Tag: Stupid Journalists

Marketplace on NPR

So, since May I've been working a job that goes from 10 AM to 6 PM.

I like it. It gives me time to walk the dog in the morning, and getting off at 6 means I miss both the worst heat and the worst traffic of the day.

The biggest problem with getting off at 6 is that Marketplace is on NPR, and so that's what I end up listening to on my way home, because it's that or play Preset Lottery and try to find a song I like amid all the obnoxious pop and worse commercials on all the other stations.

I've been trying, for months, to figure out why I don't like Marketplace. Is it my innate disdain for the finance industry? The constant handholding on basic economics and technology?

No. I have come to realize that it's because the questions Kai Ryssdal asks are actually stupid.

Here's a bit from yesterday's interview with Amazon Studios' Roy Price:

Ryssdal: At this point, you might reasonably stop and ask, How did an online retailer end up making television shows, and, y'know, why? Roy Price is the guy with the answers; he runs Amazon Studios. Roy, it's good to have you on.

Price: Thank you, Kai; it's great to be here.

Ryssdal: So when you go to a dinner party, or your kid's soccer game, or you're hangin' out at the beach, and people say, "What do you do?" what do you tell them?

Price: I run Amazon Studios, and we develop TV shows for amazon.com. That's usually what I tell them, unless I'm in a kidding mood.

Emphasis added, because seriously, what the fuck is that? The dude says what Price's job is, and then asks him what he tells people his job is. This is, like, Tim Meadows as Lionel Osbourne-caliber interviewing.

And then he just keeps rambling on about how crazy it is that Amazon is making original TV shows.

This is not 1999. He is not asking why bookseller Amazon has started selling CD's, VHS tapes, and DVD's.

This is not 2003. He is not asking why media seller Amazon has started selling clothing, and advertising it with baffling recommendations beginning with "People who wear clothes also shop for:"

This is not 2007. He is not asking why physical media/clothing seller Amazon has started selling consumer electronics, household goods, and MP3's.

This is not 2011. He is not asking why physical goods/ebook/MP3 seller Amazon has started its own Android app store and video streaming service.

This is goddamn yesterday, and he is seemingly baffled that an online retailer that has been constantly branching out into new markets for the past 15 years has branched out into a new market.

Jesus Christ. I'd rather listen to Car Talk.

James Clapper and Other Disgraces

So I mentioned last night that asking the question, "Is Snowden a hero or a traitor?" completely misses the fucking point.

Here now to completely miss the fucking point are The New Yorker's John Cassidy ("hero") and Jeffrey Toobin ("traitor").

I guess we should applaud The New Yorker for showing its journalistic integrity by presenting both sides of the not-actually-the-fucking-story.

Look. I don't give a goddamn if Edward Snowden raped a bear in his meth lab while canceling Firefly. First of all, he'd still be less of an asshole than Dick Cheney, and second, if you think it's okay for the government to spy on your phone and Internet habits, you should probably come up with a better reason than "Well, I'm for it because that bear rapist is against it!"

Now, I happen to believe, based on the limited information we have at the moment, that Snowden did the right thing, and also that Snowden has gigantic balls. But I don't believe he's the most important person in this story. I don't think he's even in the top fifty.

Someone who is in the top fifty is James Clapper, perjuring fuck and Director of National Intelligence, who recently testified before Congress that the government is totally not collecting surveillance information on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. Here, go watch John Oliver kill it on his first episode as fill-in host of The Daily Show (and be sure to stick around for the Moment of Zen where 2006 Joe Biden explains how this sort of thing is totally not okay when a Republican does it).

Fred Kaplan at Slate advocates firing Clapper, because, among other reasons, he has proven himself totally incapable of discussing this subject in an intellectually honest fashion or any other kind of honest fashion.

Among other reasons, here's Clapper's inept fucking explanation for why his lie was actually true:

Rambling on in his rationalization to Mitchell, he focused on Wyden’s use of the word “collect,” as in “Did the NSA collect any type of data ... on millions of Americans?” Clapper told Mitchell that he envisioned a vast library of books containing vast amounts of data on every American. “To me,” he said, “collection of U.S. persons’ data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it.”

