Late Night: What a Girl is For

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I haven’t seen all of Girls, because I’m about 20 years past the target market, because squick humor generally isn’t my thing, and because Lord God I watch enough TV already. But something about Lena Dunham and/or her work makes people who are not otherwise unintelligent start spouting the most ridiculously sexist bullshit*, and I dig that about her, hard: 

Girls producers went on the defensive Thursday evening in response to a question during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association press tour about the show’s nudity.

But that’s putting it mildly.

If you ask exec producer Judd Apatow, who addressed the incident after the panel, the wording of the reporter’s question itself, directed to creator and star Lena Dunham, was not only “offensive” but “sexist” and “misogynistic.” (For the record, here it is verbatim: “I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity on the show — by [Dunham] in particularly. I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you go, ‘Nobody complains about all the nudity on Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they do it. They do it to be salacious and titillate people. And your character is often nude at random times for no reason.”)

“That was a very clumsily stated question that’s offensive on it’s face, and you should read it and discuss it with other people how you did that,” Apatow said, speaking to the reporter who asked the question. “It’s very offensive.”

I’m not a huge fan of nudity in general. God and Christian Dior gave us clothes, I live in a cold climate and I didn’t grow up in a naturist colony. But hey, to each his own, enjoy yourselves. Where I take issue is the presumption that the nudity on Girls is “for no reason.”

Because what are the reasons YOU are naked, in your daily life? Taking a shower, getting dressed, just don’t feel like stuffing yourself into jeans that day? Walk around in a short dress, a T-shirt, have to pee by the roadside because there are no bathrooms for miles? Having sex? Getting ready to have sex, laying around after having sex? Sleeping? Those are all reasons (from about two eps I caught on re-runs last night) for characters on the show to be naked.

They’re just not reasons that involve looking inviting to men. They’re not “for” anyone besides the naked person.

And that’s the difference between the blatant pleas for attention that take place on Swords & Titties (WHICH IS COMING BACK APRIL 6 OMG), and the nudity on a show like Girls. This guy doesn’t find the latter sexy, and after all, naked chicks are supposed to be sexy, right? They’re supposed to only be naked if they’re titillating you.

Otherwise, cover up.


*See also Taylor Swift. Shut up.

Late Night: The Teawads Aren’t the Problem Here

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So a story that probably all your wingnut cousins posted all over Facebook has turned out to be crap: 

When I checked the exchange – plugging in Johnson’s county and her age – I soon found a Blue Choice Gold PPO plan priced at $332 monthly (just $7 more than she had been paying for the plan that was cancelled). Co-pays to see a primary care doctor would run just $10 ($50 to visit a specialist) and she would not have to pay down the $1,500 deductible before the insurance kicked in.

My radar went up. Recently, I have been reading more and more reports regarding “fake Obamacare victims.”

Now I couldn’t help but wonder: Who are these folks in the Star-Telegram story? The paper profiled four people who supposedly had been hurt by Obamacare. When I Googled their names, I soon discovered that three (including Johnson) were Tea Party members.

The paper describes them as among Obamacare’s “losers,” but the truth is that they didn’t want to be winners. Two hadn’t even attempted to check prices in the exchanges.

Meanwhile, it appeared that no one at the Star-Telegram even attempted to run a background check on the sources, or fact check their stories. I couldn’t help but wonder: “Why?”

First of all, there are no “background checks” for sources other than Googling them, really. I hear this all the time from those criticizing reporters who get taken in: “WHY DIDN’T THEY RUN A BACKGROUND CHECK?” Newsrooms aren’t CSI. You can run people through things like court databases and some other services, some of which are free and some of which are hella expensive, and you don’t usually do that for stories that are getting tossed off in ten minutes. You do that for stories where the new police chief turns out to be a child molester, or the guy down the street might be a terrorist.

You should, however, attempt to find out if what your sources are telling you is total bullshit, which usually costs nothing.

It still seemed to me remarkable that she had simply stumbled on three Tea Party sources. Had they sought her out? Why had she believed that one couple in the story would face a staggering $20,000 deductible? (Under the ACA the deductible on a family plan is capped at $12,750.)

When you’re looking for someone pissed off about something, you can stand on a street corner polling passers-by or you can call an advocacy group that might be able to put you in touch with, say, people pissed off about Obamacare. It’s a reasonable thing to do to call up your local Tea Party and ask if they’ve heard of anybody who’s had a rough time, because if I had a rough time with Obamacare and was mad about it, I might seek out those of a similar view.

Again, that these are tea people is not the issue (though disclosing it might have helped some). It’s that they were tea people who lied to you.

But a lack of fact checkers does not explain why the newspaper ignored the news that one of its “victims” had found good coverage. No editor’s note. No comment. No clarification.

Which is really what the problem is. Lack of accountability. Whenever somebody bores on about how the Internet is the death of truth or whatever we’re saying these days to compare pixels unfavorably to Noble Print, I think of stuff like this. Even if they do print a correction, in 9-point type on the inside page, who’s going to see it? Who’s going to post and repost it the way the original story got posted and reposted?

It’s out there now, a zombie lie like all the others, that Obamacare hates these people and wants them to pay thousands of dollars a month or be put to the death panels.


Late Night: Media Companies Have No Money!

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The Internet IS A MURDERER:

Media malpractice like this didn’t trigger the collapse of traditional revenue models, but it’s hastening the job. Everyone wants everything for free now—news, music, movies, etc.—which means the companies don’t have any money to pay people to produce original work. None of this is anything you haven’t heard before, but it bears repeating. In order to make a living, those of us who had the bad sense to shackle ourselves to a career in media before that world ended have to churn out more content faster than ever to make up for the drastically reduced pay scale.

The majority of this epic whine-fest, which I found via Balloon Juice, is a lament over the lack of fact-checking that is apparently destroying all that is good in America. To which end, 2012 media company revenues:

Tribune Company: $3.145 billion

Condé Nast: £117.8m

NYT Company: $575.8 million

If they’re not paying their writers, it’s not because they’re broke. Stop listening to them when they bitch that they can’t afford you. They have no incentive to tell you the truth any more than any other entrenched power structure does. They have plenty of money. They’re just not spending it on you and you, Mr. Noble Skeptic, are buying their argument without looking at the numbers.

Christ, journalism was using the horseshit noble-poverty-of-the-artist “if you want to make money, do something else” dodge for decades before the Internet came along and made the argument even dumber: (more…)

Late Night: Being a Teawad Show-Off Hurts People

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Scott Walker’s burnishing his “conservative” street cred on the backs of these people: 

Sam was a volunteer first responder. I had just been rescued from a 30 vehicle pile-up near Sam’s home. Farming was Sam’s main occupation; being a volunteer first responder didn’t help get Sam health insurance. Like so many farmers, Sam depended on help from the state to get health insurance. That help was going away.

A few days earlier I met Mary. She was hoping for help from the state to get health insurance. She’d traveled in zero-degree weather across two counties to find me. She relied on the goodwill of a neighbor to bring her to an event her neighbor knew I would attend.

“Please help me,” Mary asked. “They are almost doubling my insurance rates. It’s already over $600 a month.”

“Mary has only social security to live on,” her neighbor said. “She’s at 95 percent of poverty level — which should mean she will get on BadgerCare. But the governor is not letting this happen. She won’t be eligible for federal subsidies. She makes too little.” (The Affordable Care Act provides coverage for people like Mary under the federal Medicaid expansion; however the governor must accept the federal dollars.)

Our political press likes to talk about maneuvering and posturing as if it’s just peacocks strutting around, as if the decisions politicians make are entirely about them and the show they’re giving and getting.

Forgotten in this type of coverage are the people affected by those decisions, who have to get up and go to work every day doing trivial things like volunteering to save people’s lives.


Late Night: ‘We’ve Heard Plenty’

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Well, that settles that, then: 

Our job this time was to take the hardest questions we could find and ask them, ‘What’s the answer to it,’ and then spend a couple of minutes listening. Because this is really the side of the story that has been mined only in the most superficial ways. We’ve heardplenty from the critics. We’ve heard a lot from Edward Snowden.

Never mind if the critics are correct. Never mind if the critics have a valid point. Never mind if the critics have THINGS TO BE CRITICAL OF. We’ve heard enough from them. We’re done.

We have given them their time, and now we’re giving the NSA its time, and we’ve done our job. So what if nobody learned anything, and the conversation advanced not one bit, and the powerless were treated as less than the great because OMG HOODIES:

The pieces are not terribly complimentary toward Edward Snowden, described by Miller as a “20-something-year-old high school dropout contractor.” Snowden cheated on an exam for NSA employment and worked at home with a hood covering his head and computer screen, an NSA official tells Miller. “That’s pretty strange,” Miller says.

Your job is not to cast aspersions upon his goddamn fashion sense. Plenty of people who are right about everything important are fuckin’ weird. (So are plenty of people who are wrong about everything important, which is why journalism.)

Is there merit in making the NSA confront Snowden’s allegations? Absolutely. Is that what this is? 

Full disclosure, I once worked in the office of the director of National Intelligence where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates.

Were there no other reporters available than one who used to work for the director of National Intelligence? With all the out-of-work journalists of great stature and talent in the country? Perhaps no others who’d be allowed into the NSA. Perhaps that’s a story in itself. But no, let’s make sure we jerk off on screen about our legendary access and insidery-ness and other stuff that doesn’t actually mean anything:

Last I checked, this wasn’t a badge of honor. I keep saying the problem with American political reporting today isn’t bias, it’s laziness and stupidity, but for a while now I’ve been forgetting to add ego. Who gives a fuck if someone is the “ultimate insider” if that status doesn’t convey any type of advantage to the viewer? If being the “ultimate insider” results in something more than just flat denials that the NSA is doing anything wrong, what’s the win here if I watch 60 Minutes, for me?

I guess I get to see the ultimate insider. As he makes an analyst solve a Rubik’s Cube:

Many of the cryptologists skipped grades in school, earned masters degrees and PhDs and look more like they belong on a college campus than at the NSA.

Actually, the Rubik’s cube took him one minute and 35 seconds.

John Miller: You know, I didn’t like you before.

For this group, the Rubik’s cube was the easiest problem that day.


Late Night: ‘Time is going to be your greatest enemy’

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This person can bite me: 

KOOIMAN: I fit into that category perfectly. I’m single. I’m 29 years old. I’m very career-oriented. What is your advice in just a couple sentences?

VENKER: My advice is, as the years go on and you find that you want, if you do, to get married and settle down, to understand time is going to be your greatest enemy. Not your husband, not men, not the government, not your employers. It’s time, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything. So if you learn to embrace that side of yourself that isn’t about work — in other words, the nurturing side, the motherhood, all of that — it’s okay to let your husband bring home that full-time income so you can have more of a balanced life. And we should really be thanking men for this, not saying they’re in our way or not doing enough.

Venker has previously argued that, as women become major breadwinners and stop acting like “traditional women,” they are becoming increasingly more annoying and less marriageable to men.

Delightful. Because every man wants a woman with no interests besides him. I’m not saying such guys don’t exist, but so do fellows who enjoy their wives having work that excites and motivates them and oh, yeah, pays them a little bit too. Men’s identities may be tied to their paychecks but in the case of a lot of guys I know, so are all their anxieties, and some extra cash can really ease that burden.

You know who else exists? Men who want that balanced life, too. Men who want to spend time with their kids. Men who, heaven forfend, enjoy doing things around the house, taking care of their families, enjoying weekends or nights that aren’t spent in the office. I don’t know when we decided that the norm was for men not to give a fuck about the women they married or the children they fathered, but I know too many examples to the contrary not to feel outrage at the stereotype.

