American Idol: Rupert Murdoch’s Vision for America

For domestic reasons, I’ve ended up watching more American Idol this season. The show is not very compelling, although it’s clear that some of the contestants are really talented. But the more I watch it, the more I’m convinced that the show — aired on Fox — is actually a subtle propaganda piece designed to reinforce News Corp/Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch’s vision for America.

The most obvious example is the nature and role of the “judges” on the show. It would be hard to imagine a cast of characters who would inspire more loathing in the heart of America: a black man, an (Arab?!) woman, and an effete Brit. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Nancy Pelosi’s America! They are the bad guys, the evil overlords who sneer and pass judgement on the singers from on high.

But here’s where it gets interesting. The judges, of course, have no actual power. As if in a Republican wet dream, they are unable to legislate from the bench, unable to overrule the rowdy populace. The judges have been neutered, which is exactly how Murdoch would like to see our judiciary.

Now comes news that, this season, the cash cow is in danger of being hijacked. Howard Stern and others are launching a campaign to destroy the show by encouraging people to vote for the worst candidate, in this case, local boy Sanjaya Malakar. This is a problem, since the whole point of American Idol is to generate a multi-platinum recording star who will make gobs of money on the back end for the show’s producers.

As President Bush has learned in Iraq and Palestine, unleashing democracy can be a messy thing. So, just the Bush Administration is backing some Shiite groups in Iraq in an effort to stem the violence and crank up the country’s oil output, don’t be surprised if Sanjaya suddenly bows out of the competition, claiming he wants to “spend more time with his family.” Because democracy is all well and good, but when there’s real money at stake, it’s all just bread, circuses, and karaoke.

Psst… Alaska!

American Airlines is ditching the MD-80:

American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, is accelerating delivery of 47 previously ordered Boeing 737-800 jets by four years as it begins replacement of some of its oldest planes.

The new jets will replace some of American’s 300 MD-80s, which have an average age of 17.2 years and are the largest single jet type in the airline’s 672-plane fleet.

Fuel efficiency helps:

The MD-80s burn about 25 percent more fuel than 737-800s. Spending for jet fuel, the carrier’s second-largest expense after labor, rose 14 percent in 2006 to $6.4 billion.

I’ll be even happier when Alaska Air follows suit, which, according to Wikipedia, will happen sometime in 2008. Sweet.

The Endless Fun of Neighborhood Focus Groups

This fall, Seattle-area voters will vote on ST2, $9.8B transit package, including light rail to the suburbs. Like any smart bureaucracy, they’re holding focus groups, like this one, which reminds me why I would hate to be the guy who runs focus groups:

[P]eople were worried about encroachment on established residential areas around downtown Bellevue.

It isn’t just the neighborhoods, said Susan Woerdehoff of Bellevue. It’s the amenities, too.

“Don’t touch the Pancake Corral,” said the 42-year-old who grew up in Bellevue. “Don’t mess with Chace’s pancake house.”

Ho boy.

HIllary Clinton and the Military

Democrats make a lot of mistakes when talking about the military, as this article in the NYT makes clear. Sen. Clinton, like so many other silly Democrats, thinks that the way to win support from the military is to do nice thigns for the troops, like fund body armor and veterans hospitals:

In the Senate, Mrs. Clinton has supported expanding medical benefits for National Guard members and reservists and providing aid to those with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bu tthe way this reads is that she wants to coddle the troops. But the seemingly counterintuitive thing about the military is that they like getting put in harm’s way, as evidenced by:

She has also defied liberals in her own party at times, endorsing the expansion of the Army, supporting financing for missile defense, and refusing to support a total ban on land mines.


It is also part of an effort to shed the image some voters hold of her as an antimilitary liberal, defined by her opposition to the Vietnam War and, now, by her criticism of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war in Iraq.

See? Opposing wars and land mines clearly is only something you do if you’re anti-military. To be pro-military, you have to want to fight, fight, fight. That’s how being pro-war becomes inseparable from being pro-military (and “pro-troop”!). After all, as Madeline Albright famously asked, “what’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

A .22 Caliber Mind

When discussing political moves where there may be “more than meets the eye,” The Chief usually reminds me of the West Wing episode where President Bartlett, speaking to a TV show, “forgets” that the camera’s still recording and calls his opponent a “.22 caliber mind in a .357 world.” It later becomes clear that Bartlett blurted out the insult intentionally, to out-macho the opponent in a way that could still be plausibly denied.

With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder when Sen. Jim Webb’s assistant gets caught “accidentally” bringing Webb’s loaded handgun into the Capitol building. And just days after the Supreme Court strikes down D.C.’s anti-handgun law. Was this a wink-wink to Webb’s Virginia constituents, reminding them he’s still a strong pro-gun vote? I’ll admit that it would be foolish and irresponsible to have your aide intentionally committing crimes (like carrying a concealed weapon without a permit) just to help you in a re-election campaign that’s still 5 years away. Still… there’s more here than meets the eye.

Learn to Speak Internet, Courtesy Your Tax Dollars

My day job is keeping me busy these days … seems like all I have time for are these terse Jeremiads from the void of corporate hell.

Anyway, has there ever been a bigger Republican domestic policy blunder than “Just Say No” and its legacy?  All the War on Drugs has ever accomplished is to drive up the street price of drugs, thus increasing the violence — domestic and foreign — associated with their trade. Remind me sometime and I’ll sketch the supply and demand curves for you.  For an economist, this is text book policy analysis, and all signs point to “worst policy ever.”

And now, your tax dollars have purchased this handy l’il guide to internet lingo.  Enjoy.

Aw Shucks, And Here I Was Getting Ready To Actually Vote For A Democrat

Hey, Sara Corbett — congratulations, you got your most E-mailed Times story. Too bad one of your three sources seems to have made shit up:

Big trouble at the New York Times Magazine this morning, as an editors’ note reveals that one of the women who appeared in last week’s cover story on female Iraq veterans never served in Iraq and might have made up much of what she told reporter Sara Corbett in her interview.

In the original article, 27-year-old Amorita Randall (pictured) claimed to have been stationed in Iraq during 2004. She also said that she suffered a brain injury during a roadside attack, in which her Humvee was hit by an I.E.D. Today, the Times writes that, “Based on the information that came to light after the article was printed, it is now clear that Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did.”