Sunday, December 30, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

3D Photo Booth

In Tokyo you can pop into The World first 3D Photo booth and have a miniature model of you and your friends and family in 3D. You have to stand still for 15 mins while they scan you, you then have to wait for the models to be painted which can take 1 month. And it's only $250 per model.

Thanks, Presurfer

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Minute of Good Advice From Steve Jobs

from Government Executive
Though he passed away more than a year ago, Steve Jobs legacy and lessons (both the good and bad) continue to shape our view of the world. The blog Inneractive recently uncovered a one minute video of Jobs sharing his vision of the world and, more importantly, his view on possibility. Jobs succinctly dissects the shortsightedness of the walls we build as we grow older to confine our own imagination.

His advice feels particularly applicable to those leaders striving to bring change to the federal government--a big ship that turns slowly, anchored by its own architecture and design. Jobs says the key is to realize that "everything around you you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you--and you can change it."
It's an explication of the slogan that would come to define his company and his life's work: think different.

A short, must watch. Also a great way to start your week. Check it out below:


Tuesday, December 25, 2012


from DangerousMinds


Turkey Day has passed, and it is officially the Christmas season. As the Pamplona of Black Friday reminded us, this means an onslaught of fevered consumerism and fetishizaton of commodities and conspicuous consumption and all that other stuff that turns our stomachs. The complement to that consumerism is the hallmark corniness. “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” can feel so cliche and forced when contrasted with the materialism of the spectacle. It’s easy to get a little contemptuous at Christmas.

It’s all reminiscent of an essay by (self-identified socialist) George Orwell, “Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun.” Writing under a pen name, Orwell starts the piece with an anecdote on Lenin reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; Lenin was on his death bed, and dismissed the feel-good classic as full of “bourgeois sentimentality.”

Orwell goes on to bemoan the cynicism of the anti-capitalist, how we can’t seem to enjoy anything too steeped in sentimentality, and I’d say he was pretty dead-on. So in the interest of avoiding our fuddy-duddy tendencies, allow me to show you one of my favorite Christmas genres: The Afrocentric Christmas Song.

Now when I say “Afrocentric” I am not talking about something performed by a black artist, or even a Christmas song in a traditionally Afrocentric genre. I’m talking about a song that portrays Christmas as explicitly black. Let’s start with “The Be-Bop Santa Claus,” by Babs Gonzalez.

This update of T’was the Night Before Christmas starts out with the line, “T’was the black before Christmas.” Now Babs was a bebop pioneer and poet, and used to go by the name “Ricardo Gonzalez” in an attempt to get into hotels that discriminated against black people; the line is an incredibly personal artistic comment. What follows is a perfectly painted picture primed for Reaganite propaganda: suede shoes, Cadillacs, applejack—it’s fantastically subversive, unapologetic, and self-aware.

Of course, I can’t resist including what’s essentially the white hipster version of the same artistic statement.

It’s quite the (ahem) “homage.” Paging Norman Mailer…

If “The Be-Bop Santa Claus” alludes to urban poverty, James Brown’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” leaves nothing to the imagination.


“Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” had already come out by the time this song was released, so James Brown was already a floating signifier for the Black Power Movement. There are two reasons this is such an interesting extension of his career. First, it acknowledges black poverty as a pressing matter of social justice in a seemingly incongruously celebratory song. Second, the song applies Black Power politics to something as traditional as Christmas. (If I could add a third, I’d also say that this is just a sick jam, but I digress.)

This one, though, is my absolute favorite.



Performed by Teddy Vann and his daughter, Akim, “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is arguably the most adorable product of Black Power. I mean Jesus, look at that album cover! Look at her wee little black power fist and listen to her sweet, spastic, bubbly little voice!

Politically, it’s a perfect delivery. You have a black child taking a spin on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” with hook of, “and he’s handsome, like my Daddy, too.” Aiming something specifically at children to counteract racist depictions of blackness is particularly salient when delivered by a child.

Interestingly, towards the end, Akim says, “I want to wish everybody Happy Kwanzaa.” Kwanzaa had been introduced in 1966, and the song came out in 1973. At first, Kwanzaa founder and activist Maulana Karenga posited Kwanzaa as a way to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” After realizing that American black people were rarely willing to give up the holiday of the oppressor, Karenga softened his position to allow Kwanzaa to be celebrated alongside Christmas—no need to be sectarian when it comes to Santa Claus!

Now, none of these songs succeed in making Christmas “cool”- just the opposite, in fact; they’re as rife with schlocky sentimentality as any Christmas song, even though they’re great songs. But what’s so bad about sentimental and schlocky, anyway? Does Wal-Mart win if we enjoy a little syrupy holiday cheer? These songs are still doing something beautiful by using a traditional event as a site of counter-hegemony. They represent the underrepresented and condemn racism and poverty, and they do it all with a little bit of mawkish sincerity and delight.

This Christmas, why not resist our inner-Lenins and wallow in a little sentimentalism? It was good enough for James Brown.

Monday, December 24, 2012

There Is No Stopping Climate Change Unless We Can Mobilize Against Plutocracy

from AlterNet By George Monbiot
Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that manmade climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine, whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call “the market” looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich(1). Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy.

The doctrine was first applied in Chile in 1973, as former students of the University of Chicago, schooled in Milton Friedman’s extreme prescriptions and funded by the CIA, worked alongside General Pinochet to impose a programme that would have been impossible in a democratic state. The result was an economic catastrophe, but one in which the rich – who took over Chile’s privatised industries and unprotected natural resources – prospered exceedingly(2).

The creed was taken up by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It was forced upon the poor world by the IMF and the World Bank. By the time James Hansen presented the first detailed attempt to model future temperature rises to the US Senate in 1988(3 [3]), the doctrine was being implanted everywhere.

As we saw in 2007 and 2008 (when neoliberal governments were forced to abandon their principles to bail out the banks), there could scarcely be a worse set of circumstances for addressing a crisis of any kind. Until it has no choice, the self-hating state will not intervene, however acute the crisis or grave the consequences. Neoliberalism protects the interests of the elite against all comers.

Preventing climate breakdown – the four, five or six degrees of warming now predicted for this century by green extremists like, er, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and PriceWaterhouseCoopers(4 [4],5 [5],6 [6]) – means confronting the oil, gas and coal industry. It means forcing that industry to abandon the four-fifths or more of fossil fuel reserves that we cannot afford to burn(7 [7]). It means cancelling the prospecting and development of new reserves – what’s the point if we can’t use current stocks? – and reversing the expansion of any infrastructure (such as airports) that cannot be run without them.

But the self-hating state cannot act. Captured by interests that democracy is supposed to restrain, it can only sit on the road, ears pricked and whiskers twitching, as the truck thunders towards it. Confrontation is forbidden, action is a mortal sin. You may, perhaps, disperse some money for new energy; you may not legislate against the old.

So Barack Obama pursues what he calls an “all of the above” policy: promoting wind, solar, oil and gas(8 [8]). Ed Davey, the British climate change secretary, launched an energy bill in the Commons last week whose purpose was to decarbonise the energy supply. In the same debate he promised that he would “maximise the potential” of oil and gas production in the North Sea and other offshore fields(9 [9]).

Lord Stern described climate change as “the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”(10 [10]). The useless Earth Summit in June; the feeble measures now being debated in Doha; the energy bill(11 [11]) and electricity demand reduction paper(12 [12]) launched in Britain last week (better than they might have been but unmatched to the scale of the problem) expose the greatest and widest ranging failure of market fundamentalism: its incapacity to address our existential crisis.

The 1000-year legacy of current carbon emissions is long enough to smash anything resembling human civilisation into splinters(13 [13]). Complex societies have sometimes survived the rise and fall of empires, plagues, wars and famines. They won’t survive six degrees of climate change, sustained for a millennium(14). In return for 150 years of explosive consumption, much of which does nothing to advance human welfare, we are atomising the natural world and the human systems that depend on it.

