Friday, September 30, 2011

fucking gnarly!
Freestyle Train Surfing in India

thanks, Luke

and the Occupy Wall Street protest continues...
I finally got Russell to go down there...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Something Is Building . . .

What an incredible sign being held by my Brother Cornel West.

(photo credit unknown)

I hope it lasts and it does something.... it's been crazy arguing with folks who don't believe the police would do anything wrong, rationalizations that make me livid. I also finally convinced my friend Russell who lives steps away to check out what's going on, he went and now he's a part... Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


via DangerousMinds

Fascinating short film about the Wall Street occupation movement.

And if you haven’t read David Graber’s Guardian article, “Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination,” then you probably should:
Is it really surprising they would like to have a word with the financial magnates who stole their future?

Just as in Europe, we are seeing the results of colossal social failure. The occupiers are the very sort of people, brimming with ideas, whose energies a healthy society would be marshaling to improve life for everyone. Instead, they are using it to envision ways to bring the whole system down.

But the ultimate failure here is of imagination. What we are witnessing can also be seen as a demand to finally have a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008. There was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world’s financial architecture, when anything seemed possible.

Everything we’d been told for the last decade turned out to be a lie. Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses; and debts did not really need to be repaid – in fact, money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. Even the Economist was running headlines like “Capitalism: Was it a Good Idea?”

It seemed the time had come to rethink everything: the very nature of markets, money, debt; to ask what an “economy” is actually for. This lasted perhaps two weeks. Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they’d been before.

Perhaps, it’s not surprising. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the real priority of those running the world for the last few decades has not been creating a viable form of capitalism, but rather, convincing us all that the current form of capitalism is the only conceivable economic system, so its flaws are irrelevant. As a result, we’re all sitting around dumbfounded as the whole apparatus falls apart.
Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination (Guardian)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I gotta say this whole situation with the treatment of law enforcement on the public they are supposed to be protecting makes me fucking ill.

Inspiring and depressing at the same time. To see all the people trying to effect change is fucking awesome, particularly those who organize and are not just out to cause a ruckus. The controlling, brutal, weaponized, fascist spirit in the US is beyond all other western countries, it's sickens me. Typical and unfortunate, that it even happens here in New York City like it does. That now famous video of the girl being sprayed by mace was just steps away from my home!

The fact that the government here uses violence against it's own people, speaking up, shows they don't give a fuck what we have to say no matter what. Protests haven't done shit for years... since the governments local and federal took the attitude FUCK'EM . On a good day the protests are good to rally us up a bit, but mostly it's just preaching to the converted.

My friend "the Spiv" once pointed out to me: "Protests are more like funerals" these last 15 years or so, "just a way to show your respects to the cause/person - but they don't really hear you, and nothing really happens". (I mean for the most part there are rare exceptions- but usually only by legal means does anything happen or when a corporation feels it on their balance sheet do they ever make an effort to change). The fascist police force and the people (oligarchy) who give them the marching orders need to be held accountable on EVERY level.

Only videos (as long as your equipment isn't destroyed on confiscated) will help spread the word virally over the internet into individuals homes and onto campuses. The corporate news ain't gonna tell the story that would help bring them down too, for being complicit.

This is as good a time as any, and it's always more important than ever, so I wish these folks the best and hope they accomplish something, some kind of awakening or change... So far it seems people in the media are mostly concerned about this one horrible circumstance of violence on this woman, being maced point blank in the face, but the reality is if they spent as much time on the evening news discussing WHY this woman was protesting and WHAT she was protesting, then we really might see something change... no such luck yet. But i look forward to the day.

Richard Metzger over at DangerousMinds says: "There have been a lot of people wondering why they major media seems to be ignoring the Wall Street demonstrations. Some are calling for the protests to be brought to the media and it seems like a decent tactic would be to take the demonstrations directly to the headquarters of the various networks and news organizations so they simply can’t ignore it. In the meantime, until the networks deign to cover them, you can watch a live feed of the Wall Street protests on the Global Revolution Livestream channel.

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

Noam Chomsky sends a “strong message of support” to the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protests:

“Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called “a precariat” — seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity — not only too big to fail, but also “too big to jail.”

The courageous and honorable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.”


Monday, September 26, 2011

Michael Moore: "I was the most hated man in America"

from The Guardian UK
In his 2003 Oscar acceptance speech, Michael Moore denounced President Bush and the invasion of Iraq. Overnight he became the most hated man in America. In an exclusive extract from his new book, Here Comes Trouble, he tells of the bomb threats, bodyguards and how he fought back

'I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it … No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out [of him]. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my 'What Would Jesus Do?' band, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, 'Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore', and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realise, 'Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death.' And you know, well, I'm not sure."

Glenn Beck, live on the Glenn Beck show, 17 May 2005

Wishes for my early demise seemed to be everywhere. They were certainly on the mind of CNN's Bill Hemmer one sunny July morning in 2004. Holding a microphone in front of my face on the floor of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, live on CNN, he asked me what I thought about how the American people were feeling about Michael Moore: "I've heard people say they wish Michael Moore were dead." Hemmer said it like he was simply stating the obvious, like, "of course they want to kill you!" He just assumed his audience already understood this truism, as surely as they accept that the sun rises in the east and corn comes on a cob.

To be fair to Hemmer, I was not unaware that my movies had made a lot of people mad. It was not unusual for fans to randomly come up and hug me and say, "I'm so happy you're still here!" They didn't mean in the building.

Why was I still alive? For more than a year there had been threats, intimidation, harassment and even assaults in broad daylight. It was the first year of the Iraq war, and I was told by a top security expert (who is often used by the federal government for assassination prevention) that "there is no one in America other than President Bush who is in more danger than you".

How on earth did this happen? Had I brought this on myself? Of course I had. And I remember the moment it all began.

It was the night of 23 March 2003. Four nights earlier, George Bush had invaded Iraq. This was an illegal, immoral, stupid invasion – but that was not how Americans saw it. More than 70% of the public backed the war. And on the fourth night of this very popular war, my film Bowling for Columbine was up for an Academy Award. I went to the ceremony but was not allowed, along with any of the nominees, to talk to the press while walking down the red carpet into Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. There was the fear that someone might say something – and in wartime we need everyone behind the war effort and on the same page.

The actress Diane Lane came on to the stage and read the list of nominees for best documentary. The envelope was opened, and she announced with unbridled glee that I had won the Oscar. The main floor, filled with the Oscar-nominated actors, directors and writers, leapt to its feet and gave me a very long standing ovation. I had asked the nominees from the other documentary films to join me on the stage in case I won, and they did. The ovation finally ended, and then I spoke: "I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us. They are here in solidarity with me because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction, yet we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts: we are against this war, Mr Bush. Shame on you, Mr Bush. Shame on you! And anytime you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up! Thank you very much."

