Daily Disaffirmations: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Murdoch’s Vision for iPad “Journalism”
Apr 15th, 2011 by scaredpoet

The “Carousel,” a feature for browsing content on The Daily


I don’t think anyone disagrees anymore at the notion that newspapers are probably going extinct within the next few years.  Aside from older generations who grew up with the traditional media, a greater number of mobile individuals are finding that their existing smart devices are giving them their news fix just fine.  And so, to survive, the traditional newspapers are trying to adapt.

The New York Times, one of the better heralded newspapers of its era, is going the paywall route.  In a nutshell, they will deliver the same thing they’ve delivered online for years, but now you’ll have to pay for it if you happen to read the website a lot.

Other ventures, however, are going the subscription model, but are trying to make it worth your while.  The Daily is one such venture, and I recently had an opportunity to get my hands on an iPad and try it out.

First things first: The Daily is a very well-executed, visually-appealing app.  The design and delivery of the content takes full advantage of the iPad.  It’s visually appealing, the interactive features and graphics are very well executed, and from a design perspective, it’s exactly what modern media SHOULD be.  If newspaper companies could actually grasp the current technology like this app has and make some use of it, they probably wouldn’t be failing right now.

Unfortunately, for all the looks and polish, the actual content is utter rubbish.  Every news piece is heavy editorialized, and parrots Fox News (in fact, a lot of the articles pretty much attribute Fox News as their source).  Since this app is essentially Murdoch’s baby, it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s going to be some right-leaning opinions, but the propaganda is EVERYWHERE.  News isn’t news in the Daily: it’s all editorialism, unabashed and unapologetic.

I can’t even recommend this app if your political views are right-leaning.  You’d basically be paying for a copy-and-paste of whatever blather is coming out of Fox News that day… something you probably already get, and probably at less of a cost than the subscription for this app’s content.  None of the pieces really bother to go in-depth.  The editors for The Daily are all about quantity, not quality.

Perhaps you are extremely affluent and hard-right-leaning, and don’t have time to read more than a half-screen of an article at a time.  So, maybe parting with an extra $40 a year for a subscription to this content is chump change.  That’s fine, that’s your decision…  just bear in mind that President Obama recently unveiled a government spending plan that would raise taxes for the top 2% of wealthy individuals.  Only, The Daily isn’t really interested in reporting THAT to you, because it was MORE interested in posting a video about Biden falling asleep during the budget speech.



So, I’m telling you now – for free, no less – something that The Daily won’t: you should save your money.


How to fight a revolution badly (and lose nearly all control of your regime)
Feb 23rd, 2011 by scaredpoet

Hey, when did Bob Dylan take over Libya?!

Dear Despots, Dictators, Autocrats, and other overlord-style rulers of the world,

It appears that we live in interesting times.  In case you’ve been living under a rock (or an underground bunker or heavily-armored government compound) and haven’t heard the news recently, there’s a lot of social unrest going on in certain parts of the world.  Some of your friends have even been toppled from power, or are very close to being so.  Although you may think it impossible, you could be next!

Interestingly, all of your brethren so far, having had to face a comeuppance from the citizens that they formerly regarded as trash and cannon fodder, all seemed to follow a very specific and identical game plan for clinging desperately to power.

So far this action plan has failed miserably in pretty much all cases, but that’s beside the point! Clearly, you despots have some sort of Dictator’s Bible or something that you follow religiously.

What’s that, you say?  In your desperation to batten down the hatches and prepare for the revolution, you left your copy in your other safe house?  Well fear not!  For your pals at are going to document the steps to (un-)successful counterinsurgency, so that you too can doggedly follow a uniform procedure that will hasten your hopefully-swift demise!

Step 1: Pull the plug on communications networks


Let’s face it.  Your enemies looooove to express their thoughts.  Whenever they find some dirt to dish, they’ll be sure to blog, or tweet, or facebook their anger, clearly thumbing their nose at your byzantine speech-stifling policies.  Who knew that a silly website created by a smarmy American with Asperger’s syndrome would be the catalyst to foment your political downfall by your own subjects?

While it was clearly a mistake to dismiss social media as a passing fad instead of squelching it from the start, you can still do something about it.  Being the awesome autocrat you are, it should be fairly easy for you to just pull the plug on your backward country’s already-slow internet connection.  While you’re at it, take an axe to the telephone networks too, especially cell phones.

