Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, 2010

One hates to end the year with some downers, but oh well. FAIR has awarded its annual P.U.-litzers to some big stinkers in the corporate media, and oh do they reek. And Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a real-life Rosie the Riveter who inspired the famous "We Can Do It!" poster—quite possibly my favorite iconic image of all time—died earlier this week (h/t Krugmeister). My mom was a real-life Rosie, too, for a time; I believe that she built landing craft at a plant in Pittsburgh. Not all by herself, mind you.

Dunno when I'll be back; I might feel like posting tomorrow, or I might leave the blog fallow for a while. May all of our 2011s be better than our 2010s, --nash

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7232

Well, I can now say that I have posted something every day for a year—even if only a bit of Daily Random Flickr Blogging. What an amazing colossal waste of time—though at least it was fun sometimes. I don't know what else to say—but I had to keep going because I wanted one more sentence with an em-dash in it. I'll stop now.

"Merde. Mon Dieu. Sacre blue. Royale avec fromage."
(Image originally uploaded by amiriouk; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year That Wasn't

Mark Fiore looks back on the many things that didn't happen in 2010 yet that made (some) people terrified, angry, and/or revolting.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0182

Residents of Mobile Pointe found that the terrors of their tornado season were more than outweighed by the sublimity of their chamber ensemble.
(Image originally uploaded by ellen cherry; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Madness and Civilization

If you have time to read only one thing this week, make it Eliot Weinberger's magnificently biting review of George W. Bush's "memoir."

This is a chronicle of the Bush Era with no colour-coded Terror Alerts; no Freedom Fries; no Halliburton; no Healthy Forests Initiative (which opened up wilderness areas to logging); no Clear Skies Act (which reduced air pollution standards); no New Freedom Initiative (which proposed testing all Americans, beginning with schoolchildren, for mental illness); no pamphlets sold by the National Parks Service explaining that the Grand Canyon was created by the Flood; no research by the National Institutes of Health on whether prayer can cure cancer (‘imperative’, because poor people have limited access to healthcare); no cover-up of the death of football star Pat Tillman by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan; no ‘Total Information Awareness’ from the Information Awareness Office; no Project for the New American Century; no invented heroic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch; no Fox News; no hundreds of millions spent on ‘abstinence education’. It does not deal with the Cheney theory of the ‘unitary executive’ – essentially that neither the Congress nor the courts can tell the president what to do – or Bush’s frequent use of ‘signing statements’ to indicate that he would completely ignore a bill that the Congress had just passed.

It is astonishing how many major players from Bush World are here Missing in Action. Entirely absent, or mentioned only in passing, are Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Yoo, Elliott Abrams, Ahmed Chalabi, Ayad Allawi, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, Richard Armitage, Katherine Harris, Ken Mehlman, Paul O’Neill, Rush Limbaugh. Barely appearing at all are John Ashcroft, Samuel Alito, Ari Fleischer, Alberto Gonzales, Denny Hastert, John Negroponte and Tom Ridge. Condi and Colin Powell are given small parts, but Rummy is largely a passing shadow. No one is allowed to steal a scene from the star.

The enormous black hole in the book is the Grand Puppetmaster himself, Dick Cheney, the man who was prime minister to Bush’s figurehead president. In Decision Points, as in the Bush years, he is nearly always hiding in an undisclosed location. When he does show up on scattered pages, he is merely another member of the Bush team. The implicit message is that Washington was too small a town for two Deciders.

Read it all; it's a hoot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8338

"And so to recap, that's two hooves up for the Coen Brothers' True Grit,"

*enthusiastic tootles on flute*

"one up and one down for the nicely cast but ultimately unnecessary Little Fockers,"

*ambivalent tootling on flute*

"and two hooves way down for the overpromoted yet pointless sequel Tron: Legacy."

*sad tootling on flute*

"Thanks and join us again next week for another edition of Satyriproandcon."

*goodbye tootling on flute*

*credits roll*

(Image originally uploaded by Nuno vasconcelos; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time Passage

Really cool 38-second time-lapse video of the blizzard and its effect on one back yard:

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

I get a kick out of the sudden appearance of the ruler. (h/t CommonDreams)

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5306

(Image originally uploaded by warrenpmd; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, December 27, 2010

Do You Have a Dangerously Rational Reaction to, Well, Anything?

I've been going through some old files and found a great Mark Fiore piece from 2009 that still seems fitting. Join the mob and leave the burdens of rationality behind with Rage-ex!

