Tuesday, November 30, 2010

HUM 221 Archive


Conversations with History: Noam Chomsky (2002)

Bill Moyer's Crisis in Capitalism; Ben Barber asks "Global Consumer or Global Citizen?"; Naomi Klein's Brilliant History The Shock Doctrine

The Freedom Riders -- New Documentary Recounts Historic 1961 Effort to Challenge Segregated Bus System in the Deep South

You Never Knowism

Shane Locker: Captive Exotics

Captive Exotics: What’s Right and Wrong?
by Shane Locker
ENG 102

When thinking of a household pet what often comes to mind? Perhaps a dog, cat, or even a hamster. These animals are the most common, but what if I told you it was possible to keep something like say a chimpanzee or an African lion? Would you be completely ecstatic or find it hard to believe? Well, for those of you who may possibly find it hard to believe well, start believing! In certain states and other countries it is quite possible to acquire these wild animals as pets, in fact in some cases they are so easy to obtain all it takes is a quick internet search and a few clicks! But the real question is, is it right to be able to own these creatures? Breed them? Yes in certain circumstances, and no in others. It is all dependent upon the reason behind what possessed the individual to have such potentially dangerous animals. There are those who will own these animals for reasons of education and conservation and there are those who will purchase them for an ego boost. Over the years there have been numerous situations where people have been injured and even killed by exotic animals that were kept as pets. From primates to large predatory cats, is it ok or ethical to keep these animals as pets?

So, let’s talk a little bit about ego. During this day and age there are many things someone can purchase to give a potential ego boost: Fancy cars, Vegas vacations, whatever tickles your fancy that states to the general public “I’m better than you!” However, there are those who always want more, sometimes the fancy cars just are not enough. A great example would be a Cincinnati Bengal’s football player Chad Johnson. Chad Johnson is the owner of a large adult male Bengal tiger, his reasoning of purchasing a tiger are completely un-ethical for a couple of reasons. He purchased the tiger because he can afford the hefty price tag on one of these animals and he plays for a team that’s mascot just so happens to be a Bengal tiger. He bought this animal with no intentions of educational use or research, (if you have ever listened to an interview with the guy clearly he is not a biologist.) he purchased the tiger just like someone would go out and buy a poodle! This type of ownership is wrong because no matter how rich Mr. Johnson or anyone else who is financially able to drop fifteen to twenty grand on one of these beautiful animals, they cannot provide adequate space or enrichment for an adult male tiger, most zoos do not even provide adequate space for their tigers. The states that allow ownership of exotic cats require a USDA license and the USDA minimum space requirement for all exotic cats is enough space for the cat to simply turn around, this minimum is considered acceptable and many private owners utilize this. Keeping a tiger in such a small space can cause abnormal behavior within the cats such as pacing and swaying. (Nihus, Tilson 207-208) On average and adult male Bengal tigers territorial range is between 2 and 60 miles, (Nihus, Tilson 23) so technically speaking if following the minimum natural range for a male Bengal tiger then the minimum enclosure requirement should be about two square miles.

Another reason ego driven ownership is wrong is the danger. Exotic felines are extremely unpredictable in a captive environment, since 1990 there have been 20 fatal attacks related to captive exotic cats. Fourteen of the attacks involved tigers. (Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership) Each attack being unique; only a couple of the attacks occurred during a scheduled feeding time. Other attacks took place during general interaction between owner and animal with no apparent motivation behind the attack, and there are also two attacks involving incidents with zoological facilities i.e. the Christmas day incident in San Diego in 2007 when a female Sumatran tiger escaped her enclosure killing one person and injuring another. The majority of people who actually decide to go out and purchase a tiger or any other inherently dangerous animal for a private collection do not know what they are truly getting themselves into, the statistics for fatalities may not be very high but there is always that possibility an attack may occur because these animals have not evolved to be reared in a captive setting. Most people who own these animals just want to be able to have the gratification of saying “I own a tiger” or “I own an elephant” and sadly anyone can go out and buy one because of the multiple irresponsible breeders out there, but more on that later.

There are many sanctuaries throughout the world that keep wild animals for reasons of educating conservation, rehabilitation, and research of individual species. Now, the question is what makes these organizations so different from private owners? And why is this type of ownership acceptable? The majority of sanctuaries are started by individuals who happen to acquire some sort of wild animal that they have rescued from horrible captive conditions and build from there, usually with the help of local or state government. The difference is that these individuals who start these sanctuaries are not looking for so much an ego boost but they are concerned for the wild animals and are trying to help them by offering sanctuary for those who are neglected or not given the proper care. This sort of ownership is completely acceptable, the motivation and goals of these organizations are completely different from that of someone with a high ego; wildlife sanctuaries teach conservation and offer hands on experiences within a controlled setting.

Hands on experience with wild animals has been proven to further incline people to more actively pursue efforts in conservation. (Manfredo 61-62) These facilities also offer rehabilitation services for injured and abandoned wildlife. For the injured wildlife they give them a second opportunity at life and in most cases the animals that are rehabilitated are conditioned for re-release back into their natural habitat. Abandoned specimens are usually kept on site in specially designed enclosures meeting USDA or AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) standards in the United States. Often times animals that are deemed unfit for release back into their natural environment can become subject of study for biologists, conservationists, and students. Thus, giving a better understanding of individual species overall, from behavior to feeding and husbandry requirements. These sanctuaries are built from the heart; an effort to help the creatures who have no control over the world, and giving back to the wild.

Breeding captive wildlife is a very controversial issue believed by many to be completely wrong no matter what the circumstance. There are two different types of breeding, those who breed animals in a sales setting which would include those who breed different species in an “assembly line” type environment to breed as many animals as they can and make a profit off of the sale with usually no regard for proper care etiquette. This type of breeding is completely unethical and wrong, and in some cases some of the breeding programs are illegal and fueled by the animal trade that goes on within the depths of the black market. Illegal breeding programs may include endangered or evasive species (Laufer 208-210). Assembly line breeding is extremely stressful on the animals that are being bred, and the conditions are usually close quarters where the animals are basically shoulder to shoulder being forced to walk around in their own feces. To summarize assembly line style breeding, it is a type of breeding that is fueled by capitalism with no regard for the animals’ health. The second type of breeding is breeding aimed toward reintroduction of a species to its natural environment. This type of breeding is completely acceptable because in most cases these breeding programs are aimed specifically toward the re-establishment of a new population of an endangered species. These breeding programs are usually only proctored by zoos or sanctuaries in an effort to save a species that is in rapid decline due to human invasion and destruction of natural habitat. The reason zoos and sanctuaries are the only facilities that do this style of breeding is because of the high cost to insure the programs are successful, and the programs are very popular with the general public. Finally these facilities are prepared to follow the specifications for proper release of an animal back into its natural environment, i.e. Whether the release occurs within the species’ original geographic range, whether there is a preexisting free-ranging population at the release site (Kleiman, Allen, Thompson, and Lumpkin 297).

From egotistical owners and assembly line breeders the keeping of exotic animals has been practiced for thousands of years, and will remain in practice for the ages to come. The important thing is remembering what is considered ethical, reflecting on the paragraphs above and cognitively analyzing the facts. You do not have to agree with me on everything necessarily just absorb the information with an open mind. When analyzing ego driven exotic animal ownership have sympathy for the animal that is being held, remember in most cases the owner doesn’t even know the basics of proper captive care for whatever exotic they may be receiving. Understand the difference in ego driven ownership and sanctuary ownership, and understand why they are different and one is more plausibly acceptable than the other, as well as understanding assembly line style breeding programs that are driven by capitalism and captive breeding programs designed for reintroduction of species to a particular geographic range or security of endangered species. Which one is more ethical? That is for you to decide, wise and unwise choices will continue to take place throughout the years in the industry of keeping exotic animals some mistakes will prove to be lethal but it should be known that the resources are available to prevent these potentially lethal mistakes.

In closing, it is important to note that this was written not only to inform and argue different aspects of keeping exotic animals but to help you the reader gain a better understanding of the necessity of conservation and the ethical practices in keeping exotic wildlife in general, whether it a large constrictor snake or a Bengal tiger. It is important that exotic animals are kept the proper way to insure the teachings about these amazing animals are passed on to the generations to come, extinction is forever. Extinction is the thing that we should ultimately strive to prevent due to its devastating effects in the worlds ecological system; the demise of one animal can cause the disruption within any biome because each population exists to play a vital role within the circle of life and death.

Kleiman, Devra, Mary Allen, Katerina Thompson, and Susan Lumpkin. Wild Mammals in Captivity: Principles and Techniques. Chicago,IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996. 297. Print.

Laufer, Peter. Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2010. 208-210. Print.

Manfredo, Michael. Who Cares About Wildlife?: Social Science Concepts for Exploring Human Wildlife Relationships and Conservation Issues. New York, NY: Springer Science and Business Media, LLC, 2008. 61-62. Print.

"REXANO USA: Captive Big Cat Statistics-Human Fatalities." Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership. REXANO, Dec 2009. Web. 9 Nov 2010. .

Tilson, Ronald, and Philip Nyhus. Tigers of the World:The Science, Politics, and Conservation of Panthera tigris. 2nd ed. San Diego,CA: Academic Press, 2010. 207-208,23. Print.

Michel Foucault: The Minimalist Self, The Use of Pleasure, and, Intellectuals and Power; Ivan Illich: Deschooling Society; B.F. Skinner: Walden Two

From "The Minimalist Self":

"For me intellectual work is related to what you would call aestheticism, meaning transforming yourself. I believe my problem is the strange relationship between knowledge, scholarship, theory and real history. I know very well, and I think I knew it from the moment when I was a child, that knowledge can do nothing for transforming the world. Maybe I am wrong. And I am sure I am wrong from a theoretical point of view for I know very well that knowledge has transformed the world. ... I am not interested in the academic status of what I am doing because my problem is my own transformation. That's the reason also why, when people say, 'Well, you thought this a few years ago and now you say something else,' my answer is [laughter] 'Well, do you think I have worked like that all those years to say the same thing and not to be changed?' This transformation of one's self by one's own knowledge is, I think, something rather close to the aesthetic experience. Why should a painter work if he is not transformed by his own painting?"

From Foucault, The Use of Pleasure—v. 2 History of Sexuality, pp 8-9:

As for what motivated me, it is quite simple: I would hope that in the eyes of some people it might be sufficient in itself. It was curiosity—the only kind of curiosity, in any case, that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy: not the curiosity that seeks to assimilate what it is proper for one to know, but that which enables one to get free of oneself. After all, what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not, in one way or another and to the extent possible, in the knower’s straying afield of himself? There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all. People will say, perhaps, that these games with oneself would be better left backstage; or, at best, that they might properly form part of those preliminary exercises that are forgotten once they have served their purpose. But, then, what is philosophy today—philosophical activity, I mean—if it is not the critical work that thought brings to bear on itself? In what does it consist, if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known? There is always something ludicrous in philosophical discourse when it tries, from the outside, to dictate to others, to tell them where their truth is and how to find it, or when it works up a case against them in the language of naive positivity. But it is entitled to explore what might be changed, in its own thought, through the practice of a knowledge that is foreign to it. The “essay”—which should be understood as the assay or test by which, in the game of truth, one undergoes changes, and not as the simplistic appropriation of others for the purpose of communication—is the living substance of philosophy, at least if we assume that philosophy is what it was in times past, i.e., an “ascesis,” askesis, an exercise of oneself in the activity of thought.

From Foucault, “Intellectuals and Power: A Conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 1977, pp. 207-208.

[T]here exists ... a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one that profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire social network. Intellectuals are themselves part of this system of power—the idea of their responsibility for “consciousness” and discourse forms part of the system. The intellectual’s role is no longer to place himself “somewhat ahead and to the side” in order to express the stifled truth of the collectivity; rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that would transform him into its object and instrument in the sphere of “knowledge,” “truth,” “consciousness,” and “discourse.”

Ivan Illich from Deschooling Society, p. 58:

People who submit to the standard of others for the measure of their own personal growth soon apply the ... ruler to themselves. They no longer have to be put in their place, but put themselves into their assigned slots, squeeze themselves into the niche which they have been taught to seek, and, in the very process, put their fellows into their places, too, until everybody and everything fits.

From B. F. Skinner, Walden Two (1948 utopian novel by behaviorist psychologist):

All that happens is contained in an original plan, yet at every stage the individual seems to be making choices and determining the outcome.... Our members are practically always doing what they want to do—what they “choose” to do—but we see to it that they will want to do precisely the things which are best for themselves and the community. Their behavior is determined, yet they’re free.

John Holloway: Crack Capitalism

Crack Capitalism (excerpt)
by John Holloway

We are all in a room with four walls, a floor, a ceiling and no windows or door. The room is furnished and some of us are sitting comfortably, others most definitely are not. The walls are advancing inwards gradually, sometimes slower, sometimes faster, making us all more uncomfortable, advancing all the time, threatening to crush us all to death.

There are discussions within the room, but they are mostly about how to arrange the furniture. People do not seem to see the walls advancing. From time to time there are elections about how to place the furniture. These elections are not unimportant: They make some people more comfortable, others less so; they may even affect the speed at which the walls are moving, but they do nothing to stop their relentless advance.

As the walls grow closer, people react in different ways. Some refuse absolutely to see the advance of the walls, shutting themselves tightly into a world of Disney and defending with determination the chairs they are sitting on. Some see and denounce the movement of the walls, build a party with a radical program and look forward to a day in the future when there will be no walls. Others – and I among them – run to the walls and try desperately to find cracks, or faults beneath the surface, or to create cracks by banging on the walls. This looking for and creation of cracks is a practical-theoretical activity, a throwing ourselves against the walls and also a standing back to try and see cracks or faults in the surface. The two activities are complementary: Theory makes little sense unless it is understood as part of the desperate effort to find a way out, to create cracks that defy the apparently unstoppable advance of capital, of the walls that are pushing us to our destruction.

Source Link

To Read Change the World Without Taking Power

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CommonDreams: US Cables Leak Sparks Global Diplomatic Crisis; UK Guardian: Interactive Searchable by Country Database

US Cables Leak Sparks Global Diplomatic Crisis: Classified embassy dispatches reveal Saudi king pressed US for military action on Iran and Washington used diplomats to spy on UN
by David Leigh

The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables - many of which are designated "secret" – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN's leadership.

These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.

These include a major shift in relations between China and North Korea, Pakistan's growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.

Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:

• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme

• Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.

• Devastating criticism of the UK's military operations in Afghanistan.

• Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.

To Read the Rest of the Article

More Resources:

UK Guardian: Use our interactive guide to discover what has been revealed in the leak of 250,000 US diplomatic cables. Mouse over the map below to find stories and original documents by country, subject or people

Progressive Radio Show: Ann Jones -- War Is Not Over When It's Over

Progressive Radio Show

Ann Jones, author of "War Is Not Over When It's Over."

To Listen to the Interview

Progressive Radio: Si Kahn and Donna Red Wing -- the outgoing and incoming leaders of Grassroots Leadership

Progressive Radio

... Si Kahn and Donna Red Wing, the outgoing and incoming leaders of Grassroots Leadership.

To Listen to the Interview

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Boots on the Ground

Boots on the Ground
To the Best of Our Knowledge (Wisonsin Public Radio)

Iraq. April 6, 2004. This day marked the Marines' heaviest fighting since Vietnam and was the start of the Iraqi insurgency. By the end of the day more than 40 Marines and hundreds of Iraqis were dead. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a day that transformed the war in Iraq. General Sanchez, commander of US forces that day, will give us his perspective. And, we'll talk with the Marines who were there about a day they'll never forget.


This hour takes a look back at one momentous day during the war in Iraq: April 6, 2004 saw the birth of the Iraqi insurgency and the heaviest fighting the U.S. Marines had encountered since Vietnam. Donovan Campbell commanded a platoon of Marines in Ramadi. He tells Steve Paulson that to understand the events of April 6, you have to know what went on the night before. He also tells the story in his memoir, "Joker One."


Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez served as Commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004. He shared power with Paul Bremer, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Sanchez commanded Coalition Forces during the capture of Saddam Hussein, the revelation about Abu Ghraib and on April 6, 2004. His memoir is called "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story." General Sanchez recalled his service in this candid discussion with Steve Paulson.


Steve Levin is the producer of a documentary film, "Jerabek," which follows the family of a young Marine killed in the ambush at ar-Ramadi on April 6, 2004. Levin talks with Anne Strainchamps about his film and its subject - Ryan Jerabek, his family and community. Also, journalist David Swanson was embedded in ar-Ramadi with Ryan Jerabek's unit the day Ryan died. He tells Jim Fleming the Marines knew that location was dangerous and resented having to patrol there every day at the same time. David Swanson is a staff photographer at the Philadelphia Inquirer. His war photography is available HERE.

To Listen to the Episodes and Access More

BBC: Wikileaks 'hacked ahead of secret US document release'

Wikileaks 'hacked ahead of secret US document release'

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks says it is under attack from a computer-hacking operation, ahead of a release of secret US documents.

"We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack," it says on its Twitter feed.

It adds that several newspapers will go ahead and publish the documents released to them by Wikileaks even if the site goes down.

The US state department has said the release will put many lives at risk.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said the US authorities are afraid of being held to account.

Wikileaks has said the release of classified messages sent by US embassies will be bigger than past releases on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The newspapers set to publish details of the US embassy cables include Spain's El Pais, France's Le Monde, Germany's Speigel, the UK's Guardian and the New York Times.

The latest leak is expected to include documents covering US dealings and diplomats' confidential views of countries including Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel, Russia and Turkey.

