Quality television programs equal income, argues horrible person


 
In what would surely be the most amazing troll posted to a serious web site in recent memory if it didn’t seem to be perfectly earnest, columnist, author, and apparently completely shameless toady to the ruling class Virginia Postrel has argued on Bloomberg View that ordinary people are better off economically today than we typically reckon - because the quality of TV has improved. I’m not even slightly kidding about the impossibly stupid thing I just told you.

On a flight across the country, you watch the playoff game on live television, listen to some favorite playlists as you catch up on work, then relax with some video poker. Arriving home, you delete the game from your DVR and consider your options. Too tired for an intense cable drama—which you prefer to experience in immersive weekend marathons of at least three episodes each—you stream a first-season episode of “Duck Dynasty” from Amazon.com, then run last week’s “Elementary” from your DVR queue. While watching, you check IMDB.com to see where you’ve seen that familiar-looking guest star before, then you jump to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You finish the evening with “SportsCenter,” recorded just far enough ahead that you can skip most of the commercials.

Little of this customized entertainment would have been possible a decade ago—and almost none of it shows up in the income and productivity statistics that dominate our understanding of the economy. A form of progress that large numbers of people experience every day, the increase in entertainment variety and convenience represents a challenge to the increasingly conventional wisdom that American living standards have stagnated, at least for the middle class.

Hear that, middle class? Standard of living, schmandard of living, you people have TIVOS!

Now, I suspect that viewings of Duck Dynasty and SportsCenter don’t show up in income stats because TV shows aren’t income. But what do I know? I’m not the former editor of Reason. Or a shockingly tone-deaf, overprivileged asshole.

After all, it’s not as though no one has noticed the improvements. Critics often opine on whether the proliferation has produced a “new golden age of television,” while media companies and advertising agencies live in fear of what all that competition means for future profits. From the mobile-phone business to social media—not to mention movies, games, music and sports—an enormous amount of innovative talent goes into developing new entertainment goods and services.

Yet in the economic statistics that measure living standards, this real-life value goes largely ignored. For the very reason that entertainment is so cheap, the enjoyment people derive from having a better chance of finding exactly what they want, when and where they want it, doesn’t count for much. Giving consumers new features for little or no additional money increases well-being but doesn’t do much for productivity statistics.

I would venture a guess that the proliferation of the entertainment industry into every nook and cranny of American life doesn’t find its way into productivity statistics because sitting on your ass watching So You Think You Can Fart Your Life Away is the opposite of productivity. But of course, I’m just a humble pop culture scribe for Dangerous Minds, not a respected, Ivy League-educated columnist for The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times and Forbes. Or a self-satisfied, grotesquely over-rewarded libertarian tool.

But let’s skip to the money shot, huh? Does she or doesn’t she tell us to watch cake?

“Too many people presume that what the poor want from the Internet are the crucial necessities of life. In reality, the enchantment of the Internet is that it’s a lot of fun,” the Indian journalist Manu Joseph observed in a September New York Times essay. “And fun, even in poor countries, is a profound human need. Quality of life is as much an assortment of happy frivolities as it is the bare essentials of survival.”

Holy free market, she actually managed to outsource her “Let them eat cake” line to India. Got that, poor people? Quit hogging those public library Internet terminals for your stupid job searches and bill payments! There’s fun to be had - ENCHANTMENT, even!

So let’s recap - time wasted is income! We can fairly extrapolate from this that the unemployed are the wealthiest people in America - so long as they watch assloads of TV. Thinking of goosing your budget by canceling that cable subscription and using the savings for unproductive mundanities like heat and food? Not so fast! Grey’s Anatomy is health care! The Apprentice is a national jobs program! BY GOD, THE SYSTEM WORKS.
 
postrel
Virginia Postrel, totally down with the commoners—the kind of Libertarian you can have a beer with!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
American democracy dies, murderers caught on video (or The Republicans pull a REALLY creepy move)


 
If you haven’t seen the video yet of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on the floor of the House asking for a clarification on the rules of the shutdown, believe me, it’s well worth watching.

There’s a compelling reason it’s been garnering hundreds of thousands of YouTube plays the past few days: Very simply it shows—beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt—that the Republicans not only planned the government shutdown in advance, but that they made damned good and sure that when their neanderthal putsch started, there would be new rules in place to prevent it from being voted on.

It’s astonishing. It’s not like I expect that this clip will be discussed on Fox News anytime soon, but a Republican with even a modicum of intelligence, honesty and decency would be obliged to see exactly same thing that the rest of us see when we watch this clip.

If you’re unclear of exactly what’s happening, under normal circumstances any Congressperson can call for a vote on any bill at any time.

Not anymore! Prior to the shutdown, the Republicans very quietly passed H.R. 368, a measure that only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor can call for an end to the shutdown.

That’s right Eric Cantor and ONLY Eric Cantor—not even Speaker of the House John Boehner or any other ranking Republican—unless Cantor gives his express permission for a designee to do it. Via Talking Points Memo:

So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t.

“I’ve never seen this rule used. I’m not even sure they were certain we would have found it,” a House Democratic aide told TPM. “This was an overabundance of caution on their part. ‘We’ve got to find every single crack in the dam that water can get through and plug it.’”

Congressional historians agreed that it was highly unusual for the House to reserve such power solely for the leadership.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.

“It is absolutely true that House rules tend to not have any explicit parliamentary rights guaranteed and narrowed to explicit party leaders,” Sarah Binder, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM. “That’s not typically how the rules are written.”

The rule change was made to prevent a majority vote from becoming even a possibility without the expressed consent of ONE MAN! Fewer than 25% of Americans support the GOP’s shutdown and yet here we are

This is democracy? It’s thisclose to being fascism. The dummies are in charge. Minority moron rule. Joseph Stalin or Il Duce would laugh at what America has become. The whole thing is worth watching—and infuriating—but by around the 5:00 mark, the cat’s out of the bag thanks to Congressman Van Hollen.

Judging from the rapidly escalating number of YouTube views, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not going back in again. Please share with everyone, even, make that especially, your Uncle Ronnie the Teabagger. He’s never going to hear about this from Rush or see it on the Fox News, but Uncle Ronnie really needs to know about this…
 

And then there is this, an earlier, less dramatic, but in no way less revelatory confrontation that took place two weeks ago when Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) noticed something seemed fishy and asked some uncomfortable questions of the Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), who flat out admits that she’s right!

“That’s what I’m saying. We took that away.”

Sessions tells her of GOP “resolve” in the debt ceiling battle. Here’s her response:

“Oh, Mercy. It just gets deeper and deeper. I want to tell you the resolve that I think you’ve got. And despite the fact that every one of you said, over and over ad nauseam, that you didn’t want to shut the government down, we spent some time down in my office watching so many of your members — right after they were elected in 2010 — saying how much they would like to shut down the House to great applause.”

“I think it is really shortsighted, I think it is an atrocity to the Rules of the House. And I think you’re putting the whole country through this angst and this aggravation that we did not need to go. This one we could have done without.”

“And I must tell you that I’m more and more angry now that I understand what you have done is take away our ability is to really make a motion for that Senate vote.”

Guess what? The Tea party-led government shutdown came THE VERY NEXT DAY!

Go right to 1:20 and start from there. If this isn’t an admission of guilt, I don’t know what would be…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Ignoramuses are holding America back’ says Richard Dawkins


 
I have to tread a bit lightly here since every blood relative of mine is a Creationist, so I’l just link to what Richard Dawkins has to say about American science being held back by religious myths and sidestep whatever familial shit I might personally step in.

On Monday, Dawkins and Steven Pinker appeared on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Secular Coalition for America.

Via Raw Story:

A reporter asked Dawkins about the fact that more than 40 percent of Americans believe the Christian creation myth, that God created the world in seven days.

“This country is, without a doubt, the leading scientific nation in the world, beyond the shadow of a doubt,” Dawkins replied. “I can’t help wondering how much more advanced this country would be if you were not held back by this astonishing burden of 40 percent of the people who literally think the world, the universe is less than 10,000 years old.”

“I mean,” he said, “that is a staggering piece of ignorance. It’s a scandal.”

Believing that the world is less than 10,000 years old, Dawkins said, “is not a small error. It’s a gigantic, ridiculous error.”

The problem, he said, is based in part on the fact that school boards are elected in local elections, and that “in particular districts, it may be that the electors are electing ignoramuses.”

I’m more partial to the way Charles P. Pierce writes the plural form“ignorami.” That has an even meaner sounding ring to it and I appreciate that.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’: The Smiths meet ‘First World Problems’


 
Youtuber Absolute Destiny created this hilarious montage of infomercials mixed with The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.”

Who knew this maudlin song was a paean to consumerism???
 

 
With thanks to Brian Braun!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
So wait, we almost dropped a nuclear bomb on North Carolina in 1961??
09.23.2013
08:12 am

Topics:
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
Eric Schlosser

Dr. Strangelove
 
You might be fan of Eric Schlosser from his stellar reporting in Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness. If you are, you have another reason to be proud of him—in his new book Command and Control, Schlosser has uncovered a remarkable story about a nuclear annihilation the United States almost inflicted on itself.

That’s right: on January 23, 1961, two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina. The bombs were released after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the nuclear weapons did exactly what it was supposed to do in a wartime situation: its parachute opened and its trigger mechanisms engaged. In a newly declassified report, a senior engineer familiar with the details of the case stated that “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe.”
 
Eric Schlosser, Command and Control
 
Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Each bomb was 260 times as powerful as the bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945. Had the device been triggered, the lethal fallout might well have spread over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, even New York City – it’s difficult to calculate the number of people that might have been killed, but it could well have numbered into the millions.

Writing eight years after the events, engineer Parker F. Jones named his secret report “Goldsboro Revisited or: How I learned to Mistrust the H-Bomb,” a cute reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 classic black comedy about an accidental nuclear holocaust, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

According to The Guardian (UK), which was the first to report the story on Saturday,

The accident happened when a B-52 bomber got into trouble, having embarked from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro for a routine flight along the East Coast. As it went into a tailspin, the hydrogen bombs it was carrying became separated. One fell into a field near Faro, North Carolina, its parachute draped in the branches of a tree; the other plummeted into a meadow off Big Daddy’s Road.

Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity. “The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52,” Jones concludes.

-snip-

Using freedom of information, he discovered that at least 700 “significant” accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone.

Well, that’s sobering news. As a little reminder of what almost happened in Goldsboro, North Carolina, here’s the last couple of minutes of Dr. Strangelove:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
If ‘Breaking Bad’ was set in the UK it would be entirely different story



 
Brought to you by artist Christopher Keelty.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
‘Commie!’: Racist Tea party goon squad menace Arizona activist at anti-immigration rally


 
Here’s how the cameraman, Dennis GIlman, an AZ pro-immigrant rights activist described what happened:

“This was filmed on the public lawn of the Arizona State Capitol on September 7, 2013 where the “We Are America Tour” added Arizona racist, former State Senate President President Russell Pearce. Pearce is famous for SB1070 and his association and endorsement of neo-Nazi JT Ready, who killed an entire family before killing himself in 2012. The local racists have worked closely with FAIR for years. I was there to film the speakers.

It’s a safe guess that if Minute Man founder Chris Simcox wasn’t sitting in jail for multiple counts of child molestation that he would’ve been a speaker at this event also. Is it any wonder why they didn’t want the “liberal Media” filming them? For my own safety, I refused to leave without a police escort. It took over 7 minutes for any law enforcement to arrive. The video is edited only for length.”

The speaker is Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, a failed former Republican candidate for the Arizona Senate who said such outrageously racist shit that even Jan Brewer had to distance herself from her last year. She tells the (obviously) low IQ crowd that she’s against amnesty and that immigrants should do things the legal way when they want to come to America, just like she did (Apparently what Mrs. Mercer means by that is that—hey, hey—they should all marry wealthy men!). These fucking brain-damaged numbnuts cheer her on.

Although the video pretty much tells the whole story here, as there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of nuance to what transpired, here’s some additional information via The Phoenix New Times:

All of it was unprovoked. It’s almost funny when, after they surround Gilman like a pack of wild dogs, they tell Gilman to “stop pushing.”

Fortunately, playwright James Garcia was on hand, taking pictures of what was going on. He recently posted some of these to Facebook, with an eyewitness account of what transpired. Garcia writes:

“He was exercising his First Amendment right as an independent journalist to document a news event when he was literally surrounded by several people who alternately tried obstructing his view to keep him from videotaping, while a few of them began pushing and shoving him around—apparently intent on trying to provoke him….

“At one point, some of protesters who had surrounded Dennis began to yell out that he was assaulting them. These were blatant lies. The most aggressive thing Dennis did was turn his camera on his aggressors in hopes of documenting their abuse, while he pointedly insisted that they not touch his camera equipment. “

To be fair, assuming the group had a permit for the rally on the state Senate lawn, they could ask Gilman to leave. And if he chooses not to, they could wait for the police to show up to ask him to leave.

Having a permit does not give you license to harass and assault someone. Gilman says that when the authorities showed up, he agreed to leave if they would escort him all the way to his car. Smart move, considering the nature of the crowd, and the fact many of them were packing.

The best thing the nativists could have done is ignore Gilman’s presence. By singling him out and acting like a bunch of schoolyard bullies, they not only revealed their true colors, they ruined a chance to convey their intended message. Now they have to defend themselves by blaming the victim, which makes them look even worse.

Here’s a little free PR advice for them that they won’t take: Apologize to Gilman and promise to ensure his safety at the next demonstration they hold, whatever that is. This would be the smart thing to do, a way of mitigating the damage. But they won’t, largely because they are filled with rage and must attack anyone who disagrees with them.

And also because they are really, really dumb.

For some time, members of the neo-Nazis affiliated “Remember 1986” group (co-sponsors of the event) have been known to show up and harass Mexican day laborers at a spot in Phoenix where they congregate.
 

 
Via reddit/r/politics

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The best thing EVER: Workers rights flash mob breaks out in Wal-Mart
09.06.2013
11:03 am

Topics:
Class War
Dance
Heroes
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
pro union


Boy are they ready!

This is a moment of true greatness, the best thing you’ll see all day. This shit takes flight:

September 5th, 2013, Raleigh, NC - As Walmart workers petition managers to reinstate employees who have been unfairly treated, a flash mob breaks out.

I wish I’d have witnessed this in person, but it’s thrilling just to see it on YouTube. The participants must have felt fantastic afterwards.

The deer-in-the-headlights looks the managers have on their mugs is priceless!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Mindblowing: HALF of the United States population lives in just these counties!
09.05.2013
11:00 am

Topics:
Idiocracy
Politics
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
census


 
Using the most recent census data, Joe Weisenthal and Walter Hickey at Business Insider have put together the above map that shows how half—HALF!—of the American population lives in just 146 counties!

Something like this goes to show—proves—that the way we apportion our Senators in Washington has become absolutely unworkable. Although it looks like she’s laying a new egg daily, why should a practically empty state like Wyoming get to send some conservative asshole like Liz Cheney to the Senate so that people living in, ahem, the POPULATED areas will have to deal with that nonsense for six years (or longer)? The entire concept of the Senate is getting to become tenuous when you see something like this. Something based on arbitrary state borders? How many states existed with tens of millions of residents when they framed the Constitution?

Visualizing it this way really seals it for me. Unpopulated states simply do not deserve the same Senate representation as the ones where most people live. It’s bullshit. It gives way, way too much influence to places where a close election can be won by a flaming nutcase if the GOP can manage to bus 300 extra octogenarians to voting booths. In California, our two Senators represent 38 million people while Wyoming’s would represent around HALF a million people.

And we know who tends to live in these least populated states…

This is a problem equal to gerrymandering, voter suppression and the Citizens United ruling. Worse, even, in many respects. The electoral college needs to go, too. Now. Perhaps it’s simply time to rethink these matters for the present century—not to mention the country—that we actually live in. That shouldn’t prove controversial, now, should it?

I crack myself up, sometimes…

Via Business Insider, where you can read a list of the 146 counties that half of Americans call home.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
(Real) Terrorism trading cards (for kids)

trading card
Is he smiling? Did they depict him smiling? Are they trying to teach children or haunt their dreams?
 
Millions of children all over the world are forced to learn about terrorism through first-hand experience, often before they’re old enough to grasp the geopolitical context of the violence. But what about those poor kids who grow up without that kind of hands-on education? What’s the best way to fill young minds with the horrors of war, colonialism, and oppression? Why, trading cards, of course! And that’s exactly what the Piedmont Candy Company did in 1987, with… somewhat problematic results.
 
trading card
 
Mussolini was a fascist dictator, and while he used terror tactics during his reign, “fascist dictator” is a higher, more historically relevant ranking. Plus, by 1987, he had been dead for over 40 years. He looks good on a card, but this is clearly phoned it. Try harder, Piedmont Candy Company.
 
trading card
 
“The Irish have been waging war against England for hundreds of years.” Really, Piedmont Candy Company? Really?!? That’s your read on anti-English sentiment among the Irish?
 
trading card
 
I feel like the fact that they mention the “safety” of bombs twice before telling kids how dangerous they are is a bit counterintuitive. (Really kids! Don’t make bombs yourself, but they’re super-safe, so if you happen to come across one, go to town!)
 
trading card
 
To answer your speculative question, no. No, they were not going to bomb the Statue of Liberty. You’re welcome.
 
trading card
 
Call me a snob, but I find it difficult to take your assessment of Iranian politics seriously when you can’t spell “Shiite” correctly.
 
trading cards
 
Jesus fucking Christ!
Lacing children’s candy with ahistoric, fear-mongering propaganda isn’t enough? You have to make them bloodthirsty, too? If you’re trying to turn them into little killing machines, why not just put angel dust, steroids, and bath salts in the chewing gum?
 
trading card
 
Wait, weren’t you just advocating for the liberal use of nuclear weapons?!? “No one is overly anxious to use them!” First of all, I’m quite sure you mean “overly eager,” not “overly anxious.” Second of all, you are overly eager to use them, Piedmont Candy Company! You are the terrifying example of nuke-happy psychos!

The insidious nature of sneaking ignorant, paranoid, violent nationalism into trading cards is baffling, and yet somehow simultaneously totally unsurprising. I wonder if the economic realities of 1987 Detroit didn’t add fuel to the panicked, reactionary fire—international politics have always been a convenient distraction from extreme poverty and wealth inequality. Regardless, I’m somewhat comforted that we’re not seeing anything quite this indoctrinating being lobbed at kids nowadays.

And if there is, please don’t tell me! Let me live in a world where candy is still sweet! 

Via Organic Mechanic

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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