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Whineter, and other stuff

Make it stooooop!

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

In other news, from another parallel universe, Bill O’Reilly, international man of danger, lies about yet another story he “covered”, this one on the post Rodney King riots in LA. Apparently, he was so obnoxiously abusive and narcissistic that he provoked someone into throwing something at him. I know the feeling.

Oh, wait, that was yesterday’s lie. Today’s lie is about how he covered The Troubles in Ireland and went mano a mano with Irish terrorists.

(All the church ladies swoon)

Anyway, Jay Rosen says that Bill O’Reilly is really performance artist, not journalist. That’s what Fox News hired him for. That makes sense. Certain kinds of confrontational art is supposed to provoke a response in the viewer. Think Piss Christ. O’Reilly just aims his spray at anyone who isn’t laughably pious and deliberately ignorant.

Here’s Rosen’s take on O’Reilly and why Fox isn’t likely to hold him accountable.

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Who zoomed who during the Abramson debacle?

bonehead-award-graphicThe fallout from the Abramson debacle continues at the NYTimes.  It sounds to me like Dean Baquet used his Y chromosome to pull a fast one using Sulzberger’s sympathy as a fellow guy.  First, he complained to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) that Jill Abramson hired Janine Gibson at The Guardian as his equal at the NYT in charge of digital content.  Gibson says Abramson told her that she had to get Baquet to buy in to the hire before there was a formal offer and, indeed, there was no formal offer to Gibson regarding the position.  From the New Yorker piece on Abramson’s firing we learn:

Janine Gibson, speaking publicly for the first time about her meetings with Baquet, clouded the case against Abramson somewhat, at least where the accusation of lying is concerned. “I can’t speak to Dean’s understanding, but it was made clear to me that everybody knew everything about what was being discussed,” she told me. “Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.’ I’m mortified that these discussions are in public and feel very strongly that Jill should not have been hung out to dry when she behaved honorably and was trying to do what she thought was best for the New York Times.” Gibson has told friends that, not only did she meet with Baquet for lunch on Monday May 5th, she met that morning with him and Abramson together for more than an hour. She had a separate meeting with Sulzberger and Thompson.

That didn’t stop Baquet from whining that that Abramson hadn’t gotten his sign off, as if it were needed (apparently, in spite of Abramson’s title as executive editor, she needed it. We can only speculate as to why this condition exists.).  Baquet says no one told him anything.

But it gets better.  I found this on Jay Rosen’s twitter stream this morning.  It’s a bit from The Guardian:

Guardian News & Media (GNM) today announced the appointment of Aron Pilhofer – currently associate managing editor for digital strategy at the New York Times – to the newly-created role of executive editor of Digital. The announcement was made by incoming editor-in-chief of theguardian.com, Janine Gibson.

Pilhofer, who is also editor of interactive news at the New York Times, will work across the Guardian’s editorial teams to develop and execute new and innovative digital journalism initiatives and tools to help grow global audiences and deepen reader engagement. His new role will see him helping drive the Guardian’s digital transformation, working in concert with a global team of journalists and developers.

He will start in the Guardian’s US newsroom in June and will move to the Guardian’s offices in London over the summer.

So, to recap:

1.) Janine Gibson, editor of digital content (and now incoming editor in chief) at The Guardian interviews with Baquet and Abramson for a position at the NYT as deputy managing editor of digital content.  This position is co-equal to Baquet’s. Digital is the “wave of the future” so it’s important to get someone with experience in this area to do it.  Gibson seems very qualified.

2.)Abramson gives an informal offer to Gibson with the proviso that Baquet signs on. Presumably, the co-equal level is going to rattle Baquet.  In the meantime, she assures Baquet that she will recommend him as her successor to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) when the time comes.  She sets up a dinner for Baquet to talk with Pinch or Punch (or whatever) so his fee-fees can be assuaged.

3.) Baquet stabs Abramson in the back and pulls the gender stereotyped “she is being an autocratic bitch” thing with Pinch or Punch (or whatever).  Sulzberger, having heard about Abramson from myriad male sources before, no doubt, finally gives in and fires her, to appoint Baquet to Abramson’s position.

