Amazon FAIL

Been out all day and returned to find Amazon deranking books that have sexual -- specifically homosexual -- content and an entire pushback campaign having sprung up organically.

It all started with Mark Probst's post at Livejournal remarking that gay themed books had suddenly lost their Amazon rankings. Amazon's predictable response:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Except that LA Times' Jacket Copy blog pokes a big fat hole in that excuse. Good try though.

Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking:  "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs; "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown, "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" by Alison Bechdel, "The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1" by Michel Foucault, "Bastard Out of Carolina" by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), "Little Birds: Erotica" by Anais Nin, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and "Becoming a Man" by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

Books that remain ranked include:  "Naked" by David Sedaris; "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller; "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis; "Wifey" by Judy Blume; "The Kiss" by Kathryn Harrison; the photobooks "Playboy: Helmut Newton" and "Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds"; "Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs; "Incest: From 'A Journal of Love'" by Anais Nin; "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition).

Martin Bosworth is rightfully impressed with the online reaction:

What's amazing about this is three things. First, that the reaction has not only been swift and intense, but organized. On a Sunday-a holiday, yet-we've got this as a massive trending topic on Twitter, an exhaustive (and regularly updated) list of books that have been de-ranked for LGBT, erotic, or sexual content, apparently with no rhyme or reason. There's already a petition (which you should sign)...

Considering the passion with which people have pushed back on this and the damage already done to Amazon, there is a shocking lack of crisis management on the part of Amazon going on here.

Update [2009-4-13 1:44:30 by Todd Beeton]:Amazon responds to The LA Times wholly inadequately:

Responding to our initial post, Amazon Director of Corporate Communications Patty Smith e-mailed Jacket Copy. "There was a glitch with our sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed," she wrote. "We're working to correct the problem as quickly as possible."

We wanted to know more. We asked for further explanation of the glitch, which has removed the rankings of gay-themed books such as Paul Monette's "Becoming A Man," Virginia Woolf's "Orlando," and others.

And I asked Patty Smith this:

From a layperson's perspective, this glitch does seem to have affected certain types of books more heavily than others. In fact, only one of the top 10 books in your Gay & Lesbian section continues to have a sales ranking (the Kindle version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"). No other section is similarly affected. Can you comment on that?

The reply:

Unfortunately, I'm not able to comment further. We're working to resolve the issue, but I don't have any further information.

Perhaps we'll learn more Monday.

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Captain Phillips Freed, 3 Pirates Killed


The American captain of a cargo ship held hostage by pirates jumped overboard from the lifeboat where he was being held, and U.S. Navy SEALs shot and killed three of his four captors, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the situation.

Capt. Richard Phillips was helped out of the water off the Somali coast and is uninjured and in good condition, the official said. He was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nearby naval warship.

At the time of the shootings, the fourth pirate was aboard the Bainbridge negotiating with officials, the source said. That pirate was taken into custody.

This guy is a bad ass.

Newt Gingrich has been railing against the Obama administration for being soft on pirates both on Twitter and today on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. As the rest of the This Week panel made clear, Newt's arguments lack any and all intellectual honesty but that doesn't stop him from making them. After all, as Lucas wrote yesterday, pirates are the new unicorns. I won't hold my breath for any retraction from Gingrich.

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Media Openly Mocking Republicans

Last night's Rachel Maddow show was classic. If you didn't see it, I highly recommend the segment where Rachel and Ana-Marie Cox mercilessly mocked the right's Tea Party protests -- Rachel could barely get through it. But mockery of the right-wing and of the Republican Party are nothing new for Rachel...or Keith for that matter. First Read on the other hand...(h/t kos):

Republicans Gone Wild, part II: Back in late February, a month into the Obama presidency, we noted how a couple of GOP senators said some outlandish things -- first when Richard Shelby seemed to question Obama's citizenship, and then when Jim Bunning predicted Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg would be dead in nine months. Well, now some of their House colleagues are giving those statements a run for their money. Presumably doing his best McCarthy impression, GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus said there were 17 members of the U.S. House who are socialists but didn't name names, the Birmingham News reported. And that came after the always-controversial Rep. Michele Bachmann called for an "orderly revolution" against Obama's policies. ("We can't let the Democrats achieve their ends any longer," she said.) Just five months after Obama's decisive 53%-46% victory, we've got to ask: What is going on with some Republican elected officials? Are they watching too much Glenn Beck? Seriously, could the bizarre rantings of this new darling of the right have something to do with this? GOP lawmakers, when speaking to supporters at home, are getting more odd questions. Could this Beck phenomenon be the reason? He truly has a "middle of the night" am radio quality to some of his rants.

