by YES! Staff

Blogfight of the week

On March 20, Dr. Joe Guarino made a post on his Guarino blog ( — which usually concerns itself with Greensboro municipal affairs, right-wing talking points and the history and culture of southern Italy — about the conviction of Greensboro police officer AJ Blake on an assault charge that occurred at the Greensboro Police Club. Titled “GPD officer found guilty,” the item’s comment thread began with a discussion of the charges — “assault on a female” — and pertinent remarks by Wendy Gaines, who demonstrated some knowedge of Greensboro Police Department procedure. But the thread quickly devolved into a misogynistic rant by blogger and serial commenter Sam Spagnola. Spagnola wrote, “If a husband pushes his wife, he is charged with an A1 misdemeanor. However, if she smacks him across the face leaving a mark, she is only charged with a class 2 misdemeanor — two punishment classes lower.” Greensboro activist/blogger and another commenter, scharrison, countered with some actual numbers about domestic violence towards women. But Spagnola was joined by another notorious commenter, Bubbanear, who contributed this: “That’s an absolutely stunning revelation of the mindset that rationalizes treatment of issues based strictly upon some warped worldview social agenda.” This prompted yet another regular at Guarino’s place, Brenda Bowers, to chime in: “Joe and Sam I am ashamed of both of you for this.” Later she calls men “zippers.” Then there is some discussion on the leftist nature of the study of sociology, which was countered by another commenter, brandonB. What’s noteworthy about the exchange is that most of the participants have been in lockstep about most issues for the past year or so in Guarino’s little echo chamber. The thread is already on its second page, with 55 entries as of press time, and shows no signs of letting up. We’re betting Bowers gets the last word, but you can follow the blow-by-blow for yourself at — BC

Obama administration highlights Sunshine Week

US senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn introduced legislation to strengthen the Freedom Of Information Act, and US Attorney General Eric Holder issued a directive instructing all executive branch departments and agencies to deal with Freedom Of Information Act requests with a presumption of openness last week, highlighting Sunshine Week on Capitol Hill. Sunshine Week, an initiative spearheaded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to educate the public about the dangers of government secrecy, appears to be gaining more allies in the Obama administration. Holder’s move overrides the Ashcroft memo, named after the former attorney general who gave agencies more latitude to deny FOIA requests. “By restoring the presumption of disclosure that is at the heart of the Freedom Of Information Act, we are making a critical change that will restore the public’s ability to access information in a timely manner,” said Holder. More than seven in 10 adults still consider the federal government to be secretive, according to the 2009 Sunshine Week survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University. The Open FOIA Act introduced by Leahy and Cornyn would require Congress to openly and clearly state its intention to provide for statutory exemptions to FOIA in proposed legislation. The Senate first passed similar legislation unanimously in 2006, and Leahy and Cornyn introduced the bill in the last Congress. Leahy and Cornyn are longtime leaders on FOIA issues in Congress, and in 2007, they partnered to author the Open Government Act. — KTB

An alt-weekly to watch

We at YES! Weekly are big fans of alt-weeklies, partly out of self-interest and partly because we love their investigative teeth and cultural depth. So we keep our eyes on the good ones, and try to learn a thing or two. So we took a special interest in a New York Times story on Monday by David Carr about The Austin Chronicle in Texas. Carr’s highlight’s the weekly paper’s relentless coverage of state government, the school board and city council, and its cultural coverage, and praises its “willingness to lead, as opposed to simply criticize, in artistic matters.” The Chronicle, Carr writes, is the founder of the South by Southwest conference, which wound down on Sunday. The conference, the newspaper and the city’s success appear to have a lot to do with a civic culture of mutual support. “All of it has to do with Austin, and not us,” editor and founder Louis Black tells Carr. “Apart from all the music here, when Richard Linklater hit it big with Slackers, he not only didn’t move away, but began helping other filmmakers. Mike Judge, who did ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ same way. Robert Rodriguez as well. We have a critical mass culture, of government, of people who like to read, that makes this a good place to have a newspaper like ours.” — JG