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Monday, September 29, 2008

Hanging Chad

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 9:55 AM

I suspect there's going to be plenty of buzz about Chad Hermann's op-ed on the blogosphere in yesterday's Post-Gazette. My guess is that most of the conversation will focus on Hermann himself: Is he an asshole? A closet Republican?

I'm sure that will generate all kinds of heated discussion. So I'm going to ignore that side of the topic entirely, skipping over the merits of the messenger and addressing the message.

But before I do, let me get this out of the way. I've met Chad, and like him. I often don't share his judgments: For example, I thought his criticisms of Obama were unduly harsh, even when I shared some of his wariness. But I respect Chad for wrestling with these issues, and for signing his name to the things he believed. (In fact, full disclosure: The Post-Gazette piece includes an excerpt of an e-mail I sent Chad to that effect. I'm not identified as the author of that e-mail but … c'est moi.)

Hermann's argument, briefly summarized, is that he gave up on his blog in large part because the Internet has coarsened the discourse. And it falls to the Burgher to offer the natural response: Blogging is just a medium, and it's no more or less obnoxious than any other medium. If you don't like the rough-and-tumble debate you find online, blame society.

I think this is both true and not.

On the one hand, yeah: If you find Chad Hermann obnoxious and self-important online, you'll probably find the print version of Chad Hermann obnoxious and self-important too. And many of the most poisonous things you read online aren't any worse than what you hear on talk radio. The only difference is that the things online are posted and preserved for everyone to see.

But isn't that point? A talk-radio utterance tends to disappear into the ether the instant after it is spoken. A blog post or comment, by contrast, can last forever.

What's more, a radio station, or a newspaper, bears a certain liability for what gets said on their platform -- even by third-party commenters. City Paper can be sued for libel based on what someone says in a published letter to the editor. Bloggers are under no such constraints. Thanks to the Communications Decency Act, you can't be sued for what someone else posts on your Web site. So while I know many responsible bloggers who police their comments section, they do so on their own hook -- not because the law requires it. Inevitably, that results in comments that can be every bit as vicious, duplicitous, and ill-founded as those Hermann decries. You'll sometimes see these on even the best sites.

And for a newspaper like mine, the electronic frontier poses some strange contradictions. While I could be sued for a letter published in the print edition, I could NOT be held liable if someone posted the EXACT SAME VERSION of the letter online. And here's the weird part: While online stuff lasts forever, the print edition only lasts a few days. In other words, the law gives MORE protection in a context where you have LESS long-term exposure. Hell, if a story printed on paper really embarrasses you, you an always just move outside the paper's circulation area. There's no escape from Google.

To borrow from McLuhan, the medium IS the message. It changes the way we interpret the message, and the way we are affected by it. To pretend otherwise is, I think, a cop-out. I can't count the number of times I've heard the excuse "it's just the internet" to justify some bad behavior online. But it's juvenile to pretend that what happens online really stays there ... especially in this age of Google, where our future employment prospects can be held hostage to anyone with a grudge and a Blogger account. (And isn't this what got many people into blogging in the first place -- the chance to make a difference in the real world?)

Personally, I think it's inevitable that the law will change. In the 1990s, as the electronic frontier was opening up, the cry was to protect the internet from government intervention. Now, as the Internet becomes ever more enmeshed in everyday life, there will be calls on the government to protect people from the internet.

Newspapers are the canary in the coal mine in some respects -- you can already find papers wrestling with the implications of what people post online. Even the editor of little old City Paper has felt obliged to police the comments section of some of our own stories, and even report on allegations made by commenters. For us, the internet makes a lot of work, but not a lot of money. That's why on some level, I can't really blame the Post-Gazette for not having comments on most of its stories, despite all the investments it's made elsewhere online.

But unless and until the law changes, it's going to be up to the bloggers to police themselves. In that respect, I have one piece of advice, which of course everyone is free to ignore: End anonymous posting and commenting.

Like I said, most of the bloggers I know are pretty responsible. But part of what makes them responsible, I think, is that people know them. Chris Briem does Null Space, one of the best-regarded blogs in town. Bram Reichbaum attaches his name to the Pittsburgh Comet, Ed Heath to Cognitive Dissonance and it's no secret that the 2 Political Junkies are David DeAngelo and Maria Lupinacci. I'm guessing it's no coincidence that these are some of the most thoughtful blogs in town.

