Monkey Media Report

A North Carolina
news and arts weblog

"A principled lefty blogger" - Andrew Sullivan
"If there's a harder-hitting lefty blog than Todd Morman's Monkeytime, I haven't found it."
- Doc Searls

This site uses a Creative Commons
license. My name is Todd. Email. Archive. A good book about writing.

Worth checking daily:
Raleighing, Look At This, Robot Wisdom, Romenesko, Hit & Run, Hullaballoo, Talkleft, Dublog, Plep, The Sideshow,
Making Light, Counterspin, Ed Cone, BodyandSoul, Beautiful Horizons, Nathan Newman, Atrios (indispensable), Cursor (ditto), Metafilter, BoingBoing and
Plastic. Still relevant after all these years: Iraq body count, U.S. casualties. Smart NC arts reviews: Classical Voice of North Carolina.

If you like the site, send someone the URL. And, hey, buy me a beer once in a while.


6.11.08 - This week's links:

Girls Rock NC, which still has room for 13 to 17-year-old girls in its summer rock camp

Philadelphia atheists run a billboard, just like god-lovers, and get called "aggressive" for it by Fox News

"The wife John McCain callously left behind" - UK tabloid Daily Mail gets McCain's first wife to talk about how he cheated on her, then dumped her for a millionaire heiress. Oddly, she still respects him.



6.4.08 - This week's Monkeytime links (if the computer doesn't crash with Dreamweaver again):

I know he'd claim otherwise, and I know I should honor that completely, but I can't help but notice that Obama is not simply black, he's biracial, unless 1) his white mother never existed or 2) the one-drop rule is still in effect.

Great comment in the MetaFilter thread about Obama's win from a mixed race observer:

It's okay. Those of us of mixed race have long been used to not actually qualifying as a category of our own (though they do now allow us to "Check all that apply"). But as the official spokesperson for Halfrican-Americans everywhere, I would like to announce that we're acutely aware that we've got a nominee, and we're v. proud.

Really, though, it's not some kind of contest. It's not a race... race or something. And most multiracial folks are really pretty savvy about the whole thing. It's kinda like... let the uniracial people have their field days, with their cute little categories and pigeonholes and the like. We afford them the respect you should afford the dying, because really; they're the dying race.


Jimmy Carter to Obama: Don't pick Clinton as your VP


4.30.08 - This week's links:

Facing South deserves credit for breaking the story of the completely disgusting and deceptive robo-calls - tied to Clinton supporters - that are deliberately confusing NC primary voters. There's no way this isn't a deliberate and illegal attempt to fuck with primary voters. If Attorney General Roy Cooper doesn't prosecute this one, I'll never vote for him in a Democratic contest.

The Jeremiah Wright you won't hear on Fox News

Obama snubs black media, including the Winston-Salem Chronicle. Be sure to read to this golden line: "...the Obama campaign is predominately white and they don't get it. His campaign officials do not have a clue as to the need to develop a relationship with the black media. They just don't get it."

From last week: 1304 Bikes runs its free Earn-A-Bike program every Sunday from 1-5pm; it's open to anyone who wants to put in ~8 hours of repair work to get a free bike.

The Wikipedia page for Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat captures the controversy over the film's racist stereotypes nicely and links to a copy at YouTube. See also the page about the infamous "Censored Eleven." 


4.16.08 - Links for this week's Monkeytime:

NC Warn's quick critique of Duke Power's plans for a new coal plant

The protest against the state's permit continues

The shell game Duke Power is playing with emissions [pdf]

The Clean Energy Myth: Time magazine, of all places, nails how big business and its political puppets (and, to a much lesser extent, some environmentalists) created the push for a moronic, harmful biofuels program

Dickipedia's savage but fact-filled John McCain page


4.9.08 - Links for this week:

Boston Phoenix article about anti-Zionist Israeli punks and squatters, including the band Nikmat Olalim ("Toddler's Revenge"), named for an extremist Jewish organization that set a pipe bomb in an elementary school (much more about Jewish extremist attacks against Palestinians here)

2003 Maximum Rock-n-Roll article about Israeli punk: "With the seemingly hopeless political situation, mandatory military service, and dominant religious traditions, you can begin to understand why punk still feels important in Israel."

There's even a documentary: Jericho's Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land

The hilariously wasteful billing option from Duke and Progress Energy, recently banned by the state utility commission

Idiotic confusion and dumb incentives are interfering with basic conservation of gas and electricity in North Carolina


3.12.08 - Wow, been a while. What can I say, I'm a lazy monkey. Here are some links for this week:

The longer Democratic primary, which many pundits insist is bad for the party, is actually adding Dem voters to the rolls in states like Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania Democrats have added more than 65,000 voters to their rolls since last fall, a reflection of the high level of interest in the contested race for the party's presidential nomination and the state's April 22 primary. The number of Democrats increased 1.7 percent... as of March 4. GOP enrollment grew by 0.1 percent...during the period.

That's 65,000 new Dems vs. 3300 new Reps for those keeping score.

NYT: The Reports That Drew Federal Eyes to Spitzer
(sorry, fellow lefties, but I don't see much of a government conspiracy here)

Glenn Greenwald: Who cares if Eliot Spitzer hires prostitutes?

An opposing view: The Myth of the Victimless Crime, which claims evidence that "most women in prostitution, including those working for escort services, have been sexually abused as children"

A kinda sad look inside the mind of one of Spitzer's whores

Ruth Sheehan gets one right about the asshole way Raleigh's city council just banned in-sink garbage disposals in new homes

I love language and so loved this Ask Metafilter question:
Why does Brett Favre pronounce his name that way?

Some other Favres don't like the sudden nationwide change to their name just to save sportscasters a little effort

[more to come]


2.6.08 - Monkeytime TV links:

How did the pollsters do? Great post-Super Tuesday roundup at MyDD.

MyDD also has links to two bloggers who try to calculate the popular vote totals for the Democrats:
Clinton Won 48.97% to 48.04% -- or 50.2% to 49.8% (Forget the "expectations" spins; how the hell is that not a tie?)

Great stuff at Political Wire, including a link to an interesting article about the possibility of a brokered convention:

Barack Obama's campaign is forecasting that the Democratic presidential race will remain deadlocked after the primaries end, and the outcome may depend on a fight over whether delegations from Florida and Michigan are counted.

Here's an excellent post from Josh Marshall on exactly why the Clinton campaign's attempt to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates should not be allowed:

It was very debatable decision whether the DNC should have punished Florida and Michigan with the loss of their delegates slates because they broke the rules the party had set down for scheduling their primaries...But that was the decision -- one that each of the candidates at least implicitly agreed to. Indeed, each agreed not to campaign in either of these states, again implicitly agreeing to the decision not to seat the delegates.

The Clinton camp is just pushing to seat these delegates now because the contingencies of the moment mean that the decision would favor Hillary. She was the only one whose name was on the ballot in Michigan, thus insuring her win. She has a wide lead in every Florida poll taken this month.

Even Michigan was a matter of her basically pulling a fast one on the other candidates by not taking her name off the ballot. Each of the major candidates signed a pledge not to "campaign or participate" in any primary or caucus prior to Feb. 5th except for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The other major candidates adopted what seems like the only reasonable interpretation of the pledge (see text here) and pulled their names from the ballot.

But then Hillary didn't, thus in essence guaranteeing her win in Michigan.

The Clinton campaign said taking her name off the ballot wasn't required by the pledge. But what can "participate" mean over and above "campaigning" other than formally being a candidate in the race?

A bit of follow-up here.

Romney "has spent $1.16 million per delegate, a rate that would cost him $1.33 billion to win the nomination." Huckabee has spent $50,000 for each of the delegates he's won, which isn't really a great sign for democracy either.

Cue Twilight Zone music: Egypt says onshore cameras show there were no ships in the area of the two undersea cable breaks that disrupted the internet in the Middle East last week. If ship anchors didn't accidentally cause the breaks, what did? Is this tinfoil hat territory? Did you know that "five cables being operated by two submarine cable operators have been damaged" over the past few weeks? If there was some kind of evil conspiracy of sabotage, how would ordinary folks like us ever know? How do you fix an undersea cable, anyway?

Great map of the internet's undersea world

Historical maps of undersea cables


2.1.08 - I'll have links this weekend for the topics on this week's show, but still have a pair of tix to give away to the midnight showing of Pink Floyd's The Wall at The Colony this Saturday. First person who emails me the answer to this question gets them: What was the first presidential ticket in U.S. history with a black man and a white woman (sort of) running together?


1.16.08 - Tonight on Monkeytime, our guest is Jack Betts, associate editor and columnist at the Charlotte Observer. He's been covering state politics for the Charlotte paper (while living in Raleigh) since 1992 and is one of the more thoughtful political commentators we have around here (here's his blog). His column listing a few of the state's enviromental success stories from last year is a good place to start, as is this bit of perspective on our current drought. Check this Wikipedia page for background and news stories about Charlotte's newly inaugurated light rail system, too. We'll be handicapping the governor and lieutenant governor races and talking about the differences between development in Raleigh and Charlotte, immigration, NC's now-very-late primary and whatever you want to call in and ask him. 8-9pm on Time Warner cable channel 10.


11.14.07 - Monkeytime links:

NOTE: The "Cool Classics" movie next week, The Muppet Show, is being shown at The Colony, not the Rialto, sorry, at 7 and 9:30pm, as seen here. The Carolina Rollergirls' bout against San Francisco's Bay Area Derby Girls is this Saturday at 6pm at Dorton Arena, info and tix here.

Former state legislator Russell Capps' hilarious letter to the local paper about a vengeful God's need for our repentence before sending us water from the sky.
It is significant that, while many Native American rituals involved only men, or at least, were more concerned with their influence, the rain dance involved both men and women, showing the importance of rain to the entire community.

The Academy tries its best - and fails utterly - to define "animation" for the Oscar nominations
Should the new mo-cap Beowulf count as an animated feature?

More info about f8, the 2001 animation we showed clips from tonight; to me, it still looks as good as anything produced today - certainly as good as the trailers for Beowulf.
Official site, where you can buy a copy

Hilariously exaggerated N&O story about a few neighbors' complaints about a North Raleigh park

Bizarrely off-base business section story about the completely nonexistent downtown "warehouse district"

Sorry for not getting last week's links up, but on the bright side, I finished Moby Dick - a brilliant, colossally insane mess of a book - as well as Benito Cereno - not as great, but an interesting mid-1800s white man's take on a slave ship rebellion - and am now almost done with Jean Toomer's Cane. Here's the few things I promised:

Glenn Greenwald on the Ron Paul phenomenon (be sure to watch the video, which is the same one all my lefty friends have been forwarding me with "right on!" messages, but I remain highly skeptical, thanks, not least because of the dick who's been going around town stamping everyone else's flyers with "RON PAUL 2008! RONPAUL2008.COM!!" Any candidate who attracts assholes like that surely has serious problems.)

My building geek photos of downtown Asheville from last month's vacation; I also spent a beautiful day by the river taking pics of Asheville graffiti


10.17.07 - Monkeytime links:

The phone-in guest was Ian Palmquist, head of EqualityNC, the statewide GLBT rights group, whose "Our State Our Rights" conference will be held Saturday November 3rd.

The Raleigh Zombie Walk is happening Saturday, October 27 at 6:26pm in Moore Square downtown. Their MySpace page is typically atrocious, but check the blog posts for info and updates. I'll be out of town but y'all have fun with the blood and the brains and all. If you don't know what a zombie walk is, start here. Or here.

The music clip at the start of the show was "Vaseline Machine Gun" from this great early Leo Kottke album. You could do a lot worse for browsing music than to type his name into and let them create a set for you. Almost as good as typing in Boards of Canada.

Lambda Legal describes exactly what's wrong with Barney Frank's move to eliminate language protecting "gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual" from the House employment non-discrimination bill

"If ENDA Doesn't Protect the Transgendered, It Doesn't Protect Me" nicely explains the importance of "sex-atypical characteristics" to glb as well as t people

Barney Frank on The Michelangelo Signorile Show (audio)
(Forgot to list those last few after last week's show, sorry)


10.3.07 - This week's Monkeytime links:

The cartoon we showed was Der Shneeman (The Snowman), a 1943 gem made in Germany by Hans Fischerkoesen. It's not up at YouTube, but the subtle anti-Nazi element many folks see in Fischerkoesen's work may be more evident in 1942's "Weather-Beaten Melody" (I think I've mentioned it here before). It's 9-minutes of pure joy, with some wonderful bits of multi-plane animation, about a mixed group of insects and an abandoned phonograph in a field. The simple fact that even at the height of WWII neither of these films featured any Nazi propaganda at all should be enough to make you think twice about what he was trying to do. From the first link:

To fully appreciate Fischerkoesen's daring, one must remember that the Nazis had forbidden jazz and swing as an Afro-Judaic plot to undermine traditional German culture...

In this context, the discovery of an abandoned phonograph takes on new meaning, especially when the record on the turntable is a swing number with lyrics that say, "The week wouldn't be worthwhile without a weekend when we can get away to enjoy nature." Near the phonograph lies an "abandoned" clasp from a woman's garter belt (with a lucky four-leafed clover growing out of it!), which suggests that the interrupted picnic that left behind the musical instrument had also involved erotic play--something also strictly forbidden by the puritanical Nazi codes. So from beneath the charming surface of this cartoon emerges a subversive message: women, far from the unnatural Nazi-designated stereotype of "children, church and kitchen," can escape into Nature to be self-reliant and adventurous, erotic and free--they can rediscover or revitalize a suppressed world of forbidden joy in music and friendship between diverse creatures who may be brown or white, frog or caterpillar--or even a pair of ladybug beetles who may be a same-sex couple. Especially compared to the American cartoons of this same period (profligate with gratuitous violence and racist/sexist stereotype victims), the entire community of animals depicted in Weather-beaten Melody is peaceful, friendly, fun-loving, imaginative and altruistic--quite the opposite of the Nazi requirements for a dedicated Aryan citizen.

The Soviets imprisoned Fischerkoesen after the war as a Nazi sympathizer but he was exonerated in 1948, then escaped to the West with his family where he continued making great animated ads.

Here are the local Sierra Club endorsements for next week's city and county elections. Not sure why they only endorsed one person, Russ Stephenson, for the two at-large seats, so here's the Independent's more thorough list, which includes Helen Tart for the other seat. Chances are the big money behind Mary-Ann Baldwin will get her a spot, but vote for Helen anyway just to make it close.


9.26.07 - This week's Monkeytime links:

For a nice antidote to the selective presentation of facts in today's NYT op-ed from Jena 6 district attorney Reed Walters (which I'm sure will end up unchallenged in the N&O tomorrow), you can't do better than the carefully footnoted complex history at the Wikipedia page about the episode. Some fave tidbits:

  • According to the district attorney, Barker was blindsided by Mychal Bell, knocking him down, and then kicked repeatedly until an uninvolved student intervened. However, Coach Benjy Lewis, the only adult witness to the incident, didn't place Bell in the attack and stated that another student, Malcolm Shaw, was the initial attacker. Lewis was never called to testify in Bell's trial.
  • Witness accounts conflicted over his role, if any, in the attack. Public defender Blane Williams, himself a black man, had urged Bell to accept a plea bargain, did not challenge the composition of the jury pool, and rested the defense case without calling any witnesses.

That the public defender didn't bother to call the only adult witness to the attack - a witness who claims Bell wasn't the attacker - is fun enough, but this is the part that really cracks me up:

Police were called to the school several times in the days after the noose incident in response to a rash of interracial fights between students. The principal took action by calling an impromptu assembly on September 6, 2006, in which students segregated themselves into white and black sections. The Jena Police Department asked LaSalle Parish District Attorney J. Reed Walters to attend and speak at the assembly. Allegedly, Walters was unhappy with the request because he was busy preparing for a case and, upon arrival, felt that the students were not paying proper attention to him. He warned the students that he could be their friend or their worst enemy, and he stated that "[w]ith one stroke of my pen, I can make your life disappear." Though black students state Walters was looking at them when he made the comments, Walters and school board member Billy Fowler, also present, deny it.

What kind of moron threatens high school students with a statement like that? Oh, yeah - the district attorney who's been prosecuting the Jena 6.

It's probably worth reminding folks who don't pay much attention to Iran (and yes, that includes me) that Ahmadinejad is not very well-liked by Iranians right now after making joking comments about taking advice on the economy from his butcher. He also suffered a significant rejection in last December's Iranian election. If you really care about this issue, be sure to follow the tons of great links in that piece. Jews should pay particular attention to this bit about Iranian reaction to Ahmadinejad's little Holocaust revisionist conference:

Yet inside Iran - the country with the largest Jewish community outside of Israel in the middle east - only the conference's organisers and the hateful crew that attended seemed to know about it; most Iranian citizens were oblivious to the gathering.

The former (Mohammad Khatami-era) vice-president and cleric Mohammad Ali Abtahi is among many others in Iran to have condemned the conference; he called it "irrelevant to the history of Iran or Islam or to the needs of the people", adding that such a conference "cruelly places the people of Iran - to be perceived by the world - as flanking Nazis and fascists".

All the more reason not to start bombing them. Oh yeah, and speaking of Iranian gays, you might enjoy reading up on one of Persia's most famous poets. Apparently, "his reputation rests on his wine songs (khamriyyat), and his poems of boy love (mudhakkarat)."

Links between Chiquita bananas and right-wing narcoterror groups in Colombia. More at MeFi.

"Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism" - a decent, thoughtful, not stupid mainstream look at MySpaceness, etc.

[More later tonight]


9.19.07 - Monkeytime links:

Via the Raleigh Drinking Liberally group, a scathing dissection of Alan Greenspan's attempt to clean up his legacy at FireDogLake.

Brilliant Glenn Greenwald on General Petraeus, public opinion and how "the right-wing noise machine and their enabling media puppets" screamed and ranted but got the story completely wrong, with sharp follow-up gloating from Kos.

Shooting shines light on murky world of Iraq security, with this great quote:

The workings of security contractors in Iraq are so unclear that the State Department, whom Blackwater protects in Iraq, was still unable to say more than 48 hours after Sunday's incident whether the company holds a legitimate license.

Blackwater banned from Iraq? Probably not, from The Spy Who Billed Me, a fascinating blog criticizing the outsourcing of the war on terror

A panel came up with Best Case/Most Likely/Worst Case scenarios for Rolling Stone last March; it's still an interesting and relevant read, especially if you haven't spent much time recently thinking about Iraq.

Storm drains turned into street art in Sao Paulo, Brazil

The 2nd SparkCon is happening this week. My favorite part of last year's event was the fashion show, which was an unexpected blast. Held outdoors in downtown's Moore Square, it featured a big racially and socially mixed, gay-friendly crowd, art projected, great DJs and some really fascinating and hilarious outfits strutting across the stage. The neighborhood communal art vibe was a lot of fun, and I recommend this Friday's follow-up, at 8pm, as much as I possibly can.


8.29.07 - Monkeytime links:

The full federal indictment of Michael Vick, including the details some folks defending Vick (and dogfighting) seem to want us to forget: 1) the February 2002 execution by shooting and electrocution of dogs that failed "test fights," and 2) the execution of other "test fight" losers in April 2007 "by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

The details of the arrest report of Idaho Senator Larry Craig in that airport bathroom, where he was just taking a shit with a "wide stance," are available in this great Roll Call article. Here's a great Metafilter thread about the news, with lots of backstory, including the unsurprising news that closet gay-bashing homo Larry voted against the 1996 Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have given gay and lesbian citizens the same job protection Christian fundamentalists have and lost in the Senate by one vote.

If you're not one of the 15 million YouTube viewers who've already seen The Battle of Kruger, stop everything right now for the best 8 minutes of nature footage you'll ever see. Just trust me.

Update: Here's that great New Yorker article about pit bulls we talked about. It's 5 pages long, but well worth it. My favorite quote:

A Georgia-based group called the American Temperament Test Society has put twenty-five thousand dogs through a ten-part standardized drill designed to assess a dog’s stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness in the company of people. A handler takes a dog on a six-foot lead and judges its reaction to stimuli such as gunshots, an umbrella opening, and a weirdly dressed stranger approaching in a threatening way. Eighty-four per cent of the pit bulls that have been given the test have passed, which ranks pit bulls ahead of beagles, Airedales, bearded collies, and all but one variety of dachshund. “We have tested somewhere around a thousand pit-bull-type dogs,” Carl Herkstroeter, the president of the A.T.T.S., says. “I’ve tested half of them. And of the number I’ve tested I have disqualified one pit bull because of aggressive tendencies. They have done extremely well. They have a good temperament. They are very good with children.” It can even be argued that the same traits that make the pit bull so aggressive toward other dogs are what make it so nice to humans. “There are a lot of pit bulls these days who are licensed therapy dogs,” the writer Vicki Hearne points out. “Their stability and resoluteness make them excellent for work with people who might not like a more bouncy, flibbertigibbet sort of dog. When pit bulls set out to provide comfort, they are as resolute as they are when they fight, but what they are resolute about is being gentle. And, because they are fearless, they can be gentle with anybody.”

The article does note, "In epidemiological studies of dog bites, the pit bull is overrepresented among dogs known to have seriously injured or killed human beings..." but adds, "Dobermans and Great Danes and German shepherds and Rottweilers are frequent biters as well." It goes on to discuss the difficulties in defining "pit bull" as well as the basic point that mean pit bulls have to be bred to be mean. Another fave quote:

A pit-bull ban is a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general.


8.23.07 - This week's phone-in guest on Monkeytime was science fiction author and NCSU prof John Kessel. Here's an interview about last summer's publication of Feeling Very Strange, an anthology of what Kessel calls "slipstream" fiction, and here are a few reviews. Here's the Hollywood Reporter article about ABC's premature burial of the "Masters of Science Fiction" series, whose first episode was based on a Kessel story. And here's "Creating the Innocent Killer," Kessel's biting critique of the moral and emotional trainwreck of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.


8.8.07 - Quick Monkeytime links:

2004 Salon story about spying on nonviolent dissent groups by Harry Dolan, Raleigh's new police chief, when he was in Grand Rapids, MI. Here's more info on domestic surveillance of peaceful protesters by Dolan, and the documents obtained by the Michigan ACLU after a Freedom of Information Act request.

Further details about peaceful protester Abby Puls, who says she was threatened with arrest and the loss of her job by Grand Rapids police

The Jim Cramer meltdown is all over the net, but you really have to see it in context, namely, that Cramer is a jerk. Here he is last November telling people how wonderful the housing market is doing and how they shouldn't believe the naysayers. It's really damning.

Also damning is this scathing response to Cramer's meltdown, which explains exactly how shitty Cramer's whining truly is. The link was sent to BoingBoing after Xeni posted an embarrassingly ill-informed and shallow gush - "I've been a fan of Jim Cramer for many years, and I've seldom seen him flip out as epically and fantastically as he does in this clip," instinctively siding with a guy whose generally horrible advice has probably hurt thousands of small investors. Way to go, Xeni.

(I posted the above comment in this MeFi thread, which has lots of good commentary about Cramer's hilariously stupid and insulting outburst.)

Last month's closeted gay Republican bathroom sex-for-cash scandal is back in the news via a hilarious, very badly played race card, but at least Rep. Bob Allen, the anti-gay closet case in Florida, was going for something he thought was consensual. This week's lusty anti-gay hypocrite is Glenn Murphy, the recently elected - now recently resigned - head of the Young Republican National Federation, who allegedly tried to take care of his needs by giving a younger guy (whose sister's house the hypocrite was staying in) a blow job while he was sleeping. Upon waking, the young gentleman politely removed himself from the hypocrite's mouth and blew the whistle in return. Full details are in the police report [pdf] , which also notes Murphy had been accused of a similar sexual assault in 1998.

You can't make up stuff this good, which is why it's so nice of the closet cases to do it for us.

As discussed by our opening guest tonight, Skip Elsheimer, who runs AV Geeks and works for (you're a fool if you don't spend an afternoon sometime soon wandering through its collection of amazing films), International Home Movie Day is this Saturday. Read the FAQ if you still don't get why some archivists and historians salivate at the thought of seeing ordinary folks' forgotten flicks.

The music on this week's show included "Contract," my favorite song from this hoary old classic (which every teenage punk should own), and "Fool Yourself," from one of the best rock albums of the 70s.


7.25.07 - Monkeytime links:

Raw footage of the Dallas gas explosion, minus the moronic chatter of talking news heads

More raw footage, including the early stages where a worker tries to put out the fire with a hose before flames appear to engulf the area

More discussion and links at MeFi

The Russian arms dealer we talked about near the end of the show is a real piece of work - multilingual, amoral Viktor Bout. If you're like the caller who was worried about vague Trilateral Commission-type conspiracies, get specific in your concern by reading this detailed Foreign Policy article [pdf] about Bout's position in the global business of stirring up bloodshed by Douglas Farah, coauthor of the new book about Bout, Merchant of Death. Or check Farah's piece about the U.S. military's stupid cozying up to Bout in Iraq from last month's Men's Vogue (don't laugh, mags like that publish great stuff sometimes). Conservatives feel free to note the positive review of Farah's book a few weeks back in the Washington Times.

Here's Tuesday's NY Post article about fakery on the new Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild. The BBC on the story, too. The specific examples cited go way beyond the editing for dramatic effect you, for some reason, usually let "reality" shows get away with.

Oh, and here's the album we played snippets from during the opening and break. It's groovy Latin jazz from Blue Note, well worth picking up.


7.11.07 - Links for Monkeytime TV:

"Shut up you junkie whore!" Highlight reel of Lt. Uhuru (aka Nichelle Nichols) as a foul-mouthed female pimp in the classic but under-appreciated blaxploitation flick Truck Turner


6.27.07 - Links for this week's (and last week's) Monkeytime TV:

Rolling Stone: The Record Industry's Decline

Nerve's Screengrab blog is good if you like film

A wonderfully sharp column from the NYT's David Leonhardt about the Thomas the Tank Engine-Chinese factory-lead paint situation

Transcript of the comments of F. Lane Williamson, head of the ethics panel that disbarred Mike Nifong; page three is where you'll find his hilarious mini-lecture about why we're all wrong about recent slaps on the wrist given to NC prosecutors by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission



6.6.07 - Links for this week's Monkeytime TV:
(I was sick last week, for those who care)

Why does Linwood Wilson, the guy who bullied witnesses in the Duke lacrosse case to get them to change their story to match Mike Nifong's fantasy of events, and is continuing to bully witnesses in other cases that are also getting thrown out of court, still have a job with the Durham DA office?

Brilliant, scathing, totally fucked-up and beautifully designed web comics.


5.23.07 - So, the Netflix copy of The Third Man got here, but as promised, before I get to watch it here are some links we talked about on tonight's show:

Glenn Greenwald remains the most sharp and insightful political blogger in America today; here's yesterday's pointed take on the absurd, insulting conservative spin about the new survey of Muslim-American attitudes towards violence against civilians, and - even better - today's post about the recent University of Maryland survey showing that average Americans have an even higher rate of approval of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians. Absolutely essential reading.

"The Myth of Muslim Support for Terror," an article from February in the Christian Science Monitor, also reported on that University of Maryland study, noting that 24% of Americans as a whole responded that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified."

Ok, can I watch the Graham Greene movie now? I've been on this major Graham Greene kick - The Power and the Glory, Our Man in Havana and The Quiet American are fantastic, powerful, funny and gripping little books, and Greene's life story and bristly personality are weirdly fascinating. Ever since a film prof told me last week that The Third Man made the #1 spot on the British Film Institute's list of all-time best British films, I've been dying to see it. So, see ya later.


5.3.07 - Ok, ok, blog's active again. Links talked about on this week's Monkeytime TV:

Highlights from former Senator Mike Gravel's wonderfully honest, if slightly spittle-ridden, performance at the MSNBC presidential candidates debate

Gravel's site on CNN's March decision to keep him out, and its reversal, and the Metafilter discussion


2.28.07 - Monkeytime TV:

There's an element to the story of the Enloe High teacher who invited a rabidly anti-Muslim evangelist to his class that hasn't yet been mentioned in any of the media coverage I've seen: public high school history teacher Robert Escamilla is a Bible-based Christian member of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, and has signed their major proclamation: "I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education."

Every teacher's entitled to his or her off-time personal activities, of course (including gay and lesbian teachers, a point folks like Escamilla often forget), but at what point does Escamilla's behavior start to look like a pattern from someone doing his best to evangelize to public school students on company time? Good question, that.


2.21.07 - Monkeytime TV links:

Do nothing else before you read this piece about Jim Black and the free ride he got from the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer in the Charlotte alt weekly Creative Loafing. I know I praised an Observer columnist last week (hell, in comparison to the N&O's columnist, anyone would be sharper), but Tara Servatius really nails the mainstream paper for its tepid stance against Black's obvious corruption:

In other states with less dysfunctional political and editorial environments, editorial boards call for the resignation of those who merely accept junkets or illegal campaign cash from interest groups and lobbyists.

Black took that to a whole new level when he moved a lobbyist into his office to work as an unpaid personal assistant, performing tasks like managing his daily affairs, raising money for him and shaking her clients down for campaign cash. Meanwhile her boss at the lottery company Scientific Games wrote parts of the state's lottery law, inserting language designed to help the lottery company's bid.

With the help of his pet lobbyist, Meredith Norris, Black created a tourism job for the wife of one of her clients who had donated $8,000 to Black. Moments later, the client shot back a thank you e-mail and a pledge to give $2,000 more. In August, former Republican legislator Michael Decker pleaded guilty to extortion, money laundering and fraud charges for taking $50,000 to switch parties and vote for Black for speaker. He hasn't yet said who paid him, but he has named Black as a co-conspirator.

This is what the Observer calls "questionable behavior."

Even after newspapers, including the Observer , started reporting this stuff, Black kept doing it. That's probably because the one institution that could really have put some heat on him clearly wouldn't. The Big O's editorial board eventually made a tepid suggestion that he resign the speakership after the public screamed about the paper's seemingly open-ended support of Black.

As late as last year, Black was still working on legislation for the chiropractors we now know paid him wads of cash in the bathrooms of swanky clubs. I think that's because he knew if he could avoid indictment, Charlotte's political and social establishment wouldn't care what he did.


2.14.07 - Monkeytime TV links:

An AP story in the Boston Herald provides more details right now about Jim Black's resignation than the Charlotte Observer, which tells us to "Read tomorrow's Charlotte Observer for more details on this developing story." Amazing how some news people still don't get the Internet. Luckily, an Observer columnist has already posted a must-read piece - the kind of piece the N&O's middle-of-the-roader Rob Christensen would never be able to write - including the thought that Black is "likely to do prison time":

The charge sounds so tame. Accepting illegal gratuities. It's as if Jim Black walked through a diner and filched the tips off the tables. But the charge is no joke. It's a federal felony. Now that Black is expected to plead guilty -- his lawyer confirmed that Tuesday -- Black is done as a politician. And he's likely to do prison time.

Still. Accepting illegal gratuities. We need better words to describe what Jim Black is guilty of.

Let's give it a try.

He corrupted the office of speaker of the House -- the fourth-highest position in N.C. government.

He blamed others -- underlings, enemies, the media -- and denied he did anything wrong.

He stalled until he could win one more election that he never would have won had voters known the whole truth.

He shamed his office, his party, his county, his district, and all those people over all those years who trusted him enough to vote for him.

That's a start.

One source told the Observer that the federal charge isn't related to the scandals Black has been connected to most.

His ties to the video-poker business. The deals he cut involving the N.C. lottery. Former legislator Michael Decker's admission that he took a $50,000 bribe to keep Black in power.

To repeat: The federal charge isn't about those things. It's something else.

Jim Black and his friends can always roll out a list of the good things he did for North Carolina and especially for Mecklenburg County. Anyone who stays in power long enough can compile such a list. And the one thing Jim Black excels at is acquiring power. He set a state record in money-raising for his first campaign. He served two terms, then lost three straight elections but kept trying until he got back in. He won his spot as speaker by one vote in 1999 but kept his grip on it for eight years.

Yes, he helped Mecklenburg County. Yes, he helped North Carolina. But most of all he helped Jim Black. It's not clear at this point what Black took that led to the federal charge. But he's also expected to plead guilty to charges in state court. By the time the court appearances are over, we should have a better picture of just how Black helped himself at the public's expense.

At least the parts that prosecutors could prove.

And just to refresh your memory, here's the sleazy Black-Decker $50,000 IHOP deal - that would be $38,000 in checks and $12,000 in cash.


1.10.07 - Monkeytime TV links:

Wall Street Journal article from November, "Weighing Minimum Wage Hikes":

During the 2002 debate in Oregon, foes of a minimum-wage increase argued that it would chase away business and cripple an economy that traditionally had higher unemployment than the national average. "With so many Oregonians already unemployed, raising the minimum wage and then increasing it annually would devastate our economic recovery," Bill Perry, head of the Oregon Restaurant Association, wrote at the time.

Four years later, though it is impossible to say what would have happened had the minimum not been raised, Oregon's experience suggests the most strident doomsayers were wrong. Private, nonfarm payrolls are up 8% over the past four years, nearly twice the national increase. Wages are up, too. Job growth is strong in industries employing many minimum-wage workers, such as restaurants and hotels. Oregon's estimated 5.4% unemployment rate for 2006, though higher than the national average, is down from 7.6% in 2002, when the state was emerging from a recession.

Media Matters is great for debunking the conservative myths about the minimum wage, including the much-shouted myth on the right that most of the people who'll benefit are students and part-time workers:

[A]ccording to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a majority -- 71 percent -- of those who would be "directly affected" by the Democratic minimum-wage proposal are age 20 or over.

In an October 25, 2006, briefing paper, EPI reported that an "[a]nalysis of the 2005 Current Population Survey reveals that the workers potentially affected by a minimum wage increase are mainly adults who typically work full time and provide significant income to their families."

Note the lack of similar studies to back up the conservative spin.

Here's Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford's NPR commentary this morning about the good things that happened to an Alabama university that dropped its athletic scholarship program, including more minority students, more students playing sports and more alumni contributions. Here's an excerpt from the written version:

One of the great arguments against giving up athletic scholarships was that it would damage campus diversity (ie. there go the black athletes). Well, under the old system, the freshman class was six percent African-American. This year it was 14 percent. "It's a question of where you are looking," says President Pollick. Birmingham Southern, you see, started looking more in classrooms than on playing fields.

And oh yes, this too. With the money saved from scholarships, a football team has been added at Birmingham Southern, as well as four other new sports, male and female. Almost twice as many students will actually play intercollegiate sports than did before. Giving up athletic scholarships at Birmingham Southern greatly improved, yes ... athletics at Birmingham Southern.


1.4.07 - 13 Photographs that Changed the World. [via] [link]


1.3.07 - For tonight's Monkeytime TV:

The best James Brown video I've seen online since his death - "Mother Popcorn," live (not lip-synced) on Music Scene, November 10, 1969. Music Scene was a short-lived ABC TV show that looks to have been pretty interesting itself.

Amazing 6-hour WFMU James Brown tribute show, from December 2001

NY Times article about transgender Pakistani TV show host Ali Saleem, whose story highlights the existence of an urbane, relatively enlightened middle class in Pakistan

Interview with Saleem from She Magazine



12.20.06 - For Monkeytime TV tonight, a couple of links to help talk to your family about the idiocy of Cheney/Bush's Iraq policy:

"Surging" to Defeat in Iraq. Good piece; scroll down for this quote from Republican Senator Gordon Smith, who said last week that keeping U.S. soldiers in harm's way for a useless strategy "may even be criminal":

“I said [criminal]. You can use any adjective you want...But I have long believed, in a military context, when you do the same thing over and over again, without a clear strategy for victory, at the expense of your young people in arms, that is dereliction. That is deeply immoral.”

And yet neocons insist we have to "surge" on. With other people's lives instead of their own as the currency, of course.

More Troops in Iraq? We've Got History on That - great article from the Columbia Journalism Review blog about the press' failure to remind America about the last surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad, just a few months ago. All it did was create a surge from the other side, which, judging from the chaos we see today, clearly won out:

But despite McCain, Lieberman and Kagan's conviction that more troops equals victory, Forward Together didn't work out so well. On October 20, the Washington Post reported that according to the Army itself, the tactic failed: "A two-month U.S.-Iraqi military operation to stem sectarian bloodshed and insurgent attacks in Baghdad has failed to reduce the violence, which has surged 22 percent in the capital in the last three weeks, much of it in areas where the military has focused its efforts ... The assessment by Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV followed a 43 percent spike in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the capital since midsummer that has pushed U.S. military fatalities to their highest rates in more than a year." [link]


12.13.06 - For tonight's Monkeytime TV:

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was in my neighborhood last week, making a mess and blocking streets on ridiculously short notice but also doing a great deed for a really sweet, deserving neighborhood family. A bit late but as promised last Wednesday, here are links to a couple of discussions of the way ABC's lawyers are using a "questionable interpretation" of income tax law, which may have negative implications down the line for those really sweet and deserving recipients of free homes. This is not the property tax issue, which is easily understood and planned for, and was mentioned in much local coverage, but is a different, deeper point entirely:

This is an unexplored area, but the families who have received such goodwill from Home Edition have reason to be wary. Aside from the known property tax ramifications, there remain tens of thousands of dollars of potential income tax burdens lurking in the shadows. The families' lawyers (in reality, the show's lawyers) have assured them that there is nothing to worry about; but the situation is not black and white.

More at those two links. Basically, it looks like the show's lawyers are counting on the goodwill of the IRS to not go after what seems to be a dodge, while telling journalists that everything's all in order. In none of the (frankly excessive) coverage I saw in our local daily on this story was this issue mentioned.

Other links:


11.29.06 - Links for tonight's Monkeytime TV:

Christian Science Monitor article about scrutiny of "no-knock" raids

"Drug raid informant says he was asked to lie"

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids, a map from the libertarian Cato Institute

Radley Balko at The Agitator, a critic of paramilitary police raids against civilian homes for a while now, places what went down in Atlanta in horrifying context and asks some very tough questions.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds suggests police raids should be videotaped.

More amazing animations:

  • Mr. CityMen - five achingly beautiful, evocative shorts from Israeli university student Eric Lerner. I love Mr. Dreamer but Mr. Fortune is a catchier, friendlier introduction; they're all worth watching.
  • "Buried Treasure," a filthy, funny, adults-only short from the early 1920s



11.22.06 - Links for tonight's Monkeytime TV:

"Fallen Art," a brilliant short film from Polish animator Tomek Baginski
Baginski's previous short, the Oscar-nominated "Cathedral"

A year-by-year archive, from 1930 to the present, of every poignant, creepy, tacky, tragic, goofy, beautiful and, yes, kinda slutty cover of the magazine that started out as Astounding Stories of Super Science and became Analog, with lots of changes in between.

Ask Metafilter: How to deal with being stuck alone on Thanksgiving?

Glenn Greenwald writes Unclaimed Territory, one of the best political blogs around; he's particularly good when dissecting the stupidity and moral vacuousness of beltway media pundits

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote a few days ago on his blog about why James Carville went after Howard Dean. The Hotline blog dissected Carville's ridiculous claim of another dozen wins if only Dean had spent more money in those races. Meanwhile, Carville is silent on the "extraordinary burn rate" of Hillary Clinton's campaign, which spent an unbelievable $29.5 million on an extremely safe Senate race, much of it "for catering, flowers and photography."

I've tried the Sullivan Street Bakery's amazingly simple no-knead bread recipe (spread by Mark Bittman in the NYT the day after the election, video here) twice now, and can vouch for it wholeheartedly. Next time I'm adding dill or rosemary.



11.15.06 - Links for tonight's Monkeytime TV:

Fundamentalist public high school history teacher preaches in class, telling students "you belong in hell" if you don't believe in Jesus, then denies it, but - oops - one student recorded him

Polish high school foreign exchange student:
My half-year in hell with a fundamentalist NC family

Info about Saturday night's Leonid meteor shower

Here's Newsmax's version of the story that leading pro-war neocon Richard Perle now thinks invading Iraq was a mistake and we should have tried "other strategies" first

NCWARN, our local nuclear watchdog, has lots of information up about the recent safety violations at the Shearon Harris power plant, which it (rightly) calls "one of the most dangerous nuclear plants in America"

N&O story about the simultaneous failure of the plant's 20-year-old mechanical sirens, which, hilariously enough, didn't have battery backup, "rotate like a weather vane and require belts, pumps and grease" to operate. What is this, the 1940s?



9.6.06 - Tonight's Monkeytime TV focuses on downtown Raleigh, with guests including Liz Masnik, owner of The Borough (a great new neighborhood pub/restaurant), and Aly Khalifa, one of the driving forces behind Spark Con, a weekend of workshops, talks and arts events that starts next Thursday, September 14, and has at least one excitable reporter/activist spreading talk about a Raleigh-based South By Southeast next year. Seems a bit premature, but should be an interesting event nonetheless. A few other quick links we'll be discussing:

Liz talks with the N&O about the benefits of owning a "retail condo" instead of renting downtown space for her business

Op-ed piece by Aly about creativity and its difficulties in Raleigh

[more to come] [link]


9.6.06 - Ape Artists of the 1950s. From a great MeFi thread about Cheeta - yes, that Cheeta - and his fabulous paintings. You can buy me one for just $135, you know. [link]


9.6.06 - Check this interesting WaPo article about troubles the FBI is having separating out real terrorists from "delusional dreamers" whose worst crime may be that they let themselves be encouraged by undercover FBI informants to keep plotting. Let's nod to the complexities inherent in this kind of law enforcement investigation in general before wondering if the informants didn't cross a line trying to score a win in the Terror Wars:

On June 23, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a news conference to announce the destruction of a terrorist cell inside the United States...But court records released since then suggest that what Gonzales described as a "deadly plot" was virtually the pipe dream of a few men with almost no ability to pull it off on their own.

...lawyers for the defendants have raised questions about where a government sting ends and entrapment begins. Not only did government informants provide money and a meeting place for Batiste and his followers, but they also gave them video cameras for conducting surveillance, as well as cellphones, and suggested that their first target be a Miami FBI office, court records show.

Keep reading the details; at every step, it seems, the FBI informants were the folks materially advancing the plot. But it's also true that the suspects followed along willingly, talking a good murder game, swearing themselves into al Qaeda, taking video of target buildings and more. It all ends messily, of course, with political infighting among the suspects as the trigger.

Like I said, the article is an interesting window onto this kind of investigation. I'm thinking this one looks kind of like a waste of resources, though, and am gonna keep being skeptical of official claims of foiling a major plot in press conferences on the day of a terror arrest. [via Cursor] [link]


9.5.06 - Private Collection - a sarcastic gallery exhibit of not-so-rare objets d'art stolen from famous European galleries. Apparently, it's "a reaction to the commoditization of art and to gallery monopolies that price art, dictate which artworks have value, and set themselves up as the arbiters of artists' qualities," but don't let the overblown opening paragraph stop you from enjoying the gag. [via] [link]


9.4.06 - Odd, interesting black-and-white photos of books, among other things. [link]


9.4.06 - Cool article from Charlotte's Creative Loafing about the new Fort Awesome School of Rock in Lansing, NC, sparked last year by two artistic families with a vision of making something interesting happen in an abandoned WPA-era high school in a tiny town near the Virginia border. It's great that town residents appear to be embracing the idea, helped by last month's Ola Belle Reed Homecoming Festival. Here's Reed's detailed Allmusic bio (she's a much-respected early country stalwart and Lansing native), along with a review of one of her later albums by Greensboro's own Eugene Chadbourne. [link]


9.4.06 - Finally: The Great British Venn Diagram. I have never understood this stuff until now.

Also: Funny money.

[both via the amazing Look At This, which cures Internet boredom in five seconds flat] [link]


You can't stop now.


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