Friday, November 30, 2012

The Bob & Chez Show After Party, 11.30.12

Join the After Party. Only $6 per month.

This week: Our Thanksgivings; Google Hangout; The Star Wars Holiday Special; Latest Star Wars Episode 7 News; The Life of Pi; The Greatest Movie Season Ever; Skyfall; Pacific Rim; Mustard Capellini; Jeff Zucker to CNN; Food Network’s Sweet Genius; The Biggest Television News of the Year; Confirmation that Republicans Are Deliberately Suppressing Minority Voters; Blowing Up the Moon; The Popular Vote and 47 Percent; and much more.

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 11.29.12

Back from a Week Off; Fox News Nailed by Thomas Ricks; Benghazi Gate Continues; MSNBC and the Alleged Pro Obama Bias; Fox News and Hard News; Rick Warren and His Latest Homophobic Remarks; Religion and Bigotry; Bob Loves the Christmas Season. Brought to you by Bubble Genius.

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Listening Post

The Shins have always been hit or miss for me; they've released some truly great stuff and quite a bit of filler. This song, though, definitely falls into the former category.

Here's The Rifle's Spiral.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quote of the Day

"I think our competition today is anybody that competes for eyeballs and attention and produces non-fiction programming. News is about more than politics and war, we need to broaden that definition of what news is, while maintaining the standards of CNN’s journalistic excellence."

-- Jeff Zucker on his plans for the network now that he's been named chief of CNN Worldwide

And there you have it -- your first indication of what's almost certainly to come.

You know what counts as "non-fiction programming?" in cable?

TLC, E! and Bravo.

Notice he saves the "journalistic excellence" thing for last.

That's right, baby -- Jeff's back on top.

What a Fool Believes

Today's column for the Daily Banter pegs off of two recent Cesca pieces, one regarding Pastor Rick Warren's latest tirade against gays and gay impulses and the other dealing with religion in general and how progressives ought to approach it.

Yes, it's one of those kinds of religion pieces for me.

Here's the opening shot:

"Some of the most entertaining columns written for this site, I think, come from the times when Bob Cesca and I decide to get into a back-and-forth over subjects we’re passionate about. While we both write here and host a podcast together, we obviously don’t agree on everything nor should we; what the hell fun would that be? A couple of weeks back, Bob posted a piece that suggested that progressives need to stop demonizing people of faith and criticizing religion in general as being, essentially, a crutch for those not as evolved as, I guess, the liberal intelligentsia (who are generally insufferable anyway). From a purely PR perspective, he’s absolutely right. I’m always one for acknowledging political reality, and it clearly dictates that contemptuously mocking someone’s beliefs from on-high is the wrong way to win that person over to your cause. Bob’s right on the money about this."

Read the Rest Here

Q & A

If it's Thursday, it must be time for me to hit you up for questions for this week's Daily Banter mailbag. You know the drill -- I ask you nice people for questions about politics, pop culture, the media, that weird thing you want to do in bed but your spouse is worried about the consent laws in your state, etc. and Bob, Ben and I try to keep a straight face while we answer them.

Submit your questions via the comment section of this post, Facebook, Twitter DM or e-mail -- the address is to the right -- and maybe you'll see yourself on the pages of the Daily Banter tomorrow morning.

Bring it.

Like a Boss

Yes, I know -- Jeff Zucker was just named president of CNN worldwide.

The thing is, there's no sense in my banging out anything new on this subject because I actually wrote about it a few months ago, when Zucker's name first came up as a possible replacement for the departing Jim Walton. It was then that I made all the points you'd probably expect, the ones that if you have even a cursory understanding of network television and news in particular you're probably making yourself right about now.

So with that in mind, I think the only thing left to do before reposting that column from this past June is to introduce you to the one person who not only thinks that Zucker's latest "fail upward" will be good for CNN, he thinks it's a stroke of pure Five Diamond brilliance that will align the stars and bring the favor of the gods down upon Atlanta. Because Zucker is, you know, a genius.

In his regular column today, long-time Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik calls the hiring of Zucker a "wise and winning" move right off the bat -- and then gets more and more detached from the reality you and I exist in as he goes along.

A few choice excerpts:

"Of all the major executive, talent and programming moves that CNN has made in the last few years, the expected announcement of Jeff Zucker as the president of CNN Worldwide looks like one of the best."

"Zucker's record, from his long and winning stint at NBC's Today, to the sound and classy syndicated production he built for Katie Couric, shows that he knows how to make money without shredding standards."

"Zucker is also steady, credible and tough. CNN needs all that right now in a president. You can bet Zucker, who is hardly press-shy, won't let the PR departments at other cable channels shape media reporters' perceptions of CNN as they do now without hitting back."

Okay, so was Zurawik a guest of honor at Zucker's kid's bar mitzvah or something? That little assessment of Zucker's abilities and history goes beyond glowing into the realm of hagiographically hallucinatory. I don't need to remind you of what really happened at NBC under Zucker's now infamous stewardship because I've done so many, many times and besides you can read about it anywhere.

A few choice details just for the hell of it: Zucker took NBC from #1 to a dismal #4 and made it a global punchline. He gave us Ben Silverman and Donald Trump. He lost NBC a billion dollars in ad revenue in one year. He was personally behind one of the most embarrassing prime-time clusterfucks in broadcast television history, that being the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien debacle. He was unceremoniously fired in the wake of the multi-million-dollar merger he almost singlehandedly scuttled. Four words: To Catch a Predator.

The one thing Zucker's good at, as Zurawik alluded to, is creating his own mythology through a relentless personal PR campaign to other outlets -- and it's served him very well. I'd love to believe that Zucker will do right by CNN and finally bring the network back to life. Unfortunately, there's just one problem: his proven record so far.

Adding: This ringing endorsement...

I rest my case.

"Welcome Back Zucker" (Originally Published, 6.12.12)

Here’s a little something just about everyone in the television business knows: Once you become a high-powered executive, it’s almost impossible to fuck yourself and your reputation so badly that you’ll never work again.

Let’s say you’re some poor mid-level schmuck, doing whatever it is you do right now for a living, and you almost single-handedly make, let’s say, some gargantuan mistake that turns your company into a worldwide laughingstock and threatens to crater an upcoming multi-million dollar merger that’s going to make it the most powerful organization of its kind in the world — there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be radioactive for about the next hundred or so years. Not in television, though — and not if you’re an executive.

Case in point: Jeff Zucker, the former boy wonder of NBC Universal whose breathtaking arrogance and bottomless reservoir of short-sighted quick fixes and dumb-ass gimmickry turned the once-mighty NBC into a perennial last-place loser and whose name became synonymous with epic failure. It was Zucker who was personally responsible for the now legendary clusterfuck that turned NBC’s prime time inside out, led to an affiliate rebellion and eventually culminated in the ugly public departure of Conan O’Brien, all in the name of keeping Jay Leno fat, happy and, most importantly, safely in place at the network. Zucker ultimately left NBC in disgrace, but the important thing to remember is that disgrace is a stench that washes off damn quickly in the amoral world of the television suit.

