Cisco Telepresence Camera (photo: Talk 100/flickr)

The new status symbol for vapid talking heads who parrot the conventional Beltway political wisdom, or conservative talking points in the case of Faux News, is the in-home television studio. Equipped with a Cisco Telepresence camera or HD monster, as well as potent totems and signifiers to appear on-screen behind the personality, the in-home studio has replaced the Town Car that used to carry talking heads to the news network’s nearest uplink. Now, the Important Opiners who’ve rushed to the corner of his/her own study from a child’s flute-o-phone concert or soccer match, donned suitable apparel, and gotten a powder-dusting from a minor child in violation of television union rules and child labor laws can share their Important Opinion with viewers who can’t get through their news day without knowing what their Favorite thinks!

It’s such a status symbol that the Washington Post Style section article leads with a ‘green’ justification for bestowing home studios on cable network favorites:

Of the many categories of waste in American politics, consider the resources that go into cable-TV live shots. Thousands of barrels of fossil fuel are expended hauling a person to where the cameras are or a camera to where the person is.

More silly than the supposed environmental gains by keeping pet pundits at home and out of Town Cars racing to their appointments is the list of who’s featured in the article. Now, I’ve no way of knowing if this is the total universe of Preferred Pundits in whom networks have invested by placing a studio at their homes. But it sure is a list of pedants and establishmentarians who’ve been favored with this perk:

James Carville and Mary Matalin are examples of an apparently better way. A new cable-news luxury allows them to comment, live on CNN, whether the topic is exploding oil rigs or imploding candidacies, without ever leaving the splendor of their New Orleans homestead.

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Some pundits have a camera peering into a Harvard office (CNN’s David Gergen) or Philly radio studio (MSNBC’s Michael Smerconish).

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Cisco newcomer Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, recently welcomed a CNN-paid crew to his house in Westchester County, N.Y.

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MSNBC just provided a camera to Steve Schmidt, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, and Schmidt’s daughter is also learning how to apply the powder.

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From the banks of Lake Lucille, Palin can digitally commune with Greta Van Susteren or Sean Hannity or any other Fox News host who books her.

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A few decades ago, Cokie Roberts allowed NPR to install a micro­phone in her husband’s study, just off their bedroom. Many a Monday since then, she has gone on air at 6:15 a.m., often still in her nightgown, broadcasting her view from Bethesda.

(Offhand, do the unionized makeup artists know they’ve been supplanted by scab minor children in pundits’ homes armed with a powder puff to take the shine off Chromedome?)

Consider that list and wonder not as these pampered establishment denizens appear more and more often on America’s cable chatfests: the networks have made the investment with these folks, so why send a Town Car for a more divergent view? Cokie Roberts described the Golden Handcuffs, and America’s Golden Earmuffs, best:

And as with all technology, there’s that status thrill of getting a V.I.P. perk before anyone else. After all, who cares about getting comforts-of-home niceties at the office, when you can have the actual comforts of home? But when there’s a give, there’s always a little take.

“The minus is,” Roberts explained, “they can always find you.”

Another minus? We can always hear and see you!