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      This certainly cheered me up! A family claiming they were sickened because of pollution from hydraulic fracturing operations near their home should be awarded $2.95 million for their troubles, a jury ruled on Tuesday. The Parr family had sued Aruba Petroleum Inc. in 2011, alleging the oil and gas producer exposed them to hazardous gases, […]
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The sad state of journalism

I followed a link from a Jay Rosen tweet to this article in The Awl about the 2012 American Society of Magazine Editor (ASME) awards. This year, there were 25 awards and all 25 of them went to male magazine writers. There were *some* female nominees but they were vastly outnumbered by male nominees and there’s a good reason for that. Female writers don’t get the spotlight on prestigious magazines and they don’t get the plum assignments for long form journalism:

ASME doesn’t make its submissions public. They did, however, provide a glimpse into some data on what was submitted in the category of Profile Writing, one of the contested categories. Of the 86 submissions, 59 were written or co-written by men—which means 68.6 percent of submitted stories had a male author. (Thirty-six were written or co-written by women.) There was also a big imbalance in subject matter—the number of articles about men outnumbered those with female subjects by nearly a 2:1 ratio.

And for the nominations, of all given to individuals (not magazines), there were only 12 women writers out of 49 stories nominated. (One piece did not have a byline.)

One plausible explanation for this lopsidedness is that there are fewer women writing long-form journalism in general, particularly at those publications that tend to get nominated for National Magazine Awards. At the New Yorker, Harper’s, The New Republic and The Atlantic, for instance, less than thirty percent of the stories published in 2011 were written by women, according to this year’s VIDA Count, which did a gender breakdown of bylines in each magazine.

“The thing about the National Magazine awards is that the byline gap’s symptomatic of the overall problem in assigning to women,” said Ann Friedman, the executive editor of GOOD magazine. “It just sort of nicely forces a conversation that we should be having anyway.”

Magazines with mostly male editors often have more male writers in their networks, a factor that influences how many editors assign pieces. And women who write long-form pieces for the most prestigious magazines can have a hard time getting editors to connect with certain topics.

“I think that on an idea level, being a woman does work against you,” said Vanessa Grigoriadis, a National Magazine Award winner. “Because what you’re interested in is not what your editors are necessarily interested in. Right? They’re baby boomers living in Manhattan. They’re interested in something different.”

The above excerpt comes pretty close to the truth, I think. There are additional theories that what women write about in women’s magazines isn’t generally of interest to the general public, and women’s magazines don’t write long form journalism. These both ring true to me. I’m not interested in reading “ladies” topics. One of the articles that was slighted was about why more women are choosing to remain single. I think I might have even read that one but it didn’t leave a deep impression on me. I think the editors that cited this are looking at the problem with the wrong perspective. If they want to reward some women for writing topics of interest to women in a ragmag like Cosmo or Glamour, it’s easy enough to create a category for this. My fear is that as soon as its created, some editor will recommend a male writer to write for it.

I think there is a basic misunderstanding about what women want to write about. I doubt that women who want to write for well known journals are planning to write about things that only appeal to women, like some slightly more serious version of Carrie Bradshaw articles. It’s a little offensive to me to even suggest that. Women who read The Atlantic are reading it for the same reasons that male readers do.

No, what I want to read are articles on current issues of a broad general nature that are written by women. For example, Rachel Maddow’s book, Drift, could have made several great long form pieces. The same goes for Karen Ho’s book on Wall Street culture. That book beats anything I have read that was written by a male on the subject. It would make an excellent series of long form articles. Michelle Goldberg at Salon has written some award worthy articles on the dominionist movement in the US. How those articles got overlooked by ASME is a mystery to me.

Women are quite capable of writing substantial, analytical articles on current issues. That’s what I like to read. I want them to be able to compete in the same marketplace as their male colleagues and they CAN do it. I want them to get the respect they deserve for tackling tough topics with insight and brilliance and in a style that is interesting to read. So why aren’t there more female nominees?

My theory is that when push comes to shove, editors who have power and influence do not mentor women. Karen Ho, the anthropologist might have something to say about this. It may be due to the infiltration or extension of the ‘culture of smartness’. Take The Atlantic, for example. As the article above noted, less than 30% of the articles in The Atlantic are written by women. And how the hell did Matt Yglesias get a spot at Slate writing about the Mommy Wars? Jeez, it’s almost like he’s phoning it in. Why isn’t Melissa McKewn writing more biting commentary at Slate about what it’s like to be a feminist in this political environment? Was it his Ivy League degree? Connections? Sometimes, I get the feeling that journals are running a welfare program for males of a certain socioeconomic group. ‘Front Office’ positions are frequently occupied by males with pedigree or connections. How about Ezra Klein? Matt Taibbi? Ta-Nehesi Coates? Kevin Drum? These are the next generation of writers who are being mentored to be the opinion makers of the future and there are very few women among them. Women don’t get regular gigs at magazines. Maybe that’s why so many of them end up writing books. If they don’t publish in book format, the body of their work never sees the light of day.

And think of all of the really superb female bloggers who don’t get the opportunities that Kevin Drum or Ezra Klein have had dropped into their laps. Why is Digby only now getting to write occasionally for Al Jazeera? And in 2008, the best political blogger in long form was a mysterious woman from San Diego named Anglachel. Her posts on the Obama phenomenon and analysis of the history of the Democratic party were sheer genius. This was a female blogger whose mind was like a well tuned performance engine. She was very well informed and had a level of expertise in political science that easily bested most A list male bloggers. Her privacy might have had something to do with her not making the big time but how many people knew she even existed? How many people were too busy praising the milquetoast drivel of Kevin Drum? Good female commentary can bring a unique quality to journalism. The best female bloggers see an issue from a more holistic point of view. They make connections men tend to overlook and their posts are rich in metaphor.

Getting nominated for an ASME is directly proportional to getting the opportunity to write long form journalism at a magazine. If women are never considered as potential employees and protégées, they’ll never get those opportunities. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking why no one will read what women will write. Maybe we should be asking why they don’t get the assignments that would showcase their talents as writers, not just women writers.

They’re out there if only editors would bother to find them.

Book Review: Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

Quick aside before I start: I grew up in the military.  My little sister and I were dropped off at The Nursery on the Naval base in Norfolk when my parents wanted to go out for dinner.  My sister, going through a period of separation anxiety, would cry for what seemed like hours.  I spent the first hour trying to console her and the rest of the evening having a blast with other kids, playing games and watching cartoons from an overhead projector.  If our parents were late, there was a room with bunkbeds for the kids who hadn’t been picked up yet.  It was like a sleepover and we’d talk quietly to one another until our moms and dads plucked us out of bed and took us home.

We got our healthcare from The Dispensary.  That was a clinic staffed with corpsmen and doctors who handled our shots, my bout of hepatitis A when I was four and my sister’s unending stream of asthma attacks.  There was a pharmacy on site that dispensed bottles of thick yellow Tedral that made my sister jittery but allowed us all a few hours of peace each night to sleep.  My parents shopped at the PX and The Commissary.  My family ate generics before the rest of the country knew what they were.  They weren’t even store brand.  They were canned foods with white labels with black block lettering that said “Peaches” or “Green Beans”.  Nothing fancy but sound and good and American grown by some farmer in the midwest.

In the summer, we went to Summer Fun at the base at Pearl Harbor where the first thing we did each day was swim 40 laps in the officer’s pool followed by survival training where we learned to stay afloat for hours in case riptides dragged us and our boogie boards out to sea.  We took field trips and polished kukui nuts and made flowers out of wire petals dipped in a liquid plastic material that is probably now off limits to children.  At night, we ran around military housing until the wee hours and dodged the patrol cars trying to enforce curfew.

So, my experience of growing up military brat was mostly positive.  Changing schools so often wasn’t fun but it was easier when other kids were in the same boat.

I suspect it’s not like that anymore.  In fact, on Google maps, I can’t find the old military housing where I lived in Pearl Harbor.  My old elementary school is there but the rowhouses with the enclosed lanais have been replaced by pods of condos.  But there was a price to pay for being a brat during the Vietnam War.  From the age of 2 until I was 10, I saw my dad for only a couple of months a year.  And we were the lucky ones.

[Katiebird (KB) here. My comments will be in italic: ] My childhood experience was a little different too.  My parents met while working at a Navel Atomic Energy Research Lab and my dad worked there until he transferred to Water Pollution Control (later the EPA) in 1967. So I had some exposure to the fringes of military life although we were very much civilians. And the mission of the lab my dad worked in was to find a defense against nuclear weapons so that was a little weird too.]

Rachel Maddow’s book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, is about the modern military and how we got here.  If you are a fan of Rachel’s style on Air American and MSNBC, you’ll find this book an entertaining read.  I read the first two chapters and then listened to the rest of it on Audible.  And while we are going to give away a signed copy of the book, I recommend the audible version.  Maddow’s snarky, ironic style comes across better in her oral interpretation of the book in the audio format.

This book is well researched and very well written.  Each chapter moves smoothly into the next.  She hits what she considers to be the most important series of events that lead from the limited use of our military for serious wars to the establishment of a full time military with unprecedented lethality but burdened with unaccountable private contractors and the loss of generational technological memory.

[KB] I was stunned by the amount of research that went into this book.  And her skill in condensing and combining facts in an interesting and readable fashion.

Early on, she introduces us to the Abram’s doctrine, which arose out of Vietnam.  During the Vietnam war, President Johnson made the decision to not involve the Reserves or National Guard.  This was unprecedented in American military history where previous conflicts involved them.  Instead, Johnson used the draft to meet the increasing demands of an escalating war.  The Reserves and National Guard became a haven for the rich and well-connected and the draft the place for the less fortunate.  As the war was winding down, the Abrams doctrine was introduced to tie the hands of the president.  With respect to future conflicts, the involvement of the Reserves and National Guard would be hard to avoid so that the whole country would feel the sting of war and would therefore enter into one more cautiously.  After the implementation of the Abrams doctrine, the president would need to consult with Congress to get approval for committing troops to wars and the Reserves would need to be included.  As you can imagine, the Republicans didn’t much care for tying the hands of their executives.

[KB] I really liked being reminded about the relationship of the draft and the Vietnam war vs National Guard & the wars since. That might be my biggest takeaway from this book.

The rest of the book highlights how various presidents have attempted to get around the Abrams doctrine and how, over the intervening 40 years, they have mostly succeeded.  The sections featuring Ronald Reagan’s “Arms for Hostages” Iran-Contra affair are both hillarious and horrifying.  The impression one gets about Reagan is that he was playing a dangerous game but that trying to get around Congress was just a lark to him.  Either Reagan was the simpleton Maddow makes him out to be, which is terrifying enough, or he knew exactly what he was doing and his actions should have gotten him impeached.  After all, what the Arms for Hostages deal involved was selling missiles to Iran through Israeli middlemen in order to free Americans who were kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Then the money from those sales were passed on to the Contras in Nicaragua.  Congress had specifically prohibited any help whatsoever from the US government to the Contras through the Boland Amendment.  But Attorney General Ed Meese had found chinks in the amendment that would allow the assistance, even going so far as to say that Congress hadn’t prohibited the Department of Agriculture or Health and Human Services from aiding the Contras.  In other words, the Reagan Administration was going to do it no matter what impediment Congress put in Reagan’s way.

[KB] I read through the bits about Iran-Contra several times because I’ve never understood what happened there.  At the time it seemed like the entire Reagan Administration was going down…. and then it was never mentioned again.  Well, Rachel has pages of detail – quotes from Congressional Hearings, Time Magazine & a step-by-step description of what happened and when. But, the climax is just as vague to me now as it was then:

The president had been caught red-handed. Congress had exercised its legal and constitutional prerogative to restrain the executive france from waging a war in Nicaragua. Reagan responded by by breaking the law, waging the war anyway, and funding it by illegal and secret weapons deals that the president insisted weren’t happening. The secretary of defense was indicted on multiple counts, as were two national security advisers, an assistant secretary of state, the chief of Covert Ops at the CIA, and two other senior CIA officials. The president himself escaped largely by pleading exhaustive ignorance and confusion: “I’m afraid that I let myself be influenced by others’ recollections, not my own . . . the simple truth is, I don’t remember — period.” The Reagan presidency — the whole mythology of Reagan’s leadership — was laid bare. This was competence? (pg. 122)

Is that clear? “The president escaped largely by pleading exhaustive ignorance and confusion” Really?  Is that really how that happened? Because from there we skip onto George H. W. Bush and his pardons — and we don’t really look back. From then on the precedent was set and we just don’t have to expect trivial respect for legalities from our Presidents anymore.

