Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why I want Republicans to make good on their threats to boycott CNN and NBC

Who is the "liberal media?" Anyone that isn't Fox News!
If you follow the Republican National Committee on facebook or Twitter, you've likely seen their campaign trying to guilt CNN and NBC, which they characterize as "the liberal media" into dropping documentaries about Hillary Clinton. Their mechanism of enforcement? They're threatening refuse to let those networks host 2016 presidential debates. 

Here's why I think CNN and NBC should air the documentaries and make the Republican Party boycott them: There's no way the RNC can do it. If the RNC prohibits their candidates from appearing on CNN, a station that Democrats trust more than most, and NBC, they'll be stuck with PBS, a station the party wants to defund, ABC, or CBS. Since neither of the latter stations have a cable news presence comparable to Fox, NBC, or CNN, what the RNC is essentially saying is the only major cable news station that can host a debate is Fox News. This presumes that a Democratic candidate will appear in a debate on that station while stations more sympathetic to him or her are blacked out. Ultimately, it makes it very easy for Democrats to not deal with Fox News, while Republican candidates would have to boycott all stations except Fox News to protect themselves from a similar kind of criticism. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

We can't talk about the reality of American politics on TV because David Gregory's kids might have dick-pic nightmares

Not worried about his kids hearing questions about
whether the president is legitimate, but super concerned
about dick picks
The August 4, 2013 episode of Meet the Press was pretty uneventful all things considered. To me, the most interesting thing said was a question by host David Gregory, who asked former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - himself a sex scandal survivor - "is there something disqualifying at a point when I can't even turn on the news, that that's going to create a bigger conversation than I want to have with my eight year old?"

Giuliani, in typical MTP form, dodged the question. For once though, I agree that a politician should dodge the question. It's a stupid question. David Gregory, host of the longest running news show on television, just asked if a politician should be disqualified from office for private indiscretions because he was afraid his kid would see David Gregory, who chooses to give coverage to this local non-story coverage, talking about it. 

Mr. Gregory, let me give you a quick rundown on American politics, the media, and children, since a life in Washington and being a father has apparently taught you nothing about them. 

Exhibit A. 
1. American politicians frequently do things with their penises that their wives would not approve of. Joy-Ann Reed had JUST EXPLAINED THAT to you. The only difference between the sex scandals of Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton and those of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt is that in the past the press had the common decency to leave public figures' personal lives alone, and now people like you circle it like carrion birds. 

2. Your eight year old knows about sex. He's probably heard you having it. He's seen it on TV and read more detailed explanations of it in issues of Spider-man. At the very least, he goes to school with someone whose parents aren't as afraid of talking to them as you are and he now knows a way more vulgar and detailed version of sex than any news show has presented. 

3. Your concern with how these scandals might lead you to have an uncomfortable conversation with your kid leads me to a statement made my comedian Louis CK about gay marriage: "'How am I supposed to explain to my children that two men are getting married?' I don't know. It's your shitty kid, you fucking tell'm... Two guys are in love and they can't get married because you don't want to talk to your ugly child for five fucking minutes?" 

I understand this isn't an exact parallel and that being gay is not the same as deviating from your marriage on company time, but the point remains valid. If we have decided that the sex lives of politicians are news (which David Gregory has), why can't we talk about it just because somebody doesn't want to have to explain a real world situation to his kids? If David Gregory is so concerned with the moral fortitude of political candidates, he should not vote for those candidates. If he is concerned about how their sex lives might scar children, he should make an effort to stop talking about it so much on his very frequently watched show.

4. I've been eight years old. No eight year old is intently watching Meet the Press. It's what my parents used to put on when I was being bitchy about nap time. I conked right out. Further, if they are watching the news, there is way worse stuff on it than discussions about Mr. Weiner's self-titled selfie. I don't know if you've heard, but Northern Africa and the Middle East have been in a perpetual state of war for a while and maimed children have been making pretty regular appearances on TV. Football players have murdered people. Baseball players are being suspended for drug use. A huge child prostitution ring was just broken up in America. Boy Meets World is getting a spin-off. All of these things are more important and will have a bigger impact on your children than the sex scandals of municipal politicians.

