2011 - %3, April

Hijab in the U.S.A.: Readers Respond

| Wed Apr. 13, 2011 6:26 PM EDT
Eman, reading comments from the Mother Jones community about her, at a Mission High School computer lab.

Remember Mission High school student Eman?* About a month ago, she shared a disturbing story about being called a terrorist by an older commuter at a San Francisco BART station. The most painful part of this incident for Eman wasn't the verbal assault. It was that among 15 or so people around her, no one said a word; no one stood up for her. "Maybe they didn't hear it?" I asked her. "They heard it," she assured me. "The man was yelling, and most people were looking at me."

Most Mother Jones readers were appalled, and you used our comments section, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to spread Eman's story, express your support for her in hundreds of comments, and propel the story to tens of thousands of new readers just hours after it was published.

Last week, I ran into Eman. "Did you see the comments?" I asked. "A lot of readers stood up for you!" Eman said she's been busy filing out scholarship applications and hadn't looked at the responses yet. So I pulled up my chair next to her at the computer lab, and we jumped to your comments, like these:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

In Defense of Bob Dylan

| Wed Apr. 13, 2011 5:30 PM EDT

Last Sunday, Bob Dylan played a show in Vietnam for the first time in his half-century long career. The tickets didn't sell well. Only half of the venue's 8,000 seats were filled when Dylan took the stage in his white cowboy hat and performed for two hours, ending the night with his 1974 hit "Forever Young." As with Dylan's two previous shows in Beijing and Shanghai, his omission of protest songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" was met with anger from Human Rights Watch and columnists like Maureen Dowd.

"The idea that the raspy troubadour of '60s freedom anthems would go to a dictatorship and not sing those anthems is a whole new kind of sellout," she wrote of the China performances last week. "Sellout," of course, implies that Dylan traded some measure of his artistic integrity for profit on his tour of Asia. While he may have consciously neglected his protest songs, it's hard to imagine he did it to earn a few bucks.

5 Hour Energy: Like Coffee, But More Annoying

| Wed Apr. 13, 2011 2:53 PM EDT

It seems I can't enjoy my "Cake Boss" or "Say Yes to the Dress" without being annoyed by endless commercials for 5 Hour Energy. The commercials are so low in production value, and so high in performances by smug actors, that they've been nominated as "Worst Ad in America." 5 Hour Energy lost that honor to the "Wow! That's a Low Price!" commercial from Staples, but won 28% of the vote for "Most Grating Performance by a Human."

Not only are the actors grating, the commercials themselves are just plain stupid. Really? You're too lazy to make a cup of coffee? You can't spend $1.50 or wait in line for 5 minutes? As the makers of 5 Hour Energy see it, if you are too much of a sad sack to drink/buy/brew coffee you should buy... wait for it... 5 Hour Energy! Think about it: if you drank five 5 Hour Energys a day, you'd have energy for 25 straight hours! Awesome! Especially if you have to stay awake for long periods of time, like a first-year resident or long-haul trucker.

But 5 Hour Energy has left the trucker market behind and is instead targeting office-workers who lack the time to pour hot water through ground beans. The problem is, 5 Hour Energy doesn't even do what it claims, which is perform better than coffee at keeping people awake due to extra ingredients like taurine. Consumer Reports did an investigation and found that 5 Hour Energy has slightly more caffeine than the average cup of coffee, 207 milligrams. For comparison, an 8oz cup of Starbucks contains 180 milligrams of caffeine. But, Consumer Reports said, "We found little if any research showing that other ingredients on the label—including B vitamins and amino acids—would give the average person a boost." I've made a little chart, below, comparing coffee to 5 Hour Energy. Also below, a video of one of their insipid ads. Enjoy!

                              Coffee                                    5 Hour Energy

Caffeine                  180mg/8 oz                             207mg/2 oz

Sugar                      None                                      None

Flavoring                 None                                       Assorted (e.g. berry, lemon)

Calories                   2                                              4

Cost                       around $1.50                            around $3

 

Are Books Headed For Extinction?

| Wed Apr. 13, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

Dear Anna: This isn't social media related per se, but here's my dilemma. I'm on the fence about the Kindle, especially since I keep reading about the slow extinction of print everything and don't want to contribute to that. Also, maybe I feel some hipster guilt about e-books generally. What's your take? Should I cave to technology peer pressure? Is this just embracing the future?
~Book Lover


You know, I love technology. I love that I can play Scrabble, listen to Glee songs at a really low volume so no one knows I'm not listening to TV On The Radio or some other socially sanctioned band, and post a blog on my iPhone all while waiting for the bus. I love that Twitter enables me to experience the profound insights of 50 Cent on a daily basis, such as, "I can't belive my grandmother's making me take out the garbage I'm rich f*ck this I'm going home I don't need this shit." I love that I can find an apartment, a job, and a blow job with a few clicks on Craigslist.

But when it comes to books, the future can embrace its cold, glossy exterior with my fist! Reading, for me, is a pleasure that should not be experienced on an LCD screen. Email is great, but love letters are better. I want to smell a book's crisp pages, run my hands over its binding, marvel at the oily dents my fingers have created by re-reading the same favored passage over and over. Books are my muse and my dominatrix. They are meant to be adored.

That said, I am an avowed bisexual, and I see everything both ways. Here are some non-ranty pros and cons of Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other e-readers.

Pro: The e-reader is lighter, weighing 8.5 ounces. Your average book weighs 12 ounces. A hardback weighs about two pounds.

Con: Seriously? Your pansy-ass hipster arms can't hold a two-pound book? You're an embarrassment to asymmetrical haircuts.

Read the rest of my online etiquette column at SF Weekly.

Pre-Owned Vehicle = Non-Virgin Woman?

| Tue Apr. 12, 2011 5:37 PM EDT

Oh dear. Another day, another questionable advertising decision. Via Sociological Images, this Canadian ad for used cars compares them to women who aren't virgins. "You know you're not the first" the ad reads. "But do you really care?" The message seems to be it's okay for cars to be used (and for women to have more than one lover) if they're very aesthetically pleasing.

Oy. Firstly, it's a bit sexist to assume every man wants to be a woman's first. Virginal sex can = awkward sex. Secondly, naturally women are being judged on their "number" and not men. Thirdly, just because it looks good on the outside doesn't mean there's nothing wrong under the hood, so to speak. (Side note: during a routine HIV test, I once had a nurse tell me I was the "perfect" vehicle to transmit the virus because I was so "clean" and "wholesome".) And finally, why? Just... why? I don't understand how these things actually make it to print without someone saying along the way, "Hey, maybe we should rethink this because it could turn off half of our customer base."

The owner of the dealership that created the ad describes himself as "professional" and "people-oriented" but also says that his family-owned business provides an "excellent selection of competitively priced, great-looking cars with lots of curb appeal. These beauties draw auto fans from far and wide, and have given rise to the dealership's well-known slogan: Hot Deals, Cool Wheels!" Okay, okay, I get the idea of describing cars like women, but the ad seems to take it a tad too far. "She's a beaut!" is quite a bit different from "She's not a virgin, but she still looks great! How much do you want to pay for her?"

Would You Support the 'Parent Trigger' Law in Your State?

| Tue Apr. 12, 2011 2:00 PM EDT

As I was packing to go to Compton a month ago to report on the impact of the "parent trigger" law there, I was surprised by how many friends, colleagues, and Mission High School teachers and parents hadn't heard about this pretty radical new law. After I gave them a brief rundown, two questions kept coming up among more progressive types: Was this desire for change real in Compton, or some staged campaign by outsiders (i.e. "astroturf")? And what are parents of McKinley Elementary really unhappy about in their school? (For more on that, check out my Compton feature.)

Manuel Criollo, director of organizing at the Los Angeles-based Labor and Community Strategy Center, spoke with me about these issues at the end of my reporting trip. (As an editor of Wiretap, I frequently covered the work of young community organizers. They often mentioned the Strategy Center—the home of the Bus Riders Union—as a "real grassroots" organization, meaning its leadership and members come from the communities that the nonprofit represents.)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Old School Journalism Gets A Digital Facelift

| Tue Apr. 12, 2011 12:54 PM EDT

MoJo publisher Steve Katz spoke recently at the National Conference for Media Reform with The Media Consortium's new executive director, Jo Ellen Kaiser, about Mother Jones' recent traffic breakthroughs, the role of online activism in investigative reporting, and how social media is transforming the media industry. Watch a short video clip below from the media reform conference:


Goodbye to Chalmers Johnson

| Mon Apr. 11, 2011 4:54 PM EDT

This post first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Chalmers Johnson was a stalwart of TomDispatch. He first wrote for this website on January 8, 2003 ("Iraqi Wars"), barely more than a month after it was launched. The last piece he wrote in his life ("Portrait of a Sagging Empire") was for TomDispatch as well. In the years between, he penned 28 other TD pieces on a remarkably wide range of subjects, including how the American war in Iraq was harming the human patrimony ("Smash of Civilizations"), abolishing the CIA, the dangers of our empire of bases (a subject he all but copyrighted), the bloated Pentagon budget, our fading military empire, and how militarism was driving us toward bankruptcy, among a host of subjects. For good measure, he sat down for a two-part TomDispatch interview with me that was Chalmers all the way. ("Our encounter," as I wrote at the time, "is an interview in name only. No one has ever needed an interviewer less. I do begin with a question that had been on my mind, but it's hardly necessary.")

I've written about how we first met on the page (as I was his book editor, starting with his now-classic volume Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire) and about his death on November 20, 2010. I still miss him. In our present world, overflowing with explosive, unexpected moments, I regularly wonder just what "Chal" would have made of events in Egypt, Libya, Japan, or Washington. His remarkable, restless, penetrating intelligence is missed. He was a giant.

Rebel Music, Libyan Edition

| Mon Apr. 11, 2011 5:45 AM EDT

When Khaled M was a little kid, he dreamed of sneaking into Libya, assassinating Muammar Qaddafi, and freeing the country. That's not so weird considering his father was thrown into a Libyan jail and tortured for five years for taking part in a student protest against the regime. His dad escaped from jail and fled to Tunisia on foot, but Khaled still remembers how the first few years of his life was spent running from country to country dodging  the dictator's minions. "We would be in Morocco or Sudan and set up a radio station and then maybe after a few months Qaddafi's people would get a whiff of it and chase us, and we’d have to drop everything and leave," says Khaled, who is now a 26-year-old Libyan-American rapper.

Khaled's family eventually settled in Lexington, Kentucky—"the most random" place they could think of—in a bid to foil their pursuers. In Lexington, Khaled was raised in a community of political refugees and dissidents, including members of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. He has never been to Libya himself—his family's been blacklisted there, and he could risk execution if he dared go—but he still feels a strong connection to the country. "It's a country that everyone around me has fought to liberate," Khaled says.

So, when Libyans rose up, Khaled and a network of resistance groups joined forces to create a music video entitled, "Can’t Take Our Freedom," a rebel anthem that's garnered attention from ABC Global News, CNN, and Complex magazine. It's a catchy protest song featuring Iraqi-British rapper LowKey and some exclusive footage from inside Libya. I asked Khaled about growing up in exile, Libya's music scene, and what getting rid of Qaddafi might do for the country's artistic culture. Check out the video at the end of the interview.

The Uterus Monologues: Limericks From Our Readers

| Fri Apr. 8, 2011 5:01 AM EDT

A week ago, the Florida GOP scolded Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando) when he used the word "uterus" on the statehouse floor. We at Mother Jones couldn't figure out what was wrong with the word, and why it wasn't deemed worthy for public. So Jen Phillips penned a limerick in response, calling on readers to post their own reactions to the Florida GOP's buffoonery. Here are some of our favorites:

 

 

From Active Peacemaker:

A Florida Rep. shouted with rage,
"We can't use those words near a page.
I'm convinced by my work
We were brought by the Stork!"
Now please put that Rep. back in his cage. 

 deanz:

There once was a party so grand
It thought it would give God a hand
By helping her tutor us
on words hardly new to us
but soon She'll be having *them* banned

 To Womb it May Concern:

The word uterus is naughty, you see
Not for use in polite company
They've deprived half the nation
Of sex education
Now it burns whene'er they GO P.

While demagogues Stately and Clerical,
encourage their gals to get spherical
they won't lessen its stature
with crass nomenclature
to use Uterus makes them hysterical.

Amy Sharp

So they think that uterus is offensive...
it is time to get down down off the fences
to hold hands and skip
to the beat of something hip
and get the country back to its sense

Valerie Hope Starr

I'd quiver to think what they'd to us
dare we mention that naughty word uterus
we can pillage, rape, maim but not mention that name
of the place whence we came fore you knew of us

Jim Bazen

Some words are a source of dissension.
They require a thorough preemption.
Now the Reps are all riled
'bout the fetus who filed
A uterine homestead exemption.

Brenda Cummings

The Republicans don't like my uterus.
Revelations like these aren't new to us.
They don't care for humanity,
They've lost their sanity—
We ALL came from one—unum e pluribus?

Thepink Pantsuit

To reject a word such as uterus
I find nothing short of ludicrous
Does not the blessing of birth
Define a woman's self-worth
What more can the GOP to do us?