Friday, December 01, 2006

Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy

Dan Froomkin

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

friday random ten

Photo by Ryan McManus

friday random ten (01/12/2006)

1. "A Heart Is Still a Heart" - You Are My Everything [Open Space]

Half Japanese - Charmed Life
2. "Bright Lights, Big City" - Half Japanese [Charmed Life]

Heartless Bastards - All This Time
3. "Searching for the Ghost" - Heartless Bastards [All This Time]

Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
4. "Waking the Witch" - Kate Bush [Hounds of Love]

Ramones - Too Tough to Die
5. "Howling at the Moon (Sha-la-la) - Ramones [Too Tough To Die]

Flipper - Blow'n Chunks
6. "Life" - Flipper [Blow'n Chunks]

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
7. "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" - Of Montreal [Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?]

BoDeans - Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams
8. "Ultimately Fine" - BoDeans [Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams]

Pretty Girls Make Graves - The New Romance
9. "All Medicated Geniuses" - Pretty Girls Make Graves [The New Romance]

Brothers and Sisters - Brothers and Sisters
10. "That's How It Goes" - Brothers and Sisters [Live on KUT 4/10/06]

Bonus #11: "Solsbury Hill" - Peter Gabriel [Peter Gabriel]

friday random ten (01/12/2006)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This happened in...Florida?

LAKELAND -- A man who was attacked by an alligator this morning was naked and smoking crack at the time, Polk County deputies who rescued him said today.

7M in U.S. jails, on probation or parole

A record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department.

Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.

More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more.
Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster. Over the past year, the female population in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent while the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year's end, 7 percent of all inmates were women. The gender figures do not include inmates in local jails.


From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.


Racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men — about one in 13 — are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men. And it's not much different among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and over three times as likely as white women to be in prison.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


via Tom Tomorrow

Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.

But before you go thinking all your conservative friends are psychotic, listen to Lohse’s explanation.

“Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”

The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on.

The study used Modified General Assessment Functioning, or MGAF, a 100-point scale that measures the functioning of disabled patients. A second scale, developed by Rakfeldt, was also used. Knowledge of current issues, government and politics were assessed on a 12-item scale devised by the study authors.

“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.


'Zombies' file lawsuit against city of Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A group of zombies have risen up to claim the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County violated their free rights and discriminated against them.

The six adults and one juvenile who were arrested while impersonating the undead in July filed their lawsuit Thursday.

The ragged group were arrested for "simulating weapons of mass destruction" during a dance party near the Minneapolis entertainment district.

Police alleged that wires protruding from the zombie's backpacks could have been bombs or were meant to imitate bombs. It was later learned the wires were actually radios.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seventh Circuit Strikes Down Anti-Gaming Law

The game God of War, discussed above and cited by the district court, is illustrative of this point. Because the SEVGL potentially criminalizes the sale of any game that features exposed breasts, without concern for the game considered in its entirety or for the game's social value for minors, distribution of God of War is potentially illegal, in spite of the fact that the game tracks the Homeric epics in content and theme. As we have suggested in the past, there is serious reason to believe that a statute sweeps too broadly when it prohibits a game that is essentially an interactive, digital version of the Odyssey.

Iraq: The War of the Imagination

New York Review of Books - Mark Danner

Three years and eight months after the Iraq war began, the secretary of defense and his allies see in Iraq not one war but two. One is the Real
Iraq War—the "outright success" that only very few would deny, the war in which American forces were "greeted as liberators," according to the famous prediction of Dick Cheney which the Vice President doggedly insists was in fact proved true: "true within the context of the battle against the Saddam Hussein regime and his forces. That went very quickly." It is "within this context" that the former secretary of defense and the Vice President see America's current war in Iraq as in fact
comprising a brief, dramatic, and "enormously successful" war of a few weeks' duration leading to a decisive victory, and then...what? Well, whatever we are in now: a Phase Two, a "postwar phase" (as Bob Woodward sometimes calls it) which has lasted three and a half years and continues. In the first, successful, Real Iraq War, 140 Americans died. In the postwar phase 2,700 Americans have died— and counting. What is happening now in Iraq is not in fact a war at all but a phase, a non-war, something unnamed, unconceptualized—unplanned.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jenna and NotJenna: 'Staying the Course'

Just like dear leader

Amid a growing barrage of front-page headlines, U.S. embassy officials "strongly suggested" President Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush, cut short their trip to Buenos Aires because of security issues, U.S. diplomatic and security sources tell ABC News.


The Argentinean press blitz followed a report on "The Blotter" last week that Barbara Bush's purse and cell phone were stolen last weekend while dining at the popular San Telmo outdoor marketplace despite being guarded by the Secret Service.

Stories of the twins' visit took on wild proportions in the Argentinean press. One tabloid headline had the young women running nude in the hallway of their hotel, a report the hotel staff denied to ABC News.

According to sources, the U.S. embassy encouraged the two girls to cut their stay short because the added attention was making their security very difficult.

But to the dismay and anger of some U.S. embassy and security staff, the girls stayed on.

Junk Science

Laurie David - WaPo:

At hundreds of screenings this year of "An Inconvenient Truth," the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.

The producers of former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.

The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs.

Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film's theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

GOP leaving spending bills to Democrats

Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in. GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills,


The bulging workload that a Republican-led Congress was supposed to complete this year but is instead punting to 2007 promises to consume time and energy that Democrats had hoped to devote to their own agenda upon taking control of Congress in January for the first time in a dozen years.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dandelion Radio to do the Festive 50:

1975 was the last time BBC Radio 1 listeners experienced a Christmas without a Festive Fifty, for it was set up the following year, by the legendary DJ John Peel. The Festive 50 has been an institution on BBC Radio 1 since it was set up as an annual listeners poll in 1976.

Now, after 30 consecutive years (excluding a couple of lapses) of Festive Fifties (the last two being run in the absence of the much-missed DJ, by Rob Da Bank and Huw Stephens), Radio 1 has decided, for a variety of good reasons, to not run a Festive Fifty for 2006. However, Dandelion Radio is proud to announce that John Peel’s old programme team has asked us if we would take up the baton of hosting this annual yuletide music fest, “The Festive Fifty”,

We're not the BBC, and don't have the same resources, so we can't exactly replicate what has gone before. However, we can and will produce a Festive Fifty in the spirit of its originator. For full details and how to vote, click here
Dandelion Radio

My Vote:

1. The Ballet - "In My Head"

2. National Park - "The Only Stars"

3. Miou Miou - "A l´été de la Saint-Martin ´68" The Saturday Cartoons


The life of Django Reinhardt

A happy place to spend a winter afternoon in Paris is a bar called the Chope des Puces, just outside the Clignancourt flea market. Every Sunday, for longer than anyone can remember, two battered, time-worn guitarists have met there to play, on battered, time-worn guitars, popular jazz tunes in the manner of the Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and his Quintet of the Hot Club of France. The ringing chords, the jaunty minor-key-ballade melodies, the peculiar heavy, heartbreak vibrato, the broken-icicle chromatic runs up and down the fretboard, all played against the steady boom-chick, boom-chick of the cast-iron guitar chords: the cherished Django sound is there, and something of the feeling, too. Jazz imitators are in general extremely sad—the “Dixieland” players in their straw hats trying to play like Louis Armstrong, the ghost big bands, courts without their Counts and Dukes—yet these Sunday Djangoists, like so many others throughout Paris and the world, are somehow not. There are Djangoist “hot clubs” in Norway and Denmark and San Francisco, playing a near-perfect revival sound, and the now annual Django festival in New York has just concluded at Birdland in pseudo-Gypsy conviviality. Django’s manner, seemingly so inimitable, gets imitated with precision: that Hot Club de Norv�ge is hot.

How and why this should be—how an illiterate, happy-go-lucky Gypsy could have created a style that goes on creating itself—is at last the subject of serious study, in Michael Dregni’s biography, “Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend” (Oxford; $35). Dregni, who writes for the magazine Vintage Guitar, and whose first biography this is, not only has managed to break into the French milieu of jazz aficionados and sects in which Django worked but has penetrated the Gypsy, or Romany, world from which Django emerged—a clannish world whose existence, well into the nineteen-fifties and sixties, was still largely furtive, outdoors, vagabond, and, occasionally, criminal. Dregni clears up the two much mystified areas of Django’s life—what exactly he did during the Second World War, and what really happened on his one trip to America, in 1946—and he sorts through the music and, nice bonus, manages to suggest plots for at least three fine French movie musicals.

“Django” is a Romany word—the first-person singular of the verb meaning “to awake.” It was the Gypsy name that Django’s mother gave him when he was born, in January of 1910, in a caravan on the road in Belgium. Romany families in those days seem to have given their children both a public name—the new baby’s was Jean—and a private name. (This was partly a time-honored way of avoiding conscription; the government not only never knew where you were but never quite knew your name.) Django’s family, Dregni explains, were Manouche—one of the two bands of Gypsies living in France in those days. (The others called themselves Gitans.) The Manouche, it seems, were the kind of Gypsies who caused other Gypsies to raise their eyebrows, draw in their breath, and ask if perhaps these people might not be just a touch too wild and unreliable. Django, Dregni emphasizes, was not merely “of Gypsy descent”; he was, and remained, an honest-to-God caravan-and-tarot-card Romany, illiterate until well into his adulthood (and only semi-literate even then), who, when he was a celebrated musician on tour in England, still liked to stroll off into the farmland to wring the neck of a stolen chicken or two.

A Step Shy of Book-Burning


It never got down to actual book-burning, but the Republican choke-hold on government would clearly have taken us there. In August, under the guise of fiscal responsibility, the Bush Environmental Protection Agency began closing most of its research libraries, both to the public and to its own staff.

The EPA's professional staff objected strongly, insisting that closing the libraries would hamstring them in their jobs. In a letter to Congress protesting the closures, public employees said, "We believe that this budget cut is just one of many Bush administration initiatives to reduce the effectiveness of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and to continue to demoralize its employees."

The EPA's precipitous move to close the libraries was based on a $2 million cut in Bush's proposed $8 billion EPA budget for 2007. EPA bureaucrats did not wait to see if Congress might restore the funds or shift budget priorities in order to save the libraries; it acted immediately to box up documents for deep storage, and shut the doors.

While the official EPA line is that all of the documents will be eventually be digitized and made available online, this will cost money that the agency does not have, so for practical purposes, all of the thousands of reports and maps that now exist only on paper or microfiche will be lost to the public and to agency scientists. They might as well just burn them.

Closing the EPA libraries is the perfect symbol to characterize the methods of the Bush administration. Since 2000, the Republicans have cemented their reputation as ushers of a new dark age. They have sought to shroud the light of science by closing libraries and by suppressing scientific reports. They have gagged their own scientists and persecuted whistleblowers. They have cloaked government in secrecy, a prime example being Dick Cheney's secret meetings with oil companies to draft an industry-friendly national energy policy. But that era is now winding down.