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8874

Rip Taylor's Chatbox of Earthly Delights might have given Jay Leno a run for his money if its unconventional ad campaign hadn't made so many young children cry.
(Image originally uploaded by Mr. Shed; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Nothing Like Fox, No

Gene Lyons has been rereading Orwell—not 1984 but "Looking back on the Spanish War" and its reflections on how partisan media reports were often drastically at odds with observable reality—and reflects himself on how we may be no better off in our new century:

Welcome to the contemporary world. My own preoccupation with the awful harm caused by slipshod journalism concerned a less momentous but nevertheless troubling event. I can still recall exactly where I was sitting when I discovered that a front-page report of a highly publicized Little Rock murder trial bore no relationship to the actual courtroom testimony or crime scene photos introduced into evidence. I had the transcript and photos in front of me.

Rather, the article reflected the crackpot theories of a publicity-mad sheriff who used the case as a springboard for his political ambitions, ultimately ending up in the U.S. Congress. The effect was to cast suspicion upon an innocent man for allegedly murdering his wife -- a dark shadow he never entirely escaped despite being exonerated several times in courtrooms and grand juries. I used to think it was a peculiarly local event. The story is told in my book "Widow's Web."

Then came the great Whitewater hoax, during which the allegedly liberal Washington/New York press corps pummeled a Democratic president for eight years based upon transparently false, trumped-up charges. Most disturbing to me, as a journalist who'd long worked for many of the same magazines and newspapers pushing the scandal but who lived in Arkansas, was realizing that the "mainstream media" had acquired property rights in the bogus narrative. Correcting the record was seen as vandalism.

Reversing the errors and filling in the blanks would have made the "scandal" collapse like a soufflé. But that never happened, because everybody peddling the story (and feeding from the hands of the political apparatchiks who invented and sustained it) collectively agreed not to notice even clearly dispositive facts.

One time, a widely touted witness actually passed out and had to be helped from a Senate hearing room, never to return, after being confronted with documentary evidence contradicting her testimony. It was as farcical as a Monty Python skit, and broadcast nationally on C-Span. The newspapers and TV networks committed to the scandal highlighted her false accusations yet contrived not to mention the swoon.

I came to understand that the honor code according to which journalism allegedly regulates itself applied mainly at the lower levels. Big-time political journalism operates according to celebrity rules. Fake a byline in Des Moines and you're finished. Help start a war by trumpeting cherry-picked and downright fabricated "intelligence," as The New York Times, Washington Post and the same TV networks that promoted Whitewater subsequently did, and win a guest shot on "Meet the Press."

It also helps if Democrats are the victims of your malfeasance. Does anybody think that Dan Rather's ignominious exit from CBS News would have happened had the object of his unverifiable reporting been Barack Obama instead of George W. Bush? Republicans get even; Democrats act as if they believed all that humbug about liberal media bias.

Anyway, I wrote all that to say this: Even compared to the manifest swindles and perversions of the past 20 years or thereabouts, the United States has never seen anything like Fox News. The closest comparison to what Fox does daily would be the party-line propaganda sheets of the far left and extreme right that made Orwell worry "that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world."

Recently, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland released yet another study documenting Americans' lamentable ignorance of public events. It found that regular Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe" many things that are objectively false: the economy is worsening, that most Republicans opposed TARP, that the stimulus contained no tax cuts, that their own income taxes had increased, that most scientists doubt global warming, etc.

That new PIPA study is here, and it is indeed a doozy. Fox is not the only source of misinformation noted therein, but it does stand out dramatically from its competitors. And it is indeed galling that the rest of the media—even supposedly liberal, cerebral PBS/NPR—tend to play along with Fox's game:
A deluded citizenry can't effectively govern itself. Yet complacency and institutional cowardice causes "mainstream" media to play along with the fiction that Fox News is an ordinarily craven, celebrity-driven news organization.

People, we're in deep trouble.

I wish I could disagree.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2253

Instead of building things with them, the young Tom Tancredo liked to round up his blocks and put them on trains.
(Image originally uploaded by avypooh; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Production of Humbug

It's one of the few things we still lead the world in.

Anyway, instead of praising Scrooge for his principled stand against the welfare state, Charles Dickens makes him out to be some kind of bad guy. How leftist is that?