The climate summit (or foothill) in Doha and the sound and fury of the British government’s new measures probe the current limits of political action. Go further and you break your covenant with power, a covenant both disguised and validated by the neoliberal creed.

Neoliberalism is not the root of the problem: it is the ideology used, often retrospectively, to justify a global grab of power, public assets and natural resources by an unrestrained elite. But the problem cannot be addressed until the doctrine is challenged by effective political alternatives.

In other words, the struggle against climate change – and all the crises which now beset both human beings and the natural world – cannot be won without a wider political fight: a democratic mobilisation against plutocracy. I believe this should start with an effort to reform campaign finance: the means by which corporations and the very rich buy policies and politicians. Some of us will be launching a petition in the UK in the next few weeks, and I hope you will sign it.

But this is scarcely a beginning. We must start to articulate a new politics: one that sees intervention as legitimate, that contains a higher purpose than corporate emancipation disguised as market freedom, that puts the survival of people and the living world above the survival of a few favoured industries. In other words, a politics that belongs to us, not just the super-rich.


1. See Colin Crouch, 2011. The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. Polity Press, Cambridge.

2. Naomi Klein, 2007. The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism. Allen Lane, London.

3. [3]

4. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, November 2012. Turn Down the Heat: why a 4C warmer World Must be Avoided. Report for the World Bank. [4]

5. [5]

6. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, November 2012. Too late for two degrees? Low carbon economy index 2012. [6]

7. [7]

8. [8]

9. [9]

10. [10]

11. Nicholas Stern, 2006. The Economics of Climate Change. [11]

12. [12]

13. Susan Solomon, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Reto Knutti, and Pierre Friedlingstein, 10th February 2009. Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. PNAS, vol. 106, no. 6, pp1704–1709. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812721106. [13]

14. I’m speaking loosely here, as Solomon et al propose that not 100% but around 40% of the CO2 produced this century will remain in the atmosphere until at least the year 3000. On the other hand, unrestrained emissions and global warming will not stop of their own accord in 2100: temperatures could rise well beyond 6C in the following century: without sharp mitigation now, we’re setting up 1,000 years of utter chaos.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vegetarians are more intelligent, says study

From The London Evening Standard
Frequently dismissed as cranks, their fussy eating habits tend to make them unpopular with dinner party hosts and guests alike.
But now it seems they may have the last laugh, with research showing vegetarians are more intelligent than their meat-eating friends.

A study of thousands of men and women revealed that those who stick to a vegetarian diet have IQs that are around five points higher than those who regularly eat meat.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers say it isn't clear why veggies are brainier - but admit the fruit and veg-rich vegetarian diet could somehow boost brain power.

The researchers, from the University of Southampton, tracked the fortunes of more than 8,000 volunteers for 20 years.

At the age of ten, the boys and girls sat a series of tests designed to determine their IQ.

When they reached the age of 30, they were asked whether they were vegetarian and their answers compared to their childhood IQ score.

Around four and a half per cent of the adults were vegetarian - a figure that is broadly in line with that found in the general population.

However, further analysis of the results showed those who were brainiest as children were more likely to have become vegetarian as adults, shunning both meat and fish.

The typical adult veggie had a childhood IQ of around 105 - around five points higher than those who continued to eat meat as they grew up.

The vegetarians were also more likely to have gained degrees and hold down high-powered jobs.

There was no difference in IQ between strict vegetarians and those who classed themselves as veggie but still ate fish or chicken.

However, vegans - vegetarians who also avoid dairy products - scored significantly lower, averaging an IQ score of 95 at the age of 10.

Researcher Dr Catharine Gale said there could be several explanations for the findings, including intelligent people being more likely to consider both animal welfare issues and the possible health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Previous work has shown that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, cutting their risk of heart attacks. They are also less likely to be obese.

Alternatively, a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains may somehow boost brain power.

Dr Gale said: 'Although our results suggest that children who are more intelligent may be more likely to become vegetarian as adolescents or young adults, it does not rule out the possibility that such a diet might have some beneficial effect on subsequent cognitive performance.

'Might the nature of the vegetarians' diet have enhanced their apparently superior brain power? Was this the mechanism that helped them achieve the disproportionate nature of degrees?'

High-profile vegetarians include singers Paul McCartney and Morrissey and actress Jenny Seagrove.

Past exponents of a meat-free lifestyle include George Bernard Shaw and Benjamin Franklin.

Promoting the cause, Shaw said, 'A mind of the calibre of mine cannot drive its nutriment from cows', while Franklin stated that a vegetarian diet resulted in 'greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension'.

Liz O'Neill, of the Vegetarian Society, said: 'We've always known that vegetarianism is an intelligent, compassionate choice benefiting animals, people and the environment. Now, we've got the scientific evidence to prove it.

'Maybe that explains why many meat-reducers are keen to call themselves vegetarians when even they must know that vegetarians don't eat chicken, turkey or fish!'

Saturday, December 22, 2012

He Had You Hooked on the Beatles


By MARC MYERS - Wiltshire, England
Moments after greeting this writer outside his 260-year-old summer home here, two hours west of London, Sir George Martin suggested we sit in a gazebo at the high end of a manicured lawn. "I used to do the mowing, but now I'm not allowed to operate heavy machinery," he said, grinning. Tall and more youthful than his 86 years, Mr. Martin strides with long, measured steps, his cobalt eyes alert with purpose. The problem is his ears. Mr. Martin no longer can hear music and he must rely on two hearing aids and lip-reading for conversations.

In a cruel twist, rock's most famous record producer has become a victim of the very music he helped elevate to a classic art form. Long hours of exposure to loud sound in recording studios have inflicted permanent damage. It's a topic he talks about openly in "Produced by George Martin" (Eagle Rock), a BBC documentary that will be released on DVD in the U.S. on Tuesday.

The sole producer of the Beatles' recordings, with the exception of their album "Let It Be," Mr. Martin has worked with dozens of other artists, including Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, the Who and Celine Dion. A winner of six Grammys, he still holds Billboard's record for producing the most No. 1 pop singles—23 in all—and had two titles bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth.

"A producer's role is still a mystery to most music-listeners, isn't it?" said Mr. Martin, whose cellolike voice is as soothing as it is commanding. "Put simply, my job was to make sure recordings were artistically exceptional and commercially appealing, maximizing the qualities of artists and songs."

Mr. Martin's early magic can be heard in the "hooks" that kick off many of the Beatles' hit singles. These hooks include the opening drum roll on "She Loves You," the initial ringing guitar chord on "A Hard Day's Night" and the first yelp on "Help!"

"For 'Can't Buy Me Love' in early '64, I designed a catchy opener for Paul that used the tagline at the song's corners. If you could grab teens' imaginations right away over the radio, you'd have them."

Born in London in 1926, Mr. Martin taught himself piano and could play Rachmaninoff just by listening to recordings. He attended private school on a scholarship in 1937, and in 1943 enlisted in the Fleet Air Arm, Britain's naval aircraft unit. "Formal music studies for me didn't begin until I was 21, at London's Guildhall School in 1947," he said.

Urged by a mentor to interview at EMI, Mr. Martin was hired in 1950 to assist the head of Parlophone—EMI's smallest label. "When my boss retired in 1955, I was named the label's new director, which was a shock to me," he said. Over the next seven years, Mr. Martin recorded classical ensembles, jazz combos and comedians, including Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

In April 1962, Syd Coleman called. "Syd headed EMI's music-publishing unit. He asked me to hear a group managed by someone named Brian Epstein. When Brian came by and played their demo, I wasn't impressed. But when I met the Beatles soon after, they had so much charisma I offered them a studio test."

