3.31.2003

Fueling the war economy

By the time a gallon of gas--purchased wholesale from, say, ExxonMobil for 84 cents per gallon--gets to Afghanistan, the US Military has paid around $600 for each gallon. In Iraq, fuel is a bit cheaper, at $150/gallon. Consider: a single Abrams tank driving one mile per hour en route from the southern border of Iraq to Baghdad racks up gas costs of $60,000. To cut costs, a special army unit is teaming up with GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler to develop a line of military vehicles that are gas-electric or diesel-electric hybrids. Hopefully this technology will trickle back to the States where it can be used in the top-selling product rollout from the last Gulf War, the gas-guzzling Humvee.

Atwood to America: we've gotta talk

"Dear America: This is a difficult letter to write, because I'm no longer sure who you are," writes novelist Margaret Atwood. It's a beautiful letter, celebrating what America was, or can be. Here's where she ends up with it:
By the time you read this, Baghdad may or may not look like the craters of the Moon, and many more sheep entrails will have been examined. Let's talk, then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're doing to yourselves.

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn't dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country's hour of greatest peril, he would return. You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.

WARn out

• As the war in Iraq fizzles along (troops are under-supplied, and "shock and awe" clearly didn't), Pentagon insiders say it's Rumsfeld's fault, according to a new New Yorker article. As allegations surface that Rumsfeld and his cadre of civilian advisors have been over-ruling Tommy Franks and the traditionally held rules of engagement, dissent is mounting in the British forces too: three soldiers in the 16th Air Assault Brigade are being sent home for court martial because they "complained about the way the war is being fought and the growing danger to civilians."

• Here's how CNN's Aaron Brown began his interview with peace activist Daniel Ellsberg. Note the less-than-objective premise he starts out with, then read Ellsberg's right-on-the-money response: "The Iraqi political strategy is in large part to use the anti-war demonstrations around the world to create political pressure on the coalition governments to stand down, cease fire and stop the war. In that regard, are you playing into the hands of what I think you would even acknowledge is a very bad regime."

• American GIs in the Gulf are required to pray for the president every day (well, he doesneed it). The pamphlet "A Christian's Duty" includes verses like "Pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding" and "Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics".

• A British soldier injured by a friendly fire attack from a US anti-tank aircraft that killed one, injured three and destroyed two armored vehicles: "Combat is what I’ve been trained for. I can command my vehicle. I can keep it from being attacked. What I have not been trained to do is look over my shoulder to see whether an American is shooting at me.” He described the American pilot as a cowboy with "no regard for human life."

• US Marines fire on civilians at the "Bridge of Death," killing 12 or more: "One man's body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound. Tucked away in his breast pocket, thick wads of banknotes were turning to ashes. His savings, perhaps."

• Read "When 'Precision' Bombing Isn't: Iraqi Civilians Learn the Lesson of Afghanistan," a study by Marc W. Herold, professor of Economics and Women's Studies at the University of New Hampshire.

3.30.2003

[Expletive Repeated]

• The U.N. Children's Fund representative in Iraq says that more than 570,000 traumatized Iraqi children could need psychological counseling by the time the war ends.

• A physician in Baghdad, where at least 58 civilians were killed by Allied bombs, implores, "I ask Bush and Blair to imagine how they would feel if their child died in their arms," while Rasoul Hammed Najeed, whose 5-year old son was killed in the market bombing, sobs uncontrollably: "After this crime, I wish I could see [US President George Bush] in order to cut him to pieces with my teeth."

• It turns out the resignation of accused war profiteer Richard Perle from the Defense Policy Board is just the tip of the iceberg. The Center for Public Integrity reports that at least nine of the board's 30 members--entrusted with guiding the Pentagon's war policy in Iraq--are involved with companies that "have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors."

• US Marine Sgt. Eric Schrumpf, a sharpshooter working along Highway 1 into Baghdad, reported, "We had a great day. We killed a lot of people." Discussing the possibility that he may be shooting at civilians, he replied, "We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?" In an instance where an Iraqi soldier was in a group with 25 women and children, Schrumpt held his fire, but when a soldier was among two or three civilians, he let rip, killing the woman: "I'm sorry. But the chick was in the way."

• The architect of the "shock and awe" strategy, Harlan Ullman, says we'd better find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--or else. "What they are doing is waging a guerrilla war in the south which is going to persist and a really tough defensive campaign around Baghdad, with the expectation that Iraq will be viewed as the victims and the British and Americans as the bullies." Makes me wonder: to what lengths will the U.S. go to uncover WMDs? Would we fabricate evidence (as Bush did unsuccessfully in explaining his pre-war rationale on Iraq?)? Or simply blame it on Syria or Iran?

• Protesting biased news coverage of the war, 500 activists staged a "die-in" in front of New York's Rockefeller Center, home of NBC, CNN, and Fox. Proving their media target is legitimate, Fox News ridiculed the protesters by running bottom-of-screen news tickers that read "War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!", "Who won your right to show up here today? Protesters or soldiers?", and "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

• Apparently, it runs in the family. The president's grandfather, Prescott Bush, profited from Auschwitz slave labor and violated the Trading with the Enemy act for running front businesses for Hitler's Nazis throughout World War II. Former president George H.W. Bush, too, has close ties to tyranny--he allegedly kept business deals going with Osama's dad, Mohammed bin Laden, until two months after September 11. And Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore just got financing to make a film about the Bush-bin Laden link. The title: "Fahrenheit 911."

3.28.2003

Bush no more

A 72-year old living in Jonquieres, France, was ashamed that he and the American president share a name that "will go down in history as that of a tyrant." The former Eric Bush is now known as Eric Buisson--the French word for bush. We've all got to do our part.

Co-opting God

The House and Senate have passed a resolution making March 17, the day the war began, a day of prayer and fasting. This is bad: it violates the separation of church and state, it messes up St. Patrick's Day for millions, and enlists God's name in a war opposed by the pope and nearly every other religious leader. The resolution, passed 346-49, says we should use the day of prayer "to seek guidance from God to achieve a greater understanding of our own failings and to learn how we can do better in our everyday activities, and to gain resolve in meeting the challenges that confront our nation." I'm all for humility and prayer, but may I suggest we initiate such a day BEFORE we nuke a mostly defenseless country to high heaven? One dissenter, Dennis Kucinich, said the resolution "may be seen by some as an attempt to inject religion into this war at a time when some of America's enemies abroad are asserting that this indeed is a war about religion."

Pawlenty: Protesters pay up

Minnesota's Republican governor Tim Pawlenty says he wants antiwar protesters who get arrested for civil disobedience to pay for costs associated with their arrest. Let me get this straight: We're engaged in a war that the international community and countless legal scholars have deemed illegal. My taxes pay for a war I vehemently oppose. Yet, if I protest the war and get arrested for civil disobedience the governor thinks I should pay? Should I pay a cop's salary once through taxes and again through a user's fee? Are thieves and rapists paying their tabs too?

