The new class of congressional Republicans may be the most right-wing ever. But they've already got lots of conservative company on the Hill. A sampling of vote ratings from a handful of groups—nonpartisan, liberal, and conservative—from the past decade shows that GOP lawmakers have been shifting away from the center more dramatically than Democrats or Congress as a whole.
Though gerrymandering is nearly as old as the Republic—its namesake was early 19th century Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced "Gary," if you please)—it's never really been a hot-button issue for voters. Gerrymandering seeks to change that with an entertaining yet outraged look at the odd practice of letting politicians pick their voters. Just consider the case of Barack Obama, who got a major career boost when he helped redraw the boundaries of his mostly black Illinois state Senate district so it represented white liberals.
A bipartisan cast of talking heads, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Howard Dean, make the case for reform. But Gerrymandering walks the boundary between documentary and political ad: Just as I received a review DVD at work, I also received a copy at home—mailed to me and other Golden State voters by the backers of a redistricting reform proposition.—Dave Gilson
One night in August 2006, a tanker chartered by Trafigura, a British oil trader, anchored off the Ivory Coast and illegally unloaded 500 tons of toxic waste into Abidjan's landfills. The pungent, blistering sludge killed 16 and hospitalized more than 100,000. Director Bagassi Koura's short documentary skillfully chronicles how Trafigura dodged environmental regulations to save a mere $300,000, only to spend millions trying to cover up its responsibility.
What makes The Stinking Ship so heartbreaking are the stories of the people still living with the effects of the "Ivorian Chernobyl," which has yet to be fully cleaned up. A community leader laments, "When it rains or it's windy, frankly we can't live in the village. The stench reaches far beyond it. We are walking dead." —Titania Kumeh
California's "green rush" has inspired a slew of above-ground businesses that cater to marijuana growers. Here's where budding hempreneurs can...
LEARN HOW TO GROW. With campuses in Oakland and L.A., Oaksterdam University ("America's first cannabis college") teaches everything from Horticulture 101 to Patient Relations (formerly called "Budtending").
SET UP A GROW HOUSE.Good Green Builders, "the first licensed, commercial grow room contractor in the Bay Area," assures clients that "the whole process will be completed with the utmost discretion." If your indoor harvest fails to thrive, get advice from pros like Green Thumb Consulting and See Your Green.
GET INSURED. What if your crop burns down or gets ripped off by the competition? Statewide Insurance Services sells policies for "medical marijuana crop coverage" and "mobile grow operations."
STAY VIGILANT. Monitor your grow with temperature sensors and motion detectors sold by Ecoview Systems; in the event of a fire or a break-in, you'll get an email alert.
MAINTAIN QUALITY CONTROL. Labs like Oakland's CW Analytical Laboratories will sample your product for harmful biological or chemical agents. And while the USDA won't go there, Clean Green will certify your crop as organic.
FOLLOW THE SHOP TALK. Check out Rosebud, "your one source for everything hydroponics from wickedly effective growing info to the lifestyle and freedom that surrounds it," a glossy dedicated to indoor "crop" cultivation. If you want a magazine that's not afraid to mention pot, there's West Coast Cannabis.
COULD THE RECESSION KILL THE WAR ON POT? That's the theory put forward by Euan Wilson in a 2009 paper (PDF) in The Socionomist, which suggests a connection between America's economic climate and our attitudes toward marijuana: When we're flush, we can "afford" to focus on "black and white moral issues"; in tough times, we're more tolerant of pot. Wilson predicts that the sluggish economy will cause a critical mass of support for legalization, just as the Great Depression soured Americans on Prohibition. More fodder for his hypothesis: In November, a ballot measure to legalize pot in cash-strapped California did surprisingly well, getting 46 percent of the vote.
Over at McSweeney's, Ben Greeman has imagined some scenes from WikiLeaks! The Musical, in which a playground snub inspires the young Julian Assange to leak the impossible leak. In a moment that evokes both The Social Networkand a Disney princess movie, Assange channels his frustrations and aspirations into song:
I'll dub myself Mendax
It means "noble liar."
I'll remake myself as a
High-tech town crier
When people attempt
To hide information
I will be the one
To compel revelation
In fact, the real-life Assange tried his hand at writing lyrics in 1995, when he penned "The Dan Farmer rap," a nerdy, profane, and homophobic rhyme about a rival digital security geek. Some selected verses, written under the handle "Proff":
I'm Dan Farmer, you can't fool me -
the only security consultant to be on MTV.
I've got long red hair - hey hands off man!
don't touch the locks of the mighty Dan.
AC/DC - from the front or from behind,
you can fuck my arse but you can't touch my mind.
Read the full rap after the jump. The Dan Farmer rap got mixed reviews, as Assange wrote a few days after its release: "[A]fter a rather hetic [sic] weak, I return to find my mail box stuffed with assorted flames, congratulations and occasional mis-directed but rational advice about my posting of 'The Dan Farmer rap'. Unfortunately flames outweighted the latter two categories by a 3:1 ratio—and I received a lot of endorsements." Though the rap was meant as good fun, he conceded that it might have been better to keep it…secret: "The DFR had been circulating in security circles for a week or so as an object of wry humor prior to its public release. In retrospect, this is probably where it should have stayed." Assange said his real mistake was assuming that a larger audience would appreciate his rhymes: "Such mistakes are ripe to happen when one is merry and full of wine in the wee hours of the morning."
Fortunately, Assange stuck to writing code. Though recently, he ventured into the studio for a cameo in an episode of the satirical Rap News, in which he attacked a rhyming rival who dared touch his hair. (Stick around until around 4:55.)
And for more Assange-inspired musical madness, check out MoJo cartoonist Mark Fiore's Disney-WikiLeaks mashup set to the tune of "It's a Small World."