Archive for the 'Media News' Category

Birth Tourism

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http://media.collegepublisher.com/media/paper404/stills/qmon9sgi.jpgBirth tourism is the phenomena of babies convincing their mothers to travel to the US pre-partum so that they can be US citizens, as well as take advantage of our swell pay-if-you-want medical system. A recent ABC News article says:

Thousands of legal immigrants, who do not permanently reside in the United States but give birth here, have given their children the gift of citizenship, which the U.S. grants to anyone born on its soil.

The number of U.S. births to non-resident mothers rose 53 percent between 2000 and 2006, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

What they fail to mention until the 14th paragraph that “[o]f the 4,273,225 live births in the United States in 2006, the most recent data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics, 7,670 were children born to mothers who said they do not live here,” That works out to 0.17% of all live births in 2006. Big deal.

Actually, we are surprised that the numbers aren’t much higher.  It sounds like a good deal to us.  We may just take out ads in major dailies in megacities like Mumbai and Sao Paulo offering birth tourism tours and services.  Out of 20 million residents there ought to be a few fools gullible enough to think that in a few years a US passport is going to be anything more than a blue badge of cowardice and a neon sign flashing “kidnap me”.

Dead Invade the White House

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First Family
The surviving (and formerly feuding) members of the Grateful Dead had a secret impromptu meeting Monday evening with the man they credit with reuniting them: President Obama. The president welcomed all the members of The Dead, who are performing tonight at the Verizon Center in Washington, to the Oval Office just before dinner last night.

from the Washington Post

A transparent ploy to mesmerize baby boomers while social security evaporates and end-of-life care is made more cost effective.

Santa Norma Blesses Us All

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Norma Moreira with a calabash Nativity scene, from her native Ecuador, among the dozens of creches she has collected from around the world.

This Christmas, Norma Moreira and her husband are sharing their home with 45 wise men.

Moreira, who immigrated to the United States from Ecuador in 1996, has been acquiring Nativity scenes for the past two decades. With her collection now standing at 58 (15 of which contain the three wise men), images of a cluttered storefront might come to mind. But when you consider that some figures are not much larger than a fingernail, it’s easy to understand how Moreira is able to comfortably share her Watertown home with all those creches.

from the Boston Globe, Christmas Day 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone! We couldn’t be prouder of our lovely and loving wife who today was profiled in a feature in the Boston Globe.  This story began as a blog posting on Dowbrigade News two years ago. A few weeks ago, Norma suggested I submit it to the Globe. Her collection has grown in the past two years, and they jumped on it like dogs on a meat wagon.

Let the record show that the Dowbrigade considers himself the luckiest man in the world for having found the perfect wife for his problematic personality.

Hillary Down But Not Out

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Now that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has crashed and burned in tatters and ashes, it seems an appropriate time to chime in with one of our patented, wrong-in-so- many-ways political predictions: Don’t Count Her Out Yet.

This may be but a brilliant subterfuge on the part of the Clinton Brain Trust, designed to let her candidacy fly under the radar for a few months before rising like a Phoenix in Denver to save her party, her political ass (that’s Bill), her marriage (Bill again) as well as to save her nation from four more years of this macho madness.

Remember that the Super Delegates can change their minds at any time up to the actual moment they cast their votes; that’s what makes them Super. And if no candidate wins an absolute majority on the first vote, they will keep voting until someone does. This could take a while.

Although multiple roll call votes, and the back room bargaining they engender, have been largely banned from the media-managed modern political conventions, there is no reason they could not make a comeback – the rules and traditions are still in place. During the longest nominating process in history, in 1880, James Garfield won the Republican nomination with 399 votes to 306 for U.S. Grant on the 35th ballot and after four exhausting days. As a delegate admitted, “It was the escape of a tired convention.”

So what could get those declared Super Delegates to undeclare and change their minds? Any one of a number of revelations, unexpected developments, world events or just plain fate could intervene. Any guesses as to the specific nature of these possibilities would be pure speculation and irresponsible journalism, but then, what are bloggers for?

The following ten headlines should not be construed as predictive or prejudiced against any particular candidate, but are merely intended as food for thought. Like the Dowbrigade, they are not in any way related to reality.

1. Michelle Obama Mud Wrestling Tapes Surface
6-week stint at NJ Hooters Recorded by Rugby Team

2. Obama Law School “Lost Weekend” Found
Ended on Lynn MA park bench, booked for indecent exposure

3. Southside Bouncer Claims Barack Sold Bunko Blow
Candidate reportedly middled deal for fake flake

4. Senate Race Obama CV Lists 3 CIA Fronts as References
Damning info removed before Presidential bid

5. Aide Asserts Obama Hides Father’s Koran Inside Bible Binding
Plans to take oath of office on Islamic Tome

6. Obama Makes Anti-Semitic Comment at B’nai B’rith Fete
Off-mike comment caught on cell-phone: “Who needs the damn Hebes, anyway?”

7. Obama Abducted by UFO on Camping Trip
Recounted incident in 1988 NPR interview

8. Obama Rent Paid by Banned Islamic Charity
Overseas support during ‘lean years’ as Chicago organizer

9. Teen Barack Organized Black Panther Chapter at Punahou High School
Only chapter in Hawaii included all three blacks at school

10. Obama Bigamy Alleged
Indonesian woman has proof she was “child bride” in arranged marriage

If nothing like this crops up spontaneously, we hope Hillary’s hordes have venom and expertise enough to whip something up, and plant it so it can’t be traced back to the Clintons. After all, if she can’t win dirty, she isn’t the politician we thought she was, and doesn’t deserve the top job after all.

But if a miracle can be manufactured, watch out. Hill’s been taking names for a while now, and those on the list better hope she’s down for the count.

Snap Killings – Lottery of Death

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DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Steven Kazmierczak had the look of a boyish graduate student — except for the disturbing tattoos that covered his arms. Professors and students knew him as a bright, helpful scholar, but his past included a stint in a mental health center.

The 27-year-old Kazmierczak also had a history of mental illness and had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication, said university Police Chief Donald Grady.

from AP

At least since Lizzie Borden allegedly (she was never convicted) took a hachet to her father and step-mother, the American press has fixated on and glamorized snap murders – incidents in which previously unexceptional, seemingly normal individuals suddenly snap and commit acts of uncommon violence and sociopathic savagery.

It would be interesting to study the origins of this kind of killing: have they always existed, or are they a product of modern urban culture? What seems clear is that the public fascination with the phenomena is rooted in the deep-seated fear of the familiar suddenly becoming threatening – the same fear that popularizes movies about alien infections, demonic possession or Stepford Wives.

Except that in this instance the danger is very real and very deadly. Although the statistical probability that someone in your classroom or office will decide to come in strapped like Rambo on any given day is infinitesimal, it is not zero, and that is enough to keep some people awake at night and add to the background level of primal fear, instinctual unease and environmental paranoia already rampant in the atmosphere.

One of the reasons we are increasingly uncomfortable is that, whatever their origins or causes, these berserker attacks seem to be increasing in frequency. Whereas in Lizzie Borden’s time notorious cases arose every decade or so, in the past century, after the state-sponsored killing frenzies of the WWs, sudden, private sector killing sprees seemed to crop up every few years.

Post offices were so often the scenes of such inexplicable massacres the term “going postal” entered into the American lexicon.

Now, hardly a semester goes by without a horrific attack on some campus, in a kind of macabre academic lottery of death.

As a rational academic and a God-fearing sinner, the Dowbrigade has two very different gut feelings about these snap killings.

On the one hand, what we know about the practice of modern pharmaceutical psychology and the chemical causation of psychosis has convinced us that the common clue in all of these cases – “he recently stopped taking his medication” – is the key to the killings.

