This Halloween, let me give you as your treat this 1918 U.S. government pamphlet about venereal disease given to soldiers returning from World War I.
Trick or treat indeed.
This Halloween, let me give you as your treat this 1918 U.S. government pamphlet about venereal disease given to soldiers returning from World War I.
Trick or treat indeed.
Last night, I went to see the great Jon Dee Graham at a bar in Newport, Rhode Island. I used to see Graham all the time when I lived in Austin. The gravelly-voiced songwriter is maybe the not greatest singer in the world but he is witty and funny and cranky and writes some outstanding songs. Soon after I left Texas, Graham was driving home to Austin from a show in Dallas, fell asleep, wrecked his car, and nearly died. But he’s back, albeit with about 50 more pounds on him than he had a few years ago. What this show was for me was a lesson in the difficulties of being a lifer on the road. This bar is an excellent beer bar, one of the best in Rhode Island. It was also way, way too loud for a show like this because there was no cover and most of the people didn’t care. This was just background music for them. When you are playing an acoustic guitar, that has to be incredibly frustrating and indeed it was for Graham, even though he’s probably played this kind of show 200 times. Still, he soldiered on and as the people who didn’t care about the music petered out, things got better for him and for the show. It wasn’t the same as seeing him on Wednesday night at the Continental Club performing before James McMurtry’s famed midnight sets, but it was as good as it’s going to get in Rhode Island.
Below is a clip of his most famous song. Mike June, with whom I was unfamiliar, accompanies him here. He also opened last night to a crowd that cared even less and was even louder than when Jon Dee played.
In a massive change of pace, Michael Bay is going from toy tentpole to a Benghazi political drama.
Bay is in negotiations to direct 13 Hours, the adaptation of Mitchell Zuckoff’s book about the attack on an American compound in Libya that left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens dead.
Chuck Hogan wrote the script adapting the book, which details how on Sept. 11, 2012, terrorists attacked the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound in Benghazi. The focus is on six members of a security team that valiantly fought to defend the many Americans stationed there. They only partially succeeded: Stevens and a foreign service worker were killed in one attack, and two contract workers were killed during a second assault on a CIA station nearby.
Erwin Stoff is producing the Paramount film.
Bay has spent the better part of almost a decade in the land of Transformers movies, which have budgets of more $200 million, if not $250 million, each. He also took time to do a passion project, 2013’s Pain & Gain, which had a budget of around $26 million. Sources say that 13 Hours would be budgeted in the $30 to $40 million range.
$30-40 million? Can Bay even shoot the scenes where the Obama Administration gives security information directly to Al Qaeda for that money?
Black Tuesday was 85 years ago yesterday.
I went on the Rick Smith Show to talk about its legacy and how we are tearing down the institutions that ensured working people would not have their lives destroyed by corporate greed enacted in the following decades.
Listen to my interview here.
The global deforestation problem is primarily one of a post-colonial economy, with rich nations importing the raw goods of developing world nations for their own luxurious lifestyles, leaving poverty and ecological catastrophe in their wake:
Four commodities produced in just eight countries are responsible for a third of the world’s forest loss, according to a new report. Those familiar with the long-standing effort to stop deforestation won’t be surprised by the commodities named: beef, palm oil, soy, and wood products (including timber and paper). Nor will they be very surprised by most of the countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay.
“The trend is clear, the drivers of deforestation have been globalized and commercialized”, said co-author Martin Persson with Chalmers University of Technology.
“From having been caused mainly by smallholders and production for local markets, an increasing share of deforestation today is driven by large-scale agricultural production for international markets,” said Persson.
This means that much of the deforestation in question is actually driven by consumer demand from abroad.
“If we exclude Brazilian beef production, which is mainly destined for domestic markets, more than half of deforestation in our case countries is driven by international demand,” confirmed Persson.
The biggest importer of these deforesting commodities was China, linked largely to wood products (timber and paper) from Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, as well as palm oil imports from the latter. The EU was the second biggest importer of the four commodities, due to imports of palm oil from Indonesia, beef from Brazil, and soy from Latin America. India came in third, largely due to palm oil imports from Indonesia.
The U.S. was not a major importer, mostly because it produces the bulk of its own beef and soy.
It is interesting that the U.S. is not a leading driver of this, but that’s only because we have own natural resources to use. Europe doesn’t and for their talk about being more green, which is in some ways true, cutting down tropical forests for palm oil is not exactly a sustainable national ecological footprint.
Obviously there are no easy answers to any of these problems. But problems they very much are indeed.
In the wake of Romney’s 47% comments in 2012, the much needed recording of private Republican speeches continues, this time catching Lindsey Graham making some choice remarks:
According to the CNN report Wednesday, Graham confirmed the veracity of the recordings. Graham was speaking to the Hibernian Society of Charleston, a charitable group with an all-male membership.
In the recording according to CNN, Graham is heard saying: “I’m trying to help you with your tax status. I’m sorry the government’s so f——- up. If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”
And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that this is Lindsey Graham speaking from his heart, such as it is. I have no doubt a Lindsey Graham presidency would be excellent for elite white men. And horrible for everyone else.
I’m a congenital pessimist, so don’t give me too much credit for drawing attention to this pending debacle-cum-comic-relief. Instead, all praise should go to National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who reported Monday evening that a source “close to” Jindal was willing to confirm that the “slight” governor “has gained 13 pounds over the past few months” because he’s “looking to beef up” now that the 2016 campaign is “on the horizon.” Yes indeed, the guy whose political future began to unravel as soon as people noticed he sounded like Kenneth from “30 Rock” seems to think he can revive his flatlining career by reminding everyone that he doesn’t exactly reflect the Republican Party base’s particular vision of rugged masculinity.
Before reading the National Review piece, I assumed Jindal would run, fare poorly and then lobby the ultimate GOP nominee to pick him as vice president. There’s nothing wrong with that; it can often lead to a cabinet position in a future administration, and is a very traditional course for a second- or third-tier presidential aspirant to take. But now that I know Team Jindal is oblivious enough to think his career can be salvaged by cultivating mass? Well, I think it’s time we ready ourselves for a campaign that’s so lost in the Tea Party twilight zone that anything could happen.
Clearly, Bobby Jindal defeating Hillary Clinton in the all important arm wrestling portion of the 2nd debate will put him over the top.
No band in America makes people with decent taste want to punch themselves in the face like Florida Georgia Line, the Nickelback of country music.
Ebola causes you to leak fluids from your body’s orifices and bleed internally until your body starts to slowly shut down. Then you die from a combination of low blood-pressure and organ failure. If you have the misfortune of being an American who catches this vile disease, the media will ruthlessly invade your privacy and reveal every minute detail of your life to the public. This is a horrid fate for anyone unfortunate enough to catch this terrible malady.
And I would gladly endure it all so long as I never again have to suffer the experience of sitting seven rows back from the stage while Florida-Georgia Line and Jason Aldean gleefully danced on the grave of one of the most purely American forms of art to the tune of cheers from 9,999 very intoxicated people.
Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line looks like country music’s take on Scott Stapp, with his flowing hair and affinity for bare skin and crosses. While on stage he and Brian Kelley and the rest of the band all sported one of their own band’s T-shirts. Yes, they’re an entire band of “that guys.” Hubbard also handled most of the band’s singing duties, including occasionally dropping into a rap-like cadence while Kelley stood around playfully strumming an acoustic guitar that’s nowhere to be heard in the mix. Congrats bro-country, you have your Limp Bizkit.
Florida-Georgia Bizkit’s performance came to a giant apex of overtly stitched denim, explosions and smoke when the band launched into their current hit song “Dirt.” This is not said lightly, but “Dirt” might be the single worst song to be a No. 1 hit in the history of country music, though we’re about 5 years away from Axl Rose going country in a cash grab. Accept it, America: We’re getting a pedal-steel version of “Patience” and the country audience is gonna eat it up.
“Dirt” contains lyrics like “We all came from it” and “Build your corn field, whiskey bonfires on it” and for the love of everything I swear it’s like the people who love these songs don’t realize that none of them are actually farmers. It took everything in me to not turn to the dad sporting Puma branded golf gear and point out that driving a truck does not autocratically make one the Marlboro Man. Oh, and the band played “Dirt” twice just in case you were wondering how hard they were pushing the single.
Congratulations Justin Moore and Outlaws Like Me, you’re officially off the hot seat. Because right here, right now, I am unilaterally declaring that Florida Georgia Line’s new album Anything Goes is the worst album ever released in the history of country music. Ever. Including Florida Georgia Line’s first album Here’s To The Good Times, including anything else you can muster from the mainstream, including a 4-track recording made by a head trauma victim in a walk-in closet with a Casiotone keyboard and an out-of-tune banjo. Anything Goes can slay all comers when it comes to its heretofore unattainable degree of peerless suckitude.
In a word, this album is bullshit. Never before has such a refined collection of strident clichés been concentrated in one insidious mass. Never before have the lyrics to an album evidenced such narrowcasted pseudo-mindless incoherent drivel. Never before have such disparate and diseased influences been married so haphazardly in a profound vacuum of taste, and never have all of these atrocities been platooned together to be proffered to the public without someone, anyone with any bit of conscience and in a position of power putting a stop to this poisoning of the listening public.
Shiny objects and fire also seem to excite and distract Florida Georgia Line and fill them with a profound sense of wonder, and so soliloquies to these things also show up occasionally, as does the word “good.” They really like that word.
“Got on my smell good.
Got a bottle of feel good.
Shined up my wheels good.
You’re looking real good.”
That verse pretty much sums up this entire album. And no, these are not lyrics to the song that is actually titled “Good Good.”
Florida Georgia Line is serving the same role for music critics as Guy Fieri does for food critics: as the prime example of why we can’t have nice things. Of course, the people who like Florida Georgia Line and Fieri, who I basically assume are the exact same people, don’t care. They are happy to spend $25 on a terrible burger covered with Guy’s Fiery Awesome Sauce and then drink 13 Michelob Ultras while listening to the worst music this nation has ever produced, a genre about trucks and rural life and being tough for a bunch of people who live in Round Rock or Cobb County who wouldn’t know corn from wheat or a bulldozer from a combine.
And is it my role to be a snob and look down on these people? Yes. Yes it is.
This probably won’t surprise you, but Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, the labor organization fighting for labor rights in the restaurant industry, has released a report showing the vast racial disparities between whites and African-Americans in the restaurants of several cities:
The study from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, based in New York, concluded that workers of color in New Orleans who have the same qualifications as white workers receive “living wage opportunities” 62 percent as often as white workers.
It found 61 percent of minority servers and bartenders earn less than twice the poverty level, while 48 percent of white workers fall to the same level. A quarter of black workers in the industry and 23 percent of Hispanic workers are unemployed while only 3 percent of white workers are left out of jobs, the study said.
The group used federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data to count a total of 57,000 restaurant workers in New Orleans, Metairie and Kenner and conclude that six of the 10 lowest paid occupations in the metropolitan area are restaurant jobs.
In addition to compiling labor and Census data, the study included sending equally qualified white and black testers to apply for jobs in 90 “fine-dining” establishments in New Orleans. Researchers also interviewed workers and employers and visited restaurants to observe “visible occupational segregation.”
My wife, who has deep connections in the Mexican migrant community in her home area, attests to this very issue in restaurants there. She notes to me repeatedly that servers and cooks are chosen primarily by color, where the whitest Mexicans are out front and dark Mexicans are in the back. This is just one of many areas where race and work intersect to make the lives of darker skinned people in this nation harder.
This Vox piece on 5 products you buy that drive human rights abuses is good enough. I talk about the shrimp industry at some length in my forthcoming capital mobility book. If you are buying frozen shrimp, just assume you are either supporting slave labor or something way too close to it. The apparel industry is of course notorious for its exploitation, as is chocolate production.
But the larger point that the author doesn’t make is that most of the products you buy engage in outright exploitation because the system of capital mobility allows corporations to exploit workers and destroy ecosystems around the globe with impunity and the outsourcing and subcontracting system further makes protects corporations from accountability. So sure, these are horrible industries but if we want to do anything about them we have to think systemically about the system of modern global capitalism that creates these horrors. And the article doesn’t really do that.
Plumer has a good rundown of the complexity of dam building around the world. The world’s rapidly growing demand for energy means that every way we can turn the natural world into power is going to be considered. Given how many of those methods of energy production also transform the climate in horrible ways, hydropower seems smart. But hydropower also has its own major problems. It forces sometimes hundreds of thousands to move from their homes. It drastically transforms aquatic ecosystems, imperiling fish and other species. It may well create unintended consequences that undermine its clean energy reputation. Building dams also reflects power differentials in society as a whole. Thus you have a nation like Chile seeking to dam rivers over the desires of the people who occupy the land, i.e., the Mapuche. So dam building becomes another round in the 500+ year history of colonialism and racism against indigenous peoples in the Americas.
And mostly, we don’t really know what we are doing when we build dams. In the U.S., this led to a lot of bad dams that provided little power but had significant negative consequences for people and ecosystems. That’s almost certainly happening around the world today.
As with all energy questions, there are no easy answers. But hydroelectric is not a panacea either and should be expanded with the kind of caution one would want to see with gigantic projects that will reshape entire parts of the world. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.