Monday, October 30, 2006

nbc shuts up the chicks

The Dixie Chicks are apparently too controversial for NBC. The Washington Post reported Friday that NBC refused to run ads for their new movie Shut Up & Sing because "they are disparaging of President Bush."

Larry Lessig points out that this is not the first time NBC has acted in order to protect the image of W. In a piece for Wired Lessig wrote about filmmaker Robert Greenwald's attempt to license a 1 minute clip from Meet the Press (an NBC program), in which the President explained his reasons for going to war. Greenwald's agent was told they could not use the clip because it was “not very flattering to the president.” He used it anyway.

the volunteer state

He's a bible-thumping, anti-gay marriage, privileged son of the south. He's Harold Ford Jr, and he's the key to the midterm elections and a barometer in many ways for the future of the country.

He wants to change course in Iraq, proposing to divide the country, former-Yugoslavia-style, into three roughly independent cantons or states. He attacks Republican positions on homeland security and immigration, but is cozy with Fox News reporters and calls the President a friend. He's not easy to pigeonhole and he won't be easily tarred with the liberal brand.

He's running neck and neck with Republican candidate Bob Corker. Ford is black and Corker is white. The Tennessee voting population is roughly 16 percent black and there have there been no (zero) black senators from the south since Reconstruction. Newsweek estimates Ford needs to win 40 percent of white voters overall in order to prevail on election day.

"He needs white independents and even some white Republicans to win," says Merle Black, a professor of political science at Emory University. While Ford is ahead by small margins in some polls, recent history (including races in Virginia in 1989 and North Carolina in 1990) suggests that white Southerners will sometimes say they're willing to vote for a black man in a poll but act differently in the privacy of the voting booth."

The Republican Party fully aware has aired attack ads that among other things play on fear of black-white sex, as in miscegenation, as in the mixing of the races! Below is the now-infamous ad that features a mock playboy party girl in thrall to the bachelor Congressman.

Maybe we've reached a turning point in all of this. What's it gonna be Tennesee?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

web 2.0, reprise

A few days ago I blogged about how “NBC 2.0” restructuring plans were merely faux 2.0. Well it seems everyone is talking about 2.0 these day: what it is, what it is not, and whether it is becoming the platform for the short-term future of greedy people.

Legal scholar, creative commons founder, and all-around free internet superhero Larry Lessig wrote a post recently about the distinction between real 2.0 and fake 2.0 sites, arguing that YouTube is among the latter. He explains:

"YouTube gives users very cool code to either “embed” content on other sites, or to effectively send links of content to other sites. But never does the system give users an easy way to actually get the content someone else has uploaded. Of course, many have begun building hacks to suck content off of the YouTube site. (On the Mac, I’ve used TubeSock to do that). But this functionality — critical to true sharing — is not built into the YouTube system."

This post drew the ire of Nick Carr, who accuses Lessig of-- what else?-- promoting communist values.

So why does any of this matter, really, in the world beyond academics and tech geeks? Essentially because something good—media tools and practices that enable true exchange and collaboration-- are being co-opted by those who want to maintain the status quo.

If we fight to maintain the possibility of Web 2.0 by supporting net neutrality, copyright reform, and by attempting to distinguish between the fake end the real, we’ll encourage more great progressive interactive tools, the kind Lessig deems 2.0, such as flickr and Blip TV and more DIY projects like open source gaming and software and citizen journalism.

While the verdict is still out on whether people participating in making media are more likely to be active citizens, efforts such as Sunlight's Under the Influence project, which enables web users to investigate how many members of the House of Representatives have their spouses on the campaign payroll, seem to have significant political value.

So don’t believe the hype! Web 2.0 is not about making money, it's about sharing culture.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Salon's video blog offers a gem today: a Republican National Committee ad that ran on CNN this weekend, featuring no candidate positions, no policy info, no attack on rival candidates, nothing but grainy footage of Osama and other men in Arab garb doing "scary" things that look like maybe combat training or parody martial arts moves. Quotes run across the screen in barely legible font about "killing Americans" etc. This is supposed to be just a general message from the Republicans as a party to the voters. Nice. Full of actionable information. Thanks.

Salon editor Kerry Lauerman suggests that maybe the RNC is taking writing cues from the Lamont campaign in Connecticut, which has been caricaturing exactly this sort of Republican (read: Lieberman) shite. Watch the ad and then-- boo, scary-- go vote Republican. Or sign up to fight in Iraq for freedom or whatever the thing is supposed to be making you feel like doing beside pissing your pants laughing or turning it the fu-- off! (Yeah we're cynical, thanks to stuff like this!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Happy "Dress-Like-A-Ho" Day!

There wasn't a parental warning on the site. I didn't have to fork over my credit card number or proof of age. And yet I'm freely paging through images of hundreds of pouty women clad in the most outlandish of role-playing fetish gear. There oughta be a law ... against the superskanky women's costumes at!

From sexy witch to saucy maid, from skanky mail carrier to slutty scarecrow, the Halloween-costume wardrobe for women is now entirely built on a base of thigh-high fishnets and push-up bras.

Oh hells no I'm not wearing that

Even the New York Times is ready to toss out the G-string vampire costume this Oct. 31.

New York Times: Good Girls Go Bad, For A Day
New York Times: Halloween On Heels

I'm hoping this skeezy trend is a sex-positive feminist "Take Back The Dominatrix Outfits!" holler, but it's hard to keep up that optimism while vainly searching for a costume that wouldn't make my parents cry.
“I think it’s damaging because it’s not just one night a year . ... If it’s all the costume manufacturers make, I think it says something bigger about the culture as a whole.” Tanda Word, Texas Tech student, prefers being warmly dressed on Pumpkin Day

It's worse when tacky oversexualization, aka Skankula, starts preying on the kids' costumes:

I wear more than this to the beach

Friday, October 20, 2006

nbc 2.0...or not

NBC announced its decision to save $750 million over the next 2 years by filling the first hour of prime time with low-cost schlock like reality programs and game shows, and by laying off roughly 700 fulltime employees.

NBC plans to reinvest the savings in digital media and other "high-growth areas." NBC News President Steve Capus told The Washington Post, "We've been a TV business that dabbles in digital. Now, we're positioning as a news content-production center going forward that happens to do television."

The Post's front page story by Frank Ahrens on the restructuring plan, dubbed NBC 2.0, dutifully portrays NBC as a forward-thinking company adapting to the digital era. The story leads with this:

"NBC Universal announced sweeping cuts to its television operations yesterday, demonstrating just how far a once-unrivaled network must now go to stay competitive with YouTube, social networks, video games and other upstart media."

But just because NBC wants to earn money in the digital-media environment doesn't mean it's "2.0". Web 2.0 is about the second generation of Internet-based services, such as social networking sites, wikis and blogs that allow people to collaborate and share information in new ways. This sharing and collaboration only works, however, if people are given the right to use content, a rule of the game NBC doesn't seem likely to abide. Earlier this year NBC forced YouTube to pull all NBC material from their site. You can read more on Sean Coon's blog.

The Post piece says NBC is adapting to the new landscape, which must include all forms of delivery that "consumers demand." What NBC doesn't seem to get is that it's not about delivering what the consumers demand but about including them in the process of production by granting them the freedom to borrow, remix, circulate, translate, aggregate and enjoy without legal (like copyright law) and structural (like inflexible programming schedules and editorial gatekeepers) restrictions. It's going to take more than shifting funds around for NBC to go 2.0.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

antiamerican US law

It happened today and now we have to live with it. The disgraceful Slobodan Milosevic-style "Act to Protect My Peoples" has been signed into U.S. law.

What was once a misguided reaction to 9/11-- the elevation of the President to the Decider, the sham trials, the secret kidnapping and torturing, the flaunting of national and international law, ie, all of what should have been put right long ago-- has been made legal, prettified as a Congressional Act complete with calligraphy and provisions and sections and fancy signatures at the bottom. It's a disgrace and it was the lead in exactly one of the nation's top five newspapers.

You can't not look at the pdf of the document-- it's full of creepy Halloween gems, the gory bits of this high-speed traffic accident of a document. To generally sum up: (1) the president or sec of defense decides who has rights and who doesn't; (2) they don't have to tell anyone why or how they made their decisions; (3) and they also decide for people all over the world when and where the Geneva Conventions apply.
‘‘(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of
the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006,
has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant
by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another com-
petent tribunal established under the authority of the
President or the Secretary of Defense.

‘‘(4) CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.—The term ‘classified
information’ means the following:
‘‘(A) Any information or material that has been deter-
mined by the United States Government pursuant to
statute, Executive order, or regulation to require protection
against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national

RIGHTS.—No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by
military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva
Conventions as a source of rights.

You could be an unlawful enemy combatant. And so could I. And there's not a whole lot anyone could do about it. How's that for national security? It's the sort of thing that could bring the Democrats over to the side of the National Rifle Association.

new terrorist breeding ground

The internet has long provoked fear and suspicion. It has been accused of everything from promoting child porn to spurring disaffected youth to violence. And now the internet is being named as the latest enemy in the war on terror.

Today’s Reuters story Web could be terror training
camp: Chertoff
leads with this description of a hyperbolic message from Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff:

“Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills over the Internet and that could present the next major U.S. security threat.”

The article goes on to quote Chertoff as saying:

"They can train themselves over the Internet. They never have to necessarily go to the training camp or speak with anybody else and that diffusion of a combination of hatred and technical skills in things like bomb-making is a dangerous combination," Chertoff said. "Those are the kind of terrorists that we may not be able to detect with spies and satellites."

I guess those are the kind of terrorist that can be found with wiretaps? Chertoff is, of course, a major proponent of wiretapping. Here is a video of him arguing for safety by any and all means at the opening of the Joint Regional Intelligence Center in Norwalk, California, in August.

Nothing like fear mongering to get people to give up their civil liberties.

Disney It Ain't

Poor Pope Benedict XVI. Like Sammy Hagar to David Lee Roth, he's having a hell of a time living up to his superpopular predecessor. Pope John Paul II got his own comic books, a flash Popemobile, and calls for canonization. Pope Benedict got the keys to the Vatican and some poorly-made flaming effigies.

Now, Pope John Paul II even gets his own animated film.
Cartoon tribute to Pope John Paul


Experts are calling this a move toward bolstering Catholicism's dwindling popularity among the young folk, but honestly, a cartoon isn’t going to lure in us Catholics feeling increasingly disillusioned by the church’s rigid policies. We want condoms! We want birth control! And not that shifty rhythm method stuff, the real kind! Women clergy members! Popemobiles!


Monday, October 16, 2006

no freedom for Freedom

The FBI has a new target -- the Filipino Community. There are Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist cells in the Philippines, which isn't news, but the feds are now targeting Filipino activists in northwestern US as supspected terrorists.

On October 4, Freedom Allah Siyam, a Seattle Filipino activist changed his name from Gotcho Cupp in 1998, had feds come to his house and question his mom with a long list of names of suspected terrorists. The wife of political emcee Geologic of the Blue Scholars was also on the list. Siyam isn't even Muslim; he put Allah in his new name because it's Arabic for God and he wanted to "keep God to [his] goals and aspirations."

According to the news report:
In 2005, a family friend told Siyam that he'd been questioned by Homeland Security agents who'd asked whether Siyam was leading troops of youths into the Philippines to convert them into anti-American Muslims.

Read the full article for more FBI fear and paranoia.

the evolution of oppression and the minstrel show

While more than 80 million people have watched some guy who spent too many hours dancing in front of a mirror to Vanilla Ice, there are some neglected gems on YouTube.

I first stumbled on this video on Playahata, and then found the guy who made the video's blogsite. Here's what he had to say about the video:
The concept came to me while driving home one day. It describes the methods of oppression over time leading to todays hijacking of popular culture.

His first video is just as strong (gotta love that Flava Flav):


Torture Taxi is a nonfiction book that pits a cadre of misguided evil people in power against everyday American heroes. It's the story of a tragic reality that reads like a novelized Hollywood script.

The book is called "torture taxi" because that's the unofficial name given to the business jets that fly suspects in the War on Terror to countries like Egypt and Morocco to be tortured by the CIA. The torture taxis are low-tech, as far as military equipment goes, able to elude detection around the world through the camouflage provided by tangled registration papers filled out by phony companies. The planes are the CIA transports of the never-voted-upon Bush Administration program of extraordinary rendition and they were tracked and identified by a group of curious air traffic controllers, so-called "plane spotters," one of whom in the book is seen searching the sky over the Nevada desert with a pair of binoculars and wearing a T-shirt that says "Democracy is not a spectator sport."

