Saturday, July 05, 2008

Capture the flag

By Capt. Fogg

Paul Slansky makes a modest proposal today at The Huffington Post. He suggests that we fight them on their own lapels so that we don't have to fight them here. Quoting the popular political philosopher, Doctor Suess, Slansky suggests that we all begin to wear lapel pins, thus castrating one of their favorite shibboleths.

"We're exactly like you! You can't tell us apart.

We're all just the same, now, you snooty old smarties!

And now we can go to your frankfurter parties."

Coincidentally, that's just what I did last night at my annual yacht club barbecue; a tawdry, rhinestone studded lapel pin at that. And it worked. No one had and doubts that I would snicker right along with the Michelle slurs, the hand on heart nonsense, the Wesley Clark gambit or any of the other wilful suspensions of honesty that characterize the political commentary of the reflexive Right. I wore red, white and blue clothing and I would have run "old glory" up the mast save for the violent thunderstorm. Some were quite surprised by my replies.

It's time we took back what was once a proud symbol of secular democracy, justice and the inalienability of certain human rights - amongst other things. The flag that flies today on the Moon somehow, during the same period, became the symbol of support for our war inViet Nam and the Nixonian contempt for law and loyal dissent. It has been a Republican symbol of militarism and right wing politics ever since.

As Slansky says, the lapel may be the only remaining venue in which they have that home field advantage, but it would be easy and cheap to take it away from them. Wear the pin.

"The right is reeling, they can't find a single thing to point to that's better than it was before Bush, so while they're busy dealing with issues of basic survival, let's just slip in there and take back the damn flag. Take it back from the war criminals and their apologists and enablers that have wrapped themselves in it even as they've been methodically destroying the republic for which it stands."

Let's run it up the flagpole. It's an idea I can salute.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Independence Day and the numbers

By Carol Gee

Independence Day, 2008 was marked across the nation by flags flying, parades proceeding, picnics unpacking, and patriotism playing out, ad infinitum. Today's post is about some important numbers that are associated with yesterday, July 4, 2008, the day we celebrated our nation's birthday. The highlight of my own celebration was watching a long parade in the town of my birth, some 71 years ago in May. There were too many homemade floats to count. There was one marching drum corps, one Native American in war paint skillfully riding bareback on a spirited horse, and there were several church congregations represented by members riding on the backs of flatbed trucks. There was a whole herd of old and new Beattles (the VW automotive type), sporting special paint jobs, umbrellas or flags. Onlookers were two and three deep the entire length of Main Street, the parade route. There are additional numbers, of a more serious nature, I want to highlight in the remainder of this post.

July 4, 1776 - July 4, 2008 = 232 years. Recent S/SW posts have closed with a sentence about what was happening on the same date in 1787, the year of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Today's blurb below focuses on an important accomplishment of the men at the convention. They figured out how to balance power between the two branches of Congress.

Official days left in office for George W. Bush = 198. Finally! It is below 200. We can see the coming end of this disastrous administration.

U.S. confirmed deaths in the war in Iraq = 4113. Members of the U.S. military died for our country during the Revolutionary War. The total number is unknown, but Wikipedia carries an estimate of 25,000.

And there is another war death. The "soldier made famous in Iraq photo," according to Myrtle Beach Online, died of an apparent drug overdose. He had called a taxi to take him to the hospital, but it was too late. To quote the facts of the story:

A former Army medic made famous by a photograph that showed him carrying an injured Iraqi boy during the first week of the war has died of an apparent overdose, police said.

Joseph Patrick Dwyer died last week at a hospital in Pinehurst, according to the Boles Funeral Home. He was 31.

Last week, Dwyer called a local taxi service to take him to the hospital after an apparent overdose, Capt. Floyd Thomas of the Pinehurst Police Department told the Fayetteville Observer. When the driver arrived, Dwyer said he couldn't get to the door, according to a police report.

Police kicked in the door at Dwyer's request, and he was taken by ambulance to a Pinehurst hospital. Thomas said bottles of prescription pills were found near Dwyer when police arrived. The former medic died later the night of June 28, according to authorities.

Dwyer served with the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment of Fort Stewart, Ga. He earned the Combat Medical Badge and other military awards.

It is hard to find out how many members of the military have committed suicide over these recent years. The VA is studying Guard and Reserve suicides among veterans returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. They make up more than half that total. The director of the National Institute of Mental Health believes that suicides among vets returned from Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the number of combat deaths. The year 2006 marked the highest rate of military suicides in 26 years. A well respected source, Science News, reported that, to quote the headline, "One In Five Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Suffer From PTSD Or Major Depression":

Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan -- 300,000 in all -- report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slight more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

. . . The RAND study estimates the societal costs of PTSD and major depression for two years after deployment range from about $6,000 to more than $25,000 per case. Depending whether the economic cost of suicide is included, the RAND study estimates the total society costs of the conditions for two years range from $4 billion to $6.2 billion.

Mental Health Issues -- Before my retirement I worked as a mental health counselor. Over those 12 years I worked with many clients who were diagnosed with Major Depression or PTSD. Those suffering from these conditions are often at risk of dying. These can be truly life threatening mental health conditions. I often worried over the weekend whether one or more of my clients would be able to show up for their appointments the following week. Fortunately all those many clients who thought of suicide made it back. Those few who almost attempted suicide were able to make an outcry in time to save their own lives, because they were in treatment, which was the key. According to the stories highlighted today, far too few in the military are getting the kind of treatment needed to save their lives. Members of the military get the finest treatment in history for their physical wounds. Unfortunately effective treatment for mental wounds is another matter . . . a tragically serious matter for the military and for the nation.

This day in history: Constitution Convention, July 5, 1787. 11-member committee proposed representation by state in Senate and population in House.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Exploit your ex's privacy, get an autographed baseball

By LindaBeth

I’m starting to wonder if sports has become the “it” terrain for blatant sexism and creating a hostile climate for women.

In the last year…

  • The blowup doll incident in the Chicago White Sox locker room, welcoming objectification, violence, and sexual violence, while being rather inhospitable to female, and non-sexist male, journalists wanting to do their job. Not to mention any conscionable player being upset by it would have a hard time speaking up, lest he be accused of being gay, as is often the case in locker-room situations: just see the comments on sports columnist Mike Wise’s article against the display (see also Michael Messner’s excellent work on masculinity, homophobia and sport). The doll and the accompanying baseball bat strategically placed in a certain orifice with the sign “You’ve got to Push” and all its encompassing sexism was intended to “encourage” the team. Great.

Now this…

via Feminocracy:

The Morning Joe show on MSNBC this morning retold the story of a man who got a signed baseball for throwing nude pictures of his ex-wife into the bull pen. The pictures got the man a ball signed by everyone in the dugout courtesy of Johnathan Papelbon of the Boston Red Sox [...] Nothing is more classy than giving out nude pictures you obtained during the course of a relationship and spreading them around once the relationship is over. Likewise, its very classy to accept random nudes from fans–lovely.

This is absolutely deplorable behavior, on the part of the guy and the players. The Bo-Sox dugout should be ashamed for accepting these images that were made in the context of an intimate relationships that this guy is exploiting for this own profit and without the consent of the woman in the photos. How is this not illegal? Is this not the “sale” of pornography without the consent of the model? Code 2257 anyone?

Combined with the way female athletes are written about in the media, the sports industry is telling me loud and clear where I, as a female, belong: on the sidelines, displaying my tits. And not kissing another female.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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I hate to say I told you so, but...

By Carl

The contract between a government and its people is understood to be one where the government has to not exercise its power entirely.

Parental, in other words.

A government which fully exerts its power over its people is a tyranny, a totalitarian regime, fascism.

A people who do not exert their responsibilities can be viewed as child-like, refusing to accept their position as necessary to the functioning of the nation as a whole. This is the paradox of the one versus the many: how much difference can one man/woman/vote/dollar make?

The Dalai Lama and other Buddhists will tell you, quite a bit. See, it's not ultimately about the exertion of influence but about the exercise of freedoms. The pursuit, if you will, of happiness.

To digress for a moment, one reason I agreed to blog after katrina urged me time and again was the opportunity I saw to influence even just one person to think differently, to let one other person know he or she was not alone in what they perceived around themselves. To understand that we are connected.

I see the struggle for the political will of this country coming down to three factions:

-- First, the right, with its individualistic, opportunistic, capitalistic thinking that by each of us pursuing our own self-interests, we can lift the nation as a whole, on average, higher. This work, believe it or not, but it's not enough, clearly. For the first hundred and fifty years, this nation operated in precisely this fashion and for one hundred and fifty years, we left people behind.

-- Second, the left with its notions that every problem is so intractable that it demands we gather in as many resources as possible to allow the government to dictate solutions to us. This works in some instances, particularly in emergency situations when consensii must be reached quickly. Indeed, we've seen the failure of underactive oversight of government in the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

-- Third is the middle, the vast majority of Americans, some 60-80% of us, who sit there and see the failures of both sides as well as the successes and wonder why there cannot be a better way that combines the two.

I wish there was an easy answer for them but there simply is not. The political tides of this nation ebb and flow on the backs of these people: the philosophy that can capture more of public opinion will be the philosophy that prevails at that particular moment in time. When the left can exert influence, like during the 60s, progressive philosophies are tried, and while their strengths are revealed, their weaknesses are immediately exposed as well.

Similarly, as in the 80s, when a right-wing philosophy is experimented with, whatever strengths it exhibits is coupled immediately with its weaknesses.

This opens the door to communication and marketing, of course. This is why we no longer talk about policies when comparing two candidates, but about the effectiveness of the "message" and the messenger. This is why politics is now covered like a horse race rather than a debate. The right had seized on this secret during the Reagan years and managed to massage it for decades. Indeed, if Bill Clinton hadn't won in 1992 by stealing this technique from Republicans, it is likely that President Gore would now be talked about for a third term. It's not so much that Reagan did anything remarkable during his two terms that had people talking about his image on Mt. Rushmore, but that he followed nearly twenty years of malfeasance, corruption and perceived incompetence. All you needed was a trained chimp at that point, and twenty five percent of the country would rejoice for the Second Coming.

Sort of like Dumbya, now.

We are on the cusp of a moment which cannot be denied. People have grown weary with right-wing bromides of privatization and laissez-faire economics and benefits for the rich. So long as these were not perceived as hurting the hundreds of millions in the middle, the middle was content. While it is conceivable that John McCain could steal away this election, it would be only a temporary delay. The age of progressivism seems to be upon us, yet again.The pendulum has swung once more and to the left.

The question is, what to do about this? The 2006 elections showed us an interesting mandate: while Americans are tired of the right-wing "lower taxes will solve everything" mantra, they clearly have become indoctrinated to the right wing message of "left=anti-America." This is one reason the Obama flag pin trope worked so strongly during the primary campaign, both as an influence on leftists who had to abandon Edwards and Kucinich ("See? He ain't buckling under to no flag pin wearing fascists!") and on rightists ("See? He ain't American!").

The 2006 elections saw the rise of the middle left: people like Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill, rookie senators who won in traditionally red states by running not as Democrats but as disaffected Republican-could-bes. Yet, they support many progressive ideals-- some are pro-choice, some are pro-healthcare, some are pro-safety (antigun, the right would call them).

This has created a gulf in the Democratic party, as the puffed-up chests of and dKos over the sensible and calculated moves by Obama to move to the center in time for the general election are rolled out., in fact, has asked its supporters to escrow their donations to Obama by banking them with truly progressive Congressional and Senate candidates, thus indirectly supporting him while not allowing him to take advantage of their support.

Madness, but they have every right to be infuriated. Obama set himself up as a candidate of the left, and did nothing during the primary campaign to dissuade the Obombers from believing he was anything but in sync with them.

Well, see, that's not entirely true. He did flip-flop on the NAFTA and on a few other issues, taking first a strongly progressive view and then whittling it back and effectively kneecapping his original position.

In point of fact, it is the Obombers who have to suck it up and understand they got bamboozled. Anyone with a lick of sense, yours truly among them, realized this would happen.

Friends have asked me if I had painted myself into a corner with my strong support for Hillary and my strong denunciations of Obama. Possibly, but you'll notice something: I'm not the one who's disliking Obama more and more each day now!

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Jesse Helms -- dead at last

By Capt. Fogg

It's truly unfair that we all have to die, but I don't feel that way about Jesse Helms. It was time for his ideas and his politics to go a long, long time ago. Helms, the patron saint of the tobacco pushers, the enemy of nuclear-test-ban treaties, and a motive force in moving the American Center as far right as any Third World generalissimo has ever done has died and gone to hell.

Race baiter, bigot, and blowhard, he stood against everything I have been proud of in America. We would have been better off had he never been born and I will fly the flag more proudly today because he is finally dead.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Bill Clinton 2.0

By Creature

Every time I invest even the slightest bit of hope in a politician I usually end up disappointed.

Barack Obama has proved no different.

With Obama's support for the flawed FISA bill still stuck in my craw, he's managed to add so many issues to my list of disappointments that my head, it spins. From his faith-based pander, his boggling rejection of a "mental distress" exception for late-term abortions, to his partial embrace of the death penalty and gun laws, it's clear we have the makings of a conservative in blue-covered clothing.

Welcome to Bill Clinton 2.0.

That being said, while I'm not quite ready to crawl into the comfy news-blackout-bunker I created after Bill disappointed me to no end in the 90s -- leading to me not only abstaining from voting in 1996, but then voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 -- I am ready to fluff the pillows, stock up on Three's Company DVDs, and prepare for my descent back into that information-free bunker. Well, either that or scream like hell and hold Obama's feet to the fire for as long as I must. But, honestly, I'm kind of tired of the screaming.

And, before you play the I-told-you-so card, I still believe Barack Obama's centrism is still light years ahead of Hillary Clinton's -- though, at least with Clinton, my disappointment would have been better anticipated.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Grounds of hope


All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man... those are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

-- Thomas Jefferson, in his last known letter, acknowledging but declining, for ill health, an invitation to the 50th anniversary celebrations of American Independence. Ten days after writing these words, Jefferson would die, on 4th July, 1826.


May our celebrations on this 232d anniversary, and our collective and individual actions in the coming year, be worthy of Jefferson's last words.

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Iran Intrigue

By Carol Gee

Seymour Hersh has weighed in at The New Yorker with a long investigative piece regarding whether the Bush administration will invade or attack Iran. It has been widely covered elsewhere so I will merely introduce it again. Thanks to tlees2 at Forum:Lucidity for the original link to this story. An interesting discussion follows on the Forum. For those interested in an alternative Middle East perspective, here is Aljazeera's take on the Seymour Hersh New Yorker story. Hersh's story begins with intrigue:

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

The plot thickens -- It is not clear who might do the attack. Some speculate that Israel might either do our bidding or become will impatient. Others are not so sure that Israel is in much of a position to do anything right now, given the weak position of the Israeli PM. The Financial Times of London discussed the likelihood (or not) of an Israeli strike on Iran. To quote:

Tehran has accelerated its uranium enrichment programme instead of suspending it, speculation has mounted that Israel is preparing to do the job itself, possibly even before the US presidential elections in November.

Suspicions were fuelled by recent Israeli military manoeuvres over the Mediterranean, which some US officials described as target practice for an Iran strike.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, flew to Israel over the weekend for meetings with defence officials. Although the Pentagon said little, some analysts interpreted the trip as a show of American concern over Israel’s plans for Iran.

. . . As Iran ponders its response to the diplomatic offer – made by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – some Israeli experts worry that the US and Israel are engaging in a dangerous game.

And the plot thickens again. Sy Hersh's sources are scattered all across the Bush administration and the military. His story discusses the CIA's position as an adversary in the internicene war regarding Iran within the administration. In another twist, there is a report in Aljazeera that the CIA attempted to suppress a report by one of its agents that Iran had actually halted its nulear program. To quote:

A former CIA agent has alleged that the US intelligence agency ignored evidence Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb, a US newspaper has said.

The man's lawyer told the Washington Post that the ex-agent was told on "five occasions" to either falsify his reporting on weapons of mass destruction in the Near East, or "not to file his reports at all".

Details of the claims emerged after the ex-agent filed a motion in a US federal court last week asking the US government to declassify legal documents which he said described a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran's nuclear programmes that ran against the CIA's view.

Meanwhile Iran is not showing its hand very much, but might be willing to make a deal. We are somewhat tied, however, to what might happen as a result of whatever the Europeans would be able to do.

Looking to 2009 -- McClatchy's "Nukes and Spooks" blog reports that Iran is carefully not endorsing either presidential candidate.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Meghan is the trendiest, Cindy is the spendiest...

By Libby Spencer

With all the endless media chatter about elitist Democrats, how refreshing to find someone willing to take a shot at the spendy McCains. Surprisingly, the Politico undertook a story on the financial privilege our humble war hero, man of the people, John McCain enjoys having made his fortune the easy way. By marrying money.

You won't see this hyped by the teevee talking heads that endlessly pondered how John Edwards could possibly understand poverty when he owns one big house, but if Edwards or Obama's single mini-mansions are the criteria for being out of touch, then the McCains aren't even on the same planet as the rest of us lowly hoi polloi.

In the last four years, his lovely wife Cindy spent nearly $11 million on five condos, one of which was a $700,000, 1,900-square foot, three-bedroom loft for new college grad, daughter Meghan, proprietor of the McCain Blogette. A graduation gift I expect. This in addtion to their other properties.

Through her trusts and other corporate entities, Cindy McCain also owns another three properties: a scenic ranch outside Sedona, Ariz., where John McCain has entertained staff, prospective running mates and political reporters; a three-bedroom Arlington, Va., condo that’s been John McCain’s Washington-area residence since 1993 and the La Jolla, Calif., condo on which the back taxes were due.

Just your typical all 'Merican family. I know I find it a chore to decide which of my eight residences I'm going to visit this month. And gee, doesn't everybody's wife charge $750,000 a month on their credit card? And give their daughter a $50,000 line of credit a month? Just regular folks all right.

But they are doing their part in helping with unemployment...

The McCains increased their budget for household employees from $184,000 in 2006 to $273,000 in 2007, according to John McCain’s tax returns.

The additional cash supports an “increase in the number of employees,” said the McCain aide, who did not say whether the growing staff stemmed from the addition of new properties to the family’s real estate portfolio.

Well no wonder the media portrays McCain as so in touch with the people. How could he possibly live among that many servants and not understand the working class?

[For those of you who aren't blessed with a preschooler in your life, the title of this post is a play on the lyrics of my favorite Noggin video, "Everywhere I Go."]

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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AT&T and gender: commercial critique part 1

By LindaBeth

Is anyone besides me really annoyed by the latest AT&T Wireless commercial campaign? They sure say a lot about gender expectations and values vis-a-vis gender and behavior.

The "alter ego" commercials (or so they are dubbed on youTube) have one version of the commercial's subject talking to the camera and one acting out a scene in the background. The person talking to the camera is saying how someone doesn't have AT&T, therefore they have no reception, therefore something awful is happening to them, represented by the storyline being acted out in the background.

"Kelly's Dad" was the first one I saw that I really didn't like. Like most other annoying representation of stereotyped assumptions, I rolled my eyes and said "great." But after several more commercials from AT&T that feed unhealthy gender assumptions and values, a pattern has emerged.

In this one, the dad addresses his daughter, saying how since they don't have AT&T, the text message she sent him from Lover's Lane (the scene in the background is the father frantically knocking on car windows parked at a scenic perch) saying that she's "spending the night" at a friend's house never was received by him. Thus, the undesirable scene in the background: father worried, looking for his daughter in parked cars, and come Monday, you will be the crazy girl who no one wants to date."

What We Learn:

  • a father worried about his missing daughter is "crazy"

  • lying to your parents should be enabled by technology

  • that lying to your parents to do things you should maybe think twice about will get you dates

  • that having parents who care about you won't get you dates

  • teens not in healthy communication about sexuality is normalized

Moving along to this gem I saw last week:

where "beautiful, gorgeous, totally popular Paul" is texting her, but since she doesn't have AT&T she has no reception, and isn't getting any of them. Instead, she has to "hang with Brian, who, to be honest, smells a bit [...] prom's gonna be a blast!"

(note: I'm 99% sure the text of this commercial was changed-I remember the "smells a bit" line to be much more insulting, but I can't find any proof of my recollection.

What We Learn

  • a "beautiful" person is more worthwhile to spend time with than a less attractive and "smelly" person

  • a pretty and probably popular girl like Jen 'deserves' (is entitled) to spend time with someone of equal beauty (how differently this commercial would have read if the girl was less attractive or represented as 'geeky')

  • not only are unattractive and overweight people less valuable, but they are also clumsy and uninteresting

  • it's 'totally' OK to ditch plans with someone to hang out with someone who is more attractive

  • overweight people smell

  • the right technology is important for planning your life around boys and being noticed by the "right" one

Glad to know valuing people based on looks no longer discriminates based on gender!

It's interesting to compare these two ads with the others in the series. After all, these two are the only ones that feature females using the phones. If AT&T's representation of women are "slutty" lying daughters and snooty shallow teen queens (and both white), then how are men represented?

As businessmen.

As world travelers (with a family).

As sports fans.

As music fans and buddies.

And most interestingly, all as adults.

One features work, one features family, 2 feature apparently single life, complete with friendships, or at least a life outside of romantic relationships. 2 feature black characters, 2 feature white. And not that cookie are deserved, but cool that the businessman is black. The two featuring females (well, girls?) Not so much. Both involve the girls' lives in terms of opposite-sex romantic relationships. Both are white. And both present women as less than sympathetic: status-driven and lying sluts. Just. Great.

Finally, we have the classic "boys will be boys." Now this one isn't from the "alter ego" campaign, but it's for AT&T and deals with gender, so I 'm including it. Plus it actually has an adult female in it in equal time, although she's not the consumer of the phone:

Apparently the two at the table are both from the TV show "The Hills" (which I could care less about).

What We Learn

  • Leering at women (though "subtly) walking down the street in from of your girlfriend while she's primping for your benefit and while you're in a conversation with her is either "no big deal" or is something he should deny/lie about (not sure what they're going for) hence his "what?"

  • No matter what your girlfriend looks like, there's always someone other/better to look at

  • Such behavior is almost cute (the way she smiles and rolls her eyes)

  • the lyric "heaven" refers to ephemeral eye candy, not to your committed partner. Classy. The YouTube commenters also thought the ironic use of the song was "hilarious."

  • "Reflect your style": his style is clearly ogling, specifically anyone who isn't his girlfriend (she's much prettier than the other two, IMO). Also, the phone is the "hottest accessory": is that supposed to also be referring to the two "hot" females walking by -- accessories??

What I also find fascinating is how all the YouTube comments I read about the characters were talking about how "hot" the guy (Brody) is. I have no doubt The Hills has a large female demographic. So I guess all AT&T had to do was put in a cute guy to get the female audience to talk, even with such an anti-woman message (many women also commented on how piggish guys are who are like that). So is the function of the boys-will-be-boys sexism an appeal to the male consumer as a wink-wink to the guys in the audience, as a nod to men's collective sense of entitlement to women's bodies? Like a "we know you all do it!" Well, only if all men are sexist pigs do "you all" do it. Which we know isn't actually true, but it would seem that way by looking at commercial media.

The concept behind this commercial really doesn't sit well with me considering the two recent court rulings that using mirrors and cel phones to look up women's skirts and photograph them in public places isn't actually illegal. Thanks to this commercial, AT&T presents the consumer with yet another way to invade women's privacy in subtler and subtler ways.

Interestingly, this phone is called "Shine." I can think of a lot better ways than ignoring your girlfriend and drooling over other women to advertise a product called "Shine." But sex is everything, eh kids?

Interesting too how this one and "Jen's phone" play off each other. In the first one, the girl is a teen, wanting to be hanging out with the popular cute guy who she thinks isn't calling her, but instead is hanging out with the less cool guy this one, the adult guy has a girlfriend, both of whom are ideally attractive, who he's supposedly "spending time with" but instead he's spending time looking at other womens' bodies. And she should just "deal" with this.

UPDATED 7/4: This just hit me today: As the female character is talking to her boyfriend, she is applying lip gloss using her Shine phone. In other words, the "reflection" of the guy is objectification/sexism, or desiring others, and the "reflection" of the girl is making herself more desirable. Classic gendered behavior.

And shame on them if this is true: I read on a youTube comment that commercial was changed from the original "ur a fag" to "ur a pig." If so -- very not cool on the original, and super not cool since she wasn't even meaning "fag" to be gay -- how would "checking out" 2 women make him gay? -- but meant it to be demeaning. Sexism and heterosexism wrapped in one insulting commercial.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me)

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A disastrous presidency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's the perfect video for this Fourth of July, the last of Bush's presidency. Watch it:

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

(h/t: Mike Luckovich of the AJC)

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No body haf afk'd me, verily...

By Carl

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the nunited States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

The price of privacy: Google, Viacom, and the one-billion-dollar assault on freedom

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have heard by now, a federal judge has ruled that Google, which owns YouTube, must turn over to Viacom information regarding "the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube," according to the BBC. "The viewing log, which will be handed to Viacom, contains the log-in ID of users, the computer IP address (online identifier) and video clip details."

Viacom is suing Google for copyright infringement: "When it initiated legal action in March 2007 Viacom said it had identified about 160,000 unauthorised clips of its programmes on the website, which had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times." This is why, for example, you can't find Daily Show clips on YouTube anymore. Viacom has forced Google to pull them.

Orin Kerr, one of the better legal minds in the blogosphere, thinks the judge's ruling is "incorrect." While it seems to me that Viacom is making a mistake targeting YouTube -- it may or may not have lost money over videos that had been copyrighted, but could it not work something out to take advantage of YouTube's immense popularity? -- but, obviously, the problem here has to do with privacy.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation puts it, "[t]he court's order... erroneously ignores the protections of the federal Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), and threatens to expose deeply private information about what videos are watched by YouTube users... The Court's erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube."

As The New York Times is reporting, Google and Viacom are "hoping to come up with a way to protect the anonymity of the site's visitors. Viacom [says] that the information would be safeguarded by a protective order restricting access to the data to outside lawyers, who will use it solely to press Viacom's $1 billion copyright suit against Google."

Which is all well and good, but how can we be so sure? Will there be oversight? What will Viacom do with the information? Will it ever pass it along, in whole or in part, to, say a federal government that claims it needs it for the sake of "national security"? We already know what the present administration thinks of domestic surveillance. What if it wants these records, too?

Essentially, a possibly "incorrect" court ruling has opened up the possibility that these personal records -- millions and millions of them -- could be used and abused, and that the privacy of millions and millions of people could be violated.

It's bad enough that Viacom will have all that personal information. But what if it ends up in the hands of a more nefarious organization than a massive media conglomerate?

And all because Viacom wants a billion dollars.



For more, see our own Libby Spencer over at The Impolitic.

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Congress' July 4 recess -- Implications for FISA

By Carol Gee

Congress will be away from Washington for a time to celebrate our nation's birthday. Given the manner this congress has been operating, it is often a good thing for our senators and representatives to be out of the city. Less mischief happens that way. As my regular readers know, much mischief has happened regarding the erosion of citizen privacy over the past few years. And Congress has aided and abetted that assault on the Fourth Amendment. The current fight is over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the "FISA" bill set for revision. The best post on the current and future situation regarding the FISA bill, as yet unresolved by Congress, was put up about a week ago by -- guess who -- my favorite, Glenn Greenwald, writing for Another of his excellent posts sets the stage for what is likely to happen to the FISA bill when Congress comes back from its July 4 recess. To quote (includes his links):

UPDATE: Two Democratic Senators actually fighting against the FISA bill -- Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd -- succeeded in blocking a vote in the Senate until after the July 4 recess (the vote is now scheduled for July 8). Jesselyn Radack -- the DOJ lawyer who became the whistleblower concerning the Bush administration's treatment of John Walker Lindh -- writes here about this success. It's only a temporary reprieve, but delays of this sort can enable further opposition to build and/or allow unanticipated events to intervene.

There is a surprisingly vigorous feud among three of my favorites over the future of FISA. Glenn Greenwald and Keith Olbermann are going at it over Senator Barack Obama's unwelcome support for a bad FISA bill. Former White House Counsel John Dean is also in the middle of it. In my opinion, the disagreements are not so much over the back and forth criticisms between Greenwald and Olbermann over Obama's FISA stance, as they are about a general frustration due to the country's inability to stop the FISA bill's apparent momentum to passage. Empty Wheel weighs in with some helpful insight into this whole bizarre controversy. We all want the same things out of Congress on this matter; we just disagree on how to get there. Congress needs to exercise vigorous oversight over a law-breaking Executive. It needs to defend the Constitution. And it needs to stop caving in to the nasty tactics of Republicans.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Anger mismanagement, McCain-style

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Biloxi's Sun Herald is reporting, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican, has told the story of how his colleague John McCain once got into "a physical confrontation" on a diplomatic mission in Central America:

Cochran said he observed McCain engage in a physical confrontation with a Sandinista while participating in a diplomatic mission led by Sen. Bob Dole and others in the fall of 1987. Cochran, McCain -- who had won election to the Senate that year -- and other members of a bipartisan committee of lawmakers called the Central American Negotiations Observer Group -- met with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, head of the left-wing political party known as Sandinistas, about tensions in the region.

The atmosphere was tense, as the U.S. was pressing "pretty hard." Cochran noticed a disturbance at the meeting table in a room lined with armed personnel.

"McCain was down at the end of the table and we were talking to the head of the guerilla group here at this end of the table and I don't know what attracted my attention," Cochran said. "But I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever. I don't know what he was telling him but I thought, good grief, everybody around here has got guns and we were there on a diplomatic mission. I don't know what had happened to provoke John but he obviously got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him."

No punches were thrown and the two sat back down, Cochran said. The man, who appeared ruffled after the confrontation with McCain, was an Ortega associate, but Cochran said he was unsure of his identity.

Some might say that getting rough with the Sandinistas -- or at least with one of them -- was a sign of genuine toughness, that the Sandinistas deserved it, that McCain acted courageously even in the face of grave danger.

And, sure, it happened a long time ago. So what?

But what's interesting is that McCain is denying Cochran's allegation. And why would he not? Americans like their leaders tough, I suppose, but the story only reinforces the apt characterization of McCain as a guy with a terrible temper, a guy with some anger issues, even as a guy with a screw or two loose.

What's more, such outlandish and violent behaviour is hardly presidential. Does it not speak to a certain lack of judgement, especially in the face of grave danger, tension, and conflict, that is, when a president needs it most?

The denial is a matter of course. There's a lot about McCain, the real McCain lurking behind the faux maverick, straight-talker facade, that McCain doesn't want getting out.

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George W. Bush, pornography stimulator

By Michael J.W. Stickings

An unintended consequence? Sure, but, given American tastes and interests, perhaps a predictable one -- and certainly a hilarious one:

An unforeseen and surprising beneficiary of the Economic Stimulus Plan, a plan that George Bush contends will "boost our economy and encourage job creation," has surfaced this week. An independent market-research firm, AIMRCo (Adult Internet Market Research Company), has discovered that many websites focused on adult or erotic material have experienced an upswing in sales in the recent weeks since checks have appeared in millions of Americans' mailboxes across the country.

According to Kirk Mishkin, Head Research Consultant for AIMRCo, "Many of the sites we surveyed have reported 20-30% growth in membership rates since mid-May when the checks were first sent out, and typically the summer is a slow period for this market."

Jillian Fox, spokeswoman for, one of the sites reporting figures to AIMRCo, added, "In a June 15, 2008 survey to our members, thirty two percent of respondents referenced the recent stimulus package as part of their decision to either become a new member, or renew an existing membership."


Fox also added, "Getting more people to buy porn was probably the last thing Bush had on his mind when he came up with his 'stimulus package,' but we'll take it."

Well, how did you think Americans would spend their Bush-backed stimulation-package cash? On ExxonMobil stock? Hardly. (The American porn industry may not be as big as some claims would suggest, but it's still huge, a multi-billion-dollar business that obviously has enough consumers to keep it booming.)


More from Think Progress: "NPR reported this week that the Shady Lady Ranch in Nevada 'is offering gas cards to lure people in, and the Moonlite Bunny Ranch has a deal called "double your stimulus" for folks who bring in their federal tax rebate checks.'"

Good times. Even with a crappy economy.

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While the US burns

By Carl

As California begins the wildfire season
both early and in earnest, the question has to be asked, why so many so big?

National Geographic magazine's
latest issue attempts to answer this question:

In 2006, wildfires burned 15,000 square miles across the country, a record nearly matched last year. Two-thirds of the burned acreage was in the West. One obvious cause is a decade of drought and warmer temperatures. Mountain snow melts earlier, and winter storms arrive later, extending the fire season in some regions by several weeks. Vast tracts of drought-weakened forest have succumbed to insects and disease, turning trees to tinder. In response, we have bolstered our fighter ranks, padded them with private contractors, provided them more hoses and axes and trucks. Annual federal spending on firefighting has leaped from $1 billion when the recent drought began in 1998 to more than $3 billion last year, with even greater costs forecast for the future. But the drought is only one part of the burn equation.

"The more money we spend, the worse it gets," one fire scientist told me last summer. "If that's not a condemnation of our fire policies, I don't know what is."


One answer is, of course, the short-sighted fire management policies of the past, which demanded that each fire be put out as it occurs and that the best way to do this was to throw money and manpower at it.

In some areas, government policies work best on large problems. In others clearly not so well, and this is one of those times when panicked policies designed to serve the desires of developers and settlers, people with an economic interest in natural resources, were foolish and flawed.

Another answer is, naturally, global warming, yet another instance of Bad Big Government in the form of protectionist policies for economic development. A balanced approach to shepherding and managing our natural resources.

It costs roughly $200,000 a day to fight even a small fire, so that adds up to millions even assuming a quick battle of less than a week. Multiply that by 1,400 fires, and you're talking about hundredss of millions a week, even billions and that's starting to rival the Iraq war for inefficiencies.

Now add to this the cost of protecting other "investments" made with private funds, and you begin to grasp the costs of greed, and for what?

So someone else can have a nice view out their window in the morning?

A new beginning must be undertaken to straighten out the priorities of this nation, one that doesn't exclusively accept that "money = good."

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Obama and the Hispanics

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Remember back during the primaries when Hillary was pretty much trouncing Obama among Hispanic voters and there was all that talk about how Hillary's success among Hispanics contributed to her so-called "electability" and how doing so poorly among Hispanics would be a big problem for Obama come general election time?

Yeah, well... here's Gallup:

Hispanic registered voters' support for Barack Obama for president remained consistent and strong in June, with Obama leading John McCain by 59% to 29% among this group.

While Hispanics generally preferred Hillary Clinton to Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, a solid majority of Hispanics have consistently backed Obama against McCain in general-election trial heats. Obama has led McCain by about a 2-to-1 margin since Gallup began tracking general-election voting preferences in early March.

I don't want to say I told you so -- after all, I don't know who you are -- but, well, I told you so. McCain has some support among Hispanics because, unlike most Republicans, he isn't completely crazy (in that xenophobic sort of way that characterizes so much of the nativist GOP) when it comes to immigration -- he worked with Ted Kennedy on a compromise bill, but it's not quite clear where he stands on the issue now, what with all the flippin' and floppin' and panderin' -- but Obama is clearly much more attractive to them, given his positions on the Iraq War, the economy, and other key issues.

Besides, it was clear all along, if not so much to the short-sighted and narrow-minded punditocracy, that Obama was only doing poorly among Hispanics relative to Hillary, not in absolute terms. Hispanics may have preferred her to him, but that never meant that they preferred anyone to him, let alone a warmongering faux maverick who sucks up to the GOP's right-wing base like McCain. Remember that Hillary, like Bill, is especially strong among Hispanics. But now, with the long and sometimes bitter Democratic race over and done with, "Hispanics of differing demographic backgrounds all tend to solidly support Obama."

Which, needless to say, bodes well for November.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The curse of Joe Lieberman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

McCain wingman and anti-Democrat Joe Lieberman may be a senator from Connecticut, but he's apparently doing worse than nothing to his pal's chances in his home state.

A new Quinnipiac poll has Obama up big over McCain in Connecticut, 56 to 35.

Of course, Connecticut is a fairly liberal state, and usually a solidly Democratic one, and Obama should win it without too much difficulty. But would it help McCain to have some Joementum on the ticket?

You'd think so, right?

Er, no. You'd be wrong.

In fact, according to this poll, it would actually hurt McCain to have him on the ticket "If McCain picks Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, only 14 percent of Connecticut voters say they are more likely to vote Republican, while 32 percent are less likely and 52 percent say it won't affect their vote."

In other words, Lieberman is deeply unpopular in his own state, with many more voters against him than for him and a majority not caring at all.

In most states, I suspect, many voters would be happy and honoured to have one of their own on a presidential ticket. Not so in Connecticut, where Lieberman has only 14 percent of voters enthusiastically behind him -- that is, behind him enough for his inclusion on a presidential ticket to make a positive difference to them

McCain may be happy to have him on his side, a renegade former Democrat who has turned into a Republican, but his own state has soundly rejected him.

For all I care, he can continue to suck at McCain's teat for the rest of the campaign.

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A tale of too shitty

By Carl

Compare and contrast:


Drug Use Increasingly Common in All Countries

TUESDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- The United States has one of the highest lifetime rates of tobacco and alcohol use and the highest percentage of people who reported using marijuana or cocaine at least once in their lives, a new survey shows.

Researchers from the World Health Organization analyzed alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug use in 17 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania.

Among the major findings:

The use of all types of drugs in the survey is becoming increasingly common in all the countries. Males were more likely than females to have used all drug types in all countries and all age groups.Younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used these substances.People with higher incomes were more likely to have used legal and illegal drugs.Alcohol has been used by most survey respondents in the Americas, Europe, Japan and New Zealand, compared to smaller percentages of respondents in the Middle East, Africa and China.Alcohol use by age 15 was far more common among Europeans than among those in the Middle East or Africa.Lifetime tobacco use was most common in the United States (74 percent), Lebanon (67 percent), Mexico and the Ukraine (60 percent and 61 percent) and the Netherlands (58 percent).

With this:

Survey Finds U.S. Leads World in Substance Abuse

The U.S. leads the world in marijuana and cocaine experimentation, as well as in lifetime tobacco use, according to a survey released this week by the World Health Organization.

For the survey, which was partially funded by a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia looked at drug, alcohol and tobacco use in 17 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania. More than 54,000 people participated in the survey.

"The United States, which has been driving much of the world's drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies, as well as (in many U.S. states), a higher minimum legal alcohol drinking age than many comparable developed countries," the authors wrote in the study, which was published in the July 1 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

"The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults," they added.

Does it seem odd to you that the more reasonable, and more honest, headline is over the more sensationalized story, while the zanier headline is over the more upfront fact laden piece?

Here's the kicker: the first story was taken from the Washington Post, the second from....drumroll,!

There's something wrong with this picture, as well as right, when FOX has the better story (wrong), and the Washington Post has the more accurate headline (right).

The implications of this study are fairly clear and it is ironic that this study is released the same day
John McCain visits Colombia for photo ops with the drug interdiction forces: tougher drug laws do not discourage drug use.

The percentages are staggering: in the US, over 40% of respondents said they had used marijuana at least once in their lifetimes. In the Netherlands, which has far more liberal drug policies 9so you would think they'd be nothing but pot heads), less than 20% of respondents reported using pot even once.

Too, arguments against smoking laws can be made here as well: the US leads the world in tobacco use (76% of respondents had tried some form of tobacco at one point or other. The next highest percentage was Lebanon, with 67%), despite some of the toughest anti-smoking laws on the books, particularly when it comes to advertising.

The trouble with both of these conclusions, of course, is that it would be hard to discern the effects of a recent smoking ban in, say, New York City with someone who is, say, 50. I smoked, but do not anymore. If I had been born 30 years later, I likely would not have smoked.

Similarly with marijuana, drug criminality was made harsher during my lifetime. It's possible that people born after the
Rockefeller laws, and certainly after "three strikes" were passed, might see a far lower percentage of drug use.

Personally, the libertarian in me would like to see all drug laws rethought and the liberation of about 1.5 million people currently serving jail sentences for smoking a joint.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Entertainment and 'choice'

By LindaBeth

Some recent thoughts I had on entertainment and choosing:

We all like (need?) to be entertained: all genders, sexualities, races, etc.

The sad truth is, we have to choose from what is out there. Sometimes people of progressive sensibilities have to “overlook” things in entertainment that are problematic in order to be able to relax and, well, be entertained.

This is why I am really sick of the following defense/excuse for systematic problematic representations and constructions of “otherness” (non-white/male/middle-class/heterosexual) in entertainment or simply of certain titles in entertainment:

“[insert marginalized group here] watch it/play it/buy it/read it therefore:

  • there’s no problem with the ideology perpetuated
  • it accurately represents what said people want
  • said people enjoy it every aspect of the entertainment”

The bottom line is that we can only be entertained from what’s out there, and what we like and want is heavily informed by what already exists. If every movie I saw was problem-free, I would rarely go to the movies. Just because people consume entertainment doesn’t absolve their -Isms.** I often decline from supporting and entertainment that is even a bit sexist/heterosexist/racist, etc., and I am fine with giving it up but many other people don’t make that sacrifice and that is 100% their prerogative. But that cannot be interpreted to mean that all entertainment consumed by marginalized individuals is not in any way offensive or problematic. Not to mention that oftentimes the problematic nature of some entertainment isn’t known until after spending the money; thus, when commercial success=implied condoning, the damage is often already done, which makes public critique our primary way of making our disgust known.

Example: this especially applies to hetero women and porn, of women having resources for sexualized men. women want erotic imagery but the vast majority of images and films are targeted for heterosexual men, and often involve ideologies that progressive women find objectionable. More and more there are non-sexist, non-racist material available, but they are often hard-to-find and are almost never “free” (whereas men wanting “traditional” material have very easy and free access to material that is quite suitable for them). Therefore, many women (or prog-men), who want to satisfy their desire for erotic material, “settle” for traditional material and try to “look over” the deficiencies. Or many cope by occupying the male observer’s standpoint, and sexualize the female involved, thus they may be consuming and enjoying mainstream erotic imagery, but are deprived sexualized male bodies. In other words: when it comes to porn, women who want and enjoy porn as a category have to simply choose between the options they are given, which may or may not actually be 100% what they want. It’s just what’s easily (or freely) available.

Back to entertainment “in general”: These assumptions are further problematic:

  • Sexism/racism/homophobia/xenophobia/heteronormativity in entertainment is appropriate because it simply reflects the “truth” of what an identity group “wants” (i.e. sexism is ok because these games are “for men.”): -Isms are not just a “personal preference.
  • “Got a problem with it? Don’t buy it/play it/watch it!”: see above and also **above.
  • These are the kinds of entertainment that sell: ever think to question how much money and other resources goes into developing entertainment that is non sexist/racist/heteronormative etc? Or how such entertainment is marketed?

Entertainment for guys (read: straight guys) is only defined as such because of the sexism/heterosexism involved. There is no reason why women and gay men can’t enjoy certain entertainment, and they shouldn’t have to put up with BS hetero/sexism to do so. Take games for example. Games that would appeal to guys do not need objectification and homophobia. That is not the reason why guys play these games. Instead, they function to outline the proper audience for these games and to reaffirm hetero-masculine identity. And the fact that women play these games serves as “evidence” that women don’t mind or that women enjoy the roles they are given in these games. As I’ve been trying to show in this post, these are misguided conclusions/assumptions. But since women do choose to play these games (since there are little if any sexism-free equivalent alternatives) there is no incentive to make their games differently since it clearly isn’t affecting their bottom line. But women and queer gamers do voice their dissatisfaction. And the solution is not to make some second-class, underdeveloped alternatives that rely on pathetic tropes and stereotypical marketing (see this Broadsheet article that in part prompted me to write this post today). For example: if women only have the choice between lame-assed girl-games and more complex and interesting games with implicit or overt sexism, women choosing the former does not necessarily mean that’s what “women want” (they may in fact be so sick of the sexism in most games) or that their choosing the latter means that the sexism is acceptable to them.

Bottom line: what we “choose” is not always what we want. It’s just what we have to choose from. And what we want for the most part comes from somewhere-it is shaped by what’s available.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me)

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