Archive for June, 2004

This morning I managed to pull a stunt that in a movie would be lame at best, but which doesn’t generally happen in real life.

1. Go out to my car this morning to go to work.
2. Notice some mail on the garage floor.
3. Put my bottle of iced tea on the top of the car.
4. Retrieve mail.
5. Get in car, start car.
6. Open sunroof.
7. Iced tea falls on my head.

The irony here is that about a month ago, I sent email to Lipton complaining about the fact that they had switched from glass to plastic bottles, since I believed it changed the taste (this turns out not to be the case).

But if that bottle that fell on my head had been glass, it might have knocked me out (which actually might have made the story funnier). So now I feel like I should write them another letter thanking them for making this “safety improvement”, for those of us too dumb to retrieve our drinks from the top of the car before opening the sunroof.

UPDATE: I sent email to Lipton regarding this incident, and got the following reply:

Hi Anne,

Thanks so much for writing!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about our product. Our corporate goal is
“meeting the everyday needs of people everywhere”. It is truly rewarding when
our consumers feel strongly about our brands and take the time to communicate
with us directly.

We are happy to hear that you are ok, with no concussion.

Thanks for sharing your favorable comments!
Your friends at Lipton

When I was in school I was a little bit of a troublemaker. I got myself kicked out of a physics class for being disrespectful to the teacher. (He deserved it, but that’s another story.) The vice-principal in charge of discipline knew who I was. I read and used the ACLU Handbook of Student Rights.

But I never in my wildest dreams came close to whacking a hornet’s nest like this kid. And if I had I wouldn’t have handled the resulting furor with half his calm or efficiency.

This is the kind of thing that gives reactionary right-wing bastards like me hope for the future. My hat, if I had one, would be off to Mr. Henderson.

(Link via Hobbs Online. While you’re there, check out the hyperlinking job he did to Maureen Dowd.)

The National Rifle Association has pushed us a step farther down the slippery slope established by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. That law established an implicit multi-tier system of free speech, with media outlets permitted to engage in political speech that is now illegal for other groups. The NRA has done the obvious thing in response: turned itself into a media outlet. Others are expected to follow suit.

These organizations are precisely the “special interest” groups the BCRA was intended to muzzle. This obvious attempt to circumvent the intent of the law places defenders of campaign finance reform in an awkward position. If the circumvention succeeds it will rip out a key pillar of their reform effort. (Which is looking pretty rickety already what with the 527s replacing the now-banned soft-money donations and both major Presidential candidates rejecting federal matching funds while blowing past all prior fund-raising records.) Blocking it leads down the path towards government licensing identifying the ‘legitimate’ press.

This prospect is scary because the distinction between a legitimate and bogus press outlet is murky at best. Some liberals don’t seem to consider FoxNews legitimate media, for example. The same is doubtless true of conservative opinion regarding the Air America talk radio network (or CNN in some circles). The expression of strong opinions should not be a liability; there’s no rule requiring that media be bland or inoffensive.

A narrow focus doesn’t disqualify; nobody would deny that Cat Fancy magazine is a media outlet. For that matter, how broad would the subject matter of a show have to be before it was broad enough? If the NRA gets together with strict sentencing anti-crime groups and produces a show pushing both viewpoints together, is that somehow more ‘real media’ than a show covering only gun-related news? If Earth First!, the NAACP, the NEA, the NOW, NARAL, the LGBA, the AFL-CIO, PETA and ANSWER all get together — well, they’d have CBS and the Democratic Party, so I guess that point is moot.

The fact that the NRA (or future emulators) are trying to ‘work around’ the law should not be taken as automatically delegitimizing their media efforts. The law as written deprives them of the means they once used to express their views. If we declare any attempt by them to express those views within the scope of the law as wrong, we should be honest and just admit that we’re using the law as a club to whack people we don’t like.

Of course, that’s the most likely outcome. Given the impossibility of crafting a ‘bright line’ principle to divide real media from fake media, we will be thrown into case-by-case analysis. The assessments will be influenced by the popularity of the viewpoints expressed by the new media outlets under consideration. Once the rule of law, in the form of the First Amendment, has been abandoned we will be left with the rule of men.