An hour-long test turned into weeks, and singles became hits. By 1965, Mr. Martin questioned his pay. "The head of EMI offered a raise, but it was so low compared to the revenue I was generating that I left to start my own company." With the formation of Associated Independent Recording (AIR), Mr. Martin was a free agent, and EMI hired him regularly to produce the Beatles and other artists.

In June 1965, Mr. Martin launched his rock-classical experiments, beginning with "Yesterday." "We had never done anything like that before—and no one else had either. When I first suggested adding a string quartet, Paul [McCartney] grimaced and said, 'I don't want Mantovani, thank you.' I said, 'It doesn't have to be like that—we can be more clinical. We can use a baroque string quartet.'"

When "Eleanor Rigby" was slated for recording a year later, Mr. McCartney pushed for strings. "My approach was greatly influenced by Bernard Herrmann and his film score for 'Psycho,'" Mr. Martin said. "He had a way of making violins sound fierce. That inspired me to have the strings play short notes forcefully, giving the song a nice punch."

Mr. Martin even played on a number of Beatles songs, including "In My Life" on "Rubber Soul." "I wrote a piano part that I couldn't perform fast enough. So I played the notes at half speed but an octave lower on the piano, recording at 15 inches per second. When I ran the tape back at 30 inches per second, the notes were at the right speed and in the correct octave. But the piano's personality also had changed, which is why it sounds like a harpsichord."

Mr. Martin's instrumental collages and overdubbing grew more imaginative on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in 1966 and '67. "On 'A Day in the Life,' we needed to bridge John's first half with the second half written by Paul. Paul suggested an orchestral orgasm, so I scored 24 measures, from the lowest note to the highest. I told the orchestra, 'Make your own way up there. If you're playing the same note as the chap next to you, you're wrong.'"

When our conversation turned to "Let It Be"—the Beatles' last prebreakup album release—the pain was still evident. "It's still a sword in my side and hard to discuss, even today. When we started in '68 and '69, John said to me, 'We don't want any of your production crap on this. We do it live. We're a good band. No overdubbing or editing.'"

But at the recording sessions, errors mounted, and upward of 50 takes were needed on some tracks. "We tried to assemble an album, warts and all, just as John had insisted. But it was a mess and shoved to one side. Later, I heard that John and George took the master tapes from EMI and gave them to [producer] Phil Spector, who did all the things that John wouldn't let me do. It was baffling."

By the late '70s, music was becoming harder for Mr. Martin to hear. "In the '60s, nobody warned us that listening to loud music for too long would cause damage. I was in the studio for 14 hours at a stretch and never let my ears repair. Today's headsets are causing the same problem for a new generation," said Mr. Martin, who is a vice president at Deafness Research UK, a London charity.

Before we headed indoors for tea, a final legacy question: How does it feel to be responsible for helping rock grow up and become timeless? "If I did, I didn't intend to," Mr. Martin said. "Rock should never grow up. It's the domain of young people and must stay young." A short pause followed. "You won't find me making any more rock and roll records."
Another great interview with Sir George Martin HERE.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Amazing discoveries in science fiction: Everyone in Star Wars might be illiterate

"It seems like all the characters in Star Wars learn how to do is punch certain buttons to make their machines do what they need to do, and everything else is left up to droids." Ryan Britt at Tor has an analysis on how all the citizens in George Lucas' space epic have culturally evolved to a state in which the written word has gone extinct and, as a result, no one can read or write. Consider this the next time you send a text with your voice, if you feel like giving yourself a small anxiety attack.
via Boing Boing

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grime Writer: detergent-filled graffiti pen

Grime Writer is a detergent-filled graffiti marker that cleans away street-filth to leave your message behind. There's a good chance that the graffiti you create with these is no more legal than any other kind -- there've been successful prosecutions against companies in the UK that paid "street teams" to "reverse-graffiti" their messages by using detergent and stencils to selectively clean away grime from public walls, leaving behind commercial messages.
Grime Writer is a special chunky marker pen that can be filled with cleaning solution, and used to create art on a canvas of filth. Use it to tag your dirty vehicles & windows, or to transform dirt into artistic expression.

Much more socially acceptable than real graffiti and (more importantly) a lot less illegal - Grime Writer helps you leave your mark wherever you find muck. Use responsibly to help promote the phenomenon of negative graffiti, and brilliantly combine the crime of defacing a bridge with the community service time cleaning it up again afterwards, into one harmless, helpful, creative act.
from, Boing Boing

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Obedience and fear: What makes people hurt other people?

from Boing Boing
Stanley Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" experiments are infamous classics of psychology and social behavior. Back in the 1960s, Milgram set up a series of tests that showed seemingly normal people would be totally willing to torture another human being if prodded into it by an authority figure.

The basic set-up is probably familiar to you. Milgram told his test subjects that they were part of a study on learning. They were tasked with asking questions to another person, who was rigged up to an electric shock generator. When the other person got the questions wrong, the subject was supposed to zap them and then turn up the voltage. The catch was that the person getting "zapped" was actually an actor. So was the authority figure, whose job it was to tell the test subject that they must continue the experiment, no matter how much the other person pleaded for them to stop. In Milgram's original study, 65% of the subjects continued to the end of the session, eventually "administering" 450-volt shocks.

But they weren't doing it calmly. If you read Milgram's paper, you find that these people were trembling, and digging nails into their own flesh. Some of them even had seizure-like fits. Which is interesting to know when you sit down to read about Michael Shermer's recent attempt to replicate the Milgram experiments for a Dateline segment. Told they were trying out for a new reality show, the six subjects were set up to "shock" an actor, just like in Milgram's experiments. One walked out before the test even started. The others participated, but had some interesting rationales for why they did it — and a simple ingrained sense of obedience wasn't always what was going on.
Our third subject, Lateefah, became visibly upset at 120 volts and squirmed uncomfortably to 180 volts. When Tyler screamed, “Ah! Ah! Get me out of here! I refuse to go on! Let me out!” Lateefah made this moral plea to Jeremy: “I know I'm not the one feeling the pain, but I hear him screaming and asking to get out, and it's almost like my instinct and gut is like, ‘Stop,’ because you're hurting somebody and you don't even know why you're hurting them outside of the fact that it's for a TV show.” Jeremy icily commanded her to “please continue.” As she moved into the 300-volt range, Lateefah was noticeably shaken, so Hansen stepped in to stop the experiment, asking, “What was it about Jeremy that convinced you that you should keep going here?” Lateefah gave us this glance into the psychology of obedience: “I didn't know what was going to happen to me if I stopped. He just—he had no emotion. I was afraid of him.”
Read the rest in Michael Shermer's column at Scientific American

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Here's a cool post from my friend Alex's blog Flaming Plablum:

I don’t generally delve too deeply into “current events” here, but speaking as the father of two elementary schoolchildren, today’s events in Connecticut (to say nothing of Wednesday’s events in Oregon) have left me – much like everyone else – deeply demoralized.

As many others have said far more eloquently, I think it’s the PERFECT time to escalate the debate on gun control. Back in August, I suggested that I wasn’t going to wade into the Second Amendment debate, as it was "far too complicated to get into here,” but fuck that. Stop waving that around like it’s a magic golden Wonka ticket – that was written for people who were afraid of being ATTACKED BY MUSKET-WIELDING REDCOATS! It shouldn’t mean that any bozo can go out and buy an automatic assault weapon. These are toys you simply don’t need.

And to the people who suggest that today’s events transpired because “we removed God from schools” – I’m talking about shitheads like Mike Huckabee and Ryan Fischer – Go fuck yourselves. You sicken me.

XTC sang it best…

Right On Alex!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Freedom of the Press Foundation launches: crowdsourcing funding for transparency and accountability

from Xeni at BoingBoing:
I'm proud to serve as a board member for the newly-launched Freedom of the Press Foundation, dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. The project accepts tax-deductible donations to an array of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability. The board includes Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow, actor and activist John Cusack, and other journalists and activists with whom I'm honored to serve.

