Category Archives: Economics

French, Licked: the Certain Uncertainly of May 7

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Having just heard about the tragic passing of Corrine Erhel, a French socialist politician who suffered a fatal heart attack while stumping for Emmanuel Macron on Cinco de Mayo, one’s first instinct is to view her death as a tragic omen for the cause she died in support of. With the final round of France’s national elections wrapping up May 7, the reasonable possibility of an upset win by Marine LePen and her National Front (FN) means that Erhel, who was only 50, may go down as merely the first to perish in the wake of a vote whose results will likely be cataclysmic for her country, no matter who wins.

While superstition is ultimately just that, it’s tempting to indulge such sentiment, given the recent sequence of events. Erhel’s death was immediately preceded by news of—believe it or not—massive hacking of Macron’s emails, the leaking of which was smartly timed to coincide with the legally mandated two-day period of silence before the vote. It’s an interesting quirk of their parliamentary system, one that would be intolerable in the United States, whose politicians can hardly be compelled to shut up, even when they’re asleep.

And they are certainly asleep, figuratively if not necessarily literally, although there can be little doubt that any number of our leading politicians are so heavily pilled-up that they need help tying their own shoes and neckties, to say nothing of reading the legislation being foisted upon them on an almost weekly basis early on in the Trump Era. Indeed, when the president’s controversial (to say the least) health-care plan passed earlier this week, by the narrowest of margins, despite ample partisan cushion, it was attended almost immediately by reports that some members of Congress had not bothered to read the very legislation that their historical reputations are now intractably tethered to. At least one of them actually admitted this on television, which strikes me as something other than the behavior of someone who is acting in their right mind.

The elections in France are being touted as a critical indicator of the trajectory of western politics in the new reality, and while it’s easy enough the parallels to events in the US in Europe, it’s worth remembering that the French are famously unpredictable. After all, the idea of the National Front getting anywhere near the runoff was openly scoffed at, as recently as a month ago. No one in proper political circles would’ve guessed that the hard-right, with all their bluster and bully tactics, would be capable of finishing as strongly as they did, let alone that their momentum would only continue in the interregnum. The LePen family has been flirting with fanaticism for years, with the father put out to pasture by his own daughter, who herself has struggled to achieve even basic credibility.

The struggle is real—at least, it was. Now she’s so credible that the political establishment is having night-sweats all weekend. Tensions are high, and so are the figureheads; in café society, the SSRIs are flowing free like fine wine, with blood soon to follow, perhaps. After watching the police torched with Molotov cocktails on May Day, it’s hard to conceive of any scenario in which the nation is not at least partially in flames within days. If Macron wins, as currently projected, the FN and its adherents will likely respond with violence. If LePen wins, violence is guaranteed. No matter who wins, the majority of French citizens will be not only dissatisfied, but terrified for the future of their country. This is not their first rodeo. They are firmly aware of the worst-case scenario. Good luck to them!

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Tony Allen: an Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat, by Tony Allen and Michael E. Veal. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 192 pp, illustrated.

“There would be no Afrobeat without Tony Allen,” said the late great Fela Kuti (1938-1997), leader of the Africa 70—originally Koola Lobitos, later the Nigeria 80. Together he and Allen rose together from their early years in Nigeria’s ‘Highlife” scene to the peaks of global prominence, together they built one of the hardest-hitting and smoothest-swinging big-bands of all time—a band as tight as Ellington’s or Benny Goodman’s, yet as expansive in sound as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis group–and that’s only speaking as far as the jazz aspects of it. There are infinite other angles, as the reader likely knows already.

As weird as Sun Ra and as socially-relevant as James Brown, Fela’s music has only grown in popularity since his death, and the most indispensable component of his singular sound was his drummer, Tony Allen, whose memoir was published last month. His co-author, Michael E. Veal, previously wrote a well-received biography of Fela, so he entered the project already prepared and predisposed to tell Allen’s story with the fidelity it merits.

Tony Oladipo Allen was born in Nigeria’s capital city of Lagos on August 12, 1940—well, that’s what Wikipedia says; Allen declares his birthday as July 20 on page 21. The book’s first 40-plus pages covers that early phase in his career before he linked up with Fela. Both men were highly influenced by jazz, and some of my favorite stuff in the book comes from this early session, where Allen describes the evolution of his own inimitable drum style in the context of drummers who came before—giants like Gene Krupa, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones and Max Roach. This section also covers serves as a nice overview of what the Nigerian music scene was like before Fela’s crew became the dominant band of that era, in the process bringing Nigerian culture into the mainstream for the first time. The pages are peppered with long-forgotten names, and in that sense the authors have really done a service, not just for musicologists but for their country.

