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Dispatches from the Culture Wars - Be Careful What You Wish For edition

Growth of Radical Right Wing Groups * Getting Rid of Lifeline "Obama Phones"? * Class Issues in Honey Boo Boo * Tech Companies Support Gay Marriage * Disney Video Game Shows Girls How to Climb the NYC Social Ladder * Father Hacks 'Donkey Kong' for Daughter * New Building Design for New Uses at Public Libraries * The Rise of `The American Conservative' * Surprising New Immigrant Geography * The `Harlem Shake' and Class Politics


Radical-right wing groups reach all time high
By Alex Seitz-Wald
March 6, 2013

     Source – Salon,com

While the more mainstream anti-government Tea Party movement faded from view as the GOP co-opted it in the past few years, the action has moved to the fringes, where the number of radical right-wing Patriot groups reached an all time high in 2012, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. What’s more, it’s the fourth year in a row that the record has been broken.  Last year, the SPLC found 1,360 Patriot groups in the country — up more than 500 over the ’96 peak — including 321 militia groups.

     source – Chuck Norris cautions reelecting Obama would herald '1,000 years of darkness' -

Republicans Seek to Eliminate ‘Obamaphone’ Program
By Bob Cesca
March 14, 2013
The Daily Banter

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I’m sure you recall a video that circulated around the tubes before the election of an African American woman who was attending a roadside rally for the Obama campaign. In the video, the woman ranted somewhat incoherently about her apparently free “Obamaphone.”  As soon as Drudge plastered her face above his logo, far-right Republican heads began to immediately explode over the notion of “minorities” receiving free phones from the White House as alleged bribes for volunteerism and votes.

The truth is that the Lifeline program has been around since 1984 when, that’s right, Ronald Reagan helped to create it. In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set up a non-profit outfit called the Universal Service Administrative Company, which receives financial backing via the Universal Service Fund. According to its website, money for the program is contributed entirely by “long distance companies, local telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, paging companies, and payphone providers,” and none of the funding comes from taxpayers via the federal government.  The goal of the program is to make sure low income Americans have access to an affordable telephone in case of emergency or for the job search process.

Class Issues and Beauty Myths in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
By Anne Champion
February 27, 2013
Pop Matters

Like many people, I believed that this show finally scraped the bottom of the barrel, scooping out the sludge and muck of our human nature in a way that might signal the end of civilization as we know it. However, while critics are bemoaning the exploitation, gagging in disgust, toting anthems of being “horrified”, and mocking Honey Boo Boo’s antics in a barrage of parodies, the truth is not what we would expect. Honey Boo Boo—the pugnacious pink princess that packs a whole lot of attitude—does not represent the evils of America or the degeneration of our culture. In fact, American audiences can learn a lot from watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

Many people may recoil at this claim, thinking themselves above “redneck games” in which participants belly flop into mud and go bobbing for raw pig’s feet; however, despite the unusual antics, this family represents something that is largely absent from American culture and popular television: healthy family values. Ignore, for a moment, that TLC forces the entire family to do their interviews outside in the sweltering heat of a Georgia summer, so that they are constantly swiping and cursing at gnats, and what you have left is a family that genuinely loves each other, spends significant amounts of time together, laughs together, and accepts each other unconditionally.

Apple, Google, Facebook Tell Supreme Court: Gay Marriage Is Good for Business
By Marcus Wohlsen
February 27, 2013

The biggest tech companies in the world are standing up for same-sex marriage, but not just as a matter of fairness. Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are just a few of hundreds of companies that have signed on to a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that federal same-sex marriage restrictions hurt their businesses.  In all, 278 companies joined to support the friend-of-the-court filing, among them some of the country’s biggest and most visible.

All the companies signed on to the filing are located or operate in states where same-sex marriages are legal or recognized, and they argue that the conflict between those laws and DOMA, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage, needlessly burdens them with extra costs and bureaucratic tangles. In effect, DOMA puts the companies in a position that “forces us to treat one class of our lawfully married employees differently than another, when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees.”

Not so many years ago, the decision by these popular companies to take a stand on such a divisive social issue would have seemed incredibly risky. But the landscape has changed and these companies now see support of same-sex marriage as a good marketing move to court the demographic groups they covet most.

Disney Video Game Teaches NYC Girls to 'Climb the Social Ladder'
By Victoria Bekiempis ,
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

February 26, 2013


A new, "family-friendly" video game called Disney City Girl lets players virtually decorate, shop and work to "Climb the social ladder and make your dreams come true!" a la "Sex in the City" or "Girls," according to the game.  But Disney City Girl is not for kids— the bulk of its players are 20 to 29-year-old women— and the language, the storyline, the mission of the career progression, some of the humor, have all been purposely targeted at adults.  

In Disney City Girl, participants pretend to be "recent New York transplant[s]" who move through the "stylish and aspirational virtual world!" alongside their "fabulous friends." "From a grungy studio to a Park Avenue penthouse, from overworked intern to successful CEO, from country bumpkin to glamour girl, City Girl will keep you coming back again and again," reads the game's online description. The game — which has attracted more than 1 million monthly players since going live on Jan. 17, 2013 — appears to offer two such "glamorous" career paths — fashion designer and chef. "Author" and "musician" career paths are "coming soon. “

Father hacks 'Donkey Kong' for daughter, makes Pauline the heroine
By Chris Welch
March 10, 2013
The Verge

When Mike Mika saw the disappointment on his daughter's face when she realized Pauline wasn't a playable character in Donkey Kong, he felt a call to action. Thankfully Mika happens to be a competent developer, and after a few late-night hours spent hacking the NES version of Nintendo's classic, he accomplished the role reversal his daughter had wished for. Mario was now under Donkey Kong's control, and Pauline was tasked with rescuing the plumber in distress

Following the successful endeavor, Mika shared some details of how he swapped the characters on a YouTube page demonstrating the hack. In November of last year, Mike Hoye also set out to alter Nintendo folklore when he switched Link's gender from male to female in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. As his daughter played through the game, Hoye concluded, "she's not an NPC, and Dad's favorite pastime shouldn't treat girls like second-class citizens." And a recent invention, a Google Chrome browser extension called “Jailbreak The Patriarchy,” swaps the gender pronouns on websites to show how gender dynamics affect our views of the world.

The Revolution at Your Community Library

New Media, New Community Centers
By Sarah Williams Goldhagen
March 9, 2013
New Republic

Now that a digital copy of the Library of Congress’s entire book collection could fit in a single shoebox, the future of the contemporary library is up for grabs. The New York Public Library’s proposed reconfiguration of its Manhattan headquarters is only the most recent high-visibility entrant in a debate that has been ongoing   since the mid-1990s, manifested in the press and in a series of large urban central library projects in Berlin, Singapore, Seattle, and elsewhere.

To find architects, librarians, and municipalities who have re-conceptualized the contemporary public library, around the globe, a handful of innovative architects are forging a new building type with a deceptively familiar name. These libraries offer something found nowhere else in the contemporary city: heavily used, not-for-profit communal spaces that facilitate many and various kinds of informal social interactions and private uses. These buildings look nothing like one another, yet they all offer exemplary moments of architectural innovation. Collectively, they make the case that excellent design is no luxury, certainly not for the civic buildings and lives of people and their communities.

The American Conservative, The Right's Most Unorthodox Magazine, Seizes The Moment

By Michael Calderone

March 12, 2013

Huffington Post

     The March/ April issue of The American Conservative magazine.

After Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spent 13 hours last week questioning the Obama administration’s drone policy, including the legal rationale for killing a U.S. citizen linked to a terrorist group, several prominent conservatives in the media were quick to dismiss the filibuster that caught both the Democratic and Republican establishment off guard.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page scoffed at Paul’s "drone rant” and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol mocked the senator's “fearmonging” and “kookinesss."

But right-leaning readers, especially those interested in civil liberties, could find a very different conversation taking place on the website of The American Conservative,  a small-circulation magazine founded just over a decade ago in opposition to the neoconservative chorus advocating the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. Daniel McCarthy, the magazine’s 35-year-old editor, does see an opening for his publication among conservatives and libertarians fatigued by the post-9/11 wars and interventions abroad.

Why The Red States Will Profit Most From More U.S. Immigration

By Joel Kotkin

February 22, 2013

New Geography

In recent years, the debate over immigration has been portrayed in large part as a battle between immigrant-tolerant blue states and regions and their less welcoming red counterparts. Yet increasingly, it appears that red states in the interior and the south may actually have more to gain from liberalized immigration than many blue state bastions.

Indeed an analysis of foreign born population by demographer Wendell Cox reveals that the fastest growth in the numbers of newcomers are actually in cities (metropolitan areas) not usually seen as immigrant hubs. The fastest growth in population of foreign born residents–more than doubling over the decade was #1 Nashville, a place more traditionally linked to country music than ethnic diversity. Today besides the Grand Old Opry, the city also boasts the nation’s largest Kurdish population, and a thriving “Little Kurdistan,” as well as growin MexicanSomali  and other immigrant enclaves.

Other cities are equally surprising, including #2 Birmingham,  AL; #3 Indianapolis,  IN; #4 Louisville,  KY and#5 Charlotte,  NC, all of which doubled their foreign born population between 2000 and 2011. Right behind them are #6 Richmond, VA, #7 Raleigh, NC , #8 Orlando,  FL, #9 Jacksonville, FL and #10 Columbus,  OH. All these states either voted for Mitt Romney last year or have state governments under Republican control. None easily fit the impression of liberally minded immigrant attracting bastions from only a decade ago.

All Shook Up: What a Viral Video Movement Can Tell us about Global Class Politics

By Kathy M. Newman

March 11, 2013

Working Class Studies

If you think the Harlem Shake is an annoying viral video trend, and possibly an offensive one, too, you are right. But the Harlem Shake is more than that. It has genuine roots in workplace culture and the teenage subaltern. Everyone from frat boys, to office workers, South African gold miners, and public school teenagers as well as Egyptian and Tunisian pro-democracy advocates see something in the viral trend to appropriate.

More than 100,000 Harlem Shake videos have joined the throng on YouTube, while a battle over what the Harlem Shake is, and who owns it, has been brewing closer to home. Last week Melissa Harris-Perry, a former Princeton professor and a member the talking eggheads crew at MSNBC, ranted about the viral perversion of what she explained was an authentic Harlem dance tradition.

The Melissa Harris-Perry critique of the Harlem Shake has its most trenchant counterpart in a short film made of Harlem residents reacting to the Harlem Shake videos. They say things like “What the hell is that?” “What the hell are they doing?” and “That’s not the Harlem Shake.” They are incredulous that anything so corny and poorly danced would bear the Harlem label.

The whole phenomenon raises some familiar, but still vexing questions. Who owns culture? Who owns the right to profit when cultural “borrowing,” “poaching” or “sampling” is involved? Who has the right to dance? And who has the right to make a short video on the job and post it to the Internet?