Thursday, August 31, 2006

hurricane harris

US Representative and Senate candidate Katherine Harris is under fire again, this time for her baldly stated views on politics and faith, which she shared with Witness, a Florida Baptist publication. The transcript of the interview is an excellent resource on the cumulative effect of a Christian-right aproach to american politics, evidence of how in moving from one hot-button issue to another-- gay marriage, Terri Schiavo, stem cell research-- the long-term implications for governance become ratcheted up, how advocating for a US theocracy has become a normalized part of the political debate.

Harris after all is a sitting member of Congress, a woman who has served in government for many years, who attended Harvard and who was speaking for the record. Yet the interview reads like a madras manifesto, where secular is equated with evil, where only the faithful are qualified to serve the public, where individual citizens would submit to a moral and religious code outlined and enforced by the government-- because "nonChristian citizens don't know any better"-- and where lawmakers who don't support such views are "legislating sin" and so must be replaced.

There is plenty of conviction on display, and plenty of confusion, too. God chooses our leaders, she says, yet she's also encouraging the faithful to get them out of office. There is also an endtimes-style preoccupation with "taking the country back," as if Gore and then Kerry and all the defeated Congressional Democrats of the past six or more years have been running the country, going to war, appointing Supreme Court justices.

A bonus of the transcript is Harris's sidelong, hesitant, semiconscious admission of her role in the "stolen" presidential election of 2000. Witness asks her "Why should Florida Baptists care about this primary election?" To which she says:

"… Florida is the forerunner state. What happens in Florida sets the trend for what happens nationally. And with this election, if Bill Nelson wins, it’s going to be a very frightening proposition in 2008, in the presidential elections, because whoever wins Florida will win the presidency. And [Bill Nelson] will be in a position to largely influence…"

Ha! She should know!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2008 democrat ticket?


Mos Def interviews Al Gore and posts it on MySpace. The men, the medium, the topic-- it's a fantastic two minutes, the entertainment-politics continuum just shrinking to nothing. Best quote goes to Mos: "I'm a big fan of second acts."

Monday, August 28, 2006

That Wacky Conan

The truth is the Emmy's are boring. So it makes sense that the hottest news coming out of last night's show is Conan O'Brian's opening segment in which the presenter is shown flying aboard a plane that starts to violently shake and then crash. (Watch it here.) This sketch might have been funny if a real plane hadn't crashed and killed 49 people in Kentucky the same morning.

LA Weekly blogger Nikki Finke wrote:

"The very idea that tonight's Emmy showcast on NBC was so scripted-in-stone that neither the network nor host Conan O'Brien could change a word of the broadcast opener, or decide not to show it altogether and substitute another skit crafted at the last minute, is absurd. After all, isn't that the reason Hollywood pays writers for these awards shows? C'mon, couldn't one executive or producer, much less Conan or the television academy that puts on the Emmys, pipe up and say, "Uh, maybe starting with a plane crash comedy skit on the same day there was an actual plane crash might be in poor taste? Let's rewrite." But, noooooooooo."

NBC affiliate general manager at the Lexington, Kentucky, says he was "stunned" by the skit. “We wish somebody had thought this through. It’s somewhere between ignorance and incompetence.”

Ain't that the problem with giant corporations (like NBC, which is owned by General Electric)? They just so often leave you wondering WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Other commentators thought it distastful that Conan introduced Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert by saying that "these two presenters have done for fake news what the Fox News Channel has done for fake news." In a post titled, "Conan Slams Fox News at the Emmys," Greg Tinti writes: "I usually wouldn't make a big deal out of something like this, but today's just the wrong day for the gratuitous slam of Fox News as 'fake news.' You know, because two of its journalists were just freed from the very real experience of being kidnapped while on the job and then held hostage for 13 days."

If you find these stories banal, and if you don't mind your news completely made up, here's what I think is the best coverage of the Conan controversy.

Friday, August 25, 2006

got my ban on...

You know the song: that repetitive, annoying, senseless ("got my Vans on but they look like sneakers" -- Vans are sneakers, fool!), and catchy ass hell song "Vans" by teenage Bay Area rap group the Pack has been banned by MTV. Despite its popularity, MTV refuses to play the video because they consider the video to be a four-minute ad for Vans.

Because Nelly's "Air Force Ones" wasn't promoting Nikes? Because Chingy's "Holiday Inn" wasn't free promotion for the hotel company? Because Busta Rhymes' "Pass the Courvousier" wasn't promoting liquor? Because Run DMC's "My Adidas" isn't a classic hip hop record? Or is it because MTV doesn't want to give free promotion if they're not getting any ad dollars in return? I've never seen a Vans commercial on TV, let alone on MTV.

Not that the video is anything special, just a bunch of getting hyphy and skateing with a cameo by Too $hort (though hip hop's co-opting of skate culture is interesting), but here's the video...

the water


Slate magazine today posted a collection of Katrina memoirs written by four students from Walker Charter High School in New Orleans. The teenagers and their families rode out the storm but were evacuated later after the floodwaters overtook their neighborhoods. Here's a sample from Vickey Brown, 17:

I ran all the way home. I was yelling to my grandma, "We going to die, the water is flowing up the street and it looks like it is getting higher." I began to cry.

"Well what can I do? Won't you stop crying? It's going to be OK," my grandma replied. I was scared for my life.

Then my mom stormed in the door.

"Get only two outfits and some shoes," my mama said in a scared voice.

"Mama, I don't want to leave my grandma," I said, crying.

"She can come too, I don't want to leave her here either."

So I went to my grandma's room to ask her would she go with me. I got on my knees besides her and asked, "Grandma, come with us please, I don't want to leave you here without me."

"Girl, just go with ya mama, you hear me, now go on."

My mom tried to convince her to go, too, but my grandma wouldn't budge. Deep in my mind I was wondering what would happen to my grandma if I were to leave her. It hurt me to my heart to leave her, but I was too scared to stay.

As we passed the bridge on Claiborne and Earhart Boulevard we saw a dead man lying at the foot of the curb with a white sheet over his body. I looked at him with amazement because I had never seen a dead body before.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

prognosis

Andrew Young, in offending Koreans and Jews and Arabs in one fell swoop this week, demonstrated that African-Americans, even those who have dedicated their entire life to working for expanded civil rights and inter-ethnic dialogue, are not immune to the "Turned Old, Tired, Bigoted and Cranky" syndrome known to affect white folk over 60 in vast numbers.

Symptoms reportedly accelerate if the subject increases his or her association with the "filthy rich." Seriously addled thinking is a warning sign loved ones are advised to monitor closely-- things like publicly advocating for WalMart to move into black neighborhoods in order to ease exploitation, for instance.

Experts say the subject often doesn't know what's happening to him or her. Speaking in public becomes difficult. They mean to say something like: "Increasing the number of black-owned groceries in predominantly poor black neighborhoods would go a long way to ease deep-rooted frustration and ethnic tensions there." But what comes out is something ranting and digressive like: "Those are the people who have been overcharging us-- selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and retired to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs."

Treatments focus on getting the subject out into the world as much as possible and steering them clear of golf courses and corporate honchos.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Anybody in There?

The recently foiled terrorist attacks and the escalating violence in Iraq have given a cringing world another blast of the president’s vapid sound-bite foreign relations analysis that sounds more like the comments of a jilted lover than the leader of the world’s most powerful nation. Comments like “They hate us because they hate our freedom” and “they don’t appreciate what we are doing for them” may make the world cringe but on the bright side it also provides fodder for The Daily Show. See last night’s segment inspired by a recent New York Times piece that reported that President Bush "expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices that the United States has made in Iraq."