His career as a professional musician began around 1960. One of his earliest serious gig was drumming for Sivor Lawson and the Cool Cats when they opened for Louis Armstrong in 1960; he notes the great impression left his Pops’ drummer, Danny Barcelona (1929-2007), who became one of his first of his many friends working in western music. Allen himself would later become a major player in the fusion of African and Euro-American musical concepts, starting with the infamous Fela recordings with Ginger Baker, the former drummer for Cream. Baker lived in Nigeria for the first half of the 1970s, and his collaboration with Allen and Africa 70 became one of the great “percussion discussions” ever put to wax; their 16-minute drum battle (from 1978) is appended to the CD reissue of Fela’s album Live! (Capitol/EMI, 1971).

Personally, my first experience with Tony Allen’s solo material came via the World Music section of the Jacksonville Public Library, downtown. There was a compilation CD of music from Nigeria, and one of the tracks remains my favorite of his: “Get Together”, whose locomotive beat, fat bass lines and vocal harmonies—understated, but resonant—offered an ideal introduction to the man’s work. I still put it on mixes and such, a decade later.

Casual fans may recall the song “Heat”, by Common, an instant-classic from his Like Water For Chocolate album (MCA, 2000); was built around a beat J. Dilla sampled from Allen’s “Asiko”, track one on 1999’s Black Voices.

As it turns out, Allen’s experience extends well before and after his tenure (1968-79) with Africa 70, and this book really helps flesh out that history. The concert in Berlin that yielded the drum battle with Baker in 1978 was also Allen’s last as a member of Africa 70. By that point, the band had undergone significant trauma, much of it focused on the leader himself, who had made powerful enemies with his brazen critiques of Nigeria’s military dictatorship. Only by coincidence was Allen not at Fela’s home (known as the “Kalakuta Republic”) when it was raided by a thousand soldiers of the Nigerian military in 1977; it one of the most brutal examples of state-sponsored suppression of art in the post-war era. Fela was nearly beaten to death, his life only spared by an officer’s intervention, but the compound was burned to the ground along with his studio, his instruments and master-tapes. Worst of all, Fela’s mother was defenestrated through of a second-story window, causing fatal injuries, and one of the soldiers shit on her face afterwards. Neither Fela nor his music were ever the same again, and neither would Tony Allen.

Allen’s final break with Fela comes on page 127, and the remaining 58 pages covers the years after, as the author became an ambassador of Afrobeat and a touring act in great demand around the world. His solo work displays the same inimitable rhythms he pioneered with Fela, but the music itself is quite different; Allen long ago began to fuse his native sounds with the emergent aesthetic of hip-hop resulting in some of the most compelling music of the past 30 years.

There’s really very little, if anything, to complain about here, but for exactitude’s sake, a few quick points. First, this book would’ve benefitted from a few sparse footnotes, offering biographical details of some of the artists Allen mentions in the text. Many of the names will be familiar to casual fans, but a lot of them will be unknown and obscure even to obsessive fans of Afrobeat; in some cases, there is literally no information available about them at all. The book walks us back through the rise and evolution of the music, but footnotes would’ve helped flesh out the narrative and situate Allen’s work more comfortably in its broader context. To that end, while the book has a decent selected discography also could’ve used a sessionography—although that, too, is a minor complaint, since that information is available online, for anyone who might be interested.

All in all, Allen and Veal have combined to tell one of the most remarkable stories of the last 40 years of music history. They have also managed to flesh out the history of a man who has never quite been recognized for the vastness of his influence. Ultimately, Tony Allen deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as legends like Clyde Stubblefield, Al Jackson Jr. and Bernard Purdie—a true innovator, and master of a sound that would simply not exist without his efforts. That is a fact, and hopefully it will become even more apparent as time goes by.

Notes on Gannett layoffs, and the business in general…

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I just finished reading about the latest round of layoffs in the newspaper industry, in this case Gannett, arguably the most powerful media organization in America today. Props to Jim Romenesko for breaking the story, which is Brutal–just brutal. As a journalist based in Florida (where Gannett owns seven newspapers, three TV stations and four radio stations), I’ve watched in horror as this process has unfolded over the past decade.

This is the first generation of newspapermen who’ve proven incapable of doing business correctly. The number of veteran reporters, photographers, cartoonists, etc. laid off over the past decade could fill a medium-sized arena–and the papers and magazines they left behind are, in most cases, either shells of their former selves or just out-of-business altogether. A number of papers have installed pay-portals in hopes of increasing revenue, but that has the effect of limiting the size of their audience; even The New York Times, the greatest newspaper of all-time, is suffering, although it appears new editor Jill Abramson has done a really great job getting the “Old Gray Lady” back in fighting shape.

Consumers of media need to be more aggressive about using their power to make clear what they want from the product, and editors and publishers around the country need to grow some balls and stop playing a defensive game with new media. The web caught fire in the late-’90s, right as the old guard of print media management was exiting the stage; having weathered multiple storms in the post-war era, they might have managed the transition more effectively, but their replacements seemed to instinctively view the Internet as an existential threat to their operations. Around the country, editors and publishers alike were largely dismissive of the potential of “new media”, and the bias can still be discerned from their public statements. As a result, most papers did not begin to develop their digital game until it was almost too late–and once they did, the transition was handled badly, because their heart wasn’t really into it.

I’ve always likened the dynamic to that of the radio industry at the dawn of television. Many performers and executives for those networks similarly dismissed the new technology’s potential, and either refused to familiarize themselves with it altogether, or waited until it was too late. As a result, many careers ended, and several companies went defunct. But those who were open to the new technology, and made sincere efforts to acclimate themselves to it, ended becoming the people we now recognize as the pioneers of television; most of the top stars thus remained viable for the rest of their lives, and their families benefit from the royalties to this day. Likewise, print media outlets should stop thinking of the web as competition for the business, while engaging in counter-productive, reactionary decision-making, and instead start appreciating it as simply a powerful new tool to augment and enhance their business. Those who prove capable of doing this correctly will end up as the dominant forces in the media environment of the future–a future that may already be upon us.

All Up In It: Notes on Mayor Brown’s self-promotional streak

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“Hey, how’s 2015 lookin’ for ya, sir?”

As Mayor of Jacksonville, Alvin Brown has gone a long way to get himself over as a Man Of the People. He’s so gracious, in fact, that he routinely gives ammunition to his political enemies, who would have very little to work with otherwise. Case in point: A front-page article in the Florida Times-Union’s May 31 edition, centered around concerns expressed by members of the City Council that Mayor Brown’s gone too far with his trademark self-promotional tactics. Specifically, they claim that he’s monopolizing the services of the official city photographer, and that his name features too prominently on the City of Jacksonville (COJ) website. Slow news day? Yep.

Spoiler alert: Our city council is ridiculous. Are they actual people, or cardboard cut-outs whose public utterances are generated by computer algorithms? Of course the mayor is a self-promoting freakazoid; he was trained by Bill Clinton. The real question, though, is why does the general public never see or hear anything from council members unless they’re trying to block something or shut something down? Brown goes a bit far in trying to generate buzz for the city, sure, but maybe that’s because he’s surrounded by bland, uncharismatic people exuding negativity, always looking for new ways to throw the city under the bus to service their political/business agendas. (Hemming Plaza, Metro Park, etc.)

The City Council has been the weak link in local politics since the Peyton years. They blatantly go into business for themselves, thinking up ridiculous, counter-productive legislation while assiduously blocking the important things. The weakness they showed with the whole Occupy thing (esp. the Dems) was an obvious example. So, in terms of the city’s public image, the choice is between one guy who does way too much and 19 people who do nothing at all. Now, I’m no Democrat, but these people actually made me into an Alvin Brown fan. How the hell?

Fact is, Brown isn’t doing anything that any councilperson, or any politician in general, couldn’t be doing right now. My city council campaign started fairly late and was vastly underfunded, but I was able to be pretty competitive in a tight, seven-person race while pushing an agenda that deviated significantly from the mainstream. That was only possible because of the web, social media specifically. Brown was on that track already, as a candidate, and he’s taken that to a whole new level as mayor. While the techniques may be fairly new, critics who claim that his self-promotional tendencies are somehow unusual are flatly disengaged not only from the history of this city, but from political science in general.

The future mayor as candidate, 2011. Whatever he was reaching for, he got it…

One needs not cite national examples of people like Michael Bloomberg, Ed Koch, Richard Daley, Willie Brown, Maynard Jackson or Adrian Fenty, all of whom used their personal brand to enhance that of their city (and vice-versa); local examples abound, including virtually every mayor Jacksonville has ever had. Are Brown’s critics seriously suggesting that he’s acting inconsistently from his predecessors? Imagine what Tommy Hazouri’s Twitter feed would’ve looked like, or Hans “let’s pose at the city limits with a beautiful actress to promote Consolidation” Tanzler’s Instagram. And one can easily visualize the front-page of the COJ website, had the Internet existed in the Jake Godbold era.

Former mayor Hans Tanzler, doing what politicians do, 1968

The website is centered on Brown because Brown is the only person making an effort to promote positive initiatives in the public sphere. Everyone complains about him putting his name on the jazz festival, but it’s not like the councilfolk were out there mingling with the voters. Why are they complaining about the city photographer when they all have camera-phones, not to mention skilled photographers in each of their districts who’d work for free, just to have COJ work on their resumes? This is simply about people wanting to weaken Brown before the next election, so they can pick one of these malleable stuffed-shirt councilmen to challenge him in 2015. If every local politician made a fraction of the effort to engage their constituents using the power of the web, this city would be cooking with gas.

At the same time, from a political standpoint Brown is doing the right thing. He came into office only because the power structure couldn’t get along with each other; he exploited those divisions to squeak through, then immediately alienated a lot of his base. He needed to take control of his public image before conservatives tarred him with the same brush they’ve used on Obama, and begin constructing a persona that could resonate with people outside the city–in part for politics, and also to help attract business. All this hype about his self-promotion just keeps the focus on him; it’s not like any of his opponents have any vision for the city’s future, or else they’d be talking about that instead of whining because Brown does his job better than they do theirs. There is plenty of room on the internet for anyone who wants to make an impact.

I’d heard rumor that Rutherford might challenge him, which would be an interesting contest. I’m always hearing about this-or-that councilperson who might jump into the race, but that would seem like a step backward. Audrey Moran is his biggest threat; the only reason she’s not mayor now is because local Republicans hate women more than they hate black people (LOL!), plus she has a personal issue with the way Brown dealt with a lot of Moran supporters at city (i.e., eliminating them so she’d have no internal support if she did decide to go after him). But if she ran again, she’d be in a similar position as Hillary Clinton would be if she runs in 2016–namely, of having to spend a year or more kissing the asses of people who already threw her under the bus in 2011. One could understand why she might be inclined to leave the city to its fate. So, unless she runs, Brown walks.

Now, there were a couple points raised in the story and subsequent discussion that do need to be addressed. The first involves the city photographers, whom councilmembers claim are prohibited from photographing anything that the mayor is not actually part of. I’ve not been able to confirm the veracity of that allegation, but it’s entirely possible. Mayor Brown is disproportionately featured on the COJ website, but it’s unclear if that content features so prominently to the exclusion of content generated by the rest of local government. Certainly, Brown superimposes himself in places where his presence may not be exactly logical or holistic, but no one knows if that is true political avarice, or just a misguided need to be seen “making a difference”. Should he do less of this, or should the council do more. This debate has only begun.

And then, there’s the jazz festival. His having added the phrase “Mayor Brown Presents” to the festival’s promotional materials is widely-cited as the most common example of Brown’s perceived tendency to self-promote to the detriment of the city at-large, and it’s hard to see it as anything other than piggybacking an initiative that was not only successful long before he hit the scene, but whose success has virtually nothing to do with him. Of course, the mayor plays a key role in the process: His budgets fund the Office of Special Events, which organizes the festival. But for Brown to append his own name rankles old-school observers who can recall the real and critical work done for the festival by “Big Jake” and, a generation later, John Peyton. They had more cause to append their names, but neither did; they didn’t have to, because their impact was so obvious, it would’ve been like saying “Shad Khan Presents the Jacksonville Jaguars”. Now, would they have done so if they’d known it was possible? Probably not. All previous mayors have happily taken credit, when offered, for the historical success of the festival, but Brown is the first to actively seek that credit, in a vacuum. It’s not what I would have done, but I can totally appreciate why he did. After all, 2015 is just around the corner…

American English: Matthew Cuban’s transatlantic adventure

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As a writer and periodic public speaker, I’ve dabbled in the fine art of spoken-word for years, here and there. If I said I was any good, I’d be lying, but I’ve done just enough of it to inform my deep and sincere appreciation for those who can actually do it well. To that end, I’d say at least two of the best in the business happen to be residents of Northeast Florida. There is, of course, the singularly-skilled Al Letson, whose fans have watched him grow from slam-poetry roots into one-man shows in multiple states, network TV commercials, his own acclaimed show (“State of the Re:Union“) on NPR and even writing comic-books. The other is Matthew “Cuban” Hernandez, who also emerged from the world of slam-poetry and who has also crafted his own unique and compelling career.

That trajectory, which began at open-mic shows in Jacksonville, is now poised to carry him all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, to England, with your help. Hernandez, who is currently working through a three-month spoken-word tour of the west coast, has put together a website at IndieGogo.com (a Kickstarter-type operation) detailing his plans for this year; these plans include not only a slate of scheduled performances in England, but also a project that, believe it or not, is even closer to his heart than his own material. Having already made his name as one of this country’s elite slam-poetry teachers (largely through his work with the Jacksonville youth poetry collective “Shattered Thought”), Hernandez was recently invited to jump the pond and come coach the 2013 UK Youth Slam team, based in historic Leeds. This presents him with not only the opportunity to expand his own personal brand, but to further strengthen the already surprisingly strong connection between the First Coast and the UK.

What Hernandez needs is a dollop of the heavy scratch to fund his adventures, and that is what the web campaign facilitated. Supporters can contribute as little as $1 toward helping Hernandez follow his own dream, while simultaneously helping to school the next generation of spoken-word talent. Larger donations are rewarded with sumptuous swag: $25 gets you two autographed copies of Cuban’s excellent debut CD, which makes a nice gift for fans of the genre; $60 gets you three signed copies; $100 gets you the three CDs, plus a custom-composed poem from him to you. For $500, you name it! So far, almost two dozen people have pledged funds at this early stage of the campaign, mostly in increments of $100, but those numbers are sure to increase–as they should, because Matthew Cuban is an extremely talented artist who really embodies the spirit of Ben Franklin’s words about “doing well by doing good”. One hopes he succeeds, now and in the future.

(Now, this is entirely tangential to the subject at hand, but since we’re discussing spoken-word and the UK, I’ll deviate briefly for purpose of putting over the amazing Brockley-based Kate Tempest, who at just 26 has already distinguished herself as perhaps the world’s #1 performance-poet–a subjective take, yes, but one that is easily arguable. When I heard of Cuban’s project, she was the first person I thought of, so of course one hopes that Hernandez’s run on the island includes at least one summit meeting with the creator of “Cannibal Kids”!)

sheltonhull@gmail.com

Wrestling with Fools: the IOC exposes their business

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Kurt Angle, Olympic gold medal winner, 1996

For almost all of its existence, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been a fundamentally controversial organization. From the blatant racism of the Avery Brundage era, to the hookers-and-cocaine taint affixed to the affiliates of Juan Antonio Samaranch, not to mention its historic Keystone Kops approach to doping and overall political cowardice on matters great and small, this venerable and, sadly, irreplaceable organization has been known to the public more for what it has done wrong (which is plenty) than for the many good things it has done right. And that’s a shame, because the Olympics is one of the very few things in this world that humanity has generally been able to rally around, suspend hostilities and truly enjoy as a species, rather than a collection of corrupt nations.

Now, in its 118th year of shady operation, the IOC has actually managed to render a decision so wrong-headed, malicious and foolhardy that it comes very close to exceeding that group’s already pathetic standard. On Wednesday, February 12, the IOC made what may be, arguably, the worst decision ever made by any governing body in the entire recorded history of organized sports when they announced that, starting with the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad in 2020, wrestling will not longer an official Olympic sport. And before you ask: Yes, that is exactly what I just said. Now, take a moment, wherever you are, and let the language linger in your mind for a bit…

WRESTLING, among the world’s oldest sports, and one of the core events comprising the very foundation of the grand and glorious Olympic tradition from almost its very inception in 776 BC, is not suddenly inconsistent with the IOC’s vision. Obviously, this has a lot of people really angry, starting with the international wrestling community itself. The IOC, for some ambiguous reason, felt obliged to discontinue a sport, and it came down to five candidates: Wrestling, Modern Pentathalon, Badminton, Table-tennis and Taekwondo. The elimination of wrestling constitutes an especially bitter blow to women, who’d lobbied hard to acquire medal status for women’s wrestling, and only got it in 2004. (So far, the Japanese have dominated in that field.)