Zucker’s got name recognition. And he’s got a reputation for putting clever ways of bringing in revenue above actually putting decent programming on the air — and that’s really all anybody cares about anymore in TV. Which is why his name is apparently now being bandied about as a possible candidate for not one but two stratospheric television news positions. Turner President Phil Kent is reportedly considering Zucker as a replacement for CNN Worldwide CEO Jim Walton, whose contract is up in December; Walton’s renewal is on very shaky ground in the wake of an almost staggering drought of ratings, with CNN pulling in record low numbers for months now. Meanwhile, Tribune Co. might also be considering Zucker to help lead the company out of its own wasteland, one brought on by a 2008 Chapter 11 filing that it’s now trying to emerge from.

Actually, the Tribune job would at least make a minor amount of sense given that Zucker’s forte is conjuring short-lived financial success out of thin air through the implementation of all kinds of silly schemes, cheap on-air trickery and relentless cross-pollination. But when it comes to CNN, here’s the thing: The network is already making money. In fact — it’s still turning an impressive profit even as its ratings tank. CNN could easily not worry one bit about how many people are watching it because it’s feeding off plenty of healthy revenue streams besides the traditional ones cultivated by good ratings. Obviously, though, CNN has a reputation to uphold and being the number three cable news network doesn’t exactly jibe with how it’s been perceived in the past and how it would like to be perceived now and going forward — but bringing somebody like Zucker on board to try to bring in those ratings seems more than a little misguided.

Either way, it looks like we haven’t seen the last of Jeff Zucker. You could’ve predicted from the beginning that there would always be somebody willing to put his special brand of spoiled milk back in the refrigerator in the hope that it’d taste better later. That’s just how things work in corporate television.

Listening Post

With the success of the Black Keys, it's been a good couple of years for powerful, blues-driven rock outfits. These guys fit very nicely into that category.

Here's Kill It Kid -- Pray on Me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

White Man's Burden

Today's column for the Daily Banter is all about the apparently fading mojo of white guys of a certain age. At the center of it: Bill O'Reilly and the Washington Post's Richard Cohen.

Here's the opening shot:

"I’m sure you probably already know this, but it’s a really tough time to be a white guy of a certain age right now. Everything’s just so upside-down and nothing’s how it used to be, with white guys of a certain age lumbering across the face of the earth like mighty dinosaurs, perfectly, languorously content in their dominion over all creatures. There was the re-election of the weirdly named multi-cultural black man Barack Obama — along with the denial of the whitest, most of-a-certain-age man alive, Mitt Romney — and its heralding of the demographic shift that’s wresting power from their hands and giving to welfare queens and leaf-blowers. At the same time, there was the backlash against the attempt by a popular and official collective of ├╝ber-white men — the GOP — to restrict the reproductive freedom of women on the grounds that not having proper babies from white guys of a certain age constitutes indefensible promiscuity anyway.

But that’s politics. The real battlefield for white guys of a certain age these days seems to be pop culture, which is telling them that they can’t just 'show up' and still be the subject of adoration, as they once were, while simultaneously reminding them at every turn that the various peoples of the globe have other interests besides their lengthy, fascinating tales of their own heroic exploits that involve the experience of just being white guys of a certain age."

Read the Rest Here

Quote of the Day

"We're not nuts, are we? There is a war on Christmas.

-- Fox News's Gretchen Carlson

No, you aren't -- what you are is cynically opportunistic because you know your audience is nuts.

And no, there isn't.

Listening Post

Directed by John Hillcoat, the new video from Trent Reznor's side project with his wife, How To Destroy Angels, is appropriately dark and spare -- and it actually features a beach that looks quite a bit like the one from The Road.

The music, though, perfectly fits Hillcoat's aesthetic.

Here's Ice Age.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bad Men

Today's column for the Daily Banter takes a look at Angus T. Jones of Two and a Half Men, and his decision -- or rather Christ's -- to bite the hand that feeds him.

Here's the opening shot:

"Angus T. Jones has something in common with many, many Americans: he thinks 'Two and a Half Men' is crap. He’s right about this. He’s also correct when he says that many, many other Americans — I have yet to meet any of them, but I’m not gonna go all Pauline Kael here — watch Two and a Half Men with something bordering on infatuation. It’s not one of the top-rated comedies on television for nothing."

Read the Rest Here

Quote of the Day

"When Mr. Ricks ignored the anchor's question, it became clear that his goal was to bring attention to himself -- and his book. He apologized in our offices afterward but doesn't have the strength of character to do that publicly."

-- Fox News Executive Vice President Michael Clemente on the network's decision to abruptly end an interview yesterday with Pulitzer Prize-winning defense reporter and author Thomas Ricks

I've got to give it to whoever in the media relations department wrote this response and handed it off to Clemente: Never before has the entire Fox News philosophy been so flawlessly distilled down to two short sentences.

First of all, there's the snide, petty insult directed at the source of a perceived attack. People like David Carr of the Times and I have practically made a cottage industry out of documenting the myriad ways that Fox News has brought the knives out publicly against anyone who dares to challenge it.

Then, of course, there's the real headline here: the fact that Clemente may very well be lying. Ricks is already responding to this comment and he says he offered no such apology to anyone, nor would he. Given Fox's long, impressive history of making things up out of whole cloth, I'm inclined to believe Ricks over an FNC news executive who doubles as a passive-aggressive part-time PR flack.

But it doesn't matter in the end because Clemente doesn't expect anyone outside the conservative media bubble to believe him. He's doing minor damage control that probably wasn't really necessary anyway, given that Fox's audience doesn't care about a thing Tom Ricks has to say now that he's proven himself to be the enemy. The minute he crossed the line and dared to say something negative about Fox News is the same minute he lost all credibility with the network's viewers. Nobody not a Fox News regular believes a word coming out of Clemente's mouth. Everybody already a devoted Fox Fan didn't need the reassurance that Ricks isn't to be trusted.

Comment of the Week

In response to the "Open Letter to Texas" that I posted a couple of weeks back.


Jealous, much? I wonder why your family left you to come to DALLAS? You're a whining b*tch, who believes everything he sees on CNN or reads in ... the daily banter. You appear to be full of knowledge and support... because you surround yourself with like minded individuals, and you are in useless California! CA would LOVE to be like Texas, however... your state leadership and economy couldn't support your national independence.

With all your quoted figures and numbers, why did you leave your sources out? ... evidently you do not know how to write... and 'TEXAS' has low education scores? Also, another observation of information you conveniently ommitted? Perhaps you should mention that; Texas would be the 15th largest economy in the world?, or that Texas has operated within a balanced physical budget while the majority of the other states have failed to accomplish this? By the way, how's the CA bankruptcy talks going? You guys still need some money, huh? ...

Since you brought up the United States Armed Forces, the state of Texas supplies the MOST recruits to the armed forces, AND has accrued the most casualties as a result ...


~ Texas

-- Anonymous"

Let's give a big round of applause for Governor Rick Perry, everybody. A few seriously questionable punctuation choices and quite a bit of confusing grammar, but not one misspelled word.*

Really, it's the addition of the website address at the end that really takes this from mildly funny to flat-out transcendent.

(Actually, "ommitted" is misspelled and as somebody pointed out, he probably means "fiscal" budget rather than "physical" -- I read through this very early and my brain doesn't work before before maybe 9:30AM -- all of which makes this little comment the gift that keeps on giving and a glowing testament to the might of Texas's education system.)

Listening Post

My Chemical Romance continues to release their formerly unreleased, Brendan O'Brien-produced 4th album two songs at a time. Here's the second "single" from Conventional Weapons.

This is Ambulance.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The First Rule of Fox News Is, You Do Not Talk About Fox News

Today's admittedly late piece for the Daily Banter takes a look at Fox News's comically sudden shut down of an interview with a guest who called the network out for being exactly what it is.

Here's the opening shot:

"Despite the grotesquely incestuous nature of TV news, I’ve known only a few people throughout my career who’ve worked at Fox News at one time or another. When it comes to talent, particularly high-profile talent, the place is generally a final destination: Plenty of people have made the decision to jump over to Fox News from other places but very few do the opposite, moving on from Fox to the warm embrace of more traditional news outlets. There’s the occasional stunt-casting, like the hiring of Fox News regular S.E. Cupp over at MSNBC, but for the most part it really does feel like once you’ve got the stink of relentlessly shilling for Roger Ailes’s political views on you, it’s tough to wash off completely. Truly making a name for yourself at Fox is a zero-sum game: Unless you’re Shep Smith, who’s become famous for being a tiny island of reason in a vast sea of nonsense, you can’t do it without assuring that nobody else will take you seriously ever again."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

The Sword come to us from Austin, Texas and they do heavy metal the old-fashioned way -- albeit with trucker-hatted scruffy hair and horn-rimmed glasses that make you immediately wonder if they're serious or are just doing an ironic hipster homage.

Either way, the music's pretty good -- and no one can deny that it's heavy as hell.

Here's The Veil of Isis.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Edible Complex

Our cavalcade of holiday reruns continues with a piece that -- along with the "Poor Kiwi" short -- has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition around here.

"Feast of Burden" (Originally Published, 11.25.09)

Last month while in Washington D.C., I ate at a place downtown called Founding Farmers. If you live in the D.C. Metro area you're probably, at the very least, familiar with the restaurant and if you'd like I can give you a minute to stop salivating. Yeah, it's that good.

Founding Farmers's claim to fame is that it's a certified "green" restaurant, which means that in addition to closely monitoring its carbon output in an effort to reduce the strain on the environment, the food it buys and serves comes only from family farms, ranches and fisheries. Self-proclaimed foodies will recognize this distinction given that the green-market trend has been all the rage over the past couple of years; a lot of America's most famous chefs have jumped on top of the nearest tables to shout to the masses about their decision to forgo large farms in favor of nothing but locally grown product.

So do all those steps taken to promote sustainability make a difference in the taste of the food at at place like, say, Founding Farmers? Honestly, I have no idea. The meal I had was spectacular and it's always nice to know that while I'm enjoying it I'm also behaving responsibly -- given that I'm probably having a couple of drinks and will almost surely not be behaving responsibly later in the evening. But considering the fact that high-end restaurants almost always seek out the best and freshest ingredients anyway -- whether they're locally farmed or not -- does the extra flair of going green-market really show on the plate? I'm not talking overall quality or various health considerations here -- just taste.

I bring this up because with Thanksgiving here, I want to throw a question out there: Do you really care where your food comes from?

Before you answer, know that I don't mean would you just shrug it off if you knew that Upton Sinclair's severed right leg had been hefted into a meat grinder somewhere and then sprinkled over your Campbell's Minestrone. I mean, if you know that the food you buy at the grocery store or order at the local TGI Friday's has passed USDA inspection -- and it tastes good to you -- do you spend a lot of time worrying about the conditions in which it was grown, farmed or raised?

Be honest.

In case you haven't heard, the "publicity sluts" at PETA -- the words of the group's, ahem, "controversial" leader Ingrid Newkirk, not mine -- are once again at war with NBC. You may remember that earlier this year the network refused to air an ad during the Super Bowl that featured girls in lingerie nearly pleasuring themselves with vegetables; the tag line of the thing was "Studies Show Vegetarians Have Better Sex." (For the record, I haven't seen these studies myself.) Now PETA's been shot down again by the NBC suits, this time over an ad the group had hoped to air during -- wait for it -- the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The commercial opens with a family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner, but when the little girl at the table is asked to say grace, she thanks God for the turkey, which came from a farm "where they pack turkeys into dark little sheds for their whole lives, where they burn their feathers off while they're still alive," and where the turkeys "get kicked around like a football by people who think it's fun to stomp on their little turkey heads." The girl then gives special thanks "for all the chemicals and dirt and poop that's in the turkey we're about to eat."

What a precocious little scamp, that kid. I know somebody who won't mind being sent to her room without supper.

Obviously, NBC standards and practices brought the ax down on the ad like it was the soft flesh of a turkey's neck. Even more obviously, it doesn't matter one bit -- PETA never really intended to get the thing on the air anyway. As far as the group is concerned, the controversy over once again having a commercial banned from network television is as valuable in pushing its message as actually getting it broadcast. Although it admittedly would've been entertaining to watch the fireworks had an unsuspecting America suddenly seen its parade -- and its Thanksgiving preparations -- interrupted by Little Miss Turkey Shop of Horrors.

Was NBC right to shoot down the ad? Yeah, actually -- it was. It's rare that I choose decorum over a little good-natured subversion, but even I'm capable of accepting that there really is a time and a place for everything. You don't beat the viewers of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, many of whom are children, over the head with incendiary political messages -- particularly not ones that deal in turkey feces. First of all, if your supposed goal is to stop people from eating turkey on Thanksgiving then the ad's completely ineffective anyway, given that there isn't a soul out there who's going to throw out his or her entire meal at 10am on Thanksgiving morning -- even if the kids are now crying at the thought of little turkey heads being crushed underfoot. If PETA's intention were really to make a difference on Thanksgiving day, the ad would've been running for weeks now.

Beyond that, though, the ad itself is somewhat disingenuous -- which isn't a surprise if you know anything at all about PETA. It ends with the tagline "Go Vegan," which essentially means that entreaties made to viewers to consider their own health when they sit down for dinner -- you know, all those chemicals and dirt and poop -- are nothing but, pardon the pun, red herrings. Vegans generally don't choose not to eat animal products out of a concern for their own well-being; they do it out of a concern for the animal's. It would've been one thing if PETA had been pushing vegetarianism; an argument can be made there that eating vegetables is, for the most part, less dangerous in the long run than eating red meat, or even chicken or turkey, these days. But the reality is that PETA doesn't really give a crap about you, or your family for that matter -- all it cares about is the animal you want to have for dinner. PETA doesn't want your Thanksgiving turkey to be treated more humanely in the days and months leading up to you eating it -- it doesn't want you eating it at all.

There's been a lot of debate recently over a new book called, pointedly, Eating Animals, by entirely too pretentious best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer. In it, Foer retreads ground already well-broken-in by guys like Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. The main gist of Eating Animals is that the industrial agribusiness system in this country -- the big "factory farm" as we know it -- is slowly poisoning both us and the environment. Foer makes plenty of points worth giving serious consideration to -- admittedly, it's a daunting notion to entirely trust a profit-based leviathan like the American factory farm industry with the food we put into our bodies -- but it should surprise no one that he approached the material with a conclusion already well in mind and is hamstrung by his own sanctimony and desire to push a personal agenda. Still, that's not stopping some of the usual suspects within the always delightful liberal intelligentsia from glomming onto Foer and his findings; after all, if you happen to agree with his agenda, why wouldn't you?