And real life can be even funnier than make believe when it comes to W. (even if it is funny scary). Today Bob Harris posts a cleaned up photo of Bush’s press conference notes that further confirm that there is not a lot going on in there.

mexico way

The presidential election recount-standoff and protest-crackdown in Mexico continues and has spread to Chiapas, where votes cast for the governor's seat are now also being recounted.

Election protestors have thronged public spaces. Riot police have been shooting people with water and real bullets. There are videos of political personalities involved taking bribes, fleeing to Cuba, stuffing piles of US greenbacks into bags, going on gambling sprees in Vegas. Leftist presidential candidate and ongoing election contestor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Mexico's Al Gore for now) is sleeping in a protest tent in Mexico City's main plaza. And it's all been going on since election day, July 2nd.

The rural poor and Mexico City voters cast their ballots for change, a politics high on social and economic justice. The wealthy north and its business leaders voted for liberal trade and low taxation, an economy pinned to the benefits promised by NAFTA and the course pursued by current president Vicente Fox for more than a decade.

Heightening the drama is the fact that where a large part of the rest of the world has been turning to the right, Latin America has been moving left. What will happen in Mexico?

Unfortunately, you won't find a whole lot of answers in the US English-language press... Blogs are best, including the two embedded above. Other good links, anybody?

Monday, August 21, 2006

9/11: hollywood vs. real life




In World Trade Center, one of the movies based on 9/11, PFC Dave Thomas is a hero who, after hearing news of the terrorist attack, takes it upon himself to strap into his military gear and head to ground zero to help out, starting a search and rescue mission with Sgt. Dave Kearnes. The movie tells his heroic tale with a slight inaccuracy.

In the movie, PFC Dave Thomas, is white. In reality, Sgt. James L. Thomas, upon whose story the character is based, is black. I'm sorry, did I say slight? I meant someone screwed up big time.


How the producers failed to get a physical description or consult him in the making of the film is beyond me. After all, one of the key elements in any physical description is skin color. Maybe a heroic tale about American unity and patriotism just looks better in white? Had this been a story about a fugtivie, I'm sure they would have gotten the ethnicity right.

American Apparel Apparently Assholes



I don't have beef with American Apparel's ads. You can call me a perv if you want to but that amateur porny dirty roach motel bed series looks kinda hot, and at least it's better than fake-boobied airbrushed models, and it's no worse than other ads.

The problem with AA, it seems, is their violations of workers' rights and the fact that company founder Dov Charney is a pervert who has had several sexual harrassment charges filed against him. (Since when is holding meetings in your boxers inappropriate?)

KnowMore.org, a corporation watch web service based on wiki software founded by Bernard Dolan and Sage Francis providing folks with social responsibility profiles on corporations, has just run an in-depth feature about American Apparel. Turns out, the folks at AA saw their negative rating on KnowMore.org and challenged Bernard Dolan to come to their LA headquarters and talk to employees. So he did. And this is the result.

marion jones diaries

Marion Jones may well be a doper, but let's face it, she's the right kind of doper. Floyd Landis, by contrast seems sad-- broken and crumpled and, well, just not camera-ready. Jones, though, is so damn charismatic and pretty, her story so full of triumph and tragedy that in america there will always be a silver lining in the form of a profit-making TV movie or a reality show or a tell-all book or all of the above: C'mon VH1: "The Superfast Surreal Life of Marion Jones." Get on that!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where's That Money Going!

This week an open source journalism project was lanched to investigate congressional earmarks--line-items inserted into a bill to direct funds to a specific project or recipient without any public hearing or review. There are currently 1,867 secret spending earmarks worth more than $500 million in the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriation bill now before Congress. The Sunlight Foundation along with Citizens Against Government Waste, Porkbusters.com, Human Events Online, Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, and the Examiner Newspapers mean to do something about it! They have have pulled together a database of the earmarks, complete with an interactive map, and they are asking you to help make sense of the information. An Examiner editorial explains how:

"Check out the earmarks for your state and then call your congressman and ask if he or she sponsored any of your state’s earmarks. If the answer is yes, ask why the congressman’s name isn’t on the earmark. If you recognize the institution designated to receive the earmarked tax dollars, call them and ask them what they intend to do with your money.

