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The News In Lego 2011

23 Dec

Osama Bin Laden's capture

A reproduction of some of the pivotal events in the news of 2011 using Lego. You can see more here.

Occupy Wall Street


The death of Steve Jobs


The Royal Wedding



US Forces Leave Iraq

23 Dec

As we move into 2012, with little to no fan fare, this happened. Was it worth it?

The last American troops have left Iraq amid fresh concerns about the stability of the political system they are leaving behind.

The last of roughly 110 vehicles carrying around 500 troops mostly belonging to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, crossed the border into Kuwait as the sun rose on Sunday morning, leaving just a couple of hundred soldiers at the US embassy, in a country where there were once nearly 170,000 troops on 505 bases.

The generally subdued departure was punctuated by intermittent shouts of joy.

It ended a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead, many more wounded, and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian killing.

Read more at ABC News online.

The 9/11 Decade

7 Sep

As we draw near to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the commentariat have begun looking back at the decade that was, investigating how it has shaped the United States and, more broadly, the global community.

While there is surely much more to be written as September 11 fast approaches, two extraordinarily good pieces have caught my attention. The first is Frank Rich’s article in New York Magazine. In his opening sentence, Rich quips, “It was ‘the day that changed everything,’ until it didn’t”.

In retrospect, the most consequential event of the past ten years may not have been 9/11 or the Iraq War but the looting of the American economy by those in power in Washington and on Wall Street.

In such an alternative telling of the decade’s history, the key move Bush made after 9/11 had nothing to do with military strategy or national-security policy. It was instead his considered decision to rule out shared sacrifice as a governing principle for the fight ahead. Sacrifice was high among the unifying ideals that many Americans hoped would emerge from the rubble of ground zero, where so many Good Samaritans had practiced it. But the president scuttled the notion on the first weekend after the attack, telling Americans that it was his “hope” that “they make no sacrifice whatsoever” beyond, perhaps, tolerating enhanced airline security. Few leaders in either party contradicted him. Bush would soon implore us to “get down to Disney World in Florida” and would even lend his image to a travel-industry ad promoting tourism. Our marching orders were to go shopping.

By framing the events of 9/11 in these terms, Rich suggests, the Bush administration unwittingly helped to exacerbate the current economic crisis in the United States:

By portraying Afghanistan and Iraq as utterly cost-free to a credulous public, the Bush administration injected the cancer into the American body politic that threatens it today: If we don’t need new taxes to fight two wars, why do we need them for anything?

The intervening years since 9/11 have evidently provided the benefit of perspective. This is illustrated nicely in David J. Rothkopf’s piece for Foreign Policy. In a similar vain to Rich, Rothkopf writes:

Indeed, we have been overestimating its significance since almost the moment it happened.

That is not, by the way, to diminish the brutal blows struck 10 years ago or the deeply felt human experiences associated with it and its aftermath. Rather it is to say that once again we will seek to frame 9/11 as a great event, the definer of an era, when in fact, its greatest defining characteristic was that of a distraction — The Great Distraction — that drew America’s focus and that of many in the world from the greater issues of our time. That distraction and the opportunity costs associated with it were bin Laden’s triumph and our loss — and our ultimate victory will come as we get a grip back on reality.

Rothkopf goes on to suggest 10 events of the past decade which are, culturally speaking, more important than the tragic events of 9/11. He suggests that with the benefit of time, we are now, collectively, able to look beyond the attack to other milestones that have shaped (and are continuing to shape) us.

Rothkopf nominates the following ten events:

10. The American Response to 9/11
9. The Arab Spring
8. The Rebalancing of Asia
7. The Stagnation of the U.S. and Other Developed-World Economies
6. The Invention of Social Media
5. The Proliferation of Cell Phones and Hand-Held Computing Devices
4. The Crash of 2008
3. The Eurozone Crisis and the Crash of 2011-2012
2. The Failure to Address Global Warming
1. The Rise of China and the Other BRICs

Food for thought, indeed.

The Ides of March – Trailer

31 Jul

The trailer for The Ides of March, one of this year’s most anticipated drama/thrillers, has been released. An idealistic staffer (Ryan Gosling)  for a newbie presidential candidate (George Clooney) gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Directed by Clooney and based on the play by Beau Willimon, The Ides of March also stars Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman in support. All signs indicate that the buzz surrounding this film is justified. Oh yeah, and the film’s poster gets my vote for movie poster of the year (so far).

The Carbon Tax Debate

13 Jul

On 10 July the Australian government announced it would introduce a carbon tax at $23 a tonne in July 2012, rising 2.5% annually plus inflation and moving to a market-based emissions trading scheme in 2015.

Judging by the reaction of Australian media and commentariat, you’d be forgiven for thinking Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced the new date of the Rapture.

Inevitably, the he said/she said slinging match between Julia Gillard and Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, started immediately.

While the science surrounding climate change should stand as irrefutable, it appears the economics is still disputable.

Here’s a taste of some of the better commentary:

Frank Jotzo writes in The Conversation:

Although the carbon pricing scheme has its warts, the negotiations between Labor, the Greens and the Independents have also produced some genuinely positive outcomes. The package will not bring big reductions in emissions in the short term, but it can be the first step on the long road to a lower-carbon economy.

However, as Bernard Kean writes in Crikey:

Regardless of how well Labor, the independents and the Greens argue the case for the carbon price package in coming days and weeks, Tony Abbott has already secured a major victory. The fall in consumer and business sentiment in recent months across a range of indicators is attributable to several things, including worsening conditions overseas, but many economists are attributing it to concerns about the carbon price scheme.

Concerns, of course, that have been ruthlessly fanned by Abbott, exploiting uncertainty and lack of detail to warn the sky would fall in, driving up household costs and endangering jobs.

The fact that it’s now clear few jobs will be endangered and those households that aren’t compensated face only trivial price rises, while inconveniencing Abbott as his makes his way around the country, is secondary to the fact that voters appear to have taken on his counsel of despair.

While the public may still be scratching their head about the carbon tax and how it impacts them, economic correspondent Peter Martin writes on his blog:

Gillard’s policy can be understood. It takes on board the two key lessons learned in economics over the past two centuries – that relative prices matter, and if you change them you change behaviour. Want more babies? Offer a baby bonus. Want more people to work? Raise the tax-free threshold, and so on.

…her plan eschews the creation of a massive new bureaucracy to hand out grants for worthy programs to cut emissions…And there’s something else. Gillard’s scheme offers certainty – not just for the next nine years as does Abbott’s scheme, which spells out a plan to achieve emissions reductions until 2020 and then stops – but to 2050 and beyond.

Whether firms like the prices imposed by the Gillard scheme or not, it lets them do the sort of planning they need to do when they are considering installing long-lived equipment such as new power plants or bidding for firms…

To see more of what the experts think, check out the great commentary on The Conversation.

Madrid Street Advertising Takeover

7 Apr

On 30 March, the PublicAdCampaign launched its most recent street ad intervention in Madrid with the aim of reclaiming outdoor advertising as a venue for public art. The latest in the series, MaSAT (Madrid Street Advertising Takeover), targeted Cemusa bus shelters in four heavily populated locations around Madrid. The bus shelter advertising was replaced with text-based works. The resulting street art encouraged public dialogue and asked consumers to question the commodification of shared public spaces.

[via PSFK]

Hunter S. Thompson interviews Keith Richards

26 Mar

This is just so fucking cool… The title says it all. Hunter and “Keef” having a shit talk back in 1993 – watch and enjoy:

[via Flavorwire]

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