Environmental activist Laurie David, who produced Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, took to the pages of the Huffington Post a few days ago to slam a write-up of Eating Animals (a book she calls a "game-changer") by the New York Times. David was furious that the author of the book review had the temerity to ask a question that rightly gets leveled at PETA and animal rights activists quite a bit -- namely, why when there are people who are starving around the world, people who could ostensibly be fed by large farms, should anyone really worry about the plight of an animal stuck in a cage that's too small? David's evisceration of the writer was based around an argument that really caught my attention. Her point: Caring is not a zero-sum game. According to David, there's room to care for both the humans suffering from hunger -- and other various tragedies and crises for that matter -- and the animals suffering in factory farms.

Except there isn't -- not for everyone.

And here's where I answer my own question from earlier: No, I just don't have the time or the inclination to concern myself with how the animals I eat are treated.

I of course don't want to see animals tortured needlessly, but as heartless as this may sound I think I'm like a lot of Americans when I say that I actually do have only a limited reservoir of empathy and compassion and I've learned to personally prioritize the way in which it's dispensed. The reason for this isn't so much that I honestly just don't give a damn, it's that I understand that if you let every injustice claw at your insides you eventually lose the ability to function. Call this a cop-out or a defense mechanism or what have you, I simply have more pressing issues to concern myself with than whether the bacon I ate for breakfast was comfortable up until its untimely death. Once again this will sound awful, but as long as you're not slaughtering the thing in my front yard, I'm good. I eat meat -- and turkey and chicken and fish and just about anything else -- because I enjoy it. I'm an adventurous eater and always have been. As Anthony Bourdain famously said, "My body isn't a temple, it's an amusement park."

This way of thinking is also very likely the reason that I don't spend too much time dwelling on just what might be in the food that I eat. I actually do eat quite healthy these days, but not healthy to the point where I pick apart every little thing to ensure that it's never been near a chemical or pumped with an occasional preservative. Admittedly, both Jayne and I are much more careful about what we feed Inara, but she still eats animal products and neither of us lets it paralyze us with fear or make us run screaming into the streets at the horror of a cow being bled out.

Why? Because I believe that a person's wants and needs are more important than the well-being of cattle. Call me a savage -- that's just the way it is.

But that's obviously not the way PETA thinks. In the eyes of PETA and Ingrid Newkirk -- who's been called everything from a demagogic militant to a full-on sociopath, with good reason -- the safety of an animal, any animal, is not only as valuable as the wants and needs of a human being, it's just as important as the very life of that human being. Newkirk after all is the same woman who once wrote Yassir Arafat to plead with him to stop using donkeys in suicide bombing attacks (while ignoring the people he was killing); she's the same person who backs the terrorist Animal Liberation Front in its campaign to free research animals that save human lives every single day; the same woman who wants to ban seeing-eye dogs; the person who wrote to Al Gore to lecture him on the fact that he eats meat, which she claims is antithetical to caring for the environment; the one who says fish should be called "sea kittens."

The woman who believes, "The smallest form of life, even an ant or a clam, is equal to a human being."

This is the kind of lunacy Ingrid Newkirk espouses and acts on day after day after day.

But here's the thing: Ingrid Newkirk may be completely off her rocker, but she's by no means stupid. She has to know that her methods, tactics and beliefs will do little more than rally millions to stand not simply against her cause but vehemently against it. Newkirk and PETA don't just antagonize those you would think they're hoping to win over -- they create an army of people who out-and-out hate them. Trying to hit America in the face with turkey torture during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is not what you'd call a good P.R. strategy. It's a great way to make people despise you and your cause -- which doesn't save one single animal. All it does is feed your gargantuan ego and your need to, literally and figuratively, stir the pot. It seems as if these people aren't activists so much as narcissists -- as if theirs is at times an entirely self-indulgent endeavor.

That's too bad, because you would think that the plight of defenseless animals would be an easy sell -- and, yes, a necessary one.

Although I've already admitted that I have the ability to put that plight out of my mind and just enjoy my meal, which I'm sure is why PETA is hoping to force me and millions of others to confront the realities of the modern American food chain.

The thing is, it still won't change my mind about my Thanksgiving dinner or anything else I choose to eat.

And I doubt I'm the only one who feels that way.

Dream of the Blue Turkey

This little clip has become something of a yearly tradition around these parts.

On this, the day that we celebrate the beginning of the first -- but certainly not last -- great American land swindle, I ask you to remember the plight of flightless birds everywhere. Sure, that farm-raised turkey is now on your plate, but at one time it had dreams of majestically taking to the skies, just like so many of its feathered brethren.

Just like the poor Kiwi.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stone Cold

Today's piece for the Daily Banter, the last before the holiday weekend, takes a look at the internet furor over a young woman named Lindsey Stone. If you don't know who she is and what she did -- you're probably really lucky.

Here's the opening shot:

"Anybody who’s kept up with me on my site, here, or at the Huffington Post knows that I have a habit of defending people who say really dumb things, particularly if those dumb these were intended to get a laugh. The issue as far as I’m concerned isn’t that you shouldn’t expect to face criticism if you say or do something that could easily be perceived as offensive — it’s simply that, with the rise of the internet as a global forum for shaming, retribution and general piling-on, the backlash to a perceived offense is usually so loud and so organized these days that it in short order winds up being anything but a proportional response.

Case in point, America’s newest internet pariah: Lindsey Stone."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

The very early 90s were actually, in retrospect, a really interesting era for metal. With the underground rise of alt-metal bands like Jane's Addiction, the hair bands that had dominated the 80s were actually being slowly chipped away at even before Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains thundered onto the scene like the meteor that killed off the dinosaurs in one shot.

There were a lot of acts incorporating funk, soul, even Beatles-esque harmonies into what was traditionally a pretty straightforward game.

One listen to these guys and you realized immediately that there was no surprise they were associated with the brilliant King's X. From '91, here's Galactic Cowboys -- I'm Not Amused.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food for No Thought

Today's column for the Daily Banter takes aim at Guy Fieri. And the Food Network.

Here's the opening shot:

"Anyone who’s listened to Bob Cesca and I rail like bitter old guys against the various tyrannies of the world on our podcast knows that there’s one subject besides politics that we bring up over and over again. Something that elicits from us both anger and outrage and which we can’t stop moaning about no matter how hard we try: the Food Network. Granted, it would be easy to take the advice of many wise men and women who came before us and simply change the channel rather than allowing the steady stream of foodie-fellating nonsense unleashed by this one particular network to wash over us, but what fun would that be? I can’t speak entirely for Bob, but I know that there is such a thing as hate-watching — and I know I often do it to the Food Network."

Read the Rest Here

Quote of the Day

"Is it treasonous to want to secede from the United States? Many think the question of secession was settled by our Civil War. On the contrary, the principles of self-government and voluntary association are at the core of our founding... Secession is a deeply American principle. This country was born through secession. Some thought it was treasonous to secede from England, but those “traitors” became our country’s greatest patriots. There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents. That is what our revolutionary war was all about and today, our own federal government is vastly overstepping its constitutional bounds with no signs of reform. In fact, the recent election only further entrenched the status quo... At what point should a people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government? And if people or states are not free to leave the United States as a last resort, can they really think of themselves as free? If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government they cannot truly be considered free."

-- Ron Paul, in an op-ed titled "You're Not Free If You Can't Secede from an Oppressive Government"

I swear, part of me is really gonna miss Ron Paul now that he's left his thoroughly ineffectual role in Congress to literally dodder away into his twilight years ranting at telephone poles about the dangers of functional government. I give it about a month before his face shows up on a local news station somewhere alongside a story that begins with the words, "Authorities need your help tonight in finding an elderly man who may have wandered off from home," while highway signs warn drivers to be on the lookout as part of a "Silver Alert."

I didn't watch all of Paul's pissy, 48-minute-long "goodbye cruel world" speech to the House last week because I have a life, but Salon put together a quickie Cliff's Notes of it and what was most amusing is that in just the clips they made available Paul managed to say the word "liberty" nine times. He used "freedom" six times, five of those in just one short paragraph. This is important because as you know, a vote for Ron Paul was always a vote for LIBERTY. Never mind that Paul's a lunatic or that his goals for a national government, basically that there would be no government at all, is laughably impractical bordering on impossible. He even came right out and admitted that he didn't really do anything while in Congress because he believes that the role of government should be to essentially contribute to people's lives in no meaningful way -- and in that respect, he was the perfect representative.

I'm really enjoying, though, watching the gloves come off completely now that Paul's safely out of office and can say whatever crazy horseshit he wants without worrying about having to be held accountable for it. I look forward to many more op-eds on secession, unicorns, public water fountains that are too tall, his anger that it's so hard to find Sanka these days, liberty! liberty! liberty! etc.

Listening Post

In addition to all the traditional records he releases, BT has become famous for releasing extended independent tracks and albums full of ambient "soundtrack"-style music.

Here's his latest offering, a nearly 14-minute piece called 13 Angels on My Broken Windowsill, which runs the gamut from ambient to dubstep and is accompanied by an admittedly mesmerizing video.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Listening Post

Emma Hewitt is an Australian singer-songwriter known more for her electronic dance work than anything else. That said, her latest record, Burn Down the Sky, has her branching out quite a bit and the result is pretty terrific.

Here's Colours.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Welcome To the Suck

Today's column for the Daily Banter looks at the upcoming movie The Canyons -- which doesn't look very good in any sense.

Here's the opening shot:

"I’ll make this quick because it’s Friday and I’m ready to pretend that I don’t still have a pile of work on my desk that isn’t going to get done by the magical work fairies I bought online and am now trying to grow on the back of my toilet.

Sure, this is a tall order, but can we finally dispense with the notion that a lot of things in this world are so bad they’re good?"

Read the Rest Here

The Bob & Chez Show After Party, 11.16.12

Join the After Party

This week: Legal weed in Colorado and Washington; Our Dramatic reading of the scathing NYT review of Guy Fieri’s awful restaurant; Papa John’s and Applebee’s Whiny Tantrum; BP’s record fine for the Gulf oil spill; The latest Star Wars news; Bono’s Bill Clinton impression; and much more.

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 11.15.12

Romney says Obama won because he gave people free stuff; Romney staffers tried to gin up a Benghazi Gate Deep Throat character; John McCain and his Benghazi Witch Hunt; Hilarious Republican Outreach to Latinos and Women; Secession Fever Grips Thousands; The Petraeus Scandal; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius.

There’s more in this week’s After Party. If you’re not a member, subscribe already. Only $6/month, cancel any time.

Listen and subscribe for free on iTunes

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Response Time

Gather 'round, kids, because it's time for the Daily Banter mailbag, where you ask me, Ben and Bob a bunch of inane questions and we give you even more inane answers.

This week: Will Europe finally learn? Will Republican moderates be the ones to try to form their own party this time around? And would an Obama-Biden "Master-Blaster" rule Bartertown?

Read the Answers Here

Listening Post

If you're immersed in Black Ops II at the moment, then you'll probably recognize this song immediately. It was one of the best tracks from Elbow's spectacular last album and it's used to great effect in the opening sequence of the story.

Above, it's The Night Will Always Win, performed live, and below it's how it appears in the game.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Assistant Quote of the Day

"Does the phrase 'Minute to Win It' refer to the process of procuring Donkey Sauce from an aroused donkey?"

-- "Ruth Bourdain," the infamous anonymous blogger whose name is supposedly a combination of Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain, piling on Guy Fieri and asking a question she believes was left out of the scathing New York Times review of his Times Square restaurant

Everyone knows I'd enjoy seeing Fieri die in a grease fire, so I haven't even bothered bringing up the whole rigmarole surrounding the Times review (which is brilliant, by the way). But "Ruth Bourdain's" list of questions is easily the best comment I've seen yet on the review, Fieri's butt-hurt response to it, and the media and food critic feeding frenzy that's resulted.

The New Abnormal

Today's column for the Daily Banter breathes a sigh of relief that things are finally getting back to "normal."

Here's the opening shot:

"Can you feel that? Isn’t it nice?

I may be a big fan of new experiences, but there’s nothing quite like returning to your comfort zone, where every minute of every day unfolds a like warm blanket of soothing predictability. Sure, it was entertaining and even, for the briefest of moments, somewhat encouraging to see the Republicans humbly soul-search following the trouncing they received at the polls last week. For a couple of days it seemed like all you heard was a steady stream of self-recrimination and conciliatory language coming from the right. Even as the usual apocalyptic raving and blustery doubling-down on the politics of division and eliminationism went on unabated, for the first time in a very long time these voices were uncharacteristically outnumbered by people at least trying to behave calmly and rationally. Just about everyone from every political stripe was apparently ready to acknowledge that the GOP had lost its way and its historic comeuppance was proof of its lack of viability in a changing America. November 6th was a date with demographic destiny the right shouldn’t have been able to forget.

But hey, that was last week."

Read the Rest Here

Quote of the Day

"I’m neither an admirer nor detractor of Gen. Petraeus. But I am most definitely a detractor of what journalism has become in this country, of what passes for the qualitative analysis of our society and its problems. And I’ve paid enough attention to the human condition to no longer take seriously the notion that anyone who lets penis or vagina rub against the wrong person, who is indiscreet in doing so, and who then tells the truth about it when confronted by an FBI agent is unfit for either citizenship or public service. I certainly know enough about the human condition to know that all kinds of people — smart and dumb, powerful and powerless — are capable of finding themselves in such a circumstance and shaking their heads at just how far they strayed, at just how indiscreet they were in their very ordinary, human hunger, and how they have hurt those closest to them. Sex, done right, is some powerful shit. And when Americans begin to accept the human condition for what it is rather than an opportunity to jeer at the other fellow for getting caught, then we will be, if nothing else, a little bit more grown up. I remember when Francois Mitterrand’s wife and mistress walked beside each other in the French premier’s funeral procession and few in that country thought it remarkable. The French have got their problems, but in some respects, they make our country, our political commentary, seem as mature and insightful as a 14-year-old unsticking the pages of his dad’s just-discovered skin mags. It’s a peculiar American hypocrisy that only the worst kind of journalistic hack would readily and willingly embrace as a meaningful metric."

-- David Simon, creator of The Wire, on the David Petraeus sex scandal

Simon's take on this entire stupid story that's holding captive the minds, hearts and souls of America's supposedly professional journalists is the best thing I've read about it, hands down.

Q & A

If it's Thursday, it must be time for me to hit you up for questions for this week's Daily Banter mailbag. You know the drill by now -- I ask you nice people for questions about politics, pop culture, the media, that personal not-fo-fresh feeling, etc. and Bob, Ben and I try to keep a straight face while we answer them.

Submit your questions via the comment section of this post, Facebook, Twitter DM or e-mail -- the address is to the right -- and maybe you'll see yourself on the pages of the Daily Banter tomorrow morning.

We can't do it without you, kids.

Listening Post

Proof that this isn't just a good dance song, it's a good song in general.

Here's a really nice acoustic version of one of my favorite tracks of the year: Zedd's Spectrum, performed solo by the guy who sang on the original, Matthew Koma.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You Can Go Your Own Way

Today's column for the Daily Banter is an open letter to Texas.

Here's how it begins:

"Dear Texas,

So word has it you’re talking about seceding from the United States and, I guess, forming your own country. I wish I could react with shock, but the truth is we’ve heard this kind of thing before; we hear rumbles of it every time something happens politically on a national scale that rattles your ironically fragile sense of independence and sends you into a Texas-sized panic. It usually amounts to nothing more than petulant whining disguised as a lot of cock-grabbing bravado and bluster, but this time you’ve managed to quickly amass enough signatures calling for secession in the wake of last week’s Obama victory — more than 80,000 — that the White House has no choice but to respond to your 'request.' Let me save you the suspense and the delusion that this little tantrum is going to be the least bit effective: the answer’s gonna be 'no.'"

Read the Rest Here

Game On

I know everyone's all about Black Ops II right now, but this just landed and it's made me one very happy camper today.

Vote and Die

And to add one final insult and indignity to his life -- all I can do is laugh about this.

Gawker: Florida Man Angry Over Election Writes Out "Fuck Obama" Before Killing Himself/11.14.12

Now if only we can turn this kind of thing into a trend, we'll have something.

Listening Post

The Deftones are back with a monster of a new album.

Here's the first single from it.

This is Tempest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Graphic Enhancement

This is easily my favorite thing of the day.

When ABC 7 News in Denver ran a story yesterday about the now inescapable David Petraeus sex scandal, it used an image of Petraeus's book that had been, shall we say, somewhat photoshopped. While the real name of the book of course is All In, which in and of itself is fucking hilarious -- as Jim Norton says, the equivalent of calling it Balls Deep -- the title on the photoshopped cover 7 News showed was All Up in My Snatch.

The station admitted to the mistake and is now effusively apologizing, claiming that one of its graphics people simply grabbed a Google Image Search picture off the internet without really looking at it. The folks at Americablog, among others, are skeptical of this excuse, saying that they tried several times to get the image in question to come up quickly during a search but couldn't.

You know, I worked in local news for a long time and if there's one thing I learned it's to never underestimate the ability of the first-job-out-of-college kids to fuck something up in ways you never even thought possible.

I rest my case.

You Can't Fire Me...

Today's column for the Daily Banter is all about Allen West, who, despite losing his congressional seat, is making it clear he's not going anywhere.

You so should've seen this coming.

Here's an excerpt:

"With 100% of the applicable precincts reporting in — keep that in mind: 100% — West’s Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy has come out on top by a total of 2,442 votes. The final tab breaks down with Murphy at 50.4% of the vote and West 49.6%; that’s a stark enough difference to avoid triggering an automatic recount and prolonging the suspense. So, yeah, West is officially out of a job. Now, if you can process everything you just read, fully appreciate its lack of ambiguity and accept it as mathematical reality — congratulations, you’re sane. The same, however, can’t be said for Allen West, who’s refusing to concede the election in spite of, you know, not winning."

Read the Rest Here

Quote of the Day

"It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments -- enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters."

-- Bobby Jindal

On the one hand, Jindal's right. On the other, getting Bobby Jindal to carry this message for you is like getting Ronald McDonald to try to scold you into eating less crap.

Listening Post

The force of nature that is The Joy Formidable return with a single that improves upon the promise of their last terrific album.

Here's This Ladder Is Ours.

Sorry for the absence, kids. Took a long weekend after the election.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Kelly Grrrl

Today's column for the Daily Banter sends a little bit of love to Megyn Kelly -- who I have to admit redeemed herself somewhat over the past few days.

Here's the opening shot:

I never thought I'd say this but I'm kind of liking Megyn Kelly right about now.

I realize that in the past I've been pretty mean to her, saying that she "comes off like an extravagantly groomed chihuahua who's very angry about being left in somebody's Louis Vuitton handbag for too long" and insulting her mini-spread in GQ magazine, among other often admittedly petty nastiness. I say these things because she really does know how to peg the insufferability meter among Fox News's cadre of interchangeable blondes -- and also because I enjoy being a prick sometimes. But I have to give credit where credit is due: She's willing to turn that look that combines condescension, incredulity and revulsion -- the one that's become her trademark -- on just about anybody, even, apparently, Karl Rove.

Read the Rest Here

Porn Again

This is truly one of the most brilliantly surreal things you will ever see.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 11.8.12

Our Election Recap; President Obama Re-elected; Dean Chambers Blames Bob for His Attack on Nate Silver; The Moneyball Election; Fox News Fights Itself; Rove Crapped His Pants; Republicans Will Never Become More Moderate; Republican Tokenism; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius.

There’s more election talk in this week’s After Party on Friday at Noon eastern time. If you’re not a member, subscribe already. Only $6/month, cancel any time.

Listen and subscribe for free on iTunes

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Q & A

If it's Thursday, it must be time for me to hit you up for questions for this week's Daily Banter mailbag. You know how this works -- I ask you nice people for questions about the election, politics, pop culture, the media, sexual issues, etc. and Bob, Ben and I try to answer them.

Submit your queries via the comment section of this post, Facebook, Twitter DM or e-mail -- the address is to the right -- and maybe you'll see yourself on the pages of the Daily Banter tomorrow morning.

Bring it on.

Listening Post

Nobody cranks out alt pop, indie or otherwise, like L.A. -- that's sometimes a good thing and sometimes a very bad one. I complain a lot these days about how most alt music sounds the same: it's all far too twee and hipster for my tastes. Still, this song's pretty catchy and the rest of the EP it comes from is worth a listen.

Here's L.A. band Blondfire -- Where the Kids Are.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Reason #1,373 Why "The Onion" Rules

After Obama Victory, Shrieking White-Hot Sphere Of Pure Rage Early GOP Front-Runner For 2016

The Bubble Bursts

Sorry, but I can't stop going back to Fox News's reaction to last night's Obama victory because it's just so fascinating on so many different levels. It really is shocking how quickly and dramatically the wheels came off the entire operation and how a group of people who are dedicated to relentlessly pushing their agenda would break down and allow their political enemies so much delicious, tears of unfathomable sadness-style, schadenfreude. They had to know that by behaving this way -- taking the loss of their fully backed candidate with such indignity -- they'd be personally providing their critics with plenty of salt to rub into their wounds.