If it stands, this decision will in my opinion have a disproportionately negative impact on the United States, which has always been among the dominant countries for Olympic wrestling, and which has built up a massive, complex human infrastructure around its amateur wrestling scene. For amateur wrestlers–indeed, for most of the leading Olympic sports–that gold medal is the Holy Grail for thousands of young athletes, who work like animals to develop the physical skill and mental discipline required of elite-level athletes. They labor for as much as 20 years, just to get the chance to win a medal, which carries a small honorarium but no career stability. Wrestlers aren’t the kind of athletes who often end up on Wheaties boxes or doing commercials for Gatorade or Subway; that gold medal is not a gold-mine for them. At best, Olympic-level wrestlers can hope to parlay their accomplishments into success in either professional wrestling or MMA, which many experts have claimed is even harder than getting into the NFL or NBA. With the prospect of Olympic glory removed, it’s anyone’s guess as to how chilling the effect may be on the amateur scene here, and worldwide, for that matter; it’s doubtful that the IOC gave that matter any consideration at all.

The end of wrestling as an Olympic sport may also be potentially awful for Olympic business. Wrestling is generally a popular sport for TV audiences, especially in the United States, Japan and parts of the Middle East–certainly not on the level of marquee sports like track and field, swimming and women’s gymnastics, but considerable. Obviously, I’m biased, being a longtime fan of all the combat sports, but I think the blow is already being felt among general audiences, as well. Wrestling is a big heartland activity here; in states like Ohio, Iowa, Oklahoma and Minnesota, wrestling may be even more popular than football. The names of men like Dan Gable, Danny Hodge, Verne Gagne, Bruce Baumgartner, Rulon Gardner, Alexander Karelin, David Schultz, Chris Taylor, the Iron Sheik and, of course Kurt Angle, reverberate in the living memory of a large segment of the population like demigods, more mythos than man after a point. The termination of this tradition is an abomination, and like any rube in pursuit of combat against a skilled wrestler, this decision is unlikely to stand for very long.

Kurt Angle, 11-time world champion pro-wrestler, and counting…

sheltonhull@gmail.com

“She Who Is Without Sin”: Notes on Angela Corey

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She Who Is Without Sin

Angela Corey’s Folio dis merits greater scrutiny

[Full disclosure: I voted for Angela Corey in 2008, and will probably do so again.]

As a general rule, writers spend Sunday morning asleep—phone calls sent in their direction are, in a word, doomed. But there are exceptions. Case in point: May 20. This writer was enjoying the only day of the week with no pressing business, when a reader called up at 9:33am to report that perpetually-embattled State Attorney Angela Corey had taken the opportunity to opine with vigor on Folio Weekly while appearing WJXT’s Sunday chat-fest, “This Week In Jacksonville”. Because, of course, the best time to criticize someone is when they’re asleep.

In the pro-wrestling business, it’s called “cutting a promo”; in her business, it’s called “hearsay”. Without naming Folio specifically, she noted that “[I]t’s a small paper, not many readers because they aren’t saying much, no one buys it. In fact, they have to give it away for free.” First of all, all that is fair game. She had every right to say those things; Folio hasn’t been exactly nice to her in its reporting, which is a consistent complication of telling the truth. Any critiques she has are worth listening to; in fact, her every public utterance is always worthy of intense focus—for entertainment value, if nothing else. But, given that an elected official was willing to characterize this publication using words designed to denigrate and delegitimize its work, one feels compelled to analyze her statement in greater detail—especially as it offers some useful insight into the thinking of Northeast Florida’s leading legal light.

When Corey says Folio has “not many readers”, that’s an impossible charge to rebut. Our current readership stands at just over 127,000, and like any business the publisher would like to see that number increase, because there is certainly room to grow. As for the idea that we’re “not saying much”, the industry insiders who give out Association of Alternative Newsweeklies awards tend to disagree, several times a year, for as long as we can remember. However, if she meant to imply that our readership makes us somehow obscure or not credible, she should note that 127,000+ readers equals double her vote total in 2008. There were 495,316 registered voters that year; almost 80% didn’t even show up, so her mandate basically amounts to about 8% of the city’s population—which may explain why she draws so much heat.

Is Folio Weekly the most-read print publication in Northeast Florida? Certainly not. That honor goes to the Florida Times-Union, which has been bleeding both staff and money for over a decade, leaving a franchise worth, at best, half of what it was 20 years ago. Nothing wrong with that; thinning-out a paper before sale is a lot like fattening an animal before slaughter. Is it given away for free? Of course—that has been the alt-weekly tradition since the industry’s flagship, the Village Voice, was founded in 1955. Many publications in this region are free, because they have developed a business model that allows them to do so. Folio can’t just raise the cover price to close gaps in revenue; it has to actually make a product people want.

While the daily papers are like commercial music, overpriced and trading on bad-faith, losing money on CD’s every year, the alt-weeklies are like vinyl records, slowly but steadily picking up market share every year, while stimulating the kind of broader changes needed in the industry. Alt-weeklies are showing print media how to remain relevant and vital in the Internet age, and the lack of a cover price makes their achievements all the more explicit. And during an era where even alt-weeklies have lost readers, Folio has only gained in circulation. Our coverage of Angela Corey’s hijinks has certainly helped—thank you!

It’s hardly surprising that Corey has little love for Folio, as our coverage hasn’t always put her in the best light, but one would think she could at least appreciate some of the things we have in common. We both began serving this city in the 1980s, we are both local institutions, and we both share the contempt of the political establishment. Despite whatever flaws she may have, the fact is that Corey never had a chance to prove herself; the basic caricature that most citizens mistake for the real Angela Corey was not created by the media—it was created by her fellow attorneys, then leaked to the media so we could feign loyalty while the sharpened daggers stayed firmly tucked into their sleeves. But when the next election comes, look for them to unbutton their French cuffs and do their best impression of the Roman Senate.

The election that installed her as State Attorney was a debacle. It marked the dissolution of Harry Shorstein’s legacy, as he came off as someone without the authority to ensure a smooth transition of power, which would have sent a strong message at a time when this city’s identity is built largely around violent crime. Instead of running a clean campaign and presenting a unified front to the bad guys, Shorstein’s underlings, Corey and Jay Plotkin, took the “scorched-earth” approach, which ensured that the credibility of whomever won would already be compromised by the time they took over. If the job were about competence and credibility, our State Attorney would be Bernie de la Rionda, who is not only undefeated in murder cases but has no record at all of saying ridiculous things into live microphones.

For voters, it was a harsh lesson in the reality of our judicial system, in which the only thing that matters is who your friends are. If you have the right lawyer, who knows the right people [names omitted, for legal reasons], you’re getting off, no matter what you did. But if you’re one of the poor saps stuck with a public defender, you might as well just hang yourself—and some of them do, allegedly. It’s not Corey’s fault that she was put in such a bad position, and it must have sucked to know how little regard her own mentor and colleagues had for her. She purged her office of veteran prosecutors because they backed the wrong candidate; some of them are now working against her, in the private sector.

The Marissa Alexander situation is a case in point. If Corey is so adamant that justice was done in this case, and that the 20-year sentence was justified, then why was she willing to let Ms. Alexander plea-out to a three-year bid? Same reason that many of the killings here are done by people who should have still been locked-up for previous violent crimes: Because justice serves political interests, not the other way around. Corey’s appointment to run the prosecution of George Zimmerman was, too, motivated by politics: Our weak, embattled governor (who’s only there because of the fecklessness and treachery of state Democrats) made his smartest move to date by picking someone with even more of a knack for controversy than he, to serve as the scapegoat for the inevitable fiasco. Put simply, Angela Corey is his Katherine Harris.

All of this is by way of clarification. At the end of the day, it’s no big deal what Angela Corey says about Folio Weekly, or what Folio Weekly says about her. It’s about a jail that’s almost full, with no possible short-term solution short of giving more plea-bargains to more violent thugs, so they can get out earlier and kill people sooner. It’s about a courthouse that the Mayor and judiciary are treating like a child in a custody hearing between two drunk parents. It’s about a citizenry that feels vulnerable and unprotected, and a criminal class that feels empowered to violate people by the perceived weakness and corruption of our justice system. It’s also about a tourist market, worth millions to local businesses every year, whose decision to mostly bypass Northeast Florida is partly based on what they see of us in national media—which is to say, a steady stream of preventable tragedy, and a nonexistent response to it. It’s not about Angela Corey. The sooner she realizes that, the better off we’ll all be.

sheltonhull@gmail.com; May 20, 2012