Archive for January, 2009


Poll: Support Group For Arm Candy, Or A Pulling Of The Leg?

(Above: The Grapes Of Wrath, ca. 2009)

I call bullshit.

The New York Times ran an incredible piece today about the hidden victims of the financial meltdown: the trophy women of banking.  According to the Times’ Ravi Somaya, the blog and support group (daba = “Dating A Banker Anonymous”) is

a support group founded in November to help women cope with the inevitable relationship fallout from, say, the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the Dow’s shedding 777 points in a single day, as it did on Sept. 29.

In addition to meeting once or twice weekly for brunch or drinks at a bar or restaurant, the group has a blog, billed as “free from the scrutiny of feminists,” that invites women to join “if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life.”

Theirs is not the typical 12-step program.

Step 1: Slip into a dress and heels. Step 2: Sip a cocktail and wait your turn to talk. Step 3: Pour your heart out. Repeat as needed.

About 30 women, generally in their mid- to late-20s, regularly post to the Web site or attend meetings.

“We do make light of everything on the blog and it’s very tongue in cheek,” said Laney Crowell, 27, who parted ways with a corporate real estate investor last month after a tumultuous relationship. “But it all stems out of really serious and heartfelt situations.”

When she introduces other Wall Street widows to the group, Ms. Crowell added, “They call their friends and say, ‘You’re not going to believe what I just read. It’s going to make you feel so much better.’ ”

Yeah, like maybe the feel-good story about the guy who killed his family and himself yesterday after losing his job?

I don’t believe it.  I call hoax on the whole thing.

Look, I have no illusions – I am well aware that the upper echelons of society are clogged with vacant, grasping muffins eager to time-share their birth canals with the prominent haircuts of Wall Street.  And I have no doubt that the post-meltdown world has gotten the attention of these horrible, punchable people in ways we cannot imagine.

There is no doubt that the site is satire – what I don’t believe is that this site and group are unintentional satire.  Call it a gut feeling, call it a cry for help in a world gone mad, but I can’t believe that a whole bunch of these twits decided, as one, to seriously complain and commiserate about their “losses”.  For one thing, self-obsession and community-building tend to be mutually exclusive activities.

So I know what my vote is: hoax.  But what’s yours?


At Long Last: The Solvency Doctrine

Bravo to Time’s Peter Beinart for coining the right phrase to describe the necessities of an Obama administration.  To reconcile the idiotic neocon global overreach with the plummeting domestic standard of living, the President and Congress are going to need a Solvency Doctrine.

America’s military and ideological commitments grew and grew, far beyond our capacity to carry them out. And now the power bubble has popped. Militarily, savvy and savage guerrilla movements have learned how to bleed us of money, lives and limbs. Economically, resources are scarce; it’s hard to pay to transform the Middle East when we’re deep in debt trying to prop up the Midwest. And ideologically, democracy no longer looks like the inevitable destination of all humankind.

Or, put another way, the permanent war footing of the economy – and I refer to the footing established in 1945, not 2001 – is quite literally killing us.  Supporting nearly eight hundred military bases around the world is, it turns out, no way to preserve a standard of living and is instead a great way to endanger it.  The military-industrial complex economy is soon to suffer the same repudiation that free-market fundamentalism has with the meltdown of 2008 (and the continuing aftershocks of 2009), and a Solvency Doctrine is the natural compass point leading away from these canards of Cold-war conservatism.  Great piece by Beinart.


Open The Light: National Film Board Of Canada Launches Online Archive


You can’t be a fan of public television, educational films. analog synthesizers or visually rich 1970s-era color cinematography without having experienced the awesome work subsidized by the National Film Board of Canada. The public cultural institution, an inspiration behind the name and aesthetic of a certain well-loved stratospheric Scottish IDM duo has placed their archive of 700+ films online, which is another way of saying kiss your weekend goodbye.  Truly, the finest use of Canadian tax dollars since nationalized healthcare.


Poll: Obama Presidency Ensures South Side Street Sign Switch, But Where?


