Maybe time to start cataloging immigration nonsense?

I keep bookmarks on all sorts of things, from clips of my writing to a catalog of what’s going wrong in this country. On this site, I’ve put a couple of categories from those bookmarks in one handy place — see the bullshit and climate change pages.

I’m thinking it might be time for an immigration page, giving days like today in which I’ve seen the following:

  1. No, you idiot, the USA is not “full.” In fact, we’ll need immigrants if we want to maintain any sort of growth or even stasis. (NYT)
  2. These people really are coming here to flee poverty and violence, not to cause mayhem here. (The Conversation)
  3. These people really are coming here to flee poverty and violence, not to cause mayhem here. (NYT)
  4. The International Rescue Committee, which generally sends people to help in the worst places in the world, is now deploying to Phoenix. (The Guardian)
  5. And once again, The Onion says it best.
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Things to remember about the Cohen testimony that the “liberal media” haven’t emphasized enough

Yesterday, a man who is going to jail for doing the dirty work for the president of the United States produced documents for and gave many new leads to a Congressional committee that’s trying to get to the bottom of the president’s many misdeeds.

Many in the “liberal media” missed the point, echoing what happened in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings — the focus is squarely on the most theatrical aspects of the story and ignores the many other aspects which are still true and essential even if the most theatrical aspects pass. In Kavanaugh’s case, the sexual assault allegations couldn’t stick — the allegations are credible, but there’s not enough to convict — but Kavanaugh flat-out lied about some things related to that and some things unrelated. He faced 83 reported ethics violations that were dropped — not because they were unsubstantiated, but because Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court made him untouchable.

None of that mattered to everyone who was squarely focused on whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford or anyone else. The word “ethics” did not appear in Susan Collins’ self-serving speech explaining her vote. The word “lied” appeared only once, and it was merely to mention that the Senate faced the question of whether Kavanaugh lied — specifically about whether he assaulted Ford. Not about anything else.

With that in mind, let’s state for the record what’s important from yesterday’s Michael Cohen adventure …

Three news organizations (probably more, but three that I checked) have a “five takeaways” piece. The comparison, with my comments in italics:

The Guardian:

  • Trump may have known more about the Russia connection. OK, fair enough.
  • “Smoking gun” on Stormy Daniels payments. Yeah, that’s a big one.
  • National Enquirer “catch and kill” practice was huge. Yeah, it’s about time the Enquirer’s head honchos were hauled before Congress, if not before a judge.
  • The southern district of New York? Oh yeah, they have more. Huge.
  • Trump threatens people. Yeah, we kind of knew that, but more evidence doesn’t hurt. 

Washington Post:

  • “Smoke but no gun” – spread over several aspects of Cohen’s testimony. Huh?
  • Southern district of New York. Again, huge.
  • Two things Cohen said yesterday that took blame away from Trump on very minor issues and what the hell is Aaron Blake thinking by calling that a “key takeaway”?
  • Two “questionable claims” — one about Cohen’s aspirations of working in the White House and one about whether he’d ever gone to Prague. Blake says he may have gone in 2001. Hard to see how the latter is relevant. The former could be used to undermine Cohen’s credibility, but we’ll get to that.
  • Ocasio-Cortez shows up the veterans by asking follow-up questions that open new leads. Hell yeah — see video below.

New York Times:

  • Legal peril in southern district of New York. Glad to see everyone on the same page here
  • Possible Russian conspiracy still in play. It is, yes, but we’ll get to that.
  • Cohen explains the role of a “fixer.” Interesting. Not sure I’d call it a key takeaway, but interesting. And again, subpoena the Enquirer now.
  • Cohen savaged Trump’s character. Meh. 
  • A retreat to tribal corners among the partisans in the House. Um, NYT? You’re supposed to look beyond the theatre.

And the NYT did not look beyond the theatre in the lead story on the site (as of 7:30 a.m.) and the Daily Briefing I receive. That lead story:

  • Graf 1-2: Basic info
  • Graf 3: John Dean comparison. OK, that’s worth mentioning
  • Grafs 4-5: Personal depiction of Trump, yada yada yada
  • Grafs 6-9: Yay! We love partisan bickering!
  • Grafs 10-13: Cohen’s emotions and more personal depiction of Trump
  • Grafs 14-21: The GOP Strikes Back
  • Graf 22: Lots of people watched this
  • Grafs 23-35: Details of Cohen’s testimony, which are indeed essential to the story
  • Graf 36 (might have lost count here): Trump and Assange deny
  • Graf 37: Democrats might ask for more because …

Buried in the 38th-ish graf is an essential point. The New York prosecutors have serious shit on Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez? Not even mentioned.

Fortunately, The Guardian drew attention to Ocasio-Cortez from the home page:

Boom, there it is.

Cohen’s credibility is questionable. Yes. But in his responses to Ocasio-Cortez and in other parts of his testimony, he pointed the way to find more evidence to pile on to his statements and documents.

Make no mistake. The GOP’s strategy here is to find any misstatement of Cohen’s and pretend that one Cohen lie makes everything tumble like a house of cards. It does not. But The New York Times has bought into the GOP narrative, and they should be ashamed.

It’s not about Michael Cohen. It’s about the information he has helped to bring to light — information that can and should be investigated. Some parts may be dead ends. Some parts are definitely not, as we already know.

Think of it this way …

If a burglar tells you how he broke into his house, you wouldn’t stop and say, “Well, but you’re a liar.” You’d pay attention, liar or not. 

That’s what Cohen — a liar and a criminal — did yesterday. He revealed how he did what he did. That’s the lead, NYT.

Addendum: Bonus points in the “missing the boat” sweepstakes to CNN, which emphasized this incoherent rant by Elijah Cummings as something we “need to listen to.” You don’t.

But a commentary they also emphasized gets it right. It’s not the testimony. It’s the corroboration.

And there’s a shit-ton of corroboration.

 

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My college courses, if I could do it all over

Duke was a great experience for me … apart from the classes.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. I had some great teachers, but I had a lot of lousy ones. The academic advising wasn’t great except within the music department, from which I think I could have had many recommendations for grad school had I gone in that direction.

And it’s unfair to look back with regret in comparison to what Duke offers today. Duke now has minors or certificates that I don’t believe they offered in the past.

So the modern-day Duke experience is surely better for all. I hope the teachers are better. I know the course selection is better.

Let’s break down what I took …

WHAT I TOOK

Philosophy major

One note here: I only took two of the required eight classes by the end of sophomore year, when you’re supposed to declare. At the time, everything seemed fine. The classes were fine, and I had couple of solid B-pluses that I figured I’d pull up to As down the road. If I’d taken a third (not counting logic), maybe I would’ve realized this wasn’t for me.

  • Intro to Philosophy: required, and I had a good grad-student teacher
  • History of Ancient Philosophy: required, another good teacher (Michael Ferejohn)
  • Logic – required, easy A, took it in the summer with the late, great Rick Roderick, called “the Bill Hicks of philosophy”
  • History of Modern Philosophy – required, difficult. I made a C. Again, if I’d taken it sophomore year, maybe I wouldn’t have majored in this
  • History of Law – I fancied myself pre-law. This class, with a pipe-smoking drone teaching, may have talked me out of it. Had a solid B before I screwed up the final because I was desperately studying for the final in …
  • Symbolic Logic – This was a ****ing math class. A bunch of math majors were taking it to meet their humanities requirement. I sat there on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, not comprehending in the least what was being written on the board and not able to ask afterwards because I had a Chronicle budget meeting. Frankly, that was a better priority. No one in journalism cares that I made a C-plus in this class and probably should’ve done worse.
  • Philosophy of Music – Very cool class with another late, great professor in Ben Ward, whom I had met in my freshman dorm, where he lived as an Artist in Residence and frequently played his grand piano. I did a terrific final project on cassette, using audio clips to illustrate my points. One of two classes I took in my last semester while I was pulling about 50 hours a week at The Chronicle.
  • Plato – a 200-level class was required, and this was hard-core. I’d registered for a class on Hegel with Rick Roderick, but he had to change the time and day of the class, and I couldn’t make it. I quickly scrambled over to Dr. Ferejohn’s office. He said he remembered me from History of Ancient Philosophy (he probably didn’t) and would gladly sign off on my switch to this class. I’ll always be proud of the fact that I got an A-minus in a class that required serious scholarship in a seminar with a bunch of grad students.

Music major

  • Fundamentals of Music Theory: I hadn’t planned to be a music major, but I took this on a whim in my first semester and didn’t flinch when I discovered it had a lab component and didn’t give credit for it, unlike those wimps in science classes who get an extra credit for being lab. Rodney Wynkoop and my classmates encouraged me to keep going. I was hooked.
  • Tonal Harmony: Basically the second semester of theory, another class with Rodney, another solid A.
  • Modal Counterpoint: Considered the organic chemistry of the music major, with complex math involved. Started to sour on things here.
  • Tonal Counterpoint: Still difficult, but I liked this better and did better.
  • Composition: Took concurrently with Tonal Counterpoint. A two-person class — me and Joe Zellnik. Joe is a brilliant composer to this day. I’m not. Enjoyed it and learned a lot, but I realized my limitations.
  • Percussion (three semesters): Music majors have to study an instrument, and I enjoyed this quite a bit. Still playing drums to this day. Can’t store a tympani set at home, unfortunately.
  • Chamber Music (percussion ensemble): Thanks to the people who formed a percussion ensemble with me. This was fun.
  • Four freaking semesters of Music History: You don’t even get to Bach for a few months. Oddly enough, my lowest grade (B+) was in Music History III, which covered my favorite era of classical music. I think. I never listen to classical any more, and no, Music History IV didn’t cover the Beatles. 

