and I quote

august 2008

click here for permalink August 30, 2008

So... did everybody watch the DNC coverage this past week? If you get even one channel, I imagine it was hard not to. Without one, I probably didn't miss a key moment either, what with Democracy Now broadcasting two-hour shows all week as well as next in order to cover both conventions, The Daily Show reporting on location from Denver, and MSNBC's 24-hour streaming video coverage with the dynamic duo of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews.

Speaking of the latter, what an odd couple they make! It was fun watching them get on each other's nerves between marathons of overanalysis punctuated by flashes of historical insight and rhetorical brilliance. I'm enough of a grownup to admit that Chris Matthews almost made me cry when he observed, in response to Senator Ted Kennedy's first public appearance since being diagnosed with a brain tumor; "We have seen a Kennedy grow old." Okay, so I'm easy.

Michelle and Barack Obama's speeches were both damn-near perfect and, of course, Dennis Kucinich's "Wake up America" speech bordered on performance art — I was amazed that the Democrats let him speak at all. As stage-managed and micro-edited as these things must be, it's impossible to not be moved by them.

ivaw marchI was also impressed by the Iraq Vets Against the War who led a group of thousands in the largest protest of the week, following a show by Rage Against the Machine, on a march from the concert hall to the conference hall to deliver a letter to Senator Obama. The letter spelled out some of the things that they felt the "anti-war candidate" should be accountable for, starting with his pledge to begin "righting the wrongs of the war-driven Bush administration." Here's an excerpt:

"We believe that a responsible withdrawal of US forces from Iraq should include, number one, the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq; two, full and adequate healthcare and benefits to all returning service members and veterans; and three, reparations made to the Iraqi people for the destruction caused by the US war and occupation." (IVAW letter, Democracy Now)

When the protesters reached the convention center, they were surrounded by hundreds of riot police who ordered them to disperse and threatened them with arrest, then with tear gas. The veterans held the moral high ground, refusing to leave until they met with someone from Obama's delegation, one declaring:

"We want people to know that there are people who have served in the global war on terror who are deeply offended by what's being done in our name... I'm sure there are a lot of good Americans in there that would be not okay with the idea that they're about to arrest a bunch of Iraq vets if we don't go home. This is my home. This is my home." (transcript, Democracy Now)

Incredibly, the stand-off was diffused when a member of Obama's campaign came out and agreed to schedule a meeting to give the vets a chance to read their letter. It sure would be a bad move on the part of the comparatively "anti-war candidate" to agree for the cameras and then blow them off. But it wouldn't be the biggest shock to come from their camp, either. We can only hope that the candidate isn't that short-sighted; the smartest thing to do would be to meet with the vets before they move on to the RNC and give McCain, or whoever does his thinking for him, the chance to steal the ball — and the votes of any veterans they can win over with a load of lies and promises. I'll have to check back at the IVAW's web site to see if or when they actually get their meeting. In the meantime, they've posted a great collection of photos from the march to the convention: IVAW at the DNC in Denver.

Last but not least, what about those alleged would-be assassins who have hardly merited a mention since they were caught last week, allegedly conspiring against the candidate but definitely in possession of sniper rifles, speed and swastikas? (A deadly combination that's perfectly acceptable if you're in the armed services — otherwise, it's liable to get you arrested.) So, was this incident just the tip of some vast iceberg of entrenched racial hatreds seething away under the surface of society?

Or is it simply that, when law enforcement casts a driftnet as wide as they did for the DNC, one "catch" is inevitable — and this one just happened to be one that could justify all the expense, all the criticism and all the other little fish they detained only to throw back as soon as they "lawyered up?" Or could it be something else; something more subtly cynical and sinister, wrapped in the guise of the one thing no one would dare to raise a question about?

Or did McCain's announcement of his chosen running mate, just as the DNC was wrapping up, totally category five every other story right off the page? From the looks of it, the only thing that could potentially knock The Maverick and Miss Alaska back down below the fold is a real category five.


click here for permalink August 12, 2008

beijing fireworks Red Pride: fuchsia fireworks
light up the Olympic "Birdsnest"
in Beijing. (Photo:

Last Friday afternoon, with the employee lounge television engaged in an all-day countdown to the Opening Ceremonies, my coworkers and I chatted about the upcoming Olympics; talk of who planned on watching what swiftly segued into a livelier discussion about Olympic politics; protests, pollution and Presidential boycotts (a fortuitous development for me, as I have absolutely no interest in the Olympics as sports). Actually, I have absolutely no interest in any sports and, with the possible exception of those gymnasts who dance around with the ribbons, the Olympics are basically a fortnight-long jockfest.

In fact, as my coworkers were heading home to catch the opening ceremonies, I was thinking, this is one of those times when I am so glad I don't have cable. If I can just avoid the employee lounge, I should be able to get through the next two weeks relatively untouched by the Olympics and all their retro-nationalism, endless montages of schmaltzy human interest stories and the inevitable boring scandal that fast-tracks some tacky proto-celebrity into a household name complete with product endorsements.

Watching the opening ceremonies hadn't even crossed my mind until I received a link from my mother accompanied by a tantalizing shot of the Beijing "birdsnest" wreathed in a blazing halo of hot pink explosions that filled the sky — an appropriately over-the-top display of China's firepower. I followed the link to an NBC page and received a message that my PowerPC iMac wasn't compatible with their video format. No problem, I thought, sliding over to watch it on the laptop. This time, the NBC page told me to download some unfortunately named Microsoft plugin called Silverlight, which put me in mind of a hideous transparent cockroach. I had to consult with Mr. Pink because we have rules in this household about installing things just because Microsoft/NBC/GE tells you to.

I slid back over to the iMac to let Mr. Pink read the fine print and determine whether or not it was necessary and worthwhile to install the plugin — and to deal with all the inevitable browser-compatibility obfuscation that goes along with making sure any MS product will play nice with Firefox instead of going rogue and automatically downloading the latest version of IE, packaged with Yahoo accessories and god-knows-what-else, then changing all the firewall settings you spent hours if not days customizing (and probably installing some top-secret hidden service that enables the one-way streaming video feed of all your activities and movements, GPS-tracked and beamed back to MS HQ at Iron Mountain).

I don't know how much time elapsed between my handing over the laptop to Mr. Pink and his announcement that, after the plugin had been installed, a final message from NBC appeared saying that the video was only available in the United States (uninstall, uninstall). The funny thing was that my subsequent search for "Olympics video blackout" turned up all these stories about angry viewers in the United States who were outraged over a 12-hour delay in airing the opening ceremonies (which started in Beijing at 8 am EST) because NBC made everyone wait until prime time so they could rake in the biggest possible sponsorship dollars.

Apparently NBC, who paid an unprecedented, and morally difficult to justify, 900 million dollars for exclusive broadcast rights of the Olympics, swiftly dispatched its minions to take down "bootleg" videos of the opening ceremonies posted on Youtube. A spokesman warned, "We take copyright law very seriously and we're actively working with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to ensure the take-down of infringing Olympic content on the Internet."

Minions notwithstanding, it wasn't long before I found (via The Huffington Post) a legitimate link to an unauthorized broadcast that had been "leaked" by a German television network and I was finally able to watch the opening ceremonies in full — and in German. As krillion dollar spectacles go, they were pretty amazing — especially, if not surprisingly, those fireworks.

I hate to admit it but on more than one occasion I found myself longing for a Katie Couric-type of commentator to omnisciently explain all the historical and cultural symbolism that I was unable to decipher. But, after a while, we just made up our own stories to go along with the visuals, which was probably a lot more fun than listening to Katie Couric anyway (no disrespect).

When the extravaganza of holograms and headdresses was over,back at The Huffington Post, I was to find a fantastic article by Naomi Klein called China's All-Seeing Eye, written for Rolling Stone magazine. It turned out to be the perfect bookend and antidote to the two hours I spent being thwarted by Microsoft and NBC. Here's an excerpt:

naomi klein"Remember how we've always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American "homeland security" technologies, pumped up with "war on terror" rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you." [Naomi Klein, China's All-Seeing Eye, Rolling Stone Magazine]