Monday, April 24, 2017

Media Ownership Matters

One issue that doesn’t seem to get much attention is the ongoing consolidation of media ownership. 

There used to be strict rules about media ownership, with rules limiting the number of TV stations, radio stations and newspapers any one company could own, with special attention toward owning multiple outlets in one market.

I saw in the paper today that Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in the suburbs just north of Baltimore, announced plans to buy Bonten Media Group, which owns 14 TV stations across 8 markets.  Sinclair already owns 173 TV stations in 81 markets. 

Uncoincidentally, they made this announcement the day after the FCC relaxed broadcast ownership rules, a choice that plays to the preferences of the new Republican administration.  You rarely see Republicans do anything to impede the prospect of big business mergers.

This also comes on the heels of Sinclair’s prior announcement that they are preparing to buy Tribune Media, a merger which would bring together two of the largest television station owners.

So, why should we care?

Media moves minds, that’s why.  If one entity is servicing several hundred media markets, you have a single voice amplified into all those markets.  Whose agenda do you think it will be serving?

Imagine if a partisan entity like Fox “News” had that many outlets.  Imagine if you had Fox’s viewpoint coming out of NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, UNI and MNT affiliates across the country, all beating the same drum.  People without critical thinking and listening skills (and that’s the majority) can be easily swayed by repeated exposure to a consistent message.

It’s funny though, because what about the liberal media?  Isn’t that the presumption, that the media has a liberal bias?

It’s only a presumption because conservatives keep insisting on it, regardless of merit or data.  There are many arguments to be made but look at it through this one:  If the “media” is so liberal, how come the Republicans are loosening the rules to allow fewer voices broadcast into the market, and the Democrats are against it?

If it really was a liberal media, the GOP would be taking the opposite position and trying to restrict ownership, to allow for a diversity of voices, which would be better to get theirs heard.  But in reality, media companies are some of the largest corporations in the country, prime customers for pro-business, free market conservatism.

Fortunately for us, (thus far), most have independent news departments, who in practicing actual journalism, are obligated to ask hard questions to those in power, whichever party it may be.

The difference is that Democrats answer the questions and Republicans complain about unfair treatment from a “liberal media.”  I mean, that’s part of the strategy, isn’t it? 

When you can’t provide a satisfactory answer, blame the one asking the questions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Things That Go Boom

In his most effective Russian Problem Diversion yet, President 45 started going all Commander in Chief by dropping bombs.

First, he pretended to avenge the gassing of the children he wouldn’t let in our country by bombing the airfield in Syria, from which the gas attacks were allegedly based.

The following week, he dropped the “MOAB,” or so-called Mother of all Bombs, in Afghanistan, to blow up a tunnel system being used by ISIS.  This is the largest non-nuclear bomb the US has in its arsenal.

In reality, the results were mixed.  In Syria, the airfield was open and running traffic through it the very next day.  It was almost as if the Syrians knew the strike was coming and moved all their aircraft and personnel away from it… which is exactly what ABC news reported.

The White House said that they notified Russia before the strike; it’s not a stretch to think that the Russians then tipped off their buddy Assad, to mitigate the damage.

In Afghanistan, the body count is in the 90s; all ISIS bad guys, they say.  But what the military experts say is that this was not a bomb built for hitting hardened targets like tunnels or underground bunkers.  They have other ordnance for that.

As far as I can see, the entire point of all these explosions was to 1) Divert attention from all the Trump/Russia leaks, and 2) Look like a tough-guy president.

Republicans are never happier than when one of their guys is blowing shit up, and the bigger the boom, the better.  I bet there was nothing but raging wood all up and down the right side of the Congressional aisle.

Granted, it has to be one of their own guys.  Remember when Obama wanted to address Syria and he went to Congress to ask them to authorize military action?  Remember how Congress said no?  I do.  Obama wanted to blow up more than a runway and the Republicans both 1) said it wasn’t enough and 2) we shouldn’t involve American troops at all.

But now with their guy in office, his muted response resulted in his being seen as William the Conqueror. 

I guarantee they used the MOAB bomb for no other reason than it made a big kaboom… one that would play well on the nightly news.  And they knew all the guys in the bar would be thrilled that the old U.S. of A. was back to kicking ass and making fireballs that can be seen from the space station.

They probably wanted to get North Korea’s attention as well, but I’m not sure that would make an impression.  NK is basically a suicidal regime.  The dough-faced tyrant over there doesn’t care what happens to his captives… I mean, citizens.  I’m sure KJU has a tunnel from his presidential palace down to a hardened bunker for himself and the livestock he’s been using to feed his face. 

If you ask me, they’re the perfect enemy to hype up against.  True, they’re batshit crazy, but do you really think they can do damage to the American homeland?  These guys couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn at 20 paces.  If you look closely at their missiles, you can see ACME stenciled on them.  And we think they’re going to get one all the way across the Pacific and hit us?  They couldn’t even blow up the Panama Canal correctly, with the Chechens helping them.
Of course, they could probably succeed in “accidently” lobbing a missile into South Korea or Japan.  So I suppose we ought to clear out.  I bet the natives are restless over there.

The best idea on Korea I’ve heard so far came from Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, who says all we need for a peaceful resolution is a way for North Korea to save face.  He suggests having South Korea give up their half of the Demilitarized Zone, on the condition it’s occupied exclusively by the Chinese.  That way South Korea gives up nothing useful, North Korea gets to claim victory and neither one will cross China.  Everyone wins.

Of course, we wouldn’t get to blow anything else up and where’s the fun in that?

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Whole New Ballgame

As you may recall, I’ve been going to an awful lot of ballgames in the last couple of years.  Last year alone, I went to 26 Orioles games, which was a new personal record for one season.

I go to so many games for a number of reasons… It’s fun, I’m a sports fan, it’s affordable (for a big-league sports event), the facility is nice, it’s convenient, it gets me out of the house, but most of all, I haven’t had anything better to do.

But now, since I met Sweetpea, I do have other things to do, for a change.  But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up the ballgames.  She likes going to games so I can take her with me.  Not to 26 of them, mind you, but a fair number.  And I’ll also have Sitcom Kelly to keep me company on days Sweetpea doesn’t care to go.

Until school lets out in mid-June, it requires special planning to account for her dog, if she’s going to be away for that long.  And to help matters, I conceded that we can get there only one hour before game-time, as opposed to the two hours early that I usually allow.  (If she sat and drank beer at The Bullpen for as long as I usually do, she’d be comatose by the first pitch.)

So it was a beautiful sunny Saturday, last weekend, when we took our first trip to Camden Yards together.  It was a 4:05 game so we planned to arrive between 2:30 and 3:00.  I was eager to share my traditional game-day experiences with her, especially introducing her to my usual bartender and friends down at The Bullpen.

But first, we had our subway ride into town.  I had my monthly pass, of course, so we got her a $4 “day-pass.”  After we got off the train, I had her give hers to me for safe keeping, because chivalry is totally not dead yet.  Plus I didn’t want it getting lost.  I have a little plastic sleeve that I keep mine in, so hers went in there too.

Because the hated Yankees were in town, the place was lousy with New Yorkers and the outside bar areas were mobbed.  There were no seats at the bar at The Bullpen, but we found a place to stand, which was good enough for the moment.  We could nurse a couple of beers and stake out the people who looked like they were getting ready to leave.  (This is why I usually get there so early… there are much better odds of getting a seat at the bar.)

I was bummed because A) I’d left my Bullpen VIP card at home, and B) none of the regular bartenders, nor the bar manager were there.  That meant nobody knew me, so I had to drink regular-priced beer, just like a non-VIP schmo. 

A couple of young girls jammed themselves right in front of us, and within minutes, they swooped in and sat in the seats left behind by the couple whose stools we were staking out.  Little shits!  Duly insulted, we left, which was fine because it gave us time to wander around the ballpark.  Sweetpea had been there before, but not often.  And lord knows I’m a veritable fountain of information, now that I’ve taken the Camden Yards tour

Our tickets were in the left field club section, a place from which I’ve seen quite a lot of games.  I like it because it’s more secluded, has all the club level amenities, yet doesn’t cost any more than the lower left field box seats. 

Our view from section 272.

Nevertheless, our section was still defiled by a handful of Yankees fans, who’d made the trip down from NYC.  At least they were entertaining…

Walking around the club level, I had the chance to tell my fabled story of the time I wasn’t sufficiently careful in choosing the restroom I walked into. 

Anyway, we saw a good game and enjoyed the afternoon, although if I were dying, this would have been the perfect game to attend because it seemed to go on F O R E V E R!  We were three hours in and had only seen six innings.  We took that as our cue to leave.  It was still a close game, with the Orioles down by one, but I figured we’d be home in time to catch the end on TV.

We heard a huge roar shortly after we left the park, so I figured the O’s had tied it up.  I figured I could check it out once we got on the train and it eventually came up from underground (about halfway home).  Again, I took Sweetpea’s subway pass after she used it, and put it in the holder with mine so I could make sure it didn’t get lost. 

Then it took about 25 minutes for a train to show up.  Pissed me off because they’re supposed to run every 10-11 minutes on the weekends.  That’s another thing to do when you’re dying… go sit in a subway station and wait for late trains.

So eventually, a train came and whisked us toward our destination.  And when I checked the box score on my phone, I saw that not only had the Orioles taken the lead right there in the 7th, but they were just closing out the win in the bottom of the 9th.  So NOW they start burning through the innings?  Gah!

The train pulled into our station and we hopped out.  As the train pulled away and we went down the escalator I reached into my pocket to give her the subway pass (which is required to enter AND exit) and guess what wasn’t there.

Fuck.  Me.  The passes were in the same pocket as my phone and when I reached in to pull out my phone, the passes must have slipped out too, and fallen on the seat or floor.  So much for my Knight in Shining Armor routine, steadfastly guarding milady’s day pass…

But worse, my monthly pass was gone and I still have three more weeks of subway rides on it.  Fuuuuck!  Granted, it could have been worse… I’ve been working from home two days a week lately, so that’s an expense of $24 averted.  But still, I’ll have to spend $36 in subway fare this month, that I’ve already bought.

I hope it was found by someone who needed it, anyway.

So the first game with my baby didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped, but I can’t complain.  It was only our opening day and I got to spend a nice afternoon with a pretty girl, watching a baseball game.  We’ll have a lot of other opportunities to work out the kinks.  And I’m pretty sure she’ll be carrying her own subway pass from now on. 

In fact, she should carry mine too.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Odd Bits - The Fox Tales Edition

I don’t have enough material on any single issue to warrant a post today, so that means it’s time for some Odd Bits.

Fox in the Henhouse
I saw this story clinging to my Yahoo home page and I just kept wondering, “Why is this a story?

The click-bait headline was: “Drexel Professor: ‘I tried not to vomit’ when a passenger gave his seat to a soldier.”  The gist was this professor thought the first class passenger offering to trade seats w/ a uniformed serviceman was smug and self-congratulatory, and tweeted about it.

My take: the guy sounds like an asshole, he’s taking a lot for granted about motivations here, and ultimately it’s none of his business.  But it’s not a news story.  Some dude got his pants in a twist.  Happens every day.

Then I saw the source of the story: Fox “News.”  That explains it.

Fox’s angle is threefold.

1)      Fox loves to characterize colleges as a hotbed of liberalism being inflicted on our apple-cheeked youth in a dastardly attempt to turn them into godless Commies.  So anytime a professor can be shown in a negative light, (and this one came gift-wrapped for maximum harrumphing) it’s going to get maximum exposure.   

2)      Fox also has a stake in combatting the education of idealistic young people.  See, if they go to college and find out that a bunch of things they learned from their parents or church aren’t really true, they might not become a reliable red-state voter like Uncle Rupert wants them to be.  The last thing Fox wants if for young voters to decide that fossil fuel ISN’T the best way to go, or that coal sludge dumped directly into running streams might foul up the local fishing, or birth control really IS the most realistic way to prevent pregnancy.  Why do you think these voter ID states don't include college IDs as permissible forms of identification?
3)     This particular professor has made statements in favor of white genocide and generally taking white men to task for the plight of the oppressed.  Fox doesn’t like that because it conflicts with their editorial angle that white men have already solved racism, and the only bigotry left is that of “reverse racism” against whites. 

So, in a nutshell, we have some disturbed white guy sending pissy tweets.  This is not news to anyone but Fox.  Unless it's the President, in which case it gets a half hour’s conversation on Fox and Friends.

Yes, Three’s a Crowd, but also Necessary to Keep the VP from Sexing you Down
The “Billy Graham Rule,” have you heard of that?  If so, that’s probably because it just came out that VP Pence adheres to that rule, or at least he did 15 years ago.  In honor of this rule, Pence declared that he would never eat dinner with another woman, or be anywhere where there are women and alcohol present, without his wife.

Now, I can see an angle of self-preservation there that I can’t necessarily condemn.  If you can’t control yourself, that is, in which case it’s better to keep temptation to a minimum.  But aren’t these super-religious family men supposed to be spiritually prepared to ignore their baser instincts?

As some regular schmo, maybe a guy can pull that off.  But as the second in command of the US government?  That doesn’t seem very fair to women.  (As if the current regime gives a shit about fairness to anyone who isn’t a rich white man…) 

Like on a golf course, the business of government often gets done over dinner.  That’s one of the reasons why country clubs were forced, kicking and screaming, into allowing female members.  So would he use this evangelical throwback of a “rule” as the means not to have dinner with his, say, Secretary of Education or Transportation?  Maybe.

More likely, it just means he’d be less likely to hire a woman into any position of power, with whom he might have to work closely.

The thing that yanks my pubes about it is that it’s just one more way to blame the woman for a man not being able to keep his dick to himself (or to his wife).  It doesn’t matter that she’s qualified to do the job or that she is not remotely interested in the VP’s Department of Schong; the only solution is not to allow her to reach a position of power that entails working closely together.  OR, hiring her but restricting access so that she can’t do her job to the fullest.  

It’s just one of a zillion ways that white men keep a little more prosperity for themselves, at the expense of women of all colors.  But it’s all good because some old religious con artist said so.

But on the Bright Side…
Speaking of con artists, there were new felony charges brought against those bogus “citizen journalists” who accused Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts for profit, via a criminally deceptive video tape.  The two videographers were charged with 15 counts each of filming someone without their consent.  (That’s one count for each person filmed without consent.)

It’s not exactly racketeering, but hey, if they could get Capone on tax evasion, why not?  I’d love to see these clowns do some jail time.  Maybe their next “sting” operation can be of the “How Not to Get Boned up the Ass in the Shower Room” variety.

It’s just funny that these “sting” tapes have triggered more than a dozen state investigations and not one turned up even a sniff of wrong-doing, let alone a chargeable offense.  Yet to this day, state governments still site the tape as “evidence” that Planned Parenthood needs to lose funding.

Social conservatives got what they wanted, though.  They got their election-year headlines.  They didn’t actually need any of it to be true; it just had to be sticky enough to last through Election Day. 

It’s funny how these pricks will stoop to any level of deceit if it will get them what they want.  And they can probably find a Bible verse to back them up, too.