Early news coverage: New York Times, Huffington Post, Firedoglake. Read more about the project here. A list of beneficiary organizations here. Twitter: @FreedomofPress.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I've said it before, and i'll say it again...


The business of guns is fucking despicable - it's a disgusting sickness people have, to need a gun, to feel so insecure, to need to shoot for sport or whatever the bullshit excuse, THERE IS NO EXCUSE, NO GOOD REASON FOR GUNS.

don't agree? go away, please.

read this article in The Atlantic:
A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

also Interesting:
The Geography of Gun Deaths





Friday, December 14, 2012

40th anniversary of the Blue Marble photo

Last week was the 40th anniversary of the "Blue Marble," the iconic photo taken by the crew of the Apollo 17. More on the photo and its impact at and Wikipedia. Here's NASA's original caption:
View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon. This translunar coast photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap. Note the heavy cloud cover in the Southern Hemisphere. Almost the entire coastline of Africa is clearly visible. The Arabian Peninsula can be seen at the northeastern edge of Africa. The large island off the coast of Africa is Madagascar. The Asian mainland is on the horizon toward the northeast."
Thanks, Boing Boing

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ravi Shankar RIP
Raga - A Documentary


Ravi Shankar, who has died aged 92, was one of the giants of twentieth century music. As a performer, composer and teacher, he was an Indian classical artist of the highest rank, and he spearheaded the worldwide spread of Indian music and culture.

He achieved his greatest fame in the 1960s when he was embraced by the Western counterculture. Through his influence on his great friend George Harrison, and appearances at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals and the Concert for Bangladesh, he became a household name in the West, the first Indian musician to do so. To a movement challenging accepted values, he symbolised the genius of an ancient, wiser culture.

Yet the Sixties were but one chapter in an unparalleled career of record-breaking longevity. He had first entered the public eye as a ten-year-old dancer and musician performing on the world’s stages, and he was still packing out concert halls this year. Indeed, when he first met Harrison, he was already 46 and widely acclaimed as India’s greatest classical musician.

A Bengali Brahmin, he was born Robindra Shankar in 1920 in India’s holiest city, Varanasi, the youngest of four brothers who survived to adulthood, and spent his first ten years in relative poverty, brought up by his mother. He was almost eight before he met his absent father, a globe-trotting lawyer, philosopher, writer and former minister to the Maharajah of Jhalawar.

In 1930 his eldest brother Uday Shankar uprooted the family to Paris, and over the next eight years Ravi enjoyed the limelight in Uday’s troupe, which toured the world introducing Europeans and Americans (and many Indians) to Indian classical and folk dance, in a foreshadowing of Ravi’s own pioneering of Indian music two decades later.
Ravi had only four years of conventional schooling in total, but his cultural education was mind- boggling. Pitched into the glamour and tumult of the Paris, New York and Hollywood highlife, he met Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. He saw Stravinsky, Toscanini, Heifetz and Kreisler, Shalyapin at the Paris Opera, Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, Duke Ellington, W. C. Fields and more. As a twelve-year-old dancer, he was praised in a New York Times review.

He was even more blessed in India’s arts. He may have barely known his father but he inherited his restlessness, spirituality and love of music. In Uday’s troupe he worked with some first-class musicians, while Uday himself, who was twenty years older, instilled a love of dance and the stage and a reverence for India’s heritage. The latter was strengthened by an inspirational meeting at thirteen with India’s greatest cultural figure of the twentieth century, Rabindranath Tagore.

But the decisive influence on his life was his music guru. Rejecting showbusiness, in 1938 Shankar began seven years of intensive guru-shishya training with Ustad Allauddin Khan, living under the same roof. This was the period when he began to develop into a musician of uncommon powers. In 1941 he married Allauddin Khan’s daughter, the surbahar player Annapurna Devi. (They had one son, Shubho.) Her brother was Ali Akbar Khan, who went on to become the world’s leading sarod player. In the early 1940s a lucky fly on their Maihar wall could have watched the three students learning music together at the feet of Allauddin Khan – the ancient oral tradition at its best.

During the Forties and Fifties Shankar became a star in India as a scintillating performer on sitar and a leading creative force. He developed a characteristic sitar sound, with powerful bass notes and a serene and spiritual touch in the alap movement of a raga. He was responsible for incorporating many aspects of Carnatic (south Indian) music into the north Indian system, especially its mathematical approach to rhythm. He also gave a new prominence to the tabla player in concert.

He was appointed Director of Music at the Indian People’s Theatre Association, and later held thesame position at All India Radio (1949–56). He composed his first new raga in 1945 (30 more would follow) and began a prolific recording career. He wrote a new melody for Mohammed Iqbal’s patriotic poem ‘Sare Jahan Se Accha’ – today a ubiquitous Indian national song. He mounted a theatrical production of The Discovery of India, and formed the National Orchestra (Vadya Vrinda) whose ground-breaking explorations of orchestral playing used both Indian and Western instruments. He was soon providing award-winning film scores; Satyajit Ray invited Shankar to compose for four of his movies, including the Apu Trilogy. In the traditional manner, he also took on his own music disciples, teaching them through the oral tradition, and never charging. He continued teaching in this way throughout his life.

Believing in the greatness of Indian classical music and blessed with charisma and intelligence, he pursued a dream of taking the music out to the Western world. Between the early 1950s and the mid-1960s he became the leading international emissary for Indian music, first performing as a solo artist in the USSR in 1954, in Europe and North America in 1956, and Japan in 1958. Yehudi Menuhin, John Coltrane and Philip Glass, among many others, fell under the spell of his music. He built his audience by relentlessly touring small venues and releasing records. Meanwhile his star continued to rise at home, with more Bengali movie soundtracks, two notable Hindi films too (Anuradha and Godaan), his own music school in Bombay, new stage productions Melody and Rhythm, Samanya Kshati, Chandalika and Nava Rasa Ranga, as well as regular concerts and broadcasts.

The connection with George Harrison from 1966 took him temporarily to a level of superstardom. Thereafter he spent increasing amounts of time in the West, but he never lost his roots, and was shocked by how superficially Indian culture was portrayed by some. Happily, after the hysteria died down he retained a long-term international following of serious enthusiasts, which continued to grow. Probably his most long-lasting achievement was to establish this new audience outside India for hundreds of other Indian musicians who followed in his footsteps. This assisted musicians from other countries too; Harrison later called Shankar ‘the Godfather of World Music’.

He remained lifelong friends with Harrison. In the early 1970s they collaborated on two albums and toured the USA together. They also organised the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, the forerunner of all charity concerts, which highlighted the plight of Shankar’s fellow Bengalis during the liberation war. Thereafter both were considered heroes by Bangladeshis. They worked together again on later projects, in particular the 1997 album Chants from India, and Harrison co-produced the excellent box set retrospective Ravi Shankar: In Celebration.

Shankar’s impact was felt on other musical traditions too. His work with Yehudi Menuhin on West Meets East earned them a Grammy, and he was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra to write a concerto for sitar and orchestra. He later wrote a second sitar concerto for the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta. He composed works for flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, shakuhachi master Hosan Yamamoto and koto virtuoso Musumi Miyashita. In a 1987 concert held inside the Kremlin, he wrote beautiful music for Russian orchestral, choral and folk singers to perform alongside Indian classical players. His influence on Philip Glass was such that Glass considers Shankar to be one of his two principal teachers. Later they would collaborate on the 1990 album Passages, and on Orion for the Athens 2004 Cultural Olympiad.

A long-term ambition was to establish an ashram-style home and music centre in India where selected students could live and learn. His first effort at this was in Varanasi in the 1970s. Then, after composing the music for the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, he moved to the capital, eventually building the Ravi Shankar Centre in Delhi in 2001, which today hosts an annual music festival.

