Wednesday, September 26, 2012

UPDATE: Capitalism Is Really, Really Stupid

Sorry for the light blogging again. Been busy lately, etc.

Here's a piece I'd been meaning to write about for quite some time but have only now gotten around to. And I'm not really in the mood to be clever, so as usual, please imagine this space is filled some really clever and insightful analysis.

So this is a somewhat recent piece in the Guardian about how private commodities-trading firms are planning on making big bucks on the upcoming projected food crisis.

The short version is this: droughts and other bad nature stuff (as is the scientific classification of what's going on) are combining to leave major staple crops in short supply. Now, to you or me or any one with "human emotions," this registers as a bad thing, because it will likely lead to food shortages and/or starvation crises in various parts of the world.

But to a commodities-trader, it makes for "a good environment." You know, because food shortages mean more money. Or to put it more accurately, millions of people starving means other people will pay even more money for food than they do now so they don't also starve to death.

But of course, this only highlights something that is already happening. It's long been a settled question amongst those who study such issues that global food crises are normally a problem of distribution, not of production. Meaning it's not that we don't have enough food for everyone, it's that not everyone has enough money for food. So we let people starve to death because it's more important to make money than it is to feed starving people.

As such, this is example no. 89,053,738,643,211 why capitalism is completely fucked up. But hey, at least a bunch of starving people gives Bono something to do. Thought to be fair, giving Bono something to do is actually example no. 89,053,738,643,212 of why capitalism sucks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When a Leak Is Bad (Or Good)

Glenn Greenwald has written a lot (much of which I've linked to in this space) about the current administration's stance on leaks. Like most governments, it sees leaks as bad when they make it look bad and good when the opposite is true. So, for example, the Obama administration can claim it's drone program (which undeniably exists) is so secret that it can't be legally reviewed, because they can't even confirm or deny that such a program exists. But when the drones take out someone important, you can bet your ass there will be a leak about how successful the drones are. And that whomever is doing the leaking won't be, say, indefinitely detained in torturous conditions for months on end, unlike some people.

Well, here's another great example of that. Matt Bissonnett, one of the Navy SEALs who killed Bin Laden, has published an account of what went down. It doesn't really reveal anything that hasn't already become public knowledge for those who are looking for it. But it does not mesh with the official Pentagon story, so that means it's a big ol' problem.

You probably know the Pentagon story: Bin Laden was simultaneously firing on the SEALs (thus justifying their lethal force instead of arrest) while using a woman as a human shield (because Muslims are scary sexist cowards). This makes the SEALs look quite heroic and sure shuts up those hippies who are wondering why we could put Nazis on trial, but instead shot this guy in the head and dumped his body before anyone could question things.

But what actually happened (and again, is really public knowledge if you've been paying attention) is far less heroic. First of all, it must be remembered Bin Laden was an elderly man with failing kidneys who required daily dialysis (not very intimidating). And not only was he not hiding behind a woman (not even a misinterpretation of what happened, just a complete bald-faced lie to make him look bad), he was also unarmed. So what the SEALs actually accomplished was breaking into a house and repeatedly shooting an unarmed, very ill, elderly man. Not quite as heroic, right?

Again, Bissonnett doesn't really reveal anything new; he just confirms the truth. But now instead of the truth coming from some hippie website you can feel free to ignore, it's coming from one of the SEALs themselves, making it much harder to dismiss. And that's his real crime.

Of course, the parallels to the Pat Tillman case are simply to great to ignore. Again, a football player who dies a hero's death in battle sure sounds a lot better than a guy who was repeatedly shot in the back by his incompetent squad mates.

But it's really only a problem if people find out about it. So that's when leaks are bad...

Friday, September 14, 2012

I Wish This Existed For All Situations...

We've all had that experience -- coming up with a line as witty and clever as "shut up, Becky" only hours after it would have been useful. And for most situations, that's just a bummer for us, and we don't end up looking as witty as we want to.

But in some situations, having a witty comeback can actually be an important tool in fighting rampant sexism, or in this case, at least sticking to assholes harassing you on the street.

To that end, the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children in Toronto has developed an app called "Not Your Baby" that provides you with a snappy comeback for street harassment based on the location and harasser.

While snappy comebacks in and of themselves are not going to end sexual harassment, perhaps helping those experiencing harassment feel empowered enough to fight back is a good start.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wiki leaks? More like /busy/ leaks, amirite?

The fall semester has started here in the great white north, so it's been a busy few days getting back in to the swing of things. Also, football has started and baseball is still going, and even though the teams I follow are either already well out of things or have no chance of ever being in things this year, they still occupy far too much of my time.

Anyway, here's a fun little graphic I had no part in creating. But it does a good job of summarizing what wiki leaks has done and why it's important, and that's something everyone should know. Please pretend I wrote a very eloquent defense of wiki leaks right here. and then it looks less like I'm phoning it in.

Click to enlarge