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July 25, 2013

anthony weiner

Obviously there's no obligation on my part to comment on every damn thing that happens, but Anthony Weiner is dominating every single feed of information that I follow, so:

I really don't care.  I was maybe thinking about voting for him, and now I won't, not that I'll get a chance to because there's no way for him to stay in that race.

But it certainly is illustrative of How News Works Now.  Want to crack the front page?  Put a dick in it.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:09 AM

July 24, 2013

wandering epithet

Yesterday I had the infinite wisdom to instigate a mild disagreement with a food truck from Albany.

You see, there's this food truck in Albany, calls itself the Wandering Dago.  And as dago is not necessarily a word you'd want said in front of your kids, the food truck has been banned from Empire State Plaza, that big weird mall near the capitol, and, quite suddenly, a contract to have them vend the current season at Saratoga was rescinded.

I was drawn to the story because I'm a bit fascinated that someone could name their food concern after an ethnic slur and then be shocked that doors weren't swinging open for them.  (And, I'll admit that I'm anticipating for the argument will slide into something about ethnic equivalency, like an Earth 2 version of Godwin's Law.)  So last night, when Twitter was thick (and tedious) with Carlos Danger jokes, so I remarked that lost in the fusillade was enough attention to that food truck in Albany.

So this food truck from Albany (Schenectady, actually, I believe) responded (assuming that I was a supporter?) with a since-deleted tweet about their First Amendment rights.  And I was a little gobsmacked.  I certainly was not supporting the food truck with the offensive name, but I also certainly don't wish them ill.

But!  The assertion of First Amendment rights, that's something that cannot pass.  The owners of the truck chose the name, and their corporate name (Wandering Dago Inc.) was accepted by the State of New York, which actually does forbid obscenity in business entity names.  So has the government interfered with anyone's speech yet?  No.  However, the state has refused to do business with the company at least once, with the Empire State Plaza affair.  However, refusing to do business with someone does not rise to the level of abridgement of First Amendment rights, inasmuch as a business transaction is not speech.  No person is guaranteed the Constitutional right to a business transaction, particularly when the transaction requires the volitional participation of a second party.  That's not just speech, and it's a silly I'm A Victim! thing that too many people hide behind.

And as for Saratoga, the above also applies, combined with the fact that the New York Racing Association, which runs the track, is not a state agency, and so even if there were a speech issue (there's not), it's not a government that's stifling speech, which is specifically what the First Amendment forbids.  So that would be wrong on two counts.

And the silly thing is that this food truck concern (which apparently makes great food and I'd sure love to try it) could avoid all of this hassle just by changing their freaking name.  "Wandering Italian Guy."  Whatever.  Change the name and then everyone's happy.

In the one tweet to me that they did not delete, they said to check this morning's Albany Times Union in order to get a "better understanding of the situation."  I did.  Nothing relevant.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:46 AM

July 22, 2013

nate silver

It wasn't that newsy of a weekend that I happened to be largely removed from news sources, but I sure did raise an eyebrow or two when I sat down to catch up.

Big headline for me (not that Obama's impromptu speech and Middle East peace talks are small potatoes) was Nate Silver ankling (as they say) the NYT.  But why?  Just another columnist, hungry for some screen time (he's going to ESPN), right?  What's so big about that?

Two things.  (Both of which are influenced by Josh Marshall's thoughts on the topic.)  First of all, we've arrived at the point where the NYT is not only willing and able to launch individual talents in a way that they never before, they have reached the point where their competitors are not the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal but rather television networks.  We used to live in a world in which each individual medium was clearly demarcated and inviolate.  Now, there is only media, and it's useless to differentiate.  We are platform neutral, and dominated by the handful of conglomerates that survived.  And the NYT has not only survived the death of the newspaper, it is one of the competing conglomerates.

And the second thing is the ascendency of data-mining.  Allegedly Silver left because he wanted to apply his data analytical skills to topics other than politics, and Disney/ESPN is happy to give him the platform.  Statistics is of course not a new thing, but as computational power has increased, it's getting applied in all sorts of unique and interesting ways, including in journalism.  Silver is going to be just the tip of the iceberg, as Sabremetricians focus their obsessions on phenomena other than baseball, and all the little Nate Silvers, who grew up reading him in 2007, pursue their dreams.  Obviously it won't replace reporting any time soon, but we are at the point where if you run a news concern and you want to be taken seriously you will need deep data analysis from someone (who is hopefully charismatic).

It's too bad that ESPN will be keeping Silver off politics, but at least now he retires two for two, presidential election-wise.  But let's do see if conservative antipathy follows him to his guest spots on "Mike & Mike."

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM