By Doug Porter
Dating back to the days of the New England Watch and Ward Society, Boston has a (not so) proud history of banning publications deemed to be objectionable. H.L. Mencken was arrested for selling a banned copy of his American Mercury magazine in 1926. Lillian Smith’s novel,Strange Fruit which featured an interracial relationship, was banned.
Others proudly “Banned in Boston” include Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass), Eugene O’Neill (Desire Under the Elms), Sinclair Lewis (Elmer Gantry), Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) and even the song “Wake Up Little Susie” by The Everly Brothers.
The banning agencies and tactics have varied over the years, but the results have usually been the same: “Banned in Boston” is a badge of honor for publishers and authors.
Rolling Stone Magazine is the first twenty first century claimant of this honor, and I have no doubt that their August 1st issue featuring bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover will be a best seller.
CVS Drug stores, Walgreens, and Rite Aid along with the New England-based grocery store chain Tedeschi Foods have announced they will refuse to sell that edition of Rolling Stone. The Mayor of Boston has penned an outraged letter, saying publisher Jann Wenner’s cover “rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment”.
The magazine’s failure to publish a photograph depicting the Boston Marathon bombing suspect sans horns and pitchfork is what has drawn the ire of ‘responsible’ citizens and pompous purveyors of terrorism fear everywhere.
At least they could have read the story, which is an excellent example of the long form journalism, which Rolling Stone is one of the few supporters of in this day and age of Tweets and Tumblrs. Journalist Janet Reitman does an amazing job of chronicling the journey of how a seemingly good kid transformed himself into an evil person.
The ill-informed outrage isn’t limited to Boston, sadly. Years of conditioning by media fear mongers and the ease of mass communication via social media have made the overnight appearance of the 150K+ fans of “Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine for their latest cover” Facebook page a sad reality. They’re even organizing advertiser boycotts.
Ian Crouch at the New Yorker had a succinct and righteous take on this:
Yet the vitriol and closed-mindedness of the Web response to the Rolling Stone cover, before anyone had the chance to read the article itself, is an example of two of the ugly public outcomes of terrorism: hostility toward free expression, and to the collection and examination of factual evidence; and a kind of culture-wide self-censorship encouraged by tragedy, in which certain responses are deemed correct and anything else is dismissed as tasteless or out of bounds. The victims of the Boston Marathon bombing deserve our attention, and will continue to teach us about perseverance and the best parts of our common nature. But the dark stories of the bombing need to be told, too. And we need to hear them.
The days of virtual book burnings can’t be far off. I wonder how many of these outraged human beings are even aware of Rolling Stone’s coverage of the collapse of the US economy and Wall Street’s criminal actions that led up to it.
It’s day three of my Filner-less news roundups, prompted by a desire to make this website something more than All-Bob-All-The Time, and I’ve got to say it’s been tough. Tomorrow I unleash the Kraken
North County Transit Agency Seeks to Bury the Truth
Facing ongoing investigations triggered by news media reports of negligent safety practices, mismanagement of funds and questionable contracting procedures, San Diego’s North County Transit District (NCTD) is considering a policy change that would direct employees to delete certain emails after 60 days.
The NCTD’s accountability to the public has been challenged by a series of twenty reports filed by the non-profit inewsource and broadcast by KPBS. Safety issues related to the brakes on the SPRINTER rail system caused it to be shut down for two months this spring. An audit of more than 150 contracts found the NCTD rife with inefficiencies, buried in paperwork and awarding many contracts without public bidding.
The transit agency has fought back, sending out letters demanding retraction claiming numerous inaccuracies. They have yet to make a credible case in their defense, as innewsource has only conceded a couple of minor points needing correction. The main thrust of the reporting about NCTD policies and practices remains unchallenged, and government agencies, including the Federal Transit Administration are said to be looking into the matter.
The investigative reporting by inewsource/KPBS was triggered by sources inside and outside the NCTD and often confirmed via California Public Records Act requests. The new policy, supposedly triggered by data storage capacity considerations, will allow records considered not to be “district records” to be deleted after 60 days. The NCTD’s 100-or-so employees will get to decide what constitutes a district record.
Peter Scheer, the Executive Director of California’s First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to open and accountable government, was incredulous when shown the proposed changes.
“Either they’re failing to show this to their lawyers,” Scheer said, “or their lawyers haven’t read the Public Records Act….
Scheer said there is no reason to delete anything other than personal email. Governments have argued in the past that limits on technology and cost of storage were legitimate reasons.
“Those are both now irrelevant,” he said.
The NCTD board is set to consider this policy change at an Oceanside meeting at 2pm today. It’s clear to me after reading about their management’s practices that they will be enabling a cover-up should they approve this policy.
Criminalizing Mental Illness
Columnist Steve Lopez at the Los Angeles Times deserves an award for this report on how jails (in LA) are used as dumping places for the mentally ill. Although the figures (17% of the inmate population is mentally ill) he cites are for the City of Angeles, I’m fairly certain there’s equivalent numbers for San Diego and other cities.
Clearly, locking these men up over and over again isn’t working, and it isn’t cheap. But it’s what the system has been doing for years inLos Angeles County and in jails and prisons across the country.
Therapists know it. Judges know it, because they see the same offenders churn through their courtrooms, many of them for drug possession and minor offenses in which the underlying cause is often a mental illness. And jailers surely know it, though the problem is not of their making or of any other single agency’s.
“We’re on the same page here,” sheriff’s Cmdr. David Fender said Monday when I met with him and mental health officials at the jail. “The entire leadership” of the Sheriff’s Department “believes we’ve got to do something about this.”
And the column has a spot on headline: “It’s a crime to house the mentally ill this way”
The Koch Bros Dark Money Grand Jury Cometh
I would have thought we would have seen or heard some local coverage of this story from The Daily Beast yesterday, but we haven’t:
A grand jury is now involved in a high-stakes California probe that is looking into whether a PAC and three so-called dark-money groups—including one with ties to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—broke a campaign disclosure law by funneling $11 million from secret sources to influence ballot initiatives in the state’s 2012 election, The Daily Beast has learned…
You might not be surprised that indications are this Dirty Money leads back to the infamous Koch Brothers…
As the California probe has intensified, it has sparked the hiring of some of Washington’s high-powered election-law specialists. For several months, Jason Torchinsky was representing the PAC and the three dark-money groups, but other lawyers with big-name firms are now involved on behalf of unspecified clients. One firm, not previously reported, is Patton Boggs, whose attorneys include Ben Ginsberg, the famously plugged-in election lawyer for numerous GOP campaigns and committees, and William McGinley; also involved in the case is Wiley Rein, home of Jan Baran who for many years has represented Koch in election-law matters. Both McGinley and Baran declined to discuss their clients or the probe.
The grand jury and the widening California probe has stirred considerable unease among some Koch allies and in certain conservative quarters, according to multiple GOP operatives who asked not to named. “People are very puckered up about it,” said one such operative.
Republicans Test the Definition of Insanity, Versions 66 & 67
On the eve of another set of Congressional votes on Obamacare, Dana Milbank at the Washington Post explodes the popular belief that the GOP has voted to repeal the Affordable Heathcare Act a mere thirty-something times.
According to The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, there were 37 votes to scale back Obamacare before Wednesday’s two votes in the House. But those 39 don’t include the Senate, where Reid’s office has documented 28 votes, all but a couple in the form of Republican amendments. This might explain the new findings that Congress is holding more votes than ever but passing fewer bills.
Wednesday’s 66th and 67th attempts went much like the previous 65, except for a mid-debate recess so that lawmakers could have their official photograph taken on the House floor.
Border Surge Plan Protested
Not everybody’s on board with the inclusion in pending immigration legislation of a ‘border surge’, which would turn the US/Mexico border into a militarized zone, adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents, 350 miles of new fence and $4.5 billion for increased surveillance.
Yesterday, as part of the Border Network for Human Rights ‘day of action’ protestors in eleven cities rallied against the ‘bi-partisan’ Corker-Hoeven amendment to immigration legislation.
Here in San Diego about 70 people gathered outside the Vista offices of Rep. Darrell Issa to condemn the amendment, saying it was a waste of resources and would only serve to intimidate both undocumented migrants and legal residents. (h/t Dave Rice, San Diego Reader, who published a much more detailed story)
On This Day: 1927 – Ty Cobb set a major league baseball record by getting his 4,000th career hit. He hit 4,191 before he retired in 1928. 1936 – The Spanish Civil War began as Gen. Francisco Franco led an uprising of army troops based in Spanish North Africa. 1974 – The Justice Department ordered John Lennon out of the country by September 10. The Immigration and Naturalization Service denied him an extension of his non-immigrant visa because of his guilty plea in England to a 1968 marijuana possession charge.
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