by YES! Weekly staff

Boredom as a method of political disenfranchisement

It’s turned out to be a sleepy summer for what was billed as the most important election of our lifetime. The GOP all the way down from Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain to the Guilford County Republicans hammer away with unceasing calls for domestic oil drilling, while the Democrats twist in the wind trying to find a tractable position. The Obama campaign pours money and organizing infrastructure into North Carolina, while the pollsters and Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza periodically announce new metrics for how competitive the state is. Veteran political consultants Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn banter about how this or that development bodes for the ultimate showdown in November at their Talking About Politics blog, and The News & Observer’s Under the Dome blog tries to pull it all together. Despite this and other publications’ efforts to make the election a part of everyday peoples’ conversation, the election remains an insider’s game. — JG

Racial politics

One of the stranger aspects of the current political scene is former Jesse Helms operative Carter Wrenn blogging with former Jim Hunt sideman Gary Pearce. Considering that Helms masterfully manipulated white racial prejudice in the last century (“He’s one of us” and “white hands”), Wrenn might know a little something of which he speaks on the matter, but it’s hard to tell where his heart lies after all these years. Here’s Wrenn blogging on Aug. 11 about the implications of the McCain campaign’s “celebrity” ads attacking Obama: “The other race card is more subtle. It can be as simple as a candidate having a campaign slogan like, ‘He’s one of us.’ A lot of times that’s not racist at all. But other times, subtly, it is. Because, just naturally, when folks see even a friend who has a strange accent or a different skin color or round eyes, they think, ‘He’s not like me.’ And then, without even thinking, a shadow of doubt flashes across their synapses about what that difference means, and sets off little alarm bells. Chalk it up to original sin, but that’s the way it is. When a steel worker in Ohio looks at Barack Obama, then looks at John McCain, one looks like his grandfather and one doesn’t.” — JG

Our industry in crisis

These are strange and interesting times for the print journalism industry, with rampant layoffs, online competition, legions of blogging fact-checkers and now this: a new website called that is basically the magazine publishing equivalent of Napster. The site, which launched July 29, encourages readers to scan their copies of popular magazines like People, The Economist and Esquire, along with lesser titles like Ctrl-PDF, and then download them to the site for others to share and read. “It’s pretty hard to see how it’s anything other than a straightforward set of copyright violations,” Jeffrey Cunard, an intellectual property lawyer with Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in Washington DC, told the Associated Press. For its part, Mygazines. com has registered its business on the Caribbean island nation of Anguilla, putting it outside the jurisdiction of US copyright law. According to the registration, the company’s owner’s name is “John Smith.” But I guess you shouldn’t expect something too original from this crew. As of press time, is still up, though US magazine publishers, who have seen declines in both single-issue sales and advertising revenue, are mustering their forces for what should be one hell of a lawsuit. — BC