"Extraordinary rendition" is a Wonder Bread sandwich of a phrase, lacking any hint of flavor. By design it meant almost nothing to anyone before it became the widely known sinister euphemism it is today. According to authors Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, this is what "extraordinary rendition" meant to falsely accused Binyam Mohammed in 2002, the year the torture taxis took to flight:

"Pakistani police brought him to a military airport in Islamabad. Waiting for him was a group of black-clad, masked Americans. The men stripped Mohammed naked, took photos, inserted something into his anus, and dressed him in a track suit, then blindfolded him, placed earphones on him, shackled him, and put him on a plane. He would be transported to Morocco, Afghanistan, and Guatanamo Bay."

That was four years ago. Mohammed was beaten severely, threatened with death and disfigurement, his back and penis slashed repeatedly with a scalpel. He's still a captive at Guantanamo, awaiting trial, one of the hundreds of residents of Bushland legal limbo.

For Tom Cruise as the Mission Impossible guy, for Harrison Ford in every movie, for Sydney Bristow and Jack Bauer, all of them, all of the movie and TV heroes and spies, the question is always: Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, and which of the two am I?

I suppose it was inevitable that we wrote ouselves as an entire country into this dominant version of the cliched Hollywood movie script. So how's this movie gonna end?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

and they're off…

The 2008 presidential race is already heating up. On Tuesday Senator John McCain responded to his potential rival Senator Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that George W. Bush bears some responsibility for North Korea's nuclear status by turning the blame back on her husband.

According to the Washington Post, in a campaign speech in Michigan McCain said:

"I would remind Senator Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated [with North Korea] was a failure. Every single time the Clinton administration warned the Koreans not to do something—not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor—they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton administration with further talks."

According to Slate’s Fred Kaplan, McCain’s claim is just plain false.

And according to the conservative siteWorld Net Daily, YouTube people were acting in agreement when they limited access to a political ad that mocks the Clinton Administrations policies on North Korea.

Why would McCain draw Clinton into a public brawl? The Washington Post's political blog The Fix sees McCain's goals as twofold: 1) to impress conservative voters and 2) to elevate himself to Clinton's level by creating a situation where they're opponents.

The real question: Are these two just out of the gate or well into the first stretch?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

american twinks

So, hey, why isn't President Pervez "Mushy" Musharraf of Pakistan afraid of the Big Bad Wolf (ie, terrorism generally and al Qaeda in particular)? Is it maybe because he's secretly on the side of Osama in the War on Terror? Or maybe because he's a Muslim living among Muslims in a combative part of the world and so isn't hypnotized by the exotic unknown and has got some perspective?

Spinning off Mushy's recent appearance on the Daily show, Daryn Cambridge explored the idea at his blog:
Two weeks ago, Jon Stewart interviewed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. After discussing the multiple assassination attempts on Musharraf's life by Al Qaeda forces, Stewart said to Musharraf, "You seem to be at the forefront of the [terrorist] threats, yet you seem much calmer about it than we [Americans] are." President Musharraf confidently replied, "Yes, I am." The audience immediately chuckled at the irony of such a statement. The President of Pakistan-- having survived two separate Qaeda attempts on his life and presiding over one of the central national arenas in the global war on terror where Osama bin Laden is perhaps residing and planning future attacks -- is less stressed about the terrorist threat than we are in America. Stewart, equally perturbed by the irony, brought his head out of his hands and took a giant bite out of one of America's most recognizable symbols, a twinkie. At this moment, Stewart and Musharraf, albeit briefly, elucidated the stark contrast between what is actually happening and how we are choosing to react. Our perception of the current global situation can be altered and tinkered with by politicians, who can strongly influence the way our media portrays a story…

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Mega-search engine company Google bought the profitless YouTube for $1.65 million yesterday and this silly thank you video from Chad Hurley and Steve Chen shows the two YouTube twentysomething founders giddy to be millionaires.

Mark Cuban, media critic/owner of the Dallas Mavericks, HDNet and HDTV cable network, claims this is the beginning of the end of YouTube because the deal will spur copyright owners to crackdown on illegal use of their work. He explains more in his post I Still Think Google is Crazy.

On the contrary, others like St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans see the purchase as a victory for consumer generated media and advocates of copyright reform.