As you can see, the fundamental issues of public policy haven’t changed since Victorian times. Still, some things are different. In particular, the production of humbug — which was still a somewhat amateurish craft when Dickens wrote — has now become a systematic, even industrial, process.

Let me walk you through a case in point, one that I’ve been following lately.

If you listen to the recent speeches of Republican presidential hopefuls, you’ll find several of them talking at length about the harm done by unionized government workers, who have, they say, multiplied under the Obama administration. A recent example was an op-ed article by the outgoing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who declared that “thanks to President Obama,” government is the only booming sector in our economy: “Since January 2008” — silly me, I thought Mr. Obama wasn’t inaugurated until 2009 — “the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs, while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”

Horrors! Except that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government employment has fallen, not risen, since January 2008. And since January 2009, when Mr. Obama actually did take office, government employment has fallen by more than 300,000 as hard-pressed state and local governments have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters and other workers.

So how did the notion of a surge in government payrolls under Mr. Obama take hold?

It turns out that last spring there was, in fact, a bulge in government employment. And both politicians and researchers at humbug factories — I mean, conservative think tanks — quickly seized on this bulge as evidence of an exploding public sector. Over the summer, articles and speeches began to appear highlighting the rise in government employment and issuing dire warnings about what it portended for America’s future.

But anyone paying attention knew why public employment had risen — and it had nothing to do with Big Government. It was, instead, the fact that the federal government had to hire a lot of temporary workers to carry out the 2010 Census — workers who have almost all left the payroll now that the Census is done.

Is it really possible that the authors of those articles and speeches about soaring public employment didn’t know what was going on? Well, I guess we should never assume malice when ignorance remains a possibility.

Yep, "maybe they're stupid rather than evil" is about as much Christmas charity as I can feel toward the rightthink industry, too.

Happy Holidays, --nash

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8016

It seemed like a great place for a photo—until the HIGHLY TERRITORIAL SQUIRREL ATTACK.

*horrific torrent of acorns*

(Image originally uploaded by asif.tutal; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Oklahoma Takedown

It's not exactly in the Christmas spirit, but don't miss PZ Myer's magnificent shredding of a column by an astoundingly ill-formed fledging Oklahoma legislator who seems bent on continuing that state's tradition of electing Bronze-Age thinkers to positions of power and influence.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1457

When the Kennedy Space Center pimped its Rocket Garden for a Viagra ad—that was the exact moment when I decided to start learning Chinese.
(Image originally uploaded by PatFrench2; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bad Faith Stew

Rick Perlstein has the most insightful piece I've yet seen on Haley Barbour's misty memories of the racist "Citizens Councils" of his youth:

What happened between Brown v. Board of Education and that January day in 1970 comprises some of the most monstrous inhumanity in the cruel annals of American history. Recently, in a cover feature in the conservative Weekly Standard on his presidential ambitions, Mississippi governor and fellow Yazoo native Haley Barbour had occasion to reflect on that place, in those years. The best that can be said about his recollection is that it is not 100 percent a lie -- just deeply confused, mostly wrong, and indicative above all of a cynical man who has made a lucrative career of exploiting racial trauma when it suited him, or throwing it down a memory hole when it did not; which is to say, an archetypal Dixie conservative.
More. In other news, "the Yazoo gentry" is a great name for a band.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6608

*plays "Oh Chanukah"*

*plays "I Have a Little Dreidel"*

*plays "Hava Nagila"*

*he's a Passover Satyr*

(Image originally uploaded by dwrd; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


The Shadow System of Kindness

Let Rebecca Solnit cheer you up this holiday season:

Long ago, Adam Smith wrote about the “invisible hand” of the free market, a phrase which always brings to my mind horror movies and Gothic novels in which detached and phantasmagorical limbs go about their work crawling and clawing away. The idea was that the economy would somehow self-regulate and so didn’t need to be interfered with further -- or so still go the justifications for capitalism, even though it took an enormous armature of government interventions to create the current mix of wealth and poverty in our world. Your tax dollars pay for wars that make the world safe for giant oil corporations, and those corporations hand over huge sums of money to their favorite politicians (and they have so many favorites!) to regulate the political system to continue to protect, reward, and enrich themselves. But you know that story well.

As 2010 ends, what really interests me aren’t the corrosions and failures of this system, but the way another system, another invisible hand, is always at work in what you could think of as the great, ongoing, Manichean arm-wrestling match that keeps our planet spinning. The invisible claw of the market may fail to comprehend how powerful the other hand -- the one that gives rather than takes -- is, but neither does that open hand know itself or its own power. It should. We all should.


