Newt Gingrich has “family values?” WTF?!?

From Michelle Goldberg at Newsweek:

Like many evangelicals in Iowa, Steve Deace, an influential conservative radio host, is wrestling with the possibility that Newt Gingrich may be the most viable standard bearer for family-values voters in the next election. It’s a conundrum, he says, that many others are also grappling with. “Maybe the guy in the race that would make the best president is on his third marriage,” he says. “How do we reconcile that?”

“Under normal circumstances, Gingrich would have some real problems with the social-conservative community,” says Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. “But these aren’t normal circumstances.” Continue reading “Newt Gingrich has “family values?” WTF?!?”

Did President Bush believe that Harry Potter was real? It sure sounds that way.

Not that this should come as any surprise, but we now have confirmation that the Bush administration refused to award Harry Potter author JK Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because the books “encouraged witchcraft.”

For a second, let’s set aside any arguments over whether or not Rowling’s work merits such a lofty honor and do something that we simply don’t do enough these days. Let’s dig beneath the surface silliness and examine the deeper implications of what this revelation really means.

Put simply, would you be worried about “encouraging” something you didn’t think was possible? It’s one thing to want to discourage, say, meth use or binge drinking or texting while driving or unprotected sex. Those things are real and they have real, observable consequences. Continue reading “Did President Bush believe that Harry Potter was real? It sure sounds that way.”

Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2

Part 2 of a series; Previously: What Bell Labs and French Intellectuals Can Tell Us About Cronkite and Couric

The Signal-to-Noise Journey of American Media

The 20th Century represented a Golden Age of Institutional Journalism. The Yellow Journalism wars of the late 19th Century gave way to a more responsible mode of reporting built on ethical and professional codes that encouraged fairness and “objectivity.” (Granted, these concepts, like their bastard cousin “balance,” are not wholly unproblematic. Still, they represented a far better way of conducting journalism than we had seen before.) It’s probably not idealizing too much to assert that reporting in the Cronkite Era, for instance, was characterized by a commitment to rise above partisanship and manipulation. The journalist was expected to hold him/herself to a higher standard and to serve the public interest. These professionals – and I have met a few who are more than worthy of the title – believed they had a duty to search for the facts and to present them in a fashion that was as free of bias as possible.

In other words, their careers, like that of Claude Shannon, were devoted to maximizing the signal in the system – the system here being the “marketplace of ideas.” Continue reading “Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2”

America and its presidents: what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Let’s begin with a brief Q&A with America.

Q: Let’s say you’re sick with a potentially deadly disease. Who do you want for a doctor?
A: The smartest, most experienced and highly qualified expert in the field.

Q: You’re looking to invest your life savings. Who do you trust to handle your money?
A: The brightest, most agile financial mind I can find.

Q: You’ve been selected to participate in a “private citizens in space” program. Who do you want in charge of building the rocket? Continue reading “America and its presidents: what the fuck is wrong with you people?”

An open letter to America’s progressive billionaires

Dear Mr. Buffet, Mr. Gates, Mr. Turner, Mr. Soros, Ms. Winfrey, and any other hyper-rich types with progressive political leanings:

If this essay has, against all odds, somehow made its way to your desk, please, bear with me. It’s longish, but it winds eventually toward an exceedingly important conclusion. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’ll do my best to reward your patience.
_______________

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won a landmark political victory on a couple of prominent themes: “hope” and “change.” He has since been afforded ample opportunity to talk about these ideas, having inherited the nastiest economic quagmire in living memory and a Republican minority in Congress that has interpreted November’s results as a mandate to obstruct the public interest even more rabidly than it was doing before. Reactions among those of us who supported Obama have been predictably mixed, but even those who have been critical of his efforts to date are generally united in their hope that his win signaled the end of “movement conservatism” in the US. Continue reading “An open letter to America’s progressive billionaires”

Back to the Newture

In an NPR piece the other day on the return of Newt Gingrich,  reporter Lynn Neary noted that some Republicans are attempting to lure the former House speaker back into the party leadership as the head of the Republican National Committee. Newt says the chances of that happening are pretty much zero, as he’s focusing all his time and energy on two things: the Center for Health Transformation and American Solutions.

The latter group is the one that brought you the “drill here, drill now, pay less” canard. They’re also pushing for a repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley (the corporate accountability law passed in the wake of the Enron, WorldCom, Qwest, Adelphia, and Tyco debacles) and are agitating for a zero capital gains tax rate and a “12% corporate income tax rate strategy for economic growth.” Continue reading “Back to the Newture”

ElecTunesDay: ending the War on Music

Trusting is one thing I don’t know
When it comes to the campaigning men
But I’ll meet you at the election
When I vote for the hope of this land
Sean Kelly

You may have noticed, if you’ve been paying attention, that the music industry has gone to hell of late. It isn’t that nobody is making good music anymore – on the contrary, there are legions of fantastic bands and artists out there. It’s just that the best ones rarely get played on the radio; the recording industry cranks out nothing but imitation, prefabricated product – the musical equivalent of Cheez-Whiz (Now With Zero Intellectual Calories!); the RIAA – the body that’s allegedly working on behalf of artists – never misses a chance to kneecap young, developing musicians; and if an artist is making a living, it’s probably at a day job and not with his or her music. Continue reading “ElecTunesDay: ending the War on Music”

Study proves Biden won debate by more than a full grade level

Hey, America: are your politicians stupid or do they just think you are? Check this new analysis of Thursday night’s “debate”:

An analysis carried out by a language monitoring service said Friday that Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at a more than ninth-grade level and Sen. Joseph Biden spoke at a nearly eighth-grade level in Thursday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates.

Which proves my initial take right, I guess. Continue reading “Study proves Biden won debate by more than a full grade level”

New theory says the End Times are really upon us

It started when our friend fikshun sent along an amusing item a few days ago. His job apparently requires him to spend inordinate amounts of time surfing the Web in search of trans-weird culturalisms, and somewhere along the line he found this:

Website Lets You Send a Post-Rapture E-Mail to Friends ‘Left Behind’

If millions of Christians suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth as the opening act for Armageddon, Threat Level thinks most nonbelievers will be too busy freaking the hell out to check their e-mail. But if they do log in, now they can be treated to some post-Rapture needling from their missing friends and loved ones, courtesy of web startup YouveBeenLeftBehind.com. Continue reading “New theory says the End Times are really upon us”

Jesus, McCain and the GOP: a former Republican ponders the future of the party

Most folks don’t realize it – even people who know me fairly well – but I used to be a Republican. Back when I was younger and, one supposes, more naïve about the relevance of certain kinds of economic theory, I was a pretty mouthy GOPper. I voted for Reagan twice and Bush the Elder once, and while I can defend myself by saying things like “Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis,” I think it’s now clear that history will regard those voting decisions as, at best, insufficiently considered.

As time passed and I grew more … educated … I became more and more conflicted. Continue reading “Jesus, McCain and the GOP: a former Republican ponders the future of the party”

Is America ready for McChange?

It was one of this election season’s most surreal moments. Right about the time the other night that Barack Obama was clinching the Democratic nomination, a reanimated corpse Sen. John McCain took the podium in Kenner, Louisiana to regale an audience of literally several on the virtues of … change?

Continue reading “Is America ready for McChange?”

The “McCain standard” and the rise of the Calphalon Candidate

If you’re following America’s electoral theater at all, you know that we have a candidate with a preacher problem. And that the candidate in question has been put in the uncomfortable position of having to repudiate some of said preacher’s remarks (while not alienating those voters in the flock who actually, you know, agree with what the Reverend was saying). In case you haven’t been paying attention, the controversial cleric has pronounced God’s doom upon certain of the nation’s citizens, and the backlash against him and his favorite for the White House has significantly damaged the candidate’s chances.

Of course, I’m talking about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Errr, wait … that’s not right. That’s not who I’m talking about at all. Continue reading “The “McCain standard” and the rise of the Calphalon Candidate”

Britney coverage is in the public interest and Iran isn’t; are we as dumb as they think we are?

Well, here’s a fine howdy-do first thing this morning: an absolutely breathtaking bit of misdirection and pro-monopolist hackery masquerading as a good-faith critique of Bill Moyers.

Moyers’ point seems to be that the opposite of more consolidation is the existence of more stations like this one in Chicago.This is absolutely false and Mr. Moyers should know it.

The opposite of more consolidation is, in fact, more ownership by smaller owners who have exactly the same profit motivation as the larger owners. More of the same, in other words. With a different company name on the letterhead.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Radio companies don’t own the airwaves, we Americans do. And those stations are licensed to serve “in the public interest.” But what could be more in the public interest than content which is interesting to the public? And in Chicago there are 32 examples of this ranked higher than the poster child Moyers chose.

The author is Mark Ramsey, president of Mercury Radio Research, and once you sift through a lot of self-serving rhetoric designed to make him seem more fair-minded on the subject than I suspect he really is, there are a couple of core assertions that we’re expected to accept as wisdom: Continue reading “Britney coverage is in the public interest and Iran isn’t; are we as dumb as they think we are?”

Democracy Death Match results: Limbaugh & Clear Channel defeat Fairness & Public Interest

Once upon a time in America there was a thing called the “public interest.” The airwaves were a publicly owned resource, and broadcasters profiting from their use were obliged to serve “the public interest, convenience and necessity.” These principles were codified in 1927 and 1934 legislation and were accepted (if not universally loved) for decades. This policy was built on a philosophy that believed public resources existed for something more than the generation of corporate profit, a concept that might strike us as quaint these days. What is there in life but the service of corporate profit, after all?

The idea that there’s more to life than private ownership and profit began unraveling in earnest when Reagan took office and appointed Mark Fowler to head the FCC. In a truly landmark moment, Fowler and Senior Legal Advisor Daniel Brenner co-authored a 1982 paper that “updated” our concept of public interest, stating that the public interest is “what the public is interested in.” And no, I’m not making that up. Continue reading “Democracy Death Match results: Limbaugh & Clear Channel defeat Fairness & Public Interest”