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A Bad Obsession

[ 36 ] October 30, 2014 |

This will probably be the last post I write about #GamerGate for awhile. The truth is it’s taken up way too much of my time and way too much space in my brain. It reminds of the time I read an article in the Boston Globe about the busting of a ring of pedophiles. I actually could not make it all the way through the article (because it was so horrifying). But it still took up a lot of space in my brain, too much space. It was overshadowing things that were good–a moment of relaxation here or there, the enjoyment of my family and my art–and replacing those things with a sense of horror and despair.

#GamerGate, in many ways, has affected me in the same way. There have been times I have laughed, but it’s always been a bitter laugh because (moment of soul-baring honesty here) it depresses me that there are so many aggressively stupid knuckle-dragging, pants-shitting, fit-throwing, spittle-flecking little asshole misogynists in the world. I mean, sure, Gators are hilarious, but it’s a dark kind of hilarious, and the whole ugly… thing has finally taken it’s toll.

So why do I keep talking about it? Because I don’t know what winning means to these little butt boils, but I do know that I don’t want them winning. I don’t want these keyboard toddler-warriors learning the lesson that if they fling enough shit, throw enough fits and threaten enough women that they can cow corporations/people into doing their bidding (whatever that amorphous, bizarre bidding is). The idea of a GG “victory” makes me want to punch holes in my drywall.

So I am–you may all praise Satan now–taking a small respite from #GamerGate. Gosh, I’ve got a piece to finish and a Creature Feature to plan. But before I let you all take your Silkwood showers, I leave you with this: GGer’s are just–by and large–horrible human beings.

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Look, You Can’t Pretend To Care About Trivial Problems Without a Lot of Abuse Directed Almost Exclusively At Women

[ 48 ] October 30, 2014 |

Shorter Christina Hoff Summers: “It’s about ethics in gaming journalism.”

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Benghazi! By Michael Bay

[ 64 ] October 30, 2014 |

This will no doubt be the greatest film in history:

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?

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Happy 85th to the Great Depression!

[ 16 ] October 30, 2014 |

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.

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What Causes Deforestation?

[ 18 ] October 30, 2014 |

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.

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Operation Record Private Republican Speeches Continues

[ 65 ] October 30, 2014 |

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.

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Easy For You To Say

[ 31 ] October 30, 2014 |

Since Michelle Martin’s excellent essay produced expected victim-blaming reactions, it’s worth noting that Anna North is also excellent on the question of why victims of this kind of abuse feel they can’t come forward:

“Each of the women accusing Ghomeshi cite the case of Carla Ciccone as a reason they desire anonymity. Last year Ciccone wrote an article for the website XOJane about a ‘bad date’ with an unidentified, very popular Canadian radio host whom readers speculated to be Ghomeshi.

“In the days that followed, Ciccone received hundreds of abusive messages and threats. An online video calling her a ‘scumbag of the Internet’ has been viewed over 397,000 times.”

In her 2013 XOJane piece, Ms. Ciccone writes that a man she calls Keith, who “has a successful radio show in Canada,” repeatedly tried to touch her when they went to a concert together, even after she asked him to stop.

Those who speak up about sexual harassment or violence have long been subject to public scrutiny and criticism. But an onslaught of online abuse and threats has become a strikingly common response to women’s public statements — see for instance the threats Anita Sarkeesian and others have received when they speak publicly about misogyny in video games.

Brianna Wu, a game developer, details her harassment in an essay at XOJane, describing death and rape threats as well as threats to her career:

“They tried to hack my company financially on Saturday, taking out our company’s assets. They’ve tried to impersonate me on Twitter in an effort to discredit me. They are making burner accounts to send lies about my private life to prominent journalists. They’ve devastated the metacritic users’ score of my game, Revolution 60, lowering it to 0.3 out of 100.”

Of the effects of this abuse, she writes:

“I woke up twice last night to noises in the room, gasping with fear that someone was there to murder me. I can barely function without fear or jumpiness or hesitation. I’ve been driven from my home. My husband says he feels like he’s been shot.”

It’s easy for armchair warriors who aren’t in this kind of vulnerable position to demand courage from others. Easy, and wrong, and deeply offensive.


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A Partial Defense Of Martha Coakley

[ 35 ] October 30, 2014 |

Brother Pierce makes two eminently fair points here. First of all, while there’s no excuse for a Democrat losing a statewide election for federal office in Massachusetts, Republican governors have been more the exception than the rule in the Bay State. So, it’s entirely possible that she’s running a decent campaign this time in a way she didn’t in 2010; Charles says she is and I’m obviously in no position to contradict him.

In addition, none of my previous snark should be construed as an argument that Democrats should abandon Coakley or reflect any sympathy for the Globe endorsing her opponent. As Tomasky said in re: the 2000 campaign:

Second, some voted for Nader because they just weren’t inspired by Gore personally. Fine. But it should be obvious today that a candidate’s personality is one of the last things serious people ought to be thinking about…And that’s only the stuff you hear about. In every agency of government, at every level, there are political appointees who are interpreting federal rules and regulations and deciding how much effort will really be put into pursuing federal discrimination cases, for instance, or illegal toxic dumping. These are the people who are, in fact, the federal government. The kinds of people who fill those slots in a Democratic administration are of a very different stripe than the kinds who fill them during a Republican term, and the appointments of these people have a bigger effect on real life than whether Al Gore sighs too heavily or speaks too slowly.

Yes, yes, the stakes are lower in a state election. But a lot of people get hurt when Republicans are in charge of enforcing laws even if a Democratic legislature can limit the statutory damage.

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New Internet Film School column: Why good horror should damn near bore you to tears

[ 7 ] October 30, 2014 |


On the Japanese version of Ringu and why she’s having so much fun up there. Sample:

The most interesting visual element in this shot is the perspective implied by the camera placement. By partially obscuring the view of Reiko Asakawa, Nakata suggests that this might be a point-of-view shot, thereby planting in the minds of the audience the idea that perhaps she’s being watched—and that the audience might be sharing the perspective of whoever (or whatever) is doing the watching. The fact that the camera is perfectly still here adds to the unease, because that lack of movement alone suggests the watcher may (or may not) be in plain sight, yet is undetected and wishes to remain so. In classic horror fashion, Nakata wants his audience to inhabit the mind and perspective of a stalker.

And you know what? Being a stalker is dull…


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[ 52 ] October 30, 2014 |

So you’ve probably seen all of this:

Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.) But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a “chickenshit.” I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn’t have a full understanding. From time to time, current and former administration officials have described Netanyahu as a national leader who acts as though he is mayor of Jerusalem, which is to say, a no-vision small-timer who worries mainly about pleasing the hardest core of his political constituency. (President Obama, in interviews with me, has alluded to Netanyahu’s lack of political courage.)

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat.

These quotes fill me with interesting thoughts and feelings!

  • It’s very interesting to me (although not surprising) that Bibi’s efforts to look tough and resolute to one crowd (domestic audience, Israel backers in US),come off as cowardly and irresolute to another (the Obama admin). Policymakers face different priorities; it’s almost impossible that they can look tough to everyone. Reaffirms my view that reputation is complex, multifaceted, and that generally it’s a waste of time to spend blood and treasure on displaying “resolve.”
  • The depth of the animosity towards Bibi is intriguing, but not particularly surprising. Bibi’s most significant mistake in handling the United States has been his urge to turn Israel into a partisan issue, and throw in with the Republican Party. It hasn’t happened quite yet, but you can see the threat on the horizon. It’s an apocalyptical stupid move for Bibi to make, however emotionally satisfying it may be in the moment to rail against the weakness of a Democratic President.
  • Speaking of apocalyptic stupidity, can we all agree now on just how bad the 2010 “Israel is about to bomb Iran” article from Jeffrey Goldberg was? You remember; Goldberg breathlessly transcribed the statements of Israeli policymakers on how they viewed the Iranian nuclear program as a VERY SERIOUS MATTER that would require VERY SERIOUS BOMBING unless Obama did something. That the article amounted to a transparent Israeli bluff should have been obvious at the time, but inexplicably some people took it seriously.  Turns out now that the Obama administration has concluded that Bibi is chickenshit, in part because of the serial claims about Bibi’s dire views of the Iranian threat. Cry wolf enough times, even Americans will stop believing you.
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“Do you know about Jian?”

[ 63 ] October 30, 2014 |

To follow up on my earlier post on prominent ex-CBC radio host and twelfth-rate topical songwriter Jian Ghomeshi, there are now 8 women who have accused him of sexual assault and/or harassment. Should he be criminally prosecuted, he is entitled to due process and the formal presumption of innocence. But the idea that all 8 of these women are lying is too absurd to be worth a moment’s consideration outside that context. In addition, his less-than-frivolous lawsuit would be comical if it weren’t so obviously designed to intimidate his victims under a legal shield.

For your must-reading, I present Melissa Martin’s essay:

Still, the follow-up question, then, the one I keep seeing asked: if so many people knew, why didn’t anyone stick their neck out to stop it?

My question is: would you?

Would you, if you had nothing besides stories that weren’t yours, little things you’d seen, a million tiny red flags that quietly added up to make you feel unsafe? Would you, if sticking your neck out meant publicly taking on one of the most influential people in the Canadian media landscape, someone with more money than you, more lawyers, more protection from his fame? Would you, if you knew that with a few carefully maneuvered cocktail meetings, a few woe-is-me turns of phrase, this person could quietly ensure that you didn’t work in that big town again?

Oh, please. “You see, officer, there was just something about the way he pressed himself against her back, about the way her body tensed and she tried to step away from that… and then my friend asked if I knew about Jian…”

No, no you wouldn’t stick your neck out there. Besides, there was nobody really to listen, nobody to tell it to.

But, really, read the whole thing.

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That Kind of Luxe Just Ain’t For Us

[ 38 ] October 30, 2014 |

Should the Mariners ever get to a World Series, I hope it’s not against Madison Bumgarner and Bruce Bochy. (Pedro against Cleveland in 1999 is the analogy that came to mind while it was happening, and still seems appropriate.) Congrats to the Giants.

My initial reaction, in absence of a decent replay, was that Gordon should have tried to score, particularly given that Perez was pretty much drawing dead (I’m surprised he laid off even 2 of the relentless parade of balls Bumgarner smartly threw him.) But I was wrong; he made the right play. I also agree with Jeer9 that the positioning of Juan Perez that allowed him to get what looked like a sure base hit off Aoki’s bat was an underrated huge play in the game.

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