when the status quo frustrates.

“The risk is that it may resemble defeat.”

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

lowered expectations

From the AP, a truly baffling attempt at analyzing the Mess O’ Potamia: Only Iraqis can win the war. With an intriguing headline like that, I had to read it. I was brimming with questions: Is the AP’s military writer promoting a U.S. defeat? Which Iraqis, exactly, are capable of winning (and who are we supposed to be rooting for, again)? And how will we tell when the war’s over?

Predictably, the article neither raises nor answers any of those questions, but it’s a fine piece of creatively muddled thinking.

The harder President Bush has pushed to win in Iraq, the closer he has come to losing.

The question no longer is whether the U.S. military can fully stabilize Iraq. It cannot.

A promising enough start, if Burns didn’t go on to suggest, in the very next paragraph, that there was some sort of brief shining moment sandwiched between the toppling of Saddam and the beginning of sectarian fighting where the U.S. could have “won.” Rubbish, of course, as a passing knowledge of Iraqi politics tells us that Ba’athist dictatorship was the main factor in keeping the various factions from warring in the first place.

Now only the Iraqis can save Iraq.

They need the U.S. military’s help, no doubt. But the Bush administration has made no secret of the fact that the U.S. troop buildup in Baghdad is simply buying time for the Iraqis to sort out their differences, create a government of national unity and show they can defend themselves.

So it is not whether the U.S. can win the war. It is whether the Iraqis can, which is in great doubt.

Again, we don’t really know who “the Iraqis” are.

(more…)

Where I End and Gossip Begins

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

More mash-uppery. Thanks for all the downloads thus far, folks! Hope this one suits you, as well. Kind of an unusual Radiohead song to use, but I think it fits Missy’s stylings.


Where I End and Gossip Begins


[And yeah, in case you can't tell, there is a theme developing -- I'm working up a whole album of Radiohead samples under quality hip-hop. Unsurprisingly, it'll be called HopHead.]

The Roberts Court making list of all the ways ordinary American citizens can go fuck themselves

Friday, June 29th, 2007

First, they came for the wimmins: partial birth abortion bans are upheld.

Next, the uppity negros: Roberts actually writes “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” in a decision against even the barest hint of affirmative action. We all see where that one is going.

And with the two biggies out of the way, there is finally the leisure to screw everyone over.

Striking down an antitrust rule nearly a century old, the Supreme Court ruled today that it is no longer automatically unlawful for manufacturers and distributors to agree on setting minimum retail prices.

…The decision was the latest in a string of opinions this term to overturn Supreme Court precedents. It marked the latest in a line of Supreme Court victories for big businesses and antitrust defendants. And it was the latest of the court’s antitrust decisions in recent years to reject rules that had prohibited various marketing agreements between companies.

What? Are you really suprised? You guys didn’t really think that there was enough privilege for all the straight white men, did you? But don’t fret too much. The higher prices you’ll be paying will go towards the further enrichment of the top 2-3% of the population, who will then be able to plenty afford to keep those women, brown people and foriegners in their place. And isn’t that what the Bush mandate was all about? Mission accomplished!

Somebody put on “Eye of the Tiger” — there’s a fight brewing!

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

File under “shocking, the opposite of:” the President rejected Congress’s subpoena for documents related to the firing of federal prosecutors.

According to our sources at the Capitol, Bush’s response contained only the following homage to PAB:

(more…)

Do you feel fat? How about now?

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Mysterious

Slim-Fast’s new celebrity spokesperson is tall, slender Rachel Hunter. She’s never tried the diet drink herself, but she’s darn tootin’ sure it’s a good thing: “I haven’t started taking Slim-Fast,” she says, “My message is more that I agree with what they’re saying.”*

Not that meal replacements are ever a good idea, but even Newsweek seems to find the “Find Your Slim” campaign a bit odd.

Press materials urge consumers to log onto iVillage.com to join Hunter and enter a 10-week “Find Your Slim” before-and-after photo-and-essay contest. Press materials say Hunter “will incorporate Slim-Fast into her life as an approach to reaching her personal weight-loss goal and will encourage consumers to do the same by setting a simple, doable weight-loss goal of between 10 and 20 pounds.” A Slim-Fast spokesman attempted to clarify, saying: “We do anticipate that Rachel will, when she needs to, use Slim-Fast.” But he added: “She is not obliged to use Slim-Fast. … It’s less about the product and more about the campaign.”

The campaign, of course, boils down to “you can be any weight you want—as long as it’s skinny.” It’s couched in the usual language of self-esteem and empowerment (“being an individual and being a woman and finding your weight”) and health (despite Hunter’s admission that she skips breakfast).

But the message is clear: Even tall, skinny celebrities need diets. (Though, as always, the male gaze must be one’s primary consideration; Hunter demurs that she gets “horsey” when she drops below 140 pounds, and it’s “not attractive.”) Just because you basically fit the American standard template of beauty—just because you might have made a career out of it—is no excuse to get complacent. You might gain a pound.

* Which is that she’s fat, apparently.

When the ship is going down, you might as well sue the captain who ran us into the iceberg

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Have you noticed all those terrible storms that we’ve started to encounter as a result of warmer oceans? And all those rising sea levels that threaten the existence of major cities around the globe? And just how generally fucked we all may be as a result of global warming?

Well, law firms have, too. They’re expecting that as more lives are ruined the way they were ruined in New Orleans, and as more information comes out pointing to Big Energy’s full awareness of the dangers presented by their CO2 emissions, there’ll be some beaucoup-bucks lawsuitin’ ahead.

Check out the haps in Dallas:

Top Dallas firm Thompson & Knight started a dedicated climate-change practice June 4 with 26 lawyers. Monday, Dallas’ Vinson & Elkins will unveil its 41-lawyer group, headed by a former senior counsel for the World Bank.

The law firms – and a dozen others nationwide – are getting ready for a predicted explosion of climate-related work tied to government regulation, lawsuits against energy companies and new markets that will trade the rights to emit carbon.

As friend and reader Sigmund pointed out to me, the trail of money is the best barometer for reality in America. And along with the formation earlier this year of The United States Climate Action Partnership, which includes companies like DuPont, GE, BP, and others banding together to request emissions regulations, the creation of massive legal departments concentrating solely on climate change litigation and regulation should send a loud and clear signal to the last few remaining holdouts (like, say, the head of NASA) that global warming is real and impacting our lives in significant ways.

So the next time Grandpa tells you that global warming crap is crap, just wait for him to fart and then hit him with a class-action lawsuit. You, your mom, and your Uncle Albert have suffered enough of his harmful CO2 emissions, and Thompson & Knight and Vincent & Elkins are here to help. Just make sure you enlist their help before Grandpa does, though, because these firms are more than happy to play both sides:

By their geography, the Dallas firms have a number of energy companies as clients. But they also expect to represent plaintiffs who’ve been harmed by global warming and pollution.

Mmmm. Them’s good fees! They’ll spend nicely when Thompson’s or Elkins’ descendants are purchasing black market water credits in the Iowa desert.

[And, no, I'm not opposed to suing the pants off any companies at fault, but it also might be a little late for it to help much...]

But if we told you, it wouldn’t be a secret

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

How exciting! The CIA has released 700 pages of “responses from CIA employees to a 1973 directive from Director of Central Intelligence James Schlesinger asking them to report activities they thought might be inconsistent with the Agency’s charter.” Thanks to the FOIA Electronic Reading Room, you can view the declassified documents from the comfort of your home or office.

Yep, here they are.

Unfortunately, this only documents the CIA’s illegal and immoral activities up to 1973—good luck finding out what they’re up to now. And the online archive is a pinnacle of bad design: The documents themselves are scanned in, and there’s no way to search them for something specific. If you want to find the bit about Castro and the Exploding Conch Shell of Death, you have to scroll through pages and pages about Russian spies and wiretapping hippies. (Auguste has one nice excerpt here. Who knew ice-making machines could be used for such nasty purposes?)

And, oh yeah. Even if you are patient, and you’re not on dial-up, and you’re really determined to know the truth, you’ll still probably be disappointed.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

They blanked out all the good bits.

Spoilsports.

MSN spoon feeds discussion on reproductive choice to a hopefully ready mainstream audience

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I was a little suprised to find an “Abortion vs Adoption” story set on MSN in the same place they usually reserve for the hard-hitting “How to tell if he (she)’s into you” investigative reports. With MSN being what it is, I was suprised by how much they failed to disappoint me. While the selected stories are careful to use women who ‘deserve’ their choices (a woman violently raped by a stranger and a married woman whose fetus is diagnoised with a crippling spinal disorder) they actually show hints of balance.

I was especially impressed by the abortion story. In it, the author spends half the time describing her abortion in graphic detail and the other half discussing the ramifications of the Supreme Court partial birth abortion ruling and its impact on women like her. She also describes the story of the harsh judgement faced by another woman who had chosen to induce labor and let her doomed fetus die of natural causes when circumstances turned it into a de facto abortion. The message: like it or not, this could happen to you.

It’s no feminist evaluation of bodily autonomy by a long shot, but it was shockingly not horrible and certainly unexpected. I hope that it’s recieved well and we can start a real dialouge about reproductive rights with the teeming masses of people who find abortion squicky but would want the option if they needed it.

Fake Plastic Changes

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Recently I made a few mash-ups that helped me learn my way around the form. Now I’ve created one that makes me feel genuinely proud.



Fake Plastic Changes



As always, feedback is encouraged. Enjoy!

ABC shoots video of 2 people at same location, nearly implodes

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Apparently, ABC/Disney and Fox have more in common than their fanboy crush on our heart-throb prezzie. Based upon recent on-air snafus, both networks also seem to have a bad case of the “they all look the same”s.

Shortly after Fox, ahem, accidentally played footage of John Conyers while discussing the William Jefferson indictment, ABC showed tape of former DC mayor Marion Barry during their coverage of the $54 million dry cleaning lawsuit brought by Roy L. Pearson.

In what I’m told was an apology, ABC spokeswoman Natalie Raabe offered the following explanation for their actions:

The mistake happened because both men happened to be in a Washington court that day and ABC got video of both, Raabe said.

Well, that explains everything. How on Earth can we ask a major national network to be adequately prepared for the astronomically rare situation of having video of multiple people from the same location? That’s like expecting Congress to check the President or Americans to use mass transit.

The article also notes that ABC anchor Charles Gibson tried to reach Marion Barry personally for an apology. That’s awful nice of Gibbie, but I guess I’m wondering why Roy Pearson’s getting the snub. Are we certain he doesn’t mind being confused with Marion Barry? More importantly, are we certain he doesn’t mind being confused with another person simply because they’re both black and were at the same location in the same day?

And yeah, just in case you’re a confused troll, it is about race. Otherwise, we’d be hearing anchors saying things like, “here’s a photo of Paris Hilton, who — I’m sorry, it looks like we’ve got a graphic of Madonna up, and we — no, I apologize, that looks more like Ann Coulter, which — and now they’re telling me that this is in fact Barbara Bush. Yes, that’s Barbara Bush, who was also at a hotel this week. Our sincere apologies to the former first lady.” For some reason, that really doesn’t happen to white people on air, does it?

For the record, this is Pearson:

And this pic of Marion Barry is the closest likeness to the above photo of Pearson I could find:

Both men are balding. Both men are black. Other than that, if you have trouble telling them apart, either your eyes aren’t good enough for media work or you need help.

Friday tuneage: After the Revolution Edition

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

For your Friday amusement, I come bearing some classic songs rendered in true WTF style.

Tang Dynasty, a Chinese metal band, covers “The Internationale”:

A lovely arrangement of anarchist anthem “A Las Barricadas”:

And to top it off, an inexplicable reggae cover of the Soviet anthem:

Well, son, you tried and you failed. The lesson is, never try.

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

The New York Times ran a sympathetic article on “freegans” – hardcore anti-consumerist dumpster divers. Lots of pictures of fun young people scavanging perfectly good shit in the dumpsters by NYU after the affluent students toss things (like working iPods and television sets) rather than move them at the end of the semester. Their message is pretty straightfoward:

Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.

“Our society throws out so much shit that I don’t see why I should have to pay for anything” is a pretty bold statement, but these guys can back it up:

“This is how I got my futon, chair, table, shelves. And I’m not talking about beat-up stuff. I mean it’s not Design Within Reach, but it’s nice.”

They have some really impressive stories (including several people who switched from upper-middle class life (read: spending) styles to a freegan life) and a leader of sorts who sets the bar for political purity:

“If a person chooses to live an ethical lifestyle it’s not enough to be vegan, they need to absent themselves from capitalism,” said Adam Weissman, 29, who started freegan.info four years ago and is the movement’s de facto spokesman.

Of course, the question is, how much can you absent yourself from capitalism, and like patriarchy, so sorry but you can’t. These guys kind of get that:

Not buying any new manufactured products while living in the United States is, of course, basically impossible, as is avoiding everything that requires natural resources to create, distribute or operate. Don’t freegans use gas or electricity to cook, for example, or commercial products to brush their teeth?

“Once in a while I may buy a box of baking soda for toothpaste,” Mr. Weissman said. “And, sure, getting that to market has negative impacts, like everything.” But, he said, parsing the point, a box of baking soda is more ecologically friendly than a tube of toothpaste, because its cardboard container is biodegradable.

These contradictions and others have led some people to suggest that freegans are hypocritical, making use of the capitalist system even as they rail against it. And even Mr. Weissman, who is often doctrinaire about the movement, acknowledges when pushed that absolute freeganism is an impossible dream.

Mr. Torres said: “I think there’s a conscious recognition among freegans that you can never live perfectly.” He added that generally freegans “try to reduce the impact.”

So of course cue the accusations of hypocrisy! Damn those dirty hippies! With their long hair and expired canned goods and reluctant, carefully considered participation in an inescapable system! If Lord Wiessman of the Manor can brush his teeth with baking soda then I don’t see why I can’t throw away entire rooms worth of furniture just because I’m sick of “champaigne” and wish to have a “sand” theme.

Of course the reduction of this philosophy to a battle of extremes is just a ploy for critics to assuage their guilt over ignoring the fact that these guys have a really good point, and if Madaline Nelson can quit her corporate job, move into a less luxurious house and start working for free just because she’s freegan, than maybe you can at least sort out stuff to give to the local goodwill before throwing it out or work to reduce your own trash production. Most of us do a modified form of this already simply because it’s more economical to check the classifieds for good deals before buying new, or searching the thrift store before heading to Target. The reason we don’t do more of this is because living the freegan lifestyle, even the modified lazy-ass freegan lifestyle, is fucking time consuming even for those fortunate enough to live where wealthy people throw away usable stuff. Out here in the boondocks, a lifestyle like that would consume your every waking moment. It could take months to furnish a single room. These people are dedicated.

I like this criticism the best: “These contradictions and others have led some people to suggest that freegans are hypocritical, making use of the capitalist system even as they rail against it.”

Well, duh. Even Madaline Nelson is going to have to pay the taxes on that house she owns, and wear clothing if she doesn’t want to waste all her activist time defending herself against yet another indecent exposure charge. A lot of these freegans either have to produce something for the machine or have to live with someone else who is willing to do that dirty work – freegans, like feminists, will often find themselves having to compromise to get along. The only way to really absent yourself from the capitalist system is to squat illegally on land with enough room to do some sustinence farming and make sure it’s in a warm area because you’ll be wearing fig leaves.

And don’t forget it’s completely lame to subvert a system like capitalism by getting something for nothing; could they have dreamed of a less appropriate form of anti-capitalist protest? Like, they can only protest against consumer waste because they live in a place where the many consumers waste a lot so they should thank the wasteful people for giving them something to protest by not complaining about all that waste they benefit from. If people weren’t so wasteful, then the freegans wouldn’t be necessary, which means they should just shut up. So as you can see, the whole idea of a ‘freegan’ is silly. QED.