4.) Gibson poaches Pilhofer from the NYTimes.  Lovely.

Now, we can look at the Pilhofer pilfer in two ways.  The first is that Pilhofer was pretty pissed off that Abramson wouldn’t hire from within and make him managing editor of digital content so he left.  But he leaves to work for Gibson, which looks to me like a lateral move, not necessarily a promotion.  And the people I’ve known who make such moves are the ones who have absolutely had it.  They have a choice and they aren’t going to take it anymore.  Pilhofer would have worked for Gibson if she had gone to the NYT so presumably, Gibson was not the problem.

The second way to look at this is that the NYTimes has lost two stellar digital content specialists in the span of a couple of weeks.  This is at a time when it couldn’t afford to lose digital content specialists.  AND it has fired the editor who was trying to bring in the very person who filched one of their rising stars.  Note that putting Baquet in charge did not stop Pilhofer from leaving, in spite of the now more genial, unfailingly politer news room.

This looks like a boneheaded move but not in any way an unusual one.  The corporate world is littered with the corpses of women’s careers and good ideas and things that could have been but didn’t come to fruition because some dude’s fragile ego and sense of entitlement was threatened.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  So, the NYT has a new executive editor and has lost a good chunk of the very talent it needs to grow in the future.

Way to go, Pinch, or Punch (or whatever).

 

 

Saturday: Banging

The siding guys arrived a little before 9am.  They’re banging on the house right now.  The walls are vibrating.  The side of the house that needs to be replaced is right outside Brooke’s bedroom so I warned her there would be some noise.  But teenagers are like chrysallises.  She’s sleeping right through it and will probably emerge at the crack of noon to go foraging.

In the meantime, I’m emptying my instapaper queue again this morning.  Let’s see, what do we have here:

1.) I LOVE apartmenttherapy.  If you’ve never visited the site you really need to.  Apartmenttherapy is inspiration for decorators on a budget, a place to check out new gadgets, a resource for greener living and growing kids, and kitchen/cooking site.  They also appear to have a social conscience.  I’ve seen more than one post hinting at sympathies to the Occupy movement.  Here’s another.  An apartmenttherapy editor, Sara Gillingham-Ryan, who lives close to Zuccotti park documents the kitchen and food of Occupy Wall Street.  Her piece reaffirms my own impression of Zuccotti during the fall.  It was a vibrant, welcoming place that attracted visitors off the street to come in, find community and talk about what was going on.  Therefore, it was radical, dangerous and had to end.  But don’t worry, Spring is Coming.

2.) I hear they have snow in Davos this year.  If you have the time and money, you might want to check out the “luxury” igloo hotel at Davos.  The concept is interesting.  I just don’t think I would refer to temperatures lower than 68° F as a luxury.  Your mileage may vary.  I think that Occupy has a remote outpost at Davos as well and that Jeff Jarvis was going to go visit.  Check his twitter stream to see if he made it.

3.) Or not.  Twitter just announced that it would abide by the laws in countries where there are proscriptions on certain kinds of twitters.  You mean the effective kind?  Just askin’.  Which is what Jeff Jarvis is getting at in his tweet this morning on Twitter’s announcement:

@jeffjarvisJeff Jarvis
My problem w/#Twitter’s new national capability is that it is a slippery slope of censorship. We need to know its principles.

It’s all part of a pattern.  SOPA, PIPA, Twitter.  Someone has it in for the internet and wants to stomp it dead, dead, dead.  Oh sure, it wouldn’t go away.  But it would devolve into a place where companies sell you stuff on every corner of every page.  You could use it as a reference tool, maybe.  Or as a media consumption device.  Sort of like a giant TV with a zillion channels, all carefully regulated for your protection.  God help you if you try to incite a little insurrection and accidentally reference a bit of copyrighted material.

I think the powers that be suddenly realized that the internet gave people the opportunity to communicate without a filter and circumvent billions of dollars of thought shaping ads and screed.  Well, we can’t have that.  Here comes the crackdown.  This could be the end of a brilliant 20 year experiment that many of us cut our grown up teeth on.  Or it could mean a new opportunity for creativity.  If all that copyrighted material is suddenly off limits, we may see a boom in new, creative content that is royalty free, er, except to anyone in the media.  I’d love to see that kind of intellectual property agreement.

But sooner or later, the bastards will get what they want by buying the right lawmakers.  It goes without saying that we need to get rid of them and it starts at the top with Obama.  No, no, don’t try to scare me with Newt Gingrich.  There are times when you have to stop being afraid that you will not succeed.  There are third party candidates out there.  Pick one, everyone get behind that person and pull.

4.) Jay Rosen says that Republican voters are living in a different reality:

So I’m not saying that the Democrats and progressives are the ones who are in touch with reality, while conservatives and Republicans are not. (But I guarantee you some will read it that way.) I’m saying that the tendency toward wish fulfillment, selective memory, ideological blindness, truth-busting demagoguery and denial of the inconvenient fact remains within normal trouble-making bounds for the Democratic coalition. But it has broken through the normal limits on the Republican side, an historical development that we don’t understand very well. That is, we don’t know the reasons for it, why it happened when it did, or what might reverse it. (We also need to know the degree to which it is a global phenomenon among conservative parties in mature democracies, or an American thing.) Political scientists: help!

I think wish fulfillment is at the core of the religious Republicans’ worldview.  If you are wishing soooooo hard that the Rapture is going to come and destroy all of your enemies and family members who wouldn’t listen to you, then what does it matter how crazy your politics get?  Any thought that leads you closer to that eventuality is permissible.

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Wishing doesn’t make it so.” He must have driven social conservatives nuts with that kind of clear thinking. {{snicker}}

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

Argghhhh!  It’s always something.  The siding looks like a perfect match, even though it’s vinyl and the rest of the house is aluminum.  But the trim was ordered in the wrong color.  They delivered white, I need Navajo White.  It’s in the covenant.  And even if it were the right color, we’re a box short.  So, it’s not going to get finished today.  It’s on the side of the house that is not visible to the street but *is* visible to my neighbor, the cul-de-sac busy body and general itch with a B.  She’s got me fined before when I left cabinets on the sidewalk from my kitchen demo.  Most of them got taken by Craigslist foragers but there were two that were not and I pulled my back last summer so I couldn’t lift them to the dumpster, which I am not allowed to leave them in anyway.  $25.00/day until I could get someone to help me get rid of them.  You would think that someone so obsessed with the condition of the neighborhood would lend a helping hand.  No, not this one.  It’s much more fun to leave nasty anonymous notes on your neighbors door and sic the association on them.   I can just picture the fine that will be in my mailbox if the siding is left unfinished one second longer than Mrs. NebbyNose can tolerate. I can not *WAIT* to get out of NJ and the damn townhouse association strike force.

Wednesday: Fines, jobs and influence

Does this crown make me look fat?

Podcasts and things that I found interesting:

1.) Yesterday’s Brian Lehrer show on WNYC was the first media presence that I have heard that picked up on the success of Germany in retaining its important industrial and research infrastructure.  When the recession hit, instead of laying off thousands of people with important skills, who might otherwise be sitting around idle and losing their skills, Germany implemented a plan to bump workers and researchers to part time status and then the government stepped in to augment their salaries.  The effect of this plan is that when the economy recovers, these workers and researchers will be able to step back into the workforce with relatively little transition cost.  Their skills have been kept fresh and the economy hasn’t been hit with a deflationary cycle that threatens to take more businesses with it.  Germany used to be like France where the unions protected jobs to such an extent that the workforce was inflexible.  In France, it is almost impossible to lay anyone off.  But when business slows down, you have a lot of extra people cooling their jets doing nothing but still getting paid for it.  In contrast, Americans have zero protection from market forces.  They are completely at the mercy of the quarterly earnings report.  Germany seems to have bridged the two extremes.  Ramping down instead of out preserves their infrastructure for another day while still giving them the flexibility to take it down a notch when the business environment calls for it.

Another advantage that Germany has over the US is that more of their companies are family owned businesses that are not subject to the volatility of the stock market or the pressures of the finance industry to meet quarterly goals for the benefit of the shareholders.  That gives them the latitude to focus on long term goals and quality, which in turn allows them to command higher prices for their products.  This reinforces what I have said before that part of the problem with the demise of American labor is that there is too much reliance on the 401K.  When we all become shareholders, we expect ever increasing returns on our investments.  But this only hurts ourselves as we drive businesses to cut jobs to meet earnings expectations.  It’s a vicious cycle that must be broken and cutting back on social security is exactly the wrong strategy.  What we should be doing is encouraging people to get out of the 401K system.  But the business community and bonus class will never go along with that without a lot of pressure that they aren’t going to get with this president and his lame Democrats.

Nevertheless, if there are going to be any tax cuts in the budget, I would much prefer that they go to the unemployed who have a lot of their money tied up in their 401K accounts.  Right now, that money can’t be removed from the 401K until retirement, which at this point, may be never, especially if social security and medicare is pushed farther and farther out.  Actually, this 401K scheme is looking more and more like the worst possible deal for under 55 year olds.  If you can’t use your pre-tax 401K savings until you retire so you can get a break on taxes at a lower salary because you have to work longer, when the heck are you ever going to get a break on this money???

Anyway, as I was saying, if you need to take money out of your 401K and you have not reached retirement age, you pay a huge tax penalty.  So, no matter how much you need it, to pay your mortgage or your health insurance, buy a new car so you go out and find a job or just feed your kids, you get socked with this amazingly humongous tax.  It is a disincentive to take the money out, which normally wouldn’t be a problem if we were all gainfully employed.  But we’re in a “lost decade (or two)” and there looks to be little chance of a new stimulus package, Obama having blown his one chance to pass one that would have been big enough.  If we need to stimulate the economy, why not let workers do it with their 401K money?  And if we’re going to give people tax cuts, why not let the unemployed go first?  Let them remove that money without penalty so they can spend it and put it back into the economy.  If it’s true that the 401K is not contributing much to the financial market, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  But, you say, what will people live on when they get older?  I dunno, but I suspect I could live on a lot less if I didn’t have a mortgage and could afford to put more money away for a rainy day when I finally do get a job again.  Oo, Oo!  And let’s make this tax break available to the Unemployed who are 55 years of age or younger.  That way we’re not forcing anyone who is nearing retirement to take money out of their 401K.  {{smirk}}

I like my plan.  It cuts a break to the people who need it most while at the same time is sufficiently disconnected from reality to make me a “serious person”.

2.) BBC History Magazine used to be a once monthly podcast, which always left me craving more.  Now, it’s weekly and while the podcast is shorter, there are more of them.  Yessss!  This week’s podcast featured a segment on King Henry III’s Fine Lists.  Wow, that’s pretty obscure, you say.  Not really.  Henry III was the son of King John, aka Lackland.  He’s called Lackland because he was a phenomenally bad king who managed to lose or forfeit just about all of his foreign property.  He was so bad that subsequent kings never took “John” as their monarchical name.  And then there was that whole excessive taxation and tyrannical behavior and double jeopardy and not handing over the body and before you know it, he had a bunch of very hairy, very pissed barons breathing down his neck making him an offer he couldn’t refuse.  So, Henry III was the son of the king who signed Magna Carta.

The project to translate Henry III’s fine lists has uncovered some interesting trends that followed Magna Carta.  A fine is not a punishment for illegal behavior in this context.  A fine was a payment made to the king for certain privileges or protections.  For example, if a town wanted to have a market day or fair, it would apply to the king for a license to hold one.  Or if a lord’s tennants needed protections from that lord’s mismanagement, they could also apply to the king for that.  Or for changes to an inheritance or a number of other things.  What historians have discovered is that during King John’s reign, the payments for the fines were extremely high, ungodly high, which probably partially lead to the baron’s rebellion.  But in Henry III’s day, the fines became much more reasonable.  Speculation is that this was a direct result of the signing of the Magna Carta.  The institution and standardization of common law and gradual introduction of a check on the King’s authority lead to less autocracy at the top.  And who would say there is a problem with that?  It took several more centuries for the king to be thoroughly reined in by Parliament but while the pace of change may have been slow, the evolution towards democracy from monarchy and the rentiers is rooted in the ability of a people to force accountability, laws and standards on their leaders and wealthy.  That’s something we tend to forget.  It’s not rocket science.

3.) Jay Rosen wrote a piece picked up in the Guardian about what Rupert Murdoch’s empire was really built to obtain- influence.  Here’s the money quotes:

Here’s my little theory: News Corp is not a news company at all, but a global media empire that employs its newspapers – and in the US, Fox News – as a lobbying arm. The logic of holding these “press” properties is to wield influence on behalf of the rest of the (much bigger and more profitable) media business and also to satisfy Murdoch’s own power urges.

However, this fact, fairly obvious to outside observers, is actually concealed from the company by its own culture. So here we find the source for the river of denial that runs through News Corp.

Fox News and the newspapers Murdoch owns are described by News Corp, and understood by most who work there as “normal” news organisations. But they aren’t, really. What makes them different is not that they have a more conservative take on the world – that’s the fiction in which opponents and supporters join – but rather: news is not their first business. Wielding influence is.

Scaring politicians into going along with News Corp’s plans. Building up an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, which then admits Rupert into the back door of 10 Downing Street.

But none of these facts can be admitted into company psychology, because the flag that its news-related properties fly, the legend on the licence, doesn’t say “lobbying arm of the Murdoch empire.” No. It says “First Amendment” or “Journalism” or “Public Service” or “news and information.”

In this sense the company is built on a lie, but a necessary lie to preserve certain fictions that matter to Murdoch and his heirs. And that, I believe, explains how it got itself into this phone hacking mess. All the other lies follow from that big one.

Rosen goes on to suggest that Murdoch and his heirs (and presumably other media moguls) know that the reason they’re in the news business is to influence governments but that the rank and file is still under the impression that they’re working for a news business.  While I’m pretty sure Rosen has it nailed about the influence motivation, I’m not sure the minions didn’t know what Murdoch and his crew were up to.  In a way, Murdoch’s “news” organization reminds me of how the Nazis operated in Germany in the years before World War II as described in Eric Larsen’s book In the Garden of Beasts.  Hitler kept getting away with stuff because no one called him on it but the minions were more than happy to go along with it because for many of the rising players in the Third Reich, they had power for the first time in their lives.  They weren’t motivated by their altruistic desire to save the Republic from the ravages of a punitive war reparations schedule.  They did what they did because they could and they liked the idea that they could.  Rebekah Brooks is reported to have adopted the culture and accoutrements of the English “Creative Class” when Tony Blair was in office and then ditched that garb for the Jodphurs and boots of the Horsey Set when David Cameron came into office.  She knew that what she was doing wasn’t news.  And what about Juan Williams?  If he wanted to do “news” and real journalism, he would have stayed with NPR (yes, yes, I know they’ve gone downhill in the past decade but don’t get distracted).  But no, Juan Williams jumped ship for Fox and permanently soiled his reputation as a journalist. And why was that?  Well, you get to reach and influence a lot more people through Fox than through NPR and the money is probably much better for doing it.  Some people are into power.  That’s what motivates them more than anything else.  I suspect that the journalists who flock to Fox and News Corp are those kinds of people just as the finance industry attracts compulsive gamblers and people who value money above everything else.

If pandering to the public’s baser instincts were not so rewarding and didn’t result in greater influence, these people wouldn’t be doing what they do.  The reason they are so successful at it is that there are very few rules in place to make them accountable for their actions.  There is no “fairness doctrine”, no penalties for lying and misleading the public and our laws to keep one person from owning as many media outlets as they like are laughable.

“Ohhhh”, the politicians cry, “There’s too much money in politics. We need to run campaigns constantly.  If we don’t solicit funding, whatever shall we do?  Bad, BAD corporations!”

Blaming the candy for being sweet is no excuse for indulging.

And if you don’t like the rules the rulemakers are writing, change the rulemakers.  It’s the only thing that has ever worked.  Ask the English.

4.) Now THIS is interesting.  Barack Obama is the number one recipient of News Corp donations of all time.  Hmmm, what are we to make of that?  Anyone got any ideas?  Raise your hands, don’t be shy.

5.) I found this at Freerangekids.com from The Onion.  If you ever wonder why Americans are overly fearful of everything and can’t estimate risk, you can blame news organizations like FOX that cranks irrational fear up to 11.  This clip is hillarious.

Monday: Barn doors and horses

Hat tip to Alegre’s Corner for this very instructive video of Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen on Bill Moyer’s Journal recently:

Now, technically, everything they are saying is correct.  In order for Obama to not catch hell about any of the things he does, he has to assume that the DC Villagers have some kind of autistic disorder that makes them freak out whenever their routine is changed.  The Villagers are all about anti-Change!  But the Kool-Ade drinkers should have picked up on this paradox last election season: why would the Obama, the Change! agent, become the “media darling” of the Village when the last thing the Village wants is for its cheese to be moved?  And as much as I enjoyed Greenwald, Rosen and Moyers laying it all out so succinctly, I’ve got to wonder why it is that they just now noticed that they’ve been had because all three of them were Obamaphiles to one extent or another during the election season.

Getting back to Obama and his relationship to the Villagers, he had to have reassured them in some way that their cushy, insular, courtier lives would not be disturbed.  Maybe he appealed to the civil rights era crowd who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s who are now old enough to run everything, ie, older baby boomers, who were yearning for their lost youth.  Or MAYBE it was the fact that he took all that money from the bankers and investment class types that gave them the reassurance that he wasn’t that different from Republicans.

But one thing is absolutely for sure.  He always looked like a shmoozing, corporate ladder climbing, ambitious, ass-kissing guy whose only goal was getting to the top.  People in the corporate world know the type.  They spend most of their working lives getting to be best buds with the guy two levels above them until they have sweet talked themselves into their manager’s position.  They are ruthless manipulators who know how to get others to do the work for them while they spend their time scheming.  When they finally get appointed to their next rung, no one below them is happy.  It’s not that they’re mean bosses.  It’s just that they don’t know their jobs and they tend to make things harder for the people they manage.  Their direct reports just pray they get promoted out of their jobs and let everyone go back to doing their jobs without interference.

This is Obama.  He’s a shmoozer type.  He’s now the president but he has no idea what that entails.  He doesn’t come from a political family so he doesn’t have a daddy who can appoint people to do the heavy lifting.  He doesn’t have a coherent political philosophy.  He’s doing the bi-partisan thing not because he has to keep the Villagers from shrieking.  A good president would get things done during the cacophony.  He’s doing it because he wants to stay on the right side of the guys who footed the bill for the election so he can get their help when he runs for a second term.  That’s why everything is on the table to be negotiated away.  When you don’t have a political conscience, it’s easy to make those kinds of deals.  The unfortunate thing about the way Obama is going about his job is that he isn’t bothering to make nice with the Congressional leadership of his own party and he is giving the impression that the party is at war with itself- which it is.  But giving that impression at a time like this is deadly because the American people are scared $#@!less and it adds to their general anxiety.  When people are scared and anxious, they tend to get stirred to action.

Greenwald, Rosen and Moyers all recommend that the Obama grassroots start holding his feet to the fire.  I hate to break it to them but the time for smoking tootsies was last summer before Obama voted for that damn FISA bill.  But the Obots gave him a pass.  It would have been great if they had demanded more knowledge of the job and less committment to process from him.  But they let that slide too.  And those of us who were insisting on a competent, knowledgeable, experienced leader instead were called racists by the likes of the Moyers types who insisted on living in the past.

Well, I’m sure these three gentlemen will figure it all out without any help from the rest of us.