A Late-Night Talk Show Is Not the Presidency – The New Yorker

On Monday, Comedy Central announced that the new host of “The Daily Show,” who will replace Jon Stewart when he leaves sometime within the next year, is a thirty-one-year-old comedian from South Africa named Trevor Noah. For most Americans, and even many regular viewers of “The Daily Show,” the name was unfamiliar. Noah made his first appearance as the show’s “senior international correspondent” in December, and since then he has made just two additional appearances—meaning that, among the stable of correspondents who now host or will soon host their own shows (Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Samantha Bee), Noah’s rise has surely been the most expeditious.

Though it is not necessarily precipitous: Noah has hosted shows on both radio and television in South Africa, and he has a big international following—the kind of person you’ve never heard of who also has two million followers on Twitter. Noah may also be unique among serious candidates, if the trade gossip is to be believed, in that he wants the job at all. Taking over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart may be an even more daunting prospect than what Colbert faces in succeeding Letterman at CBS: no one thinks that Colbert will do top-ten lists or stupid pet tricks, but viewers of “The Daily Show” will expect the show’s essential political and comedic identity to remain in place. There is reason to put faith in the show’s machine of writers and producers, which has, with Stewart’s help, created its own impressive star system. But the question is not only whether Noah will succeed in the role but whether “The Daily Show” can, or even should, continue to exist without Jon Stewart. Stewart, for his part, thinks so: his short endorsement of Noah, issued to the Times, ended with three exclamation points.

Will Noah turn out to be three-exclamation-point worthy? We won’t know for a while, and by then it will be too late to speculate wildly on whether he can adequately cover and skewer an American election, or whether this marks an attempt to internationalize “The Daily Show,” or why Comedy Central didn’t replace Stewart with a woman. The network’s announcement, and the media’s response, was not entirely unlike what happened the previous Monday, when Ted Cruz announced that he was running for President. Both announcements made the top of the Times’ Web site and were greeted with a flurry of explainers and comments on their long-shot status. By Tuesday morning, as happens to many upstart political candidates, Noah’s past comments were coming back to haunt him: online, people have begun calling out old tweets for apparent sexism and anti-Semitism. As the journalist Mark Harris joked, “Trevor Noah’s advance team should have known this was coming when he decided to run for President.”

These days, the most interesting thing about late-night television is the one thing that it has in common with a Presidential election: the race to fill an open chair. And in both governance and late night, once the work begins many people lose interest.

The stories around late night have long been more compelling than the shows themselves. It is high-stakes corporate warfare mixed with Greek tragedy; Jay Leno hiding in a closet and Letterman stabbed in the back; and Conan O’Brien, years later, being chased into a comedy wilderness. These behind-the-scenes stories were several degrees more interesting than the monologues and celebrity patter that went on in front of the camera—the drama produced by the personalities was mostly incommensurate with the banality of their profession. (It was telling when New York reported that, “according to a high-level source,” Brian Williams had lobbied to replace David Letterman.)

This vision of late night has persisted long after the significance of the shows themselves has eroded. The days of a few network gatekeepers is long gone; the most interesting comedy is happening elsewhere, on all kinds of platforms; and the number of viewers, even for a successful franchise like “The Tonight Show,” are a slim percentage of those from the glory days. As Emily Nussbaum wrote last year, the late-night genre is mostly dull, and has been for years. Monologue, sketches, remote pieces, banter, music. “The Daily Show” may not be a typical talk show, but it is still a place where famous people go to promote things. And yet at some point we decided to think of late-night shows as venerable civic institutions.

In the rounds of high-profile late-night reshuffling during the past few years, a pattern has emerged: after a host announces his impending retirement, some months in the future, speculation mounts as to who is on the short list to replace him, with the discussion quickly becoming not about what comedian will be chosen but exactly what kind of comedian will be chosen—namely, what that person’s gender, ethnicity, and sexuality will be, or what it should be. Then the replacement is named, and the color of his skin or his accent, or the fact that he is yet again, maddeningly, another man, is immediately cause for a new round of comment and analysis.

When Jon Stewart said that he was leaving, last month, there was a push among fans for Comedy Central to name a woman as his replacement. It was high time, generally, and it made specific sense for the “The Daily Show,” where correspondents like Samantha Bee and Jessica Williams ​were smart, funny, popular, and obviously as capable of reading from a teleprompter as their male colleagues. (Williams, who is twenty-five, responded to a draft campaign from fans by saying she was “under-qualified” for the job. She has, it may be worth nothing, been on the show more than three times.) Outside the show’s staff, the names suggested included Aisha Tyler, Amy Schumer, and even Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

The show’s producers and the network’s executives surely knew that many fans wanted them to name a woman as host. Yet, as Joy Behar told the Daily Beast, of Noah, “I never heard of him…. But he’s a guy—and that is the only thing you have to know.” The choice might be evidence for any number of things, some malicious and some benign. Perhaps the executives caved to some imagined silent majority of men who they believe would stop watching the show if they put a woman behind the desk. Or maybe they tried to recruit a woman, failed, and settled instead on Noah. This kind of speculation is perhaps a fair way to pass the time—and it is certainly discouraging to think that high-powered entertainment executives might hesitate at all to hand a popular program to a female host. But when we talk about storming the gates, it’s worth remembering what’s on the other side. In this case, it’s a talk show.

There is real dissonance between the energy that the culture expends in discussing late-night television and the actual enthusiasm that it brings to watching it. I was reminded of this last year when, while feeling sad that Stephen Colbert was leaving Comedy Central, I realized that I hadn’t watched a full episode of his show in years. It was simply knowing that he was there, and perhaps seeing the occasional segment of the show on Twitter or Facebook, that was comforting. That latter platform, in particular, may be relevant here. As these shows attract fewer viewers, late-night hosts become like your Facebook friends: you hear about them a lot, and catch stray details from their lives, but you rarely schedule time to see them.​

 

A Late-Night Talk Show Is Not the Presidency – The New Yorker.

Indiana Governor Asks for Changes in Religious Freedom Law – NYTimes.com

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Gov. Mike Pence held a news conference to discuss the Religious Freedom Restoration Act at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis on Tuesday. “We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan but a way of life,” he said. Credit Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana said Tuesday that he had asked lawmakers to change the state’s religious freedom law to make it clear that businesses cannot discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Pence said he thought the clarification was needed because of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the legislation.

He said that while the intent of the bill was not to discriminate against gay people, state officials must confront the perception that the law would allow just that. He asked lawmakers to pass legislation that would be on his desk by the end of the week.

“I believe this is a clarification — but it’s also a fix,’ Mr. Pence said. “I’m determined to address this this week.”

The law has set off a firestorm, with both critics and some supporters saying it would allow businesses to deny service to lesbian and gay customers if it offended their religious beliefs. Businesses, organizations, politicians and many celebrities have spoken out against the law, some of them canceling events in the state.

“We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan but a way of life,” Mr. Pence said.

In an essay in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Mr. Pence, a Republican, offered a full-throated defense of the law he signed on Thursday, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he wrote “has been grossly misconstrued as a `license to discriminate.’ ”

Though Mr. Pence had said in recent days that he was open to amending the law to address concerns, he insisted in the essay that those concerns were unfounded, and said nothing about making changes. And in an interview on Fox News Tuesday morning, he did not give a direct answer to a question about how the law might be changed.

“Let me say first and foremost that, you know, I stand by this law, but I understand that the way that some on the left, and frankly some in the national media, have mischaracterized this law over the last week might make it necessary for us to clarify the law through legislation,” Mr. Pence said. “And we were working through the day and into the night last night with legislative leaders to consider ways to do that.”

The law states that government should not take any action infringing on people’s religious beliefs unless there is a compelling government interest to do so, and that it must use the least intrusive means to pursue that interest.

Defenders of the measure say they have been bewildered by the controversy, since it is patterned on a 1993 federal law of the same name, passed with bipartisan support and signed by President Bill Clinton, as well as on similar state laws.

But the Indiana law has some differences from the federal law, and most of the state laws, that critics say are significant, including a provision explicitly stating that it applies to the exercise of religious beliefs by businesses as well as individuals and religious groups. The idea that a for-profit business has religious rights, and can cite them in contesting government action, was not widely considered until recently. But last year the Supreme Court upheld that principle in the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores.

Another difference between Indiana’s law and most similar ones is that it says businesses can use religious freedom as a defense against lawsuits brought by individuals, not just those filed by the government.

Critics contend that the provisions amount to permission for business owners to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. A flower shop owner, for instance, could refuse to serve a same-sex wedding. When asked how the law would work in such a case, on the ABC show “This Week”on Sunday, Mr. Pence declined to say.

On Tuesday, on Fox, he said, “I don’t think anyone should ever be mistreated because of who they are or who they love.” But he did not say whether that discrimination should be allowed by law.

In some states, concerns like those raised in Indiana have been addressed with laws that specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Asked on Tuesday if he would take that step, Mr. Pence said, “That’s not been my position.”

Indiana Governor Asks for Changes in Religious Freedom Law – NYTimes.com.

