March 30th, 2004

Downloading Communism

On someone’s door at work yesterday I saw this little graphic about downloading communism when you pirate (v.t.) MP3s. I wasn’t sure if it was a joke, though I thought if I knew the source, that could be inferred. (After some searching about, I find that it’s from Modern Humorist.) I do so wish it really was from RIAA, and yet I’m one who seeks legal acquisition of media content.

In Brazil, they’ve apparently embraced this view of downloading music files, because they have a file sharing program named Comuna. However, a new study of 1.75 million downloads from 680 albums—the largest study so far—shows that free downloading of music files has no effect on CD sales. In fact, some albums seem to see a rise in sales as a result.


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March 29th, 2004

Airplanes as weapons

Blogger “retrogrouch” of the interesting Texas-based blog Barefoot and Naked has dug up a lot of good info (mostly from international papers) in the wake of Richard Clarke’s testimony. Amond the most interesting is clear proof that Condoleezza Rice and Ari Fleischer clearly lied about the administration’s lack of intelligence about commercial planes being used as weapons. Just a few months before 9/11, Bush slept on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Genoa during a trade summit there, because of a specific and apparently credible threat about commercial plans being crashed into buildings there. If the adminsitration couldn’t imagine the same tactic being used on US targets, their lack of imagination is terrifying indeed. Retrogrouch also makes good points about Bush’s “swatting at flies” comment (that’s what the war on terror will feel like as we strike at distributed, independent targets) and the anger of US troops tracking Bin Laden when they were pulled off a hot trail to chase Saddam.

Basically, retrogrouch pulled together several strands that had become apparent to me in the Administration’s meltdown over Clarke’s testimony. For me, the net is that the Bush team just doesn’t understand the painful realities of the rise of non-state actors. Of course it would be easier if terrorists were propped up by states, because those states have “good targets” that can be attacked. Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and others talked of attacking Iraq as “draining the swamp,” i.e., shutting down a terrorist breeding ground. But not only was Iraq not a breeding ground before the war, it is now because of there actions–actions that have mucked up the entire Middle East to the extent that it’s a far swampier swamp than it was 18 months ago. Now with the escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the entire Muslim world believes the US is out to get them–and from their standpoint, that is probably a reasonable belief.

I have to end this with a crass bit of wisdom that would not have been news to my Grandaddy on his farm: if you don’t want flies, stop spreading bullshit around. Given the daily load this administration is dishing out all over the world, we’ll all be swatting at flies for a long time.


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March 29th, 2004

Daily Show must-see

If you did not see John Stewart talking about the 9/11 commission last week, these clips are an absolute must.


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March 28th, 2004

Why “Playing it Straight” is bent

David and I have been, with much derision and more than a little dismay, watching Fox’s Playing It Straight (or, at least, digesting Tivo-condensed snippets of it). For those of you who have resisted, the show plops a dumb small-town “beauty” on a dude ranch with 14 guys–some of whom are secretly flamers. Every episode she has to eject two more guys. If she ends up with a hetero, they split a million dollars– but if she is deceived by an evil homosexual in wolf’s clothing, the crafty fag gets a cool million all by himself (presumably to spend on a year-long binge of ecstasy, dance music, and rent boys to make up for all that flannel). Posessors of outdated stereotypes (i.e., those with no real live gay friends) probably think it sounds easy as pie to call out the cake-boys. The problem for Jackie is that the guys have clearly been chosen for displaying much more admiration for their own reflections than any other love object–they really put the “me” in “metrosexual.” As if that weren’t enough, Jackie apparently was raised in a small town where gaydar is both genetically absent and culturally unobtainable. Complications ensue: one of the guys (a straight one, to boot) gets kicked off the first week for wielding the now-infamous scarlet hairdryer. If the quality of her, um, discriminating palate doesn’t improve, it is going to be fun to watch this hootchie miss payday.

My little sister Lyndi was aghast that we would watch it, but if you’re gay I think it’s a little bit like driving past a car wreck… it’s hard not to look on with a mixture of curiosity and loathing. OK, and a little be of glee. And some of the guys are hot. And, finally, there is a fair amount of salutary trashing of stereotypes… poor stooge Jackie deserves to lose her half-million

This Slate article is a little overwrought, but it’s hard not to agree with the gist:

Watching Playing It Straight is a gender theorist’s day in the sun; perhaps not since the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings have a culture’s unspoken anxieties been so starkly projected on the small screen. Let’s look at the show’s two prospective outcomes. If Jackie guesses “right” and narrows the field down to a straight man, then the two of them will split the $1 million prize and ride off into the sunset in a chauffeured car, glasses of champagne awkwardly balanced on their laps. But if one of the secretly gay men tricks her into choosing him, he will walk off with a cool million all his own. In other words, “Sizzling Saddles Ranch” (an Elko, Nev., resort that was thus mortifyingly renamed by the show’s producers) is a microcosm of American society, where gays can best get ahead by remaining alone in the closet while straights openly pair-bond and consolidate their resources.

