2008 - %3, February

Kimmel's "F***ing Ben Affleck" Video: Homophobic?

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 5:14 PM EST

mojo-photo-kimmelaffleck.jpgThere's a bit of a comments war raging at gay-oriented blog Towleroad over an elaborate sketch from last night's Oscars after-show. The video in question was the latest installment in a running joke on Kimmel's ABC late-night show: recently his girlfriend Sarah Silverman brought in a video in which she announced she's "f***ing Matt Damon," with the Bourne star himself providing backup vocals. Kimmel scoring (with) Affleck was the only logical response, of course, but they really stepped up the production values, recruiting a slew of stars in a "We Are the World"-style sing-along: Robin Williams, Huey Lewis, Josh Groban?! It wasn't quite as funny as Silverman's bit (which twirled wildly through a pastiche of pop culture and musical references) and relied mostly on the shock value of its guest cameos, but some viewers are also finding that certain parts of the video crossed the line into homophobia. Kimmel and Affleck are dressed in ridiculous outfits that include skimpy jean shorts and a metallic green t-shirt, and they paint their toenails at what appears to be a gay tiki bar. While late-night comedy sketches aren't exactly, you know, hate-crimes legislation, and I typically side with comedians rather than the easily-offended, this one does bring up the question of how to tell when stereotypes are being mocked and when they're being exploited. Watch both Silverman/Damon's and Kimmel/Affleck's after the jump, and then commenters, rant away: are we watching a troubling bit of subtle gaysploitation, or should the PC police chill out and realize that laughing at stereotypes defuses them? And in general, how many times funnier is Sarah Silverman than Jimmy Kimmel?

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Democratic Governor of Alabama Railroaded?

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 5:01 PM EST

The Don Siegelman case has been followed in some corners of the mainstream media, but has yet to generate any real outrage. It should: It appears that the Democratic governor of Alabama was thrown into prison after Republican operatives and officeholders in the state (with the help of Karl Rove) gamed the justice system. People are speaking out, including 52 former state attorneys-general of both political parties who feel Siegelman was dealt a case of twisted justice. Let's hope this 60 Minutes report draws more attention to the situation. It's a good way to learn about the case.

One Week from Judgment Day, Clinton Steps Up the Attacks

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 1:46 PM EST

The conciliatory moment at the end of the Democrats' debate last week in Texas wasn't a sign of things to come. In fact, it was more of a head fake by Hillary Clinton, who has launched several attacks on Barack Obama in recent days, some of which are downright nasty. The remaining week before the primaries in Texas and Ohio may be a slimy one for the Democrats.

It started last week when the Clinton campaign attempted to connect Obama to two Hyde Park radicals that were part of the domestic terror group known as the Weather Underground. The pair, who are unrepentant about setting bombs in government buildings in the 1960s (possibly because they took care to avoid harming any bystanders), hosted an event at their house in the mid-1990s that Obama attended. One of them donated $200 to his state senatorial campaign. The connection is a weak one; there is no evidence Obama has a relationship with these people. What's more, Bill Clinton pardoned a different member of the Weather Underground, also unrepentant, who had served 16 years in prison on federal charges. The attack didn't get much traction in the press, but will undoubtedly be raised again by the McCain campaign should Obama win the Democratic nomination.

The Clinton assault on Obama then moved to Ohio.

Virgin Atlantic Biofuel Test a "Vital Breakthrough," Says Branson

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 1:45 PM EST

pond-scum-virgin-air.jpg

I wrote last month of Sir Richard Branson's conversion to the cause of environmentalism and his quest to develop a biofuel to power Virgin Atlantic's fleet of commercial aircraft. The much-hyped test flight of a Boeing 747 between London and Amsterdam finally went off over the weekend. Despite widespread speculation as to the type of fuel to be used (more than 20 different feedstocks were considered, everything from canola oil to pond scum), the flight relied on a blend of oils extracted from Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts to provide 20 percent of the test flight's power.

Branson proclaimed the flight to be a resounding success and a huge step forward in cleaning up the world's skies. "This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future," he said.

MoJo on Oscars' Picks (and a Truly Awesome Oscars Moment, for "Once")

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 12:36 AM EST

A pretty weighty Oscars bill this year. So no surprise that a slew of our picks were nominees. Check out these tidbits: a revealing interview with Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi, the artist behind Persepolis; an inside look at War/Dance; and our review of tonight's winner in the best documentary feature category, Taxi to the Dark Side.

And the feel-good story of the night? Hands down, best-song winners (up against two Alan Mencken powerhouses) Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won for "Falling Slowly" from the way-Indy film Once. Irglova, who faced music before she had her chance to get a word in, was later granted time to speak. And she took eloquent advantage: "Fair play to those who dare to dream, and don't give up. This song was written from the perspective of hope, and hope, at the end of the day, connects us all, no matter how different we are."

See Once (and skip Atonement). And like Hansard said: Make Art, Make Art.

If the Army Had Wanted You to Have a Family, it Would Have Issued You One, Soldier!

| Sun Feb. 24, 2008 10:16 PM EST

That's the kind of thing our hard-nosed superiors used to say to us when we bitched about how duty interfered with our lives (took me twice as long to get a BA, what with all the traveling). Some things cross a line though: military motherhood in a time of war without end might just be one of them. It was one thing, having to put my BA (and MA) on hold. I once had eight days to pack up my entire life in Maryland and report to Texas. Eight days, after waiting nearly a year for those orders. But, I was single, no kids. I managed. It would have been quite something else to wave bye bye to my newborn, as it turns out so many military moms are having to. Things just get worse and worse from our troops and our war.

Time away from family is the top reason given for troops not re-upping, a problem which affects the mothers of infants in a special way. The Army only gives new mothers six weeks of maternity leave and a four month delay in deployments. Unsurprisingly, women's willingness to serve in the Army has dropped faster even than the men's; from 10% to 4% according to the Army's youth surveys. Washington Post: "Other services grant longer exemptions, and all have generally shorter deployments: The Navy exemption is 12 months, and the Marine Corps's is six months, and deployments average seven months for both. The Air Force has a four-month exemption, but its deployments average only four to six months." Nearly 40% of women on active duty have children

You have to read the Post piece to make yourself dizzy getting behind the gestational math couples have to master to time getting pregnant at exactly the right moment between/during or after deployments. In the case of dual career military couples, infants end up spending the first year or so of their lives with grandparents or other more attenuated guardians. There went breastfeeding.

The military life isn't for everyone, but this is the kind of thing that the Pentagon brass had better do some serious thinking about. Potential recruits, and the mid-career types we're losing in droves, certainly are.

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US and Iraqi Women Reporting from Baghdad Win Awards. Thank Goodness They Lived to Collect Them

| Sun Feb. 24, 2008 9:34 PM EST

Bad as the sexual assault that women reporting from the Third World face, dying is pretty much worse. Having your family killed because of your reporting? Unimaginable. Yet, a woman is the only Western reporter permanently stationed in Baghdad; she and her team of six Iraqi women are, thankfully, being recognized for their bravery and talent. Still, one wonders what keeps them going in the face of such danger.

From womensenews:

Leila Fadel, McClatchy's Baghdad bureau chief, won the George R. Polk Award for outstanding foreign reporting. She is the only Western reporter permanently stationed in Baghdad and has spent many nights sleeping at the bureau because the security situation was too tenuous for reporters to travel to their homes. "Sometimes it feels like it us against everything so we have to make sure to trust each other because we can't trust anything. Everything has a risk. Everything could be our last story. People are so afraid to talk," she told Women's eNews in November 2007....
"Covering women is really hard and dangerous at the same time," says Huda Ahmed, one of six Iraqi women from the McClatchy Company's Baghdad news bureau to receive the International Women's Media Foundation's Courage in Journalism Award on Oct. 23. "We call to make an appointment and suddenly a male relative tells them not to talk to us."

Many Iraqi reporters, translators, and fixers have been killed or had family members murdered because of their work. These women employ tactics of deception that even 007 doesn't need - changing drivers, their appearance and their accents between checkpoints. Few tell their families what they really do, even though they are the sole breadwinner. They couldn't even tell their families were they were really going when they headed for New York to accept the award. Still, one award recipient's husband, daughter and mother-in-law were killed when insurgents learned that she was working as a translator (and later upgraded to reporter). Eventually she herself had to flee to Oklahoma. What PTSD she must have. But what a sense of achievement.

What Are Progressives to Think of Ralph Nader?

| Sun Feb. 24, 2008 1:54 PM EST

nader_voter.jpg Okay, so Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race and all of progressive America is having horrible flashbacks.

All of the criticisms of his 2004 run still hold, and even the left-wing blogosphere is completely against the idea. It's a narcissistic and, at this point, almost embarrassing endeavor that has only the chance to do harm to the progressive values and ideals Nader holds dear.

But let me suggest a stay of the beating of chests and tearing of garments. The Nader magic had diminished significantly by 2004, and is diminished further today. He is no longer the Green Party's chosen candidate, and his argument that the two parties are essentially identical doesn't hold water when one party is running a woman and an African-American. Any call for change that Nader makes this year will be a hollow echo of the calls the Democratic candidates are already making.

Besides, no candidate who took 0.38 percent of the vote in 2004, when the Democratic candidate was dramatically worse than the options available today, is going to see a resurgence in November 2008.

So fret not, citizens of Berkeley, Burlington, and Madison. You've made your mistakes with Nader in the past but America can forgive you. Particularly if you ignore him this time around.

Proto Political Correctness

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 10:04 PM EST

New Yorker, February 25, 2008 (not available online). Brahmin New Yorker and novelist Louis Auchincloss writing to his mother in 1945 (itals mine):

"Of course, like so many cynical jews, he believed that all people were like him except less smart. And that, don't you think, is their most trying characteristic: the unwillingness to concede any ethical approach in others higher than their own, the 'oh-ho I know you' attitude with which they sneer at a world that is bad enough to prove them right more than half the time. All of which, I suppose, would brand me as a hopeless anti-Semite, Nazi, etc., but one simply can't be bothered with labels any more"

Anti-semitism: just a 'label', an ipso facto slur and act of intellectual fascism since no decent white person like him could actually be guilty of that failing. It wasn't his fault the jews are so inferior but it was his duty to point it out. How he suffers under the white man's burden of saying what so obviously must be said. Gifted writer though he is, he didn't think to come up with the concept of 'political correctness'. So he could denounce it.

I love happening upon this kind of thing because it's so drearily amusing to hear whites go on today about how no one can speak "the truth" without running afoul of political correctness. "There used to be a time..." No, there hasn't been, not for a long time now.

Business 101: Get Green

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 9:20 PM EST

1337749333_03b6978c70_m.jpg Great piece in the Christian Science Monitor on a worldwide greening business climate. Notably, clean technology investments are on the rise because going green is turning out to be good for the bottom line. Businesses are surveying CO2 footprints, purchasing greenhouse-gas credits, and hinging executive bonuses on environmental targets. Meanwhile, Florida now requires investment managers of state money to report on the potential effects of climate risk as part of their semiannual reviews. Influential California state employee and teacher pension funds, collectively managing $420 billion, are devising strategies tied to climate change and potentially pulling capital from ungreen businesses. From the CSM:

A new study by international consulting firm McKinsey finds that half the necessary cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions can be achieved at a net profit. The study shows that investment in energy efficiency of about $170 billion annually worldwide would yield a profit of about 17 percent, or $29 billion. The Financial Times reports: "Diana Farrell, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, said: 'It shows just how much deadweight loss there is in the economy in energy use.' She said the most inefficient sector was heavy industry in China, with the second residential housing in the US, where homes are large, poorly insulated.

Meanwhile Michael Specter in the New Yorker writes that "Possessing an excessive carbon footprint is rapidly becoming the modern equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter." He reports on Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco supermarkets, Britain's largest retailer: