Private MacKay

On the next episode of the new CBC series Make the Politician Work, Defense Minister Peter “Spuds” Mackay gets sent to boot camp. Looks like it might be quite fun to watch. Although really, for the sake of verisimilitude (and morbid hilarity), he should have been thrown into the front lines of battle in Afghanistan… Come to think of it, I’d like to see every politician that voted in support of that asinine, multi-billion dollar misadventure to be drummed into service and marched into the line of fire.

But seriously [cough]… does anyone have helpful suggestions for the CBC producers as to what kind of work Michael Ignatieff or Stephen Harper might appropriately be made to do, should they ever choose to participate? Presumably something more humiliating and/or grueling than Jack Layton’s stint the other night, ineffectually shadowing an ER team in a Toronto hospital.

HIGNFY: Presenters

A DVD extra… Have I Got News For You regulars Ian Hislop and Paul Merton chat about various panelists and hosts that have appeared on the show over the years.

Probably just for fans. Of which I’m one.


Sarah Palin’s response the SOTU was bizarre, to say the least, particularly when it came to discussing the “Sputnik moment” — a tiresome analogy borrowed from Thomas Friedman — that was advanced by President Obama as an inspirational, Kennedyesque national project to spur innovation and revive the American economy by making various “investments” in science, education, and high-speed access to Internet porn. (Okay, he didn’t say that last bit, but come on…)

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite has perfectly detailed the travesty and quite helpfully included this supposition as to how, of all things, Spudnuts weirdly entered the discussion, suggesting that the equation went like this: “Sputnik moment” + “Something that sounds like Sputnik but isn’t”=WIN!”

By the way, the article linked to above provides a fascinating potted history of the rise and fall of the Spudnuts empire, which on close examination seems like a pretty dodgy business model to emulate.

Finally, am I the only one who got the impression that this entire interview with Greta Van Susteren was scripted in advance?

Posh & Posher

Andrew Neill “gets under the skin of the new political ruling class” of Britain in this investigative report on the increasingly narrow (or should that be “shallow”?) social pool from which the UK’s governing elites are drawn.

In future reports, Neill may perhaps be expected to reveal shocking new facts showing that the rich are getting ever more fabulously rich all the time, kittens are still adorable, and the sky is blue (except when it’s not).

p.s. I wanted to post the whole program, and had the links for it, but unfortunately, the user was forced to pull it down by the Beeb. Not that you missed much.

Drug Trebuchets!

What a delightfully anachronistic throwback to medieval times that Mexican drug lords are now using trebuchets to fling their narcotics over top of the crude fences and walls erected by the DHS at parts of the border between the USA and Mexico. How soon will it be, I wonder, before illegal immigrants are hurled over the border in a similar manner… perhaps catapulted to a minimum wage landscaping job in some kind of impact-resistant bubble?

Okay, I’ll admit that I played far too much Age of Kings in the MSN Gaming Zone back in the day, but still… working trebs! How freakin’ cool is that?

Bonus points for anyone that can guess my old screen name on MSNGZ.


How TV Ruined Your Life

Here’s the first installment of Charlie Brooker’s new six-part BBC2 series that explores different universal themes in an attempt to explain the gaping chasm between television and real life.

From the vantage of a darkened, chaotically jumbled viewing room, perched on his now familiar leather couch, a disheveled Brooker cynically examines a bizarre archive of petrifying PSAs (or PIFs as they’re called in Britain) that have over the years appeared on the “warning box” attempting to scare the piss out of people, ostensibly for reasons of public safety.

Other fear-inducing aspects of television’s perilous world are also touched on as Brooker grimly hopscotches through subjects as diverse as creepy children’s programming from the 70s and the proliferation of dismal shows based on apocalyptic nuclear scenarios that enjoyed a strangely popular fascination in the 80s.

Along the way, Brooker dismissively slaps around hysterical, crime and terror obsessed TV news coverage, as well as all manner of frightening programs designed to alert an increasingly anxious viewing audience to the dangers of new potential threats; from the mundane to the improbably hypothetical. Or, in the case of the satirical sketch “If Pens Got Hot…” a brilliant combination of both.

p.s. More information about theory mentioned in the program which asserts that TV viewing “cultivates” distorted perceptions of the real world can be found here. In fairness, it should also be mentioned that other sociologists have subsequently disputed the findings of Gerbner et al., contending the “cultivation” hypothesis lacks empirical support or any scientific basis in fact.

