ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

March 15, 2013

The Three Cs of Reading the News

Filed under: General Store,New Media and Tech,Politics and Public Affairs — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 7:10 AM

When Google announced this week that it would be shutting down Reader, I took it as another indignity to be borne. I’ve seen services I like shut down, sold, and screwed up beyond recognition. And that’s just the Google stuff! Reader occupies a default tab in my Web browser. I check it first thing in the morning, and return to it all day. I have created something over 20 folders to sort my reading matter, which includes mainstream news sites, friends’ blogs, niche tech content, and long-tail feeds about things you do not care about at all. In short, RSS generally, and Reader specifically, are foundational to the way I live and work online.

I came late to Reader late. Back when I was running Blogger & Podcaster magazine, I had to keep up with what people like Robert Scoble said. And he was all about Reader and a complex web of shared lists and links. In those days, I was a happy NetNewswire user, not needing to sync my feeds to a mobile device or a second computer. So I ignored Scoble, partly because I found his righteousness about the whole thing aggravating, and partly because I wasn’t fussed about sharing what I was reading.

I changed the way I interacted with RSS about the time I got an iPhone. Or was it when a few friends of mine started sharing news items via Reader? I don’t recall exactly, but at some point I went all in with Reader, syncing to the desktop RSS reader, and eventually making that permanent browser tab and all those folders for News, Politics, Podcasting, Longform Writing, Fluff (I Can Haz Cheezburger?), and so on. For a long time, I devoted this here site to a link blog of items I was sharing with friends. It wasn’t the most original content in the world, but I thought my choices were interesting, and the ability to share in this way gave me a means of commenting on the world in a way that was completely in my control, and fun.

Well, the Goog killed off the Share feature just in time to put a lot of its social eggs in the Google+ basket. Being unwieldy, and not a place many of my former Share buddies spent time, Google+ (which does have a tab in my browser), never became a place I cared much about. And like a lot of people, I got more and more things to read from the social networks. But these have never replaced RSS for me. The Three Cs that explain why I prefer RSS to other methods of information-gathering.

  • Completeness: Twitter sits on my desktop as I work during the day. I read it and Facebook (probably too much) when I’m at the computer, but hours sometimes go by when I don’t see Twitter. There’s the phone, of course, but I’m not glued to it. Because of the sheer volume of stuff available (I follow 500+ people, talking about topics ranging from cocktails to iOS; accessibility to Austin food), there’s no chance of scrolling back to catch up on what I’ve missed when I’m not plugged into TweetDeck. Unlike a good RSS reader, Twitter is an asynchonous fire hose, even with lists. I could follow fewer people, but if I have better ways of gathering and storing information until I’m able to consume it, why should I? Twitter’s function is not to tell me everything I need to know about the world, but to offer a running commentary, while I’m available to consume it. Twitter works best if you think of it as a party line, or a live TV channel.
  • Customization: I do love my Google Reader folders, and they serve me well. Far better than Twitter lists, they allow me to concentrate on, or ignore a topic, based on what’s going on in my world. If I’m following an election campaign closely, the blogs about classic film can wait awhile. Ditto the stories about podcasting, when I’m hip-deep in a book about accessibility. If I need a break, the Music folder awaits. If I want to substitute someone else’s curation for my own, I can subscribe to Slate writer John Dickerson’s set of public RSS feeds. He’s subscribed to some right-wing sites, and though I don’t want to wade through that stuff every day, I do sometimes take a quick look, mark everything I don’t have time for as read, and move on to the pictures of cats.
  • Context: This one qualifies as a pet peeve. A couple of weeks ago, I went to San Diego for a conference. I used Twitter primarily to keep track of goings on within a quarter-mile radius. I needed to find people and learn about events. Politics and cocktails, for once, were not on my radar. When I got home, I re-activated the Twitter fire hose. The people covering politics were all on about “the Woodward thing.” I had no idea what they were talking about, and no one provided context. Could I have Googled it up? Sure, but why? Political sites whose RSS feeds I have stored under that tab would explain it in complete sentences the next time I checked. And frankly, I was put off by the assumption implicit in the Twitter shorthand that everyone was completely up-to-date with whatever temporal kerfuffle was blowing through the political world, even if it was a story that wouldn’t matter, 12 hours after it trended. This happens a lot, and not just when I travel. A story hits at 9 AM, and by noon, Twitter has stopped telling you what the story is, and proceeded to analyze it, hashtag it, shorthand it, and make fun of it. You have to be mighty curious to work up enough interest to find out what the holy heck is going on.

