Howard Kurtz's Octomom hypocrisy: He was against exploiting it for ratings before he was for it

by Brad Jacobson

Washington Post and CNN media critic Howard Kurtz dedicated an entire segment of this past Sunday’s Reliable Sources to a gratuitous pie fight between two players involved in Nadya “Octomom” Suleman’s never-ending nationally televised freak show. But a little over a month ago, Kurtz decriedthe media’s exploitation of the octuplet mother for ratings and for doing so under the false pretense that concern for her babies’well-being drove their 24/7 coverage.

What a difference a few weeks make. Continue reading

TunesDay: Name those bands – and the winner is….

bandssamlovesThe results of last week’s Name Those Bands contest are in. In first place we have … a disqualification, sorta. Our friend Ubertramp logged in with an impressive 47 of 53. Seriously, that’s pretty damned good. But he has disqualified himself because I’m the one who turned him onto most of these outstanding artists and he felt like he might as well be cheating under the circumstances.

Wow – sportsmanship. What a concept.

So our next highest scorer, and the official winner, is … Continue reading

Tunesday: traditional Arabic music

by Dawn Farmer

Tarab is a state of ecstasy and surrender one enters while listening, with Body and Soul, to music. Whether it’s the dancing strings of the oud, the weeping melody of the violin, the mystical call of the nay or the pulsating rhythm of the drums…

A few years ago I decided to try my hand at learning some of the folkloric dances of the Middle East. I had no idea what a fascinating journey lay ahead. As much as I study the dance steps, they are incomplete without appreciating the music. So to help me share this wonderful music with you I asked local musician Erik Brown to join us for an on-line interview. Erik plays the Tablah (drum) for the Seattle based group House of Tarab.

Dawn: Erik, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on Arabic music. Tell us a little about the House of Tarab.

Erik: The House of Tarab, or H.O.T. for short, was officially formed in 2006. The six members are Stephen Elaimy, Jane Hall, David Mcgrath, Sallah Ali, Andy Zadrozny and myself. Members of this group have been playing traditional Arabic music together for more than a decade.

The House of Tarab is considered to be a “takht,” or orchestra. Takht also refers generally to the arrangement of instruments and to some degree the style of music performed. In a very broad sense a takht usually perform classical Arabic music or Muwashahat (lyric poetry).

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Carbon capitalism

American-style capitalism, sans regulation, has earned its present bad rap. Even so, some market mechanisms do work quite well. Commodities pricing is discovered and costs kept low because markets are very efficient at making sure that metals, oil, food, etc. are moved to where the demand is the highest from where the supply is greatest. Similarly, a market in traded sulfur emissions imposed by the Clean Air Act has enabled fossil fuel plants to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions (the main source of acid rain) dramatically since the market’s inception.

Markets don’t work for everything, however. The sulfur dioxide emissions market works because the effects are not hyper-localized – farmers in Kansas and Iowa won’t notice the difference between the emissions from coal plants in Denver, Boulder, or Fort Collins. However, in the case of mercury emissions from coal plants, an emissions market would be a very, very bad idea. Coal-produced mercury precipitates out of the air in a plume immediately downwind of the emissions source, and so there’s no way to fairly balance the increased emissions of one coal plant with the lower emissions of another. In this case, all the increased mercury emissions would to is poison more mothers and children.

But because markets work so well for so many things, the creation of a cap-and-trade market for carbon dioxide (CO2) makes a lot of sense. In a similar fashion to sulfur dioxide and unlike mercury emissions, CO2 emissions mix well with the atmosphere and so trading emission credits between one source and another is viable. Continue reading

Note Bene #59

Hot links from recent days: “Dear wife of John” … The cold fusion debate is on again … Orwell’s Animal Farm was refused publication–by T.S. Eliot … Gaddafi more empowered than ever, which again begs the question, why is he still just a colonel? … John Mellencamp sizes up the music biz … The Gitmo guard who found Islam … China’s planning a Karl Marx musical, tentatively called If This Van’s a-Rockin’ … This week’s Sound Business Solution™: Teacher selling advertising space on tests … Greg Palast marks 20 years since the Exxon Valdez disaster … A Palestinian youth orchesta performs for a group of Holocaust survivors–and gets forcibly disbanded … Wallace and Gromit and science … Nate Silver rightfully rips the “worst pollster in the world” … Courtney Love’s being sued for libel over her online rants; but, boy howdy, Michele Bachmann makes Love look boringly sane … Rob Lovato on sea change in El Salvador … Found: long-hidden video of a historic dunk … On April Fool’s, is the joke on us? Update on the computer worm here … Switzerland, Italy are changing their borderlines–thanks to melting snow … Scientists develop an organic-detecting tricorder … Matt Taibbi: Hey, whiny AIG guy, fuck off and die … And speaking of F-bombs, Andy Richter gets a bunch dropped on him. ∞

World's longest-running war for independence — or exercise in futility? (Pt. 2)

karenfighters2A Flip Through the Karen Annals

The Karens, as well as other ethnic groups, actually arrived in Burma before the majority group known as the Burmans (as opposed to the Burmese, all the citizens of Burma). But, in the sixteenth century, the Burmans conquered most of Burma and proceeded to impose their will on the ethnics.

But the modern “origins of the ethnic hatred. . . can be traced back to the Anglo-Burmese wars,” writes Benedict Rogers in his 2004 book World Without Evil: Stopping the genocide of Burma’s Karen people. The Karens assisted the British in their efforts to conquer the Burmans. The British, in turn, allowed them a measure of autonomy (in part, also, because they were too far-flung to rule). The ethnics’ first taste of freedom was an ironic byproduct of British colonialism. Continue reading

Yes, we have no Bananastans

by Jeff Huber

President Barack Obama’s March 27 announcement of a “new strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan” makes it official.He has no clue what he’s doing in the Middle East.Unless, of course, he’s leading us further down the road to ruin on purpose, in which case he knows exactly what he’s doing and is making an excellent job of it.

On February 17, Obama announced he would send 17,000 additional troops to the Bananastans to address the “urgent” situation there.The situation was so urgent that the troops were scheduled to deploy “sometime in the spring or summer,” according to General David McKiernan, the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. Continue reading

Got change?

The buzzing topic of conversation throughout liberal America appears to be just how much change the new president brings to the table.  His stalwart defenders rally to his side on comment threads, regularly regurgitating the stock phrases that appear in emails from campaign headquarters, er, the White House.  One need not look very far to find a statement like, “He’s our President and we have to stand behind him.”  That type of statement is a little too close to Bushbottery for me, but i’ve come to understand that it is, in fact, nothing of the sort because Bush was evil and Obama is good.  I won’t argue the former, but it is far too early to make the call on the latter.

Continue reading

The danger of the Dalai Lama, or why South Africa couldn't let him in…

These are from the weekend paper.  Actual quotes from South Africa’s minister of foreign affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, and the ex-ex-minister of health who introduced the idea that AIDS is simply a disease of poverty, easily cured with garlic and African potatoes)…

“A judge is not supposed to do that. It’s not for judges to decide on foreign policy. They don’t run government and they don’t run foreign policy. There is separation of powers. They run the judiciary. I don’t comment on the judiciary.” (This after a judge in SA’s constitutional court sided with the current minister of health that it was unadvised to prevent the Dalai Lama from visiting).

“Tutu does not run government. Remember, he said he was not going to vote. If it were up to him, there would be no elections next month.” (In response to Archbishop Desmond Tutu declaring that he would now boycott the conference.) Continue reading

The Deproliferator — CSI: Ground Zero

deproliferatorDeterrence 2.0

Graham Allison has been a pioneer in issuing clarion calls about nuclear terrorism. He’s been accused of alarmism, but Cassandras are supposed to err on the side of caution. Especially when it comes to an issue that’s susceptible to being elbowed aside in this Age of the Emergency that we’re living through. Between garden-variety terrorism and the economic crisis, we have enough to freak out about, thank you.

Last year the House and Senate passed the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act “to strengthen efforts in the Department of Homeland Security to develop nuclear forensics capabilities to permit attribution of the source of nuclear material.” Continue reading

Let the economy die?! Rushkoff's goals are noble but his plan needs work

A couple of weeks ago author and NYU media theory lecturer Douglas Rushkoff penned a provocative essay for Arthur Magazine. Entitled “Let It Die,” the essay explains why we should stop trying to save the economy.

In a perfect world, the stock market would decline another 70 or 80 percent along with the shuttering of about that fraction of our nation’s banks. Yes, unemployment would rise as hundreds of thousands of formerly well-paid brokers and bankers lost their jobs; but at least they would no longer be extracting wealth at our expense. They would need to be fed, but that would be a lot cheaper than keeping them in the luxurious conditions they’re enjoying now. Even Bernie Madoff costs us less in jail than he does on Park Avenue.

Alas, I’m not being sarcastic. Continue reading

Avenging aunt: When political bonds fracture families

A recent letter to Salon’s distinguished advice columnist Cary Tennis reads:

Like many extended families, ours has people who live and breathe Republican doctrine, and people who are liberal. Since the early Bush years, we have given each other a wide berth.

This week, someone sent out an e-mail talking about how Obama’s policies weren’t helping the economy and were probably killing it. Well, the floodgates on both sides opened. People felt personally attacked and were right to [feel that way]. …

What now? I do want the whole family to be able to be a family. … I don’t know how to walk it back, though. The rift that opened up. . . was shockingly deep and raw.

As demonstrated by writers from Homer to Shakespeare, families have been torn asunder by political differences for millennia. It’s only natural when you consider that, unlike social groupings, the family is not constructed of people of like minds who have gravitated towards each other. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: Project releases principles of climate science literacy



Ask yourself the following question: “What do I know about climate change?”

If you answered “very little” or “not enough,” then the new guide Climate Literacy – The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences might be a good starting point. It lays out seven principles that every person should know about climate science:

  1. The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earths climate system.Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
  2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
  3. Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
  4. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
  5. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
  6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.
  7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Continue reading

World's longest-running war for independence — or exercise in futility?


The Karen independence movement in Myanmar has entered its seventh decade.

Episode 1

Three years before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national leader when thousands of protesting students and monks were mowed down by the ruling junta. The 8888 Uprising (August 8, 1988) was reprised, if on a lesser scale, in 2007 when over 100 civilians and monks were killed during the “Saffron Revolution.” Continue reading

Does the Wilderness need a Walmart?

Despite the image its name implies, the Wilderness is none too wild these days.

walmartpad01Bordering the southern bank of central Virginia’s Rapidan River, the Wilderness was a seventy-square-mile tangle of dense second-growth forest—a region of scrawny, moss-tagged pines, garroted alders, hoary willows, and wet thickets.

“This, viewed as a battleground, was simply infernal,” a Union solder said shortly after the American Civil War raged through the area in May of 1864.

Today, battle still rages in the Wilderness, but this time, the federal government doesn’t face an army of Confederates—it faces the largest corporation in the world. The foot soldiers, if they arrive, will wear blue smocks adorned with yellow smiley faces and a pledge for low prices every day. Continue reading