H/T: Thanks once again to Shiner in the comments for alerting me to this wonderful new series and to lemonandjack for posting it on YouTube so quickly.

SOTU: Crazy Eyes Edition!

If there’s one good thing that can be said about Rep. Michele Bachmann’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night, it’s that it was… umm… Err… Well, it… Oh, bugger.

Here – you watch and meanwhile, I’ll go think of something.

Got it! It was under seven minutes! Phew.

And it had charts.

10 O’Clock Live

This, apparently, is Britain’s answer to The Daily Show. Overall, it’s not very good, I’m sad to say, but does include some promising moments from the irascible duo of Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell. Probably would have been better if the C4C programmers* had just limited it to the two of them, or even just made Mitchell the host, with occasional features from Brooker reprising his withering critique of the news media that he executed so brilliantly in his old BBC Newswipe series.

*An unsurprising poor decision, given that scientific studies have shown public-service program planners (and other primitive human sub-groups) as scoring rather badly when compared to penguins in terms of their intellectual capacity.

Snob Story

The concluding part of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment last week illustrated some of the glaring contradictions between historical fact and fanciful, revisionist fiction when it comes to the disparity between the fundamental values of America’s Founding Fathers and those of the so-called Tea Party movement that has attempted to co-opt them as spiritual leaders of their reactionary, populist cause.

Writing early last year in New York Magazine about the recent surge of populism in the USA, Kurt Anderson succinctly described the “elitist” disposition of America’s framers this way:

…what those thoughtful, educated, well-off, well-regarded gentlemen did was invent a democracy sufficiently undemocratic to function and endure. They wanted a government run by an American elite like themselves, as James Madison wrote, “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” They wanted to make sure the mass of ordinary citizens, too easily “stimulated by some irregular passion … or misled by the artful misrepresentations” and thus prone to hysteria—like, say, the rabble who’d run amok in Boston Harbor—be kept in check. That’s why they created a Senate and a Supreme Court and didn’t allow voters to elect senators or presidents directly. By the people and for the people, definitely; of the people, not so much.

It’s an excellent article that explores the conflicting dynamic that has existed from the outset in American politics between the “deliberative gentlemen engaged in careful compromise” and “the apoplectic vandals… throwing things overboard.”

Note: The usual warning applies regarding any RTWBM video… HBO may decide to have it pulled down at any time because they’re dicks that way.

Update: As expected, the hyper-vigilant copyright police at HBO zapped the clip that had originally been embedded.

Ad Wars

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the desperately tedious nature of the political battle the Conservatives and Liberals are presently engaged in than their latest round of duelling negative adverts:

Let’s just say at the outset that they’re both awful.

Released for no apparent reason, other than maybe to “poison the well” ahead of parliament resuming business after its absurdly long holiday break, each one tackles what is surely the lowest possible common denominator in politics these days: Taxes!

The Conservative ad is a petty, malicious piece of work filled with assertions that are dubious at best. For example, the attention-getting claim that Ignatieff apparently supported a $75 “iPod tax” turns out to be a complete fabrication based on nothing more than “some stillborn ideas put forward by Canada’s copyright board” (to quote David Akin). In other words, it’s a flat out LIE. Bookending the ad’s familiar collection of dated, out of context quotes (go check the source of that oft-repeated “tax and spend” one from 2004 and tell me that he wasn’t being somewhat facetious in describing himself that way…) are the obligatory sleazebag attacks on Ignatieff’s patriotism.

As for the Liberal ad, other than being half as short, it’s no better. After five years of fairly unexceptional minority governance, it’s quite feeble that Lib strategists are still compelled to demonize Harper as a dictatorial bogeyman of some sort. What’s truly insulting about this ad however, is its presumption that viewers are complete slackwits with no recollection of recent history. In fact, it was the Liberal Party under Paul Martin that initiated the process of steadily ratcheting down the corporate tax rate. A policy, by the way, that both he and his immediate successor enthusiastically touted as a means of attracting new business investment and promoting job growth in Canada. So it’s more than a little hypocritical (and technically inaccurate) to now indignantly claim “Harper is giving your tax dollars to the largest corporations”…

Is it any wonder that most people are turned off by politics when our two leading parties waste their time and resources excreting miserable pieces of shit like this?