Requirements

  • University Writing Course: Salem Witchcraft: I will one day sarcastically dedicate a book to the grad student who gave me inconsistent instructions and gave me a C-minus. I didn’t choose the topic, but I found it interesting. I also apparently contradicted the grad student’s thesis. I like to think I was right. 
  • History of Civilization: Intro to Art History: a backup choice in my first semester, and it couldn’t have gone worse. I took this after a PE class, so I raced from the PE buildings to the West Campus bus stop and immediately went into a dark room to look at slides. Along with the UWC above, I had really bad grades in my first semester and spent the rest of my time at Duke climbing into the middle of my class.
  • Empirical Natural Science: Astronomy – not bad, not exactly Neil deGrasse Tyson.
  • Foreign language requirement: Met with my achievement test in French, even though I couldn’t speak it to save my life.
  • LiteratureAP credit FTW, which is good, because I might have lost my mind in a Duke English class.

“Division II”

Not really sure what the “divisions” entailed, but we had to pick one in which we took four classes, one of them at the 100 level (at the time, slightly advanced — 200-level classes were for a mix of seniors and grad students). All I know is that I took a lot of history.

  • Two semesters of American history: AP credit FTW
  • Germany: 30 Years’ War-1871: Great professor in Claudia Koonz, who’s actually kind of controversial (I didn’t know Historikerinnenstreit was a word). The subject matter was kind of dull, but I learned how to do longer papers, which helped down the road.
  • Socialism and Communism: Blow-off summer class with Warren Lerner, who literally wrote the book on the subject. Not bad, and I don’t know why I only got a B-plus.

“Division III” 

I guess I needed two classes in another area of concentration, so I chose math and science-ish?

  • Calculus I: AP credit FTW
  • Calculus II: Grad student who struggled with English and didn’t get through all the material. This is on Duke. They should’ve done better. I actually didn’t need to take this. And I shouldn’t have. There’s no need to take second-semester calculus unless you’re going into engineering or something similar. See below.
  • Fundamentals of Computer Science: I didn’t think it was supposed to be an easy course, but when I saw a bunch of football and basketball players, I figured it might be pretty simple. It was indeed very easy, though we AGAIN didn’t get extra credit for the lab, but I learned quite a bit.

Electives

  • Three semesters of PE – Badminton/Racquetball/Squash, Endurance Swimming, Racquetball: Two of these were for fun. The third was gaming the system. You can’t apply more than two PE classes to your total number of credits for graduation, but I was way ahead on credits, anyway. The problem was that I wasn’t allowed to take an underload, and percussion was only a half-credit. So I took the third semester to give myself a full load, even though it didn’t count toward graduation. Loved the racquet sports. Hated swimming in a freezing pool.
  • Comedy: Theory & Performance – One of the freshman seminars offered second semester, and I was lucky to get my first choice. I ditched what the writing instructor had tried to teach me and went back to my old writing style. A LOT of reading dating back to Aristophanes, but I didn’t mind at all. The A-minus restored my faith in my writing ability. 
  • Advanced Intermediate French: I did OK, but I STILL can’t speak French.
  • Chemistry and Society: People joke about this, ranking it alongside “Physics for Poets.” Yeah, it was easy. So what? I learned more from this than I would’ve learned in a lab, suckers.
  • American Political System: Figured I needed another pre-law-ish class. Lecturer was pretty good, as was the TA who taught my breakout group. 
  • Introductory Psychology: Awesome, and not just because it was an easy A. Wonderful class to take in a breezy summer term.
  • Organismal/Environmental Biology: My dad was a biochemist, so maybe YOU were wrong on that test, grad students. 

So what did I like or find worthwhile?

  • Philosophy: Intro, Logic, 200-level
  • Music: Theory (2 semesters), Percussion, Composition
  • Science-ish: Computer Science, Psychology, Chemistry and Society
  • Humanities: Comedy

That’s it? Roughly 11 classes, adding together a couple of half-classes of percussion?

Yikes. Let’s try again …


WHAT I WOULD TAKE TODAY

I wouldn’t major in philosophy. I wouldn’t major in music, but the music minor (not available in those days, and yes, I love the fact that music has major and minor) appeals to me. I almost completed what you’d call a history minor today, but I don’t think I’d do that, either. (I loved my grad-school history classes, though.)

There’s no journalism major, nor would I take one. I could get a journalism certificate, which means I’d have a major, a minor (music) and a certificate. A major has at least 10 courses (12 plus an internship in Public Policy), a minor has at least five, and the journalism certificate has six. Yikes.

But it would make more sense for me to major in public policy, which offers a “policy journalism” concentration. (Or, as the Public Policy department calls it because they just have to be different, a pathway.) That would give me the flexibility to take journalism as far as I could and then bail into something useful like law. Besides, the certificate would require me to take “News as a Moral Battleground,” which doesn’t seem fun.

You can only apply two AP courses toward the 34 needed to graduate, though AP courses can knock out specific requirements. That’s four per semester, but I may do some extra stuff to give myself a chance to take an underload junior year to be Chronicle editor. Or managing editor — Matt probably would’ve been editor, as he was in real life.

Miscellaneous requirements: There’s overlap between the “Areas of Knowledge” (must meet five) and the “Modes of Inquiry” (six) — the same class can count for both. I’ll list the Areas and note which Modes are met along the way. I’d also need one seminar class freshman year (no problem), two more “small group learning experiences.”

The “Modes” are: Cross-Cultural Inquiry, Ethical Inquiry, Science/Technology/Society, Foreign Language, Research, Writing. All require two classes except Foreign Language (see below) and Writing (two in addition to the dreaded UWC).

I’m assuming classes for the major and minor count toward the Areas and Modes. If not, I basically wouldn’t have any electives outside the requirements.

Finally, two things I’d really want to do — take a stats course (required in public policy) and do an internship (also required in PPS).

Public policy major, basic requirements (9)

  • Introduction to Policy Analysis
  • Political Analysis for Public Policy: OK, maybe this is getting dull. (Writing mode)
  • Policy Choice as Value Conflict: I can sub in Global Health Ethics but probably wouldn’t (Ethical Inquiry mode)
  • Microeconomic Policy Tools: OR Intermediate Microeconomics I
  • Economics of the Public Sector: Typically taken senior year. Great.
  • Data Analysis and Statistical Inference: OR Probability and Statistical Inference. (Research and STS modes)
  • History: I’d have to choose from the list linked here. I’d lean toward the sports history class.
  • Internship: Apparently, Duke can now pretty much place people in journalism internships. Wasn’t so easy in my day. You have to take all “core” courses (the first five above) before doing this, so this would likely be between junior and senior year.
  • Independent studyAll sorts of possibilities here. In real life, I did a history of objectivity in American journalism in grad school.

Public policy electives / Policy Journalism pathway (4)

Four electives required for the major, all above 160 level, one at 400 level or higher. The pathway requirements aren’t really clear. I think this list is just suggestions. Hope so, because I’d really want to take the first three listed here, and none is 400 level. Bear in mind that my independent study would probably be journalism-related.

Some of my other electives farther below (Oral History, Data Visualization) would be journalism-related.

  • News Writing & Reporting: I’ve never considered myself a good reporter. Writer, yes. Gleaning info from data, yes. Reporter, no. This would help. I hope. (Research and Writing modes)
  • Journalism in the Age of Data: Gotta learn data. (STS mode)
  • The Art of the Interview: Cross-listed with Documentary Studies. 
  • Environmental Politics: Meets the 400+ requirement.

Music minor (6, including one from a set of electives and two above 213-level)

  • Theory and Practice of Tonal Music I: Required; basically my freshman theory course.
  • Music History III (Beethoven through WWI): Yes! Only ONE of these is required! (CCI and Research mode!)
  • Percussion (two semesters, each 0.5 credits): Fills performance requirement.
  • History of Rock: My choice from the set of electives. 
  • Writing about Music: Everything is journalism. Above 213-level. (Writing mode)
  • Theory and Practice of Tonal Music II: Sure, why not. Above 213-level
  • Could also take Wind Symphony and/or Marching Band for credit just to nickel-and-dime my way to a full class load.

General requirements (3)

  • University Writing Course: As long as I have permission to change teachers
  • Intermediate French Language and Culture: My achievement test (SAT II) score and AP score put me here. To meet the Foreign Language mode, you have to take three classes OR a 300-level course. (Duke has renumbered everything so that 100-levels are intros.) This is 200-level, so …
  • French for Current Affairs: Also meets seminar requirement and CCI mode.

That’s already 22 classes. For the Areas below, the number of parentheses is the number of credits I’ll get outside my major and minor. For example, I knock out Area 1 with my music minor, but I’ll also have an AP credit.

Area of Knowledge 1: Arts, Literature and Performance (1 non-major class)

  • English literature: AP all the way
  • (Music): Yeah, it’s covered.

Area of Knowledge 2: Civilizations (2)

  • American history: I could theoretically use both AP credits to take care of this. But I’d like to take another history, anyway.
  • Introduction to Oral History: Loved my oral history class in grad school. Would also meet my freshman seminar requirement IF I got into it first semester because it’s fall-only. (Research mode, seminar)

Area of Knowledge 3: Natural Sciences (2)

  • Chemistry, Technology and Society: It still exists! (STS mode)
  • Intro to Psychology: I can meet the Natural Sciences requirement with this? Oh, hell yeah! (STS mode)

Area of Knowledge 4: Quantitative Studies (2)

  • Foundations of Data Science: Computer Science class (STS mode)
  • Data Visualization: Found it on the journalism list.

Area of Knowledge 5: Social Sciences (2)

  • (Most of the Public Policy courses could meet this requirement)
  • Fantasy, Mass Media, and Popular Culture: Cultural Anthropology, cross-listed elsewhere, not always offered. Could also meet Civilization requirement, but I’ve got that covered (CCI mode)
  • Gateway Seminar – How to Do History: History department. (Ethical Inquiry and Research mode, seminar)

That’s 31 courses. I could only apply two of the three AP credits (calculus, English, American history) toward that total, so make it 30.

Four more …

Electives: 

  • Everything Data: 200-level computer science course; might be tough without a 200-level math. Could meet Qualitative requirement
  • Ethics and Philosophy of Sport: 300-level! (Ethical Inquiry and Writing modes)
  • Introduction to Philosophy: Could meet Civilizations requirement. (Writing mode)
  • PE: Can count two classes, each a half-credit. I’m thinking Tai Chi and tennis. They don’t do racquetball any more! 

So not much problem covering the Areas. Music and Public Policy knock out two of them, most history classes would take care of Civilizations, my two Natural Science classes are two that I actually took and enjoyed, and I’d take a couple of data-related courses to take care of Qualitative. I wouldn’t mind taking one more Arts course if they won’t let me count my music classes there.

Let’s make sure I’ve taken care of the Modes:

  • Cross-Cultural Inquiry: Music History III, French for Current Affairs, Fantasy/Mass Media/Pop Culture. Wow, little margin for error.
  • Ethical Inquiry: How to Do History, Ethics/Philosophy of Sports. Only two? Good think I’m taking the sports one!
  • Science/Technology/Society: All data and Natural Science classes. Easy.
  • Foreign Language: See above.
  • Research: I count five.
  • Writing: Too many to count.

So I’d consider that an improvement, though I’m a little iffy on some of those Public Policy classes.

 

 

 

 

 

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We’ve listened to you. Please listen to us. (Part 1)

Let’s say at the outset — “we” and “us” are general terms. And no matter what the media (yeah, I’m part of it) try to shove down your throats, we’re not “polarized.” Things are much more complicated than that.

♦♦ We have evangelicals who are concerned about climate change, no matter how many evangelical preachers tell their congregations Trump is the savior and the Democrats are devils.

♦♦ We have a growing group that thinks Obama and the Clintons are too conservative, all tied to closely to Wall Street.

♦♦ Along those lines, a recent op-ed on curbing immigration was written by … Hillary Clinton.

“Left” and “right” doesn’t make much sense any more. Republicans have long ago tossed Reagan’s ideology out the window. It won’t be long before they burn down one of the two most prominent Washington-area things named after him — the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. (For more, see what Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, wrote last year.) On the other alleged pole, calling Obama and either Clinton “socialist” is a good way to make Europeans — and many educated and/or younger Americans — laugh or cry.

Cry? Let’s hang on to that for a minute.

One driving force — not the sole driving force by any means, but substantial — behind current political trends is the desire to afflict “elites.” These would be “liberals” who don’t care about or listen to anyone else’s needs.

And there’s a bit of truth to that. Have “liberals” been tuned in to people outside urban areas? Probably not.

So — point taken. “Elites” have been getting the message that they need to listen. Well, some of them. Some are clinging to stereotypes of their own, thinking Middle America is all racist and ignorant. But the 2016 election caused considerable fretting and hand-wringing that Democrats have been taking people for granted.

And in general, these “elites” you gripe about have empathy. And we’re concerned that empathy is declining.

The other thing we’re worried about is a lack of respect for facts.

That’s where we’ll start. The “elites” are listening. If you don’t mind, could we please have a turn speaking?

“Elites” aren’t who you think they are

Let’s look at the earnings in various professions. We’ll use Salary.com as much as possible for the sake of consistency. In some cases, I’ve included the “I” and “III” levels for a position to get a range of experience:

  • Chief Communications Officer: $212,300
  • Drilling Foreman: $108,100
  • Clergy: $95,800
  • Accountant IV: $91,344
  • Engineer III: $92,651
  • Engineer I: $66,655
  • Machinist III: $60,856
  • Aircraft and Power Plant Mechanic, Senior (high school education): $62,730
  • Assistant Professor – English: $58,861
  • Automotive Mechanic III: $56,700
  • Public School Teacher: $56,376
  • Plumber: $55,587
  • Carpenter: $54,423
  • Accountant I: $53,136
  • Staff Writer/Reporter III: $52,283
  • Entry Field Operator (mining, HS education): $47,700
  • Entry Geologist (mining, BA): $45,500
  • Academic Advisor: $46,102
  • Machinist I: $42,627
  • Staff Writer/Reporter I: $35,523

You may argue these professions are selective. But they should be enough to show there are plenty of “working man” jobs that are paid more than jobs that require college degrees. (And, therefore, college debt.) You can’t just assume college grads — in some cases, people with doctorates — are taking all the money you should be making.

mike

The people making money, of course, work in finance. Or they’re CEOs who make 4 zillion times more than you do.

And you don’t want to raise taxes on those CEOs? They’re the ones who are robbing you. Not college professors. Not journalists. 

What motivates college professors and journalists (and a lot of government workers who chose the public sector over private jobs that pay waaaaay more)?

Public service.

Empathy.

We’ll pick up from here …

 

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My Springfield …

I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out phone game for a few years now. The game is running out of a steam a bit because they’re running out of characters, but it’s still fun to build and re-shape Springfield.

Today, they unveiled a new feature letting you see your entire Springfield at once. Here’s mine …

spring-compressed

A quick guide —

WEST: That’s “Springfield Heights,” an area they opened up past the mountains, and it’s supposed to be rather ritzy. I thought about moving junky stuff there, but it would involve too much moving. So I have the various mansions there, along with a polo club and the Stonecutters HQ.

WATERFRONT: The yachts are at Springfield Heights. The rest of it (the Squidpost) includes a couple of rides that used to be in Krustyland.

NORTH: That peninsula is where I stuck everything from Halloween events, including this year’s. Closer to town, I have a few high-rises leading into the Vegas-style strip.

Tucked in between that, just north of the airport, is Canada. That’s where I have Christmas stuff now, but I can move it to the open area with the four ponds farther south. I can adjust the size of those ponds so that I have just a couple of things there for Valentine’s Day but can blow it out for Christmas or Halloween.

EAST: Basically junk. Cletus’ farm. Some dirty touristy stuff.

SOUTH: Krustyland used to be something separate, and you had to take a shuttle to it. They integrated it with the rest of Springfield around the same time they started Itchy and Scratchy Land. I’ve basically turned it into a three-part amusement park. Krustyland has kiddie rides and some Krusty-themed stuff. The larger rides are in I&S Land. Then I have an Epcot/World Showcase thing going on around that lake, including some performance spaces as shown here …

img_4586

Sideshow Bob and family are on the opera stage. Mayor Quimby is speaking at the amphitheater, which has a few options — Marge does something, Comic Book Guy can cosplay, etc.

img_4587

The rock stage is basically the only interesting place for drummer Nick Delacourt, who was in some episode, somewhere. Some of the people I have on other stages can be here, and Bleeding Gums can be on any of them. The angry mob was part of the Halloween event, but I moved it here to be a rowdy crowd.

img_4588

I skipped the pop stage, which can include Bleeding Gums, Lisa, Weird Al or Maggie, but it’s also the main stage for the Party Posse (YVAN EHT NIOJ!). This is the hip-hop stage, where Bart can perform in a different guise and Krusty can pop up. So in this case, I have three rappers and an accordion player. Cool.

A few other snapshots …

vegas

The “Vegas” strip with a lot of fountains and casinos, then a high-rise strip right against the mountains (not visible on the screenshot for some reason). The airport and a NASA launch site are at bottom right. I have an office and research park behind Vegas. Then, for some reason, a medieval fort.

islands

Two islands in the upper-left here — two prisons on one, and then Religion Island, featuring the traditional Springfield church along with the glass cathedral, Maude’s statue and a Buddhist temple. Above that are the dog track and go-kart track, slightly separated from the sports district.

In the sports district itself, start at the lower part, just off center, for the sumo arena. That leads to a weird soccer-ish stadium, then the baseball and football stadiums at left. You can also see the ramp where Poochie skateboards and dunks, along with the pit where motorcycle daredevil Lance Murdoch falls into the shark tank. There’s also a Bowlarama.

The strip across from the sports district (also across the water from Religion Island) has two convention centers and two museums, the last just across the water from an open stage and the Clampitheatre, which form a corner of “Epcot,” which is next.

epcot

It’s tough to squeeze in the whole entertainment area. Maybe if you right click and open in a new tab? Anyway — you can see the performance stages and international things around the water, just like World Showcase at Epcot. At the lower corner is the thing that looks like the big Epcot ball. I stuck the Eiffel Tower on an island in the middle of the lake, and there’s a group of people stuck at the base. The other thing jutting out into the water is a water show.

At right is a zoo. Then behind Epcot and the zoo is the rural district.

And at bottom left, you’ll see Krustyland, then my name spelled out in flowers. I occasionally convert DURE to DUKE, which only take a couple of moves.

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I’ve looked at life from both sides now (IOW, more access journalism)

Some people in my lovely town surely think I’m a maniac.

They didn’t get that impression by meeting me. They didn’t get that conversation by seeing me run a soccer team or a chess club, even if I’ve had to be a disciplinarian. They know I strive to be positive as much as I can. (Don’t laugh if you only know me from Twitter, where some people get a kinky thrill out of pushing my buttons, and I’ve finally learned to shut those buttons off.) I even won an award my kids’ elementary school in honor of “her” volunteer service. (Gender stereotypes, man …)

They got that impression if they were outside my Starbucks listening to me shouting into my phone at a PR person who was trying waaaay too hard to spin something. He was insisting a story I was chasing wasn’t a story. He was accusing me of being interested in that story only because it affected my son, which wasn’t true in the least. If you’re measuring how much someone is insulting you, that guy went up to 11.

And yet I still have “access” to that organization. I’ve spoken with that person many more times since then. I’ve been credentialed for events.

So you can see why I bristle at the notion of journalists with “access” being compromised and useless.

I got into this a bit in the last post, in which I reacted to Luke Thomas’ thoughtful take on access journalism in sports. It’s not my best work, frankly, but at least a few people read it and got the gist of whatever I was trying to say.

The debate today starts with an Atlantic piece by Elaina Plott defending the notion of humanizing presidents by being close to them:

A lot of folks like to sneer at so-called access journalism, as though the only way to convince subjects to talk is by promising them a puff piece (how ridiculous this is should go, I hope, without saying). But access is often the best—sometimes even the only—way to dimensionalize subjects, to gain intimate knowledge of the ordinary habits and hurts and hang-ups that inform their behavior in extraordinary circumstances. And in politics, it is an avenue through which readers can decide whether the person behind the policies is worthy of empathy and respect.

The response from Splinter News’ Libby Watson is … do we still say “snarky”? Because it is.

Access journalism isn’t just promising a subject a puff piece in return for access. It can be much more subtle than that. If you’re really good at it, your subjects won’t even have to ask if your piece will be gentle with them because they know it will. Access journalism, as Leah Finnegan wrote in the Outline, is also “not only believing people in power, but protecting their identities even when they are wrong or lying”; it’s not even asking the question because you know it might disrupt future coverage; it’s going to off-the-record parties with sources, chumming it up, and posting your selfies with them on Instagram.

Sure, some people do that. To go back to the sports discussion, it’s a big issue in MMA and women’s soccer, where the organizations are either control freaks (UFC) or can’t be picky about who gets credentials (NWSL).

But the implication here is that everyone on the “inside” is compromised. The logicians would call this a hasty generalization.

I would doubt, for example, that Jim Acosta will be posting selfies with any White House officials any time soon …

The White House yanked Acosta’s credentials. CNN sued. The court backed Acosta.

Another issue here from Watson’s piece:

I’m happy for a piece to include a charming anecdote about Barack Obama’s Spotify playlists if the journalist also asks him tough questions about drone strikes and climate change; funny how that so rarely happens in the same piece, isn’t it?

Why in the world would it happen in the same piece? Is that the only piece that news organization will ever write about Obama?

The problem here is the idea that one perspective is inherently valuable while another is inherently useless. A perspective is only useless if it’s fundamentally dishonest, like anything emanating from the Trump administration and maybe 90% of what comes from Fox “News.” (Bless you, Shepard Smith.)

Let’s raise a hypothetical. Suppose you’re the editor of The New York Times, and you have an opportunity to put a correspondent in Pyongyang. You know that correspondent is going to have to tread a fine line. She/he can’t be as bold as Acosta was with Trump or as defensive as I was with that PR rep.

Do you:

A. Decline the opportunity?

B. Accept it, realizing that you’re going to need to balance that reporting with analysis from outside North Korea?

I vote B. It’s going to be difficult. North Korea might eventually kick that person out of the country because of something another Post writer wrote. But it’s worth a shot.

Watson isn’t the only writer in her media group to sneer at “access journalism.” That’s the stance of Deadspin, the snarkiest of sports blogs and a corporate sibling of Splinter News. A couple of comments on Watson’s piece tout the superiority of Deadspin because it does not seek access to sports. The tagline is “Sports News Without Access, Favor, or Discretion.”

But what about Humanization?

Deadspin sometimes sheds light on important issues. It’s also entertaining, in the same vein as the Keith Olbermann/Dan Patrick glory days on SportsCenter. I don’t think I’ve seen a headline that tops “Farting Controversy Clouds Grand Slam Of Darts Quarterfinal.”

But Deadspin also forgets, all too often, that the athletes upon which it snarks are human beings. (Granted, they tend not to see the humanity of anyone. It’s one thing to snark on Duke grads like me. It’s another to make fun of a damn toddler.)

There’s value in Deadspin’s view from the couch. But there’s also value in speaking with an athlete and seeing the sweat and blood.

And that’s true of politics as well. A good news organization will be both inside and outside. It might be “inside” in several different places — American journalism has suffered with the closing of so many foreign bureaus. We barely have voices from anywhere in America outside the coasts — Watson is based in D.C., and I’ve long fretted that the Post treats everything south and west of the Potomac as a giant anthropology experiment. (Or maybe I’m still fretting over the column in which the Post columnist ventured all the way out on the Orange Line to see for himself the hinterland of Vienna.)

Those perspectives won’t always be predictable. An “outside” journalist may think a politician or an athlete is doing pretty well. An “inside” journalist might have insight on how badly that person is screwing up. Or vice versa.

Journalism is under siege. It has been for a long time, and the economic trends of the past 15 years have left it less powerful to fight back. Should we really be talking about silencing any valuable perspective at this point?

 

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What’s a journalist? (Sports-related)

The funny thing I found about MMA journalism — most of the sport’s coverage up until the very late 2000s was in the hands of independent journalists who started sites with funny names (Sherdog, Bloody Elbow, MMA Junkie) who are more professional than the organization they’ve covered.

They toss aside the Playboy issues with an Octagon Girl that the UFC is trying to hand out. They hold the UFC accountable to the point of having their access revoked. Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt were both tossed out for asking questions that made Dana White and company uncomfortable. So was Ariel Helwani, however briefly.

And a lot of them have moved into major news organizations. USA TODAY bought MMA Junkie, basically outsourcing its MMA coverage. (That also meant the end of my freelance work for USA TODAY, which had continued after I left the full-time staff, but what really bothered me was that USAT’s new and inexperienced — and short-tenured — sports leadership tossed out a terrific full-time staff reporter.) Bloody Elbow has grown with its parent organization, SB Nation. Luke Thomas has a terrific show at SiriusXM.

I’m glad — because these folks are damn good.

A few soccer folks have done well independently or in the SB Nation fold. But the MMA folks took it to another level. Bloody Elbow has always had brilliant technical analysis along with history and some legal analysis, and it has gone into strong investigative work as well. Most MMA blogs with an audience are rarely, if ever, the province of the fanboy.

With the UFC strong-arming journalists, those journalists have done some careful thinking about the price of access. The UFC tossed Helwani out of the building along with a photographer and videographer who just happened to work for the same site. Dana White backed down on that, despite insisting he wouldn’t, but he has never relented on bringing back Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt, who did nothing more than raise questions that were uncomfortable for White and company.

So a few people in the MMA media have done what we’ve tried to do in soccer with varying success. They formed a journalists’ association. This week, that association spoke up after some mixed messages about whether journalists would be allowed to ask about, say, Greg Hardy and domestic violence. (Here’s the background.)

Luke Thomas offered up a thoughtful take about the association and journalism in general. He didn’t join the former because he thinks he doesn’t do the latter.

I think Luke is setting a very high bar for what’s considered journalism. He does analysis. I’d argue that’s journalism, probably more than I did in a ton of my stories at USA TODAY. We weren’t exactly FRONTLINE in my day. We did aggravate the UFC when my big cover-story splash about the sport led with Kimbo Slice, who was fighting for another organization at the time and leading the way into prime time, but I didn’t uncover a deep, dark secret with the help of anonymous sources. (Post-Jack Kelley, USA TODAY wasn’t big on anonymous sources.) I did original interviews, as he does. I pulled information from those interviews and other readily accessible things to put together stories that were unique, but so does he.

So, Luke, I for one think you’re a journalist.

And yet I understand the reluctance in joining an association, having been in two. I was president of one, and I’m probably at least partially responsible for it falling apart, mostly because I never really figured out what we were supposed to do. Exactly once in my tenure did I have a situation in which I needed to hash things out with an MLS team, and it was ridiculously minor. As Luke says here, a reporter’s editor should be the one doing that.

And yet I have full respect for Josh Gross being an officer of the MMA association. His presence sends a nice message that the members of the group are going to do their jobs whether the UFC likes it or not.

It’s also good to see some unity there. When I was in MMA journalism, I always sensed that many MMA fans figured those of us on the “inside” were compromised. I made every effort to demonstrate that I wasn’t, to the point of taking a gift the UFC had sent me all the way to Vegas to return it in person at UFC 100. The people working the desk surely still think I’m crazy.

(Yeah, they say credentialed reporters are compromised in soccer, too, but that’s because soccer attracts a lot of professional whiners. As I posted to a mailing list this week: “A lot of reporters are accused of not challenging MLS, and the people who raise such accusations won’t be happy until they see a lede like, ‘In a game that doesn’t matter because MLS doesn’t have promotion/relegation and once received a marketing boost from Chuck Blazer, Atlanta United beat the Portland Timbers 4-3 in an MLS Cup final featuring hat tricks by Josef Martinez and Diego Valeri, neither of whom would score that many goals in La Liga.'”)

So just having a variety of names attached is a good thing. I often wished I could show some solidarity with those on the “outside,” and a group like this helps.

Maybe they could do some things to raise their visibility. The UFC rankings (no offense to the one former co-worker and longtime friend of mine who takes his vote very seriously) aren’t particularly credible. What if the MMAJA did their own? The only glue that held together the soccer associations was voting on weekly awards.

Still, what matters more is that the media understand what they’re doing and the ramifications of all of it. Press conferences are often just for show, in MMA especially but sometimes in soccer as well.

And it’s important to pick one’s battles. One time I diverged from my soccer colleagues was when MLS decided to give us some information before MLS Cup but asked us to withhold it until halftime. I had no issue with it, and it gave us time to prepare what we were going to do with it. Others immediately tweeted it out. So what happened? MLS never did that again, so now you get the same info at halftime, and you have to scramble to respond to it while you’re trying to cover a game. Was that “scoop” worth it?

The MMA media have more difficult fights. If I’m being asked not to ask certain questions at a press conference, I’d be inclined not to go, and then I’ll ask the questions elsewhere. We’d have to see if my editors backed that up.

They grasp these issues. They have intelligent discussions on them. It’s impressive. And a lot of us could learn from it.

 

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