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WaPost Critic Blames Hollywood For Santa Barbara Killings



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Movie critic Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post thinks movies like Seth Rogen’s Neighbors and Judd Apatow “comedies” are connected to the mass killing in Santa Barbara. She writes:

As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.

How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?

Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.

As you might expect, Rogen and Apatow are none too pleased

Rogen called the criticism “horribly insulting and misinformed,” while Apatow accused Hornaday of using “tragedy to promote herself with idiotic thoughts.” Oh, and Judd Apatow does have a keen eye for how online journalism works: “They say something shocking and uninformed & get you to click on it to profit.”

You know who else does “something shocking” for “profit?” Hollywood. 

I doubt Rogen or Apatow read the entire piece, however. Hornaday went on to write:

Every year, San Diego State University researcher Martha Lauzen releases a “Celluloid Ceiling” report in which she delivers distressing statistics regarding the state of women in Hollywood. This year, she found that women made up just 16 percent of directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors working on the top 250 movies of 2013; similarly, women accounted for just 15 percent of protagonists in those films.

Weird how this didn’t come up when President Obama was recently in California raising money. How can the president take campaign contributions from such a misogynistic industry? What would Lilly Ledbetter say?

As for Hornaday’s thesis, I don’t buy it and it’s no better than the knee-jerk reactions blaming the tragedy on the NRA. For example, here’s Albert Brooks:

Brooks won’t admit this, but it’s the NRA that has been pushing states to put more Americans with mental health issues into the system that would prevent them from buying a gun. 

When confronted on Twitter, Brooks dismissed the facts from Santa Barbara that three of the victims were killed by a knife and the plan was to kill many more with a car. He then went on to make a joke about AAA lobbying Congress to legalize ”assault towing.” This might be funny if the last movie I saw starring Albert Brooks wasn’t Drive, where characters were killed on screen with guns, knives, and cars. Maybe Hornaday can add Brooks to her list of Hollywood culprits? 

There is a pattern emerging with these incidents, however, and it’s not related to Hollywood culture or the NRA. It’s that killers like the ones in Sandy Hook, Aurora, and now Santa Barbara were under mental-health treatment of some sort and the treatment providers — as well as the killers’ families – missed what was going to happen. And in the case of Santa Barbara, not only did the the mental health-experts miss the warning signs, so did law enforcement officers sent to check on the killer after a request for a “wellness check“ from the killer’s family. 

As much as Hornaday or Brooks want easy answers to assign blame, they’re just not there. 

 

 

 

Ezra Klein Explains ‘The Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency’



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For real, and here is the graphic Vox created for this masterpiece:

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The NYT, Game of Thrones, and Spock



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What was it like in the newsroom when the New York Times fired its editor Jill Abramson? Thankfully we have David Carr of the New York Times to shed some light on the palace intrigue. An excerpt from his piece yesterday:

I have witnessed some fraught moments at The New York Times. Jayson Blair was a friend of mine. I watched Howell Raines fly into a mountain from a very close distance. I saw the newspaper almost tip over when the print business plunged and the company had to borrow money at exorbitant rates from a Mexican billionaire.

But none of that was as surreal as what happened last week. When The Times’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., stood up at a hastily called meeting in the soaring open newsroom where we usually gather to celebrate the Pulitzers and said that Jill was out, we all just looked at one another. How did our workplace suddenly become a particularly bloody episode of “Game of Thrones”?

To expand on Carr’s Game of Thrones reference, this would make Sulzberger Jr. the cruel and dim-witted King Joffrey who only attained his title because of his name. 

Carr continues:

The current mayhem aside, Mr. Sulzberger’s real failing has been picking two editors who ended up not being right for the job.

I was standing there when Howell Raines, taken down by the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, handed over control of the newspaper. There was sadness and anger, but also a measure of dignity. Instead, this has become a grinding spectacle.

This is part of the Abramson story that’s not really getting any attention. The way the Times is set up as a corporation protects Sulzberger as a publisher-king. . .

The Times Company has a dual share structure: Class A stock, which is publicly traded, and a special class of stock, Class B, that allows the Sulzbergers to elect about 70 percent of the company’s board.

At some point, employees and stockholders of the Times need to question if a change in executive leadership is needed, and not just an editorial switch. And those are questions not being asked. For example, Carr wrote that “increases in digital circulation have bought the company some breathing room.” Maybe Carr can ask Sulzberger why anyone subscribes to the Times digitally at all as the paywall to protect digital subscribers can be bypassed simply by using the private or incognito setting on your browser. 

Carr ends with this anecdote regarding his interview with the paper. Think like Spock if you want to work  in King’s Landing at the Times:

Before I came to work here, Gerald Boyd, the crusty — or should I say “pushy”? — managing editor who would eventually be swept up in the Jayson Blair affair, was interviewing me. I could tell it was not going well. He was skeptical of my lack of daily experience and my more noisy tendencies. I finally realized what he was waiting to hear.

“I understand that if I come to work at The New York Times, the needs of the many will frequently supersede the needs of the one,” I said.

I meant it when I said it and I learn the truth of it with each passing day.

Well, since Carr does bring it up, when do the needs of the many at the NYT outweigh the needs of the Sulzberger family?

 

Live-Tracking a Great White Shark off Miami



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I had no idea this existed: real-time shark tracking.

And here’s the track of a great white shark named Katharine as it heads toward Miami:

Local news in Ft. Lauderdale is reporting that it might be the same great white that menaced a diver in this video from a few days ago:

It’s too bad CNN isn’t covering this as “breaking news,” because I think I’d watch it. Especially if they had a helicopter in the air showing how close Katharine was to swimmers. 

Rush Limbaugh Wins ‘Author of the Year’ at Children’s Choice Book Awards



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This should annoy all the right people. Via NPR:

Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh won the “Author of the Year Award” at the Children’s Choice Book Awards for his book Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans, in which Rush Revere and a talking horse named Liberty travel back in time to visit the pilgrims. Although the book has never been a critical favorite — one review accused it of “disdain for even the most rudimentary standards of storytelling” — it has been an enormous commercial success. Four finalists for the award were chosen because of their places on bestseller lists, and the winner was chosen by children’s votes. In response to concerns about the list of finalists announced in March, the prize organizers — Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader -– had released a delicately worded statement: This program has never been about CBC or ECAR endorsing finalists. It has always been about CBC and ECAR endorsing young readers and giving them a choice and a voice on a national scale.” In accepting the honor, Limbaugh said, “I love America. I wish everybody did. I hope everybody will. It’s one of the most fascinating stories in human history. . . . and it’s a delight and it’s an opportunity to try to share that story with young people so they can grow and learn to love and appreciate the country in which they’re growing up and will someday run and lead and inherit.”

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San Diego Reporter vs. DC-10 Supertanker



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You ever wonder what it looks like on the ground when one of those giant jets drop flame-retardant chemicals on a wildfire? Well, now you do, thanks to KUSI TV 9 in San Diego:

 

From the Archives: NYT Editors Pretty Happy with Shinseki Heading the VA



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From December 9, 2008:

General Shinseki, 66, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, has a solid reputation as someone committed to his troops. He is a combat veteran of Vietnam with two Purple Hearts and seems free of the pomposity and hunger for attention that so many military officers carry with them into retirement.

Running Veterans Affairs, the second-largest federal bureaucracy after the Pentagon, is daunting. Not only is the number of wounded veterans growing, but the type of suffering they endure — post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, the two signature afflictions of Iraq and Afghanistan — is often difficult to diagnose and treat. Shifting soldiers from active duty to the V.A. system is supposed to be rapid and seamless, but it has been marred by incompetence, inattention, inadequate funding and bureaucratic sloth. Far too many returning soldiers have gotten lost, with tragic results.

“You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader,” General Shinseki said at the time of his retirement in 2003. “You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it.” Those words were a rebuke to the Bush administration. It is heartening to know that the man who spoke them has been chosen to lead the agency charged with caring for America’s veterans, who deserve far better treatment than the country has given them.

Can the New York Times please comment on the treatment of veterans under Secretary Shinseki?

 

#WarOnWomen at the New York Times



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Capital New York reports:

In an abrupt and unexpected move, The New York Times announced today that executive editor Jill Abramson will be leaving her position in the top masthead slot, to be replaced by her managing editor, Dean Baquet.

A full newsroom meeting was called immediately after the news went out around 2:30 this afternoon in which the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., characterized the change as having been prompted by management issues in the newsroom.

He did not specify the reason precisely, but said it did not have to do with the business side.

“And that’s all I’m going to say about it,” said Sulzberger, according to two sources who were present. “It was an issue of newsroom management.”

The rest here.

CNN Replaces ‘Breaking’ Airplane Coverage with ‘Breaking’ Donald Sterling Coverage



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As with most stories on CNN about the missing airplane, this, too, is not “breaking news”:

 

What We Learned From Yesterday’s Obamacare Hearing



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The New York Times is pretty happy about the testimony of  insurance company executives on Obamacare:

Called by Republicans, Health Insurers Deliver Unexpected Testimony​

House Republicans summoned a half-dozen health insurance executives to a hearing Wednesday envisioned as another forum for criticism of the Affordable Care Act. But insurers refused to go along with the plan, and surprised Republican critics of the law by undercutting some of their arguments against it.

Insurers, appearing before a panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, testified that the law had not led to a government takeover of their industry, as some Republicans had predicted. Indeed, several insurers said their stock prices had increased in the last few years.

The executives also declined to endorse Republican predictions of a sharp increase in insurance premiums next year, saying they did not have enough data or experience to forecast prices. And they said they were already receiving federal subsidy payments intended to make insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income people.

What we learned: the insurance companies are receiving their subsidy payments. But how? We’ve been told that we don’t know the number of people who’ve paid. 

Ah. . .

Representative Bill Johnson, Republican of Ohio, asked the insurers, “Does the administration know who’s paid for their plan?”

Insurance executives said they did not know the answer. Insurers said that they were filing invoices with the government to obtain subsidy payments, but that the government did not yet have an automated financial management system to handle the claims. The government and insurers will reconcile their books at a later date.

The Times doesn’t see a potential problem with this “later date” reconciliation? The “unexpected testimony” is that the share price of insurance companies went up? The entire back-end of the system still isn’t functioning — that’s the real news. 

My Question for Jay Carney on Boko Haram



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Thank, Jay, for calling on me.

The president met with Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan in September, 2013 and said this:

In the northern regions of Nigeria we’ve seen the emergence of one of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world — the Boko Haram.  It presents an extraordinary security challenge for the people of Nigeria, and we want to be cooperative in that process of building capacity inside Nigeria to deal with that terrorist threat, but doing so in a way that is consistent with human rights.  Because we strongly believe that the best way to undermine the agenda of those who would do violence is to make sure that governments are responsive to the needs of people and following rule of law.

Can you tell us what exactly the United States has done to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram over the past eight months?

John Oliver vs. the White House Correspondents’ Dinner



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If you didn’t get a chance to watch Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ dinner, then you missed Susan Rice asking Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty for an autograph. That whole Phil Robertson controversy from last year is just water under the bridge now? Is there anything that summarizes all that is wrong the the intersection of Hollywood, the media, and politics than this?

This hilarious clip from John Oliver’s new HBO show, Last Week Tonight touches on the absurdity of the photo above as well as the overall absurdity of the dinner. Language warning:

 

 

 

Lil’ Blue Eyes Is Fake Blue Eyes?



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Report: MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow wears contact lenses to make his eyes more blue.

I guess you have to accentuate the positive and fake the rest. 

Ronan Farrow: I Focus on ‘Substantive Hard News Coverage’



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Jennifer Vineyard of New York magazine ran into Lil’ Blue Eyes at a party for Time magazine, and asked about his low-rated show on MSNBC. An excerpt:

Farrow said that his show launched at a time when few other cable news programs (except those on MSNBC, obviously) “were hitting a diverse range of substantive topics. It was a time when one story was getting hammered over and over again.” Ronan Farrow Daily, he insisted, did not aim for “low-hanging fruit” but “substantive hard news coverage.”

What he’s saying is that he had the misfortune of launching his show (February 24) just days before the “low-hanging fruit” story of missing Malaysia Airways flight 370 (March 8) and CNN’s airplane coverage ate his lunch.

But that’s the easy excuse. Farrow is 1) guilty of going after his own low-hanging fruit stories; and 2) he’s confusing “substantive hard news coverage” with reporting on current events. Yesterday’s segments were on photoshopped magazine pictures, Donald Sterling, Donald Sterling’s girlfriend, and the execution in Oklahoma. In other words: fruit, fruit, fruit, and a real story. 

Farrow’s coverage of the Oklahoma execution could have been substantive, but in typical MSNBC fashion, Farrow only had one guest to speak about the issue, Mother Jones’s Stephanie Mencimer. Mencimer is no fan of lethal injection, which is fine, but one opinion on a five-minute segment does not count as substantive coverage. 

If Farrow wants to do substantive reporting, by all means, do so. Maybe there’s an audience for that. But Farrow is lying to himself if he really believes his show is special in any way. 

 

 

Comedian Louis C.K. vs. Common Core



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Is the Common Core education standard facing its most vocal, and toughest, critic yet? Maybe so.

Louis C.K., whose child is in the third grade at a NYC public school, is not happy with his daughter’s Common Core homework, and he’s taken to Twitter to make his displeasure known:

The comedian uploaded some of the questions that you can view here.

And the media is taking note:

Politico: Louis C.K. Hits Common Core

Jake Tapper, CNN: You seem very passionate about this. Want to come on my show and discuss your issues w CC as a parent?

New Yorker: Louis C.K. Against the Common Core

NY Daily NewsLouis C.K. blasts Common Core, standardized testing in NYC schools 

New York PostLouis C.K. blasts Common Core, standardized tests

Washington PostLouis C.K.: Common Core makes my kids cry

Um, where was this media attention before Louie’s kid had to take a test? It’s good news that Common Core is getting the attention, but why does it take, in Louis C.K.’s words, “a fat, dumb parent” to get the attention of the national media?

State Department Using Daily Kos, Think Progress to Defend Sec. Kerry’s ‘Apartheid’ Quote



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For real:

Was it too difficult for Psaki to find the Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert quotes on apartheid herself and write her own tweet?

She also tweeted a link to a Think Progress piece from 2013 in her effort to defend John Kerry:

Except, the Think Progress piece actually questions the accuracy and warns of the danger of using “apartheid” when discussing the Israel–Palestinian conflict:

But is the “apartheid” analogy accurate? Larry Derfner from the Israeli English language website +972 Magazine writes:

Myself, I don’t use that term to characterize the occupation because … apartheid was based on race, while the [Israeli] occupation [of the West Bank] is based on nationality and territory. Instead, I prefer terms like “military dictatorship,” “tyranny” and “colonialism.” But I think the similarities between the occupation and apartheid far outweigh the differences – they’re both based on one kind of people “legally” lording it over another kind – so while the term is imprecise, it’s not an insult, or an offense, or, to use a term right-wingers love, a “blood libel.”

Indeed, the term is contentious, and using it in the Israeli-Palestinian context often serves as a tool to shut down debate, as Matt Yglesias once noted on this blog. “The use of the term ‘apartheid’ seems to shut down people’s critical faculties and make them defensive,” he wrote back in 2010. “So I generally prefer to set it aside. The point is that there’s a political system in the West Bank where the Jewish residents have the right to vote, have privileged access to water, have exclusive access to some roadways, have privileged rights to travel, etc., none of which are shared by the non-Jewish residents. You can call it what you like, but it’s not democracy.”

We’ll be hearing more later today, I trust. 

CNN Now the Chicago News Network?



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The Chicago Tribune has a bombshell of a report detailing contact between producers of CNN’s documentary series Chicagoland and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s staff, with the promise from CNN of positive coverage of Emanuel.

The opening salvo:

Emails show Emanuel aides, producers coordinated CNN ‘Chicagoland’ scenes

If it seemed as though some scenes of CNN’s documentary series “Chicagoland” were coordinated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall and the show’s producers, that’s because they were.

More than 700 emails reviewed by the Tribune reveal that the production team worked hand in hand with the mayor’s advisers to develop storylines, arrange specific camera shots and review news releases officially announcing the show.

(See email samples)

Producers asked the mayor’s office to help them set up key interactions in what the cable network has billed as a nonscripted eight-part series, including Emanuel’s visits with the school principal who emerged as a star of the show, emails show.

City Hall’s frequent correspondence with the producers illustrates how senior aides to a mayor known for shaping his media image managed how their boss would be portrayed on CNN to a prime time national audience.

The production team for the series, whose final episode aired Thursday night, told Emanuel’s staff that particular scenes would present the mayor in a positive light, with one of the producers expressing a desire to showcase the mayor “as the star that he really is.”

Creator and executive producer Marc Levin made a pitch to the mayor’s office last May as Emanuel’s hand-picked school board was two days away from a vote to close nearly 50 schools.

“This is a real opportunity to highlight the Mayors leadership – his ability to balance the need for reform and fiscal reality with compassion for affected communities and concern for the safety of Chicago’s school children,” Levin wrote of the school closings to Emanuel senior adviser David Spielfogel and two press aides. “We need the mayor on the phone in his SUV, in city hall with key advisers and his kitchen cabinet and meeting with CPS head BBB (Barbara Byrd-Bennett) and with CPD (Superintendent Garry) McCarthy.”

The first “Chicagoland” episode, televised in March, featured just what Levin had requested: slow-motion images of the mayor climbing into his SUV and talking on his cellphone, and Emanuel’s meetings behind closed doors with Chicago Public Schools CEO Byrd-Bennett and Chicago police Superintendent McCarthy.

The rest from the Tribune here.

Keep in mind Chicagoland is a joint project between CNN and Robert Redford’s Sundance Ventures. Here’s what Redford had to say about the current state of journalism and the importance of Chicagoland back in February:

“Entertainment has overtaken real journalism,” Redford told an audience at January’s Sundance Film Festival. “What we end up with now is sound-bite information, distorted information passing as the truth, too many voices out there interrupting each other, barking like dogs. There’s so much noise out there, and it’s so sound-bit, you don’t hear anything. So you wonder, where are you going to get the truth?”

Redford believes he’s doing his small part by getting into what TV executives like to call the “nonfiction programming business” via his Sundance Productions, cofounded with Laura Michalchyshyn in 2012. But when describing his company’s first project, Chicagoland, an eight-episode series that debuts March 6 on CNN, Redford prefers a more old-fashioned term. “I believe the real truth can come through documentaries,” he says, “because you have the chance, with films like this, to dig in and have more than a second to get information that gets deep into the issue.”

Yes, Robert — where are we going to get the truth? Because Chicagoland ain’t it.

Beyoncé Lands the Cover of Time’s 100 Most Influential Issue



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And here’s the entire list which is really a list of 100 people Time finds interesting rather than a list of the actual “100 most influential people in the world. 

 

From the Archives: Nevadans Using ‘Negro’ in a Sentence



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Since liberals are so keen to point out the horrid comments of Cliven Bundy, I thought I just remind readers of what Sen. Harry Reid said of then-candidate Obama:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) apologized Saturday for referring to President Obama in private conversations during the 2008 presidential campaign as “light-skinned” and as having “no Negro dialect.”

“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” Reid said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans, for my improper comments.”

I expect that, if Bundy apologizes, the Left won’t be as quick to forgive, however.

What Do Bloomberg’s New Anti-Gun Group and Iraqi Propagandists Have in Common?



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Well, for starters, no understanding of what a bullet looks like when it’s fired from a gun. 

Here’s a photo from 2007, with the caption: “An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she says hit her house following an early coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.”

Did someone throw the bullets at the nice old lady? Now note the similarity to the latest from Bloomberg’s group:

And what I wrote about the first picture back in 2007 is as true today as it was then:

I’m no ballistics expert or anything like that, but I do know that when a bullet has been fired, it looks just a little bit different than as pictured above.

If you’re going to put out propaganda, at least make it believable, huh?

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