Jesus Christ. Between this asshole and Petraeus, I'm beginning to worry that our entire intelligence apparatus is made up of people who can't even come up with a convincing lie if they're given months of warning and an entire team of speechwriters.

Hey Clapper -- this is my comic book collection.

Image: My comic book collection.

I haven't read most of those books in years. Does that mean they're no longer part of my collection? Or does reading them once count? Does that mean the comics I bought last week and haven't gotten around to reading aren't part of my collection yet? Is this some kind of quantum physics shit where my collection is altered by the act of observing it?

What about garbage collection? Does it only count as collecting my garbage if the sanitation workers break open the bags and root through 'em? Because I've never seen them do that, and yet the city keeps charging me a garbage collection fee anyway.

You get the point. He's claiming his lie is not actually a lie because he was using a definition of a word that he just completely made up. Like how I had sex with Natalie Portman. It's not a lie because when I say "had sex" I actually mean "sat on the couch" and by "with Natalie Portman" I mean "and played Nintendo".

Man, I have had so much sex with Natalie Portman.

I don't know if I'm even as bothered by his lying -- hell, that's his job, I'd expect nothing less -- as the sheer fucking laziness of his lying. It's downright goddamned insulting. It lacks even the sublime, recursive absurdity of "That depends on what your definition of is is." It's just worthless. And so is Clapper.

I don't really think throwing him out on his ass is going to change things. Throwing the Republicans out of the White House sure as hell didn't.

But what the hell, they still deserved to be thrown out, and so does he.

Firing Clapper certainly wouldn't guarantee we'd have an honest national discussion about the nature of our government's various spying programs.

But not firing Clapper will guarantee that we won't.

The Real Questions

I was going to write a post about Edward Snowden.

But then I realized: that's bullshit.

Because this isn't about Edward Snowden.

I just read a great piece by Matt Taibbi titled As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point. He argues, persuasively, that focusing on Manning is what the government wants. It wants the story to be about a person instead of about the information he disclosed.

The NSA story isn't about Snowden, any more than the military leaks are about Manning or Assange. "Hero or traitor?" is a bullshit question.

There are real questions we should be asking. Here are a few courtesy of Bruce Schneier:

We need details on the full extent of the FBI's spying capabilities. We don't know what information it routinely collects on American citizens, what extra information it collects on those on various watch lists, and what legal justifications it invokes for its actions. We don't know its plans for future data collection. We don't know what scandals and illegal actions -- either past or present -- are currently being covered up.

We also need information about what data the NSA gathers, either domestically or internationally. We don't know how much it collects surreptitiously, and how much it relies on arrangements with various companies. We don't know how much it uses password cracking to get at encrypted data, and how much it exploits existing system vulnerabilities. We don't know whether it deliberately inserts backdoors into systems it wants to monitor, either with or without the permission of the communications-system vendors.

And we need details about the sorts of analysis the organizations perform. We don't know what they quickly cull at the point of collection, and what they store for later analysis -- and how long they store it. We don't know what sort of database profiling they do, how extensive their CCTV and surveillance-drone analysis is, how much they perform behavioral analysis, or how extensively they trace friends of people on their watch lists.

All that said: I can't resist linking the petition for Obama to debate Snowden. Obviously it's not going to happen, but if it gets 100,000 signatures, the White House will have to issue an official response.

And presumably up the signature requirement for an official response to 150,000 for next time.


I think Ruben Bolling pretty much nailed my opinion on the misplaced priorities of the latest raft of Obama Administration scandals.

You know what? If an organization has the words "Tea Party" in its name, it's probably a partisan political organization that shouldn't be given tax-exempt status!

So why did the IRS go after groups with "Tea Party" in their names, and not, oh, I don't know, ...
...actually, I really don't know. Finish that sentence for me, everyone who is morally outraged that the IRS looked for "Tea Party" as convenient shorthand for "partisan political organization". What word or phrase should they have been looking for to nail partisan Democratic organizations to the wall in 2010? Name a ubiquitous catchphrase from the 2010 election season that was synonymous with the Democratic Party.

The Tea Party orgs weren't victims of a partisan witch hunt, they were victims of their own success. Democrats weren't targeted because they didn't have their shit together. They didn't have an easy, two-word phrase that was endlessly repeated in the media or associated with nationwide rallies.

The most upsetting thing about the IRS scandal is the prospect that the IRS will now be gun-shy about questioning partisan political organizations about whether they should really be tax-exempt. That's something they really should be doing -- and yes, they should be doing it to both parties. I'm just noting that, in the election cycle in question, one party made it a lot easier on them than the other.

As for Benghazi -- Benghazi was a tragedy. And the Obama Administration gave pretty mixed messages in the days after about whether it was a planned terrorist attack or a spontaneous outburst.

It's entirely possible that the Obama Administration deliberately delayed making a connection to Al Qaeda because it was right before the election. I wouldn't put it past them. And if that happened, then yeah, that's pretty fucking distasteful.

But when the same sons-of-bitches who praised Bush for what great leadership he showed in failing to stop a certain other terrorist attack on a certain other 11th of September, and who praised him for lying about Iraqi WMD's to drag us into war, rant about how the Benghazi talking points are worse than Watergate, well, Darrell Issa can go sit on a rusty rake.

Spying on the AP, on the other hand? Yeah, I can see room for some Watergate comparisons there. Which I suppose is why it's a distant third on the Fox News Obama Scandal Talking Points.

Course, it's kinda hard to act outraged at a governmental war on whistleblowers when you've spent the past three years crying for Julian Assange's head on a platter, but it's not like Fox News has ever let ideological consistency get in the way of cheering for Republicans and deriding Democrats. Trevor Timm at the Freedom of the Press Foundation recently penned an article titled Virtually Everything the Government Did to WikiLeaks is Now Being Done to Mainstream US Reporters; this of course is precisely what Wikileaks' defenders were warning everybody about when this mess started. That's the thing about the First Amendment -- you start carving out tiny exceptions, sooner or later you're going to find out they're not so tiny after all.

So yeah, I'd say the only legitimate scandal here is the one that the Republicans are spending the least amount of time on -- and the only one where nobody's been fired and Obama's said everything went exactly the way it was supposed to.

It would be great if we had a real opposition party; Lord knows we need one. We need politicians who are really willing to stand up to the President's excesses, for the right reasons instead of just to get attention and campaign contributions.

Sometimes I worry that the closest thing we've got in Congress to someone who's really willing to stand up to the President when it matters is Rand Paul. And that thought depresses me so goddamn much I think I'm going to go grab another beer.

Fascist Theocracy

Zappa's legendary 1986 appearance on Crossfire -- pardon the audio quality.

I'd read a (maybe partial?) transcipt before but never actually sat down and watched it in its entirety. It really is quite astounding just how aggressively ignorant John Lofton is -- incest is a major problem in America because of Prince? Seriously? Jesus Christ. Good thing conservatives had their priorities straight -- not like there was anything more important going on in early 1986.

Douchebag of Liberty Bob Novak seems downright moderate by comparison.

Judging by the E-Mails I routinely get from the Washington Times (thanks to foolishly signing up for a mailing list from a local Republican politician I knew professionally in 2006), they have roughly the same journalistic standards today as they did then. But that's a story for another day. (A story titled Is Obama Ruled by Demons?)

The parallels to recent debates about adult content in video games should, of course, go without saying.

Green Party Candidate Arrested at Presidential Debate. Again.

So Jill Stein and running-mate Cheri Honkala were arrested outside of last night's debate.

Much the same thing happened to Ralph Nader in 2000. He sued the Commission on Presidential Debates; they settled. Back then I was naïve enough to think this was going to make a difference and this would bring down the CPD, or at least force major reforms. But nope, here we go again.

There are differences. Nader had a ticket; Stein didn't. Stein blocked traffic; Nader didn't. And I'm not sure if Stein's arrest was instigated by the CPD or if the county police acted independently. Could be that Stein and Honkala wanted to get arrested to get some press -- but even if that's the case, it's not justification for handcuffing them to a chair for eight hours, as they have alleged. That sounds to me like a wildly disproportionate response and another potential lawsuit.

Unfortunately I'm not seeing much coverage of the story, and many of the reports get details wrong -- CNN refers to the CPD as "nonpartisan" -- it's bipartisan; there's a difference -- and the Washington Post refers to Perot participating in the 1992 debates under guidelines that were not implemented until 2000.

Would sure be nice if people like Stein and Johnson and Nader and Buchanan and, yes, Perot were allowed into presidential debates. But the CPD exists for the express purpose of keeping people like them out.


Well, I did it. I filed the paperwork and I'm not going to be a Democrat anymore.

I've swung back and forth from Democrat to Green to Democrat, but I've always considered myself an independent and any time anyone's ever asked me what my political affiliation that's what I've always said. Sometimes I've qualified it -- "liberal independent", something like that.

I never really wanted to be a Democrat; I only ever registered as one to vote in primaries. (Arizona passed a ballot measure in 1998 allowing independents and people registered to third parties with no primary to choose a major-party primary to vote in, but due to a technicality it was interpreted to mean "any primary except a Presidential primary". Which is stupid, because obviously everybody who voted in favor of the initiative intended for it to apply to Presidential primaries because it's not as if independents and third parties were really champing at the bit to vote in the primary for sheriff or Congressman, but that's what we wound up with.)

It's a technicality and I don't suppose it really matters. In four years maybe I'll switch back to (D) to vote in another primary. Or maybe I'll go (R) for a change and try to get the least-crazy Republican candidate nominated -- I may not be wild about guys like Huntsman or Johnson, but I think everybody would be a lot better off if the Republican Party went back to being helmed by candidates who weren't completely fucking nuts.

But, truth is, I was never really comfortable calling myself a Democrat, because I really cannot stand the Democratic Party. The Republicans are odious but they're doing what they're supposed to do; it's the Democrats who talk a good game about reining in special interests and respecting civil liberties and then turn around and piss all over those promises.

I knew Obama was going to disappoint me in some cases, but I never expected him to disappoint me so much. I thought worst-case scenario was that he'd be another Clinton. Instead, he's like Clinton without the political acumen.

His signature achievement has been the passage of a healthcare bill designed by the Heritage Foundation -- without a single Republican vote. I'll grant it's better than what we had, but that's a pretty piss-poor campaign slogan.

He backed off his support for due process before he was even elected President; in '08 he said he'd filibuster any attempt to grant immunity to the telecoms who aided the Bush Administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, then he turned around and voted for telecom immunity -- and when the liberal base that had gotten him nominated complained, he affected that condescending air of his and said we had misunderstood and he had never said he would oppose telecom immunity.

He's certainly proven, since becoming President, that he's not so concerned with due process after all. Indeed, as the EFF's Trevor Timm recently observed, the Democratic Party Platform of 2008 explicitly condemned warrantless surveillance, and the 2012 platform dropped that language entirely. I guess worrying about due process makes it harder to order drone strikes against American citizens and soak cancer survivors in urine while searching for nefarious objects like 4-ounce bottles of liquid.

So I've been wrestling with myself for months about whether I'd grit my teeth and vote for Obama a second time. (Third, counting the '08 primary -- though I'd have probably voted Edwards if he'd still be in the race. Now there's a politician who's become a massive disappointment for reasons that have nothing to do with policy.) And I think the last straw was the Justice Department's recent announcement that it wouldn't be filing charges against Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Not only did they announce they wouldn't charge him, they announced it before the November election. Polls are showing a tight race between Arpaio and challenger Paul Penzone (with independent Mike Stauffer polling around 5%) -- it is entirely possible that the Obama Justice Department just got Sheriff Joe reelected.

Maybe if I were in a swing state I'd grit my teeth and vote Obama anyway -- I have to admit he's better than Romney and, under the circumstances, I hope he wins.

But my state's votes are going to Romney, period -- even the pundit class has pretty much given up the "maybe Arizona will be a swing state!" nonsense they pulled the last three elections.

Absolutely any vote I make is going to be a protest vote. And under the circumstances, I'd rather my protest vote go to someone who I actually like.

If only I could figure out who that is.


Cut the crap.

Democrats, news media: quit pretending that it is some kind of shock or revelation that a Republican candidate believes half the population is made up of lazy good-for-nothings who just want handouts.

Republicans: quit pretending that that hasn't been the core of your party platform since the Reagan Administration.

This is not new. Bring up welfare or the Affordable Care Act in absolutely any political discussion and see how long it takes for somebody to espouse the very beliefs that people are pretending to be surprised to hear coming from a Republican.

About the only guy who's not being utterly disingenuous here (for a change) is Romney. Because he's refusing to apologize for being an amoral mercenary with absolutely no sympathy for anybody with less money than himself.

You know, a Republican.

Too soon!

There's a sentiment I've seen in the CBR comments section a couple of times recently: this "How dare you try and tie this to a political agenda?" faux-outrage.

Now, there are lots of times when it's inappropriate to bring up controversial political subjects. Particularly when there's a recent tragedy in the news and you're sensationalizing it. Like, for example, after the V-Tech massacre, when soon-to-be-disbarred fuckface Jack Thompson tried to blame the killings on Counterstrike, a game which the shooter did not play.

Some things are completely inappropriate in the wake of a tragedy. Like flailing around trying to blame it on Doom or Marilyn Manson or Dungeons and Dragons. Or jumping all over a quote from some guy on the opposite end of the country about what the killer supposedly said. Or grabbing whatever Batman comic your film critic has on his desk, thumbing through it until you see a scene that takes place in the theater, and wildly speculating that the killer was imitating it. Or plastering the killer's name and stupid fucking face all over TV and the Internet to make good and sure that every crazy asshole out there knows that hey kids, if you wanna be on TV, all you have to do is murder a bunch of people. Or typing his name into Google and falsely conflating him with a Tea Party member. Or having an honest dialogue about the ease of access to high-powered weapons and high-capacity clips in this country, and the sorry state of our mental health system.

Wait, what was that last one?

The subject came up again in a discussion of the recent news that comics writer and inker Karl Kesel recently adopted a baby with a methadone addiction and is selling his comic collection to pay for the child's medical bills.

Now, it goes without saying that this is a feel-good story, that Kesel and his wife Myrna are clearly legitimately wonderful human beings, and that they're doing something great that really matters.

But if you can read a story like that and not, even for a moment, think "They shouldn't have to do that" then you and I are very different people.

Nothing but respect to the Kesels, and I certainly speak only for myself and not for them. But it strikes me that there are a lot of people out there with sick kids who don't have tens of thousands of dollars in investments, and that getting slapped with tens of thousands in bills -- even if you've got insurance! -- is a sign of a broken healthcare system.

Seems to me that stories like that are perfect opportunities to have a conversation about healthcare -- but somebody brought it up and immediately got shushed by another commenter's righteous indignation: "How dare you politicize this?"

(In fairness, the guy who brought it up was kind of an ass about it.)

Seems to me that, when presented with a story that's a clear, directly-pertinent object example of some important sociopolitical issue, it's probably a good time to talk about that issue!

I mean, should we just wait until there are no stories about gun violence or healthcare debt to talk about gun access and healthcare costs? Don't make much sense if you ask me.

Amelia Earhart is Still Dead

So the top story on my Google News feed today is that we still haven't found the remains of Amelia Earhart's aircraft.

I really don't think "Situation completely unchanged since yesterday or the preceding 75 goddamn years" falls under any existing definition of "news", but on the other hand, it got that crazy-eyed Red Fraggle-looking fuck off the top of my feed, so I'll take it.