Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public fountains are disappearing because the concept of public is disappearing

Laura says: "I came across this post where this teacher compares the disappearance of public drinking fountains and the rise of bottled water to the rise in popularity of charter schools."

Public water fountains are not dangerous (unless cooties are real). Tap water is safe, and the spigots are designed to prevent contamination.
The rise of bottled water here in the States shows how a public institution can be demonized and replaced by a much more expensive privatized solution.

Charter schools are like bottled water--they're believed to be superior, and their standards are less stringent that their more public counterparts. (Yes, I know that charter schools are part of the public school systems, but they are not public in the sense that they equally accept all students. This difference matters.)

original full article here:
Charter schools are like bottled water--they're believed to be superior, and their standards are less stringent that their more public counterparts.

from BoingBoing

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Al Franken reads the Fourth Amendment to DoJ official at PATRIOT Act hearings

Al Franken's Senate career just keeps on getting better: this week he read the Fourth Amendment ("no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.") aloud to a high-ranking Department of Justice official who was making the case for renewing the PATRIOT Act's provision for roving wiretaps.
"That's pretty explicit language," noted Franken, asking Kris how the "roving wiretap" provision of the Patriot Act can meet that requirement if it doesn't require the government to name its target.
Kris looked flustered and mumbled that "this is surreal," apparently referring to having to respond to Franken's question. "I would defer to the other branch of government," he said, referring to the courts, prompting Franken to interject: "I know what that is."

Kris explained that the courts have held that the law's requirements that the person be described, though not named, is sufficient to meet the demands of the Constitution. That did not appear to completely satisfy Franken's concerns.
Al Franken Reads the 4th Amendment to Justice Department Official.

(via Greg Laden, via BoingBoing, thank you.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Seven riddles suggest a secret city beneath Tokyo

Shun Akiba, a former high-level foreign reporter, has identified hundreds of kilometers of Tokyo tunnels whose purpose is unknown and whose very existence is denied.

During the Gulf War in 1991, Shun Akiba was one of only two foreign journalists reporting from Baghdad, along with Peter Arnett of CNN. With such experience and expertise, it would be reasonable to imagine him in great demand right now. Wrong.

Shun is on some kind of invisible blacklist. His book “Teito Tokyo Kakusareta Chikamono Himitsu” (“Imperial City Tokyo: Secret of a Hidden Underground Network”), published by Yosensha in late 2002, is already in its fifth edition. Yet Shun has found it impossible to get the media to take serious note, write reviews or offer interviews.
(Ncafe: Seven riddles suggest a secret city beneath Tokyo)

(from Dangerous Minds, Thank You)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Minsky Meltdown: Why Capitalism Fails (and why it will fail again)

from Dangerous Minds

Fascinating article about the “genetic flaws” if you will of the capitalist system. It’s actually kind of amazing to read an article like this in a major newspaper—and of course, there are others these days—but a decade ago, even five years ago, opinions such as the ones reported here never would have gotten mainstream exposure. Maybe in The Nation or Harper’s or the Atlantic, but not in a daily paper. It’s about time the public wakes up to the facts about “the system” we exist in… and seeks a better one. Capitalism sure ain’t the best we can do, people… It’s not the only—and it’s certainly not the smartest—choice for the greater good.
Since the global financial system started unraveling in dramatic fashion two years ago, distinguished economists have suffered a crisis of their own. Ivy League professors who had trumpeted the dawn of a new era of stability have scrambled to explain how, exactly, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression had ambushed their entire profession.Amid the hand-wringing and the self-flagellation, a few more cerebral commentators started to speak about the arrival of a “Minsky moment,” and a growing number of insiders began to warn of a coming “Minsky meltdown.”

“Minsky” was shorthand for Hyman Minsky, a hitherto obscure macroeconomist who died over a decade ago. Many economists had never heard of him when the crisis struck, and he remains a shadowy figure in the profession. But lately he has begun emerging as perhaps the most prescient big-picture thinker about what, exactly, we are going through. A contrarian amid the conformity of postwar America, an expert in the then-unfashionable subfields of finance and crisis, Minsky was one economist who saw what was coming. He predicted, decades ago, almost exactly the kind of meltdown that recently hammered the global economy.

In recent months Minsky’s star has only risen. Nobel Prize-winning economists talk about incorporating his insights, and copies of his books are back in print and selling well. He’s gone from being a nearly forgotten figure to a key player in the debate over how to fix the financial system.

But if Minsky was as right as he seems to have been, the news is not exactly encouraging. He believed in capitalism, but also believed it had almost a genetic weakness. Modern finance, he argued, was far from the stabilizing force that mainstream economics portrayed: rather, it was a system that created the illusion of stability while simultaneously creating the conditions for an inevitable and dramatic collapse.
Why capitalism fails: The man who saw the meltdown coming had another troubling insight: it will happen again

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Five countries sell 85% of the world's arms.

It's just been announced that President Obama will be the first American president ever to chair the UN's Security Council.

Some background on this august group.

The permanent five members of the UN "Security" Council sell over 85% of the world's arms.

Who do they sell them too?
Half of the sales go to the world's poorest countries.

Don't count on the "Security" Council making this a subject of study or public debate.

The #1 seller of arms in the world?
Uncle Sam. No one else comes even close.

(from Brasscheck TV, thanks Basheer)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Internet dumbing-down hysteria compared against previous waves of anti-tech backlash

Salon has a refreshing take on the effect of the net on wider culture, courtesy of Dennis Baron, author of the new book A Better Pencil. Baron places hysteria about the net's supposed dumbing-down in context with other panics of years gone by.
Historically, when the new communication device comes out, the reaction tends to be divided. Some people think it's the best thing since sliced bread; other people fear it as the end of civilization as we know it. And most people take a wait and see attitude. And if it does something that they're interested in, they pick up on it, if it doesn't, they don't buy into it.
I start with Plato's critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They're not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down -- the ultimate irony.

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."
Is the Internet melting our brains?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Magnificent photos from space probes

Smithsonian posted an absolutely breathtaking gallery of images taken by space probes over the last decade. From Smithsonian:
The Cassini spacecraft, which is now orbiting Saturn, looked back toward the eclipsed Sun and saw a view unlike any other. The rings of Saturn light up so much that new rings were discovered.
"Fantastic Photos of our Solar System"

(direct to slide show)

(Thanks, BoingBoing)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ralph Nader on the G-20, Healthcare Reform, Mideast Talks and His First Work of Fiction, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!”

from Democracy Now:

As the United States prepares to host the Group of Twenty nations summit in Pittsburgh later this week, we speak with longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic, author and presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Nader discusses Congress’s failure to pass any meaningful financial reform on Wall Street over the past year and critiques Obama’s healthcare reform proposal. Ralph Nader also talks about his first work of fiction, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” Nader describes the book in terms of a practical utopia, a fictional vision that could become a new reality.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Horovitz "Brand new! Kinda like a pause tape…"

Found this on the blog of the King AdRock today, I mostly dig it because of the quotes from my man, Dock Ellis (RIP), from his NPR interview last year. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!

Monday, September 21, 2009

On the passage of a few people through a rather brief moment in time: GUY DEBORD and PUNK ROCK

from Dangerous Minds (Posted by Richard Metzger)

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972 is a well-made short film by Branka Bogdanov documenting the work of ultra-leftist French philosopher Guy Debord, author of Society of the Spectacle. The film explores his influence on the Paris riots of May 1968 and the nihilistic aesthetics of the punk rock era. Interviewees include Greil Marcus, Malcolm McLaren and Jamie Reid.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peter Lamborn Wilson:
Resistance to Technopathocracy

from Dangerous Minds

Very clear and spot-on interview with Peter Lamborn Wilson on what he calls the Technopathocracy of modern society: complete disconnection, lack of community and Internet-mediated insanity, and the Intentional Community as the solution. Right on. He makes the incredibly salient point that “dropping out” of Internet culture now is the same as “dropping out” of the mainstream in the 60s.
(Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

(from Arthur mag: Peter Lamborn Wilson [aka Hakim Bey] on the intentional community).
I was introduced to PLW by a photography critic i had met, while i was looking for an unbiased person, totally unfamiliar with my work, to write an essay for my book Recognize. Since then I discovered this man who always has an interesting opinion on things.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

these people live in the same country as i do

from New Left Media
On 9.12.2009, we went to Washington DC to document the Tea Party protests against, well, a lot of things, including health insurance reform, the IRS, abortion, global warming, and our "socialist/communist/fascist/Nazi/Muslim " president, Barack Obama. Some of them called for a return to McCarthyism, while others called for Glenn Beck to run for office--indeed, it seemed the only thing that everyone agreed on was Fox News.

This NEW LEFT MEDIA film was produced and edited by Chase Whiteside (interviewer) and Erick Stoll (camera operator).


You can make a difference in the health care debate without leaving your bedroom. So stop typing that narcissistic Facebook status, pause your Mafia Wars game, and actually do something in reality to advance the cause you support on Facebook by calling your representative. This is so easy. Many people are timid about making phone calls, but a phone call to your representative now could save you a series of phone calls to an uncooperative insurance company in the future. Too lazy to look up your representative's number? This website makes it even easier--it will find the number, call it for you, and then call your cell phone to connect you. Tell your representative's office that you support comprehensive health care reform, and urge them to support the public option.

"We can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies."
- Paul Krugman, The Swiss Menace


Friday, September 18, 2009

Obama Urges Lawmakers to Pass Healthcare Bill, But What Will Reform Really Look like?

from Democracy Now:

President Obama intensified his push for healthcare reform Wednesday with a nationally televised address before a joint session of Congress. Obama urged lawmakers to overcome partisan differences and pass long-awaited changes to the nation’s healthcare system. But what would reform actually look like? We speak with Dr. Quentin Young, a longtime friend of Obama and the national coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program, as well as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

“A Robust Public Option Is Essential”–Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Grijalva Draws a Line in the Sand on Healthcare Reform.

In a nationally televised address, President Obama called on Congress last night to take quick action and pass an overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. Obama defended proposals for a government-run public health insurance plan as part of healthcare reform but suggested that he would accept a bill that did not include a public option. We speak with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We’re going to fight for it down to the very last day,” Rep. Grijalva says of the public option. “It’s got to be part of [the bill]. If it’s not, we are just showering money upon money upon the same system and the same industry that got us into the mess we’re in right now.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TV archive with 3 days' worth of 6 networks' 9/11 coverage

One of the Internet Archive's less-well-known archives is their TV collection (it's mostly not available to the public). For years, the Archive has been recording dozens of TV stations around the clock. They happened to be rolling on September 11th, and they've published three days' worth of around-the-clock TV coverage from six different networks. This is a view into how history was experienced that we've never really had before.

The September 11th Collection (via Internet Archive News)

(Thanks Boing Boing)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Behind Public Option

obviously this "public option" is not going far enough for me. i think we need to scrap all the insurance companies and go Single Payer as you all know if you've been reading. But that said, i do like how Robert Reich explains what he and the president are talking about these days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009


Terrific new essay by Dangerous Minds pal Douglas Rushkoff at John Brockman’s Edge website:
We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems.

The scientific tradition exposed the unpopular astronomical fact that the earth was not at the center of the universe. This stance challenged the social order, and its proponents were met with less than a welcoming reception. Today, science has a similar opportunity: to expose the fallacies underlying our economic model instead of producing short-term strategies for mitigating the effects of inventions and discoveries that threaten this inherited market hallucination.

The economic model has broken, for good. It’s time to stop pretending it describes our world.
Economics is Not Natural Science by Douglas Rushkoff

from Dangerous Minds

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's Jello Biafra thinking these days?
I wonder...

Here are a few never before released photos I've taken of Jello Biafra when he was in the Dead Kennedy's back in 1980, at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Hollywood, California.

I always thought Biafra was one of the most important voices in punk rock, period. He Spoke politically and socially with an intelligence that few others could offer, whether it be satirical or the ugly truth. Jello brought it out into the open like no one else. He has always been an inspiration for me, and in fact inspired (really gave me, from his famed on-going list of great bamd names never used) the name of my book company Burning Flags Press.

SO i thought let's see what he's up to nowadays and this is what I found:
Biafra’s back – and this time he’s packing a ‘real’ band. The former Dead Kennedys frontman is re-energised by fronting a new group, The Guantanamo School Of Medicine, who tour the UK in September 2009.
Alex Ogg chews the fat with him

Here's a few of my favorite answers from The Quietus interview:

They [the current Dead Kennedys line up w/out biafra] were trying to use me to persuade you to go on that Fresh Fruit DVD.

JB: Boy, am I glad I wasn’t in that. That’s exactly the kind of stupid-ass documentary of the band they want to make and everything was dumbed down and harmless and lovey-dovey, touchy-feely, burn-out nostalgia. We might as well have been Air Supply. I’m not going to be dragged through that again. Why do I want to spend all this time quarrelling over the past when I have new songs and a new band, and I feel much more alive doing that than going over and over every last little granule of misinformation about Dead Kennedys? I’m proud of the music, I care about it and respect it much more than those guys do. And yes, we will play a little bit of that on the tour. But like the gigs I did with the Melvins, it will be dominated by new songs.

I guess I grew up suspicious of the attitude that rock & roll stood for – macho, conservative, self-satisfied.

JB: That was part of the thing that drew me to punk so much – finally there was the true spirit of rock & roll brought back again – it was scaring the shit out of all the right people, plus the lyrics didn’t have to be so stupid any more. I’ve never liked love songs. I hated them when I was a seven-year-old in second grade and first discovered rock & roll in the fall of ’65. Then as a teenager I realised that love songs weren’t just stupid, they were lying to me! Romance didn’t work like that at all! All it did was string people along on false hope like hope-dope dealers or something. Another thing that came to mind after staying away from this all these years - it’s kinda sad. I wrote down all the songs from my past that might be cool to play in this band some day, and there turned out to be so many of them, we’d have had to play a set as long as the Grateful Dead. So some of those songs will never see the light of day on a stage – there’s Dead Kennedys songs, Lard songs, the ones with Tumor Circus, DOA, NOMEANSNO. We haven’t gotten to it yet, but I really want to see what an audience does if I can get the band interested in the idea of playing our really heavy songs and then playing one of the country songs off Prairie Home Invasion [Biafra’s 1994 collaboration with Mojo Nixon). And then go right back to playing the heavy shit again. I think that would be cool.

You’re frightened by the fact that Obama is backtracking – but are you surprised? When you did your spoken word show 18 months ago, you didn’t seem sold on the idea that Obama represented a brand new dawn.

JB: It was weird to me from the very beginning that all the big banks who backed George W Bush for two terms threw all their money into Obama next time around. They weren’t giving that kind of money to Hillary or McCain. So something was up from the get-go. ‘Terror Of Tinytown’ is an infamous low-budget movie from the 1930s – an all-midget western. It’s so metaphorically similar to Bush’s rationale and mentality going into Iraq, that I just couldn’t resist.

And you pointedly note that 9/11 was more Spinal Tap than conspiracy.

JB: My point was a reply to people who are obsessed with the idea that Bush and Cheney, and the people around them, blew up the World Trade Center themselves, and it was all an inside job. You know, I love conspiracy theories, but I prefer that they be supported by logic and science. Bush and Cheney weren’t smart enough or competent enough to pull off something like that. They couldn’t even overthrow Hugo Chavez, for Christ’s sake, when they tried that coup over the weekend. He was back in office by Monday morning.

The point being that the wild theorising distracts from what’s really taking place?

JB: Well, as you might guess, I get some hardline 9/11 conspiracy theorists at my shows. And they are furious with me when I don’t devote the whole show to 9/11 conspiracies, and then even more furious when they find out I don’t even agree with them. It’s like trying to reason with an anti-abortion zealot or an uber-vegan. It’s just complete religious fanaticism. Besides, it makes no strategic sense from a military point of view to blow up your most valuable real estate and kill 3,000 of your own people just to launch a war you were going to start anyway. All they would have had to do was stage another attack on a ship like the USS Cole, or better yet, do it all at the special effects department at Fox News, and we would be stuck in Iraq anyway.

Read the entire interview here.

the Dead kennedy's Jello Biafra c. 1980

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lawyers for TV überdouche Glenn Beck go after satirical website, saying the url itself is defamatory

Conservative television dirtbag Glenn Beck, formerly of CNN, now of FOX, is none too happy with the domain name (website is down). Beck's lawyers are attacking this satirical website, which has only been up for one week, on the grounds that the very domain name is defamation. That's right, the url, apart from the contents. Apparently the whole thing started with Fark and Gilbert Gottfried. I'm confused, but Ars Technica has an exensive post up: Can a mere domain name be defamation? Glenn Beck says yes

from BoingBoing (via @EFF)

registering a domain name and launching a web site in order to make a point about talking head TV demagoguery. "Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations?" asks the site. "We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990—in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?" At the very bottom of the page was a small text disclaimer saying that the site was satirical.

I spoke to the anonymous owner of the site, who tells Ars that launching it "just felt right"—it flipped the "birther" non-falsifiable conspiracy theories about Obama's birth and citizenship around and applied the same tactics to one of the biggest talking heads (no pun intended?) on cable news. It's just "using Beck's tactics against him" and is a small way of "directing all this frustration" with Beck and others into action.
back up URL

MORE ON THE SACK OF SHIT: As my good friend Shepard Fairey tells us through his website/blog:
I’m very sad to say that the right wing hate machine has successfully targeted my good friend Yosi. Yosi just stepped down from his position at the National Endowment of the Arts. Yosi is a great guy who wants only to better the country and the world. A conference call he participated in asking artists to deal with issues they care about in their art was spun by Glenn Beck as some sort of propaganda campaign. It is despicable that Glenn Beck did what he did, but equally that it got traction and impacted Yosi in his positive efforts. Yosi worked selflessly and tirelessly as a grassroots activist for Obama and it is tragic that a human being of his calibre is being targeted for trying to do GOOD. When you think of the lies Republican members of congress are telling about health care reform, it is insane that their untruthful propaganda is tolerated and Yosi is losing his job. It is more clear than ever that the Republican party is about self interest and division, and is not interested in the collective good. The ART FOR OBAMA book is about to come out and it turned out great. Yosi played a huge roll in organizing the artists and the Manifest Hope shows. Check out the book and lament the loss of a dedicated creative force in Yosi. We really needed him. I feel very sad right now.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Greed Is Bad, Gekko. So Is a Meltdown.

Oliver Stone, who this week will begin shooting his sequel to “Wall Street” (1987), stands outside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Lower Manhattan.

By TIM ARANGO from The New York Times

Last Tuesday afternoon, a black Cadillac Escalade arrived at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Lower Manhattan, built in the 1920s to resemble the Renaissance-era palaces of Florence, Italy. From a rear seat stepped a man in a cashmere sweater and dark slacks.

“This is where the money is,” he said, borrowing the words of Willie Sutton, the Depression-era bank robber. “There is more gold here than anywhere in the world.”

Look out, Wall Street: Oliver Stone is back.

This is familiar terrain for Mr. Stone: his father was a broker, and his 1987 film, “Wall Street,” became emblematic of an era of excess the filmmaker thought was fading, but in fact was only beginning. Now he is here to make a sequel, to capture greed on celluloid all over again, set against the backdrop of the financial collapse that began with the fall of Bear Stearns.

In a meandering walk through the crooked streets of Manhattan’s financial district — it was a week before shooting of the sequel, titled “Wall Street 2,” was scheduled to begin — Mr. Stone said he never expected high finance to serve again as a tableau for his storytelling.

“I thought it was a bubble that was over,” Mr. Stone said of the 1980s. “I thought those days were going to come to an end. The excess.”

Despite his own years of hard living and a peripatetic existence — he would be heading to Venice in a few days — Mr. Stone looked refreshed and, at 62, surprisingly young. His original film was a morality tale about greed and unvarnished ambition, and Mr. Stone’s own views on the excesses of capitalism were obvious. But the film and its famous lines — “Greed is good,” “Money never sleeps” — have had a cultural endurance that he never expected, and perhaps never desired.

“I can’t tell you how many young people have come up to me in these years and said, ‘I went to Wall Street because of that movie,’ ” Mr. Stone said, standing on a street corner between Federal Hall and the New York Stock Exchange. A recognizable face himself, he was stopped only once during the stroll, not by a broker but by a Stock Exchange security officer who wanted to talk about his time in Vietnam. (Mr. Stone is a veteran himself, and directed the 1986 film “Platoon.”)

After exchanging words with the officer outside the exchange, Mr. Stone stood in front of the building and marveled at how the culture of finance changed after the original movie. “It became glamorous to cover Wall Street,” he said. “It had not been so before.”

Another aspect of Wall Street that changed — the financial press — borrowed some of the glamour of the film’s subject. Jim Cramer, the hyperkinetic host of “Mad Money” on CNBC and a former hedge fund manager, who certainly did his part to alter the complexion of financial news, will make an appearance in the film.

“There’s a line in the old film that kissing her was like reading The Wall Street Journal,” Mr. Stone said. (It wasn’t a compliment back then.)

The stock exchange, whose hectic trading floor was a frequent image in the first film, will be less prominent in the sequel. Instead the Federal Reserve building, where several important financial meetings took place last fall during the early days of the crisis, will be a more important location.

“In the original ’87 movie there was no Federal Reserve, we didn’t get into that,” Mr. Stone said. “But now the world has changed radically. This is part of the bulwark of the system.”

“Wall Street” earned a best actor Oscar for Michael Douglas, who portrayed Gordon Gekko, a ruthless corporate raider whose memorable statements are still quoted on trading floors. (Here’s one of many: “I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, Buddy. A player.”)

Mr. Douglas will reprise his role as Gekko, who when last seen by the movie-watching public was headed toward prison for insider trading.

“When Gekko comes out of prison in the beginning of this movie, he essentially has to redefine himself, redefine his character,” Mr. Stone said. “He’s looking for that second chance.”

A few weeks ago Mr. Douglas and Mr. Stone ate dinner at Shun Lee, a Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, with an unlikely companion: Samuel D. Waksal, the founder of the biopharmaceutical company ImClone Systems, who spent five years in federal prison for securities fraud.

“That was for Michael to meet a guy who had been in jail,” Mr. Stone said.

Mr. Douglas, in an interview, said actors are often hesitant to make sequels, “particularly one where I got an Oscar the first time around.” But he said the magnitude of the financial crisis erased any reservations.

The continued resonance of Gekko, Mr. Douglas said, has “probably been the biggest surprise of my career, that people say that this seductive villain has motivated me to go into this business.”

To this day, Mr. Douglas said, it is a usual occurrence to finish dinner out and have “a well-lubricated Wall Street businessman come up to me and say, ‘You’re the man.’ ”

Mr. Douglas added, “There’s an absurdity to it.”

The rest of the cast includes Shia LaBeouf as Jake Moore, a young trader who is the fiancé of Gekko’s daughter, played by Carey Mulligan; Josh Brolin as the head of an investment bank; Frank Langella as Jake’s mentor; and Susan Sarandon as Jake’s mother. Charlie Sheen, who played the central role of Bud Fox, a young trader, in the original, will make a cameo in the sequel. Shooting for the film, which will be released by 20th Century Fox next April, begins this week in New York.

A script for a sequel had been circulating for years, but last year, amid the financial crisis, 20th Century Fox hired the writer Allan Loeb to rewrite the screenplay and tether the story to current events.

“We sort of started over with the story of a young man who is at the center of it, and how he needs Gordon Gekko’s help to navigate those waters,” said Alex Young, co-president of production at 20th Century Fox.

While Mr. Stone’s youth was steeped in the ways of finance, thanks to his father’s profession, he did not inherit a facility for such matters. He did poorly in economics at Yale, and turned to filmmaking. He has spent the last several months researching the financial collapse by reading and by meeting with executives and academics.

Earlier in the summer he brought Mr. LaBeouf to a cocktail party organized by Nouriel Roubini, a New York University economics professor and chairman of a consulting firm, and held in rented space at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. There Mr. Stone and Mr. LaBeouf discussed the financial collapse with hedge fund managers who are clients of Mr. Roubini’s firm.

“In this financial crisis it was the traditional banks and the investment banks that had a larger role in doing stupid and silly things than the hedge funds,” said Mr. Roubini, who earned acclaim for being early in predicting the financial crisis. (Mr. Stone offered Mr. Roubini a small role in the film as a hedge fund manager.)

Mr. Stone also had conversations with Jim Chanos, a prominent hedge fund manager who urged him to focus less on hedge funds and more on the banking system. “There was a much more important story, a bigger story, in what happened with the system,” Mr. Chanos said.

In his first run at Wall Street, Mr. Stone produced characters and a portrayal that lived longer than he ever expected and with unintended consequences. But he never would have made a second version if it didn’t appear that the system, and high finance, had finally been brought to its knees.

“We wouldn’t have done this movie in 2006,” he said. “Things were too loose. I didn’t want to glorify pigs.”

photo up top by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hubble's Greatest Hits: Astronomers discuss their favorite images

(from Xeni at BoingBoing)

Earlier this year, NPR ran a neat narrated slideshow of astronomers discussing their favorite images of space taken through the Hubble Telescope. It's worth a second look, now that the device is back in action, following a final round of repairs. Above, holy wow, right? This image was one of the earlier images retreived after Hubble launched nearly 20 years ago. Astronomer Tod Lauer of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson explains that it's a Hubble Space Telescope image of part of the Eagle Nebula, a giant cloud of gas and dust about six thousand light years from earth. These pillars are areas of strong concentrations of gas and dust, in which stars are eroded away, like sandcastles on a beach are blown away by waves. Inside this cloud, new stars are being formed.

Hubble's Prying Eyes (NPR News, via Jesse Dylan)

And, with that prelude out of the way -- go have a look at the new images NASA released today from the now-upgraded Hubble Telescope. Below, "Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Vegan in the National Football League?

from Planet Green
Well, almost... Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez eats green and stays strong (and so can you).

Another NFL season is upon us but what can the red meat macho world of pro football offer an earth-friendly greenie? How about a lesson in eco-eating from Atlanta Falcons Tight End Tony Gonzalez? A ten-time Pro Bowl selection, Gonzalez currently holds the NFL records for single season receptions (102) by a tight end, career touchdowns by a tight end (76), career receptions by a tight end (916), and reception yards by a tight end (10,940).

After reading The China Study in 2007, the 6-foot-5, 251-lb. athlete experimented with veganism and now subsists on an almost entirely plant-based diet. In 2008—his first meat-free season—Gonzalez stuck to his diet and broke two major records for his position. "I was like, 'OK, this is working,'" he said. "I have so much more energy when I'm out there."

And he's not alone. In baseball, Milwaukee Brewers slugger Prince Fielder is proving vegan can hit home runs at a prodigious rate. Also, there's mixed martial arts fighter Mac Danzig, ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, and other athletes both staying green and excelling in their sports.

How is this possible when it flies in the face of conventional (sic) wisdom? Part of it can be chalked up to the deeply embedded protein myth. "Although in the past it was thought that vegetarian and vegan diets might impair athletic performance," explains Natalie Digate Muth, MPH, RD, "scientists, coaches, and athletes alike now agree that with proper planning a diet without animal products can effectively fuel peak performance." In addition, the decidedly mainstream National Academy of Sciences has declared, "There is little evidence that muscular activity increases the need for protein."

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) adds: "People build muscle and other body proteins from amino acids, which come from the proteins they eat. A varied diet of beans, lentils, grains, and vegetables contains all of the essential amino acids. It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value, but current research suggests this is not the case. Many nutrition authorities, including the American Dietetic Association, believe protein needs can easily be met by consuming a variety of plant protein sources over an entire day."
Read more here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fired Up and Ready to Go ?

Obama will address Congress and the American people on Wednesday.

In order for Americans to get the healthcare we all deserve, Barack Obama the POTUS, needs to take it to the scum bags on the right Wednesday night for real. No holds barred, attack 'em B-Boy style like we know you can and you never have yet. Break 'em off and down like the articulate 1st generation B-Boy we know you are under that nice suit of yours. We voted for you because we had HOPE and because we thought you represented the CHANGE that we so desperately needed. We weren't totally delusional. We knew you were not going to nominate Ralph Nader as a supreme court judge or even put Dennis Kucinich in to head a new "Department of Peace". Not to mention Dr. Cornel West as Secretary of State. Noam Chomsky as your personal advisor, etc., etc., no we didn't expect any of that (although it would have been nice).

But what we did HOPE for was the guy who was cool enough in the primaries to tell us to "Brush your shoulders off" would not let himself get trampled by the "toys" in the last few months. The hypocrisy on the right has once and for all got to be spelled out for what it is, as clear as "La Di Da Di" or any nursery rhyme.

I have been blogging about this health care insanity for months now. And what it means to all of us. And about my wonderful experiences as a foreigner traveling in France, on three separate occasions when family members or myself needed medical attention over there, how I was bewildered at the kindness, understanding, and most of all cost (or lack there of). But the attacks on Obama now and Single Payer idea previously, even by his own administration, have disgusted me. Obama knows "Single Payer" is what this country needs to save lives, communities and our economy. Yeah again "it's the economy stupid." So why not tell it like it is POTUS? Please?

When you are standing in front of both houses making that speech please show America what's really at stake and what's really going on. Take it to them like Olbermann, Maddow, Stewart or even Moore do. There are people in this country that trust Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Beck to guide them, who are uneducated lying hacks at best. It's pathetic we just don't run them back into the ground where they belong once and for all - these guys are the most unpatriotic group of rabble rousers there ever has been. Don't be fooled again. Don't back down Mr. POTUS, Nice Guy, because domestically it has never paid off politically. If we are lucky we get watered down nothingness that insures the unhappiness of all. So why not go for the CHANGE that we elected you to deliver? CHANGE the game, fix this messed up system now! We need it. FOR THE PEOPLE - FOR A CHANGE.

Point out those republicans sitting on their hands in your audience (and those blue dogs too if they don't come around). Call them out! Call them all out one by one if you have to. Discuss the money they take from corporations that keeps them from voting for what the people they represent need. Admit that you too took money from corporations, but you refuse to let that cloud your judgment, and that you are here FOR THE PEOPLE, FOR A CHANGE. This must be our rallying cry! Remind everyone the majority of doctors and nurses in the country would all prefer a single payer plan, and then, on camera, go ONE BY ONE through the elected representatives assembled before you and ask them, Will you stand with me FOR THE PEOPLE, FOR A CHANGE, or not? And you? And you? And you?

This is no joke. This is a call to arms for the people of this country! Not munitions but something way more powerful, a call to think and to have compassion for our fellow Americans, FOR THE PEOPLE - FOR A CHANGE. It's long overdue and it's time has come, step one is with HEALTH CARE FOR ALL, NO ONE LEFT OUT. If you're scared of government health care then you can opt out and go it alone, but a clear majority of this country surely will stand with you Mr. POTUS if you stand up for them. For their good, for the good of the country and even for the world economy. Call 'em out like our lives depend on it, because in fact they may.

thank you.

I wrote the above comment before the great speech Obama made on Labor Day. He said and is asking: are you "Fired up?" and "Ready to go?" He called up "the Lies" and he said some other good stuff, crediting American labor for a lot they deserve, but also left out some enthusiasm for some of the things we do want and I discussed above. Either way I will give him credit for the most energetic domestic speech since he's actually been POTUS, and HOPE this was just him warming up for the real thing on Wednesday.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Daniel Pelletier, a paraplegic skateboarder.
Gotta be inspired...

Sixteen-year old Daniel Pelletier is paralyzed from the waist down and has endured twenty-five surgeries during his recovery, but he doesn’t let that stop him from being an accomplished skateboarder. Pelletier hoped to get corporate sponsorship with this video.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This is where it begins to get really fucking sickening...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Fox News: The New Liberals
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Fox News: The New Liberals
Fox News turns into the liberal media by defending protesters, criticizing the president and shoving its values down America's throat.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Help get decent healthy food options in schools!

The Healthy School Lunch Campaign, sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), is dedicated to improving the food served to children in schools by educating government and school officials, food service workers, parents, and others about the food choices best able to promote children’s current and long-term health.

The campaign’s key message: Foods served in schools should promote the health of all children.

Menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (see PCRM’s 2008 School Lunch Report Card). Major changes are needed to encourage the health of the nation’s youth and to reverse the growing trends of obesity, early-onset diabetes, and hypertension, among other chronic diseases, in children and teens.

The Healthy School Lunch Campaign encourages schools to offer more healthy low-fat, cholesterol-free options, including reimbursable meals and beverages, a la carte items, and vending machine items. The PCRM Healthy School Lunch Team works with school districts across the country and organizes meetings and presentations for school boards, PTAs, and student groups. We can provide marketing materials, meal planning and recipes ideas, and other resources upon request.

If you are interested in having The PCRM Healthy School Lunch Team work with your school district, start by taking these easy steps.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Matt Taibbi: Health care "can't be fixed"

Matt Taibbi is hardly what i would consider radical. Fact is he writes for Rolling Stone magazine, so he is mainstream.
I've been seeing him on cable TV for a few years as well, very practical and usually on the side of discussion i would agree with. In this latest issue of RS he's got a really good article on Health Care with some accompaning video too.

Here's the only clip i could find on the same subject that i could embed here, very worth checking out and forwarding. He may seem a bit harsh, but it's the fucking wake up call anyone having second thoughts about health care needs to listen to.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire from London is a star among savants. Stephen is autistic. He did not speak his first words "pencil" and "paper" until he was 5. Yet, when he was 11 he drew a perfect aerial view of London after only one helicopter ride. For this film we're testing the "Living camera" in Rome. (ColourField production)

(thanks, Basheer)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. here's the latest image below and here's the main index link URL

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Former FDA Commissioner (Scumbag) David Kessler: “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite”

When this guy was the FDA Commissioner, i remember him as being a total piece of shit. But now he's rallying folks against obesity and even Democracy Now has interviewed him on the subject and got some interesting answers last month, that he should have been talking about while he was in office!