Archive for the 'Current Events' Category

Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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Cheeps and Chirps for Jan. 29, 2017

January 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 29, 2017

Wow, I didn’t realized it had been so long since I’d shared some of my Twitter gems.

I’m going to limit myself to tweets from Jan. 28, as the cruelty of President Trump’s executive order banning Muslims sank in, and as news broke that the president’s inner circle was going to limit the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in some key national security meetings.

• ZOMG Donald Trump!

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No prior experience? No problem! Trump fans hail the election of a candidate with a historically thin résumé

November 18, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 18, 2016

With the election of Donald John Trump Sr. as president of the United States of America on Nov. 8, 2016, the nation entered a new era: That of the celebrity-president.

Trump will be just the fourth president in our nation’s history never to have held public office prior to entering the White House. He will be the first to do so without any experience serving in either the military or elected office.

Trump had three predecessors who lacked any political experience: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. Grant served in the army for 23 years, according to Vox’s Zachary Crockett, while Eisenhower had a 37-year-long military career and Taylor’s army stint spanned four decades. All three reached the rank of general; all three supervised forces in battle.

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Why #ImWithHer: Considering Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

November 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 7, 2016

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, I will vote for Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States of America. The Democratic candidate is an imperfect individual, but she is eminently qualified to serve as president, and I expect her to be an acceptable — and perhaps even an excellent — steward of the national interests as chief executive.

By contrast, knowing what I do about the character and campaign of her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, I cannot imagine myself backing him in good conscience for any position of importance.

Trump seems temperamentally unsuited for high office, as indicated by two recent news items. One is that he and adviser Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chief, have parted ways because, according to a reporter, “Trump couldn’t focus — surprise, surprise — and … advising him was a waste of time… [The] debate prep sessions weren’t going anywhere.” The other is that Trump’s campaign has managed to wrest control of his Twitter account away from the candidate. (The Trump camp disputes both reports. Instead, a surrogate has blamed Ailes for telling irrelevant war stories when he was supposed to be preparing the candidate for his encounters with Clinton, and an aide maintains that Trump still runs the account.)

All of which is to ignore numerous signs of Trump’s misogynistic attitudes and actions, which would have disqualified most candidates in previous elections.

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Phantom gunshots, real terror: Notes on two recent incidents in the land of the free, home of the armed (and fearful)

August 18, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 18, 2016

In Tuesday’s edition of Cheeps and Chirps, I included a tweet from Saturday that shared a breaking news alert:

This was one of the lead news stories in the Triangle on Saturday, but what I didn’t realize when I was preparing the blog post was that police have yet to find any evidence that a gun was actually fired at the mall that afternoon. I deleted it from the post once I understood that there had evidently not been any kind of shooting whatsoever. Authorities are continuing to investigate the reason why shoppers thought that a firearm had been discharged, a misperception that provoked a stampede that left several people injured.

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Tragedy upon tragedy: America suffers its worst week in nearly 15 years

July 9, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 9, 2016

This week, two men — two black men — who did not seem to pose an imminent threat to anyone were shot to death by police officers in Baton Rouge, La., and in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. About 24 hours after the death of the second man, Philando Castile, a gunman began firing at the conclusion of a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas. Five law enforcement officers died; eight other people were wounded, all but two of whom were police.

More than two years ago, I called April 2, 2014, “a most American day” because of the events that took place on a seemingly ordinary Wednesday. That morning, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision that eased restrictions on political donations, thereby further paving the way for America’s wealthy to expand their influence on the nation’s political process. That afternoon, a mass shooting took place at Fort Hood in Texas, as three people were killed and 13 others injured by a soldier who subsequently took his own life.

That was a bad day, and bad in ways that were characteristically American; that is, in ways that showed off our nation’s embrace of money and guns. This past week, I think, has also been uniquely American, and for some of the same reasons. In fact, I think this has been the most discouraging week for our nation since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

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Cheeps and Chirps for July 2, 2016

July 2, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 2, 2016

Please enjoy some more recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed.

• Comedy!

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Patented Pundit Scorecard™ No. 2: I was wrong, wrong, WRONG about Donald Trump

February 26, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 26, 2016

In November, I introduced a feature exclusive to this blog: the Patented Pundit Scorecard™. I am now pleased to roll out the second edition of the PPS™.

When Donald Trump declared that he was seeking the Republican Party nomination as a candidate for president of the United States, I was extremely skeptical about his chances of winning. In fact, early on, I decided that Trump wouldn’t even win a single primary or caucus. I put out a marker to that effect with this August 2015 tweet.

Well, guess what, ladies and germs? I was wrong, wrong, wrong about Trump’s likelihood of succeeding at the ballot box. In this, I was hardly alone: It seems that about 99.9 percent of those who regularly opine about politics through mass-media print, broadcasting and digital outlets doubted that Trump could get the nomination.

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Dollars, dreams and journalism: Comparing the visions of Hamilton Nolan and Steve Brill

January 20, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 20, 2016

I recently came across two stories that surveyed the state of the media, and they made for interesting contrasts.

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan wrote “The Problem With Journalism Is You Need an Audience” in the wake of the closures of the quirky, prestige long-form sports website Grantland and, more recently, of Al Jazeera America, the cable news network that aspired to provide in-depth audiovisual journalism. Nolan also references the announcement that the owner of The New Republic is seeking a buyer to take it off of his hands. That last development comes roughly a year after Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes’s purchase of, and announcement of planned changes to, the boutique intellectual magazine with a liberal bent caused a mass walkout of New Republic staffers.

Nolan is something of a cynic, although he would, I am sure, describe himself as a realist. His core message is that there is no mass audience for quality journalism, or at least for a mass-market product that revolves almost exclusively around quality journalism. Instead, he writes, the only business models that are sustainable in and of themselves in the long term are mass-media outlets “that have huge scale and publish everything for everyone (TV news networks, major national newspapers, Buzzfeed)” or niche publications such as trade magazines.

Outside of those two channels, Nolan posits, the only successful types of media are either small-scale operations or ones that are subsidized in some way, whether as a charity or by a tycoon or large media organization that makes its profits elsewhere. Nolan lists The New Yorker, which belongs to the Condé Nast magazine-publishing conglomerate, and Grantland, which was a branch of the ESPN sports-television media empire, as examples of prestige outlets supported by corporations.

Interestingly, this recent interview with journalist and businessman Steve Brill focuses on newspapers, which don’t seem to fit into any of the categories Nolan reviews. (Maybe they qualify as niche publications?)

When his comments are considered on a superficial level, Brill sounds nearly as cynical as Nolan. Brill blasts the management of the newspapers, both large and small, with which he dealt as head of Press Plus, which helped establish pay walls for newspaper websites.

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The American way of death: Assessing 2015 mass shootings in the United States

December 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 22, 2015

The gun massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 dead on Wednesday, Dec. 2, followed shootings and a five-hour-long siege at Colorado Springs, Colo., Planned Parenthood clinic that left three dead on Nov. 27. And that attack, of course followed one at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., that left 10 dead on Oct. 1.

But it’s not as if gun violence in America took a two-month holiday between Roseburg and Colorado Springs. In attempt to understand the extent of mass shooting incidents in America, I went to the Gun Violence Archive and downloaded its data on 2015 mass shootings.

The site defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are “shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” I realized afterward that what truly interested me were what the archive categorizes as mass murders, in which four or more people are “killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.”

The archive hasn’t broken out data on gun massacres (as I will call them) separately from mass shootings, but I did some number crunching using their information. I found that there had been 300 mass shootings in which 341 people were killed and 1,212 injured. Read the rest of this entry »

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