I realize that the thing I am attached to is not Google Reader: it’s RSS, and the ability to organize a large group of feeds so that I can consume them on multiple devices, maintaining update status, and controlling the ability to subscribe and unsubscribe as I like. A few other services exist (Google Reader pointed me to a Lifehacker article about them), and I think we have yet to know what the full RSS landscape will be, post-Reader. For my part, I’ve been pondering the feasibility of maintaining my own synced RSS feed file on a server I control. There’s still research to be done on both the server and client sides of that equation. I have til July, apparently.

September 24, 2009

Blog Bullets: Reader, ACORN, and appointed senators

Filed under: Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 8:46 AM

Hi again, dear friends.

I’ve been using Google Reader a lot lately. The decision was forced upon me when NewsGator, maker of my preferred newsreader, NetNewswire, went and killed off its own feed-syncing service in favor of a connection to Google Reader. I can understand why they did it, but, like most people, I hate change when it affects me.

I found my old Google Reader account, cleaned it out, and synced it to my NNW stuff. In the process, I discovered the fun of sharing news stories with friends, via the Reader Web page. I still read a lot in NNW, which has yet to add Google Reader sharing or liking to its toolbox. That would be my preferred way of reading news.

I’m reading more feeds, and sharing items with a few people. You wanna share with me? I’d love that. As a result of all this sharing, here are a few things I’ve been thinking about:

  • When all the ACORN defunding stuff broke out last week, I wondered how it was that Congress could strip this organization, which has contracts with a number of government agencies, of its funding, but take no action against military and state department contractors who have been either negligent or downright evil. I mean, seriously! One contractor allowed our soldiers to be electrocuted in their showers in Iraq. Another opened fire on civilians there, killing a whole bunch of them. A third failed to discipline its employees who partied on the job as embassy guards in Afghanistan. And we’re all cheesed off about some dumb ACORN employees? Sure. Fire ACORN, or put them on long-term time-out. Fine with me. But let’s have some perspective here, people. By the way, a Congressman is attempting to push the notion that the ACORN actions constitute a “bill of attainder” and are therefore unconditional. A bill of attainder is one that is designed to punish or reward one specific person or group. And you can’t do that. Honestly, I think a whole lot of the earmark process falls squarely under that prohibition, or should.
  • I want Massachusetts to have a new senator,and I want that person to start work quickly. But this whole revising the revised law to make that possible gives me the willies. It will come back to bite the Dems, I promise. The whole issue of governors appointing senators has become kind of nuts. Did you know that five senators have ben appointed in the past year? Here’s my idea: when citizens elect a senator, they should also choose an alternate. “If for some reason senator Blowhard is unable to fulfill his or her obligations, Alternate A will take his or her place.” Madame or Mr. Alternate could serve in the elected senator’s office, learning the ropes and meeting all the lobbyists constituents when they come to town. Succession, should it become necessary, would be a breeze. On the other hand, sitting senators would need more bodyguards, wouldn’t they?

September 10, 2009

Blog Bullets: iPhone, Fundraising, and Social Media Skills Development

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Politics and Public Affairs — Tags: , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 2:37 PM

Time once again for a very irregular feature, in which I rattle off some short comments about a variety of seemingly random subjects. If you listen to my podcast, think of it as a text-y Lightning Round(tm).

