Last Week Tonight Tackles ” Most Collectible Kind of Debt There Is”

This was a really good report on student loan debt from John Oliver’s new show, Last Week Tonight. It was funny and at the same time some of the best reporting on the topic I’ve seen in a while, so I’m sharing it here.

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The Bodyguard, Netflix, and Your Right to Access Promised Content

UPDATE:  Check with TechDirt for a significant correction on this story. Apparently this video was removed from the streaming catalog before Whitney Houston’s death.  While that does mean Warner Brothers did not behave as cynically as I believed, the fact that that there was confusion about the date really rather supports my point.  If you expect a video to be in the catalog, you expect it to find it.  

If you were planning to watch The Bodyguard on Netflix, you’re out of luck. According to this post on TechDirt, it’s been pulled. Unless you’re a huge Whitney Houston fan, you probably won’t notice. It’s not a good movie and you probably weren’t planning to watch it. It’s got some great music, but the soundtrack is available separately. If you were planning to watch it, you are probably really annoyed and need to make other plans. I feel your pain, because I’ve been there. It happens far too often, digitally distributed media has a tendency to just disappear, usually due to rights issues.

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An Exciting Three Weeks So Far!

I could leave here tomorrow and this will already have been an extraordinary experience.  I’m not planning on it, mind you.  I’ve only been here three weeks and have barely gotten started on the project that is my main reason for being here, and I’m really just getting settled in.

Nonetheless, it’s been an exciting three weeks.  I’ve heard some amazing bluegrass music played live, nearly run over a black bear, spent some time riding along one the best bike trails on the East Coast, seen a stunning display of fall foliage, been visited on my front lawn by a family of deer in the wee hours of the morning,  learned that Pearl Buck was a much more fascinating person than I ever gave her credit for, met some really interesting people, and hopefully made a friend or two.  That’s just some of the highlights of these three weeks.

I’m no stranger to the countryside.  Between the Boy Scouts and family trips, we did a lot of camping when I was growing up.  Yet I’ve been astonished by the wildlife I’ve seen in just a few weeks, ranging from the wide variety of birds, to small mammals and arachnids.
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The Rhetoric of Hate v. Forgiveness

A short, but respectable analysis of an aspect of conservative media’s responses the tragic bombing and shootings in Norway came across my screen today.  In “Norway’s Sorrow: Why Is It So Hard For The Religious Right To Denounce Evil?,” Kurt Ostrow argues that a certain segment of the media is unable to simply denounce the attacks and leave it there. They condemn the actions of Anders Behring Breivik, who claimed responsibility for the attack, but then go on to ask if there aren’t real causes for concern that set him off. Ostrow points out that is is part of a very real trend, and provides some excellent examples to support his case, both from Europe and the United States.

He then goes on to make an excellent point.

Right-wing politicians and pundits everywhere have decided it politically prudent to conflate Islamic (of or relating to Islam) with Islamist (of or relating to Islamic militancy or fundamentalism). Or worse: they actually believe this misdirected, misinformed hate.

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Headlines from the President’s Middle East Policy Speech

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 20, 2011.

I always find it interesting to scan headlines after a major policy speech.  The startlingly reveal the biases of the sources, or at least the audiences they seek to attract.  Particularly interesting today are those concerning the meeting between President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.  I haven’t read all these articles, but here are the headlines with the sources and the links to the articles.  What might you speculate about the articles, the papers or their target audiences?

Netanyahu Tells Obama Israel Can’t Return to ‘Indefensible’ 1967 Borders
Bloomberg – Jonathan Ferziger

Netanyahu and Obama long way apart over Middle East peace plans
The Guardian

President Obama supports a two-state solution based on Israel’s 1967 borders …
Wall Street Journal

Bibi and Barack Meet: So Much for the Fireworks
TIME (blog) – Massimo Calabresi

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The Musical World of Roger Kuhn Around X-mas Time

Cover Art for "Every Year Around XMas Time"

Singer / Songwriter Roger Kuhn will be at the American Indian Community House in lower Manhattan tomorrow, Friday, December 3, for a concert marking the release of “Every Year Around Christmas Time”  a collection of original Christmas songs available at most online music outlets. (Click here for information on the show.)

The record marks a return to the studio for the farm boy from North Dakota, turned New Yorker, who’s now become a Boston resident since moving here with his husband in May, 2009.  He has spent the last year reading, studying yoga, meditating, and enjoying married life off the road.  But now “he’s got the bug again,” and the Christmas collection is just some of the new music coming our way. A new single, My Vow to You, is already available on iTunes.

In this video interview he talks about his childhood, becoming a musician, the importance of music in negotiating his identity as a gay man of mixed Native American  and White heritage, his spirituality, his career thus far, and what is still to come.

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Journalism and Online Discourse

However, while blogs have created hundreds of prominent new voices in the national media, social networking sites like twitter have only reinforced the position of people and institutions who were already prominent in other media.  Not a single person has risen to become a prominent national media figure just through their tweeting.  However, popular TV shows, musicians, and politicians have gained two million followers or more through the medium.

Given this, it is a legitimate worry that the decline of blogging, and the rise of social networking, will mean that the media status quo that was once threatened by the Internet will now be reinforced by it.  Rather than new media functioning as a democratizing force, it  could become yet another tool of the status quo.  Maybe once in a while it will be used by street demonstrators against a totalitarian regime, as it was in Iran, but most of the time it will just make the already famous and the already dominant even more so.

–via “Social networking sites reinforce the status quo

Those are the conclusions that Chris Bowers  draws from a report by the Pew Internet Centers on Social Media and Young Adults that finds that blogging is on the decline among teenage users of the Internet. Teens are also commenting less on blogs. Use among older Americans, on the other hand, remains the same.

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Gretchen Carlson plays pretty good fiddle

I feel terrible! I always thought you had to be stupid to be an on air personality on Fox News. But I misjudged, and fell into a stereotype. Apparently you don’t. You just have to act dumb. Jon Stewart has shown me just how unfair I was being.

Apparently Gretchen Carlson, a Fox on air personality who, at times, seems like she must be the inspiration for every dumb blod joke ever told, isn’t as dumb as she wants us to believe. She was valedictorian of her high school class! She got her undergraduate degree at Stanford and studied abroad at Oxford. Jon outed her on national television. That wasn’t nice. Maybe it’s a tough place for a woman to work. Maybe she has to dumb it down to not be threatening and keep her job. I mean, look who she works with.
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