Tuesday, May 01, 2012 2:32 PM
wisdom has it that hindsight is 20/20, but twenty years after the
LA Riots we’re still looking back with questions. New stories about
what happened are coming to light, as are new analyses about
circumstances that gave rise to disorder. While many publications
are using this anniversary as a chance for reflection, the underlying
question always seems to be, “Could it happen again?”
Understanding the causes leading up to the LA Riots is crucial to answering that question. A People’s Guide to Los Angeles offers an excellent brief on the circumstances that led to the riots
(unfortunately, you’ll have to get your hands on a print copy). Authors
Laura Pulido, Laura Barraclough, and Wendy Cheng cite “four powerful
and intertwined dynamics: residential segregation, police repression,
economic restructuring, and collective resistance.” The Guide illuminates
how structural inequalities bred community activism, which played a
crucial factor in the Watts Riots of 1965, the creation of the Black
Panther Party, and the uprising in 1992 (all responses to widespread
abuse of power by the police).
The Mental Floss History of the United States offers more causes and outlines the five days of disorder following the acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King. Los Angeles Magazine supplies a timeline focused on race-related civil disorder in South LA, as well as photo documentation of the riots. The final toll according to Mental Floss:
“[s]even thousand fires had destroyed 613 buildings and damaged another
960, while looters robbed and vandalized 2,700 businesses, many of
which never reopened. The total cost of the damage was $1.5 billion,
almost all in African American neighborhoods. As in previous riots, most
of the victims were also minorities: the death toll included 25 African
Americans, 16 Latinos, eight whites, two Asians, and two immigrants
from the Middle East.”
those impacted by the riots, Korean Americans have emerged with a
strong voice. Many Korean immigrants did not speak English fluently
enough to speak with the press in 1992. Their children are now old
enough to share powerful memories of 4-29, or Saigu. KoreAm has compiled an oral history
detailing how Korean merchants and individuals were targeted during the
riots, from looting and burning in Koreatown to media portrayal of
Korean immigrants as angry and violent. The publication also shares
reflections on how Saigu created solidarity within the Korean American community.
In Guernica, E. Tammy Kim, shares memories of the riot alongside her recent pilgrimage to South LA in search of “the lessons of 1992.”
A Korean American in Seattle at the time of the riots, Kim finds that,
while demographics have changed, many circumstances are the same. The
population is now mostly Latino, though African Americans and Koreans
still inhabit the neighborhood. “Outside Lee’s Market, I offered to help
Rita Nunley with two plastic bags full of groceries. An African
American woman, hair tucked into a kerchief and eyes ringed with dark
circles, she was a distant relation of Latasha Harlins [an African
American teen killed by a Korean shop owner in March, 1991]. In 1992,
Nunley was working for the Post Office. She remembers her boss locking
the staff inside the branch office until the coast was deemed clear.
Rita had hoped the riots would change the city’s inequalities, but, 'Conditions are the same now,' she said. 'I don’t know why it’s not
happening again.'” Similar thoughts were echoed by South LA teens, whose
teachers struggle with how to teach the riots when the history is still being written.
A recent survey found that most Angelenos believe that racial tensions in the city have eased reports The Pacific Standard.
However, the same study found that “public education, transportation,
jobs, street quality, air quality, housing costs and health care quality
have gotten worse since 1992.” The Pacific Standard makes no mention of police brutality, though Tim Cavanaugh of Reason claims that the problem of a “police force more focused on terrorizing the citizens than on solving crimes [...] has been largely solved, thanks in large measure to William Bratton’s work as chief of police.”
While some publications can’t resist the temptation to fan the flames of racial tension, others show that racism does not always trump compassion. Recent Los Angeles Magazine covers, featured in coverjunkie, put a face on the ever-shifting social constructs of race and ethnicity. And The Awl’s Maria Bustillos reminds us that “Reginald Denny, a white guy, was rescued by a black guy named Bobby Green, Jr., who saw [Denny’s] beating taking place on live television, realized that it was going on nearby and rushed out to help.”
Sources: A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, Mental Floss, Los Angeles Magazine, KoreAm, Guernica,Pacific Standard, Reason, coverjunkie, The Awl
Images: First Marine Division along Crenshaw, from licensed under Creative Commons. "I am Black I am White I am L.A." from Los Angeles Magazine, design director Steve Banks, via coverjunkie.
Friday, January 27, 2012 4:55 PM
To the power brokers of America’s right, climate change poses a dire threat to business as usual. Environmentalism, in fact, is seen by many of them as a stalking horse for an even more sinister force: socialism. Progressive thinker Naomi Klein expertly dissects this dynamic in her Nation article “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” explaining why the average modern conservative is terrified silly by the prospect of confronting human-caused climate change:
Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative. …
Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.
Klein’s essay is well worth reading for anyone with an environmental consciousness who’s trying to understand why saving the planet sounds so damn scary to some people. I would say it undermines everything they believe in, but as Klein makes abundantly clear, they don’t believe in much of anything except preserving their own privileged, comfortable lifestyles.
After reading Klein’s piece, I didn’t have to go far to find someone willing to buttress her argument from the other side of the spectrum. James Delingpole, the London Telegraph reporter who set off the whole ridiculous “Climategate” imbroglio that allegedly exposed the climate hoax—but in fact did nothing of the sort—is now trotting out a book, Watermelons, apparently meant to capitalize on his hero status to climate-change deniers. He tells the libertarian magazine Reason, apparently without a trace of irony:
I call the book Watermelons because they’re green on the outside but red on the inside. After the Berlin Wall came down, the communist movement, the global leftist movement, was left in a bit of a quandary. They pretty much lost the economic argument. They needed somewhere else to go, and global warming has become the great proxy issue. It enables them to achieve many of the same aims as before but under a cloak of green righteousness. This book, although it is about global warming, is about something in fact much, much bigger than that. It is about a global takeover by fascism, communism, call it what you will; their aims are much the same. It is about control.
So, let’s review. If you’re concerned about the future of humanity and the natural world, and you accept the scientific experts’ consensus that we’re rapidly degrading the planet, and you believe we need to take immediate corrective steps, you’re basically a control freak trying to resurrect communism. Wow. I’m going to go for a walk in the woods and try to wrap my head around this one. Care to join me, comrade?
Sources: The Nation, Reason
, licensed under
Monday, January 16, 2012 10:27 AM
Small farmers, conscious consumers, and conservationists of all stripes are, at the very least, wary of genetically modified crops. They’re a wild, largely untested disruptor in already-fragile ecosystems that have gotten along just fine without any intrinsically-tinkered species. But that hesitancy doesn’t really hold water if there’s no ecosystem to begin with. Like on Mars, say.
Mars’ atmosphere boasts one-hundredth the density of Earth’s, which will pose a deadly radiation threat to any life that might ever try to inhabit it, including human colonists. According to Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh, “Any crew dispatched on the 18-to-30-month mission to Mars will face highly elevated risks of cancer, tissue degradation, bone density loss, brain damage, pharmaceutical spoilage, and other health threats.”
You could argue that, of course, humans didn’t evolve alongside the Martian landscape. But that’s just you muzzling your inner science-fiction geek. Why let a little thing like “near-inhospitability of a planet” crush our dreams of solar system stretching Manifest Destiny? That, suggests Cavanaugh, is where genetic engineering comes in.
Human enhancement—creating a pre-adapted colonist—may be the only way to survive the initially hostile terrain of other planets. Which only makes sense for an intelligent, multi-planetary species. “A future for humans on Mars,” writes Cavanaugh, “requires us to clear a conceptual hurdle, to accept that the human form is not a norm or an ideal or even a default. It’s how intelligent life adapted, with many inefficiencies, to a particular place.”
Some scientific inquiry, according to Cavanaugh’s reporting, is already brewing to develop organisms suited for life on Mars. He spoke to Peter H. Diamandis, the CEO of the X Prize Foundation, about various privately-funded ventures for interplanetary travel. “There’s no question,” Diamandis said,
that we will soon be in a position to genetically develop specific strains of bacteria and perhaps algae that can live under Martian conditions. The X Prize has been looking at a $1 million competition [for] the first team to adapt an Earth-based single-cell life form that can grow under the pressure, temperature, and atmospheric CO2 levels of Mars.
This seems like a necessary arena of scientific study to explore if we wish to boldly go where no genetically modified human has gone before.
Source: Reason (not yet available online)
Image by NASA Goddard, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 30, 2011 12:29 PM
Back in the good ol’ days, when a nuclear family could leave its bomb shelter unlocked at night, America had soft power to burn. The country’s cultural ambassadors and renegade auteurs outgunned the taciturn commies, whose idea of a party still involved military bands and Lenin t-shirts. When the Cold War finally ended, MTV’s Kurt Loder was a global menace and punk rock was still armed and dangerous.
As Shikha Dalmia writes in Reason, the magazine of free minds and free markets, today’s young Muslims are not nearly as susceptible to the calculated chaos of Western pop culture as yesterday’s youth of the East Bloc. “While hip hop and heavy metal have helped inspire some of the street protesters demanding more freedoms across the Middle East and northern Africa,” Dalmia observes, “outside of the hardcore early adopters these cultural subgenres remain more voyeuristic than aspirational.”
This is no small thing, especially since the West’s use of hard power over the past decade—troops in Iraq, drone attacks in Afghanistan—has, in most cases, served to both weaken its reputation and further strengthen religious fanatics, who need a devil to blame for their hateful rhetoric and murderous behavior.
There is hope on the cultural horizon, however. And, no, Lady Gaga will not have to suit up for battle. India’s film industry is the free world’s new shining star—all kitsched-up, scantily clad, and subversively cool. “Islamic fundamentalists have long worried about the threat that Bollywood poses to their puritanical demands,” writes Dalmia, who is a senior policy analyst at the Reason Foundation. “They have ample reason to be worried: About 3 billion people, or half the planet, watches Bollywood, and many of them live in the Islamic world. By depicting assimilated, modernized Muslims, Bollywood—without even trying—deromanticizes and thereby disarms fanatical Islam.”
Like Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the powers that be in Pakistan, “India’s cultural twin in every respect but religion,” have tried to censor Bollywood and demonize its romantic heroes and heroines, who often fall in love outside of marriages already arranged, battle to mediate modernity and tradition, and navigate a Technicolor world free from conservative dress and outdated moral codes.
“Even as Pakistan’s resistance to America’s drones and raids has grown, its resistance to Bollywood’s soft power has crumbled,” Dalmia concludes. “The extremists who find sympathetic audiences when directing fire and brimstone toward the Great Satan are powerless to prevent Pakistanis form consuming Bollywood blasphemies.”
Monday, August 16, 2010 12:26 PM
Do you only socialize online? Do the words “community building” bring to mind Second Life? Do you update your Facebook status while you shave?
Well, no need to worry, because now there’s a place for you.
As Greg Beato reports in Reason, reSTART, a “five-acre haven in the woods near Seatle [where] clients pay big bucks to detox from pathological computer use,” recently took on its first client. Ben Alexander, a 19-year-old college student, checked himself in because he is obsessed with World of Warcraft.
As Beato points out internet addiction was considered a joke back in 1995 when “in an effort to parody the way the American Psychiatric Association’s hugely influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders medicalizes every excessive behavior, psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg introduced on his website the concept of ‘Internet Addiction Disorder.’”
Well, the time seems to be upon us where it’s no longer a joke. Beato writes about students at the University of Maryland feeling “anxious,” “jittery,” and even “miserable” when they weren’t allowed to use the internet for 24 hours as part of a study. Then there are the stories Beato highlights:
“[A] guy who spent so many sedentary hours at his computer that he developed blood clots in his leg and had to have it amputated…[A]n Ohio teenager shot his parents, killing his mother and wounding his father, after they took away his Xbox…[A] South Korean couple let their real baby starve to death because they were spending so much time caring for their virtual baby in the role-playing game called Prius Online.”
Those scenarios are no joke. That’s why the APA is considering adding internet addiction to its new category of “behavioral addictions.”
Beato also points to the very real consequences such a classification could have. “Picture a world,” he writes, “where the health care system goes bankrupt because insurers have to pay for millions of people determined to kick their Twitter addictions…Where employees who view porn at work are legally protected from termination.”
With folks like Arianna Huffington campaigning for less use of all our gadgets and a mad dash by many to close their Facebook accounts, the idea that we’re spending too much time online has become a wide spread one. But, as Beato sees it: “As the Internet weaves itself more and more tightly into our lives, only the Amish are completely safe.”
Image by mandiberg, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, March 05, 2010 12:42 PM
Instead of spending money on expensive bank bailouts or stimulus projects, the U.S. government should consider investing in women-led musical acts. “Broadly speaking, girl groups correlate with economic expansion, boy bands with stagnation,” Tim Cavanaugh points out in the libertarian Reason magazine. In the late 1990s, when the consumers turned from the pop-feminism of the Spice Girls to the hyper-produced pabulum of N’Sync, economists should have known a recession was coming. To turn the economic tide, Cavanaugh implores the government: “Enough with the green infrastructure stimulus. Only girl groups can save America now.”
Cavanaugh writes that even France’s economic boom of the 1960’s can be traced back to music like this:
Source: Reason (Article not yet available online)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 4:54 PM
If we want Americans to care about poetry, perhaps we should start by putting some stock in our poet laureate—who, one would think, should be a very visible, active advocate for this chronically underappreciated genre. Reason columnist Tim Cavanaugh rolls out the litany of disappointments faced by a U.S. poet laureate, including an abbreviated term (just one year to Britain’s 10), a dearth of interesting duties, and a stipend only a journalist could love—$35,000 for the year, plus $5,000 in travel expenses—which is covered not by taxpayers, but by a trust fund established in 1936. (Adding insult to injury, Cavanaugh writes, “the laureate’s salary hasn’t even kept pace with inflation. The first consultant, Joseph Auslander, made $3,000. That should come to $45,000 in 2009 bucks.”)
Cavanaugh doesn’t say what the going rate is in the UK, but he does note other disparities. “The British laureate gets a ‘butt of sack’ (about 600 bottles of sherry) and is called upon to compose verse for national occasions. (Former laureate Andrew Motion whipped up poems for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday and the late Queen Mum’s 100th.) The U.S. poet laureate’s job, as described by the Library of Congress, is to serve as a ‘lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans,’ which sounds dangerously close to having to read unsolicited manuscripts. The laureate’s only duty is to give one lecture, during which the Huntington Fund pays for what a Library of Congress spokeswoman calls a ‘small, cheese-and-crackers reception.’ ”
He does touch upon the energetic terms of former U.S. poets laureate like Robert Pinsky and Billy Collins, and advises future laureates to get involved in popular arenas like poetry slams, “where the poetic impulse of Americans is most clearly on display.”
Friday, July 31, 2009 3:53 PM
The arrest of a woman for having loud sex conjures up echoes of George Orwell’s 1984 for the astute, libertarian magazine Reason. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill reports on the “bizarre and terrifying situation” for the publication, explaining that 48-year-old Caroline Cartwright of Wearside, England was remanded in custody in April for “excessively noisy sex.”
“How did Cartwright’s expressions of noisy joy become a police case, scheduled to be ruled on at Newcastle Crown Court, one of the biggest courts in the north of England?” O’Neill supposes one might wonder. There’s a heck of an answer:
Because, unbelievably, Cartwright had previously been served with an antisocial behavior order—a civil order used to control the minutiae of British people’s behavior—that forbade her from making “excessive noise during sex” anywhere in England.
That’s right. Going even further than Orwell’s imagined authoritarian hellhole, where at least there was a wood or two where people could indulge their sexual impulses, the local authorities in Wearside made all of England a no-go zone for Cartwright’s noisy shenanigans. If she wanted to howl with abandon, she would have to nip over the border to Scotland or maybe catch a ferry to France.
Antisocial behavior orders (ASBOs), introduced in England in 1998, are civil orders pertaining to citizens who do things that cause (or are likely to cause) harm, alarm, or distress. Hearsay evidence is allowed. In O’Neill’s take, “the ASBO system has turned much of Britain into a curtaintwitching, neighbor-watching, noisepolicing gang of spies.”
Image by altemark, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009 1:30 PM
For those of you who bemoan the slow demise of investigative journalism as we have known it, dry your eyes. Tim Cavanaugh of Reason magazine has seen journalism’s future, and it is public relations. You’ll want to get right to fighting over this, so I’ll cut straight to Cavanaugh’s vision:
Are flacks the future, or even the present, of investigative journalism? This interpretation makes intuitive sense. Important data points by which we continue to live our live—the number of jobs that were created or destroyed by NAFTA, the villainy of the Serbs in the Yugoslav breakup, all sorts of projected benefits or disasters in President Obama’s budget plans—are largely the inventions of P.R. workers.
And though it’s considered wise to believe the contrary, these communications types are not constructing all these news items entirely (or even mostly) by lying. Flackery requires putting together credible narratives from pools of verifiable data. This activity is not categorically different from journalism. Nor is the teaching value that flackery provides entirely different from that of journalism: Most of the content you hear senators and congressmen reading on C-SPAN is stuff flacks provided to staffers.
…the idea of public relations (and its many fancy permutations, from “image management” to “oppo research” to “crisis”) replacing objective journalism becomes less scary when you reflect that … frequently the most valuable information comes out just because somebody wants to make somebody else look bad.
Monday, July 06, 2009 3:31 PM
Memory is not a fixed, static impression left on a person’s brain. Researchers have found that “the very act of remembering could change the memory,” Joseph LeDoux writes for the Scientist. Using that knowledge, his colleagues are working on ways that specific memories could be simply erased from people’s brains. LeDoux asks, “Could traumatic memories be dampened or erased simply by remembering?”
The research is already leading to experiments in lessening post traumatic stress disorder using drugs, as reported on Utne.com. Many have worry about the ethical implications of messing with people’s memories, but according to LeDoux, patients who suffer from reactions to memories they can’t control have said that they would rather risk losing a memory or two if it meant being able to remove the debilitating ones.”
People wouldn’t need to stop at bad memories, Greg Beato writes for Reason. Erasing the good memories from people’s brains could make life a lot more enjoyable. “Imagine falling in love for the first time, again and again and again,” Beato writes, “hearing your all-time favorite album with completely fresh ears; rediscovering the virtues of martinis.” People would no longer get bored with their jobs, their spouses, their music collections, and could continue to experience life as if for the first time.
Sources: The Scientist (subscription required), Reason
Image by Sergio Tudela, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 3:24 PM
Generations of technical innovation, epiphanies, scientific discoveries, work, and toil were needed to create a $10.00 toaster. Humanity needed to learn to master electricity, smelt metals, mould plastics, and create a modernized supply chain. Advanced as they may be, few modern humans could build a toaster on their own. Artist Thomas Thwaites, however, gave it a shot. In his Toaster Project, Thwaites tried to smelt the iron, refine oil into plastics, and build a toaster in an effort to explore the connection people have to every-day technology. Thwaites wrote:
The point at which it stopped being possible for us to make the things that surround us is long past...This faintly ridiculous quest to make a toaster from the 'ground up' serves as a vehicle through which questions about economics, helplessness and life as a consumer can be investigated.
Where Thwaites sees the helplessness of the consumer, Reason magazine’s Radley Balko sees the genius of capitalism and the division of labor. “Pan back until you've framed the entire world economy,” Balko writes, “and it's hard not to marvel at the wonder and miracle of capitalism's invisible hand.”
The Toaster Project,
Friday, May 15, 2009 3:48 PM
The White House’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, recently announced that he’s abandoning the term “war on drugs,” telling reporters: “We're not at war with people in this country.” The change in rhetoric seems to signal a move toward a more moderate, public-health approach on drugs, rather than the militarized stance the country currently takes.
Kerlikowske may have the right idea, but a focus on policies inside the United States still neglects the far more globalized problem of the U.S. drug war abroad. According to Foreign Policy editor Moisés Naím, “the United States today is both the world’s largest importer of illicit drugs and the world’s largest exporter of bad drug policy.”
The global economic crisis has created a situation where the drug trade is one of the few economic engines in countries like Mexico, Bolivia, and Afghanistan. “In many places,” Naím writes, “narcotraffickers are the major source of jobs, economic opportunity, and money for elections.”
If policy makers want to move toward a more effective drug policy, Naím writes that a focus on the social consequences of drugs would be a good place to start. But should the United States simply replace the “war on drugs” with an “conflict against mind-altering substances” or a “battle to combat banned medications,” the drug czar’s change in tone won’t have much of an effect.
“Rhetoric matters,” writes Reason’s Radley Balko, who is encouraged by Kerlikowske’s recent decision. “War implies a threat so existential, so dire to our way of life, that we citizens should be ready to sign over some of our basic rights, be expected to make significant sacrifices, and endure collateral damage in order to defeat it. Preventing people from getting high has never represented that sort of threat.”
Though a step in the right direction, Balko admits that rhetoric alone won’t solve the drug war’s underlying problems, at home or abroad. For one thing, Kerlikowske won’t be able to create policy reforms on his own. He’ll have to work with congress and other agencies for that. Jacob Sullum, also on the Reason blog, cautions readers: “We should not be fooled by medicalized language into believing that drug prohibition is less brutal or less of an assault on our rights.”
Sources: Foreign Policy, Wall Street Journal, Reason
Monday, February 09, 2009 12:32 PM
In 1979 there were 44 beer breweries operating inside the United States, and the American palate was dominated by Budweiser, Pabst, and other colored water masquerading as beer. Today there are more than 1,400 breweries pumping out new chocolate stouts, double bocks, and other craft brews. Greg Beato writes for Reason that this renaissance in beer making was made possible by the repeal of some prohibition-era laws that regulated home brewing.
One brewery riding this wave of great beer is Dogfish Head, a company that tries to create brews that can’t be judged on regular beer standards. “We are trying to explore the outer edges of what beer can be,” Dogfish Head’s 39-year-old owner, Sam Calagione told the New Yorker. The company creates beers that are far more bitter and alcoholic than the stuff found in most supermarkets, though Calagione rejects the term “extreme beer” as a pejorative. Dogfish Head's swashbuckling approach, including a quest to create the biggest wooden barrel since prohibition out of an obscure Paraguayan wood, has catapulted the company from being the one of the country’s smallest beer makers to the thirty-eighth largest.
Dogfish Head may be helping the United States make up for lost beer time, but north of the border, the connection to beer may run a bit deeper. As evidence, see this Beer Map of Canada from Geist.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008 1:55 PM
Was it a “game-changer”? Did McCain “take the gloves off”? Did “Main Street” rule over “Wall Street”? Is there another hackneyed expression we could judge this debate by? Here’s some cliché-free post-debate analysis rounded up from the blogosphere.
First, here are the numbers on who "won" from CNN and CBS News. Now, let’s move onto actual policy matters.
’s Matt Welch is not pleased with McCain’s new and rather vague mortgage buy-up plan:
"I would order the Secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes, at the diminished value of those homes and let people make those, be able to make those payments and stay in their homes," McCain said. "Is it expensive? Yes."
Is it yet another McCain Hail Mary pass in a campaign that will soon be remembered for nothing but? Also, yes. And it was the latest indication in a grim season for free marketeers that there is no corner of American life that leading politicians aren't eagerly lining up to nationalize.
The plan has been latched onto by pundits as the freshest policy proposal from last night’s debate, but as Rooflines notes, FactCheck.org explains why it’s actually pretty stale (as in Obama and the bailout have both been there already):
McCain proposed to write down the amount owed by over-mortgaged homeowners and claimed the idea as his own: “It’s my proposal, it's not Sen. Obama's proposal, it's not President Bush's proposal.” But the idea isn’t new. Obama had endorsed something similar two weeks earlier, and authority for the treasury secretary to grant such relief was included in the recently passed $700 billion financial rescue package.
Meanwhile, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, writing over at New America Media, wonders if we’ll ever get to hear from the candidates about some other issues:
Okay, we now know for the umpteenth time that Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain will cut taxes, provide affordable health care to everyone, drill for more oil, expand nuclear power use, end global warming, rein in the Wall Street fast buck artists, take out Osama Bin Laden, and end the war in Iraq either by withdrawal or victory. And yes we know that both have had a tough family upbringing, and therefore they know what working people have to go through.
These themes have been rehashed and reworked so many times that we can recite them in our sleep. But what we don’t know and certainly haven’t heard in the debates is what Obama and McCain will do about failing urban public schools, the HIV-AIDS pandemic, their view of the death penalty, the drug crisis, how they’ll combat hate crimes, shore up crumbling and deteriorating urban transportation systems, and what type of judges they will appoint to the federal judiciary and to the Supreme Court....
The result is that the only thing the 50 to 60 million viewers who have tuned into the two debates know about these equally vital public policy concerns can only be gleaned from canned snippets from their speeches on the campaign trail, or more likely by going to their campaign Web sites. For most, that’s not going to happen.
Indeed, probably not. But why bother with such matters when there’s the “that one” hubbub to delve into. I think a commenter on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ live blog captures the appropriate response rather succinctly:
Oh, no he didn't == "That one"????
Ezra Klein at the American Prospect parses it a wee bit further:
I didn't think the moment came off as racist. Rather, it was tone deaf. It was Grandpa Simpson. It was cranky. Which fits it into a narrative connecting the first two debates. In both, McCain's most memorable tics were exhibitions of contempt for Barack Obama. in the first encounter, he couldn't bear to look at Obama, and he used "What Senator Obama doesn't understand" the way other people use "um." In the second, he dismissed him in the language a busy mother uses for her third child, as if he couldn't be bothered to recall the youngster's name. But the youngster is the leading candidate for President of the United States. And McCain is doing himself no favors by acting unable to treat his opponent with respect. It's bad form in general, but it's particularly unhelpful for McCain, who has put a lot of energy and political capital into developing a reputation as respectful towards his political competitors.
And speaking of Homer’s elder, Andrew Sullivan had some good advice via his live blog of the debate:
Memo to McCain: don't talk about Herbert Hoover. The Abraham Simpson problem.
I’d add a few more off-limits geezer flags to that list: his need for hair transplants or arcane terminology like “tillers.” I’m not taking shots at the guy for being old, but I am saying that any undecideds out there who are a wee bit wary of Sarah Palin ruling the country don’t want to be reminded of the fact that McCain is getting on in years—a fact driven home most glaringly last night by the visual of McCain pacing aimlessly about the floor during some of Obama’s answers.
To wrap things up, Josh Marshall captured my debate mood best on his live blog when, half-an-hour in, he noted:
This debate's so boring I don't even know what to tell the staff to upload to youtube.
Even if I weren’t an Obama supporter, I would be thanking the man for shunning McCain’s proposal to do ten townhall debates. I can’t imagine anyone sitting through one, let alone ten, reruns of last night. Thank heavens there’s just one more debate to go.
Monday, January 07, 2008 11:04 AM
Last summer, Cambridge University Press pulped its remaining copies of Alms for Jihad, J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins’ treatise on the charity-fronted funding of terrorist organizations. Cambridge’s liquidation was a direct reaction to a libel claim filed in British courts by Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi businessman who objected to the book’s claim that his family had donated money to al-Qaida. In addition to destroying more than 2,000 copies, Cambridge also issued a public apology and stated that the book contained “errors” regarding its information about bin Mahfouz.
The U.S. media have been all over the story, in large part because the complaint was brought by a Saudi citizen in British court against American scholarship. But I hadn’t heard much from the authors until I read this Q&A with Collins in the December issue of Reason magazine. Other outlets, including the New York Times Book Review and the Weekly Standard, have emphasized the legal circumstances, rather than the authority of the research, involved in the case.
While it is important to grasp the international implications of British libel law, Collins’ Q&A with Reason stresses the integrity of his research and the meticulous fact-checking that characterized the production of the book. In other words, Cambridge’s claim of error appears disingenuous (though, to be fair, one ought to peruse the disavowals on Khalid bin Mahfouz’s website). Collins also notes that libraries have resisted Cambridge’s request to remove the book from their shelves or include an errata slip with each copy. (Read more about libraries that have taken steps to retain existing copies of the book here.)
Hopefully, Collins and Burr will obtain another publishing contract, and their book will have its due audience. That way, we won’t have to assume that their information and arguments are murky and contentious—we can become confused and anxious about it all on our own.
Monday, December 17, 2007 5:04 PM
This holiday season, our crack team of magazine readers has teamed up to help you avoid the consumer-frenzied mall and give the gift that keeps on giving: information. With the care of a gourmet sommelier pairing a rare delicacy to its rightful wine, we’ve matched some of our favorite alternative magazines to their ideal recipients—those exasperating names on the gift list for whom a sweater just won’t do. The hermit socialist uncle? Got him. The eerie niece? No problem.
If you’ve still got a magazine-gift dilemma after reading our guide, drop us a line in the comments below. We’ll sort through our stacks and get back to you.
For your faraway friend with whom you can’t share a beer:
Get him or her Imbibe, a magazine of “liquid culture.” Imbibe answers perennial questions about coffee, beer, and cocktails, such as that nagging head-scratcher: What was George Washington’s drink of choice? (Answer: Applejack, a traditional American liquor). Then, next time you see your distant friend, crack open a couple of Hefeweizen, the unfiltered wheat beer featured in the Sept.-Oct. 2007 issue, and enjoy the cultured conversation that’s sure to flow. “Did you know that Hefeweizen is brewed with at least 50 percent wheat malts, unlike most beers, which are brewed with barley?” your friend will ask. “And that while in the United States Hefe (as aficionados call it) is served with a slice of lemon, in Germany that’s unheard of.” You may never eat solid food again. —Brendan Mackie
For the unapologetically carnivorous:
, a nominee for best new publication in this year’s Utne Independent Press Awards, is about more than eating meat. It’s about meat history, meat ethics, meat as a metaphor, and, perhaps most bizarrely, meat as art. This San Francisco-based magazine honors what editors Sasha Wizansky and Amy Standen call fleischgeist—the spirit of meat. In Meatpaper’s Fall 2007 issue, this spirit is manifest in a wide array of articles, including a Q&A with butchers who advocate using less popular but deliciously traditional cuts of meat, and a look back at Jana Sterbak’s 1987 Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, in which a waifish model wore a costume made entirely of raw steaks. The text throughout is framed by a clean layout and luscious images, which makes Meatpaper an intellectual and aesthetic treat. —Morgan Winters
For the Yankee pal who won’t stop with the mint juleps:
A slew of magazines without a lick of the South in them have been, of late, trumpeting this recently discovered region below Cincinnati that has a ton of great stuff going on. It’s called “The South,” and did you know that bands come from there? And writers? And artists? And that it’s impossible to write about this place without employing clichés such as “bourbon-soaked” or “country-fried?” Well, not so for the Arkansas-based Oxford American. This class act has covered its beat for the past 15 years, showcasing all things Southern and great (or sometimes not so great). The latest edition (#58) includes a CD compilation of the 26 Southern recording artists profiled for the annual music issue, which showcases a diverse group from Thelonious Monk to Daniel Johnston. The issue also features a cool series of essays titled “Writers Who Rocked,” penned by the members of an assortment of noteworthy musical acts, including the Red Crayola and the Del Fuegos. Smart, edgy, hip, funny—Oxford American proves that Southern culture isn’t an oxymoron. —Jason Ericson
For your bearded uncle who stopped coming home for the holidays because he’s too busy working on his manifesto:
So you’ve got a problem. Last year you got your uncle the Nation, and though he really enjoyed the Deadline Poet, the coverage was just too far right for him. Well, don’t fret. Z Magazine might be the solution to your gift quandary. Z regularly draws contributions from top-shelf revolutionary thinkers, such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, as well as radical educators, leaders, and in-the-trenches activists you’re likely to have never seen or heard elsewhere. Don’t expect to find much love for Democrats here, standard bearers of hegemony that they are. For a real vanguard trifecta, throw in subscriptions to Socialist Review and In These Times. Taken together, they’re guaranteed to have you and your uncle renouncing your citizenship and burning the contents of your wallet. —Jason Ericson
For the young and slightly twisted:
I had never heard of a literary journal for children until I picked up Crow Toes Quarterly. This newish Canadian publication has come out swinging as “the new face of children’s lit,” with strange, spooky stories sure to sate Roald Dahl fans. The Summer 2007 issue (Fall hasn’t landed in our library yet) is packed with imaginative stories featuring cheesecake-munching babies, an arachnophobic dandelion, and a wandering two-headed boy named Tongue. The issue also includes poetry, a call for entries for a creative writing contest, and an interview with illustrator Scott Griffin. A great gift for children ages 8 to 13, or any adults still cultivating their imaginations. —Sarah Pumroy
For the Catholic-raised intellectual who is moved by Christmas mass but feels shut out by several Church teachings:
Commonweal, a biweekly magazine published independently by lay Catholics, is comprised mostly of opinion pieces, with topics and views that, though they range widely, are rooted in a deep, critical investment in Catholic identity. Commonweal’s politics are center-left but not predictably so; its lively cultural and arts coverage is even harder to pin down. The main thread is an enthusiasm for robust, open, forward-looking debate. Highlights of the Dec. 7, 2007 include a piece by a Catholic prison chaplain on the rise of conservative evangelicalism in prisons and a smart analysis of Vatican statements on end-of-life ethics. —Steve Thorngate
For your cube mate, who still wears his “I want to believe” T-shirt at least once a week, sometimes for several days in a row:
Psst. Come over here. Did you know that cancer-causing monkey viruses have infected our vaccine pool, the Great Depression II is imminent, the government is using its pop culture outlets to slowly warm the public to the existence of extra-terrestrials, and officials have met with clergy to discuss an official merger between church and state? Well, you would have if you’d read the Winter 2008 issue of Paranoia, “the conspiracy and paranormal reader.” A Paranoia subscription would also keep you definitively up-to-date on the latest news on the investigation into the assassination of JFK. You don’t have to be a conspiracy junkie to love this magazine, but it does help. Now here’s a tinfoil hat. Go and spread the word. —Jason Ericson
For your thoughtful, but obstinate political sparring partner:
, a 2007 Utne Independent Press Award nominee for political coverage, offers some of the most interesting, in-depth reporting and contrarian perspectives you’re likely to read anywhere. This monthly’s columnists are incisive and acidly funny: Look out especially for Greg Beato’s sarcastic commentary. And reminiscent of Harper’s “Index,” the “Citings” section at the beginning of each issue collects information that you might not find anywhere else, documenting everything from excessive earmarks in a Congress that promised—and continues to promise—their demise, to the pointlessness of a tax-funded anti-pornography program. Unlike Harper’s, though, Reason provides context to anchor their more surprising reports. There are some party lines in this libertarian magazine. (Consider the magazine’s December issue, which featured a sidebar chiding contemporary Republicans for not taking author Ayn Rand seriously enough.) Nevertheless, Reason cultivates a useful contrarian voice—an ideal gift for those who agree with you one moment and bare their teeth the next. —Michael Rowe
For the fashion-conscious yet tasteful young woman:
To describe Eliza as a “modest” fashion magazine doesn’t do it justice. The simple adjective brings to mind images of prudish or pious women hiding their bodies in long skirts and plain tops. But Eliza is so much more. The Fall 2007 issue features smart, compelling, and useful stories, including a piece on how to change a tire, an exploration of Seattle, tips on how to be comfortable in your own skin, and, of course, plenty of fashion articles and photo shoots. I wouldn’t have even known that Eliza was a “modest” fashion magazine if I hadn’t read the editor’s note. But once Summer Bellessa clued me in to the magazine’s mission—“We will not uncover the sexual secrets to make him want you, promote people who are glitz with no substance, or glorify lifestyles that we know do not bring happiness”—I began to notice the pleasant absence of revealing clothing and sexually explicit images. A more accurate word to describe the styles in Eliza might be “tasteful” rather than “modest.” Either way, it’s definitely a good pick for any smart young woman interested in fashion without the sleaze. —Sarah Pumroy
For your college friend who once showed up at an ’80s night party dressed as an 1880s shopkeeper:
, another nominee for best new publication in this year’s Utne Independent Press Awards, publishes articles on straightforward topics, but from a perspective neither entirely serious nor exactly kidding (e.g., a travel piece that ends, “There’s no city in America with less personality than Myrtle Beach, S.C.”). It also runs more conventional pieces on odder subjects, along with fabricated profiles, features, and, in the Autumn 2007 issue’s “Best of History” section, historical narratives. (One is credited to an Oregon Trail pioneer who knows how to shoot his rifle in exactly eight directions.) The package is an entertaining assortment—sorry, a “miscellany”—of the esoteric, the deadpan, and the desperately clever. A great choice for anyone who’s interested in everything but takes none of it all that seriously. —Steve Thorngate
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:00 AM
The October issue of Reason excerpts economist Bryan Caplan's newest book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policy (Princeton University Press). The George Mason University professor details the "The 4 Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters (And we're all stupid voters)" as a critique of the free-market myth of the rational consumer. As Caplan sees it, citizens (even economists!) buy into the usual hype peddled by politicians. He finds that voters are generally economically pessimistic, underestimating the benefits of job loss – which economists believe can be a good thing – markets, and foreign competition. This irrational behavior runs counter to many of today's global economic theories. —Eric Kelsey
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