  • iPhone 3.1, the “oh yeah, that” of yesterday’s Apple announcement, features a bunch of accessibility updates that make me extremely happy, and more likely to use accessibility on a regular basis. These are genuinely updates, not new features, but they are the kind of thing you get in a .1 release that shows Apple’s commitment to accessibility that is useful, not just window-dressing. I’ll have more to say on my next show, but the highlights include: the ability to toggle accessibility on and off easily, cut and paste support, VoiceOver access in Google Maps.
  • I think Apple’s announcements yesterday will one day be viewed as the beginning of the end of the over-driven hype train that is the Apple product release cycle. Apple may well have many fantastic products ahead of it. I simply think that a growing number of observers are finding some perspective, and putting the events Apple hosts, and the products it produces into a more realistic context. As a professional curmudgeon, I think that’s a good thing, and will lead to better journalism and reviews, and perhaps even a little less irrational hatred.
  • Democrats have (sensibly) been taking huge advantage of the opportunity presented by the whack job congressman who heckled the president’s speech last night. His 2010 opponent has raised a boatload of money. Before writing that check, will someone at least take the trouble to find out if he’s 1) a decent candidate 2) taken good positions on one or more Democratic issues? kthxbai.
  • I’m no Sarah Palin fan. No. I’m not. But I have to say that if anyone else was managing to get the mileage she has from a couple of Facebook posts, they’d be anointed the next social media genius. This is especially relevant since, like most social media geniuses, Palin is currently without other gainful employment.

April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle and the Idolatry of Perfection

Filed under: Access and Disability,Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 3:28 PM

I avoided what’s being called the Susan Boyle Phenomenon as long as I could. I first learned about it from distant acquaintances on Twitter, then from some fellow book club members. More links followed, all pointing to a video of a woman appearing on an American Idol-like TV show called Britain’s Got Talent. Words like “amazing”, “inspiring” and “it gave me chills” accompanied each link, along with an admonition that I “must watch this!”

The trouble with “amazing” and “inspiring” is that they are most often applied to disabled people by their non-disabled observers. You’ll have to trust me on this one, folks. It’s kind of like using “girl” in reference to a grown woman. Alarm bells go off until and unless some context is applied. To be amazing is to accomplish something that a “normal” person judges to be impossible for you. To be inspiring is to tug at heart strings; to bring tears, or renewed faith in humanity, just by doing what one’s own inner compass directs. Amazing and inspiring are two of my least favorite words. They evoke shallowness and emotion that is disrespectful of the life force and intellect of the person about whom they are used.

I finally clicked on Susan Boyle when her link came to me from sources I know to not be soft-headed. and I’m glad I did. Like the majority of people who have reacted to this middle-aged, unprepossessing woman’s star turn in front of skeptical judges, I was captivated. and I cried some, too. As it turns out, Ms. Boyle is not physically or mentally disabled, merely ordinary, and outside the normal demo of televised talent contests. and the surprise in the room, from judges and audience, seemed sincere. Great stuff!

As someone who has always disdained the televised talent show TV format, it occurs to me that Ms. Boyle’s triumph is an excellent illustration of what bothers me so much about American Idol and its ilk. Unassuming, less-than-attractive, or odd people brought onto such a show are put there to serve as comic relief, or as punching bags for cynical, mean-spirited judges who apparently get paid by the putdown. Audience members discuss their flaws endlessly, much to the delight of show promoters. Their very presence, and ultimate dismissal serves to reinforce stereotypes and norms about physical beauty and conformity to social norms. Not to mention conformity to the demands of music marketing. Even the people who have a chance to win out, do so by studying to the test; generating the kinds of performances, with the kinds of singing styles expected by the show’s stakeholders. No great guitarist or captivating songwriter wins such a program. It’s pure pop candy; songs we’re al supposed to know, performed on a bare stage. I want to see the band, thank you very much.

Ms. Boyle won because she first presented an unacceptable package to the judges and audience, then shattered their expectations. She could do that only because she had an extraordinary talent. If she had been a singer of middle quality, she would have been laughed off the stage. If she had matched the physical stereotypes of the show and had a middling voice, she might or might not have won, but her story would not be an Internet phenomenon today.

The victory is Ms. Boyle’s. It makes me no more likely to embrace televised talent shows. I hope that she grabs her 15 minutes of fame, and makes it pay off. She will be feted, offered makeovers, interviewed on television, and, depending upon the people around her, will have the chance to make some money and record some music. That’s her dream, and I hope she gets it.

