Thanks, Obama!

So today President Obama signed an executive order saying that federal contractors can’t discriminate against LGBT people. This is an excellent thing. It’s made even more excellent that he did it over the objections of religious types who, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling about Hobby Lobby, opined that they should be allowed to discriminate. That’s a bullshit argument. If you want to take federal money, you have to play by federal rules. If you don’t want to play by those rules, don’t take the money. Simple.


Can’t We Please Put This Story to Bed?

About three weeks ago, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared off the radar and landed on CNN’s editorial desk. CNN, and to a lesser extent Fox and MSNBC, has basically been doing wall-to-wall coverage of the missing plane. They break occasionally for an update on Ukraine or the landslide in Oso, WA, but otherwise? All 370, all the time. Hell, the might as well do the obvious and rename one of their shows Anderson Cooper 370.

It is not an exaggeration to say that probably 90% of each hour of coverage is devoted to this plane, which, I remind you, has been missing for three weeks. I’m fairly sure that by the time we’d gone three weeks past 9/11, the media was moving on. But, no, not in this case. Not CNN. They haven’t yet finished all their asinine speculation and rumor-mongering. Even the one show that I actually take time out to sit and pay attention to every week, GPS, has, for the last couple of Sundays, featured someone other than Fareed Zekaria spending 15 minutes out of the show’s hour-long airtime to tell us about the missing plane.

CNN, please knock this shit off. You still have a shred or two of journalistic integrity. You’re still the place that people can tune to if they want relatively unbiased news. Please stop destroying your reputation by continuing this nonsense. I know it’s been great ratings, but please, please stop.

Sic Transit Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967 – 2014


So apparently I’m the only person who was unaware that Philip Seymour Hoffman had a drug problem. This became a very serious problem today, when he was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.

Hoffman first came to the public eye in a big way in 1997 when Boogie Nights was released. From there his career slowly, steadily, improved, culminating in his 2005 Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor in the title role in Capote. He also received numerous other awards and nominations, including three more Oscar nominations.

Hoffman was known for a largely quiet acting style. His characters seldom screamed or acted out. Even his villain characters, such as Owen Davian in the under-rated Mission Impossible III, tended to be quiet characters.

But that quiet apparently hid some serious demons. Hoffman went public with drug problems last year when, after a long span of sobriety, he checked into a rehab center. It seems, sadly, that the rehab was ineffective, as it is believed he died from a heroin overdose.

Hoffman was a brilliant and talented actor who will be severely missed.

Live-Blogging the State of the Union, 2014


7:05pm MST – Well, here we are, ready for another year of blogging the State of the Union. I’m a bit late starting up on this, but they’re still doing the pre-game show, so that’s ok. Why am I late starting? Because I am using a brand-new computer! Yay!

As always, feel free to hit F5 at any time for frequent updates!

7:13 – Watching CBS’ coverage, where someone just made the sage observation that a fifty-year-old man is going grey. What a shock!

7:15 – Starting off by touting all the successes, like higher graduation rates, and lower unemployment rates. Not bad. I’m tired of the “the state of our union is strong!” boilerplate.

7:16 – As he lists off these people and their successes, I can’t help but notice that he doesn’t add, “The billionaire, sitting in his mansion, creating jobs.”

7:19 – Some not subtle jabs at the Republicans for their fiscal irresponsibility. I hope we get more of that.

7:20 – Create new jobs, not new crises. I like the idea, but will the Republicans let that happen?

7:22 – Talking now about the lack of upward mobility and the income inequality. We knew this was going to happen. I’m pleased to see a sitting president take on these issues, but I wonder if it’s something he can do anything about. Let’s see what he suggests.

7:24 – I remain baffled that people can look on this president with hate, and that they can call him some radical socialist. I see a political moderate who is trying the best he can against an insane opposition.

7:26 – Here we go. Incentives for companies to move jobs back to America and a cut to their tax rates. I’m ok with those ideas.

7:29 – Lots of stuff about encouraging innovation. It is important to remember that things like the internet came about because of government investment.

7:31 – Lots of stuff now about natural gas and what a great thing it is. I agree that it has plenty of potential, but like we see in any and all situations like this, we need strong regulation in addition to development of gas.

7:32 – I am all in favor of taxing away tax subsidies for multi-billion dollar oil companies and funneling those off to development of solar. But politicians on both sides are most certainly not in favor of it. We shall see what happens.

7:34 – “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” I am baffled again, because I know, know that is a controversial statement. The mere fact that many Republicans didn’t applaud tells you all you need to know. Sad.

7:37 – Kind of meaningless boilerplate about having the VP head up some group to improve the way we train new workers. We shall see if it comes to anything, but I’m not holding my breath. The stuff about needing to extend unemployment benefits is much more solid.

7:42 – A call for high-quality education for all. That’s basic, but needs to be said. We do have the best educational system in the world…for those who can access private schools. We need to spread that around.

7:43 – To the older generation, having high-speed, broadband internet access sounds like a luxury. To people my age and younger, it’s pretty much a necessity. The internet remains one of the greatest inventions in human history and everyone needs to be able to access it.

7:46 – Good lord. Who is that person wearing orange with green glasses?!

7:48 – Here comes the minimum wage push. Pushing, I should note, not just Congress, but pushing business owners, too.

7:51 – A $10.10 minimum wage would be nice, but I don’t think it is likely. Still, he is right. It would help American workers, and give people more money to spend, thus improving the economy and improving businesses.

7:52 – Hmmmm. A new savings bond idea just for workers to save for retirement. I’m interested. Do tell me more.

7:54 – Personalizing the health care reform is a very smart idea. I know I have coverage I wouldn’t have otherwise, as do my two best friends and my mom.

7:55 – I love that the Republicans are so deep in denial that they can’t even applaud the idea of people not being excluded for pre-existing conditions. What a group of assholes.

8:00 – Here comes the suck-up to the military.

8:04 – Well, now, there’s a thinly-veiled swipe at the way Bush handled Iraq and Afghanistan. Good.

8:05 – Boehner can’t even applaud the idea of protecting privacy?

8:07 – Sucking-up to Israel. That got everyone on their feet!

8:09 – So, check it. We have sanctions against Iran to force them to the negotiating table. Now that is happening, and yet people still don’t think we should be negotiating with them. That seems to include all the Republicans and most Democrats. Sad.

8:16 – I really, really dislike the level of importance the military has in American political life. Do you know, back in the early days of the republic, there was serious discussion about whether or not a healthy democracy should have a standing military? We should, but it needs to be way smaller and have way less influence in our political arenas.

Well, that’s that. A good speech. I think that if the Democrats are smart, they will spend 2014 running on the successes of Obama’s presidency, and running in favor of things like Obamacare. I don’t see that being a losing proposition except in places where Democrats aren’t likely to win anyhow. An all-around great speech.

Does it Matter That She’s a Mother?

Yanira Maldonado was released from a Mexican jail today. She was accused of drug smuggling last week, and arrested. Video footage of her boarding a bus was examined showing she wasn’t carrying any drugs, so she was released. In any rational media environment, that would be that.

But of course we don’t live in a rational media environment. No, this became a big story, with all sorts of hand-wringing about what it might mean for cross-border tourism and the like. Oh, and we were constantly reminded that Moldanado is a “mom” or a “mother of seven” or some other irrelevant information about the fact that she’s reproduced.

For a prime example, look at the headline of this article from Slate. “Arizona Mom Freed From Mexican Jail After Drug-Smuggling Allegations Fall Apart” So much of this is irrelevant to the story. The word “Arizona” doesn’t need to be there. The word “Mom” certainly doesn’t need to be there. How about “American Freed From Mexican Jail…”? Or, better yet, don’t cover this story at all, because it’s very minor, very local news.

This business of mentioning that someone is a mom/mother/grandmother/etc, is not at all uncommon. Just last week I saw some story on the local news about how a “42 year-old grandmother” was shot and killed. Her age? Irrelevant. Her status as a grandmother? Even more irrelevant! I also remember once seeing a movie about voter fraud and a woman in there was described as a “grandmother”.

I know that in this context we use the words “mother” and “grandmother” and the like to elicit sympathy from the audience, but it’s really sexist and not necessary. If a man had been arrested and released in similar circumstances, we might hear him described as “Arizona Man Freed From Mexican Jail…”, but do you really think we’d see “Arizona Father…”? No, of course not, don’t be stupid.

Someone’s gender, parenting status, or age should only be mentioned in a story if they have a bearing on the story itself. Otherwise? Leave it alone.

Media Squeamishness

I’m watching CNN right now. Yeah, I know. But it’s what’s on. Anyhow, Wolf Blitzer just made someone comment about people being killed in drone strikes, saying they are “taken out”.

I hate that phrase.

What’s wrong with saying “killed”? The news media so often go out of their way to avoid using the word, most often using “taken out” in its place. I don’t understand this. I also don’t understand why they continue to say “enhanced interrogation techniques” when they should be saying “torture”. Torture is shorter, and certainly more accurate on a legal and realistic level.

But, whatever, I know this is a losing fight. They’ll do what they do, I’ll bitch about it, wash, rinse, repeat.

Are You Scared Yet? Be Scared! BE SCARED!

I was watching CNN earlier today. Big error on my part, I’ll admit. They were talking about an ongoing situation with a young boy being held hostage by a man who seems to be barking mad. It’s a bad and sad story, but it is not, at least not to be, “terrifying”, which is what one CNN anchor called “scary” and what I call “something that is happening”.

This kind of thing happens all the time. I so wish it would not. I don’t really need the anchors to tell me how I should feel about a story. Tell me what’s happening and let me decide. I don’t need to be told a story is “terrifying”, for example. In this case, it wasn’t terrifying. I’m not in the least bit terrified. Some people may be, but I’m not, and I don’t need CNN telling me that I should be.

I know, I know, I’m overreacting to all this crap, but it does vex me considerably. I still wish it would stop.