Boing Boing points out that what Google and YouTube have in common is censorship.

"Google was slammed by free speech advocates for complying with authorities in China to launch a filtered this January. And YouTube has been the subject of growing criticism for takedown policies, which are at best erratic, and at worst, de facto censorship."

For more, here is NYT Andrew Ross Sorkin's analysis of the deal.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fun and Games in North Korea

The next contestant on "Today's Horrifically Bad National Leaders"-- an unofficial Talk Back game show-- is a return guest and high-fashion fanatic. He has fluffy hair and a penchant for enormous eyeglasses. When traveling, he enjoys feasting on exotic foods, gulping Henessey cognac and "partying with female pleasure teams." At home, he trades in arms and narcotics and counterfeits U.S. currency on a massive scale. He's a handsome holdover from the totalitarian era and a present-day missile launcher and nuclear bomb tester. Please give a warm welcome to Mr Impunity, Kim Jong IL, leader for life of flourishing North Korea!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

bush's job

Jon Stewart is convinced that the reason for Bush's low job approval rating is that Americans just don't understand what his job entails. This montage of Bush spouting sound bites about what he believes his job to be is both disturbing and hilarious.

Friday, October 06, 2006

incestuous amplification

We all know that politics is increasingly driven by public relations campaigns and that Bush and his administration are masters of spin. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's recently released book “The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq” argues that America has been defeated by its own PR machine—a phenomenon that in military lingo is referred to as “incestuous amplification.”

Incestuous amplification! Doesn’t that just about sum it all up? I imagine it works on a personal level too. It’s what was at play each time Foley convinced himself that he was just being friendly with those pages. And it’s the force at work when his defenders say the pervy IMs were just the booze talking.

Aside from giving us a concept that sums up a lot of our collective and individual delusion, Rampton and Stauber have written a compelling account of the strategies used by the GOP and administration officials to manufacture consent for the war, demonstrating precisely how the Bush administation has aimed its propaganda not at the enemy but at the American people. And they remind us that this practice violates long-standing American political traditions dating back to the Smith-Mundt Act passed in 1948, which basically prohibits propaganda meant for the rest of the world from being circulated within the US. These days though, administartion officials clearly feel that they first and foremost need to focus on gaining support at home by any means necessary.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

free speech ain't cool on college campus

Rapper Kamikaze, one half of Crooked Lettaz with rap star David Banner, sparked a student boycott at Milsaps College in his home state of Mississippi. What did he do to outrage the campus kiddies? As an invited performer for "Sexual Awareness Week 2006," he bashed bush.

During an interlude in his set, the rapper made comments about current U.S. president George W. Bush, infuriating members of the audience.

"I prefaced it by saying 'I know that a lot of you, or some of you, won't agree with what I'm saying and you're entitled to your opinion, as I am entitled to mine'," Kamikaze told "There is a real strong Young Republican contingent at this school."

In his speech, the rapper accused Bush of pursuing oil and engaging America in a senseless war in Iraq, and also insisted that the government lied to start the war.

Of course, the young republicans didn't take too kindly to this and responded with a letter, claiming his statements were "tacky, senseless and an absolute, astonishing, explicit blasphemy of the sitting President of the United States; an act that represented the worst that Millsaps College could offer to its students..."

Oh look, the letter's right here... (and it features choice lines such as: "The Student Body Association along with the Socializing, Acitivities and Programming for Students Board (SAPS), has no use for your shameful, adolescent and worthless viewpoints of our leader..." You read it right: the Milsap SAPS were offended by criticism of "their leader"!).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

priests and politicians

Yup, that's now-resigned Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) chatting it up in an "over friendly," not explicit manner, with an underage boy. By now you've heard about it, and the fact this his Christian conservative GOP buddies knew about it yet refused to take action, though House Speaker Dennis Hastert claims it was taken care of last spring . Though folks are calling for Hastert's resignation as well, President Bush ain't down with that, he said during a discussion in Stockton, CA (where they named an elementary school after him...which also happens to be my hometown)

The credibility of our government just keeps sinking. It's gotten so bad, that we have to laugh and joke about it, since the high ranking officials (Hastert and others) aren't doing anything about it. Another shady politician? Business as usual.

And here's the ABC report: