I knew better than to expect P.L. Travers to write something sweet in my copy of Mary Poppins, but I didn’t think it would be quite so medicinal. It was 1988, and I’d been a vice president at Disney for two years.
So where are we in the Iran narrative? I mean no disrespect to the victims of Iran’s terrorist clients, or the existential fears of Israelis and world Jewry, or U.S. security interests in the Middle East by calling it a narrative.
Last week, a professor of physics and astronomy told The New York Times that the probability of an asteroid hitting the earth ---- it happened over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February, with the energy of 30 Hiroshimas ---- isn't once in a century or two, it's once in a decade or two. It's only a matter of time before a Sarah Palin names these death rocks "Obamacare asteroids."
If you think the widening chasm between the rich and the rest spells trouble for American democracy, have a look at the growing gulf between the information-rich and -poor.
f u cn rd ths, u cn bcm a sec & gt a gd jb w hi pa. You can tell that’s not a text message. When secretaries were getting good jobs for high pay, no one was texting.
“You’re not going to let Uncle Sam put his finger up your butt, are you, dude?” We’re at a bustling town fair, a few weeks from now. Kids climb on the firetruck. Community groups sell cupcakes and give out flyers. At the “Enroll America” booth, people are on healthcare.gov signing up for the health insurance marketplace.
Yale law school professor Dan Kahan’s new research paper is called “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government,” but for me a better title is the headline on science writer Chris Mooney’s piece about it in Grist: “Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math.”
Money, they say, is the mother’s milk of politics. Also of news, sports and the rest of the entertainment industry. Three recent stories drive that home.
If mice can have false memories planted in their brains by scientists, as the journal Science reported recently, then I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that cultures can have false memories planted in their brains by politicians and their media enablers.
Here’s progress: Big media companies now think Americans are as gullible as politicians do. It’s not just candidates who assume we’re nincompoops. The cable operators and networks take us for pigeons, too.
If only David Brooks’ eligibility rules for Egyptian political candidates applied to Republicans as well.
I have outrage envy. For nearly two weeks, more than a million citizens across Brazil have taken to the streets to protest political corruption, economic injustice, poor health care, inadequate schools, lousy mass transit, a crumbling infrastructure and – yes, in the land of Pelé – billions blown on sports.
We really have no idea what websites you’ve been visiting. If we’d wanted to know whether you’ve been cruising men4men, we’d have gotten a warrant from the Fisa court.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the great pleasures of my life – reading the New York Times – is also bad for my health.
Say goodnight, Earthlings. That message — plus the slimmest of shots at an eleventh-hour reprieve — was announced to the people of the world last week.
Maybe the problem with Washington isn’t that there’s too little comity – there’s too much.
I ain’t letting no computer grade this column. No way.
The final inch of the story turned me into an emotional puddle.
Prouty, we learned last week, is the 38-year old bartender who videotaped the $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton fundraiser where Mitt Romney wrote off 47 percent of the country as victims.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was in a Minneapolis branch of Byerly’s, an upscale grocery chain in Minnesota. Scanning the aisles for a small extravagance for my dinner hosts, I noticed that the shelf labels included not just the price-per-unit, which I’m used to, but little blue and white linked hexagons marked on a scale of 1 to 100 – a “NuVal” score.
NASA scientists say that meteor explosions like the one last week injuring 1,200 people in Chelyabinsk, Siberia, are 100-year events. The last time a big meteor crashed into our planet, incinerating 80 million trees in the Tunguska region of Siberia, was in 1908. So if you’re feeling a bit panicky after Chelyabinsk, relax. Odds are it’ll be a century before something like that happens again – though it’s understandable if you decide to cross the Trans-Siberian railroad off your bucket list.
“Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations.”
Four years ago, while Democrats danced at inaugural balls, Reps. Cantor and Ryan dined at The Caucus Room, a Capitol Hill steakhouse, along with other top Republicans, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Sens. Jim DeMint, John Kyl and Tom Coburn.
Some day not all that far in the future, a new kind of entertainment is going to be perfected that will either be the coolest video game ever or the media equivalent of a lethal man-made super-virus.
Some day not all that far in the future, a new kind of entertainment is going to be perfected that will either be the coolest video game ever, or the media equivalent of a lethal man-made super-virus.
"We have got to get Michelle to make this her priority."
So Grover Norquist turns out to be a colossus with feet of clay.
They threw Derek Khanna under the bus. On Friday afternoon, the Republican Study Committee – the House caucus that promulgates right-wing orthodoxy – posted on its website a startling policy brief about copyright law.
