A Noxious Fusion

March 26, 2007

…of every awful, content-less faux-centrist narrative, applied here in a lengthy, fawning Washington Post “will he run?” article on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

“He’d be a candidate almost in the progressive tradition,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York political consultant. “He could make the argument: ‘A pox on both their houses.’ He’s a celebrity by definition because he’s a billionaire.”

But why should he be president? Because it’s remotely possible?

He’s a party-switching, uncharismatic billionaire. His running for president sure sounds exciting to Washington media – who adore nothing more than slagging off Democrats, but are finding it increasingly difficult to apologize for incompetent and corrupt Republicans – but that’s about it. The truth of the matter is that most Americans do prefer one party over the other – there’s no great silent consensus out there for people like Michael Bloomberg.

Ech…there’s more, now not just in quotations:

…if he ran as a Democrat, he might sacrifice his reputation as an independent-minded businessman who is above politics.

Save us from politicians who are “above” politics, and from those writers who would imagine such a thing possible.

The above passage follows an observation on the impossibility of Bloomberg’s  securing the GOP nomination. So I ask again – just where is this great silent majority that exists in neither party but would be able to elect a man like Michael Bloomberg president?

Bloomberg himself is quoted towards the end, and supplies the answer:

“How can a 5-foot-7, divorced billionaire Jew running as an independent from New York possibly have a chance?” he has asked.

He can’t. And that’s fine. Politics is the business of disagreeing about what to do. If Bloomberg can’t find constructive ways to disagree, then there’s really no reason for him to think twice about running for president.

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Some Comfort

March 25, 2007

Amanda Marcotte:

If anything comforts me in the face of the increasingly agitated fundamentalism in America, it’s that they have no clue how to compete with the pleasures of living available to most of us, pleasures that help assist us in telling them all to fuck off.

Quite.  This is an interesting thing about the culture wars in the United States – conservatives, those same people who are always going on about “free markets” and extending market metaphors and, indeed, markets into places they simply don’t belong (e.g., basic health care) simply cannot cope with the idea of a free market for culture. Which is mostly what we have, now, and is pretty much why they’re losing the culture wars, generation after generation: there’s a market for culture, and “conservative” culture is mostly crap. At some level, they’re aware of this, and so rather than trying to produce culture that is appealing to others (which is difficult for a variety of reasons), they just agitate against…pretty much all popular cultural products. Or sometimes, unpopular or marginal cultural products (e.g., “Piss Christ”) as an avenue for seeking to undermine the idea of culture.

It’s annoying, of course, but as Marcotte notes – in this arena, anyways, they really don’t know how to compete. So that’s nice for us heathens.


In Which I Criticize CBS for Doing Something Good

March 18, 2007

For this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, CBS is broadcasting all of the first three rounds on its website, for free. Except that it isn’t. Due to blackout rule – which, er, CBS made up (and, to their credit, explain forthrightly on their website) – users cannot see any of the games being broadcast by their local CBS affiliate. This is due – again, helpfully explained by CBS’ website – to the local CBS affiliates’ having “exclusive rights” to the broadcast of whatever it is they happen to be broadcasting at any given moment. And good for them.

The thinking behind this decision is straightforward enough: CBS pays a lot of money for the NCAA tournament broadcast rights; affiliates pay a lot of money to CBS for the exclusive rights to content, including the tournament; hence, the affiliates want people watching that content to be watching it through them, to maximize eyeballs and therefore maximize advertising revenue. Inherent in the assumption driving the blackout policy, then, is that there is a more-or-less finite number of possible viewers for the content. Any viewer watching the small, grainy window on their computer (a PC running Internet Explorer) is one not watching the local CBS station, so it only makes sense to give them access to content they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

This works great for someone who either doesn’t much care which game they’re watching, or someone simultaneously watching the TV and the PC. But let’s posit that there’s another kind of viewer – let’s call them ‘JKD’ – who doesn’t own a television and without access to the content online, might not watch it at all. Obviously, CBS and its affiliates are within their rights to say to this hypothetical user, “Screw you – buy a TV”, or force them to a local bar (though when CBS got in the biz of encouraging bar patronage isn’t clear to me). But why would they want to do that? Seriously – why? What’s the margin in, having constructed a method and venue for expanding access to content – for expanding total possible audience past what existed previously – then introducing an artificial and relatively arbitrary barrier preventing some or much of that possible new audience from accessing relatively arbitrary categories of that content?

I’d offer that, while CBS has introduced this great new service they don’t really understand what they’ve done. Which is odd, especially given how basic what they’ve done is. But since I’m a helpful guy, I’ll tell them what it is they’ve done: they’ve put television on their website. Really! It’s pretty cool. It also makes a lot of sense, given that CBS is primarily in the business of producing and distributing content that is television, that their website feature…content that is television.

It’s kind of dawned on TV people recently that the Internet isn’t really going away – that it’s in fact something that a lot of people do rather than watch television, and that rather than using their websites to convince people using the Internet that they should stop doing so at particular times of day on particular days of the week and instead watch television, it’d really much easier to bring their primary product to those people. It’s refreshing, the lack of obtuseness.

Except as the strange and arbitrary blackout rule demonstrates, they really don’t quite get it, yet. I’m not exactly sure why, but then I’m not and never have been in the business of running a television network and am, after all, just Some Guy With a Blog and without a television. But wouldn’t that make me a perfect customer? Evidently yes, but only to a certain point.


On Discourse

March 6, 2007

Digby:

I think that one of the reasons the conservatives are mostly hanging tough with Coulter is at least partially due to what she specifically said. She used the word “faggot” to describe a Democrat. This is the premise that forms the entire basis of the Republican claim to leadership and lies at the bottom of the media’s continuing ridiculous assumption that the Republicans are more natural leaders than Democrats. For forty years the Republicans have been winning elections by calling liberals “faggots” (and “dykes”) in one way or another. It’s what they do. To look too closely at what she said is to allow light on their very successful reliance on gender stereotypes to get elected.

Al Gore needed to be taught how to be an “alpha male.” He doesn’t “know who he is.”
John Kerry “flip-flops” like a flaccid penis.
John Edwards is “the Breck girl.”
Howard Dean was “hysterical.”
Barack Obama is “Obambi.”
Bill Clinton was “a pervert.”
Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.

The underlying premise of the modern conservative movement is that the entire Democratic party consists of a bunch of fags and dykes who are both too effeminate and too masculine to properly lead the nation. Coulter says it out loud. Dowd hints at it broadly. And the entire press corps giggles and swoons at this shallow, sophomoric concept like a bunch of junior high pom pom girls.

Tim Grieve:

Appearing on Fox News Monday — she bailed out on CNN — Ann Coulter said that nobody should have been offended when she called John Edwards a “faggot” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “‘Faggot’ isn’t offensive to gays; it has nothing to do with gays,” Coulter said. “It’s a schoolyard taunt meaning ‘wuss,’ and unless you’re telling me that John Edwards is gay, it was not applied to a gay person.”

 Glenn Greenwald:

That is just the basic dynamic of garden-variety authoritarianism, and it is what the right-wing, pro-Bush political movement is at its core — far, far more than it is a set of political beliefs or geopolitical objectives or moral agendas. All of it — the obsessions with glorious “Victory” in an endless string of wars, vesting more and more power in an all-dominant centralized Leader, the forced submission of any country or leader which does not submit to the Leader’s Will, the unquestioning Manichean certainties, and especially the endless stigmatization of the whole array of Enemies as decadent, depraved and weak — it’s just base cultural tribalism geared towards making the followers feel powerful and strong and safe.

…Ann Coulter comes in and plays such a vital — really indispensible — role. As a woman who purposely exudes the most exaggerated American feminine stereotypes (the long blond hair, the make-up, the emaciated body), her obsession with emasculating Democratic males — which, at bottom, is really what she does more than anything else — energizes and stimulates the right-wing “base” like nothing else can. …

Observe in the superb CPAC video produced by Max Blumenthal how Coulter immediately mocks his physical appearance as soon as she realizes that he is a liberal. And the crowd finds it hilarious. That is what she does. She takes liberal males, emasculates them, depicts them as “faggots” and weak losers, and thereby makes the throngs of weak and insecure followers who revere her feel masculine and strong. There is no way that the right-wing movement can shun her because what she does is indispensible to the entire spectacle. What she does is merely a more explicit re-inforcement of every central theme which the right-wing movement embraces.


Giuliani 2008 Quote of the Day

March 1, 2007

Sayeth Digby of Ruldoph Giuliani:

The Freepers are more concerned about the marriage to the second cousin than the adultery, divorce and cross-dressing, which I find surprising. They seem like the types to be quite tolerant of in-breeding.

Oh, snap.