In Indiana, Using Religion as a Cover for Bigotry – NYTimes.com

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Demonstrators protested the religious freedom bill in Indianapolis on Saturday. Credit Nate Chute/Reuters

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, who last week signed a religious-freedom law driven by bigotry against gays and lesbians, has been complaining that the law’s opponents — which include top business leaders and civil-rights groups — are spreading “misinformation.”

It is true that the law does not, as some opponents claim, specifically permit businesses to refuse to serve gays and lesbians. Its drafters were too smart to make that explicit. Instead, the law allows individuals or corporations facing discrimination lawsuits to claim that serving gays and lesbians “substantially” burdens their religious freedom.

But nobody is fooled as to the law’s underlying purpose. As its most prominent backers have said quite clearly, it is meant to protect “Christian businesses and churches from those supporting homosexual marriages.” In other words, it should allow them to refuse service to gay couples.

The law has understandably spawned a nationwide call for boycotts of the state, not to mention the rebuke of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, companies like Apple, and the N.C.A.A., whose college basketball tournament is holding the Final Four in Indianapolis this coming weekend.

The tactic of using so-called religious freedom laws to justify and support anti-gay discrimination is relatively new. A decade ago, states could discriminate against gay couples openly by banning same-sex marriages, as dozens did. In recent years, with federal and state courts striking down those marriage bans as unconstitutional (Indiana’s was struck down in 2014), opponents of marriage equality have resorted to using other strategies.

Religious-freedom laws, which were originally intended to protect religious minorities from burdensome laws or regulations, have become increasingly invoked by conservative Christian groups as gay rights in general — and marriage equality in particular — found greater acceptance nationally. Besides Indiana, 19 states have adopted such laws, but the laws in the other states apply to disputes between individuals and the government; Indiana’s law also applies to disputes between private citizens.

The Supreme Court helped the cause of Christian conservatives with its 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, which held that family-owned corporations may invoke the federal religious-freedom law in refusing to comply with a law requiring employer-paid health plans to cover contraception benefits. The wording in Indiana’s religious-freedom law tracks that ruling in protecting corporations.

If Mr. Pence is genuinely concerned about why people may be misunderstanding the law, he could start by looking in the mirror. Under persistent questioning on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday morning, Mr. Pence insisted that the law “is not about discrimination,” but about “empowering people.”

That claim is impossible to square with his refusal to consider a statewide law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination (about a dozen Indiana cities, including most of the largest ones, already have such laws). On Sunday, Mr. Pence said he agreed that it would be helpful to “clarify” the law’s intent, even though it is already perfectly clear. The freedom to exercise one’s religion is not under assault in Indiana, or anywhere else in the country. Religious people — including Christians, who continue to make up the majority of Americans — may worship however they wish and say whatever they like.

But religion should not be allowed to serve as a cover for discrimination in the public sphere. In the past, racial discrimination was also justified by religious beliefs, yet businesses may not refuse service to customers because of their race. Such behavior should be no more tolerable when it is based on sexual orientation.


In Indiana, Using Religion as a Cover for Bigotry – NYTimes.com.

Echo Chamber: ‘Bloodborne’s’ Critical Praise Is Gaming Journalism’s Failure

Read any review, discussion, forum thread or opinion on From Software’s new PS4 exclusive Bloodborne, and you’re bound to encounter the phrase: “it’s not for everyone.” Sometimes it’s sort of an embarrassed acknowledgement: “I know, this thing is weird and painful, but here’s what I like about it.” More often, it’s sort of a smirking humblebrag: “It’s not for those people, just for we that can appreciate it.” But in nearly very instance, it precedes a few hundred words of gushing, unrestrained praise, meaning that it all comes down to the same thing. Bloodborne may be off limits to all but a tiny fraction even of people that play a lot of video games, but we as gaming journalists just don’t seem to care. It makes me wonder: since when have we stopped giving a damn about “everyone?”

Bloodborne is a meticulously crafted game. It is wildly successful in everything it attempts to do, no doubt. The atmospherics are incredible, the combat is brutal and satisfying, the bizarre, opaque story is slowly and strangely mystifying. The level design, from an aesthetic and a practical point of view, is staggeringly and intricately brilliant. This game has been hewn with care, skill, obsession and love, and this this shows through in every tiny moment it has to offer. That’s not really what I’m talking about here. None of that praise affects one of the most fundamental truths about the game that we need to be communicating: most people will hate it. It is incredibly hard, and most people won’t be able to make it past the first boss before rage quitting. This isn’t a value judgment, it’s just true.

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Think about what we consider a general requirement for reviewing a given game: finishing it. Seems like it would make sense, right? In situations like this, however, I’d argue that that is an insanely restrictive requirement. This means that the official word on this game from any given publication is going to come from someone with the time, skill, and inclination to actually make it through this thing, and that is one rareified human being. Add into the fact that this person has probably finished both Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, and maybe even Demon’s Souls, and you’ve got a near-assurance that their opinion will be meaningless to all but core franchise fans. When Bloodborne review copies arrived, most outlets trotted out their “Souls” expert to do the review, but in doing so they’ve locked out the less-informed opinions that could actually end up being more valuable to more people. (For my own perspective on the game itself, check out my daily diary).

The gaming world has already talked ad nauseaum about the fallacy of Metacritic and the woefully inadequate tool of a review score when it comes to something like a video game. I understand that. But with all of the talk about Bloodborne as masterpiece, Bloodborne as perfect, or Bloodborne as best game ever, I can’t help but feel like the gaming media is failing at one of its most fundamental jobs: telling people about video games. Because while Dark Souls fans do deserve to know how this game compares to the thing they already love, regular people also deserve to know that they will, probably, hate this game. It is maddeningly, crushingly and unendingly difficult. To fans, this is part of the appeal. To most people, this is awful. This is a perspective that’s mostly absent from the discussion, save this very important piece from IGN.

It isn’t any one reviewers fault — everyone should say what they think and be fine with it — it’s the universality of the praise that’s so troubling. There should be some tempering voices in there, probably a lot of them. The failure to provide that perspective throughout the ecosystem of games writing is just a bit embarrassing.

This wasn’t really a problem with a game like Demon’s Souls: it was a newcomer, there were plenty of other current-gen titles out there to play, and (I assume, didn’t play it) that it was a genuine surprise at the time. But Bloodborne has much broader exposure than any of the games before it, and it’s being held up as a “system seller”for the PS4. I’ve had several casualish gamer friends ask me if I’d recommend it, and I’ve told all of them no. I don’t say this because it’s a bad game, or because I wouldn’t have recommended it to myself, but just because I know these people, and I know they don’t want to play this game. Come to think about it, I don’t think I personally know a single person outside the games industry/press that would enjoy this game — we’re falling down on our duty to make sure they know that.



Echo Chamber: ‘Bloodborne’s’ Critical Praise Is Gaming Journalism’s Failure.

Class and family in America: Minding the nurture gap | The Economist

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. By Robert Putnam. Simon & Schuster; 386 pages; $28 and £18.99.

THE most important divide in America today is class, not race, and the place where it matters most is in the home. Conservatives have been banging on about family breakdown for decades. Now one of the nation’s most prominent liberal scholars has joined the chorus.

Robert Putnam is a former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of “Bowling Alone” (2000), an influential work that lamented the decline of social capital in America. In his new book, “Our Kids”, he describes the growing gulf between how the rich and the poor raise their children. Anyone who has read “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray will be familiar with the trend, but Mr Putnam adds striking detail and some excellent graphs (pictured). This is a thoughtful and persuasive book.

Among the educated elite the traditional family is thriving: fewer than 10% of births to female college graduates are outside marriage—a figure that is barely higher than it was in 1970. In 2007 among women with just a high-school education, by contrast, 65% of births were non-marital. Race makes a difference: only 2% of births to white college graduates are out-of-wedlock, compared with 80% among African-Americans with no more than a high-school education, but neither of these figures has changed much since the 1970s. However, the non-marital birth proportion among high-school-educated whites has quadrupled, to 50%, and the same figure for college-educated blacks has fallen by a third, to 25%. Thus the class divide is growing even as the racial gap is shrinking.

Upbringing affects opportunity. Upper-middle-class homes are not only richer (with two professional incomes) and more stable; they are also more nurturing. In the 1970s there were practically no class differences in the amount of time that parents spent talking, reading and playing with toddlers. Now the children of college-educated parents receive 50% more of what Mr Putnam calls “Goodnight Moon” time (after a popular book for infants).

Educated parents engage in a non-stop Socratic dialogue with their children, helping them to make up their own minds about right and wrong, true and false, wise and foolish. This is exhausting, so it helps to have a reliable spouse with whom to share the burden, not to mention cleaners, nannies and cash for trips to the theatre.

Working-class parents, who have less spare capacity, are more likely to demand that their kids simply obey them. In the short run this saves time; in the long run it prevents the kids from learning to organise their own lives or think for themselves. Poor parenting is thus a barrier to social mobility, and is becoming more so as the world grows more complex and the rewards for superior cognitive skills increase.

Mr Putnam’s research team interviewed dozens of families to illustrate his thesis. Some of their stories are heart-rending. Stephanie, a mother whose husband left her, is asked if her own parents were warm. She is “astonished at our naïveté”. “No, we don’t do all that kissing and hugging,” she says. “You can’t be mushy in Detroit…You gotta be hard, really hard, because if you soft, people will bully you.” Just as her parents “beat the hell” out of her, so she “whups” her own children. She does her best, but her ambitions for them go little further than not skipping school, not becoming alcoholic and not ending up on the streets.

At every stage, educated families help their kids in ways that less educated ones do not or cannot. Whereas working-class families have friends who tend to know each other (because they live in the same neighbourhood), professional families have much wider circles. If a problem needs solving or a door needs opening, there is often a friend of a friend (a lawyer, a psychiatrist, an executive) who knows how to do it or whom to ask.

Stunningly, Mr Putnam finds that family background is a better predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from university than 8th-grade test scores. Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores (see chart).

There are no obvious villains in this story. Mr Murray suggested that the educated classes preach the values they practise by urging the poor to get married before they have children. But the record of those who tell other people how to arrange their love lives is hardly encouraging. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama preached the virtues of responsible fatherhood, to no obvious effect.

Mr Putnam sees “no clear path to reviving marriage” among the poor. Instead, he suggests a grab-bag of policies to help poor kids reach their potential, such as raising subsidies for poor families, teaching them better parenting skills, improving nursery care and making after-school baseball clubs free. He urges all 50 states to experiment to find out what works. A problem this complex has no simple solution.

Class and family in America: Minding the nurture gap | The Economist.

Pro-density renters group grows, snags tech giant CEO gift – San Francisco Business Times


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Jin Lee / Bloomberg News

Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive officer of Yelp Inc., speaks during an interview at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., on Friday, Mar. 2, 2012. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Jeremy Stoppelman












The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, a group of activists who believe more market-rate housing will alleviate high rents, has gained a powerful backer from the tech industry: Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp.

Stoppelman gave a gift of $10,000 to the group’s founder, Sonja Trauss, a former private school math teacher who began working full-time on promoting real estate development at the beginning of the year.

Stoppelman first heard about SFBARF after his mom forwarded him a Business Times profile of the group, said Trauss. He was interested in helping to the group by participating at planning department hearings and supporting the group on social media, she said. That relationship led to financial support.

“I believe Sonja represents a massive segment of the population that’s been largely ignored in the discussion on Bay Area housing renters,” said Stoppelman. “I wanted to help her personally with a financial gift since she recently gave up her job as an educator to devote herself full time to activism. She’s quickly become one of the most passionate, candid, and talked about voices on this very important issue.”

The local tech companies have been targeted by protesters who argue that the firms’ new employees are exacerbate soaring housing costs and evictions under the Ellis Act. But Trauss believes that rising rents are directly related to a lack of new housing supply, a perspective that Stoppelman shares.

“It’s ridiculous to blame companies tech or non-tech for rapidly adding jobs,” said Stoppelman. “Remember 2008 when unemployment was through the roof and the city was desperate for economic growth? Fortunately, those days are long gone and now we have the ‘high class’ problem of plenty of jobs, but too little housing.”

Stoppelman has previously spoken about housing affordability at industry panels. He also taken a stand on other issues: he wrote an open letter Friday urging states to not adopt laws similar to Indiana’s controversial measure, which critics say allows businesses to refuse service on the basis on sexual orientation.

Expansion plans

Trauss has big expansion plans along with her new funding.

She is launching a real estate news and opinion website, SFYIMBY.com, in partnership with Nikolai Fedak, who runs a New York site that is pro-development and covers new projects. The term YIMBY is a reference to “Yes in My Backyard,” a reversal of the traditional term NIMBY. The site will join an increasingly crowded field of Bay Area real estate coverage that includes Curbed SF, Bisnow, the Registry, Socketsite and the Business Times.

The group is also becoming more political.

Trauss plans to actively organize voters this year and make an endorsement in the District 3 Board of Supervisors race in the fall. “I’m starting to realize we’re not going to get what we want unless we vote as a bloc,” she said.

SFBARF’s financial growth has come with increased interest in the group over the last two months. Its mailing list has doubled to 270 members from 130 members in February. Followers of the group’s Twitter handle have tripled from 300 to over 900 over the past two months.

SFBARF previously raised $10,000 from San Francisco Moderates and a second source that Trauss declines to name. She said she has never received any funding from real estate developers.

Trauss has used the money to hire her group’s first employee, who will start coding for SFYIMBY.com for 20 hours a week. The group has also used funding to hold two panel discussions at the Lab in the Mission, with speakers from Austin, Washington D.C., Seattle and Palo Alto. It has two more planned this year. Other expenses include paying for flyers to be distributed at events and posted in public spaces, and Trauss’ rent, transit and food costs.

In the past two months, the group has testified at city council and planning meetings throughout San Francisco and the East Bay. Members spoke out against proposed moratoriums in Emeryville and Walnut Creek that both failed to pass, and in favor of new developments in Potrero Hill.

The group recently formed a Berkeley subcommittee with eight members who plan to go to hearings on projects, including the largest residential project in the city at 211 Harold Way as well as 1500 San Pablo Ave. Trauss sees the division as an independent arm that will function without her direct supervision.

“They don’t need me. It’s really starting to take root here in Berkeley,” said Trauss.

Critics take aim

As SFBARF grows, it has also attracted critics.

Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation to halt the construction of single-family homes exceeding 3,000 square feet in Corona Heights, despite strong opposition from Trauss.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who sponsored the legislation, wrote on the SFBARF mailing list that he was perplexed by the opposition to a bill that he described as streamlining regulations for mansions.

“Sonja has felt the need to take some unfounded personal potshots at me despite the fact that I’m the strongest and most vocal advocate at City Hall for producing new housing,” he wrote.

Also, SFBARF “hasn’t lifted a finger to support my various pieces of legislation to increase production of in-law units,” wrote Wiener. The supervisor said he still supports the group and that Trauss was “intelligent and passionate.”

Other housing activists question whether SFBARF really represents renters.

“I think this is a front group” for developers, said Donald Goldmacher, an independent filmmaker and member of Save Shattuck Cinemas, which opposes the 2211 Harold Way project. “It’s pro-development. It’s not pro-tenant.”

Goldmacher believes that building more market-rate housing will not improve affordability. He supports having rent control in Berkeley, 50 percent affordable housing requirements in all new projects, up from the city’s current 10 percent affordable requirement, and stronger environmental reviews.

“We’re not opposed to thoughtful, green development,” said Goldmacher. “That’s not what we’re seeing in Berkeley.”

“I think they are a sham group that is acting as a shill for market-rate developers and other pro-development groups,” said Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, a tenants group. “I find it offensive that they are purporting to represent the voice of renters.”

Shortt said that Trauss has “no experience or qualification in the field of housing,” lives in Oakland and doesn’t speak for San Francisco renters.

“I think it’s very deceptive,” said Shortt. “They haven’t proven themselves to be a representation of the community.”

Shortt’s group is pushing for Ellis Act reform, stronger rent control measures, and more community participation and planning for development. It opposes projects like Maximus Real Estate Partner’s proposal at 16th and Mission St., where activists are calling for 100 percent affordable housing or no new construction.

But Trauss is undaunted by opponents. While she doesn’t know what scale SFBARF will grow to, she feels growing support for density and economic investment throughout the Bay Area.

“The upshot is it’s exponential,” she said. “I’m riding a wave.”

Roland Li covers real estate and economic development







Pro-density renters group grows, snags tech giant CEO gift – San Francisco Business Times.

Martin O’Malley challenges Hillary Clinton – CNN.com

“Let’s be honest here,” O’Malley said. “The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families.”

READ: Can this Democrat really beat Hillary Clinton?

The Democrat’s comments, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” are another signal that he’s likely to challenge Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

He’s focusing in recent weeks on issues like income inequality and wage stagnation — which liberal darling Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has made her signature, but that haven’t found a champion in the presidential race.

O’Malley said he won’t decide until this spring whether he’ll seek the Democratic nomination. But his shots at Clinton have been the most direct of any of the party’s likely challengers — with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seeking to avoid the topic of Clinton at all costs.

Recalling the 2008 primary, when then-upstart Sen. Barack Obama challenged an inevitable-looking Clinton and won, O’Malley hinted he thinks Clinton could be defeated.

“History is full of times when the inevitable frontrunner is inevitable right up until he or she is no longer inevitable,” O’Malley said.

The pro-Clinton group Correct the Record hit back at O’Malley on Sunday afternoon, saying voters have seen Clinton “work her entire life” to earn her status as the Democratic front-runner.

“Hillary Clinton has earned the trust and the respect of Americans because they have seen Hillary work her entire life to ensure, through improving education, health care, fair pay and fighting every day for working and middle class Americans, that all of us have the opportunity to succeed,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Watson.

Martin O’Malley challenges Hillary Clinton – CNN.com.

Meerkat Vs Periscope: Tech journalism is a sickly mess | BGR

About three days after it received a lavish new funding round, Meerkat died an ugly and embarrassing death. It is hard to decide whether the Great Meerkat Debacle that has unfolded over the past week is a tragedy or a comedy — probably a bit of both.

The mobile streaming app that had whipped U.S. tech journalists into a frenzy announced $14 million in new funding on Thursday. Money poured in from Jared Leto, Greylock Partners and other illustrious sources. On the same day, Twitter launched its rival streaming app called Periscope. Apparently, investors didn’t stop to ponder why Meerkat people rushed to cash in so aggressively only a month after the app had debuted.

