Singing the Bite Me Song

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October 20, 2004

Jon Stewart is a god!

Nobody knows how to sing the "Bite Me" song like he does... and he did it so well on CNN's Crossfire, it bears reading about it all over again.

The New York Times > Arts > Television > TV Watch: No Jokes or Spin. It's Time (Gasp) to Talk.

No Jokes or Spin. It's Time (Gasp) to Talk


Published: October 20, 2004

There is nothing more painful than watching a comedian turn self-righteous. Unless of course, the comedian is lashing out at smug and self-serving television-news personalities. Jon Stewart could not resist a last dig at CNN's "Crossfire" during his monologue on Comedy Central on Monday night . "They said I wasn't being funny," the star of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" said, rolling his eyes expressively. "And I said to them: 'I know that. But tomorrow I will go back to being funny," Mr. Stewart said, adding that their show would still be bad, although he used a more vulgar expression.

[blow... it would still blow]

And that is why his surprise attack on the hosts of CNN's "Crossfire" was so satisfying last Friday. Exchanging his usual goofy teasing for withering contempt, he told Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson that they were partisan hacks and that their pro-wrestling approach to political discourse was "hurting America." (He also used an epithet for the male reproductive organ to describe Mr. Carlson.)

[dick, he called him a dick. Although he did compliment Tucker's intelligence for being 35 years old and able to tie a bow tie. I think the bow tie crack was my favorite]

Mr. Stewart's frankness was a cool, startling, rational version of Senator Zell Miller's loony excoriation ("Get out of my face") to Chris Matthews of MSNBC during the Republican convention.

The transcript of Friday's "Crossfire," and the blog commentary about it, popped up all over the Internet this weekend. Mr. Stewart's Howard Beal (of "Network") outburst stood out because he said what a lot of viewers feel helpless to correct: that news programs, particularly on cable, have become echo chambers for political attacks, amplifying the noise instead of parsing the misinformation. Whether the issue is Swift boat ads or Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment suit, shows like "Crossfire" or "Hardball" provide gladiator-style infotainment as journalists clownishly seek to amuse or rile viewers, not inform them.

When Mr. Carlson took the offense, charging that Mr. Stewart had no right to complain since he had asked Senator John Kerry softball questions on "The Daily Show," Mr. Stewart looked genuinely appalled. "I didn't realize - and maybe this explains quite a bit - that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity." When Mr. Carlson continued to argue, Mr. Stewart shut him down hard. "You are on CNN," he said. "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."


And of course it was fun just to see television pundits who think they are part of the same media version of the Algonquin Round Table as Mr. Stewart lose their cool when he tore off the tablecloth and shattered the plates. "Wait,'' Mr. Carlson said querulously. "I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny." Mr. Stewart was funny. And it was at their expense.

Not that I have any need to explain this to Jon Stewart, but to anyone else who wants to know, the "Bite Me" song sort of resembles that Yale "Boola Boola" tune, and the words go a little something like this:

Bite me bite me, bite me bite me,
bite me bite me, bite me bite me.

(repeat refrain)

Now EVERYBODY sing! Follow the bouncing teeth!


October 20, 2004 at 01:51 PM in Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2004

How will the Federal Election Commission try to regulate political speech online?

FEC May Regulate Web Political Activity

Oct 13, 7:55 AM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - With political fund raising, campaign advertising and organizing taking place in full swing over the Internet, it may just be a matter of time before the Federal Election Commission joins the action. Well, that time may be now.

A recent federal court ruling says the FEC must extend some of the nation's new campaign finance and spending limits to political activity on the Internet.

Long reluctant to step into online political activity, the agency is considering whether to appeal.


Former Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean made the most pronounced splash online when he stunned his rivals by raking in tens of millions of dollars through Web-a-thons, a far cheaper fund-raising method than traditional dinners and cocktail parties. And Internet message boards, known as blogs, have become as common a place for people to air their political views as talk shows and newspaper editorial pages.

The Internet also is where political players do what they can no longer do on television or radio.

The National Rifle Association, for example, has started an online newscast and talk show to air its views on presidential and congressional candidates. The Internet is exempt from a ban on the use of corporate money for radio and TV ads targeting federal candidates close to elections, part of the new campaign finance law that took effect this election cycle.

The November Fund, an anti-trial lawyer group partly funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is posting Internet ads criticizing Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, a North Carolina senator and former personal-injury lawyer.

The FEC exempted such ads from the law's ban on coordination between candidates and groups that raise or spend corporate money. Last month, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck down the coordination exemption, ruling that it "severely undermines" the law.


OK, so my question in all this is, what in particular would be policed?

Fund-raising is regulated in such a way that the laws should apply uniformly offline and on. No special laws or rules needed there.

WILL Internet communication be held accountable under "truth in advertising" laws, FTC stuff, right? Aren't candidates held to the same restrictions as soap? No, not really, and under a Republican administration, truth in advertising laws aren't enforced anyway.

The Equal Time mass media provision hasn't been in force for the PUBLIC AIRWAVES since the Reagan years, although this Sinclair Broadcasting flap shows there is still very much a need for public stewardship of the public broadcasting spectrum (note: cable tv IS exempt, an arguable point, since most people get their TV over cable and not limited airwaves).

The Internet does not have the supposedly captive audience that public airwaves once presumed to have. Much of the political speech regulation first appeared because of the concentration of power in the funnels of the mass media, OLD media.

The Internet supposedly turns this funnel upside down. BUT. As I wrote in here previously, spin doctors and PR handlers may be learning how to "game" the blog system, a political version of a "Google bomb" filtered through RSS with bogus "front blogs" of freepers or what have you.

Would such gaming get the same sort of concentrated power that TV political messages have? Or is this "Long Tail" stuff, aggregate, scalable to masses only in a diverse cacophony, a street carnival, rather than as goose-steppers marching on message?

If the model is by definition diffuse, distributed, NOT concentrated, then should those who fear concentrated power worry about it?

OR, does the Internet represent an al Qaeda model of asymmetical political warfare... a viral, shifting target of hit and run political sites spreading memes and fading off the IP addresses? The cyber-ghost of Lee Atwater playing dirty tricks online with slander and smear? And is that model something to be feared and regulated?.


October 13, 2004 at 03:05 PM in Best Essays, Cyberculture, Democracy, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Venture Blog and Wired on the Long Tail

When I first read the Wired article, it was the first thing online to get me excited in quite some time. Finally, someone is at least advancing a theory rather than churning slogans about subscription models and copyrights and borders and gates versus Open Source, the death of banner ads, and distributed systems linked to online democracy.

With venture capitalists so unimaginative all they can do is repeat mindlessly, "but how do you monetize the business model?"

So here's the new backer of Six Apart, right? That was how I found this page. Sehr interessant.

VentureBlog: The Internet And the Death Of 80/20

The Internet And the Death Of 80/20 By Kevin Laws on October 5, 2004

Scarcity of attention and space were the cause of the 80/20 rule; the Internet is changing that

The 80/20 rule is a rule of thumb every startup should know. Economizing on time, management effort, and money has to be second nature. They should constantly be going after the 20% of the effort that provides 80% of the benefit. They should constantly be focusing on the 20% of their products and customers that provide 80% of the revenues.

Or should they?

Entertainment has Discovered the Long Tail

Chris Anderson's observation in a recent Wired Magazine article is that the 80/20 rule exists in the physical world because you chop off the long tail. In music, for example, Britney, Santana, Madonna and a few others represent the very few artists (well, more like 1%) that account for huge sales. However, there are literally hundreds of thousands of smaller artists that have tiny sales. Historically, these artists have never been carried in record shops (except maybe one or two local ones), were not featured on top radio stations, and were never promoted on big concert tours. Since they were in the tail and record companies were following the 80/20 rule, they never got exposure and a chance to increase their sales. The real world "chopped them off" of the long tail, since a record store only carries thousands of titles, not hundreds of thousands.

This meant that the 80/20 rule was self-reinforcing. Because they weren't promoted or available, they never moved beyond their few copies. Hollywood never saw their sales since they were all independent.

