I stumbled across the original video for Madonna’s “American Life” single, which came out around the time we invaded Iraq.  Even after all her other “shocking” moments, this could have killed her career in 2003.  It also says a lot about what blind, flag-waving puppets people were at the time that not even Madonna was willing to ruffle any feathers.

Not Sorry For…2004…

April 21, 2008

By the time Howard Dean came to national prominence, I was entirely sick of George W. Bush’s “wartime leader” pretensions.  I found it hard to believe that the mainstream media barely scrutinized the almost comical absurdity of someone who’d spent the Vietnam era in Texas, the silver spoon he was born with firmly up his nose instead of in his mouth, heroically landing on an aircraft carrier to celebrate the resolution of a war that was clearly not over, and which he started himself.  I doubt the 19th century press would have credited Lincoln with saving the Union if he’d fired the first shot on Fort Sumter  But, I digress.

What I most admired about Howard Dean was his boldness.  His leadership on the gay-marriage issue was courageous, and at a time when mainstream politicians of both parties pussyfooted (emphasis mine) around Iraq, Dean’s opposition to the invasion was brave and much-needed.

If Barack Obama deserves applause for his alleged opposition to the war at a time he was a politician of no real consequence whose opinion no one yet cared about, then Dean deserves a standing ovation for opposing it as a presidential contender whose opinions a large segment of the population was still ready to Dixie Chick him over.

I don’t think it entirely off-base to suggest that Dean’s opposition opened the door to serious debate about the Administration’s lies and mistakes before, during and after major combat operations in Iraq, but I will admit that Howard Dean was the first candidate to really make me feel like I was a part of something.  I could be a little biased.  I was 18-years-old when I gave my very first presidential vote to Al Gore and was almost as disillusioned by the media’s ridiculous treatment of “the scream” as I had been with the Supreme Court after that first vote.

But I think there’s something to be said for the argument that Dean’s loss was everyone’s win, if in fact his legacy proves to be a lesson in how modern technology can again make the political process mean something to everyone.  If young people used to being treated as props by campaigns who want to “protect them” have a way to be a part of real political conversation online, it has much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.  If union members used to being treated as props by campaigns who want to “protect them” have a way to “meetup” and find a candidate who knows traditional industry has a place in a global economy, it has much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.

Most importantly, perhaps, if we ever have the opportunity to sit at home in our underwear, filling out our presidential ballots with a few tabs and a couple mouse clicks while telling Diebold to suck it, it will have much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.

George Wanker Bush

March 26, 2008

I had all sorts of fun ideas for the WikiScanner project.  When I actually started to investigate them, however, I discovered that a lot of them would make good topics for later blog entries, or were just plain boring.  This soon became the theme for the project. 

Although he’s not really an orgainzation, I first turned to an old favorite: George Wanker, er, Walker Bush.  Sadly, that was about as interesting as things got for our fearless leader.  Some random in Australia changing Walker to Wanker and someone else linking his page to “incontinence.”  Things were more dramatic the time his dog watched him choke on a pretzel.

In Ethics class, we watched a video called “Toxic Sludge is Good For You” (available on VHS), in which there was much talk of ExxonMobil’s PR blunders in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Since oil companies are inherently evil, I thought there might be some excitement brewing on its Wiki page.  The page was much busier than the president’s and included edits by the subject (I guess GWB is too busy finding maps on  The Google  to edit his Wiki page).

My personal favorite was the Irving branch of the company’s removal of vandalism, under the “corporate divisions” section:

Exxon Global Corporate Headquarters are located in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, whereby this bastard company markets products around the world under the brands of Exxon, Mobil, and Esso; 

was changed by Exxon to:

Exxon Global Corporate Headquarters are located in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, whereby this company markets products around the world under the brands of Exxon, Mobil, and Esso;

I thought there might be something juicy when I came across a U.S. Department of Labor edit.  Surely Elaine Chow herself, suffering from insomnia and tired of Nick at Nite “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” reruns, inserted something about Exxon forcing its station employees to work overtime on Christmas.  Alas, no.  Some grammar-conscious hack in the Department found it necessary to lowercase the reference to Exxon’s tiger logo and contribute to the DoL’s longstanding effort to reach out to the colorblind by pointing out that Mobil’s Pegasus mascot isn’t just any old Pegasus.  It’s a red Pegasus. 

I really didn’t find much that I didn’t expect to find.  The typical arguments of big oil critics were advanced and then redacted by big oil supporters.  The company itself made edits to correct obvious vandalism and wrote on the company’s history.  The most controversial edit I found was provided by Union Pacific Railroad, who wasn’t concerned so much with  ExxonMobil’s reputation, but in marginalizing the wacky myth we nutty liberals call global warming:

Investigative reporting by the British newspaper ”The Guardian” has found that ExxonMobil has funded, among other groups critical of the scientific consensus on global warming, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute, Congress on Racial Equality, TechCentralStation.com, and International Policy Network.

became:

Investigative reporting by the left-wing British newspaper ”The Guardian” has found that ExxonMobil has funded, among other groups critical of on global warming, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute, Congress on Racial Equality, TechCentralStation.com, and International Policy Network.

Note the classificaton of “The Guardian” as a left-wing newspaper and the removal of “scientific concensus.”  Union Pacific notes in its edit comment that “there is no” such thing.  

I think the moral of this assignment is that we can all rest easy knowing that mommy’s basement vandals and large, international corporations alike have found ways to adapt their own special method of spin to the wild ride we call Web 2.0.