Thursday, October 22

Time Replaces Cover Logo for First Time, Says VOTE, While New York Mag Cover Sports "I Voted" Stickers

It's refreshing to know there's still a first time for things, especially things created by journalists. 

In an unprecedented move, Time magazine has replaced its cover logo, instead urging readers in that familiar space and typeface to VOTE. The accompanying cover art, of a woman wearing a scarf to cover her nose and mouth, is by the estimable Shepard Fairey.

Time's editor in chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal explains the decision to change up the cover this week:

Few events will shape the world to come more than the result of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. ... To mark this historic moment, arguably as consequential a decision as any of us has ever made at the ballot box, we have for the first time in our nearly 100-year history replaced our logo on the cover of our U.S. edition with the imperative for all of us to exercise the right to vote. ... We stand at a rare moment, one that will separate history into before and after for generations. It is the kind of moment in which readers across the country and around the world have always turned to TIME. We thank you for doing so now.

The editor's note is followed by a discreet button for ordering a print issue of your very own — meaning they intend to take full advantage of monetizing this historic moment in presidential politics, and journalism. And you know what? Good for them. Journalism today, notably print journalism, depends on fresh ideas and financial health. Here's to more of both, no matter what comes to pass on November 3rd.

... And in another burst of creativity from the newsstand ...

The cover of New York magazine's October 26 issue will feature a series of peel-off "I Voted" stickers, in partnership with the organization I Am A Voter and created by an assemblage of 48 artists including Shepard Fairey, Barbara Kruger and Laurie Simmons. The magazine explained that millions of Americans are voting by mail, therefore missing out on those little adhesive testaments to doing their public duty typically handed out at the polls. There will be four different covers, each with 12 stickers — enough for readers to wear a different one daily through Election Day. Here's a sneak peek:

Tuesday, October 20

Sue the Messenger: Trump's DOJ Goes After Big Tech

The Trump administration has followed through on a promised war against big tech, suing Google over alleged antitrust activities because its ad platform and search tool happen to be more popular by far than anybody else's. Eleven states joined the feds in the suit.

"If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition," the deputy attorney general said in a lofty statement this morning, "we could lose the next wave of innovation ... and Americans may never get to see the next Google." I am about as sure that this is about advancing innovation as I am that it's just coincidence the 11 states also suing happen to be red states, and that the lawsuit was filed exactly 2 weeks before Election Day. 

As CNET reports, the DOJ's action was controversial even within the department: "Some of the attorneys were concerned the aggressive timeline ... was to ensure the Trump administration gets credit for taking on a big tech company." 

But there's more. Yesterday, Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows went on morning television to warn that there will be still more lawsuits against the tech giants, namely social media companies, which the president and his cronies have repeatedly accused of bias against Republicans — their latest fury being that the Twitter accounts of those aiming to spread the New York Post's widely debunked report on Joe Biden's son were either censored or frozen. (More than 50 former intelligence officials have signed a letter casting doubt on the veracity of that story, maintaining it has all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign.)

By the way, the best part of Meadows' appearance on "Fox & Friends" was when he played free press advocate:

"They're now starting to censor, actually, reporters. That's a dangerous place for them to go when they're the arbiter of what they deem to be the truth."

And what the media is deeming to be the truth at the moment is the work of thousands of pollsters and oddsmakers predicting an overwhelming Biden victory on Nov. 3. If that comes to pass, expect all the noise about the evils of big tech, and the rest of Trump's personal vendettas masked as righteous crusades on behalf of the "people," to get drowned out by the sound of all those leather wingtips and low-heel pumps bolting for the exits. 

Monday, October 19

What If the Polls Are Wrong (Again) and Trump Wins?

MSNBC's Steve Kornacki makes us want to believe. But should we?

Why do we (meaning we in the media) continue to put so much stock in polls? As journalist Linda Ellerbee wrote in her excellent and inexplicably out-of-print memoir "And So It Goes: Adventures in Television" back in the 80s, "Ask yourself: If polling is so accurate, then why are there so many companies doing it?" 

Two weeks ahead of Election Day, virtually every poll shows Biden beating Trump in terms of the popular vote. Meanwhile, the dreaded swing states (that is, the only places in this "democracy" where your vote seems to actually make a difference) continue to swing wildly. In other words, remember 2016? Let's not break out the bubbly quite yet. 

Check out what Munr Kazmir writes in Medium's Dialogue & Discourse:

Polling is not reality. The polls showing Biden polling higher than Donald Trump, which are giving Democrats a dangerous dose of overconfidence, are often based on tiny sample sizes of 500 people. ... Things have changed since polling was a gold standard of accuracy, if indeed it ever really was one, which it wasn't. Polling is a representation of people willing to be polled."

Florida, as always, makes for a good study of the inherent flaws of divining the tastes of the American public, presidential or otherwise. As of this morning, FiveThirtyEight, an aggregation of hundreds of polls generating tens of thousands of potential outcomes, put Biden nearly 4 points ahead of Trump. Meanwhile, USA Today reports today that the numbers in the state are now favoring Trump. It's enough to make your head hurt. 

Then, there's Robert Cahaly, chief polster of the Trafalgar Group, the only major polling organization that correctly predicted Trump's victories in Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2016. As Kyle Smith writes in National Review, Cahaly predicts this time around that Trump will also take Michigan, in addition to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Texas. (This, despite the fact that a number of news orgs have already put Michigan, North Carolina and Arizona in the "safe" column for Biden.) Cahaly projects another ultimate win for Trump, with 280 electoral votes.

Pollsters reassure us that they properly identified the trouble with their crystal ball gazing last time around and have now "fixed" those problems. But what if they haven't? What if they're spectacularly wrong again? And the bigger question, again: Why do the media continue to worship at the altar of pollsters, people who are devoted to the patently absurd enterprise of predicting human behavior

If the polls fail us yet again, you can bet one thing: It won't mean that one fewer player will be doing polling four years from now.

Saturday, October 17

Stop Trying to Apply Deeper, Intellectual Meaning to Dolly — She's Already Much Smarter Than You Are

This week's issue of The New Yorker features, by way of a review of the book "She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs" by Sarah Smarsh, yet another highbrow attempt to divine deeper meaning from the simple pleasure that is Ms. Parton (although there is nothing simple about her). As Susan Sontag once said regarding art criticism, some things should be allowed to simply exist. Dolly — a national treasure and kick-ass woman who speaks for herself, through her charity, her humanity and, of course, her own words and music — is one of those things that need not be analyzed to death by a bunch of overeducated, pseudo-intellectual city folk. Kindly leave her out of your cerebral circle jerk.

Wednesday, October 7

Future Vice President Harris Covers November's Elle

Senator Kamala Harris: brains, beauty and, most importantly, decency. Not trying to take away your health insurance, or invalidate your marriage, or kill your parents from COVID, or destroy your faith in our leaders and institutions. In other words: Vote right, dumbasses. (read the full story at Elle Magazine)

Thursday, October 1

The Hottest Products of the Pandemic Are Zoom, Purell and Netflix (And Booze, Cannabis and ... Spiral Hams?)

In "news more predictable than the plot of a Dane Cook movie" news, branding agency MBLM (pronounced "Emblem") is out with its "Brand Intimacy Study 2020," revealing that the hottest brands of the pandemic in terms of consumers' usage of and emotional attachment to them are, in descending order (drumroll): Zoom, Purell and Netflix. 

The study was based on a survey of 3,000 consumers in the U.S. in late summer who shared their opinions of and experiences with 100 brands across 10 sectors. The full study will be released Oct. 7. 

The popularity of Zoom, Purell and Netflix may be a no-brainer, as are greater sales of stuff like home workout equipment, jigsaw puzzles and, last but certainly not least, booze. Then there are all those products (paper goods, disinfectant spray) that flew off the shelves because of the mass hoarding of all you selfish bastards. But our being largely shut in the last six months has also led to a curious run on a number of other products, as AARP reported — among them, inflatable swimming pools and bidets. And Business Insider noted the surprising rise in demand for things like nail polish remover, Kombucha and spiral hams.

Of surprise to absolutely no one is the massive spike the cannabis industry has enjoyed since Covid hit, as TechCrunch reported. "Some company CEOs see the pandemic driving consumer acceptance and pushing legalization at the national level," the site noted. "With legalization, new consumers enter the market, and companies such as Canopy Growth, PAX and Grenco Science look to benefit as makers of some of the best vaporizers on the market — that is if consumers can find them in stock." Meanwhile, new players are joining the gold rush all the time — including, most recently, Martha Stewart, who launched her own line of CBD gummies. (They are simply delicious. I hear.) 

You know another thing that's been on the upswing during Covid? Debilitating depression. Which might have a tad something to do with the popularity of booze and marijuana. (And I'm pretty sure the sudden demand for spiral hams is related to the latter.)