However, many of the Internet media companies are different. They started out just being a better way to shop (or rent movies). They sold the same things everybody else did, but at better prices. Then a funny thing happened -- suddenly they noticed that more and more sales were coming from the tail. That is, they were selling a lot of the items that physical stores didn't carry. In hindsight this is completely obvious -- of course you are in competition with every single bookstore in the nation to sell Clinton's "My Life", but if you want Gerd Gehringers "The Adaptive Toolbox", there's only one place to go: the Internet. Chris cites numerous examples in his article: over 50% of Amazon's media profits come from sales past the top 100,000 titles. More than 50% of Rhapsody's business is streaming songs past the top 10,000 tracks.

Once they started focusing on the long tail, new recommendation tools appeared. They helped "push you down the tail" by bringing little known artists to your attention when you purchased the big guys.

When tallied, all of those little-selling items and all those little customers across the nation can exceed the online sales from the biggest sellers.

The Death of 80/20 on the Internet

It's not just media. Once you start to think of the world in those terms, it is clear that most of the successful Internet companies fall into exactly that category: business models aggregating the untapped tail.


Also, let's plug some bits on the original Wired article:

Wired 12.10: The Long Tail

The Long Tail Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.

By Chris Anderson

This is not just a virtue of online booksellers; it is an example of an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture).

An analysis of the sales data and trends from these services and others like them shows that the emerging digital entertainment economy is going to be radically different from today's mass market. If the 20th- century entertainment industry was about hits, the 21st will be equally about misses.

For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution.

Tyranny of the Lowest Common Denominator. Yup. I've been saying that for a long time.

But most of us want more than just hits. Everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them. Unfortunately, in recent decades such alternatives have been pushed to the fringes by pumped-up marketing vehicles built to order by industries that desperately need them.

Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hours in the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots.

This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound.


When you think about it, most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another. Google, for instance, makes most of its money off small advertisers (the long tail of advertising), and eBay is mostly tail as well - niche and one-off products. By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale, just as Rhapsody and Amazon have, Google and eBay have discovered new markets and expanded existing ones.

This is the power of the Long Tail. The companies at the vanguard of it are showing the way with three big lessons. Call them the new rules for the new entertainment economy.

[a summary]

Rule 1: Make everything available
Rule 2: Cut the price in half. Now lower it.
Rule 3: Help me find it


The problem with was that it was only Long Tail. It didn't have license agreements with the labels to offer mainstream fare or much popular commercial music at all. Therefore, there was no familiar point of entry for consumers, no known quantity from which further exploring could begin.

Offering only hits is no better. Think of the struggling video-on-demand services of the cable companies. Or think of Movielink, the feeble video download service run by the studios. Due to overcontrolling providers and high costs, they suffer from limited content: in most cases just a few hundred recent releases. There's not enough choice to change consumer behavior, to become a real force in the entertainment economy.

By contrast, the success of Netflix, Amazon, and the commercial music services shows that you need both ends of the curve. Their huge libraries of less-mainstream fare set them apart, but hits still matter in attracting consumers in the first place. Great Long Tail businesses can then guide consumers further afield by following the contours of their likes and dislikes, easing their exploration of the unknown.


Rhapsody does this with a combination of human editors and genre guides. But Netflix, where 60 percent of rentals come from recommendations, and Amazon do this with collaborative filtering, which uses the browsing and purchasing patterns of users to guide those who follow them ("Customers who bought this also bought ..."). In each, the aim is the same: Use recommendations to drive demand down the Long Tail.

This is the difference between push and pull, between broadcast and personalized taste. Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.

The advantages are spread widely. For the entertainment industry itself, recommendations are a remarkably efficient form of marketing, allowing smaller films and less-mainstream music to find an audience. For consumers, the improved signal-to-noise ratio that comes from following a good recommendation encourages exploration and can reawaken a passion for music and film, potentially creating a far larger entertainment market overall. (The average Netflix customer rents seven DVDs a month, three times the rate at brick-and-mortar stores.) And the cultural benefit of all of this is much more diversity, reversing the blanding effects of a century of distribution scarcity and ending the tyranny of the hit.

Such is the power of the Long Tail. Its time has come.

Chris Anderson ( is Wired's editor in chief.

Great article Chris!

October 12, 2004 at 08:27 PM in Cyberculture, Democracy, Favorite Links, Interactivity, Media & Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2004

Watching the town hall debate tonight in Missouri...

I just had a thought pop into my head, and I figured I best write it down before I forgot it.

It is a general principle that the Bush administration follows the philosophy that life is like a shit sandwich: the more bread you got, the less shit you gotta eat, and they are in the business of giving a lot of bread to their rich crony friends.

(I didn't make up that shit sandwich saying, as most people know, it's an old chestnut)

HOWEVER... the thought that did occur to me during the debate was that while most politicians will try to use spin or whatever to put a good face on bad news or blame someone else for it, or to exaggerate and take credit for good news, the Bush administration is only batch of politicians I've ever seen who with a straight face will take a great big shit and have the nerve to pronounce it whipped cream and get mad at you if you don't want to eat it.

I must sit and meditate on this profound insight tonight. Orwellian indeed! Even Orwell would not go as far as these people go.

Now y'all eat your whipped cream there, OK?


October 8, 2004 at 11:01 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack A Milli Vanilli Presidency?

Forget Howdy Doody with the little string giving away the ventriloquist's moves.

This very idea takes the cake. I must share. News | Bush's mystery bulge

The rumor is flying around the globe. Was the president wired during the first debate?

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Dave Lindorff

Oct. 8, 2004 �|� Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That's the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush's shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer.

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it's safe to say he wasn't packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?

Bloggers are burning up their keyboards with speculation. Check out the president's peculiar behavior during the debate, they say. On several occasions, the president simply stopped speaking for an uncomfortably long time and stared ahead with an odd expression on his face. Was he listening to someone helping him with his response to a question? Even weirder was the president's strange outburst. In a peeved rejoinder to Kerry, he said, "As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts. I, I, uh -- Let me finish -- The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at." It must be said that Bush pointed toward Lehrer as he declared "Let me finish." The green warning light was lit, signaling he had 30 seconds to, well, finish.


Bloggers stoke the conspiracy with the claim that the Bush administration insisted on a condition that no cameras be placed behind the candidates. An official for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which set up the lecterns and microphones on the Miami stage, said the condition was indeed real, the result of negotiations by both campaigns. Yet that didn't stop Fox from setting up cameras behind Bush and Kerry.


So what was it? Jacob McKenna, a spyware expert and the owner of the Spy Store, a high-tech surveillance shop in Spokane, Wash., looked at the Bush image on his computer monitor. "There's certainly something on his back, and it appears to be electronic," he said. McKenna said that, given its shape, the bulge could be the inductor portion of a two-way push-to-talk system. McKenna noted that such a system makes use of a tiny microchip-based earplug radio that is pushed way down into the ear canal, where it is virtually invisible. He also said a weak signal could be scrambled and be undetected by another broadcaster.


Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up -- and broadcast to surprised viewers -- the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies -- notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush's appearance. "They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera," Schechter said. "The Democrats weren't doing that at their convention."

Repeated calls to the White House and the Bush national campaign office over a period of three days, inquiring about what the president may have been wearing on his back during the debate, and whether he had used an audio device at other events, went unreturned.


As for whether we really do have a Milli Vanilli president, the answer at this point has to be, God only knows.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
About the writer
Dave Lindorff is the author of the new book "This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the Disintegration of American Democracy." Reach him at

October 8, 2004 at 06:45 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 07, 2004

How does "presiding" in the Senate work, anyway?

Blog fact checkers turned up this lovely tidbit. I'm not sure if the records report what they seem to report... but if they do, this is MOST interesting.


Pandagon: Another Lie

Cheney said:

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.
In the past 4 years, there have been 128 Tuesdays. Dick Cheney has presided over 2 of them.

One more time, Dick Cheney has presided over 2 Tuesdays, or 1.5% of the total.

During the same period, John Edwards also presided over the Senate twice.

So Dick Cheney and John Edwards have both presided over the Senate two times, and Dick Cheney is supposed to be the presiding officer.

And the lies go marching on and on hurrah, hurrah...

Full list of presiding officers here. Spread it around guys, drive the post-debate spin.

Posted by Ezra Klein at October 6, 2004 03:09 PM

October 7, 2004 at 03:33 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack