July 21, 2012

Lawyers, guns and money

I was en route to Dulles Airport, headed to California for some much-needed R&R last month, when I heard the tragic, ugly news: at least 10 dead in a move-theater shooting in suburban Denver.

After the momentary horror, then confirmation of the tragedy on my smartphone, I thought about how many times we've been here before -- lone gun nut, armed with enough firepower to take down a Taliban outpost, mows down innocent bystanders.  Then, I got pissed: how many more massacres will it take for someone -- anyone -- to come to their collective senses and dope-smack the blood-drenched leaders of the NRA and their henchmen in Congress?

Tucson.  Fort Hood. Virginia Tech. Columbine.

They've become so routine they've devolved into shorthand.  And newspapers are quickly developing handy graphics to help us keep track.  And those are only the ones that grab headlines on a national scale: in the DC area last week, four people were shot and killed, and in urban areas nationwide multiple shootings are common enough that city leaders want to act where national ones fear to tread, taking on the NRA for the sake of their constituents -- and children.

The one thing that frustrates me most is that the pattern is so very similar.  Guns -- typically more than one, usually the type developed specifically to kill other humans, as opposed to hunt "varmints" or put food on the table.  Disturbed loner -- just sane enough to pass a cursory background check, then gather up as many weapons as he can afford -- or carry away at once. A nation bound together in mourning over a senseless, inexplicable act, bloodshed that tore apart families, ended young lives prematurely and -- unfortuantely -- rarely forces us to confront what we don't want to see.

And it once again reestablishes the heavyweight credentials of an NRA that, thanks to legions of lobbyists and tons of cash, manages to use old tropes and worn-out saws to dodge the blame: "guns don't kill people; crazy gunmen do"; if the bystanders were armed, everyone would be safe;" "don't blame us, there are gun control laws already on the books."

Which the NRA and their allies on the right have spent, oh, about two decades trying to get rid of.  They've become so absurdly successful they've even run out of gun laws to attack.

Only there's plenty of blame to spread around.  Dems haven't exactly distinguished themselves fighting the good fight against the NRA, either -- pragmatic cowardice that goes all the way to the top.

E.J., make it plain. 

July 20, 2012

Same as it ever was

Well, that didn't take long.

Almost two years ago to the month, I shuttered this here politics/pop culture blogging experiment, launched when I split with The Boston Globe, to go pro: specifically, taking a job with Politico, the internet-based equivalent of ESPN for DC insiders, a fast-paced web site chockablock with blogs and interesting political morsels.

Politico seemed a safe haven: I'd get a nice paying gig at a place where I could hone my political writing skills at a fast-paced, seat-of-the-pants, churn-and-burn outfit that matched what I wanted to do on my own with the blog, and get experience at a dot-com shop on my resume.  In exchange, a place somewhat notorious for its lack of diversity would get to showcase the fact that an experienced, quality journalist from a well-established newspaper chose to join their ranks.

What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, it turns out. 

Wow: didn't see that one coming. 

The upshot: now, as in 2010, I'm at loose ends, a termination agreement having ended my 24-month career at Politico.

More similarities: my departures from Politico and the Globe both centered on a pragmatic decision to leave corporate journalism as well as a burning desire to express myself on political views of the day.  This time around, however, I have a much higher profile, as well as actual experience having my views known on TV as well as Twitter and other areas of the Internet. And I have more connections, real-life models and concepts that I didn't have in 2010, ways to make my views matter.

In other words, things are exactly the same, only completely different.

There are a lot of things to try and cover in my blog, and I really want to get them all.  Just this morning, going about my daily rounds, I had a collision of thoughts that would make good blog posts and keep true to the vision of writing about politics, popular culture and race: the political implications of the Colorado movie theater shooting, Romney's Bain pain; what the Penn State scandal says about intercollegiate athletics; what my own departure from Politico says about the lack of real diversity in Washington's elite political press corps.

But hanging out my electronic shingle again after a two-year absence -- and the fact that I didn't have a lot of readers to begin with during my first blogging go-round -- reminds me of a message that pops up on the internet music site Pandora when, after playing for awhile, it detects no activity from its subscribers and pauses: "Are you still listening? We try not to play to an empty room."

Well put, computer music algorithm. 

The last few months have shown me that a handful of people out there in the web hinterlands do pay attention to what I say and report.  If you guys are still out there, and you're interested in reading JoeWilliamsDC, let me hear about it.  Give me feedback -- likes, dislikes, "what-the-hell-were-you-thinking"s.  Toss some ideas and tips my way, let me know what you think.  I'd like this part of the experiment to become more of a two-way street.

At the same time, I'm interested in experimenting a bit with the style, the format and the appearance of JWDC. I want music to play a role here, too: I love it and there are tons of songs that pop to mind when I want to make a point.  Perhaps even a name-change is in order, the better to distinguish the old from the new, rebranding things for yet another phase in my career. Suggestions and feedback -- as well as pointers from some bloggers you read that I haven't yet discovered -- are always welcome.

So, dear readers: what do you say? Is there anybody out there?  *THUMP_THUMP* Is this thing on?

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