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An Interview on NSA Surveillance With Former State Department Official Matthew Hoh

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Matthew Hoh is a former Marine who served six years in Iraq before being stationed in Afghanistan as a high-ranking foreign service officer. In 2009, Hoh resigned from the State Department in protest over the U.S.’ misguided occupation of Afghanistan.   Leighton Woodhouse interviewed Hoh for the Huffington Post to get his perspective on the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of both foreigners and U.S. citizens. Reactions to the NSA surveillance revelations have ranged from phrases like “beyond Orwellian”  to ones like “making a mountain out of a digital molehill”. Given your experience… Read More »

The Surveillance State That We Built

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Roughly speaking, the contours of the debate over the Obama administration’s massive digital surveillance of both foreigners and U.S. citizens have taken this shape: Obama’s critics charge the President with rank hypocrisy at best, and at worst, a fundamental betrayal of his espoused values that has moved the Republic one step closer to Big Brother. Obama’s defenders claim that the whole affair is much hyperventilating about nothing. The program is legal, it has been going on for years with the full knowledge and support of all three branches of government, and it… Read More »

The Radical Non-Politics of ‘The East’

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The East, just out this weekend, is a movie ostensibly about radical anarcho-environmentalists that has little to say about radicalism, anarchism, or environmentalism. It’s not a bad movie; as a suspenseful drama it’s entertaining. But that’s part of the problem. The entertainment comes first, and second, and third, and the politics last. This is one of those “I want to entertain my audience, but also make them think” movies in which politics ends up providing little more than a cardboard backdrop to what is finally a conventional thriller. Fair warning: this… Read More »

Fwd.us: Another Failed Silicon Valley Experiment in Technocratic Social Change

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Fwd.us, Mark Zuckerberg’s widely reviled, rapidly dissolving Washington DC lobby group, heralds itself as the bringer of “different and innovative tactics” to the usual Beltway brand of back room politicking. As has become abundantly clear over the past few weeks, the reality of Fwd.us is anything but that. Zuckerberg’s DC outfit has not only failed to bring anything new to its approach to the pay-to-play, back-scratching culture of Congress, but has in fact made the most cynical kind of Machiavellian horse trading into its signature style. As Branch.com CEO Josh Miller… Read More »

Mark Zuckerberg’s Flailing New Lobby Group Represents Everything That’s Wrong With DC

Mark Zuckerberg's new DC lobbying group is already a failure

Within about a month of the debut of Fwd.us, Mark Zuckerberg’s new DC lobby outfit aimed at promoting immigration reform, the group is already falling apart. If this week is any indication, the meltdown will be as spectacular and ignoble as every other ill-conceived, overfunded start-up in the Valley. Fwd.us’ political problems began the way they usually do: with a cynical, too-cute-by-half strategy adopted by his Beltway proxies. Fwd.us’ approach amounted to this: buy the votes of key lawmakers by dumping money into ads in their home states on issues… Read More »

Confessions of a Hair Weave Addict

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It was a long road to recognizing my racial identity crisis. I did not realize it in junior high when I basked in the glory of being told by my friends that they did not consider me black because I “wasn’t loud and didn’t talk like the other two or three black girls [in our grade.]” I did not catch a whiff of it in high school when I would spend hours of my freshman year with a test tube clamp on my nose, desperately trying to make it smaller… Read More »

What Do Civil Rights and Giant Sodas Have in Common?

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I’m addicted to Coke, a complete addict. I absolutely can’t kick it. If someone offered to install a Coca-Cola drip in my home whereby it’s sugary sweetness would be pumped into my mouth with just a flick of my wrist whenever I needed a fix, I have to be honest – I would be tempted to allow it. I also recognize it is like battery acid to the inside of my body and has caused two root canals and working on a third and if I stopped drinking it I’d… Read More »

In Defense of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

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[Spoiler Alert: There’s a lot of description of the movie here; if you haven’t watched it yet, you might not want to read this] Zero Dark Thirty opens with audio clips of emergency calls from September 11th, 2001. The screen is black. The calls are harrowing. The movie then jumps ahead several years and puts us in a CIA “black site,” where a prisoner is being tortured. An agent named Dan is doing most of the torturing, and a novice agent named Maya is watching. It’s all very matter-of-fact. Dan says,… Read More »

Forget About Debt Limits and Social Security, We Need to Save Romantic Comedies

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Recently, Vulture writer Claude Brodesser-Akner wrote an article posing a terrifying question: “Can the Romantic Comedy Be Saved?” First, who knew the romantic comedy was in peril, and second, why does he spend fifty percent of his article questioning studio executives? In this day and age studio execs are mostly business school graduates, not Creatives who understand the subtle nuance of the Rom-Com Genre. He could have asked a bona fide Romantic Comedy Expert. What makes someone a Romantic Comedy Expert, as opposed to, say, a fan of romantic comedies?… Read More »

Lincoln and Lincoln

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It has been years since history and Hollywood have had as much to say to each other – at least publicly – as they have in the last few weeks with the release and reception of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Historical movies are always closely scrutinized by scholars, regardless of the topic; if someone ever finds reason to make a biopic of Calvin Coolidge – a president famous only for being dull – we’ll hear from the Coolidge experts. Spielberg’s movie on the other hand is almost designed to raise the… Read More »