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Professional Left Podcast #79

The New-New Media.

Having been here a couple of days now with a big chunk of time admittedly taken up with other matters, two things I have noticed about this year's Netroots:

  1. Buncha A-Listers are MIA.
  2. Virtually no major media.

Granted, my previous experience was at NN Chicago, which drew every major Democratic candidate for president, and an assload of national and international media.

It was Big News.

Then the Age of the Blogosphere was over. Too bad you missed it. Soon 150 Bush Regime dead-enders in funny hats ranting about Big Gummint at a Ramada Inn in St. Reagandale, Florida could command the attention of major news outlets.


It was Big News.

It was the new-new long as nobody looked close enough to notice that is was just the same old wingnut gleeps with a new paint job and an unlimited line of credit from Koch Industries and Fox News.

And obviously it was in no one's financial interest to look at the new-new thing too closely. No one, of course, except those fucking Liberals. But by 2009, Liberals had once again ceased to exist: not because we weren't right -- over and over and over again -- but because the moral consequences of that being true is too financially terrifying for our media to bear.

Where were the major networks? Where was the Liberal New York Times? MSNBC?

Busy. Don't ask.

Instead bear-baiting freaks like Andrew Brietbart are once again handed a big wad of free air time to try to hustle his resume.

Here's how Politico headlined Netroots Nation:

Breitbart crashes Netroots Nation

Mic’d up and with a camera crew in tow, the Big Government blogger — and recent toppler of Rep. Anthony Weiner — came looking for a confrontation at this gathering of 2,500 progressive activists.

And he got one: Dozens of progressive activists and bloggers quickly surrounded him, yelling and shooting him with cameras of their own in a frenzy that quickly drew photographers to surround them.

And what were the Dirty Hippies up to at Netroots? Once again, Politico was on the fucking job, America!

Liberal activists booed an unpaid intern for Barack Obama’s campaign arm Thursday night after he defended the president’s record on gay rights during a Netroots Nation breakout session.

Even here in flyover country with no Senate filibuster showdown or election looming, there is content enough here for dozens of compelling stories waiting on silver platters to fill the content-starved maw of the Media Beast, so why the desertion-in-force?

Well these are not things we little people need to trouble our silly little heads about.

Because they're, y'know,


On another topic altogether, “This Week with Christiane Amanpour...” will once again hand over yet another massive slice of America's public airwaves to dyspeptic old ruin John McCain and blood-soak hellspawn Liz Cheney.

Oh wait, I guess that's not another topic altogether, is it?

Microsoft to malware: your AutoRunning days on Windows are numbered

Beware, malware. The Windows AutoRun updates for Vista and XP SP3 that Microsoft released in February have so far proven successful in thwarting your file corrupting ways. Although Windows 7 was updated to disable AutoPlay within AutoRun for USB drives -- freezing the ability for a virus to exploit it -- the aforementioned versions had remained vulnerable up until right after January. Fast-forward to the period between February and May of this year, and the updates have reduced the number of incidents by 1.3 million compared to the three months prior for the supported Vista and XP builds. Amazingly, when stacked against May of last year, there was also a 68 percent decline in the amount of incidents reported across all builds of Windows using Microsoft's Malicious Software Remove Tool. There's another fancy graph after the break to help illustrate, and you'll find two more along with a full breakdown by hitting the source link down under.

Continue reading Microsoft to malware: your AutoRunning days on Windows are numbered

Microsoft to malware: your AutoRunning days on Windows are numbered originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 18 Jun 2011 21:17:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Saturday Night At The Movies—- Roll over, S. Kubrick (and tell Tarkovsky the news)

Saturday Night At The Movies

Roll over, S. Kubrick (and tell Tarkovsky the news)

By Dennis Hartley

Daze of heaven: The Tree of Life

Q: What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?

A: Make me one with everything.

Oh…wait-I’ve got another one! Q: What do you get when you cross The Great Santini with 2001: A Space Odyssey A: Something resembling Terrence Malick’s new film, The Tree of Life. Clocking in at a butt-challenging 138 minutes, this existential, non-linear opus is the most self-consciously un-commercial head-scratcher to enjoy wide release since Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York somehow snuck into multiplexes 3 years ago.

This is also one of those films that critics pray for every night, because it gives them an opportunity to flex their writing instrument; especially those frustrated doctors of philosophy who don’t normally get the opportunity to roll out one-sheet friendly quotes like “lyrical tone poem” and “transcendent visual feast” while parsing Justin Bieber: Never Say Never or The Hangover Part II. Then again, so few films are greenlighted anymore that demand contemplation of The Big Questions (you know-like “Mr.Natural! What does it all mean?”) I think neither critics nor audiences know how to react when we do stumble across one…especially when it can’t be summarized in 140 characters or less.

If there is a signature stamp by this enigmatic filmmaker (who has directed but five films over a 38-year period) it is that inevitable POV shot (or two) where the protagonist takes a moment of Zen to contemplate the Awesomeness of Nature. It could be an event as microcosmic as contemplating a caterpillar inching up a blade of grass, or as nebulous as a lingering gaze into a clear blue sky. More often than not, it is soon followed by another example of the Random Cruelty of Fate. In this film, Malick not only revisits those themes, but he takes a stab at answering the ultimate question-about life, the universe and everything. But (you may wonder)-does he also tell us an interesting story? Well, sort of.

There are two distinct narratives. They both “branch” (if you will) from the racing thoughts of a brooding yuppie named Jack (Sean Penn, in a nearly wordless, largely internalized performance). The primary story unfolds through a random series of episodic sense memories from Jack’s childhood, growing up in a small Texas town in the 50s with two younger brothers, a loving but strict father (Brad Pitt) and gentle-spirited mother (Jessica Chastain). The second thread is less tactile and more abstract-which is where The Big Questions come in. As Jack veers off memory lane to mull over the meaning of God and life itself, his musings are accompanied by a Laserium-worthy reenactment of the Big Bang (impressively handled by a special effects team that includes legendary Kubrick collaborator Douglas Trumbull), followed by a visual Cliff’s Notes take on the origins of life on Earth. And yes, as you’ve likely already heard…dinosaurs are involved.

Now,on paper, this may look like I Remember Mamameets Jurassic Park but it’s not anything like that at all (I’ll give you a moment to purge the image of Irene Dunne being stalked by a velociraptor). The less said about the narrative, the better-because this is a movie that is not so much to be watched, as it is to be experienced. I think it’s safe to say that The Tree of Life isn’t like anything else currently in theaters. Hell-anyone who claims to appreciate the art of cinema has a duty to watch Terrence Malick’s films. And don’t be intimidated by any 10,000 word reviews you may come across; if you find yourself scratching your head as credits roll, here’s what you do (hey, it worked for me):

First, if you’re worried about “saving face” with your date (or your fellow moviegoers), just be sure you are nodding slowly to yourself while thoughtfully stroking your chin as the lights come up. If you can swing it, an enigmatic, knowing grin adds a nice touch. Next, you must “unlearn” what you have learned about traditional film narrative. Now, you need to visualize The Tree of Life not so much as a “movie”, but rather as a dim sum cart full of interesting ideas and Deep Thoughts that Malick is bringing to the table. You can pick any of these items that strike your fancy and arrange them on your plate as you wish, in order to make a full meal. You are in control. What you take away from the table is up to you as well; there are no “right” or “wrong” interpretations in this kind of exercise. Now, if you’re still not feeling “full”-no worries. Take a deep breath. Take a little walk around the block; maybe stop and contemplate the Awesomeness of Nature. Then, on your way home, stop and treat yourself to a nice hot dog. One with Everything.

Existentialism 101: Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, Man on the Train (L'Homme du Train), Wings of Desire, The Razor's Edge(1946),The Seventh Seal, The Big Bang!(1990), Heaven(1987), The Cruise, Waking Life, 13 Conversations About One Thing, Magnolia, Solaris, Akira Kurosawa's Dreams, Field of Dreams, Contact, Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi, Bliss, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Last Year at Marienbad, Spirit of the Beehive, What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Previous posts with related themes:

Synecdoche, N.Y.


The Exploding Girl

Man on Wire

Certified Copy

Where the Wild Things Are


From the “what were they thinking?” files

These people just have no sense at all:

NEW ORLEANS — A President Obama impersonator was pulled off the stage Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference, after telling a string of racially themed jokes about the president.

The impersonator, Reggie Brown, took the stage at the annual presidential cattle call to the Bruce Springsteen song “Born in the USA” — an apparent allusion to the birther controversy. He proceeded to tell a series of off-color jokes poking fun at Obama’s biracial heritage and a gay member of Congress.

Eventually, RLC President and CEO Charlie Davis made the decision to pull him offstage, and a man came onstage to physcially escort Brown off.

“I pulled him off the stage,” Davis acknowledged afterward. “I just thought he had gone too far. He was funny the first 10 or 15 minutes, but it was inappropriate, it was getting ridiculous.”

Seriously, this is one group that should be very careful about this sort of thing. They have a bit of a dicey track record.


NN Closing Keynote



Firefox 5 slips out ahead of schedule, gets official June 21st

Firefox 5 slips out ahead of schedule, gets official June 21st
Mozilla promised a faster refresh cycle for its wily web browser, following the release of Firefox 4, and it's made good on that promise. We got word this morning that the final version of Firefox 5 is now available for download on Mozilla's ftp server, just 12 weeks after the last re-up. The latest incarnation brings with it support for CSS animation and a more easily accessible do-not-track setting -- now available at the top of the privacy pane -- but won't see much in the way of GUI enhancements. Of course, if you want to play it safe, and avoid any last-minute tweaks, you can always hold off until version 5 gets official, but what's the fun in that? If you've already got your hands on the sly fox, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

[Thanks, Haseeb]

Firefox 5 slips out ahead of schedule, gets official June 21st originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 18 Jun 2011 16:23:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Who cares what they think?

Jack Balkin's post about the similarities between the Bush lawyer shopping and the Obama lawyer shopping is an important read. The difference between them is that I think Bush manipulated the system to provide the appearance of following the normal process and Obama just said to hell with normal process. The result is the same, but it is surprising to see a Democrat who ran on the proposition that he was very conscientious about the separations of powers would be the one who would just say "who cares what they think?"

It should be noted that Balkin was one of those who said repeatedly that the problem with allowing these presidents to get away with asserting these ever more dictatorial powers isn't a matter of presidential character. They ALL protect these powers once they are assumed, no matter how well intentioned you think they are. There was a great fallacy in progressive thinking back in the Bush years that this was unique to that administration. Yes, they were particularly interested in adopting a radical definition of executive power, but in the end their hypocrisy was a tribute that their vice paid to virtue in that at least they kept up the pretense that certain rules and norms in these matters were still operative. Obama, their great critic on the whole range of these issues, has just said they no longer are. He can do as he pleases.

This has never been about what's in these men's hearts (which we can never know.) It's about the power of the office. Once given, they will almost always use it.


Framing a guiltyt man

Wow, it looks like somebody (gosh I wonder who?) was trying to frame Anthony Weiner even as he was working hard to detroy himself:

At least three months before the revelation that former Representative Anthony D. Weiner was sending lewd messages and photos to women online, a small group of self-described conservatives was monitoring his exchanges with women on Twitter. Now there is evidence that one or more people created two false identities on Twitter in order to collect information to use against him.

A Twitter user employing a fake name posed as a 16-year-old California high school girl in May and tried to get Mr. Weiner to be her prom date, according to people with knowledge of the communications and a review of documents. The person behind another Twitter account created under a fake name claimed to be her classmate and offered to provide the group with incriminating evidence about Mr. Weiner.

Mr. Weiner, who resigned on Thursday after admitting he had sent explicit photos and messages to multiple women on social media sites, had already been the subject of intense focus on Twitter by the conservative group, which calls itself the #bornfreecrew.

One Twitter user the group observed seeking to interact with Mr. Weiner was called “Nikki Reid.” She started an online campaign to get Mr. Weiner to be her prom date at Hollywood High School in May, using the account @starchild111. Within days after Mr. Weiner started following her, a Twitter user, also using a fake name, Marianela Alicea, and pretending to be Nikki Reid’s classmate, contacted a member of the #bornfreecrew and said she had information about Mr. Weiner, but never provided any.

¶ But there is no evidence that either girl exists. There is no Nikki Reid or Marianela Alicea enrolled at Hollywood High School. In response to requests from a reporter from the blog Mediaite, a woman claiming to be Nikki Reid’s mother provided documentation to substantiate her identity and her daughter’s identity. But records show the street address the woman provided does not list anyone named Reid as an occupant. State officials in California have confirmed that the driver’s license this woman provided to Mediaite was false, as well.

Read on. It obviously doesn't change the fact that Weiner was a very foolish man to indulge his fantasies in public --- even more foolish than we knew, actually. But, it does show that people were not being simple partisan hacks for thinking there was something fishy about the whole thing. I'm fairly sure there's more to this story, but I'll be surprised if all comes out now that he's no longer in the congress.


Bachman’s new narrative

Bachman came up with a very creative and potentially dangerous new line of attack at the Republican Leadership Conference yesterday and she's reportedly repeated it in Minneapolis this morning at the Right Online confab:

NEW ORLEANS — Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the latest candidate to join the Republican presidential campaign, suggested Friday that President Obama secretly wanted Medicare to go bankrupt so retirees would be forced to enroll in the new national health care law.

“This hasn’t been talked about very much – the president’s plan for senior citizens is Obamacare,” Ms. Bachmann told party activists here. She added, “I think very likely what the president intends is that Medicare will go broke and ultimately that answer will be Obamacare for senior citizens.”

In a speech to the Republican Leadership Conference, Ms. Bachmann recounted how she attended a closed-door meeting at the White House and said the president was asked three times to produce his plan to address the financial burdens facing the Medicare program. She said the president’s “gift to senior citizens is to steal from them $500 billion out of Medicare.”

The anecdote, which Ms. Bachmann did not explain in detail or offer additional corroboration, was the latest example of a red-meat, crowd-pleasing declaration that has become a theme of her political rise – whether or not the statements withstand scrutiny. She drew enthusiastic applause as she pledged that her top priority – should she reach the White House – would be repealing the health care law.

How do you like them apples?

Needless to say this is an amazing projection since the truth is that Paul Ryan's Medicare plan much more closely resembles "Obamacare" and the GOPs fondest dream is to force everyone from cradle to grave back into the health insurance system of the early 20th century --- i.e, those who are rich enough to afford health care can have it. It's the liberals who want to turn "Obamacare" into Medicare.

Still, you have to appreciate the cleverness of her approach here. Where other candidates like Romney and Pawlenty speak in wonk speech, Santorum in the style of a culture warrior and Palin in snarky word salad, Bachman has a way with weaving certain ideas together in a way that speaks to the right's Fox-addled conspiratorial worldview. It's hard to know if she's personally confused or just opportunistic, but when someone weaves together various strands of conservative talking points into a coherent story like this it can be very powerful. And it's the kind of thing that turns liberals into pretzels trying to rebut.

She's going to be influential in this race. It will be interesting to see how the others deal with her.


A Quiet Casualty of TSA Paranoia: Oddball Scientific Samples [Mike the Mad Biologist]

While there are probably more immediate concerns when it comes to the security nanny state the U.S. erected after 2001, such as the continuing erosion of civil liberties (especially when the servant learns to love the lash), this recent article about Boston's Logan Airport security reminds me that there's been another casualty of our security paranoia:

State police say nitrates detected in a piece of checked luggage at Boston's Logan International Airport were traced to a sample of mud brought back from a river in Hong Kong.

Two gates at the American Airlines terminal were closed as a precaution on Tuesday afternoon after the nitrates were detected. The gates were reopened about an hour later after it was determined there was no danger.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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