June 29, 2001
# The Global Privileges of Whiteness

Kendall Clark: The Global Privileges of Whiteness

The average White American's attitudes about race and racism are a mixture of self-congratulation and defensiveness -- ``Yes, America has had some episodes of racism and racial bias, but that's all clearly in the past.'' In truth, White racism hasn't gone anywhere. Its tenor and tone have evolved; now it's expressed in carefully coded messages rather than in crudely overt themes. White racism, and the White supremacist ideology it reflects, and the network of White privilege it maintains, are alive and well.

posted by dru in good_articles
June 28, 2001
# chain of fools

This Atlantic article makes the argument that chain stores have done a lot of good for the book buying public, contrary to the elitist complaints to the contrary. There are some good factual points raised, but two essential points are missed. First, book chains are likely not sustainable in their current form. Their low prices and perks are subsidized by investors, so they can afford to sink independents without having to be profitable in the short term. Like the cold war, it's about who runs out of money first. This means that independents get put out of business rather quickly, handing an enourmous amount of power to the chains relatively quickly. Once there's no competition, prices can go back up, and selection can become more concentrated. While there's still a relatively large selection, it's a selection chosen by a few people, so if you can't sell your book to the few buyers who work for all the chains, then you're more screwed than before. Corporate censorship at its least visible. And the music they play in those places.. that's another rant.

Mel Lastman, the mayor of Toronto doesn't get to avoid the question. Wouldn't it be nice if journalists could make politicians look like fools every time they try to avoid a simple question?

posted by dru in blog
by jessamyn

the metafilter kids went back and forth on this article a bunch. I was surprised how many people dislike indie bookstores because either 1) the book you want isn't in stock WHEN you're there [i.e. if I can't impule purchase it, forget it] 2) clerks are snobby/rude/whatever

June 26, 2001
# marketing

Four Web Sites Control Half of Surfing Time. "marketing and advertising power has replaced infrastructure investment as the main barrier to entry and success on the Web." Yikes. Robert McChesney warned us about this back in 1999, so who is surprised?


A lot of predictions made with great idealism didn't pan out. After a brief first wave of innovative new sites -- Hotwired, Feed, Word, Suck, Salon and Slate -- the notion that the Web would foster a renaissance of independent publishing quickly withered in the face of some hard truths about Web media: Yes, it's easier and cheaper to put up a site than to print a newspaper or magazine or start a TV station, but journalism and information still cost money. And once you hang out your Web shingle you still have to figure out a way for people to find out that it's there.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
June 25, 2001
# Horowitz

Ever wonder how wrong David Horowitz is? look no further. Seriously, the guy just makes stuff up to get attention. So why do people (like me, at this instant) pay attention to him? It must be some sort of critical mass - enough people pay attention that one can't simply dismiss him for the flame-baiting pig that he is. Of course, it would help if editors could afford to care more about the substance of the ideas than the amount of attention someone will attract.

posted by dru in blog
June 24, 2001
# Toronto

I'm in Oakville, otherwise known as the vast suburban wasteland outside of Toronto. So if you're in Toronto or thereabouts, drop me an email if you want to get together.

I'll refrain from commenting (ranting extensively) about Oakville (and suburbia in general), except to say that every house is exactly the same, and I was greeted by a billboard for $400,000 condos promising the "ultimate lifestyle", which apparently has something to do with total monotony, consumerism (ooh, "power centers"), and owning an SUV.

In other news, here's an interesting bit on the history of pamphlets.

posted by dru in blog
June 19, 2001
# protesting

There's a whole lotta protestin' goin' on. Indonesia, Venezuela, Poland, Terre Haute, Vieques, Argentina, NYC, Paris, New Jersey, Cincinatti, Sweden, Slovenia, South Korea, Chile, Algeria, Israel, Las Vegas, South Africa, Hong Kong... and that's just since June 15.

A large number of those are explicitly anti-US.

The Boston Review on photojournalism:

The photos—such as one showing a baby being passed, over barbed wire, between members of a divided family—were undeniably moving. But in fact they told us little about the Yugoslav wars, and would be useless in ascertaining the moral import or political utility of the NATO bombing. Still, the editor knows his readers, and he is on to something important: in a culture in which history has ended but spectacle is forever, we need not—and perhaps can not—grapple with the thorny quandaries or moral challenges of the "full story." Too often, a photo of a baby will suffice.


The stark yet crowded photos—of mass demonstrations and funerals, veiled and wary women, drug addicts, beggars, smoky tea shops, ornate mosques, bleak cemeteries, and guns, guns everywhere—are edgy, nervous, weirdly cropped, both confused and confusing. Rather than assert their own authority, Peress's images invite the viewer to seek insights outside the frame. Though his pictures are striking, dynamic, skillfully composed, and sometimes even beautiful, they contain a striking humility, reminding us of all they can not show.

Maybe some of the points in that article were what I was getting at with my rambling about Paul Ford's photos last week.

posted by dru in good_articles
June 18, 2001
# McCloud's Magic

In his most recent edition of I Can't Stop Thinking, Scott McCloud does the math on micropayments, and leads the cheer to pay artists for their work.

But I wonder if seeing a micropayments as a technological solution to a social problem isn't just a little naive. It's not impossible for artists to get paid directly for their work now, it's just that the idea has been marginalized or shut down by people who make a lot of money by being middle men. Organizing not-for-profit mail-order distribution points for CD's and Comic books where people order through a catalogue or online, and a maximum percentage of the price goes to the artist -- besides what is needed to pay the employees a living wage -- is entirely possible, now. Such a project would require a lot of overhead -- something that artists have a hard time providing. However, the point is, if artists really want to protect their interests and not have to have a corporate-mediated relationship with their audience, they need to be willing to do something about it, and so does their audience. This fact is easily as relevant online as off.

The net can make it easier to set up shop directly to the audience, but if there are millions of dollars at stake, it's not unlikely that the record industries (and others) will find tricks up their sleeve that will leave them with more control of online distribution -- starting with taking chunks of payment to artists right off the top, which Amazon.com is already doing. I'll go so far as to say that as long as a micropayment initiative is for profit (and maybe even if it's not), the more success it demonstrates, the more likely it is to be consolidated, co-opted, or copied by some corporate megalith. Consolidation is demonstrably the rule, rather than the exception in the media biz. I wonder if McCloud's artists' utopia is a little farther off than the nearest technological fix?

The Ralph Nader quote I posted a few days ago is quite relevant:

In the absence of a mobilized constituency, even structural reforms will inevitably fall short of achieving their democratic purposes. Corporate interests will reassert themselves (or new corporate interests will arise) to corrupt even a decentralized media, and eventually chip away at the structural limitations on media concentration.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
by David Grenier


Every "micropayment" system has had ridiculously high comissions.

We need to create a not-for-profit open source micropayment system.

by impto

That would be great. I was thinking the same thing but then my thinking ran into a very large wall.

"Selling" a free client to users that would allow them to pay pennies for their favorite web sites will avoiding nagging ads/subscription fees would be easy. Offering this free service to the content providers would also not be a difficult task.

The barrier comes in when you try to coordinate with financial institutions. I think that any group that wanted to interact with banks/creditors is going to have a large problem unless you come at them with big dollar signs.

There is currently no way to bypass these institutions and they are not going to offer a solution like a universal credit system that would cut them out of the process. And I definitely don't think they would offer this solution to an open source system although it would be nice.

eh, just my two bits while I wait until I can go home from work.


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June 17, 2001
# More Self-Censorship

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) looks at how the Media is essentially ignoring some really evil comments made by Bush's Treasury Secretary.

"The secretary didn't really mean to say that no matter how old, no person who has paid into the Social Security system all his or her life would be entitled to benefits until he or she is physically no longer able to work? He didn't really mean to say that ExxonMobil and Time Warner should be treated as we treat the church-- as tax exempt?

"'Yes,' said the spokesman, 'that is our position. The quotes were all accurate.'"

David Grenier:

Every blog I read and list I subscribe to seems to be full of people who spend so much time in front of a computer that they've learned to see the world in binary. Good and evil, with "good" generally being determined by CNN and other media outlets. McVeigh kills Iraqi children, he's a hero. McVeigh kills American children, he's a villain. The government kills McVeigh, they are heroes. McVeigh expresses no remorse, the nation is pissed off they couldn't make him beg and cry before killing him.

David has a longer rant about McVeigh and the history of human sacrifice that is well worth reading.

Journalists have latched on to the fact that McVeigh described the death of children in the Oklahoma City Bombing as "collateral damage." This, they say, proves that he is an inhuman monster. Did these same journalists not use that phrase to describe the deaths of Iraqis in the Gulf War?

posted by dru in us
by David Grenier

The first link to me above should be http://davidgrenier.weblogger.com/2001/06/12

I want to build a better journaling system than Manila, but I really don't want to waste this beautiful summer in Seattle sitting in front of my computer (of course, what am I doing right now?) When I do the confusing "link to the front page" problem will need to be solved.

June 16, 2001
# Music

Some interesting analysis of the music industry.

In earlier years, Napster may have garnered much less attention- people could have been disgusted at the many poor or incomplete files, people could have ignored the whole thing knowing that they could buy the real CDs at a real store.

But in the modern world, the consumer cannot do that: the pressures of the music business have led to a wild constriction of consumer choice in mainstream retail outlets, on mainstream radio- in every respect. The degree of control is so extreme that it's no longer possible to buy stuff unless it is mainstream, and record label execs forthwith proceed to study the market and try their level best to produce composite, synthetic musicians and bands that can appeal to the largest or most profitable sections of the market.


But- as illustrated by what happened to the Electronic genre- the Internet is not a physical store. Given the capacity to copy music at no significant cost from any of a million different storage places, the natural tendency for any consumer is to begin the process of differentiation. Once this starts it doesn't stop- the person cultivates their own tastes and pursues additional differentiations among what is available to them.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
June 15, 2001
# McChesney

Making Media Democratic, by Robert McChesney

Our goal should be to craft a media system that reduces the power of a handful of enormous corporations and advertisers to dominate the media culture. But no one will press for reform until we have some ideas worth debating.


The starting point for media reform is to build up a viable nonprofit, noncommercial media sector. Such a sector currently exists in the United States, and produces much of value, but it is woefully small and underfunded.

Nader responds:

In the absence of a mobilized constituency, even structural reforms will inevitably fall short of achieving their democratic purposes. Corporate interests will reassert themselves (or new corporate interests will arise) to corrupt even a decentralized media, and eventually chip away at the structural limitations on media concentration.

More in the "Future of Media" issue of the Boston Review.

posted by dru in good_articles
June 13, 2001
# new politics

Michael Moore's letter to Dr. Laura is quite amusing.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a

pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev.1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

The New Politics Initiative in Canada looks interesting.

posted by dru in good_articles
June 10, 2001
# Drunken Boat

Drunken Boat, a journal of the arts [online]. Always good to see a new zine. I haven't got around to reading any of the articles, but a friend recommended it. The web art section is promising, but mostly unengaging. Web art that I've seen tries too hard to be non-linear and somehow cutting edge, and tends to substitute ambiguity for substance. Maybe I just don't get it, and maybe that's a problem. Maybe not.

The Drunken Boat, by Arthur Rimbaud. Good poem.

Drunken Boat, a song by the Pogues (sans Shane MacGowan), inspired by Rimbaud.

posted by dru in sites
by Sam

Some of the writing is decent, and I like the web-art on there, especially Lance Shields' stuff.

by Rebecca Seiferle

I'd like to invite you to visit *The* Drunken Boat, www.thedrunkenboat.com, an online magazine of international poetry and poetry-in-translation, reviews, interviews with well-known poets. We've been online quarterly since April 2000, preceded the other drunken boat by a few months. Thanks, www.thedrunkenboat.com

# Cuban food, yum.

Did you know that Cuba has converted from large-scale, "modern" agriculture to small-scale organic agriculture over the past decade, and is doing quite well? I didn't.

...contemporary Cuba turned conventional wisdom completely on its head. We are told that small countries cannot feed themselves, that they need imports to cover the deficiency of their local agriculture. Yet Cuba has taken enormous strides toward self-reliance since it lost its key trade relations. We hear that a country can't feed its people without synthetic farm chemicals, yet Cuba is virtually doing so. We are told that we need the efficiency of large-scale corporate or state farms in order to produce enough food, yet we find small farmers and gardeners in the vanguard of Cuba's recovery from a food crisis. In fact, in the absence of subsidized machines and imported chemicals, small farms are more efficient than very large production units. We hear time and again that international food aid is the answer to food shortages—yet Cuba has found an alternative in local production.

Cuba Organic Farming Group Wins Alternative Nobel Prize

Cuba’s organic revolution

Organic Farming in Cuba

The Greening of Cuba

Urban Agriculture in Cuba

Project Censored lists Cuban organic farming as 12 on its censored stories list. The media coverage that did occur wasn't quite objective.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
June 09, 2001
# Soldiers, Muslims, Coca Cola

Paul Ford took a walk around Jerusalem with a guy from Indymedia Israel, and came up with a bunch of pictures. I think I prefer looking at raw sets of pictures that people have taken -- as opposed to professional photo spreads -- if only because they don't have the "edited for effect" feel that takes a specific angle on a story and leaves the rest out. Paul's photos take an angle and probably are edited to some extent, but they seem to let the different threads of the story unfold on their own. The captions give me the sense that it's one person's experience, not a made up composite of experiences.

posted by dru in culture
June 08, 2001
# in photo veritas

I got this bit of truth in photography about the Quebec City protests from a mailing list, though they apparently appeared in the FTAA zine.

Higher resolution versions: 1, 2, 3.

posted by dru in activism
June 03, 2001
# "I prefer not to"

Paul Ford has a copy of Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, illustrated with photos of present-day Wall St. on his ftrain.com.

There is no such thing as free speech (an interview with Stanley Fish) is well worth reading twice.

Once you realise that racists don't think of themselves as racists but as tellers of the truth, then you realise that hate speech or racist speech as we designate it is not an anomaly, is not a cognitive mistake, is not a correctable error, is not something that can be diagnosed and therefore cured, but is in fact the rationality and truth telling of a vision we happen to despise.

posted by dru in good_articles
June 02, 2001
# Digital Music

The Revolution Will be Commercialized. Well, I wouldn't say that the "MP3 Revolution" ever occurred, if only because distributing the same old song for free and faster is still distributing the same old song (and thus totally not revolutionary, or substantial break from the status quo). The Salon article saves the most interesting bit for the last paragraph:

The collapse of the independent digital music industry brings us back to the beginning, back to the truly do-it-yourself indie roots of the Net's earliest days. Collective projects that are free from any corporate ties are still flourishing, and small companies with nifty ideas lurk on the fringes. The major record labels, in turn, will do what they've always done: They'll take advantage of their newly acquired Internet start-ups to develop music services designed to reap an already profitable industry even greater profits.
Exactly. So, once again, let us shed any pretense that big corporations are going to do anything interesting (in the "revolutionary" sense, anyway), and start writing more Wired Magazine-style profiles of people who are doing interesting things on a small scale: those collectives and small companies mentionned above. If interesting ideas (i.e. ideas that change the status quo) ever do come out of big companies, then I'll be pleasantly surprised (emphasis on surprised).

What the article didn't cover is the real hope for digital music distribution, which has little to nothing to do with bands signed to major labels. It has to do with the fact that people don't have to rely on the radio to find out about new music. In addition to all the copyrighted music that one has to download illegally, there are a large number of recorded live performances available online, if you know where to look.

Corporate control of the internet starts with the capacity to make people aware of a certain set of music, and to control what how people find music. If alternatives can be created, it has little to do with what the technology is, but rather how it is used. For example, non-mainstream music scenes have flourished through the old music distribution mechanisms, so they will most likely continue to do so through the new ones. Whether a system is created that can support a significantly greater diversity of local and niche artists, is up to the small collectives and local organizations that got all of one sentence in the Salon article on the "digital music revolution". And their success is up to... us.

Wow. That sounded preachy. And yet, I believe it.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
June 01, 2001
# Give it back

Niel Bornstein has a simple proposition for those who are recieving Bush's tax rebate cheques: give it to those who should be getting it, but aren't (i.e. the poor).

posted by dru in blog