Category Archives: Media

Facebook defaces our lives, stealing happiness

esnl has never been on Facebook for the simple reason that we loathe the notion of commercialized friendships.

And now we find there was a solid foundation for our concern, as documented by researchers from Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute0, who compared moods in two groups: One which continued using Facebook as usual, the other which gave it up for a week. The results were stunning.

From RT America:

Facebook blues: People feel happier after ditching social media

Program notes:

A new study by the Happiness Research Institute, a Danish think tank, found that people’s moods and emotions are linked to how often they use social media sites like Facebook. People who took breaks from the site felt better about their lives. Alexey Yaroshevsky has the details.

And it wasn’t just stress.

Here’s a summary of other findings from the report, The Facebook Experiment: Does Social Media Affect The Quality of Our Lives? [PDF]:


A new scandal hits the prison phone system

America’s prison and jail inhabitants are being robbed.

Not by fellow inmates [though that surely happens], but by the corporations who own a growing percentage of the telephones inmates use to call family, friends, and their attorneys — contacts essential to their personal and legal well-being.

The charges are often simply extorionate, with charges of $12.59 simply to connect at one Southern California jail, plus another $1.15 for every minute after the connection is made.

This report from RT America’s Lindsay France looks at the scandal:

Brutality behind bars: Private companies profiting on inmate, family communications

Program notes:

Many inmates in the US federal and county prison systems are struggling to keep communicating with family members, and an investigation is showing that telecommunication companies are taking advantage of the ‘Pay-to-play’ systems, forcing people to making expensive phone calls. In the second part of her special report, Lindsay France takes a look at this controversial trend and at how companies are exploiting lax regulations.

But that’s not all.

There’s a far greater scandal brewing, one with raising profound issues of inmate rights and constitutional law.

Prisoners are being robbed of their right to the cornerstone of the American criminal justic system.

From Jordan Smith and Micah Lee for The Intercept:

An enormous cache of phone records obtained by The Intercept reveals a major breach of security at Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside the nation’s prisons and jails. The materials — leaked via SecureDrop by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating the constitutional rights of inmates — comprise over 70 million records of phone calls, placed by prisoners to at least 37 states, in addition to links to downloadable recordings of the calls. The calls span a nearly two-and-a-half year period, beginning in December 2011 and ending in the spring of 2014.

Particularly notable within the vast trove of phone records are what appear to be at least 14,000 recorded conversations between inmates and attorneys, a strong indication that at least some of the recordings are likely confidential and privileged legal communications — calls that never should have been recorded in the first place. The recording of legally protected attorney-client communications — and the storage of those recordings — potentially offends constitutional protections, including the right to effective assistance of counsel and of access to the courts.

“This may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history, and that’s certainly something to be concerned about,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not.”

So there you have it.

Inmates are being robbed of their money when the place calls, then, it appears, robbed of their rights when they finally connect with their lawyers.

They ought to be a law.

Oh, wait. There is.

From a 1990 ruling by the federal appellate court’s Ninth Circuit:

The appellate court recognized that while prison administrators are given deference in developing policies to preserve internal order, these policies will not be upheld if they unnecessarily abridge the defendant’s meaningful access to his attorney and the courts. The opportunity to communicate privately with an attorney is an important part of that meaningful access.

Headline of the day: Stupid advertiser tricks

From the Guardian:

BLOG Bloomies

Abby Martin on U.S. press subservience to Israel

No other foreign power exercises so tight a hold on American news media as does Israel, as we have learned firsthand [and previously].

So we were pleased to see that Abby Martin has devoted the latest edition of her Telesur English series the Empire Files to a look at how the media spins the conflict between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people.

From the Empire Files:

The Distortion & Death Behind Israel/Palestine Coverage

Program notes:

A crisis in Palestine is again all over the headlines. From stabbings and Molotov cocktails, to killing of protesters and anti-Arab lynch mobs — how much of the mass media coverage can we really trust?

Abby Martin takes a look at how the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict” has been covered by the mainstream press during the last crisis in the region, and the variety of tactics employed by the state of Israel to control the narrative: from its Hasbara propaganda machine, to outright killing of journalists.

Featuring interviews with Dan Cohen (@DanCohen3000), investigative journalist who just returned from 7 months of reporting from Gaza and the West Bank, and Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhelek) writer and editor with Electronic Intifada.

Technoparasites: We paid, they profit

The “innovative” corporations so admired by neoliberal capitalism and its cheerleaders in the Forth Estate are innovators, but not so much of technology but of ways to package it, then in using some of the profits they’ve made off taxpayer-funded research into changing laws to make ever more profits while those who paid for all that research are driven deeper into economic despair.

If you consider all that a bit harsh, then pay close attention to the dissection of an iPhone during the first part of this latest documentary from the Dutch public television documentary series VPRO Backlight:

VPRO Backlight: The Smart State

Program notes:

We think new technology is developed by hip companies like Google and Apple. But is this true? VPRO Backlight explores the innovation climate in Europe, to find out what role governments and the private sector play in this. Who finances the development, and who profits from it?

What would the iPhone be worth without the internet, GPS and touchscreen technology? All these components didn’t originate from Apple, but from research institutes, universities and government-funded companies. VPRO Backlight explores where new technologies, from medicines to gizmos, come from, who finances their development and who profits from them.

We have gotten used to seeing new technology as something devised by smart, trendy techies at companies like Apple or Google. Italian American economist Mariana Mazzucato delved into the origin of new technology, and found out that governments have more influence than we think.

In her highly acclaimed book The Entrepreneurial State, Mazzucato argues that we should take another look at the source of innovation, and at the role governments actually play in innovation. She claims that technological progress will be seriously delayed if innovation is left only to the private sector. One question is what future governments can still contribute to technological development if they only have the costs, not the benefits. A company like Apple makes a profit with technology co-developed by governments, but like so many other big companies, they barely pay taxes.

VPRO Backlight pays a visit to aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which is teaming up with the European Space Agency for the development of 3D printing. But we also go to the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, where so-called orphan drugs are developed: medicines for rare diseases that would be too costly for companies to develop without additional incentive measures. And finally, in Denmark the government does have an important role in innovation as a direct venture investor in new technology. Not only the costs are for the government, but also the profits, as with Universal Robots, a manufacturer of smart robot arms, which was sold for hundreds of millions. Does Denmark have the ideal system to accelerate technological development?

While we agree with the analysis of the problem, we think the Danish government investment program is only a half-measure.

What’s wrong with cooperative businesses, where ownership is diffused and related directly to those who do the actual work? And what of other forms of economic organization?

Also, that space race deserves a little more consideration, especially in the light of plans contained in long-secret documents eleased last year.

From the 17 September 2014 edition of Newsweek:

[J]ust-released documents from the 1950s and ’60s, many of which were obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, portrays the much messier—and sometimes quite frightening—story playing out behind the scenes in what is arguably the most important international competition in human history.

Many of the plans were prepared by the American military, which focused on how the moon could be used for fighting. Blueprints were prepared for a military base largely buried under the lunar surface. Designs were drawn up for building nuclear reactors there, although no one seemed to have given much thought about where the radioactive waste would be disposed in the vacuum of space. And detailed studies recommended that the United States detonate a nuclear weapon near or on the moon, partly in hopes of setting off a “moonquake” and partly to scare the crap out of the Russians.

The reasons for frantic scheming on both sides of the Cold War were not just the altruistic advancement of science and a chance to feed national pride. Both countries wanted to get to the moon first because they thought it would give them military superiority in their long, bitter and costly Cold War. “The results of failure to first place man on extraterrestrial, naturally occurring real estate will raise grave political questions and at the same time lower United States prestige and influence,” reads one 1959 Army document about a secret program called Project Horizon. “[Moreover], the extent to which future operations might be conducted in space…is of such a magnitude as to almost defy the imagination.… The interactions of space and terrestrial war are so great as to generate radically new concepts.”

Life at Guantanamo Bay and the art of protest

Our video offering features the latest edition of the Laura Flanders Show, a report on the art of protest in the form of an unusual performance piece featuring an American musician and performance artist teamed up with one of the youngest prisoners ever held at the Guantamo Bay concentration camp.

Because Mohammed el Gharani is barred from entering the United States, he appears in the form of a hologram projected onto a chair that is also a work of sculpture.

So who is he?

From Wikipedia:

Mohammed el Gharani is a citizen of Chad and native of Saudi Arabia born in 1986, in Medina. He was one of the juveniles held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp with an estimated age of 15–16 years when he arrived at the camps. Human Rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith identified Al Qarani as one of a dozen teenage boys held in the adult portion of the prison.

The Independent said Gharani was accused of plotting with Abu Qatada, in London, in 1999 – when he was a 12-year-old, living with his parents, in Saudi Arabia. He was detained for seven years in the United States Guantanamo Bay detention camps.

On January 14, 2009, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the release of Gharani because the evidence that he was an enemy combatant was mostly limited to statements from two other detainees whose credibility had been called into question by US government staff. Gharani’s attorney Zachary Katznelson said after the ruling “Judge Leon did justice today. This is an innocent kid when he was seized illegally in Pakistan and should never have been in prison in the first place.”

In a piece for the London Review of Books, el Gorani described one experience at Gitmo, a conversation with another black man, intermediated by prison bars:

Once, in 2005, one of our brothers was badly beaten in front of us. I sat in my room not speaking to anyone all day. During night shift, one of the good guards, a black guy from Louisiana, came to me. We called him Mike Tyson because he was a boxer. He used to bump my fist through the bars: ‘Wassup, Chris?’

‘If at least we’d done something bad, I could understand …’

‘Brother, look at my face!’ he said. ‘How long you’ve been here with Americans?’

‘Four years.’

‘I’ve been suffering 27 years, man! I know what it is. They put my brother in jail for no reason, instead of a white guy.’ Most of the people in jail in US are blacks, he told me. ‘My grandfather and my great-grandfather were in the situation you’re in now.’ He meant they were slaves, shackled like us.

So how did Anderson work to convey a sense of the emotional intensity of Gharani’s experience given his physical absence?

From Telesur English:

Laura Flanders – Laurie Anderson & Mohammed el Gharani: Habeas Corpus

Program notes:

Like all men held at Guantanamo Bay, Mohammed el Gharani, who was imprisoned at the age of 14, is barred from entering the USA. But American artist Laurie Anderson found a way to bring him to the states, via telepresence. Laura talks with Anderson about presence, absence and the questions raised in Anderson’s latest attention-getting performance, Habeas Corpus. We also hear from el Gharani, who was held at Guantanamo from 2002 until his release in 2009, about prison-camp solidarity, the prisoner who is his hero, and his thoughts on slavery and the Middle Passage – then and now. All that and an F Word from Laura on a long, 40 second delay.

And now for something completely different

And NSFW as well.

As a child of the 1960s who lived in a couple of communal dwellings, esnl was accustomed to folks in the buff, as most humans were throughout most of history.

But we’ve always been fascinated by the huge difference in the way men and women have to dress for the beach or while hanging out on front porches and the like.

When we were growing up in the 1950s and early 1960’s, the only breasts a white Kansas kid growing up in a small farm town could catch a glimpse of unclad womanly flesh was in the National Geographic, where the mammary display was mostly linked to people with significant quantities of epidermal melanin.

If one desired a glimpse of unclad crotches, the only views were to be found in magazines illegally sold under the counter, or in cheap films aired by men-only “smokers.”

Playboy‘s pudenda and attendant foliage were airbrushed away, leaving an under-18 male only those magazines hidden under daddy’s side of the bed or those venerable National Geographic pages.

But all that changed with the arrival of LSD and mass gatherings in the form of rock concerts and “beins.” People lit up and let it all hang out, and sometimes they really did do it in the road.

But it didn’t last, and soon the sight of a topless [what an oxymoron] woman was rare.

Back in the 1980s and 90s a group of Berkeley hippie holdovers would set up in the buff on Telegraph Avenue, much to the delighted chagrin of esnl’s own public school age daughters whenever we made a run to the bookstores that once populated the south-of-campus commercial street.

But save for those occurrences, and since we no longer attend youth music concerts, the sight of adult female areolae in public spaces has vanished.

Male nipples, however, we’ve seen aplenty.

Which brings us to a video of distinguished British actress Amy Brangwyn, reading some very funny verse of her own at the Bad Poets Corner of the Brighton Expression Sessions, public meet-ups described thusly on their website:

Free gatherings in Brighton! meet new people &pixies. with live art, drumming, circus & fire toys, conversations, bonfires. Using expression to reempower!

With that for a preface, on to the video, after the jump. . . Continue reading