Maddow details the disaster in Grenada and it comes off sounding like a tragic version of Keystone Kops planned the invasion and 19 servicemen died.  She recounts Bush Senior’s conflict with Congress over the first Gulf War as well as the Dynacor contractors in Bosnia who bought sex slaves with US taxpayer dollars as the military shifted to private contracting in the 90s.  In her last chapters, she talks about what is happening to our nuclear arsenal and the almost complete absence of documentation that would help the military maintain and replace components, including the hydrogen producing substances in the missiles themselves where the recipe for making more material has gone missing and military scientists are unable to reproduce it.  North Dakota is at the mercy of a socket wrench and air force specialists don’t bother going through safety checklists.

Throughout the book, Maddow maintains attention to resources and detail.  It is obvious that a lot of research went into writing this book.  Where she found time, I’ll never know.  But I do have some issues with the way the book was written and, based on my short discussion with Katiebird, we both are finding it problematic in the same way.  Maddow lays out pretty clearly how the drift occurred but she makes no attempt to suggest why it happened.  One almost gets the feeling that if you are a follower of Maddow’s brand of politics, you don’t have to wonder why it happened.  You just know.  It is to be assumed that the military industrial complex is driving things and that the presidential players are in on it, although her treatment of Bill Clinton and Al Gore seems ambivalent at best.  According to Maddow, it was all those Nurseries, Dispensaries and Summer Fun that persuaded Clinton and Gore outsource military dependent care to private contractors.  Maybe it’s just because I was an adult during the 90s and old enough to pay attention but I suspect that the high price of daycare on military bases was a Republican concern.  Consider military brats the equivalent of the welfare queen.

But if it is true that the military industrial complex is driving the drift to permanent war standing, why doesn’t she take that theory to its logical conclusion?  I mean, she justifiably comes down pretty hard on George W. Bush for starting two wars, one of them wholly unnecessary, and then giving the country a series of irresponsible tax cuts, but she spares Obama for extending the Bush tax cuts when we simply cannot afford the wars anymore.  Obama did this unnecessarily and irresponsibly as well.  Where is the condemnation for that?

Similarly, Obama is given credit for signing the new START treaty at the beginning of his presidency but not condemned for negotiating a contract for modernizing our nuclear defense systems which will include nuclear laden drones.  The price tag is crushing and the prospects of unmanned nuclear drones terrifying but you get the idea that Obama’s hand was forced by Republicans.  He’s just being dragged into things.  None of this is his fault.  It’s everyone else’s fault for starting wars and hiring private contractors. Obama is the only president who seems to be blessed with an excuse.  I’m not buying it.  Not only am I not buying it but if we have drifted into maintaining an expensive standing army at perpetual war, then it would seem that a good way of turning American’s attention to it would be to fix the economy first to free up some mental capacity for putting an end to the trend. But there is no suggestion that that might be necessary or that Obama has the wherewithal to do it.  And if that’s the case, can we please get a replacement who knows what the heck he/she is doing?

Another oddity is that Maddow almost entirely skips the controversy of the Iraq War Resolution.  I’m not sure why she chooses to do this since it was the basis for the left favoring one candidate over the other in 2008.  You’d think the IWR would merit some kind of coverage but I guess we’re all supposed to be so familiar with it that there’s no need to rehash all of the ugly details.  And she doesn’t say too much about the shocking use of misleading information and propaganda that was used by both Bushes for their excursions to the Persian Gulf.  I can’t account for this since the rest of the book is heading for it and then it just disappears, *poof!*, from the historical record.

[KB] I was kind of confused as well.

I think the problem with “Drift” might be the collision of Maddow the Researcher vs Maddow the Democrat.  My biggest complaint about the book is that I do not believe that any of the events had anything at all to do with “Drift” — Nothing so consistent as our move toward scaling back domestic spending and building up military spending happens without a deliberate decision among Very Serious People. And that decision had to include Republicans and Democrats.  It had to. If the Democrats were against it — truly against it — they would have made sure there were headlines in all the appropriate places. And the same thing goes for the Iraq War Resolution (perhaps in this case she didn’t want to expose just how limited that resolution was).

And while I appreciate the high level of research and quality of the writing, I’m still dissatisfied that Maddow didn’t take more time to find out what was driving Reagan, Bush Sr. and Dick Cheney.  Maybe in the end, it doesn’t matter why they did it as long as we voters insist that it stops because it is bankrupting us.  But if we never identify the actors who made it happen, and I think the public actors are not at all the whole story, we can never get to the source of the problem: the aspects of American culture that encourage a cavalier attitude for profit and glory at the expense of rules and the common good.  On this problem, one can almost hear Maddow saying, “Beats me! I have no f*$(ing clue.”

[KB] I think this book comes right up to being a fantastic history of how the relationship between the President & Congress evolved through the last 45 years or so. I am, however, disappointed by her lack of courage — or whatever it was that held her back from sharing the full story. I don’t believe she has “no f*$(ing clue.”  She’s too smart for us to let her get away with that.  This is a great book for what it is. It could have been off the scale with a little more work.   

Still, pretty good read.  Very entertaining.  Get the audible version and clean your house.  On a scale of 1-5, this one rates 4 sponges.

*****************

We are giving a signed copy of Rachel’s book away.  If you are interested in reading it, please indicate in the comment thread below.  I’ll use a random number generator to select a lucky recipient and will contact you through your email address.  If you have previously indicated that you wanted to read it, I will add your name and address to the entries.

Thursday: A book giveaway and real life stuff

Real Life has been demanding my attention this week. Today I am at a cancer diagnostics and therapeutics symposium all day. The organizers of this symposium really should have provided better signage from the parking lot. I wandered around Rutgers for half an hour quizzing the landscapers for directions. Am I hot or cold? Closer or farther away?

In any case, it’s good to know what’s going on in academia and industry. I’ll have a little more to say about that later. Lambert sent me a link to a Reuters article on failures in drug discovery that may trace back to shoddy basic research in academia.

In the meantime, we would like to announce a book give away. We have been given two copies of Rachel Maddow’s new book, Drift, for review. Katiebird has been speeding through one copy and should have a review soon. I have been going through mine more slowly since I seem to have gotten busy just when the book became available to me and I’m going to have to punt and listen to it on audible. So, we would like to give one of these copies away. It’s signed by the author. I’ll write up my review probably by tomorrow.

What I can tell you right now is that the book is well written in a fluid style that is very enjoyable to read. If you are a fan of Rachel’s show, you are familiar with her narrative style. The book is about the alarming drift that the country has taken towards maintaining a standing army and how events have changed our society in ways we hadn’t anticipated. It’s about the rise of the security industry and the how we decide who will fight our wars. Like I said, I haven’t gotten very far into the book yet but I find that her research into why Johnson used the draft in the Vietnam War made me think about how close we may have come to doing the same in the Iraq War.

Katiebird has finished the book and does have some reservations but we will get to them in the review posts. We are considering firing up our Conflucians Say blogtalkradio show to talk about books and sluts other interesting things. Raise your hand if you would find that interesting.

For the signed copy of Rachel’s book, we’re going to give it away like this:

1.) in response to this post, write in the comments thread why you want to read it.

2.) This Sunday, we will use a random number generator to pick a number that will correspond to the comment (numerically) in the thread. The owner of the winning comment will be contacted through email so be sure to use a legitimate one. We promise not to share your email address with anyone.

This way, only people who have an interest in the book are entered and the selection process is fair.

Gotta go. There’s a poster session until 10:30am.

Fire away!

Friday Mid-Morning News and Views

For me the biggest news of the day comes from Jeremy Scahill’s revelations about the relationship between Blackwater (aka Xe) head Eric Prince and the CIA. According to Scahill Prince has been working as a CIA asset for years, and that Blackwater contractors with U.S. backing are effectively engaging in a covert war in Pakistan.

In addition, Scahill revealed that there are more than 100,000 contractors in Afghanistan now in addition to the 100,000 U.S. military troops who will be there after Obama’s latest troop “surge.” Scahill wrote the cover story for this week’s The Nation. Unfortunately the story is not yet available on-line to non-subscribers. However Scahill did appear on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program last night. Here is the video.

A few days ago, Scahill also talked about his latest Blackwater research in an interview with Laura Flanders:

There is also a major story on Eric Prince in the January issue of Vanity Fair.

I put myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.

I haven’t had time to read the full interview yet. I hope to get to it over the weekend.


In other news….

Top Congressional Researcher on Afghanistan Fired

The top congressional official who oversees research on foreign policy and defense issues, including the war in Afghanistan, has been fired from his job after publishing a newspaper op-ed criticizing the Obama administration’s recent decision about bringing Guantánamo detainees to trial.

Morris Davis, the assistant director of the Congressional Research Service’s foreign policy and defense division and the former chief prosecutor of the U.S. military commissions, says that the American Civil Liberties Union plans to challenge his dismissal in a letter to CRS’s longtime director, Daniel Mulhollan, on Friday. The letter will contend that Mulhollan violated Davis’s First Amendment rights to free speech by firing him and will threaten the service with a lawsuit if he is not reinstated, says an ACLU spokeswoman.

Politico thinks the Massachusetts Senate Race is boring Could that be because a woman–Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley–is leading the race by double digits? Politico seems disappointed that there are no Kennedys in the race. Massachusetts citizens are more interested in electing a Senator who will be responsive to their needs than having a celebrity studded primary.

Get this–according to Politico, Michael Capuano, Coakley’s nearest rival, is terrified of a “Rick Lazio moment.”

“We all learned from his mistake,” Capuano said in an interview of the former New York congressman’s debate badgering of Hillary Clinton, which has become political shorthand for what male candidates ought not to do against female opponents. “There are certain rules of engagement.”

It’s not just debates where the gender issue has surfaced — it hangs over the campaign because of the otherwise liberal state’s not-so-progressive history when it comes to women candidates….

…in last year’s historic Democratic presidential primary, much of the state’s political establishment — including the governor and both senators — rallied behind the man over the woman.

“That left a bad taste in women’s mouths,” said Marsh, adding that it seems to be playing out again this year, with nearly all of the men in the House delegation backing their colleague.

Oh really? Izzat so. Poor Mikey C., getting beat up by woman because of the “rules of engagement.”

Also from Politico, a number of opinion leaders weigh in on whether Ben Bernacke should get four more years as head of the Fed.

President Obama is running some PR operation and calling it a “jobs summit,” but The New York Times reports that there won’t be any money to speak of to back up any job creation effort by the administration. That’s as to be expected–unlimited funds for bankers and war, while middle-class, working-class, and poor Americans can go f**k themselves.

Mr. Obama said he would entertain “every demonstrably good idea” for creating jobs, but he cautioned that “our resources are limited.”

The president said he would announce some new ideas of his own next week. One of those, he indicated when he participated in a discussion group on clean energy, would be a program of weatherization incentives for homeowners and small businesses modeled on the popular “cash for clunkers” program.

What about the people who have lost their houses Mr. President–and the people who were already homeless? What kind of weatherization program will you recommend for them. I can’t wait for the big speech!

The Wall Street Journal reports that Allentown, PA workers and business people may not welcome President Obama’s “Main Street tour” with open arms.


Main Street Tour Faces Frosty Greeting

When President Barack Obama launches a multicity tour Friday to take Main Street’s temperature, he will likely get a cool reception from business leaders and workers here who say he hasn’t delivered.

Swing voters in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley helped Mr. Obama win this pivotal, populous state. But the region’s jobless rate inched up another half percentage point in October to 9.8%. About 41,000 people are out of work, the highest number since 1984.

Finally, here’s a “just for fun” story:


Cat Cams: What DO Cats Do Home Alone?

Fifty house cats were given collar cameras that took a photo every 15 minutes. The results put a digital dent in some human theories about catnapping.

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats’ time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

What are you reading this morning? Please post links in the comments.


HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!

Oh my. Obama’s head speechwriter and his friends have been busy!

That guy on the left is one of the young people who provide the words for Barack Obama to read off his teleprompter. That’s Obama’s head speechwriter Jon Favreau groping Rachel Madnhow’s breast. John Favreau’s “friend” is pouring beer down Rachel’s throat while he pulls her head back by the hair. The other Obama speechwriters are Ben Rhodes, Adam Frankel, and Sarah Hurwitz. Are they the other people in the picture?

Rachel Madnhow (photoshop by Swanspirit)

Rachel Madnhow (photoshop by Swanspirit)

UPDATE: This just in. Favreau and his pals have now given Campbell Brown something to complain about.

campbell

How about that, Campbell? Now you can talk to Barack about it yourself. You no longer have to wait for Hillary to do it for you.
And what have we here? Nancy and Fav just having a little frat-boy fun!

nancy-and-fav2

Who’s up next? Claire McCaskill looks like she’s having a good time!

clair-and-fav

Ponderings

pinky and the brain

  • Even NewJerseyans can be dim sometimes. This article from NJ.com highlights the campaign stop that the Big Dawg made in Camden. The media and Obama’s campaign has been somewhat successful at shutting the Big Dawg up. But it’s sorta in his nature to not hold back. Actually, I don’t have a problem with that but it has to be done very carefully. He’s larger than life and that kind of stature always comes with a proportionally sized magnifying glass. On the other hand, Obama will never be able to relax as long as the Big Dawg is out there. But getting back to stupidity. The Clinton campaign has NOT been playing the race card for one simple reason- Hillary can’t win black voters by doing it. Accusing them of doing it has been very successful but it doesn’t parse logically. As for the Jesse Jackson statement, just because something is true doesn’t mean it was meant to be racist. Obama was always going to be favored in South Carolina. He pulled out all of the stops and spent a lot of money there which meant that Hillary had to campaign there as well in a state she was guaranteed to lose the minute Obama announced his candidacy. But that’s because it was South Carolina. And anyone can see that Obama is an intelligent, charismatic candidate. The state that started to put things in perspective is Florida because there was little campaigning done there, the population is quite diverse and it appears that experience *does* matter. But, whatever. I just hope that when this is all over that Obama makes amends for driving a wedge into the heart of the party.
    There is plenty of visual evidence that the Obama campaign is making its stand in black neighborhoods. The borough of Somerville which has a diverse population in the midst of the mostly white and asian central NJ suburbs is festooned with Obama signs. Oh, Hell, I actually like Obama, OK? I said it. I will work like a fanatic for him if he’s the nominee. But I want the best qualified person to be in the WH in Jan, 2009 because it’s going to be so bad that even the best will be over her head.
  • I have to agree with Digby on MSNBC’s coverage of the Florida primary last night. I had to turn Countdown’s coverage off, last night. That’s how bad it’s become. The anti-Clinton theme fairly jumps off the screen. And not just from Tweety. Plus, they’ve relegated Norah “Betty Crocker” O’Donnell to standing in front of a scoreboard distracting us with weird catalog model hand positions. (Do models and women broadcasters take lessons in that subject?) And I don’t even like Noron but I don’t like to see women subjected to silly Vanna White status. Can’t you make her wear a nice pantsuit so she can stick her hand in one pocket while she gesticulates with the other to make her point? Better to just replace her altogether with another Rachel Maddow and let Tweety stand at the scoreboard with nothing much to say. C’mon, guys, do you have to be so obvious? If you’re going to turn into another outpost of DailyKos Obama delirium, I’m going to start hanging out at CNN more. Think about that, KO, Anderson Cooper will be stealing your mojo. Anderson COOPER.
  • Florida *did* count. I suspect that next Tuesday is going to be huge for Clinton but between now and then, the media is going to pull out all the stops to show how young and sexy Obama is and what a dried up old prune Clinton is. That goes doubly so with the supporters. All the Obamaphiles will look like Sports Illustrated athletes and swimsuit models. All Clintonistas will look like Bea Arthur and short indigenous Honduran illegal immigrants who collect the shopping carts in the local grocery store parking lot. They will conveeeeeniently forget that there are many well educated 40 something women pulling in decent salaries that can’t wait to push that big lumenescent Hillary Clinton button on the Sequoia voting machine. Oh, yeah, baby, Tuesday is going to be great. It’ll be just me and several million of my fellow New Jerseyans pushing Hillary buttons all day long. Orgasmic. Tweety will never know what hit him.
  • Many of you Kossack alums who I love dearly will have received invitations to post here. And I really mean it. Please take me up on the offer. You can probably tell that I get a little crazy when I’m by myself too long. At first, I didn’t think that anyone would read this outpost. Kos had assigned me to raving and blathering in the dark and scary wilderness outside the warmth and light of the palisade. But it’s actually not too bad. In just over a week, I’ve gotten more than 1000 hits. I’ll never be a big orange satan and I’m not aspiring to it. That would be a full time job. But even as a part time job, it’s a bit time consuming. So, I would really appreciate some lucid voices. If you guys are holding back because the name of the blog is too closely identified with me, we *could* change it. I found the page (among many administrative pages) that will allow us to do so. So, if that’s the only thing holding you back, give me a new name and start posting!

Tweetyitis on MSNBC

Tweety TroubleAyayay, David Shuster. I had such high hopes for you. You seemed like such a good reporter. The Firepups who covered Scooter Libby’s trial with you gave you thumbs up. So, what gives, David? Your comments to Joe Scarborough about Chris “Tweety” Matthews are all over the internet. Jamison Foser’s post at Media Matters gives some of the gory details and Digby fills it out:

SHUSTER: Just one comment about Chris Matthews. I’ve worked with him for five and a half years. I’ve been alongside him, on camera, off, good times and bad. Nobody is more gracious and has a bigger heart, and has contributed more in a positive way to our political discourse than Chris Matthews.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, let me say, let me say –

SHUSTER: And to see him have to go through this is absolutely infuriating, to see the way these groups used him for pure political gain is absolutely infuriating.

You just can’t learn some people.
Here’s the deal guys: Unlike racism, which is primarily a function of speech and cultural references, attitudes towards women are embedded in body language. You have to admit it, when a person’s body language doesn’t match what comes out of their mouth, it’s obvious. A perfect example is when Obama told Hillary that she was “likeable enough”. Not only was the reposnse tepid but he looked dismissive, did not address her directly, made no eye contact, glanced down and away from her as if she was “free to go”. She was a non-person, a subordinate to him. It was one of the most disrepectful things I have ever seen. You’d never see him treat John Kerry that way or John Edwards. But it was OK to behave that way to Hillary? That moment crystallized Obama for me. I find it hard to look at him without seeing that image in my mind.

But add to the body language a persistent pattern of dismissive language and you’ve got a real problem. Tweety can’t hide his disgust for Clinton. It’s apparent in the downturned corners of his mouth and the way he squints his beady little eyes when he talks about her but then he has to pepper his talk with all these sexist dogwhistle words.

C’mon, guys, if you want Hardball to be the equivalent of Maxim for political junkies, just say so up front. Have a disclaimer like: “The following program contains material of a sexist nature and may be offensive to viewers who have graduated to the 21st century. Viewer discretion is advised.”

In fact, make that a disclaimer for the entire network which is notorious for minimizing the role of women in the public forum. Everyone from Rutgers female basketball players to female journalists to female presidential candidates have been fair game. MSNBC advertises itself as the place for politics but then conveniently “forgets” that half of the population of this country are women. In this year, when the network has a chance to really set a standard for political journalism, it mystifies me why they are not going out of their way to actively court the female audience. We’ve got the first viable female presidential candidate in our country’s history and they think they can just continue on as if positions of power are the territory of the men’s club.

Get it straight, David, Tucker, Joe and Tweety, we don’t want to see the faux outrage because one of you is getting called on the carpet. We don’t care if you’ve done it all of your lives. Don’t do it anymore. We don’t care if it’s embedded in the very fibers of your souls. Excise it. We don’t care if it’s a habit that’s hard to break. Work on freeing yourself of it. If you don’t like the emails and the enraged calls and the complaints, stop behaving badly. Women are not going back to the days where we took advice about laundry detergent from some disembodied male voice and we’re going to vote for our own over your objections.

If you want to make amends, and there is no indication so far that you do, replace Tucker Carlson with Rachel Maddow. She’s earned it and she’d be a hell of a lot more interesting to listen to than Tucker ever was. Heck, she’d only be a token at this point but the media landscape is chock full of middle aged white guys who seem to think they represent the body politic. They don’t. So, give up Tucker and give us Rachel as a start to show your goodwill and STFU about defending the indefensible.

PS. Keith Olbermann shouldn’t get too comfortable. His relentless pursuit of everything Britney has been really getting on my nerves lately. Whatever is happening to her is pretty sad and maybe the hopelessly gay teenager was right, just leave her alone. That goes for Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Miss Teen South Carolina and any other female celebrity. It was amusing for a few seconds but you’d think that male celebrities never act like airheads. And we know you like sweet young things.

Yeah, well, so do I.

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