Jon Christian

Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.

Month: December, 2010

‘Rosie the Riveter’ model dies at 86

The Washington Post reports that Geraldine Doyle, aged 86, died on Dec. 26. Doyle served as the inspiration for the WW2-era recruitment poster which showed her in a red bandanna above the slogan “We Can Do It!”

Doyle was surprised to learn that she was the model for the ‘Rosie’ poster in 1984.

It seems that although Doyle’s likeness is undeniable on the poster, she was never as muscular as artist J. Howard Miller made her in the iconic work. Rather, the frail young Doyle quit her job at the metal factory after two weeks for fear that an injury would inhibit her ability to play the cello.

Regardless, Doyle’s likeness on the ‘Rosie’ poster has inspired generations of women to step up and contribute to male-dominated fields.

Chris Brown inserts, removes foot from mouth

In a rapidfire Twitter exchange with R&B artist Raz-B, Chris Brown deplayed a series of homophobic slurs and taunts via Twitter before quickly apologizing the next day. Responding to charges from Raz-B that he doesn’t “respect” former lover and fellow recording artist Rihanna, Brown wrote of Raz-B that:

“N—a you want attention! Grow up n—a!!! Di– in da booty ass lil boy.”

Brown recently completed a year-long, court-ordered course on domestic violence after pleading guilty to felony assault against Rihanna.

How widespread is homophobia in contemporary pop music? Rap certainly maintains a poor reputation, with artists from Eminem to 50 Cent (with his own recent Twitter fiasco) openly refusing to account for their homophobic vitriol.

The Village Voice’s Brandon Soderberg examined contemporary homophobia in rap earlier this year, arguing that artists are working toward greater tolerance. Whatever his personal flaws, Soderberg points out, Kanye West has been speaking out about homophobia in rap for some time. He also argues that Lil Wayne treated rumors about his own sexuality with a deference that shows that he doesn’t really care.

Georgia prisoners strike for human rights

What should we take out of the Georgia prison strikes?

It certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise that the American prison system incarcerates far too many people, many of them nonviolent offenders, and often for petty and victimless crimes. What ought not to come as a surprise, although it certainly would be for many were it not for the virtual media blackout on the strikes so far, is that American offenders are not treated terribly well. What left me pleasantly surprised was that not only were the maltreated prisoners able to coordinate an effective strike at a single location, but that they pulled it off across an entire state.

There’s already been good news. Change.org reports that some prisoners are already experiencing better treatment in the wake of the strike – although inmates are still a long way from their requests for a living wage, health care, basic human rights and educational opportunities.

The media, as SouthernStudies.ort points out, has more or less ignored the stike, which may be the largest in American history. The lack of national attention is a feature of the ongoing strike which raises the specter of the Attica prison standoff back in 1971.

There’s an episode of 30 Days in which Morgan Spurlock (the Supersize Me guy) spends some time in prison. Of course the camera crew is bound to change the social dynamics (nevermind to put the guards on their best behavior) but the episode does seem to capture the inane waiting game of the modern prison sentence, complete with poor nutrition and petty drug offenders. Clearly, that’s not a reality that the American public is comfortable with.

It’s almost a painfully dull question, but what is the justice system actually trying to accomplish with prisons? If it’s rehabilitation, then the striking prisoners are clearly making some good points. The troubling thing is that there is a dominant viewpoint at work that incarceration oughtn’t to be about rehabilitation at all – that it should be about punishment. That’s the discourse of justice from which we get prisons run by private corporations, guards beating up prisoners who can’t get access to their medications, and prisoners who don’t see their families and aren’t being taught real-world skills.

That’s not an America that I can be proud of.

Palin continues to battle email release

MSNBC’s Bill Dedman points out that the battle to make the emails from Sarah Palin’s governorship public is likely to stretch on longer than Palin’s actual time in office.

The Alaska governor’s office has requested another delay to release the emails. The messages in question are any sent to or from Palin or her husband Todd to a list 53 aides, commissioners and cabinet members.

If this request is granted, Dedman points out, “the wait for the e-mails will have lasted longer than the Palin administration,” with the delays accounting for 986 days while her governorship lasted only 966.

It seems like Palin’s public relations strategy these days is just to court controversy, so maybe this is some kind of elaborate strategy to bring her into the spotlight a few more times.

Last year, a hacker gained access to Palin’s personal Yahoo Mail account. He has now been sentenced to a year in custody.

Blizzard time lapse by Michael Black

The east coast got hit hard last night by a blizzard. I’m home for the holidays, and outside in Vermont we’ve got a a good two feet of snow.

Michael Black captured this time-lapse footage of the storm in NYC:

Congress funds ongoing shadow wars

Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reports that Congress has approved more funding than expected for so-called “shadow wars,” or combat operations which take place in areas where there is not an actual war going on.

“The big winner is Pakistan. The $400 million Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund, which provides helicopters, night-vision equipment and training to the Pakistan’s Army and Frontier Corps, gets another re-up. There’s also $1.6 billion to reimburse Pakistan (and some other nations, but really Pakistan) for “cooperating in contingency operations in Afghanistan,” which must come as a surprise to U.S., Afghan and Pakistani troops.”

Congress approved a whopping $724.6 billion defense budget for 2011, which will be spent in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat theaters including Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. And as Ackerman points out, that doesn’t even count the intelligence budget.

“And all that’s just in the open budget. The so-called ‘black budget’ — that is, the intelligence budget, which included $27 billion in military intelligence last year — undoubtedly has even more for the shadow wars.”

Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are authorized military engagements, they are not formally declared wars.

WikiLeaks against the (financial) world

A New York Times editorial from yesterday raises some interesting points with regard to financial institutions and WikiLeaks. With major credit card companies and now Bank of America refusing to process Wikileaks’ transactions, the NYT editorial questions how far corporations should be able to go in suppressing an organization with which they disagree.

“[A] bank’s ability to block payments to a legal entity raises a troubling prospect. A handful of big banks could potentially bar any organization they disliked from the payments system, essentially cutting them off from the world economy.”

Should the big guys be able to decide which small guys don’t pose a threat to them, let them be, and eliminate the rest? It doesn’t seem very democratic.

“Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.

What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was ‘too risky’? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.”

The editorial also compares the parts of financial institutions which handle transactions to a public service like water or electricity, which is food for thought. How do you run a resistant organization if the banks won’t let you transfer funds or solicit donations?

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