Vetting Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

Just wanted to point out this passage from a Daily Caller story about who was right and wrong in the ever-shifting Trayvon Martin story. I find the word choice revealing:

Both Martin and Zimmerman have faced a thorough character-vetting process as prominent activists and politicians ensure a continued national focus on the tragedy. Both men share rocky backgrounds, with Martin having been suspended from school on multiple occasions for various reasons and Zimmerman having previous run-ins with the law.

Martin’s disciplinary history showed no sign of physical aggression, though; a fact that offers Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense little support in the court of public opinion.

So the Daily Caller views this as a “character-vetting process?” As if Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were possible vice presidential picks rather than involved in a criminal investigation?

So Alternative, It’s Mainstream

It's time to pop this bubble.

Charles Murray is worried you live in a bubble.

Murray, an author and political scientist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute is concerned that American “elites” have cloistered themselves. Their ignorance of mainstream culture has led to detrimental policy decisions for mainstream Americans made on their behalf by elites.

Murray is publishing a book, “Coming Apart,” based on the thesis.

Murray has devised a 25-question test to determine just how much you live in a bubble. I took the test and I think it’s bunk.

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Tampa’s Thai Secret

The Wat temple on Palm River Drive, one of our favorite food spots.

It’s rare I get a Sunday morning off because it’s one of my soccer days.

But on those infrequent Sundays in between seasons where we don’t have a game the wife and I usually already have plans: The Wat Mongkolratnaram — or Wat temple for ease of pronunciation.

Every Sunday morning the temple hosts a brunch and meditation service. Get there early — they start serving food between 10 and 10:30 — because they will sell out of items. The brunch is a fund-raiser for the temple.

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This American Life Had A Warning About Apple Story

Actor, playwright and author Mike Daisey.

Politico‘s Byron Tau noted a point that had crossed my mind about This American Life’s retraction of an episode examining conditions at an Apple supplier’s China plant.

Background here.

Why did This American Life even take a story where the ‘reporter’ lied his way into factories under false pretenses? Ethically dubious.

— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) March 17, 2012

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Now Drinking: Cold Storage Brewery

We sampled a few beers at Cold Storage brewery's one year (and four month) anniversary event.

My wife and I have been looking for reasons to check out Seminole Heights, a neighborhood north of downtown Tampa and similar to where we lived in Columbia. Seminole Heights has lots of craftsman-style bungalows and larger homes from the 20s and 30s in a tree-lined neighborhood and is a budding hipster enclave.

Seminole Heights also feature a few of Tampa’s most interesting restaurants, including The Refinery and Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe, and a great bar in The Independent.

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Now Playing: Sleigh Bells “Comeback Kid”

Sleigh Bells’ first record, Treats, was a fuzzed-out, turned-up-to-11 mix of storage unit guitar shredding and bratty cheerleader spirit.

They deliberately turned up the noise until it was race-car-in-the-red distorted and it only let up on the listener on one track, “Rill Rill.” Treats was wonderfully polarizing — the kind of record you’d turn on in the car on the way out for the evening and most of your friends would be shouting “make it stop!” from the back seat.

Though they tone down the in-your-face dynamic on the second record, Reign of Terror, it’s just as good.

Without the emphasis on the overcooked audio, Reign of Terror has a little more room to breathe. They still rely on the big, dumb guitar riffs, but lead singer Alexis Krauss is a little more forward on the mix.

Her delivery is more teen pop than pep squad chant. She’s also got a touch of the tough, but sad vibe that Garbage always brought.

The strongest tracks are “Crush” and “End of the Line.” If you’ve got a few more iTunes or eMusic bucks, add “Comeback Kid” (above) and “Demons.”

Sleigh Bells aren’t for everyone, but there’s less to turn people off about this record. Highly recommended.

A South Georgia Travelogue

One of the sights from the roads of Southern Georgia.

I’d usually take an Interstate over a country road if given the choice.

They’re predictable, they have more services and they’re usually faster.

I had co-worker who would always argue that we should take back roads to assignments and camping trips just to check out the “cool shit.” I’d still take the interstates.

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Now Playing: “Chest Fever”

Watching “The Last Waltz.” Again.

Following the Money Pays Off

South Carolina state Rep. Harold Mitchell

South Carolina state Rep. Harold Mitchell was indicted last week and suspended from office, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, a process that started with a series of stories I wrote about a state grant program four years ago.

Some background: In 2007 the South Carolina Legislature allocated a pool of money they dubbed the competitive grants program. A panel, mostly appointed by lawmakers, decided how to award grants for economic development, infrastructure and other projects.

In total, more than $40 million was set aside for the grants program. The most common grants were for local festivals — Salley Chitlin’ Strut, anyone? — or water and sewer projects.

The name of the program would suggest the grant applications were weighed and measured and those found wanting would be denied. The reality was the committee set no standards for how the grants would be judged and doled out awards based on political whim and, likely, pot sweeteners for allies of Legislative leaders.

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When ‘Kumbaya’ Drives Us Apart

NPR had an interesting story on the South Carolina roots of ‘Kumbaya,’ tying the whole thing to Saturday’s Republican presidential primary.

‘Kumbaya’ is a folk tune from Gullah people of coastal South Carolina.

The NPR story makes the point that within political discourse ‘Kumbaya’ has become a punchline, a milquetoast, squishy ideal of compromise pushed by fuzzy-headed idealists. They cite examples of derisive quotes from both Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, and a spokesman for Democratic President Barack Obama.

The NPR story doesn’t mention South Carolina’s role in germinating the current strain of anti-compromise.

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