Think of the acts of those -- from daycare worker to nursing home aide or the editor of -- who do more, and do it more passionately, than they are paid to do; think of the armies of the unpaid who are at “work” counterbalancing and cleaning up after the invisible hand and making every effort to loosen its grip on our collective throat. Such acts represent the relations of the great majority of us some of the time and a minority of us all the time. They are, as the two feminist economists who published together as J. K. Gibson-Graham noted, the nine-tenths of the economic iceberg that is below the waterline.

Capitalism is only kept going by this army of anti-capitalists, who constantly exert their powers to clean up after it, and at least partially compensate for its destructiveness. Behind the system we all know, in other words, is a shadow system of kindness, the other invisible hand. Much of its work now lies in simply undoing the depredations of the official system. Its achievements are often hard to see or grasp. How can you add up the foreclosures and evictions that don’t happen, the forests that aren’t leveled, the species that don’t go extinct, the discriminations that don’t occur?

The official economic arrangements and the laws that enforce them ensure that hungry and homeless people will be plentiful amid plenty. The shadow system provides soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support. In the meantime, others seek to reform or transform the system from the inside and out, and in this way, inch by inch, inroads have been made on many fronts over the past half century.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0183

*waits patiently for anthropologists to walk under cunningly placed 16-ton weight*
(Image originally uploaded by Jenn, Scott, and Madeline; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Congratulations Sarah

Being the 2010 Glenn Beck Misinformer of the Year puts you in such august company.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1753

Shagged after a particularly long squawk (actual footage).
(Image originally uploaded by stewart.thompson; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Muslims Are Coming!

Someday Max Blumenthal is going to have to get a Nobel Prize or something for his patient excavations of the personalities and thought processes that bring the world stuff like this:

In the apocalyptic clash of civilizations the global anti-Muslim network has sought to incite, tiny armed Jewish settlements like Yitzar, located on the hills above the occupied Palestinian city of Nablus, represent front-line fortresses. Inside Yitzar’s state-funded yeshiva, a rabbi named Yitzhak Shapira has instructed students in what rules must be applied when considering killing non-Jews. Shapira summarized his opinions in a widely publicized book, Torat HaMelech, or The King’s Torah. Claiming that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature,” Shapira cited rabbinical texts to declare that gentiles could be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “There is justification,” the rabbi proclaimed, “for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
Blumenthal's new TomDispatch looks at the roots of today's Islamophobia industry.

With all due respect to Pam Geller's narcissism, they aren't...pretty.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7462

Cindy had to overcome many inhibitions before finally deciding to pose scabbardless.
(Image originally uploaded by zhmort; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Get Used to It, Proles

Apparently our new governor wants to have a big, expensive inaugural ball—while most of Florida suffers double-digit unemployment and the state faces a budget shortfall.

I know: that doesn't seem very businesslike for a man who ran as a "businessman with no ties to special interests."

Unless perhaps your "business" background is rife with corporate healthcare fraud.

And hey, what's oligarchy good for if you can't blow money on ego-enhancing frivolities?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5056

"...and remember to join us tonight on Fox News for the eye-opening new John Stossel special report Brain Coral: Elitist of the Sea."
(Image originally uploaded by planet_b; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4665

The best thing about having Satan's Penis in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was listening to the unprepared Al Roker. "And now heaving into view all big, scaly and throbbing, it's...WHAT?!? Oh my God, don't look, Meredith."
(Image originally uploaded by swackglamor; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, December 17, 2010

"I enjoyed that time."

Since I'm still wrestling a cold, I thought better of going walkabout to look at Christmas lights during these chilly last few nights; instead, I curled up with In the Shadow of the Moon, a fine British-made documentary on the Apollo program. I found it so engaging that I watched it two nights in a row, the second with commentary (something I don't usually do). Aside from its sometimes gushing music, it's an absorbing work that sheds new light on one of the greatest achievements of the human race—and on some of the intriguing humans who pulled it off.

One thing that makes the film memorable is its use of remarkable footage that's been inexplicably sitting around in vaults for decades. E.g., there's a long sequence that was shot by an automated camera mounted inside the second stage on one of the early unmanned Apollo test missions, watching as the third stage separates and heads off into space while the second stage slowly rotates and the Earth heaves majestically into view on one side—just before the film roll ends and the camera ejects for its own journey home. (As with early spy satellites, the film canister was apparently plucked from the air as it descended by parachute.) The filmmakers call this the "money shot" for the film, and no wonder: it's so crisp and perfect that you'd swear it's a special-effects recreation, perhaps CGI or some unused footage from Kubrick's 2001, but no, what you're watching is real machines doing their real thing in real space sometime in the mid-1960s. There are a number of once-hidden treasures like this in the film, unseen by all but a handful of people until the filmmakers cannily dug them out, dusted them off, and wove them into this new chronicle.

But even more interesting are the interviews with some of the surviving Apollo astronauts. I think that one of my favorite human beings is now Michael Collins, the command module pilot on Apollo 11—the one who wasn't Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin and who didn't get to walk on the Moon. He's a witty, informative, enlightening presence throughout the film, but there's a particular sequence with him that is one of the most profoundly moving things I have ever seen. (Interestingly, the filmmakers also point to this as one of their favorite moments in the film.) Collins talks about the experience of being all alone in the command module as it orbited the Moon. He notes that someone referred to him as "the loneliest man in history," but he says that didn't feel loneliness at all (for one thing, he was in near-constant contact with Mission Control) but rather a great sense of awareness, even exaltation. He recalls being on the far side of the Moon and thinking (gesturing as if toward Earth) "there's three billion there, and" (gesturing as if toward the lunar surface) "there's two somewhere down there, and" (gesturing toward himself) "there's one here, and" (gesturing beyond) "then, God knows what." And then he says what, given the context, might be the most profound four-word sentence I have ever heard: "I enjoyed that time." Only a handful of humans have ever seen (and probably ever will see) the Dark Side of the Moon with their own two eyes; to hear Collins talk so matter-of-factly about his thoughts as he floated above it all alone is doubly sublime.

Another favorite moment comes in the film's coda, in which the various interviewees share how they were changed by the experience of going to the Moon. Pretty much all of them speak of a newfound appreciation for the Earth and how it might as well be the Garden of Eden when contrasted with the desolation of space that surrounds it, but Alan Bean takes the cake when he says something like "Since coming back from the Moon, I have never complained about the weather. Not even once." And I believe him.

Anyway. If you've got two hours to spare and are looking to rekindle your sense of wonder and your appreciation for your species, then there are worse places to be than In the Shadow of the Moon.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0387

Product of an unspeakable ménage à trois between David Cross, Billy Bob Thornton, and Angus Young.
(Image originally uploaded by sninesix; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, December 16, 2010

You Want Rick Scott? You Got Him.

I wondered where our fraud-inflected new governor would strike first; if Stephanie Mencimer is right, it'll be in education, where Rick Scott already has a vouchers-and-privatization plan at the ready that will no doubt sound great to many who are sick of our FCAT-obsessed public schools but that also will likely be "a fraud magnet":

As soon as the state starts handing families $5500 a year, it's virtually assured that enterprising thieves will devise various schemes to help them part with those funds, including by starting "independent" for-profit virtual schools, charter schools, and other predatory "educational" institutions. While the idea of privatizing the education system may seem like a big money saver, and no one really loves school bureaucracies, putting that much taxpayer money out there without adequate oversight (i.e. bureaucracy) is a formula for disaster.

It's not just a hypothetical harm, as charter schools in many states have demonstrated. Charter schools get paid by the number of kids they enroll, and they are free from much of the bureaucracy Republicans like to bash so much. All that money mixed with all that freedom hasn't produced much in the way of an education boost: Charter schools perform no better and often much worse than traditional ones. But they have produced a bumper crop of fraudsters.

In recent years, the US Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General has been raising red flags about charter school fraud and embezzlement, a problem that is increasing. In March, the OIG wrote that it had opened more than 40 charter school criminal investigations that resulted in the convictions of 15 charter school officials, with 24 cases still pending. Most of the cases involved charter school operators and employees who falsely increased enrollment figures and used the extra money to bankroll lavish lifestyles. They often engaged in testing and grade-fixing antics to ensure the money kept rolling in. At the time the report was released, prosecutors had recovered more than $4 million stolen by charter school employees and operators since 2005.

