Bay Bleg

Marian and I are coming up to San Francisco in a couple of weeks and we're going to have all day Sunday free for sightseeing and whatnot.  Do any of my Bay Area readers have any nonobvious suggestions for things to do and see?  Anything accessible by foot or transit is OK.  Thanks!

Tim Geithner's Plan

Ezra Klein reports on Larry Summers' talk yesterday:

Summers [...] argued that the administration was right to be vague on its banking plan. Specifics, he said, could only come after the stress tests reveal what action is needed. That sounds sensible enough, though it's hard to say whether that's been the plan along or it's just the plan now that no one liked Geithner's original banking proposal.

I too think that a bit of vagueness might have been justified here.  It's better than rolling out a detailed but half-baked proposal that gets immediately shot down.  However, if that was the plan all along, then surely President Obama wouldn't have said this 12 hours before Geithner took the podium:

[T]omorrow my Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, will be announcing some very clear and specific plans for how we are going to start loosening up credit once again.

There are a few possible explanation for this: (a) Obama is an idiot, (b) Obama wasn't up to speed on what Geithner's plan was, (c) everyone in the administration was under the impression that Geithner's plan was "very clear and specific," or (d) they changed their minds a lot in the days and hours leading up to the announcement.  I'm guessing the answer is (d).

Here's something a little different to take advantage of our brief respite between Friday the 13th and the Ides of March.  Yesterday Marian and I had lunch at Ruby's, and as usual our utensils came wrapped in a napkin that was held in place by a paper napkin ring.  I have helpfully recreated this setup in the picture on the right.

Seems ordinary enough, doesn't it?  But as I unwrapped the silverware I noticed something: a patent notice.  This little paper napkin ring, it turned out, was protected by U.S. Patent No. 6,644,498.  I was intrigued.  What was patentable about this thing?  The stickum?  It seemed like ordinary Post-It Note type stuff.  The size and shape?  Couldn't be.  The logo?  No.

Luckily, the web knows all.  When I got home I pulled up the patent to see what it was for.  The answer is below the fold.

Guest blogger Courtney E. Martin is the book editor of the feminist blog Feministing.

After Debra Dickerson caricatures young women as pole dancing, attention-starved idiots, she then quips: "Harsh, you say? Uninformed? OK. Tell me exactly what today's feminists are doing for the struggle."

Glad you asked Debra, because it's clear you haven't had the benefit of knowing a real, live, breathing, thinking young woman and you're really missing out. Indeed, some of us like to blog about the political and social issues of the day (as it appears, do you). We actually see this as part of the struggle—an effort to speak on our own behalf about issues that affect us in a corporate conglomerated media landscape that too often trades in stereotypes like yours.

You write, "Blogging about your sex lives ain't exactly what we previous generations thought feminism was. We thought it was about taking it to the streets." At feministing, we get frequent emails from young women, often in isolated parts of the country, who read about sexual politics on our blog and get the courage to speak up about their rape or incest experiences, advocate for comprehensive sex ed in their schools, or come out to their parents and friends. We think that's profoundly feminist.

Outside of our media activism and public intellectual work, we're joyfully and dedicatedly going about all sorts of action to make women's and men's lives more just, equal, and authentic:

We are providing support and shelter for former teen prostitutes. We are training to be abortion providers and midwives and social workers. We are mentoring low income girls to write about their experiences. We are falling in love with feminist men and women and having our hearts broken and doing it all over again. We are running shelters for LGBTQ youth who have fallen through the cracks of a homophobic society. We are educating one another about STIs, STDs, and reproductive justice. We are doing community organizing. We are rebuilding New Orleans. We are going dancing all night with our girls. We are, indeed, protesting in the streets. We are starting organizations to provide support for women veterans of Iraq, 15 percent of whom have been sexually assaults. We are drinking beers on Saturday nights with our friends and talking about feminism. We are donating money to causes we believe in, voting for leaders we respect, getting political and media training. We are queering gender and getting sex change operations and delighting in our sexuality on a spectrum. We are dancing burlesque downtown to demonstrate our rejection of oppressive beauty standards and explore our sexuality on our own terms. We are writing op-eds. We are painting and break dancing and making documentary films and writing on one another's Facebook walls and refusing to let our friends date assholes and reinventing or rejecting marriage all together and speaking out at Take Back the Night and deluging corporate email accounts when they use sexist advertising. We are honoring our mothers and grandmothers with our wide-eyed, creative, tenacious spirits. We are feminism.

So that's just some of what we’re doing for the so-called struggle. How about you?

Courtney E. Martin is a writer, speaker, and teacher living in Brooklyn. You can read more about her work at courtneyemartin.com

As if I hadn't already outed myself as the pinkiest of pinko fag commies, I stumbled upon this gem at Slate's XX blog. It's an interactive quiz from the Center for American Progress to gauge just how liberal or conservative you are. Here's how the Slate-ettes scored:

"Twelve of us took the quiz, and on a scale of 0 to 400 (0 is the least progressive; 400 is the most progressive), we came out with an average score of 245. To put that in context, the mean score for liberal Democrats is 247 and 160.6 for conservative Republicans. Our median is somewhere in the mid-290s; our high is 313, and our low is 112.

Fascist heifers! I scored 332. Boo yah!

The average American drags their Neanderthal asses in at only 209.5.

So, if you outscore me, let's put on our hemp shoes and our tie-dyed bandannas, strap our home-birthed babies on our backs, and go hug some whales.

A recent report by International Rivers details a rash of dam building projects in the world's most rugged and scenic mountain range:

Massive plans are underway in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bhutan to build several hundred dams in the region, with over 150,000 megawatts of additional capacity proposed in the next 20 years in the four countries. If all the planned capacity expansion materializes, the Himalayan region could possibly have the highest concentration of dams in the world.

It's almost certain that this will happen. Sometimes known as the "Third Pole," the Himalayas contain of 3,700 square kilometers of glacial ice, which is melting due to climate change and gushing down the slopes of the 14 tallest peaks in the world. South Asia's boom in population, economic output (which is surprisingly immune to the global downturn), and Western-funded carbon offset projects virtually insures that the forces of dam building will be almost as powerful as the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates.

Clearly the dams will export cheap and low-carbon electricity. But they will also displace hundreds of thousands of people, import hordes of culturally disruptive migrant laborers, wreck fisheries, and, maybe worst of all, breach in the likely event of an earthquake or climate-change-induced flood, unleashing a cascade of disasters. Novelist Arundhati Roy has eloquently opined against the Narmada dam project, though to little avail. We can only hope that the scenic Himalayas will fare better in the protective embrace of their poets.

Some of the "young chicks" over at Feministing.com and RH Reality Check got fired up about Debra Dickerson's post on abortion providers, and weren't afraid to let us know. Check out the comments here and here. In the original post, Dickerson points out a New York Times article about the declining number of abortion providers. It's asserted that young feminists (male and female) are not making abortion services a priority, and as a result, abortion access in the future is endangered.

Firstly, I always take a New York Times trend piece with a rather huge grain of salt. These are the folks, after all, who brought us the Opt-Out Revolution and Dating A Banker Anonymous. Secondly, I think where Dickerson goes astray is when she suggests that young feminists today enjoy "pole-dancing, walking around half-naked, posting drunk photos on Facebook, and blogging about your sex lives" rather than working for reproductive rights. And thirdly, not all feminists are female.

As our commenters have pointed out, young feminists actually do lots of abortion-related work, whether it's protesting on the streets or volunteering for organizations. Living in San Francisco, I know a LOT of feminists, and none of them post drunk pictures of themselves online, or pole-dance, or walk around half-naked. Or at least, none of them have let me in on it. As for myself, I'm definitely a feminist, and youngish (30). I've cold-called for NARAL, donated to NOW, and marched in rallies, but have yet to walk around half-naked unless I'm changing at the gym.

Part of what I think rankled the Feministing crowd (and tell me if I'm wrong) is that Dickerson paints young feminists with a wide, LiLo-train-wreck colored brush. There's a big difference between what young feminists do today, and what the media depicts them as doing. The media publishes stories about 16-year-olds with racy MySpace profiles and sex-positive pole-dancers because they get a response. I think the best response to Dickerson's post, aside from pointing out the many achievements of young feminists, is a little bit of humor. As my co-worker and copy editor extrordinaire Nicole McClelland told me, putting all young feminists in the category of drunken strippers is a dramatic overgeneralization at best. "I didn’t know that that’s what the current generation of feminists thinks feminism is," said Nicole. "Now that I do, though, I’m totally going to call some and ask them if they want to party."

So Bernie Madoff's spending the weekend in a 7-by-8 jail cell, and come June 16, he's likely to start a lengthy stint in federal prison. Sure, he'll probably go to a minimum-security facility, but his new surroundings will take some getting used to. Fortunately, Mother Jones is here to help. While researching our package on the prison meltdown last year, we came across all kinds of helpful info for the would-be white-collar convict. A few tips Madoff might find useful: One, when a fellow prisoner talks about "high class," he's more likely talking about Hepatitis C than season tickets to the Met. Two, be wary of opaque financial transactions with shady characters: As a former prisoner told us, "If you bum a smoke and the guy with the cigarettes says, 'Sure, it's a twofer,' you should know a twofer means, 'I give you one for two, so now you owe me.'" And lastly, read the rest of our advice while you still can—Mother Jones is contraband in some joints.

Photo by Flickr user sabeth718 used under a CC License

Yeah, right, you say, it's so 2007 and when are we going to do more than turn off the lights for one hour a year? Except it's still a novel concept in many places and one waking up the Rip-Van-Winkles sleeping with their lights on.

I'm talking about Hong Kong. The most brightly lit place on Earth apart from Las Vegas, IMO. It's a neon wet dream. Strolling the streets after dark here is, well, the lure of a sci-fi siren, deadly and gorgeous with light.

Still, Hong Kong's per capita ranking of CO2 emissions falls well below the US: Hong Kong #72; US #10. And both are far shy of #1 Qatar, The Sheikdom of Squander.

Andy Cornish, Director of Conservation WWF Hong Kong, tells me that Hong Kong has not yet officially joined the 1,429 cities and towns in 80 countries (and counting) that will go dark for one hour starting 8:30pm Saturday 28 March. [Correction: Andy tells me Hong Kong IS onboard, Macau is not... yet.] Three hundred Hong Kong companies and countless individuals are already down with the plan.

The hope? That one billion people all over Planet Earth will flip their switches this year. But, hey, use protection, please, if that's your orientation. We don't need an Earth Hour baby boom nine months from now.

As for some of the pyrotechnics lined up in the dark:

  • Sydney (where it all started): every ferry in the harbor will sound its horn at 8.30pm
  • Melbourne: people will pedal-power a concert in Federation Square
  • Athens: a circle of percussion will be held at the Acropolis, people given instruments and led by a conductor
  • Oslo: people will peddle-power light bulbs
  • Lisbon: the city will go outdoors for candlelit dining

So, yeah, it's kind of 2007. Only the hour is later and bigger and DARKER.


Demonstrating once again the power of mashuppery to make not-so-good things into tolerable things, or even terrible things into great things, an Israeli musician calling himself Kutiman has created a... um... I'm not sure what to call it. Remix/medley/edit/completely new song? Whatever it is, Kutiman has named it "The Mother of All Funk Chords," and it's made entirely out of YouTube clips of individual musicians practicing, showing off, or giving lessons. Most of these clips are of the cringe-inducing, lonely-guy-in-his-ugly-living-room variety, but the final product is jaw-dropping and inspiring. It's almost as if Kutiman has created an imaginary virtual world where all these lonely, unknown dudes have found each other, a single chord that unites them. Watch the video above or go to his home page, thru-you.com, for more stuff in Kutiman's continuing YouTube remix project.