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The Live Wire, Oct. 18: Mica’s Night Terrors, the Davidsons’ Park and Tea Party Writ

| October 18, 2010

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The News Journal’s Tippen and Josephine Davidson Get a Park

He had a thing for fuzziness.

After all the Davidsons did in their 75 or so years in charge of the Daytona Beach News-Journal–without them, putting “culture:” in the same sentence as “Daytona Beach” would have been a whole lot more of the oxymoron it still is–it comes down to this: Herbert and Josephine Davidson will get a few square feet of glamorized pasture declared a park and named after them today. The park is, ironically, just east of that colossal misnomer, The News-Journal Center, at 221 North Beach Street. That’s the performing arts center Tippen slapped his paper’s name on at a price of $13 million, triggering the battle with Cox, the paper’s minority shareholder, whose name turned out to be the symbolic eponym of the universal screwing that followed, ending in the paper’s ruin and born-again parody of journalism. The building was snapped up by that other ruin in the making, Daytona State College, whose president, Kent Sharples, is in a losing battle with developer Mori Hosseini over Tippen’s crown as the Halifax River’s reigning egomaniac. The dedication of the park takes place at 4 p.m. On Saturday what’s left of the old newspaper managed to devote a few words to the park dedication (actually, 191 words), what’s called a “brief” in the business, though in this case it’s more of a fig leaf for the paper’s contempt. Full-length features and pictures are now reserved for the gel in Tippen’s chair, diminished in every sense of the word.

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John Mica Wants You To Be Scared

For those of you who don’t know–which is to say, sadly but understandably, given the chemical components in play, most of you–John Mica is Flagler County’s representative in Congress, and has been for the last nine terms. For those of you who don’t know (again, most of you), a term in the House of Representatives is two years. Mica is a standard-issue pork-barrel Republican: he votes with the Republican majority almost blindly (there are rare, impressive exceptions). He’s not an ideas man. He’s very good at returning phone calls, taking care of constituents, and grabbing as much federal dollars as possible–the same federal dollars he rails against on the campaign trail–for his district, usually in high-visibility transportation projects, like SunRail. That’s the commuter line to be built from DeLand to points west. He should have an easy time of it getting reelected. But incumbents of long date are in trouble. Maybe he feels like he is, too.

Mica sent this weird email last week: “I need your help. My opponent in this election is running one of the nastiest campaigns I have ever seen. This shouldn’t come as a surprise — Democrats have nothing but a record of failure to run on this year: A failed stimulus, failed bailouts, failed health care reform, failed Wall Street reform — you name it. If Washington Democrats have tackled it, they’ve managed to mess it up.” Nastiest campaign? Heather Beaven? We must be missing something. The problem with the Beaven campaign, from what we’ve seen of it anyway, is that it’s been too polite, too gentle, too deferential to false notions of civility. Where’s the nasty? Her one TV ad is still the same mild, Facebook-inspired “let’s-be-friends” ad she premiered last month. Nasty? That “record of failure” though is impressive: Failed stimulus? Well, yes, it was only half what it should have been, and too stuffed with tax cuts to be effective, so it only prevented a depression rather than lift us out of recession. Failed bailouts? The bail-outs are actually going to be money-makers for the federal government. Failed health care reform? that’s what he calls the first successful near-universal health care reform in a century? Failed Wall Street reform–why, because Mica thought the reform that did pass was not strong enough? It’s a campaign on autopilot, cribbing the same talking points from the same alternate universe Republicans have been living in since 1981.

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The New Palm Coast: Brazil

Want to sell real estate? Condos? Apartments? Rio doesn’t just have the 2016 Olympics. It has boom times in real estate. But they’re doing it differently: Banks are more careful. From GlobalPost: “A burgeoning middle class is scrambling for homes, and banks are handing out mortgages at an unprecedented rate. While property markets in the United States and Europe may be suffering one of the worst slumps in history, some experts say there’s a real estate bonanza afoot in emerging markets such as Brazil. One advantage countries like Brazil enjoy: they’ve largely sidestepped the surge of bad loans that left America awash in foreclosures and toxic debt. “They have their fiscal houses in order better than a lot of Western countries,” said David Lynn, a New York City real estate investor and author of the forthcoming book “Emerging Market Real Estate Investment.” “They took their medicine and I think it’s been paying dividends.” […] The Brazilian banking institution Caixa Economica Federal said this year it expects mortgage lending to jump to $42 billion in 2010, up from $28 billion last year.” The full story.

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Constitutional Corruption: The Tea Party’s False Holy Writ

Newsweek reports on the tea partiers’ (and Christine O’Donnell’s) references to the U.S. Constitution as a “covenant” based on “divine principles.” Don;t fall for it: it’s re-treaded culture warfare. “Contemporary Constitution worshipers claim that they’ve distilled their entire political platform—lower taxes, less regulation, minimal federal government—directly from the original text of the founding document. Any overlap with mainstream conservatism is incidental, they say; they’re simply following the Framers’ precise instructions. If this were true, it would be quite the political coup: oppose us, the Tea Party could claim, and you’re opposing James Madison. But the reality is that Tea Partiers engage with the Constitution in such a selective manner, and for such nakedly political purposes, that they’re clearly relying on it more as an instrument of self-affirmation and cultural division than a source of policy inspiration. […] The truth is that for all their talk of purity, politicians like Palin, Angle, and Miller don’t seem to be particularly concerned with matching their actual positions to the Constitution they profess to worship. For them, the sacred text serves a higher purpose—and in the end, that purpose isn’t hard to pinpoint.

[…] The Tea Partiers belong to a different tradition—a tradition of divisive fundamentalism. Like other fundamentalists, they seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine.” The full tea.

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Facebook in Privacy Breach

“Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found. The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure. […] The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.’s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user’s friends to outside companies. […] The apps reviewed by the Journal were sending Facebook ID numbers to at least 25 advertising and data firms, several of which build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activities.” The full investigation.

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Rick Sanchez’s Prejudices—and Mine

Shankar Vedantam in Slate tries to find his inner bigot: “Every year in the United States, fatigue, confusion, and carelessness conspire to offer us a teachable moment about prejudice. Every year, we blow it. […] Other research has shown that at an unconscious level, huge majorities of Americans (including sizable numbers of African-Americans) are biased against blacks. Huge numbers of women, as well as men, value men’s professional contributions more than they value women’s professional work. Large majorities of gays, Arabs, and people with disabilities have unconscious biases against people from those groups. […] In nearly every incident, people say prejudiced things while under pressure or when they are distracted, inebriated, or exhausted. Unconscious attitudes, in other words, tend to surface when the conscious mind has its hands full dealing with something else. This is exactly how psychologists unearth unconscious biases in experiments: They disable the conscious mind. […] The people who make the news are the ones who call women “bitches,” blacks “niggers,” or gays “faggots.” Conscious prejudice still exists. But it is a vanishingly small part of the problem. The real challenge is unconscious bias. No one builds museums and memorials to its victims, however, because the perpetrators don’t wear swastikas or string people up from trees—they are ordinary, well-meaning people like you and me.” The full story.

Wikileaks’ Next Bomb: Iraq

From Wired: “The Afghanistan war logs were just the beginning. Coming as early as next week, WikiLeaks plans to disclose a new trove of military documents, this time covering some of the toughest years of the Iraq war. Up to 400,000 reports from 2004 to 2009 could be revealed this time — five times the size of the Afghan document dump.” The reports may reveal secrets about the so-called “superbomb” (“essentially a bomb that shoots a jet of molten metal into and through an armored vehicle”), the network of US-controlled jails in Iraq beyond Abu Ghraib, ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, and more.

“WikiLeaks makes no apologies for its antiwar agenda. Its Iraq and Afghanistan disclosures are designed to weaken support for both wars. That’s why we should expect to see a lot more material like its gruesome April video showing an Apache helicopter killing people — including a Reuters photographer — who didn’t threaten its crew. The video suggests that other combat aircraft in the confusing urban environments of Iraq might have also engaged in similar mistargeting. If there are accounts of civilian casualties from what used to be an intense, violent air war — including, perhaps, hidden military documentation about the so-called “Collateral Murder” incident — WikiLeaks is going to publish them.” The full story.

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Bridge Day in Fayetteville, West Virginia

Nick Rahall, the 17-term Democrat representing Southern West Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives, faces what looks like his toughest battle yet. He’s been outraised by his GOP opponent, former State Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard ($389,000 to $244,000), and he’s being splattered by ugly publicity (his sister, fired from a lobbying form, allegedly threatened that her brother “would exercise his power and influence on Capitol Hill to harm the businesses and reputations of RJI and its personnel,” according to a lawsuit filed by the lobbying firm. All that was irrelevant Saturday, one of the great days on the calendar for Southern West Virginia and BASE jumpers everywhere: it was Bridge Day, when tens of thousands of people and 400 jumpers converge on the world’s second highest single-span bridge, which stands at 876 feet above the New River Gorge, and jump from it.

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Gore Vidal on the Death of the American Way

Gore Vidal was interviewed by Britain’s New Statesman last week. “I want to talk about three things – politics, literature and you. Why do you think Obama is in so much trouble at the moment, Gore?” went the first question. Gore’s answer: “Well, we’ve had a bit of a coup d’état here. You see, we have something called the Republican Party. It’s not a political party – and this is why Europeans can never figure out what we’re doing. When they talk about conservative American politics, they always think of nice old colonels, fox-hunting, you know. But what we’ve got is a quasi-fascist batch; people with fascist interests, let us say – I don’t want to put it more harshly. They believe in authority, they believe in their own mind and no one else’s, and they’ve set out to get him [Obama]. Now, remember, this is a racist country. It’s just like South Africa, I suppose, after the first changes in their great upheavals. And we had a great upheaval with the election of Obama – rather more intelligent, as our presidents go, than what we normally get when we get a white one. This has caused consternation out there: “There’s something terribly wrong with what came our way.” See the full interview.

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Remembering Native Son‘s Bigger Thomas

Richard Wright

The New Republic’s book-chat site runs the magazine’s 1940 review, by Malcolm Cowley, of Richard Wright’s Native Son: “In the last part of the book, which is also the best, we learn that the case of Bigger Thomas is not the author’s deepest concern. Behind it is another, more complicated story he is trying hard to explain, though the words come painfully at first, and later come in a flood that almost sweeps him away. “Listen, you white folks,” he seems to be saying over and over. “I want to tell you about all the Negroes in America. I want to tell you how they live and how they feel. I want you to change your minds about them before it is too late to prevent a worse disaster than any we have known. I speak for my own people, but I speak for America too.” And because he does speak for and to the nation, without ceasing to be a Negro, his book has more force than any other American novel by a member of his race.” The full review.

And watch:

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Culture War Imbeciles

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2 Responses for “The Live Wire, Oct. 18: Mica’s Night Terrors, the Davidsons’ Park and Tea Party Writ”

  1. DLF says:

    Who writes all this liberal BS, lets here from both sides in a fair and equal manner, You refer to Mica as a pork belly running for office. What would you call Obama’s $250 to the seniors right before election? What would you call Obama care? thats the whole pig and some more.

  2. PC MAN says:

    DLF I think you meant to say “fair and balanced”. Isn’t that the flavor of your Kool Aid ? If you don’t want to hear a different opinion head back over to Fox or Beck’s sites and hear want you want to hear. The right constantly whines about fiscal responsibility but never governs that way (see 2001 to 2008). The tea baggers are always complaining about wasteful spending and how they will throw the bums out, except when it comes to republicans of course. I keep waiting for one honest republican to say what they will cut to balance the budget, Social Security ? Medicare ? VA benefits ? Defense ?

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