Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Looks like the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is convening to determine whether Janet Jackson’s covered nipple was indecent or a fleeting, accidental moment on live television for which CBS should not be fined

If CBS wins, it will insulate television and radio broadcasters from sudden or accidental slips of the tongue or “wardrobe malfunctions” from the people being broadcast through their airwaves. 

I understand people’s discomfort with the idea that the major networks could be a source of violent programming, sexual content, or foul language.  I really do.  But I found it funny during that Super Bowl, where it seemed every other commercial was about erectile dysfunction, where the entire halftime show performance used sexual undertones, where scantily clad cheerleaders danced on the sideline, where the major sponsors consistently used sexual images to sell their products, that everyone went into orgasms of outrage when Janet’s breast was uncovered. 

I’m shocked!  Shocked to see that nudity is going on here! 

And if I remember correctly, that was the Super Bowl during which Moveon.org was not allowed to air a political aid because it would have been “inappropriate.” 

 What a fucked up sense of values we have. 

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The media watchdog group Parents Television Council has issued a report which states that sex and violence are on the rise during what is traditionally called the “Family Hour” on network television. 

The group studied 180 hours of original programming on six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, MyNetworkTV and the CW) during three two-week ratings sweeps periods in 2006 and 2007. It found that instances of violence had increased 52.4% since a similar study in 2000-2001 and that sexual content had increased 22.1%.

The Parents Television Council is hoping that the FCC begins to regulate violence on television the way they already regulate “indecent content.”

The network response is that with the vastly increased number of options available to families, with so many more channels now available in the basic cable package, there is less need to provide that type of programming. 

 To be honest, I agree with the networks on this one.  One of the reasons the FCC had the authority to regulate television was a combination of two factors – 1. the finite number of frequencies used to transmit broadcast signals were publicly owned and 2. there was a scarcity of options in broadcast television.  To the extent that #2 becomes less of an issue, the authority of the FCC to regulate broadcasting should be diminished. 

What the regulate-television-on-behalf-of-families crowd seems not to be able to understand is that television is a value neutral tool.  Like the internet, it has nothing to say about what it is transmitting.  It is not a substitute for parenting in respect to instilling values and exposing kids to what’s out there in the world.  Developing technology that allows “parental controls” to prevent kids from watching whatever they want while the parents are not around is appropriate.  

But the world is a dangerous place sometimes.  And people have sex all the time (at least that’s what I hear…).  I’d like my television shows to have something thoughtful to say about reality.  It’s an art.  Sometimes good.  Sometimes very, very bad.  But it should be free to tell stories that are important and relevant to all of us, even if often it does not.   

Artificial restraints based on someone’s notion of “sensible family” programming simply isn’t the appropriate role for the government.  Especially if there is a vastly less intrusive way to accomplish what is purported to be the goals of the movement. 

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Greg Sargent has an excellent breakdown of the public relations campaign to make it look like the surge is working and how the media has enabled it.  This sort of thing really is a life or death issue.  The longer this type of crap goes on, the more we’re dying over there. 

This is not a game. 

The conduct of this war should not be evaluated in terms of a political campaign.  Policy principles on the war are infinitely more important than a political career.  Stop playing the game!  Right now, while the cocktail circuit orders another one on the company tab and tells the latest clever anecdote about who said what to who, young men and women are risking their lives conducting dangerous missions which are not designed to get us any further along toward our objectives. 

It’s a disgusting excercise in “looking busy.”  Meanwhile, our media establishment continues to pretend that the dog and pony show is the real thing. 

I wrote this just over a week ago

2. This “Surge is working” meme being pushed by the Bush administration and certain supporters of the war is the function of knee-jerk analysis.  Of course having more troops to conduct more military operations will have an effect on tactical issues.  But tactical military issues aren’t the source of the overall problem.  This war is not primarily about fighting enemy troops in the field of battle.  Killing a bunch of people won’t actually make things better. 

We are trying to prop up/create/maintain/establish a unified Iraqi government which provides security and government services to the people so that markets can function, schools can operate, and people can begin to invest again in their communities.  None of the so-called signs of progress being thrown around loosely by war supporters speak to these issues and therefore evaluating the efficacy of the surge is premature, at best. 

The fact that many war supporters are relying so heavily on skewed data to push their version of the war in the media is an indication to me that they still don’t get it.  They believe the war can be fought and won in the media.  Good public relations is a part of any effective war campaign in this day and age but it’s not an alternative to the facts on the ground. 

But then again it’s convenient to define the war’s progress with the way the media has portrayed it.  It makes pundits who support the war “soldiers” and makes those in the media who don’t play along “the enemy.” 

Somebody please wake up. 

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CBS13 Sacremento in covering the Larry Craig gay sex scandal actually roleplays how to solicit gay sex in a public bathroom.  Hilarious.  God bless local news. 

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There’s an interesting discussion over at Ezra Klein’s for anyone who’s ever been a reporter or been interested in reporting. The impetus was this post at Penquins on the Equator:

I was rather surprised to learn, for instance, that TNR’s fact-checkers don’t check quotes with subjects; they just check quotes against the writers’ notes, which strikes me as less than optimal, particularly given that Stephen Glass fabricated notes to deceive the checkers

Ezra explains that this is common practice for most media outlets that do fact-checking (which is not, of course, most media outlets):

Here’s why: Quite often, a subject will ramble on in an interview and say something they didn’t quite mean to say. These are, generally, the quotes most worth using. But if read back, the subject will deny it, or argue over context, or generally try to edit out whatever bit of illumination they actually let slip. So you don’t give them the second edit.

Some of Ezra’s commentors seem appaled by this, accusing Ezra of meaning that journalists are more interested in getting a salacious quote than getting the truth, and why do reporters still take notes these days anyways, instead of just recording everything?

I agree 100 percent with Ezra’s explanation of why you don’t call sources back to check quotes. I’ve done this a few times, and it can be a disaster. Best case scenario, they just want to “improve,” what they originally said, and you end up wasting time talking to them about the same subject again, risk offending them if you tell them you’re going to stick with the original quote, or appease them and end up with a shmaltzy press-release-esque revised quote from them. Worst case scenario, they said something interesting or revealing off-the-cuff that, when repeated to them, they’ll inevitably want to change and, again, you either go with the original quote anyway, thereby offending them and risking losing a source, or you lose the quotes that were interesting and revealing in your story. Not to mention that by the time fact-checking takes place, a story is usally done, and to change quotes around then would mean the writer has to go back and reconfigure the whole story.

As for the recording interviews thing … well, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. A lot of interviews are conducted by phone, and not all phones are set up to record conversations. When things are recorded (on the phone or in person), there is always the risk that something will happen to the recording, which means the reporter will have to take notes as well as record — in which case, the reporter is probably gonna go from his/her notes anyway. Listening back to the whole recorded transcript of an interview is time-consuming, especially if you’ve interviewed someone with a tendency to ramble. At daily newspapers with tight deadlines, you often just don’t have time to essentially do an interview twice. And I imagine it would probably be a strain on fact-checkers if they had to go back and listen to the entire recorded conversations of everyone every reporter talked to to make sure quotes were not only accurate in wording but in meaning and intent.

All of this to “solve” something which, you know, isn’t really that much of a problem. To paraprhase Ezra, everyone knows the name Stephen Glass because this kind of thing is so rare, not because it’s so common.

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Pretty much the short version of this post is “what he says.” 

 But let me add a couple thoughts which I have been chewing on for awhile.

1. This “Blame Maliki” movement is completely self-serving.  I have absolutely no doubt the guy isn’t what we hoped he would be.  But I think that says more about our hopes and the tactics we’ve used in Iraq that have undercut his authority.  The movement is a smokescreen to “give it more time” when the next guy comes in to take his place.

2. This “Surge is working” meme being pushed by the Bush administration and certain supporters of the war is the function of knee-jerk analysis.  Of course having more troops to conduct more military operations will have an effect on tactical issues.  But tactical military issues aren’t the source of the overall problem.  This war is not primarily about fighting enemy troops in the field of battle.  Killing a bunch of people won’t actually make things better. 

We are trying to prop up/create/maintain/establish a unified Iraqi government which provides security and government services to the people so that markets can function, schools can operate, and people can begin to invest again in their communities.  None of the so-called signs of progress being thrown around loosely by war supporters speak to these issues and therefore evaluating the efficacy of the surge is premature, at best. 

The fact that many war supporters are relying so heavily on skewed data to push their version of the war in the media is an indication to me that they still don’t get it.  They believe the war can be fought and won in the media.  Good public relations is a part of any effective war campaign in this day and age but it’s not an alternative to the facts on the ground. 

But then again it’s convenient to define the war’s progress with the way the media has portrayed it.  It makes pundits who support the war “soldiers” and makes those in the media who don’t play along “the enemy.” 

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The BET is catching a lot of heat with its new, edgy, hip-hop heavy video campaign to promote literacy and black pride.  I think it’s great and smart, to be honest.

And it’s a pretty bold move for a network that has had its fair share of criticism for perpetuating negative stereotypes.  This video campaign takes these stereotypes, makes them larger than life, and then uses them to make its points. 

I especially like the Lil Jon caricature when they start chanting “R-E-A-D-A-B-O-Ohhh-Kaaaay!” 

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Sometimes the questions raised in a legal battle bear only passing resemblance to the facts of a case.  Neat abstract legal principles are extrapolated from messy realities and the court rules on the principles, often times emphasizing and embellishing certain facts over others in order to make a point. 

