Blogs

Note to Fashion World: Michelle Obama Is Black

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 5:50 PM EST

Womens' Wear Daily commissioned top designers to 'dress' Michelle Obama in her role as First Lady. I'm with Slate's Julia Turner: Why'd so many draw her as a shiksa?

I get that these drawings are stylizations but, to design for someone individually sorta requires you to deal with their skin tone, right? Would they drape a 'winter' in 'summer' colors? A few of the drawings make her downright Nubian, but a suspicious few too many have re-imagined her no darker than a color best described as "geisha".

Why? When they design for white folks, do the skin tones in the drawings vary far from alabaster? One hates to get all psychological on a Thursday, but are these artists 'helping' her by making her whiter (and thus 'capable' of beauty) or are they so squeamish in imagining a sister in couture that they have to whitewash her to make her 'worthy' of high fashion?

Check out the drawings yourself. Maybe I'm overreacting.

Nah. We're looking at some Freudian slips here.

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YouTube Wrapup: Kermit Sings LCD Soundsystem, Pole Dancing Robots, Mashup Mayhem, Walrus Saxophone Action

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 5:44 PM EST

Okay, after that brief foray into serious music (allegedly), we could use a bit of nutty internet video-style distraction. If you've ever wondered what hipster band a Muppet should cover, why strippers weren't more mechanical, how to mix 8,000 songs together with a thimble, or what walruses do in their spare time, click "continues."

Fiddling While Our University System Burns

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 5:10 PM EST

The conservatives over at The City Journal are mourning the death of the classical university education:

...in recent decades, classical and traditional liberal arts education has begun to erode, and a variety of unexpected consequences have followed. The academic battle has now gone beyond the in-house "culture wars" of the 1980s. Though the argument over politically correct curricula, controversial faculty appointments, and the traditional mission of the university is ongoing, the university now finds itself being bypassed technologically, conceptually, and culturally, in ways both welcome and disturbing.

It's no big deal though. Our kids won't be able to afford to go to college. From NYT:

November Sales

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 4:16 PM EST

NOVEMBER SALES....Actual retail sales figures for November are in:

Major retailers such as Macy's, Abercrombie & Fitch and GAP reported sales declines of more than 10% in November....Shops hoped that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, would jump-start consumer outlay but industry experts were downbeat.

....ShopperTrak, a retail monitoring firm, said total sales at US retailers rose 1% during the Black Friday weekend but analysts believe much of that gain will have been stoked by deep discounts and will hit profits....The International Council of Shopping Centers, which represents stores including GAP and JCPenney, said sales at 37 major retailers fell 2.7% over November — the worst start to the holiday season in 35 years.

Given this, does anyone even remotely believe the National Retail Federation's annual Black Friday estimate, which suggests that retail sales over the Thanksgiving weekend were up 20% this year? Media outlets, as usual, reported the NRF's numbers as gospel, but I'd suggest that in the future they should simply toss them in the waste bin. As near as I can tell, they have no basis in reality at all.

Grammy Nominees Not Terrible?

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 3:56 PM EST

mojo-photo-grammys.jpgAs everyone knows, the Grammys are dumb. I've mocked the ceremony (and also an imagined ceremony in my brain) as well as the tendency of the lists of nominees to look like a stoned 80-year-old decided them. So, granted, my expectations are very low, but a quick glance at this year's nods has left me with a distinct lack of disgust, and my eyebrows might have even gone up a bit in appreciation. Just a little!

Why Obama Should Replace Larry Summers With Eliot Spitzer

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 3:42 PM EST

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It's easy to snicker at Slate magazine for signing up Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor and onetime john, as a regular columnist. But judging from Spitzer's first outing, it was a master stroke.

The manner in which Spitzer crashed and burned has essentially wiped out the pre-prostitution portion of the Spitzer tale, which included his longtime stint as a critic of corporate excesses. But Spitzer's opening column in Slate is a reminder that in these days of multi-billion-dollar bailouts, there are few powerful and knowledgeable figures in government raising the appropriate questions and challenging the save-the-rich orthodoxy.

From his Slate piece:

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Yet More News From Canada

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 3:13 PM EST

YET MORE NEWS FROM CANADA....Unions support card check legislation because they think it will make it easier to organize new industries. Business leaders dislike card check for the same reason. But what they say is that card check is bad because it allows union organizers to intimidate workers into signing cards. Now, business leaders are well-known for their tender sensibilities toward worker rights, but Jonathan Zasloff decided to check up on the intimidation story anyway:

For 50 years, from the 40's to the 90's. the province of Ontario had a card-check organizing system....So what was the record there?

I used advanced research techniques unknown to many reporters, and called up Harry Arthurs of York University, Canada's pre-eminent labour law scholar. Arthurs literally wrote the book on this stuff. And I asked him: what does the evidence show?

Arthurs answered that in all of his research about labour law complaints under card check, he could not find a single case where the employer complained of a union intimidating workers to unionize when they didn't want to.

That's right: zero. Zilch. Nada. Efes. Rien.

....This isn't some obscure jurisdiction. It's Ontario, the largest and richest province in the country. 50 years. A half a century. Zero.

Look: unions aren't perfect. Nothing is perfect. The financial industry, just to pick an example out of my hat, is obviously wildly imperfect, but that doesn't mean we should get rid of the private financial industry. It just means we should regulate it to avoid some of its worst pathologies.

Ditto for unions. If anyone has a better mechanism for giving workers more bargaining clout and therefore higher wages, I'm all ears. Anyone who thinks collective bargaining is a good idea but believes we ought to reform the Wagner Act, I'll listen to them too. But the evidence of the past 30 years makes it pretty clear that productivity growth and improved education aren't nearly enough on their own to keep median wages growing. Neither is unionization, for that matter. But at least it pushes in the right direction. If card check helps that along, I'm all for it.

Sugar Daddy Redux

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 3:09 PM EST

Nearly a year ago, Mother Jones covered the employment opportunities available to hot young hookers via websites like SugarDaddy.com. Today a college senior tells the Daily Beast all about her own arrangement with one such sugar daddy, who made her a sexy proposition she couldn't refuse. After all, she had "tried working, but in retail, surrounded by temptation all day, I spent more than I made. Waiting tables was exhausting."

Seriously, you guys, working and spending within your means is HARD. And certainly all of the sex workers I know would disagree with the implication that sex work isn't physically and emotionally demanding, too. Not that this classy college student considers her "relationship" sex work. The most she'll concede is that it's "maybe even the distant cousin of—dare I say it?—prostitution."

No, please, you best not dare say that, since having sex with somebody you wouldn't have sex with if they weren't throwing loads of money at you for it is not so much a faraway relative of prostitution as it is rampant prostitution. Listen. When the great depression of aught eight kicks in to full gear, we may all have to start screwing old rich guys for money. But let's call it what it is. There ain't no shame in the sex-work game, but there is something sad, and alarming, about smart men and women saying that keeping or being a 20-year-old call girl on a personal payroll is simply a natural, apolitical, magnanimous situation all around.

Will a Western Gross National Happiness Index Catch On?

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 2:42 PM EST

Below is a guest blog entry by Hong Kong-based journalist Don Duncan.

In Buddhist Bhutan, it is common wisdom that every creation requires destruction. That's hearteningly optimistic for the Western economists who descended on the tiny country for the international Gross National Happiness Conference last week.

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, requires that advances be made on nine key fronts in order for national progress to be achieve—education, health, culture, community vitality, living standards, psychological wellbeing, the ecology, and balanced time use. All government policy making in Bhutan is guided by these principles.

During the high capitalism of Reaganomics, Thatcherism and, more recently, free market fundamentalism, the doctrine met with incredulity and derision. Even if you can define national happiness, how on earth can you measure it?

On Hold in Canada

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 2:21 PM EST

ON HOLD IN CANADA....The "Canadian coup" has been put on hold. After the three minority parties in the Canadian parliament banded together to challenge the ruling Conservative Party, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's options was to ask the governor general for a suspension, or prorogue, of parliament. Michael Stickings reports:

Well, he did so this morning, and she granted his request — meaning that there will be no no-confidence vote until, at the earliest, Parliament resumes sitting late next month. The government may then lose a no-confidence vote on the Throne Speech or the budget, but, in the meantime, both sides (and the Conservatives even more so because they have more money) will campaign aggressively to woo public opinion.

More here.