Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Closing the Open Society

Ol' George Soros is at it again. Having failed at "regime change" in America despite investing tens of millions of his own funds in Democratic efforts, he is now trying to reulate European television.
The institute analyzed television ownership, content and regulation in 20 European countries including 12 European Union member states, four EU candidate countries and four potential candidate countries.

It found a drop in quality of news reporting in countries where a few companies often control a country's entire television market and those which have opened up quickly to a flood of commercial broadcasters.

TF1, one of France's three commercial networks, commands almost one-third of the national audience and half of total television advertising revenues.

"Investigative journalism and minority programming are hard to find in both public service and commercial broadcasting," the institute said. "Viewers often do not receive the information necessary to make informed democratic choices."

Miklos Haraszti, a media freedom expert from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a regional security organization, said a "deluge" of commercial channels in some countries had led to ratings wars with public service broadcasters.

"The inevitable result has been the dumbing down of public service content in many countries," he said in a statement.
What in hell is a "media freedom expert?" I'm gonna guess it's some academic with a "mass communications" or "media studies" degree.

But you'll notice they claim that commercial channels are responsible for the "dumbing down" of public service (ie. government) broadcasters. How is that? I'll agree that PBS shows here in America have gotten worse in recent years. The science shows especially, where repetition and lots of pretty but meaningless graphics are becoming the norm. Also, lots of talking heads talking about feelings about science.

I'd argue that's the fault of school systems, which turn out people who need such entry-level stuff. Television doesn't create smart people, it can only serve them.

The real meat of the story, as usual, is down at the bottom:
The institute recommended that the EU set up an independent agency to monitor media concentration.

It also urged national governments to ensure that commercial media ownership and public media funding are transparent.

The European Commission and the European Parliament have also studied media concentration in the 25-nation bloc. The EU assembly last year passed a resolution calling for new EU guidelines on media ownership.

It called on the EU head office to "safeguard pluralism" through legislation banning political figures or candidates from having major economic interests in the media. The parliament pointed to Italy where the assembly said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi exerted too much influence either directly or indirectly over media there.
And there you go. More government control by "independent" agencies; more regulations and interference.

The Federation Party

A night of aimless websurfing brought me to this page, an alternate history of the future where:
The American Federation Party is formed in the United States, mostly by members of such Star Trek fan organizations as Starfleet International. While it is largely dismissed by the major political parties, Federation candidates win several local races.
The hero wins the White House in 2008 and gets the girl who, in this case, is actress Linda Park (Hoshi Sato of Star Trek: Enterprise. It's an amusing and highly detailed (if improbable) look into one possible future.

We could do worse.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quote of the Day

It's Abraham Lincoln, speaking to a Virginia politician on slavery, but it could just as easily apply to George Bush, speaking to America and the world on totalitarianism:
The voice of the civilized world is against it; it is opposed to its growth or extension. Freedom is the natural condition of the human race, in which the Almighty intended men to live. Those who fight the purposes of the Almighty will not succeed. They always have been, and they always will be, beaten.
Ford "Unglued"

I'm not sure why it took him so long to post on this, but Democratic blogger Polar Donkey passes along this story of a very bad appearance by Ford before a sympathetic audience -- fellow Democrats!

The money quote:
From the descriptions of what happened at the coffee, Ford seems to be buckling under the pressure.
During the coffee, Ford took questions from the attendees. They asked very pointed questions about the bankruptcy bill, Schiavo, his failure to vote on the budget rather than miss the coon dinner, and other issues. Apparently during the questioning, something snapped in Ford’s head. Maybe he realized that these were democratic activists who, no matter what he would do, will not support him and he doesn’t have a chance of winning without them. Ford became agitated by the questions, snapping at the audience and dismissing their views. He raised his voice several times. Afterwards, attendees described Ford as coming “unglued.” To add insult to injury, Rosiland Kurita appeared at coffee hosted by Democracy for Nashville three weeks later. She was smooth as could be and did well.
It's interesting this didn't make the wider news (that I know of), but what do you expect from the state's press? They just love Harold Ford Jr.

A lesson for Republicans here, too. Ford has an uphill battle going, where he's not at all likely to win, but he's still in there fighting. On the other hand, Republicans, who have a real shot at the governorship, against a damaged and reeling Democrat, can't even find someone to run against him. Ford, for all his other faults, and they are many, is at least in there trying. That's more than you can say about the Republicans.
Teen Girl Squad

It's the Tenthiversary over at Strong Bad's Teen Girl Squad. Mighty corn warriors, sweet someteen parties, first base with a sheet of looseleaf, Manolio's 'Lectro-pawn, makey outy and Mr. Hotbod Handsomeface!

What more could you want? I think this may be the funniest one yet, or at least since the first two.

Your UNICEF Donations at Work

Remember this the next time you see a request for a UNICEF donation. This is what they are doing with your money.
The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes.

The short but chilling film is the work of Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, and is to be broadcast on national television next week as a campaign advertisement....

The short film pulls no punches. It opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand-in-hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around their familiar village of mushroom- shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain from the sky.

Tiny Smurfs scatter and run in vain from the whistling bombs, before being felled by blast waves and fiery explosions. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs.

The final frame bears the message: "Don't let war affect the lives of children."
Why is this being done?
Philippe Henon, a spokesman for Unicef Belgium, said his agency had set out to shock, after concluding that traditional images of suffering in Third World war zones had lost their power to move television viewers. "It's controversial," he said. "We have never done something like this before but we've learned over the years that the reaction to the more normal type of campaign is very limited."

...The advertising agency behind the campaign, Publicis, decided the best way to convey the impact of war on children was to tap into the earliest, happiest memories of Belgian television viewers. They chose the Smurfs, who first appeared in a Belgian comic in 1958.

Julie Lamoureux, account director at Publicis for the campaign, said the agency's original plans were toned down.

"We wanted something that was real war - Smurfs losing arms, or a Smurf losing a head -but they said no."

The film has won tentative approval from the official Smurf fan club. A spokesman said: "I think it will wake up some people. It is so un-Smurf-like, it might get people to think."

Hendrik Coysman, managing director of IMPS, said: "That crying baby really goes to your bones."
Marketers and advertisers, it's all about getting attention. Nothing is sacred tht can be used to make a point. Never mind that young chidlren who came across the ad experienced "wailing terror."

Never mind that the ad doesn't reflect anything like the life of "former child soldiers in Burundi." I doubt they can make any sense of the ads at all. The child soldiers would descend on villages and hack up the residents or shoot them dead, then burn down the villages. It isn't about air power, but fire power.

These kids live short, violent lives filled with guns, death and soldierly comradeship. No girls, no weakness. Music and dancing that celebrates their lives. Sounds like some subcultures in America, doesn't it? Only where's the "rehabilitation" for them?

I guarantee you, as soon as the big networks and cable shows get wind of this, you'll see it on American television. Along with "graphic image" warnings. But they'll show it.

And here, the message will shift. It will become about America killing innocent children around the world in our global conquest of other nations.

You watch.
While the Cat is Away...

...the kittens play. OK, that's not fair. Autoegocrat, who retired from blogging a week or so ago in a blaze of cri de couer, is now guest-blogging at The Pesky Fly and he's no amateur. He's got great writing chops and does his homework. It's great to see him back.

Especially with something like the post I linked above. He starts with some lukewarmish stuff about the Return of the Gore-Gore Guy. People who want to see Al Gore return, to me, are clearly delusional and simply want the past five years to go away like a bad dream. sure, put Gore up in '08 and watch how the voters flock -- away.

Anyway, autoegocrat then goes on to flay the Commercial Appeal and it's captain-of-the-sinking-ship, Chris Peck. It's no holds barred and devastating. I don't agree that the paper is politically supporting Barbour, but rather doing its boosterish best for a neighbor and potential revenue source. It's business-conservative -- reactionary revenue protection -- and not poltical conservatism. I suspect the few real conservatives at the CA provoke angry hisses from their colleagues in the same way that vampires recoil from crosses.

Anyway, I'm really happy to see that autoegocrat is still out there. You should be too.
Sleight of Print

The Commercial Appeal's Nashville correspondent, Richard Locker, contributes this look at the new heads of the Tennessee Democratic and Republican Parties, and at the changes in each.

It's kinda fun to pick these things apart, to see under the hood. Let's take a look.

Locker looks at the Democrats first. He devotes a total of six paragraphs, twelve sentences to them. Several of those sentences are long, complex, heavily punctuated affairs. Locker's look at the Republicans is five much shorter paragraphs, totalling eight sentences. Comparing it by column inches is no contest: two to one for the Democrats.

Talking about the new Democratic chair's selection, Locker writes:
But the Democrats' state operation has undergone the biggest changes, with the backing of Gov. Phil Bredesen....

He vowed a more assertive state party....

Change at the Democratic Party was under way when Bredesen spoke to labor leaders. Hard-charging Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran Bob Tuke, a Nashville corporate and securities lawyer, was elected state Democratic chairman in June....

If Bredesen was looking for a chairman to take the offensive, he found him in Tuke....
Now, here's everything he has to say about the new Republican chair's selection:
Bob Davis, elevated to the Tennessee Republican Party's chairmanship....
Hmm.... Very visible difference there.

Locker writes nothing at all about the Tennessee Waltz scandal while he's talking about the Democrats. He waits until he's talking about the Republicans to info-dump all those facts:
When the arrest of five current and former legislators in May rocked the state, Davis quickly went on the attack. With four of the five indicted lawmakers Democrats, Davis publicly called for the resignation of the lone Republican -- Newton, who had already angered GOP loyalists by his ties to Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.
Fairly clever, that. Put it next to the Republicans and not where it properly belongs, next to the Democrats. No need to make that "hard charging, assertive" Democratic chair look defensive. Let's give that to the Republican!