So I don’t know exactly what’s going on over at the Santa Barbara News-Press

After a year of name calling, serial litigation and dozens of newsroom defections, American journalism’s nastiest in-house squabble debuted in a courtroom here Tuesday.

Attorneys for eight fired journalists accused Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw of trying to quash a union organizing drive, while the publisher’s lead lawyer argued that the employees overstepped their authority and tried to seize control of the newspaper.

But among other things the dispute raises an issue which should get more attention, as it is an issue being played out nearly everywhere. 

“These are employees who will testify that their sole goal was to take control of the newspaper,” Cappello said, “so the publisher [would have] no control of what is written in the newspaper and how it is written.” He added in his opening statement that McCaw was merely trying to rein in workers who had an inflated “sense of entitlement to write what they wanted, when they wanted” and who, when challenged, denigrated their own paper and publisher.

McCaw bought the newspaper in 2000 from New York Times Co., raising hopes that local ownership would insulate the venerable newspaper from the economic woes plaguing other dailies. Internal disagreements at the paper exploded into public view last summer, when Editor Jerry Roberts, four other top editors and venerable columnist Barney Brantingham resigned en masse.

The journalists said they were protesting improper meddling by McCaw and editorial page editor Travis Armstrong in news decisions. They cited management’s decision to block publication of a story about Armstrong’s drunk driving conviction and a reprimand issued to journalists for publishing actor Rob Lowe’s address in a story about his proposed home construction, something McCaw said was an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Union activists said the exodus now totaled about 50. Although the News-Press has hired replacement workers, the city desk reporting staff has been reduced to four from 14, according to several journalists who have left the paper. McCaw’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny those figures.

There is a long and somewhat venerable history of newspaper owners who feel their paper is soap box for their views.  In fact, it was the norm of the press when this country was founded.  But that history has run counter to a relatively recent trend, started in the early 20th century, of professional journalism. 

Media critic Robert McChesney noted that the rise of professional journalism could be linked to media consolidation and the disappearance alternative presses.  Instead of being one voice in a chorus of various perspectives, with that chorus fading, a newspaper needed to market its credibility in order to be relevant.  Otherwise, it would just sound like noise to the readers. 

It was in the cauldron of controversy, during the Progressive era, that the notion of professional journalism came of age. Savvy publishers understood that they needed to have their journalism appear neutral and unbiased, notions entirely foreign to the journalism of the era of the Founding Fathers, or their businesses would be far less profitable. Publishers pushed for the establishment of formal “schools of journalism” to train a cadre of professional editors and reporters. None of these schools existed in 1900; by 1915, all the major schools such as Columbia, Northwestern, Missouri, and Indiana were in full swing. The notion of a separation of the editorial operations from the commercial affairs—termed the separation of church and state—became the professed model. The argument went that trained editors and reporters were granted autonomy by the owners to make the editorial decisions, and these decisions were based on their professional judgment, not the politics of the owners and the advertisers, or their commercial interests to maximize profit. Readers could trust what they read. Owners could sell their neutral monopoly newspapers to everyone in the community and rake in the profits.

I think on some profound level we are starting to see the media swing back to the practices of an earlier era.  With the entry fee into the new media being so cheap and simple, via blogs, there are far more voices today, even in spite of the excessive big media consolidation. 

So while media owners still have an incentive to sell the credibility of its product, FoxNews, Air America, and especially blogs are showing that bias can be a force in the new media. 

I think that’s a good thing, actually. 

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editing Al Franken’s wikipedia entry.  Hilarious. 

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I’ve decided that I’m taking a hiatus from libertarian posts. How often can I post that I’m against banning things and for individual rights? Don’t answer that. I’ll probably post something that irks me the wrong way soon.

So, anyway I like new techie things. Here’s a fun link to play with via my old friend from high school Jeff.

The link, Built With, has you identify a web site and it will tell you what it’s built with (ie CSS, HTML, AJAX, the list goes on).

Fun times had by all, really no joke.

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I really wasn’t going to comment on Chris Matthews completely inappropriate banter with CNBC’s anchor Erin Burnett.  But Digby put it in such great perspective I wanted to link to it and quote it. 

Anyone who doesn’t understand the insidious nature of sexual harrassment should take a look at the video of that exchange. Here you had a professional woman discussing a very serious and urgent subject on a news program. And Chris Matthews, (in an apparent attempt to disprove the fact that he has a sexual fetish for mature, beefy men) treated her like someone he was trying to pick up in a bar (very clumsily, as you would expect.) She was confused, embarrassed and knocked completely off balance by his inappropriate remarks, made all the worse because she was on the air. (It would have been just as wrong, however, if she’d been in a meeting or in a regular workplace conversation.) The woman was trying to do her job and this moron got all cute acting as if he couldn’t hear a word she said. How “nice” of Matthews to make her feel and look like a fool in front of hundreds of thousands of people. I’m sure she really enjoyed that “compliment.”

I know some might say, hey, she was smiling.  She thought it was funny.  What the fuck else was she going to do?  She’s on the air with Chris Matthews and he totally blindsided her. 

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According to a recent NYT article, women age 21-30 working full-time and living in cities such as New York, Dallas, Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago are now making more money then their male counterparts.

The analysis was prepared by Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College … It shows that women of all educational levels from 21 to 30 living in New York City and working full time made 117 percent of men’s wages, and even more in Dallas, 120 percent.

I guess the question is whether this trend with Gen Y women will continue throughout our lifetimes, or whether it will reverse once young women reach, you know, peak child-rearing age in their early 30s and start having all the career complications associated with that? Ann at Feministing notes:

I don’t really expect this women-outearning-men trend to continue as these women age. Those who decide to have kids will be mommy-tracked after the birth of their first child. Many will get passed over for promotions, or decide to take a lower-track or part-time job. And the second child is often what causes women to leave the workforce altogether.

Before anyone tries to take this post and accuse me of being all women-rule-men-drool or something like that, I’d like to point out that I’m not saying women making more money than men is a good thing, per se. But it’s nice to know that — in some very limited circumstances — women are at least not making less all around.

Of course, the news that a select group of women in select cities are making more money than men their age due to a whole confluence of very non-dramatic and non-threatening social factors is provoking all the requisite crisis-of-masculinity-mongering. No pro-women news or research would be complete without being met with outraged accusations of gender discrimination

The truth is out. Women aren’t being discriminated against. Men are being discriminated against. But no one seems to care. While articles about women earning less than men come with pleas that something must be done about this inequity, the tone of this article is one of celebration. Obviously, there is a big double standard when it comes to all things gender.

… futuristic visions designed to tease out gender anxiety …

So where is this taking us? Over time, expect to see large corporations increasingly dominated by women and small organizations increasingly dominated by men.

… feeble attempts to explain away the news in a way that puts women back in their place ….

This is because women receive more financial support from their parents. This allows women to move to Manhattan where they earn higher salaries. Men, who can’t afford to move to Manhattan because they are less likely to receive financial support from their parents, are living, often with their parents, in less expensive locations.
For example, the article features Kelly Kraft, a 25-year-old woman from Indiana who moved to Manhattan. A man from Indiana would be more likely to still be in Indiana.* Kelly is probably receiving some financial support from her parents so she can afford to live in Manhattan.

… gentlemanly concern over whether women having a brain and/or earning ability will damage their marriageability …

Several experts also said that rising income for women might affect marriage rates if women expect their mates to have at least equivalent salaries and education.

“When New York college women say there are few eligible men around, they’re right if they mean they’ll only settle for someone with an education akin to their own,” Professor Hacker said.

.. and references to cats.

More money, more cats: We have fundamentally altered the composition of our workforce in order to permit women to delay having children for a decade or more and for older men to play golf. Whether you think this has been a bad deal for women depends on your perspective. It’s been a good thing for women who want to remain single, make Powerpoint slideshows and live with their cats. It’s been a bad thing for women who want to get married, have children and stay home raise them, because their husbands make less money and find it more difficult to support a family on a single salary.**

You here that, Gen Y women? If you keep going to college in vast numbers and trying to earn your own money, men will soon all be living in their parents basements while our parents support our shoe shopping habits in New York City where we will never marry, overtake corporations, and raise a generation of cat overlords. Next time your boss offers you a raise, you should probably just politely suggest it go to that male intern. He may be several years and experience levels your junior, but if he’s not making more money than you in 3 years, our social structure will collapse.

*This sentence is bolded because I think it is hilarious.

**The problem with Vox’s argument is that he seems to be saying that a man working as a family’s sole breadwinner is not going to be able to do so simply because some women are making more money than some men, which doesn’t really make any sense. No one’s saying that a man who is supporting his family is not going to be able to make significant amounts of money because he is a man and there’s now some sort of inherent pay gender bias in favor of women. It’s just that he’s not going to automatically be making more than all women just because he is a man. It’s not a zero-sum game, it’s just a game in which men in some circumstances can’t automatically be expected to be paid more just for having a Y-chromosome.

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So I know I said earlier that I was sure the Republicans-love-Simpsons-because-it-espouses-family-values bit would be the stupidest thing I read all day, but …

Along comes Cary Tennis, Salon advice columnist extraordinaire and perennial favorite of people who like to point out dumb things in the media …

In today’s column, someone wrote to Tennis about feeling guilty because they had a racist little jingle from their childhood stuck in their grown-up enlightened now-apparently-non-racist head, and didn’t know what to do about it. If you ask me, that’s a pretty dumb problem to begin with (dumb is my oh-so-eloquent word of the day, apparently), or at least a dumb problem to write in to an advice columnist about. But so be it. The letter writer is afraid he’s going to blurt it out at some inappropriate time, which I think is something that enters everyone’s head at some point. As a little kid in Catholic school, I remember thinking, “What if I just ran up on the alter during the priest’s homily and started doing cartwheels?” That’s a pretty lame example, I know, but you get the gist. Everyone has that what-if-I-do-something-completely-inappropriate-just-because-it-pops-in-my-head anxiety from time to time.

So what is Tennis’ advice?

It doesn’t matter anyway because there are homeless people and poor people and do you think it would matter if a man working at a soup kitchen had a racist ditty in his head? Now get out there and end world hunger, and then talk to me about racism.

Honestly, that’s the gist of what he said. That’s not even me taking a little snark liberty with it. See for yourself:

I wish that all we white Americans, instead of skulking around in shame because some ditty from childhood comes unbidden into our heads, could come out and say yes, many of us as children were raised in a racist way and yes, there is racism in white society.
But this is my biggest, fondest wish: I wish we could feed and house everybody. I wish we who are lucky enough to be born and raised in the richest democracy in history could agree on a simple premise: Nobody should have to live on the streets. Not here. Not in this luxury hotel of a country. Not in this gleaming ice rink awash with money.

So you’ve got a stupid song playing in your head. What did you see on your way to work this morning? Did you see any poor people living in the streets? Did you see any people begging for food? Did you see anyone living with open sores because they have no money for medical care? What did you do about that? Did you stop to sing them a song? Did you stop to inquire about their plight?

What could it possibly take to care for all these poor people of all races “ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished”? A billion dollars? Ten billion dollars? A hundred billion dollars? What could it take to build a big building in the center of town and give everybody a bed who needs a place to sleep? What could it take to give everybody a good meal who is hungry? Keep it open 24 hours a day. Staff it with ministers, cooks and bouncers. Have drug and alcohol recovery meetings there. Put all the soup kitchens there. Put all the cots there. Put the mayor’s office there. Put all the deacons and elders and mullahs and bishops and rabbis there. Put all the columnists and communists and free-marketeers and Christian fundamentalists there. Put everybody there who pretends to give a shit. Put me there. Put us all there. Give us showers and hot soup. Keep us there until we make it work. Do the same thing in every city and town. How hard could that be?

The first paragraph here actually makes some sense and seems like it’s going to lead into a non-insane answer, but … sadly, no. And it just gets weirder and weirder from there. It’s not that what he ends up saying is absolutely without merit, it’s just that it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the question at hand, really. It’s like he just had this tirade planned, and thought, okay, next time someone writes in anything even loosely related to, oh, society or life in general, I’m gonna answer with this nonsensical screed. It gets so bad at the end, if it were on videotape it would probably be the equivalent of Ann Althouse’s don’t-ask-me-about-boobs tirade or Leslee Unruh i-love-babies flip-out. Or, who knows, maybe this is just par for the Cary Tennis weirdness course.

A few choice quotes to end with:

Our publishing industry has been hijacked by soap companies and toy makers.

I’m just standing here watching the empire crumble.

Maybe this tune is a little ray of hope. Maybe it’s a wake-up call from the front desk of the Dignity Hotel.

Oh, if only there was such a hotel, and it’s next wake-up call would go directly to Cary Tennis. I’m not sure what it would say, but something along the lines of “stop being such a fucking crazy-ass weirdo, you crazy-ass weirdo,” would be a good start.

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Sloooow news day. 

Oh, sure, there was that debate last night. 

The Attorney General is testifying before the Senate amidst numerous constitutional controversies. 

Six medical workers in Libya were finally freed after 8 years. 

And there’s that war somewhere over there.  And over there.  And maybe, possibly, eventually over there

But isn’t there something else we can talk about?  Something, you know, interesting? 

Oh, goodie.  Lindsay Lohan

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There’s a pretty hilarious video here at DailyKos with a parody of a JetBlue pre-flight video.

For those who don’t already know, JetBlue is the corporate sponsor for the YearlyKos convention this year, which prompted a Talking Points segment from Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly engineered a Michael Moore type ambush of the CEO of JetBlue, David Barger, which aired on the Factor. Basically, the producer Jessie Watters cherry-picked the most inflammatory quotes from DailyKos readers who posted comments on the discussion threads from that web-site and confronted Barger with them.

Some of the hard-hitting journalmalism from that “interview” included such questions as:

What about “The pope is a primate?” Do you agree with that kind of thinking?

Do you think that your JetBlue customers want to know that you’re kind of subscribing to the belief that Iran has the right to attack Israel?

As a result of the negative attention Bill O’Reilly has been trying to generate towards them, JetBlue has been wavering and equivocating in their support for the convention. According to the DailyKos post linked to above:

Now they’ll tell those on our side who email them that they have, in fact, not pulled their sponsorship. In part, that’s true. O’Reilly and his minions weren’t able to kill the sponsorship. They were just able to turn the airlines in knots and twist it so fully that it is now talking out of both sides of its mouth. To the wingnuts, it claims it has nothing to do with YearlyKos, and to progressives who email them, they claim they are still sponsors.

The reality: yes, they are sponsors, but they demanded YearlyKos take the JetBlue logo off the convention’s website. They can’t withdraw their ticket contribution at this point, so they hope no one notices they are associated with us DFHs (dirty f’ing hippies).

Someday, this will be a case study in MBA and marketing programs in how NOT to respond to spurious political pressure.

Check out the video. The basic premise of the parody is that now, according to a new JetBlue policy, there will be two classes of seats on JetBlue flights: FoxNews class and everyone FoxNews dislikes. I especially liked the part of the pre-flight video instructing passengers on what they were to do with their carry-on luggage.

Progressives, leftists, and Kossacks, please check yourselves as luggage because we clearly don’t want to be seen with you. Take out your bongs, Dixie Chicks cds, and whatever other hippie crap we assume you carry.

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There was package on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Barack Obama. He was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. He was wearing a black blazer over black slacks. The slacks were tight around his mid-section, especially in the front. The bulge of his package registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of bulge showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

Wow. That’s a really innappropriate paragraph for WaPo to run, right? And, okay, they didn’t. No, they just ran this:

There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton. She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

Regendering is a fun little game I learned from Pandagon and PunkAssBlog. If you think something written about women is kind of offensive or annoying but you’re not sure, just switch the genders around and see if it’s still offensive, because often we’re so used to reading sexist or ridiculous tripe about women that we don’t even really recognize how sexist or silly it is until the same thing is written about men.

P.S. While we’re on WaPo and gender here, did anyone see this article?

    Mom’s in the House, With Kids at Home

Having a mother in Congress can be tough on children, too, said Wilson, from New Mexico.

“There are times when they want me to be just a mom,” she said. “They’re very patient, very tolerant of people who want to talk to me in the grocery store and things like that. But sometimes it’s too much.”

When that happens, her 10-year-old, Caitlin, makes a fist like an “O” and then points her three middle fingers downward like an “M” — a signal that she wants an “ordinary mom,” Wilson said. “We all have that moment when we ask ourselves — are we doing the right thing?”

I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it does bring up some valid points about the public opinion struggles congresswomen with young children deal with. On the other, it still seems to imply that kids whose mothers are away are somehow uniquely suffereing (as opposed to those whose fathers are away), or that there’s something different about a mother leaving her child for work than a father doing so …

Edit: Ugh, and now Ann Althouse, Self-Proclaimed Proprieter of All Boob Sightings Everywhere, weighs in with one of her now-famous attacks of the fact that women have women’s bodies and sometimes this is evident in public.

Or are you going to say that “flaunts” is too active a verb? She has cleavage. Just happens to have it. Just happens to wear a top that happens to be low enough that you can see it if you happen to have eyes. Just happens to wear it to the Senate floor to give a speech about the cost of education. Are you going to say that we ought to be giving attention to the content of that speech and not to the presentation of the woman who would be President?

Yes. Yes, Ann, I am going to say that. I am going to make the radical statement that we should be paying attention to what a presidential candidate has to say about education policy and not the fact that she, like 99.9 percent of her fellow females, has boobs.

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I have a love/hate relationship with these slice-of-lifestyle pieces like “The New Victorians” by Lizzy Ratner. I’m the kind of person who, upon visiting new cities, immediately begins making up grand stories about where I’d go and who’d I know and what color my kitchen walls would be there (always green), so I love articles that detail the social mores, if you will, of a particular group of young people in a particular place. But where the hate side of this comes in is when these articles purport to be representative of some sort of broad cultural-generational trend indicative of shifting priorities and values, or some such nonsense. Which is why I was rather immediately annoyed reading Ratner’s piece (in the New York Observer) earlier this week.

The whole gist of the piece is that a group of 20- and 30-something today — the “New Victorians” — are rebelling against the perceived slacker culture of both the baby boomers and 90s-Gen-X-ers by being ultra-motivated ultra-professional ultra-monogamous baby-having Williams-and-Sonoma-shopping urban bourgeoisie. It’s BoBos in Paradise (a book I loathe to admit I read and enjoyed) for the non-boomer set. And it has all the makings of a perfect Faux-Trend piece.

A-small-circle-of-wealthy-people-I-know-are-doing-and-saying-this-so-it-must-be-true mentality?

Backlash against some element of the 60s (baby boomers, feminists, drugs, sex, Jethro Tull)?

Complete white-washing of recent history?

Check, check, check. Yep. Looks like we have a Faux-Trend piece on our hands here, folks.

Of course, I think the New York Observer is kind of known for these sorts of faux-trend pieces. Julian noted the phenomenon a few months ago:

Via Laure, the New York Observer profiles the Manhattan blog scene. My first thought: “Oh, how funny. This sounds, mutatis mutandis, pretty much like my circle of friends. Just substitute DCist for Gothamist, Townhouse or Black Cat for The Magician, and so on.” My second thought: “Wait, this sounds like everyone’s circle of friends. Why is this remotely interesting? It’s about bloggers, but it could be med students, Redskins fans, brokers, whatever.” But the Observer seems to have made its stock-in-trade the mystification of the completely ordinary. What’s your per-word, guys? I can do five of these a week. We can start with my earthshattering 4,000 word expose of some dudes who are all lawyers and frequently eat lunch together.

So back to “The New Victorians.” This is probably so obvious it doesn’t need to be discussed, even, but humor me here a minute. See, I’m 25, and I have friends who are ultra-motivated and professional and friends who are more drifter types. I have friends who are married, friends who have kids, and friends who are blissfully single or dating and not planning on getting hitched anytime soon (or ever). I bet if you’re younger than me, you know people who have a Path® that involves college graduation, marriage by 24 and kids by 26, and I bet you know people who want to travel across the country in a VW van because they can, man. And if you’re older than me, I bet you knew people when you were 25 who already owned a house in a precious subdivision, and I bet you knew people who were still smoked pot in their parents’ basements. People “grow up” at different times, and people make different lifestyle choices.

The fact that some people in relatively the same age range and geographic locale have made some of the same lifestyle choices is not exactly shocking. And it does not make it a trend.

Of course, I’ve left out the most important question to ask when dealing with a suspected Faux-Trend piece: does it reinforce traditional/conservative values about gender/sex/marriage/children/etc. or hint that everyone would be happier leading extremely normative lives?

This is a big one in a lot, though not all, Faux-Trend pieces ( See: the opt-out myth, the death of feminism, or “Hip-publicans” ). It can take two forms: 1) Hysteria over what kids these days are up to or what effect some thing will have on today’s youth, their hymens, or their marriageability, or 2) the My-god! Isn’t-returning-to-conservative and traditional-values-so-revoluationary?!? angle.

Bonus points if you can throw in a Sex and the City reference; extra bonus points if you can convince women they’re going to die alone if they don’t marry ready-set-now; extra extra bonus if you can again blame the boomers while doing so.

So let’s see how New Victorians fares:

“There is definitely this return to tradition,” said a 27-year-old Upper West Sider named Olivia.

“Maybe this is also fallout from the sort of these boomer ideas about what sexual freedom is,” (Christine) suggested.

In this case, the reaction isn’t against specific syphilitic laxity and moral decay, but is rather a vague fear of too much sex … and the attendant nightmare of becoming—pardon the phrase—an aging spinster, lurching around New York sloshing cosmos and wearing age-inappropriate Capri pants, as in the TV version of Sex and the City and its many spinoffs.

“Don’t people in New York always talk about how it’s hard to find men?” Christine asked rhetorically. She has already received a lifetime’s worth of warnings from elder “singletons”—that overly chirpy, Brit-inflected term. Time and again she has been lectured on the scarcity of men, the sorrows of solitude, and the Clomid-chomping horror of post-35 pregnancy attempts. In fact, just a few months ago, Christine was out with friends when a pair of slightly older women launched into a jeremiad of dating and despair, imploring her to hold tight to her boyfriend, lest she wind up single and, gasp, 30-something, just like them. “It’s like I was being terrorized by these older women who were like, ‘Don’t let him go, there’s nobody out there!’” she recalled with an alarmed laugh. “I was really scared.”

Check, with extra extra bonus points.

Watch Out For Gigantic Prams
Slacker Victorians
Does Cooking at Home Make You a New Victorian?

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news anchor rebellion

Okay, I don’t know whether everyone has already seen this, because it’s a few days old and that’s ancient in Internet video years, but I just saw this and I think it’s great. Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC news anchor, refuses to read a Paris Hilton story as the program’s lead, then rips up and attemps to burn the story!

“It’s not like I’ll never cover a Paris Hilton story again and it’s not like I’m never going to listen to my producer again,” she said. “But that day, that story as the lead was just preposterous. It made me feel stupid.”

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I suppose I should say something about Scooter Libby. Back in the fall, I wrote a research paper analyzing press coverage of the Valerie Plame affair. I was looking at the way coverage of the issue was framed; not surprisingly, I found that the most-used frames were “politics as usual” (oh, so some corruption happened, it’s Washington, what do you expect?), “the system works” (the administration is deeply concerned about the leak but don’t worry we will catch who did it liberty and justice for all!), or “the business of news” (reporters reporters reporters! should reporters reveal their sources? what are the ethical demands of journalists?, etc.). to use comm-academic-jargony terms, these are frames that provide low orientation for most of the general public, do not make compelling arguments for why one should pay attention to the issue, and therefore may actually decrease public saliance of the issue. or, in otherwords, people don’t give a shit about things, and may be actually less likely to pay attention — even as coverage increases — when the situation is framed in these terms.

Not surprisingly, again, the frames that occured least were ones emphasizing “the bigger picture” (hey, this kinda ties in to why we went got into the Iraq war!), national security (it might be kinda dangerous to compromise a CIA agent’s identity, eh?), or intentional corruption (oh, so it just happens that Plame’s husband criticizes Bush and her name gets immediately leaked?).

I don’t know; I don’t have much to say about it, though. When Justin first caught whiff of the rumors back in the day that the leak had occured somewhere in the upper echelons of the Bush administration, he was convinced it was going to be big. It won’t, I told him. No one will care. And it was big, and still nobody cared. I’m not putting myself in some superior category, here; I didn’t care either. Until I wrote that paper in the fall, I couldn’t have told you what the whole hoopla was really all about (I certainly knew nothing about yellow cake uranium and forged Italian documents). So everyone cares more about Paris Hilton being released from jail than Libby, and again, I’m not saying that as some sort of “oh, the masses!” condemnation, because why should they care about Libby? It has never been and mostly still is not framed by the press as something of any consequence outside of Washington (and maybe it’s not…). (but really, could the media and/or circumstances possibly have handed us an easier comparison hook than the proximity of hilton and libby’s jail fiascos?)

Great article today at AlterNet about the Libby business, though.

Scooter Libby’s sentence was “excessive,” President Bush said.

In other words, two-and-a-half years in jail for perjury is just way, way over the line in a case in which the White House and Scooter Libby undermined national security; exposed a CIA agent’s cover; and potentially damaged this agent’s covert operation to track unaccounted-for nuclear material (loose nukes) — all orchestrated by the vice president and Libby to sucker punch Ambassador Joe Wilson

What’s excessive? President Bush, who suddenly hates excessive punishments, once refused to commute the death sentence of a 33-year-old mentally retarded black man with an IQ of around 60 and the functional skills of a 7-year-old boy.

The truth is that commuting Libby’s prison term had nothing to do with any sudden outbreak of Bushie sympathy or humanity. After all, this is the same man who literally smiles from ear-to-Vulcanish-ear when talking about warfare and ordering more soldiers into combat in Iraq.

No, the president’s decision had everything to do with: 1) a likely deal between the vice president and Libby’s attorneys in which Libby promised to keep the scuttlebutt away from Vice President Cheney in exchange for the VPOTUS promising to see what he could do about the sentence; and 2) Scooter Libby isn’t poor, black or retarded.

Justin told me two years ago, “This is going to be traced back to Cheney. There’s a very real possibility he could end up impeached.” Sigh ….

Update: I think Ezra Klein puts it really well too:

It’s impossible to overstate how grotesque this is. George W. Bush simply decided to supersede the judgment of the legal system on his friend and subordinate. If you’re an inner city African-American wrongly convicted of a crime? You better pray. If you’re an associate of the most powerful man in the country? Relax, it’s all in hand. That George W. Bush decided to press forward with this move despite the message it would send — that some are above the law, and that this administration spits on justice — is remarkable evidence of just how little he values his office, and how disposable he judges this country’s mores and ideals.

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Trend Alert: Hotspotting

I’m like an ambulance chaser for new media trends. I start reading slower when I come to something new. I may even stop and stare. Often my mouth is ajar. Then like a hungry feral cat, I voraciously devour as much information as I possibly can. That’s great and dandy until it’s usually at this stage I move to annoying my friends and making them hear about my latest discovery. And this discovery for which I’ve decided to post about? It’s hotspotting.

Taken from The Pondering Primate

The ads — designed by upstart interactive agencies such as Deep Focus ,eLine Technologies, Klipmart, and MovieBanners — will embed hyperlinks and pop-up windows in the frames of the movie trailers, turning each character or object into a virtual library of information

I find it incredibly intelligent. What a fantastic way for advertisers to make money and be non-obtrusive in a Tivo world. I assume the first few months/years will be difficult and I look forward to YouTube humor when you can link your friends face to a dead 18th century hooker, but I think this is going to be a great move towards the blending of Web 2.0 and old technology. I get excited over a lot of things, but this just makes me giddy.

And then it makes me feel late that post was from two years ago.

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