Republicans will just chalk this up to liberal bias, of course, but they would be wrong. It's not liberal to be anti-crazy.

Any other examples of the open mockery of Republicans by unbiased media sources?

Update [2009-4-10 18:27:47 by Todd Beeton]:The always reliable Jon Sewart: "I think you're confusing tyranny with losing."

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NY-20: As Absentee Ballot Count Continues, Murphy Up By 46

Eric Kleefeld has been following the NY-20 results closely and reports that the latest count, a few days into counting domestic absentee ballots, shows Scott Murphy up by 46 votes. Foreign and military absentees have until Monday to arrive and so there will be plenty more counting next week. In the meantime though, it's good to see Team Tedisco living up to the tradition of Republicans behind in close races: just challenge votes you don't like (via TAP).

Washington attorney and former President Reagan White House counsel David Nolan has been acting as a volunteer attorney for the Tedisco campaign, and says though the numbers are currently going in Murphy's favor, the Democrat has not widened the gap enough in the county to pull out a victory in the entire 20th District.

"How I see it, is that Columbia County is make or break," Nolan said Thursday night. "I think we are over the top and have weathered the storm."

Nolan says the republicans have been making most of the challenges over the past two days and the majority have been related to ballots from people who are registered to vote in Columbia County but whose driver's licenses state that they live in New York City.

Challenging perfectly legal votes of folks who live in New York City but vote absentee in NY-20...hmm, why ever would they do that?

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There've been some good cable news smackdowns the last couple days, this one from Hardball today being a particularly good one. Lawrence O'Donnell was on fire with Pat Buchanan arguing that the opposition to President Obama's being invited to speak at Notre Dame was a fake controversy created by "religious fanatics." Damn. I agree with John Cole: "I honestly don't think you would have seen something like this just a few years ago".

Check it out (h/t Crooks & Liars):

Then there was the not to be missed battle between Christopher Hitchens and Ken Blackwell over whether the United States is a Christian nation. Hitchens -- taking the "no" position (duh) -- just destroys Blackwell, it's embarrassing for Blackwell and, like the Buchanan/O'Donnell clip above, makes me want to stand up and cheer.

Watch it (h/t HuffPo):

These two smackdowns are interesting because they represent the rise of a newly emboldened sort of secular liberalism, challenging notions of judeo-christian centricity that have long been accepted by people in the media and even by those on the left. For so long, one couldn't challenge a conservative's Christian faith no matter how crazy or extreme the views, that faith was somehow untouchable even as they questioned the faith (or lack thereof) of people with whom they disagree with impunity. The free ride is over, boys.

Any other good smackdowns I'm missing?

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Open Thread

What's going on tonight?

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VA-Gov: Moran Behind In Money, Ahead In Polls

Yesterday, the Democrats running for governor of Virginia released their fundraising numbers for the first quarter and it turns out all those fundraisers out of state and with Republican operatives are really paying off for Terry McAuliffe.

Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, raised $4.2 million in this year's first quarter as he seeks the Virginia governorship, his campaign said today.

McAuliffe's campaign released general figures one week ahead of an April 15 deadline, applicable to all candidates for governor, to release detailed information about their campaign donations and spending. McAuliffe's campaign said that he has raised about $5.2 million for the duration of his campaign from 3,440 donors, which comes out to an average contribution of about $1,500. McAuliffe had about $2.5 million left to spend as April began.

Compare that to:

[Brian] Moran's campaign said Wednesday afternoon that it raised more than $800,000 in this year's first quarter, bringing the campaign's total receipts to nearly $3 million. It said that more than 90 percent of its donations came from Virginia residents.


