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Richard Scaife — the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who died July 4 — was a complicated and interesting man, politically, personally and philanthropically.

If he had been a Democrat and liberal-funder of nutty leftwing causes like Teresa Heinz, instead of a Republican funder of libertarian conservative think tanks, media and politicians, President Obama would have ordered America’s flags to fly at half mast.

If you want two versions of Richard Scaife’s amazing life — and a textbook lesson in the rank subjectivity of newspapers — compare and contrast the obits written by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Trib:

The PG obit:  Obituary: Richard M. Scaife / Ideologue, philanthropist, newspaper publisher

The Trib obit:  Richard Scaife, conservative champion, newsman & philanthropist, dies 

Decide for yourself who Richard Scaife really was. Good luck.

I worked at both papers — the PG in the 1990s and the Trib in the 2000s. When I decided to defect from the PG to the Trib, the first person I met for an interview was Richard Scaife. I worked my way down the chain of command and, after two years of interviews and dogged persistence on my part, I left the PG one Monday morning, crossed the Allegheny River and began work at the Trib 20 minutes later.

The Trib‘s obit is biased in Scaife’s favor, clearly. It leaves out all of the real-and-imagined dirt, nastiness and controversy, political and personal, all of which is debatable and too complicated for this blog item. It’ll be in someone else’s book someday, not mine. Or in a movie.

But the Trib‘s obit, while spun with loving positivity, gives Scaife his full due as a generous and important man. It also contains lots of mini-eulogies from political big shots like Romney and Jeb Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

For the next week Scaife will be beat up in the mainstream media for his conservative-libertarian politics.

Many creepy liberal pundits and partisans will dance on his grave because he so generously funded the post-Goldwater conservative movement and spent a couple million bucks in the 1990s attempting to bring down the Clintons, who, hilariously, became chummy with him once they were out of power.

Politics, politics, politics. The debate over whether Scaife was the Devil or an angel will, as usual, depend on what your politics are  and it will never die.

Bu what people of every partisan stripe should give Scaife great credit for was making Pittsburgh a competitive two-newspaper town.

Starting in 1993 as the Pittsburgh edition of Scaife’s Greensburg Tribune-Review, his heavily subsidized paper, the Pittsburgh Trib, improved the journalism of the area in countless ways.

Growing slowly, adding talent and steadily improving the quality of its journalism, the Trib applied a strict conservative-libertarian ideology to local, state and national news and politics.

The Trib became a valuable counterweight to the Post-Gazette, which was a union-loving, public-sector loving, liberal Democrat establishment paper that was too cozy for too long with the political and corporate power-brokers of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

The journalism of both papers — news and opinion — was biased to reflect their publishers’ views. But the Trib editorial page (very very much Scaife’s political voice and generally a source of embarrassment/shame for the liberals running the paper’s news side) was not a mindless Republican cheerleader or a right-wing echo chamber.

During the 2000s, when I worked there, The Trib‘s editorials and op-eds were highly critical of any Republican who was insufficiently conservative.

It never got the national credit it deserved, but the Trib, entirely because of Richard Scaife’s positions, editorialized against going to war in Iraq in 2003, wisely/bravely came out in favor of marijuana decriminalization five years ago, and was steadfastly pro-choice.

In 30-plus years of newspaper journalism at the L.A. Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Trib, I worked for and with a lot of good, smart people and a few miserable assholes.

Mr. Scaife, as I called him when he dropped by the office, was always as nice to me as my favorite uncle. He gave me raises, put me on the paper’s masthead as an associate editor and sent me notes of praise for my op-ed columns and feature stories.

Best of all, unlike my previous editors/publishers, he didn’t hold my radical libertarian politics against me. He appreciated them.

Last month, I enjoyed this April 29 post by my buddy Andrew Kirell, Mediaite’s editor in chief, on the highlights of Sean Hannity’s unwieldy, God-awful “Stoned America” panel. However, my Youtube wanderings last night lead me to the full show, and it has to be seen to be fully appreciated, so I am posting it now. Seriously. It’s a sociological marvel.

Earlier in the day, I had been watching last week’s Red Eye episodes and found myself totally annoyed by Gavin McInnes, the only asshole Canadian in human history (except for the guy from Nickelback, I guess). By contrast, McInnes is a God damned individualist hero on this panel. So is Reason ed in chief Matt Welch, who displays honest and awesome anger at the human misery and waste of life the drug was has given us. (Welch rarely seems this pissed off on camera, which is disappointing, because he’s so very good at it.) Comedian Sharrod Small’s complete inability to take Hannity’s seriousness on this issue seriously is also glorious, as is his accusations that the entire Hannity crew probably smoked weed that day.

Kirell dubbed the proceedings a “clown show,” which is fitting. It’s so screamingly obvious who the hacks, the liars, and the morons are here, as well as who is clever, honest, and doesn’t belong in this Reefer Madness sequel. In his post, Kirell highlighted such performance art genius guests as the doctor who makes an insane, incomprehensible comparison between legalizing weed and legalizing slavery, and Fox’s Todd Starnes who seems annoyed when he gets openly laughed at by Welch, McInnes, and Small.

Welch, McInnes, and Small are passionate, and obviously annoyed by the prohibitionist insanity all around them, but they also actually laugh when laughing is appropriate. The most hackish guests manage to both be too dour, and completely dismissive of or at least heavily downplaying the complete disaster and moral horror that has been the war on drugs. They’re awful, and they resemble the kind of people I wouldn’t want to attend a cocktail party with. They come off as a bunch of Helen Lovejoys, as does Hannity himself. But then, that is conservatism in its true form, no matter how much these may crow about individualism, and choice, and freedom in other contexts.

Because of its vileness, the panel ends up being an enlightening look at who is still out there kicking and screaming and worrying about the children in the face of our slow-building sanity in drug policy. But the fact that they are out there at all is important to remember before we celebrate the end of this conflict.

Watch it. I needed to, to remind me of how many obtuse, fundamentally stupid people there are to convince that this drug policy has to end yesterday. And, I suppose, how much calling them idiots is not going to convince them that they are devastatingly wrong.

Watch it, too, if you ever find yourself hating those damn nanny state liberals. These conservatives are their kin. They are siblings, not cousins. Hell, they’re identical twins with slightly divergent interests. They are just a small part of the amalgamation of people who think they know better than you do about running your own life. Republican or Democrat? It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.

US_soldiers_returning_to_America_after_WWIThe Veterans Health Administration — the U.S. Post Office of American health care — has always been awful.

I remember 30 or maybe 40 years ago, when it was just the VA and not the VHA,  hearing vets and others complain about the lousy care, the crummy hospitals, the third-rate doctors.

No surprise. It was and is a government bureaucracy and it acts that way — stupid, slow, inefficient, politicized.  Like army bases and defense contractors, a VA hospital is what every congressperson of both parties always wanted in his/her district.

Now, as the horror stories march forth and the whistles begin to blow louder, we are getting a truer glimpse of the reality of the VA.

Where were the media until yesterday? Where was 60 Minutes and The New York  Times and The Wall Street Journal and CNN? Did they ever think of looking deeply and critically into the VA?

The stupid warhawk Republicans, with their insane love of the military and fear of offending it, should have been all over this subject. They should have been calling for the privatization of the VA decades ago — Oh wait.

Mitt Romney made a halfhearted peep two years ago, saying it should be partly privatized. Mitt was partly right, but the great Paul Krugman, who can’t remember the few things he wrote 20 years ago that were right any more than he can remember the scores of stupid things he says now that he’s the Times op-ed page’s house weasel, was completely wrong.

This is what the Noble-winning, formerly honest economist said about the VHA and Romney’s half-smart idea:

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.

waco_fireToday is the 21st anniversary of the holocaust that killed 76 Branch Davidians at Waco. And though their deaths have been politicized in a thousand different ways by now — and even used as an excuse to commit more mass murder — their deaths were real and they were completely unnecessary. And, regardless of who set the fire or how it happened, the fault lies with the federal agents and government officials who are tasked with legal force and who fell down so colossally on their jobs that day. Waco should be an issue of bipartisan horror, and in some ways it is. But there are people who still refuse to admit that it was more than just a battle cry for the anti-government fringe; that it was real, and it was wrong, and it didn’t need to happen at all.

A hundred years ago, or perhaps a decade, Rachel Maddow seemed like a reasonable, nuanced type of liberal. She and Tucker Carlson — who, even if you are not wild about the Daily Caller, is a fantastic magazine writer in his own right — used to have respectful, interesting debates on Carlson’s MSNBC show. Now Fox has turned MSNBC into the Fox of the Left — though arguably worse, since MSNBC were sniveling hacks during the war in Iraq; Fox at least hates the executive branch half the time — and Maddow has turned into the female Keith Olbermann, with the towering self-satisfaction to match.

I don’t particularly care that Maddow seems to be for some modicum of gun control, or even that she believes some type of federal agency should be in charge of enforcing some of those firearms laws. What disturbs me, and what makes me believe that Maddow has truly crossed over into the realm of pure partisan hack is how she talks about Waco or Ruby Ridge. Maddow seems barely able to recognize that those two tragedies involved the deaths of more than 80 people (including federal agents). She seems to believe that to reference Waco or Ruby Ridge with anger or as a remembrance of what government excess can do is simply a sign of right-wing extremism. Whether she believes that truly, or whether it is part of the act, isn’t really the point.

Though CNN’s shockingly one-sided “documentary” on Waco from last year cannot be beat in terms of excluding information that provides shades of gray or context, Maddow’s bizarre campaign to be best friends with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF, in common use) is still impressive in its dishonesty.

Take her piece from early 2013 about right-wingers who dislike the ATF. Besides making me like the NRA more than I ever have before by mentioning (clutch your pearls!) that they published something that called ATF agents “jack-booted thugs” a mere month after the Oklahoma City Bombing, Maddow also has a bizarre screed about how right-wingers think Waco was a conspiracy.

In the report, Maddow traces the history of fringe candidates in ’92, including Bo Gritz who helped to talk Randy Weaver into surrendering after an 11-day standoff at Ruby Ridge. Or, as Maddow put it a “violent, fatal standoff” — then she cuts to a contemporary news report on the situation, to make sure no larger context is available. The Weaver family is described as “hiding” in the cabin which they lived — that became a cause for the anti-government, far right. (Fine.)

Then she moves onto Waco, making sure to call David Koresh a cult leader (accurate in my mind, but a very loaded term — she says “four members of the cult were killed”) and the Davidians’ home a “compound.” Maddow doesn’t touch the fire controversy herself, she simply cuts to Tom Brokaw on April 19, 1993 talking about the apocalyptic messiah complex of Koresh and heavily suggesting he “took his followers with him.” Again, why bring in any uncomfortable nuance or context from 20 years on, when you can just sum up the situation with a media report from the day of the tragedy? (Sure, the press was kept a mile away and forced to depend on FBI press releases, but that’s no reason not to believe them.)

Now Maddow gets very strange. She says “what happened at Waco was an absolute nightmare. But on parts of the very far right — the anti-government, far-right fringe, it was seen not just as a a nightmare, but as a conspiracy — as a government conspiracy. As something that was ginned up and in fact faked by the government to create a big enough, scary enough, situation that it would justify taking away everyone’s guns.”

Her language choice is fascinating. The tamest possible acknowledgement that Waco equals bad was used — it was “a nightmare.” But then come the dire suggestions that anti-government folk think Waco was a conspiracy. How exactly? That it was a false-flag or something? She doesn’t say what she means exactly, but by merely mentioning “conspiracy” the lens shifts — suddenly viewers are thinking of Alex Jones’s wildest claims, not those found in Academy Award-nominated documentaries.

Some people do think it was a deliberate execution. I believe they are probably mistaken. Waco was “merely” criminal negligence, criminal homicide, assault, and a staggeringly high level of incompetence. But Maddow, by focusing on the unspecified crazies who seem to think Waco was a gun-grabbing excuse, doesn’t have to focus on any of that. She goes on to talk about then-Congressman Steve Stockman who also once wrote a piece on how Waco was an excuse for gun grabbing. This is what outrages Maddow — that a US Congressman would engage in such paranoid fearmongering. Paranoia — only slight paranoia — is the moral failing. Twenty melted children is a “nightmare.”

And now we’re on to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. McVeigh, not a militia member in spite of what Maddow said, went to Waco! He was angry about Waco! He hated the ATF! McVeigh, that asshole, made sure there would always be a tie between being mad about Waco and being suspicious. But someone actually smart — and God knows, Maddow thinks she’s smart, and is certainly book smart — can recognize that there is nothing strange about being horrified at Waco. Maddow doesn’t have the courage to just say she thinks it’s suspicious, she just presents all this in a faux-neutral manner. She thinks Waco was a “nightmare,” so she is fair.

Now, I didn’t follow the beginnings of the standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and agents from the Bureau of Land Management. According to Maddow last Wednesday (and various clips from pundits), Fox News was going a little crazy with the comparisons between Bundy Ranch and Waco. Although any kind of resistance to federal law enforcement instinctively goes there for some people, the comparisons are not always ideal. Certainly, if the Fox News pundits were rubbing their hands together in glee, it could be seen as bad taste — they want dead patriots to prove their own ideological points. (The clip includes comedian Tom Shillue noting that the folks in all these places were a little kooky, so yes, a reasonable government would BACK OFF). Nobody sensible wants that kind of bloodshed to happen again. But Maddow’s objection doesn’t seem to be about the victims of Waco whom she barely acknowledges. No, it’s about Fox News being paranoid about “jack-booted thugs” again. Again, paranoia and fear towards the government is the ultimate moral failing according to the MSNBC queen.

So, to demonstrate her true news bona fides on Wednesday, Maddow spent six minutes letting former ATF agent Jim Cavanaugh spout off about the dangerous cultists that he confronted in Waco. She doesn’t ask one single question that is remotely confrontational. She just lets him talk, then thanks him.

When researching my senior thesis on the media’s unquestioning narrative towards Ruby Ridge and Waco, one chapter in this compilation on Waco stood out and influenced my conclusions — the one that used Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.  I have yet to read the latter work, but in the chapter the authors note that the victims of Waco were not, to use Chomsky’s term on how the media treats certain people, “worthy victims.” They were, as is and was endlessly repeated, members of a cult. They were strange and heavily armed and dared to resist federal agents. The Weavers were racist. Koresh probably molested children.

And, there were no photographs of the Waco victims when they died. Their deaths were simply a burning building a mile away. Hell, before the fire the feds refused to release the video the Davidians shot during the siege to the media because it would humanize them too much.

The same can be said about most war victims, at least where the American press is concerned. This point was raised disturbingly eloquently by none other than Timothy McVeigh back in a 1998 essay. And McVeigh’s crimes at Oklahoma City were captured by the famous photo of the fireman holding a dead toddler. Naturally this made the victims of McVeigh true and worthy ones. Waco didn’t have that. Sam and Vicki Weaver didn’t have that. They were weirdos and victims of law enforcement. They “deserved” it.” Just like foreigners in countries the US chooses to invade.

Had the media been honest at Waco, they would simply have said, “We don’t know what happened, though law enforcement says X.” They didn’t do that. They treated — and continue to treat — law enforcement as ivory tower experts, instead of individuals with their own biases and agendas. And at Waco, where the press were corralled more than a mile away, trusting the very people who were infringing upon their access was particularly lapdog-like.

Maddow is free to advocate for gun control all she likes. But her inability to admit that the victims of Waco and Ruby Ridge were real people, not just dog-whistle causes for the anti-government fringe she fears, makes her a callous hack and a true journalist in the saddest, most craven definition of the word.

The best summation of Ruby Ridge, culturally-speaking, is by bluegrass musician Peter Rowan. Here is Dave Rawlings and Old Crow Medicine Show covering it:

“I got a wife and kids on Ruby Ridge/Please don’t shoot me down.” Human beings were there, human beings died at Mt. Carmel —  this is something Maddow seems completely unable to grasp because it gets in the way of her agenda.

Elizabeth-KolbertElizabeth’s Kolbert’s latest epistle in the April 14 New Yorker is a textbook example of climate change BS posing as journalism.

Her sermon won’t influence anyone, because the only people who will actually read it have already been converted to the AGW faith.

The scary thing is, the typical New Yorker reader — not to mention most journalists — won’t see a thing wrong with Kolbert’s warning that we all have to act fast because the “looming crisis that is global warming”  is no longer looming but is already here.

Kolbert, in case you haven’t heard, is the official High Priest of Climatology at The New Yorker.

Her latest “Talk of the Town”  item, “Rough Forecasts,” is essentially another of her riffs on behalf of maintaining tax subsidies for renewable energy, ending current fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon, toughening up building codes, praying for the recovery of coral reefs and heeding the latest divine revelations, recommendations and warnings of the IPCC.