So what do we end up with? Loads on those "hard charging, assertive" Democrats and.. oh yeah, the Republicans, too.
Le Roi c'est Mort; Vive le Roi

Sad news today from Bill Hobbs as he announces a severe scaling back of his blogging. He's going to pretty much stop all his political blogging, at least for the foreseeable future.

I hate to hear this, because Bill was party responsible for getting me blogging and was certainly very helpful to Half-Bakered through the years in terms of taking my writing seriously and linking here. It's almost like hearing that your favorite teacher is retiring.

It's bad news for the Tennessee blogosphere in that the two tent poles of state political blogging are now out of the daily tussle. First South Knox Bubba packed it in earlier this year, only to return in a very scaled back and reduced form. Now Bill. What are we to do?

It's good news, though, for the second tier, in the same way that the death of Napster was good news for LimeWire, WinMX, etc. People who routinely checked in at Bill Hobbs' site now need somewhere else to go. It's an opportunity for someone to step up. I haven't seen anyone yet fill South Knox Bubba's shoes, though, so who knows with Bill's?

We may never get that "one stop shopping" conservative Republican Tennessee website. I'd hate to see that, as there's a great need for someone to follow all the CRT sites, the left-Tennessee sites and the major state media to pick up and spread the important stories. It's a vital niche that needs filling.

We have a vibrant conservative / Republican blogosphere in Tennessee, a mostly bottom-up phenomenon, too, rather than a "run from the top" affair. It's a sign of health and strength. It helps the voters by getting out information without having to depend on the professionals and power-trippers of the Party, whose interests only sometimes intersect with the desires of the base.

I understand Bill's fatigue. Been there, done that. It's hard work; the benefits are mostly in personal satisfaction, not tangible gains. As Herokleitos said, "What do they have for intellect, for common sense, who believe the myths of the public singers and flock with the crowd as if public opinion were a teacher, forgetting that the many are bad, the few are good?" Fighting that tide is tiring work.

Maybe one day you will take up your sword again in the unceasing Good Fight. In the meantime, rest up, Bill. No guilt; no regrets. You've earned it.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Quote of the Day

Guess who said this:
The people call upon me to save the country. I must save it, and I cannot respect anything that is in the way. I receive letter after letter, have conversation after conversation, calling on me to save the nation, alluding to the presidency, dictatorship, etc.

As I hope one day to be united with you forever in heaven, I have no such aspirations. I would cheerfully take the dictatorship and agree to lay down my life when the country is saved. I am not spoiled by my unexpected new position.

I feel sure that God will give me the strength and wisdom to preserve this great nation; but I tell you, who share all my thoughts that I have no selfish feeling in this matter. I feel that God has placed a great work in my hands. I have not sought it. I know how weak I am, but I know that I mean to do right, and I believe that God will help me and give me the wisdom I do not possess.

Pray for me, that I may be able to accomplish my task, the greatest, perhaps, that any poor weak mortal ever had to do.
Ahhhh, it's a trick question. No, not President Bush. I doubt most of you know who General George B. McClellan was. Follow the link.

What's spooky is that this is precisely what President Lincoln, McClellan's Commander in Chief, ended up doing. He became a near-dictator in his drive to preserve the Union (Those of you who think "Bushitler" and Amerikkka should read what this Divine American Hero did in his presidency.), and then his life was taken after the War was over.

No doubt a lot of that God talk bothered a few of you, too. What a religious nut he sounds like, eh?
Temple of Freaks

Please excuse me for ridiculing this idea:
Paragraph and the Writers Junction are part of a growing number of members-only centers springing up in writerly metropolises like New York, Boston and Los Angeles. For $100 a month, on average, members secure the right to a desk, a lamp and a power strip in a shared space where they can ply their trade day and night.

Ms. Parisi compares writers' rooms to gyms. In both, a large group of people share the same equipment. And, paying for membership helps writers take their commitment to writing seriously, she said, and gets them "off of the couch" and onto the literary StairMaster.
So, they are comparing writers -- especially screenwriters -- to image-obsessed soccer moms, horny singles looking for dating material, body narcissists and the folks who devote themselves to sculpting massive monuments to a freakish ideal that is shared only by a narrow group of like-minded types?

I'm sure writers everywhere are revolted by the idea. But why?
Disappeared Ford Disappearance Coverage

It's being noted around the Tennessee blogosphere and in some newspapers, but Harold Ford Jr is doing some very interesting no-shows of late.

He's missed fundraisers, an important East Tennessee Democratic party dinner, and even Congressional votes. Why? No one knows. Ford's omnibus excuse is "family matters." Given the size of his family, the diversity of activities legal and illegal, and the fluctuating legal entanglements, that covers a lot of ground.

But the biggest is his no-shows for Congressional votes on legislation he himself sponsored. He's done that three times now.

Is that the kind of person we want representing Tennessee in the Senate? Someone who blows off duty for no good reason?