On Friday mornings, I try to map out a plan for The Nose, our weekly culture roundtable. This has usually been preceded by a day or two of emails circulated among the panelists (who, on this day, are James Hanley, Tracy Wu-Fastenberg and Patty McQueen.
[Chion Wolf photos]
Ordinarily, we don’t dive right into hard news, but it’s hard to ignore the disclosures from the last few days about FISA, phones, PRISM and government access to internet servers. Amusingly (in a dark way), Obama is meeting with the President of China today about cybersecurity, a conversation that is bound to be less one-sided now. It does somehow seem to fit with all the grapeshot fired at FOIA here in Connecticut this year.
So even though we’re not a news roundtable, we’ll dip our toe in this one, because privacy is cultural too.
As we wander further afield, I want to bring up the storm of tears, anger and outright rejection that followed last week’s Game of Thrones episode in which three sympathetic characters were brutally murdered. Read the tweets in the slideshow here. They are pretty typical of what I saw on Twitter that night. It’s one thing to be shocked and troubled. It’s another to throw a tantrum at the author, as if he had no right to kill off people he made up. (Did Dickens have to deal with that?) It seems extreme somehow, and I have to think it has do with the way big dramas have moved to TV, which used to be a safer, more reassuring place. But one of or panelists suggested it has something to do with the way people are more comfortable expressing emotion and even weakness in connection with TV characters than with the people in their real lives.
That also guided us toward Deval Patrick, who offered the rather frank disclosure that he went out by himself and got drunk after the bomber manhunt. Having just spent some time in the Berkshires, I’m wondering what restaurant it was. The duck confit at John Andrews is remarkable. So is Patrick’s concession to being human, atypical for a politician.
What other politician has done something atypically human?
Vladimir Putin is divorcing his wife — he told her wants to start intimidating other people — and one Russian observer said: ”The divorce of Putin is a step toward democracy. He could hide as much as he wanted, but he chose to reveal that he is human, he can have bad luck. He chose transparency.”
But he’s still a bully, right? Putin tends to bristle however, at people nosing around in his relationship with his much-younger gymnast girlfriend: “I have always disliked those who, with their infected noses and erotic fantasies, break into other people’s private affairs.”
How can we turn down an infected nose topic? (Pictured: the good old days!) I’m not sure we’ll get to the interrcial Cheerios blacklash even though, earlier in the week, it seemed like a natural Nose winner.
I don’t think we’re there yet.
I don’t think this is the right compromise.
And I agree with Peter Tercyak that if this had been aired out in public hearings, we might have the right compromise.
Here’s my suggestion. It’s so obvious that I’m sort of worried that I’m missing some huge constitutional point or procedural reality.
Inspect but don’t reproduce.
My suggestion is that any citizen can make a request and then physically present him(or her)self at the relevant police station and inspect homicide crime scene photos but not for the purpose of reproducing them elsewhere. Presumably, the vast ruck of police photos would be available as they are now to the press and public. The new compromise envisions the creation of a special class of photos deserving of some segregation. I’m a little nervous about letting the police make that judgment call, but fine. But let any interested person inspect them under supervision with no opportunity to reproduce or distribute them.
There should also probably be a petition process by which certain of these photos could be moved out of the protected class, either through the FOI Commission or the courts.
Meyer, one of the two senators who opposed the bill, said: “As a father of six and a grandfather of 13, I identify so much with the horrific crimes of Dec, 14 and the immense sadness that those events bring to the Newtown families,” Meyer said. But, he added, “There is a bigger issue here that must be addressed. Criminal conduct occurred which is subject to Connecticut’s criminal law, perhaps the most public of our laws. The Newtown crimes were committed on public property. The photos and recordings were taken or obtained by police officers. The suppression of horrific crimes committed on public property and recorded by public officials is not consistent with a free and open society.
“The more we understand about our ugliness, the better chance we have to overcome that ugliness. Suppression of horrific conduct, as this bill dictates, invites history to repeat itself. … With sadness, I say that history will show that this well-intentioned bill is a large mistake.”
Meyer made his comments in a printed statement, to which he attached famous journalism photographs depicting: Vietnamese girl running in terror after her clothes were burned off her by napalm; the killings at Kent State University; the police abuse of Rodney King; and recent injuries after the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
But there’s another reason. One of the prime drivers of this impulse to sequester crime scene photos is the experience we all had with Newtown conspiracy creeps and wackos. Do Malloy and the legislature not understand that what they’re proposing actually energizes those wackos? Allow me to share one of the emails I got this week:
Dear Colin, for once I actually agree with some of what you said in your June 2nd article in the Courant. But not entirely. I am one who does care and have written to representatives in Newtown to ask why they would even think about not allowing death certificates to remain public. I do not think a town clerk who is annoyed with the requests should be allowed to dictate policy. Plenty of other people have died in CT, including children, and no one seemed to care about their families’ sensibilities. My issue with what you said, however, is that you didn’t take your indignation further and ask why the legislature inserted inself so quickly into a police investigation and why they are making laws to keep the public uninformed. It’s because Newtown did not happen as reported; it was staged to further gun control legislation and probably by Eric Holder (and heaven forbid, maybe Obama) who visited Malloy in late November and again right after Newtown. Gun control is something the Courant endorses so it is not surprising that they have done little to no investigative reporting. The end justifies the means. You don’t find it unusual that victims’ families were escorted on Air Force One, that no one saw the bodies of their children, that Lt. Vance threatened anyone who strays from the official story, that Dr. Carver said bizarre things about what good photographers he had and he hoped this wouldn’t come back to bite Newtown? I wish you would do what you did to Rowland with this whole issue. You could be famous. I’m sure you voted for Malloy but maybe don’t again or for any legislator voting to keep secrets. I’m not saying these children are not dead but they may not be. A parent on FB said she saw a picture of her alive-and-well child among the pictures of the dead. How would that happen? If they are, why hide the death certificates? Maybe because no one wants to forge so many. A sign behind Gene Rosen, said “Everyone Must Check In” and porta potties lined the street. I lived in CT for 65 years but am presenty in RI where the top story today in the Providence Journal is the Attorney General ruled a woman is not entitled to the police report on her brother who died in custody. So it goes. You said this should be nonpartisan; I agree and hope you stick to that. You’ve certainly been known to follow a certain ideology. The bums need to be thrown out, regardless of their party. One more thing, if this were a Republican administration, there would be far more scrutiny and far less acceptance of the official story.
I share this only to suggest that the crime photo sequester will have many unintended consequences.
(And I take back nothing! You may apply my criticisms of Rell to anyone currently pushing Keno.)
That’s what you came up with?
And you’re OK with that?
You’re not planning some kind of public statement on all Connecticut television stations along the lines of: “Good evening. This is Gov. Jodi Rell. As we near the end of an especially tortured state budget-making process, I regret to inform you that the only revenue idea my staff and I have some up with is the institution of Keno, which is – I fully recognize – degenerate and scumball public policy which will hurt the families who can least afford it. I have disgraced myself and my office. Later tonight, I will perform ritual seppuku, in the hopes that my honorable death with lift the shame I have brought upon myself with this miserable performance. Good night and good luck. I have had fairly good results playing the number 12 in various combinations. So that’s my final gift to you.”
Actually, speaking of failure – a term that should permanently attach itself to a governor who began the budget process pretending we had $2 billion more than we actually did in defiance of her own budget director and ended it with Keno - I feel like a failure as a father, because I have been patiently urging my son to consider getting trained in clean energy technologies or mass transit or maybe joining AmeriCorps for a year. And it turns out I should have been saying, “Son, this state is going to need a lot of technicians who know their way around aKeno machine, so here’s an Amtrak ticket to Maryland. Learn what you can and come back here right away.”
Now, as we go along here, I’ll explain a little bit more about what Keno is; but I want to say, right up front, what Keno represents in this context: an acknowledgment by Rell that she would rather exploit the desperation and poor judgment of people in modest circumstances than ask people of means for a little more money.
Because nobody at the Hartford Golf Club or down at Round Hill in Greenwich is ever, ever, ever going to say, “Hi-ho, Topsy! What say we have Raul bring the Bentley around to the porte-cochere and go find one of those delightful stateKeno machines? I fancy a little gaming!”
No, the people who play Keno are going to be, overwhelmingly, the people who have just enough or less than enough to get by and have fooled themselves (possibly aided by some meretricious state-sponsored television advertising campaign) into thinking they can expand their meager wad.
A tiny few of them will experience that benefit, but the vast majority will not, because if you play Keno a lot, you will be more likely to get back about $60 of every $100 you put in. You will get poorer. That is how Rell expects to make the state $60 million richer.
Keno started roughly 3,000 years ago in China. There is some debate about whether it was actually used to fund the building of the Great Wall, but there is no question that it was devised during the Han dynasty as a way of squeezing more money out of the peasants without imposing more unpopular taxes on them. And today it has evolved into a way of … hey, wait a minute!
That’s actually a breathtaking aspect of the history of Keno. It wasn’t started by shady operators and then co-opted by “the state.” It was started by the state and then co-opted by shady operators. In recent years, it has been getting back to its origins.
It was, in its early days, sometimes known as the Game of the White Pigeon because carrier pigeons were used to ferry results to remote areas of China. Or possibly because pigeons are so obviously full of crap.
The basic idea is that 20 numbers of a possible 80 are picked at random. You have the opportunity, beforehand, to guess as many as 10 of them. You can win both small and large amounts of money based on how many numbers you pick and how much you bet.
Today, you do not have wait for the pigeon to bring you the results. States withKeno machines typically run the games every five minutes. In Michigan, for example, Club Keno drawings take place every five minutes seven days a week from 6:05 a.m. until 1:45 a.m. Whoopee! Many of the machines are in bars (see “state legislator, where to find your”), where patrons can consume nourishing and judgment-improving beverages while they decide how much money to lose.
A weekly Powerball ticket is to Keno games as a large cup of coffee is to crack cocaine.
It seems an unnecessarily timid step. Why is state-operated cockfighting not on the table? Where are the state-licensed hookers and the heavily taxed Amsterdam-style pot districts?
It’s probably what they said in Gomorrah: “It’s either this or raise taxes.”
Of course, in Gomorrah there turned out to be a third possible outcome.
Famed sociolinguist Bill Labov made a startling claim today on our show about local dialects and accents: “The Yankee settlement pattern is what makes the northern United States what it is.” Labov said the northern Midwest speech pattern, from Syracuse and Rochester to Chicago, Michigan and Milwaukee was actually established by a westward expansion of workers from Connecticut.
Labov, who’s based at UPenn and is the author of a dozen or so books on language, says the “rotation of vowel sounds” in which “block” becomes “black” and “black” becomes something akin to
“blake” — think: Chicago accent — is from Connecticut workers.
These remarks occur around the 33-minute mark. Labov: “The origin of that seems to be in Connecticut. New Britain is what we point to as the ancestor of that program. When the Erie Canal was built people from Connecticut were brought westward into New York and that seems to have been the setting for this big new change in American English.”
Here are some of the New Britain indigenous people who have labored to preserve the antique tongue.(That sounds gross.)
First we had a rollicking Paul Giamatti “Hamlet,” sloshing and slopping with japery.
And now we have a “Twelfth Night,” that’s quite comfortable exploring its own melancholy.
Which is not to say that Hartford Stage’s “Twelfth Night” isn’t funny. It is. But the laughs come from odd sources. Orsino (the handsome nobleman), for example, is funny right from his opening scene. Feste (the fool) is rather pensive throughout. This is a gorgeous, idiosyncratic, unpredictable production, and you should go see it. But be prepared for a peculiar twist. 12th’s comic trio — Feste, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek — is Shakespeare’s funniest ensemble (pace, rude mechanicals), but in this Darko Tresnjak production Bruce Turk’s thoroughly excellent Malvolio gets the biggest laugh (and, later on, the audience’s squirming sympathy). Tresnjak mutes the Big Three just a little so that he can explore other colors of the play. And those colors are pasted across the back of the gorgeous set at play’s end, as the cast turns its back to the audience and regards a Maxfield Parrish sunset, beautiful and a little sad.
The play — like so many plays in Connecticut this year — is a visual feast. And Tresnjak is turning out to be one hell of a director and helmsman. He will never love us the way Michael Wilson loved us, and we will never love him back the way we did Wilson. He’s not that guy. But we may love his work very, very much. He’s directed five plays since he got here, and four of them have been sensational. And one senses that he has also invested heavily, as artistic director, in plays he’s not actually directing. I can’t help but feel the restaging of Beth Henley’s “Abundance” got some kind of Tresnjak transfusion.
So this is good. Go see this show. Have greatness thrust upon you.
MONDAY: Busyness: We already did this one. It’s right here. When someone asks “How are you?” do you always respond with “Busy!”? Why is being busy a sought-after response? What kind of busyness is healthy, and what kind is guaranteed to make your mind and personal connections weaker? We’ll hear from the author of the New York Times essay, “The Busy Trap”, Tim Kreider, and Nick Carr, author of “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”.
TUESDAY: Connecticut Accents – Is there such a thing as a Connecticut accent? It’s not as recognizable as the Texas drawl or the Southern twang, but experts say Connecticut does have an accent. Actually, it has several. We’ll talk with speech therapists and the world-renowned American linguist Bill Labov, the founder of variationalist sociolinguistics who spent years studying how accents change in urban environments.
WEDNESDAY: Rethinking Rehab – Every year in the U.S., 120,000 people die of addiction, that’s 350 a day. Author David Sheff joins us to talk about rehab, what that word means, and why 12-step programs in American need to be reformed. He writes in Time: “The treatment system fails because it’s rooted in an entrenched, inaccurate view that addicts are morally bereft and weak. If they weren’t, the belief goes, they’d stop using when drugs began to negatively impact their lives. Most treatment centers in the U.S. are based on an archaic philosophy that’s rooted in the 12-step model of recovery. These programs have saved countless lives, but they don’t work for a majority of people who try them.”
THURSDAY: Blues - Christine Ohlman, the “Beehive Queen,” just finished her 23rd season as lead vocalist for the Saturday Night Live Band and has overdubbed backup vocals for the Rolling Stones. She’s with us in studio to play and talk about the blues.
FRIDAY: The Nose rounds up the week in pop culture and politics.
(Photo by Ric Kallaher)
It appears that the Second Circuit filed, on Friday, a stunning rebuke and reversal in SEBAC et al v. Rowland et al.
I have given it only a quick read — and this is not my area of expertise — but it’s clear that the three judges ruled unanimously that John Rowland, Marc Ryan and the state acted illegally in targeting 2,800 union members for dismissal. (Before the usual partisan whimpering begins, note that one of those judges was Reena Raggi, a conservative W. appointee.)
They sent the case back to District Court for consideration of one thing only — damages.
They also reinstated Rowland and Ryan as individual defendants. This could take a pretty big bite out of Ryan who made a lot of money on the other side of the revolving door. Rowland may be, comme on dit, “judgment-proof,” but if Golub and Klau wanted to be, you know, pushy about it, they could make him prove he’s too poor to pay anything. (Some may recall that Rowland’s plea agreement in his criminal case was almost derailed at the last minute because it turned out he had been, um, less than candid about his financial circumstances.)
As has historically been the case with Rowland shenanigans, the big losers will be you. You will probably have to pay a lot of money in “equitable relief.” I haven’t consulted with anybody knowledgeable about this, but just eyeballing it — 2,800 plaintiffs all eligible for some kind of significant relief — it’s hard to see how this isn’t a $100 million problem.
Our show today: The various attempts to weaken FOI laws in CT. The lack of any Howard Beale in the legislature after the revelations of the Braddock trial. The fact that ALL reform efforts in the area of government and elections in CT this year seem to be in the wrong direction: weakening oversight, expanding contribution opportunities, kneecapping watchdog agencies.
And the mystifying silence of the public on these issues.
And commenters, for once in your lives, try to understand this is not a partisan issue. Both parties do it. The party with the most control typically does it more.
When you guys make it partisan, when you scream it’s the other side that needs reform, you cripple our chance to fix the system,. It’s the system that’s broken, not one of the parties.
It’s from 1 to 2.
Talk line is 860 275-7266.
Matt DeRienzo is the Connecticut Group Editor for 21st Century Media Company in Connecticut. He joins us in studio.
Jon Lender is an investigative reporter for the Hartford Courant. He joins us in studio.
Cheri Quickmire is executive director of Common Cause Connecticut. She joins us in studio.
Brian Lockhart is a reporter for the Stamford Advocate.
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