It is astounding to me how much the media talks about how terrible all these non-stories are while putting past political figures who did the same things but who weren't persecuted by the same media. Anthony Weiner might not be a particularly good or effective politician. He may not have a very good platform in is run for mayor. If he's not the right guy for the job, it will be easy enough to prove that without talking about his phone sex habits. If you find yourself forced to bring it up though, you might have to explain to your kids that when a man and a woman love each other very much, they send each other digital representations of their affections in the form of lecherous sexy-texties that sometimes give birth to a scandal. If you have to have that conversation because you talked about it yourself on a show you let your kids watch, it's your own damn fault.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Geez. Leave Colin Powell alone.

He's denying it, but it appears from emails released by a hacker that Colin Powell had a pretty personal relationship and possibly an affair with a Romanian politician. I won't bore you with the "why do we care about public figures' sex-lives" diatribe, as that's been well-tread. What I want to know is why this should be considered a strike against citizen Powell, who is not currently employed by the American people.
How do you not have an affair with this guy?

Colin Powell has made a name for himself for being a moderate and generally trustworthy (except that one time) military and political figure. He most recently raised the ire of conservatives over his endorsement of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, which was, according to some douchebag on the radio, obviously because they're both black. Before that, Powell had served in the Reagan and Bushes 41 & 43 administrations, not to mention that whole 4-star general thing. While in those capacities, if it had been exposed that he was having or had had an affair with a foreign politician of an allied nation, it would have been nobody's business unless national secret swapping was part of some weird pillow-talk ritual. Maybe his wife would have been rightly pissed, but it wouldn't have been anyone else's business unless government money or national security was involved.

That would have been the case when he was in the employ of the United States. He's not now. Now, Colin Powell is a pretty smart guy whose sex life, like the rest of his life, is entirely private. The way this information came to public attention was itself illegal and, unlike the Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden leaks, which one could argue at least had some semblance of public interest, it has nothing to do with government policy, national security, or even have to do with how government works. They're private emails on an American citizen's private account.

While the whole nation is losing their goddamn minds over whether the NSA is spying on us, there seems to be no outrage toward the personal information of private citizens being made public. What this hacker did to Colin Powell was worse than anything the NSA has done to anyone reading this. If you're concerned with your own privacy, you should be shaming the media for running these stories and calling for serious consequences for hackers of this type.

If this kind of thing continues, it will further discourage good people from running for office in fear that the things they do privately will lead to their names being dragged through the mud. Then all we'll have left are the Anthony Weiners and Mark Sanfords of the world - public figures who don't have any dignity, and so don't care when it is sullied.

2013 Boston Mayoral Race - Track the Candidates

Below is a roundup of website and social network links for all mayoral candidates appearing on Boston's 2013 preliminary ballot on September 24.

Felix Arroyo - website / facebook / twitter
John Barros - website / facebook / twitter
Charles Clemons - website / facebook / twitter
Daniel Conley - website / facebook / twitter
John Connolly - website / facebook / twitter
Rob Consalvo - website / facebook / twitter
Charlotte Golar Richie - website / facebook / twitter
Michael Ross - website / facebook / twitter
Bill Walczak - website / facebook / twitter
Marty Walsh - website / facebook / twitter
David James Wyatt - No online presence found.
Charles Yancey - website / facebook / twitter

I mean, come on. Who wouldn't want to work here.
As you can see, David Wyatt's campaign doesn't really have an online presence. Charles Yancey's online presence exists, but his campaign page hasn't been updated since his last bid for D4 Councillor. The rest are on top of it, and I recommend reading/liking/following all of them to stay as informed as possible about the upcoming Boston mayoral race. This is not a particularly exciting election, but whoever wins gets to shape Boston's post-Menino legacy. That's kind of a big deal.

If you don't know where to vote, you can find out here. If you're not voting, no big deal. It's only one of the three things you're absolutely responsible for in the republic and will take maybe fifteen minutes. But by all means, skip it and say something clever like "they're all corrupt!"

(Updated 9:28am 8/2/13 because I initially forgot Marty Walsh. Sorry about that.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Congratulations Boston! Your hollow outrage gave Rolling Stone a windfall!

Remember a few weeks ago when everybody in Greater Boston was having a collective brain aneurysm about the Rolling Stone cover featuring Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? There was an online cause to boycott the issue on Facebook that drew 170,000 likes, refusal by some stores to carry it, and general insistence by most of your friends and colleagues that they would never again buy or read a magazine they probably already didn't buy or read. All because Rolling Stone published an issue where they labeled a very normal looking American kid a "monster" and had the audacity to ask "how could this happen?"

How dare you use a picture of a person
looking like a person!
The outrage about this cover was centered not around the terrorist on the cover (we've seen that before), but that the terrorist didn't "look" like a terrorist, but rather like a rock star (or, if you'd prefer it, a semi-attractive normal teenager, which is how most rock stars start out). When bin Laden was on covers of magazines, he was wearing Middle Eastern attire we associate with Islam. Tsarnaev, on the other hand, has messy hair, facial stubble, and a kind of cool t-shirt on. He looks like your kids, and because of that, some people seem to think seeing him will turn kids (not your kids! They're perfect!) into terrorists in the future. Apparently most parents are not confident that their parenting skills can effectively deter their children from blowing up their neighbors when faced with a cover on a magazine that was last relevant when Led Zeppelin was still putting out records.

So folks took to the streets (or the internet) and worked the whole region up into a lather. End result? Rolling Stone's retail circulation doubled!

Hey Massachusetts! Tax Alcohol!

As of yesterday, Massachusetts raised taxes on gas and cigarettes again. Honestly, I don't have much of a problem with this. It certainly doesn't affect me much, as I don't smoke or drive a car. Further, as gasoline is subsidized by federal tax dollars, contributing to absurd profits for oil companies and making it so even with the tax, gas is still cheaper here than in Europe, it's hard to complain. I'm certainly not going to defend cigarettes, either. They're gross, cause cancer, are the source of litter in gutters near bars everywhere, and frankly, I hope the tax deters my neighbors from smoking so I don't have to breathe that garbage as it wafts in my bedroom window at night from their late night porch smoking.

These are taxed.
The issue here is that these two products keep getting tax increases while other things remain untouched. The number one culprit in Massachusetts? Alcohol.

For those who don't remember, Massachusetts had a brief-but-bitter affair with alcohol taxes, which were ultimately overturned in early 2011 by voters, who apparently think that alcohol, as a sort of consumable, should be taxed like food (not at all) rather than a vice (a lot). I voted against repealing the alcohol tax in 2010, and I still oppose it now. It's not because I think we should deter drinking, either. I'm not sure cost is much of a deterrent. If it were, people would stop using cocaine rather than living their own private Less Than Zero lives. Rather, the reason support taxing alcohol is that you don't need it to live or be a citizen. In Massachusetts, in the tradition of the Commonwealth's founding, we do not tax food, clothing, or periodicals. As such, one can be fed, clothed, and informed without paying the state anything. The consumption of alcohol (which I'm a huger fan of than I should be) provides no benefits to any of these natural or civic necessities.

These are not taxed.
See what I'm saying?
We live in a state where we pay a 6.25% tax on books - the things we spend millions of dollars annually to encourage children to use. Meanwhile, we spend tax dollars and volunteer hours through programs like D.A.R.E., M.A.D.D. and S.A.D.D. trying to dissuade young people from abusing alcohol, not to mention the cost of treating alcoholism and alcohol-related medical problems to the state. How does it make sense that we tax beneficial things like books, and even necessary things like housing, but allow this one vice a free pass while demonizing others like cigarettes and criminalizing other drugs?