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1982, following many years of separation. As he admitted, his private life was complicated then. There were long-term relationships with Kamala Chakravarty and with Sue Jones. Eventually in 1989 he married Sukanya Rajan, who became a source of enormous strength for him. They divided their time between Delhi and San Diego. A tragedy occurred in 1992 when his son Shubho, a sitarist who had performed with his father at times, died unexpectedly at the age of 50. Later Shankar took great pride in seeing his two musician daughters achieve world renown in different fields:the multi-Grammy winning Norah Jones (daughter of Sue Jones) and the Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Sukanya). Anoushka often accompanied him in concert.

He was the author of three books: two in English, My Music, My Life and Raga Mala (the latter an autobiography), and Raag Anurag in Bengali. In latter years he received numerous awards, principal among which were probably the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, France’s Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur, and an honorary knighthood from Britain. His film score for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi was nominated for an Academy Award. Another kind of nomination came from Rajiv Gandhi, who appointed him as a member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of parliament, from 1986 to 1992.

If he could walk with these kings and prime ministers, he never lost the common touch. Friends loved his impish sense of fun, which complemented his air of dignity and authority. In the words of the film- maker Mark Kidel, who produced an award-winning 2002 documentary on Shankar, he had ‘a marvellously light touch and a strong spiritual core’.

He never contemplated retirement, and every year arranged tours. In the tradition of Indian music one never stops learning, and he gave the lie to the notion that age must bring a diminishing of creativity. In 2009 he said, ‘I feel very strongly that I am now a much better musician than ever before, so much more creative. Maybe I don’t have the same speed or stamina of youth, but believe me, I have trouble sleeping these days because so much music is going through my head.’ Thus his 3rd sitar concerto was premiered by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in 2009, and at the age of 90 he composed his first symphony for sitar and orchestra, premiered at the Royal Festival Hall by the London Philharmonic under the baton of David Murphy.

The sitar soloist for both of these performances was Anoushka rather than Ravi, a sign that while the nonagenarian’s creative reserves were overflowing, his energy levels could not always keep up. Nevertheless he repeatedly bounced back from major health troubles to reappear in concert halls. Audiences would watch nervously as a frail old man was helped on stage, only to be amazed by the transformation that music brought upon him. In his last concert, on November 4th in Long Beach, California, he required a wheelchair and an oxygen supply, but once he started playing his vitality and magic returned.

At a time of music industry change, he set up his own label that has issued fascinating archival releases and a live album recorded at home (which has just received a 2013 Grammy nomination). The symphony appeared on CD (The Independent deemed it ‘a resounding triumph’), and there are DVD releases of his feature-length 1968 documentary Raga and a film of his 2011 Escondido concert. The music never stopped and it is hard to believe it will now.

In 2011 the Los Angeles Times ventured that ‘Music may not have, precisely, saints. But no musician alive is a closer fit.’ It’s a verdict that he would have rejected, but the millions whose lives he touched may agree with it.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

- Oliver Craske is a writer and editor. He was an invaluable resource and provided additional narrative for Ravi
Shankar’s autobiography, ‘Raga Mala.’


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


from DangerousMinds

We’ve known for a long time that Fox News has the oldest cable audience (average age 65) and we know, too, that Fox has the dumbest and most misinformed audience. But are they really THIS DUMB?

A PRWeb press release reposted on Yahoo News, “Intelligence Institute Study shows Fox News viewers have an IQ that is 20 points lower than the U.S. National average.” is currently quite high on the hit parade at reddit/r/politics. I’d like to believe that’s true, but it’s very obviously a prank.

Although it admittedly does feel “true enough” to be plausible for a moment (or even two moments) if you do a search for “The Intelligence Institute” and “lead researcher, P. Nichols” you don’t come up with much. In this case, just a bunch of people who are either gullible lefties who want to believe this is true, reposting it frantically, or else people who simply find the writing hysterically funny.

I wonder who paid PRWeb to post this:
The results of a 4 year study show that Americans who obtain their news from Fox News channel have an average IQ of 80, which represents a 20 point deficit when compared to the U.S. national average of 100. IQ, or intelligence quotient, is the international standard of assessing intelligence.

Researchers at The Intelligence Institute, a conservative non-profit group, tested 5,000 people using a series of tests that measure everything from cognitive aptitude to common sense and found that people who identified themselves as Fox News viewers and ‘conservative’ had, on average, significantly lower intelligent quotients. Fox Viewers represented 2,650 members of the test group.

One test involved showing subjects a series of images and measuring their vitals, namely pulse rate and blood pressure. The self-identified conservatives’ vitals increased over 35% when shown complex or shocking images. The image that caused the most stress was a poorly edited picture of President Obama standing next to a “ghostly” image of a child holding a tarantula.
Sweet Jeebus is that droll. But it’s still totally plausible isn’t it?
Test subjects who received their news from other outlets or reported they do not watch the news scored an average IQ of 104, compared to 80 for Fox News viewers.
Admittedly. if they said the Fox News watchers had IQs of around 90, I could totally see that, but 80?
Lead researcher, P. Nichols, explains, “Less intelligent animals rely on instinct when confronted by something which they do not understand. This is an ancient survival reaction all animals, including humans, exhibit. It’s a very simple phenomenon, really; think about a dog being afraid of a vacuum cleaner. He doesn’t know what a vacuum is or if it may harm him, so he becomes agitated and barks at it. Less intelligent humans do the same thing. Concepts that are too complex for them to understand, may frighten or anger them.”

He continues, “Fox News’ content is presented at an elementary school level and plays directly into the fears of the less educated and less intelligent.”

The researchers said that an IQ of 80 is well above the score of 70, which is where psychiatrists diagnose mental retardation. P. Nichols says an IQ of 80 will not limit anyone’s ability to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

The study did not conclude if Fox News contributed to lowering IQ or if it attracts less intelligent humans.
Sputtering with laughter on this end…

P. Nichols concludes that he wasn’t shocked by the studies’ results, rather how dramatic their range. “Several previous studies show that self-identified conservatives are less intelligent than self-identified moderates. We have never seen such a homogeneous group teetering so close to special needs levels.”

It’s the sort of thing that could have been written by jokesters on either on the right or from the left, it’s hard to tell what the motivation was here. I expect we’ll find out soon. Since it’s actually funny, I don’t think this is likely to turn out to come from a conservative prankster, but maybe it was.

More info to this study can be seen here:

P. Nichols

The Intelligence Institute


Email Information

The email information leads nowhere, but if anyone calls the number and gets someone on the line, leave what happens in the comments [at DangerousMinds].

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

George Orwell, A Life In Pictures
Essential Documentary

There is no footage of George Orwell, no recordings of his voice, just assorted photographs, and of course, his writing, his brilliant writing, which forms the basis of this Emmy award-winning documentary George Orwell - A Life in Pictures.

This documentary recreates Orwell’s life through a series of imaginary film clips, fictional archive news stories, and the sort of documentary films Orwell may have made.

thanks, Dangerous Minds

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Making Elevators Go

from The WallStreet Journal:

You press a button and wait for your elevator. How long before you get impatient and agitated? Theresa Christy says 20 seconds.

As a mathematician steeped in the theories of vertical transportation at Otis Elevator Co., Ms. Christy, 55, has spent a quarter-century developing systems that make elevators run as perfectly as possible—which means getting most riders into a car in less than 20 seconds. "Traditionally, the wait time is the most important factor," she says. "The thing people hate the most is waiting."

Developed in the 19th century, elevators transformed urban living, real estate markets and skylines around the world. As an Otis research fellow, Ms. Christy gets to work on the toughest problems and on signature projects like the 1,483-foot-high Petronas Towers in Malaysia, for a time the world's tallest building.

During the recent $550 million upgrade of the Empire State Building, Ms. Christy was asked whether she could help get more people up to the observation deck. She said she couldn't get more people into a car but could move them up more quickly. So she increased the elevators' speed by 20%, to 20 feet per second. Now the cars can rise 80 floors in about 48 seconds, 10 seconds faster than before.

