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But Being a Writer is so Glamorous!

Teddy Wayne explains the “random similarities” between a satirical piece he published for Radar‘s website and an episode of “CSI: NY” that aired nine months later… and the response he received from CBS when he complained:

A few weeks later I received a six-page, single-spaced letter from CBS’s Vice President, Assistant General Counsel. She dismissed my claims of infringement because copyright does not protect ideas, only the “expressive elements of those ideas.” Therefore, the concept of “privileged New York City youth attending clandestine parties where they engage in illegal drug use and revert to pursuits and conduct typical of kindergarteners” is not protectable; only the expressive elements, “such as dialogue and plot,” are. And what seemed to me disturbing coincidences were, according to her—here’s the phrase I learned—“random similarities.”

He continues:

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A Stateless Media?

In the third update to his latest, GG highlights that Jay Rosen tweets:

Why we need stateless news organizationshttp://jr.ly/6xxf (Which is what I’ve said Wikileaks is…)

Wikileaks? Al-Jazeera? Yep. Pretty stateless.

Funny enough, though, earlier in the same post, Greenwald highlights an exchange on the BBC between Bill Keller and Carne Ross:

And recently in a BBC interview, Keller boasted that — unlike WikiLeaks — the Paper of Record had earned the praise of the U.S. Government for withholding materials which the Obama administration wanted withheld, causing Keller’s fellow guest — former British Ambassador to the U.N. Carne Ross — to exclaim: ”It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government.”  The BBC host could also barely hide his shock and contempt at Keller’s proud admission:

HOST (incredulously): Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the Government in advance and say: “What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,” and you get clearance, then?

Obviously, that’s exactly what The New York Times does.

This is a fairly minor point, but I do want to make it: the BBC? Def not stateless. Same goes for the CBC. Same goes for NPR. Not stateless, that is, materially. But that’s not to say I disagree with Rosen. I love all three of these institutions, but their coverage of the defining issue of the moment has been totally pantsed by Al-Jazeera. And Wikileaks…. well, Wikileaks is a whole discussion in itself that I’m sure we’ll have soon.

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UPDATE: Actually, I just checked, and Al-Jazeera’s pretty materially state-dependent as well (where the state is here defined as the Qatari royal family). But doesn’t this just underline my point? What matters isn’t the source of financial support, but what strings are attached to it; not state support simpliciter, but what state’s support. In the US media market, the strings are many, tangled and taut.

UPDATE II: While we’re on the topic of media ownership by Arab royalty, of some relevance is that Fox News is 7% owned by a high-ranking member of the Saudi royals. By comparison, NPR receives about 6% of its funding directly from the US government (another 10% comes from grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but still).  Not quite an apples to apples comparison, granted, but I’ll be damned if it’s not worth noting.

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Buy a Pizza for the Protestors in Wisconsin

A pizza imbued with love and solidarity, topped with pepperoni.

Seriously. Click here and buy the people a pie or two

Brutish&Short should have a report from on-the-ground in Madison within the next couple of days. Until then, remember that everyone loves pizza, and check out Help Defend Wisconsin to donate to the organizers on the ground. They need our help. They need our pizza.

Meanwhile, Gary Farber at Obsidian Wings has a good round-up of anti-union campaigns in the rest of the Rust Belt, and the potential for the Wisconsin protests to galvanize workers under attack from Michigan to Ohio. Money quote, from noted Guy-Whose-Face-is-on-Mount-Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt:

We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living–a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.

Co-signed, Teddy. Co-signed.

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Horror in Libya

From L to R: Ousted, not yet ousted, on the verge of being ousted, ousted

I’m no Libya expert. I don’t even come close to having any original insight on the situation in that country right now. My position on Moammar Qaddafi had always been 1) that while he was clearly a horrible dictator, 2) he was enough of an egomaniacal nut to be almost… entertaining. He was rather like Kim Jong-il in that respect — just another wild and crazy tyrant who we in the West frequently responded to (often justifiably) by pointing and laughing, since there was nothing else we could do. Laughing at your enemies has a way of stripping them of some of their menace. So, when Qaddafi came to the United States in 2009 to make his first appearance before the U.N. (and when he asked that accommodations be made to go camping in New Jersey) — when he seized on this opportunity to make a largely incoherent and rambling 90-minute speech in which he suggested, among other patently insane things, that President Obama follow his example and appoint himself dictator and the U.S re-open its investigation of the JFK assassination (and, it goes without saying, look for the Israeli connection!), you just had to laugh. “How quaint!” you said to yourself, “Qaddafi’s a conspiracy theorist!” Such is a perk, I suppose, of being the absurd, globally-mocked leader of a decidedly closed society: your people never hear about how crazy the rest of the world thinks you are.

But there is nothing remotely funny about what’s going on in Libya right now.

Amid all the contradictory rumors and reports coming out of the country, one thing is absolutely certain: in his attempt to maintain a iron grip over his country Qaddafi is engaged in the mass-slaughter of his people.

Al Jazeera’s live blog is, as ever, an excellent source to keep abreast of the situation in North Africa. Andrew Sullivan, too, has done a commendable job of staying on top of the story. Twitter is again proving invaluable (#Libya), and the New York Times has a good round-up of where there situation stands as of this morning. Finally, Enduring America is another excellent resource for the latest news from the region.

The least we can do for the people of the Middle East right now is pay attention.

(image via)

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Revolution in a Nation of Gifted People

‎”The revolution which we have seen taking place in our own times in a nation of gifted people may succeed, or it may fail. It may be so filled with misery and atrocities that no right-thinking man would ever decide to make the same experiment again at such a price, even if he could hope to carry it out successfully at the second attempt. But I maintain that this revolution has aroused in the hearts and desires of all spectators who are not themselves caught up in it a sympathy which borders almost on enthusiasm, although the very utterance of this sympathy was fraught with danger. It cannot therefore have been caused by anything other than a moral disposition within the human race.” Kant (182)

We’re in a “holy-fuck!amazing moment right now. The capacity of our contemporaries in the Middle East and North Africa to inspire one another to persevere in the name of dignity and autonomy over deeply entrenched and powerfully reinforced state corruption and terrorism was something that, until this month, was thought (by me, and I think a lot of people) to be close to nil (would we Westerners get off our asses if we were them?…. well, Madison’s pretty dope right now but it’s T-ball compared to Yankee Stadium). My point is, we’ve been proven the very best kind of wrong.

What’s sad is that today to say all are aroused to sympathy and enthusiasm is far too strong – at best, nervous approval is the dominant mood.

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Matt Taibbi is Shrill

It occasionally seems like the entire country has forgotten that two years ago the United States was on the brink of utter economic collapse. Well, Matt Taibbi has a better memory than most, and he’s still pretty pissed off about the whole thing:

[A] veritable mountain of evidence indicates that when it comes to Wall Street, the justice system not only sucks at punishing financial criminals, it has actually evolved into a highly effective mechanism for protecting financial criminals. This institutional reality has absolutely nothing to do with politics or ideology — it takes place no matter who’s in office or which party’s in power.

My emphasis.

All of the responsible parties are still free, many of them still head up the same firms and agencies that nearly destroyed us, and nobody much cares anymore because our Galtian overlords clearly deserve all the money they make, otherwise they wouldn’t be making so much of it! QED.

I’m reminded of a guy I once worked with, whose stock response to people who claimed they were “capitalists” was a deadpan, “No, you’re not. Capitalists manage money. You’re a wage-slave.” Would that more Americans understood this simple truth.

You should read the whole thing.

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On Plastic Bags

Yesterday’s Independent on a recent British Environment Agency report:

…an HDPE plastic bag would have a baseline global warming potential of 1.57 kg Co2 equivalent, falling to 1.4 kg Co2e if re-used once, the same as a paper bag used four times (1.38 kg Co2e).

A cotton bag would have to be re-used 171 times to emit a similar level, 1.57 kg Co2e.

The researchers concluded: “The HDPE bag had the lowest environmental impacts of the single use options in nine of the 10 impact categories. The bag performed well because it was the lightest single use bag considered.”

My grandfather is a registered plastic bag lobbyist in Ontario. This doesn’t mean that I’m in any way beholden to the plastic bag industry (it’s not his primary source of income so it’s not like he would be out shivering in the cold or anything if he stopped being a plastic bag lobbyist, and in fact I’ll be damned if I draw his attention to this study), but it does mean that I’ve had the opportunity to yell at him at the Sunday dinner table for being ridiculous on several occasions, only to have him, unscathed, throw the same boiler-plate arguments I’d just refuted back in my face. And from this experience, I’d like to think that I’ve refined my perspective on this topic, which is this:

  1. Yes, plastic bags are individually less harmful than either paper or (in all likelihood) cloth;
  2. Yes it’s dumb to ban them, BUT!
  3. Toronto’s decision to make stores charge $.05 per bag, which has reduced plastic bag sales by 70-80% in the city is still a massively good thing because…
  4. A nickel (if the plan to phase out the penny goes forward) is the least possible amount of money you can charge someone, and therefore…
  5. The charge is more a prompt to customers to assess whether or not a plastic bag (or 5) is even necessary or any more convenient than just putting the pack of gum you just bought in your pocket, and I’d contend that the biggest part of this 70 to 80% reduction stems from exactly this kind of optimization (recall that the first and greatest R is Reduce!);
  6. Paper bags seem no more popular than they were before the ban and I use my cloth bags for all kinds of things other than groceries that plastic bags would be useless for (an added value unaccounted for in the study), and haven’t bought a new one in over a year; and finally
  7. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. QED.

Also, paper and cloth bags are not the only alternative. No Frills (a Toronto-area discount grocery store), instead of recycling all the banana boxes their produce is shipped in, throws them into big bins near the check-out kiosks for customer use (recall that the second R is Reuse!). The bins are just there, and the conscientious among us are free to bring our boxes back with us on our next visit, and throw them right back into the heap. This is awesome, and what all stores should do.

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Update: Oh man, I was on the bus yesterday night and totally realized I’d illustrated this post with the wrong bit of media. The right bit of media?

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The Westboro Baptist Church is Probably Going to Have a Rough Couple of Weeks

So Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of “God Hates Fags” fame, under threat of attack from “hacktivists” Anonymous, issued a brazen “come-hell-or-highwater” response yesterday. It was probably not the smartest thing they ever did?

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*Here’s a copy of the Phelps letter:

Needless to say, their website is currently down. When you goad a group that successfully took down the websites of Visa, Amazon, and Paypal, you’ve probably picked a battle you can’t win — even if God is on your side! Because God is notoriously not tech-savvy!

Anyway, I encountered the lovely people from the WBC in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in the “free speech zone” and I’ve felt bad for their poor, poor children ever since. Here’s part one of a BBC documentary on the group. (Probably NSFW, what with all the “fags” being bandied about.) You will probably feel bad for their children, too!

(via Reddit)

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A Warm Introduction from the Tyrants at Brutish&Short.com

So in 1993, noted fat person Al Gore invented the Internet, which everybody knows because everybody heard him say that in a debate with somebody or maybe George Bush said it or was that Swift Boating or was it ‘97 or even 2000? Something about black boxes, I think. Lockboxes? Doesn’t matter, it’s a stupid question that everybody knows is wrong because Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet; the Internet was just there from the beginning and everyone knows that so get over it already. I mean, Jesus.
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Anyway, so the point of this website is that the Internet needs scrupulous and worthy and honorable guardians and gatekeepers, and since we’re not gonna be seeing any of those sprouting up like daffodils or blades of grass from, like, the ether anytime soon, or leaping to the defense of the Internet from the Internetty shadows — even though the Internet obviously needs all the help it can get because it’s like a guy holding up a convenience store, only reversed, where the guy getting held up is the Internet, you know? That’s what the Internet’s like right now! And we — the people of this website — are just here to be the good citizen in the convenience store who’s all like, “Hey, buddy jackass, hey you! Hey, guy holding up the Internet right now. You? Yeah, you! ‘Hey’ much? ‘Hey’! Knock it off!” and then we tackle the gun from the bad guy’s hands and smash into the rack stacked with 99 cent chips which explode (BOOMBOOMBANGclatterclatter) all over the linoleum, which will make it look cool on the YouTube video — from the surveillance camera, guys, never forget the surveillance camera.  Anyways. Then (getting back to the story), after all that, we get up — and we have the bad guy’s gun now, remember — and we say, “Hey, bad guy! HEY! Stay down! STAY DOWN! The police are on the way! THE POLICE! ARE ON! THE WAY!” And the bad guy does stay down! Because guns! And then, to top it all off, the Internet comes out from behind the deli counter and kisses us on the cheek and we blush and you can hear the sirens in the background and see them start flashing red and blue off the buildings and the camera fades out to a montage of skyline shots of the city you happen to be in. And all of that’s ALSO on the YouTube video! Or maybe it’s even on Vimeo, if the camera’s good! And there’s a really inspiring song playing right at the end — a really inspiring one, with maybe a piano or an organ or maybe a choir or something like that — and remember how the Internet is the girl/guy and in the end we get him/her — we get to win his/her heart?
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This website is exactly like that.

Sincerely yours,

~The Editors

PS – If you haven’t already, check out our Inflammatory Writ.

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