department of Livestock and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. He said past bison shipments did not lead to brucellosis infections in cattle.

You have the sense Schweitzer's falling off the holiday card list at the Department of Interiorl

Then there's Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who said today he won't enforce the federal health care reform law. A judge in Florida last week struck down the law as unconstitutional and Parnell says he considers that the law of the land.
It appears, though, that Parnell's thought processes are suffering seasonal affective disorder. What Parnell doesn't know or is conveniently ignoring is that the judge in Florida Roger Vinson, said the law remained in effect while the ruling goes through the appeals process. And heaven forfend that Parnell would even look at two other federal court decisions that said the law passes constitutional muster.
Of course, Alaska was one of 26 states that was party to the Florida lawsuit. It's nice to be vindicated. Except when you're not. Parnell is not.
Next up: what will the Obama administration do about all these gubernatorial ne'er do wells? And will others join their club? Bear in mind that the only beverage served in these clubs is tea.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Lump in the Throat Comes with the Scores in NYT Sports Section

George Vecsey Profile of Bill Russell Offers a Stunning Vignette

With his usual lyrical prose, George Vecsey stepped away from his New York Times column in Sunday's paper for an excellent profile on Bill Russell, on the eve of Russell receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
As Vecsey notes, Russell is about a lot more than being the best center in basketball history, though that would be enough.
Russell was a shotblocker against all others must be measured now and forever. But as ferocious as he was on the parquet floor of the old Boston Garden for so long, there was a tender side Vecsey was able to reveal when talking about Ruseell and his third wife Marilyn:

He and Marilyn were invited to the Obama inauguration in January 2009, but she was dying of cancer in Seattle. She urged him to go, but when he landed in Washington, he heard she had taken a downward turn, and he got back on a plane.

“We held hands and watched the inauguration,” he said. “We sat there all night, and then I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to take a shower, now wait for me, I’ll be right back,’ and she said she’d wait. Well, as soon as I left she died. So I said to the nurse, ‘She promised she would wait,’ and the nurse said this happens quite commonly. A lot of people don’t want their loved ones to see them die. And so it was like we shared this moment together and she did not want me to see her die.”

If Russell choked up telling this story, Vecsey does not tell us. Suffice to say, more than a few people reading this article must have.

Justice at the Grammys

Arcade Fire Wins Album of the Year for All the Right Reasons

Maybe Grammy voters were feeling generous tonight and wanted to spread the wealth. Or, maybe they just decided to give an award to the group that was most deserving. I know, shocking. Especially at the Grammys.
Whatever. Arcade Fire won best album, for "The Suburbs," much to the bewildered shock of Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson who presented the awarded and clearly had never heard of the group before.

Based on how the evening was going, you had the feeling Grammy was going for tried and true, and have one group run the table, as Lady Antebellum did by snagging Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Need You Now."
Then there was also Lady Gaga, Eminem (both of whom won statuettes earlier) with Katy Perry thrown in for good measure. So, it was a shocker, maybe even to the band. Get over it.
It didn't matter. "The Suburbs" was my go-to album last year, and it's compulsively listenable. I've yet to see the group perform live, but their infectious peformances on "The Daily Show," "SNL" and the Grammys show they can bring it. Moreover, when you hear them interviewed, they seem remarkably unaffected by all the praise that's been heaped upon them. They just want to rock and let you join in on their fun.
And tonight we did.

Friday, February 04, 2011

What's More Amazing, This Column Or The Fact It Got Printed?

Gannett Management Is So Blind, It Doesn't Even See When an Editor is Flipping It the Bird

Gannett Blog printed today a scathing farewell column from Frank DiLeo, who for the second time in two years has been laid off as the sports columnist for The Daily Record, in Parsippany, NJ.
You have to read it on the blog, because the paper didn't post it on the website. No big surprise there, with such passages as:

Those of you who know me well know that I don't put much stock in emotion. But I can't help but to feel like a rube on the midway for thinking that someone as young, talented and loyal as I was would be able to stick with a company after proving time and time again that there was nothing I couldn't or wouldn't do for the good of the corporation.

I've worked through pneumonia many times, bronchitis, pleurisy, broken ribs, migraines, a gallbladder that stopped functioning for six months and many other ailments that I ignored doctors orders to stay home. All for the good of the company. This is where it got me.

Somehow, that made it into the paper. Quite a feat. Either that, or someone screwed up royally. Either way, thanks for fighting the good fight, Frank.

All Gannett papers have had staff reductions, but the company's New Jersey properties have really taken it on the chin. Last month, it was announced that newsroom staff at the DR, the Courier-News in Bridgewater, and the Home-News Tribune in East Brunswick would have their newsroom staffs cut in half. This, after being whacked a couple of times already in the last year, with most copy and design functions being shipped down to the Asbury Park Press.

So, even with the desiccated news holes and lonely newsrooms, there were still dedicated working stiffs like Frank DiLeo who soldiered on. They're pretty much gone now. I suspect the few readers left will notice the difference. Not that Gannett really cares. Why should it start now?