Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Is Manufacturing the Answer to America’s Economic Crisis?

02 Jul

In this era of global economic downturn, two countries, Germany and China, aren’t doing too shabbily. Now they can’t be further apart: Germany is a stable democracy with a mature economy and China is an authoritarian government with a nascent yet rapidly growing economy.

So, why are they surviving the recession better than the rest of us? Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post suggests an interesting answer: It’s The Factories, Stupid.

What sets them apart from the world’s other major powers, purely and simply, is manufacturing. Their predominantly industrial economies meet their own needs and those of other nations, and have made them flourish while others flounder. [...]

For the past three decades, with few exceptions, America’s CEOs, financiers, establishment economists and editorialists assured us that the transition from a manufacturing to a post-industrial economy was both inevitable and positive: American workers would move to more productive jobs, and the nation’s financial security would only grow. But after rising steadily during the quarter-century following World War II, wages have stagnated since the manufacturing sector began to contract.

Harold went on to explain why most Americans are wrong when thinking that we can’t compete with China’s cheap labor (after all, Germany’s labor cost is even more expensive than ours): Link


Jesse Owens

21 Jun

Hitler used the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda tool, inadvertently creating the modern Games, complete with torch relays, grand stadiums, publicity films and screens set up outside to transmit the Games. What the Nazis couldn’t stage-manage were the outcomes, and wonderful story of Jesse Owens smashing Hitler’s theories of racial superiority on the 100m sprint is an oft repeated story. (Enthusiastic crowd reaction on this clip suggests that the German people are less Aryan-obsessed than Hitler.Although his coach warned Owens about a potentially hostile crowd, there were German cheers of “Yesseh Oh-vens” or just “Oh-vens” from the crowd. Owens was a true celebrity in Berlin, mobbed by autograph seekers.)

It is oft mentioned that the Nazi leader refused to present Jesse Owens with his medal, shake his hand and subsequently stormed out of the stadium. However, Hitler was not even in the stadium when Jesse Owens was securing his medals, and his absence was more to do with his row with the Olympic organizers than with Owens . Hitler had congratulated German athletes on the first day, only to be informed by the IOC officials that he should congratulate all athletes or none, in order to show neutrality as the presiding head of state. In a characteristic fit of petulance, Hitler refused congratulate anyone after the first day of the competition, not even the German athletes. (Hitler did snub a black American athlete on the first day; just before Cornelius Johnson was to be decorated, Hitler left the stadium.)

Jesse Owens tried his best to correct the myth-making that went on around him: he admitted that he received the greatest ovations of his career at Berlin. he recalled:  “When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing [Hitler] …. Hitler didn’t snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram”. Such was an atmosphere of segregation back in the U.S. that Owens was never invited to the White House to be congratulated. When there was a ticker-tape parade in New York in his honour, he had to attend the reception at the Waldorf-Astoria using the back elevator set aside for blacks. (Even in Berlin, he was allowed to travel and stay together with whites).

Filed under: Politics, Society Tagged: Hitler, Jesse Owens, Nazi, Olympics

Oil Spill Firefox Plugin Blacks Out BP Across the Web

01 Jun

Creative agency Jess3 has developed a Firefox plugin that aims to black out all mentions of BP (British Petroleum) across the web. As one popular tweet espouses, “Want BP to [blank] up your browser like they’ve [blank] up the Gulf? Install the Oil Spill Firefox plugin from @jess3.”

Similar to the Shaved Bieber plugin that made the rounds last week — scrubbing all mentions of everyone’s favorite YouTube star off the web — the Black Oil Firefox plugin replaces all mentions (case insensitive) of BP and accompanying terms like BP oil, BP gas, BP worldwide, and so on, with blacked out letters and dripping oil drops.

Images that contain meta data matching the terms are also blacked out (or blued out, as was the case on my machine).

You can see what the plugin looks like when doing a Google search for “BP”:

In a future version of the plugin, Jess3 plans to add oil drip effects to BP photographs and to turn official BP websites black and white.

As the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to wreak havoc on the environment and residents along the gulf shore, this plugin may not do much to stop the oil, but it’s a nice way to express anger and outrage over BP’s response (or lackthereof).

What do you think of the plugin?

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Reviews: Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube

Tags: bp, firefox plugins, gulf oil spill


Obama: iPads Make Information a Distraction

09 May

Although before his inauguration U.S. President Barack Obama was rarely seen without his BlackBerry, he has criticized the current crop of popular consumer gadgets for helping make information a “distraction.”

The context of his comments is important; Obama was talking about the importance of education and Thomas Jefferson’s realization that citizens must stay informed to make a democracy work. If quoted out of context, though, his comments might not be too popular with freedom of speech advocates — or gadget lovers, for that matter.

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter,” the AFP reports Obama saying during a talk at Hampton University in Virginia.

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

Obama, arguably the most social media savvy of all U.S. presidents, went on to suggest that the traction gained by the “craziest claims” from blogs and talk radio outlets is “putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”

What do you think? Is Obama right to highlight how hard it can be to differentiate disreputable sources from the responsible ones (unless you’re really media savvy)? Are iPads, iPods, Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s making the problem worse, or is he finding causation where none exists? Have your say in the comments section below.

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Tags: barack obama, ipad, iphone, media, playstation 3, politics, Xbox 360


Broken promises – by American presidents

08 May
* In 1974 with 36.1% of oil from foreign sources, President Richard Nixon said, “At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need.”

* In 1975 with 36.1% of oil from foreign sources, President Gerald Ford said, “We must reduce oil imports by one million barrels per day by the end of this year and by two million barrels per day by the end of 1977.”

* In 1979 with 40.5% of oil from foreign sources, President Jimmy Carter said, “Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 – never.”

* In 1981 with 43.6% of oil from foreign sources, President Ronald Reagan said, “While conservation is worthy in itself, the best answer is to try to make us independent of outside sources to the greatest extent possible for our energy.”

* In 1992 with 47.2% of oil from foreign sources, President George Bush said, “When our administration developed our national energy strategy, three principles guided our policy: reducing our dependence on foreign oil…”

* In 1995 with 49.8% of oil from foreign sources, President Bill Clinton said, “The nation’s growing reliance on imports of oil…threatens the nation’s security…[we] will continue efforts to…enhance domestic energy production.”

* In 2006 with 65.5% of oil from foreign sources, President George W. Bush said, “Breakthroughs…will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.”

* In 2009 with 66.2% of oil from foreign sources, President Barack Obama said, “It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.”
From a presentation by Mike Milken posted at The Money Game, via The Christian Science Monitor, via Oregon Expat.

The Tea Party’s Rank Amateurism

26 Mar

We had an interesting conversation yesterday in comments about this video. GOP folks and Tea Partiers are increasingly peeved that their movement is being depicted in the media as filled with angry crazies on the verge of violence. As someone who's studied protest, and demonstrated a couple of times myself, I think part of the problem is quality control.

I date back to the Million Man March, when there was great concern that the hordes of black men descending on Washington might break out into a riot. Farrakhan was at the height of his power and the March was a product of the black nationalist wing of the community, not the "safe" civil rights wing. Indeed, several civil rights leaders, at the time, denounced the March.

I was a student at Howard at the time, and like all the other prospective Marchers, I read the papers and was well-versed in notion of not embarrassing your people in front of white folks. The last thing any of us wanted to do was to march down to the Mall and have the next day's headline read, "Niggers Can't Even March Without Fighting." In the months leading up to the March, organizers toured the country speaking to black men in the community and pushing the essential conservative aspects of the March. 

The theme was atonement--even as we recognized the wickedness of racism, we were going to the Mall to take ownership of our sins, to denounce black on black crime, to denounce absentee fatherhood, and recommit ourselves to the traditional cult of maledom. The concept of violence, or even boisterous anger, was counter to the March's goals, and so while there was much surprise at how solemn the event came off, if you'd been watching from the start, it would have made sense. I think had someone done something to embarrass us, there really would have been hell to pay. We thought that media was looking for trouble, but we also thought it was within our power not to give it to them.

I think we got some of that sense from the Civil Rights movement's choreography. These guys were the masters of protest as propaganda. The Montgomery bus boycott was a strategy and Rosa Parks was not some witless old lady, but a civil rights worker who'd been trained to accord herself a certain way. When Martin Luther King would be arrested he dressed a certain way, he seemed to try to convey to the cameras a kind of solemn restraint. The marches themselves were choreographed, and the strategy of nonviolence was drilled into anyone who'd protest.

I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King's response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn't left-wing bias, it's the nature of the threat.

There is of course a deeper question about the limits of strategy. It's possible that if the Tea Partiers cleaned up their ranks--purged the birthers, publicly rebuked people like this guy, banned Hitler signs, loudly rejected any instances of racism--that they simply wouldn't have much of a movement left. Martin Luther King was trying to lead a black community that was demonstrably patriotic, and had, in the main, rejected political violence as a strategy. He could afford to be picky. In the case of the Tea Parties, it's possible that once you subtract the jackasses, you just don't have enough energy left.

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Best. Daily Show. Ever? Jon Stewart parodies Glenn Beck

19 Mar

stewart beckparody Best. Daily Show. Ever? Jon Stewart parodies Glenn Beck

Best. Daily Show. Ever? Jon Stewart opened his show Thursday night with a 15-minute parody of Fox News host Glenn Beck, lamenting what it means to be a progressive and capturing the exaggerated mannerisms of Beck to a 'T,' even donning the reading glasses that dangle down to the middle of his face.

"I'm glad you tuned in to today's show," Stewart opened. "It's an important one. One that you and your family can't afford to miss. Oh, you could miss it, but if you miss it... you'll die."

The video screen behind Stewart starts with a clip of Beck in a heated diatribe on progressivism. "Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is destroying our Constitution," Beck groans, adding, "Progressives want to control every aspect of your life."

"I didn't know that's what I wanted, but I guess I want to control every aspect of your life," Stewart rejoins. His sentences are broken with periods of exaggerated 'Beck' mannerisms. "As a progressive I might say I think it's a good idea for an agency to monitor pollution," he continues. "But I guess what I really mean is it's in the state's interest that we be allowed to put a chip in your head that tells you when you can masturbate."

Story continues below...

"Total control," Stewart says, echoing Beck. "In my America, nobody tells people when they can masturbate!"

The studio audience roars throughout the 15-minute skit, which appears below.

The following video is courtesy of Comedy Central and originally aired on Thursday, March 18, 2010:


Funny Or Die Presidential Reunion Unites SNL Stars for Web Hit [VIDEO]

03 Mar

Comedy site Funny Or Die has brought together current and former stars of Saturday Night Live (plus Jim Carrey) to create a skit called “Presidential Reunion” that has racked up more than one million views in less than 24 hours.

The skit features Fred Armisen, who currently plays Barack Obama on SNL, Will Ferrell bringing back his George W. Bush, Darrell Hammond (Bill Clinton), Dana Carvey (Bush Sr.), Jim Carrey (Ronald Reagan), Dan Akroyd (Jimmy Carter), and Chevy Chase (Gerald Ford). Maya Rudolph plays Michelle Obama.

The video itself pokes fun of each president’s idiosyncrasies and stereotypes, offering current President Obama advice on how to fix Washington. The ending features an ad for Main Street Brigade, an organization calling for financial reform. Check it out below:

Tags: barack obama, funny or die, politics, saturday night live, snl, viral video


Filibusters Now and Then

13 Feb

The Slate Walloped the State in Social Media [Infographics]

30 Jan

Two events dominated discussion last week: the unveiling of Apple's iPad and President Obama's State of the Union address. Leading up to last Wednesday, many wondered if Apple's event would overshadow Obama's. On social media, that was certainly the case.

Monitoring Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, blogs and the rest, social media analysts at Viralheat found over half a million mentions of the two happenings. Those mentions were overwhelmingly related to Apple's new tablet computer.

As the infographic explains, however, even if Apple had the buzz, Obama brought the honey. Generally, 42% of Apple's mentions were positive and 46% were indifferent, whereas 65% of his mentions approved of Obama's address and only 19% were indifferent.

On one hand it's surprising that the iPad generated so much more discussion than the State of the Union address, but in a sense it wasn't a fair fight. Whereas Obama's address is a routine, annual affair, the hype leading up to Apple's event suggested it was going to be one of a kind. Perhaps that's why the internet reacted so overwhelmingly with ":|" when the familiar-looking device was unveiled. [Mashable]