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Curmudgeon Notes 11.13.13

By Ben L. Kaufman · November 18th, 2013 · Curmudgeon Notes
enquirer"Congratulations, you got your job back." - Illustration: Julie Hill
We voted absentee before flying to Spain late last month. Home again and catching up with election results, I was impressed by the Enquirer’s pre-election link to its accumulated campaign coverage without the misery or cost of its cockamamie archives.

• I went cold turkey for 10 days without Internet, radio or TV news; we were in Spain and my Spanish can’t cope with anything more complicated than directions and food. We did, however, buy some copies of the newly rebranded International New York Times, the former Paris Herald/International Herald Tribune. Lots of good stuff in it but my first delight was the physical paper. None of the Incredible Shrinking Daily. The InternationalNYT is still a true broadsheet, the kind that can cover a breakfast table. 

• With all of the talk about “doing more with less,” it’s time to seriously, thoughtfully resurrect and reconsider the dreaded M Word. It’s not MuthaFuckah. 

No, it’s metro government and metro no longer can be dismissed as an untried fad. Virtues and vices are evident in Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis, Portland (Ore.), Seattle and other regions. 

I’m not a Cincinnati native. I share none of the intense community loyalties that, say, Norwood, Wyoming, St. Bernard, Lockland, Westwood, Linwood and others evoke. Those emotional attachments can sustain what is best in those communities while irrationally resisting efforts to merge redundant, costly services and local government. 

However, we can’t look to elected or appointed officials for an intelligent discussion of metro government. They each and collectively have too much to lose from change. 

Only the Enquirer or growing online reporting staff at WCPO — with their metro audiences — have the human resources to dig into this and present the positives and negatives. 

Tackling metro government is a bigger problem for the Enquirer than WCPO. For years, mentioning metro consolidation of governments and services at the Enquirer was tantamount to admiring FDR, JFK and the Cleveland Browns. That ghastly era ended years ago, largely coincidental with Gannett ownership.

Now, with the Enquirer opinion page telling us how to shape up our communities, let’s see if its publisher and editor, with their personal local ties, can go the next step. 

• Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul took plagiarism hits recently from Washington’s two competing dailies. Poynter.com says the conservative Washington Times was dropping Paul’s weekly column after a series of plagiarism allegations. Poynter quoted the paper saying that Paul and the Washington Times “mutually agreed to end” his Friday column.
The newspaper said it had reviewed his columns and op-ed pieces and had printed a correction to a Sept. 20 column lacking an attribution to a portion that originally appeared in another publication, The Week.

The paper said Paul took personal responsibility for lapses in his writings that were attributed to staffers providing material that was not correctly footnoted. However, Washington Times Editor John Solomon said the paper expects columnists like Paul to turn in original work and attribute properly.

Washington’s other, more liberal and established daily, the Post, said Paul’s column was the latest in a series of plagiarism allegations that have been reported dealing with the Kentucky senator’s speeches and book. “MSNBC first reported on the plagiarism allegations last week, followed by BuzzFeed and Politico,” the Post wrote.

It will be almost four years before we commemorate the centennial of our nation’s 1917 entry into World War I. Meanwhile, news media in countries whose armies marched into industrial slaughter in 1914 are warming up coverage for their centennial next August. It’s telling that the 1914-1918 war was known as the Great War abroad and the War to End All Wars here. WWII  became the Good War. Any nominations for Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan? They weren’t Great, they didn’t make the World Safe for Democracy, and they weren’t Good. Maybe we should leave well enough alone. 

• Speaking of that Great War centennial, when Time Magazine asked for the most important person of the 20th century, I suggested Garvilo Princip. Time ignored me and mistakenly chose Albert Einstein. Princip was the young Bosnian nationalist who killed Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, during an open-car drive through Sarajevo. Princip’s success sparked World War I. That war also killed the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Turkish/Ottoman Empires and left France and Britain so weakened that their empires faded in the aftermath of World War II. Princip’s shots also eventually led to the rise of Nazism and eruption of Communism. Not bad for a gunman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison because he was too young to execute. 

The Nation reviews a new book on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepherd, a young man who became the image of anti-gay hate crime. In his book, The Book of Matt, Stephen Jimenez undermines the popular assumption that Shepherd’s killer was motivated solely by homophobia. Rather, after describing the politicized investigation and prosecution, Jimenez concludes that killer Aaron McKinney and Shepherd both engaged in gay sex but belonged to violent rival drug “families” in the Laramie, Wyo., area. Their criminal/commercial competition, rather than homophobia, was behind the murder. Jimenez spent years developing his evidence, something reviewer Joann Wypljewski appreciates having dug into the story and drug culture herself almost 15 years ago. 

• I don’t assume celebrities are unqualified to speak on public affairs until they demonstrate their incompetence. Why anyone would listen to former Playmate Jenny McCarthy’s bizarre theories linking vaccination and autism is beyond me. Now, Suzanne Sommers is using a Wall Street Journal blog to convince us that Obamacare/Affordable Care Act is evil “socialized medicine.” Her attention to facts rivals Sarah Palin’s. After Sommer’s posting on its blog site, the Journal ran this correction:

“An earlier version of this post contained a quotation attributed to Lenin (‘Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state’) that has been widely disputed. And it included a quotation attributed to Churchill (‘Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens’) that the Journal has been unable to confirm. Also, the cover of a Maclean’s magazine issue in 2008 showed a picture of a dog on an examining table with the headline ‘Your Dog Can Get Better Health Care Than You.’ An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the photo showed and headline referred to a horse.” 

 
 
 
 

 

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