About halfway through these remarks, all hell broke loose. There were boos, very loud boos, from the upper floors and from backstage. (A few – Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep – tried to cheer me on from their seats, but they were no match.) The producer of the show ordered the orchestra to start playing to drown me out. The microphone started to descend into the floor. A giant screen with huge red letters began flashing in front of me: "YOUR TIME IS UP!" It was pandemonium, to say the least, and I was whisked off the stage.

A little known fact: the first two words every Oscar winner hears right after you win the Oscar and leave the stage come from two attractive young people in evening wear hired by the Academy to immediately greet you behind the curtain. So while calamity and chaos raged on in the Kodak, this young woman in her designer gown stood there, unaware of the danger she was in, and said the following word to me: "Champagne?" And she held out a flute of champagne.

The young man in his smart tuxedo standing next to her then immediately followed up with this: "Breathmint?" And he held out a breathmint.

Champagne and breathmint are the first two words all Oscar winners hear. But, lucky me, I got to hear a third. An angry stagehand came right up to the side of my head, screaming as loud as he could in my ear: "ASSHOLE!"

Other burly, pissed-off stagehands started toward me. I clutched my Oscar like a weapon, holding it like a lone man trapped and surrounded in the woods, his only hope being the torch he is swinging madly at the approaching vampires. All I felt at that moment was alone, that I was nothing more than a profound and total disappointment.

That night I couldn't sleep, so I got up and turned on the TV. For the next hour I watched the local TV stations do their Oscar night wrap-up shows – and as I flipped between the channels, I listened to one pundit after another question my sanity, criticise my speech and say, over and over, in essence: "I don't know what got into him!"

"He sure won't have an easy time in this town after that stunt!" "Who does he think will make another movie with him now?" "Talk about career suicide!" After an hour of this, I turned off the TV and went online, where there was more of the same, only worse – from all over America. I began to get sick. I could see the writing on the wall – it was curtains for me as a film-maker. I turned off the computer and I turned off the lights and I sat there in the chair in the dark, going over and over what I had done. Good job, Mike. And good riddance.

Bombarded with hatred

When we got back to our home in northern Michigan, the local beautification committee had dumped three truckloads of horse manure waist-high in our driveway so that we wouldn't be able to enter our property – a property which, by the way, was freshly decorated with a dozen or so signs nailed to our trees: GET OUT! MOVE TO CUBA! COMMIE SCUM! TRAITOR! LEAVE NOW OR ELSE!

I had no intention of leaving.

The hate mail after the Oscar speech was so voluminous, it almost seemed as if Hallmark had opened a new division where greeting card writers were assigned the task of penning odes to my passing. ("For a Special Motherfucker …" "Get Well Soon from Your Mysterious Car Accident!" "Here's to a Happy Stroke!")

The phone calls to my house were actually creepier. It's a whole different fright machine when a human voice is attached to the madness and you think: "This person literally risked arrest to say this over a phone line!" You had to admire the balls – or insanity – of that.

But the worst moments were when people came on to our property. These individuals would just walk down the driveway, always looking like rejects from the cast of Night of the Living Dead, never moving very fast, but always advancing with singleminded purposefulness. Few were actual haters; most were just crazy. We kept the sheriff's deputies busy until they finally suggested we might want to get our own security, or perhaps our own police force. Which we did.

We met with the head of the top security agency in the country, an elite outfit that did not hire ex-cops, nor any "tough guys" or bouncer-types. They preferred to use only Navy Seals and other ex–Special Forces. Guys who had a cool head and who could take you out with a piece of dental floss in a matter of nanoseconds. By the end of the year, due to the alarming increase of threats and attempts on me, I had nine ex-Seals surrounding me, round-the-clock.

Fahrenheit 9/11: the fightback

After the Oscar riot and the resulting persona-non-grata status I held as the most hated man in America, I decided to do what anyone in my position would do: make a movie suggesting the president of the United States is a war criminal.

I mean, why take the easy road? It was already over for me, anyway. The studio that had promised to fund my next film had called up after the Oscar speech and said that they were backing out of their signed contract with me – if I didn't like it, I could go fuck myself. Fortunately, another studio picked up the deal but cautioned that perhaps I should be careful not to piss off the ticket-buying public. The owner of the studio had backed the invasion of Iraq. I told him I had already pissed off the ticket-buying public, so why don't we just make the best movie possible, straight from the heart – and, well, if nobody liked that, there was always straight-to-video.

In the midst of all this turmoil I began shooting Fahrenheit 9/11. I told everyone on my crew to operate as if this was going to be the last job we were ever going to have in the movie business. This wasn't meant to be an inspirational speech – I really believed that this was going to be it. And so we spent the next 11 months putting together our cinematic indictment of an administration and a country gone mad.

The release of the film in 2004, just a little more than a year after the start of the war, came at a time when the vast majority of Americans still backed the war. We premiered it at the Cannes film festival, where we were awarded the top prize, the Palme d'Or, by an international jury headed by Quentin Tarantino. It was the first time in nearly 50 years a documentary had won the prize.

This initial overwhelming response to Fahrenheit 9/11 spooked the Bush White House, convincing those in charge of his re-election campaign that a movie could be the tipping point that might bring them down. They hired a pollster to find out the effect the film would have on voters. After screening the movie with three different audiences in three separate cities, the news Karl Rove received was not good. The movie was not only giving a much-needed boost to the Democratic base (who were wild about the film), it was, oddly, having a distinct effect also on female Republican voters.

The studio's own polling had already confirmed that an amazing one-third of Republican voters – after watching the movie – said they would recommend the film to other people. But the White House pollster reported something even more dangerous – 10% of Republican females said that after watching Fahrenheit 9/11, they had decided to either vote for John Kerry or to just stay home. In an election that could be decided by only a few percentage points, this was devastating news.

The movie would go on to open at No 1 all across North America. And, to make matters worse for the White House, it opened at No 1 in all 50 states, even in the deep south. It opened at No 1 in military towns such as Fort Bragg. Soldiers and their families were going to see it and, by many accounts, it became the top bootleg watched by the troops in Iraq. It broke the box office record long held by the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi for the largest opening weekend ever for a film that opened on 1,000 screens or less. It was, in the verbiage of Variety, major boffo, a juggernaut.

And in doing all of that, it had made me a target.

The attacks on me that followed were like mad works of fiction, crazy, madeup stuff that I refused to respond to because I didn't want to dignify the noise. On TV, on the radio, in op-eds, on the internet – everywhere – it was suggested that Michael Moore hates America, he's a liar, a conspiracy nut and a croissant-eater. The campaign against me was meant to stop too many Republicans from seeing the film.

And it worked. Of course, it also didn't help that Kerry was a lousy candidate. Bush won by one state, Ohio.

There was a residual damage from all the hate speech generated toward me by the Republican pundits. It had the sad and tragic side-effect of unhinging the already slightly unglued. And so my life went from receiving scribbly little hate notes to fullout attempted physical assaults – and worse.

Living with bodyguards

The ex–Navy Seals moved in with us. When I walked down a public sidewalk they would have to form a circle around me. At night they wore night-vision goggles and other special equipment that I'm convinced few people outside CIA headquarters have ever seen.

The agency protecting me had a threat assessment division. Their job was to investigate anyone who had made a credible threat against me. One day, I asked to see the file. The man in charge began reading me the list of names and the threats they had made and the level of threat that the agency believed each one posed. After he went through the first dozen, he stopped and asked: "Do you really want to keep going? There are 429 more."

I could no longer go out in public without an incident happening. It started with small stuff, such as people in a restaurant asking to be moved to a different table when I was seated next to them, or a taxi driver who would stop his cab in mid-traffic to scream at me. The verbal abuse soon turned physical, and the Seals were now on high alert. For security reasons, I will not go into too much detail here, partly on the advice of the agency and partly because I don't want to give these criminals any more of the attention they were seeking:

• In Nashville, a man with a knife leapt up on the stage and started coming toward me. The Seal grabbed him from behind by his belt loop and collar and slung him off the front of the stage to the cement floor below. Someone had to mop up the blood after the Seals took him away.

• In Fort Lauderdale, a man in a nice suit saw me on the sidewalk and went crazy. He took the lid off his hot, scalding coffee and threw it at my face. The Seal saw this happening but did not have the extra half-second needed to grab the guy, so he put his own face in front of mine and took the hit. The coffee burned his face so badly, we had to take him to the hospital (he had second-degree burns) – but not before the Seal took the man face down to the pavement, placing his knee painfully in the man's back, and putting him in cuffs.

• In New York City, while I was holding a press conference outside one of the cinemas showing Fahrenheit 9/11, a man walking by saw me, became inflamed, and pulled the only weapon he had on him out of his pocket – a very sharp and pointed graphite pencil. As he lunged to stab me with it, the Seal saw him and, in the last split second, put his hand up between me and the oncoming pencil. The pencil went right into the Seal's hand. You ever see a Navy Seal get stabbed? The look on their face is the one we have when we discover we're out of shampoo. The pencil-stabber probably became a convert to the paperless society that day, once the Seal was done with him and his 16th-century writing device.

The lone bomber

And then there was Lee James Headley. Sitting alone at home in Ohio, Lee had big plans. The world, according to his diary, was dominated and being ruined by liberals. His comments read like the talking points of any given day's episode of The Rush Limbaugh Show. And so Lee made a list. It was a short list of the people who had to go. At the top of the list was his No1 target: "Michael Moore". Beside my name he wrote, "MARKED" (as in "marked for death", he would later explain).

Throughout the spring of 2004, Headley accumulated a huge amount of assault weapons, a cache of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and various bomb-making materials. He bought The Anarchist's Cookbook and the race-war novel The Turner Diaries. His notebooks contained diagrams of rocket launchers and bombs, and he would write over and over: "Fight, fight, fight, kill, kill, kill!"

But one night in 2004, he accidentally fired off a round inside his home from one of his AK-47s. A neighbour heard the shot and called the police. The cops arrived and found the treasure trove of weapons, ammo and bomb-making materials. And his hit list.

I got the call some days later from the security agency.

"We need to tell you that the police have in custody a man who was planning to blow up your house. You're in no danger now."

I got very quiet. I tried to process what I just heard: I'm … in … no … danger … now. For me, it was the final straw. I broke down. My wife was already in her own state of despair over the loss of the life we used to have. I asked myself again: what had I done to deserve this? Made a movie? A movie led someone to want to blow up my home? What happened to writing a letter to the editor?

As the months wore on, even after Bush's re-election, the constant drumbeat against me only intensified. When Glenn Beck said that he was thinking of killing me, he was neither fined by the broadcasting regulator nor arrested by the NYPD. He was, essentially, making a call to have me killed, and no one in the media at that time reported it.

And then a man trespassed on our property and left something outside our bedroom window when I wasn't home. It terrorised my wife. He even videotaped himself doing this.

When the police investigated, he said he was making a "documentary". He called it Shooting Michael Moore. And when you went to his website, and the words Shooting Michael Moore came on the screen, the sound of a gunshot went off. The media ate it up, and he was asked to appear on many TV shows (such as Fox News host Sean Hannity's). "Coming up next – he's giving Michael Moore a taste of his own medicine! Moore now has somebody after him!" (Cue SFX: KA-BOOM!) He then provided video and maps of how to illegally get on to our property.

I will not share with you the impact this had, at that time, on my personal life, but suffice it to say I would not wish this on anyone. More than once I have asked myself if all this work was really worth it. And, if I had it to do over again, would I? If I could take back that Oscar speech and just walk up on the stage and thank my agent and tuxedo designer and get off without another word, would I? If it meant that my family would not have to worry about their safety and that I would not be living in constant danger – well, I ask you, what would you do? You know what you would do.

President Bush to the rescue

For the next two and a half years, I didn't leave the house much. From January 2005 to May 2007, I did not appear on a single TV show. I stopped going on college tours. I just took myself off the map. The previous year I had spoken at more than 50 campuses. For the two years following that, I spoke at only one. I stayed close to home and worked on some local town projects in Michigan where I lived. And then to my rescue rode President Bush. He said something that helped snap me out of it. I had heard him say it before, but this time when I heard him, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. He said: "If we give in to the terrorists, the terrorists win." And he was right. His terrorists were winning! Against me! What was I doing sitting inside the house? I opened up the blinds, folded up my pity party, and went back to work. I made three films in three years, threw myself into getting Barack Obama elected, and helped toss two Republican congressmen from Michigan out of office. I set up a popular website, and I was elected to the board of governors of the same Academy Awards that had booed me.

I chose not to give up. I wanted to give up, badly. Instead I got fit. If you take a punch at me now, I can assure you three things will happen: 1) You will break your hand. That's the beauty of spending just a half hour a day on your muscular-skeletal structure – it turns into kryptonite; 2) I will fall on you. I'm still working on my core and balance issues, so after you slug me I will tip over and crush you; 3) My Seals will spray mace or their own homemade concoction of jalapeño spider spray directly into your eye sockets while you are on the ground. As a pacifist, please accept my apologies in advance – and never, ever use violence against me or anyone else again.

Eventually I found myself back on The Tonight Show for the first time in a while. As I was leaving the stage, the guy who was operating the boom microphone approached me.

"You probably don't remember me," he said nervously. "I never thought I would ever see you again or get the chance to talk to you. I can't believe I get to do this."

Do what? I thought. I braced myself for the man's soon-to-be-broken hand.

"I never thought I'd get to apologise to you," he said, as a few tears started to come into his eyes. "I'm the guy who ruined your Oscar night. I'm the guy who yelled 'ASSHOLE' into your ear right after you came off the stage. I … I … [he tried to compose himself]. I thought you were attacking the president – but you were right. He did lie to us. And I've had to carry this with me now all these years, and I'm so sorry …"

By now he was starting to fall apart, and all I could think to do was to reach out and give him a huge hug.

"It's OK, man," I said, a big smile on my face. "I accept your apology. But you do not need to apologise to me. You believed your president! You're supposed to believe your president! If we can't expect that as just the minimum from whoever's in office, then, shit, we're doomed."

"Thank you," he said, relieved. "Thank you for understanding."

"Understanding?" I said. "This isn't about understanding. I've told this funny story for years now, about the first two words you hear when you're an Oscar winner – and how I got to hear a bonus word! Man, don't take that story away from me! People love it!" He laughed, and I laughed.

"Yeah," he said, "there aren't many good stories like that."

Extracted from Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life by Michael Moore, to be published by Allen Lane on 19 September at £20. To order a copy for £16 with free UK p&p go to or call 0330 333 6846. Moore will be performing live dates in the UK and Ireland from 16-25 October. See for details.
A real American Hero

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Richard Dawkins explains the 3 kinds of magic

from BoingBoing:

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, is an illustrated book for readers age 12 and up. Each chapter opens with a question: "What is a rainbow?" "What is an earthquake?" What is the sun?" Dawkins then presents the religious myths that some people think explains these things. He follows that with the scientific explanation.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Punk: The Sex Pistols First TV Documentary from 1976

via DangerousMinds
British journalist and TV presenter, Janet Street-Porter has always had a finger on the pulse, been ahead of the curve, you know, has always been able to avoid a cliche. Her career as a TV journalist in the 1970s put most of her contemporaries to shame, as she brilliantly explored subjects and cultural trends the mainstream decidedly ignored. The week Chicago were at number one in the UK’s Top 40, with the vomit-inducing “If You Leave Me Now”, dear Janet was out making the first TV documentary on The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Punk Rock.

Broadcast on 22 November 1976 as part of The London Weekend Show, Janet’s film “Punk” featured interviews The Sex Pistols (still with Glen Matlock), a band called Clash (before they added a ‘The’) and Siouxsie Sioux. The Pistols also perform “Pretty Vacant”, “Submission”, “Anarchy in the UK” and “No Fun”.

There’s some drop-out, and the video tape is a bit mashed at the start, but otherwise, this is an important moment in pop culture history.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Stand Up, Damned Of The Earth

by Alexander Goerlach from The European magazine

Financial capitalism has lost its legitimacy. The spiral of ever-increasing national debt and Wall Street speculation must be broken. And we must speak up against rhetorical embellishments that try to sell "business as usual" as the only option.

Unless we continue with government aid packages, the banking system will collapse. At least that is what you hear from the bankers themselves. Alright – we must prevent that collapse from happening. Governments must nationalize the profits that the banks accumulated with taxpayer money since the financial crisis. If bankruptcy was avoided with billions of dollars of rescue packages, then the banks owe the people. And the nationalization of profits would also be an adequate punishment for years of reckless speculations and predatory lending that drove the world to the brink of collapse.

The next step will be the creation of regulatory tools that prevent the resurgence of greed. A turn to the Middle East might help: Islamic banking strictly regulates the use of speculation and interest rates. We know that the 21st century will bring food shortages; wars will be fought over access to water and grain. Yet we continue to allow speculation on these vital resources. People in developing nations are especially vulnerable to price fluctuations that are caused by the men in suits and air-conditioned offices.

Why do the people not rise against that system? Because we are sedated by a rhetoric that explains such egregious forms of investment as a feature of the free market. Yet the declaration that “my money works for me” is as revealing as it is false. When I make money, someone else is losing money. The mechanism behind the redistribution of money is not the survival of the best ideas, as the proponents of the free market want to tell us. Instead, investments are loaded with risk while toxic assets are being passed back and forth among the big players. Whoever holds the assets when the music stops, loses.

But who would buy something so risky?

Only those who don’t know better. But the banks did know. Their obscure betting practices and the conviction that the state would bail them out of a worst-case scenario were their blanc checks that justified recklessness. Their investments were an order of magnitude larger than the money they actually controlled.

We thought that our long-term investments – life insurances, retirement funds, savings – were save with the banks. Actually, that money was used to keep the financial casino going. The German chancellor and treasury secretary explicitly stated that our savings are indeed save. Why are they so keen to press that message? Because the state would have to jump in if the banks squandered those investments.

Here’s another rhetorical fallacy: “The markets”. Who is that supposed to be? It is a grammatical construction that reminds me of the remark that “the organ is playing”. When you walk past a church on Sunday and the sound of the music fills the air, people often mention it: “The organ is playing”. As the parishioners exist the church after the service, they pay their compliments: “The organ played nicely today”. But the organ does not play. The organist does. You might not see him from your bench inside the church, but that does not mean that he is not there. You also cannot see “the markets”. We mystify them without looking at the people and decisions that explain market behavior.

When we say that the markets are in turmoil, what we mean is that the Wall Streets of this world are in turmoil because people are worried about their speculations and the future of their business. They fear that the system could collapse.

The spinster phrase “too big too fail” is another great success of the financial industry that managed to dictate policy to a deeply disturbed political establishment.

Now is the time to realize that the mechanics of debt-driven financing are no longer a viable path. States used to be able to accumulate debt when it was still possible to measure economic output reliably. Today, the export of cars or washing machines has been replaced by twisted investments whose risks and real value can hardly be determined. Money that used to originate from labor and production was leveraged through collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. The victims of that game of poker were the small-scale investors and mortgage recipients.

Short-term thinking means that it has become impossible to make long-term claims about the economic situation of a state. The system is too complex, too fragile and too much intertwined to rule out sudden collapse and domino effects. One crisis can reduce decades of progress to a pile of economic rubble. No matter how radical Greek spending cuts are, the country will be saddled with debt for decades. A similar situation can be found in the US and in some other countries of the Eurozone.

Do we all need a haircut to reduce our national debt? The most important task, I believe, is to break the narrative that has sustained the financial industry for so long. Politicians are tasked with the reconstruction of leadership. We must no longer tolerate that bankers can keep them on a short leash, pushing and pulling them into whichever direction benefits them. Leadership can be reduced to individuals. Chancellor Merkel, get back our tax money!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trying to understand riots isn’t the same as excusing riots

from BoingBoing:

Writing in the New Scientist, Prof. Stephen Reicher, a specialist in crowd psychology at the University of St Andrews, takes aim at the posturing and macho rhetoric after the UK riots that dismissed anyone who sought a sociological expanation for criminal behavior as "excusing crime."
Another way in which politicians have restricted explanation is by intimating that any reaction other than condemnation is tantamount to condoning violence. The UK's education secretary Michael Gove reacted furiously to the suggestion by Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour party, that government policies limiting youth opportunities might have had some relevance, castigating her for "making excuses for what has gone on here". In this context, whole academic disciplines become suspect: in political vocabulary, "sociologist" and "jihadi" have acquired a kind of moral equivalence...

Those politicians and pundits who have tried to outlaw societal explanations of the English riots have advanced alternative theories, largely blaming the violence on the pathology of the rioters. Cameron's declaration that they are inherently criminal and lack moral standards is one variant of this. Another is the common suggestion that the rioters lost their moral standards in the crowd; that they were mindless, swept up by the contagion of the moment or perhaps preyed upon by unscrupulous agitators.

These theories translate into convenient solutions. In the short term, don't try to reason with rioters but use a big stick to repress them; in the longer term, look at the sickness within their communities that has turned them into amoral beasts. That only leaves the question of which communities are dysfunctional and in what ways. Thus Cameron locked horns with former prime minister Tony Blair over whether we should be talking about a broken society or a narrow but recalcitrant underclass.
Trying to understand the English riots is not a crime

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Have Vs Not

click on this to enlarge and read:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Last week Ralph Nader appeared on Fox News to discuss a democratic primary challenge he’s helping to organize against Barack Obama to “hold his feet to the fire.” I think what Nader means by this is that Obama needs to start doing some liberal stuff.
“The important thing here is if he’s not challenged from the progressive-liberal wing of his party, that elected him, it’ll be a very dull campaign, people will not be very enthusiastic, more and more people will stay home, it’s not good for him,. If he’s a good debater, if he knows his facts, he’ll want to be challenged because he’ll come out much sharper.”
It’s surprising how little Neil Cavuto challenged Nader in this segment. To his credit, he hardly even tried and let Nader say some things you wouldn’t normally hear on Fox News without someone else trying to shout over it.

Or maybe it’s just that Nader isn’t exactly saying anything too positive about Obama… Either way, I’m glad Cavuto’s audience got to hear this.

from Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Atheism U?
A New Elite University Focuses on Spreading Humanism

from Religion Dispatches via AlterNet:

By Jessica Weisberg
A.C. Grayling has an impressive resume. He has been a philosophy professor, a representative to the UN Human Rights Council, the Honorary Secretary of the Aristotelian Society, and the author of twenty-some books.

He has even written his own bible: The Good Book, a 600-page compendium of his favorite philosophical texts, released last March. As if that weren’t enough, though, he’ll soon assume yet another title: the founding headmaster at the New College of Humanities, in London. With some of the world’s most prominent atheists signed up to teach (including Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, Niall Ferguson, Laurence Krauss, and Steven Pinker), the school looks like a seminary for nonbelievers.

One doesn’t rack up so many honors without attracting a few detractors. For those who insist that Grayling is power-hungry and overhyped, the New College of the Humanities makes for a succinct case study. It will be a for-profit institution, elite and very expensive; its tuition is twice that of British public universities, including Cambridge and Oxford. Grayling once stated that “university education should be provided free of charge to all those suitably qualified for it,” but now he is charging students $30,000 a year.

In the United States, expensive private universities are common, but in the UK there is only one precedent—Buckingham University—and Grayling’s outfit is not only private, but for-profit. Terry Eagleton, one of Grayling’s (and Richard Dawkins’) most persistent critics, has called the new university “odious” and “disgustingly elitist”; professors at Birbeck college have accused Grayling, their former colleague, for launching an assault on public education; protesters set off smoke bombs during his reading at a London bookstore; there were several online petitions circling through the web. The fact that the original faculty list included only one woman did not help the image of elitism and exclusion.

Critics also object to Grayling’s school on religious grounds. Giles Fraser, a philosophy professor at Oxford, complained on Twitter that the New College of the Humanities was a “new atheist school.” The Church Mouse, a popular Christian blogger, suspects that it will shut out religious students and faculty:
It seems difficult to imagine how they would consider the CV of a religious professor seriously when looking to fill teaching roles. And how would they respond to a student candidate in an interview who professed a deep belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus, when asked about how they formed their ethical views?
This school, the Mouse argues, will be equivalent to a fundamentalist training camp for atheists. For some critics, the school’s atheist links only compounded its elitism. Academic institutions are well-known bastions of the wealthy, white, non-believing, and smugly rational. Grayling’s school almost looks like a parody.

Grayling, whose long, gray hair looks almost like a barrister’s wig, is defensive about the economics of his new education venture. In interviews and editorials, he points to the fact that government cuts have forced many public universities to privatize informally by accepting greater number of foreign students, whose tuition costs are double that of domestic students. He insists that many scholarships will be available. But when accused of religious intolerance, he just laughs. “How can you be a militant atheist?” Grayling said in an interview with the Guardian. “How can you be militant non-stamp collector? This is really what it comes down to. You just don’t collect stamps. So how can you be a fundamentalist non-stamp collector? It’s like sleeping furiously. It’s just wrong.”

The New College of the Humanities “is not an atheist institution,” Grayling and other spokespeople for the university have stated repeatedly. But it’s hard to imagine Richard Dawkins soft-pedaling on the topic of religion. Grayling insists that he’s not as vehement as his colleague. “I’m the velvet version,” he likes to say.

Bible of Self-Help

In The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, “unwise” is perhaps Grayling’s harshest insult. He believes, for instance, that it’s “unwise” to fear one’s own death, that one should pursue what makes one happy, and that showing jealously towards one’s friends is deplorable. He’s a strong advocate of pets (“the brute is more content with mere existence than is a human”), good manners, and “eating and drinking proportionately.” In the final chapter, “The Good,” he provides a long list of the necessities to live “a good life”: “honour, self-mastery, wisdom, loyalty, justice, sympathy, and kindness.” It’s hard to argue with that.

The Good Book doesn’t call for a new religion in the manner of August Comte, who tried to found a “religion of humanity” in the mid-1800s, complete with its own priests and holidays. It’s more self-help than manifesto. The book, as the inside cover reveals, was “conceived, selected, redacted, arranged, and in part written” by Grayling. The content, arranged in numbered verses, comes from over a hundred mostly-classical authors, including Aristotle, Cicero, Virgil, and Diderot. The concept, however, seems to be borrowed from mash-up culture. There are no footnotes; none of the authors are cited. The Good Book is a megalomaniacal gesture, but it’s humble and disciplined in practice.

If this is is any indication of Grayling’s teaching philosophy, he will have a respectfully hands-off approach to his students. The book places considerable confidence in its readers. “All who read this book, therefore, if they read with care, may come to be more than they were before,” he writes in the introduction. “This is not praise of the work itself, but of its attentive readers, for the worth to be found of it will come from their minds.”

Grayling’s creed, as revealed in his bible, is more liberal pluralism than merely negative atheism. “The wise man is he who learns from all men,” he writes. According to a reviewer for Thinking Faith, an online journal for British Jesuits, for instance, believers “might also find that the good in The Good Book sits well with their belief and begs for hospitality.” As Stephen Colbert put it, “There’s nothing in here that makes me want to kill someone.”

An Elite Humanism?

Grayling’s new university seems to be approaching religion with the same gentle omission as The Good Book. All students at the school will be required to take four courses: logic and critical thinking, science literacy, applied ethics, and professional skills. For their majors, students have a choice between law, economics, history, English literature, or philosophy. History students will have a course on the “birth of Western Christendom” and philosophy students may take an elective in “medieval philosophy,” but there is no religious studies department. There’s a required elective on “the nature of good and the good life.” The curriculum bypasses cultural history and postmodernism in favor of a more rigorous study of the classics.

“My guess is that religion will be included in a similar way that it would in most liberal arts curricula—that is, as professors deem it to be relevant in history, philosophy, and history-of-ideas courses,” says Steven Pinker, who will balance a part-time position at the New College of the Humanities with a full-time position in the psychology department at Harvard. “Religion is included as a topic in many courses with the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard, where relevant, and I can’t imagine that that would be different at NCH.” During the 2006 standoff at Harvard about the necessity of a religion requirement for undergraduates, Pinker was a leading opponent.

Some critics of the New Atheists, especially Terry Eagleton, have suggested that Grayling and his comrades are “zealots” of “Western cultural supremacism” and free market economics. Most of them, it is true, teach at private universities. But Grayling’s The Good Book at least seems to suggest that his beliefs are well-tempered for a headmaster of a diverse academic institution. Grayling’s good life is accessible for believers and atheists alike. If only he weren’t perpetuating a system in which so few people can afford it.

Jessica Weisberg is a freelance writer living in Chicago, where she writes about education for the Chicago News Cooperative. Her website is

© 2011 Religion Dispatches All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Noam Chomsky on the 9/11 Decade and the Assassination of Osama bin Laden: Was There an Alternative?

from Democracy Now

Ten years ago, at a time when lawmakers from both sides of the aisle joined together to authorize endless war, Noam Chomsky’s was the leading voice to call for the United States to rethink its actions in the Middle East and across the globe. His 2001 book, simply titled "9-11," became a surprise bestseller. The book collected a series of interviews Chomsky had given on the roots of the 9/11 attacks and his prescription for a just response. A decade later, Chomsky has just released an updated version titled "9-11: Was There an Alternative?" which refers to the U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden and the continuity Chomsky sees between the Bush administration’s foreign policy and President Obama’s. "Right at this moment, Obama has succeeded in descending even below George W. Bush in approval in the Arab world," says Noam Chomsky. "The policies change, but they’re hostile. We should understand where atrocities come from. They don’t come from nowhere. And if we’re serious, we should try to do something about what is the basis for them."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Greenpeace celebrates all the corporate overlords they’ve upset over their 40 years

Brian from Greenpeace sez, "Greenpeace is 40 years old today, and one of the ad agencies we've worked with over the years made this for us. The agency asked to remain anonymous, so as not to lose any clients that might think they're represented here. Awww. We're truly touched."
I love this one.

via BoingBoing

Thursday, September 15, 2011

'The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle '
for Your Viewing Pleasure

Just told a story about seeing this for the 1st time in London in the spring of 1980 the other day, and then seeing it's New York Premiere at the ROXY roller rink in NYC a few years later on a small TV in the middle of the skating floor... seeing the film a second time wasn't that exciting, but getting to see the Rock Steady Crew practice afterword once all the punks left (except me and a few of the Beastie's) with virtually no one around to take much notice in 1982 was something I'll never forget...

from DangerousMinds
Julian Temple’s 1980 mockumentary The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle attempts to drain the last bit of blood from the corpse of The Sex Pistols. With Pistols’ Svengali Malcolm McClaren as his accessory in this crime against historical fact, Temple depicts the Pistols as a sham act with little or no bona fide talent foisted on an easily manipulated youth culture. Of course, he was wrong and would later do penance by directing the far more accurate documentary The Filth and The Fury 20 years later.

McClaren may have constructed The Sex Pistols but once his monster was out of the lab it was a genuine force to be reckoned with. The Pistols influence is as potent now as it was the day they were born. McClaren had a genius for promotion and anticipating/creating trends, but he was mad for thinking that the Pistols were solely a product of his own ego-driven machinations. The raw material was already there.

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle may have been intended as a joke, but the joke ended up being on its creators, not the band or its fans. Temple may have been trying to make a satirical film about a rock band as pop culture product along the lines of Bob Rafaelson’s Monkees’ flick Head, but he did so without any of Rafaelson’s imagination, wit or charm. While Head was a surreal and entertaining romp, Swindle has the stench of something gone sour.

Chaotic, tiresome, but not without moments of brilliance (Temple is no hack) and great live music, here’s THE GREAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SWINDLE in its entirety. Very nice quality.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Longtime Republican Leaves Authoritarian Reichwing 'Cult'

from our friend Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds

Michael Lofgren is a Republican staffer, who was, until recently, serving the Senate Finance Committee. Lofgren has worked on Capitol Hill for nearly three decades. He explains why he left his job in a recent column for TruthOut. The Republican “11th Commandment”—Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican—is repeatedly violated in this barn-burner.

Some choice excerpts here, but the whole thing is a must read. His main target is the Republican Party, of course, but the Democrats are not spared, either:
But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachmann (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.
On burning his GOP bridges:
I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them. And, in truth, I left as an act of rational self-interest. Having gutted private-sector pensions and health benefits as a result of their embrace of outsourcing, union busting and “shareholder value,” the GOP now thinks it is only fair that public-sector workers give up their pensions and benefits, too. Hence the intensification of the GOP’s decades-long campaign of scorn against government workers. Under the circumstances, it is simply safer to be a current retiree rather than a prospective one.

If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” - and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.
On the debt ceiling nonsense:
Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was “bring it on!”

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.
On “Real Americans”:
You can probably guess who those people are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn’t look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama’s policy of being black. Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some “other,” who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.
On the wimpy idiocy of the Democrats, their rhetorical incompetence and their amateurish PR:
How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? - can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?

You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. “Entitlement” has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is “entitled” selfishly claims something he doesn’t really deserve. Why not call them “earned benefits,” which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats. Republicans don’t make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message: it is never the “estate tax,” it is the “death tax.”

On this point, I could not agree more. I do not understand why Democrats can’t master simple messaging. It always has to be nuanced, complicated, and wonky. Things I might understand but would have to boil down into far simpler terms for the average voter. It boggles my mind that Democrats (and this includes the President) cannot get a simple, easy message out there and hammer it home. Republicans seem to have mastered that.
And then there is this amazing excerpt describing the far reichwing of the GOP taken from a letter President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote to his brother Edgar in 1954. How times have changed.
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
Their numbers are no longer negligible, but they’re certainly still stupid… At least one of their ranks wised up.

Read more:
Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult (TruthOut)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fela Kuti and band performing live in 1984

Fela is always fantastic in my book, an inspiration for all times. Dig him and his crew.

African funk magus Fela Kuti and band performing live at the Glastonbury Festival in 1984. The 70 minute film also features a candid interview where Fela talks about discovering his African identity in post-colonial, racist England and how this eventually led to his involvement in Nigerian politics. He also talks about how ideas of “democracy” inspired the song “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”, an incredible, 40 minute-plus version of which closes the show:

Thanks, DangerousMinds

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Day of School Special:
Parents Only as Happy as Least Happy Child

from Futurity
The emotional well-being of parents remains linked to the successes and struggles of their grown children, a new study finds.

Researchers expected parents would suffer if their grown children incurred crises such as divorce or unemployment, but that having children who were successful would bring parents’ joy and improved emotional well-being. In fact, they assumed having other successful children would completely mitigate the effects of problem children.

However, researchers were surprised to find mothers and fathers were only as happy as their least happy child, says study leader Karen Fingerman, a professor in human development and family sciences at University of Texas at Austin. The findings are published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

“We had expected that a successful child might mitigate the negative impact of having a child who suffers problems. The successful child might give the parent something positive to focus on. But parents still seem to suffer even when one of their grown children does,” adds Fingerman.

“It could be the case that parents empathize with their children’s distress, they are embarrassed that their relationships with these grown children suffer, or that grown children who have problems may place excessive demands on the parents,” she said. “Any one or all of these factors may contribute to parental worry and depression.”

This is the first research to examine the positive effects of having successful grown children and the aggregate effects of multiple children. Most American parents have more than one child. This study was unique because it looked at how multiple grown children’s accomplishments and failures affect the parents’ psychological health.

Fingerman and her colleagues collected data from interviews of 633 middle-aged adults regarding each of their grown children (1,251 total children). The study assessed the children’s problems, successes, the quality of parents’ relationships with each child, and the parents’ psychological well-being.

Having many children who were successful increased well-being for parents. However, when it came to children’s problems, it only took one child suffering one major life problem to drag down parents’ mental health, which manifested as depressive symptoms or increased worry. The more children who suffered problems, the more parents suffered.

Conversely, children who experienced successes in education, marriages, and careers were more likely to maintain positive relationships with their parents. Relationship quality was directly tied to parental well-being.

Fingerman speculates that parents are sensitive to positive and negative events in their children’s lives because it reflects on their own achievements in parenting.

“Parents have a distinct investment in grown children reflecting decades of child-rearing,” she says.

Co-authors include researchers at the University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Special 9/11 "Sunday Sermon"

from DangerousMinds:

Australian TV gameshow The Gruen Transfer brings together competing advertising agencies and pits them against each other in an almost American Idol-type scenario. A segment called “The Pitch” gives them a subject like “Child labor should come back” or a similarly controversial topic and asks them to come up with a 30-second spot meant to promote it. A panel of advertising industry experts judges the ads.

In the four years of the program, the only subject they had agencies actually decline to compete on was “Banning religion is a good idea.”

However, two agencies took the challenge and the results were pretty amazing (especially the first one, IMHO). Can you imagine something like this on American TV???

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Earl of Glasgow asks to keep graffiti mural

from the BBC
A peer has asked to keep a controversial graffiti mural on the walls of his family's 13th century castle in Ayrshire.

The Earl of Glasgow has written to Historic Scotland asking if the exhibit can remain as a permanent feature of Kelburn Castle in Largs.

The mural features a psychedelic series of interwoven cartoons depicting surreal urban culture.

It was completed by Brazilian graffiti artists in 2007 at a cost of £20,000.

It was permitted by North Ayrshire Council on the understanding that it was temporary.

A three-year limit was put on the graffiti, pending the start of work to replace the harling render on the exterior of the turret.

The castle is located in the grounds of Kelburn Estate, which also houses a country centre open to the public and featuring a series of outdoor attractions.

'Top ten'
Last month the mural was named as one of the world's top ten examples of street art by author and designer Tristan Manco - on a par with Banksy's work in Los Angeles and the Favela Morro Da Providencia in Rio de Janeiro.

The latest memorandum of guidance published by Historic Scotland states that owners of listed properties should only use "historically correct colours in a manner which is appropriate to the building".

The Earl of Glasgow, Patrick Boyle, whose family has been in Kelburn Castle for 800 years, has written to Historic Scotland seeking to establish whether it is likely the agency would object if he sought consent from the local authority to allow the graffiti to stay indefinitely.

He said: "In the three years that the mural has been on the castle it has attracted enormous interest from around the world and it is loved by everyone who sees it.

"It has become a landmark and a talking point and it has given the castle and the estate a whole new character."

The peer said he realised there were strict rules governing the preservation of historic buildings, but insisted the graffiti added to the character of the castle rather than diminished it.

He added: "What we now call historic buildings have always been drivers of fashion in architecture and design.

"Features that we now take for granted would have seemed radical in their day. The mural might look a bit outlandish and futuristic but if it provokes interest and makes people smile, why shouldn't it stay?"

thanks, Doug

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another Life Saved By Skateboarding

from the Washington Post
'It was skate or die'
D.C. skateboarding legend Darren Harper overcame a life full of obstacles. He used skateboarding as a way to refocus his life, which had spiraled into drugs and crime. (Video by B.J. Koubaroulis and Dave Sheinin, Photos by Eli Sinkus)

thanks, Ian

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Get Over Yourselves You Fucking Gluttons

from the Washington Post
Half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030, report says

By Jennifer Huget

Based on trends, half of the adults in the United States will be obese by 2030 unless the government makes changing the food environment a policy priority, according to a report released Thursday on the international obesity crisis in the British medical journal the Lancet.

Those changes include making healthful foods cheaper and less-healthful foods more expensive largely through tax strategies, the report said. Changes in the way foods are marketed would also be called for, among many other measures.

A team of international public health experts argued that the global obesity crisis will continue to grow worse and add substantial burdens to health-care systems and economies unless governments, international agencies and other major institutions take action to monitor, prevent and control the problem.

Changes over the past century in the way food is made and marketed have contributed to the creation of an “obesogenic” environment in which personal willpower and efforts to maintain a healthful weight are largely impossible, the report noted.

It also laid out a new way of calculating how many calories to cut to lose weight, giving what it said is a more accurate means of estimating projected weight loss over time.

The common weight-loss wisdom is that reducing calorie intake by about 500 calories a day “will result in slow and steady weight loss of about 0.5 kg (about a pound) per week.” That rule doesn’t take into account the way the body adapts to the change. In particular, as anyone who has actually lost weight can attest, the less you weigh, the fewer calories you can consume if you wish to lose more weight or maintain the loss.

The report said that weight loss should be viewed over a longer period of time and proposed a new “approximate rule of thumb” for an average overweight adult. It said that “every change of energy intake of [about 24 calories] per day will lead to an eventual bodyweight change of about 1 kg (just over two pounds) . . . with half of the weight change being achieved in about 1 year and 95 percent of the weight change in about 3 years.”

Though the report acknowledged that it’s ultimately up to individuals to decide what to eat and how to live their lives, it maintained that governments have largely abdicated the responsibility for addressing obesity to individuals, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations. Yet the obesity epidemic will not be reversed without government leadership, regulation, and investment in programs, monitoring, and research, it said.

The report, issued in a four-part series published in the Lancet, was released in advance of the first high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly focused on noncommunicable disease prevention and control, which will take place in New York next month.
TOTALLY FUCKING RELATED: Becoming the Fattest Woman in History

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"America The Beautiful"

While folks on the East Coast are still reeling from the havoc unleashed by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee is adding to their misery by dumping a couple of feet of rain on New Orleans as it trudges north.

How does FEMA measure the potential dangers of these massive storms? There are several methods….including the status of your local Waffle House.
When a hurricane makes landfall, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency relies on a couple of metrics to assess its destructive power.
First, there is the well-known Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Then there is what he calls the “Waffle House Index.”
Waffle House, reliable beyond the ordinary.
After Hurricane, Waffle House to the Rescue
Last weekend, Waffle House restaurants in hurricane-struck communities in North Carolina rushed to reopen. The company has built a reputation as a place where, even under rough conditions, you can still get a hot meal. Valerie Bauerlein reports.

from Wall Street Journal via Dangerous Minds

Monday, September 5, 2011

This Labor Day We Need Protest Marches Rather than Parades

from Robert Reich
Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

Big American corporations are making more money, and creating more jobs, outside the United States than in it. If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court’s twisted logic now insists, most of the big ones headquartered here are rapidly losing their American identity.

CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group.). Bonuses have surged 19.7 percent.

This doesn’t even include all those stock options rewarded to CEOs at rock-bottom prices in 2008 and 2009. Stock prices have ballooned since then, the current downdraft notwithstanding. In March, 2009, for example, Ford CEO Alan Mulally received a grant of options and restricted shares worth an estimated $16 million at the time. But Ford is now showing large profits – in part because the UAW agreed to allow Ford to give its new hires roughly half the wages of older Ford workers – and its share prices have responded. Mulally’s 2009 grant is now worth over $200 million.

The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing – in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault.

Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue. But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example).

So let’s bag the picnics and parades this Labor Day. American workers should march in protest. They’re getting the worst deal they’ve had since before Labor Day was invented – and the economy is suffering as a result.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Muhammad Ali and Sly Stone on the Mike Douglas Show 1974

from DangerousMinds:

In this compelling segment from a 1974 episode of the Mike Douglas show, a fiery Muhammad Ali spars with Sly Stone (stoned) and Congressman Wayne Hays. Theodore Bikel pretty much stays out of the line of fire.

In 1974, Ali was still adhering to the Nation Of Islam play book but a year later converted to Sunni Islam and would eventually become a Sufi.

Hays was drummed out of office two years after this show was filmed in a notorious scandal involving his secretary Elizabeth Ray.

Sly seems to be in a semi-stupor but does manage to get a few cogent licks in.

Ali is unyielding, intense and brilliant, though his comment about Jews plays into the kind of racial stereotyping and discrimination he’s railing against. But it jibes with the Nation Of Islam’s outlook.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cities in Fact and Fiction: An Interview with William Gibson

Scientific American interviews William Gibson (Author of the cyberpunk novel Neuromancer) about the present and future of cities, as they become the central feature of human life in almost every place on the globe:
The city looms large in the fiction of author William Gibson. In the September issue of Scientific American, Gibson's essay, "Life in the Meta-City," details how cities increase "the number and randomization of potential human and cultural contacts" and how they serve as "vast, multilayered engines of choice." Cities that cease to provide choice—or which try to overcontrol their denizens—lose their spark and sometimes perish. In the interview that follows, Gibson shares his perceptions about existing cities and their links to his fiction.

There is a well-known quote from you: "The future is already here—it's just not very evenly distributed." When you said that in 1999, were you thinking of cities, or perhaps certain cities? Do you think that is the case now to a lesser or greater extent?

It's a very scalable observation. We can see it from orbit, as electric light versus its absence. We can see it in the differences in infrastructure in various neighborhoods of a city. I can see it in my house, which was built in 1927 and is in process of having its original wiring replaced. We can see it in a human skeleton: where there's been a joint replaced, the future's arrived.

Your fiction has depicted wide class gulfs in which "lowlifes" co-exist with the rich and feudallike corporations that concentrate mind-boggling amounts of wealth. Can the "vast squatter conurbs" that you mention in your article in the September issue be seen as a symptom of such widening income disparities? If so, do you think that this disparity will continue to greater extremes as they develop further, and could they potentially restructure the current social order somehow?

I depict those socioeconomic gulfs because they exist and because most of the imagined futures I grew up with tended not to depict them. Migration to cities is now so powerful, so universal, that people will create cities, of sorts, simply through migration—cities that literally consist mainly of the people who inhabit them on a given day.

An early theme in your work was that "the street" finds uses for technology beyond what it was originally developed for. Do you see examples of this in places such as Rio, Mumbai, Nairobi, Istanbul, Mexico City?

In less-regulated environments, people may improvise a little more freely, but a perfect example of what I mean would be a detailed technical history of how British tabloids came to discover what could be done with the infrastructure of cellular telephony.

You have focused quite a bit on branding and marketing, particularly in your recent novels. The phrase "building one's brand" is used constantly today in common parlance. Do you think that the "Disneylanding" of major cities, as you call it, is part of the same phenomenon? Many people have talked about a revival for New York and other cities. But do you think these endeavors, often meant to attract tourists, undercut the vitality of these places?

It seems to me that they must, inevitably. Paris, as much as I love Paris, feels to me as though it's long since been "cooked." Its brand consists of what it is, and that can be embellished but not changed. A lack of availability of inexpensive shop-rentals is one very easily read warning sign of overcooking. I wish Manhattan condo towers could be required to have street frontage consisting of capsule micro-shops. The affordable retail slots would guarantee the rich folks upstairs interesting things to buy, interesting services, interesting food and drink, and constant market-driven turnover of same, while keeping the streetscape vital and allowing the city to do so many of the things cities do best. London, after the Olympic redo, will have fewer affordable retail slots, I imagine.

Do you think some of China's de novo cities—and some other built-from-scratch examples, such as Masdar in Abu Dhabi—have any chance of achieving the eclectic mix of people and experiences that foster the type of creative ferment needed to make a city thrive?

Necessity being one of invention's many mothers, I have a certain faith in our ability to repurpose almost anything, provided it becomes sufficiently necessary. Then again, I suspect we've abandoned cities in the past because they were too thoroughly built to do some specific something that's no longer required.

Has the pace of changing technology made the purpose or meaning of particular cities, or cities in general, different for new generations, or is their essential character as places of concentrated choice something that you think remains relatively constant?

The Internet, which I think of as a sort of meta-city, has made it possible for people who don't live in cities to master areas of expertise that previously required residence in a city, but I think it's still a faith in concentrated choice that drives migration to cities.

Cities in Fact and Fiction: An Interview with William Gibson Thanks, BoingBoing