Department of Overreaction: Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Longtime gay community reporter Rex Wockner passes along this story of a Wisconsin teacher who has taken the "gay" out of Deck the Halls. You can't really blame her, what with "gay" being a common grade school slur, and all: The music teacher at Cherry Knoll removed the word "gay" from the song Deck the Halls because the children kept giggling. Instead students were taught to sing "don we now our bright apparel". That's not so gay, now, is it? If you watch the video, the principal has all the right reactions, saying he wished the teacher had used the song as "a teachable moment," building on their anti-bullying policy and support for diversity in sexual orientation, explaining what "gay" used to mean, and reinforcing the idea that "gay" is not a bad word. What do you think: Will this incident join Fox News' "war on Christmas" seasonal parade, in which the homos are joining in with the secular elites to ruin the holiday?

He Lied/She Lied

PolitiFact, which has become the premier fact-checking entity in American journalism, just announced its nominees for its annual "Lie of the Year" award. This is, of course, a gimmick designed to bring more attention to the group's work. There's nothing wrong with that—lots of organizations do similar things. But because PolitiFact has built a good reputation among journalists (not unchallenged, though—it's been criticized by both the right and the left at various times, and some of those criticisms have been valid), it has a good deal at stake in making sure its "Lie of the Year" is as persuasive as possible. In other words, the decision will be political. There's just no way to avoid it. So here's my prediction: It's going to pick a "lie" told by Democrats, even if the one it picks is far from the most egregious lie told this year, or even really a lie at all. This is the third time PolitiFact has declared a "Lie of the Year." The first , in 2009, was Sarah Palin's "death panel" lie...

The Journal vs. Fox (Huh?)

Hard though it be to believe, a Wall Street Journal editorial Monday actually had the temerity to criticize Fox News. Not by name, of course—Murdoch editorialists are nothing if not discreet when going after other parts of the Murdoch empire—but the criticism was directed at some unnamed organization that puts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly on television every night. The criticism came in an editorial on the late, lamented Herman Cain campaign. After noting that Cain was in no way ready for prime time, the editorial asserted that Cain had too many flaws to take on President Barack Obama. At that point, the Journal dipped its toe, gingerly, into criticism of the right-wing media. Cain’s unelectability, it said, is the weakness that the talk-radio establishment overlooked when it dismissed the sexual-harassment accusations against Mr. Cain as one more left-wing conspiracy. Whether true or not, the accusations resulted in settlements by the National Restaurant Association, where he had...

Siri, Sexism, and Silicon Valley

Siri might not be sexist, but that doesn't let Apple—or the tech world—off the hook.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that there is nothing intentional in the fact that Siri, Apple’s AI assistant for the iPhone 4S, has a hard time providing information for abortion clinics, birth control, and other reproductive health services. As both Amanda Marcotte and Jill Filipovic have pointed out, Apple relies on external databases for Siri, which often offer faulty or inconclusive information for reproductive health services. What’s more, because of the difficulties inherent to location-based search algorithms, it’s likely that Siri has a bias toward avoiding all but the most unambiugous results, which—given the extent to which abortion providers often demure about their identity—would explain the presence of crisis pregnancy centers in results for abortion-related queries. As for the responses Siri gives when you say “I was raped” (“Really!”) or “Are you pro-life?” (“I am what I am”), it’s likely that those are canned responses to declarative statements or questions...

The (New York) Times, They are A-Changin'

Last Sunday, I got silly-happy when I came across the Vows column in the Times' Style section. (For those who don't know, every week NYT highlights one couple's wedding with a little feature story and pictures, among the wedding listings.) Usually I simply scan that section briefly, checking up on how many same-sex couples appear, almost by habit. Since the NYT started allowing same-sex announcements in its wedding section in September 2002 , a few prominent couples have crashed that Vows feature. If I remember correctly (and if I'm wrong, please let me know!), the first was folksinger Janis Ian's marriage to Patricia Snyder, whom I assumed was the same person Ian had, in her Advocate columns, been entertainingly referring to as "Mr. Lesbian." After that came Tony Kushner and Mark Harris's wedding. After that I stopped keeping such close track, but, and somewhere along the line, got married myself. (Thank you for asking, but no, we did not send a notice to the Times.) This past...

Just TELL Me You're Gonna Invade My Privacy

Federal regulators have reached a settlement with Facebook over privacy violations—but it's just a slap on the wrist for an industry that regularly sells user data.

Washington, D.C., and Facebook Inc. took part yesterday in another round of what we might call "working on their relationship." But that we're fixated on specific privacy violations rather than the day-in-day-out use of our personal data lets us know that there's a limit to the conversation in which they're engaged. What happened is this: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement with Facebook that requires the company to stop engaging in privacy-violating practices and to participate in regular third-party privacy audits for the next 20 years. The agreement, prompted by a complaint by privacy-advocacy groups, is meant to address several places were Facebook was found to have gone astray in recent years—not truly deleting deleted user accounts, sharing friend lists that had been marked private, and changing privacy settings without really telling anyone. The agreement still needs to be approved by FTC commissioners at the end of December, after a period of public comment...

The Barney Frank Greatest Hits Reel

You knew it was coming. Some fabulous news organization would assign someone to come up with the Barney Frank YouTube highlights. Here it is at HuffPo. And here HuffPo's Ryan Grim fondly recalls being chewed out by the honorable member of Congress from Massachusetts, adding a few others' such memories: Politico's Glenn Thrush describes walking the same route to an answer. "Interviewing Barney Frank a 4-step process: 1. Ask question 2. Get told question is stupid/phony/immoral 3. Say 'yeah, yeah' 4. Get quote," he tweeted. Meanwhile, I've been having a debate with myself. I know Barney Frank's picture will soon be in the dictionary. But will it illustrate the word "irascible" or the word "curmudgeon"? Discuss.

13 Ways of Looking at a Turkey

Okay, maybe not thirteen ways. I didn't count. But we're not really working today, right—day before a holiday and all? So enjoy this .

The Body Politic

Criticism of an Egyptian blogger's nude photos underscore liberal worries about seeming too radical.

Aliaa El Mahdy
As the now historic Tahrir Square filled with protesters over the weekend, the tension between the hope and momentum of the February uprising that ended a 30 year dictatorship and the aggressive, violent military response to a mass civilian demonstration almost one year later was startling. After three days, 23 dead, and over 1500 wounded, it is clear that the transition to a new Egypt is not going to come easily. Surprisingly, the group that has proved to be the most awkward fit into the new Egypt are the youth who engineered the uprising that brought President Mubarak’s reign to an end. Idealistic, peaceful, and largely secular, the success of the Egyptian youth movement became an instant promise of change and possibility. Now, however, their moment in the sun seems to be fading, eclipsed by a military stronghold and the emerging power of the Muslim Brotherhood that was -once outlawed, and is now the main challenge to the military controlled government. With the state under a...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Center for American Progress released a report today that lays out how they see the 2012 election playing out, and their prescription for what Obama needs to do to win: President Obama must maintain as much of his community of color, Millennial generation, and unmarried women base as possible in terms of vote share and electoral composition—and then manage to either hold his 2008 margins among white college graduates to offset possible crushing losses among white working-class voters or keep his deficits among both white college and working-class voters to 2004 levels and hope that his base support compensates for these deficits. Not only does Obama need to hold on to his 2008 base, he probably can run on 2008 issues too, thanks to the failure of the Super Committee. However, the Obama campaign can’t rely on bashing the GOP if it wants to win. It also need to capture the hope of the 2008 campaign — perhaps the hardest part of making 2012 a 2008 redux. While Obama needs to hold on...

Sandusky's Victim One Bullied out of School

According to Sara Ganim at the Patriot-News , the reporter who first broke the Penn State sexual-abuse story back in March, Sandusky's Victim One has had to leave school because he's being bullied: Officials at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County weren’t providing guidance for fellow students, who were reacting badly about Joe Paterno’s firing and blaming the 17-year-old, said Mike Gillum, the psychologist helping his family. Those officials were unavailable for comment this weekend. The name-calling and verbal threats were just too much, he said. The news media may have moved on, but these kids are going to have to live with the fallout from being assaulted, abused, and blamed for the rest of their lives. I can hardly even speak about how appalled I am about this. Yet I'm not surprised. This is what happens to girls and women who report assaults and rape. Why would it be different for boys and men?

Department of Follow-Up: How Do You Make Better Parents?

Like a lot of nerds, my jaw dropped this weekend when, on the NYT 's opinion page, Tom Friedman concluded that what our education system needs to help children perform better is ... drum roll ... better parents . Well gosh, no one ever thought that before. Um, could you follow that up with a policy Rx, please? Fortunately, Dana Goldstein has indeed done that, right here . Her column is a nice guide to school-reform thinking on precisely this question, with great links...

The Internet Miniskirt

Flickr/Ed Yourdon
I've been lucky. There was no Internet back in the 1990s when I was one of the few women writing in the mainstream media about LGBT issues. Hate mail, then, was actual, physical mail, usually sent to a newspaper and forwarded, although one or two writers somehow found my home address. But even those were pretty mild. The usual theme was that I was going to hell; sometimes I got conversion pamphlets, with handy cartoon illustrations of people on fire. I got a couple of letters with disgustingly graphic ideas about my sex life, but those were overshadowed by the religious pamphlets and the psychotics' letters—which you learned to recognize by the tiny handwriting on the envelope, and which ran six to ten pages, and almost always mentioned alien life forms somehow. So when, in the Internet era, I started writing more about women's economic lives—exposing the gross details of sexual harassment, or explaining the violence involved in occupational segregation—I was honestly shocked by the...

The Showman

This "lost" interview shows Steve Jobs as an incredibly charismatic figure.

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
A few nights ago, I took to the E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C., to watch the “lost” interview Steve Jobs gave to Robert X. Cringley for a 1996 PBS television series, “Triumph of the Nerds.” The series included ten minutes of the interview, the rest of which was never seen, and feared lost, until Cringley discovered the mastertape following Jobs’s death last month. The interview shows Steve Jobs at 40, ten years into his career as head of NeXT computer, 9 years into his position as co-founder of Pixar, and a few months before he would sell NeXT to Apple, the first stop in a process that would end with Jobs as CEO of Apple Computer. If you’re familiar with Apple’s history, nothing in this interview should surprise you. Jobs goes over the well-worn stories of Apple’s founding by himself and Steve Wozniak, its initial successes with the Apple II and the Macintosh, his ejection from the company in 1985, and Apple’s failure to keep up with Microsoft in the late 1980s and early 1990s...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Prospect ’s Jamelle Bouie blogged about the most important story that’s been hiding under Newt Gingrich’s surge (a news story fit for nothing but speculation for how it will end ) and other election stories—“the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.” Other big story of the day: The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in March. In light of this announcement, it’s a good time to revisit Garrett Epps’ post from last week on notoriously conservative Judge Laurence Silberman upholding the law. GQ just published its pizza-party interview with Herman Cain, which is a must-read. Not for the insight it lends into the pizza professional’s political acumen but simply because it is a terrific character study of a man who says incredibly interesting things but who just shouldn’t be elected president. A man who thinks Godfather’s Pizza...