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."
Coming up with names for political action committees is among the odder dark arts practiced in Washington, DC. Unlike most branding excercises, naming a PAC is not about finding a name that's descriptive or catchy. Rather it's about finding a name that most people will read right past. As Nicko Margolies of the Sunlight Foundation writes, "These names are so agreeable, so reasonable, so inclusive, so damned American and yet their names reveal nothing about who funded these groups. It could be your coworkers, a couple billionaires, a band of small business owners, a gaggle of big corporations or maybe that nice fellow who says hello every morning. You just don’t know." And that's how we wound up with hundreds of political fundraising groups with anodyne names like Alliance for America's Future, Progress, Vision & Commitment, Invest in a Strong and Secure America, and Beacuse I Care PAC. (There are some amusing exceptions, such as Lousiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's Jazz PAC and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi's PAC to the Future).
So what would you call your shadowy fundraising organization? The Sunlight Foundation has just released this fun widget that generates 28,000 different imaginary PAC names. (My favorites so far: A P.O. Box for America's Founding Fathers, Households for America the Beautiful, and Vampires for Prosperity.) Give it a spin:
On Tuesday, a web site popped up to promote the new iPhone 4cf, "the same high quality phone as the original iPhone 4 with the added bonus of taking you one step closer to a world without conflict." The "conflict-free" smartphone marked a departure for Apple, which has been criticized for using "conflict minerals" from war-torn areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo in its gadgets. Design-wise, the site was a dead-ringer for the main Apple site (more images here), but by the time you got to the part where it called for the citizen's arrest of mining executives, you had to realize something was amiss.
The visually pitch-perfect site had all the hallmarks of the Yes Men. Sure enough, its URL was registered to one "Harold Schweppes" at gatt.org, one of the anticorporate pranksters' early spoof sites. But then, as of yesterday morning, the iPhone 4cf site had vanished. The closest thing to an explanation was a phony Apple press release condemning the site as "fraudulent and fictitious, and entirely the imagination of the group of pranksters who created it."
Where'd it go? It's not like the Yes Men had an ill-gotten iPhone prototype on their hands. And they're hardly afraid of incurring the wrath of corporate America. (Check out their aggressive mockery of Chevron's current PR campaign or their impersonation of the US Chamber of Commerce.) I emailed Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, who explained that the site was pulled after its "heroic internet provider" got a nastygram from Apple. "Apple's heavy-handed and humorless reaction just shows where their big mechanical (and conflict-mineral-rich) corporate heart is at. More is learned by that than would be by keeping the website up," he wrote.
Bichlbaum said that the iPhone site will soon relaunch somewhere else. That's good, if only because it's a beautiful hoax. But beyond the graphics, the site's content is confusing. It's not immediately clear if it's presenting a "conflict-free" phone as something cool or ludicrous. And while the site is clearly poking fun at Apple's techno-utopian branding, it also praises the company's efforts to keep conflict minerals out of its products as a "step in the right direction."
In elections past, a good indicator of whether a candidate would win was to look at how much money they had raised: the more money, the better their chances. In this, the first post-Citizens United election, that equation may have been pushed aside by a new math. Now, what may matter more is how much money other people are spending to elect—or defeat—a candidate. As David Corn wrote earlier today, independent advocacy groups have poured nearly half a billion* dollars into this election—much of it raised behind closed doors from undisclosed donors.
So, have the "dark money" groups and super PACs gotten their dollar's worth? A quick sampling of election results suggests that they did. In most of the races below, the loser was the candidate who had the most independent money expended to defeat him/her; conversely, winners generally had more outside cash spent to elect them. We'll keep looking at the data after the election results are final to see if this trend holds up. If it does, it's proof that this election really did change the rules of the campaign finance game.