Monday, June 22, 2009

Munchhausen-syndrome-by-proxy, Alaskan variant


The uproar over CBS' David Letterman's joke has begun to fade away, although not without the usual stupid overreaction by a couple of corporate sponsors who were spooked by fundamentalists without any sense of humor or proportion.

And yet nobody has looked at the underlying cause of this brouhaha.

Ask yourself this: If Palin had been a better parent to her children, would David Letterman have had any material for his wicked joke?

Yeah. Sarah Palin is the real butt of the joke here, and she deserves it. The only problem with Letterman's joke is that he overshot, yielding collateral damage. Had he focused his aim at the appropriate target, there wouldn't have been any hubbub.

Palin's the kind of parent who screams too loudly at hockey games, thinking that her kid's loss is a reflection on her. The kind of parent who's more worried about appearances than about substance. The kind of parent who can easily excise a child from her life if they crease the facade around the family and the parent in question.

How could Palin send her first-born son out of state after some discipline problems at home? I couldn't do it; there's no way you could ask me to send my high schooler away when they are most vulnerable and at risk for more trouble.

How could Palin send away her second-born to live with other family members after getting pregnant? I can't think of a single healthy and well-adjusted parent who could do this to a teen girl, at a time when they are most confused and scared about what lies ahead.

How could Palin risk jumping on a plane to travel from Texas to Alaska, bypassing immediate health care after her water broke during her last pregnancy? Can you find me a health care professional who'd advocate such risky behavior.

And how could Palin use her children -- and in the case of her grandchild's teen father, somebody else's child -- as props for political gain?

I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I think we're looking at somebody who's so very narcissistic that even children are little more to them but tools for attracting attention. Hence the anger over Letterman's joke without any introspection whatsoever, anger pumped up and milked for the purposes of keeping the attention on herself in some sort of weird variation of Munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy.

As a parent with children in high school and grade school, I'm all too familiar with the challenges contemporary families face. It takes a real investment of time and effort every day to make sure that the kids are learning up to their individual potential, that they are safe from all sorts of new risks (like bullies on Facebook and in the classroom, or prepared for driver's ed), and that they know their own limits and those of our household while feeling loved and secure and comfortable living their values.

Doing this effectively means using a single, powerful word.

And it means using this powerful word not just on the kids, but on yourself.

It means saying NO.

No to too many evenings out too late away from the kids, no to events which interfere with naptime/bedtime/homework/school, no to excessive stimulation in the form of television and other electronic disruptions, no to too many toys whether for kids or adults, no to excessive spending on wants instead of needs, no to career moves that satisfy only an adult's sense of achievement and not the family's need for security and togetherness...the list goes on and on.

And no to running for office, if comics' wisecracks, politicos' personal attacks and paparazzi digging through the family's underwear drawer cannot be shuffled off with quiet grace.

Seriously, have you seen Sarah Palin say no to herself or her spouse or her children?

She didn't say no to excessive shopping with McCain campaign money; she didn't say no to dragging her children all over the place when they needed more stability, as infants and pregnant teenagers do; she didn't say no to sending her son and daughter away when they most needed more attention and a firm hand.

The problem wasn't that David Letterman shot too widely with his edgy joke; it's that Sarah Palin gave him too broad a target to begin with, being unable to discipline herself let alone her family, being unable to use her family as anything but a device to make it all about poor Sarah.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

De-Froomkined WaPo: the numbers still don't make sense

WaPo's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt claimed it was low traffic which did in Dan Froomkin's blog. The truth is still quite sketchy, but uglier and not about traffic. Jane wrote yesterday about the Washington Post's ugly practices which squelched Dan Froomkin's traffic; she's also looked at WaPo's flat traffic in comparison to the increasingly popular Huffington Post and newspaper competitor The New York Times.

And I've already looked at the performance of the op-ed team as well; we can rule out Hiatt's lame excuse about traffic as the reason for Froomkin's exit when half the team is doing badly or worse.

We might be tempted ignore WaPo's less-than-happy performance and cut the crusty old newspaper some slack as they adapt to the internet, but unfortunately, WaPo cannot claim a lack of institutional knowledge about internet-based media.

Most of us have forgotten that WaPo's parent The Washington Post Company owns; in internet years Slate is older than Methuselah, neck-and-neck in age with competitor At the decrepit age of 13 years, Slate's editorial and management team has seen it all and managed to survive it -- and in theory, should be a deep resource for WaPo's transition to a future based solely on the internet.

At least you'd think a rational management team at WaPo or its parent would see it this way.

If anything, Slate has floundered for the last handful of years as new competitors entered the marketplace and began eating into marketshare.

What a remarkable coincidence: WaPo's parent bought Slate in 2004.

But here is another missed opportunity, besides the inability of WaPo to convert Slate into an effective launchpad for an internet-based future.

Why isn't Dan Froomkin transferring to Slate, bringing with him his own dedicated fan base? Was this an option? (Somebody want to ask Dan if WaPo's parent ever suggested this?)

Looking at the web analytics again, Salon has a more dedicated base of addicts and regulars than Slate, as well as 20% more traffic in spite of having a paid subscriber model -- a model which failed for Slate. Why isn't Slate and its owner looking at leveraging opportunities right under their noses to increase traffic and reader loyalty?

Is it because The Washington Post Company really doesn't understand the internet and new media, and simply wants to look like it does from a distance?

And why are shareholders like Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway putting up with the financial drain WaPo places on other earnings from more profitable ventures like Kaplan, Inc.? Why aren't they looking to spin off WaPo, Slate, and any other media components out from The Washington Post Company to another Berkshire Hathaway holding, like Walt Disney and its ABC network, or to GE and its NBC network? These firms do understand media and the internet, after all, and might be able to improve profitability through economies of scale.

Anyway you look at it, the problem with traffic at WaPo and its blogs has not been Dan Froomkin. There are a few other names we should be seeing announced as soon-to-be former employees of The Washington Post Company and its subsidiaries if the company was really in the business of increasing shareholder value.

[Cross-posted at Oxdown Gazette; graph courtesy of]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dust bunnies and cobwebs

Wow, has this place accumulated dust. Has it really been that long since I posted here?

I guess I can't deny it, there it is in black and white. I haven't posted since last November.

Conversely, you can see from my Twitter feed below at right that I've been posting at least a few times a week. Guess this means I can muster 140 characters easily, but not enough to post a full blog entry.

And yet this isn't true, either. I've posted content at Firedoglake's Oxdown Gazette at least a couple of times a month. But for some reason I can't seem to organize the energy to cross-post here at my own blog.

Ditto for the Facebook accounts -- plural. I exist as a pseudonym and as my real self, an account for each, and I've somehow choked out a few updates every so often at each account. (I draw the line at MySpace; you will never find me there since I'm not an entertainer.)

Perhaps it's time I looked at a tool which would allow one entry to update all my outlets. It seems kind of goofy that I'm typing so much content and yet my blog is so badly neglected.

On the other hand, it also seems like sheer craziness to hunt down, test and adopt yet another piece of technology to fix this problem. Don't even get me started on how many email accounts I have and how many clients I use to manage them -- but I touch at least 12 different applications a day to communicate with people, and it's simply getting to be too much even for a serious, die-hard geek girl like me.

If you don't see a new post here for a while, you know what I'm doing, juggling and shuffling applications. And by all means, if you can't wait, catch up with me on Twitter.

(Photo: Many handed goddess, via gak at

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