Scott, the former CEO of a health care company, should have a unique understanding of what sorts of predators lurk in the private sector searching out new ways to profit at the public trough. The company he used to run, Columbia/HCA, was quite adept at ripping off government programs. In 2003, the company pleaded guilty to 14 "corporate" felony charges and ended up repaying the government almost $2 billion for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. At the time, it was the largest health care fraud case in American history.

Scott, who claimed he was unaware of the massive fraud taking place at the company, oversaw an era when the company routinely overbilled the federal health plans, inflated patient diagnoses to increase reimbursements, gave kickbacks to doctors for referring patients to company facilities, filed false data about hospital space use, and engaged in other sleazy practices—practices that in some cases aren't all that different from those of dubious school operators.

*ding ding ding* The world of for-profit education is already full of operators whose main skill seems to be enrolling students, siphoning up government loan money (for which students are responsible), and then not really giving a rat's ass whether students actually, you know, learn anything. Having a vampire squid governor primed to turn an entire state's public education system into a profit source (though of course this will be disguised as "freedom!" and "choice!") would be the stuff of wet dreams for these people.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5727

You wouldn't think that a documentary about a man who runs a pumpkin patch would be hip, but its quirky subject and offbeat style earned Sundance gold for Thirty-two Short Films about Glenn's Gourds.
(Image originally uploaded by Jenn, Scott, and Madeline; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Global Warming, The Comic Strip

Really nice comics-type primer on climate change—simple yet eloquent. (h/t PZ)

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8635

Punkenstein's blind date was going well.

"I'm having a wonderful time."


(Image originally uploaded by zemistor; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday Morning, 7:10 AM

I know that 70 coming up will look delicious to most of the country, but I tell ya, we are not used to this multiple-nights-below-freezing sh*t down here.

On the other hand, it's an opportunity to break out what little winter clothing I have and walk around for a bit in the chill looking at Christmas lights, of which there seem to be an abundance in my neighborhood this year. That just ain't as much fun in warm weather, y'know.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0620

*drum fidgets*

"Sit still. We'll go for ice cream after the service, I promise."

*drum pouts*

(Image originally uploaded by Upaya; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, December 13, 2010

Pointed Sticks? Too Partisan

Mark Fiore imagines a self-defense class, Obama style.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3356

The Israeli code name for the MiG-21 was Goy because...well. Um.
(Image originally uploaded by saxxon57; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Best Piece I've Seen Yet on WikiLeaks

David Michael Green:

What the WikiLeaks episode actually reveals is not any major juicy secrets (so far), but rather that the enemy of the right is truth. What they are defending here - and what they are calling for murder to be used in order to defend here - is simply the privilege to lie, and the right to keep their lies and hypocrisies from being exposed.

That's the true revelation of the last weeks, not anything that WikiLeaks has produced just yet. Indeed, the fact that WikiLeaks has not so far actually dropped such a major bomb and yet has induced a visceral reaction so intense that it includes calls for murder reveals far more about the character of regressives than it does about anything else.

These are people who believe in entitlement. These are arrogant elites who believe the rest of us don't need to know what they're doing with and to our lives. These are people see truth as a danger. These are people who not only actively undermine democracy at home and abroad, but who are fundamentally opposed to, and frightened of, democracy's very essence. They speak the word (endlessly), but the last thing in the world they actually would ever want is rule by the people.

And they know that the people in a democracy just might not put up with their crimes and their lies, and thus secrecy must be jealously guarded, even if that requires the murder of a truth-teller. That, ultimately is the most substantial revelation that the WikiLeaks documents have so far produced.

Indeed, I've noticed that many on the right love to shout about "freedom," but after years of watching then in action one can't help but wonder whether to them it's just a word, to be brandished as a rhetorical weapon when convenient and forgotten when not; in practice, the substance of the thing often seems abhorrent to them.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7661

It's hard to say what was funnier: The way Grandpa said "Hey sonny, David Bryne wants his suit back," or the fact that he said it at all.
(Image originally uploaded by michaeli; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, 2553

"Well, we're no more flattered about our descendants than you are about your ancestors, so up yours."
(Image originally uploaded by mick124; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Just Geld Yourselves

I was remembering some thoughts I had upon hearing this revelation from the ongoing Wikileaks imbroglio:

State Dept. Bars Staffers from WikiLeaks, Warns Students

The U.S. State Department has imposed an order barring employees from reading the leaked WikiLeaks cables. State Department staffers have been told not to read cables because they were classified and subject to security clearances. The State Department’s WikiLeaks censorship has even been extended to university students. An email to students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs says: "The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. [The State Department] recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government."