The author makes the oft-observed point that gay men on television can do hair, decor, and fashion–but never, ever each other. On the one hand, I can pruriently look forward to seeing the gay “Paradise Hotel,” but on the other, I’m pretty sure America’s not ready to lose its gay-sex cherry. Because let’s face it, reality TV isn’t going to give us sweet portrayals of high-functioning couples– it will go immediately to “did you blow the waiter while I went to the restroom?” At least let us get married before you turn gay romance into the the ultimate TV freak show.


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March 28th, 2004

Sick at home

Ah, it’s spring, when young Jay’s head turns to mucus! I’ve been fighting a massive allergy/sinus attack for about a week, and no amount of medication seems able to kick it. Worst of all, David’s been under the weather as well–we’ve sort of had to take turns with who feels worse at a given moment.

But I have been bonding with my laptop all weekend, keeping up with the blogverse. I had meant for a long time (well, ever since I got my camera phone last fall) to set up a Moblog (mobile blog). Between sniffling and hacking, I finally did today. You can find it here, with the latest picture constantly update on the right side of the nonfamous main index page, below the list of links. I’ve posted a few things I had knocking around in my phone, but rest assured that I’ll be taking some fresh pictures soon.


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March 26th, 2004

Tufte’s PPTs, maybe not so evil

Or at least, a not-so bad tool for hitting some good targets.


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March 25th, 2004

More smoking guns than the OK corral

Sibel Edmonds was a contract translator for the FBI, translating previously untranslated intelligence that suddenly seemed important after 9/11. She made the mistake of pointing out that a coworker might well have been associated with one of the very groups under investigation. Instead of getting a medal, she got in a whole heap of trouble, ranging from losing her job to getting death threats against her family. 60 Minutes aired a damning interview with her last summer, but it failed to become a major news story. That’s right, that damn liberal media always out to get the Bush administration–neglecting a story orders of magnitude more important than Filegate.


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March 25th, 2004

Good targets

Now for something really shocking– an optimistic post about politics! Even better, a whole category for posts suggesting that W might just be following in his daddy’s single-term footsteps.

Whence the name? Rummy, of course. One of Richard Clarke’s great revelations was that Rumsfeld, in the days after 9/11, argued for attacking Iraq instead of Afghanistan, saying “there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.” The foreign press have had a lot of fun with that one. (France, presumably, has a lot of good target, too–luckily, this was before they were pissed off at the French.)

Anyway, Clarke’s testimony felt like a real “have you no sense of decency?” moment, when the immediacy of televised hearings actually broke through the clutter and made certain things clear. I do not believe the administration can survive by spinning this away, or by asassinating Clarke’s character. His apology to the American people felt like a dam breaking with the force needed to wash away all the blame-gaming and cover-ups we’re endured since Bush won, er, was inaugurated.

So I hereby declare open season on the Good Targets in the Bush Administration. If you notice sleazy spin, disinformation, or Big Lies, put ‘em here. We’ll all feel better, and raising everyone’s awareness about just how dishonest they are will only help us convince people how important it is to get W & Co. out of office in November.


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March 25th, 2004

Scoops and retribution, the email edition

It’s a good measure of our standing in the blogsphere that we now get indexed almost instantly in several search engines and blog directories. Thanks to this, we got almost instant feedback from someone I mentioned in a post Tuesday.

Kevin Vandenbroek, fired from his radio talk show in Michigan for a scoop he should have gotten promoted for, wrote to me the next day. With his permission, I’m posting his note, which is sad but a great example of what my friend Tony calls “Casablanca shocking.”

Jay:

Thanks for the mention on your blog of my dismissal.

As some stations “police” themselves, here is what I’ve observed as potential criteria in this environment of broadcasting fright:

• Subjective, unreasoned and (perhaps) unconstitutional views of what is offending speech
• Over-cautious owners with a political agenda
• Outside political pressure
• Advertiser pressure
• A combination of the above based on a well-greased GOP machine.

In this post-9/11 world, and as a result of indiscretions by another member of the Jackson family, certain radio stations feel they have carte blanch to rid the airwaves of “undesirable” elements.

In the housekeeping, those that present different political views on the Nation’s airwaves are at risk of being swept into the dustbin with the likes of “Bubba the Love Sponge” and Howard Stern. Will this same standard hold true for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity?

This wholesaling of wireless free speech should send a chill up everyone that uses their voice in America.

Regards,

Kevin Vandenbroek

In a further exchange, Kevin writes that (despite my fond hopes that some other outlet would snap him up instantly) he’s still unemployed. Yet another American work pink-slipped by the Repubs. If We the People fail to return them the favor in November, we’re collectively dumber than anyone ever imagined.


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March 25th, 2004

Welease Bwian

Following the success and furore around The Passion of the Christ, the remaining Monty Python team is behind a rerelease of The Life of Brian. The Guardian has a nice piece on the history of the film and the controversy it provoked when first released in 1979.

Brian is easily my favourite of the Python movies. I just love way that such broad comedy, through respect for the subject, never comes across as more than gentle mocking. I’ll go and see it again.


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