The human mind, for all its indomitable resiliency and adaptability, can be a fragile vessel. Given the pressures and unnatural postures minds are forced to endure today, and the paucity of spiritual support, it is a wonder more minds do not snap. After tens of thousands of generations of slowly evolving as wandering tribes primarily eking out from nature the resources needed to survive, in less than a hundred generations we have morphed into urban micro-nodes in a global cyber-organic network, completely disconnected from our environment and constantly consuming objects and ideas neither necessary nor necessarily conducive to our survival.

No wonder people snap.

Actually, under normal conditions, people do not snap, even when they go mad. Shakespeare’s glorious descents into madness (think Lear or Macbeth) paint a more typical picture: gradual loss of one’s grasp on reality, hallucinations, especially audio (hearing voices), fixations, increasingly erratic behavior. Traditionally, societies developed a series of mechanisms to deal with these warning signs; talking, praying, sleeping potions, exorcisms, cold baths, sanatoriums in the countryside.

In extreme cases, the mad were locked away in asylums or attics, or simply killed, overtly or through neglect.

But today, modern psychiatry claims to have banished these archaic and inhumane treatments, in favor of scientific therapy, usually a combination of “talk therapy” and medicine. Because time is money, and it takes a lot longer to train and prepare a good shrink than it does to manufacture and market a good pill, these days the emphasis is on the drugs. The interests of the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry may also play a role in this.

Thanks to modern medicine millions of Americans who would otherwise be neurotic, disruptive or severely disturbed are instead able to lead productive, “normal” lives, working regular jobs, having families, paying taxes and participating in our cultural, economic and political life.

The problem is that these drugs just mask the symptoms of mental illness and bandage over the serious psychological problems which afflict these folks. Many of these walking wounded are seriously psycho, and would normally have ground to a halt or behaved in ways that demanded attention, if not for the drugs.

Think of the mind like a motor. When something goes wrong, a nut comes loose or a wire gets disconnected, it normally rattles around or shuts down until you get it fixed. These powerful pharmaceuticals allow the motor to keep functioning while broken, taking the mind to places that minds do not ordinarily go. Not good places.

One of the side effects of these drugs is that they make many users feel like “zombies”, lethargic with fuzzy thinking and muffled emotions. Imagine not being able to fully wake up, or to sense things with the strength and clarity you used to have.

So they stop taking their medication, and within 72 hours are trapped within a full-blown psychosis, delayed and intensified by the drugs, complete with voices, visions, compulsions and unstoppable urges, previously sealed up like malevolent genies in bottles of capsules, now uncorked.

And this is the rational, scientific explanation. On the other hand, despite an intense antipathy to everything associated with the religious right, the recent spate of snap killings has almost convinced us of the existence and active intervention in the waking world of the Devil – Lucifer, Satan, Mephistopheles, call him what you may.

It is the sheer malevolence of these attacks which points us in that direction, as if the killer had sat down and asked himself “What is the absolute most horrible, sadistic, evil thing I could possibly do?” and “How can I absolutely assure myself of a first-class ticket to hell, and how can I take as many innocents with me?”

It is difficult for us to imagine even the most demented or damaged human being honestly asking those questions, let alone acting on his answers, without some demonic intervention. Crimes of passion, crimes of greed, even crimes of indifference or plain cussedness, all those we can understand in human terms.

To a thinking, feeling human being struggling to fit this phenomena into our world-view, the unexpected, inexplicable evil of these snap attacks, like the miracles and saved souls on the other side of the ledger, require us to look higher, or lower, than the limits of the human soul, for answers.

Devil Worshippers Lose Pro Team

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http://www.tarotreadingsecrets.com/content_images/the-devil.jpgWhen your bad reputation is exceeded only by an uninterrupted record of failure and ineptitude, sometimes the only thing to do is to change your name. Not only does this often throw creditors off the track, but can offer a psychic fresh start, a karmic reset, a new beginning. Such is desperation of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, decade-long doormats of the American League, that they have resorted to exorcising the Devil from their name.

That’s right, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now officially just the Tampa Bay Rays! But the story behind the story is not their dismal path to baseball’s worst record (Tampa Bay has never had a .500 season in their 10-year existence); rather it is the word team officials have decided to eliminate – the “Devil” in the details! After extensive research we can definitively report that this is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is part of a concerted campaign to wipe out Merry Old Mephistopheles from our common culture, our sporting life, and our very language.

This campaign includes the depuration of morally offensive sports nicknames like “L’il Devils” “Redskins” “Braves” and “Turks” as well as sexual entendres like “The Stallions” “The Trojans” “The Beavers” and “The Cooz“. It is also part and parcel of the War on Halloween, which has lately been condemned from pulpits across America as a Godless Bonanza for candy companies and dental clinics, personally sponsored by Lucifer himself.

The latest front of this fundamentalist campaign against the Prince of Darkness and his linguistic minions attempts to purify the English Language itself. While dropping the Devil from the Rays left them with an euphonious Tampa Bay Rays, many of the other devils in our language will not be so easy to exorcise.

For example, what are we going to do with “Devil’s Food Cake”? We can’t just drop the D-word and say “Food Cake”. Is “Demon’s Food Cake” sufficiently non-ecclesiastic?

If we want to maintain alliteration and a negative message, we might transform Daredevil into “Daredoofus“. Of course, alliteration can be overrated, and if the idea is that this devil is an evil fellow, perhaps “Deviled Eggs” could become something like “Ogre Eggs”.

It may no longer be acceptable to have a “devil-may-care” attitude; instead we might refer to a “douchebag-may-care” attitude. We could replace Satan with a more modern figure of ultimate evil in proverbs like “Idle hands are the diddler’s playground.”

Getting Lucifer out of the Language is a noble idea, but like so many other things, the Doo-Doo is in the Details. There comes a point where we need to back off and give the Dark Dork his due. If we start messing with the English language to cater to passing political passions, there’ll be the terrorist to pay.

Kos Cutting Class

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Markos Moulitsas (LAW'99) talks with Maureen O'Rourke, dean of the School of Law, at the conference New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas. Photo by Vernon DoucetteMarkos Moulitsas (LAW’99) talks with Maureen O’Rourke, dean of the School of Law, at the conference New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas. Photo by Vernon Doucette

[From an interesting interview with Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos published today in the BU newspaper web site]

Do you think the Republicans will eventually pick up on the Internet as a fundraising and campaigning tool?

They never really needed it before. They’ve been very good at getting small donations in the past via direct mail. Now direct mail has become obsolete. The people who fill out a check are old and dying off, and my generation — well, I can’t imagine being caught dead writing a check.

Arthur Murray Book Club

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At the Boston Public Library each month, teenagers get down to the
vigorous techno thumps of the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution. The Norwell Public Library treats visitors to a monthly free dinner and a movie.

Borrowers in Andover take out portable, digital audio books so tiny that they can jog through the park or shop at the mall while listening to Dan Brown’s bestseller “The Da Vinci Code.”

And in Palmer, young patrons jostle for their turn to play Guitar Hero II, a video game that has replaced the more traditional karaoke nights in some bars.

from the Boston Globe

Long a fan of libraries, the Dowbrigade is all in favor of their trying to reinvent themselves in the digital age. When we were a kid, we remember spending many a Saturday morning in the Rochester Public Library, and it wasn’t to play games. It was to flirt with Lisa Sattinger, who as a 12-year old was known to wear pantyhose and play footsie under the library tables while perusing tomes on the Italian Renaissance and radioactive isotopes.

Last we heard Lisa won a genius grant, while we are still playing footsie with fate under the table of life. And while we strongly believe that in a world awash in electronic information we need people and places dedicated to cataloging, accessing and helping people use that information more than ever, we question such crass attempts to lure in new patrons.

Furthermore, libraries do not need such extreme measures to survive.  They are not in danger of extinction. The role of the library, and the librarian, are simply evolving with the form and function of the information they contain, getting closer to the Universal Library envisioned by Jorge Luis Borges.

But promoting Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero as ways to attract youth to the libraries strikes us as misconceived and counterproductive. You might as well post a sign over the door, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Couldn’t they at least try to get them to play games with a lexical component, like “Scrabble” or “Dungeons and Dragons”? Games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero not only fail to provide opportunities for developing reading and writing skills, they don’t even involve talking, or thinking.

You might as well offer slot machines, dog fighting and topless librarians! We thought one of the goals of a library was to promote literacy, or are we hopeless old fashioned?

Photo of the Day

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Journalist Kenji Nagai was shot and killed by a soldier.

It doesn’t get much more real, or more deadly, than this. Japanese reporter Kenji Nagai lies in the street, mortally wounded, trying desperately to catch a final shot as his life flows out of his busted body and a young soldier sprints over his prone form.

To the Dowbrigade, a pajama pundit to the core, a picture like this serves as a reminder that, all citizen journalism and alternative media aside, there is a categorical difference between a blogger or a commentator and a practicing professional journalist. We in the ‘sphere would do well to remember that without brave and crazy men and women like Kenji putting their lives on the line every single day, we pundits would have nothing to pontificate on from the comfort and safety of our digital cocoons.

Calling Adam Curry

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adamandmeGod help us, we’re going back to England. Back to the Olde Sod, back to that deranged and diseased island which has spawned the best and the worst of modern culture, from Pink Floyd to Princess Diana.

Our track record on Her Majesty’s turf is mixed. The last time we were there we were busted for smoking a chillum huddled under an azalea bush in the Queens Garden across from Buckingham Palace while waiting for the changing of the guard, and given 48 hours to leave the country. It was a perfectly innocent difference of opinion – we though we were invisible, crouched as we were between a bench and and the bush, but the bobbies though otherwise. That was 36 years ago, and we haven’t been back since.

The first time we visited the Merry Olde , ahhh, that was a different story. The Dowbrigade was, at that time, a seventeen-year-old smartass (hard to believe, huh?), fresh off the plane after being deported from Israel, our true Motherland, by the Mossad, for hanging with the wrong people, basically Palestinian intellectuals. That, and having close Israeli associates arrested for some obscure drug and military intelligence conspiracy which we obviously knew nothing about. We were, after all, just a 17-year-old American schmuck.

But when we landed in London, we had in our pocket the address and phone number of a 22-year-old secretary named Yvonne Bley, who lived with her cats in an apartment in Belsize Park. She took us in, all the way in, and it was cold outside. It was early December, winter was in the air, we wandered the heath or stayed at her place in front of the fireplace listening to Astral Weeks and Atom Heart Mother, just released. But wandering down that particular memory lane would quickly lead to diminishing returns, as we know our saintly wife Norma Yvonne is a regular reader.

At any rate, we are off to London again in three days, and don’t know a soul in the entire British Empire, except for Adam Curry, who we hung out with at BloggerCon in Cambridge, like, four years ago. Adam Curry, who probably meets a few hundred people a week like me, and who is currently in California or Calcutta, and who. like most famous people, is unreachable by email. So we don’t have much hope of getting a guided tour of Shakespeare’s haunts from old Adam, despite his best intentions at the time. Besides, Adam Curry is decidedly Big Time, and the Dowbrigade most decidedly is not.

However, in pouring over our stats and log files, we couldn’t help but notice that we get a fair number of hits from England. Should any readers, bloggers or interested third parties know anyone around London or have 411 about London, we will be stuck there teaching the American Legal System to European lawyers for most of July. Tips would be great; what not to miss, places to hang out, how to meet bloggers or new media people, how to recreate our reality in an alternate universe.

We will have private digs in a swanky section of town, near something called Imperial College, and constant internet access, so whatever happens, you can follow the story line right here.

Berkman Denizens Take Home the Gelt

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liwilliams.jpg Three of the top Berkman denizens were rewarded for their brilliant ideas, but more than that, for their ability to transform their ideas into concrete programs that actually improve people’s lives in the real world…

The future of journalism is in your hands.

That was the message yesterday as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation handed out more than $11 million in prize money to various bloggers and computer programmers, and organizations ranging from MIT to MTV, for proposals that will empower ordinary people to participate in digital media.

Lisa Williams , founder of Placeblogger, [and H2otown-db note] won $222,000 towards further developing the website — basically “the blogosphere’s answer to the AP.” Placeblogger runs a streaming digest from blogs across the world, and ultimately Watertown resident Williams would like to be able to create feeds of local information for cellphones, blogs, and e-mail.

Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School created a website in 2004 that aggregates blogs from across the world. Yesterday, he won $244,000 to help train bloggers in developing countries and rural areas.

David Ardia , also of the Berkman Center, won $250,000 to support the Citizen Media Law Project , an online legal resource for citizen journalists.

from the Boston Globe

Congratulations, to the three of them. Lisa and Ethan are two of the smartest and nicest people we know, and are sure to use the money to make a positive impact on-line and off in other people’s lives. David we don’t know, but his project sounds like something we should check out, especially as we have been working more and more in the field of legal English, now a must for lawyers all over the world.

Meanwhile, our online staff feel that the Dowbrigade News deserves a piece of that action. We have to get back on the magic mailing list for grant and prize money. With an award like that, we wouldn’t have to teach so many hours we’re too tired to blog when we get home! Of course, we would have to come up with some grant-worthy project. Something to empower a downtrodden and neglected constituency. The best we’ve come up with so far is a clearinghouse for information related to the mysterious mass disappearance of America’s bees. Bees seem downtrodden and neglected, and the big cell phone companies constitute a suitable corporate culprit.

But any other suggestions from the constituency would be appreciated.

Military Bans Blogging from the War Zone

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donesbury blogging
WASHINGTON — Lieutenant Daniel Zimmerman, an infantry platoon leader in Iraq, puts a blog on the Internet every now and then “to basically keep my friends and family up to date” back home.

It just got tougher to do that for Zimmerman and a lot of other US soldiers. No more using the military’s computer system to socialize and trade videos on MySpace, YouTube, and nine other websites, the Pentagon says.

Citing security concerns and technological limits, the Pentagon has cut off access to those sites for personnel using the Defense Department’s computer network. The change limits use of the popular outlets for service members on the front lines, who regularly post videos and journals.

from the Boston Globe

It was just a matter of time before the information control freaks at the Pentagon nixed battlefield blogging. They know that should the hoary fog of war ever actually lift, the warrior’s world would be doomed, because exposed to the light of day and the sound of human voices bubbling up from below, rather than sonorous, solemn pronouncements from the powers that be up above, the civilian population will never support these overgrown playground brats and bullies blowing people and places to kingdom come just to mollify and accommodate their aggressive and destructive psychoses.

This is just one more example of the paradox of modern warfare. It is possible today to create weapons that are way more deadly, sophisticated, destructive and efficient than ever before. But it is also now impossible to hide the messy effects of their operation from civilians back home, who are footing the bill and in whose name they are being used.

Since Vietnam, the first modern war to be beamed directly into the living rooms of America, we have seen again and again that the viewing public will not tolerate images of murder, maiming and mass destruction in their name. Maybe a lightning thrust to save some hostages or overthrow a particularly onerous dictator, campaigns along the lines of the Six-day War, but certainly not a dirty, deadly, prolonged ground campaign, much less an exposed occupation. Despite the best efforts of military managers, there is no way to stop the flood of images, blog postings, email and guerrilla video from pouring out of the war zone, and given this information overload, no way to preserve popular support for the war.

Information wants to be free, and free information can stop the warmongers in their tracks, for the simple reason that their actions are against the interests of the country and the far majority of it’s citizens. No longer should the many suffer and die to serve the testosterone poisoning of the few.

Unfortunately, the disengagement from the present fiasco will be long and bloody in its own right, and those who do profit from war will continue hoisting these manufactured conflagrations on the rest of us until we elect some folks who “get it” and can start preparing for mankind’s mature evolution into sane stewards of our planetary inheritance.