January 25, 2009

The Business of Controversy

Filed under: Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 9:16 AM

Like any good progressive, I despise conservative talk radio. I don’t hate that it exists. I hate that most of it is so driven by anger, spite, and mean-spiritedness, and a fact-free appeal to the lesser natures of its audience.

I don’t like talk radio, but I understand it. And the thing I understand most clearly is that it is a business, whose goal is to attract listeners who will buy the products of its advertisers. Political power for the host, and persuading people to like or agree are way down the list of things a smart, profitable talker wants to accomplish, though, of course, that helps sell ED pills, gold, and weight loss schemes, too.

It is important to understand the business truth about talk radio when you consider Rush Limbaugh’s most recent appearance in the headlines of mainstream and progressive media. Limbaugh made news by saying that he hopes President Obama fails in his goals. Much outrage and ringing of hands, along with a sigh of relief from some of his conservative colleagues, have followed Limbaugh’s pronouncement. But even more than the reactions of the political class, Mr. Limbaugh wants a reaction from people who have not been listening to his show lately. The reaction he wants? For them to tune in, of course. It does not matter to Limbaugh who likes him or who listens. It only matters that they do, and that he can quantify this to advertisers. While I do not suspect Mr. Limbaugh is a closet Obama backer, I do feel certain that his provocation is completely calculated to generate publicity for his radio show; his bread and butter. In a time when even Republican voters, and some officeholders are taking a wait-and-see, or a cautiously positive approach to the new presidency, Limbaugh needs to remain relevant. After all, he won’t be chatting with the vice president on the radio anymore. His choice was either to antagonize his existing audience by hitching his car to the Obama train (not bloody likely), or to stir up press for himself by throwing bombs. He’s just exercising good business sense.

So how do Limbaugh’s words offer relief to other conservatives? You need look no further than the man’s often stated criticism of the Democratic election aparatus during the Bush years. He accused Dems of rooting for bad economic or war news, thus depriving Bush of the support of the American people. As he looks to his own business, Limbaugh has simply adopted what he believed to be his enemies’ mindset and approach. Root for bad times when the people who beat you are in power, so that your side can provide the blameless alternative.

At a deeper level, Limbaugh has done all of his fellow right wing pundit types a favor. By being the first to say something that is currently perceived to be outrageous, Limbaugh takes flak, and provides cover for all of those who were thinkin it, but didn’t yet dare to say it. The inevitable “yeah, me too!” columns will appear from the likes of Coulter, Hannity, Malkin, and other vermin of the right, and they will be cheered by “the base”, thus enhancing their own cred. Those on the other side will, however, have expended the full measure of outrage at LImbaugh, and his originally controversial statement will become conventional wisdom in the mean-eyed right. Really, that’s what’s gonna happen. I’ve seen it before. One person steps out on a limb, gets the credit and blame for having gone first, and provides the foundation for a treehouse in which all the blatherers may stand, safe in the knowledge that they have moved the line of acceptable discourse. And when people like me next criticize them, the answer will be, “but everyone thinks this already.”

December 19, 2008

Blog Bullets

Filed under: Politics and Public Affairs,Random Personal Nonsense — Shelly Brisbin @ 2:45 PM

Shorter, more frequent blog posts: New Year’s resolution, or crazy pipe dream? Dunno yet.

I’ve been thinking about several topics this week, and here’s my a quick roundup.

  • My dad continues to struggle. From rehab this week, where he had been struggling to get stronger and recover from both a stroke and a brain injury caused by a fall, he went to the hospital when an ulcer began to bleed. It’s really hard for him to be confined (and that’s the way he feels it) in hospitals. And my mom is sooooo tired.
  • Christmas is coming, yo. No one is expecting me to be filled with the Christmas spirit this year, so that’s good. Not angry, just not feelin it. I have been avoiding conversations about gift-giving and holiday preparations though. Some things for the kids in our family, and helping my mom work through dad’s illness is about all I really think is important. But our tree does look nice, thanks to Frank.
  • Perennial Austin City Council candidate Jennifer Gale passed away this week at the age of 47. For the most part, reaction from my fellow citizens has been kind and good. Even the City Council saw fit to honor her, which I thought showed tremendous class. Not every city would accept a homeless, transgendered singer of songs and runner for offices, and, to tell the truth, some folks in Austin did not always welcome Jennifer Gale. I didn’t know her or much of her story, but I did kick in $20 over at Burnt Orange Report’s House the Homeless donation page.
  • The Obama cabinet is complete, and he’s getting lots of points for picking a middle-of-the-road, ethnically diverse group of people. Um, how is it good to have so many legislators and politicians in the cabinet? I would actually like to see people who know something about running large bureaucracies in there. It’s cool with me that the president and vice president are senators, but I would prefer some managers in the cabinet.
  • Macworld Expo is coming right up. I won’t be there. Haven’t missed one since 1991. I would go, if only to keep the streak alive. But I really don’t have work reasons to go, and I’m feeling frugal, too. I’m sure that I’ll think about going two or three more times before the end of the year, as party and event announcements come my way, and friends ask about my plans. So far, I’m staying strong.
  • Dang, I really need to do some podcasting.

October 14, 2008

Connections: Help Save A Life

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Politics and Public Affairs — Tags: , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 10:40 AM

I met RocketBoom founder Andrew Baron in the press room at Portable Media Expo in 2006. He recorded one of those “This is Andrew, and you’re listening to…” IDs for a podcast I was producing. Later, as managing editor of Blogger & Podcaster, I interviewed Andrew for a feature I was planning. The article was killed by higher powers, unfortunately. What I didn’t know when our paths crossed, was that I had a much older connection to Andrew. In 1991, when I worked for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, I met a wonderful woman named Joan Baron. Joan is Andrew’s aunt, sister of his father, Dallas attorney Fred Baron. Joan, like me, was “passing through” state government, which made for a simultaneously detached and earnest approach to the place and to the work. We talked politics. A lot! We snarked about the byzantine and petty ways of state agency project planning, and the foibles of people who worked the bureaucracy in cynical ways. Joan talked a lot about her brother Fred, a high-powered lawyer who had made his reputation (and a lot of money) going after companies who had exposed workers to asbestos. Fred was a big-time Democratic party fundraiser, and flew folks like Texas Governor Ann Richards around in his plane. I got the sense that Fred was a larger than life figure in their family.

Joan and I remained friends when I moved to California. Homesick as I was, I returned to Austin often, and spent many evenings drinking beer with Joan and her then-husband, Doug, and ranting about politics and over-crowding in California. Those were good times, and kept me sane during a tough patch in my own life.

I made the connection between the Texas Barons and the new media Baron in the most devastating way possible. The tech media world, and my Twitter stream, is buzzing today with the news that Fred Baron has final stage multiple myeloma, and that his son Andrew is working to convince drug maker Biogen to allow Fred to be treated with Tysabri, a drug that is not approved for Fred’s illness, but that has been shown to have promise in experiments.

From Andrew’s post:

In what can only be defined as a miracle in timing, a few days ago, one of his doctors who has been studying his tumor cells in the lab for years found an antibody with an exact match: Tysabri which is manufactured by your company, Biogen Idec. In the test tube, it attached to the antigens on the surface of the tumor 100%.

Though the drug has never been used before in this way, and because time is running out, the head of the FDA, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach has granted special approval for use of the drug for this purpose but you have personally decided “no”.

Andrew Baron asks his blog readers to contact Biogen CEO James Mullen or anyone else at the company they may know, to plead that the drug be approved for use by Fred Baron’s doctors. He is also seeking support from elected officials, as well as treatment alternatives.

September 11, 2008

Rewarding Innovation with your Vote

Filed under: Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 3:03 PM

I was reading a Robert Scoble blog post just now. Honestly, that’s something I try to avoid, but what can I say, I’m very click-y today.

Scoble was reminding us of his idea that the United States needs a chief technology officer (CTO)., and that he thinks Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig is just the guy to take that on. While I’m not hear to advocate for or against Mr. Lessig being offered such a position, the idea reminded me of something that is critical in my personal political decision-making, particularly at the presidential level, who will run the government with creativity and innovation?

Think about something for a second. If a presidential candidate tells you he or she will fix health care, and you believe him or her, you also have to believe that the “fix” will get through the gauntlet of lobbyists, interest groups, congressional pork-grabbers, and hammering of the opposing party. Because even if the candidate’s proposal is a good idea, the other party will not want to offer up a victory. So, assuming the candidate does pass that health care plan, it will, in all likelihood, be less than the promise was, and will leave a bad taste in the mouths of many ordinary citizens who drank Kool-Aid during a political campaign.

Ditto any other campaign-born initiative that requires the passage of legislation and/or major overhauls to the structure of government entities.

On the other hand, a president can make a big mark on domestic and foreign policy within the executive branch, both by appointing smart, honest, innovative agency heads, and establishing opportunities for new ideas to flourish within and across those agencies that the president controls. A smart energy secretary could, for example, direct appropriated funds to pilot projects that support research into a particular plug-in hybrid technology. A health policy czar could hire department heads whose backgrounds are in public health, and who therefore focus on preventative care for the uninsured (saves money), cessation of bad habits like drug use (reduces both mortality and crime), or AIDS prevention within the next generation of gay teens. Creative-thinking state department section heads could forestall military interaction with under-developed economies by promote US trade before China swoops in. And a national CTO could rewrite the structure of technology planning and acquisition within the federal government, integrating lon-germ planning efforts, and allowing procurers to buy and install new technology with a quicker turn-around.

No presidential candidate could or would run on issues like making sure the IRS computer system is not obsolete before it is installed, or developing effective information management tools for government managers on the go. But a president whose hiring priorities emphasized innovation and gave executives the authority to overturn systems that do not work would arguably do more to improve the effectiveness of the way government functions than almost anything else, especially if passing legislation is involved.

I believe Barack Obama is much more likely to seek out innovators than is John McCain. For one thing, the recent ideological steamroller that is the current Republican administration has a lot to do with my interest in this topic. The last eight years are littered with examples of ideology, political loyalty and/or cronyism trumping competence in the hiring of executive branch leaders. For all his recent talk of change, McCain’s reliance on lobbyists and other Washington hacks as advisors does not lead me to believe that toppling the current infrastructure and replacing it with the best and the brightest is at the top of his list, or, quite frankly, anywhere on it. Obama certainly has his share of politically connected types, but you’ll also find a good many academics, former diplomats and others who actually want to do the work of making government better, more efficient, more responsive, and more sure-footed, especially when it comes to technology.

As Thomas Frank points out in his new book, Wrecking Crew, a large strain of the conservative movement has no interest in making it better. In extreme cases, they actively seek to break government, in order to further their efforts to destroy support for its work. In less extreme cases, the “smaller government” mantra that seems to be tattooed onto the forehead of many Republican appointees means they’ll lack the enthusiasm or the creativity to be good at their jobs. And people who aren’t suited to their jobs, or don’t like their jobs, tend not to be motivated to do them well.

September 2, 2008

Thoughts on Sarah Palin

Filed under: Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 1:23 PM

On a purely emotional level, I wanted to like Sarah Palin. She’s energetic, she’s interesting, she’s my age, and she talks about the things I care about, namely reform of government. And I suspected that her approach to governing included a healthy dollop of civility. Also good, in my book.

On the other hand, I’m a Democrat, and there’s no chance I’ll be voting for Palin and John McCain.

My party has a point when it notes Palin’s lack of national experience, and the briefness of her executive experience. And yes, this “goes to judgment” where John McCain is concerned, since he seems not even to have known the governor before choosing her to be his running mate.And, oh yeah, she’s a lot more attached to guns and creationism than I’d like. But my interest in this story, and I have a lot of interest, is really in the frenzy about it, and the peripheral questions.

It has been an article of faith in the Republican political apparatus that Democrats should be painted as radical, strange, and, if possible, foreign. Foreign is really good because despite the cliche that “anyone can grow up to be president”, the anyone had better fit within a pretty narrow range of beliefs, experiences and physical characteristics.

There’s a way in which including black and female candidates in the ranks of those being considered for high office makes those parameters even more narrow, because the “minority” candidate must devote a large amount of time to proving how, despite being “different” he or she is really just like “the rest of us”. I bring this up here because, as I watch my side dissect everything Sarah Palin has ever done or said, I see what the Dems have learned from Republican thuggery over time, and how their vows not to get fooled again have created skills and scars.

The freelance muckrakers of the lefty blogosphere have wasted no time doing things John McCain seems not to have done, like using Google and reading up on Alaska politics. Everything that looks promising has been thrown out onto blogs for examination, and TV networks and newspaper reporters have scrambled to catch up. We’ve learned that Palin was once a member of an outlaw political party, that she was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it, and that her 17-year old daughter is pregnant. Those who have dug up these tidbits are fired as much by the unfair attacks on Democrats by their opponents as they are by the details of these stories. The founder of the Alaska Independence Party said he wasn’t an American, but an Alaskan. The folks who dug that up were doubtless thinking of guilt by association attacks on Barack Obama. “For it before she was against it” is quoted directly from the attack on John Kerry’s explanation of his votes on Iraq war funding. and best of al, if you’re angered by hypocrisy, is the pro-life, arch=conservative, family values Republican who, like so many parents, has learned that her daughter, still in high school, and unmarried, is pregnant. Oh yeah. And troopergate? Snicker snicker.

What makes it even sweeter is that Palin, as new kid on the political block, is completely fair game, and the Republican defenses of her, a person, they do not know, sound hollow and scripted. For the same reasons, Palin herself has not yet fought back. In fact, she has had no public events since Sunday, which is just plain odd. She has not sat down for a heart to heart interview with Oprah, Barbara Walters or Rush Limbaugh. Barely moments after her appearance on the campaign stage, she is hidden away as the damage control//post-selection vetting process proceeds. And this should worry her supporters, and Republicans generally. Because that one-on-one sit down interview, preferably with husband and champion snow machine racer Todd by her side, is an essential part of her acceptance into the political world. The longer she delays doing it, the more likely it is that we will be greeting a new Republican vice presidential candidate before two weeks are out.

My least favorite part of the Palin drama is the bottom-feeding pundit class, and the way television-centric coverage sustains and perpetuates this vile form of discourse: standard practice in politics these days is to invite roughly equal numbers of liberals and conservatives into little boxes on the teevee to debate the merits of a person or issue. As it has come to be practiced, this means that each side parrots the views of the political party with which they are affiliated, leading to boring, inside the box conversation. The Palin situation puts this appalling situation on prominent display, as invited Republicans ignore questions of her experience, praising someone they know nothing about, and Democrats slip in jabs that are just this side of sexist. At no time does an actual voter gain the floor, or express an opinion that is at right angles with the political parties. And at absolutely no point does someone say, “You know Larry, I just haven’t made up my mind yet.”

August 22, 2008


Filed under: New Media and Tech,Politics and Public Affairs — Shelly Brisbin @ 10:36 AM

The collective press, and even my Twitter stream has been infected by veepstakes fever, mostly on the Obama side. It’s become a little annoying at this point, I’ll admit. And by the way, I haven’t given my cell number to the Obama campaign for this purpose, though I’ve been on his text message list in the past.

What I realized this morning, as I read the Mashable story about fake iPhone lines in Poland, is how similar this week’s veep frenzy has been to the run-up to an Apple launch. Of course, the iPhone lines are not Apple’s doing, but are bought and paid for by the local carrier, Orange. Apple, like Obama, has not had to resort to fakery as yet, counting more on the genuine excitement of its base customers. What happens after the launch, well, that’s another story.

It’s not a new observation that Obama is the Mac of this election season, to John McCain’s PC. But who knew that the Obama campaign was so in tune to the Cupertino company’s marketing strategy? Take a situation that has generated real buzz, and withhold as much information as possible until just the right moment. To heighten the effect, taunt the press mercilessly. They’ll play along.

Is that my phone? BRB

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