Wednesday, July 31

Following up on Jason's post: While it's excellent that Ford decided not to build another generation of the Excursion SUV, Lincoln, another Ford company, is pushing their new Navigator. Starting at $48,000, it's an easy replacement for the Excursion, but unfortunately only a hair better in its green rating. You might have seen one of their new commercials showcasing the Navigator with the tagline, "There are those who travel and those who travel well." I say they change their tagline to "There are those who pollute and those who pollute in luxury."
Victory! Ford has decided not to build another generation of the horrid Excursion SUV. As a little eulogy, let's cite a few of the vehicle's best traits: 10 MPG, emits 130 tons of CO2 over its lifetime (compared to 23 for an average car), it's 7 feet tall, 19 feet long and at $45,000, a lousy seller. (NYT; username: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

We're probably not going to see the end of the SUV any time soon and in truth, to the extent that new models are created that do not harm the environment and do not present a threat to public safety (wishful thinking), let them be. That said, I do have hope for one thing: Perhaps the death of the most excessive SUV is a sign that the chasm between "what's good for the environment" and "what the market wants" will become narrower in the future. Every citizen of the world has to hope that in the very long run, what we want and what is good for us will become one in the same.

Ice-Cold Tragedy For Sale, Get Yer Tragedy Here!
The kind people at the Columbia Journalism Review have done an excellent job compiling who owns what in the media--what business interest controls your news. Take a look, you might be surprised.

Monday, July 29

This is a fairly trenchant prediction of how the economy and the stock market might relate to one another after the effects of the current economic “bubble burst” dissipate. Let me add one thing: We'll see a return to business models that *always* work. That is, create a product or service, and then sell it for a price greater than the sum of production, distribution, marketing and overhead. It seems so simple…why is it recently so elusive to large corporations? Why is cooking the books so much more appealing? The reason seems pretty obvious: It has a lot to do with the Wall-Street-driven obsession with quarterly profits. Real life doesn't operate on a quarterly basis, but for some reason the stock market expects it to.
From the New York Times:

When studies last year showed that the share of the nation's children living in single-parent households had declined in the late 1990's, many welcomed the results as signs that the 1996 welfare overhaul was working.

But new research underscores a smaller, unwelcome trend: a rising share of children, particularly black children in cities, are turning up in no-parent households, left with relatives, friends or foster families without either their mother or their father. (Username: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Doin' it for the kids, are we? Just remember, if parties are outlawed, only outlaws will party.

Sunday, July 28

Nine miners alive, eighty-three dead in air show accident, and today someone will complain about the humidity. The wheels just keep turning.

Thursday, July 25

It's nice to see that the contemporary religious leaders of the world are not finding themselves irrelevant:

The perception of the child as a consumer is clearly more dominant than it was a few decades ago. A relatively innocuous example is the familiar 'tie-in,' the association of comics, sweets, toys, and so on with a new film or television serial; the Disney empire has developed this to an unprecedented pitch of professionalism.

And Welsch, too--my kind of guy.
What technological invention is credited with the summer blockbuster, the rise of Las Vegas and the demise of southern literature? Air conditioning. (Real Audio link; here is the Talk of the Nation program page.)
This little girl is my hero. (NYT; user: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, July 24

Remember all those un-democratic hi-jinks that went on during the aftermath of our most recent presidential election? It's not just the State of Florida that produces un-equal representation in our government. Un-democratic features, like the Senate, are built right into our beloved national Constitution. Do you know how the Senators were originally chosen? Do you know who the electoral college is really beholden to? Maybe we need to look our sacred constitution more critically.

Tuesday, July 23

Monday, July 22

Davis signed the bill on a hot, smoggy day along a park trail. Steps closer to cleaner air.
Black Americans have made substantial progress in nearly every aspect of our culture over the years, but they still do not experience the same level of representation and opportunity that whites do (National Urban League). Even though it's very much reality, I still find the state of racial relations in our country amazing. I'm "white," and I feel ashamed sometimes that I don't have more black friends. If you're white, how many do you have? If you're black, same question? Of course this doesn't really matter (?), but it's an interesting signifier of how little blacks' and whites' spheres of influence cross--intentionally or unintentionally. I look to explanations like this to make myself feel better, but they don't really satisfy me. What can be done, really? Is Hip-Hop still our best hope of bridging this invisible gap--a gap that no one seems very interested in talking about right now?
File this under "cool." (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Sunday, July 21

We have a problem here at Opensewer HQ: we don't watch enough television to keep up on current trends in popular entertainment. So today, I was overjoyed when I learned (somewhat late) that this past spring, the wretched "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" was dropped without fanfare from network prime-time because of sagging ratings. This is the kind of thing that makes us very happy. It was a stupid show that insulted our collective intelligence. We despised it, and proudly ridiculed it from the beginning. If you ever watched the show and enjoyed it, you should feel ashamed of yourself (boy, that was harsh, wasn't it?). When a piece of trash like this fades into obscurity, it makes us feel for a moment that there is hope for the American mind. But then, just when we think that the era of "that which is really bad will be called good" in popular entertainment is over, another misguided bomb stays off target and kills a large number of our unwitting mental civilians: Big Brother 3.

Friday, July 19

We flip out when we hear about people burning a live kitten on the grill, but what about the other millions of animals who are mistreated every single day so that we can have fresh meat at the grocery store? Mark Morford writes about the mass hypocrisy in his latest Notes and Errata.

Thursday, July 18

Keeping the waters safe for all men, but not animals.
The more modern man ravages nature, the more he reveres it. (The paradox is best exemplified in America, of course, by the popularity of SUVs.)
This is significant.

Wednesday, July 17

Do you know what your neighbor is doing? Do you care? Are you watching? If you're a good American, you'd best be watching and reporting any suspicious activity to the authorities, before they report you.
“…the continued existence of the European City depends on allowing it to become ‘Americanised’.” Hmmm.

Tuesday, July 16

“… Many pre-industrial societies … [saw] time as a circle, not a straight line. From the Mayas to the Buddhists and the Hindus, time was circular and repetitive, history repeating itself endlessly, lives perhaps reliving themselves through reincarnation. … Linear time was a precondition for industrial views of evolution and progress. Linear time made evolution and progress plausible. For if time were circular instead of linelike, if events doubled back on themselves instead of moving in a single direction, it would mean that history repeated itself and that evolution and progress were no more than illusions…” –Second in a series of outtakes from The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler
Something we'll see more of in the future: In early 2003, the City of Louisville, KY and Jefferson County will officially merge to form the 16th largest city in the country.
Quick: Zig Zag Zen; Sierra Club Power Lunch.

Monday, July 15

Sometimes, you can be an American citizen and get your day in court, even after fighting against the U.S. in a war. Other times, you can be an American citizen, be part of an alleged plot to maybe do something, and not get a trial, but instead hang out in prison for an undetermined amount of time. Guess which one is white?

Thursday, July 11

New artist Kaite Ripple sees the world as honestly as she can. She observes emotion and beauty, and captures it simply--without narrative, pretense or didacticism.
“Built on the factory model, mass education taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the ‘overt curriculum.’ But beneath it lay an invisible or ‘covert curriculum’ that was far more basic. It consisted—and still does in most industrialized nations—of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who showed up on time. … It demanded workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning.” --Alvin Toffler

Wednesday, July 10

Todays headline: United State Vice President Dick Cheney accused of accounting fraud and overstating revenues by $445 million from 1999 through the end of 2001. Sounds very familiar to the Enron scandal that apparently the entire Bush administration was aware of. If we reelect these people, something is very wrong.

Monday, July 8

Where have I been? A manned mission to Mars by 2015? And the whole thing will only take 440 days. When you look at the planet’s surface, it almost seems livable.
A Simpsons episode has "Marge reminding Homer that he loved the movie Rashomon, which elicits in Homer the rejoinder, "That’s not how I remember it."

Do you get that joke/reference? Maybe you do. Maybe you even get it without even having seen Rashomon. It's the reference game, the frantic cannibalization that keeps pop culture alive. I'm not a serious student of pop phenomena, but here's a good article that discusses what concerns me most with the popular arts (similar to this more alarmist article I blogged some time ago).

Saturday, July 6

Well I never thought I’d see the day, but I’m linking to a USA Today article. (The hotel where we stayed last night provided the paper for free, which is the only way I’d take it.) Anyway, in it there was a nice article about management sage Peter Drucker’s take on the recent corporate scandals. This man has seen the boom-bust cycle in our economy no less than four times in his lifetime. A nice quote: “As to ‘ethical problems’ in business, I have made myself tremendously unpopular by saying, again and again, that there is no such thing as ‘business ethics,’ there is only ethics.”

Wednesday, July 3

Predatory Lending is one of my favorite topics. The last time I commented on the issue was back in December '01, so I think it's time for an update. Take a look at the rowdy activist group ACORN, who have placed Predatory Lending at the top of their hit list and are engaged in some wonderfully obnoxious protest-antics. (That's three links to Alternet in one day...good stuff!)
A follow-up to my post on Saturday about school vouchers: ...dollars for vouchers subsidize religious schools, leave the poorest of poor students behind in even poorer and more racially isolated schools which further perpetuate the cycle of educational neglect, and are a scheme by conservatives to torpedo public education.
Across the nation, tonight and tomorrow night, millions of people will watch thousands of fireworks displays. Every year, after the fireworks are over, and the sky is filled with smoke, I always wonder why I continue to come out every year and watch. Of course, people have been setting off fireworks during celebratory events for more than a thousand years. Traditions like that are hard to break. But how often do we consider the environmental repercussions of all these exploding chemicals? Don't we have enough pollution to worry about? AlterNet reporter Gar Smith is asking these same questions: Is 15 minutes of pyrotechnic entertainment worth poisoning the earth?

Monday, July 1

This story on Living On Earth made me feel a bit more hopeful - Ecovillage. It's about a community in the middle of L.A. who have "turned a forty-unit apartment building in LA into a place where neighbors plant vegetables together, create and install solar panels, agree not to own cars, and even use odorless composting toilets." The community is even the focus of international tourists.
Money follows the mongrel. ... The adept handling of diversity is the secret of economic competitiveness and national vitality.