According to this article by Peter Nowak, mainstream media outlets do not treat video games the same as they do television and film.

I can believe it, although I think it is changing now. I remember when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 broke all kinds of sales records in its debut, one could see the press realizing this was a serious medium.

The bad thing is that the sorts of games that set these records are generally not the sort that show the medium at its artistic best. But it is a start.

From a transcript of a panel on Sean Hannity’s show, discussing Ed Schultz’s disparaging remarks on Laura Ingraham:

TANTAROS: I’m all for free speech. It is what I do. It lets me sit here, but it means responsible speech.

GUILFOYLE: You should also be appropriate.

HANNITY: — part of my vernacular — you know, go through the alphabet, you know, you can, certain letters, certain words, you never say about a woman, to a woman, ever, ever, ever.

I haven’t watched the video, but I’m not sure what letters Hannity had in mind. Maybe he misspoke. (I know you shouldn’t mention “A” to Hester Prynne, though.)

Also, to address the real topic under discussion, I don’t think freedom of speech is even an issue here–nobody prevented or wanted to prevent Schultz from speaking, they just made him apologize for what he said afterwards. Free speech issues aren’t really involved with the question of whether it merited an apology.

I’m working on a post about the traditional “right vs. left” political spectrum, and for background reading I looked up the Wikipedia article on the topic.

I’d never realized, I’m ashamed to admit, the variety of more complex models for political divides that have been developed. Even more interesting is the fact that you rarely see any of them used in most mainstream political analysis, even though it seems pretty clear the usual model is not sufficient.

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”–Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

I like this line, but unfortunately it’s the sort of thing that one says sadly, to no one in particular, rather than the sort of thing that can help you win a debate.

It falls into the category of things that are true, but useless. Because each side is capable of presenting some “facts”–numbers, figures, anecdotes–that sound good enough to the layman.

And, of course, they can deride all attempts at fact-checking these claims. For example, anyone who tries to show that the Laffer curve idea is not really supported by data can be dismissed as “liberally biased”.

I was reading a column by Leonard Pitts Jr. from about a year ago that examined this phenomenon in detail. (And introduced me to the Moynihan quote above.) Pitts wrote that he could remember:

 “…a time when facts settled arguments. This is before everything became a partisan shouting match, before it was permissible to ignore or deride as “biased” anything that didn’t support your worldview.

If you and I had an argument and I produced facts from an authoritative source to back me up, you couldn’t just blow that off. You might try to undermine my facts, might counter with facts of your own, but you couldn’t just pretend my facts had no weight or meaning.

But that’s the intellectual state of the union these days.”

I’ve heard other people, older than myself, assert that things used to be as Mr. Pitts describes as well. I’m not sure I believe it. I’m not accusing Mr. Pitts or like-minded people of lying, but I wonder if it’s simple nostalgia on their part.

And if they are right, I wonder what it was that caused the change.

Krugman notes that the health-care debate is being rewritten to paint the “centrists” in a flattering light:

“The real story, of pretend moderates stalling action by pretending to be persuadable, has been rewritten as a story of how those DF hippies got in the way, until the centrists saved the day.”

I have never liked how the mainstream political reporters tend to use “centrist” as a synonym for “good”. As I’ve said, I dislike the Left-Center-Right model of politics that everybody uses, though it’s virtually impossible to avoid falling back on it to make generalizations and I have done so myself many times.

The first and most obvious problem is figuring out where this supposed center is. The geometry metaphor collapses in view of the fact there is no means of precisely measuring where one mixture of political views lies from another.

Truly, though, this does not matter that much. The center is not so much a place on the political spectrum as it is a state of mind about the political spectrum. It is, in fact, the one which permits of the existence of a political spectrum.

I think what gives the “centrist” concept its popularity is the fact that most people feel instinctively that is unlikely the platform of one party could be perfectly correct, and the other totally incorrect. The obvious resolution to this is to take some mixture between the two parties and call it the center and look for someone who fits in it.

Now, this isn’t a bad idea, really; and I can see how people thought it up. “Politics is the art of the possible,” as Bismarck is supposed to have said, and Western-European and American democracies are such that what is “possible” requires the agreement of two parties who disagree on everything. Hence, a candidate from one party ought to have something that appeals to people in the other.

But the problem is that eventually, people–and by that I mean the Washington Press Corps–internalize the concept of centrism to such an extent that they begin to lose the ability to think in any other terms, and centrism becomes an end in itself. At that point, it no longer matters what the two parties want, only that politicians govern from the center of it.