Kolbert recites the usual silly truths about AGW  that New Yorker editors and readers swallow as a matter of faith — because of humans and their fetish for fossil fuels the reefs are dying, the Arctic ice is disappearing, famines and droughts are coming and Gaia has already gone into her death spiral.

She also points out, with displeasure, that the U.S. government underwrites the use of fossil fuels to the tune of $4 billion a year.

As a libertarian, I’m against all kinds of corporate welfare. I agree with Kolbert that the fossil fuel subsidies should be repealed — along with all those renewable energy subsidies.

But that $4 billion number is either wrong or insignificant. Kolbert’s soul mates at PriceofOil.org put the subsidy number between $14 to $52 billion per year, depending on how it’s figured.

What Ms. Kolbert is referring to, I think, are the $4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies President Obama has proposed cutting from his budget every year he’s been in office  but has never done.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. A lousy $4 billion is chump change in a trillion-dollar U.S. energy sector where hundreds of big and small public and private companies no one has ever heard of pulled in at least $271 billion in profits in 2012.

For a science wiz who yearns to be officially crowned the Rachel Carson of climate change, Kolbert has a history of trouble with hard numbers, big and small.

In 2005 I caught her and her fact-checkers telling her gullible New Yorker readers than one of Greenland’s mightiest glaciers was moving at several miles per hour, not several miles per year.

Her glacial speed trap, as I happily pointed out in a column, was off by a factor of 8,760.  The magazine was forced into running a rare correction confessing its error (arguably my greatest feat in 35 years of newspaper journalism).

Kolbert also goofed up some numbers in 2007 in her profile of Amory Lovins, the famous environmental genius and “natural capitalist” who, unlike Kolbert, prefers practical, pragmatic, market-driven solutions to energy conservation instead of government micro-fiat.

Here’s what I wrote in my Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column:

“After confusingly toting up how many hundreds of billions Americans spend on gas, oil and energy each year, she concluded that ‘In 2007, total energy expenditures in the U.S. will come to more than a quadrillion dollars, or roughly a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product.’

“Quadrillion — Kolbert actually meant ‘a trillion dollars.’ And the annual U.S. GDP is about $13 trillion, not $10 quadrillion, as she implied. This time Kolbert was wrong by only a factor of 1,000.”

Kolbert’s chronic numbers problem isn’t the point. It’s not even really her fault. Copy editors are supposed to save her by catching such embarrassments as speeding ice sheets before they appear in print.

You can’t really blame Kolbert for her apocalyptic climatology or her god-awful politics, both of which make her New Yorker-safe. She is what she is — an G-W alarmist Bible thumper on a mission to save the world.

The people who deserve the blame for Kolbert are the people who run The New Yorker. They’re the ones who feature her relentless proselytizing and moralizing and pass it off as the thoughts of a reasonable journalist.

downloadThe rule about Esquire is the issues with men on the cover are better. Esquire on masculinity is pretentious, but strangely earnest, but also sort of vulnerable at the end of it all. They’re over-thinking manliness, but it’s better than when they get into sonnets on the symmetry of Megan Fox’s face. Esquire on women is dressed-up lad magazine atittude. It’s all about looks, but Esquire swears it’s because these B-list actresses are just so captivating, man. The way they eat their salad in the cafe in which the interview takes place is totally art. Like, sexiness is art. This actress who played minor parts on several network TV shows is like a canvas.

And men are well-dressed, well-fed, well-read; tough, but real, human beings.

The April issue of the magazine — starring Jimmy Kimmel with a sharpie mustache drawn on his face — has an intriguing list, “84 Things a Man Should Do Before He Dies: The Life List.” I figured as a well-dressed, well-fed, well-read, not super tough, but working on it real human lady being, I would see how many manly things I have done so far.

1. Apologize.  Should work on my skills there. But boring.

2. Construction related man stuff, nope. Never ripped down a wall.

3. Lost 15 pounds without talking about it — literally everyone losing 15 pounds should stop talking about it.

4. Take one stunning train trip. The more nights, the better. Done! And awesome.

5. Say “I’m sorry, too” in the middle of a “vicious argument”: Uh, not sure off hand. Boring.

6. Spend an uncomfortable amount of money on a really good suit. I haven’t. But I would.

7. Leave a tip big enough to upset you. I am poor and nice, so yes.

8. No, I have never been to Bonneville Salt Flats, but it sounds great. Possibly even greater than this Charlie Parr song called “Bonneville.”

9. I haven’t taken a little girl to see The Nutcracker, but I have been a little girl who saw it. Hell, I was a little girl who listened to a tape of the songs and made my stuffed animals dance. This was when I was six and thought “rock and roll” was loud and grating.

10. Nearly die, then don’t. I almost died from asthma and pneumonia as a six-month-old, so sure.

11. See a band’s last show ever. Not yet, hopefully. I did see the very last Old Crow Medicine Show concert that Willie Watson played with them, however. Tears. Unmanly tears.

12-13. I lose major man points for not being able to drive.

14. Volunteer. Obligatory entry, and not as much as I should. I should do some Food, Not Bombs. I did pass out Christmas toys in Zagreb once, on the other hand.

15. No, I haven’t taken a tiny sea plane in Vancouver. That sounds like something I would be terrified and delighted to do.

16. Love something other than yourself (with picture of dog). Well, of course.

17. Shoot a Glock. No! But I have shot a Colt .45 and a dang semi-automatic SKS. I think I have more man points than John H. Richardson, who wrote the brief.

18. Write a poem. Fuck yeah, man. I once earned $50 from a poem, which probably puts me in the top three most successful poets of our time.

19-21. Drug and casual sex suggestions. Boring.

22. No, I do not make incredibly important decisions quickly. Nor do I make inane ones. It is not in my genes.

23. Coach kids what? Sports? God help them.

24. Vacations with friends are good, annual ones would be great.

25. I have better than a personal uniform. I have style.

26. I cannot tell a joke. But I will keep telling the one I made up. What do you call a frat boy who enjoys making up new words by putting two together?

27. I haven’t met a lot of newborns, and I haven’t yet held their hands.

28. I have been lost, both on purpose and by accident.

29. No, I cannot change a tire. Have definitely never done it without telling someone.

30. I haven’t toasted my father.

31. Write a country song? Ah, fuck you, Esquire. Stop trying to win my heart. Joke ones, sure.

32.  Build an irresponsible fire. I was with some disreputable 25-year-old punks, and I was 17, but we did have a trespassing bonfire on a muddy night in God Knows Where Woods.

33. Shovel soil onto a casket. Oh, Jesus, Esquire. It will happen, do we need to put on the official list?

34. Take a month off? Not really on purpose.

35. Face your own mortality by taking a physical risk. I have climbed some Montana boulders and hills that were not so safe, and I was not so skillful.

36. Drive cross country the other way — from Great Falls, Montana to Austin, Texas. Great one! I have been across country by bus, train, car, and plane, AND my mom is from Great Falls, but I have not yet done the sideways venture. It’s going on the list.

37. Walk somewhere at least 50 miles away. This has long been on my list. It has to be if you grew up on a diet of children’s books filled with runaway orphans and stranded Alaskan travelers.

38. No, I haven’t been to or climbed Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Sounds Biblical.

39. Drive a Glacier National Park road! Shit, who in Esquire loves Montana this much? Tragically, I haven’t been to Glacier yet.

40.  Hondle. A word I have never heard in my life. It means haggle, basically. I am so bad at haggling that when I saw a $100,000 Reichmark bill for sale at a flea market, I said “I WANT THAT NOW, NO HAGGLING, NOW. TAKE MY MONEY.”

41. Quit your job. I haven’t had a lot of them.

42. Kill your dinner. Not even been fishing. Feel like I should, though.

43. Put your phone down. People always call when you do that. But I love to ignore my phone as much as possible.

44. Be obsessed. Have you met me?

45. Make enemies. Working on it, darling. And all the right ones.

46. Sleep outside, next to a fire. Done. You tend to wake up cold.

47. Sleep outside, in a public park. Not yet. Not even after reading Evasion.

48. Try really fucking hard to be great at one thing. I should try a lot harder.

49. Help to bring life into the world. No thanks. But I would like a puppy. Or to make one in a lab.

50. More driving.

51. I can’t do much while drunk, no.

52. Live your nightmare. Non-specific, but the piece is about dying at a comedy club. No, thank you.

53. I can’t make an old-fashioned, but the last one I had was made by a Southerner who is a foreign correspondent in Haiti. I cam eto his party clutching my Christmas Rye, and he made me one old-fashioned out of the last dregs of it. It was delicious.

54. Never rode a horse. Mom says I rode an elephant in LA once. It was probably well-tethered.

55. I really am not handy.

56. Make a sandwich at three in the morning. This is just an excuse to show Jessica Pare in her underwear. On the other hand, she has a friendly pin-up girl smile and is not posing in an impossible way, and for a man magazine, that is true enlightenment.

57. Swim naked. More Jessica Pare juxtaposition excuses, but again, she looks friendly, not deadly-sexy. Fair enough. And yes I have gone skinny-dipping. Love those cold Montana creeks.

58. I have never busked! Which is part of my sneaking suspicion that I will never be great. Wait, once I was sitting on the sidewalk for my mom and I began fiddling with my viola, because this was after junior orchestra. One of the directors throw a quarter into my case, so there you go.

59-60. Meet your hero/have a hero. I have met several of mine, musical, ideological, journalistic, and otherwise.

61. No, I have never been to that specific place either.

62. Walk away from a conversation you’re not enjoying, without explanation. Yes. It’s hard for the shy, but it’s good practice for the woman getting creeped on at a Justin Townes Earle show.

63. Get fired, with cause. I was much better at that work study in the ELS office at Chatham than the one girl. But dammit, last hired, first fired. She slept at her desk, man!

64. Talk to your father about back in the day. Not for a while, but I was THE child for this sort of story of back in the day.

65. Sail continuously for three days and night on the open ocean. Oh, come now.

66. No, my left hand is rubbish. I am way far from ambidextrous.

67. Never been married, don’t really want the state to endorse my relationship. We’ll see.

68-69. Never hired or fired someone.

70. I still laugh at Cookie Monster, and the lesson from Sesame Street I learn is that eating inanimate objects with glee is hilarious. Enthusiasm. Let’s say I learned enthusiasm.

71. I would be glad to attend the launch of a rocket.

72. Be a true believer, then believe in the opposite side of the thing. Unless I become a fundamentalist or a fascist, seems unlikely to happen.

73. I like LA, and I have always wondered about chicken and waffles, so okay, maybe that one. I will visit that restaurant.

74. Walk around New York City all night. I thought not, but actually Pamela Stubbart, Todd Seavey and I just made it to dawn in January, 2013. Bam!

75. Commit a petty crime. Sneaking into a Pittsburgh city park swimming pool at night. Twice. Very rewarding crime.

76. Reread highschool novels you skimmed. Plan to.

77. Read Huckleberry Finn. I was literally just thinking today I should do this.

78. Read 50 Shades of Grey. Oh stop it, hipster-contrarians.

79. Do something awesome and not get paid for it. Sorry, “refuse to monetize it.” This blog post counts.

80. Have a pair of shoes made. I should, because my leg is all fucked up. Do $700 orthopedic insoles count?

81. No, I will never win an office.

82. I could definitely lose at running for office, but it seems unlikely I will ever bother.

83. I would like to go to Detroit for journalistic reasons, but, uh, it’s a little weird that Esquire thinks you can do most of the things on this list with impunity there.

84. Don’t have a life list. Edgy. Manly and edgy twist there.

Sadly, there is no way to tally your man score at the end. The magazine that published “The Falling Man” and “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” would never be so quantitatively lowbrow, so unliterary, man.

Let’s just say I am relatively manly.

I haven’t ever seen a Cosmo, etc. version of this list, but I suspect it would be 1) have a sweet boyfriend/have kids or don’t, but decide!!! 2) buy clothing that makes you feel good (hint: this thing from our advertisers), 3) A wild stab at topical feminism with “uh, ask for a raise, I guess.”

Esquire‘s life list is both a demonstration of its conventions, and better than it might be, all things considered, and much better than any general interest magazine for ladies. In short, Esquire-y.

approvedThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a pitiful guest op-ed advertisement extolling the importance of young people signing up for ObamaCare on March 19.

Michael Maher of Dormont, PA,  a healthy young man of 27, told how he was saved from a life of certain blindness by the benefits of ObamaCare. He urged all young people like him to heed his tale and sign up for the Affordable Care Act by March 31.

The article’s provenance smells fishy (Maher should look for a career in newspaper editorial writing, if he really wrote it, or send a thank you card to the P-G editor who rewrote it for him).

The article also was cloudy on some of the facts that would have made Maher’s pitch a little less persuasive to those not working on behalf of the Obama administration.

