The Best Of The Dish Today

Apr 22 2014 @ 9:00pm

I spent the day monitoring the latest p.r. push by the Human Rights Campaign (i.e. the Becker book on the marriage equality movement), and absorbing the debates among the earliest Christians about how exactly they came to believe that Jesus was God. The fruits of Dishness, I guess.

On the Obama front, has anyone noticed that the latest surveys from Gallup and Rasmussen show his approval rating climbing back up quite sharply?

On the ex-sherpas front, I can’t help bit think of this classic Onion piece on the douchebags who want to climb Everest or sail around the world alone.

On the HRC front, another one of them pops up on HuffPo to defend their record on marriage. Steve Fisher insists that HRC was front and center under Elizabeth Birch in the 1990s. How?

To build a movement of Americans on the side of LGBT equality, she led the creation of a slick logo built on a carefully calibrated hrcfashion.jpgmessage about equality … With the logo as a calling card, HRC built a membership base of hundreds of thousands who have been called upon to lobby, take action and help move the bar in their home states, neighborhoods and workplaces … She and her team created the Corporate Equality Index, a mammoth project that annually graded (and thus coaxed) corporations on their LGBT employment policies.


Look: I’m not denying that these were decent initiatives and helped us all in the long run. But logos aren’t arguments. And on marriage, in the early and critical years, HRC said close to nothing and refused repeatedly to do anything. When some of us begged them to spend money on Hawaii’s marriage breakthrough, we were told to go raise the money ourselves. Pity all the donors had been told by HRC not to bother. For that matter, try and find a speech given by Birch in those years making the case for marriage equality. Try and find a clip of an HRC official on television making that case. Good luck.

As for Fisher, take a look at this NYT story from December 2004, reporting that HRC had decided even at that late date to drop marriage equality as an issue. And who in that piece is quoted backing this surrender? Steve Fisher!

Some gay rights activists, including the leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, said they believed that aggressively pursuing same-sex marriage only played into the hand of Republicans and religious conservatives, who skillfully used the issue this fall to energize their voters. Steven Fisher, the campaign’s communications director, said the group’s emphasis in coming months would be on communicating the struggles of gays in their families, workplaces, churches and synagogues … He also said the group would adopt a selective and incremental approach to winning rights rather than reaching for the gold ring of marriage right away.

You can spin but you can’t hide.

Today, we covered American oligarchy and Iraqi “democracy.” We took a look at responses – here and here – to Thomas Piketty’s new book on inequality. And we wondered what Chris Christie has been smoking lately. The Window View contest was a real, if romantic, teaser.

There’s still time to join this month’s book club - just download the e-book version of How Jesus Became God here. This reader did:

I just want to point that even before the book discussion begins, you are already doing what Ehrman specifically warns us not to do; you are treating the book as if it addresses the question of whether or not Jesus was (or is) ACTUALLY God.

Over and over and over – until I was ready to throw up my hands and scream “YES, I get the point already” – Ehrman emphasizes that he is investigating what early Christians believed about Jesus. He repeats endlessly that historians cannot make judgments about theological truth, only about historical investigation.

And as others have pointed out, the ideas in the book are not controversial among biblical scholars – except among those like the authors of the “response” book, who begin their investigation with the conclusion already determined.

I know, I know. But stay tuned for a Christian response (mine) to the book  – and then our debate.

A post update you might have missed: a reader in tiny Latta, SC gives his perspective on the firing of the town’s lesbian police chief. You can leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish.

17 more of you became subscribers today. Join them here.

And see you in the morning.

Trying To Close Up Shop

Apr 22 2014 @ 8:35pm

A bipartisan effort by Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lois Capps is trying to limit photoshopping in ads like the one above. DL Cade is skeptical:

These measures are being taken because, as the bill points out in its introduction, “The dissemination of unrealistic body standards has been linked to eating disorders … [and] has a particularly destructive health effect on children and teenagers.” Noble intentions, and we still don’t know how they will set about regulating Photoshop use in ads, but all of this begs a couple of questions. First, does Congress realize how prevalent Photoshopping really is in advertisements? And second, is there anybody on Capitol Hill that is truly qualified to set rules that regulate such use?

Katy Waldman is more critical:

In a world of limited time and resources, Photoshop seems like a strange drum for the Eating Disorders Coalition to beat. Diseases like anorexia and bulimia are largely understood now to be biological in origin, although cultural conditioning can definitely trip certain wires. There’s a lot of research linking media exposure to dieting and body dissatisfaction, but only a handful of studies directly implicate ads in eating disorders (and even those caution that the offending images likely triggered pre-existing drives). Given that the specific genetic causes of eating disorders remain so mysterious, and the treatment so hit-or-miss, lobbying money might be better spent on research than on making sure the thin, beautiful women who appear in magazines are naturally thin and beautiful.

Becker On Fresh Air

Apr 22 2014 @ 7:58pm

To Terry Gross’ immense credit, she had Jo Becker back on her radio show to defend the ridiculous premise and framing of her book, namely that the revolution of marriage equality began in 2008 with an epiphany by Chad Griffin. Gross tries repeatedly to get Becker to withdraw her idea that the “revolution” “began” in 2008. But Becker won’t. Money quote:

GROSS: So getting back to that first paragraph in your book, if you had it to do over again, would you have written this is how a revolution starts?

BECKER: I would.

GROSS: Because?

BECKER: Because I believe that this was a revolutionary step that they took, and not to say that it hadn’t been considered, but they were the ones that took the step.

But the case that actually made the difference federally was the Windsor case, argued by Roberta Kaplan, and not the case Becker has to hype because of her sources. And challenging Prop 8 was not a revolutionary step. It was risky, sure. But taking the issue to the federal courts had been part of the strategy for the previous twenty-five years. The idea that this was first dreamed up by Chad Griffin – after all of us had been clueless and cowardly beforehand – is absurd as well as insulting. She has no clue what she’s talking about.

Becker also describes 2008 as “a really, you know, dark moment in the gay rights movement.” Seriously?

Read On

Face Of The Day

Apr 22 2014 @ 7:37pm

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Tour Australia And New Zealand - Day 16

An Aboriginal woman performs for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, at the National Indigenous Training Academy in Ayers Rock, Australia on April 22, 2014. The royal couple are on a three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand, the first official trip overseas with their son, Prince George of Cambridge. By Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

In a review of Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Decisive Years and Kafka: The Years of Insight, Cynthia Ozick rails against the term:

With its echo of “grotesque,” the ubiquitous term “Kafkaesque” has long been frozen into permanence, both in the dictionary and in the most commonplace vernacular. Comparative and allusive, it has by now escaped the body of work it is meant to evoke. To say that such-and-such a circumstance is “Kafkaesque” is to admit to the denigration of an imagination that has burned a hole in what we take to be modernism – even in what we take to be the ordinary fabric and intent of language. Nothing is like “The Hunger Artist.” Nothing is like “The Metamorphosis.”

Whoever utters “Kafkaesque” has neither fathomed nor intuited nor felt the impress of Kafka’s devisings. If there is one imperative that ought to accompany any biographical or critical approach, it is that Kafka is not to be mistaken for the Kafkaesque. The Kafkaesque is what Kafka presumably “stands for” – an unearned, even a usurping, explication. And from the very start, serious criticism has been overrun by the Kafkaesque, the lock that portends the key: homoeroticism for one maven, the father-son entanglement for another, the theological uncanny for yet another. Or else it is the slippery commotion of time; or of messianism; or of Thanatos as deliverance. The Kafkaesque, finally, is reductiveness posing as revelation.’

Sherpas On Strike

Apr 22 2014 @ 6:45pm


After threatening a work stoppage over unfair pay and grueling work conditions, the Nepalese mountaineers who clear the way for recreational climbers on Mount Everest have voted to leave the mountain and cancel the 2014 climbing season entirely out of respect for the 16 sherpas who died in an avalanche last Friday – the worst climbing accident in Everest’s history. Svati Kirsten Narula looks into how much more dangerous the mountain is for sherpas than for the climbers they serve:

There has always been a divide between Sherpas and Western summit-seekers, but these tensions have increased in recent years as Everest has become more accessible to unskilled-but-well-heeled climbers. The world’s tallest mountain has become much safer for the average Joe than ever before. For the people who live in its shadow, though, and must return to it again and again to earn a living, the risks haven’t declined in the same way. …

Western expedition leaders are acutely aware of this sobering reality [that being a Sherpa is more dangerous than being an American soldier during the Iraqi insurgency], and many have established funds for the families of fallen Sherpas. It’s difficult, though, to assuage the guilt of leaving the mountain with fewer people than you brought there. Melissa Arnot, the Eddie Bauer-sponsored American mountaineer who has summitted Everest five times, had a Sherpa die on an expedition of hers in 2010. Reflecting on this in 2013, she told Schaffer: “My passion created an industry that fosters people dying. It supports humans as disposable, as usable, and that is the hardest thing to come to terms with.”

Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disasterelaborates on what makes the job so dangerous:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Apr 22 2014 @ 6:15pm


Bamako, Mali, 7.30 am. “I hope the bird doesn’t violate the ‘no animals’ rule. He stayed there forever.”

Over The Hill At 24, Ctd

Apr 22 2014 @ 5:44pm

A reader doesn’t quite buy the notion that cognitive performance peaks in one’s mid-20s:

Yeah, bite me. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was 40 when he published his most popular and most seminal work, One Hundred Years of Solitude. You hear that? One hundred years. What, are the next 76 going to be in spent in obsolescence? His characters lived a hell of a lot longer than 24, and they were lively and smart to the very end. In the real world – Newton, Dickens, Springsteen. Sure, you can say “But they’re geniuses,” but billions of regular folk get sharper and better with age.

These kinds of studies just reinforce the concept of life as a rat race – a minute-by-minute, day-by-day competition to win at the game of life instead of lose. That’s not healthy. Life is amazing, as Carl Sagan said. It’s not a battle. There are no winners and losers. What makes true happiness? I would posit an answer of living a content life, free from anxiety and worry – including the worries about studies that say you’re over the hill when you’re still young enough to be carded at restaurants.

A 27-year-old reader:

I’ve got to question the reasoning behind seeing a lag in “seeing and doing” between a 24-year-old and a 39-year-old. Can we not chalk that up to a penchant for slightly more forethought and planning as we age? No doubt there is a bit of pruning that goes on following adolescence. (I know because the Dish told me so.) Brains shrink. Synapses slow. In the context of judgment calls, I would argue the ability to plot strategy – chess vs. checkers – increases over time.

Mostly though, I know I’m on the downhill slide. Don’t rub it in.

But maybe he isn’t; another reader points to a recent article in New Scientist in which computational linguists Michael Ramscar and Harald Baayen argue that “our brains work better with age”:

Read On

A Latta Discrimination

Apr 22 2014 @ 5:14pm

A reader writes:

I know you’re not the biggest fan of pushes for laws such as ENDA, but thought I would share this with you anyway. Crystal Moore has been with the police force of sleepy Latta, South Carolina for more than 20 years, capping her career serving as the town’s police chief. She’s an out lesbian. On April 15, she was fired by the mayor, her pristine service record being marred by the SEVEN disciplinary letters he handed to her that very afternoon. After refusing to sign without having an attorney check them out, he dismissed her. These letters were the result of the police chief investigating a recent hire of the mayor’s for whom the mayor did not do his due diligence, and who was supposedly driving a city vehicle with a suspended license. Now, all of a sudden he’s not answering questions regarding the firing but was recorded in conversation with a fellow council member saying the following (audio here):

I would much rather have.. and I will say this to anybody’s face… somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.

Read On

A Blow To Race-Based Admissions

Apr 22 2014 @ 4:44pm

This morning the Supreme Court issued a 6-2 ruling (pdf) upholding a Michigan referendum banning affirmative action in college admissions, reversing a 6th Circuit decision:

Justice Kennedy penned the plurality opinion for the court, joined by Justices Alito and Chief Justice Roberts, arguing that neither the Constitution nor previous court precedent gives the courts the authority to overturn a voter-approved prohibition on race-conscious admissions policies. Justices Breyer, Scalia, and Thomas filed concurring opinions, while Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion. Justice Ginsburg joined in the dissent, while Justice Kagan was recused from the case and did not vote.

“It is important to note what this case is not about,” Kennedy wrote in his opinion. “It is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.” The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action had challenged the state ban on constitutional grounds, arguing that the voter ban violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Nora Caplan-Bricker explains the likely repercussions of the ruling:

[I]ts most immediate impact will be in the six other states that, like Michigan, have passed ballot initiatives banning affirmative action: Arizona, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Apr 22 2014 @ 4:20pm

A downpour of delicious food:

The account Jo Becker gives of the Obama administration’s response to the issue of marriage equality is one of the few parts of the book that has not been demolished since it was published. Since her account did not square with my own memory, I asked David Plouffe to address some of the claims in the book and he was eager to do so. Plouffe ran Obama’s 2008 campaign and during the time in question was Senior Adviser To The President.

Below is a Q and A I had with Plouffe today on the events Becker purports to report. My questions are in italics. Plouffe’s answers follow:

AS:  Becker’s book argues that the president’s position seemed stalled on marriage equality in 2011 and 2012 and that he likely did not intend to evolve any further on marriage before his second term. Do you agree?

DP: Absolutely not. The President made a decision that he was ready to “fully evolve” and announce his support for marriage equality. As he put it, “If I get asked if I was still a state legislator in Illinois would I vote to recognize same sex marriages as New York State did, the answer will be yes.” So the only question was when and how to announce in 2012 he would be the first President to support marriage equality, not whether to.

AS: What were the major and minor influences that caused the president to embrace marriage equality when he did?

DP: His evolution was not contrived as some suggest, but real. He spoke powerfully to some of his reasons in the Robin Roberts interview, but also the decision not to defend DOMA was instrumental, as well as the increasing number of states that were recognizing marriage. However, his family and friends and the discussions they had were likely the single greatest influence. His ultimate support for marriage equality was arrived at in a way that while public, was not too dissimilar to the journey many of us in the country took. Also, the President believed his support for marriage equality could change the opinions of some in his electoral coalition – witness the striking change in support in the African-American community which was illustrated in the Maryland ballot initiative results in 2012.

Given the Democratic convention and the Debates, where this issue was sure to come up, and that he had personally decided to support marriage equality, the plan was to make sure the announcement was made by June.

AS: Did Biden force your hand on substance? Or just the timing? What was the president’s personal response to Biden’s public statement?

DP: Not even the timing really. We were planning to do so within a week or two. So it might have sped it up by a matter of days, if that. He was very calm about it. He understood that this would be a historic moment and years from now, if not months (which turned out to be the case for most) all that mattered would be the words he spoke, not the process to get there. I will confess to being exercised because this was a historic moment and I wanted that to be the focus, not why we were doing it or how the timing was forced. He was right, I was wrong.

AS: David Brooks argues today that judging from Becker’s book, this was a decision dominated by elite political strategists. Is that your recollection?

DP: Not all all.

Read On

So says Nikil Saval, author of the new book, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace:

The original designs for the cubicle came out of a very 1960s moment; the intention was to free office office-space-cubicle-oworkers from uninspired, even domineering workplace settings. The designer, Robert Propst, was a kind of manically inventive figure – really brilliant in many ways – with no particular training in design, but an intense interest in how people work. His original concept was called the Action Office, and it was meant to be a flexible three-walled structure that could accommodate a variety of ways of working – his idea was that people were increasingly performing “knowledge work” (a new term in the 1960s), and that they needed autonomy and independence in order to perform it. In other words, the original cubicle was about liberation.

His concept proved enormously successful, and resulted in several copies – chiefly because businesses found it incredibly useful for cramming people into smaller spaces, while upper-level management still enjoyed windowed offices on the perimeter of the building. In that sense, the design was intended to increase the power of ordinary workers; in practice it came to do something quite different, or at least that’s how it felt to many people.

Juliet Lapidos calls the book an “impressive debut”:

Read On

Chris Christie explains:

For the people who are enamored with the idea with the income, the tax revenue from [legalized marijuana], go to Colorado and see if you want to live there. See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that.

What you have here is not an argument, but a prejudice. Why is a head-shop somehow bad for a neighborhood? Why is tourism for casinos fine but for smoking a joint such a terrible thing? Why is legal pot worse for New Jersey’s reputation than the popularity of Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey?

And why, pray, is it a better quality of life to have less personal freedom rather than more?

Nathaniel Frank is the latest writer, journalist and activist to be appalled by the shoddy, shallow, dishonest journalism of Jo Becker. You will learn more about the history of the marriage equality movement in his single piece than you will in the entire 400-plus pages of Becker’s p.r. material for Chad Griffin. How Becker’s book came to be written, let alone published, remains “a major mystery that some intrepid reporter may one day unravel.”

