29 August 2011

Quick comments on the PTC's new cartoon study

(note: page numbers refer to the printed ones not the ones you enter in at Adobe Reader)

The PTC today (I believe so) came out with a new study (summary) Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter. Basically that report attacks Cartoon Network for not rating its Adult Swim programming (9PM-6AM) properly and for marketing rated-R and TV-MA programming during TV-PG rated programming and worrying about teenagers (12-17 year olds) watching it, especially the TV-MA-rated Robot Chicken, which according to Nielsen Media Research is the 8th most watched animated cable show among that age group (p. 5). Well first of all why are they watching it in the first place when it's rated TV-MA and in first 3 time zones of the US after 10PM? (the show is scheduled at midnight Eastern and Pacific, 11PM elsewhere on cable, and on satellite providers carrying the East Coast feed times may be earlier.) As I look through the study the study provides examples of Family Guy, American Dad, and King of the Hill, episodes of which originally aired on primetime on the Fox broadcasting network. While PTC panicks over sexual content they claim is on TV-PG rated programming the only example of TV-PG programming as such is King of the Hill. Googling the PTC website, PTC rates King of the Hill with a mild "yellow light" rating but otherwise I can't find any other analysis of that show when it aired on Fox from 1997-2009. The examples of Family Guy and American Dad, both Seth MacFarlane-created series, usually are rated at least TV-14-DLS and were after 10PM, and many of the sexual examples had an S indicator in the content rating. The majority of the language examples had L indicators. The "male rape fantasy" example, an episode of American Dad, was rated TV-14-DSV (p. 23). If anything this study indicates the need for parents to be responsible for their kids TV viewing, and that the networks go out of their damn way to warn parents, and the PTC is essentially bullying and thinking the ratings system is too damn light. I mean ever since 2005 or 2006 I've seen TV networks putting the ratings box up after every commercial break not just at beginning of programs, and the Turner-owned networks TBS, TNT, and Cartoon Network have enlarged them. Same with NBC and Viacom-owned nets like MTV, VH1, and TV land. And while PTC may be worried about such content, they should be thankful that the content ratings warned them.

As for the drug content and references to crystal meth (such as in King of the Hill) (p. 24), well why didn't PTC raise a ruckus about that when King of the Hill was originally on Fox? And Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" from the late '60s referred to cocaine yet I don't hear parents groups calling the legendary American country musician as a bad influence on children. What PTC is advocating in my opinion is that kids just watch preachy ABC after school specials and anything that makes their over prudent hearts bleed should be rated TV-MA. Go to the parentstv.org website and notice how their traffic lights rating system is a notch over what the networks recommend. The yellow-rated shows are "recommended for 14 and up" (TV-14 in the TV Parental Guidelines) and usually are applied to the TV-PG rated shows like The Office. The red-rated shows are recommended for 18 and older only but are usually for the TV-14 groups.

Further, this blog post by the right-wing Little Green Footballs (a blog that sometimes deviates from the US conservative establishment message) rips apart PTC founder Brent Bozell's new column that supplemented this study. Bozell continues lying and deceiving as he usually does in his occupation advocating right wing talking points as he doesn't point out how the Robot Chicken episode he was talking about was shown at midnight (enter any show in the Zap2It.com listings and there you can see when shows air).

28 August 2011

Expect the PTC to go haywire AGAIN.

The NY Times reported: "At VMAs, Young Stars With Fresh Mouths":
This was maybe the most bleeped award show in history, and certainly among the lewdest, from Lady Gaga’s opening monologue, in drag, channeling Andrew “Dice” Clay and Denis Leary, to Cloris Leachman swapping foul talk with the cast of “Jersey Shore,” to Justin Bieber making phallus jokes with his girlfriend Selena Gomez on the pre-show. The falling-flat toilet humor of last year’s host Chelsea Handler had nothing on this.


Introducing Lil Wayne, Drake gave in to the general mood with a brief speech that required some bleeping, the theme of the night. When Tyler, the Creator, accepted his award, half of his speech couldn’t be made out between the edits. (He was, though, the only artist who appeared genuinely moved to have won.) During the preshow, he’d made unkind gestures with his microphone toward the head of Jim Cantiello, one of the hosts. Mr. Cantiello repaid him later, after announcing that Tyler’s Twitter mentions placed him above Mr. Mars, whom he dislikes: “I can’t wait to hear your homophobic rap about that later,” Mr. Cantiello said.
If you're interested, check out the Parents Television Council's annual VMA-bash from 2008, 2009, and 2010. Thanks NY Times for reporting this so that I don't need to read the PTC's take on it. BTW, I was watching a Raiders preseason game instead of the VMAs, but congratulations Foo Fighters for winning Best Rock Video for "Walk":

Of course the VMAs had to shower Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga with the big awards (respectively: Video of the year, Best Male Video, and Best Female Video.) "ET" that crappy song won TWO awards (also Best Collabo)? And the untalented NICKI MINAJ wins BEST HIP HOP VIDEO for "Super Bass" (an average song at best)??? Oh well it's mainstream stuff. The professional categories I'll check later.

Here's my earlier post criticizing PTC's cable TV reviews. And Brent McKee has another article about the PTC, this time about the PTC opposing NBC's upcoming The Playboy Club.

13 August 2011

Federal budget cuts in 1959 restrained an economic recovery. Hear that, Washington?

I just finished reading the book Dwight D. Eisenhower by Tom Wicker, part of the American Presidents book series by Times Books, the book-publishing arm of the New York Times Company. In the wake of Congress' current budget-cut debate and the recession, I came across this narrative of the 1959 budget agenda (pp. 113-114):
Neither for the first nor last time, Eisenhower had misjudged the Democrats. In 1959, rather than being profligate spenders, they decided to outdo the president in reducing federal expenditures. By the time the two congressional parties were done leap-frogging over each other in ever bigger spending cuts, the fiscal 1960 budget they adopted featured a $269 million surplus. That may have please the White House but the inescapable economic fact was that such a dramatic one-year swing in federal spending—from a $13 billion deficit to a nearly—virtually strangled the economic recovery that had begun in April 1958.

In 1959, moreover, the Federal Reserve, which had been ritually keeping money tight since 1956, actually raised the crucial discount rate from 2.5 to 4 percent. Restrictive fiscal and monetary policy combined resulted in the shortest economic expansion of the post-war year, and in April 1960 the economy began sliding into a new recession, which was to last into 1961.
Vice President Richard Nixon would run for president in 1960 and lose against Senator John F. Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts. According to Wicker, "economic recession was prominent among the many factors that gave John F. Kennedy his razor-thin victory" (114). Similarly, I predict that a recession will influence a Republican victory over President Obama in the 2012 election. Poor economic conditions often influence voters to vote against the political parties in power. It happened in 1960, when voters decided not to elect the termed-out Republican Dwight Eisenhower's vice president to the highest executive position and instead opted for the Democrat, JFK. Similar thing in 1980 following an energy crisis and rising unemployment, when the incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter lost to the Republican former governor of California, Ronald Reagan (who would win re-election in 1984 despite a yearlong recession during his first term). In 1992, President George H.W. Bush (R) lost his re-election bid to the Democratic governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton after compromising with Congressional Democrats to raise some taxes to reduce a budget deficit and rising unemployment in 1991 and 1992.

(update) Note how during the 1950s the top tax rate was...91%...a possible contributing factor to the 1959 surplus. Although the late '90s also had budget surpluses, the top tax rate then was a much lower 39.6%.

02 August 2011

All that paranoia and howling for nothing

I swung by the Parents Television Council website today and found the PTC's latest review of Worst Cable Show of the Week being the Comedy Central series Jon Benjamin Has a Van. I've never heard of that show; it's amazing how much about TV I can learn from those professional prudes!

The author begins with this complaint about how Hollywood abuses children
Movies, television, and other sectors of the entertainment industry keep up a non-stop barrage of graphic, ultra-violent, sexual, and profane programming…and send it out over the publicly-owned airwaves and via cable and satellite systems, where even the youngest children can be exposed to it. And in the case of cable and satellite, the industry even FORCES subscribers to pay for such content, even if they never watch it. Apparently, those in the entertainment industry believe that, despite the proliferation of technology today, parents are capable of being, and ought to spend, at their children’s side every second, monitoring every single thing they see. This in spite of the industry’s own deliberate program of pushing clearly adult programming at kids, and their own measures taken to ensure that they are not bound by even commonsense restrictions.
This big ol' word salad precedes PTC's admission that the show is aired at 10:30PM Eastern time (an hour earlier in the central/mountain zones, and even earlier in the west coast on satellite). And the PTC didn't even acknowledge that the show is rated TV-14-L - unsuitable for children under 14 due to language, in plain English.

Does PTC not realize that under the current cable TV bundling system EVERYONE pays for SOMETHING they don't watch/like at all? PTC laid out its own example of its like-minded viewers who pay for offensive programs on Comedy Central if they subscribe to cable. I'll lay out some other examples:
  • Liberals subsidizing Fox News Channel or the religious networks (those networks often have a right-wing bent too).
  • Conservatives subsidizing MSNBC
  • Childless adults subsidizing the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network
  • Jewish, Muslim, any non-Christian subscriber subsidizing EWTN, Trinity Broadcasting Network, any religious cable channel
And since when has Comedy Central been aimed towards children and families? If so then why does the network rate most of its shows TV-14 or TV-MA (mature audiences) anyway? I acknowledge for sure there are TV shows and movies and video games out there that kids shouldn't be exposed to. But to insinuate that the entertainment industry wants to market rated-R films straight at kids is just ridiculous and overblown. As for parents "monitoring every single thing" that kids see then what are the V-chip and cable channel blocks for then?

If PTC really wants to combat bad stuff being marketed towards children why don't they join First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign for healthier eating? Why is PTC all up in arms about violence and sex in TV shows that kids shouldn't even be watching in the first place yet remain silent about McDonald's and Burger King and fast food restaurants marketing junk food to kids and contributing to the obesity epidemic? In fact, in 2005, the PTC criticized the Carl's Jr. fast food chain over PARIS HILTON - yep the slutty blonde spoiled trust fund girl - appearing in a sexual manner in ads. But when has the PTC ever criticized Carl's Jr for its kids meals? PTC does the same ol' thing for the other fast food companies for advertising on offensive programming (y'know, 10PM crime dramas and all that stuff that 7-year-olds shouldn't be watching because they should be in bed) but never attacks those companies for doing DIRECT harm to kids through fatty meals! McDonald's, Burger King, and other junk food companies and agribusiness, all of which have benefitted from massive corporate welfare, has caused more harm to American children than any stupid TV show or violent video game or corny pop song ever has.

By the way I wonder how many people who take PTC's advice regularly feed their kids processed/junk food? I'm not being stereotypical of people who agree with the PTC views, but I'm just asking.

01 August 2011

The Norway killer, defining inciting hatred, and hate speech being free speech

Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian man, is currently under arrest for and has pled not guilty to a mass murder in Norway. First, he bombed a government building in the capital Oslo, killing 8 and injuring 30. Although the bombed building housed the Norway prime minister, the head of state was not present at the time. He later shot 69 teenagers to death at a Labor Party youth camp at Utoya island. Some originally predicted (and I admittedly guessed too before knowing all the facts) that a radical Muslim initiated the attacks. Later, it turned out that the perpetrator was influenced by anti-Muslim extremist views and opposition to multiculturalism.

Many European Union countries make it a crime to express views that might incite violence or hatred against a certain group of people. Specifically, section 135a of the Norwegian penal code Straffeloven specifies (translated by Google with some mods by me):
Any person who willfully or with gross negligence expresses discriminatory or hateful speech, may be punished by fines or imprisonment for up to 3 years...A discriminatory or hateful expression means threatening or insulting anyone, or promoting hatred, persecution or contempt against anyone because of their
a) race or national or ethnic origin,
b) religion or belief, or
c) homosexuality, sexual lifestyle or orientation.
In contrast, in the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits "abridging the freedom of speech." As a result, US courts have often ruled in defence of people who have expressed racist or anti-religious views. According to the American Civil Liberties Union: "The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content." Which is why it's not a crime in itself to express racist views, notably when comedian and Seinfeld star Michael Richards, at a 2006 stand-up event, yelled the N-word and other bigoted expressions in response to a black audience member heckling him. Nor the non-stop bigotry and hatred spewed on talk radio by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc. However, when such hatred escalates into violence, criminal charges are undoubtedly justified. The question is, does hate speech inherently incite violence and thus should not be protected free speech?

In 1952, the US Supreme Court ruled in Beauharnais v. Illinois in favor of a state law banning defamation of a race or class of people, following the tradition that libel is not free speech. That law banned expressions asserting "depravity, criminality, unchastity, or lack of virtue of a class of citizens, of any race, color, creed or religion" which "exposes the citizens of any race, color, creed or religion to contempt, derision, or obloquy." However, authority of the case fell apart in later years, according to Justia.com:
Beauharnais has little continuing vitality as precedent. Its holding, premised in part on the categorical exclusion of defama-tory statements from First Amendment protection, has been substantially undercut by subsequent developments, not the least of which are the Court’s subjection of defamation law to First Amendment challenge and its ringing endorsement of “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” debate on public issues in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.
Had that case stood, free speech laws in the US would've almost been at the same level as those in the EU.

In Virginia v. Black (2003), the USSC upheld a Virginia law that prohibited cross-burning because that practice "because burning a cross is a particularly virulent form of intimidation," according to the decision. So far, it can be concluded that free speech does not include explicit, direct intimidation or harrassment of another specific person or deliberately expressing libelous statements about a person.

Breivik's manifesto heavily cited Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, two American authors known for their radically anti-Muslim points of view. The document also reproduced a publication by the conservative Free Congress Foundation, Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology. Basically, according to the right wing, PC is a liberal ideology that stifles speech to ensure that the least people in the audience is offended. So now, the new PC might be to ensure that crazies like Breivik won't get inspired to commit violent acts.

America had a similar albeit smaller experience like Breivik: In January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner shot six people to death and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; Giffords returned to Congress today and cast a vote for debt ceiling/budget legislation. While it had been initially speculated that right-wing talk radio was to blame, it turned out that Loughner was really a mentally ill drug addict obsessed with conspiracy theories. So should conspiracy theories be protected free speech, or because they might incite insane people to violence those theories should not?

If someone cites influence of radical speakers as the reason for committing assassination or a hate crime, does the blame lay more or entirely with the speaker or the perpetrator? How should we approach controversial viewpoints given the Loughner and Breivik incidents: do those viewpoints inherently incite violence, or do dumb people incite violence? This is sort of like the "guns don't kill people, people do" motto.

So where was I?

Well busying myself outside of blogging, that's for sure. Anyway I've been learning the SolidWorks computer-aided design program so that I can become a Certified SolidWorks Associate. And of course catching up on DVR'd programs and watching some movies. And other fun summertime stuff if I can't work. I'll expand on these and other topics in later posts. Also, there's been a lot of crazy stuff going on with the American debt ceiling and the bitter battle between President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.