Here’s the comment I lodged at PG online:

So let’s get this straight: A young man of 27 who’s smart enough to craft a perfectly written endorsement/testimonial for the Affordable Care Act was not smart enough to know that he should spend 70 bucks of his own money to have his own eyes checked?

He had to wait until the fabulous ACA came along and saved him from the possibility of a future of blindness? It’s great that he’s only paying 25 bucks a month for his government-subsidized health care; it’s great that his eyes were Ok.

It would have been helpful to have included the price of that “pricey” Optical Coherence Tomography/Nerve Fiber Analysis in his inspiring tale. It’s about $125. A latte a day at his coffee shop, no doubt.

I tried to find out if eye care for adults is covered by the ACA. It is for kids under 19. I’m not going to waste my time looking through the umpteen-thousand pages of the ACA to find out how or if healthy adults are covered.

But it looks like if you qualify for Medicaid, you can get someone else to pay for your eye care. Is our young man on Medicaid? I don’t know. That fact might spoil his testimonial.

What is that 111 dollar tax credit all about — who is paying Highmark for that each month? The state. The feds?

We’ve been told all the “good” things — all the benefits to the recipient — of virtually “free” or heavily subsidized health care. We’ve not heard about the costs.

Someone bears them, but it wasn’t our healthy young man with the suspiciously high op-ed writing skills.

And here’s what Mr. Maher is doing when he’s not writing phony plugs for the subsidized joys of ObamaCare — helping to sign up the Dormont folk for his man Obama’s Affordable Care Act….  

Organizing for Action

South Hills Get Out The Vote Meeting (Neighborhood Team Meeting)
Join us in Dormont as we talk about what’s going on in the campaign in the next two weeks, and how you can get involved in your neighborhood!
Time:
Host:
Michael Maher
Location:
South Hills Office (Pittsburgh, PA)
2895 West Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216

 

ProPublica-LogoDaily Beast has a long, quasi-useful but flawed piece on an alleged victim of gas company greed/evilness/fracking.

It’s from Pro Publica, the journalism outfit that passes off its imbalanced agit-journalism as the work of “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.”

Read it if you care — the headline, of course, contains the f-word to attract attention.

How Chesapeake Energy, the Kings of Fracking, Double-Crossed Their Way to Riches

And here is the comment I put up on the Daily Beast site, asking a few questions and pointing out a few of the holes in Pro Publica’s piece that might, you know, help to put landowner Joe Drake’s troubles in perspective, and, you know, provide some basic facts to help readers judge whether he’s really a victim, a dummy or a tool of tilted journalism:


Joe Drake sounds like a victim.

But how about a little more detail from Pro Publica on what Drake got — total — for his gas.

What did he get per acre from Chesapeake when he signed with them?

How many months did he get his royalty checks and what were they per month? (He got about $60k for a few months; that sounds good — what did he get the first year?) What was the gas volume of his wells? How many actual wells does he have?

Drake must have neighbors — are they getting screwed too? (There are more than 1100 active gas wells in Bradford County.)

Or is he the only unlucky one? How many landowners like him are there? How about some details about their experiences — good and bad. A lot of them are happy to be rich on gas money, I bet.

Generally, if you own 100 acres and the wells have been drilled and are producing gas from the Marcellus, you will be a millionaire: If you have 100 acres in western pa, you get (depending on the market) 2 or 3 or 5 thousand per acre to sign, and then at least 12.5 percent in royalties; in southwestern pa gas companies are now offering $6k an acre to sign — for 10 acres or more — and 18 percent royalties.)

Marcellus wells (which I assume Drake’s well(s) are), don’t last forever like old fashioned vertical fracked wells in shallow reservoirs  — the production levels fall quickly.

Is that what’s going on with Drake’s drop in royalty revenue. I bet it accounts for a lot more than the jacked up transportation costs — but you can’t tell from this article, can you?

“But then, in January 2013, without warning or explanation, the expenses withheld from Chesapeake’s royalty checks for use of the gathering pipelines tripled. Drake’s income dwindled.”

How about a detail here? — like from what price to what price?

Yeah, Chesapeake and its boss seem uniquely sleazy/devious; yeah, the energy companies are evil and greedy; yeah, yeah, capitalism sucks and fracking will create earthquakes or set the planet on fire.

But a lot of basic journalism has been left out in this “investigation.”