Following the suicide of a 22-year-old activist who founded a movement “to uplift and empower” African-American women, Josie Pickens considers the unique challenges they face when confronting depression:

It is appropriate that [Karyn] Washington’s suicide is stimulating conversation around race and mental illness. … I honestly believe we’re so accustomed to delivering the strong Black woman speech to ourselves and everyone else that we lose our ability to connect to our humanness, and thus our frailty. We become afraid to admit that we are hurting and struggling, because we fear that we will be seen as weak. And we can’t be weak. We’ve spent our lives witnessing our mothers and their mothers be strong and sturdy, like rocks. We want to be rocks. Somehow realizing I wasn’t a rock (and that I had honestly never been one), I fought my way out of bed and onto my therapist’s couch. I became exhausted with carrying all of the masks and the capes. And I knew if I didn’t get help quickly, I wasn’t going to survive.

The long-running thread “Suicide Leaves Behind Nothing” is here.

Here’s a good six-minute primer on Piketty’s new book and the progressive praise for it:

The full transcript of Krugman’s interview is here. Ryan Avent, also a fan of the book, fisks Clive Crook’s critique of Capital in the Twenty-First Century. His broader view:

Why do we care about inequality? We care about it because we are human, and we can’t help but be concerned about matters of fairness, however much economists might wish that were not the case. But what Mr Crook seems not to understand is that we also care about it because we care about living standards.

Mr Piketty’s book does an able job showing that high levels and concentrations of capital have not been a necessary or sufficient condition for rapid growth in the past, though they have often sowed the seeds for political backlash that is detrimental to long-run growth. His argument is that the living standards of many people around the rich world are now unnecessarily low, because of the nonchalance with which elites have approached distributional issues over the past generation, and that continued heedlessness of this sort will ultimately undermine the growth-boosting institutions of capitalism.

Dean Baker shares Piketty’s perspective on inequality but suggests that his global wealth tax isn’t necessary:

In Piketty’s terminology cutting back these rents means reducing r, the rate of return on wealth. Fortunately, we have a full bag of policy tools to accomplish precisely this task.

Read On

Exposing Becker’s PR Campaign

Apr 22 2014 @ 1:22pm

You might imagine that the Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times journalist would have attempted journalism in writing what is billed as a “definitive account” of the marriage equality movement. And if you mean by Meet the Press - Season 67journalism, being a stenographer and hagiographer for a handful of interested parties intent on spinning themselves as the new Rosa Parks, you’d be correct. No one doubts the validity and accuracy of the breathless accounts of Chad Griffin, Ted Olson and David Boies that Griffin, Olson and Boies gave directly and exclusively  to Becker.

But is it journalism never to seek any alternative views, or objective facts or actual history outside the bubble of access journalism? Is it journalism to make grand and sweeping statements about gay history, thereby revealing that you know nothing about it?

Now of course I am an interested party here, having been part of the movement for twenty-five years, but who, like so many 0thers, got wiped from history in Becker’s ridiculous book. So take my own biases into account here as well. But here’s the reasoned view of Chris Geidner, the best journalist on gay politics in the country, who has meticulously followed and covered the marriage equality movement for years. If you read one article on this book, read Geidner’s. His bottom line:

The small universe of people who constitute Becker’s sourcing for the book — and her apparent unwillingness to explore alternative reasons for or views of the developments those sources discuss — make the book a dangerous draft of history.

Geidner points out that the book is best understood as “a piece in [a] public relations campaign, orchestrated by Griffin, who is now the head of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group.” It is designed to rewrite history to make an organization that was long a frustrating, infuriating laggard in the movement to be the indispensable force for real change. All the manifold facts, events, lawsuits, demonstrations, arguments, articles and books that get in the way of this PR campaign are removed, deleted, or simply ignored.

Case in point: the early, epic scene in Becker’s book in which a lone voice for equality, Dustin Lance Black’s, speaks truth to power. Geidner notes:

“If there was applause, Black didn’t remember any,” Becker writes. “Instead, he recalled an ocean of pursed lips and crossed arms, and that he was literally trembling as he walked off stage. … Tim Gill … denounced Black outright, telling the crowd he was naive and misguided.” Video from the event provided to BuzzFeed, though, shows that the speech was interrupted with applause five times. At the end, at least some members of the audience gave Black a standing ovation, the video shows.

The first words after Black’s speech were from the moderator:

Thank you. Righteous, real energy! That’s what we need! Urgency. Thank you.

If there was video of the event and you were a reporter and had a key passage describing that event, wouldn’t you want to check the video to see if your source’s account is true?

Read On


A reader exclaims:

Oh beautiful Málaga!


San Francisco! Or very close to it. That haze the last few days has been gross.


San Diego! (or “whale vagina”, in the native German)

Another sees Italy:

Taking a shot here, though more out of sentiment than reason. Red clay tiles and pine trees say Mediterreanean. Satellites look to be pointing northwest. Some older buildings, possibly Austro-Hungarian architecture. Statue of … Garibaldi (?) So, since I lived there for a few lovely months some 20 years ago while researching James Joyce, I’m going to say it’s Trieste, or maybe Maggia, which is just to the south. “Yes I said yes and he loved Trieste yes but he’s got it all wrong yes…”

Another thinks it’s Naples. Or maybe Marseille? Another thinks he spots a flag:

Ok, European-style buildings, warships, oil tankers, a narrow strip of water and (what looks like) the flag of the Russian navy. All signs point to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, Russia. Except I can’t find those buildings! So I guess I’m wrong … Ah well, hopefully I’m at least closer than the wife, who guesses Gibraltar.

Another sides with the wife:

I have spent hours looking at this, and there’s one thing Im sure of: this picture was not taken from Gibraltar.  Im going with Gibraltar anyway, because I really want that to be the answer.  Gibraltar is awesome.  It has wild apes.  Nowhere else in Europe has wild apes.

I have attached a picture of one of the apes.  Also, I may be going slowly insane staring at this window.

Gibraltar was actually the most popular incorrect guess:

First thought was San Diego – military base, semi-tropical vegetation – but after spending a few minutes looking at maps of San Diego, that doesn’t seem quite right – though it really could be almost any port in southern California.  How about Sevastopol? (It’s certainly in the news – but I’ve never been there and again, the maps don’t seem right).  Gibraltar seems a plausible fit – so I’ll go with that.  The magazine display in the foreground looks like a high-end hotel spread.  So if I had the patience and skill (I actually have some patience, but very little skill), I’d try and find a hotel window looking west over the harbor towards Algeciras.

Another looks east:

My guess is that this picture was taken somewhere along the Bosphorus in Turkey. I took a cruise down the straights a few years ago, and the cargo ships, naval vessels, river hillsides, pine needles, and satellite dishes on those balconies brought me back. Not going to get a more specific guess out of me though – about 5 minutes of searching for “Turkish naval vessles” and “hotels overlooking the Bosphorus” left me discouraged. Who are these people who can search for hours?

Two readers even guessed the Middle East, but this reader gets us on the right continent: “Cartagena, Colombia”. Another, like the majority of our contestants this week, nails the right country and city:

Holy crap – I think I finally got one.

Read On

Television Gets Its Day In Court

Apr 22 2014 @ 12:45pm

Today, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments for American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc. Amy Howe puts the case in plain English:

For just eight dollars a month, you get the ability to start watching a TV program – say, the Super Bowl – live on your iPhone while you are out of your house.  When you get home, you can pick up seamlessly where you left off on your television or desktop computer.  Or, you can record the entire program on a remote DVR assigned to you and watch the whole thing later on.

What could possibly be wrong with Aereo’s business model?  For ABC and the rest of the broadcast television industry, pretty much everything.  In their view, Aereo is blatantly violating federal copyright laws (and possibly jeopardizing the entire broadcast industry) by streaming live TV over the Internet without paying the networks for the right to do so.  Aereo counters that everything it does is completely legal:  the TV programs that it makes available are already broadcast for free over the public airwaves; Aereo is just making it easier and more efficient for its subscribers to watch those programs.

David Carr believes that the case could dramatically change TV:

I spent time in Hollywood last week chatting with various executives, and Aereo was described variously as “a fencing operation peddling stolen goods” and “thieves masquerading as innovators.” That’s about as friendly as it got: Aereo may be small — Mr. Diller called it “a pimple” — but it represents something mighty important. If Aereo is allowed to store and transmit signals without payment, the television industry will be profoundly reconfigured.

David Post fears that the case will modify our understanding of copyright:

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