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.)


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