Of course if you believe that Fox News doesn't just cynically generate an epistemic bubble for its viewers but actually lives inside it as well then it makes perfect sense that this would be the reaction when that bubble explodes all over them.

Some of the best things said about the sadness, desperation and complete loss of professionalism over at Fox so far:

"(It) looks like it was scripted by Ricky Gervais... Last night, Roger Ailes' walls came tumbling down. Because their foundations were not based in reality, just ratings. Fox deserves a great deal of credit for re-electing president Obama. Because they refused to see who he actually was, they could not effectively counter him. They countered a figment of their imagination - and it was a particularly nasty, bilious, mean figment. Their universe became a black hole last night, sucking almost all of them in."

-- Andrew Sullivan

"What is unusual–really, one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen on cable news–is for one arm of a network to basically turn against itself on-air. 'Here’s what we’re going to do!' said anchor Bret Baier. 'We’re going to get someone from the decision desk and we’re going to bring them in here and we’re going to have them on air and we’re going to interview them about this decision.' That’s right: One of you nerds had better get in here and explain yourselves to Karl Rove! You have made an important Republican very upset!

It was a fitting moment for an election that often seemed to be a campaign over the idea of mathematical knowability itself. But it was also a glaring, and embarrassing, example of the extent to which Fox News has become an arm of the Republican Party and is expected by GOP operatives to behave as one. Rove may be a party big shot, but he’s just a guy giving analysis on Fox’s air. He does not run the network, even if his friends do.

And yet apparently no one in Fox’s studio felt empowered to tell him that, just because he’d raised a squillion dollars for his Republican SuperPAC this election, he is not entitled to have the decision desk hauled out to answer to him like chefs who sent out an undercooked steak. It’s the sort of thing that might cause you to examine your mission as a journalistic network. I’m not waiting up for that to happen, though.

In the end, Rove is a numbers guy too, and he finally had to concede to the arithmetic–but not before creating a defining image of a partisan, and a network, at war with the very reality it could not avoid reporting. Kelly, who at least took the whole interlude in good humor, at one point deadpanned, 'That’s awkward.' Yes, it was. And kind of amazing."

-- James Poniewozik of Time Magazine

"The Right used ideology as the intellectual underpinning of their projections, while everyone else used facts. Nate Silver isn’t a mystic or the modern incarnation of Nostradamus – he’s an extraordinarily thorough polling analyst who bases predictions on a formula that accounts for real world margins of error and reporting discrepancies. It isn’t perfect, but the methodology is pretty airtight when it comes to projecting accurate odds. That’s why every half decent political analyst took Silver’s projections seriously and discounted the Right wing noise machine when it came to picking a winner."

-- Ben Cohen at the Daily Banter

One other possibility, at least as far as one guy's reaction is concerned: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS superPAC spent nearly $300-million on Romney. If you'd just watched that much money go down the drain in one bad bet, you'd probably be angry too.

Quote of the Day

"We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party. And to do the latter we have to fix our Hispanic problem as quickly as possible, we’ve got to accept science and start calling out these false equivalencies when they occur within our party about things that are just not true, and not tolerate the intolerant."

-- Republican strategist John Weaver


Forget the fiscal cliff. The GOP just went over the demographic cliff, one which they've spent years recklessly plowing full-speed-ahead toward. They have only themselves to blame.

Time's Up

Yes, I admit it: Once the race was called for Barack Obama last night, I immediately suggested to the people I was hanging out with that we switch the channel over to Fox News. I expected it to be interesting. I didn't expect it to be as interesting as it was. Watching the entire operation publicly deflate -- with Karl Rove refusing to accept reality and Megyn Kelly actually getting up and walking over to the "decision desk" to demand answers -- was honestly one of the damndest things I've witnessed in a very long time.

But Bill O'Reilly's bitter, crestfallen soliloquy on how America isn't really America anymore was the most memorable moment. Memorable because of how disconcertingly comfortable O'Reilly is with his own racism and xenophobia and also because he simultaneously acknowledged what some of us have been warning for a while -- namely that the Republican party in its current form simply can't survive and will soon be demographically pushed into extinction -- while making it clear that Fox News likely intends to now double down on the extremist rhetoric aimed at the dwindling resentful-old-white-guy crowd.

O'Reilly's sullen little rant is the statement of a man who's just had it finally made clear to him that he's not in charge anymore.

Listening Post

Worn out, overcome and still exhilarated this morning. Still have a ton of work on my desk that needs attending to so it'll be light around here, unfortunately.

Here's Snow Patrol -- In the End.

Thanks, America. I knew you had it in you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Rob the Vote

I don't like to circulate stuff that I can't verify, but given that the source which is circulating this is someone I trust -- a former senior producer at NBC News -- I don't feel quite so bad about putting it out there.

According to the person who originally uploaded this video to YouTube -- a voter in Pennsylvania -- here's what happened:

"I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney’s name and started tapping very closely together to find the ‘active areas’. From the top of Romney’s button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama’s name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein’s button was fine. All other buttons worked fine."

This could be a hoax. It could be a very serious miscalibration. Or it could be something unimaginably insidious. Regardless, I have a feeling you'll be seeing this 18-second clip quite a bit in the coming hours and days.

Update Here


Today's column for the Daily Banter takes a look at the long, strange, infuriating trip that brought us to this day, and how there's just one thing left to do.

Here's the opening shot:

"There’s a scene in the movie 'Alien 3' that’s come to mind several times over the past few days, as the 2012 presidential race finally winds down to an end. Deciding that she’s had enough and reeling from the revelation that she’s pregnant with an alien fetus, a bitter, exhausted Ripley descends into the depths of the prison on Fiorina 161 to confront the creature that’s tormented her for the better part of six decades. As she stalks through the darkness looking for it, makeshift weapon in hand, she says out loud, 'You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.' They’re words that convey emotional devastation, words of utter resignation directed at the seemingly unstoppable evil that’s left her psyche in tatters and has systematically annihilated everything she holds dear.

I know the feeling. I feel the same way about the 2012 race for the White House."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

The perfect song for today.

Here's John Legend and the Roots doing Arcade Fire's Wake Up.

Get out there and do something incredible today.

The country and the world is counting on you.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Skew You

Today's column for the Daily Banter, the last before election day tomorrow, takes a look at how NBC is trying to ward off criticism from the right by preemptively "unskewing" its polls that show Barack Obama ahead.

Here's the opening shot:

"For some time now, I’ve been making the argument that claims of a liberal media bias — at least insofar as what’s actually produced by most American news outlets — amount to a bunch of nonsense. The reason for this is simple: The right has created such a magnificently run cottage industry out of hectoring news operations for supposedly being a bunch of pointy-headed, overeducated elitists — making them, by their very nature, anti-conservative — and it’s done it for so long that most newsrooms now preemptively police themselves in an effort to ward off any potential criticism from the right. It’s of course a losing game, because the reality is that no amount of self-censoring or general bending over backwards will make media critics on the right happy since the stories of the liberal media boogeyman are now an article of faith for conservatives; they need that boogeyman to justify their willingness to deny any reality that threatens to pop the epistemic bubble that keeps them safe. It’s imperative for the right to retain the ability to dismiss out of hand any news that makes it mad as being the work of political enemies who can’t under any circumstances be trusted."

Read the Rest Here

Quote of the Day

"(President Obama puts us on) a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values -- those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us a great and exceptional nation in the first place."

-- Paul Ryan, on a town hall-style call last night with social conservatives, organized by Ralph Reed

Uh-huh. I'll refer you to yesterday's post here.

Listening Post

This seems fitting with one day left until all this madness finally ends (and, provided Barack Obama wins, an entirely new brand of madness begins).

Here's Radiohead's Electioneering.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sunday Sacrilege

It's been a while since I've done one of these, mostly because I tend to spend my weekends trying to relax given that I normally put in 14-hour work days during the week.

Chances are you've seen this by now. It was shot in 2007, during Mitt Romney's first presidential campaign, and features an agitated Romney going at it with a conservative radio host in Des Moines over the subject of Mormonism. The video inexplicably popped back into the public eye over the past few days, more than likely as an attempt to embarrass Romney, who really does look quite a bit like Tom Cruise raving about Scientology throughout a good portion of the clip. Yeah, it's amusing to hear a grown man -- one who otherwise seems to be in possession of all his faculties -- actually arguing that when Jesus Christ returns to Earth during the apocalypse, he's going to govern from Jerusalem and, well, Missouri. But the reality is that the every faith-based religion's epistemology is pretty much nuts; you can't laugh at the outlandish notion of Jesus setting up camp in Missouri while seeing nothing crazy about believing in Jesus as the son of God who's going to come back to rule the planet in the first place.

I've said this before many times but it's one of those things that seems necessary to bring up each time questions of religion become a prevailing factor in our nation's politics: Under no circumstances should we be voting for someone based on which ancient superstition he or she adheres to or what magic entity he or she worships. I get that this is a tall order, but given the issues that face this country right now, I couldn't care less how a leader's "faith" guides him, given that faith is a ridiculous conceit somehow made less ridiculous only when it's applied to questions of who supposedly created the universe and what he expects from us. Faith won't get us out of the mess we're currently in. It's not a plan.

Romney truly believes that there's going to be Armageddon and that Jesus will eventually ride in from the sky on a winged horse and rule us all from Jerusalem and Missouri. Barack Obama, as reasonable and rational as he is, claims to believe almost the same thing or something at least equally crazy. Every four years we watch the people who want to be the leader of the free world effusively pander to those in the thrall of a mass delusion -- men and women whose childish beliefs are lent credence simply by virtue of the fact that we've decided that there's sanity in numbers and that reality is subject to consensus -- and just accept it as the way things go in America.

Romney's religious views are thoroughly insane. But they're no more insane than just about anyone else's religious views. It would be nice if we finally got to the point where our leaders could say that out loud.

Adding: Putting aside discussions about Romney's faith being so weird that it's not at all weird, the guy he and the radio host fall all over themselves to praise -- Cleon Skousen -- really was a fundamentalist far-right nutjob. Read on.

Now, from the DXM archive and for your Sunday reading enjoyment...

"The Sectarian Candidate" (Originally Published, 12.6.07)


What follows is the initial draft of today's (12/6/07) scheduled speech by Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President of the United States. The purpose of the address will be to allow Mr. Romney the opportunity to explain his Mormon faith to America, in the hope of creating a better understanding and acceptance of the faith's spiritual tenets and practices. The corrections, as well as the notes and instructions in boldface, have been written by Mr. Romney himself except where noted.

My fellow Americans,

You now have two earth minutes to surrender or be destroyed.

I come to you today, not simply as a proud citizen of this country, nor merely as a candidate for President of the United States, but as a man of faith.

There's been some concern over the past few months about my religious beliefs, specifically, questions in regard to the Mormon faith itself. Many Americans want to know what it is, what it stands for, who is behind it, is it just as warm and cuddly as that "Big Love" show, what is its relation to Christianity?

I'm here to tell you that you have nothing to fear -- that the Church of Latter Day Saints has a plan for your life, and that it involves tax evasion and three wives in every home. The church and its storied belief system were founded by the great Prophet Joseph Smith, who, when he wasn't searching for buried treasure, trying to con local hillbillies, or sitting in a jail cell, dedicated his life to pulling a "religion" out of his ass in an effort to rip off his arch-nemesis, the U.S. Government spreading the word of the one true God. (Remember to pause dramatically in between one, true and God)

Prophet, Seer and Revelator Smith was the sole vessel for the most recent Testament of Jesus Christ, as told to him by several "angelic beings," including the resurrected prophet known as "Moroni." (The "C" is silent.) These were called hallucinations "Revelations." To make a very long and unbelievably convoluted story short, after transcribing the word of God on a set of mysterious, invisible golden plates, Prophet Smith built a brand new ponzi scheme church from the ground up and took himself and his followers west due mostly to the fact that they were run out of almost every town they tried to settle in, to Utah.

The faith the Prophet founded was special, like no other (insofar as it was, in fact, like every other faith simply because Prophet Smith created it by unimaginatively swiping tenets and concepts from already established religions like Christianity and Judaism). As such, it developed many dupes followers during its formative period -- the lengthy era between the church's inception and its final settlement in Utah.

Along the way, the Prophet was visited by many more visions -- even Jesus stopped by the see him, at one point presenting him with the "New Covenant" (what became known as "The Principle"). This dictated that polygamy was not only condoned, but demanded by God. (Look stern)

David Koresh Joseph Smith of course passed this commandment on to his people -- particularly the women, whose subservience was now nothing less than a holy mandate under pain of eternal torment -- and thus, plural marriage became a staple of this new religion , one that would only be truly abandoned when the entire state of Utah found itself ostracized and excluded from the union, and eventually the government began confiscating everything polygamist families owned.

As it grew, Mormonism became the church of inclusion and equality, unless you were black, gay or a woman which helped to make it the fast-growing faith that it is today.

It also is and always has been a religion of peace (not counting the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, in which Mormon militiamen executed hundreds of unarmed men, women and children, then tried to pin it on the local Indians) .

(***Note from Campaign "Technician": Please be aware that Romney-VI will need to be plugged into the charger for at least an extra 20 minutes to remain animated for this length of time.***)

As I stand before you to ask you to elect me to the highest office in the land, I want to reassure you about the warm relationship the Church of Latter Day Saints has always shared with the United States government -- which I hope to be the leader of in the near future. Mormons have always had the utmost respect for the United States when they weren't trying to secede from the union or were arrogantly refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. And while none of Joseph Smith's insane pronouncements or prophecies ever came true, that's no reason not to believe that Scientology Mormonism is not a legitimate faith -- one that can and should be accepted by both the American people and the government we all hold so dear.

And about faith in general, I must say this...

"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people."** (I like this. Gotta keep it. It'll piss off the bloggers.)

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong."** (This is great. It'll show those God-haters who believe in all that science. Remember to keep this in.)

To sum up today ladies and gentlemen, let me make one final point about my particular faith -- and it is one which simply cannot be argued with.

The beliefs of Mormons are no more curious...

No more outlandish...

And no more preposterous...

Than than the beliefs of any other faith.

Thank you, and God Bless America.

(**Actual excerpts from Romney's prepared address. By the way, to learn every dirty little secret about the real history of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and its extremist spinter cell, the FLDS, I highly recommend reading Jon Krakauer's excellent 2003 bestseller Under the Banner of Heaven.)