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20 Jul 05:49

Prominent Democrats Are Now Comfortable With Racial and Ethnic Profiling

by Conor Friedersdorf


NYPD comm full.jpg


On Wednesday, President Obama assured a reporter that Ray Kelly, New York City's police commissioner, would make a fine leader for the Department of Homeland Security. "Well, Ray Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York and the federal government partners a lot with New York, because obviously our concerns about terrorism oftentimes are focused on big city targets," he said. "And I think Ray Kelly is one of the best there is. So he's been an outstanding leader in New York. We've had an outstanding leader in Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security. It's a tough job. It's one of the toughest jobs in Washington. She's done an extraordinary job. We're sorry to see her go. But you know, we're going to have a bunch of strong candidates. Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is. But if he's not I'd want to know about it. 'Cause you know, obviously he'd be very well qualified for the job."

Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has been lobbying on the NYPD commissioner's behalf. "Ray Kelly has extensive experience with anti-terrorism, with homeland security and he's run a very large organization, the NYPD, extremely well for over a decade," he said in a video release. "And so Ray Kelly would be a great choice for Secretary of Homeland Security." And John Avlon, the centrist political director for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, argued that Kelly should be appointed, and ought to have gotten this DHS job last time around.

This is extremely worrisome -- especially if you're a Muslim American.

Under Ray Kelly, the NYPD infiltrated Muslim communities and spied on hundreds or perhaps thousands of totally innocent Americans at mosques, colleges, and elsewhere. Officers "put American citizens under surveillance and scrutinized where they ate, prayed and worked, not because of charges of wrongdoing but because of their ethnicity," AP reported, citing NYPD documents. Informants were paid to bait Muslims into making inflammatory statements. The NYPD even conducted surveillance on Muslim Americans outside its jurisdiction, drawing a rebuke from an FBI field office, where a top official charged that "the department's surveillance of Muslims in the state has hindered investigations and created 'additional risks' in counterterrorism."

Moreover, "In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques," the Associated Press reported, "the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation." The horrifying effects on innocent Americans are documented here. But despite the high costs and lack of counterterrorism benefits, Kelly stands behind the surveillance on Muslims.

To their discredit, many conservatives have suggested, going back to the September 11 attacks, that the government ought to ethnically profile Muslim Americans in the name of counterterrorism. Some even believe race-based profiling should be used in regular police work. A judge found that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a right-wing populist, actively profiled Latinos in Arizona, but his actions in Maricopa County haven't come close to destroying his core of Republican support.

Democrats have historically vilified not just Joe Arpaio, but all proponents of racial and ethnic profiling. Then-Senator Barack Obama advocated on behalf of Russ Feingold's End Racial Profiling Act of 2007. On being elected president, he promised, "Obama and Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice."* Attorney General Eric Holder, another longtime critic of racial profiling, has worked to put the Department of Justice in a position to monitor Stop and Frisk, the controversial policing tactic that has a disparate impact on blacks and Latinos.

Yet here we are in 2013 watching the first black president and a prominent Senator, both Democrats, along with centrist and center-left journalists, enthusiastically avow that a man who needlessly ethnically profiled and harassed the most vulnerable minority group in the United States would be an excellent choice to lead a sprawling national security bureaucracy that has as big a capacity for violations of civil rights and civil liberties as any part of the government. If you were a Muslim American, would you want Kelly heading up homeland security?

Too bad for you, I guess.

Racial and ethnic profiling isn't a dealbreaker for Democratic elites anymore. A few Democratic congressmen are speaking up. But the Democratic establishment is largely fine with Commissioner Kelly, just like they're mostly willing to extol the leadership of his boss, Mayor Bloomberg.

Of course, Democrats aren't about to praise, let alone elevate, someone like Arpaio, or to stop deeming his supporters racially unenlightened bigots. But don't let them tell you it's because Arpaio is guilty of racial profiling. So long as you have the right persona, come from the northeast, and refrain from attacking prominent Democrats, racial and ethnic profiling is tolerated. 

Even rewarded.

On its own, Kelly's treatment of Muslims ought to disqualify him from the position, and even from being praised by the president of the United States. On its own, his treatment of blacks and Hispanics ought to disqualify him from being promoted too. But his tenure has also been characterized by a dearth of transparency that has exacerbated his abuses. As Murray Weiss explains, "The lack of transparency during the Kelly administration played a pivotal role in keeping the public -- and by extension the NYPD -- from recognizing years earlier that the number of stop-and-frisks in New York was escalating to troubling levels. Kelly failed to disclose the stop-and-frisk numbers for seven years despite being required by law to do so. When he was finally forced to release them, the numbers were stunning, and caused critics to ask why stop-and-frisks escalated from 100,000 during Bloomberg's first year in office to 500,000 seven years later."

Although there's no reason to think Obama would be bothered by the quality, contempt for transparency obligations would be problematic in a DHS director -- as would Kelly's alarming treatment of an NYPD whistleblower. This American Life and The Village Voice both have exceptional accounts of the documented police misconduct that occurred during Kelly's tenure, and the intimidation tactics used on the whistleblower, including an attempt at involuntary commitment. If Kelly presides at DHS, can whistleblowers beneath him expect the same treatment?

The last couple of days, the press has been filled with denunciations of George Zimmerman for allegedly profiling Trayvon Martin; and denunciations of Washington Post columnists Richard Cohen and Kathleen Parker for their qualified defenses of that alleged profiling. I happen to agree that Zimmerman acted indefensibly, regardless of whether he was guilty of murder or profiling. I also disagree with both the Cohen and Parker columns, and I have no objection to seeing them criticized. But I grow increasingly frustrated by the media's approach to this issue. As my colleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates, observes, "You should not be deluded into thinking Richard Cohen an outlier. The most prominent advocate of profiling our current pariah classes -- black people and Muslim Americans -- is now being mentioned in conversations to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Those mentions received an endorsement from our president."


Chris Hayes is another lonely voice drawing this vital connection:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

But the prevailing coverage in the "mainstream media" suggests extreme comfort with ridiculing and shaming America's Zimmermans, Arpaios, and Cohens, as if racial profiling, or defending someone who does it, discredits a person -- but then deference when American's Bloombergs, Kellys, Schumers and Obamas enable, implement, or act as apologists for profiling, though the NYPD and DHS affect vulnerable minorities on a far bigger scale. Joseph Stalin supposedly said that one man's death is a tragedy, while a million deaths are a statistic, and so it goes here: profiling one black man is treated as a travesty -- as it ought to be -- while profiling many thousands of Muslims, blacks and Latinos is a statistic that in no way disqualifies a man from being put up for promotion and praised by the President of the United States.

Unless that changes, until Kelly is as much an object of shaming as Zimmerman, and Obama as much an object as Cohen, racial and ethnic profiling are going to continue in America on an industrial scale. Stopping it requires criticizing the actual people who wield power in this country, not a media class that treads most lightly around the racial injustices that are the most serious.


*PolitiFact has since rated that promise "broken."


18 Jul 12:20

Gender, Race, And Going To Class: A Call For A Feminist Reading of For-Profit Colleges?

by Guest Contributor

By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire

Most of us have seen the ads exhorting us to “call today!” to start on a new future with a college degree. How many of us have noticed the faces in those ads?

The gender, race, and affect of the faces and voices in for-profit college marketing are the kinds of things I  notice in the course of my research about schools like Strayer, Everest, the University of Phoenix and any number of name brands that seem to pop up every month. We know a lot about how much for-profit colleges cost (as much as the most elite college degrees) and we know a little about whom they serve but we do not ask a lot about why they serve whom they serve.

It is difficult for me to not ask that question. I interview for-profit students to ask of them what many of us have asked ourselves when one of those ads pops up at the train station or on late-night TV: why would someone enroll in a for-profit school?

It is not lost on me that so many of the students I interview look like me. They are often black. They are poor and working class. Some are solidly working class.  Yet, with notable frequency, they are almost always women. That is due, in part, to the nature of qualitative research and respondent-driven sampling on which I rely: women are more likely to agree to be interviewed and their peer groups are more likely to be other women. Yet, that is also indicative of the quantitative data about the students for-profits overwhelmingly serve. Sixty-nine percent of for-profit students are women. The lower the degree, the more women you find: 75 percent of the students enrolled in for-profit two-year degrees are women. And they are working towards degrees in gendered roles like administrative assistants and nursing aides in gendered fields like healthcare and education.

They are also twice as likely to be poor than women in traditional colleges. And not just poor but quite poor: 16 percent of for-profit students came from families receiving support from the welfare system. For comparison, just 2.6 percent of public and 1.6 percent of private not-for-profit students were engaged with the welfare system.  Low-income female students from every racial/ethnic group are nearly three times as likely to attend for-profits as their higher-income female counterparts.

There is certainly variation between for-profit colleges. Higher profile technology schools like DeVry have fewer poor women than do Everest College, which mostly trains people for entry-level jobs in healthcare and office work. To be sure, women make up the majority of all students in traditional higher education, too. Yet, the feeling lingers that there is something about the faces that market for-profit colleges and the faces I encounter as I interview for-profit students that is unsettling. What if, in all our proselytizing ever more education, we are failing to interrogate if all college degrees are created equal and worth any price? The answer would matter for women like Maxine.

I interviewed Maxine at a coffee shop near her work. She is a 43-year-old grandmother of five, mother of three. She graduated from high school with her first-born a few weeks old in a stroller. She has put her children through school by working at a range of manual labor jobs. The companies change, the job title changes, but her position in the social structure has been relatively stable. She packs, sorts, orders, ships, and occasionally cleans in warehouses and back-office rooms for companies like Solectron and TJ Maxx. When one job became unbearable because of a bad boss, inflexible work hours or when the job would just end, Maxine would find the same work at another local employer. That’s how millions of people have historically worked in what sociologists call the secondary labor market. About seven years ago the time between those jobs got longer, the next job harder to find. Increasingly, Maxine works through temp agencies that treat her like cattle. If she misses the phone call for the next job assignment, she misses out on a day’s work. And the work has become harder. There is less order entry and more lifting and hauling. And Maxine is “getting too old for that shit”.

By the time Maxine saw the television commercial for her for-profit college she had been primed by the reality of being a poor single mother to hear its message. She had not been a good student in high school and she had tried enrolling in at least five other job-training programs through the years. She had not completed a single one. But the choices are different for her now. Maxine cannot rely upon food stamps to help feed the grandchildren she often keeps so her children can chase work. The program that provides food subsidies has work requirements and, again, work being hard to come by is why Maxine is where she is. Maxine does not qualify for unemployment insurance because temporary workers rarely meet the requirements. If she chooses to engage the one social safety net left available to millions of Americans, she is choosing to exit the workforce permanently.

Maxine’s economic and social position is urgent, just like the television ads for the for-profit colleges that market to people like Maxine: “call now!” “start today!” “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!” For their part,for-profit colleges recognize this urgency and maximizing it is part of their business plan. It is easy to take for-profit colleges to task for turning social need into an unmet market. It is far harder, yet ultimately more important, that we ask why so many poor women, so many single mothers, and so many black and brown women are turning to for-profit colleges to change their lives today.

We have a few ideas. We know that women in the U.S. do not enjoy paid maternity leave. We know that we do not provide subsided, affordable child care. We know that changes in low wage work disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic women. We know that the transformation of welfare to a jobs first program amid The Great Recession has made women more vulnerable to changes in the labor market. We know that if your business plan is to maximize social pain for profit, single mothers and poor women have been constructed through social policy as a pretty lucrative target.

So, yes, women are the majority of all college degree seekers. There is nothing particularly shocking about that also being true of for-profit colleges. But it is also true that there is something salient about all the women I interview who are attending for-profit colleges. All of them are mothers. Three-fourths of them are black or Hispanic. The kinds of economic and social policy changes that affect people like Maxine disproportionately affect mothers, particularly black and Hispanic mothers. Their urgency is not like the urgency that motivates the majority of women at traditional colleges. They are dual heads of the same beast, perhaps, but they are qualitatively different. Young women in traditional colleges are responding to the need to be better educated than their male counterparts, even if that means working for less money. The women I interview are earning the most expensive, most contested of all college credentials not to be competitive but to survive.

That their survival also means surviving for their children and their extended families is absolutely gendered. The greatest risk factor for enrolling in a for-profit college isn’t just gender but gender and parenthood. It is being a single mother. The practical college options for mothers is a direct consequence of our nation’s refusal to provide paid maternity leave or subsidized childcare. It could explain why poor men, facing similar economic conditions, are not running to for-profit colleges at the same rate as women.

These are the kinds of realities that are obscured in much of the analysis around for-profit colleges, which focuses largely on their high cost and high student loan debt. These economic orientations are themselves a way of ignoring, if not outright obscuring, the social lives of economic realities. We research and legislate and debate the high cost and high student loan default rates among for-profit students without the proper context. Not all student debt is the same kind of debt because not all students are facing the same set of social conditions. Poor women, especially black and brown women, are living amidst hostile social conditions. Social policy demonizes them as welfare queens and reckless reproducers. The workforce pays them less because they can pay them less. Traditional colleges do not organize to serve them because no one moves up the college rankings by serving poor women who need more resources to serve. And so we end up where I often end up: across the table from women like Maxine trying to make a story most of us would rather not hear from a number most of us would rather ignore. That is always a set of conditions amenable to an intersectional feminist reading.

18 Jul 12:18

Richard Cohen and Kathleen Parker, Racial Profiling, And The Choice To Live In Fear

by Alyssa Rosenberg

Justifications for the vicious cycle of racially based fear

Credit: Yahoo News

In Richard Cohen’s now-infamous Washington Post column calling for an end to treating racial profiling as if it’s a process that ought to be stigmatized, he uses a lot of dubious math to defend the idea that we should treat all black men as part of a suspect class. But even more than those numbers, which are in the process of being vigorously fisked by people with more acuity in math than I have, I found myself lingering on this passage towards the end.

“At one time, I thought Barack Obama would bring the problem into the open and remove the racist stigma. Instead, he perpetuated it. In his acclaimed Philadelphia speech on race, he cited his grandmother as ‘a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street,’” Cohen wrote. “How about the former Barry Obama? When he was a Columbia University student living on the lip of then-dangerous Harlem, did he never have the same fear?”

Today, Kathleen Parker made a similar point in the same pages, asking readers to “Picture Zimmerman’s neighbor Olivia Bertalan, a defense witness, hiding in her locked bedroom with her infant and a pair of rusty scissors while two young males, later identified as African American, burglarized her home. They ran when police arrived.” She goes on to argue that “This is not to justify what subsequently transpired between Zimmerman and Martin but to cast a dispassionate eye on reality. And no, just because a few black youths caused trouble doesn’t mean all black youths should be viewed suspiciously. This is so obvious a truth that it shouldn’t need saying and yet, if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it’s called profiling. In the real world, it’s called common sense.”

What’s striking about both of these arguments is the way Cohen and Parker are looking for fear, almost eager for it, as a sign of prudence and rationality–and when it’s displayed by African-Americans, as well as white people, as a sign of a common worldview. As Cohen sees it, Barack Obama’s grandmother was behaving sensibly, not shamefully, in fearing the black men she saw out and about, and that the future president himself, if he were to distinguish himself from other black men, should have shared white fear of black people who live in the neighborhood where Columbia is located. In Parker’s formulation, fear of black men is part of a natural and admirable maternal instinct.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, “Richard Cohen concedes that this is a violation, but it is one he believes black people, for the good of their country, must learn to live with. Effectively he is arguing for a kind of racist public safety tax. The tax may, or may not, end with a frisking. More contact with the police, and people who want to be police, necessarily means more deadly tragedy. Thus Cohen is not simply calling for my son and I to bear the brunt of “violation,” he is calling for us to run a higher risk of death and serious injury at the hands of the state.”

That’s a tax that isn’t levied on the white people who Cohen and Parker believe should be afraid of men like Coates and his father and son. But choosing to live your life in fear of a class of your fellow citizens involves paying smaller fees.

There are little things, like the story Ahmir Questlove Thompson told this week about a woman who lived in his (highly secured) building who inconvenienced herself and created an awkward situation simply to avoid letting him know which floor she lived on. Rather than doing the math and separating out Thompson from the statistics by virtue of the fact that he has a keycard to operate the elevator in her building, she first gave him the impression that they lived on the same floor, then made things deeply uncomfortable by turning down his courtesy, not once, but twice, when he tried to let her off first, and then when he tried to get the right floor button punched for her. If Thompson decides he still wants to reach out to his neighbor, he’d be a more courteous person than I am, but that woman has potentially lost herself a friendly neighbor, a nice asset to have even if the people who live down the hall from you don’t happen to drum for The Roots.

And there are larger costs, like the decision to forego certain experiences because you don’t want to venture out to a particular neighborhood to visit a particular restaurant, to not attend college in a city because you’re anxious about the area in which it’s located, or to not buy a home you like because you aren’t willing to deal with the people who you’ll share a block with. The decision to live in fear is a choice to live a narrower kind of life. And those opportunity costs should be factored into the idea that tailoring your actions in response to your fear black men is a rational, sensible, even mathematically enlightened or admirably protective impulse.

When I was in college, I did a lot of political work in a neighborhood that, aside from the dorms of my college that were zoned into the ward, was predominantly African-American. And during one visit to the local elementary school on a winter afternoon, a janitor I ran into punctured my sense that I’d gotten to know the people I was registering to vote and turning out for local elections particularly well. The prevailing opinion, he explained, was that any young white woman who spend a lot of time wandering around the neighborhood was probably working for the police, and that affiliation explained why I didn’t look scared. The fact that I didn’t look frightened was, paradoxically, good evidence to be suspicious of me.

To me, that story felt ludicrous, in part because my acute awfulness at keeping secrets would make me a terrible candidate for any sort of undercover assignment. But that private knowledge I have of my own openness isn’t tattooed on my forehead, or available via Google Glass. Based on the experience the folks in that neighborhood had of the police, and the actual depth of my actual relationship to a lot of the residents I’d met, their conclusions were relatively reasonable.

If Parker and Cohen want to argue that it is rational for white people to fear black men as a class, I wonder how they’d reckon with the argument that it’s rational for African-Americans to fear the police as a class. And if they’re willing to accept that other half of the equation, it seems impossibly defeatist to argue that maintaining this uneasy, untenable polarity is an acceptable–and rational–state of affairs.


18 Jul 00:56

How to explain anthropology to a physicist

by Rex

cartoon courtesy of under a cc-by-nc license

Science works by proposing and disposing of hypotheses. Hypotheses come from a lot of places: previous research results, modeling, inspiration, and plain old intuition. Our intuition is a good source of scientific hypotheses because our species has evolved to possess an implicit model of the natural world that allows us to move, eat, balance, and so forth. Of course, this model is not perfect nor is it explicit. Which is why we need science. Nevertheless, it is a good source of hypotheses, and our intuitions about where things go when we throw them are an excellent place to begin elaborating, say, a classical mechanical account of projectile motion, regardless of where in the world you are when you throw something. This is because physical laws operate uniformly on earth, modulo extremely advanced concerns in quantum physics or the philosophy of science.

Given this, it may appear reasonable to suppose that our intuition could be a good source of hypotheses regarding society and culture. After all, humans are a single species and evolved in more or less the same way, and so the intuitions we have about how we live our lives should apply to all human commuities.

In fact, however, this is not a case. There is considerable variation in the organization of human conduct. There are evolutionary reasons for this since, as you can imagine, it results in populations that are highly adaptive. ‘Culture’ is the term that anthropologists use to describe the arbitrary, conventional structures of meaning which orient conduct in human communities. The laws of physics operate uniformly across the planet, while cultural systems vary. Anthropology is the science which studies  human behavioral diversity. Because culturally-influenced conduct can take radically different forms in different places, it is foolhardy to use intuitions developed in one culture as a source of hypotheses about another. For this reason, it is reckless practice for natural scientists to stray into the expert territory of our discipline simply because they believe that if they are good at testing hypotheses in one realm they must be good at it in another.

A good analogy to using the intuitions of one culture to to generate hypotheses about another culture would be to imagine a non-physicist with pre-theoretical intuitions about motion creating hypotheses about life aboard the international space station. Expectations about momentum, weight, and the behavior of fluids will founder in a micro-gravity environment. Because they have not had experience in microgravity, their intuitions will be incorrect.

Simply because you are very good at shark embryology does not mean that you are ready to speak authoritatively about human societies. And, I am sure you will agree, vice versa.

Often times specialized language in the life sciences is considered as a sign that those fields are mature and specialized, while specialized language in the human sciences is merely obfuscation or meaningless jargon. There seems to be an assumption that because biologists engage in marriage, commensality, and linguistic interaction they should, in principle, be able to understand all technical writing about these subjects. And yet somehow biologists think it obvious that layman cannot understand the the technical terminology of biochemistry, despite the fact that all laymen have metabolisms.

The analogy to microgravity is useful because demonstrates two other things.

First, our intuitions about the physical world are not completely wrong in micro-gravity. Because the space station and Los Angeles are located in the same universe, there are underlying basic similarities between both environments, and humans can adapt (because they are cultural) to both of them. Similarly, it would be wrong to argue that it is prima facie invalid to use intuitions developed in one culture to form hypotheses about another. It simply results in hypotheses which are deeply flawed, but which nonetheless have considerable appeal to people because they seem intuitively correct to them.

In fact, anthropologists spend a major part of their time dealing over and over again with hypotheses which have been definitely proven wrong — black people are ‘genetically’ good at singing, heterosexual monogamy is ‘natural’ — but which are consistently reinvented by people because these hypotheses appeal to those people’s (culturally shaped) intuitions. When anthropologists refuse to engage in discussion with laymen about these hypotheses, we are sometimes accused of being obsessed with political correctness or opposed to the ideals of scientific argumentation. In fact, the situation is somewhat different: we are acting like scientists who are too weary to engage with laymen who argue that a geocentric model of the universe is correct, and who furthermore adduce evidence to support their claims by pointing out that there is much evidence on their side. For instance, sources from the Internet (often from thirteenth century Europe) arguing for a geocentric view of the universe as well as the obvious fact that the sun sets regularly while the earth does not move.

Just as it takes a special sort of biologist to spend all of his time explaining evolution to creationists, so too does it take a special sort of anthropologist to give up their research and teaching and spend precious time explaining to the public sphere why their intuitions are wrong. It is a sign of progress that we consider some questions settled, at least until disconfirming data — not mere intuitive dissatisfaction with our findings — is made evident.

Second, just as the space station and Los Angeles occupy the same physical universe, so too do human communities share an underlying biological constitution. Just as our intuitions about the physical world can be improved through examination of many different physical environments (I imagine this would include microgravity, nanoscale, and low-temperature environments) so too can our intuitions regarding social life be improved by learning about places with different cultural orders. In making this argument about our intuitions I am not arguing that science is impossible or that people from other cultures are fundamentally inscrutable.

Indeed, it is to the credit of physicists that they have been able to develop models of the world that are sufficiently general that they can explain the dynamics of movement in both microgravity and normal Earth gravity. Indeed, Microgravity is a compelling experimental environment precisely because it allows us to increase the power of scientific models in a wide variety of scientific disciplines. Anthropology, similarly, requires cross-cultural research to develop theoretically. And this is the goal of (many) anthropologists.

Expertise in one academic discipline does not automatically translate to competence in another academic discipline. It is not the case that one discipline’s present is somehow destined to be another’s future. Different disciplines develop in different ways theoretically and methodologically, because of the nature of the object they study and the questions they are asking.

13 Jul 12:26

"Without ever being anything less than wildly entertaining, “Orange” is effortlessly in conversation..."

“Without ever being anything less than wildly entertaining, “Orange” is effortlessly in conversation with all of TV’s biggest themes, and, boy, does it have something new to say about every single one of them. Here is a show that is explicitly about the consequences of breaking bad, but that never glorifies it: Violating the law does not for one moment seem cool, just a bad choice that gets you locked up. By virtue of its almost entirely female cast, it’s an instant retort to the macho-man craze, proof positive that female dynamics are more than interesting enough to build a show around, whether they be romantic, maternal, familial or tribal. It stars a white girl, but in its racial diversity and frank acknowledgment of racial issues is a lesson to every show that does not address these subjects as a matter of course.”

- The awesome, original “Orange Is the New Black” -
06 Jul 13:49

The Economic Cost of Hangovers

by Derek Thompson

I didn't drink beer on the fourth -- the weather was pretty crappy here in FL

800 drinking hangover stop.jpg


The Fourth of July is beer's annual breakout party, with weekly sales often surpassing $1 billion around Independence Day. So when the Fifth of July falls on a weekday like this year, employers are advised to, well, manage their expectations.

Excessive drinking costs the economy more than $220 billion -- or about $1.90 per drink, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which studies the negative externalities of alcohol consumption each decade. Seventy-two percent of the costs came from lost workplace productivity, according to the 2006 survey, which suggests that the economic drag from hangovers is about $160 billion  (... also the total cost of natural catastrophes in 2012.)

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 10.35.26 AM.png

Or think of it this way. Americans have about 117 billion alcoholic drinks each year. Hangovers cost us about $1.37 for each drink in lost productivity.

That's the average. But not all drinkers are equally to blame. Just 15 percent of binge-drinking adults are responsible a whopping three-quarters of the costs of excessive alcohol consumption. From the survey:

Overall, researchers found that about $94.2 billion (42 percent) of the total economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption were borne by federal, state, and local governments while $92.9 billion (41.5 percent) was borne by excessive drinkers and their family members. Government agencies paid most of the health care expenses due to excessive alcohol use (61 percent), while drinkers and their families bore most of the cost of lost productivity (55 percent), primarily in the form of lower household income. 

If you find yourself struggling at your desk this morning and forced to justify your sluggishness to a boss, file this study under: Doesn't Excuse My Behavior, But Might Explain It With Federally-Backed Numbers.


06 Jul 13:47

História da música ilustrada

by Bruno Natal

One of the coolest things.

Daria pra fazer um vídeo de 20 minutos só com os estilos, gêneros e rótulos surgidos nos últimos dois anos. Tá valendo mesmo assim.

05 Jul 19:54

LeVar Burton Gives CNN’s N-Word An Actual Story

by Arturo

No, "cracker" doesn't do the same kind of damage.

By Arturo R. García

Maybe the most hard-hitting moment of CNN’s special The N-Word didn’t strictly involve it at all.

It’s tough not to cringe when LeVar Burton talks about the steps he takes to protect himself when he’s pulled over by police, for a number of reasons. The fact that, going by the ease with which he delivers his explanation, it’s become a routine. That he has to say it’s for the officer’s comfort. And finally, the stated reason he taught his son to exercise the same caution.

“I do that because I live in America,” Burton tells host Don Lemon and his panel. And in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, those words seem especially resonant. Though Lemon interrupts with his story of being “an uppity you-know-what” before segueing to anti-racism advocate Tim Wise, Burton’s story provides the show with a lived-in context it otherwise lacks.

Otherwise, the show’s View From Nowhere approach doesn’t advance a “national discussion” on race, despite Lemon’s stated intentions. The segment purporting to debate whether the actual N-slur “is worse than” the term cracker, which resurfaced in the public eye during the trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, sputters because nobody is there to actually defend the word. While that would seem like a no-brainer in progressive circles, to have someone attempt to explain why they feel aggrieved by the term (say, a member of Towson State’s infamous “White Student Union”?) would have a) answered the predictable call for equal time and b) illustrated the downfall of such a viewpoint to begin with.

Likewise, topics like Paula Deen and hip-hop’s use of “nigga” come and go with no real meaning. Deen is not facing a lawsuit just for using a slur; her white accuser, Lisa Jackson, told CNN itself that Deen created a hostile work environment for POC. Instead, the show deals with the effect of her use of the slur as a “career killer.” And another panelist, Wendy Walsh, brings up rappers’ use of the word, but without an active member of the hip-hop community — say, a Dream Hampton or Davey D — there to push back with the other side of that history, problematic as it may be.

Unlike Soledad O’Brien’s (admittedly much-maligned) Black in America specials, in fact, there’s no real sense of community anywhere in The N-Word. Everyone involved is a pundit, which leaves the program lacking in the sort of lived realities that show us why slurs hurt, and how they’re used to do so. The bright side is, the show performed exceedingly well for the network — so much so, one imagines, that the temptation will be too great for CNN not to do a sequel. Hopefully, one with its eyes and ears closer to the streets than to a studio.

01 Jul 14:21

Button accordions are cool. Teija Niku & Grupa Balkan - Ajde...


Best performer at Finn Fest 2013 specializes in Serbian melodies.

Button accordions are cool.

Teija Niku & Grupa Balkan - Ajde Jano (by teijani82)

27 Jun 20:44

Want to be the next editor at Kill Screen? - Kill Screen


@ Gamebros

27 Jun 00:47

Skulls and Bones Coffee Sugars by Snow Violent

by Shan Tara

h/t Tadeu

Snow Violent design have created these sugars shapes for coffee. A creative design that should be marketed, as the entire CubeMe Team is already in love about these skulsl and bones sugars.


26 Jun 23:59

Três momentos dos protestos do dia 20 de junho no Rio #meus20centavos

by Bruno Natal


Que foto essa do Rodrigo Esper

As coisas não andam fáceis desde que “o gigante acordou” (essa frase dá calafrios, quase tanto quanto gente com a cara pintada, enrolada em bandeira e cantando o hino). Enquanto o asfalto esfria, a chapa esquenta nas favelas.

A sede do Observatório de Favelas, na comunidade Nova Holanda, foi cercada pelo BOPE nessa madrugada após uma incursão pelo Complexo da Maré. E por lá os tiros não eram de borracha não, são de fuzil mesmo.

As conversas começaram. Após o pronunciamento da presidenta Dilma na sexta, ontem teve reunião com governadores e prefeitos hoje em Brasília. Hora de acompanhar com atenção o desenrolar político das manifestações.

As imagens geradas durantes as manifestações ainda servirão de ótimo material bruto para um documentário sobre o que aconteceu  nesses dias. Os vídeos abaixo são algumas das  melhores registros das manifestações, principalmente da violência e despreparo da polícia militar, no dia 20 de junho, no Rio.

Os três se destacam por terem se mantido neutros (até onde isso é possível uma vez que se decide pegar uma câmera e filmar), do ponto de vista de participantes das ações que se desenrolam.

O antes: Matias Maxx estava em frente a Prefeitura quando o caldo entornou:

O durante: uma vez iniciada, a repressão policial varreu a Av. Presidente Vargas e Rio Branco, encurralando os manifestantes que queriam fugir das bombas e se abrigar:

E o depois: honrando a máxima de que no Rio tudo acaba em funk, no Estácio manifestantes dão uma pausa na construção de barricadas após um vizinho soltar o batidão. Como diz o diretor, “um musical”:

26 Jun 23:57

madmarvelgirl: You will be killed without warning in book 7.


Winter is coming, via Chinese food.


You will be killed without warning in book 7.

13 Jun 15:46

Toda faixa é uma ciclo faixa

by Bruno Natal

Enquanto isso, em Los Angeles…

Foto enviada pelo Alex Rio.

13 Jun 15:43

Doc: “MPB: A história que o Brasil não conhece”

by Bruno Natal

Este mockumentary é muito ingraçado

Teoria da conspiração e mockumentary, uma grande combinação. Sou um entusiasta

10 Jun 23:10

Friday WTF?: Whole Foods Says Speaking Spanish Is “Unsafe” For Its Working Environment

by Andrea

Whole Foods keeps getting worse.

By Andrea Plaid

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, the grocery-store signifier of the “personal is political” and social responsibility, has been busted for some sketchy business practices antithetical to its progressive hype, like union-busting as well as maintaining low wages and failing to support farmworkers.

Let’s add language surveillance to that list. From NBC Latino:

Two employees at a Whole Foods Market store in Albuquerque say they were suspended last month after complaining about being told they couldn’t speak Spanish to each other while on the job.

Bryan Baldizan told The Associated Press he and a female employee were suspended for a day after they wrote a letter following a meeting with a manager who told them Spanish was not allowed during work hours.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Baldizan, who works in the store’s food preparation department. “All we did was say we didn’t believe the policy was fair. We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work.”

He said Whole Foods officials told them about company policy and issued the suspensions.

Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region Executive Marketing Coordinator, said the Austin, Texas-based company believes in “having a uniform form of communication” for a safe working environment.

“Therefore, our policy states that all English speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock,” Friedland said in a statement. “Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”

Friedland said the policy doesn’t prevent employees from speaking Spanish to customers who don’t speak English nor does it prevent them from speaking Spanish if all “parties present agree that a different language is their preferred form of communication.”

Whole Foods Market spokeswoman Libba Letton told the AP that in addition to safety reasons, the policy is in place so employees who don’t speak Spanish don’t feel uncomfortable.

07 Jun 21:08

A couple months ago the lastest wonderfully weird Japanese photo...


How did I miss this one?

A couple months ago the lastest wonderfully weird Japanese photo meme to hit the internet depicted students unleashing powerful Dragon Ball Z Makankosappo and Kamehameha energy attacks on each other.

Now a fantastic variation has appeared. Behold the awesomeness of the “Tuba Gun” attack (チューバ砲 or “Chuuba Juu”). That’s right, Japanese band geeks have hijacked an already awesome photo meme and made it Super Awesome.

As you can see from the photos above there are also variations using other instruments like the trombone and cymbals. We can’t stop smiling. It might be time to dig out our high school band instruments and get to work.

Visit Kotaku to view more spectacular Tuba Gun photos.

07 Jun 17:57

"We took a cab to the revival theatre where the movie was playing. The film, a groundbreaker of sorts..."

“We took a cab to the revival theatre where the movie was playing. The film, a groundbreaker of sorts due to its mostly black, Brazilian cast, had been made in the fifties. The storyline was simple: the myth of the ill-fated lovers Orpheus and Eurydice set in the favelas of Rio during carnival, in Technicolor splendour, set against scenic green hills, the black and brown Brazilians sang and danced and strummed guitars like carefree birds in colourful plumage. About halfway through the movie I decided I’d seen enough, and turned to my mother to see if she might be ready to go. But her face, lit by the blue glow of the screen, was set in a wistful gaze. At that moment I felt as if I were being given a window into her heart, the unreflective heart of her youth. I suddenly realised that the depiction of the childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen, the reverse image of Conrad’s dark savages, was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white, middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life: warm, sensual, exotic, different.”


Barack Obama on seeing Black Orpheus with his mother in Dreams from My Father, 123-124.

It pretty much sums up the two most common reactions to the film and what is/was at stake.

(via kgoldschmitt)

04 Jun 13:26

SoundGood’s Afrobeat BR Mixtape

by Nick MacWilliam

Love it.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying in life as a heavy dose of afrobeat so it’s with great happiness that we bring you this new mixtape from Rio de Janeiro’s SoundGoods. West African in essence but loaded with Brazilian flavours, it also manages to pack in Middle Eastern-style strings and some Irish pipes (and that’s just in the first tune,  André Abujamra’s ‘Origem’). All in all it’s an excellent journey of chaotic rhythms and exploding beats that’s also free to download. Get stuck in and enjoy.  


01. André Abujamra – Origem
02. BNegão & Os Seletores De Frequência – Bass Do Tambô
03. A Roda – 26
04. Afroelectro – Padinho
05. Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra – Eru
06. Bixiga 70 – Tema Di Malaika
07. Rodrigo Campos – Sou de Salvador
08. Lucas Santtana – Músico
09. Pipo Pegoraro – Sofia
10. Tonho Crocco – Abre-Alas (O Carro Destemido)
11. Rabujah – O Que Meu Samba Tem
12. André Sampaio & Os Afro Mandinga – Bumaye
13. Anelis Assumpção – Sonhando

04 Jun 13:26

Ruspo – Esses Patifes

by Kariann Goldschmitt

Taking a stab at writing for a general audience.

The liner notes for Ruspo’s debut, Esses Patifes (These Criminals), describe the album as a journalistic meditation on Brazil’s disparate geography through the lens of “tropical lo-fi.” While that framework might be useful for approaching the album, the richness of Ruspo’s lyrics and production is what makes this album shine.

Ruspo (the nickname of Ruy Sposati) composed and recorded the album while travelling between a diverse set of cities in Brazil, ranging from its largest cosmopolis (São Paulo) to cities that epitomize some of the country’s most famous natural geographic features: the Amazon river (Belém and Altamira), the mines (Belo Horizonte), and the rainforest (Campo Grande and Dourados). The combination of an indie aesthetic with the geographic specificity produces a lovely album that parallels similar place-centered efforts by indie artists such as Sufjan Stevens while also drawing from the newer tendencies in Brazilian popular music. The result is an album that should appeal to Brazilophiles and adventurous fans of lo-fi indie music alike.

All 14 of the tracks are strong, weaving between detuned guitars and children’s voices (“Altamira”), quirky approaches to baile funk (“Chatuba do Agroboy”), new wave (“Santos”), and kitschy bossa nova (“EUA”). Fans of Jorge Ben might be drawn to “Tenha Fé,” a reworking of Ben’s samba-rock track (also known to fans as “Confiança”). Ruspo’s version replaces the exuberance of late-1960s samba-rock with afro-Brazilian rhythms, marimbas, and driving piano riffs. The song also features excursions to flute solos, saxophones, string patches, and even the berimbau. That kind of eclecticism is characteristic of most of the album.

Many tracks complement Ruspo’s songwriting by juxtaposing instruments more familiar to a marching band with the fuzz of electric guitars and synthesized effects. Muted trumpets and clarinets often express the sad beauty at the heart of many of these songs even when the lyrics express bitter critiques. For example, without the warm sounds of the clarinet on top of the baile funk beat of “Chatuba do Agroboy,” Ruspo’s anger at the environmental and social repercussions of big agriculture in the Pantanal might lose its bite.

Ruspo’s overall approach to the production of his vocals will sound familiar to fans of Bright Eyes or Elliott Smith. He adds to the melancholy of his subject matter through slightly out-of-tune vocal doubling. The result is often effective at evincing a sad and introspective beauty from his lyrics even as they veer into vulgarity and anger.

While it is tempting to lump Esses Patifes in with other recent albums meditating on travels throughout Brazil’s expanse (i.e Céu’s Caravana Sereia Bloom), the result here is as unique as any and moves well beyond the framework of geography. Ruspo consistently demonstrates the potential to win over many international fans of Brazil’s diverse musical scenes.

Esses Patifes is available for free download from More information on the album can be found at Um Distante Maestro Records

04 Jun 13:17

Catacumba, “Herança”

by Bruno Natal

Vale a pena escutar este música.

Mais uma da Catacumba, projeto de uma das metades do The Twelves, na mesma pegada da primeira que apareceu, “Urubu”.

02 Jun 03:53

Could Flipping the Curriculum Lead to More Jobs and Better Educated Students?

by Claire Potter

I like it.

history fanAnother school year ends, and the MOOC people are happily planting stories in the media about a teaching model that, if it succeeds, is likely to kill off full time work in the liberal arts forever. How do we fight this, and the concurrent view that liberal arts BAs are simply a thing of the past?

Here’s my idea: let’s flip the curriculum. Kill the survey courses and start teaching history as applied knowledge, and as a set of skills that can tangibly enhance the careers that most of our students will actually have.

As a profession, we have, to date, mounted few successful counter-arguments to those who wish to shift resources away from teaching, and jobs, in the humanities and social sciences. One of the reasons that MOOCs may be doing so well is that they represent practically the only big idea that the academy has had in the past several decades. Many of our colleagues in the humanities have played defense for so long it’s hard to know what a good, solid curricular reform would look like.

The song goes like this: liberal arts BAs are valuable in and of themselves. They don’t need to be justified in concrete, practical terms — and in fact, those of us who work in private education may think it is beneath us to explain why centuries of art, literature and culture are critical to an education. Sound familiar?  Well, it’s a losing argument, not because the liberal arts don’t have transcendent value, but because we have been unable to make a case that is compelling enough to stop the loss of full-time jobs, much less get back the positions that have been lost since the 1970s.  In a time of high tuitions and stagnating middle-income jobs, our critics, those who urge students to simply get trained for work and get cultural enrichment on iTunesU, appear to be more responsive to conditions on the ground than we who imagine ourselves as dedicated to producing lifetime learners.

And yet, in a moment when flexibility and innovation is being called for, if we look at all but the top-tier, four-year colleges, what do we see in a history curriculum? Survey after survey. They are a basic curricular staple, the courses one must take before having access to anything relevant. They are the courses anyone can teach (there is a whole army of people out there who will teach any survey offered, regardless of their own training.) The survey becomes more and more prominent as we move down the ladder of prestige to the two-year colleges, where generic curricula make it possible to hire and fire part-time faculty without worrying about losing “coverage.”

Surveys are, of course, the easiest way to process large numbers of students: administrators love them for this, even though they don’t want to pay more than a pittance to have them taught. For scholars, the survey fetish lies in two dated (dated to about 1880, in fact) and unproven beliefs. One is that students need to acquire general knowledge as a prerequisite to assimilating specialized knowledge; the second is that students who are not going to pursue a liberal arts major need to be force-fed cultural capital, however disconnected from their present and future the course materials are. Our bias towards the survey feeds the ongoing process of adjunctification: such courses make it easy to hire the cheapest, most generically trained labor, and allow employers to invest nothing in further professional development. Current forecasts are that the ideal academic laborer of the future may not even need a Ph.D., since s/he will not teach, but simply help to manage, enormous courses packaged and sold by Ivy League for non-profits. Employees’ work will be Taylorized by companies like, which currently offers drag-and-drop comments as part of its GradeMark option.

Getting rid of the survey will not mean rejecting technology; rather we will have to run toward technology, new media, old media and the digital. This will cause all of us to think in counterfactual ways, to embrace futures that we cannot be certain of. This will require facing the nature of our ambivalence about the relationship between scholarship and progress. For example: we admire technology, but we do not understand it well enough to use it well, and we fear the speedup and proletarianization it seems to facilitate. We are sentimental about the intellectual traditions that made us who we are, the masterful lectures delivered by world-class scholars, but we know that these forms of learning aren’t working for students any more. We yearn for a more embracing vision of what our discipline can do for today’s students and a good argument for why real faculty in real classrooms should do it — but we are unwilling to risk our professional prestige by trying  out hands-on pedagogy that prioritizes civically engaged and community scholarship over the big national questions that make us star lecturers.

Dumping the survey course would be a huge step towards reimagining a curriculum for the 21st century that could employ more, and better professionalized, scholars. But many of us don’t even know how to get started with making change at the most basic level: ourselves, and our own courses. So if you are one of those people who wants to try something new, here are some sample ideas as you plan your next teaching year.

Organize a class around hands-on work in a local archive. I did it this year, and I will warn you of one thing: it’s hard. Peter Knupfer’s “Consultants in the Classroom: Student/Teacher Collaborations in Community History” (Journal of American History, v. 99 no. 4, March 2013) gives you a little hint as to the rewards and the difficulties of this kind of teaching. I had the good luck of partnering with the New York Public Library, which was an awesome experience for me, for the students and (as I understand it) for the librarians we worked with. Here’s the trick: you ditch general knowledge altogether. You begin with the archival work, rather than secondary reading in the field, and because students have no other choice, the research questions emerge from the archive itself. If you can, hold at least a third of the class sessions in the archive, so that you can actually go from student to student answering basic questions and talking to them about what they are finding. Going on site has the added advantage of demonstrating that public archives are for public use, rather than a special resource for majors, honors students, or elite undergraduates.

Knupfer had all his students working on a single collection; my students chose their own collections, which was a tad more chaotic. But the result, I would argue, is the same: students learn the skills associated with archival research,  and they learn how any project they might be interested in pursuing — whether activist, media-oriented, artistic, business-related, or professional — can be enhanced researching and activating its history.

Show students that popular culture and history are intertwined fields. If you are interested in incorporating performance or media in your teaching of history, or vice versa, consider contacting actor/writer/director Adam Lazarre-White of Los Angeles. Lazarre-White, who has a BA in Government from Harvard and is living proof that a liberal arts education can be transferred successfully to other fields, can teach your students how good narrative history can make powerful arguments to big audiences. For a small fee, he can come to your campus to do a workshop organized around his short film, “200 years” (and before you start saying that there is no money, how many consultants did your administration hire last year?) The film, which is organized around a descendant of enslaved Africans purchasing the plantation upon which his ancestors labored, raises a number of powerful themes about the institution of North American slavery, most importantly the links between literacy and social power.

Instead of a general survey, imagine teaching college students the history or literature of what they plan to do. As I was lying in the hospital, I was cared for by numerous kind and skilled people, nearly all of whom were immigrants and nearly all of whom had entered the US higher education system through a community college. 100% of them said that although they regretted not having made more of their liberal arts credits, that the courses offered had little to do with their primary goal: graduate and get into advanced training or the workforce. Increasingly, this is true of students doing four-year degrees as well. As students disidentify with survey courses, the true purpose of MOOCs becomes clear: allowing large public systems to shift the burden of required, generic courses that no one wants to take or pay for on-line. Students can log these (unwanted but necessary) credits at a low, low cost to the taxpayers, and to themselves, while these systems cut even more jobs in the humanities and social sciences.

And yet, the only reason MOOCs are an alternative at all is because of the vast number of schools who are all teaching the same survey courses. Why aren’t faculty becoming more creative about how liberal arts credits can be fulfilled, and doing it in a way that makes our courses difficult to replace with online versions? If we believe that the purpose of the liberal arts requirement is to teach everyone the rudiments of critical thinking, would it not be a good idea to ask students preparing for a professional career to take a topical course in, say, the  History of Medicine, the History of the Office, the History of Finance, The History of the Oil Industry — rather than what we currently offer: comprehensive histories of the United States sliced in half at 1865, Western Civilization surveys and whatnot? If you must have the Civil War, what about different sections of the course that speak to different aspirations: nursing, military strategy, social work, the law and accounting?

Sure, these courses can be replicated as MOOCs too. But if faculty made an effort to revisit their curricula every 4-7 years to make sure that it was still relevant to the work non-majors were interested in, MOOCs would begin to lose their profitability because they would have to be revised too frequently.

Readers, what interventions and curricular reforms do you have planned for 2013-14?

31 May 14:27

Why PBS’s Condescending New Ad Campaign Works Against Its Mission—And Its Great Programming

by Alyssa Rosenberg

on the cultural capital beat.

PBS has been getting a lot of attention for a snarky new 50th anniversary fundraising campaign based from WNET, its New York affiliate, around parody billboards for reality television ads that basically make the argument that it’s horrible and disgusting that a lot of Americans watch stupid reality television programming, and so why don’t you give us all the money instead?

It strikes me that there are two problems with this approach. In order to fulfill its two missions, PBS has to do two things: raise money to put programming on the airwaves, and attract people to watch that programming to demonstrate that their efforts are useful and worthwhile. This campaign is entirely aimed at the first goal, potentially at the expense of the latter. The campaign is perfectly aimed at stoking the contempt of the kind of people who despise reality television, and who perhaps don’t watch much TV, even and including PBS, at all. But if you do watch reality television, either in a way that’s serious or half-amused, these PBS ads tell you that you should be ashamed of your viewing habits, while giving you precisely zero information about what kinds of alternatives they have to offer you, and why they’re great. Watching Storage Wars does not legally preclude someone from liking Sherlock.

In terms of establishing its independent brand, PBS should absolutely adore the state of television right now. The reality glut may be irritating to donors who would like to see American tastes turn towards something more high-minded. But the fact that not everyone is going into the business of prestige family soaps and British imports actually makes it vastly easier for PBS to distinguish itself, find large audiences for programming like Downton Abbey, and prove to private donors, foundations, and the U.S. government that it’s meeting needs that no other channel has bothered to try to fulfill, along with providing access to things like high-quality children’s programming in areas where it might not otherwise be financially viable. If I were PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger, in fact, I would be slipping unmarked bills in plain envelopes under the table to Animal Planet to keep producing things like Mermaids: The New Evidence, trust that people who are disgusted by such things will arrive at a state of high dudgeon all by their own selves, and then use my advertising budget to put a lot of .GIFs of the Dowager Countess being awesome or clips of Ken Burns being eloquent on video advertising slots all over the place. PBS’s core product is frequently fantastic, and it would do both the organization and viewers a lot of good to advertise it that way, rather than treating it like spinach that should be supported out of the goodness of our hearts because the rest of America is so darn stupid.


31 May 13:24

Westwood Sucks, So These UCLA Bands Made Their Own Scene

by LA Weekly

the closing of Brew Co is a tragedy. Where will the grad students socialize?

By Kevin Moultrie Living in Westwood is like being trapped in Footloose's Bomont, Georgia. There are no clubs, no open mics, no student centers, no anything. It's bad. They're even shutting do...
31 May 13:24

What Is Ayahuasca and Why Is Everyone Singing About It?

by Katie Bain

new music drug alert

Ever heard of ayahuasca? It's an ancient medicinal plant that has become trendy of late, particularly in Los Angeles. It's not uncommon to overhear ladies at Soho House discussing their trans...
31 May 13:20

Catacumba, “Urubu”

by Bruno Natal

Hy Brazil vol. 3 has been in constant rotation on my iPod for the last week.

Projeto novo de uma das metades The Twelves, Luciano Oliveira, o Catacumba foi incluído no terceiro volume da coletânea Hy Brazil (logo falo dela por aqui).

31 May 13:18

Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.8: “The Crash”

by Andrea

Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid

Grandma Ida, The Mammy Thief.

“Grandma Ida,” The Mammy Thief.

This week, Matt Weiner thought he’d counter the continued criticisms that he and his creative team aren’t dealing with race and racism by…fleshing out one of the worst racial fears about Black women. Tami, Renee Martin from Womanist Musings and Fangs For The Fantasy, and I give this foolishness some serious side-eye while shouting out Benedict Cumberbatch.

Read on, with spoilers in mind.

Tami: No. No! No! No!

You cannot have a show nearly devoid of black characters for multiple seasons and then, apropos of nothing, drop in a walking amalgam of Mammy and thief stereotypes and give her, seemingly, more screen time, character development, and dialogue than any black character to date. It’s just…damn, Matt Weiner! This show is supposed to be better than that.

The most egregious thing about Grandma Ida is that she was both unnecessary and unbelievable. There were countless other ways to show how often unsupervised the Draper children are when visiting their father. And something about menacing middle-aged black women rolling up in tony Upper East Side doorman buildings, single-handedly breaking into likely occupied homes, seems ridiculous. If nothing else, Ida’s methods seem destined to land her in jail.

More ink and conversation have been spent on Grandma Ida and Pete Campbell’s “200 lb. Negro prostitute” that on Dawn at this point. She and Peggy’s secretary remain ciphers. If the other option is marginalization and stereotype, then Weiner is making me want to choose invisibility in Mad Men for black characters.

I just…I need a Cumberbatch break…

Maybe having Tami in the shower with him will turn his frown upside down...?

Maybe having Tami in the shower with him would turn his frown upside down…?

Aaaahhhh….that’s better. Poor race casting in Star Trek: Into Darkness aside, The ‘batch makes everything better.

I will credit the Grandma Ida storyline with giving us the episode’s best bit of dialogue, though.

Bobby Draper: “Are we Negroes?’

As someone who enjoys genealogical research, I can tell you, Bobby, you well may be. Still…hee.

Andrea: Tami, you come to New York City for a couple of days, and you just act allll the way up, huhn?

Back to this latest Black character to cross the Mad Men universe: compared to, say, Carla, Dawn, and Peggy’s secretary, the Mammy Thief (the name I give Grandma Ida) damn near had a soliloquy on the show. I mean, you had to suss Carla’s backstory, though her firing over nothing was a common story from Black domestic workers during that time. Dawn gets something of a backstory, with her wanting to find a partner of her professional standing, which speaks to her having some desires, specifically aspirations.

But the way Weiner physically presented the Mammy Thief–the slovenly coat and clothes, the hair sticking out under her worn-out hat, the puzzled way she talked. like she sort of didn’t know where she was–one could construe her as possibly having an untreated mental illness or, worse, pulled an ableist move and affected that in order to appear less of a direct threat. (Though that didn’t stop some commenters from saying that she’s “menacing.”) She is definitely presented as the worst fears about Mammy, that of a Black woman who violates the trust of white people–specifically of white children, who are supposed to be the object of Mammy’s unconditional motherly love–for her own gain. Grandma Ida’s the precursor to that other bit of GOP-generated social fiction, The Welfare Queen.

Renee: I felt that this character affirmed everything I have ever said about Mad Men and race. Weiner does not include people of colour because he does not know how nor is he willing to try.

Tami: Renee, I told Andrea that I’m beginning to think that the only reason Weiner and Co. have been subtle about race thus far is that no actual PoCs have been included in the narrative. Now that we are, they’re going ham with stereotype and bias.

Andrea: But I think that that’s sort of how some white folks function. They’re all cool and “liberal” until the people of color show up–and, sometimes, it only takes one person of color–then the racist foolishness start flying. Weiner seems to have enacted that scenario in his award-winning creation.

Tami: So, Cutler Gleason & Chaough comes with its very own Dr. Feelgood. I tell you, this episode made me suspect someone had slipped me some of the good doctor’s proprietary “vitamin mix.” I was certain Ken Cosgrove’s soft shoe was, at the very least, my evening Benadryl allergy meds kicking in.

Dawn, you look the way we feel.

Dawn, you look the way we feel.

Andrea: The hell was that? Was it Weiner’s acknowledging the 60s drug culture through the prism of SCDPCGC, or whatever they’re call the agency nowadays? Considering the “sped up” reaction to the “vitamin mix,” will the Mad Men crew usher in the cocaine-fueled late 70s and 80s early, since next season is the last one?

Renee: Let’s be honest, these people have never done anything sober.  So far, we have only seen the occasional usage of pot, but alcohol has been a mainstay since the first episode. I really see it as pointing out that, even though people tend to think of this as a time of change.

Tami: Enough with the bordello flashbacks! I’m beginning to think we are being shown Don’s wretched childhood as a way to mitigate, or at least explain, his unbridled assholishness. I really don’t like that. There were (and are) plenty of real-life Don Drapers whose mother figures weren’t prostitutes, whose fathers weren’t kicked to death by horses and who weren’t molested as children. And there are plenty of people with difficult pasts who aren’t horrible people.

And Don is a horrible person.

Andrea: This goes back to my hating the psychological reasons for villianery: I could give zero fucks about why the person is evil–they are, and that’s enough for me. Telling me why actually bores me. And I feel the same way about Don. I don’t need his psychological profile to understand why he is the way he is. And I really feel like they’re really using his impoverished background to explain his assholishness, much in the same way that they use Roger Sterling’s wealthy background to explain his assholishness, without the flashbacks.

Tami: I wonder–given the new merger and the fact that Ted Chaough seems like an infinitely more together person, creative and with a better management style–how long is Don going to be able to flounce around, working on campaigns to win back mistresses and deciding he can’t be arsed with newly won auto clients.

Andrea: But I think that Chaough is going to worm his way into a partnership position and move Don into a partner emeritus position, which gives the agency a reason to retire Don with some modicum of dignity.

Tami: Our Pegs could have her pick of men: The New Agey, turtleneck wearing ad exec; the pot smoking, fun guy or the lefty, liberal journalist. Sadly, she has more chemistry with both Stan and Ted, but both of those relationships would be all sorts of problematic.

Andrea: But are they really picks? Mr. Turtleneck is married, though closest to Peggy’s temperament and desires; the fun pothead is someone she think of as too much of her equal, so would hold no interest for her; the lefty journalist apparently isn’t keeping her interest in general, the way she’s acting all restless around him.

My contemporary sensibilities just about flipped when pothead dude told Peggy she had a “nice ass”…and all she could do is smile. I had to remember that the idea of even reporting sexual harassment in the workplace is a very recent thing, thanks to Professor Anita Hill.

31 May 13:12

Exxon CEO: ‘What Good Is It To Save The Planet If Humanity Suffers?’

by Ryan Koronowski

Brings new meaning to the double x in Exxon's brand.

At Wednesday’s meeting for ExxonMobil shareholders in Dallas, CEO Rex Tillerson told those assembled that an economy that runs on oil is here to stay, and cutting carbon emissions would do no good.

He asked, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

One good would be that humanity has a habitable place to live. And in acting to stop the increasingly dangerous effects of climate change, we could avoid a great deal of suffering. Tillerson missed the billions of dollars in damages, thousands of lives lost, millions displaced, and rampant ecological destruction due to the carbon emissions that cause climate change.

Exxon does not see carbon emissions falling significantly until 2040. Staying on this path will mean more suffering: heat waves, conflict, food insecurity, Dust Bowl-like drought, extreme flooding, sea level rise, increasingly destructive storms, and worsening refugee crises.

A Carbon Disclosure Project Report noted that “ExxonMobil noted that the company’s ‘operations around the world include remote and offshore areas that present challenges from existing climate extremes and storms. These severe weather events may disrupt supplies or interrupt the operations of ExxonMobil facilities.’ ” Even so, A 2011 study found that “9 out of 10 top climate change deniers [were] linked with Exxon Mobil.”

So what Tillerson probably meant to ask shareholders yesterday was “What good is it to save humanity if profits suffer?” Last year he had told the Council on Foreign Relations about the “manageable” risks of climate change: ”As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”

The beauty of this approach is that Exxon makes money on both ends — they get to sell all their climate-destroying fossil fuels, and then, no doubt, they will sell their engineering skills dealing with the ever-worsening climate extremes. Now that’s win-win.

For the seventh time, almost three-quarters of Exxon shareholders voted down a resolution that would require the company to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from using Exxon products. Shareholders also rejected a resolution that would ban discrimination against gays.


31 May 13:08

How To Break Into Professional Writing By Trying Really, Really Hard

by Alyssa Rosenberg

This really was a lovely moment on twitter yesterday.

My friend, the AV Club TV editor Todd VanDerWerff, kicked off a great discussion on Twitter this afternoon of how to break into a career in writing this afternoon, much of ably archived by the media scholar Myles McNutt. I ended up rambling longer than I intended, but Dara Lind was kind enough to sort out my Tweets into a couple of broad categories, and I’m reposting her Storify here in case some of y’all are contemplating questions like how to write in between freelance assignments or managing professional jealousy and competition.

[View the story "Alyssa Explains It All" on Storify]

Because this appears to have been something people were excited about, I think we’ll do it again. I’ll post details on how to submit questions, and where discussions will take place in the future.


29 May 12:46

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games returns with Damsel in Distress: Part 2

by Megan Farokhmanesh

The college where I work has a Game Design major. I wonder what my students think of Sarkeesian's project.

Media critic and Feminist Frequency author Anita Sarkeesian released the second Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video, which further explores the "Damsel in Distress" trope.

The 25-minute video examines how the trope is often combined with "other tropes that victimize women," Sarkeesian says. You can watch her analysis above. Sarkeesian has marked the video with a trigger warning for graphic scenes involving violence against women.

The Damsel in Distress: Part 2 video was pulled from YouTube briefly earlier today after community members flagged it as inappropriate, according to the Feminist Frequency Twitter account. According to Sarkeesian, it's not the first time it's happened.

The video is part of a Kickstarter-funded series Sarkeesian began campaigning for in May of last year. Videos will touch on topics such as "The F#@k Toy," "The Sexy Sidekick," "Background Decoration" "Women as Reward" and "Man with Boobs."

The first video for Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which kicked off the examination of damsels in distress, was released March 7. The video explored popular franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Prince of Persia and Mario.

Update: Regarding the video's earlier disappearance from YouTube, a spokesperson told Polygon the following:

"With the volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. We have an appeals process in place for users, and when it's brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it."