I was against Chris Christie before I was before him. If Obama wins, when all the exit polling gets sorted through, it’s those images of the Democratic president touring the hurricane damage arm-in-arm with the Republican governor that may turn out to have given him his advantage.
If you watched any of the debates on CNN, you saw two worms at the bottom of your screen. Well, they looked to me like worms, or maybe caterpillars, scrunching and stretching throughout the 90 minutes.
A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote a “Romney Wins First Debate” column, I didn’t think I was going out on a limb. Obama’s re-election was looking increasingly likely, but audiences don’t show up to watch paint dry.
If the media-industrial complex obeys its usual laws of supply and demand, the political headlines over the next four weeks are fairly predictable: Romney Wins First Debate. Ryan, Biden Debate to a Draw. Obama Wins Second Debate. It All Comes Down to the Last Debate.
What just happened in American politics is not just that Charlotte mopped the floor with Tampa. It’s that Democrats connected with the country beyond their wildest dreams.
It shouldn't have taken Todd Akin's crackpot contraception comment to alert us that Paul Ryan thinks rape is just another "method of conception."
Congratulations. You’re about to prevent hundreds of hours of your life from going down the rat hole between now and Election Day.
Until I saw 16 hot North Korean chicks singing “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” to Kim Jong-un, the strangest video that I’d ever seen of a head of state enjoying a performance was Pope Benedict XVI watching four ripped acrobats strip off their shirts and put on a show worthy of Channing Tatum and the “Magic Mike” boys.
Twice in the past few weeks, my train of thought has been hijacked by hope. I am not by nature pessimistic. But for a while now my mood about America’s prospects has been grim.
In countless cartoons, there’s a guy in a robe and long beard who’s walking around carrying a sign saying The End Is Nigh. The joke is that he’s ridiculous – some loony who takes the Book of Revelation literally. But what if the joke’s on us?
The trouble with kids these days, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks, is that they convert “moral... questions about how to be” into “analytic questions about what to do.”
We’re getting used to what’s been going on during this campaign. That’s dangerous. We should be reminding ourselves just how strange it is.
The reason that our financial system isn’t going to crash and burn again, the reason that taxpayers won’t have to fork over another trillion dollars of no-strings-attached bailout money, is – well, I forget.
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Because Senator Orrin Hatch couldn't eke out 60 percent of the votes at the Utah Republican Party's convention this past weekend, he'll face a primary challenge from former state senator Dan Liljenquist.
If you’re reading this, your vote for president won’t count. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone should vote; I think it should be compulsory, as it is in Australia, with fines for no-shows. Too much patriots’ blood has been spilled to protect our right to vote for America to be soft on civic deadbeats. Voting is the minimum price of admission to democracy.
Until Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child were murdered by Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean and buried in his backyard, her congressman, Mike Turner, had a record like any other garden-variety Republican warrior on women. With his 100 percent perfect opposition to women’s freedom of choice over their reproductive systems, Turner’s Dayton, Ohio-area constituents had been represented by just the kind of disciplined hard-core conservative that John Boehner and Eric Cantor rely on.
The trouble with kids these days is that they think luck counts more than they should. That’s the diagnosis of America’s young people offered by a New York Times opinion piece this past weekend. Generation Y has moved back home and given up on gung-ho because in these recessionary times, they’re putting too little weight on the importance of effort and too much weight on the riskiness of risk.
This coming weekend, Harvard’s Kennedy School will host a One State Conference” where some 20 speakers will be talking about “Israel/Palestine and the one-state solution.” Between the idea of a one-state solution, and the reaction to Harvard’s providing a venue for entertaining it, and the ongoing Republican assault on elites and universities, I don’t know whether to cry or to cry.
Will Hillary be Obama’s running mate, with Biden going to State if they win? Will Romney wrap things up on Super Tuesday, or will there be a brokered Republican convention, with Ron Paul as kingmaker? Will Democrats take back the House but lose the Senate?
Entertainment executives are fond of saying that no matter what happens with technology, what will always matter most is good storytelling. What they don’t say — but what they’ve begun to wonder — is whether those stories may be on the way to becoming loss leaders and if the content business is quietly being transformed into the data mining business.
“Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?” That was the headline last week on a blog posted by New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane.
What did I miss? For seven days I didn’t have salt, meat or CNN. My mornings began without “Morning Joe” or “Morning Edition”; I saw sunrise on a mountain hike, not with a clicker in my hand.
Did you see how Newt Gingrich kept winking during the Dec. 10 Republican debate? I’ll bet you $10,000 I’m the one he was winking at.
This is the disclaimer that Britain’s Public Interest Research Centre recently proposed for inclusion on billboards:
"Are you not entertained?" That was Jon Stewart’s response to Rick Perry’s brain freeze. He said it twice, maniacally. “Are you not entertained?” Stewart’s right about what’s happening. America is on track for the most amusing apocalypse ever. Things may be going to hell, but the campaign narrative unfolding in real time couldn’t be any more fun. It’s all entertainment, just grist for the media mill, and apparently there’s no bummer bad enough to shock us back to our senses.
Forget the fantasy of Hillary Clinton taking Joe Biden’s place on the 2012 ballot. Not only because it is not going to happen. The theory that having Hillary on the ticket would galvanize the base and that coveted independent voters, especially women, would break toward Democrats, has no deeper roots in empirical reality than creationism or climate change denial. It’s just not the game-changer that Obama needs to hang on to the presidency, let alone give him a Congress that would be any less obstructionist than the one we have now.
It’s premature to give the Nobel Peace Prize to those Occupy Wall Street kids. But it also may be too soon to blow them off as clueless hipsters “with nowhere to go,” as New York Times columnist Charles Blow did, calling the two weeks “a festival of frustrations, a collective venting session with little edge or urgency.”
You look terrific. Have you lost weight? Are you working out? You’ve got this glow about you. I bet you’re in love. Wait -- you were promoted. That’s it, isn’t it? They finally recognized how talented you are. By the way, did you know that the average global surface temperature has gone up one degree over the last three decades? It’s true. Here, have a look at this chart.
It was while I was explaining to an Australian student that Rupert Murdoch was the reason America had gone batty that I realized how inadequate my answer to his question was.
Following several days of coaching by lawyers and PR experts, it must have been really rattling for Rupert and James Murdoch when show time arrived to learn that the parliamentary committee questioning them would not permit opening statements.
If you voted for Obama, here’s what you’re not supposed to be thinking:
If you pay attention to the news, the prospects for the future look grim.
I wonder how much airtime Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) would get if she didn’t look the way she does. I wonder how much of Sara Palin’s political appeal arises from her physical appeal.
Please don’t run a countdown clock on the debt ceiling.
On the same day that Americans are test-driving the idea that Osama bin Laden lived on the outskirts of Pakistan’s West Point, undetected, for six years, Orly Taitz goes to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to prove that President Obama’s long-form birth certificate is a forgery. As they say in conspiracy-land, there are no coincidences.
The metrics are wearing no clothes. How would you react if you found out that the basis of your business model was bogus? That’s the nightmare that the television industry is finally waking up to, and I bet that online media won’t be far behind.
The TV business is built on advertising. Except for premium cable, the money that networks get for selling audiences’ eyeballs to advertisers is the mother’s milk of the industry. Networks set the price of ads on their shows using demographic information about the age and sex of those shows’ viewers. And the company that pretty much has a monopoly on furnishing those metrics is Nielsen.
If only people understood why they shouldn't do it, then they wouldn't do it.
As if the triple whammy of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster weren’t enough to enthrall and terrify us, the war in Libya is now providing cable news viewers a fresh hell to follow 24/7.
“This is strictly a business decision,” a Comcast source told Rupert Murdoch’s Web site MarketWatch about whether Comcast, the biggest cable operator in the U.S., will offer Al Jazeera English to its 24 million subscribers. Not a decision about whether Al Jazeera English is anti-American, anti-Israeli, a tool of Al Qaeda, a propagandist for Palestinians. Or none of the above. Nope – it’s strictly dollars and cents.
The power has gone out in a typical American town. Wait -- it’s not just the electricity. The phones don’t work, either. Portable radios are dead. Cars won’t start.
Egypt makes Mitt Romney look good – at least compared to other Republican presidential hopefuls.
I owe Keith Olbermann for enabling me to identify with Bill O’Reilly’s fans.
“Clarabelle Dopenik.” That’s what one wit on the popular conservative Web site freerepublic.com called Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County, Arizona sheriff who turns 75 this week. Elected continuously since 1980, he is the public face of the investigation into the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others. He is also, according to bloggers on that site, “an incompetent unhinged sonofabitch” and “a jerk” “using this tragedy for baseless, cheap political shots.”
What’s the right word for what Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) was doing when he attacked Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for “disrespecting one of the two holiest holidays for Christians” by keeping Congress in session in the week before Christmas? What do you call it when Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) blasted Democrats as “sacrilegious” for wanting the Senate to take up an arms control treaty and a spending bill “right before… the most sacred holiday for Christians”?
I think I’ve figured out how to get the White House to pay attention.
I also take Obama personally, and Jon Stewart, Paul Krugman and NPR. I take Trojan football personally. If I were more into baseball, I imagine I’d take the Dodgers personally, too.
The fate of our country won't be decided by a politician. It will be determined by a comedian. Not long before Jon Stewart announced his Rally to Restore Sanity, he told a New York magazine writer why he and his crew on "The Daily Show" would never do something like that. "We're not activists," he said. "Maybe the nice thing about being a comedian is never having full belief in yourself to know the answer. So you can say all this stuff, but underneath, you're going, 'But of course, I'm f---ing idiotic.' It's why we don't lead a lot of marches."
Jon Stewart did his show, business as usual, on Rosh Hashanah this year. That night, when his interview guest, Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, greeted him with "Happy New Year," Stewart looked uncharacteristically nonplussed for a nanosecond, before replying, "What? Huh? See you in Times Square tonight."
Why, an audience member asked National Public Radio’s Linda Wertheimer at a San Diego symposium this past weekend, wasn’t public radio correcting all the lies being told in the campaign?
A riddle: What piece of political wisdom is always wrong – but its opposite is also always wrong?
It’s not the news that’s a downer – there’s always been misery and ugliness around. It’s our helplessness that’s depressing us, the feeling that they have us over a barrel.
No Web sites that choke your browser. No waiting for YouTube clips to buffer. No email attachments too big to send. No files that take forever to download. No “Loading – please wait” messages, or spinning beach balls, or slowwwwly lengthening bars meant to tame your mounting impatience.
Whenever I’m comforted by the genius of our Founders, the resilience of our institutions and the wisdom of the American people, I know my meds need adjusting.
If Robert Gibbs hadn’t said that Democrats may lose the House in November, then House Democrats might not have been so infuriated that the president himself had to
travel to Capitol Hill to let them vent.
If I hadn’t seen the word plastered on a billboard on La Brea Avenue, I would never have remotely considered using it in print myself. But there it is, in a five-foot font, just a few miles from the West Hollywood club where Lenny Bruce was arrested for saying it in 1963. Soon, no doubt, promoting a movie that will open on July 30, it will be seen on buses and benches and 30-second television ads airing in family-friendly prime time, and on the robotic lips of Mr. Moviephone: “Please confirm your order! You have purchased TWO tickets for the 7:20 showing of DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS.”
If Barack Obama’s extraction of $20 billion from BP was -- as Texas Republican Joe Barton called it – a “shakedown,” then what would Barton call the $14.4 million he has extracted during his career from oil and gas interests, electric utilities, the health sector, chemical manufacturers, finance and all the other industries forking over cash to him?
There are basically two views of the American people.
Ever since the right began crying “liberal media,” the challenge for the targets of those tantrums has been to figure out how to respond to the mewling. What PBS has done in the wake of Bill Moyers’ retirement is a case study in the futile effort of trying to appease the little brat.
This is not a happy time to be an entertainment industry executive.
I know some scary smart people who never graduated from high school, and I know some real doofuses with graduate degrees, so I understand that the number of years of formal education that someone has racked up is no guarantee of intelligence. But every once in a while, I see some poll numbers that pretty convincingly correlate believing idiotic things with having less education, and not believing idiotic things with having more education.
Local TV news is the number one source of news for Americans. Seventy-eight percent of the country turns to it to find out what’s going on. The Internet may be growing as a news source, and some people still read the paper, but for most people, what’s on local TV news is pretty much what they know about where they live. If you care about the quality of democracy, you have to care about the quality of local TV news – even if you don’t watch it.
If Democrats decide to use the procedural move that Congress calls “reconciliation” to pass health care reform, get ready for a war of words. It will be won not by the biggest guns, but the biggest mouths. What’s true won’t matter; what’s loudest, what’s catchiest, will. That’s democracy in the age of newsertainment.
Why would Pfizer spend $100 million on two-minute TV ads that use a minute of that time admitting that their drug Chantix can cause “changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood,” “weird, unusual or strange dreams,” and “suicidal thoughts or actions”?
Now that we’re about to entrust health reform to the tender mercies of the insurance industry, it’s sobering to see the skullduggery that one of California’s largest auto insurers is trying to pull on the state’s drivers.
Barack Obama is a traitor.
That’s what Dick Cheney said. Too bad Tiger Woods stepped on the story.
Now that CNN has put Lou Dobbs out to pasture, you'd think that The Most Trusted Name in News would make the reporting of facts - you know, the practice formerly known as journalism - the hallmark of its brand. Dream on.
If you’re depressed by the way the national debate about health care has been playing out, just wait until the rubber hits the road on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Israel. If you’re enraged by the way Wall Street’s rescue has made us hostages to their recklessness, get ready for how the oil and coal industries are going to game the energy and climate change decisions ahead. If you’re scared by the way the media can trivialize and polarize and make entertainment out of any topic in its crosshairs, imagine its toxic impact when we get around to dealing with education, immigration and trade.
It’s my own fault, I know, for watching “Showbiz Tonight” over the weekend, but I couldn’t find the news on any other channel, and I’d forgotten that HLN, better known as CNN’s Headline News, had turned its definition of journalism over to Nancy Grace, host of “television's only justice themed/interview/debate show, designed for those interested in the breaking crime news of the day”; to Robin Meade, author of “Morning Sunshine: How to Radiate Confidence and Feel It, Too”; to Jane Velez-Mitchell, author of “iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life,” who has been “stand[ing] up for the powerless, and speak[ing] for those who don't have a voice” on HLN since Glenn Beck left it for Fox News. And, of course, to “Showbiz Tonight.”
While the left despairs of Barack Obama’s capitulation to K Street and Wall Street, the right continues to insist that he’s a Marxist, socialist, communist enemy of capitalism. What could possibly convince the right that it’s wrong – about that, or anything else?
Something’s going to happen next week, or next year, that will completely change the story.
I don’t know which is more dispiriting: the New York Times’ failure to call Betsy McCaughey a liar, or Barack Obama’s failure to call Chuck Grassley a liar. It’s tempting to think of both failures as cowardice, a mortal fear of being branded “liberal.” But ironically it’s liberalism itself that makes them both mistake their cowardice for fair-mindedness.
I keep hoping that the health care “debate” we’re having this summer will turn out to be just a plot point in the 2009 version of “The Truman Show,” the movie where Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, discovers that what he thought was reality is actually a reality television show.
Elie Wiesel wagged a bony finger at me. "History will be watching you, young man," he warned. We were on the tarmac at Geneva International Airport, and yes, I was a young man, not yet 29, though after the week I'd just been through, I felt the age I am today, almost exactly 30 years later.
By the way, have I mentioned that my 19-year-old daughter’s novel is a bestseller?
“Why aren’t you talking about Michael Jackson more?”
We’re about to find out whether Americans are as suspicious of the right’s anti-health care reform propaganda as Iraqis are dismissive of America’s lame hearts-and-minds campaign in Iraq.
First I worried that Obama was foolhardy to put Goldman Sachs alumni and other Wall Street geniuses in charge of fixing the mess that they’d made in the first place. But then I bought the pragmatic argument that these masters of the universe were the only people with enough inside experience to understand the derivatives con game well enough to shut it down.
If there's a metaphor for the way that Americans do politics online that's less apt than “a national conversation,” I can't think of one, except perhaps for “a great debate.”
It will be the playwrights and screenwriters, not the journalists and historians, who will someday get the torture story right. It will be the poets and novelists, not the philosophers and clergy, who will take us to the heart of that darkness. It will be the artists and satirists, not the law and the lawyers, who will eventually haul this decade to the bar of justice.
“If he didn’t hear from her at night, he’d go frantic.” This is Carmen Bachan, speaking through tears about her husband James and her daughter Adrianna.
“That night he told her to be careful, and she was. She was crossing on a green light until that animal took her life and injured that beautiful young man.” That young man is Marcus Garfinkle, who was thrown onto the windshield of the car of the hit-and-run driver who killed Adrianna Bachan. He was carried 300 to 400 feet until the car stopped, and a passenger got out, dislodged him from the windshield, dumped him on the street with two broken legs and then sped away.
A big reason that the Iraq war never ignited nationwide outrage on the scale of Vietnam protests was the absence of conscription. As long as the volunteer army confined the consequences of George W. Bush’s Oedipal acting-out to one slice of America, taking it to the streets was just not how the country channeled its anger; telling it to the pollster was more like it.
Since conservative orthodoxy has turned out to be voodoo economics after all, now would be an excellent time to unmask its demonization of labor unions as yet another con job that big business has pulled on the American people.
When it comes to politics, today’s college freshmen resemble their baby boomer parents of 40 years ago in all ways except two. One way makes perfect sense; the other is a puzzle.
“We will restore science to its rightful place” — that’s the line I didn’t see coming. Anyone watching the backgrounders leading up to the inaugural knew that the incoming president would call for “a new era of responsibility.”