Wandering Eye: Governments attack e-cigs, of course Ted Cruz likes country, and more

The governments of the U.S. and California now have advertising campaigns to scare people away from using electronic cigarettes, even though science continues to confirm the vapor released by the battery-powered nicotine-delivery devices contain such a tiny fraction of the harmful constituents found in tobacco smoke that it is no more damaging than ambient air. The governments' public-relations efforts are in line with those of Big Tobacco, which has started, voluntarily, to put warning labels on e-cig products that make them sound as dangerous as traditional cigarettes, perhaps prompting users to just stay with the cancer sticks. Meanwhile, it appears many consumers are shutting out the noise, doing their own research into what the science is showing, and using e-cigs to quit smoking (like I did, nearly a year ago), while hardly any e-cig users are taking up smoking. A new large-scale U.S. survey, which mirrors the results of a Canadian public opinion poll in December, finds that "nearly one-quarter of those who regularly used e-cigaretttes after regularly using traditional cigarettes no longer regularly use traditional cigarettes," while "less than 2 percent of current regular e-cigarette users report transitioning to current regular use of traditional cigarettes." (Van Smith)


The Uber battle continued in Annapolis this week with a hearing on Sen. Bill Ferguson's bill to revamp regulations for the so-called "ridesharing" industry. "For most of Tuesday afternoon in an Annapolis hearing room, members of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee heard testimony, asked questions, told Uber supporters waving signs to sit down and even admonished the company over their lobbying tactics," Technical.ly Baltimore reports. Ridesharing is the new taxi service, in which drivers are dispatched via phone apps instead of central offices. The companies behind this innovation have insisted that they are not bound by traditional taxi regulations, which set fares, limit the number of cars and mandate various safety inspections and full service to poor areas. The Maryland Public Service Commission has been working on rules to accommodate the app cabs for two years. The bill—whose fate was unclear after the hearing—would short-circuit that effort. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Earlier this week, Ted Cruz talked music and told CBS This Morning that his tastes "changed on 9/11," from classic rock to country because he "didn't like how rock music responded" to 9/11, whereas country music's response "resonated." Presumably Cruz is referring to the propagandistic turn mainstream country took after 9/11. As you'd expect, liberal pundits had a field day with his statement, getting to condescend to both Cruz and popular country music all at once, and it's been typically, uselessly snarky. A piece over at Salon, "Ted Cruz's 'country music' drivel: What's really behind his musical conversion," by Heather Digby Parton, is actually worth calling out for sheer stupidity and laziness. Namely, it lazily aligns Cruz with the current bro country trend (aggressively hetero-pop country dudes like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line) and then reads like the liberal version of the sort of things the right (and to be fair, some of the hyper-white left) pens about rap music: The songs are degrading to women, they're all about partying, and the concerts are places where violence takes place, citing a Keith Urban show where "nearly 50 people were treated for injuries and alcohol poisoning and police made numerous arrests for a variety of infractions one of which was the crime of rape."

It's fucking stupid and just like the similarly scaremongering anti-rap pieces, is written by someone who has no sincere investment in the genre they've decided they're going to tell you all about. Even weirder though, Parton's Salon piece refuses to acknowledge country's jingoistic turn, or at least, doesn't understand how it was quite different than the perfunctory concerts and tribute songs rock and pop did to "remember." Realistically, no other genre was as overtly jingoistic as country was in the years following 9/11 with songs like Alan Jackson's 'Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),' Darryl Worley's 'Have You Forgotten,' and most aggressively, Toby Keith's 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue' ("You'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./ Because we'll put a boot in your ass/ It's the American way"). What's also missing from these snarky liberals dabbling in pop country to mock it is that it wasn't just the songs explicitly about 9/11 that presumably grabbed Cruz and many others, but the way that post-9/11 Bush rhetoric permeated country. Stuff like Montgomery Gentry's 'You Do Your Thing,' complete with a video that defended gas-guzzling SUVs and mocked liberals who pay for fancy food but look down at men who hunt, wasn't a song about 9/11 at all really, but it reflected the a cobbled together Christian-Libertarianism that would eventually birth the Tea Party. What we're saying is it makes a lot of sense that Cruz loved this stuff and it's strange so many have doubted his sincerity. (Brandon Soderberg)

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