God, there’s so much wrong with just this one paragraph. Work can be nurturing. Plenty of women who don’t have children, who aren’t married, have nurturing and fulfilling roles in their communities. Plenty of women don’t give a shit about nurturing anyone else, either, and that also hurts no one. Plenty of women change their minds about these things, about what they want and when they want them. Plenty of women don’t. I so loathe this idea that every working woman, especially a very driven or successful one, secretly pines to breastfeed and knit. Somehow we never hear the reverse from these scolds, that all women secretly want a corner office or a crew to boss.

Somehow we never hear that all women secretly want both, and have been prevented from feeling like it’s okay to want both by beasts like this who have a book to sell. (And if she’s so traditional and non-threatening and marriageable, why isn’t she in the kitchen making a sandwich, anyway? Why is she on TV with her hair done, threatening men like that?)

It’s nobody’s business what your secret heart wants. And it’s nobody’s business but yours what choices you make and when you make them. All the fucking tick-tock noises and talk about geriatric uteruses and regretting things later on is just insecure people trying to make you feel bad so they feel better.


Late Night: Excommunicate the Nonbeliever!

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Speaking of unpleasant people who want to wine-dine-69 Jesus but haven’t heard a damn word He said: 

The Rockford Pro-Life Initiative has called on Francis Cardinal George to excommunicate Governor Pat Quinn for his outspoken support of same-sex “marriage.”


Governor Quinn’s support for same-sex “marriage” puts him at odds with the leadership of the Catholic faith he claims to belong to.  Three Illinois bishops released letters to be read from the pulpit in parishes statewide over the weekend opposing the legislation.

Members of the Rockford Pro-Life Initiative, however, do not think the letters go far enough.

“If Cardinal George and all the Illinois Bishops declare that any politician who claims to be Catholic, including Gov. Quinn, [who] votes for a homosexual marriage bill would be automatically and publicly excommunicated, this would stand a very good chance of protecting marriage,” the group said in a statement.

Quinn went right ahead and signed the bill, excommunication rumblings be (literally) damned, so obviously these scolds wield a lot of power.

Ugh, they’re so tiresome. Look, there is no “public” excommunication. This isn’t the Salem witch trials. You don’t have to stand in a public square while the Pope rips your crucifix off. You don’t have to wear a sign or serve time in the stocks. The Pope writes you a mean letter, at most, if you’re a head of state or something. And making voting in favor of marriage equality an “automatic” excommunication would require an actual change to the church’s internal laws: 

A few more points about excommunication. This penalty is biblical, and both St Paul and St John make reference to the practice of cutting people off from the community, in order to hasten their repentance. It is useful to remember that the penalty is designed to bring the sinner back to repentance. It can be abused, used as a political tool and even employed for the purposes of revenge – but those would be abuses of Canon Law.

In other words, squirrel nuts, read the damn doctrine you claim to revere. If it’s a public shaming you’re hankering after, you’re only going to bring one on yourselves.


Late Night: Aren’t There Any Automatic NO WAYS?

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I’m sorry, but how stupid do you have to be? 

Entitled “Why us?,” the essay was identified as having been written by “aJew” and said all the suffering the Jewish people have faced since the destruction of Jerusalem’s Second Temple in approximately 70 A.D. came from God and was “just.”

“We, the Jews, rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we richly deserved all of the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years,” the essay said.

The anonymous writer went on to argue Jews can rid themselves of this “curse” by being baptized as Christians.


“Upon further reflection, we have decided that the tone of the piece still requires additional improvements. We have taken it down for further editing and will be republishing it in the future along with an editor’s note,” Gyde said. “We firmly believe in editorial freedom and giving our authors the right to publish their thoughts even when we may disagree with them, but we also want to acknowledge that the viewpoint currently represented in the article does not represent the view of the staff or the editorial board.”

Look. Even if you think this, even if you write this, how do you not know that this is an automatic shitstorm? As an editor, you get this in your inbox, and you don’t think, wow, this sounds like the previous 50 times somebody has written something like this, and I wonder if the entire Internet is going to come down on us like a plague of sexually ravenous weasels for saying something not just offensive and wrong but NOT NEW or interesting?

How many times do we have to go over this? Is this me getting old, that I feel like by now we should just know, that there are some things that are never going to be provocative in a cool way, and dudebros should just stop trying? That when something like this comes across your desk, you should just OMG NO and not even bother with a response? Jews are being punished by God for killing Jesus, wow, there’s one I’ve never heard before and it’s certainly never resulted in any kind of well-deserved verbal beatdown or been patently nonsense into the bargain.

And do try to come up with better excuses. Taken down for further editing? Try taken down because we didn’t think during the production of our journal of Christian thought. If we had, we’d have remembered all the totally productive and interesting discussion that ensued the last 100 times some jackass tried to assert that, and we’d have decided that all the clicks we’d get could have come just as easily from changing every headline to LIVE NUDE GIRLS.


Late Night: Can We Have That Politico Ethics Panel Now?

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Maybe we should just give Politico another spot on the Pulitzer board:

In a segment this morning on “Morning Joe,” Politico potentate Mike Allen got promotionally cute. The context: “Morning Joe” launched a discussion of two opposing GOP views toward the last month’s shutdown crisis — that of Sen. John McCain and that of Sen. Ted Cruz. In a clip presented on air, Cruz pointedly expressed no regrets whatsoever about his extreme position in the October proceedings. After showing Cruz’s unapologetic approach, Scarborough asked guest Allen whether Republicans should focus on beating up the Democrats rather than fighting among themselves. Allen responded, “Well, Joe, exactly, and I don’t know what you keep under your pillow, but what I have under my pillow is the book…’The Right Path,’” said Allen, brandishing his copy of the book. “You might call this clip the ‘Wrong Path,’ because what we’re seeing here from Sen. Cruz is defiance and we’re seeing that he may try to push for another confrontation like this.”

You know, when I’m pimping out a fellow blogger’s book, or my own, at least I say right up front, “Go buy this, she’s a pal of mine.” My problem with the entire journalistic “ethics” argument today is that it over-polices actual stated opinions and ignores the value of transparency. Just tell me what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and how many bodies they have on you to get you to do this kind of thing for them.

That way I can make my own decisions about whether you’re on the up and up or whether you’re just as much of a moral monster as I always thought you were.



Late Night: The War on Women is a Democratic ‘Playbook’

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For Politico, everything is the Truman Show and nothing is real: 

How much of a difference the deluge ultimately made after Cuccinelli’s surprisingly narrow loss to Democrat Terry McAuliffe is open for debate. What isn’t in dispute is that Democrats and women’s groups believe their “war on women” playbook worked. And they have every intention of using it again in 2014 even as Republicans and some political observers argue that Virginia didn’t provide a mandate on the issue.


Democrats took to the Virginia airwaves and the campaign trail this fall to note Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and to say he backed legislation that would have effectively banned certain kinds of birth control, drawing on his record in the statehouse and as attorney general.

“Really, given that God does judge nations, it’s amazing that abortion has run as far and foully as it has,” Cuccinelli once said, one of his many comments seized on for campaign ad fodder.

That messaging came on the heels of the 2012 flood of TV ads bashing GOP nominee Mitt Romney on social issues.

I think part of the problem is how we’re defining “attack” ads. Is anything that mentions a Republican candidate’s position on an issue an “attack?” If you go out in front of God and everyone and say “I don’t actually believe ladies are really people, at least not so that they can make the kinds of full decisions about their bodies that I can make about mine” and someone, you know, records it and shows it on TV, is that an “attack?”

Nobody tied up Cooch and forced him to be a backwards-ass ‘neck who ran on these issues. He did that shit all on his own. It’s not like Democrats MADE UP “legitimate rape” or “forcible rape” or “contraception is abortion” or “life begins at fertilization” or any of the other blindingly stupid legislative initiatives Republicans have pushed in the past five, ten, twenty years. It’s not like these things aren’t laws or proposals on the books, with Republican sponsors and co-sponsors, with wingnut money backing them.

It’s not like they won’t have real consequences, for real women, whose clinics are closed or whose doctors are harrassed or whose health care needs are ignored.

But to Politico, it’s all just a Democratic “playbook.”