"Enclosed please find one (1) generous shot of 100-proof whiskey, one (1) container of topical disinfectant, one (1) small surgical knife, one (1) package of surgical gauze, one (1) roll of surgical tape, and one (1) picture of David Broder. Instructions: Apply disinfectant generously to groin area. Down whiskey shot. Remove sex organs with knife. (Quick, determined strokes are easiest.) Fashion bandage using surgical gauze and tape; use extra gauze to clean up blood. As a future State employee you should not miss your genitalia, but if this occurs, contemplate picture of David Broder. Congratulations! And remember: it's not self-mutilation; it's the first rung on the ladder."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8287

Strip poker with Cindy is less an erotic game than a Miltonic adventure.
(Image originally uploaded by hahaidkkk; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7371

Tiddles was never prouder than the day one of his tweets got quoted on CNN.
(Image originally uploaded by bluefootedbooby (heavy line's problem); Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0231

A really great realtor can turn any negative into a positive.

"But the basement is flooded!"

"Hey, people pay primo for a house on the water, and here I am offering you a substantial discount."

"And it's full of alligators!"

"Exactly! Get some hamsters or chickens—hours of entertainment for the kids."

(Image originally uploaded by m_fleener; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

Hard to believe it's been thirty years since the death of John Lennon. I have a vivid memory (not that such things are always to be trusted) of hearing the news. I was up quite early in the morning on Dec. 9, 1980, well before 6:00, finishing up some work for school. Whatever radio station I had on, it was playing a lot of Beatles songs in a row—very strange. I think I was pulling on shoes when a somber DJ came on and announced that John had been shot and killed outside his apartment building in New York City. I wasn't even a Beatles fan in those days, but I understood their significance—and I had some inkling of what a wonderful cultural force John had been all by himself. I remember hanging my head and feeling a great sadness. And I feel the same f*cking thing today.

Lovely memories from Yoko and Ray Davies for the day (h/t Greg Mitchell)—and a recollection from Jon Weiner of what turned out to be Lennon's last interview:

The RKO interview was his last. When he finished it, he did a photo shoot at the Dakota with Annie Liebowitz for Rolling Stone, then headed off to the Record Plant with Yoko to work on her song "Walking on Thin Ice." At 10:30 pm their limo took them back to the Dakota and dropped them off at the curb. That's when he was killed.
Oh, John. It wasn't just The Sixties that gave us "a glimpse of the possibility." Rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9360

There once was a juice from Nantucket
'twould tempt even the sated to gluck it.
A Shakespearean sort
After quaffing a snort
Said with glee, "I'd buy that for a ducat."
(Image originally uploaded by Honey Nut Lo; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Early For This

Crunchy grass and freeze warnings for the first part of this week.

Seems to me that it usually doesn't get this cold down here 'til after Christmas. Clearly, global warming is a myth.</imhofe>

Monday, December 06, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0709

The other cupcakes soon got the message: Stay out of macaroon territory.
(Image originally uploaded by Bakerella; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wrong Matt

Did David Gergen confuse the five-alarm chili that is Matt Taibbi with the reassuring tapioca that is Matt Bai?

Centrism really does lull one into false sense of acuity.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1205: Happy Birthday, Jules!

We have a bit of a tradition here at CA on 12/05. Jules, I know it's been a rough year, but I hope that this birthday is a good one and that the next year is vastly better!

On your birthday, consider the following: How cool would it be to get a fortune cookie that read "Turn around: Laurie Anderson is right behind you disguised as Andy Warhol"?
You can say what you want about Scapula Fancy's clientele, but ya gotta admit, that magazine has some damn fine photographers.
*suddenly spins toward camera, pepper-sprays cameraman*

Jane Bond will return in You Only Leer Once.

Speaking of the male gaze, let's watch the eyes slowly drift, shall we?
I'm not sure what this thing is, but I don't think it's getting enough sleep.
Jules, we just wanted to take a moment to send you our
And here's to a much better 2011! --nash
(Images originally uploaded by artcphoto, little-robin, atomic girl nyc, tantek, trappedinsuburbia, Kimberly Jennery, and Nicole Fincham; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5691

An equal-opportunity purveyor of evil, Sauron sometimes taunted the dogs of Gondor by sending forth kibblesound from Mount Doom.
(Image originally uploaded by demuxxx; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, December 03, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4724

Too often, Todd undermined his otherwise engaging watercolors by giving them titles like He Who Smelt It.
(Image originally uploaded by xinem; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


RIP Shadow (????-2010)

Feline friend and home security expert.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4560

It's a basic male aesthetic: Everything goes better with a flame kit.

