John Stewart on Bill Moyers

Probably the most poignant interview I’ve seen with John Stewart – this time on Bill Moyers Journal – discussing the role of the Daily Show, Stewart’s opinions on the war, and offering a few props to the political blogosphere.

[The war] hasn’t affected us here in the way that you would imagine a five-year-war would affect a country. (…)

The president says we’re in the fight for our way of life – this is the greatest battle of our generation, and of the generations to come. (…) Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and our children’s children all suffer – “so what I’m going to do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad.” So there’s a disconnect there between – you’re telling me this is the fight of our generation, and you’re telling me you’re going to increase troop strength by 10% – and that’s going to do it. I’m sure what he’d like to do is send 400,000 more troops there but he can’t because he doesn’t have ‘em. And the way to get that would be to institute a draft, and the minute you do that, suddenly the country’s not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back, and then the whole thing falls apart.

So they have a really delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we’re doing and really examine how it is that they’ve been waging this.

Things We Could Have Bought Instead of a War in Iraq

image credit: Daniel Ross

Boston.com estimates the total cost of the War in Iraq at around $456 billion. What could we have bought instead? Among other things:

According to World Bank estimates, $54 billion a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015, while $30 billion would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth.

At the upper range of those estimates, the $456 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world’s poor for five and a half years.

Hans Rosling: Myths About the Developing World

I’ve seen Hans Rosling’s Gapminder, a stunning interactive display of world social and economic statistics, but I’ve never taken the time to watch his presentation at TED 2006 until today. His passion for visualizing data that thus far resides in a more nebulous region of global consciousness is inspiring.

Mike Davis: Fear and Money in Dubai

image credit: Niki Atashfaraz

An excellent article about Dubai’s past, present, and future:

On the rim of the war zone, a new Mecca of conspicuous consumption and economic crime, under the iron rule of Sheikh al-Maktoum. Skyscrapers half a mile high, artificial archipelagoes, fantasy theme parks—and the indentured Asian labour force that sustains them.

image credit: Ryan Lackey

Thanks to his boundless enthusiasm for concrete and steel, the coastal desert has become a huge circuit board upon which the elite of transnational engineering firms and retail developers are invited to plug in high-tech clusters, entertainment zones, artificial islands, glass-domed ‘snow mountains’, Truman Show suburbs, cities within cities—whatever is big enough to be seen from space and bursting with architectural steroids. The result is not a hybrid but an eerie chimera: a promiscuous coupling of all the cyclopean fantasies of Barnum, Eiffel, Disney, Spielberg, Jon Jerde, Steve Wynn and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Although compared variously to Las Vegas, Manhattan, Orlando, Monaco and Singapore, the sheikhdom is more like their collective summation and mythologization: a hallucinatory pastiche of the big, the bad and the ugly.

image credit: Hisham Binsuwaif

The lodestone of Dubai, of course, is ‘peak oil’ and each time you spend $50 to fill your tank, you are helping to irrigate al-Maktoum’s oasis. Fuel prices are currently inflated by industrial China’s soaring demand as well as growing fears of war and terrorism in the global oil patch. According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘consumers will [have paid] $1.2 trillion more in 2004 and 2005 together for oil products than they did in 2003’. As in the 1970s, a huge and disruptive transfer of wealth is taking place between oil-consuming and oil-producing nations. Already visible on the horizon, moreover, is Hubbert’s Peak, the tipping point when new petroleum reserves will no longer offset global demand, and thereafter oil prices will become truly stratospheric. In some utopian economic model, perhaps, this windfall would become an investment fund for shifting the global economy to renewable energy while reducing greenhouse gas output and raising the environmental efficiency of urban systems. In the real world of capitalism, however, it has become a subsidy for the apocalyptic luxuries that Dubai is coming to epitomize.

Distilled Presidential Speeches

A shining example of a well-served tag cloud: the complete text of major US presidential speeches since the founding of our country, analyzed for word frequency and presented chronologically showing popular terms and concerns throughout history.

Wild Wild Mideast

Shadow Company, a new documentary, covers modern private security forces in Iraq and around the world. I haven’t seen it yet but it comes highly recommended from all over, including media guru Ze Frank.

We traveled the world – from Iraq to Washington, from England to Sierra Leone – talking to politicians, journalists, soldiers and contractors themselves. While exploring the blurred lines between soldier and mercenary in today’s conflict resolution, it became clear: The Rules of War Have Changed. The modern US army cannot go to war, cannot even have dinner without these civilian contractors and their role is unlikely to go away any time soon. War is more and more in the public eye and yet held more and more in private hands. This sort of trend without the right legal framework and more open business practices has dire implications. It is vital for the general public to better understand the risks and rewards of operating this way.

Nick Bicanic, director

Screenings are limited but the DVD can be purchased now on the film’s website.