Then email us at info@examiner.com with the subject line “Earmarks” and tell us what you found out. The Examiner will be asking more questions about who got the earmarks and why, so your information could be very important. You will be part of an army of citizen journalists determined to shine some much-needed light on spending decisions made behind closed doors by powerful Members of Congress."

It's rare to see Democrats and Republicans, professional and amateur investigators pooling resources. Find out more here.

Watada won't go!

WireTap Magazine posted a piece today on Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, who is facing indictment and imprisonment for refusing to deploy to Iraq. He faces a pretrial hearing this week.

Watada is the first military officer to face charges for opposing the war and the government seems to be pursuing his prosecution to deter further objection from within the ranks of the Armed Forces. Watada faces a maximum sentence of seven-and-a-half years.

But the military lawyers might have a hard time winning this case. Watada has been straightforward and reasonable throughout. He is no radical, patsy or opportunist. As the Wiretap story makes plain, his motivations fall in line with the highest ideals of the US military code and the laws of war that govern soldier conduct throughout the world, laws that have been strengthend since being disregarded over the last decade or so in places like Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan, where soldiers who "just followed orders" are now having to live with what they did while dodging investigators from the Hague International War Crimes Tribunal. Watada is right to not want to join that class of soldier.

Here's some of the wiretap story that speaks to Watada's motivations:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Lt. Watada was moved by a profound sense of duty and patriotism and enlisted in the Army right out of college in 2003. He received no monetary assistance from the military to pay for his education. His first two years in the Army were spent in a tour of duty in South Korea.

"It is a preconception that we have when we join the military that people just blindly follow orders," Lt. Watada said in a phone interview. "But if you can't distinguish between lawful and unlawful orders, the Abu Ghraibs will continue to exist."

Since January, Lt. Watada has twice submitted a formal resignation application. But... the Army maintained he had not fulfilled his obligation. He then offered to serve in Afghanistan, a war he considers unambiguously tied to Al Qaida, but was turned down. He also said he was willing to face a nonjudicial hearing, resign his commission, and accept a less-than-honorable discharge. But this, too, was denied.

Lt. Watada did not apply for conscientious-objector status because he does not oppose all wars, just the war in Iraq.

"I think the people at the top could have pushed for the resignation if they wanted to," he said. "They have kind of expressed surprise that the military did not want to get rid of me quietly."

By comparison, the Administration's actions with regard to US constitutional law, the US military honor code, and the international rules of combat constitute a record of lawyerly shucking and jiving and craven retreat from principle that any schoolyard child could tell you isn't the best approach to winning lasting security.

Watada's case may force more of these issues into the spotlight and spur increased mainstream media debate on Iraq and on the needlessly reckless conduct of the Bush Administration's War on Terror more generally.

Here's a video of Watada making his case.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fake News and the Feds

The Washington Post reported today that the FCC has FINALLY launched an investigation into broadcasters who air unattributed video news releases as straight news. The investigation was prompted by Center for Media and Democracy study released in April that found that 77 stations had aired without proper labeling video news releases (or what the center calls “fake news”) produced by General Motors, Master Foods, Pfizer, and Panasonic among other companies. Lucky for the White House, fake news-makers are off the hook. Last year a New York Times report revealed that the White House paid to produce public relations spots for its initiatives and gave them to television stations, many of which aired them as news broadcasts. You can read all about fake news and other horrifying PR-age scandals at the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch.

Monday, August 14, 2006

we are utterly alone

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday that President Bush read The Stranger by Albert Camus while on a ten-day vacation at the ranch. Was it the low popularity rating and the upcoming election season that turned the President to perhaps the defining work of existential alienation?

