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Rush Limbaugh Apologizes (the sequel)

Rush Limbaugh has issued a second apology for his mud-slinging assault on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Or, actually, he’s simply said that his first apology was sincere. His first apology was an apology for a slip of the tongue. It didn’t sound sincere, because he never retracted his assessment of her as a slut and a prostitute who ought to video tape her sexual encounters and display them on the internet. He appears to be making this second apology because sponsors are continuing to withdraw their advertising dollars  from his show.

This second apology took a half hour of air time on Limbaugh’s radio show; the transcript of it on his show’s web site is over 2,200 words long. The vast bulk of the statement is an attack on his “enemies,” those he characterizes as socialist liberals, including President Obama, the Democratic Party, the liberal media, and the administration’s health care program, most specifically it’s policy on insurance and birth control.

Here’s Limbaugh’s apology for calling Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute and asking that she videotape her sexual encounters and show then on the internet:

I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her.  I do not think she is either of those two words.  I did not think last week that she is either of those two words.

 Rush Limbaugh’s apologies can be found on his radio show’s website.

Rush Limbaugh and His “Apology”

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Recently, Rush Limbaugh threw verbal mud at a Georgetown law student who, in testimony to a group of Democrats, expressed her views in the controversy between Catholic church officials and the Obama administration’s birth control policy. Limbaugh misstated both the law student’s statements and the Obama administration’s policy, then he launched his attack, calling her a slut, a prostitute who demanded that tax payers pay her so she could enjoy sex. Limbaugh asked that she provide taxpayers with online videos of her sexual encounters in exchange for their tax dollars.

After some of his radio show sponsors withdrew their support, Rush Limbaugh issued an  “apology” to the young woman. The statement contains 192 words, of which 55 are apologetic. You’ll notice that he apologizes only for choosing the wrong words in what he alone characterizes as an attempt to be humorous.   It was not an attempt to be humorous.

It’s shamefully easy to sit back and let Rush Limbaugh make a jackass of  himself, but his “apology” is worth reading just to get a sense of how his mind works and his extraordinary vanity — by the end of this statement he apologizes for creating a national stir! When he says I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities, he uses  “social activities”  to  mean sexual intercourse. Mr. Limbaugh frames women’s contraception entirely and exclusively  in terms of recreational sex. Furthermore, in this instance,  it’s insurance companies and their policy holders, not taxpayers, who pay for birth control pills. Here’s Rush Limbaugh in his own words:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Google and Your Privacy

Google logoGoogle’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. At least that’s what it says when you click on About Google at the bottom of the Google page. As a corporation, Google is singular in having as it’s motto “Don’t be evil” — that’s actually what they said in the prospectus for their 2004  IPO, the Initial Public Offering of stock to the public.

And in Google’s 10-point philosophy, under the heading Our philosophy, point number 6 says: You can make money without doing evil. Google is a business. The revenue we generate is derived from offering search technology to companies and from the sale of advertising displayed on our site and on other sites across the web. (And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You can look up what Google has to say, but if we repeat it, you’ll get bored and move on, and we’re trying to make a point of our own, so please keep reading.)

Over the past several weeks, visitors to the Google search page have repeatedly been informed, “We’re changing our privacy policy and terms. This stuff matters.” Visitors are given a chance to click on Dismiss, or Learn more. If you click Learn more, Google will tell you, “We’re getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read. Our new policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.”

Who could object to that, right? And if you read the entire policy, which Google put there so you could read it, you’ll learn more details. From Google’s business point of view, the policy is certainly good because Google will have all the information about you in one place.  But for people who use Google, it’s not so good.  Because when you gather small bits of information about a person from a lot of different sources, and  put them into one big heap of information in one place all about that person, you know a lot more about that person than when the information is scattered. Yes, bringing all the scattered bits together does make a difference. It’s a lot easier to put a jigsaw puzzle together if you have all the pieces in one place.

Look at it this way, US intelligence agencies had sufficient information in different places about terrorists, but the agencies failed in their mission because the information was scattered and they “didn’t connect the dots.” Google’s new privacy policy allows them connect the dots about you.

If you’d really like to Learn more about privacy and Google, you might look at Knowledge @ Wharton, the research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Google’s new privacy policy is scheduled to go into effect on March 1st, but on the other side of the Atlantic the European Union authorities have asked Google to give them more time to investigate the effects of such a change. That’s a Good Idea.

The Big Six

Book heap

A Variety of Old Books by a Variety of Publishers

Most readers believe there are a variety of well established and independent book publishers in the United States. Certainly,  it would increase artistic and intellectual diversity if there were a lot of different publishers. Actually, there are only six.  While it’s true there are many very small publishing companies,  six big ones dominate the US and in the publishing industry they are known as The Big Six.

Readers often think that the “imprint” under which a book is published is the name of a thriving, independent publisher.  Alas, the imprint is usually the name of a vanished publishing house — a publishing house that was bought  up by an international corporation — and the name of the global corporation, which owns many such imprints,  may or may not appear anywhere in the book.

The names of The Big Six may be familiar to you as distinguished old publishing houses. They are Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, Macmillan, The Penguin Group, and Hachette. Only two of The Big Six are US companies: Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins. The others are foreign: two are German, one is British and the other is French.

Simon and Schuster, for example, was established in 1924 in New York City by a man named Richard Simon and another named “Max” Schuster and it was one of many such unique, stand-alone publishing houses. Now the name is owned by CBS Corporation which under the Simon and Schuster name publishes over two thousand different books a year. Those books come out under 35 different “imprints.” Those imprints are what most people believe are the names of separate and independent publishing companies — which they may have been long ago.

HarperCollins looks, from its name, as if it were simply two well-known publishing houses side by side, a nice Anglo-American merger. Harper was founded in New York City way back in 1817 by the brothers James and John Harper. They prospered and in 1962, the company then known as Harper & Brothers merged with Row, Peterson & Company, and became Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. After Harper & Row went on a buying spree and acquired the publishing houses of Crowell, and Lippincott and Zondervan and Scott, Foresman, the Harper company was itself bought by Rupert Murdoch’s gigantic conglomerate, News Corporation Limited. Eventually, the company acquired the old British publishing house William Collins & Sons which was founded in 1819 by William Collins. The distinguished old name Harper was typographically joined to the equally distinguished old name Collins to make HarperCollins, a huge subsidiary of News Corp, the largest media company in the world. (more…)

On January 18th Wikipedia blacked out its site to protest a couple of bills being debated in the House and Senate. The stated intent of the proposed legislation is to crack down on foreign internet piracy. Overseas pirates are stealing some of our intellectual property and selling back to us.  Critical Pages is against piracy. Everyone’s against piracy. Yes, even Wikipedia’s against piracy.  Unfortunately, the legislation currently in Congress is badly written and will inevitably damage free expression and free access to the Internet. The bills can be re-written to satisfy defenders of intellectual freedom and still crack down on foreigners stealing our stuff. By the way, the large media enterprises who advocate for these bills in their current form wildly overstate the financial loss associated with such piracy. There’s time to re-write and get it right.  For more information, the two bills are the Stop Online Piracy Act currently being debated in the House, and the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act in the Senate.  No need to take our word about these botched bills.  Wikipedia is online again and the rest of the Web is still here for you to go freely and gather your own information.  Let’s keep it that way.

Romney, Lies and Audio Tape

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Romney has already launched his first television ad against the President and — good grief! As has been pointed out by Democrats and Independents and anyone who cares,  the ad distorts what Obama actually said. What’s even more astonishing, Romney’s Republican confederates agree it’s a lie. They say they want it that way.

The ad uses an audio of Obama campaigning in New Hampshire  in 2008, his voice saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” In actual fact, in that 2008 speech it’s clear that Obama is quoting an aide to his opponent, Senator McCain. But in the 2011 ad, Romney makes the listener believe that it’s Obama who doesn’t want to discuss the economy.

Liar, liar! Pants on fire!Romney’s people distributed a press release admitting that the words are not Obama’s and Romney himself, in Des Moines, proudly told reporters, “There was no hidden effort on the part of our campaign. It was instead to point out that what’s sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander,” By no hidden effort Romney apparently means that since his press release  admits the distortion, there’s no hidden effort to deceive.

Having attempted to fool the public once, with the deceptive ad, his campaign now tries to fool the public a second time by saying they’re not trying to deceive.

“It was instead to point out that what’s sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander.”  That old expression is another way of saying that what’s fair for one person is fair for the other. How in the world does that apply here? Obama wasn’t putting words into McCain’s mouth. Romney is. His run for the presidency should be quite a spectacle

Pirates and the Web

Screen-shot of site protesting censorsip legislationEver hear of STOPA or PROTECTIP?  Here’s what the initials in those strange acronyms stand for:  STOPA is the U. S. House of Representatives Stop Online Piracy Act,  and PROTECTIP is the U. S. Senate’s Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act. (With elephantine cleverness, the acronym says Protect IP,  meaning Protect Intellectual Property. )

Both blunderbluss bills aim to protect intellectual property — copyrights and the like — and both are directed against what the sponsors call “rogue” websites and “foreign pirates” who use the web to steal US intellectual property. That certainly a fine goal and supporters say the bills are necessary pieces of legislation, and actually, in the words of one legislator, “patriotic.”

At Critical Pages we’re strongly for protection of intellectual property rights. But we’re against these badly written pieces of misguided legislation.  The Motion Picture Association of America is for the bills, as is the Chamber of Commerce. On the other side, eBay and Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo, and Zynga are against it. Such bills would make business, domestic as well as foreign,  virtually impossible for sites that depend on user-generated material, sites such as YouTube or Tumblr. The Electric Frontier Foundation, an old and distinguished private watchdog group, is also against the bills.

As for you, while you’re surfing the web, it would put you in the position of a typical Internet user in China or Iran. Certain sites would be blocked because the government determined that they’re “rogue” sites belonging to “foreign pirates.” (more…)

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street poster

Occupy Wall Street poster

The Occupy Wall Street protest is now a month old and has collected $300,000. And at this point, with coordinated gatherings taking place not only in other cities across the United States, but also across the globe, we can leave off calling it a protest and begin to call it a movement.

Our conservative House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, famously said that he, for one, was “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.” On the other hand, a recent Time magazine poll found that 54 percent of Americans held a favorable view of those mobs, while only 27 percent — that would be exactly half as many, right? —  held a favorable view of the Tea Party movement.

Occupy Wall Street is inclusive, so it’s no surprise that it includes some flakey people, such as those youngsters who want to experience the countercultural sentiments of the late 1960s and not much more. And, yes, Fox News found those hippy kids right away and was shocked and disgusted. Fox news’s Bill Schulz believes he discovered that people were having sexual intercourse in public, or, well, under a blanket in public, and, according to Schulz, many of the protestors hadn’t bathed in weeks and the smell of the place was, in his words, “equal parts patchouli, body odor, and urine.” Schulz had a little hissy fit on TV,  he was so, so, so  upset. Fox’s Sean Hannity interviewed a young woman who had taken off her shirt and was naked from the waist up. Wow! Apparently Hannity thought she was a good representative sample of the movement. If she was, then Wall Street, the upper 1 percent and Representative Cantor have nothing to be concerned about.

At this point, no one can say whether the Occupy Wall Street movement is going to change anything. (Yes, they’ve changed the name of Zuccotti Park to Freedom Park, but we suspect that won’t stick.) Probably the most thoughtful criticism of the movement is that it’s diffuse, that on the one hand it can’t actually represent the “99 percent” that it aspires to, because no movement can do that, but on the other hand it’s so broadly inclusive that it embraces contradictory aims. It often appears to be a movement with vague goals, no policies and, most damning,  no smarts.

But appearances can be deceiving. Despite the impression you my have received, the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York city is highly organized. And we don’t mean that they’ve merely learned to pick up their trash and bathe. The movement may not have official leaders, but it sure does have “groups” and “committees,” and those committees publish their minutes online and are clearly working toward their goals. This is a big organization and it’s growing. In addition to receiving donations of food and other supplies, it has an deepening stream of financial donations and, yes,  a way of keeping track of money. Exploring the movement’s informative web site  should do away with any notion that Occupy Wall Street is hapless, amateurish and incapable of developing into a political force. Quite the contrary. Occupy Wall Street

CEO and Average Worker Pay

Recently a chart appeared on Facebook  and elsewhere showing CEO pay compared to the pay of the average worker in different countries.CEO & Worker Pay If the figures you had seen before made you angry, this chart would have made your head explode. It listed CEO pay in the United States as  475 times greater than the pay of the average worker. Now the chart has gone viral; it appears all over the place and is cited as evidence of the radical unfairness of  our economic system.

We’re grumpy skeptics at Critical Pages.  We’re skeptical even when what we read confirms us in our grumpiness. The chart about CEO and average worker pay appeared to have no author. It had no dates or sources. It turns out we had reason to be skeptical.

PolitiFact, the online project of the St. Petersburg Times that seeks the facts behind statements by politicians, has completed a study of the US figures on the chart. It turns out that the numbers were produced by three graduate students some six years ago.  “So what we’re left with,” says PolitiFact, ” is an unsourced, undated chart with numbers that, at best, were only correct (approximately) in 1999 and 2000 according to one measure, and wrong according to a different measure.”  According to PolitiFact,  “The latest number for the U.S. is 185 to 1 in one study and 325 to 1 in another — and those numbers were not generated by groups that might have an ideological interest in downplaying the gaps between rich and poor.”

There’s no question that the ratio of the CEO’s pay to the pay of the average worker is shamefully large.  Such disparities of pay are bad for everyone and bad for the economic system itself. No need to exaggerate.

The Readers at Readercon

Of the many literary gatherings held this summer, our attention was caught by Readercon, a conference focusing on imaginative literature. Readercon logoIt was held at the Boston-Burlington Marriott and drew people not only from all over the US but from other countries as well. Readercon has “con” baked into its name, which is unfortunate if it conjures up images of certain other “cons” which are primarily party occasions where participants dress up to resemble their favorite character from science fiction, fantasy, or vampire tales. Readercon has the reputation, deservedly, of being the most serious of the cons. For readers interested in imaginative literature in it’s many different forms, Readercon can be entertaining, sometimes scholarly, mostly engrossing and, in one way and another, simply enjoyable.

Though the program guide describes Readercon as “The Year’s Best Science Fiction Convention” the four-day event fortunately covers considerably more than science fiction. The recent 22nd annual Readercon offered a broad spectrum of discussions, stretching from an academic panel on the “Death of the Author” (a theory of French intellectual Roland Barthes), to the jovial “Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition.” In between these extremes there were panels on such diverse subjects as young adult fiction, on myth, on the Midrash, on a literary agency, on  book design and typography, the retelling of Russian folktales, the blurring of genras —  plus book signings, readings by authors, and interviews. According to the volunteer organizers, a typical Readercon has about 150 writers, editors, publishers, and critics. But what struck us were the 400 or more people who attended the different events – it would be hard to find a more engaged and lively group of readers.

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.