[Creigh] Deeds' campaign on Thursday said that it raised $600,000 in the first quarter and that more than 97 percent of that total came from Virginians. The Deeds campaign, which has $1.2 million cash-on-hand...

Moran's cash on hand is just $850k. But you gotta sort of wonder, what's Terry gotten for all this money raised and millions spent already? The R2000/DKos poll of the Virginia governor's race out today confirms what PPP found in their poll last week: it's Moran in first then McAuliffe then Deeds.

Brian Moran 24
Terry McAuliffe 19
Creigh Deeds 16
Undecided 41

Moran's small lead doesn't look like much, especially with such a huge bloc of undecideds, but considering McAuliffe's national profile and his huge warchest, this really does seem pretty sad for Terry.

Looking at the head-to-head match-ups between the Democrats and the likely Republican nominee, Bob Mcdonnell, things look even worse: Moran is barely behind Mcdonnell 36-37 while McAuliffe and Deeds both trail him by 7. In fact, Mcdonnell has his best showing -- 40% -- against McAuliffe.

Hard not to conclude that Virginia just isn't that into him and that, as Joe Trippi observed about last week's PPP poll:

As Joe Trippi wrote about the PPP poll:

What this poll shows is that despite how much McAuliffe thinks this race is all about the money, in Virginia money isn't everything.

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Reframing Tax Cuts As Fiscally Irresponsible

If anything has undermined the rightwing trope that cutting taxes on the rich is the way to grow the economy, it should have been the last 8 years. Yet even today the rightwing noise machine insists that allowing Bush's tax cuts to expire at the end of 2010 -- as they were always meant to do and as Barack Obama said he would do -- is akin to raising taxes and is proof that Obama is a wide-eyed lib who is waging a war on wealth. Well, that argument may have just gotten a whole lot more difficult to make now that John McCain's top economic advisor has called for their expiration in the name of economic recovery.

According to Taegan Goddard:

Though economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin spent the 2008 presidential campaign advising Sen. John McCain to defend the Bush-era tax cuts, he now thinks they should be allowed to expire on Dec. 31, 2010 due to "the prospect of an Argentina-style fiscal meltdown."

Said Holtz-Eakin: "If you ask: 'Who pays the taxes?', it's the first step toward not having the answer be: 'Our kids.'"

This is very interesting because it signals an evolution on the right away from their blind tax cuts are the answer orthodoxy. If I find video of the exact quote I'll post.

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Karl Rove Calls President Obama Divisive

I guess we know what Karl Rove's post-White House career is going to be: comedian. In an OpEd in The Wall St. Journal, Rove writes:

The Pew Research Center reported last week that President Barack Obama "has the most polarized early job approval of any president" since surveys began tracking this 40 years ago. The gap between Mr. Obama's approval rating among Democrats (88%) and Republicans (27%) is 61 points. This "approval gap" is 10 points bigger than George W. Bush's at this point in his presidency, despite Mr. Bush winning a bitterly contested election.

Part of Mr. Obama's polarized standing can be attributed to a long-term trend. University of Missouri political scientist John Petrocik points out that since 1980, each successive first term president has had more polarized support than his predecessor with the exception of 1989, when George H.W. Bush enjoyed a modest improvement over Ronald Reagan's 1981 standing.

But rather than end or ameliorate that trend, Mr. Obama's actions and rhetoric have accelerated it. His campaign promised post-partisanship, but since taking office Mr. Obama has frozen Republicans out of the deliberative process, and his response to their suggestions has been a brusque dismissal that "I won."

There is rich irony in Karl Rove of all people accusing President Obama of being polarizing, but notably, it's also a deliberate mis-reading of the Pew data (ya, I know, shocking.)

Here's what Pew's associate director Michael Dimock said about Rove's interpretation (via Greg Sargent):  

"It's unfair to say that Obama has caused this divisiveness or to say that he is a polarizing president," Dimock said. He claimed that this phenomenon is driven by long-term trends, uncommon Dem enthusiasm, and the Republican tendency to be more hostile to opposing presidents than Democrats.

Indeed, the Pew analysis itself states plainly that the Republicans themselves, not the president, are culpable in driving down Obama's approval ratings among their rank and file:

By comparison, there was a somewhat smaller 51-point partisan gap in views of George W. Bush's job performance in April 2001, a few months into his first term. At that time, Republican enthusiasm for Bush was comparable to how Democrats feel about Obama today, but there was substantially less criticism from members of the opposition party. Among Democrats, 36% approved of Bush's job performance in April 2001; that compares with a 27% job approval rating for Obama among Republicans today.

Rove conveniently leaves that out.

In reality, the fact that Republicans have as low an opinion of Mr. Obama AND he still manages a 59% approval rating actually reinforces just how marginalized and out of touch with the mainstream Republicans have become. President Obama has clearly built a national consensus around his presidency and his policies and Republicans are not a part of that consensus. Their continued opposition to a president and an agenda that was ratified by 53% of the country in November and enjoys about 60% approval today is simply a sign of their growing irrelevance.

Update [2009-4-9 15:32:47 by Todd Beeton]:Chuck Todd makes the point that 1 in 4 Republicans approving of President Obama isn't actually bad compared to how low approval for Bush was among Democrats. Also, the Republican rank and file is now both smaller and more conservative than ever before. In other words: Obama is more popular than Bush was and his opposition is less relevant than Bush's was.

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Defeating The Forces Of Fear

After a week where the number of states in which same sex marriage is legal doubled, the forces of inequality are afraid...very afraid.

Even opponents of same-sex marriage recognized the week's developments as a potential watershed moment that could subdue the effect of their Election Day victory in California. Voters there narrowly approved Proposition 8, which amended the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, effectively reversing a decision by the state's Supreme Court that had legalized it.

"It's a bad day for the country," said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, a group established to fight same-sex marriage. "There is a palpable sense that something has changed and people need to get active."

And afraid they should be.

Gay-rights groups say that momentum from back-to-back victories on same-sex marriage in Vermont and Iowa could spill into other states, particularly since at least nine other legislatures are considering measures this year to allow marriage between gay couples.

So what are they doing to push back against the fact that the arc of history is bending toward justice right before their eyes? Why, lie and fear-monger, of course:

The National Organization for Marriage, a prominent backer of the successful campaign against same-sex marriage in California, is launching a $1.5 million ad campaign this morning aimed at forestalling same-sex marriage support in other key states.

The campaign...seeks to energize the opponents of gay marriage by making the case that it will impinge directly on their own lives. The ads will air in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Iowa.

According to Human Rights Campaign, which has a fact sheet rebutting the ad, it is set to air as many as 8 times a day.

Watch it below:

Eugene has a great post at dailyKos about what this ad is really about: same ole same ole conservative victimology. It sure worked here in California last year.

...this is how they get voters in a supposedly tolerant state like California to vote to take away rights from people without making themselves look like hateful bigots in the process.

One of the most powerful weapons in the Yes on Prop 8 campaign's arsenal was the argument that same-sex marriage rights would somehow limit religious or parental freedoms. The No on 8 campaign never effectively countered this, and this conservative victimology helped insulate Prop 8 supporters from being called to account for their bigotry.

Luckily we have the Courage Campaign, which has been organizing for marriage equality in California since November 5th and today sent out another e-mail blast in response to NOM's new ad:

We need your help to fight back right now against this deplorable ad. With many legal experts expecting the California Supreme Court to uphold Prop 8, our only option will be to place an initiative on the ballot to restore marriage equality. To repeal Prop 8, we will need to build a grassroots army for change in every county of California.

In response, the Dolby Family is challenging our community to raise $25,000 as a matching grant to fund Camp Courage trainings for marriage equality activists.

Can you help us respond to these lies and distortions by turning fear into hope? Watch this despicable TV ad now and then contribute to support more Camp Courage trainings by helping us meet this generous $25,000 matching grant from the Dolby Family -- thus doubling their amazing donation.

Now that the forces of inequality have launched their counter-attack, it's all the more important that we continue to build Courage Campaign's marriage equality grassroots army. Contribute what you can and help turn fear into hope today.

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