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May 24, 2013

anthony weiner, get it?

Of all the interest things to talk about on this pre-holiday weekend newsdump Friday, let's do talk quickly about Anthony Weiner.

You remember him, the liberal firebrand of the House, darling of social media, until he was brought low, caught sending naughty pix of himself to women who were not his wife.  Well he's running for mayor of NY now, the tabloids are having what is mildly known as a "field day."  Yesterday the governor quipped that it would be a bad idea to elect Anthony Weiner, so the Post and the Daily News ran competing front pages, with headlines I won't repeat because they are not very funny, each of which could be misconstrued to mean that Gov. Cuomo masturbated.

Hilarious?  Not hilarious.

Two things here: first, you can say that Weiner brought this on himself by reentering the political arena too soon.  I disagree.  This is petty schoolyard bullshit, making fun of his last name.  Which is of course allowed (hi, my name's Brent Cox, niceta meetcha), but is not a measure of wit.  And the fact that Wiener sent photos of his genitalia I guess makes it more sharp, but he'd get this treatment whether it's now or years from now.  (FD: I have not chosen my candidate yet, and I have not ruled out Weiner.)  I wouldn't mind if someone could transcend the horserace journalism and actually talk about the planks of the candidates.

Second, and most importantly, shame on both the NYDN and the NYP.  Yes, part of their job is to come up with creative, fun, sometimes mean headlines, but I think a dick joke goes too far.  (And it's not even a dick joke, it's a jerking off joke.)  It's fine for the Internet, where porn creeps 'round every corner, but I'm not cool with it on every newsstand and every (outerborough) subway car, on the front page (or the wood, as it is known in the industry — see how easy that is?).  It is a low point, or, as they say in crossword puzzles, a nadir.

In other words: save that shit for the scum merchants of Fleet Street, yo.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:27 AM

May 23, 2013

maria bustillos: little brother

I'm recommending this piece by Maria Bustillos very highly.  It's about surveillance, sousveillance and Little Brother, and it's pertinent to everyone whether they know it or not.

The issue at hand is the general question, when is it OK for me to record something with this ubiquitous recording device in my pocket, and when is it OK for me to demand to not be recorded?

For example, if you're talking to a reporter, and you say, "Off the record," before you say something you do not want attributed to you, then that's like a magic amulet, right?  The reporter is then forbidden from ever doing that?

Not so, according to the 1991 SCOTUS decision CohenVs. Cowles Media Co.  As Bustillos puts it, "This 1991 decision essentially means that a promise of 'off the record' is legally binding, but it must be entered into by both parties in advance."  In other words, if you say, "Off the record," and the reporter doesn't say something approximating, "Sure thing," then you are not off the record at all.

But Bustillos is not just talking journalism either.  Instead, she takes a nice brisk walk around the topic, stopping at many interesting things to look at (as is her wont).  It's a good informative read.  Put the crappy news of the day aside for a second and go.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:34 AM

May 21, 2013

the unified field theory of david brooks

This is just silly.

By now we know that David Brooks has come up with a Unified Field Theory of the Degradation of All Things: the world was once very much like David Brooks — punctual, eats with the right fork — and then things were awesome.  Now, things are terrible, and for the reason that we as a people have become less like David Brooks.

So every couple weeks David Brooks will stub his toe on some obscure sociological paper that supports his thesis (as opposed to his conclusion), that the world is less David Brooks than it ever has been.  (This time around the study considers the occurrences over time of certain words in Google's large database of scanned books, which you already heard of months ago.)

So first a couple paragraphs, maybe a quick joke to show them that David Brooks is indeed possessed of a sense of humor, and then run through the data, and finally some version of this paragraph:

So the story I'd like to tell is this: Over the past half-century, society has become more individualistic. As it has become more individualistic, it has also become less morally aware, because social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked. The atomization and demoralization of society have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.

And then David Brooks goes for an ice cream, as a reward for a job well done.  The story that David Brooks would like to tell is about some sort of social breakdown, a specific social breakdown, a new one, so not income/wealth inequality, institutional racism and intolerance, that general meanness of spirit that's out there, privatizing public works, monopolists milking consumers like cattle, none of those.  No, the social breakdown David Brooks concerns himself with is more like "welfare moms," that type of thing.

David Brooks continues:

This story, if true, should cause discomfort on right and left.

Actually, it causes discomfort any way you look at it, David Brooks, but not the kind you're thinking of.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:28 AM