As you’ve probably guessed, my dislike for this left-center-right trichotomy is what prompted me to begin to use terms like “Nationalism”, “Cosmopolitanism” and “Materialism” instead. While they don’t totally eliminate the need for the old terms–you could use a sentence like “The Left is increasingly Cosmopolitan”–I’d like to they believe that they focus more on what the parties actually do, as opposed to defining them solely in terms of their relation to the other parties.

A few hours into BioWare‘s epic game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, there’s a scene involving a swoop-bike race between two gangs in the slums of a backwater planet. When the race is over, the leader of the losing gang decides that he will not allow the other gang’s racer to claim the prize. This prompts the guy in charge of the race to say something like: “You can’t back out now! It would violate all our most sacred traditions!”

Now, this line has always struck me as rather funny. I mean, it’s a race between two criminal gangs in the slums. Just how “sacred” could such an event be, I’ve always wondered.

I’ve thought of this scene more than once while reading about the pseudo-controversy involving Sarah Palin’s daughter on the program “Dancing With the Stars”. People are quite  indignant over the possibility that fans of all things Palin are compromising the integrity of a TV dancing competition. A damned silly thing to be upset about, if you ask me.

That said, it is irritating to me how the mainstream media insists on calling it a “conspiracy theory”. That makes it sound as if people pointing out that die-hard Palin supporters are voting for her daughter are roughly as credible as people who believe lizardmen are responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

The fact of the matter is that Palin fans freely admit voting “early and often”. Is it cheating? I don’t know; the stakes are so incredibly low that I don’t think it qualifies. (The only way it might matter is if there is major gambling involved, and if there were I would assume that ABC would already have better security for the voting.)

But like I said, how worked up can one get over this? I mean, it is somewhat scandalous that our politics are hopelessly intertwined with silly entertainment programs, but it’s been going this way for awhile, and seemingly with the consent of the population in general.

It is the opinion of this humble blogger that you are entirely too concerned with recent redecorating of the Oval Office.

Now, no doubt decoration is a fine thing, and a worthy endeavor deserving of thoughtful criticism. But I don’t think it is worth expending the journalistic and rhetorical resources needed to write entire columns and blog posts on.

This is all the more important to understand because, like everything else politicians do, this redecoration will undoubtedly become the subject of what passes for debate between the Republicans and the Democrats. The Republicans, I’d wager, are even now trying to find something unpatriotic about the color of the new coffee table. Democrats, on the other hand, will leap to the defense of it, probably even if they privately hate it.

Now, I admit, this state of polarization is not itself the fault of either the blogosphere or even the mainstream media, even though everyone says it is. For decades, the political system in the United States has been relentlessly, and perhaps inevitably, moving towards a point at which agreement on anything between the two parties is inconceivable. This is the result of forces beyond the control of any one individual or entity.

Here’s the thing, though:  if the two parties can at least battle each other over actual issues concerning the state of the real world, the military, the economy, the culture etc., there is a chance–admittedly a slim one–that the disagreements between the two parties may actually be susceptible of resolution based on actual material evidence.

The decoration of rooms, however, is not such an issue. Neither are countless other arguments over what boils down, at then end of the day, to questions of taste and symbolism. The fact people allow themselves to continually argue over such irresolvable and subjective issues is a serious obstacle to anything like actual competition on matters of policy.

All comments are welcome, and disagreement is encouraged. 

NewsBusters is upset over the fact that Janet Napolitano seemingly referred to Haley Barbour as the Governor of Alabama, when in fact he is the Governor of  Mississippi.

Speaking as one who has never liked Napolitano, and who has repeatedly called for her to be fired, I have to say that this does not seem to be a horrifying gaffe like they’re making it out to be.

One day, commentators are going to have to learn: People misspeak. It happens.

It occurred to me that the discrepancy in the reactions to Hayward’s yacht race and Obama’s golfing may not be due to media bias or anything like that. It may just boil down to good old-fashioned charisma.

Obama has tons of charisma, Hayward… not so much. And when you’re charismatic, you can get away with things like that.

I wan to make clear that what I said in my last post is not some kind of “rule” for discourse that I’m trying to establish. I’m sure that in the past and in the future, I have and will engage in insulting and mocking various people I disagree with. It’s inevitable–and fun to do, I might add.

The point of that post was more that it’s very easy to engage in such behavior at the expense of doing actual thinking about what it is you support–what policies you would like, etc. It’s okay to write a scathing piece that rips into your opponent and make their ideas sound ridiculous, but too many blogs seem to do that and nothing more.