*sets to work installing flame kit on coffeemaker*

(Image originally uploaded by E. Fedeli; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


The Money & Media Election Complex

Great piece by John Nichols and Robert McChesney on the Citizens United aftermath and the accelerating death of democracy.

Ultimately, however, Americans have to get serious about addressing the Citizens United ruling. We have no problem with legislative remedies, especially if they embody proposals like those advanced by the Sunlight Foundation to establish online transparency at every level of influence, from independent expenditures to lobbying to bundled campaign contributions. We agree with Lisa Gilbert of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, who says Representative Grayson has proposed "pieces of good policy" with his Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act, which would impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns; his Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act, which would require public companies to report what they spend to influence opinion on any matter other than the promotion of their goods and services; and his End Political Kickbacks Act, which would restrict contributions by government contractors. And we have no doubt that Grayson's advocacy for these reforms helps explain why "independent" groups spent more than $1.2 million on attack ads targeting him.
Yep, and now he's gone. Mission accomplished.
However, we don't see any way to avoid the requirement of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Representative Donna Edwards has proposed a sound one, backed by the Free Speech for People campaign. Another approach, proposed by Move to Amend, would begin the process at the state level, where grassroots activists may have more of an opening to demand that legislatures call for an amendment. It's not necessary to choose a specific strategy at this point, but we do have to recognize that the money-and-media election complex defined the 2010 election, and that its reach is extending to 2012. Taking it on will require boldness, creativity and determination. We will be told it is impossible to beat, but we're with Lisa Graves, the former Justice Department lawyer who as executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy has become a leader in the fight for a constitutional amendment. She says, "If we don't seize it as an opportunity because it's so discouraging, they win."

Even if only out of self-interest, this is what Obama and his Democratic allies should have been talking about during the 2010 campaign and what they should be shouting about now—not with vague rumblings about contributions from foreign corporations but with shout-it-from-the-rooftops populist rage at a threat to democracy every bit as serious as the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower identified. His charge to Americans with regard to the machinery of military dominance—"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes"—translates with chilling precision to the new media and money machinery of political dominance.

Scholars of American history have acknowledged for a long time that the United States is far from a true democracy, or even an especially effective representative democracy. Most political decisions are made with precious little input by average citizens. What the government does with wealthy individuals and powerful corporate interests is largely removed from popular control. This is part of the reason voter turnout has for so long been among the lowest in the world. But two things give us confidence in our system. First, we have core civil liberties, especially the right to freedom of speech. And second, we have elections, as flawed as they may be, and that gives the citizenry the periodic capacity to replace whoever is in power with someone else. It is our ultimate and last remaining check.

The money-and-media election complex has transformed longstanding problems into an existential crisis: we are about to lose the democratic promise of elections. It is hard to see how our cherished freedoms can then survive, except to the extent that they are trivial and unthreatening to those in power. What hangs in the balance is democracy itself, along with the promise of the American experiment.

Emphases mine. Unfortunately, I think we can forget about Obama shouting about this from the rooftops or from anywhere else; he seems pretty determined to be a creature of the complex rather than a challenger to it.

Insightful Nichols/McChesney conversation on last Sunday's Media Matters too, by the way.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6417

(Image originally uploaded by Ingy The Wingy; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


There's a PR Code of Ethics? Really?

Former PR man, now insurance-industry whistleblower Wendell Potter writes about an altercation with a current PR man whom he advises to check out, holy cow, a code of ethics? For the PR industry?

I will accept Richard Edelman's word that nothing short of honest and accurate communications are now tolerated at his firm. That's wonderful news. Now that that is indeed the case, I am inviting Mr. Edelman and other leaders in the profession to join me in finding ways to strengthen and enforce the code of ethics developed by the Public Relations Society of America, of which I have been a member (an accredited member at that) for three decades. That code, by the way, states that PR people must "be honest and accurate in all communications" and "avoid deceptive practices" and "reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented (in other words, no fake grassroots, flogs or front groups, please)," and "decline representation of clients or organizations that urge or require actions contrary to this code."
Jeez, seems kinda like asking butchers not to use knives.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?