Monthly Archives: April 2010

World Leaders Follow McDonnell’s Lead

To boost tourism in their own countries, leaders across the world are adapting Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s tourism strategy

Angela Merkel declared April Holocaust Month and is encouraging tourists to stop by Dachau to learn about the courageous German guards. 

It’s also Turkey Month, Armenian Style.  You can tour across the old Ottoman Empire and see what Young Turks can do when they really put their minds to it.

And for you pot heads, visit the lush fields in Cambodia where it’s Pol Pot Month. 

As for McDonnell, who is sensitive to the furor over his designating April Confederacy Month in the Old Dominion, he wants to add a celebration of how far African-Americans have come since the Civil War.  So he’s planning to cap the month with a minstrel show—with all white performers in black face, of course.

UPDATE:  Peter Miller at The Huffington Post takes the Nazi analogy a bit further.

Obama and the Stock Market: A Year Later

Actually it’s more than  a year, but let’s look back.  You’ll recall that, after the inauguration ball balloons deflated, the Republicans started to blame the stock market collapse on Obama, or at the very least, they pointed to the stock market as proof that American business did not believe in Obama’s politics.  They pointed to the Dow, as of March 3 of last year, being down 30% since Obama’s election and 15% since Obama’s inauguration.

So where are we today, 17 months after the president’s election and not quite 15 months after his inauguration:

Since his election, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 14%.

Since his inauguration, the DJIA is up 38%.

So why isn’t the GOP giving him credit now?

(Thanks to the “Ed Show” on MSNBC for reminding me of this.)

Are You a ‘Trusted Commenter’?

This is an interesting idea.  If it gets me reading article and blog comments, I’ll be impressed.

The [Washington] Post will implement a system that should help. It’s still being developed, but Straus said the broad outlines envision commenters being assigned to different "tiers" based on their past behavior and other factors. Those with a track record of staying within the guidelines, and those providing their real names, will likely be considered "trusted commenters." Repeat violators or discourteous agitators will be grouped elsewhere or blocked outright. Comments of first-timers will be screened by a human being.

When visitors click to read story comments, only those from the "trusted" group will appear. If they want to see inflammatory or off-topic comments from "trolls," they’ll need to click to access a different "tier."

Cruelty Sells

From Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, the answers as to why newspapers don’t delete scurrilous, vulgar and vicious comments and demand identity of commenters.

Most media Web sites offer readers the opportunity to respond. Why do they give a platform to anonymous cruelty? The true reason has nothing to do with free expression — rather, Web sites are evaluated according to how many people click on them and how long they stay, and if a certain percentage log in to glory over the death of a woman and a baby hit by a train, their participation still helps to pay the bills.

‘Character Assassination’

Here’s Rush Limbaugh

The president is trying to trick Rush Limbaugh into talking about himself and would rather engage in "character assassination" than debate conservatives in the "Arena of Ideas," the conservative talker charges in an e-mail to POLITICO.

There was a time when an reporter/writer worth his salt would follow that lede with “…a curious charge from an entertainer who makes his living assassinating characters.”

Liberals: Letting Facts Get in the Way

As certainly we all can agree by now, conservatives don’t let facts get in the way of a pithy political argument.  However, liberals are so literal.  To wit:

Matt Yglesias, one of the best bloggers out there, succeeds by being prolific and succinct.  But this post illustrates in a way I’m sure he didn’t intend why liberals can’t make a political argument.  First, of course, as was said on a recent episode of “The Good Wife” about a judge, “Liberals love to compromise.”  Or, as E.J. Dionne has worried, that liberals are so open-minded they can’t even take their own side of an argument.  In other words, they lack a good sense of certitude needed to make an case. 

Here’s a picture of a Census ad that I think is pretty clever.

census ad


The ad can fill in the second box differently to make a case that filling out the census form is a good thing to do.  Now what’s Yglesias have to say about it?

A number of people have been in touch with me about this in a way that makes me think it’s worth emphasizing that this is not in fact how decisions about how many buses to buy are made.

Who the hell cares!?  If it gets people to turn in their census forms—or vote for your candidate—who cares if it’s literally true!

Obama Smacks Media Again

For this I give him credit:

Obama took a shot at his media coverage, saying that “pundits in Washington kept saying, ‘What’s he doing? …. Doesn’t he know it will make him vulnerable?’

“Well, yes. Turns out I’ve got pollsters, too. We usually know what’s going to be unpopular before the newspapers do. But I also knew that if you govern by pundits and polls, then you lose sight of why you got into public service in the first place.”

Returning to the theme later, he said: “There are stories right now, ‘We polled Obama in 2012!’ I’m not joking. People writing entire columns …”

A Team of Rivals?

Wasn’t it about a year ago we heard of the daring moves by President Obama to gather around him in the Cabinet Room a “team of rivals,” a la Abe Lincoln.  LaHood, Clinton, Gates.  Do you see much impact from these unprecedented moves?

Is it just another example of a story line that adds drama but little else of substance?

Comment Anonymity: A Compromise?

The Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the Miami Herald Leonard Pitts is the latest to decry comment anonymity.  If letters to the editor must be signed and confirmed to be who they say they are, why not do the same for commenters on news media’s web sites.

As any student of Sociology 101 can tell you, when people don’t have to account for what they say or do, they will often say and do things that would shock their better selves.

That’s the story of the mousy, mosque-going school teacher swept up in the window-breaking mob during the big blackout. It’s the story of the milquetoast accountant who insults the quarterback’s mother from the safety of the crowd. And it is the story of newspaper message boards, which have inadvertently licensed and tacitly approved the worst of human nature under the guise of free speech.

Enough. Make them leave their names. Stop giving people a way to throw rocks and hide their hands. Any dropoff in the quantity of message board postings will surely be made up in the quality thereof.

The salient point is fewer but better comments.  I rarely read comments to stories or blogs because one must wade through so much bigotry, stupidity and downright incoherence that it’s a monumental time suck.  So if there much fewer comments many of us might read them and even join in.

Moreover, it’s just another nail in the coffin of common civility.  Yes, crude television and movies contribute.  Misogynist music videos don’t help.  Common profanity inures us all.  But reading comment after comment of insults is depressing.

Many blogs require email addresses, giving I suppose some channel of recourse if truly dangerous comments are made. 

Chicago Trib columnist Eric Zorn sympathizes with anonymous commenters:

I understand why some people don’t want to attach their real names to comments: Search engines being what they are, your stated opinions can follow you now for decades like a cloud of gnats.  If your name is unusual enough, a  prospective employer, blind date, new neighbor or anyone else can stick your name into a search engine and discover reams’ worth of tossed-off opinions, rants and retorts, some of which you may, by then, deeply regret.

The idea behind having people affix their real names to letters to the editor is a good one — by creating accountability it generates a certain civility. 

Yet at the time when this became a custom,  such expressions were evanescent.  Monday’s tirade became Tuesday’s fish-wrap, and only a very determined researcher could or would spend the hours necessary to assemble the sort of dossier that, today, the idle Googler can generate in mere seconds.

So because we now have a better way of making people responsible for their acts of stupidity, we should give them a get out of jail free card?

He has a compromise:  pseudonymity.

The compromise solution seems to me to be allowing people to comment and discuss issues using a consistent identity of some sort — an identity (Screen name, nickname, first name, set of initials, whatever) linked to a user profile and reserved exclusively for that one person.  To a great extent, we see that working here on Change of Subject message threads, where various regulars protect their "brands" and comment responsibly even though they remain, for the most part, anonymous. 

I’d like to see these identities carry images — photos, if possible — as they are on Facebook comment threads, where identity inspires civility. And I’d like to see them connected to background information so that even if we don’t know the real name of  "BigBob" we can learn that, say, he’s a Northwest suburban accountant and father of three who hates the White Sox and considers himself a libertarian.

I’m not sure that solves the problem, though Zorn is not the first guy to propose it. Still, I must say, for proposing it, he’s a stupid jerk who should burn in hell with all those other anti-American communist pinkos who don’t deserve to live in the land of the free and the home of the cowards brave and who are lying pieces of liberal trash.



ADDENDUM: Here’s a different take on the issue.  Seems an anonymous commenter questioned how of a town council chose its police chief.  Apparently there were no ad hominem attacks or profanity.  But the town council wants the commenter revealed.  As much as I don’t like anonymous comments, this is one thin-skinned council.