You are browsing the archive for 2014 November 23.

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Guerrilla Warfare in ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1′ (libertarian film review)

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

WARNING
This libertarian movie reviewcontains SPOILERS.
These spoilers DO NOT give away the plot, but they do reveal certain things viewers will see in the movie.
You’ve been warned.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, starring Jennifer Lawrence, is a thrilling action/sci-fi film about a revolutionary war in a dystopian future. Like its predecessors in the Hunger Games Saga, Mockingjay Part 1 is remarkably well made and will keep viewers glued to their seats. However, the “Part 1” in the title should clue people in to the fact that the movie is a total cliffhanger.
The setting itself hardly needs to be analyzed to find the striking libertarian imagery. In Panem we see an oppressed people living and dying under the yoke of a totalitarian government—a massive surveillance and police state. First there is Katniss Everdeen’s individual defiance against the state through seizing freedom of speech and expression in the Hunger Games. In the second installment, we see the birth pangs of the revolution amidst the Quarter Quell Games. In the third and fourth installments—Mockingjay parts 1 and 2—we see the revolution become a brutal civil war.
Because the film is divided into two parts of two hours each, the producers could afford to take their time telling the story. Therefore, the exposition is slow and the plot is slower to unfold. This first half is less about the revolutionary war to overthrow the Capital than it is about Katniss Everdeen’s transformation from stunned tribute into the Mockingjay, the face of the revolution.
One of the benefits of slower, longer movies is the increase in time spent on showing depth and detail in the story, characters, and setting. We get a heavier taste of Katniss’ post-traumatic stress following the games, as well as new challenges to her fragile …read more

Source: ZACH FOSTER RANTS

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5 Things Powerful People in Washington Believe That Have No Basis in Reality

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Andrew Bacevich, TomDispatch

“People in Washington don’t have time for reality. They’re lost in a world of their own.”


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“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”

His is an opinion grounded in experience.  As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.”  After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies.  Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research.  Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening.  As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or IS, has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.

Few in Washington would endorse M’s assertion, of course.  Inside the Beltway, policymakers, politicians, and pundits take Iraq’s existence for granted.  Many can even locate it on a map.  They also take for granted the proposition that it is incumbent upon the United States to preserve that existence.  To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Considered from this perspective, the “Iraqi government” actually governs, the “Iraqi army” is a nationally representative fighting force, and the “Iraqi people” genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.

Arguably, each of these propositions once contained a modicum of truth.  But when …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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7 Leading Candidates for Corporate Rip-Off of the Year

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet

These acts of corporate treachery take billions of dollars from the American people.


There are so many to choose from. Every one of these selections is an act of corporate treachery that takes billions of dollars from the American people. 

1. Selling Medication For Up To 100 Times More Than It's Worth 

Pharmaceutical companies reap billions of dollars in subsidies for research and development, but they've successfully lobbied Congress to keep Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices. An extreme example is Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of the drug Sovaldi, which charges about $10 a pill to its customers in Egypt, then comes home to charge $1,000 a pill to its American customers.Other outrageous examples are noted by Ralph Nader. 

As a further insult, Americans are cheated when corporations pay off generic drug manufacturers todelay entry of their products into the market, thereby forcing consumers to pay the highest prices for medicine. 

2. Paying Their Employees With Our Tax Money 

Walmart made $19 billion in U.S. profits last year, and the four Walton siblings together made about$29 billion from their personal investments. That's about $33,000 per U.S. employee in profits and family stock gains. Yet they pay their 1.4 million American employees so little that the average Walmart worker depends on about $4,000 per year in taxpayer assistance, for food stamps and other safety net programs. 

3. Giving Money to Executives Rather Than Investing in the Future 

Corporations are spending trillions of dollars on stock buybacks, which use potential research and development money to pump up the prices of executive stock options. Apple alone is spending $90 billion to repurchase its own stock through 2015. Walmart doesn't provide a living wage for its workers, but its company management spent $7.6 billion, or about $5,000 per U.S. employee, on stock buybacks, in order to further boost the value of their stock holdings. 

The buyback surge is dramatic. In 1981, major corporations were spending less than 3 percent of their combined net income on buybacks, but by 2008-9 they were spending 75 percent of their profits on this greed-driven process

4. Making …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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I Took A Class on How to Pick Up Women—But I Learned More About Male Anxiety

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Gareth Rubin, The Guardian

The truth is a lot of men are painfully shy guys who break out in sweats at the thought of even speaking to a girl.


Sleazy. Everyone thinks the “trained” pickup artist is a sleazy, predatory lizard stalking women. The truth is some are like that, but quite a lot of them, I can tell you, are painfully shy guys who break out in sweats at the thought of even speaking to a girl.

When I joined an intensive weekend course in London in picking up women, all I had to go on was the The Game, the bible of the pickup artist. It had been a publishing sensation a few years previously when it lifted the lid on the international “seduction community”. It was full of terminology: “negs” (comments designed to subtly reduce a woman’s self-esteem so that she seeks your approval); “HB10s” (hot babe or hard body 10/10); “F-closing” (getting a girl into bed). But that weekend opened my eyes to the reality of the scene, which is a lot more downbeat and often a lot more depressing.

The course was run by a celebrated pickup artist known as Gambler (real name Richard La Ruina). He wrote a book a few years ago entitled The Natural Art Of Seduction – a more British approach based on less aggressive techniques than The Game, but with the same intended outcome. His methods certainly have nothing in common with the violent techniques espoused by Julien Blanc, the US pickup artist who was banned from entering Britain last week.

So 15 students, aged 25-35, assembled in a private bar in the centre of town that had been hired for the weekend, eagerly awaiting our induction into the pickup artist lifestyle. It became quickly apparent that the class split neatly into two groups: there were a few wannabe Don Juans, who claimed they were already having quite a lot of sex yet felt they should be having more, and a much larger group of shy and very genuine guys who would normally panic if they were …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Real Michael Phelps 'Scandal' Is the Offensive Portrayal of Intersex People

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Claudia Astorino, The Guardian

Intersex people exist, and we’re fighting for our basic human rights. Stop treating us as props and oddities.


 

Being intersex isn’t itself headline-worthy and, more importantly, our lives aren’t headlines. We’re just people who happen to be intersex.

But this week, Taylor Lianne Chandler’s claim that she has been dating Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps made headlines everywhere – and not because of his celebrity status or their age difference. This story has been wildly popular because Chandler identified as intersex.

I woke up to a flurry of activity on Facebook this week from friends who were upset about the newest set of articles revealing that someone in the media spotlight is intersex. My chest felt heavy, and I hoped this wouldn’t be what it always is.

I scanned the headlines already half wincing, knowing I’d be disappointed: reporters both write that she was “born a man” and refer to her as intersex, as though those are the same thing. The word “scandalous” was used, though it’s hardly a surprise that Phelps has a girlfriend. In one headline, Chandler “admits”that she’s intersex, as if she’s confessing to a crime. Much of the coverageinaccurately refers to intersex to as a gender identity, using it as synonymous with transgender. Some press accounts detail what Chandler’s genitals looked like at birth or look like now. Readers are invited to wonder whether Phelps will continue the alleged relationship with Chandler knowing that she’s intersex – to ponder, in effect, whether anyone accepts intersex people enough to date them at all.

I turned away from my laptop, disgusted.

My life is busy but mundane – and it has a normalcy that’s not reflected in the sensationalized framing …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Startup Bros Trying to Bio-hack Vaginas Is the Problem with Silicon Valley

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

When a man introduces a made-up project to make lady-parts smell like peaches, it’s hard to be surprised that the industry is largely straight, white men



Don’t look now, ladies, but your vagina is getting disrupted. As if this week didn’t have enough Uber-style Silicon Valley dirtbags for you (every week has one too many), a couple of startup bros went and outlined their visionfor Sweet Peach, a probiotic supplement that lets women “bio-hack” their vaginas and supposedly make them smell like ripe peaches.

If you are a woman, you might wonder which problem this is really solving. If you are a woman and have heretofore eschewed the douchebag industrial complex, you might, in fact, be perfectly happy with your healthy vagina’s natural smell and have never felt the slightest urge to have the scent of fuzzy fruits waft up from your lady garden. And you almost certainly would wonder why two guys have such firm ideas of how your vagina should smell.

Well, to give Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome their due, it wasn’t even their company – and the goal of Sweet Peach Probiotics’ actual founder Audrey Hutchinson wasn’t to eliminate vagina-scented vaginas at all. The probiotic wasdeveloped as part of an accelerator program run by Cambrian Genomics, a biotech startup that just raised $10m to fund its DNA-printing systems (Heinz, its CEO, owns a 10% stake in Sweet Peach). She used Cambrian’s technology to print a virus to kills off the microbes that cause things like yeast infections – and, though Gome told reporters that the fruity smell is an added bonus that lets women know it’s working, the name is reportedly only a reference to the fruit’s long history as reference to vagina.

(Gome also offered that, to take an idea from Linda Lovelace in Deepthroat, a women could “hack into her microbiome and make her vagina …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Jon Stewart: I Have “Daily Show” Burnout

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Sarah Gray, Salon.com

Stewart shows his vulnerability in a fascinating and extremely revealing interview with Howard Stern.


Jon Stewart was on the Howard Stern show earlier this week, and of the appearances Stewart’s done to promote his film “Rosewater,” this was one of the most interesting, organic conversations from the media tour.

In the conversation, he discusses everything from interviewing politicians, “Rosewater,” not displaying his Emmys, fatherhood, interviewing Donald Rumsfeld, finding talent — Colbert, Carell, Helms, Oliver — and whether or not he’s burnt out from “The Daily Show.”

At times Stewart even asks for advice, or reverse interviews Stern. The interview is an hour-long, extremely revealing, somewhat vulnerable and very worth a listen:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Marley-Boro Man: Reggae Icon Bob Marley to Become Face of Global Weed Brand

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

Marley's favorite herb is coming to the U.S. in the form of lotions and other accessories.


In a deal announced this week, the image of late reggae superstar Bob Marley will soon adorn the packaging of a global brand of marijuana and hemp-infused products bearing the name “Marley Natural.”

According to Adweek, an agreement was reached between the estate of the music icon, who died in 1981 from a rare acral melanoma, and a newly formed company funded by Seattle-based venture firm Privateer Holdings.  Marley Natural will reportedly become  available late next year and will consist of cannabis-infused lotions, creams, accessories, and mass produced “fine cannabis,” described as “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains” that Marley himself smoked and enjoyed.

Marley Natural hopes to take advantage of the growing market in legal cannabis products in the United States as well as internationally.

Currently, four states and Washington D.C. permit recreational use, while the sale and use of medical marijuana is allowed in 21 states.

According to Marley’s daughter Cedella, her late father would have been pleased with the deal, saying, “My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb.”

The Marley family has licensed the singer’s name and image since his death, with the value of Marley’s estate estimated to be more than $130 million. The singer who popularized reggae music as well as the Rastafari spiritual movement — which regards the smoking of cannabis as a sacrament — has sold over 75 million albums worldwide, with his greatest hits compilation Legend selling more than 250,000 copies per year since his death.

According Privateer CEO Brendan Kennedy, the choice of Marley was perfectly natural.

“It was just a natural fit between Bob Marley and this product,” he said in a statement. “If you were to look for the most famous human being who ever walked the face of the earth related to cannabis it would be Bob Marley.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Colbert Mocks Media Hysteria Over Chocolate Shortage

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Sarah Gray, Salon

What a bunch of jokers.


 

Stephen Colbert counted down the three things he’s most afraid of in last night’s “Threat Down.” In descending order they are America’s standards of sexiness, the possibility we’ll run out of chocolate, and that Christopher Columbus may not have been the first person to sail to the Americas. (I have a bone to pick with Colbert, because of course his blowhard character neglected to mention the role of climate change in the declining production of chocolate.)

Given that Colbert only has 12 episodes left, this might be the last time we see a “Threat Down” segment, so enjoy and watch below:

 

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Boredom, Week Zero

November 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster