The Riff - July 2009

Dear Nixon, Love Elvis

| Tue Jul. 14, 2009 6:37 PM EDT

Elvis Presley may have been the king, but he wasn't much of a letter writer. In a 1970 missive to Richard Nixon in which he asked to be made a special agent in the budding War on Drugs, his sentences run together with the reckless abandon of a semi-literate speed freak. Plus, he also appears to really like Nixon, a hazy choice at best.

A few choice quotes from Elvis's letter to Nixon:

"The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it the establishment. I call it American and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out. I have no concern or motives other than helping the country out..."
"Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507...I am registered under the name Jon Burrow. I will be here for as long as long [sic] as it takes to get the credential of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good..."
"I was nominated this coming year one of America's Ten Most Outstanding Young Men...I am sending you the short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this..."
P.S. "I believe that Sir, were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Men of America also."

See the full Elvis letter here [pdf], or read a transcript here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Re: Bing, Drum, Ford, & Jacko

| Mon Jul. 13, 2009 12:23 PM EDT

Our intrepid political blogger Kevin Drum posted last Thursday on whether anyone is actually using Bing, Microsoft's newly revamped, rebranded search engine. So I just had to share some fun stuff I read in Business Week last month about how Bing—already targeted by bloggywags as an acronym for "But It's Not Google!"—got its name. (I can't say I use Bing, but I have tried it: The home page is prettier than its rival's, but after searching it for "Michael Jackson," and looking at the list of results, I got to thinking that the Gates Posse should have called it Biig: "But It Imitates Google!")

Big companies just can't come up with clever names the way we at Mother Jones brainstorm clever headlines—that is, in a brief, frenzied series of internal emails. These days they feel compelled to outsource. According to the June 15 story by Bizweek marketing editor Burt Helm (the issue caught my attention because my birthday is June 16) Microsoft hired a firm called Interbrand, which set eight of its employees to brainstorming around themes like "speed" and "relevance." In six weeks, the team came up with 2,000 names, then nixed the lamest—somehow overlooking Bing—and whittled the list to 600.

Domino's Dominates Sidewalks (With Pizza Ads)

| Mon Jul. 13, 2009 12:05 PM EDT

In March, citizens of Louisville, Kentucky, experienced KFC-themed pothole repairs. Now, folks in New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles can tread on sidewalks bearing ads for Domino's Pizza.

GreenGraffiti, the Netherlands-based company Domino's partnered with for the campaign, claims all kinds of green cred. Plus, its site says, it's doing the cities a service by washing the sidewalk (though the gross gum in the image shown here suggests that squeaky clean is not the goal, and not everyone is convinced ads are more attractive than dirt).

Good thing Domino's is targeting walkers, since the focus of the campaign, the American Legends Pizza, has 40 percent more cheese than a regular pizza.

You Say Child Abuse. I Say "Enhanced Parenting Techniques."

| Fri Jul. 10, 2009 3:52 PM EDT

National Public Radio's been getting some serious flak for its policy of not using the word "torture" to describe when the United States uses—well, how to be polite about this?—torture. As Kevin Drum noted the other day, the explanations and clarifications coming from NPR's ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, have been pretty weak. The crux of her argument, as detailed here and here, is that the word "torture" is too loaded for a fair-minded news organization to use. Plus, she adds, the word's very meaning is debatable, so NPR can't take sides; after all, what if Dick Cheney et al. really are right that the waterboarding they authorized wasn't torture? It's kind of like the ongoing debate over those loaded, subjective terms "climate change" and "global warming." Oh wait—it looks like NPR sided with the crazy enviros on that one.

Now the ombudsman has waded into another thorny semantic debate: What words should responsible journalists use to describe parents beating their kids? Child abuse? Or perhaps the more neutral-sounding "enhanced parenting techniques"? What about "vigorous love taps"? Let the debate begin. (Preemptive parody warning.) 

 

 Love Taps (parody)

Marvel: With Great Power Comes Great...Lip Gloss?

| Thu Jul. 9, 2009 6:06 PM EDT

Disney isn't the only company that thinks all girls want is some sparkly lip gloss. Since Hasbro has the edge at the box office, Marvel recently hawked costumes as summer-wear on its blog's "Summer Style Guide." Frankly, no self-respecting geek would think of showing up to (as they suggest) a comic con in one, but that isn't Marvel's only problem when it comes to understanding their fanbase:

For the young ladies out there, Marvel has partnered with Lotta Luv to create some awesome lip glosses and lip balms.

So guys get to be superheroes, and girls get to be..."perfectly pouty?" According to Lotta Luv's licensing coordinator, yes:

With a branded line of make-up from Marvel, girls will be able to feel as if they are going from ordinary to extraordinary just like the superhero characters in the stories.

I don't know about you, but a mask and some Lycra makes me feel way more extraordinary than fruity lipgloss. Unfortunately, the Marvel store's only girl superhero offering is a costume called Spider-Girl Sassy Deluxe. In the Marvel world, deluxe means shiny. I'm not quite sure how a halter-top helps you fight crime.

Granted, there aren't many major Marvel female superheroines to choose from, but there are female members of both the Fantastic Four and X-Men. Where are those role model costume offerings?

This round might have to go to DC Comics. After all, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, and Batgirl are all running for D.C. mayor.

When the Clock Strikes 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9

| Tue Jul. 7, 2009 11:38 PM EDT

This happens but once a century (twice if you count after midnight and after noon). Take note, celebrate the moment:

12:34:56 7/8/9

Love numbers.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

SF Chronicle to Open Typewriter Shop

| Mon Jul. 6, 2009 3:20 PM EDT

The above apocryphal headline was more or less my initial reaction to this morning's paper, which was being handed out free downtown to tout the Chron's first issue printed on new, state-of-the-art, very expensive Canadian presses. Above the fold, a big photo of the Golden Gate Bridge poking through the fog at sunset is tailored to demonstrate just how nicely these presses work. "Today's editions usher in a brighter and more visually exciting era" for the paper, says a note announcing the changes, which include the paper's second major redesign this year. (In February, it touted the prior makeover—with its notes of USA Today—as "brighter and more modern.") But back to today's paper. It includes a special four-page section showing how the exciting new presses work. "A new era gets rolling," it promises.

Where, then, are the ads for those cool rotary telephones? Those newfangled horse-and-buggy courier services? Hot new 8-track releases, and the moving pictures?

 

Even These Guys Want to Legalize It!

| Mon Jul. 6, 2009 1:32 PM EDT

In Kevin Drum's excellent "Patriot's Guide to Legalization" he estimates that "Ten years from now, as the flower power generation enters its 70s, you might finally be able to smoke a fully legal, taxed, and regulated joint."

10 years!?!? That's way too long! Too long for Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, our national forests, the overcrowded prison system, the southern border, 259 US cities, and the entire country of Mexico.

Who, exactly, are the forces aligned against the decriminalization of marijuana? Who makes it politically untenable for politicians to sign on to bills like the one California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced? Somewhat surprisingly, it isn't the intellectual right. On the most recent episode of the McLaughlin Group, conservatives Rich Lowry and Monica Crowley agreed with their more liberal co-panelists in coming out for the decriminalization of marijuana. At one point during the discourse John McLaughlin rattles off a long list of prominent conservative and mainstream intellectuals—William Buckley, George Schultz, Milton Friedman, Walter Cronkite—all of whom supported decriminalization. Sure, Monica Crowley stills mouths off some BS about how pot is a gateway drug, but that's more than made up for when Lowry recalls a colleague of his for whom cannabis provided the only relief from chemo. This all comes in the wake of the Cato Institute's publication of Glenn Greenwald's report on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal.

Watch the McLaughlin Group duke it out, and by duke it out I mean totally agree with each other, after the jump.

ICE Nails American Apparel Over Illegal LA

| Wed Jul. 1, 2009 7:03 PM EDT

A year and a half after inspecting their sexy downtown factory, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) finally nailed Los Angeles-based manufacturer American Apparel with the most unsurprising violation ever—according to the report, the company currently employees about 1800 workers (a third of the manufacturing staff) whose immigration status is (very) debatable. Cue Dov Charney yawning.

To many of us interested in immigration reform, the company's unprecedented engagement with the subject has been thrilling. By Charney's own estimate, he and his workers have been marching in the May Day immigration reform demonstrations in Los Angeles since 2001. Since then, the company's Legalize LA campaign has spawned a product line from tank tops to booty-shorts, a national print campaign, viral videos, and a timeline of American immigration policy on the shelves at every American Apparel retail store. On neon pink and sunshine yellow t-shirts, on the pages of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and in their coral pink downtown factory, American Apparel has made its (I think admirable) position on immigration central to its ethos as a corporation.