There are exceptions to this rule on both sides, of course -- the biggest being the Burgher himself (though I think I have a pretty good idea of who he is anyway). But think about it. As a rule, I enjoy 414 Grant Street, but would that site have engaged in this attack on Doug Shields if we knew who was authoring it? And is our political culture really any better off because anonymity allowed 414 to do so? 

And what's good for bloggers should be good for those who comment upon them. Sites like 2pj already require people to sign up for a blogger or other account in order to post. Of course, there's no requirement for anyone to use their actual names, and there probably shouldn't be. But even requiring people to use an online alias, I think, is a step toward accountability and transparency (which is a quality many local bloggers demand from those in government, after all.) Like the P-G quoted me saying to Chad, having an identity of any sort creates certain obligations -- toward coherence, if nothing else. One establishes a kind of online "paper trail," through which agendas can become clear, and by which today's utterance can be contrasted with yesterday's.

The objection, of course, will be that anonymity is part of what makes the blogosphere such a free-wheeling forum. Which may be true. Then again, part of what made the Coliseum such a popular attraction was the lions. We've devised more civilized forms of gladiatorial entertainment since the days of the Roman Empire, and we ought to find a more civilized approach to political discourse as well.

Chad apparently hoped his blog would bring about that result. Now, I guess, he's hoping that shutting down will accomplish it instead.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

AIRing it out

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 2:10 PM

Sometimes we find out a little too late about a show that sounds pretty cool, and we regret not being able to get it into the paper. Such was the case this week when we got word, after the paper went to print, about a show Tuesday night at Artists Image Resource on the North Side.

AIR is a print studio that acts as a resource center for local artists; there's a weekly print night on which anyone can go and use the screenprinting equipment (and get a little assistance from the experts there). They host gallery shows regularly, and occasionally have rock shows as well.

Tuesday's show is an all-local lineup presented by Dynamo Sound Collective featuring Shambolish, Plainswalkers (the duo of Tusk Lord's Mike Kasunic and Dynamo's Ryan Emmett) and the awesomely named SundogPeacehouse. Seriously, click that last link. It's worth it.

It's during print hours, 7 p.m. to 11, so drop in if you have some t-shirts to make and want to hear some ambient psychey sounds. Of course, you don't NEED to be making prints in order to enjoy. It's all ages, so bring the kids.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Battle at the Forks" featuring the Chris Norman Ensemble

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2008 at 1:48 PM

chris_norman_ensemble.jpg

This week, even period music enthusiasts are getting into -- yes -- "Pittsburgh 250" mode, with Concerto Caledonia, the School of Drama of Carnegie Mellon University and the Chris Norman Ensemble uniting for the multidimensional performance, "Battle at the Forks." Although it makes sense to explore the history of the Battle of Fort Duquesne on its anniversary, perhaps Norman, "The finest wooden flute player in the world," according to the Halifax Mail Star, should wait until we get around to "Pittsburgh Celebrates Wood." It can't be long now.

The program, a world premiere commissioned by the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, promises "Music of Monteclair, Reid, Lully as well as traditional American, Acadian, Scots, English, and First Nations music" combined with "a tapestry of music reflections from the diaries of George Washington, General John Forbes, Benjamin Franklin and others."

The main event is at 8 p.m., Sat., Sept. 27 -- a concert at Synod Hall in Oakland. Norman gives a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.; a Q&A session wraps up the evening. Tickets are $15-30 ($10 students) and are available on the R&B Web site, at 412-361-2048, or at the door. Some seating options are already sold out.

You can also catch a sneak preview at 1 p.m. on Thu., Sept. 25, at the Heinz History Center.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

When Facts DON'T Speak for Themselves

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Maybe it was just yesterday's shitty performance of the Steelers offensive line, but I found myself in a foul mood when I sat down to read the Post-Gazette forum section last night. Seeing the P-G's op-ed section swallow a GOP talking point hook, line, and sinker did nothing to help my mood. 

The P-G's Sunday section includes a regular feature called "Enough Said," which offers a surprising set of statistics or a graphic that reflects "facts that speak for themselves." This week, though, it parroted a bit of GOP propaganda instead.

This week's graphic was about drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve. The graphic purported to show what a small "footprint" drilling would occupy in the 19-million-acre wilderness reserve. Supporters of oil exploration in the area, like GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, assert that drilling facilities would require only require 2,000 acres. The P-G helpfully illustrated this concept with a roughly one-and-a-half-inch circle that represents the ANWR, and a tiny pencil-point dot that supposedly represents the drilling. 

But this picture is one-sided at best, utter bullshit as worse. 

That tiny dot makes it look like all the drilling would take place on just one site. But it ain't so. Politifact, a fact-checking site operated by Congressional Quarterly, points out that "oil is not concentrated in a single area but is instead spread throughout the refuge. ... And, between those acres would have to be a network of roads and pipelines connecting them." Environmental groups note that on Alaska's North Slope, a 12,000 acre drilling site actually disrupts a space five times as large -- roughly 1,000 square miles -- when you account for airstrips, roads, and other supporting infrastructure. It's precisely because the impact of drilling is so large that it hasn't already taken place.

But it's no surprise the P-G graphic doesn't reflect any of that controversy. After all, the sources cited for it are the Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research. Heritage, of course, is a well-known conservative/libertarian think tank backed by Tribune-Review publisher Richard Mellon Scaife. As for the Institute for Energy Research, it readily admits to believing "freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges." And its financial backers include -- go ahead and take a wild guess -- ExxonMobil.

Yes, that's right: The "facts that speak for themselves" are actually being touted by a mouthpiece for the petroleum industry.  According to documents dug up in a Greenpeace investigation (click on page 4 for the relevant info), ExxonMobil Foundation gave IER some $65,000 in 2006 alone -- an amount consistent with previous years' five-digit gifts. 

So way to go, Post-Gazette. Amidst a hotly-contested presidential campaign where domestic oil drilling is a big issue, you just composed a slide for a GOP Powerpoint presentation.

In fairness, you made up for it with an editorial questioning the "drill baby drill" mindset today, so I'm not even going to go into how the "Enough Said" graphic was accompanied with loaded language describing the areas proposed for drilling as "otherwise barren acerage." But I will note an amusing inclusion in this week's "Cutting Edge" -- a weekly wrap-up of "new ideas" and "sharp opinions" from the blogosphere.

This week's installment discusses a blog post by local economics guru Harold Miller, who explains Pittsburgh's disproportionately low median income rates are partly skewed by the city's "far higher proportion of college students and ... seniors." Fascinating stuff, but didn't you guys notice that Miller already made that point in an op-ed you published a week ago? How "cutting edge" is a column that touts stuff its own op-ed page has published days before? If you don't want to look into the source for your graphics, OK. But don't you at least read your own op-ed section? 

Sheesh.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

CP announces new local music showcase, CP REMIXED

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Coming up in just a couple short weeks, we're pleased to announce CP REMIXED: A new quarterly music showcase featuring Pittsburgh's most innovative and intriguing musicians. The first installment is curated by Aaron Jentzen, Music Editor, City Paper; curators and performers for future events will be announced here as they're confirmed.

The first event takes place 7-11 p.m. Thu., Oct. 9 at the WYEP Community Broadcast Center, 76 Bedford Square, South Side. It includes free beer and food from Penn Brewery and Quiet Storm; the $6 suggested donation goes to the performers. Speaking of which, October's featured performers are:


OHMU (Krautrock grooves feat. Tony Paterra of Zombi and Jason Kirker of Modey Lemon)
DAVID BERNABO + ASSEMBLY (experimental art-pop ensemble)
DJ EDGAR UM (spinning "motorik afro-skree and angry disco")
DISCUSS (atmospheric downtempo electronic)

For more info: 412-316-3342 x138 or www.pghcitypaper.com

CP REMIXED on MySpace

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A Pro-Life Message That Doesn't Make You Want to Kill Yourself

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2008 at 9:40 AM

Word has reached City Paper that a liberal Catholic group, Catholics United, intends to run TV ads challenging John McCain to give a damn about babies after they are born. The ads will run on cable stations in Pittsburgh and other "heavily Catholic" communities. 

You can see the ad for yourself here. In it, a middle-aged woman described as "a Catholic pro-life mother of three from the Midwest," tells McCain, "it's not enough to say you're pro-life." She points out that McCain "voted against one of the largest support programs for pregnant women. You voted against health care for our children. And you voted for a war that has killed thousands of Americans."

McCain's support for the Iraq war is well-known; less well-known is the fact that in 2007, McCain voted against an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program  (SCHIP), which provides assistance to families who struggle to insure their kids. McCain has explained that this was because the bill didn't specify how to pay for the expansion, but the Children's Defense Fund ranked McCain as the single worst Senator for kids last year. McCain missed 8 out of 10 votes on family-friendly legislation tracked by the group.

On a strictly partisan note, any ad that helps deflate the GOP's claims to be "family friendly" is OK in my book. The fact that VP candidate Sarah Palin has a child with Down syndrom has allowed the GOP to claim they care about "special needs" children. But they don't seem to care much about families who need help with insurance premiums. 

More broadly, I'm in favor of any group that wants to expand the "values" debate beyond reproductive issues. What I find so objectionable about the Christian right isn't that it spoils politics -- it's that it cheapens religion. These latter-day Elmer Gantries are comfortable using the Bible to control the behavior of poor women. But it seems like their Bibles don't include all the Old and New Testament calls for social justice on the part of the wealthy and powerful. 

If we must have religious debates spill over into our political campaigns -- and apparently we do -- we ought to be using the whole book.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tickets for Girl Talk go on sale on Sept. 20

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2008 at 3:14 PM

The release of the CD version of Feed the Animals, the new album by Pittsburgh mashup star Girl Talk, has been pushed back from Sept. 23 to Oct. 21; his publicist Jessica Linker says this is “to ensure the product is perfect and distinctive.” She adds, “This delay has nothing to do with copyright issues.” Hmm.

 

In the meantime, you're free to enjoy -- for free, if you choose -- the pay-what-you-want digital-download version of the album, which has been out since June.

 

And also in the meantime, Girl Talk has just announced a Pittsburgh performance on Sat., Nov. 22, at the Gravity Nightclub at Ches-Arena in Cheswick. Tickets go on sale Sat., Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. and will likely go fast. Also on the bill are local underground hip-hop pros Grand Buffet, as well as CX KiDTRONiK and Skymall. You can order tickets here or by calling 866-468-3401.

 

Girl Talk's extensive fall U.S. tour kicks off this Thursday. The dates are:


Thu-Sep 18 Newark DE University of Delaware
Fri-Sep 19 Saratoga Springs NY Skidmore College w/ Prefuse 73
Thu-Oct 9 Philadelphia PA Starlight Ballroom w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Fri-Oct 10 Washington DC 9:30 Club w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Sat-Oct 11 Baltimore MD Sonar w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Mon-Oct 13 Carrboro NC Cats Cradle w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Tue-Oct 14 Asheville NC Orange Peel w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Wed-Oct 15 Knoxville TN Valarium w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Thu-Oct 16 Atlanta GA Variety Playhouse w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Fri-Oct 17 New Orleans LA House of Blues New Orleans w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Sat-Oct 18 Houston TX Warehouse Live w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Mon-Oct 20 Austin TX Emos w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Tue-Oct 21 Dallas TX Palladium Ballroom w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Thu-Oct 23 Tucson AZ Rialto Theater w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Fri-Oct 24 Los Angeles CA Henry Fonda Theater w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Sat-Oct 25 Los Angeles CA Henry Fonda Theater w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Mon-Oct 27 San Francisco CA The Fillmore Auditorium w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses
Tue-Oct 28 San Francisco CA The Fillmore Auditorium w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Thu-Oct 30 Salt Lake City UT In The Venue w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Fri-Oct 31 Denver CO Ogden Theater w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Sat-Nov 1 Lawrence KS The Granada Theatre w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Mon-Nov 3 Minneapolis MN First Avenue w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Tue-Nov 4 Milwaukee WI Turner Hall Ballroom w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Wed-Nov 5 Urbana IL Canopy Club w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Thu-Nov 6 Nashville TN Cannery Ballroom w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Fri-Nov 7 Louisville KY Headliners Music Hall w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Sat-Nov 8 Chicago, IL Congress Theatre w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Sun-Nov 9 Cincinnati OH Bogarts w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Mon-Nov 10 Cleveland OH Beachland Ballroom w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Tue-Nov 11 Pontiac MI Eagle Theatre w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Wed-Nov 12 Toronto ON Koolhaus w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Thu-Nov 13 Montreal PQ Club Soda w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Fri-Nov 14 Foxborough MA Showcase Live w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Sat-Nov 15 New York NY Terminal 5 w/ The Death Set, CX KiDTRONiK
Sun-Nov 16 New York NY Terminal 5 w/ Grand Buffet, Hearts of Darknesses

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Monday, September 15, 2008

In Which I Mark the Death of a Personal Hero

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2008 at 6:41 PM

Eight years ago, back when John McCain really was a maverick, David Foster Wallace followed him around on the campaign trail for Rolling Stone magazine.

The resulting essay, "Up, Simba," explored the inanity of modern politics, the media coverage thereof, and the nature of John McCain's appeal in a vacuous political environment. Of course, any political writer could have done as much: In the modern American campaign, the cynical pageantry is torn down almost as quickly as it is staged. But what set Wallace's effort apart was his effort to get beyond that -- to investigate what Wallace called "a very modern and American type of ambivalence."

Could a politician -- any public figure -- be genuine? he asked. And at this point, how would we even know if he or she were genuine? McCain's run for the presidency, Wallace wrote, pitted "your deep need to believe" against your almost equally "deep belief that the need to believe is bullshit."

Eight years later, it's clear which side of the battle John McCain has joined.  I just hope -- against all the evidence that Wallace apparently hung himself last week -- Wallace didn't come to the same conclusion. 

Wallace will be remembered mostly for his novel Infinite Jest. He'll be remembered too for his postmodern stylistic affectations -- those endlessly discursive run-on sentences, the nearly paralyzing self-awareness, and all those footnotes attached to the text (and often to the footnotes themselves). But for me, Wallace's major contribution was that within those pomo affectations -- and maybe partly because of them -- he found a way to be sincere. 

That doesn't sound like much. But if you're of a certain age -- as Wallace was and I am -- you have always lived in a culture immersed in bullshit knowing irony, where the biggest mistake you can make is to give a fuck. Even McCain has learned the lesson. He may have tried to inspire voters in 2000, but this year his campaign mocks the very possibility -- portraying Obama as Moses, for example. McCain can safely make fun of Obama's "cult-like" appeal, of course, because so many of us have stopped believing. In anything. He can tell transparent lies at little cost, because we've given up expecting anything else. You're probably already losing interest in this paragraph. 

Wallace tried to see through all that ... tried to see through even the desire to smugly "see through" things. He was an agoraphobe who suffered from motion sickness and a palpable self-doubt, and yet he took more chances than almost any writer I can think of. I mean, how many modern celebrity authors would let slip the fact that they attend church regularly, the way Wallace did in a post-9/11 elegy to middle America?

That essay came from Consider the Lobster, a book I reviewed a few years back. And it was in Lobster that he was his most sincere -- wrestling with the ethics of eating animals, the alienating effects of the porn industry, the philosophical burdens of writers ranging from Updike and Dostoevsky to tennis-prodigy Tracy Austin. There was something -- a lot of things, actually --  at stake in these pieces. Sometimes, the message was veiled by Wallace's wry wit, or buried in his constant self-reflexive contextualizing. But I'll bet that we wouldn't have paid attention otherwise -- and that Wallace knew it.

Even so, he always came clean in the end. Dostoevsky's challenge to the modern American writer, Wallace wrote, was that the Russian author "never stopped promulgating the unfashionable stuff in which he believed." Or, one might add, the unfashionable idea of believing, period.

I wish to hell Wallace hadn't stopped either. For all his pomo stammering, Wallace made me think giving a damn was a noble enterprise -- and for me, he was as convincing as any Obama speech ever will be. His death, like the McCain campaign of 2008, is just one more thing to be cynical about.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

She's Baaaacck: Janice Returns

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 4:33 PM

Miz Janice Dickinson is back, draggin' her crew of wannabe models along for the Ride Through Crazy, on her increasingly unbelievable show, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, on Oxygen.

Because this happens every day in business, Janice decides to move her agency from its central location on some Los Angeles strip, to a ridiculous mansion hill in the hills, miles from the city. Not only does she make the models live there (presumably leaving their apartments a couple miles away elsewhere in L.A.), but this is where clients will come. Riiiggghhht.

So far, there's been one great scene of meeting with a client that took place virtually in the kitchen, another that had the models strutting their stuff in a cramped room, and a bizarre pop-in from a cosmetic dentist.

This tacky mansion is so My First Big Movie Paycheck hillbilly that there is a even motorboat taking up two-thirds of the pool, and nobody seems to mind.

Anyhow, continuing the fantasy (that is to say, the producers demands to make the show more like other models-in-the-house series), Janice moves in a selection of new and "pre-existing" (her term) models.

Keeping with Janice's much-trumpeted edge, the new fish include a Japanese girl who can't speak much English, a Russian gal who looks fake from head to toe like a Real Doll, a girl with a big butt (future fodder for Janice tantrums) and a deaf guy.

We also have to pretend that Janice is living there, in a special room redecorated for her by "Madonna's brother." He glams it up, and also builds a Dr. No-style room with closed-circuit TV so Janice can spy on her housemates. The decorator easily dropped five figures on this Janice suite, but then simply hung a plastic 69-cent "Keep Out" sign on her door?

So far the first three episodes have focused mostly on the house "dramas" – endless squabbling between the old and new models, and repeated exhortations from Janice and the models about how great Janice is.

The actual shoots have been rather dull -- a retro-style swimsuit company and a rugged jeans campaign. Where's the eye candy? I hope all those borderline soft-core underwear manufacturers and gay fetish designers haven't been nixed from the line-up. Who can forget last season's drunken, bondage-themed ass-less pants shoot? Now, that was some modeling.

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Lipshtick for a Pig

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 4:08 PM

This shit just stopped being funny.

As this space noted recently, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America has recently begun listening to local right-wing radio host Jim Quinn. Which is great, because it means the rest of us don't have to.

It also means that this priceless bit of hypocrisy will be preserved for the world to see on the internet.

As you'll see from the link, Rose Tennent, Quinn's co-host, professed to be outraged by Barack Obama's now-famous "lipstick on a pig" line. The McCain campaign, in an empty-headed stunt that still leaves me breathless, has insisted that this old cliche -- which McCain himself has used -- was a sexist remark directed at Sarah Palin.

Here's Tennent on the matter:

I was so offended by that. I was so appalled by that ... You know what, you're a pig, you're a chauvinist pig is what you are, Barack. OK, you're a sexist pig. You want to talk about pigs? You're a sexist pig. I can't believe it. You know, the sexism, the ageism, is there no end to the -isms with the Democrats?

As MMFA notes, this is coming from a radio show that plays "The Bitch is Back" as its Hillary Clinton theme song. Quinn himself refers to the National Organization of Women as the "National Organization of Whores." Hilarious.

It gets better. Moments after Rose offers this deeply-felt expression of sisterhood, Quinn says:

"It's only an -ism if we do it. And, of course, for the most part, we never do."

Yes, indeed. For the most part, it never happens that conservatives engage in sexism. For the most part, it never happens that conservative radio hosts are sued for sexual harassment. And for the most part, juries never rule against those radio hosts, to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.

But it does happen at least part of the time. And it happened to Quinn. 

Some of us recall that in 1988 Quinn -- who was then the cohost of the B-94 morning program -- was sued by B-94 Liz Randolph, for remarks that went far beyond references to barnyard cosmetics. 

Quinn and "Banana Don" Jefferson verbally bullied and belittled Randolph repeatedly on the air, accusing her of being promiscuous and of having contracted sexually transmitted diseases. After being exposed to that sort of humiliation -- in front of an audience of tens of thousands --  Randolph had a breakdown. Quinn and Jefferson then made jokes that Randolph was crazy to boot. 

Randolph sued in February of 1988. Two years later, an Allegheny County jury found in her favor, awarding her nearly $700,000. Quinn has repeatedly cited this as the moment in which the scales fell from his eyes, and he began recasting himself as a die-hard conservative with no patience for women who complain about sexism.

And this is the host who is so concerned for the well-being of that delicate flower of the Yukon, Sarah Palin. 

There's really not much you can say here. If you've gotten this far in the post, there's no need for me to rail at the laughable hypocrisy. I will say that Quinn and Tennent used to work for the parent company that owns City Paper. I don't think they're dumb. I think they probably know better ... and I think they figure their audience doesn't. And they're probably right.

My optimistic friends tell me this whole lipstick thing will blow over, that it won't hurt Obama. Maybe it will even make reporters a bit more suspicious of transparently trumped-up accusations like this one. Maybe. Then again, perhaps the real point of seizing on this bullshit "issue" wasn't to make Obama look bad, but to make virulent misogynists like Quinn look good

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