Breitbart noted that Bush was quoting Camus in Europe a year and a half ago and says it's good to hear he finally got around to reading the man's most influential book.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

fauxtography



Last week, Charles Johnson from the Little Green Footballs blog site, exposed a Reuters photo depicting clouds of smoke over buildings in Beirut as being altered. The photo, taken by photographer Adnan Hajj, who worked for Reuters since the early 90s, used the Photoshop clone tool to reproduce smoke, making the image seem more intense than it was in an attempt to influence public opinion. Reuters pulled the photos and fired Hajj.

Somehow, the image managed to pass through the hands of photo editors, yet was called into question by a one-man blogging operation. And the mainstream media look down on bloggers? Funny how bloggers are the ones revealing the real truth.

Bloggers have also called into question photos of the Qana attack with inconsistent time stamps from different photographers. Click for the full story.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

primaries semi-update

The bad news is that outspoken and embattled Representative Cynthia McKinney lost her primary race in Georgia. The good news is that so did Bush patsy Joe Lieberman, who will be replaced on the November ballot in Connecticut by tough-talking liberal Ned Lamont. More good news, from this side of the political spectrum, is that Lamont won by running full-on against Lieberman's support of the war in Iraq, which means Lieberman's loss seems like a preview of coming attractions…

save 1-800-SUICIDE

Help Save 1.800.SUICIDE

1-800-SUICIDE, a suicide prevention hotline which two millions teenagers have called over the last eight years, among which many were part of the LGBT community, is in danger of losing its funding from the government as the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), a federal agency, plans to operate its own suicide prevention hotline. Why? Because the government wants access to confidential information about those in crisis, information which 1-800-SUICIDE refuses to turn over. As a result, the government refuses to provide the hotline program with funding.

If funding is cut, and the program folds, the youth will lose a valuable resource. This article from the Daily Kos breaks down the implications it can have on the LGBT community.

Want to help? Visit www.save1800suicide.org.

Monday, August 07, 2006

american blackout

Georgia Democrat, black congresswoman and outspoken critic of the Bush administration and the War on Terror Cynthia McKinney is facing heated Republican-orchestrated opposition in the primaries this week, which is no surprise. The details of the campaign against her are included in a New York Times article/review of American Blackout, the recently released documentary about race-based voting fraud during the Bush years and McKinney's struggle to expose it.

Mark Denning for the Times' All Movie Guide wrote:
Filmmaker Ian Inaba digs into the controversy over the 2000 Florida ballot count and the ways in which race played a hand in the legal decisions that resulted in George W. Bush's appointment as president. Ianba's research leads him to Representative Cynthia McKinney, a congresswoman from Georgia who spearheaded an investigation of the firm that created voter lists for the State of Florida (and had ties to high-ranking Republican figures) and who was also an outspoken opponent of Bush's policies regarding terrorism and the war in Iraq. In the 2002 election, McKinney had reason to believe she had fallen victim to the same corruption she sought to expose when she lost her House of Representatives seat in a hotly contested election. American Blackout received its premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

get thee to youth hostel now!


The recently proposed Abe Lincoln Study Abroad Act seeks to increase the number of American students studying abroad to one million. That's a five-fold increase over 2003-2004, when 191 000 American students studied overseas. Watch out world! Imagine the expanded expat scene in Bali!

In an open letter to the President, Dick Durbin, senator from Illinois and one of the authors of the act, wrote: "The United States is a military and economic superpower, yet it is continually threatened by a serious lack of international competence in an age of growing globalization. Our lack of awareness is now seen as a national liability." ...Um, yeah.

The question is whether the president, who had never left the country before taking office, will take the not-so-subtle suggestion and sign up for a semester abroad after his term as Decider-in-Chief ends. I guess it's never too late for anyone to gain perspective on their country. I propose we revive the Real World by getting a camera crew to follow W around wherever he decides to go. "Yeehaw. How d'yall say terrorist in Greek?"