To Read the rest of the Report

Radio West: The Struggle for Survival in the Obama White House

[Overly optimistic and soft-pedaling failures, but good insights into the working of the Obama administration]

The Struggle for Survival in the Obama White House
Radio West (KUER: University of Utah)

Journalist Richard Wolffe has been covering Barack Obama since the President first announced his candidacy. Wolffe's book "Renegade" gave a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign and the man. Two years on, Obama's political authority has been shaken by the mid-term elections, and Wolffe has been talking to White House insiders. His new book is called "Revival," and Richard Wolffe joins Doug to talk about the shift from campaign to governing and what the next two years may have in store.

To Listen to the Interview

For My Love Who Is Far Away: Response to e.e. cummings "I Carry Your Heart"

I carry your heart and your love with me and it warms my days and gives light to my dark nights... I carry your heart and it softens my edges and fills me with love for you, and, in turn love for the world... I carry your heart, and it reminds me that you will soon be home with me and that makes me happy.

e.e. cummings "I Carry Your Heart

Ramzy Baroud: More Than a Bribe -- Obama Surrenders Palestinian Rights

More Than a Bribe: Obama Surrenders Palestinian Rights
by Ramzy Baroud
Foreign Policy Journal

The Middle East policies of US President Barack Obama may well prove the most detrimental in history so far, surpassing even the rightwing policies of President George W. Bush. Even those who warned against the overt optimism which accompanied Obama’s arrival to the White House must now be stunned to see how low the US president will go to appease Israel – all under the dangerous logic of needing to keep the peace process moving forward.

Former Middle East peace diplomat Aaron David Miller argued in Foreign Policy that “any advance in the excruciatingly painful world of Arab-Israeli negotiations is significant.” He further claimed: “The Obama administration deserves much credit for keeping the Israelis, Palestinians, and key Arab states on board during some very tough times. The U.S. president has seized on this issue and isn’t giving up — a central requirement for success.”

But at what price, Mr. Miller? And wouldn’t you agree that one party’s success can also mean another’s utter and miserable failure?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly spent eight hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only to persuade him to accept one of the most generous bribes ever bestowed by the United States on any foreign power. The agreement includes the sale of $3 billion worth of US military aircrafts (in addition to the billions in annual aid packages), a blanket veto of any UN Security Council resolution deemed unfavorable to Israel, and the removal of East Jerusalem from any settlement freeze equation (thus condoning the illegal occupation of the city and the undergoing ethnic cleansing). But even more dangerous than all of these is “a written American promise that this will be the last time President Obama asks the Israelis to halt settlement construction through official channels.”

Significant. Achievement. Success. Are these really the right terms to describe the latest harrowing scandal? Even the term ‘bribe’, which is abundantly used to describe American generosity, isn’t quite adequate here. Bribes have defined the relationship between the ever-generous White House and the quisling Congress to win favor with the ever-demanding Israel and its growingly belligerent Washington lobby. It is not the concept of bribery that should shock us, but the magnitude of the bribe, and the fact that it is presented by a man who positioned himself as a peacemaker (and actually became certified as one, courtesy of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee).

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Radio West: Remembering Roald Dahl

Remembering Roald Dahl
Radio West (KUER:The University of Utah)

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of Roald Dahl's death, and Doug is joined by Dahl's biographer and friend Donald Sturrock. Roald Dahl is of course the creator of the children's classics "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach," and his own life was as funny, dark and fascinating as the fictional worlds he created. We'll talk about his story and about his evolution as a storyteller.

To Listen to the Episode

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Torturing Democracy

Torturing Democracy

Documentary showing how at the request of the Bush administration, the legal staff pushed the envelope and redefined torture in an attempt to stay out of trouble. No war crimes for this administration and so far with help from their friends, they have gotten away with it.

Maximilian Forte's study guides and archive of resources for the documentary.

Media Matters with Bob McChesney: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (WILL: Illinois Public Media)

Bernie Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Listen to McChesney and Senator Sanders talk about the American political climate

To Listen to the Conversation

Cultures of Resistance: A Look at Global Militarization

Cultures of Resistance: A Look at Global Militarization
We Are Many

In this short film the activist network known as Cultures of Resistance takes a brief look at the current state of what President Eisenhower famously called the “military industrial complex.” With the U.S. waging two wars overseas at the same time that millions of people are out of work at home, those pushing to reel in government spending and balance the budget would be wise to look carefully at bloated and unchecked military spending.

Cultures of Resistance: A Look at Global Militarization from Cultures of Resistance on Vimeo.

British Anthropologist Jeremy Keenan on "The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa"

British Anthropologist Jeremy Keenan on "The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa"
Democracy Now

... we hear from British anthropologist Jeremy Keenan. He traces AFRICOM, the US military command in Africa, to a 2003 kidnapping of European tourists. The hostage taking was widely blamed on Islamic militants thought to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, but Keenan argues that the Bush administration and the Algerian government were the ones responsible.

To Watch/Listen/Read

John McManus -- Detecting Bull: How to Identify Bias and Junk Journalism in Print,Broadcast and on the Wild Web

John McManus -- Detecting Bull: How to Identify Bias and Junk Journalism in Print,Broadcast and on the Wild Web
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (WILL: Illinois Public Media)

John McManus directs Grade the News. A former newspaper reporter, journalism professor and media researcher, he has written extensively about media, particularly about how markets shape news. His book, Market-Driven Journalism: Let the Citizen Beware? won the Society of Professional Journalists' Research Prize in 1994. He earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University. His latest book is "Detecting Bull."

To Listen to the Conversation

A Frame of Mind: Get the Picture?

Danny Mayer: Corporate creep in UK CEO search

Corporate creep in UK CEO search
By Danny Mayer
North of Center

“Organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.”
—Matt Taibbi

Meeting 1

On Monday October 25, Bill Shelton, whom the Lexington Herald-Leader described as a “former Michigan educator who is now at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges,” informed the University of Kentucky Board of Regents that they should be prepared to pay more for their next president. Less than two months earlier, as a retirement gift to outgoing UK CEO/President Lee Todd, the board had increased his presidential salary at the university nearly $200,000, to an annual salary of $511,000. The regents even backdated payments one year.
“You can look for seven plus at this level,” the paper reported Shelton saying. “We now have presidents hitting close to $1 million.” According to Britt Brockman, the Board hadn’t “even broached the subject of compensation” yet.

Meeting 2

Two weeks later, the Saturday November 13 Herald-Leader reported that Greenwood/Asher would be awarded the contract for conducting the search for UK’s next CEO/President. Greenwood/Asher had been hired by UK a decade earlier for the last presidential search, and they had recommended the business man Lee Todd. Greenwood/Asher are described in pitch perfect corporate speak by the Herald Leader thusly: “Greenwood/Asher has been involved in more than 1,000 successful executive searches, according to UK.” Who doesn’t love successful searches? They’re so vaguely satisfying.

At the Board Meeting, the Trustees created a rough draft list of desired qualities for the job advertisement. “[A] record of outstanding scholarly experience and achievement in education,” “superior leadership skills in management,” a “commitment to a diverse faculty and student body,” and “a commitment to the critical role of public, land-grant universities in advancement of Kentucky, the nation and the world” appeared on the list. Also mentioned: to “articulate the university’s mission and goals” and to “communicate effectively” with diverse groups. Todd insider Everette McCorvey called for leadership skills to be given preference. There was no mention of staff, of local labor forces or even of a place called Lexington, existing as it does somewhere beneath (but in) the state.

It’s at this meeting that the paper records the first public mention of confidentiality. The search committee had gone behind closed doors and chosen search firm Greenwood/Asher from among an unspecified number of search firms. We do know that it took the Board less than one hour to choose the search firm that would conduct the search for the next CEO/President of the University of Kentucky.

Also, the Leader reported, no decision had been made as of yet regarding the “possibility of holding forums around Kentucky to seek citizen input.”

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lee Tien: Common Sense and Security -- Body Scanners, Accountability, and $2.4 Billion Worth of Security Theater

Common Sense and Security: Body Scanners, Accountability, and $2.4 Billion Worth of Security Theater
by Lee Tien
Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Transportation Security Administration is feeling public heat these days over its combination of whole-body-image scanners and heavy-handed pat-down searches, and deservedly so.

There’s no question that reform is needed to curtail TSA’s excesses. We especially applaud the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s efforts to increase public awareness about the body scanners. But will the heat now being generated produce the kind of light we really need?

Consider, for instance, the all-too-common response that we need to
accept the indignity and invasiveness of the body scanners and pat-down searches in order to be safer. That response assumes that body scanners actually make us safer — a dubious assumption that we explore below.

Do Body Scanners Address the Problem They Were Intended to Address?

Body scanners are touted as a solution to the problem of detecting explosive devices that evade traditional metal detectors. The recent hard push for body scanners took off after Christmas 2009, when the so-called "underwear bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to board an airplane while allegedly concealing in his underpants a package containing nearly 3 oz of the chemical powder PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate). Within a few days, Sen. Joseph Lieberman called for more widespread use of the full-body scanners.

Indeed, TSA Administrator John Pistole told Congress last week that body scanners (which TSA calls Advanced Imaging Technology, or AIT) are "the most effective technology for detecting small threat items concealed on passengers, such as explosives used by Abdulmutallab."

Yet there’s no publicly available evidence that body scanners counter the threat from explosive powders. What we do know makes us extremely skeptical.

•A TSA document, which EPIC obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, shows that the scanners were intended to detect weapons, traditional explosives (C4, plastique, etc.), and liquids — but not powder (page 10).

•The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that "it remains unclear whether the AIT would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information the GAO has received."

•Ben Wallace, a member of Parliament who was formerly involved in a project to develop the scanners for airport use, said trials had shown that materials such as powder, liquid or thin plastic — as well as the passenger's clothing — went undetected. According to Wallace, the millimeter waves pass through low-density materials. High-density material such as metal knives, guns and dense plastic such as C4 explosive reflect the millimeter waves and leave an image of the object. He added that X-ray scanners were also unlikely to have detected the Christmas Day bomb.

•German border police recently reported folds in clothing were confusing the body scanners used at Hamburg Airport (the L-3 ProVision Automatic Threat Detection system). "NDR radio said the devices, introduced in September, had repeatedly given warnings about innocent passengers, mainly because of folds in clothes. It quoted guards saying the devices were unreliable in scanning through many layers of clothing too."

The Real Costs of Security Theater

Even assuming that there were some security value to the body scanners, an obvious question remains: are they worth it? The scanners cost about $170,000 each. The number of scanners jumped from 40 at the start of this year to 373 installed at 68 airports across the USA as of last week. The TSA is scheduled to deploy 500 scanners by December 31, and a total of 1,000 by the end of 2011. The GAO estimates the direct costs over their expected 7-year-life cycle at $2.4 billion. That doesn’t include the costs to passengers, such as missed flights and lost dignity.

A former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority who helped design the security at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport the scanners are "expensive and useless . . . That's why we haven't put them in our airport."

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Glenn Greenwald: Anatomy of a journalistic smear job

(Courtesy of Firedog Lake)

Anatomy of a journalistic smear job
by Glenn Greenwald


So The Nation quotes an anonymous TSA official who "wonders" -- without a shred of evidence -- if Tyner provoked the incident. That's both ludicrous and totally irrelevant. He posted the entire audio online, which demonstrates that he was unfailingly polite throughout; it was TSA officials acting imperiously, threateningly, and thuggishly -- not Tyner. And how could Tyner have possibly provoked TSA agents to include him in what it insists is its random selection process for passengers who receive the new screening procedures? Moreover, even if he did prepare his videocamera before entering the checkpoint area and provoke his selection, so what? He has the absolute right to do so, and given his obvious concern with government rights infringements, that's a completely sensible and civic-minded step to take.

What's really going on here is clear. These are Tyner's actual crimes in the eyes of these Nation writers, at least judging by the accusations they make: (1) he's not a good, loyal Democrat; (2) he did something that politically harmed Barack Obama; and, most and worst of all (3) he failed to submit meekly and quietly to Government orders like any Good, Patriotic "ordinary American" would and should do. That is what has created their "sense" that he's something other than an "ordinary guy" -- a "fake."

The article highlights three other individuals who object to the TSA procedures (out of the dozens -- at least -- who have complained) who also have (cue the ominous overtones) libertarian ties. That's not surprising. In order to do what Tyner did -- firmly assert one's rights against government agents and then vocally and publicly complain about rights infringements -- one has to take one's liberty seriously. After all, to do something like that is to risk being threatened by the Federal Government and smeared by journalists loyal to those in power. It's hardly surprising that many of the people willing to take that kind of a risky stand have incorporated the concept of individual liberty into their political identity. The Nation may want to ask someone what the "L" in the "ACLU" stands for.

And therein lies the most odious premise in this smear piece: anyone who doesn't quietly, meekly and immediately submit to Government orders and invasions -- or anyone who stands up to government power and challenges it -- is inherently suspect. Just as the establishment-worshiping, political-power-defending Ruth Marcus taught us today in The Washington Post, objecting to what the Government is doing here is just immature and ungrateful; mature, psychologically healthy people shut up and submit. That's how you prove that you're a normal, responsible, upstanding good citizen: by not making waves, doing what you're told, declaring yourself a loyal Republican or Democrat and then cheering for your team, and -- most of all -- accepting in the name of Fear that you must suffer indignities, humiliations and always-increasing loss of liberties at the hands of unchallengeable functionaries of the state. I don't really care what political label John Tyner applies to himself: we need far more of his civil resistance in our citizenry and far less of the mindless obedient drone behavior which these Nation writers seem to venerate.

I spoke with Tyner several days ago and he was very worried that his public stance would jeopardize exactly the ordinariness which The Nation claims is fake: his job, his family, his reputation, and the cost from government recriminations. This highly irresponsible, evidence-free Nation attack demonstrates how valid those concerns were. It may be that several vocal opponents of the new TSA process are Koch-funded -- that wouldn't surprise me -- but that has absolutely nothing to do with Tyner, and The Nation, for which I have high regard, owes him an apology and retraction for the innuendo it smeared on him without a shred of evidence. It's difficult enough for ordinary citizens to take a principled stand like this against the Government; knowing that they're going to be subjected to this sort of baseless hit job makes it less likely that other citizens will be willing to do so.

To Read the Entire Article

David Fitzsimmons: If Glenn "Mr. Civil Rights" Beck Was Around in 1962

(Courtesy of Literaghost)

The Cagle Post Cartoons and Commentary

Scott Tobias: The New Cult Canon -- Irma Vep

The New Cult Canon: Irma Vep
by Scott Tobias
The New Cult Canon (The A.V. Club)

"It is visually beautiful, but the editing is so self-destructive that it's as if Hopper had slashed his own canvases." —Pauline Kael on Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie

After reading the quote above many years ago, I felt I had to see Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie immediately—not because it might be visually beautiful, but because I was excited to see an artist slash his own canvases. What possible impulse could lead a filmmaker to sabotage his own work? And what does a film wind up looking like when it's completely torn apart and we can see the pieces of a more conventionally "cohesive" work lying on the floor? It's a very punk-rock thing to do, but it's also what film critics do by trade—pick apart and examine all the individual pieces that go into the whole, and occasionally slash a few canvases when necessary.

Turns out I couldn't really abide The Last Movie—which was more just a mess than the purposeful mess I was hoping for—but in 1996, Olivier Assayas' Irma Vep brought out the knife and happily slashed away. In that respect and many others, the film is a true torchbearer of the French New Wave—playful, restless, full of invention, and born of an overwhelming discontent for the status quo. At a time of artistic crisis, when French cinema was in danger of losing its identity to popular American imports, Assayas issued Irma Vep as a wake-up call to an industry that was slipping into compromise and irrelevance. Much like our Graham Greene-inspired friend Donnie Darko, when he floods the school and burns Patrick Swayze's house down, Assayas performed an act of creation by destruction. He also made film criticism seem sexy—which, as one of the pasty-faced legions who make a living from it, I can respect as no mean feat.

At the center of the movie—and a movie this scatterbrained needs a strong center—is Maggie Cheung, one of the world's most glamorous stars, playing herself. (Assayas later married her, temporarily cementing his status as the world's hippest film director. They divorced three years later, but it was amicable enough for Assayas to cast her as a Courtney Love/Yoko Ono type in 2004's Clean.) When we first see Cheung, she's stepped into the middle of a French production office and nobody seems to notice, which is just the first sign of how terminally chaotic the industry has become. No one picked her up at the airport and no one seems to even expect her, even though she's been chosen to play the lead role in a production slated to shoot imminently. She tries to apologize for being three weeks late, due to overruns on her latest Hong Kong film, but who would know to accept her apology?

Cheung has been cast as the lead in a remake of Les Vampires, Louis Feuillade's landmark 10-part serial from 1915 about a devious villainess who leads an underground thieving operation called The Vampire Gang, and steals jewels while wearing a form-fitting black catsuit. To most, it's a baffling choice to cast a Chinese actress in a role so quintessentially Parisian, but then again, there's nothing that looks wrong about Maggie Cheung in a latex catsuit. The director, René Vidal, is well past his prime; and since he's played by Jean-Pierre Léaud—the legendary Antoine Doinel from François Truffaut classics like The 400 Blows and Stolen Kisses—we can probably assume that he's a creatively stilted New Wave holdover. Whatever the case, René can't really come up with a coherent reason for remaking Les Vampires, but he tells Maggie that he saw her martial-arts film The Heroic Trio in Marrakech, and he hired her because she looked like a dancer. (Poor Maggie then has to give Réne the bum news that all those action sequences were really done by stunt doubles.)

And so it goes. Shooting doesn't go well. The one scene we do see get filmed in the movie-within-a-movie gets ruined by the actors cracking up… for the 24th take in a row. Réne storms out of dailies, raging about how his movie is "shit," and has a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, wardrobe assistant Zoé, played with winning hyperactive charm by Nathalie Richard, develops a crush on Maggie, who doesn't pick up on her advances. Both Réne and Zoé project their fantasies onto her—and who can blame them?—but Maggie doesn't fit comfortably into the roles they want to her to play. If there's one word to describe Maggie's odyssey in France, it's awkward: Having to deal with the language barrier is one thing (she speaks English, but no French) and feeling alienated in a foreign land is another, but more than that, she's thrown in the middle of other people's crippling dysfunction. It's a wonder she doesn't catch the next flight out of De Gaulle at any moment.

There are innumerable great touches, big and small, in Irma Vep, which is organic and alive like few movies ever are. (It was shot on the fly in three weeks, and the spontaneity shows.) But the one sequence that everyone who's seen the film remembers is a restless Maggie slipping into her catsuit after hours and skulking around the hotel like Irma Vep in the movie. Only this time, she embodies the role effortlessly—she's sexy, mysterious, resourceful, and liberated in a way that she couldn't have been in Réne's stale, pointless remake.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Live in Concert from All Songs Considered: Sleater-Kinney in Concert at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club (2006)

Sleater-Kinney in Concert at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club (2006)
Live in Concert from All Songs Considered (NPR)

More than a decade after the band first formed in Olympia, Wash., Sleater-Kinney continues to make passionate, punk-inspired rock with the release of its seventh CD, The Woods. But it may be the trio's last album, at least for some time: The group recently announced plans to go on indefinite hiatus after its current tour ends later this year. It performed an epic concert at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club August 3.

Sleater-Linney's current lineup features guitarists and singers Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker, with drummer Janet Weiss. The band emerged from the so-called "riot grrl" movement in the early 1990s — a subculture of young feminist musicians who sought to change perceptions of women in rock. It played traditionally male-dominated instruments like guitars and drums, screamed vocals and thrashed on stage. Though Sleater-Kinney has since distanced itself from that movement, the band still identifies with the fierce drive for independence.

"I was definitely a part of riot grrl when it happened way, way back in the early '90s," Tucker says. "But that all kind of took place and came and went really before Sleater-Kinney started. But I think that our presentation probably carries over a lot of feminist notions about wanting to be seen as multidimensional humans and as musicians first and foremost, and not wanting to be sort of seen as these objectified ladies."

To Read the Rest of the Profile and to Listen to the Concert

Scott Tobias: The New Cult Canon -- Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko
by Scott Tobias
The New Cult Canon (The A.V. Club)

In embarking on the mammoth, open-ended project that is The New Cult Canon, I face the scary and exhilarating prospect of a journey with no set course and no planned destination, but there was never a question that I'd be leaving port with Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko. To my mind, Donnie Darko is the quintessential cult movie of the last 20 years: Here was a much-hyped washout at Sundance that fell to a second-tier distributor (Newmarket), which released the film to middling reviews and feeble arthouse box-office (barely half a million when all was said and done). The film was left for dead until, miraculously, word of mouth started to swell and an audience steadily grew and rallied around it. The Pioneer Theater in New York ran it as a midnight movie for two years—this at a time when the midnight movie itself had long been left for dead. And DVD sales were so robust that Newmarket attempted to re-release the "Director's Cut" theatrically. (It tanked a second time, too.) The movie has inspired a level of obsession that separates cult phenomena from the everyday hits that wither past opening weekend.

I saw Donnie Darko three times in the theater: Once at the press screening, where I was apoplectic to find many of my fellow critics shrugging their shoulders; a second time during its two-week run here in Chicago, where I saw it with maybe five or six other people in the theater; and a third time at the Gene Siskel Film Center, where it kept coming back month after month to packed houses, including the near-soldout showing I attended. (And on a weeknight, no less!)

Why did I and so many others keep shuffling, zombie-like, to see this movie again and again in the theater? It certainly isn't perfect—films this crazily ambitious, from a first-time director no less, are rarely flawless—but Donnie Darko accomplishes perhaps the one thing I value most in cinema: It creates a world to get lost in, so particular and full of life that other concerns (in this case, an overstuffed mind-bender of a plot that has never quite cohered for me) fall by the wayside. And though I'll probably be defining cult movies a million different ways in this column, that's likely the common denominator, because once you have the ins and outs of the story figured out, what's the point of seeing a movie a second or third or hundredth time? The world of the film is paramount.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Yann Tiersen: Palestine

Yann Tiersen: Fuck Me

(For Literaghost)

Tiny Desk Concert: Mavis Staples with Jeff Tweedy

Mavis Staples: Tiny Desk Concert
NPR Concerts

Mavis Staples is a legend, but she's not stuck in the past. You probably know her work with her family band, The Staple Singers, which was all over the radio in the '70s with hits like "Respect Yourself," "Let's Do It Again" and "I'll Take You There" (which she excerpts in her performance here).

What you may not know is that Mavis Staples has been actively working with her fellow Chicago musician (and Wilco leader) Jeff Tweedy on her upcoming album, You Are Not Alone. Tweedy produced the record and wrote a few songs for her, as well — including the title track, which she sings here.

The album was recorded at Wilco's studio, The Loft, and it includes songs by John Fogerty, Randy Newman, Rev. Gary Davis, Allen Toussaint and Pops Staples. You Are Not Alone also features a fine guest roster, including not only Tweedy (on bass, guitar and vocals), but also Nora O'Connor, Kelly Hogan and Wilco's Patrick Sansone on keys and vibes.

Rick Holmstrom, the skilled guitarist who accompanies Staples here, also plays on the record and in her touring band.

To Listen/Watch Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kristina Radford: The Return

Response to The Return
by Kristina Radford
ENG 282

This movie struck me as a dark tale of miscommunication and misunderstanding between parent and child. The father in this film reappears after twelve years of absence with no explanation of his adventures away from home. The youngest son Ivan is distraught over the father’s reappearance and seeks answers to what took his father away from their family for so long. Without an explanation Ivan finds it difficult to honor his father's commands and shows blatant disrespect for the man he was told to abide by. The older brother, Andre on the other hand is delighted to have his father back and wants to please the man by following his every order. Without proper explanation of his wants and actions the father has isolated Ivan and alienated him from wanting to be a good son. Ivan feels as if his father is a dangerous mystery man and uses caution when dealing with his antics. The father shows a need to be supportive of his children and you get the idea he wants to teach them everything he knows about being a man. However he has little patience or compassion for either of the boys and I feel his expectations for their behaviors were much too high. I feel a strong relation to Ivan’s actions toward his father. If placed in the same situation I would not want to be managed by this man I did not know anything about a man who I felt had abandoned me my entire life and could not feel the importance and necessity of an honest explanation of what he had been doing.

I felt a lot of symbolism being used in this movie especially in the use of the tower in the beginning and the end. It reminds me The Tower card used in a tarot deck. The Tower card depicts a large tower that has suddenly been struck by a powerful bolt of lightening. The lightening strike is so powerful it has knocked the towers two occupants out of its open windows and they are forever suspended in the air seemingly falling toward dangerous and deadly sharp rocks. When examining The Tower card one can only assume impending misfortune for the two people falling. If they reach the jagged rocks below their bodies will surely break from the brute force. This concept of The Tower tarot card mirrors the story of Ivan and Andre with the return of their father. Out of the blue their father strikes back into their lives with no warning and given no ideas as to why they are sent on a thrilling and dangerous voyage partly filled with excitement and dread. The boys are given little time to think about what this sudden change means for their lives before they are isolated with this unknown patriarchal force. The boys are uncertain of what their fishing trip with their father will hold much like the people falling from the tower are unable to know weather their fall will be the end of their lives or a crippling start to a new life. The tower seems to imply destruction and uncertainty as does the fathers attitude toward his children.

Perhaps his long absence from home has hardened the father's heart or maybe there is a cultural gap I do not understand about the way Russian people deal with their children. I do feel that much of the complications in this movie could have been avoided if the father could have shown a little bit of compassion. His lack of empathy facilitated his demise as he fell from the tower and the two boys are left with further ambivalent feelings toward the man they were expected to respect and adore with no solid explanation to his actions.

Jeff Stiles: Trainspotting, or, Diacetylmorphine Hydrochloride and Absence of Meaningful Relationships

by Jeff Stiles
ENG 282

Billed as Britain's answer to Pulp Fiction and slathered with an exaggerated level of hype, Trainspotting was seemingly bred to be a success. Ivine Welsh's book-- not much more than a fast-paced, more accessible Burroughs or Selby, Jr. imitation-- had made a few small waves, apparently catching the eye of greedy movie producers. Welsh, fortunately, had the moral forthrightness to hold off until someone came along that could turn his work into a stylish, exciting film instead of the typical dark and miserable drug epic it so easily could be (thinking of Sid and Nancy, Drugstore Cowboy, and so on). When the partnership of Andrew MacDonald, Danny Boyle and John Hodge approached him, they were trusted with the task at hand, despite having only made one feature, the competent but forgettable Shallow Grave. As production began, the film started picking up buzz, and those involved with Trainspotting saw an opportunity to piggy-back on the success of the American Pulp Fiction, which had successfully introduced to the world a type of “cool” cinema; exciting, fast-paced, and gritty films, with enough action to satisfy the general public and enough stylish wit to charm the intellectual elite. A cynic might look at this, in hindsight, as nothing but a product, a facsimile of a trend that would be short-lived, as all trends are. Somehow, though, a piece of entertainment was released that delivered monetarily, as well as artistically.

The film's best aspects are stacked carefully, and the disturbance of any of them may have pushed it past the line of trendy, over-stylized indie hackwork it straddled. Fortunately, Boyle and company had succeeded in compiling a miraculous crew for the job; the tremendous cast, a colorful yet gritty visual style provided by Boyle and his talented director of photography, Brian Tufano (and, of course, the film's art department, costume designers, et al), and perhaps the most necessary element, the brief but powerful script by Hodge. The screenplay gutted the book of many of its ancillary characters and sub-plots, allowing for a much tighter focus on the theme most important to Trainspotting-- while the obvious point of the film may be an exploration of the effects of heroin, the true theme of the story is the use of the drug as both a substitute and deterrent for the meaningful camaraderie that human beings crave.

The principle cast of characters are a lowly, backstabbing, shitty group of people, constantly one dollar away from slicing each others throats, despite the fact that they are all, for the most part, inseparable best friends. The film's narrator and main character, Renton, speaks of his mates with mild disgust, a group of people who are only associated with each other now due to familiarity. The most telling dialogue is in the film's final scene, as Renton walks away with the money he stole from Sick Boy, Begbie, and Spud.

“Now I've justified this to myself in all sorts of ways. It wasn't a big deal, just a minor betrayal. Or we'd outgrown each other, you know, that sort of thing. But let's face it, I ripped them off, my so called mates. But Begbie, I couldn't give a shit about him. And Sick Boy, well he'd done the same to me, if he'd only thought of it first.”

Renton goes on to admit guilt for ripping off the hopelessly naïve and comparatively innocent Spud, though the film does end with an uplifting glimpse of Spud discovering a portion of the money left for him after all. Spud, indeed, is the film's most sympathetic character, at times comedic relief, at times pathetically tragic. As the film begins, he is seen mostly as a goofy, dim-witted junkie. His antics include falling to the floor in a heroin-induced fit of giggles, shitting in his girlfriend's bed and flinging the crap all over the breakfast table, and showing up to a job interview hopped up on speed (a scene of solid, rapid-fire physical comedy by Ewan Bremner). Throughout, though, he's constantly berated by Begbie and portrayed as a cowardly, wiry drug addict. At the film's end, he is even seriously wounded by Begbie and refused a trip to the hospital, a refusal he apparently accepts with the integrity of an abused dog. Were it not for the narration that reveals a decent side to Renton, Spud would be the only redeemable person by the end of the film (except, perhaps, Diane, though considering her apparent knack for sleeping with random heroin addicts, she is probably on a Tommy-esque path to ruin).

The rest of the crew aren't quite so likable. The film's most relentlessly deplorable personalities are depicted by Sick Boy and Begbie, a smarmy chauvinist and violent psychopath, respectively. Sick Boy oozes a slimy kind of repulsiveness, clearly a distorted imitation of his idol James Bond, all the while engaging in cruel mind games with his friends (eg, quitting heroin just to prove he is more capable of doing it than Renton), conceiving of unscrupulous cash-grab schemes (the film's final drug deal, offering Diane a job as his prostitute), and, of course, shooting up copious amounts of heroin. Begbie (the film's protagonist, if there even is a human one) is booze-swilling, cigarette-devouring hypocrite, decrying the damage his friends are doing to their bodies with heroin. He is constantly on the verge of a violent assault and often, it seems, ruthlessly beats strangers in bars. To those near him, he is perhaps even more cruel-- he obviously needs to have control over his friends as badly as they need heroin in their veins, constantly intimidating them with threats of violence and his outrageous, loud outbursts.

Even Renton proves himself capable of deception, not only in the shady (yet justifiable) ripping-off of his best friends, but also in being responsible for the downfall of Tommy. Beginning the film as the story's only clean-cut, healthy character, Tommy devolves into a heroin/AIDS-addled corpse after a video of him having sex with his girlfriend is stolen by Renton, which in turn causes Tommy to be dumped, which in turn causes him to spiral into a depression, which in turn causes him to seek comfort in heroin, which is supplied to him by Renton for money to perpetuate his own heroin habit. Before all this, though, Renton and his friends also commit acts of petty criminality-- stealing prescription slips from his doctor, stealing a television from a nursing home, helping Begbie corner and beat an unassuming American tourist.

It's no stretch to assume that these characters would despise each other and themselves, and the few glimpses of actual generosity or friendship that we see-- Renton leaving Spud some money, the celebratory drinks shared upon completion of the final heist (a party that ends horribly, of course)-- are maybe the saddest parts of the film. These men, unable to communicate or show any real affection, turn to their artificial methods of coping (heroin, for the most part, but also explosive fits of rage and alcohol for Begbie). The film's ending, though, is uplifting, in that we see Renton not only attempting to shed his heroin habit, but also, perhaps more damaging, the people he had been surrounding himself with.

Leslie Hargis: Propaganda

by Leslie Hargis
ENG 102

Propaganda is an extremely powerful tool that has evolved into a dominant force, which has singlehandedly ripped apart the democratic process and jaded the original agenda of our country. Like most other highly effective devices conceived from desperation and greed, it can lead to absolute destruction when used improperly or irresponsibly. In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler says, “: for even propaganda is no more than a weapon, though a frightful one in the hands of an expert.” (Hitler, 1943, 179). Much like the production of the atom bomb, its invention opens a floodgate of damage and will ultimately lead to the demise of the creators. According to the World English Dictionary, propaganda is “the organized dissemination of information or allegations.” It is, “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, or nation.” (Dictionary.com).

As with every element of life, there are at least two sides to every debate; and so in the simplest of terms, propaganda can be used for good as well as for evil. Of course there are various shades of grey that color the spectrum of propaganda. Unfortunately, the negative uses of propaganda vastly outweigh the positive motivations. Propaganda can be found in nearly every television and radio advertisement; the good type and the negative forms. Organizations such as the American Cancer Society and PETA are two of the many groups that utilize the media, especially television, for their causes. For example, when the American Cancer Society launched their major advertising campaign, stating a claim to being the “official sponsors of birthdays”, they utilized a propagandistic technique known as positive endorsement and testimonial. Celebrities such as Keith Urban, Usher, Colby Colbert and others were used to endorse the movement to gain the attention of the viewers. It is highly effective. In this example, propaganda is not used with ill intentions and does not have the underlying tone of deception as say a political smear ad does. An example of a grey area of propaganda would be the animal rights activists PETA. PETA has a genuinely honest and moral mission; however, their demonstration techniques and radical one-sided barraging of opinions tend to overwhelm the masses and produce a counterproductive effect. Their uses of propaganda seem to sit on the outer limits of tolerable. Their intentions are pure at heart, but the means to demonstrate their opinions are in the grey area of propaganda. There are far better ways to go about expressing one’s opinion than to harass someone and ruin others’ property in the name of animal rights.

As the motivations and uses of propaganda move on, the scales begin to tip to the side of evil when the consequences of the propaganda’s actions prevail over the intentions of good. It is this type of propaganda, the negative influences, that society today has come to know and grown accustomed to. In terms of propaganda, evil resides in the blackened hearts of the men and women of power who cowardly use techniques to wage wars, to rally for destruction and who claim to be advocating for the greater good. Religious movements, political figures, advertising companies and the mass media industries control what information is dispersed to the public, and their actions are carefully calculated, as if playing a permanent game of chess. To think that a driving force in our society today is preconceived manipulation and planned to a “T” by a group of people who claim to be morally responsible and ethically correct creates a cause for great concern.

Historically, propaganda has evolved from a means of disseminating information to the Ancient Roman society into total control and the repression of free thought. Pope Gregory XV founded the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, whose task was to initiate the spread of Christianity. (Graves 2010, 1). Although a religious movement with noble intentions of instilling faith, the Catholic Church was and always will be a major player in the game of negative propaganda. The use of visual symbols is another technique to influence the masses and was a popular choice of the American government to rally the nation against an enemy in WWI. (Graves 2010, 1). Perhaps for the first time in history, the true nature of propaganda and ultimately horrifying ramifications of its use reared its ugly head during the Nazi movement of World War II. Once the world witnessed the effectiveness of a hate speech, one of the most evil propagandistic methods, the human psyche was forever altered and new heights of evil and deception could be reached. Time magazine can be quoted saying, “…no Nazi has helped Adolf Hitler so much as the taut, vivid, sometimes hysterical, little man whom all Germany knows as "The Doctor," famed Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, now Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.” (Time, 1933,2). Together, Hitler and Goebbels quickly gained popularity and support through condescending, demanding hate speeches. It seems that as soon as propaganda took on the face of Nazi Germany, it has reached a point of no return; an irreconcilable new normal in the way propaganda and mass media work in collaboration. Since then, it seems that American culture revolves around a fixed set of information that is strategically marketed towards an audience who is losing their right to free thought and slowly transforming into a conformist community. Negative propaganda has taken a gaping lead in the race to the most effective form of mass persuasion.

In America today, the message that our leaders are sending through the mind control of propaganda is that everyone has the right to an opinion and everyone’s rights are constitutionally protected; everyone except the general public, the mass population. Through the techniques of half-truths, false realities, distorted information, character assignations, hidden sources and double speak, the government has found a very successful way of swaying the masses into action; action that the puppet masters needed all along. (Copeland, Johnson-Cartee, 2003, 164-171). It seems that with every election comes a new low for political campaigning. Perhaps it is a new strategy to assassinate an opponent’s character rather than lobbying the good a candidate intends to do. With advances in technology came new tactics and innovative tools for the art of deception. The media is no longer driven by the constitution, or compelled to deliver an unbiased information bank from which the public is able to draw conclusions and opinions independently. The motivation now is profit, whether it is monetary, stature, political power or influential force. The bottom line is that propaganda works.

Propaganda in America today is so successful because it manipulates and creates a no-way-out situation for the subjects. This unwinnable predicament that the victims find themselves in was carefully planned to allow zero room for reason or debate. As the years went on, propaganda techniques have shifted; however, the original formula holds true. Similar to blackmail, propaganda leaves its victims with no other option but to comply and submissively fold. The puppet masters feed the general population something to fear, and then quickly rise to the role of the protector before any truth or rationality is exposed. They bully action out of us and antagonize anger and fear, capitalizing on emotional blackmail and extort sympathy. As Adolf Hitler reflects, his mastery of propaganda becomes evident: “The whole art consists in doing this (calling the masses attention to something) so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc. (Propaganda’s) effect, for the most part, must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect.” (Hitler, 1943, 180). All things considered, this may not be so bad if the creators were up front with their motives and agendas. However, being noble and forthright is dangerously close to being in compliance with our constitutional rights and, not to mention, would create a less than desirable effect in the eyes of the overseers. Propaganda is one of the greatest weapons of mass destruction ever created by man.

When exploring the finer mechanics of control, one underlying concept remains constant. There seems to be a sure fire formula for influencing the masses, i.e., fear plus anger equals control. The American government, by creating a monster to be fearful of and by evoking anger, has successfully gained the upper hand against free thought and rationality. By controlling the media, the government utilizes propaganda to its fullest capacity. In the forward of his book, Gerry Spence noted that, “We have become a culture that is fed hate; that has grown to crave hate, a hate-addicted culture that, like any other psychotic entity, can destroy itself absent treatment at the hands of those who still retain their ability to love and forgive.” (Spence, 2006, xii). This simple emotion seems more easily accessable and far more powerful than its counterpart, compassion. The real question of propaganda is who is being affected. Who is being targeted? Who is actively participating in this charade?

Anyone and everyone are affected by propaganda and we all have something to lose. There is a fine line between being educated and influenced by experiences, and perception and being conned into a frame of mind through manipulation and deceit. Fortunately for the government, it is more cost effective to gain popularity through the latter. Propaganda easily crosses generational lines by both the source and the victims. After all, we learn from those who have gone before us, and unfortunately, the ones who have gone before us have found the plutonium equivalent to swaying the majority. When examining the “silent generation”, ages 65+, we tend to find individuals who are set in their ways and tend to take a slower and steady course, unfaltering and unchanging. These folks tend to hold an ambiance of nostalgia. Having said that, older generations would most certainly benefit from taking a temperature check on their actions throughout the years and seeing how many if any were directly influenced by propaganda. The younger baby boomers and older generation Xers tend to be the most damaging to the cause. Here we tend to find ones who are easily swayed and tempted by materialistic idols and monetary gain- the go-getters. The younger generation, the “Millennia’s”, those who are just coming of age, feel socially and ethically responsible and are less inclined to be tempted by the darker arts of persuasion hold a slight advantage in this front. (Samuelson, 2010).

It would be unfair to generalize the generations and pigeon-hole a particular group into being a certain way. Equally, several other factors come into play when shaping an individual’s social scope of practice. It has been proven that propaganda only works when the audience is actively listening and then responding through actions. True, that when the deck is stacked it is hard to beat the house; however, with the right ammunition and education, propaganda can be diminished into the pages of history once again. Under the right conditions, hope can be found in all of the generations. Similar to the counter culture of the 1960s, the younger generation may, too, hold the key to changing the face of our country, by bringing in new blood and exposing the tainted. The future is anyone’s guess; though the direction it is headed in currently is not a sunny one as our government would like for us to think.

Works Cited

"Germany: We Demand!" TIME Magazine. July 10, 1933: 2.

Graves, Lisa. "Propaganda." Source Watch. March 9, 2010.

Hitler, Alolf. Mein Kampf. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1943.

Johnson-Cartee, Karen S., Copeland, Gary A. Strategic Political Communication: Rethinking Social Influences, Persuasion, and Propaganda. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.

Miller, Mark Crispin, interview by Ken McDermot Roe. "Propaganda 101: How to Manufacture Consent." History Counts (July 4, 2010).

"Propaganda." Dictionary.com. 2010.

Samuelson, Robert. "The Real Generation Gap." Real Clear Politics. (March 8, 2010)

Spence, Gerry. Blood Thirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power: The Rise and Risk of the New Conservative Hate Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2006.

Straker, David. "A Brief History of Propaganda." Changing Minds (2010).

Christa Blackwell: Why Nicotine Should be Illegal

"Why Nicotine Should be Illegal"
Christa Blackwell
ENG 102

440,000 deaths are associated with smoking every year (CDC, 2010). That alone should open up our eyes to see that this is a very serious issue in today’s world. Tobacco is a multi-billion dollar industry that is killing our population. If smoking were illegal we would not have as many people suffering from health concerns in America that there are today. Our hospitals are overcrowded with patients that are getting diseases from something that they are putting in their body, not knowing all the consequences of what they are doing from the start. Nicotine is not doing anything but harming Americans and showing our youth that it is ok to slowly kill ourselves. We are setting up an example that is ok to do these things when in reality it is not. Even with the continuing costs of nicotine on the rise this does not help fight the ongoing war with nicotine.

Nicotine has a much more powerful hold on smokers than alcohol does on drinkers. Whereas about 10 percent of alcohol users lose control of their intake of alcohol and become alcoholics, as many as 80 percent of all heavy smokers have tried to cut down or quit smoking but cannot overcome this dependence(Hales, 2009:375). Alcohol and nicotine are both legal here in the United States. With nicotine being more addictive than alcohol why is nicotine not illegal? You don’t see people going into rehab because of tobacco abuse. It is treated differently because it does not alter your state of mind as does alcohol and other drugs. But just as Alcohol has withdrawal symptoms, nicotine does as well. Nicotine withdrawal usually begins within hours. Symptoms include cravings, irritability, anxiety, restlessness and increased appetite (Hales, 2009: 377). Ultimately nicotine users need just as much help if not more to start the quitting process. It would be very beneficial for users to get to go to a 30 day rehab where they can be surrounded by others who have the same problems and have counselors to talk to about their issues. It is still a process and addiction that needs to be addressed according to the person.

Nicotine causes major health concerns for people who use it regularly and to people who have quit. Even for people who have smoked for years a lot have already done irreversible damage to their bodies that cannot be taken back. The diseases that you can get that are associated with nicotine are Cancer, (especially lung cancer), emphysema, heart disease, and other respiratory diseases. These are just a few things that your body can go through just by using nicotine. Smoking is linked to at least ten different cancers. It is the cause of more than 80 percent of all cases of lung cancer. The more people smoke, the longer they smoke, and the earlier they start smoking, the more likely they are to develop lung cancer (Hales, 2009: 379). The chemicals that are in nicotine are extremely hazardous to our health which is why they cause cancer. From my personal experience a family friend was diagnosed with lung cancer and she had quit smoking almost 20 years ago. This just shows how it affects our lungs. Even when people do eventually quit they have done damage that cannot be fixed. If nicotine was illegal, a lot of the healthcare issues would be addressed but would not be at the level they are now with nicotine being legal. We would not see as many cases of people in the hospital for smoking related diseases. And since nicotine would be harder to find and you would not be able to light a cigarette up wherever you wanted, causing people to be more inconspicuous about smoking. I work at UK and there is not a day that goes by that I do not drive by the hospital to see patients lined up with their oxygen tanks puffing on their cigarettes. The saddest part of it all is that they are more than likely in the hospital for nicotine related issues, continuing to kill themselves. If nicotine was illegal people would not be able to smoke as freely as they do now, but also they would be saving their bodies from these harmful diseases.

With women being just as dependent on nicotine as men it is inevitable that they would continue to use nicotine during pregnancy. Women who smoke present different challenges to doctors. The impact of their smoking on the fetus is a major public health issue(Bradley:2009, 371).Infants born to smoking mothers appear to suffer from reduced lung capacity, with the infants experiencing an average of 10% reduction in their lung functions. Infants born to women who smoke a pack a day or more were found twice as likely to grow up and become cigarette smokers as to children of non-smoking mothers. Finally, infants who are exposed to cigarette smoke suffer a significantly higher rate of SIDS than infants who are not exposed to this hazard (Doweiko, 2009: 247). What is happening is that mothers are consciously making a decision to put hazardous chemicals in their body when they know that this could harm the child. Right now when you go into a hospital if a mother is knowingly taking drugs, the child is drug tested upon birth and if they find drugs in the child’s system the child is immediately taken away. The same should be done in these cases as well for nicotine. The child could suffer from devastating problems that would carry on into the child’s adult life. With SIDS the child could die, and all because the mother wanted to continue using nicotine. If nicotine was illegal, we could punish the people that are doing this to infants who have no say in the matter. They could have consequences for their actions especially if it was found they had done damage to the child from their decisions. I don’t think that nicotine is any different than drugs when a woman is pregnant, both nicotine and drugs do damage to an infant. If smoking were eliminated, it is estimated that there would be 25 percent fewer low birth weights in infants (Robertson, 2002:49). This would help our children’s healthcare immensely with them being born healthy and not having to go to the hospital or getting checked out as much as they would if they had health problems. As a whole this would cut down on healthcare costs, which in our overspending country would be very beneficial.

More than 126 million nonsmoking Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, vehicles, workplaces, and public places. Most exposures to tobacco smoke occur in homes and workplaces. Almost 60% of US children aged 3-11 years –or almost 22 million children—are exposed to secondhand smoke (CDC,2007). Just recently has it been said that secondhand smoke could cause health problems to those who do not smoke. Children are at the greatest risk for health problems due to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke in the home poses great hazards for the children present. More than 350,000 respiratory diseases are found in children each year that are directly related to secondhand smoke(Robertson, 2002:49). Children are at such high risk for getting different infections and get sick a lot more than children who are not exposed to secondhand smoke. It is so toxic because even though you are not actually smoking the tobacco, you are breathing the same chemicals as smokers are. These chemicals can come from the tobacco or the soil, paper and ingredients added to make the tobacco taste better. Carbon monoxide (car exhaust), Toluene (paint thinner), and cadmium (batteries) are just a few of the toxic chemicals that we breathe in by secondhand smoke. To an infant or small child with a poor immune system these chemicals could harm them irreversibly. Secondhand smoke is very deadly and a very serious problem. We don’t ask to be exposed to secondhand smoke sometimes we just are. There are different levels of secondhand smoke but with either being in a room with a lot of smoke or just a little bit they all affect you the same way. As adults we can leave the room, or ask the person not to do that around us. Children on the other hand don’t have that voice to choose if they want to be exposed to secondhand smoke, especially if their parents are smokers in the home. If smoking were illegal children would not have to deal with this health concern. Non-smokers wouldn’t have to worry if they go somewhere that they may be exposed to smoke. For example, I had to go to a retirement party for my uncle. This was in Ohio where smoking is permitted in private facilities. The whole room was full of smokers and I could barely stand it to stay in there. The next day my throat was hurting and I know it was because I am not around smokers that often. Secondhand smoke is just as bad as smoking if not worse because at least with smoking the people are choosing to smoke. Non-smokers are not choosing to be exposed to second-hand smoke.

Lexington, Kentucky was the first city in the state of Kentucky to put into effect a smoke-free ordinance and went into effect April 27, 2004 (Anderson:2007, 1). They have made restaurants, businesses and campuses a smoke-free environment. IT has affected all the bars here in Lexington with not allowing customers to smoke inside or on the premises without being fined for their actions. Penalties for violating this begin at $100 for the first offense, $250 for second offense, and $500 for each other offense after. Individuals who are smoking in a prohibited area and have been asked to leave can have trespassing charges brought against them if they refuse to leave (Anderson: 2007, 1). For people who are non-smokers this really was a breakthrough moment because now we could go out in public or our favorite restaurant and not be bothered by a cloud of smoke over our heads. It was very exciting time but now that some time has passed, even though people are not smoking inside buildings we are still being exposed in public places. This is such a great step in the right direction but I don’t believe that the ultimate goal was fulfilled here. The goal is to eliminate smoking and cause people to want to quit smoking. With smokers they will always find a way to smoke, so even though now there are fines they could receive for breaking these rules a lot of people either don’t get caught or are being over looked now. I think if smoking were illegal it would be helping us strive for a healthier way of life here in Kentucky and show people that we are serious about the regulations we are putting on the community.

On campus, University of Kentucky became smoke free on November 19, 2009. A few years after Lexington became smoke free. UK decided this was what they wanted to do because of all the money that is being spent on treating people who get sick from using tobacco products and being exposed to secondhand smoke. This is in turn directly related to their students, patients, employees and visitors at risk for disease. University of Kentucky has a high level of respect in the community and I don’t think that they would want people visiting the campus being disgusted at people using nicotine. As a UK employee, I have been directed affected by this smoking ban. I have seen the regulations go into effect and how upset people have become because of this ban. I have seen the worst possible thing happen, fire an employee for not smoking in the designated area. These designated smoking areas are being used instead of people being able to smoke wherever they want to. So now instead of seeing people smoking everywhere on campus they are just huddled up in certain areas. At the hospital the patients, visitors, and employees smoke on the corner of limestone. I do not see the benefit of smoking in one designated place or smoking campus wide. It is still smoking both ways and needs to be abolished.
$96 billion of the total US health care costs each year are attributed to smoking. This is below the total cost to society because it does not include burn care from smoking-related fires, prenatal care for low-birth weight infants or mothers who smoke, and medical care costs associated with disease from secondhand smoke. In addition, the costs of lost productivity due to smoking are $97 billion a year, making the economic burden of smoking to $193 billion per year (NIDA:2007). The direct costs of nicotine on our healthcare system are why nicotine should be illegal. Research that has been done on health care costs among former smokers suggests that quitters incur greater health care costs for up to four years after quitting. So if a smoker does not have health insurance either the hospital has to pay for the expenses he/she is racking up or we are using our taxpaying dollars to pay for healthcare expenses. I feel like there are a lot better things that we can use our money for than to pay hospital bills to a smoker. We have just now almost gotten out of the recession the economy has been in, and to continue to keep paying for these expenses will put us right back to where we do not want to be. I have seen now that companies are not willing to hire smokers and are giving their current employees time to quit or they may lose their jobs. Not only for the reason they are promoting a nicotine free workplace but because their healthcare costs are rising and it is effecting everyone in the company.

As you can see, Nicotine is affecting the community we live in. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that is taking control over our society. If we made nicotine illegal a lot of things would be changed. A lot of the health risks that smoking causes like lung cancer, asthma or emphysema would not be as prevalent as it is right now. We could be fighting back against these diseases because they are preventable diseases. Women being pregnant would be addressed at a more serious level than it is right now. Women wouldn’t be putting these chemicals in their bodies as freely now because they would face serious consequences. Just the same that a baby born with drugs in their system it would be treated the same with nicotine. Both are harmful to babies and both can leave them with irreversible damage. This also goes along with second-hand smoke. You would not be allowed to smoke in public places or even the privacy of your own home. This would be very beneficial to children who have no voice when it comes to secondhand smoke. They can’t choose if they want to stay where they are and breathe in these chemicals. They would not have to suffer the consequences of their parent’s actions any longer, leading to healthier, active and happy children. With the smoking ban being around for some years now, we have seen the results and how it is helping our community stay healthier. This is the first step to get nicotine illegal and showing society how we are fighting for the health of our community. And if you still believe that smoking isn’t that bad just look at how smoking is affecting healthcare costs but also the costs of medical insurance. We can be a part and help the national budget stay low by eliminating smoking. We will live in a much more proactive society that is concerned about the well being of others.

Anderson, Deborah. "Smoking Laws In Kentucky." Associated Content (2007): pg. 1-4. Web. 16 Nov 2010.

Brady, Kathleen. Women and Addiction: A comprehensive Handbook. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2009.

"Data & Statistics: Secondhand Smoke." Centers for Disease Control . N.p., 06142007. Web. 9 Nov 2010.

Doweiko, Harold E. Concepts of Chemical Dependency. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning, 2009.

Hales, Diana. An Invitation to Health. 2009-2010. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009.

Robertson, Cathie. Safety, Nutrition & Health in Childcare. Albany, NY: Delmar, 2002.

"Smoking and Tobacco Use ." Center for Disease Control. Center for Disease Control , 03 11 2010. Web. 3 Nov 2010.

"Tobacco Addiction." National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007): 1. Web. 16 Nov 2010.