Talk Radio And The Conservative Fantasy World

I’ve had a number of posts on how the Republicans lost due to being out of touch with reality and making arguments which making voting for them unpalatable to many educated voters. This includes some of the following recent posts:

The Republican Ship of Fools

Republicans and Meshugeneh Jewish Voters

Charlie Cook On The Republican Party’s Loss of Upscale Voters

Christine Todd Whitman Calls for Freeing the GOP From The Social Fundamentalists

Republicans Lost By Fighting the Wrong Battles

The GOP: Celebrating Ignorance

The Onion Has Serious Ideas On Meaning Of Obama’s Victory

The Reality-Based Argument for Barack Obama

These posts have two common  ideas. The Republicans base their arguments on religious dogma and on misinformation spread by the right wing noise machine. Nate Silver looks at this from the perspective of the harm done by talk radio. He begins with an interview with John Ziegler who conducted the rather strange poll I discussed here in which those who did not repeat conservative talking points as fact, even when totally incorrect, were considered to be ignorant. He highlighted a response where Ziegler considered the false conservative claim that Obama “launched his career” in the living room of Bill Ayers:

This might be the key passage of my interview with John Ziegler on Tuesday, for it is, in a nutshell, why conservatives don’t win elections anymore. It is not that conservatism generally permits less nuance than liberalism (in terms of political messaging, that is probably one of conservatism’s strengths). Rather, the key lies in the second passage that I highlighted. There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.

John Ziegler is a shining example of such a conservative. During my interview with him, Ziegler made absolutely no effort to persuade me about the veracity of any of his viewpoints. He simply asserted them — and then became frustrated, paranoid, or vulgar when I rebutted them.

This mindset of believing the right wing talking points and ignoring all evidence that their claims are untrue is common among conservatives. Nate moves into a lengthy discussion of talk radio which is better read in its entirety. A key point is that talk radio concentrates on stimulation to capture the attention of those who are also engaged in other activities while the radio is on as opposed to pursuasion.

Invariably, the times when Ziegler became really, really angry with me during the interview was when I was not permitting him to be stimulating, but instead asking him specific, banal questions that required specific, banal answers. Those questions would have made for terrible radio! And Ziegler had no idea how to answer them.

Stimulation, however, is somewhat the opposite of persuasion. You’re not going to persuade someone of something when you’re (literally, in Ziegler’s case) yelling in their ear.

The McCain campaign was all about stimulation. The Britney Spears ads weren’t persuasive, but they sure were stimulating! “Drill, baby, drill” wasn’t persuasive, but it sure was stimulating! Sarah Palin wasn’t persuasive, but she sure was (literally, in Rich Lowry’s case) stimulating!

Talk radio is only one portion of the right wing noise machine, but it does contribute to the disconnect between conservatives and reality. Talking points which are repeatedly yelled on talk radio are reinforced on Fox, in conservative publications, and blogs. Such repetition replaces any serious attempts at persuasion as well as consideration of the actual facts. Any news outlet which fails to repeat their misconceptions is labeled as part of the liberal media and ignored. This leads to a dwindling number of true believers among conservatives, who are no longer able to meaningfully engage in meaninful discussion of the issues. While they are convinced that their arguments are true, they increasingly lose the support of educated voters who gradually begin to see though them.

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Republicans: Taking Pride in Being Ignorant

Obama has hit back at the Republicans who have been distorting Obama’s energy policy by dwelling on his comment on the energy savings from keeping tires properly inflated. This attack on Obama fails because, not only are they misrepresenting Obama’s views by claiming this is his sole policy, but because there actually are benefits from proper tire inflation. Obama has responded:

“Let me make a point about efficiency, because my Republican opponents – they don’t like to talk about efficiency,” Obama said.

“You know the other day I was in a town hall meeting and I laid out my plans for investing $15 billion a year in energy efficient cars and a new electricity grid and somebody said, ‘well, what can I do? what can individuals do?’ Obama recalled.

“So I told them something simple,” Obama said. “I said, ‘You know what? You can inflate your tires to the proper levels and that if everybody in America inflated their tires to the proper level, we would actually probably save more oil than all the oil we’d get from John McCain drilling right below his feet there, or wherever he was going to drill.'”

“So now the Republicans are going around – this is the kind of thing they do. I don’t understand it! They’re going around, they’re sending like little tire gauges, making fun of this idea as if this is ‘Barack Obama’s energy plan.’

“Now two points, one, they know they’re lying about what my energy plan is, but the other thing is they’re making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 to 4 percent. It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

“You know, they think it is funny that they are making fun of something that is actually true. They need to do their homework. Because this is serious business. Instead of running ads about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears they should go talk to some energy experts and actually make a difference.”

Maybe the Republicans really do take pride in being ignorant. Just consider the types of things many of them think. Some still believe there was WMD in Iraq or that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack. Some are ignorant of science and believe that intelligent design or creationism is a valid alternative to evolution. Some also demonstrate their ignorance of science by believing that the scientific consensus on climate change can be ignored because they don’t like the findings. Some are so ignorant of our own history that they are unaware of the intent of the founding fathers to create a secular government with separation of church and state. Some are so ignorant of economics that they really think that all tax cuts will pay for themselves and do not realize that this is just a con used by those who want to pay lower taxes at the time without regard for the fiscal consequences. The really ignorant ones believe all the conservative smears against Obama, just as they believed the Swift  Boat Liars and other smears against John Kerry in 2004.

Obama really is on to something in this response. Without ignorance we couldn’t even have the current Republican Party.

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McCain’s Use of the Race Card

Joe Trippi (via Marc Ambinder) has an astute comment on how John McCain managed to get race into the campaign while appearing to take the high road to those who aren’t paying close attention to what McCain has been pulling:

It appears to me that the McCain campaign may be executing a classic “Race? Not me!” campaign.

The past 24 hours reflect exactly how to pull it off with nary a fingerprint that matters.

First you help inject race into the campaign and raise its focus as an issue (as the McCain campaign did yesterday with a little door opening from Obama himself).

Second – this unleashes energy and anger in the African American community (energy that often the African American candidate, Obama, can not control).  Leaders like James Clyburn take to the airwaves – and cable channels have two African Americans debate who is or isn’t raising race.   In any case black faces dominate the cable airwaves and some of those faces are angry.

Third – McCain then appears to speak in front of an all black audience.  White swing voters think “see, he isn’t racist”.  And if the crowd applauds so much the better, if it boos him for tactics real or imagined white swing voters see a white guy “who is at least trying” and angry blacks who are not being duly appreciative – either way it isn’t good for Obama.
Coincidence?

Ever since McCain’s NAACP speech that seemed to me to be directed at white swing voters and not at African Americans I have believed that the McCain campaign is adept at understanding how to raise race as an issue and use it to its advantage.  Is a pattern emerging?

It was actually a smart move politically from McCain to respond to Obama as he did on race. While race has been used against Obama from many sources, from the Clinton campaign to conservative email attacks, the McCain campaign had not been able to openly use race until now. They needed an opening to bring race into the campaign while still maintaining the ability to deny doing so. Melissa McEwan describes this as the political equivalent of blowing a dog whistle writing, “As a literal dog whistle emits a pitch that only dogs can hear, a political dog whistle sends a message that only a particular constituency will hear (or intuitively understand).”

Such is the case with John McCain’s campaign advert conflating Barack Obama’s candidacy and person with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (which can be viewed here). On its face, it’s an obvious editorial on Obama’s intelligence and competency, as his image is juxtaposed with two women alleged to be airheads while the voiceover intones: “Is he ready to lead?” And naturally there is an element of commentary on whether he is undeserving and entitled, with which Hilton and Spears are routinely charged. Famous for no reason, just a pretty face, the ad implies.

But loitering below the ostensibly substantive critique is something more nefarious. It’s no coincidence that it wasn’t the vacuous tabloid fixture Spencer Pratt or the “American Idol” punchline Sanjaya Malakar who appear in the advert – and it’s not because they’re not famous enough. For it was also not Scarlett Johansson chosen for the advert, who famously supports him, has campaigned with him, and whose twin brother works for him, despite her being arguably as recognizable as Hilton and Spears – and it’s not because she’s not young, blonde, or beautiful enough.

It because neither Pratt, nor Malakar, nor Johansson have personas that are the perfect combination of no brains, no talent, and all slut.

Obama, dog whistles the ad, hitting old racists in the sweet spot, could fuck these white girls – it’s practically a Democratic tradition … JFK, Clinton, heck even Carter lusted in his heart – and we don’t want that, now, do we?

It recalls the despicable “bimbo ad” used against black senate candidate Harold Ford in Tennessee, in which a white actress was hired to claim she’d met Ford at a Playboy party and asked the candidate to “call me,” playing on deeply-ingrained and ancient biases about interracial sex. But the difference between the “bimbo ad” (which was also a Republican production) and the McCain advert is that the former was explicit in its miscegenation message, whereas the latter is more, well, dog-whistly. And its deliberate obliqueness has set in motion a series of events that’s all too familiar to feminists, LGBTQI activists, civil rights activists, and various other social justice advocates.

The dog whistle piques them with something the average person won’t see as bigoted, but that the constituency for which they advocate (and/or of which they’re a part) will expect them to call out, because they instantly spy it and recognize it for what it is; they’ve heard the tune of that particular string being plucked their whole lives. Then whoever calls it out is marginalized as a hysteric, over-reactionary, looking to get offended, etc.

And that’s exactly how the game has played out here. McCain piques Obama and his constituency, Obama responds, McCain and the rightwing accuse Obama of playing the race card, his opponents unleash their new favorite battle cry: “You can’t criticize Obama without being called a racist.” Clockwork.

Josh Marshall more briefly sums up the strategy:

Let’s see how this works. McCain runs his Britney/Paris ad on the alleged but improbable basis that they’re the #2 and #3 celebs in the world, according to Rick Davis. McCain camp seizes on Obama statement that Obama has made multiple times before, accuses him of playing “race card”. Now McCain repeats Race Card, Race Card, Race Card a hundred times.

McCain has made the strategic decision that he can only win the election on the basis of Obama as friend of terrorists, unpatriotic suspicious outsider and radical, black guy who’s really more a flashy showbiz star (call it playing the Diddy card) than someone with the heft to be president. He’s probably right. That’s his only chance. And it may work.

While much of the media has gone along with uncritically reporting McCain’s charges, The New York Times was not fooled:

We know that operatives in modern-day presidential campaigns are supposed to say things that everyone knows are ridiculous — and to do it with a straight face.

Still, there was something surreal, and offensive, about today’s soundbite from the campaign of Senator John McCain.

The presumptive Republican nominee has embarked on a bare-knuckled barrage of negative advertising aimed at belittling Mr. Obama. The most recent ad compares the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton — suggesting to voters that he’s nothing more than a bubble-headed, publicity-seeking celebrity.

The ad gave us an uneasy feeling that the McCain campaign was starting up the same sort of racially tinged attack on Mr. Obama that Republican operatives ran against Harold Ford, a black candidate for Senate in Tennessee in 2006. That assault, too, began with videos juxtaposing Mr. Ford with young, white women.

Mr. Obama called Mr. McCain on the ploy, saying, quite rightly, that the Republicans are trying to scare voters by pointing out that he “doesn’t look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills.’’

But Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, had a snappy answer. “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” he said. “It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.’’

The retort was, we must say, not only contemptible, but shrewd. It puts the sin for the racial attack not on those who made it, but on the victim of the attack.

It also — and we wish this were coincidence, but we doubt it — conjurs up another loaded racial image.

The phrase dealing the race card “from the bottom of the deck” entered the national lexicon during the O.J. Simpson saga. Robert Shapiro, one of Mr. Simpson’s lawyers, famously declared of himself, Johnny Cochran and the rest of the Simpson defense team, “Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck.”

It’s ugly stuff. How about we leave Britney, Paris, and O.J. out of this — and have a presidential campaign?

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John McCain’s Obsession with Paris Hilton

Is John McCain obsessed with Paris Hilton? McCain has once again dragged Paris into politics. First Read reports, “In its latest TV ad hitting Obama, the McCain campaign calls Obama the “biggest celebrity in the world” — and in the process shows clips of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.” Josh Marshall comments on McCain’s strategy:

I note with interest today, John McCain’s new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women. (See today’s new ad and this from yesterday.) Presumably, a la Harold Ford 2006, this will be one of those strategies that will be a matter of deep dispute during the campaign and later treated as transparent and obvious once the campaign is concluded…

As I alluded to at the top of this post, it is the norm that obvious campaign tactics that are treated as obvious after a campaign is over are nonetheless treated by most reporters as ambiguous or unclear during a campaign. But in this case it would be nice if that were not the case. Because here we have a candidate, John McCain, who is running on a record of straight talk and honorable campaigning running a campaign made up mainly of charges reporters are now more or less acknowledging are lies. But there’s precious little drawing together of the contradiction. What’s more, as everyone will acknowledge after the campaign, the McCain campaign is now pushing the caricature of Obama as a uppity young black man whose presumptuousness is displayed not only in taking on airs above his station but also in a taste for young white women.

So please keep an eye out for references to Obama’s presumptuousness, arrogance, etc., from John King and other reporters. Let us know when you see them and send us in examples — in text or video. McCain gets to run the campaign he wants. Remember, he hired the operative who put together the Ford/Bimbo ad. But I want to keep tabs on which reporters are helping him retail the message.

Alex Koppelman comments further on the ad, which also includes some factual errors in other attacks on Obama–such factually incorrect attack ads being part of yet another trend from the McCain campaign.

McCain’s obsession with Paris Hilton began well before this latest campaign tactic. Back in 2007, when visiting Iraq while wearing a bullet proof vest and surrounded by troops, McCain claimed that conditions were so safe that “even Paris Hilton could ride a bicycle in a bikini through Anbar province.” If it was safe enough for Paris to be dressed as above, how come McCain dressed like this:

While McCain keeps bringing up Paris Hilton, Obama has actually avoided connection to celebrities. Back in December, 2006 Lindsay Lohan appealed to Obama, along with Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, for help in cleaning up her image.

All three declined to help Lohan, leading TMZ to accuse Obama of wimping out for taking a pass on that one.

Obama was also uncomfortable with the attention from Amber Lee Ettinger, who made the Obama Girl videos.

Obama expressed discomfort with the videos in an interview with AP:

Obama says his 6-year-old daughter Sasha has noticed news coverage of the video.

“Sasha asked Mommy about it,” Obama said Monday. “She said, ‘Daddy already has a wife’ or something like that.”

Sen. Obama, D-Ill., said he knows the video was meant to be lighthearted, but he wasn’t smiling when asked about it in an interview with The Associated Press.

“I guess it’s too much to ask, but you do wish people would think about what impact their actions have on kids and families,” Obama said.

“This is part of the process of politics that can be difficult, (that) is making sure that your kids and your wife and your family are insulated from both things like this and what I suspect will be at some point some negative campaigning,” Obama said.

Despite McCain’s claims, it appears that he, and not Obama, is the one who likes to bring up celebrities. (Personally I don’t mind an occasional reference to celebrities in politics, as a post such as this should be good for several hundred extra hits.)

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Disney Risks New Scandal From Revealing Pictures

Disney is once again facing a potential scandal over one of their starlets posing in a revealing picture. Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) posed with a sheet covering her topless chest for Vanity Fair (above). The picture, taken by Annie Leibovitz, was not seen as a problem when taken but is now raising concern due to the young age of the audience for Hannah Montana.

It is doubtful that this single picture, which is rather tame, will have a significant effect. While they are bound to be more careful with a star which is aimed at the 6 to 14 year old audience, Disney has faced far more serious cases of their female stars having revealing pictures taken. Last September pictures of High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens with full frontal nudity wound up on line. Not to be left out, her High School Musical rival Ashley Tisdale (below) has also had a some less revealing but still not standard Disney “nipple-slip” pictures appear on line.

These cases are trivial compared to the two most prominent sleazy former Disney starlets. Former Mouseketeer Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, who has appeared in Disney movies such as the remakes of Parent Trap and Freaky Friday, have been photographed in manners which guarantee a permanent exile from the Magic Kingdom. Incidentally, Britney will be returning to How I Met Your Mother on May 12, presumably to once again be upstaged by Sarah Chalke.

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SciFi Friday: Torchwood Secrets; Grabbing Tricia Helfer; More Lost; And More Sarah Chalke

This will be an abbreviated edition of SciFi Friday as I’m off on vacation and haven’t actually seen any shows since last week’s installment.

Torchwood begins the two part season finale on BBC America. This is a must see episode which reveals more information on how the various members of Torchwood (prior to Gwen) were recruited–including Jack. (This is one show I’ve seen after downloading it following its BBC airing.)

Doctor Who goes to Pompeii and Spoiler TV has some promotional pictures.

Battlestar Galactica is coming close to ending and Fox has decided to grab Tricia Helfer.

Rumor has it that the producers of Lost are trying to have an additional episode added this season. Presumably this means that the abbreviated season was too short to properly tell the story they have planned. If that is the case, I hope they are successful in getting the additional hour.

Sarah Chalke might be returning for further episodes of How I Met Your Mother, fueling speculation that she might be the girl with the yellow umbrella (a.k.a. the future Mrs. Ted Mosby.) There’s no word as to whether Britney Spears will be returning has her love sick receptionist. Neil Patrick Harris votes no.

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SciFi Friday (Saturday Edition): Jericho, Torchwood, and Britney

It was a slow week with Lost on hiatus, Torchwood off for a week on the BBC, and shows such as Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica being on the verge of returning with new episodes. Battlestar Galactica is airing a recap show in case someone wants to begin watching with the final season. (You will still have missed quite a bit with a thirty minute recap only touching the surface.)

The major event of the week was the series finale of Jericho. The finale, Patriots and Tyrants, had to wrap up a series which had already been condensed into seven episodes. My suspicion is that the season would have been much better if there was more time for each plot thread to play out as opposed to quickly presenting major events before fully seeing the impact on prior events.

The ending left things open for a continuation, with there remaining some possibility that the SciFi Channel or CW might pick up the series. This is hardly surprising as even though they did not leave without a cliff hanger they had created a country which was drastically changed, leaving plenty of room for future development. Executive Producer Carol Barbee provided some information as to what the finale would have been like if they had gone with the other ending prepared for if the show had been picked up. The show’s official web site also contains photos from the episode with a scene I do not recall (one above) making me wonder if it is something which was present in the other version.

One aspect of the rushed season I didn’t like was the minimal treatment of the John Smith subplot. It came as no surprise that he turned out to be a bad guy but we ultimately found out too little about him. In many ways his addition actually weakened the narrative for the final episodes. Jericho was becoming a commentary on Iraq and contemporary America with Jennings and Rall taking on the role of an even more powerful Halliburton. The viewers, and later characters like Beck, saw that something was rotten with the new government and there was the implication that there was a connection between them and the destruction of twenty-three American cities.

Until John Smith took credit for the nuclear explosions, the suspicion was that Jennings and Rall might have been responsible for the attack in order to take over. Instead John Smith claimed he did so in order to rid the country of the influence of Jennings and Rall. This still leaves the Allied States government with problems, but they are not as evil as they were appearing at one point. Without time to develop Smith, it would have been better for the attack to have come from J&R as at least we would have had known something about them. In John Smith’s case we saw far too little of the person who was identified to be the show’s ultimate villain.

Another question is why the bomb was brought to Cheyenne as opposed to a military base, especially considering that it was being transported out of the city shortly after it arrived. This was clearly done to give them an excuse to show Cheyenne, but it helped reduce the believability of the finale. The conclusion in which Texas is expected to join with the Columbus government in a civil war against Cheyenne would have been stronger if we had seen more evidence that the other two governments did not suffer from problems similar to those in Cheyenne. How does Jake and Hawkins really know that the other two would turn out any better?


Torchwood only has one more episode this season (with others still to be shown on BBC America) but it looks like there will be a bonus episode which we do not get to actually see. Digital Spy reports:

Bridging the gap between an apparently apocalyptic end to its second season and the potentially-revamped third, sexy alien-hunter show Torchwood is making the jump to radio. A special one-off episode about the secret organization that guards a “temporal rift” in Cardiff will be transmitted on BBC Radio 4 this summer — and it happens to be oddly topical, if you’re a science geek.

In the 45 minute episode, to be broadcast in Radio 4’s traditional “Afternoon Play” slot, the Torchwood team – portrayed by their television cast – will deal with a mission revolving around a particle accelerator. Why a particle accelerator, you ask? Well, because the episode will be transmitted on the same day as the opening of the world’s biggest particle accelerator in Switzerland, and if nothing else, Radio 4 likes to keep up with what’s happening in the world.

Having Britney Spears on How I Met Your Mother might have paid off as it led to the highest ratings for the season and greatly increasing its chances for renewal. Otherwise the episode was a disappointment, with Sarah Chalke (who replace Alicia Silverstone, who was originally planned to appear) having a much more significant role. Britney was undoubtedly added purely for her name and her minor role could have easily been filled by an unknown actress.

I expected more of her role considering her guest appearance on Will and Grace. On Will and Grace she started out appearing to be a conservative but then revealed that this was just an act as she said, “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.” Imagine Barney’s reaction to this type of Britney Spears character.

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SciFi Friday: Emmy Awards, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Spoilers for 24 and Sex in the City, and Does Vanessa Go Wild?

There were several Emmy nominations for genre shows, but the only winner last Sunday night was Terry O’Quinn who won as Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in Lost. While some were disappointed, the nominations themselves are also a form of recognition. I think they got it right in including Ron Moore in a group of top writers including David Chase, but it was no surprise that Chase came in first. Similarly Heroes is a good show and did well to get a nomination, but it didn’t stand a chance to win as best drama against Sopranos. While Battlestar Galactica got shut out on the main Emmy night, they did pick up a “Creative Emmy” for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The award came for showing Galactica falling through the planet’s atmosphere in Exodus, Part 2.


TV Week reports that SciFi Channel is continuing to consider dividing up the final season of Battlestar Galactica for financial reasons:

As is often the case with the lavishly produced series, the issue is “the money people,” as one executive put it. Since “Battlestar” eats a considerable portion of the Sci Fi programming budget, the network might be forced to spread the resulting product across two seasons.

Showrunner Ron Moore shrugged off the issue. “It doesn’t affect my job either way, since we’re shooting it straight through,” he says. “It might be better to get it all done [in the same year] for the fans so they don’t have to wait.”

Waiting might be difficult:

With “Battlestar” fans already waiting about a year for the return of the series — not counting the two-hour “Razor” stand-alone movie coming this fall — returning with only 10 episodes could spark a revolt.

Moore’s storyline also could make fans demand rapid closure, one person close to the project says, since “when people see the ending of the 10th episode, they’re gonna freak out.”

The final decision might not come until January. A key factor is what new shows are in the pipeline that could be paired with “Galactica” – and how much those shows will cost.

Among the shows being considered is Caprica, the prequel to BSG. They are also considering filming the two hour pilot to sell on DVD regardless of whether they produce the entire series, especially if this fall’s BSG movie does well.

SciFi Pulse has an interview with Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. He is concerned about the movie being a prequel:

I am concerned about them doing a prequel because it’s always tricky to do a prequel. There were a lot of issues with Enterprise because Enterprise was going against pre – established things and it’s always tough when you go against pre – established things. So I’m happy he’s doing it. I’d prefer them, when I say them I mean Paramount and everyone to wait a few years. I’m hesitant on the prequel. You see I have not read a script. Paramount does not have to give me a script; no one has to give me a script to read to get my approval. I would like to read it but I think they know that I speak my mind for the most part. So if I thought it were a bad script I would probably say something along the lines of, ‘Huh you know it’s a good Star Trek’ as apposed to ‘Yeah everyone has to go see it. Everyone has to go see it.’ And the fans have given my family a lot of clout and I think that to some degree has given me a lot of clout. So I think that a lot of people respect what I say to a degree and if I didn’t have anything good to say about it I think they’d be scared.

I was opposed to doing an entire prequel series as with Enterprise, but for the movie I don’t think they have much choice. As there isn’t a recent successful television show to base the next movie on, the best chance for a mass market success comes from returning to the most well known characters including Kirk and Spock. If the movie does well, I hope it leads to a new Star Trek television series, preferably taking place on a Starship and occurring after the events of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. A television show can build a new following, but a movie does not have that luxury.

A web site for the Doctor Who spin off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, is now on line and they are no longer blocking those of us outside of the UK from seeing it. There’s no word as to whether it will air on American television. Currently the SciFi Channel carries Doctor Who, BBC America caries Torchwood (as well as previous seasons of Doctor Who) and HDNet carries Torchwood nine days after the episode is seen on BBC America. Therefore, unless I get to the point where I cannot wait to see what happens next, posts on Torchwood will be postponed until after it is shown in HD. Of course if it turns out to get so good that it becomes difficult to wait, I’ll just download the first season as I did to avoid waiting to see Doctor Who this season. The consensus appears to be that the show gets much better over time.

Tonight SciFI Channel broadcasts Utopia, which leads into the final two episodes of the season on Doctor Who. I previously reviewed Utopia here. Many items from earlier in the season play a part in the season finale, including even more than I first suspected from Utopia. The episode is also notable for the return of Captain Jack for the final three episode arc, taking place after the first season of Torchwood.

Geeks of Doom has a preview of the new version of The Bionic Woman:

Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is having a tough time of things, but she’s making it work for her. She has to deal with her bratty little sister (Lucy Hale), a crappy job, and not much of a future, but she has a nice guy in Dr. Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), a noted professor who works in prosthetics and reconstructive surgery. Things take a turn for the worse when Jaime and Will are in a terrible accident. Will is fine, but Jaime has massive injuries, and ends up losing her legs, right arm, right ear, and right eye. That’s when the boyfriend goes to work, and gives her new body parts. Of course as happened to Steve Summers in the Venture Brothers, the government expects her to pay for her new limbs. Do you know how long it takes to pay back 50 million dollars on a government salary? But seriously, she escapes from the hospital only to run into another bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff) and becomes embroiled in a variety of mysteries. Who is her new boss (Miguel Ferrer)? What is the other bionic woman’s agenda? What do some of these other scenes mean?

What the creators have done well here is create a good mystery series. There are conspiracies within conspiracies, and a lot of things to keep the viewer coming back for more. There’s so much going on that I discovered new connections on a second viewing. The angle with Jaime working for the organization that gave her the powers sets up a decent enough storytelling engine, as long as the creators can come up with valid threats for her to fight on a weekly basis. Fights with other enhanced people could wear thin quickly though, so they’ll need to come up with various enemies that are legitimate challenges for her. But it’s the underlying mystery that really drives the drama forward. Much like BSG, the big questions make me want to watch the second episode, and if done well, will keep me on for the third and the fourth and the whole season. I’m forced to keep coming back to BSG, but the creators have borrowed so heavily from it that it’s hard not to make the comparison (especially since creator David Eick is also a producer on BSG).

vanessa_01.jpg
Google searches for Vanessa Hudgens are greatly surpassing Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in hits to the site following the item two weeks ago on the nude pictures of the star of the High School Musical being released on line. Disney is still sticking with her. After all, compared to former Mouseketeer Britney Spears, Vanessa still looks respectable. There are rumors floating around that Hudgens is considering posing nude in a men’s magazine and that she has been offered $500,000 to appear in a Girls Gone Wild video. I suspect there is a limit to what Disney will forgive. Besides, how much will people really pay to see what has been available on line to see for free?

Fox has issued a press release with a minor spoiler about the upcoming season of 24:

Bauer’s day gets off to a shocking start when former colleague Tony Almeida (played by Carlos Bernard), last seen in Day 5, returns after being left for dead by a terrorist conspirator in CTU’s infirmary.

The Sex and The City movie started filming this week, taking place four years after the events of the television show. Thanks to a cell phone camera we have a spoiler from the filming. The picture shows a very pregnant Charlotte talking to Big:

charlotte-pregnant.jpg

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World Net Daily Attacks The Democratic Daily Over Violence and Porn–What Irony

The irony of this blog debate was just too much to ignore after a reader emailed the links. Last year, when Mel Gibson was in the news, I quoted Gibson saying about Frank Rich, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick… I want to kill his dog.” The Democratic Daily, where my criticism of Gibson was unwelcome from the start, used this as an excuse to shut down discussion of anti-Semitism and criticism of Holocaust denial. Their line was that I was promoting violence–ignoring the fact that this was a quote from Mel Gibson, the subject of my criticism. Less than a year later, The Democratic Daily is in the news, at least at World Net Daily, for advocating violence:

A Democratic Party blogger says he wants to shoot Rush Limbaugh and is calling for volunteers to assassinate rock star Ted Nugent, who champions the Second Amendment.

Hart Williams, a former writer for porn magazine Hustler and who now toils for the Democratic Daily, was waxing incoherent about a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Nugent, complaining that it was likely ghost-written.

“How we can remain ‘civil’ in the face of this is beyond my ken,” wrote Williams. “I will only reiterate what I’ve said WHEN they manage to inevitably push their litany of hatespeak into actual bloodletting, and full-blown civil war (for there is no other place that this hatred of American against American can go), well … I’ve got dibs on Rush, as soon as it’s legal and lawful to shoot him. Whoever wants Ted Nugent is welcome to him, but I would prefer that you would call it now, so as to conserve on ammunition. We will need to manage it prudently. But when the day comes that they have finally set brother against brother, and sister against sister in the name of their pocketbooks, I won’t approach exterminating them with anything approaching remorse. They’ve already told me what they think of me, of my friends and of my peers. Now, I’m returning the favor. Put that in your pipe and have the WSJ editorial staff show you how to smoke it, Nugent. Courage.”

The article by Ted Nugent which provoked such a violent reaction is here. Some may disagree with it, but writing this hardly makes one deserve the death penalty. The irony, that The Democratic Daily is fine with advocacy of violence as long as it doesn’t involve criticism of Mel Gibson, is just the start. They’ve launched attacks against me for posts including this cover of Harper’s Bazaar featuring pregnant and nude Britney Spears (with hands strategically placed to allow open sales of the magazine). More recently some of the writers there launched an attack for “misogeny” using a post mocking Lindsay Lohan in which a nipple is vaguely visible as their evidence. Of course, by their standards, most of the popular press would be also be guilty.

So, by the some-time standards of The Democratic Daily I’m a pornographer. In light of those attacks, it was amusing to learn that Hart Williams is a former writer for Hustler. Apparently these rather tame pictures of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are pornography and evidence of hating women, but Hustler is perfectly acceptable.

As I suspect readers have realized by now, Hart Williams is the same blogger who thinks he was being clever in claiming I wrote the exact opposite of what I wrote, and then refuting this straw man by drawing out astrological charts. Attacking straw men, along with ad hominem attacks, is quite common when they aren’t advocating out right shootings.

The Democratic Daily has milked this publicity with a number of follow up posts, including one bragging that they have also called for the killing of George Bush and pointing out this selection from a previous post:

Pragmatism can be a form of obfuscation, too. While one should not be principled to a fault, neither should one default on all one’s principles. Values DO matter, the GOP misuse of the term notwithstanding.

I’m very pragmatic about wanting to see Bush hung by the neck until dead — as we hung the defendants at Nuremberg, for many of the same crimes — at high noon on the Washington Mall.

While most liberal bloggers have a pretty low opinion of George Bush (regardless of whether they advocate hanging him by the neck until dead–personally I’d settle for life in prison) I imagine they must hate him even more than most of us. After all, before this controversy, they were also criticized from the right when conservative blogs mocked their belief that George Bush, and not al Qaeda, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks (and note who even added his words of “wisdom” to the comments when I reported on that).

Update: More conservative blogs have picked this story up, unfortunately presenting the advocacy of violence at The Democratic Daily as being representative of liberal thought. Even Sean Hannity quoted from the post on his show–probably being the closest I’ve ever come to agreeing with him.

There appear to be two defenses offered, neither of which holds up. Bloggers at The Democratic Daily argue that Ann Coulter and other conservative writers have advocated similar violence. Even if true, this does not justify others in advocating violence.

They also protest that they are only advocating shooting people when it is made legal, which shows a warped view of morality. Ethical people do not shoot others because to do so is felt to be wrong, and not simply because it is illegal.

Of course Pamela posts her usual attack on Liberal Values, again pretending to be the innocent victim despite all the smears originating from her blog. As usual, she attributes statements to me which I have not expressed, and comes up with yet another distorted account of events.

As always, I criticize the lunacy of both the extreme left and right, including the advocacy of violence and hatred which is seen at The Democratic Daily. This is a sad progression from the atmosphere there where only limited viewpoints may be expressed, and anyone who disagrees is evil and must be purged. The support of anti-Semitism which caused me to leave The Democratic Daily had nothing to do with accepting Mel Gibson’s apology, as she now claims, but was over Pamela’s defense of Gibson, her objection to my criticism of him, and her views on Holocaust denial. For Pamela to fall back on her long standing claims that my protest of the anti-Semitism, promotion of astrolgoy, and conspiracy theories at The Democratic Daily is based upon sexism is just plain pathetic. I criticize such views regardless of who they come from.

Update II: There’s much more on the attacks from The Democratic Daily discussed in the comments including further attacks coming after this post.

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Poodle Balling and Blogging

This began as a brief discussion in the comments on another post, but which has shifted to some interesting discussion on blog traffic, stat counters, and RSS feeds with a few bloggers by email. It raised a number of points which I though should be elevated from the comments to a main post. This began when I was alerted of a slur elsewhere. While I haven’t verified this, the points raised remain of interest even if the attack didn’t actually occur.

The discussion began with reports of a claim being made that Liberal Values gets most of its hits by searches for “poodle balling.” If so, that would be the interpretation of someone who is ignorant of both math and how search engines work.

At the time of the first comment, 84 out of the last 4000 hits came from searches for “poodle balling.” Poodle balling is mentioned on the blog due to quoting from the episode of Will and Grace with Britney Spears. Britney plays a character who acts as if she is a right winger, but then confesses: “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”

As a consequence of quoting this, about 2% of the hits involved searches for poodle balling. As this is a specific phrase, those looking for it generally put ‘poodle balling’ into the search engine exactly the same way. There are also thousands of searches based on specific political questions. These account for the vast majority of searches to the blog, but each individual search was only used once or twice, so these don’t rank as high as searches for ‘poodle balling’ or for other leading searches such as Paris Hilton and Heroes.

Incidentally, one of the top searches at the blog where this claim was allegedly made is for “Ann Coulter Nude.” Before anyone gets too excited, or repulsed, it is a picture of a monster without clothes. (Literally a monster, not Ann Coulter.)

This is one of the reasons I pay more attention to RSS subscribers than hits on the blog. Those who subscribe to the RSS feed are interested in the content of the blog. With search engine hits we get primarily people searching for meaningful comments, but there’s always a fair number of other searches. That is not to say that looking for discussion of Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace isn’t a decent reason to search for the blog. After all, there is a substantial amount here on non-political topics such as television, and Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace did have its political aspects.

It’s also interesting to look at search words ranked by visit length as opposed to visit number. As people looking for non-political topics generally visit briefly, the topics on this search are generally more serious ones. Current top searches include “growing libertarianism among the liberals” and individuals such as Ron Paul, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. However “poodle balling” still leads this list, indicating that people searching for “poodle balling” wound up reading much more of the blog.

The portion above was already noted in the comments, but this raised more questions regarding RSS readers as opposed to stat counters and the strategy of using RSS readers. Some argued for only placing a portion of a blog post on the RSS feed, forcing readers to click through to the main post. In contrast, I have preferred to place the entire post on the feed. My feeling is that I would rather have 3000 people reading the entire post on in their RSS reader, as opposed to stopping at the end of a brief excerpt, and it doesn’t matter whether they click through and are seen by the stat counter. Of course those who hope to maximize ad revenue by increasing hits may have reason to limit what is on the RSS feed.

Another topic of debate was the value of page loads versus unique readers, and there was really no clear answer. On the one hand, fifteen separate people who come to read the blog might be more meaningful than one person checking the comments to a post fifteen times during the day. On the other hand, one person who follows the links and reads fifteen old posts is more meaningful than fifteen people who quickly come from a search engine but wind up not reading much on the blog. Even that is difficult to determine since, as I noted above, even many of the people searching for “poodle balling” wound up sticking around to read more of the blog.

It’s almost a running joke in the blogoshere that if you put up a picture of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan the hits will increase. We seemed to have figured out a little more as to why that sometimes happens and sometimes does not. The major variable appears to be how the picture comes up in search engines such as Google and MSN which allow searches for pictures. There are typically multiple copies of each photo on line, and some sites with the picture wind up coming up earlier and some several pages back, obviously determining whether this results in a flood of hits. Nobody involved in the discussion was clear on how this worked, but most likely it involves the usual web search karma which determines what winds up higher in a search.

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