The Widdershins

MONDAY OPEN THREAD

Posted on: July 22, 2013

rolling stone cover-bomber

Good Monday to you Widdershins.  For whatever reason, nothing is particularly bothering me today so I don’t have a lot to say or write about.  I just have a couple of things and then will turn it over to you all in the comments to talk about whatever may be on your minds today.

Obviously the Rolling Stone magazine cover has stirred up some controversy.   The mayor of Boston asked that Rolling Stone do some more stories, but of  “…the brave and strong survivors” and of the “doctors, nurses, friends and volunteers who helped them.’.    A number of chain stores, including CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens and 7-Eleven made the decision not to carry the issue.  In its own defense, Rolling Stone issued a statement:

the magazine said its thoughts were “always with” the bombing victims and their families.

“The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day,” it said. “The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”

Well, I’m not in that age group but I do have a subscription to R.S. and do read it.  I may not read it cover to cover but it’s a magazine I’ll at least glance through.  For now, I’ve just set this edition aside and I may read it later.

Matt Taibbi took to his column to defend his publication.

If indeed we were just a celebrity/gossip mag that covered nothing but rock stars and pop-culture icons, and we decided to boost sales and dabble in hard news by way of putting a Jim Morrison-esque depiction of a mass murderer on our cover, that really would suck and we would deserve all of this criticism.

But Rolling Stone has actually been in the hard news/investigative reporting business since its inception, from Hunter S. Thompson to Carl Bernstein to Bill Greider back in the day to Tim Dickinson, Michael Hastings, Mark Boal, Janet Reitman and myself in recent years.

One could even go so far as to say that in recent years, when investigative journalism has been so dramatically de-emphasized at the major newspapers and at the big television news networks, Rolling Stone‘s role as a source of hard-news reporting has been magnified. In other words, we’re more than ever a hard news outlet in a business where long-form reporting is becoming more scarce.

He discusses “the photo”…

If the Rolling Stone editors had brought Tsarnaev in to its offices near Rockefeller center, wined and dined him, and then posed him for that Jim Morrison shot, then yes, that would be reprehensible.

But that’s not what the magazine did. They used an existing photo, one already used by other organizations. The New York Times, in fact, used exactly the same photo on the cover of their May 5 issue.

[snip]

But there was no backlash against the Times, because everyone knows the Times is a news organization. Not everyone knows that about Rolling Stone. So that’s your entire controversy right there – it’s OK for the Times, not OK for Rolling Stone, because many people out there understandably do not know that Rolling Stone is also a hard-news publication.

And he concludes by saying:

It’s impossible to become too self-righteous in the defense of something like a magazine when the bottom line of this story is, has been, and always will be that people were cruelly murdered or mutilated through Tsarnaev’s horrible act. That truth supercedes all others and always will.  So this is a defense of Rolling Stone that I’m not shouting at the top of my voice. What happens to the magazine and its reputation is really of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. But I do think this has mainly been a misunderstanding, one that hopefully will be cleared up in time.

Personally I think what they should have done was to possibly use a cropped version of the “teen angel” pic right above one of the boat he was hiding in, like this photo:

bomber in boatOf course I’m not the editor of Rolling Stone magazine so…

Moving along…

This piece by Paul Krugman caught my eye the other evening.

I’m sure you all know that we have just a God-awful problem with pensions here in the U.S.  They are underfunded, promise too much to employees and we just can’t afford the things.  It’s a time-bomb waiting to blow up on us…you know, like Social Security.  Except that according to Krugman, it’s not.

OK, this is quite amazing: Dean Baker catches the WaPo editorial page claiming that we have $3.8 trillion in unfunded state and local pension liabilities. Say it in your best Dr. Evil voice: THREE POINT EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS. Except the study the WaPo cites very carefully says that it’s $3.8 trillion in total liabilities, not unfunded; unfunded liabilities are only $1 trillion.

Krugman goes on to say “trillion, schmillion”…”It still sounds like a big number, doesn’t it? Dean tries to compare it with projected GDP, which is one way to scale it. Here’s another.”

the Boston College study doesn’t just estimate assets and liabilities; it also estimates the Annual Required Contribution, defined as

normal cost – the present value of the benefits accrued in a given year – plus a payment to amortize the unfunded liability

And it compares the ARC with actual contributions.

According to the survey, the ARC is currently about 15 percent of payroll; in reality, state and local governments are making only about 80 percent of the required contributions, so there’s a shortfall of 3 percent of payroll. Total state and local payroll, in turn, is about $70 billion per month, or $850 billion per year. So, nationwide, governments are underfunding their pensions by around 3 percent of $850 billion, or around $25 billion a year.

A $25 billion shortfall in a $16 trillion economy. We’re doomed!

Paul the only thing I can say is that state and local governments have been doing that for years and that’s the biggie issue behind these unfunded liabilities; the government not contributing what they should have been all along.  However, at a time when the Repubs control a majority of the statehouses and governors chairs, don’t look for those government entities to bother with paying what they’re supposed to.  Not when ALEC and the Koch Bros. are buying, uh contributing major bucks to all of those Repub governors.  No, the “little people” don’t need pensions.  Those and golden parachutes are just for the rich folks.  The same goes for health care too, by the way.

Okay folks that’s all I’ve got today.  What’s on your minds this Monday?

This is an open thread.

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13 Responses to "MONDAY OPEN THREAD"

fuzzy@1: who knows? If that *is* the best they’ve got, bring it on.

R.I.P. actor Dennis Farina . He played detective Joe Fontana, and a snappy dresser, in Law and Order.

I’m really torn on the RS cover — I like the point they are trying to make, “Disaffected teenage boys are easy prey to ideologues,” but I imagine any cover on any magazine would be dreadfully painful to those who lost family or whose loved ones were permanently maimed by these horrific acts.

The lesson I draw from all this: While the acts are monstrous, the acts don’t have to be committed by someone looking the part of a monster.”

As for “long piece” journalism, RS does a good job, but I can’t say this particular piece was all that insightful. I don’t think they broke any new ground on friends being surprised by the horrendous acts. As a serious piece of journalism, the story, IMO, falls short, but the cover certainly stirred a controversy. Some editor is smiling broadly — not as a champion of the First Amendment, but as a smart marketer.

Prolix@4 said: While the acts are monstrous, the acts don’t have to be committed by someone looking the part of a monster.

I agree that I think that’s what they were *trying* to do, but I don’t think they carried it off with the Tiger Beat cover photo. So the NYT used the same photo-big deal. I don’t think using that line of reasoning helps their defense. As I said, I haven’t read the piece yet so I can’t comment on how good a job they did. And you’re right about the marketing thing!

I read Taibbi’s piece, which I thought was weird, kind of groveling. The comments were better. Here are a few:

“The article is even worse than the photo. Almost apologetic to poor jahar whose life hanging out and smoking dope in Cambridge was so unbearable. Rolling Stone did all the real victims(not poor jahar) a real disservice with this issue.”

And this one:

What Rolling Stone doesn’t seem to know (or care) about is that most Islamic jihadists are extremely PROUD of their successful attacks. They love LOVE LOVE recognition for their savage achievements. And Rolling Stone, by giving Jzhokhar the cover — a privileged cover that has long been coveted by hard-working, talented musicians and artists — has given the little SAVAGE more recognition and more glorification than he could have ever dreamed of. Congrats. Nice work.

Another:

“I’ve never heard a song about being on the cover of Time or Newsweek. Though Rolling Stone may be a “hard news/investigative reporting” publication, it distinguished itself from those others by superior coverage of culture and rock and roll. This is the first time I’ve ever heard RS compared to the other two. THE COVER OF THE ROLLING STONE HAS A GLAMOROUS AND COVETED REPUTATION in cultural history. Perhaps Taibbi and the RS staff don’t even realize that. You don’t even have to read the article to see the magazine cover. By putting the mass murderer on the cover, they glamorize him. Perhaps this coverage can inspire other young people with no hope to “be somebody”.”

Aaaand:

“You’re just wrong on this one Matt. The events are too recent and painful. It’s hurtful to people. I’ve seen faces contorted in pain here in Boston at the mere mention of his name. Limbless children…come on!”

The 2nd one I posted, #7, was the end of a really long comment, very good points in it, to long to post though.

whoa socal! You’re on a roll with those. Maybe if they had shown the other pic along with the Tiger Beat one I wouldn’t complain. They, RS may have already had the layout done but this is why I wouldn’t have used his pic on the cover:

Leaning into the microphone, he told a federal judge, ‘Not guilty’ in a strong Russian accent and said it over and over as the charges were read. Then he was led away in handcuffs, making a kissing gesture toward his family with his lips.

That and his seeming to smirk during the process:

Dismayed by his demeanor inside the court-room, the ‘smirking’ and ‘yawning’ teenager left them outraged as he seemed disinterested during the brief proceeding, where he smiled crookedly and at times nonchalantly stroked his chin.

And I think that, if convicted, I’d like to see him locked up for life in a supermax prison where he gets to quietly go insane from the solitary confinement.

Yes, he seems really evil. No conscience.

socal@12: Yep, I agree.

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