Ms. Christy strikes down one common myth—that "door close" buttons don't work. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, she says. It depends on the building's owner.

The challenges she deals with depend on the place. At a hotel in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, she has to make sure that the elevators can clear a building quickly enough to get most people out five times a day for prayer.

In Japan, riders immediately want to know which car will serve them—indicated by a light and the sound of a gong—even if the elevator won't arrive for 30 seconds. That way, people can line up in front of the correct elevator.

Japan also boasts, in Ms. Christy's opinion, the smoothest, best-riding elevators. "When you get into an elevator there, you sometimes think you are 'stuck' in the elevator because the motion is so smooth and quiet," she says. But that service comes with extra costs and slower speeds.

Another problem: How many people fit in an elevator? In Asia, more people will board a car than in Europe or New York, Ms. Christy says; Westerners prefer more personal space. When she programs an elevator system she uses different weights for the average person by region. The average American is 22 pounds heavier than the average Chinese.

At their core, elevators are a mode of transportation. Serving passengers well is constrained by the number of elevators, their speed, how fast their doors open and close, and how many people can fit in a car. In the U.S., these factors come together 18 billion times a year, each time a passenger rides an elevator.

That experience is at the heart of what Ms. Christy does. From her sparse second-floor office in a leafy office park in Farmington, Conn., she writes strings of code that allow elevators to do essentially the greatest good for the most people—including the building's owner, who has to allocate considerable space for the concrete shafts that house the cars. Her work often involves watching computer simulation programs that replay elevator decision-making.

"I feel like I get paid to play videogames. I watch the simulation, and I see what happens, and I try to improve the score I am getting," she says.

Here is a typical problem: A passenger on the sixth floor wants to descend. The closest car is on the seventh floor, but it already has three riders and has made two stops. Is it the right choice to make that car stop again? That would be the best result for the sixth-floor passenger, but it would make the other people's rides longer.

For Ms. Christy, these are mathematical problems with no one optimum solution. In the real world, there are so many parameters and combinations that everything changes as soon as the next rider presses a button. In a building with six elevators and 10 people trying to move between floors, there are over 60 million possible combinations—too many, she says, for the elevator's computer to process in split seconds.

"We are constantly seeking the magic balance," says the Wellesley math major. "Sometimes what is good for the individual person isn't good for the rest."

A named inventor on 14 patents, Ms. Christy has a few more pending. She refers to the latest of them as the "surfboard feature." The idea came from a joke with colleagues when they were leaving one night after a dinner out. They sheepishly worried whether someday elevators might display a rider's weight. (Elevators already calculate the total weight in the car.)

The joke got Ms. Christy thinking of a feature that would allow people with a bulky or heavy item to have a car to themselves. So she and her colleagues created a system that can be programmed to allocate an empty car to a user. The feature would give users like hotel bellhops a numeric code that is punched in before entering the elevator. (A hotel in Hawaii considered using it to prevent surfers from disturbing other guests with their surfboards—hence its name.) The feature is generally used now by staff in hotels and office buildings.

One part of Ms. Christy's career didn't go as planned. With aspirations of getting into management, Ms. Christy got her M.B.A. from Babson College, but the role didn't suit her. "I thought I wanted to be a manager," she said. "But I really like solving the puzzles myself. I didn't like assigning them to other people. I was a little jealous."

Write to Kate Linebaugh at

Friday, December 7, 2012


Dave Brubeck claimed he had 2 ambitions when he first started out as a Jazz musician - “to play polytonally and polyrhythmically.”

He also said his inspiration for rhythm was the heart beat, for this was what we heard first, and last.

Brubeck was a giant of Jazz, whose passing at the age of 91, brings an end to one of the greatest eras of American Jazz.

He popularized Jazz like few other composers/musicians of his day, becoming a household name and the first million-selling Jazz musician, who also made the cover of Time magazine in 1954. The purists didn’t like him, and many classed his brand of Jazz as “easy listening”, but this is to do him and his music a great disservice.

Take a listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet (Brubeck - Piano, Paul Desmond - Alto Saxophone, Joe Morello - Drums, Gene Wright - Bass), filmed in concert in Germany, November 6th, 1966.

Track LIsting:

01. “Take the ‘A’ Train”
02. “Forty Days”
03. “I’m in a Dancing Mood”
04. “Koto Song”
05. “Take Five”

R.I.P. Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The War on Christmas: Friendly Fire Edition

John motherfucking Stewart, and his writers, killing it on the topic of the day, undeniably destroying any foolishness and idiots for talking absolute bullshit.

Continued below (the knock-out) :

BONUS: (from the same episode):

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dominant Species by ROA

This clip is directed by Colin Day, he did a great clip for my show in San Francisco almost two years ago, since, we've kept in touch and he sends me gems like this he's working on every once in a while.

ROA travels the globe studying the relationship between human beings and animals. This video showcases the process of methods that went into his recent exhibition in San Francisco of the same name, and also features walls that were painted in Miami, South Africa, Puerto Rico and across the United States.

Artwork & Photos of Artwork by ROA

ROA's Words Read by Alf Pollard

Directed & Shot by Colin M Day

Edited by Colin M Day & Albert Lopez

thanks, Colin Day

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

(In 2 minutes, 30 seconds)

from Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds
I’m getting so sick and tired of hearing about the so-called “fiscal cliff” except for the heartening rising chorus of rational voices in the matter—like former Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich—who stick to their guns about how to deal with it.

Let’s face it, to go by 2009 and the debt ceiling brouhaha, Obama is one fucking shitty negotiator. Unless there is tons of public pressure put on him to do the right thing, I fear he’ll cave in to the Republicans on raising the retirement age, only modestly raising taxes on the rich and cutting social safety nets. Don’t trust Obama, put lots and lots of pressure on him.

House Speaker John Boehner today made a counteroffer in the negotiations including proposals to increase the Medicare eligibility age and cut Social Security benefits. Forget about the GOP, they’re a lost cause, apply the pressure where it might make a difference, on Obama and the Democrats.

Find the necessary savings in corporate welfare and in the bloated military budgets, it’s the only acceptable path (and one with a whole lot of knock-on effect WIN along the way).

Although Reich addresses his essay to Democrats, I’d prefer to think of this as appealing to every American who isn’t a fucking idiot…
Democrats, here are eight principles to guide you in the coming showdown over the fiscal cliff:

ONE: HOLD YOUR GROUND. The wealthy have to pay their fair share of taxes. That’s what the election was all about, and we won. It’s only fair they pay more. They’re taking home record share of national income and wealth, and have lowest effective tax rate in living memory.

TWO: NO DEAL IS BETTER THAN A BAD DEAL. You’re in a strong bargaining position. If you do nothing, the Bush tax cuts automatically expire in January, and we go back to rates during Clinton administration. Which isn’t such a bad thing. As I recall we had a pretty good economy during the Clinton years.

THREE: MAKE REPUBLICANS VOTE ON EXTENDING THE TAX CUTS JUST FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS. After all the Bush tax cuts expire, have Republicans vote on an extending the Bush tax cut just for the middle-class. If they refuse and try to hold those tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy, it will show whose side they’re on. They’ll pay the price in 2014.

FOUR: DEMAND HIGHER TAX RATES ON WEALTHY, NOT JUST LIMITS ON DEDUCTIONS. Don’t fall for Republican offers to limit some tax deductions on the wealthy. Demand we go back to higher tax rates on the wealthy and eliminate their unfair tax loopholes, so they truly start paying their fair share.

FIVE: DON’T CUT SAFETY NETS. Don’t sacrifice Medicare or Social Security, or programs for the poor. Americans depend on these safety nets and can’t afford any benefit cuts.

SIX: DON’T CUT INVESTMENTS IN OUR FUTURE PRODUCTIVITY. Education, basic R&D, and infrastructure aren’t spending; they’re investments in our future prosperity. If the return on these investments is greater than the cost, they ought to be made, period.

SEVEN: CUT SPENDING ON MILITARY AND CORPORATE WELFARE. You want to cut, cut spending on the military — which now exceeds the military spending of the next 13 largest military spenders in the world combined. And cut corporate welfare — support to agribusiness, oil and gas, Big Pharma, big insurance, and Wall Street.

EIGHT: PUT JOBS BEFORE DEFICIT REDUCTION. Finally, Don’t cut the budget deficit as long as unemployment remains high. Otherwise you’ll cause the economy to contract, making the deficit even larger in proportion. That’s the austerity trap Europe has fallen into. We need to create American prosperity, not European austerity.

Remember: Jobs come first.

Hear, hear! Please spread this message far and wide

Monday, December 3, 2012

Russell Crowe’s ‘Noah’ is a Vegan, Animal-Loving, Environmentalist

from Ecorazzi:

We already knew Darren Aronofsky was planning on approaching the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark from an ecological perspective, but based on an early script review, it looks like this one could trump even the heavy green message in “Avatar.”

Brian Godawa of Godawa’s Movie Blog says Aronoksky’s version of Noah paints him as an “environmental wacko” – a “vegan hippy-like gatherer of herbs,” with a family that avoids crowds and lives off the land.

“Noah explains that his family ‘studies the world,’ ‘healing it as best we can,’ like a kind of environmentalist scientist,” writes Godawa. “But he also mysteriously has the fighting skills of an ancient Near Eastern Ninja.”

Ninja Noah? Fantastic. But there’s more. Apparently, this version of Noah also runs an animal hospital, taking in the wounded or those that survive “evil poachers.”

Godawa runs through the rest of the script which includes a magic seed, 18-foot-tall banished angel warriors, the whole ark and flood, etc. Naturally, Godawa and some other Christians are disappointed that the tale of Noah is receiving the Hollywood treatment rather than a Sunday school angle, but Aronofsky from the start never intended to go down that road.

“I don’t think it’s a very religious story,” he said earlier this year. “I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film. I want to make a big event film, and I think it can be that.”

As for Godawa’s labeling of Noah as an “environmental wacko,” it’s not that he has a problem with the vegan, animal rights, or sustainability themes – but more what happens later that troubles him. In the version of the script he reviewed, after all are safely aboard the boat, Noah goes dark in the mind and decides that this should be humanity’s final voyage. None in his family are allowed to have any more children – and should that be disobeyed, any girls born will be killed.

“Noah deduces that God’s only reason for his family on the boat is to shepherd the animals to safety,” writes Godawa, “and then ‘mankind disappears. It would be a better world.’”

You can jump over to the review to see how it all ends, but this is certainly all adding up to be one hell of a movie when it hits in 2014. Said Aronofsky to SlashFilm:

“I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist.”

Sunday, December 2, 2012


from our friend Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds

I’ve got a great dirty trick you can play on a three-year-old kid. Kids learn how to talk from listening to their parents, see? This is a good one. So here’s what you do. So you have a three-year-old kid and you wanna pull a trick on ‘em, whenever you’re around them.. TALK WRONG.

So now it’s like his first day of school and he raises his hand: “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?”
“Give that kid a special test. Get him out of here.”
—Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy, 1978

That classic Steve Martin joke came immediately to mind when I read Columbia University’s Lincoln Mitchell’s essay, “Is Fox Even Helping the Republicans Anymore?” this morning. That and “if you have to ask, then the answer is almost certainly ‘no.’” Fox News has become a liability to the GOP? Who’d have ever thunk it?

A few other things popped into my head as well when I read Mitchell’s article:
This has been a difficult election season for Fox News. Among the most enduring media images of the last few days of the election are Karl Rove late on election night angrily denying that Ohio, and thus the presidency, had gone to President Obama, and Dick Morris only a few days before the election confidently predicting a Romney landslide. Morris later tried to explain away his mistake after the election by claiming he had done it to create enthusiasm among Republican voters. The incidents involving Rove and Morris, both of whom work as both commentators on Fox and political consultants to conservative clients, are obviously embarrassing for Fox, but also raise the question of whether the network has outlived its value, even to the Republican Party.

Because Fox generally reports news based on partisan talking points and ideological certainty rather than focusing on pesky things like facts, information and events, it has, in the past, been effective in encouraging misperceptions about President Obama’s background, nurturing the growth and development of the Tea Party movement and covering economic policy by referring to any spending by the government as socialism. These things have helped mobilize and misinform the right wing base of the Republican Party. Similarly, during the Bush administration, Fox helped increase support for the Gulf War by repeating White House positions on weapons of mass destruction, almost without question.
“Ideological certainty” sure is a fun term to mull over these days, isn’t it? Especially in light of what happened on Election Day. Imagine having your entire naive “conservative” (and all that implies outside of the cult) worldview crushed just like that by the sheer force of math and changing demographics… not that I have much sympathy for dolts.


How would people who watch Fox News all the time ever hear—let alone be able to mentally process it—something like “Herbert Hoover presided over a bigger spending increase than Obama has”? Or that “Obama will probably win a higher percentage of votes than any sitting president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956”? (Ballots are still being counted in some of the most populous states.)

If you follow, like I do, the far reich blogosphere, it’s very plain to see that these people live in a cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs fantasyland, in an America that doesn’t even exist, hasn’t really existed for years, and that will never exist again short of a genocide that would kill tens of millions of people, and which, frankly, isn’t something I expect to see happening in North America anytime soon.


Even in the minds of GOP bigwigs, this Bizarro World/“mambo dogface to the banana patch” shit is looming large: Did you read former Reagan economic adviser Bruce Bartlett—the guy who coined the term “Reaganomics”—writing in The American Conservative on how even elite Republicans view The New York Times as if it is some far left samizdat? WTF??
Interestingly, a couple of days after the Suskind article appeared, I happened to be at a reception for some right-wing organization that many of my think tank friends were also attending. I assumed I would get a lot of grief for my comments in the Suskind article and was surprised when there was none at all.

Finally, I started asking people about it. Not one person had read it or cared in the slightest what the New York Times had to say about anything. They all viewed it as having as much credibility as Pravda and a similar political philosophy as well. Some were indignant that I would even suspect them of reading a left-wing rag such as the New York Times.

I was flabbergasted. Until that moment I had not realized how closed the right-wing mind had become. Even assuming that my friends’ view of the Times’ philosophy was correct, which it most certainly was not, why would they not want to know what their enemy was thinking? This was my first exposure to what has been called “epistemic closure” among conservatives—living in their own bubble where nonsensical ideas circulate with no contradiction.
Read that last sentence again. That would describe Fox News perfectly, a place where nonsensical ideas circulate with no contradiction. EVER, or else they cut your mic. A black hole of intelligence that’s sucking the GOP faithful into a place of foolishness from which they can never return.

Back to Mitchell:
Over the last several years, this has been very helpful to the Republican Party, but during 2012, particularly in recent months, this has begun to change. Fox has now become a problem for the Republican Party because it keeps a far right base mobilized and angry making it hard for the party to move to the center, or increase its appeal as it must do to remain electorally competitive. For example, Bill O’Reilly’s explanation of why the Obama was reelected may, in fact, resonate, with the older and heavily white viewership of Fox, but it is precisely the wrong public message and messenger for the Party.
Precisely, it was the sort of grumpy old white senior citizens who reliably vote in the Republican primaries—and get their “informations” from Fox News—who forced Mitt Romney to contort himself into positions that made him an unpalatable shit-dipped pretzel to non-white, non-old, non-idiotic Americans and therefore patently un-electable.

I got yer manifest destiny right here: Romney scored the “reliable low IQ buffoon” vote, that’s for sure, and for many of us, that alone was a good enough reason to vote against him. How will the “big tent” Republicans go about courting that surefire base of the Tea party / “Moran” / covert (or overt) racist / Christian home-schooled creationist conservative bloc in elections to come without alienating absolutely everyone else?


Talk about a difficult dance step with both of your shoes tied together and nailed to the floor. Is it even possible to pull off such a doomed political tango moving forward in history? It’s a stupid uphill battle to wage to begin with. Why bother trying to swim against this kind of historical and demographic current? Why hitch your wagon to some horses who require oxygen tanks and twice daily insulin shots? It doesn’t make any sense.

Any aspiring young politician with half a brain would be a fool to think he’d be the BMOC by joining the party of people with no brains at all (Scott Brown, I’m looking at your short political career. Still glad you pledged Phi Kappa Dipshit?). Whereas, the Democrats, or at least some of them, seem more like the folks with one eye in the kingdom of the blind (I exempt Florida’s Alan Grayson from this assessment), the Republicans just seem like mean-spirited know-nothing buffoons, country blumpkins (that’s not a typo) and Jeebus freaks who belong in carnival sideshows, not voting booths. Where do you go from there when your baseline members consist of the country’s most irritating assholes and blowhards under the same “big tent”? (Think of the GOP not as a political party, but a party party. Who wants to party with the Republicans? They’ve got John Rocker signing autographs!)

And listen to the hilarious “conciliatory” noises that even the likes of Sean Hannity are starting to spout about immigration reform (he’s “evolved”—not a word typically associated with Hannity, is it?). A little late, buddy, don’t cha think? How do you solve a problem like, uh, Maria, at this late stage of the game, genius? YOU don’t. You try to fuck off with some tiny shred of dignity left! (If you care about what Sean Hannity “thinks” about immigration reform, I truly fucking pity you and anyone you come into contact with on a regular basis).
Moreover, while Fox helps the Republican Party when it slants its news coverage to the right, it damages the Party when its news coverage becomes too shoddy. A network that cannot get election night right because one of its star pundits simply refuses to accept defeat offers very little reason for potential viewers to watch it. Similarly a network whose pundits are so off in their election predictions will ultimately marginalize itself completely, as Fox is beginning to do.
Fox News “offers very little reason for potential viewers to watch it.” As Glenn Beck likes to say “Well, duh!”

If the information a news organization brings to the public is wrong and is demonstrated—easily—to be incorrect, then what is the value proposition? Fox News fills not-so-bright people’s heads with comforting bullshit and it serves to get them riled up and angry with… non-facts. It tells dum-dums, not “the news,” but what they want to hear. Study after study has shown that Fox News fans are the least informed people in America—indeed they are the very opposite of informed, as they tend to actually know less than they would had they watched no TV news at all.

There is clearly very little of nutritional value to get out of Fox News. It’s like eating Cheetos all the damned day and believing that you are consuming a futuristic health food (like Tang and Gatorade) even as you weigh 500 lbs and have to be lifted by a crane into your electric scooter.


Fox News imbicilizes its viewership. Its viewership IS the Republican base and probably comprises the greater part of its primary voters. According to Bruce Bartlett, it’s also the leadership…

Another thing that came to mind reading Mitchell’s essay was Paul Krugman’s withering quip about Newt Gingrich being “a stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.” Ouch, but it’s just so very, very true. If your mind is tiny, Newt’s must seem vast, but that doesn’t say much about the price of tea in China, just what passes for “brainy” to a group of people as dumb as a cows. Gingrich, like Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, is merely a self-confident idiot. and yet these bozos are the very ones they pass off as the smart guys because they’re louder, more emphatically blusterous and in the case of Gingrich, just flat-out fuckin’ meaner.

One of the bigger challenges facing the Republican Party is that they are perceived as the, to phrase it nicely, less smart of the two major parties. The anti-science perspective, unwillingness to speak out against absurd sounding conspiracy theories, and even the attacks on Nate Silver, presumably because Silver did somewhat sophisticated math, have contributed to this and are damaging the party. It is no coincidence that the Obama campaign had a more sophisticated targeting and turnout operation and better statistical modeling. A party that refuses to take a firm stand in support of evolution or recognizing climate change is not going to draw too many people with advanced statistical training as advisors and consultants.
Don’t forget world-class computer programmers and developers.
Fox contributes to that environment by creating a climate where partisan rantings of people like Dick Morris are indulged while criticism by serious people like Tom Ricks is shut down and attacked. There is no inevitable link between conservatism and stupidity, but one could be forgiven for coming to that conclusion while watching Fox News. As it is currently constructed, Fox News is going to bring in almost no swing voters in the coming years. It will more likely continue to repel them through poor analysis and rants that strike the precise tone the party should be trying to avoid.
BAM. The toxic ménage à trois of the GOP, Fox News and the dumbest old coots in America means that they are perceived from the outside as being synonymous, and so herein lies the FAR BIGGER problem for the Republican party: Its very base, the braying Tea party dumbasses who they have so assiduously courted and pandered to, has made the Republican Party itself look like a BAD INVESTMENT. They can’t win lumbered with the imbecilic hordes of Fox News viewers, but they sure cannot win without them, either. What to do?

Tee-hee! This is yet another particularly vexing Catch 22 that I don’t think the GOP counted on. It goes far beyond their demographic problems and presents a much, much more immediate Wiley E. Coyote looking down to see that he’s already in very big trouble sort of crisis.

It’s also not something that I think is obvious to them—yet: Smart businessmen don’t tend to throw good money after bad. They certainly don’t keep doing it forever. Why would the people who have traditionally given money to the Republicans be foolish enough to do that again in 2016?

I think even the fucking US Chamber of Commerce got the message this time, don’t you? How could they have missed it?


Mitchell concluded by offering a final compelling reason for what I’m seeing as the “bad investment” aspect of the unholy trinity of Fox News, the GOP and the dumbest Americans:
It is in the interest of the Democrats, not the Republicans, for there to be a loud, extremist, heavily white faction in the Republican Party, constantly pushing that party rightward. One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox which contributing to forcing him to the right during the primary season. Even after the primary season, when Fox became a big supporter for Romney, the rift between official editorial position and the political feelings of Fox viewers and hosts, was clear.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, while this is bad politics, it is good business for Fox. By positioning itself as the place where angry Republicans can go for their rhetorical red meat, Fox guarantees itself a sizable viewership, so the incentive for Fox to keep doing what it is doing is substantial, as is the potential damage to the Republican Party.
Good business for Fox News, but bad business for rich supporters of the Republican Party.

It’s a very difficult thing to convince someone that they’re stupid, however, it’s utterly infuriating when someone lets you know that they think you’re stupid and you suspect they might be right (I’d imagine, it’s not like this has ever happened to me). Faced with that uncomfortable power dynamic, stupid people tend to huff and puff and dig in their heels even harder when it comes to something that threatens them. As the Republican electorate gets older and has less and less influence, the growing realization that the rest of us think they’re knobs will see the thrashing displays of abject crazy get ratcheted up to levels of lunacy not yet seen, but that will just seem more and more silly, shrill and impotent as time goes on. For the Republicans, it used to be that automatically having the coalition of the stupid in their back pocket was a winning strategy. Today that’s why they’re losing and yet they can’t exactly cut them loose, either.


So the upshot of all of this is that GOP can’t really compete on a national level anymore, and if this isn’t an entirely 100% watertight truth (although the demographics sure seem to back it up) it’s still true enough.

If they were a sports team would you bet on them?

And ask yourself, even if you were stinking rich would you knowingly invest in a losing (hell, DOOMED) team?

As that notion sinks in, and becomes fully baked into the popular “loser” perception of the GOP, will the 1% continue to financially support the Republican party?

I think it’s pretty clear that the answer is gonna be NO.

(What this portends for the Democrats and one party rule in America is something beyond the scope of this already overlong post).