Well, we now know why.

DON’T MISS: Galaxy S6 vs. iPhone 6: The ultimate speed test

By Sunday night, the consumer reaction to the Periscope-Meerkat rivalry was brutally lopsided. Twitter’s Periscope app had become a smash hit, breaking into the U.S. iPhone top-30 chart by Friday night. This is a rare feat for a social media app, and it demonstrated that Periscope had immediate and broad consumer appeal.

In stunning contrast, Meerkat crumpled like a wet napkin as soon as Twitter’s rival app debuted. By Sunday at 7:00 p.m., Meerkat had collapsed to No. 523 on the U.S. iPhone download chart.

The ugly truth that U.S. tech media has declined to mention even in passing is that Meerkat had never been a hit to begin with. All those breathless media reports about “the hot new app” and “the break-out app” were deeply misleading at best — and cynical legerdemain at worst.

Meerkat’s highest daily ranking on the U.S. iPhone download chart was No. 140, on March 20th. At this point, the app had already generated thousands of news stories and blog posts, most of them enthusiastically describing it as a hit. But actual American consumers never showed the slightest sign of warming up.

Meerkat’s “success” was the creation of a handful of West Coast tech bloggers who managed to lure major newspapers into covering a phenomenon that did not exist.

Despite media coverage that most new apps would kill for, Meerkat failed to get anywhere close to the top 100 chart in the U.S. –even though on a typical week, a dozen new apps crack the top 100. Meerkat is an app that underperformed your average Croatian Flappy Bird clone or the 10th most popular diner simulation of the past year. Yet dozens of notable tech reporters kept tweeting and blogging about Meerkat as the biggest break-out of the year.

There is zero doubt that this media frenzy directly influenced last week’s funding round. Looking at just the download metrics of the app, the $14 million round is incomprehensible.

There is also no doubt that if Jared Leto and his merry band had realized a week ago that Meerkat would drop out of the top 500 iPhone app chart by Sunday night, they would have slammed their check books shut in a hurry. They were obviously blinded by the tech journalism flimflammery that has gone on unabated in America in recent weeks.

Writing about the mobile app industry is a curious niche; you don’t actually have to understand download statistics, different product segments or other industry fundamentals. Unlike movies, fashion, cars or the book industry, you don’t have to focus on products that possess real consumer appeal. In the United States, app industry reporters can simply choose to cover an app their buddies claim is cool and then prioritize the 200th most popular app in the country over apps that have actual heft and significance.

The whole sordid Meerkat mess is an eerie echo of what happened with Secret, another failed social media app with incredible media coverage.

Soon after its launch in January 2014, Secret was pronounced the next huge social media app by a preening murder of California media crows. Hundreds of stories about the importance of Secret were published in February 2014. The app peaked at No. 130 on the U.S. iPhone download chart — and then it dropped out of the top 1000 by end of February.

It was an utter flop and all subsequent relaunches failed miserably. Yet it managed to raise nearly $9 million in March despite the February collapse… and then another $25 million the following July.

Of course, the app never recovered. Apps that don’t crack the top 100 during their debut run almost never turn out to be viable, no matter how much they are tinkered with. This is the basic axiom of the mobile app industry.

Almost precisely one year later, the same crew of tech “journalists” who proclaimed Secret would be massively influential, declared Meerkat the next huge social media app. With almost supernatural synchronicity, Meerkat has just peaked at No. 140 on the U.S. iPhone download chart and gone into a heart-stopping tailspin after raising a ton of money from credulous investors.

How is it possible that people who have witnessed the lightning fast collapses of hype vehicles like Secret and Path in the recent past have learned nothing? How can we still have the same dysfunctional folie a deux playing out between credulous tech media and even more credulous VC investors?

Meerkat Vs Periscope: Tech journalist is a sickly mess | BGR.

Indiana governor says he didn’t anticipate ‘the hostility that’s been directed at our state’ – LGBTQ Nation

Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.)

INDIANAPOLIS — Three days after signing legislation widely criticized as a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he didn’t anticipate “the hostility that’s been directed at our state.”

Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.)

Pence told the Indianapolis Star on Saturday he’s been in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend, and will support legislation to “clarify the intent” of the religious freedom that has created a firestorm of criticism, boycotts and backlash from civic leaders to business leaders, and even the White House.

The Republican governor said expects that a clarification bill will be introduced this coming week to the religious objections law he signed Thursday.

Pence declined to provide details but told the newspaper that making LGBT Indiana residents a protected legal class is “not on my agenda.”

Pence said repeatedly that the intense blowback against the new law is the result of a “misunderstanding driven by misinformation,” and disputes the law allows state-sanctioned anti-LGBT discrimination.

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Since signing the bill into law on Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana.

The fallout continued Saturday, when consumer review service Angie’s List said it will suspend a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.

The measure, which takes effect in July, prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

‘Indiana: A great place to be a bigot’

Critics say the catalyst for the measure was to allow businesses, such as florists and bakeries, to refuse services to same-sex couples following the legalization ofsame-sex marriage in the state.

Pence and other supporters of the law contend discrimination claims are overblown and insist it will keep the government from compelling people to provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds.

They also maintain that courts haven’t allowed discrimination under similar laws covering the federal government and 19 other states.

But state Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, said Indiana’s law goes further and opens the door to discrimination.

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“This law does not openly allow discrimination, no, but what it does is create a road map, a path to discrimination,” he told the large, boisterous crowd that gathered outside of the Statehouse on Saturday.

“Indiana’s version of this law is not the same as that in other states. It adds all kinds of new stuff and it moves us further down the road to discrimination,” said DeLaney.

Saturday’s crowd, for which police didn’t have an exact estimate, chanted “Pence must go!” several times and many people held signs like “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate anyone” and “No hate in our state.”

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Indiana governor says he didn’t anticipate ‘the hostility that’s been directed at our state’ – LGBTQ Nation.

Lena Dunham is not an anti-Semite: “Girls” star targeted yet again after controversial New Yorker piece – Salon.com

Earlier this week, Lena Dunham contributed a humor piece to the “Shouts and Murmurs” column of the New Yorker, called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz” which lists scenarios and rhetorically asks readers to guess which applies to her dog and which applies to her boyfriend (examples: “He doesn’t tip. And he never brings his wallet anywhere” ; “He comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates”). And, as with anything relating to Lena Dunham, the piece was quick to ignite controversy, with a number of individuals and organizations decrying the piece as anti-Semitic.

Here’s Jordana Horn, in Kveller magazine:

“Apparently Jews are a group you can make fun of and it is deemed kinda intellectual and funny to do so. Basically, the boyfriend of whom she paints a picture is a weak, cheap, complaining, ungrateful, whiny jerk. To say that these qualities are obviously Jewish – and doglike? – offends me deeply.”

The Anti-Defamation League also released a statement, calling out the piece for offensive stereotypes:

Humor is a matter of taste, and people can disagree if it is funny or not. Some will certainly find Lena Dunham’s stereotypes about cheap Jews offensive. Others will take issue with the very idea of comparing a dog and a Jewish boyfriend. The piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the “No Jews or Dogs Allowed signs from our own early history in this country, and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as “dogs.”

We doubt that Ms. Dunham had any intention of evoking such comparisons. While we understand that humor is its own special brand of expression and always try to give leeway to comedians, we wish that she had chosen another, less insensitive way to publicly reflect on her boyfriend’s virtues and vices. We are surprised that the New Yorker chose to print it.



And here’s some of the Twitter outcry:

As a Jewish person, I personally didn’t find the piece offensive. Dunham is Jewish herself (her mother Laurie Simmons is Jewish, and Dunham has said she self-identifies as “very culturally Jewish”), and making fun of one’s own people is a time-honored part of the Jewish comic tradition. Jewish comics often turn within their own culture for material — just look at Jon Stewart, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Larry David, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld, and the many, many other comedians whose humor involves riffs on their own Jewishness (one has only to think about the classic Seinfeld episode, about the dentist who Jerry accuses of converting to Judaism “for the jokes”).

Indeed, much of humor in general relies on self-deprecation. The best comedy comes from a place of introspection, joking about oneself rather than joking about others. Jewish comics — Dunham included — are allowed to make jokes about being Jewish that non-Jews could never make, because they come from an intimate and specific understanding of their own culture. Of course, there’s a fine line to walk between self-deprecation and self-loathing, but in my view, this piece comes from a place of affection and wry self-knowledge (as she put it on Instagram, the piece is “love letter” to her boyfriend Jack Antonoff and her dog Lamby) instead of a place of ignorance and hatred.

Ultimately, it’s tough not to think that Dunham is coming under extra fire because she’s such a polarizing figure to begin with. As we saw with the recent sexual abuse flap, Dunham is a lightning rod for both the left and right; she seemingly can’t do anything without igniting a hailstorm of controversy, even if it’s unwarranted. Maybe it’s time to give her a break?

Update: This afternoon, New Yorker editor David Remnick issued a statement via Twitter. Here’s what he had to say:


Lena Dunham is not an anti-Semite: “Girls” star targeted yet again after controversial New Yorker piece – Salon.com.