RW370 is a South Side institution celebrating the South Sider in the Oval Office.  44th President of the United States Barack Obama went and got himself inaugurated today, meaning the bell can’t be unrung.  The South Side of Chicago has some changes coming.  Not social or economic changes (although you never know), but rather something lasting and incredibly important — a street name change.

And that’s as it should be.  If Mayor Anton Cermak (22nd St.), General John “Black Jack” Pershing (39th St.)  President James Garfield (55th St.) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Grand Boulevard) each rated highly enough to justify the juicy overtime budget for City Streets and Sanitation Department workers  (and resulting Postal Service mail delivery chaos) then absolutely so does BHO.  The only question is: what South Side street should be renamed for Barack Obama?  Vote in the poll and test your prediction skills:

35th St.: BHO’s love for the Chicago White Sox who play at 35th and Shields is well known.  This change would guarantee a permanent association between the 2005 World Champion Sox and the President  — as well as irritate the living hell out of many Republican-voting racists in my Bridgeport neighborhood.  That makes this the clear sentimental pick.

47th St.: The “Blues Corridor”, famous as the Chicago destination for so many Delta blues musicians, 47th runs through Bronzeville, the African-American neighborhood marked by its famous pre-WWII middle-class finery. Probably the best choice for most appropriate placement of the intersection of King and Obama.

51st St.: The busiest thoroughfare nearest the Obama residence in his Hyde Park neighborhood.  New home to the storied Checkerboard Lounge, world-renowned as the club the Rolling Stones stop in for embalming fluid when in town.  The best choice based  on creepy, cultish adoration of BHO’s every move.

Lake Park Ave.: The north-south Hyde Park artery possibly best-known for the reliable spectacle of University of Chicago Ph.D. candidates wandering off sidewalks and into traffic due to intellectual distraction while walking.  The best choice on the basis of upside for University endowment.

Drexel Blvd.: This South Side drag is beloved by music fans everywhere for being the earthly 1950s home of legendary bandleader and composer Sun Ra.  His El Saturn record label launched in an apartment at 4115 S. Drexel, which doesn’t suffer any loss of charm for being changed to 4115 S. Obama.  NASA’s preferred pick, because “space is the place”.

Cottage Grove Ave.: As Western Ave. is to the western half of the city, Cottage Grove serves the Southeast Side, reaching from 22nd to 129th in an unbroken stretch through neighborhoods like Kenwood and formerly independent company towns-turned-Chicago-neighborhoods such as Pullman. Due to street length, this pick is the best choice for maximum sign replacement crew overtime.

Midway Airport: This stubby-runwayed sky depot is in serious need of a rechristening, if for no other reason than to beat the Mayor to the punch slapping his name on it.  Hearing the name “Barack Hussein Obama Airport” would cause wingnut AM hate-radio fans no end of consternation, so this is the best pick based on administration of poetic justice in the take-your-shoes-off “security theater” airport lines.


War Crimes: Investigate, Prosecute, Enforce The Law You Were Trained In

Mr. President,

Don’t walk away.  They have dropped all pretense – they admitted to torture.  They even used the word.  It’s not ambiguous.  It’s not convenient, it’s not expedient, but it is the only reason I voted for you. I expect you to know why and how to redress the war crimes and gross structural distortions of and by the previous administration’s executive branch.

Yoo.  Mukasey.  Addington.  Cheney.  Rumsfeld.  Bush.  Gonzalez.  A list of atrocious thugs who warped and distorted the executive branch, lowering this government to ethical equivalence with that of Egypt’s with their outrageous justifications for torture and extraordinary rendition.

Don’t be civil.  Make the lawyers scramble to get lawyers.  Make the oilmen reshuffle their 2009 schedules.

Make them pay for what they did in our name.  For pimping this country to the shameful depths of Pinochet’s Chile.  Show the people who put you there that your legal training was not merely a leg up to personal ambition.

It’s true that the core of the neocon war hawks saw what the executive branch could get away with when they were starting their careers under Ford.  They saw Ford pardon Nixon to end the country’s “long national nightmare” of Watergate.

He didn’t end a damn thing.  As soon as those craven pricks – Cheney, Rumsfled, Wolfowitz – returned to the White House, the atrocities began.  Wars of choice based on lies, the sneering at the rule of law.  Giving al-Quaeda everything they demanded, giving Saudi Arabia nothing they deserved.  And pocketing personal windfalls the whole time.

When they were junior staffers in the Ford White house, Ford taught them they could get away with it – whatever “it” was.

They had to think they could get away with it – no other mindset could be behind what we saw 2001-2009.

Teach them otherwise, Senior Lecturer.


The Buffalo Beast Does It Again: The 50 Most Loathesome Americans of 2008


I subscribe to the Buffalo Beast‘s paper edition, and I can’t give ’em enough love.  This year’s annual feature “The 50 Most Loathesome Americans” sports, as per usual, towering shot after towering shot.  They’ve been in my blogroll for years, they were a big inspiration for my production company Aught-Seven, and even though they just get kind of ripped off badly by middle-of-the-road slush factories,  they deserve Pulitzers.  If not that, howitzers.

Highlights from this year:

30. Antonin Scalia

Charges: The bullet-shaped conservative justice should have stuck to his old policy of not allowing anyone to record him, because the more we see of him, the worse he seems. Scalia drew back the curtain on his legendary mind last April on “60 Minutes,” revealing the legal acumen of a gibbon with a Magic 8-ball. Asked about the legal atrocity of Bush v. Gore, Nino bravely replied, “Gee, I really don’t want to get into, I mean this is—get over it, it’s so old by now.” This about a 2000 decision, perhaps the least legally defensible in recent history, which has had and will continue to have an incalculable impact on this country and the world. Scalia has sebaceous cysts older than Bush v. Gore. But it was Scalia’s asinine, compartmentalized semantic parsing on torture that we hoped would give pause to his lionizers. Arguing that torture isn’t “cruel and unusual punishment” because the subject hasn’t been convicted of a crime, so he can’t be “punished,” the so-called Constitutional Originalist puts the framers in the awkward position of saying that it’s wrong to beat up a convicted criminal, but it’s just dandy to kick the shit out of him before he is even charged.

Exhibit A: “Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.”

Sentence: Broken on the wheel by James Madison.

16. Rick Warren

Charges: Dubbed “America’s Pastor” by The Nation, he’s duped people from both sides of the political spectrum into thinking he’s the kinder, fatter version of James Dobson. Though he is fatter, how could anyone think a man who—professionally—quotes a book written by a make-believe space-giant, instructing the murder of homosexuals, could be anything other than a delusional bigot? Still riding the undeserved wave of fame onset by a meth-head kidnap victim’s ownership of his pop-psych hybrid of churchy prudishness and self-help pabulum The Purpose Driven Life, Warren had a big year hosting a presidential forum at his gay-sounding Saddleback Church, helping to pass Prop 8 and being tapped to invoke said make-believe space-giant at Obama’s inauguration. Plus, his neatly trimmed goatee is the queerest thing we’ve ever seen.

Exhibit A: “God tells us that he created all the land animals on the sixth day of creation, the same day that he created mankind. Man and dinosaurs lived at the same time.” Can you feel the wisdom?

Sentence: He shalt giveth The Lord a blumpkin and eatheth of the pie until he bursts.

13. Joe Lieberman

Charges: A fickle, flabbery fiend reviled by both parties, Lieberman somehow finds himself more powerful than ever, failing forward by virtue of the Democrats’ unfalteringly chumpish lack of discipline. After promising that he was “not going to go to…the Republican convention, and spend my time attacking Barack Obama,” Lieberman went to the Republican convention and attacked Barack Obama. But that was just the beginning of his descent into a self-dug hole of betrayal that should have proved inescapable. Lieberman thought it was “a good question” to ask if Obama was a Marxist. He campaigned not just with McCain, but with Palin and down-ticket Republicans, another thing he said he wouldn’t do.  But the most loathsome trait Lieberman exhibits is that most loathsome of all: Smearing dissent as treasonous. The kind of suppressive asshole who would accuse you of helping terrorists by beating him at checkers should not be Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and is not someone worth rewarding for his own dissent.

Exhibit A: “In matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.” “Sen. Obama doesn’t come to this debate with a lot of credibility.”

Sentence: Lieberman awakes to find himself in the body of an impoverished Iraqi living in a small apartment with 12 family members and no electricity. Shocked by this inexplicable turn of events, he stumbles outside and cries to God, looking up just in time for the white phosphorous to hit him in the face.


Israeli Gaza War Crimes Investigation Called For…By Israelis

From Today’s NYT:

Also on Wednesday, nine Israeli human rights groups called for an investigation into whether Israeli officials had committed war crimes in Gaza. The groups say that tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza have nowhere to flee, the Gaza health system has collapsed, many people are without electricity and running water, and some are beyond the reach of rescue teams.“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes,” the groups said in a news conference on the 19th day of the war.

As Glenn Greenwald in Salon pointed out, indiscriminately pounding the crap out of a densely packed urban area with the specific purpose of inflicting civilian casualties is THE textbook definition of terrorism:

Here is how the U.S. Department of State defined “terrorism” in its 2001 publication, Patterns of Global Terrorism:

No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant (1) targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. . . .

(1) For purposes of this definition, the term “noncombatant” is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty.

All of which means this Max Blumenthal clip of pro-Israeli demonstrators in NYC last Sunday shows a whole lot of people clueless about the blood on their hands.  And not just their hands – check out the exchange at 2:04 for the magnificent money shot exposing the absurd Abrahamic heart of the matter.


Bloodthirst, Israeli-Style

Above: (Kosher) War Pig Avigdor Lieberman

Ultra-nationalist Israeli Avigdor Lieberman’s speech to Bar-Ilan University on Monday set a new low for that democracy’s discourse, calling for treating Gaza the “like the US did with Japan in WWII.” Apparently, raining missiles from Apache helicopters and F-15 jets onto densely packed civilian blocks in Gaza hasn’t killed enough children for some in the Israeli right.

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel should follow the example set by the United States when it brought Japan to its knees at the end of World War II, the head of an ultra-nationalist opposition party was quoted as saying Tuesday.

“We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II,” Avigdor Lieberman said, according to the website of the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Japan surrendered in 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Lieberman, who quit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition government last year, said Israel needed to “break the will” of Hamas in Gaza where more than 900 Palestinians have been killed in a war that began on December 27.

“Israel won’t be secure so long as Hamas is in power, and therefore we need to come to a decision that we will break the will of Hamas to keep fighting,” he was quoted as saying during a speech at Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv.

Lieberman’s comments, which were widely broadcast on radio stations in Gaza and circulated on text messages, drew a withering response from senior Palestinians.

Mustafa Barghuthi, an independent lawmaker and former Palestinian information minister, said Lieberman’s comments reflected the contempt felt by Israelis towards the Palestinians.

“This shows one more time that Israel never learn lessons from the past and rather invokes one of the bloodiest massacres in history to be the fate of the Gazans. They don’t have respect for human life”, he said.

Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, which draws its core support from Israel’s large Russian immigrant community, is tipped to emerge as the fourth largest party in elections due on February 10.

Pudgy chicken-hawks with no personal appetite for fighting yet much taste for blood are not a phenomenon unique to Israel – we have them in the US and they’re called neoconservatives. While our own desk-bound murderers – the Feiths, Perles, Kristols and Krauthammers – have been driven momentarily back to the shadows, their legacy of total incompetence in protecting the interests of the US are plain to see in this latest frothing of the Israeli right-wing.

Not only is the comparison to the US-Japan WWII fight hysterically incompetent for the simple fact that Gazans have no navy, no aircraft carriers, no army and no industrial base – but the implication to use nuclear weapons in Gaza – located right in Israel’s own borders – is tantamount to Manhattan attacking Brooklyn with nuclear weapons. It’s like setting fire to your next door neighbor’s house – you’re likely to burn down your own.

How is it that moronic slobs like these are not laughed right out of the room? Where are the adults?


US Air Force Seeks To Militarize Blogosphere; Unveils Flowchart, Neologism


Am I a “rager”?

Coming from both sides of the military-industrial complex’s hyphen, authoritarians have engaged social media to varying degrees of absurdity.  Corporate mishandling of internet communications technologies and communities are already the stuff of legend while military blogging policy for active-duty personnel is more or less “don’t post, don’t comment”.

These outcomes are unsurprising, given what the core social media pretexts of transparency, equality and sharing mean to the classic operating philosophies of profit-making and warfighting.  They mean what oil means to water.  As such, in the case of the Air Force, paranoia over social media reigns.  For airmen on duty, centralized IP blocking of blogs has reportedly been in place since February. Of course, USAF blocking isn’t in place for “established, reputable media outlets” – nor was it ever in place for airmen’s private machines in their own homes.  The absurdity is inescapable: authoritarianism usually doesn’t (and in today’s world, cannot) care about the effectiveness of its results as much as it cares about the appearance of applying its authority.

This problematic truth about authoritarian censorship, set against the communications realities of the blogosphere and a planet’s slow crawl toward social democracy, is what has allowed slow change in even the most vertical and anti-social organizations our society has ever produced.  It was only a matter of time before the US military service branches began to wake up to the problem of being, for lack of a batter term, stupid about social media.

The procedural, bureaucratic  mindset maps its way out of stupidity through the judicious application of…procedure. The military takes the premise to its logical extreme: there are field manuals for everything one accomplishes in the military.  And USAF Captain David Faggard, acting as the USAF’s “designated social media guru”, has added an Air Force field manual for blog commentary (see above graphic). In a handy flow-chart presentation, USAF personnel are given a means by which to navigate the blogosphere and decision points to guide interaction – and non-interaction – with it.

Most interesting about the chart is the designation “rager” for blog posts that are one shade more credible than those of a troll, yet are not to be replied to, only monitored.

I would like very much to know if my post qualifies as a “rager” post.  After all, it isn’t positive about the USAF, its blogging technique, institutional stupidity, centralized authority.  And truth be told, I’m not so hot on General Curtis LeMay, polluting Vieques island Puerto Rico with weapons contamination, posessing and bumbling an overwhelming nuclear arsenal, and having almost eight hundred foreign military bases all over the world flying my country’s flag, eternally fighting WWII.  This is a fairly anti-militarist blog, and I’m a fairly anti-militarist guy.

So where do I fall in Captain Faggard’s hierarchy?    At first glance, it appears I am an “unhappy customer”.

Though I find repugnant the tendency for government to reach for commercial language to describe its relations and work, I have to admit that in this exercise, the Captain has done a good job with his nomenclature.

As a taxpayer, I am indeed unhappy, not the least at the fact that all cultural indicators point to Captain Faggard attaining a rank of Major or Colonel before reaching for his piece of the military-industrial complex largesse on its civilian side.  Unhappy because when he does, the fairly trivial and broad groupings he has created in his chart will absolutely represent boardroom gold for those private enterprises heretofore unaware of how to begin to participate in social media.  Enterprises who might hire him to import a clue to their organization just as he has done for the USAF are – cultural indicators suggest – going to be subsidized by my taxes ad infinitum.  The Captain  would be a big exception to prevailing conditions if, even as he left the service,  he did not remain in the sphere of national “defense”.  The all-too-common career move is to hop across the hyphen from weapons buyer to weapons maker.

So unhappy, yes, but not despairing.  Because social media isn’t something you drag along to the silos – the literal and figurative silos of an over-weaponized, over-capitalized culture.  Social media is the chatter permeating and shrinking those silos despite best efforts to channel, guide and harness from above.  The free exchange of ideas as a baseline social expectation is far too simple to suppress, to prevalent to ignore, too beneficial to brand. As long as electrons move, social media will withstand, abide and flood every silo that thinks itself a dam.

Rager out.

(Thanks to Noah Schactman’s original piece in the excellent Danger Room blog about Capt. Faggard’s chart.)


Introducing the Boris Artzybasheff Appreciation Society

It’s true that people smarter than I have been able to avoid using Facebook.  For better or for worse, I am no longer among them.  I did, however, create a new Facebook group dedicated to one of my all-time favorite illustrators of the 20th century. Introducing the Boris Artzybasheff Appreciation Society. By all means, check it out if you are so inclined.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

January 2009