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12.17 At last, divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts

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12.15 World leaders are trying to make a climate deal in Poland — despite Trump

12.15 John Kerry: Forget Trump. We All Must Act on Climate Change. [Might he be a candidate for President in 2020?]

12.15 Black lung disease is still killing miners. The coal industry doesn't want to hear it [Trump loves Coal]

12.14 You, Too, Are In Denial of Climate Change

12.14 After 30 Years Studying Climate, Scientist Declares: "I've Never Been as Worried as I Am Today"

12.13 'Whoever You Are, Wherever You Are, We Need You': 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike

12.12 In Early Holiday 'Gift to Polluters,' Trump Guts Protections for 60 Percent of Nation's Streams, Wetlands, and Waterways

12.12 An Indication of What's Coming': Melting at North and South Poles Worse Than Previously Thought [4:47 video]

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12.18 'Not the Kind of Moral Leadership We Need': Critics Pounce After Schumer Refuses to Back Medicare for All

12.18 Chris Matthews Predicts Trump Could Resign ‘In The Coming Weeks’ [1:55 video]

12.17 Pennsylvania meltdown triggers Republican alarms

12.17 Floridians Voted to Restore Ex-Felons’ Voting Rights. But the Legislature Has a History of Ignoring Voters.

12.17 Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out

12.17 SNL cold open imagines a world where Trump isn’t president, angering the real-life Trump [8:55 video]

12.15 What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan? [”The Saudi check is in the mail.”]

12.15 Scott Walker signs bills to limit powers of incoming Wisconsin Democrats [Immoral people cheat, etc.]

12.15 Paying Congress’s interns a living wage is a good idea. Paying professional staff one is even better.

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12.18 Hungary’s prime minister stole the country’s democracy. Now Hungarians are rising up.

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12.17 The Guardian view on COP24: while climate talks continue, there is hope

12.15 How to do good better [Republicans may not understand this story]

12.15 Denmark gives new fathers paid leave. Why do so few take it? [Audio clip]

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  Print view: Fairness and the Bristol Stomp
COMMENTARY:

Fairness and the Bristol Stomp

by Walter Brasch
Saturday, 27 November 2010
In the U.S. election system, the best candidate often doesn't win. The recent "Dancing with the Stars" fiasco mirrored this unfair reality.

Almost all children hear a set of conflicting statements from their parents, relatives, and friends. They're told if they study hard, if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they want. It's the "American Dream." But they're also told that life isn't always fair.

Looking for internships or jobs, America's children learn that no matter how much they studied or worked, it was the boss's niece or a boss's friend's son who was hired. Sometimes, the reason for rejection could be as simple as the boss thought the best candidate was intellectually superior or that the applicant had curly black hair and he liked only blondes.

Later, on another job, while the boss bought yet another vacation home, the worker was one of dozens laid off, their jobs going to Mexico, China, or Pakistan.

It's not fair that reality TV "stars" and pro athletes make 10 to more than 100 times the salaries of social workers and firefighters. But Americans seldom protest.

The owner of a mid-sized carpentry shop loses a contract to a large corporation, not because of a lack of quality work but because the corporation cut deals with suppliers. It's not fair; it's just reality.

One person driving 65 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone is stopped by police; another, doing 80, speeds along. It's not fair. But it happens.

It probably wasn't fair that Bristol Palin, 20-year-old unwed mother with no discernible job skills, was selected over thousands of other celebrities for ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars." It had nothing to do with fairness or her ability; it had everything to do with a reality that Palin's presence on DWTS would bring in ratings, and ratings bring in advertising income. The first show brought in 21 million viewers who watched 30-second commercials from companies that paid almost $190,000 each, among the highest on all television—broadcast or cable.

To assure that Palin had a chance to stay on the show for at least a couple of weeks, the producers gave her a special advantage—her professional dance partner was Mark Ballas, DWTS champion twice in the previous 10 seasons.

Even with one of the best professional ballroom dancers as her partner and coach, Palin was still at the bottom of the judges' ranking four times, and near the bottom most of the other times. According to the scoring system, each of three judges give each contestant pair—a celebrity and a professional—a score of 1 to 10. A perfect score is 30. But, viewers can vote by phone, website, or by texting. Their vote is worth half the total score. Neither Sarah nor Bristol Palin made any special requests of the viewers that we know about. They didn't have to. Hundreds of conservative blogs and talk show hosts did it for them, urging their flocks to vote. Many may have even scammed the system. At least one viewer told the Washington Post he not only had used fake emails to vote hundreds of times, he also told others how to do it.

Willing accomplices and accessories, of course, were the producers who made sure that Mama Palin was seen on several shows—sometimes with speaking roles, sometimes with as many as nine cutaway shots. The audience did as they were told. For nine weeks, Bristol Palin, one of the weakest dancers in the show's 11-season history, defeated celebrity teams who had near-perfect and perfect scores.

The week before the finals, it finally seemed destined that Bristol Palin would be off the show, having again placed at the bottom of the judges' scores. But, it was Brandy and professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who had done near-perfect routines, who were voted off. Shocked, the audience began booing. It didn't matter. Palin was now one of three celebrity finalists.

The first of a two-part final the following week drew an audience of 23.7 million, highest for any entertainment program this season. However, this time, it was Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, who had finished at the top of the judges' lists several times, who finally won. Second were actor Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer; Palin and Ballas finished third.

It makes little difference if numerous celebrities weren't selected for "Dancing With the Stars" because the producers gave the slot to the less talented Bristol Palin. It doesn't even matter that more talented celebrities were eliminated from the show because a cult of the home audience voted for Bristol Palin. In the American election system, the best candidate, for any of a thousand reasons, including blatant lies and distortion by the opposition, often doesn't win an election.

It doesn't seem fair. It's just the way it is.


Dr. Brasch's latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture, a witty look at the mass media and American culture. Dr. Brasch is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and multimedia writer/producer.



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This story was published on November 27, 2010.
 

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