Nothing pisses off an angry mob more than taking away their favorite chit-chat sites.  You know the ones that, although used to organize your overthrow now, probably also served to keep the revolution in check for a while by giving the public an outlet to vent their frustrations.  Now, without quick access to their prized twitter hashtags, you’ll quickly turn a relatively organized group of peaceful activists with formal demands into an angry, rebellious mob of malcontents who won’t stop until you’re dead or gone.


Step 2: Blame it on the Foreigners

So, after removing your peoples’ connection to the rest of the world, you find that they still manage to muster up the initiative to hold pesky rallies, and protests, and just plain being nasty ne’er-do-wells in the middle of your monumental squares and such.  Damn!

Not to worry.  Your next step is to begin using traditional media – which you obviously control –  to rouse up your supporters.  Yeah, all five of them.  The message that’s currently in vogue is that this whole revolution business is the crazy idea of a bunch of foreigners influencing the young and naive.  Surely, after you’ve cut off their access, those foreign people have a found a way to instill hateful, murderous thoughts of silly, lofty things like, you know, freedom and democracy and peace, and all that fluffy stuff.  Disgusting, right?!

I mean, you can even say the protestors out there don’t even look like they’re from your country, at all…

Such childish whimsy must be stopped, and the fictitious foreign agents who are feeding your people this trash eliminated.  Making rambling speeches about this is the way to go!   This will also make sure that any actual foreigners who were dumb enough to be on your police-state country do end up fleeing, taking with them any economic investment possibilities.

If the foreigner angle doesn’t quite work out, you can also mix in allegations that the rabble-rousers are just a bunch of youths.  You can even accuse them of being on hallucinogenic drugs.

The whole foreign angle is particularly important, to defray any attention that people might bring to your next step…

Step 3: Hire a bunch of foreign mercenaries.

So, everyone in your cabinet has decided you’re crazy.  You can’t trust your military to back you up because they’ve been drummed with that hogwash about “protecting the citizens,” and the special police forces and battalions that you thought were loyal to you balk when you order them to shoot at and bomb unarmed civilians. Cowards!

What’s worse, even your ambassdors in other countries won’t represent you.  So, now what do you do?  Simple!  Do what American business have been doing for almost two decades now: outsource!  Just farm out the nasty deeds to cheap, desperate, ruthless foreign mercenaries.  Problem solved!

Think about it: there’s plenty of washed-up soldiers from lawless African countries who have seen enough death and destruction in their lifetimes that mowing down a few hundred more innocent civilians isn’t going to be any sweat off their back.  All they’ll care about is getting their paycheck and a steady supply of weapons and ammo.  It’s a win-win!


Step 4: Deny, Deny, Deny!

“There is no revolution here!  None!”

So, after blindly following the above steps, it’s come down to this.  Your hold on power is tenuous at best.  The international community has seen what you’ve done to your people and have condemned you.  It’s only a matter of time before the end of your regime will come… or has it already?

When all else fails, you can keep everyone confused and guessing by merely denying reality.  Make up your own rendition of the facts.  Deny that anything is wrong. Insist that your grip on power is solid.  And keep telling yourself these things, even if you must repeat them over and over… you need to convince yourself that it’s true, at least as much as you need to try and convince everyone else.

It might also help if you have a pattern of eccentricity established beforehand… like insisting your autocratic regime is a perfect democracy already.

And there you have it.  By stiffly following a few simple steps, you too can see your power base crumble before your eyes at the speed of a tweet.  Remember: giving in to your citizens demands is for weaklings!  Only the truly stupid and heartless have the most spectular, cable-news-ratings-garnering falls from power.  Make it a good show!


...and, to all of those people out there who are fighting for freedom, democracy, and quality of life: seriously, keep doing what you’re doing!  Your life is what you make of it, and true democracies are never handed to the people… they fight for it. I applaud all activists of freedom, because we need to continue to fight for it, both abroad and closer to home.

Legislative grandstanding makes for “Sh*tty” TV
Apr 27th, 2010 by scaredpoet

A while back I ranted about the complete and utter usefulness of senate and congressional hearings, and how they just end up being a dog & pony show for polticians to try and look good to the public as they grill the Bad Guys in testimony, while in fact doing absolutely nothing of real use.

Well, they’re still grandstanding. As if we haven’t figured it out by now, after 2+ years of a crappy economy, the Senate is just now “getting to the bottom of” that Big Bad Financial Scandal. In particular, the Goldman Sachs thing.

My prediction: Next week, the Senate will open hearings on indecency and profane language on cable news networks. Because today during that Goldman Sachs Senate hearing, this went out over the airwaves, uttered by a senator. Into people’s homes, into workplaces and offices, in waiting rooms and airports, and certainly within earshot of children…


No, I’m no prude. The profanities spill out of my mouth so often that sailors blush. But these lawmakers are the same people who get all in a huff over indecency in the media now and then. Shouldn’t they practice what they preach? We certainly could’ve gotten the gist of the message without the “s” bomb landing on TV at least 5 times in less than two minutes.

That was a shitty thing for Carl Levin to do, if you ask me.

Just sayin’...

How did THAT happen?
Jun 17th, 2008 by scaredpoet

No doubt about it: New York local TV news just plain sucks. The production is ridiculous, the content is lacking, the motivation is all about scaring people into watching the upcoming story and “staying tuned…” and then there’s gems like this one.

(Note: the zingers start up around 55 seconds into the clip, but if you’re really interested in the dramatic life of New York slumlords and tenants, by all means, watch the whole thing…)

This isn’t quite the bombshell that Sue Simmons dropped just a couple weeks back, but it’s still damned entertaining watching two old salts verbally duke it out on live TV. 🙂

The F-Bomb drops and suddenly, everyone’s a moralist
May 22nd, 2008 by scaredpoet

So, lots of people with Tivos in the New York City area all got their jollies on Friday when this was dutifully recorded for posterity on their hard drives:

WARNING: Audio is not safe for work. Listen with headphones!

That’s right. Sue Simmons, news anchor for WNBC, dropped the F-Bomb on live TV. The backstory: she thought the segment was being taped, her co-anchor missed his cue, and she got a little… well, punchy.

Naturally, everyone had to get their licks in regarding this incident, including the New York Times, who devoted a whole story to the affair, complete with typical “person on the street” quotes:

Peter King, who works in an architectural office on the Upper West Side, echoed Mr. Villaneuva’s point. “It’s overused, and we are crasser than we were for it,” Mr. King said. “It’s just another indication of standards declining. I mean, I curse like a sailor, but I know how to talk to my dad and talk to clients, versus how to talk to my friends.”

You know, I’m sure Sue Simmons knows how to talk too. Is this a symbol of “standards declining?” Hardly. The standards have always been there, and “Fuck” has been the old’ standby of curse words for ages.

The declining standards, I think, show in how the incident is being reported. The Times comes up with the above “what do YOU think?” drivel. Other news sources immediately raised the question of whether she was drunk at the time. My take: clearly no. This is what being under the influence looks like on-air. And Simmons is not the only one to be caught pissed-off.

Even more interesting is that while all of the reports raise the question of whether Simmons will be fired, almost none have taken heed of the fact that the F-Bomb was dropped at 10:30 p.m., or about 30 minutes after the 6:00 am to 10:00 pm “safe harbor” period that the FCC enforces decency rules. This may be what saves her career, unlike poor Arthur Chi’en.

The shock value really doesn’t come from the word. You simply don’t expect someone as polished and coiffed and classy as Simmons to spout it, and in the way she did it too. Did you EVER dream that someone with such perfect diction would suddenly belt out a straight-from-Harlem “...the FUCK you doin’?”-punch so quickly after flawlessly reading a news teaser?

In any case, I really do hope she keeps her job, and if she does, more power to her. It all boils down to a word. And while people insist that allowing curse words to fly only desensitizes us to profanity, I say GOOD. Ultimately, profanity is profane simply because certain people are sensitive to certain utterances.

What if I Simmons had belted out the word “TULIPS” instead? Would people had reacted so strongly? Probably not. Yet, she would have still been just as angry and the intent would still have been there, right or wrong. So, why would we not have been so shocked or offended?

UPDATE: Looks like Simmons is being moved up to the 6:00 p.m. evening news. A definite vote of confidence by WNBC. But now the pressure’s on for her to watch her mouth!

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