The cost of arresting a million protesters probably doesn't amount to the pricetag for a day's worth of "smart" bombs dropped in this ugly war. The governor has no power to affect prosecution this way, but he promises to initiate legislation to force protesters to pay. It's clear what he really wants to do is shut us up.

Tell Pawlenty what you think of his plan. E-mail tim.pawlenty@state.mn.us.

Perle quits

Richard Perle--"architect of the war" in Iraq and author of "Clean Break," a 1996 report calling for a radical reshaping of the Middle East to secure US/Israeli interests, starting with the overthrow of Iraq--resigned amid allegations of what can only be described as war profiteering. Read The Guardian's report.

3.27.2003

More to The Point

Blake Brunner of Official Media has been tracking Sinclair Broadcast Group and the commentary segment The Point, home of Mark Hyman's right-wing rants. In a thorough piece, Brunner writes that--aside from Hyman's views that celebrity protesters are "wackjobs," Jesse Jackson is "America's premier race hustler," and the "liberal media" is really the "Axis of Drivel"--what's truly scary is:
the prospect that Sinclair may soon increase its share of the nation’s media markets. Although its website boasts that Sinclair is currently the “largest commercial television broadcasting company not owned by a network,” the company is one of many currently lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ease its ownership rules. Sinclair would not be the sole beneficiary of deregulation—fellow broadcasting giants like Hearst-Argyle and Scripps could expand their vast holdings—but in attaining a greater market share Sinclair increases its already great potential to damage public discourse. If these companies—and their ally, FCC Chairman Michael Powell—get their way, viewers should expect increasingly homogenous programming as well as an acceleration of the rightward shift in already-conservative televised discourse.

Rumi:

Beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.

Dubya's Dubble?

"You may think the air of extreme witlessness impossible to mimic, but is the man on the podium the authentic Dubya, a trained stand-in or an animatronic lookalike?" The Guardian investigates.

3.26.2003

[Expletive Deleted]

• More than 14 civilians are dead after Allied missiles hit a Baghdad market. Tony Blair's spokesman, from the security of London, asserts, "We have always accepted that there will be some very regrettable civilian casualties."

• The man Bush selected to govern occupied Iraq has ties to right-wing anti-Palestinian groups. In 2000 he signed a statement blaming Palestinians for Israeli-Palestinian violence. The statement, sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, includes signatures by JINSA advisory board member Richard Perle and past board member Dick Cheney.

• With a humanitarian crisis mounting in Basra, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon denies that American and British bombing had been aimed at the water supply. Oh, yes? In 1966, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, quoted in Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," discussed his strategy in North Vietnam: "Destruction of locks and dams, however--if handled right--might...offer promise. It should be studied. Such destruction doesn't kill or drown people. By shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after a time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided--which we could offer to do 'at the conference table.'"

• On-the-ground reports conflict with the network's gushing praise of "surgical" and "precision" bombing raids by U.S. and British troops, writes the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. (While you're there, support FAIR and buy a "Don't Trust the Corporate Media" t-shirt or bumpersticker.)

• Rep. John Conyers demands an investigation into Bush war advisor Richard Perle's work as a paid consultant to Global Crossing and his guidance on investment opportunities resulting from the Iraq war. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney's former company Halliburton, from which he still receives up to $1 million a year, gets the contract to put out Iraq's oil fires, without a bidding process. (Anybody want to write a letter to The Ethicist?)

Images the media won't show and no one--yet everyone--should see. WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC IMAGES.

• Peace activists doing a die-in at Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's office don't miss the irony: it used to be Paul Wellstone's pad. At least 28 were arrested. Today, 67 more were arrested for civil disobedience at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.

• And, simply because my dad asked for it, please take a moment to read this. Thanks.

More secrecy from Bush

At 6:40 last night--too late for any experts to review the document--the Bush administration signed an order delaying until 2006 the release of millions of government documents that would've been declassified in April. It also gives the government new powers to reclassify documents. According to Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, the order "will slow the declassification process" and "signals a greater affinity for secrecy." He adds, in a sentiment more and more common during the Bush/Ashcroft reign, "It makes secrecy reflexive rather than intelligent." The records that would've been declassified in April date back 25 years--to George H.W. Bush's tenure as director of the CIA. A coincidence, I'm sure.

Loudmouth vs. Poet

You know you're monkeywrenching the conservative-talk-show machine when an interview--like this one between Fox's Bill O'Reilly and American poet Amiri Baraka--ends up like this:
O'REILLY: I guess we don't have too much common ground, other than we both don't like bigots.

BARAKA: We can talk about what--we don't understand what each other is saying.

O'REILLY: All right. I've got to tell you I appreciate you coming on in. I think you're a lunatic, and...

BARAKA: Yes. Well, I think you're a lunatic who's more dangerous because you're on television.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Baraka, thank you very much.  We appreciate it.

BARAKA: Thank you very much. That was short and sweet.
(Thanks, Meredith.)

Smearing mass transit

The campaign against mass transit continues: Vancouver IndyMedia catches General Motors smearing bus riders in a new full-page ad. An approaching bus flashes a destination ticker that reads "Creeps & Weirdos." But of course, there's an alternative: buy a Chevy Cavalier VL Sedan. (Via Boing Boing.)

3.25.2003

At Bloggerheads

I've been having tons of problems with Blogger, my blogging software. So if you catch a glitch--like the question-mark that should conclude the last entry, the entire sentence that's missing, and my disappearing archives--it's a Blogger thing, and I can't fix it. My apologies.

Clear Channel, Jr.

After last night's news on the Madison, Wisconsin, Fox affiliate, Mark Hyman opined that he's "tired of lies":
Editorials in liberal papers such as the New York Times and Baltimore Sun--begging for more time for diplomacy--conveniently leave out the fact that diplomacy started in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. They don’t mention that Saddam has not honored the diplomatic efforts of 17 UN Security Council resolutions in the last dozen years.

They want you to believe that world solidarity starts with France, but don’t tell you that the cheese eating surrender monkeys have been profiting off legal and illegal Iraqi business dealings for decades.

What these bastions of the "hate America crowd" don’t realize is that we are all tired of the lies.
Turns out not only Madisonians were blessed with Hyman's wisdom; the program, "The Point," is piped out to stations in more than 62 markets, from Baltimore all the way to Sacramento (and including the Twin Cities WB affiliate, WB23). The program, a segment within a show called NewsCentral, is produced by Sinclair Broadscast Group, an ultraconservative network that, aside from owning and operating stations, provides 20-minute canned segments of "news" that can be supplemented with a few minutes of local reporting.

Mark Jeffries, of TVBarn, calls Sinclair the "Clear Channel of local news." He writes:
[T]he national style of "NewsCentral" seems to be taking on a fiercely right-wing approach that makes Fox News Channel look like a model of objectivity. Newsblues.com quotes national anchor Morris Jones making this statement on last night's newscast: "Apparently thinking the war had already begun, a small group of Iraqi soldiers crossed the border into Kuwait holding a white flag. It may also be the new flag of France."
Hyman, who, it turns out, is Sinclair's Vice President, came under fire in December 2001 for his inane criticism of media coverage of the military strikes in Afghanistan. Among the zingers in his commentary:
Some of the network television newscasts have apparently forgotten that this country is engaged in a war with a ruthless enemy, and they are now broadcasting thoughtful pieces, suggesting the Taliban are [sic] misunderstood… If you listen to public radio, you would think that the U.S. military is only targeting schools, hospitals, mosques, and Red Cross shelters… What he have witnessed in recent days is questionable reporting that gives aid and comfort to the enemy and-in some cases-provides a platform for enemy propaganda.
Hyman lashes out at Peter Jennings and the big networks for being too liberal. As the media conversation shifts ever rightward--with Sinclair and Fox News grabbing more and more viewers, and CNN trying regain market share with its increasingly hawkish war coverage--the definition of liberal, as it's defined by the conservative media, changes. If Peter Jennings is a liberal, what do you call Amy Goodman
(Thanks, Ben.)

The Bitterness of Sgt. Akbar

Is Sgt. Asan Akbar--the Louisiana soldier who allegedly lobbed grenades at and fired on members of the 101st Airborne, killing one and wounding 15--merely a man with an "attitude problem," as the Pentagon asserts? Much of the press describes Akbar as "disgruntled," "acting out of resentment," or—as the New York Post reports—a traitor, a loner, and a Muslim.

The truth is probably far more complex than that.

Most papers report the story like this: a bitter loner--probably an antiwar activist who can't bear to fire on fellow Muslims--rolled grenades into the tent of American soldiers. One publication straying from this story, the Financial Times of London, describes the events: after a series of explosions ripped through the camp, followed by a series of gunshots, fired--according to witnesses--at soldiers as they exited their tents. One soldier said he glimpsed a figure in the doorway of his tent. "I couldn't pick him out of a line-up," he said. "But he was clearly dressed in a US uniform." According to the soldier, the figure said, "We are under attack sir!" When things calmed down, soldiers held two Kuwaiti translators, who were later released, and also sought a civilian in a white t-shirt and khakis for questioning. They found Akbar hiding in a bunker with a shrapnel wound to the leg and a grenade in his gas mask case. Charges have not yet been leveled.

If Akbar is indeed, as it appears, the culprit, he's not such an isolated case. "Fraggers"--soldiers who attempt to kill officers by using grenades, or fragmentation devices--were quite active in the Vietnam War. But in Vietnam, it wasn't a common problem until several years into an ugly conflict that grew unpopular in the States and, through time and extended suffering by GIs, within the military. Last September in La Voz de Aztlan, writer Ernesto Cienfuegos chronicles the treatment of minority "grunts" in the US military: "Chicano and Black soldiers were being ordered by white officers to be the 'point men' during reconnaissance missions. Minority soldiers rebelled against these suicide missions and started retaliating against the whites officers who usually stayed behind the lines."

Historian Howard Zinn also traces the evolution of the antiwar movement inside the military in his book "A Peoples' History of the United States"--a movement that came in large part from ordinary enlisted men, many from lower income groups or ethnic minorities. He writes of one case with striking similarities to Akbar's:
A twenty-year-old New York City Chinese-American named Sam Choy enlisted at seventeen in the army, was sent to Vietnam, was made a cook, and found himself the target of abuse by fellow GIs, who called him "Chink" and "gook" (the term for the Vietnamese) and said he looked like the enemy. One day he took a rifle and fired warning shots at his tormentors. "By this time I was near the perimeter of the base and was thinking of joining the Viet Cong; at least they would trust me. " Choy was taken by military police, beaten, court-martialed, sentenced to eighteen months of hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. "They beat me up every day, like a time clock." He ended his interview with a New York Chinatown newspaper saying: "One thing: I want to tell all the Chinese kids that the army made me sick. They made me so sick that I can't stand it."
In Akbar's version, the crime may be looking--and praying--like the enemy. An African American, he was kept out of the first Gulf War because of his faith (he converted to Islam and changed his name as a boy). Akbar reportedly told his mother, "Mama, when I get over there I have the feeling they are going to arrest me just because of the name that I have carried."

One of his neighbors tried to come up with an explanation for the behavior of which Akbar is accused: "I know he didn't like his unit that much. He didn't get promoted. I had asked him how that had worked. A lot of people feel that (discrimination) is there at Fort Campbell."

Discrimination in the military goes back to pre-Vietnam conflicts where units were segregated, but came to a head during Vietnam, the first war where troops were integrated. The Guardian writes,
Black servicemen were frequently sentenced to longer terms than their white counterparts and, once inside a military prison, black Muslim inmates were refused copies of the Koran… But, most disturbingly, black Americans were dying at a disproportionate rate and this only inflamed their indignation, as one black private remonstrated: "You should see for yourself how the black man is being treated over here and the way we are dying. When it comes to rank, we are left out. When it comes to special privileges, we are left out. When it comes to patrols, operations and so forth, we are first."
In today's US military, there's no clear evidence that minorities are dying at higher rates than whites. Nonetheless, Rep. Charles Rangel in January called for reinstating the draft because minorities and the poor make up a disproportionate percentage of military personnel. Indeed, from 1995 to 2000, the number of minority enlisted rose from 28 percent to 38 percent (compared to 30 percent of the national population), and the officer corps grew from 11 percent to 19 percent. But while studies on minorities in the military have been somewhat plentiful, little has been written on Muslims--especially black Muslims--in the military, not to mention the even more rare examination of Muslims serving in conflicts in Islamic nations.

The evidence suggests that Akbar did kill and injure U.S. soldiers--a human tragedy within the larger horror of an unfathomably cruel war--but the prevailing message from the American media, a noncommittal shrug, seems to ignore the systemic problems in our armed forces: by and large, enlisted soldiers come from lower economic backgrounds and are increasingly from ethnic minorities. Clearly, those making the decision to go to war aren't dodging bullets on the front lines. As is often cited, only one of the 535 members of the Senate and House who authorized this war have children or grandchildren in service (the Progressive Populist, I'm told, puts the figure at five). Even the commander-in-chief George W. Bush, who bailed out of his military obligations with the Texas Air National Guard and was accused of using his father's influence to land such a plum Vietnam-era assignment, has never seen combat.

But whether Akbar is mentally ill or whether the stress of combat made him so--or whether he represents a lineage of intramilitary resistance to institutional racism and classism--we'll probably never know. It just seems too easy to simply dub Akbar a guy with a grudge and leave it at that, especially when historical precedent suggests there may be other factors. It's too easy to merely accept, as one report does, that "where [Akbar's] bitterness may have come from remains a mystery."

The irony of Rumsfeld's ire

Donald Rothwell, a law professor at the University of Sydney, writes about the irony of the US position on the humane treatment of political prisoners:
Early last year the US was embroiled in a controversy over the application of the Geneva Convention to Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured during the Afghanistan conflict. The US has consistently argued against applying the convention to Afghan POWs, insisting that the fighters were "battlefield detainees" with no rights under international law other than respect for very basic principles of humanity.

Australia found itself part of this dispute following the capture of the Taliban fighter, David Hicks, from Adelaide.

While there can be little doubt that the Geneva Convention clearly applies in Iraq, the US ambivalence over the captured prisoners from Afghanistan now held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may have rebounded upon it in this instance.

What is important for all parties to this war to remember is that if they expect their troops to be treated consistently with international law then this is a reciprocal obligation. The recent actions of the US in Afghanistan and now in Iraq to unilaterally interpret international law, including the UN Charter, unfortunately undermine respect for international law.

Iraq and the US have reaffirmed their respect for the provisions of the Geneva POW convention, but the US remains concerned over Iraq's media exposure of the POWs and President George Bush has pledged to prosecute any war criminals.

If any international prosecutions result from war crimes committed in Iraq, for the sake of international rule of law, criminals on all sides should be dealt with evenly.
Read the entire piece.

3.24.2003

Another resignation

Mary Ann Wright, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Mongolia, resigned over Bush's policies in Iraq, North Korea, and Palestine/Israel, as well as domestic attempts to erode civil liberties. Read her lengthy and empassioned letter to Colin Powell. My growing fear is that all the good ones will resign, leaving just the Richard Perles and Dick Cheneys.

The first casualty is truth

Ari Fleischer gave this ominous warning to journalists on February 28: "If the military says something, I strongly urge all journalists to heed it," adding, "It is in your own interest and that of your family too. And I mean that." Reacting to what amounts to a veiled threat, and concerned about effective war coverage, the international journalists' rights organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders) has warned US authorities not to obstruct the media in its reporting of the war in Iraq, demanding that the international media be allowed to work "freely and in safety." They questioned the policy of "embedding," which is offered only to reporters who sign a 50-point conduct about their behavior while in Iraq. One provision of the contract allows commanders to "embargo" news that could damage "operational security."

Fromm on patriotism


An excerpt from Erich Fromm's "The Sane Society":
Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. "Patriotism" is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by "patriotism" I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one's own nation, which is the concern with the nation's spiritual as much as with its material welfare -- never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.

Enemy combatants or PoWs?

The Afghani prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba--now totalling 660 people, after a shipment of 30 more arrived Sunday--are being called "captured enemy combatants" instead of "prisoners of war," so that the US won't be tried under the Geneva Convention. Is the "war on terror" really not a war, despite all its war planes and daisy-cutters? Can a linguistic flourish be an acceptable alibi? And why aren't the US soldiers shown on Al-Jazeera "enemy combatants" as well? Rumsfeld's indignation at the treatment of US soldiers is understandable, but considering that the US tortured two Afghan detainees to death, putting American PoWs on TV seems to be a far less heinous crime. As Bush calls for humane treatment of American captives, I hope the president can assure the same for those in our custody.

3.23.2003

While the world's not looking

From The Independent:
Israel is preparing to move a security fence, designed to separate Israelis and Palestinians, further into the West Bank. About 40,000 more settlers and another 3,000 Palestinians would find themselves on the Israeli side of the barrier.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, denounced the initiative yesterday as "flagrant defiance" of President George Bush and Tony Blair, who have promised to present their "road map" to peace as soon as a new Palestinian Government is sworn in.

"Israel is telling the Americans and British to forget it," Dr Erekat said. "They are saying they have their own road map, based on dictation, not negotiation. They are creating facts on the ground, which will take 40 per cent of the West Bank."

Moore on war

Winning the Oscar for best documentary (i.e. nonfiction) film, Michael Moore took his 45 seconds at the podium to address the war:
We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results, that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.

Pay-per-view art

Working in the arts, I know all too well how hard it is (for some of us, anyway) to operate in this emaciated arts-funding climate. So why does the exhibition "Sponsorship"--a show comprised entirely of corporate logos--currently up at Shepard Fairey's LA gallery BlkMrkt, bother me so? Probably because I suspect its motives: in neo-uber-hipster fashion, it uses an ironic self-referential critique of corporate patronage to cover for what's ultimately a mad dash for cash. The show features logos of companies like Levi's, AOL, and Kinko's as well as smaller skateboard-related companies who paid for the privilege of being included. The opening, by the way, was so successful the fire marshall had to shut it down. And maybe that--the fact that the idea's a bit tired, but still has the power to pack 'em in--is what irks me. Still, you've gotta give Shepard credit: at least he's honest.

Read Rob Walker's take on the show in Slate.

Revolutionary Waters

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.

--Paul Cezanne
How gratifying and re-centering to turn on the TV in search of war news and find the PBS documentary "Alice Waters and her Delicious Revolution." Waters founded the Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse on principles of sustainability, sensuality in eating, and creating a dining atmosphere that's more like your own dinner party than a restaurant visit. Her ideas--buying fresh organic produce, whatever's in season, from local small farms, farmers' markets, and gardens--were radical when she started her restaurant in 1971. The success of her restaurant, seven cookbooks, and her example of providing sustaining support to new varieties of seasonal produce, compelled food writer Marian Burros to write that Waters has "single-handedly changed the American palate."

Always believing that food is political--she founded The Edible Schoolyard, a way to introduce schoolkids to growing food, and started a prison food program--Waters reminds us how vital relationships are with local growers. As the farmers' market season approaches, reviewing (or finding, as I did, for the first time) her ideas, seems increasingly important in an agricultural market that's seeing a decline in the diversity and quality of produce while concentration of farm ownership in large agribusiness corporations is increasing.

Read her interview in the Christian Science Monitor:
It's not only a more delicious way to eat, it's a political imperative. Our own health and the health of the planet depends on eating this way... If you dull your palate year round with mediocre vegetables, you can't appreciate the real thing when it comes along.
or in Mother Jones:
The decisions you make are a choice of values that reflect your life in every way. Buying Big Macs from the people McDonald's buys its meat from, who are raising these cattle or kangaroos or whatever goes into what they call beef, is the complete opposite of the way it should be done. When I buy food from a farmer, I know who he is, I know he cares about my well-being, and I know he's taken care of the land he's farming. I have a responsibility to him, and he to me. I couldn't put the food I cook on the table without him, so I really treasure this relationship.

War crimes?


As more and more American allies--including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France, Russia, and Germany--line up to denounce the war as illegal, one question is outstanding: is Bush committing war crimes? Read the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Geneva Convention and decide for yourself. Although the US has defied UN resolution 1441 and several articles of both these documents, and bailed out of the International Criminal Court, Donald Rumsfeld is now, conveniently, extolling the virtues of international law in accusing Iraq of taking US hostages.

Justin's Jingoism

"This may not be Walter Cronkite's kind of journalism, but it's not necessarily wrong," writes Neal Justin, the Star Tribune's sitcom-and-soap-opera media writer, in a gushing homage to Fox’s war coverage:
Fox News embraced its patriotic spirit like no one else, from the flag fluttering in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to the tough-guy lingo... I kept waiting for someone to yell, "Hoo-ah!"
Justin's analysis--printed on the paper's "War on Iraq" news spreads, not the more appropriate Opinion or Variety pages--suggests that news analysis isn’t his strong suit. He lauds the showmanship of Fox anchor Shepard Smith--or "Shep" as Justin glibly points out he's called--as the "smoothest" anchor on TV and praises that he never "let on that he was at the helm 19 of the first 50 hours of coverage" (that's two 9.5 hour shifts in two days, not an uncommon schedule for the average minimum-wage worker). Flubbing another tenet of Journalism 101, Justin quotes only one source for his piece, a Fox representative who’s also the wife of key Fox anchor Brit Hume. "The public tends to be patriotic, and we're a reflection of America," she says. "Those who criticize us for being patriotic are just looking for ways to undercut us."

Can news be “patriotic” and fair?

Justin doesn’t seem interested in that question. Shrugging it off with the-market-is-always-right logic, he concludes that Fox's "pro-America tone" is what viewers want right now--citing the popularity of bigoted broadcaster Bill O'Reilly as his evidence--and that, "as long as the news organization continues to be accurate and fair--and there continue to be other, more traditional options--it can be exhilarating to watch." Accurate and fair, as Justin well knows, isn’t the tagline Fox has been using. "Fair and balanced" was their slogan for awhile, although their website now touts the more ambiguous and less restrictive "We report. You decide."

Most troubling about Justin's logic is this: news shouldn’t be driven by what we want to hear, but by what we need to hear. What about body counts, alternative perspectives, world opinion, environmental analysis, economic impact, critical examinations of weaponry and their long-term effects? While Pravda reports that 77 civilians were killed by US bombing in Basra and The Sydney Morning Herald reports a US soldier radioing that "dead bodies are everywhere" following an attack in southern Iraq (a claim disputed by the US military), Fox opts for news that’s merely "exhilarating." And Justin thinks that’s good enough.

Cooking Clinton

The economy's tanking, we're in our first unprovoked (and as yet unbudgeted) war, and all conservatives can think about is blaming Clinton? From the Free Republic, The Clinton Legacy Cookbook.

3.21.2003

Blogging from Baghdad

Through some fairly complex sleuthing, blogger Paul Boutin (also a writer for Slate, Salon and others) ponders whether this site--Dear Raed, purportedly written by an Iraqi in Baghdad--is legit. He concludes: it probably is. The blog's author, posting as Salam Pax, is tired of fielding e-mails on the issue, and insists he's "nobody's propaganda ploy."

Godspeed.

I felt guilty, holding my large bottle of Corona at smoky First Avenue Wednesday night, awaiting a concert that was scheduled to begin the minute George Bush's war clock dipped to zero. But there I was. And it turns out it was the perfect music for the moment. The band was Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a Montreal nine-piece, and the music was eerie: instrumental, orchestral, immersive, building from delicate strings to the menacing, mindless bludgeon of rock-n-roll drums. It was powerful, but moreso because of the context: as the Segovia-esque guitars were pummeled by a crescendo of drums and noise, I imagined the fear of families in Baghdad facing missiles my taxes paid for. At the same time, the music isolated me from the real horror these people are experiencing--like the war movie where arias incongruously drown out the brutal scenes of battlefield destruction. I've never been at a rock show and ended up praying.

Hear it.

Supporting our troops?


From The Nation:
The Republican majority on the House Budget Committee has just rammed through a resolution that would cut $844 million from veterans’ medical care for next year. (Yet somehow, the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul Republicans have already come up with $900 million handy to give to Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton and a few other big Republican sugar daddies for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.)

Over the next ten years, the Republican changes would cut $24.7 billion -- billions with a "b" -- for veterans’ medical care, disability compensation and other benefits.

In other words: at the very moment men and women in the armed forces are being sent into military action, the Republicans back home are cutting their current and future benefits -- including payments to their families, should they be killed in action.

Read more.

Recent shout-outs and media mentions

Updated 05.03.11

On Eyeteeth:

An "intelligent arts and culture blog with a strong left-leaning political agenda."
Writers Guild of America "September 2009 Hotlist"

Ranked among the top ten blogs in Minnesota, Newsbobber.com's "Top 100 Minnesota Blogs," Sept. 2009

“Eyeteeth's 'Bits' may be the best links feature in the blogosphere. For reals.”
Modern Art Notes' Tyler Green via Twitter

Must-read: A wonderful post.”
C-Monster (Carolina Miranda) on the Art21 post “Transcending protest: Looking for pragmatic or poetic art of change”

“An intelligent, wildly eclectic site that encompasses art, pop culture, happenings, media, and a little light politics,” MPLS.ST.PAUL magazine, January 2008

Unfailingly interesting and eclectic.”
Worldchanging, May 3, 2006

Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle article, "Can art still play a subversive role in society?" March 29, 2006

“I've been collecting all the marvellous little spores he leaves behind on various sites around the interweb.“ Fimoculous' Rex Sorgatz, "Best Blogs of 2006 that You (Maybe) Aren't Reading

On @iteeth:

"Indespensible journalist, art nut @iteeth," Tyler Green, Modern Art Notes, Apr. 2011

One of two “local art-happy Twitterers worth your time,” Ranking at #36 in Metro Magazine's "Metro 100," Oct. 2009

On Signifier, Signed:

The Best Homegrown Blogs,” Metro Magazine, Jan. 2008

The Best Links 2005” list, Kottke.org, Dec. 28, 2005

Journalistic prizes:

Paul Schmelzer is the first online journalist in Minnesota history to win a Society of Professional Journalists Page One Award (2006) and the first to win a Frank Premack Award Public Affairs Journalism Award from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism (2007). He's won multiple SPJ Awards, including firsts for best video (2009) and best online news story (2008).

McLaren's musings

Carrie McLaren, brainchild behind Stay Free! magazine, sends a great e-mail (from which I copped the Victoria's Secret link below). Ending up with her list of favorite protest signs--including her own: "Re-elect Carter"--her update starts out here:
Man, this war stuff is so depressing. All I seem to read about in the business press is how much advertising will be lost. Many corporations plan to keep commercials off the air for the first few days of bombing... after which they will trickle back in as circumstance warrant. What I can never figure out is -- If it's tasteless to run commercials the first week of bombing why isn't it tasteless them the second or third week?

Everyone expects the networks to return to business as usual soon. No one wants to be tacky but, hey, the show must go on. So ABC will broadcast the Academy Awards as planned but the celebrities will be sure to "dress down." Even that small concession has some fans riled. An editorial on the front of Oscarwatch.com reads:

<< It is shameful to deny us (the fans) that only opportunity into the dream factory just because some celebrities feel unease about the situation in Iraq - there is always strife going on somewhere in the Globe and this one is not more important than the others. It is cowardly to deny people enjoyment of that brief moment of fantasy -- which is what the Oscars are about. >>>
God bless America, indeed.

Secret website


See the spoof website What is Victoria's Secret? before Victoria shuts it down. (Vomit alert: high.)

Jingo all the way

This morning on NPR, Bob Edwards, in one of those supposed-to-be-quaint anecdotal interludes, tells of a hockey game last night between the NHL's New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. The Canadian fans booed through the entire US national anthem, to which the commentator quips something to the effect of: "Their plan backfired, though; their team lost 6-3." Huh? Are they booing in order to cheer their team on to victory or to oppose unprovoked war?

No, I'm not surprised. A few glimpses of the American media toadyism yesterday: Fox News runs the on-screen graphic "WAR ON TERROR"--following Bush's illogic that Iraq had something to do with 9/11 or a terrorist attack on Americans. The bottom-of-screen crawl read: "Pentagon: If you're not sure it's 'Shock and Awe,' it's not." Terry Moran on ABC gushes about the latest White House briefing and, flipping channels, some general-for-hire on CBS says that the two missiles launched at Kuwait--Scuds, the kind Saddam wasn't supposed to have--prove that Bush was right to launch this war. And today's Minneapolis Star Tribune runs this headline, straight off the Pentagon's press release: "Military pleased with Patriot missile system performance."

3.20.2003

Terror


Representative Pete Stark:
I think unleashing 3,000 smart bombs against the city of Baghdad in the first several days of the war . . . to me, if those were unleashed against the San Francisco Bay Area, I would call that an act of extreme terrorism.

Today I weep for my country


Sen. Robert Byrd:
Today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart.  No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper.  The image of America has changed.  Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. 

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism.  We assert that right without the sanction of any international body.  As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance.  We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet.  Valuable alliances are split. After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq.  We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe... 

What is happening to this country?  When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends?  When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might?  How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire? 

...May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

3.19.2003

This war brought to you by Clear Channel


Clear Channel, the global media conglomerae that probably owns a radio station or two in your hometown, has been sponsoring pro-war rallies, some attended by 20,000 people or more. Manufactured consent?
Some of the biggest rallies this month have endorsed President Bush's strategy against Saddam Hussein, and the common thread linking most of them is Clear Channel Worldwide Inc., the nation's largest owner of radio stations.

In a move that has raised eyebrows in some legal and journalistic circles, Clear Channel radio stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, Cincinnati and other cities have sponsored rallies attended by up to 20,000 people. The events have served as a loud rebuttal to the more numerous but generally smaller anti-war rallies.

The sponsorship of large rallies by Clear Channel stations is unique among major media companies, which have confined their activities in the war debate to reporting and occasionally commenting on the news...

While labor unions and special interest groups have organized and hosted rallies for decades, the involvement of a big publicly regulated broadcasting company breaks new ground in public demonstrations.

"I think this is pretty extraordinary," said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."

A spokeswoman for Clear Channel said the rallies, called "Rally for America," are the idea of Glenn Beck, a Philadelphia talk show host whose program is syndicated by Premier Radio Networks, a Clear Channel subsidiary.

A weekend rally in Atlanta drew an estimated 20,000 people, with some carrying signs reading "God Bless the USA" and other signs condemning France and the group Dixie Chicks, one of whose members recently criticized President Bush.

"They're not intended to be pro-military. It's more of a thank you to the troops. They're just patriotic rallies," said Clear Channel spokeswoman Lisa Dollinger.

Rallies sponsored by Clear Channel radio stations are scheduled for this weekend in Sacramento, Charleston, S.C., and Richmond, Va. Although Clear Channel promoted two of the recent rallies on its corporate Web site, Dollinger said there is no corporate directive that stations organize rallies.

"Any rallies that our stations have been a part of have been of their own initiative and in response to the expressed desires of their listeners and communities," Dollinger said.

Clear Channel is by far the largest owner of radio stations in the nation. The company owned only 43 in 1995, but when Congress removed many of the ownership limits in 1996, Clear Channel was quickly on the highway to radio dominance. The company owns and operates 1,233 radio stations (including six in Chicago) and claims 100 million listeners. Clear Channel generated about 20 percent of the radio industry's $16 billion in 2001 revenues...

Size sparks criticism

The media giant's size also has generated criticism. Some recording artists have charged that Clear Channel's dominance in radio and concert promotions is hurting the recording industry. Congress is investigating the effects of radio consolidation. And the FCC is considering ownership rule changes, among them changes that could allow Clear Channel to expand its reach.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) has introduced a bill that could halt further deregulation in the radio industry and limit each company's audience share and percent of advertising dollars. These measures could limit Clear Channel's meteoric growth and hinder its future profitability.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said the company's support of the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq makes it "hard to escape the concern that this may in part be motivated by issues that Clear Channel has before the FCC and Congress."
Read more. (Thanks, Diana.)

Spying on our allies, part 2

Telephone eavesdropping devices were found in offices to be used by Germany and France at a European Union summit to start tomorrow. France says it's the US's doing.

3.18.2003

Media in bed--er, embedded--with the military

I rarely watch US national newscasts anymore, and watching Peter Jennings and company referring to Bush's robotic performance last night as the president's "Day of Destiny," I vow to continue looking elsewhere for news. Turns out I'm not alone. With war ramping up, and American journalism bowing to the White House, more and more people are turning to foreign news reports for more balanced coverage. According to Wired, 49% of the visitors to The Guardian of London in January came from the Americas, and the BBC and Independent also saw spikes in visits from our hemisphere.

As the war unfolds, finding balance will mean seeking out networks, news sources, and reporters who refuse to "embed"--or caravan with the US military. Of the 660 reporters signed up to report on Iraq, most Americans are embedding, while only a handful of the 100 non-American journalists are expected to be independent (a particularly spooky venture, considering the Pentagon says such "unilateralists" can be shot at by American troops). Like a Boy Scout campout, embedding promises such fun--they all get camoflaged "uniforms" embroidered with the name of their network, and one even brought an American flag to unfurl in Baghdad--that the roster of reporters runs that gamut from an MTV VJ to arms-dealer-turned-Fox-pundit Oliver North. As The Toronto Star writes:
Critics charge that they in fact will be "in bed" with the troops: eating, drinking, sleeping and surviving (or not) together.

The danger, of course, is that they will identify so closely with the soldiers that they won't file the negative sorts of stories that came out of Vietnam, such as the report that made 60 Minutes' Morley Safer's career. (It depicted Americans torching villages with their Zippos.) All we'll get are warm and fuzzy features about the joys of bathing out of a bucket and how the sand infects everything from your crotch to your K-rations.

And, needless to say, the tales will all be told from one side. Not many reporters will jump to the Iraqi lines to get a quote.
One reporter, George C. Wilson--dubbed the "dean" of the DC press pool in a Christian Science Monitor article--illustrates this point when he talks about how "real" his reporting in Iraq will be:
It's still exciting. I like being a soldier, seeing real things instead of Rumsfeld's portrait of what's going on in the world.
In a letter to the about-to-be-embedded,Vietnam reporter Jeff Gralnick reiterates the notion that intentions of reporting The Truth are often waylaid by a kind of Stockholm Syndrome:
You will fall in with a bunch of grunts, experience and share their hardships and fears and then you will feel for them and care about them. You will wind up loving them and hating their officers and commanders and the administration that put them (and you) in harm's way. Ernie Pyle loved his grunts; Jack Laurance and Michael Herr loved theirs; and I loved mine. And as we all know, love blinds and in blinding it will alter the reporting you thought you were going to do. Trust me. It happens, and it will happen no matter how much you guard against it.
Journalist Chris Hedges, who refused to take part in the Pentagon's press pool in Kuwait and ended up detained by the Iraqi Republican Guard for a week as a result, says in an excellent article in Editor & Publisher that only a handful of reporters in Iraq really care about the conflict. The rest
just want to be hotel-room warriors, don't want to get anywhere near the fighting. The 10% that tries to get out will be stomped on. We saw that with Doug Struck, The Washington Post correspondent, when he tried to investigate civilian casualties in Afghanistan, by the U.S. military. He was made to lie down with a gun pointed to his head.
In softer terms, Gralnick says the same thing, imploring: "Remember also, you are not being embedded because that sweet old Pentagon wants to be nice. You are being embedded so you can be controlled and in a way isolated."

NOTE: If you encounter journalism--weblogs, reporters, foreign news services--featuring non-embedded voices in the Middle East, please email me (click on my name, below). Thanks.

All the news that's authorized to print

Robert Fisk writes about CNN's document "Reminder of Script Approval Policy," a reiteration to CNN reporters stationed worldwide to follow proper channels when processing the news. Be very wary when you watch this war unfold on CNN:
"All reporters preparing package scripts must submit the scripts for approval. Packages may not be edited until the scripts are approved... All packages originating outside Washington, LA (Los Angeles) or NY (New York), including all international bureaus, must come to the ROW in Atlanta for approval."

The date of this extraordinary message is 27 January. The "ROW" is the row of script editors in Atlanta who can insist on changes or "balances" in the reporter's dispatch. "A script is not approved for air unless it is properly marked approved by an authorised manager and duped (duplicated) to burcopy (bureau copy)... When a script is updated it must be re-approved, preferably by the originating approving authority."

Note the key words here: "approved" and "authorised". CNN's man or woman in Kuwait or Baghdad--or Jerusalem or Ramallah--may know the background to his or her story; indeed, they will know far more about it than the "authorities" in Atlanta. But CNN's chiefs will decide the spin of the story.
Read more.

Pray for peace

Pray to whoever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or marble or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the Bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah, raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinhah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, Record Keeper
of time before, time now, time ahead, pray. Bow down
to terriers and shepherds and siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work,
pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus
and for everyone riding buses all over the world.
If you haven't been on a bus in a long time,
climb the few steps, drop some silver, and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latté and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already a prayer.
Skin and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile case we are poured into,
each caress a season of peace.

If you're hungry, pray. If you're tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else's legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheel chair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer that as the earth revolves
we will do less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas, pray for peace.

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds for peace, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Gnaw your crust
of prayer, scoop your prayer water from the gutter.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.
--Ellen Bass

Air Force authorized to kill protesters if necessary

Security forces at Vandenberg Air Force Base may use "deadly force" against protesters if they infiltrate the military complex if a war starts, officials said...

The directive has always been in existence, but a base spokeswoman said it is more critical now that people understand its severity.

"This is not fun and games anymore," said Maj. Stacee Bako. "We're living in post 9/11. We don't know what's going to happen with the war effort in Iraq. These folks have got to realize their actions. ... They're illegal intruders."
Read more. (Via Cursor.)

Carl Oglesby, Students for a Democratic Society:


It isn't the rebels who cause the troubles of the world, it's the troubles that cause the rebels.

Buddha:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

3.17.2003

Writing from Rafah

Rachel Corrie, the Olympia, Washington, college student killed by a bulldozer in Palestine, in an e-mail to her family, dated February 7:
If I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.

They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you’ve met people who have never lost anyone-- once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing--just existing--in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world’s fourth largest military--backed by the world’s only superpower--in it’s attempt to erase you from your home.

New Mexico House says no to the Patriot Act

In an overwhelming vote, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a provision opposing implementation of key parts of the USA-PATRIOT Act. The measure instructs state police to "refrain from engaging in the surveillance of individuals or groups of individuals based on their participation in activities protected by the First Amendment," refrain from participation in Operation TIPS, direct public libraries to post warnings in libraries that the feds might be spying on their reading habits, and more.

Read the legislation

UK's Cook resigns over Iraq

Robin Cook, leader of Britain's House of Commons, became the first cabinet-level minister to resign over Tony Blair's pro-war stance on Iraq. "What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected we would not now be about to commit British troops," he said.

Fuque War

Someone from the US Air Force--following the tradition of Vietnam graffiti "Killroy was here" or the Gulf War's "Up yours, Saddam"--gets it wrong when he scrawls on a bunker-buster bomb, "Fuque the French." (Via Cursor.)

Targeting the media

According to a story in The Register, journalists operating behind enemy lines in Iraq or, presumably, straying from the press pool, run the risk of being shot by US forces:
Should war in the Gulf commence, the Pentagon proposes to take radical new steps in media relations - 'unauthorised' journalists will be shot at. Speaking on The Sunday Show on Ireland's RTE1 last Sunday veteran war reporter Kate Adie said she had been warned by a senior Pentagon official that uplinks, i.e. TV broadcasts or satellite phones, that are detected by US aircraft are likely to be fired on.
Read more.

3.16.2003

Chaining the president


Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton:
Last October, a majority of Members of the 107th Congress...gave the President the authority to use whatever means necessary, including the use of force, against Iraq.

We use such clever euphemisms here--words which disguise the meaning of our intentions. Use whatever means necessary...deadly, ear-splitting, earth-shaking, people-maiming, death-dealing bombs. The most devastating, overwhelming, terrifying, death-dealing "force" the world has ever known. Coming from us. The good guys. The protectors. The preservers of world peace.

The United States of America.

What foresight the Founders of this great nation had in not wanting a decision that enormous, that earth-shaping or earth-shattering to be made by one person. Not by this President. Not by any President. Instead this President asked for--and Congress acquiesced to give complete, unrestricted authority--no conditions, no restraints.

"Don't tie my hands," the President said. Don't tie the President's hands. What did the Founders think of that? Thomas Jefferson in 1798 said, "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. Tie his hands? That is not enough. We should chain him to the Constitution. We in Congress are supposed to be chained to the Constitution.

Shock in Israel is old news in Palestine


The Israeli Defense Force killed two of their own on Thursday, an item that is only newsworthy in that they mistook the two men, security guards Yoav Doron and Yehuda Ben-Yosef, for Palestinians. Many in Israel, rightly so, are shocked: "innocent and helpless, one was gunned down as he stepped out of the security vehicle south of Hebron, the other killed by an anti-tank missile fired from a pursuing helicopter." The incidents shed light on IDF tactics which have killed dozens of Palestinian civilians, but, unlike earlier cases, these cases will be investigated by the IDF because "Jewish blood was shed."

Writes Gideon Levy:
No one should be surprised that, this time, two Israelis were killed - the real surprise is the rarity of such incidents. If the IDF has killed no fewer than 50 Palestinians in the past 13 days alone (according to the figures of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group), some of them civilians, no one need be taken aback if Israelis, too, have fallen victim to the wholesale shooting...

As reported last Thursday in Haaretz, the IDF itself admits that 18 percent of the Palestinians who have been killed in the current confrontation (since September 29, 2000) were innocent civilians, 235 adults and 130 children below the age of 16. The actual number of innocent civilians killed is probably higher.

Israelis kill American with bulldozer


From Ha'aretz:
An American woman peace protester was killed Sunday by an [Israeli Defense Force] bulldozer, which ran her over during the demolition of a house at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Another activist was wounded in the incident.

Rachel Corey[sic], 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of the bulldozer to try to prevent it from destroying a house, doctors in Gaza said.

"Corey was killed in the al-Salam neighbourhood when an Israeli bulldozer covered her with sand as she stood in front of a bulldozer," said Dr Ali Musa, a doctor from the al-Najar hospital in the southern Gaza Strip. He said she died from skull and chest fractures.

IDF spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal said her death was an accident.

"This is a regrettable accident," he said. "We are dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger."

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment.

Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri.

"Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," he said. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."

Since the start of the Intifada, groups of international protesters have gathered in several locations in territories, setting themselves up as "human shields" to try to stop IDF operations.

Corey was the first member of the groups, called "International Solidarity Movement," to be killed in the conflict. Schnabel said Corey was a student at Evergreen College and was to graduate this year.

He said there were eight protesters at the site, four from the United States and four from Great Britain. "We stay with families whose house is to be demolished," he told the Associated Press by telephone from Rafah after the incident.

Jingoist Linguistics

With war possibly 24 hours away, it's time to brush up on the deceptive terminology the flapping gums in the mainstream media will likely use to distort the fact that war means death. From The Independent:
Inevitable revenge: for the executions of Saddam's Baath party officials which no one actually said were inevitable.

Stubborn or suicidal: to be used when Iraqi forces fight rather than retreat.

Allegedly: for all carnage caused by Western forces.

At last, the damning evidence: used when reporters enter old torture chambers.

Officials here are not giving us much access: a clear sign that reporters in Baghdad are confined to their hotels.

Life goes on: for any pictures of Iraq's poor making tea.

Remnants: allegedly 'diehard' Iraqi troops still shooting at the Americans but actually the first signs of a resistance movement dedicated to the 'liberation' of Iraq from its new western occupiers.

Newly liberated: for territory and cities newly occupied by the Americans or British.

What went wrong?: to accompany pictures illustrating the growing anarchy in Iraq as if it were not predicted.
From The Observer:
Automaticity: Claim made for resolution 1441 that it requires no further vote.

Blowback: Every foreign policy intervention has unintended consequences: for example, backing Saddam Hussein against Iran; supporting the Islamists, bin Laden included, against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Collateral damage: Unintended damage to non-military sites; civilians killed or injured; damage to non-military buildings.

Day after: What happens to Iraq afterwards. Can Iraq be remade on the model of post-war Japan or Germany? Or will civil strife make it the next Yugoslavia?

Sweets and flowers: How the Pentagon expects troops to be greeted by Iraqis.

Vertical envelopment: New euphemism for carpet-bombing, The media, having been much criticised for using terms such as collateral damage in previous conflicts, may choose to describe the conflict in simpler language this time.

Arctic Oil: Urge Coleman to vote no on oil drilling in ANWAR


Here's one they're trying to sneak by us: Bush is one vote away from getting his domestic pet project going--drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. And that one vote could come down to Minnesota's Sen. Norm Coleman. According to an internal GOP memo, 49 senators have already agreed to support the plan, and Dick Cheney has been "working madly to secure the 50th." If Coleman crumbles--breaking his own campaign pledge and going against the stance of his predecessor, the late Paul Wellstone, who vociferously opposed oil drilling in the arctic--the matter could be a done deal by next week. The GOP has begun a drive in earnest to pressure Coleman, whose track record of defying the president is, well, nearly nonexistent; the GOP memo singled out Coleman and said, "We need to get calls in to those offices from constituents, and fast."

So let's give 'em some calls.

Contact Coleman now, and let him know what you think: opinion@coleman.senate.gov or 202.224.5641. Or visit the National Resources Defense Council to contact your state's senator.

Light a candle for peace


On what might be the eve of war with Iraq, join in a rolling wave of candlelight vigils that will cross the globe. Archibishop Desmond Tutu and other religious leaders have called for these vigils and so far 6,144 have been organized in 135 countries. It will begin in New Zealand and ring the globe, hitting the midwest at 7 pm. Knowing where some of my readers live, check up to see when and where:
- If you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul, click here.
- If you live in Madison, click here.
- If you live in Northfield, MN, click here.
- If you live in Wausau, Wisconsin, click here.
- If you live in Chicago, click here.
- If you live in Homewood/Flossmoor, Illinois, click here.
- If you live in Hayward, Wisconsin, click here.
- If you live in St. Cloud, Minnesota, click here.
- If you live in Buffalo, New York, click

3.13.2003

War, my ass!


Juvenile, yes, but you've got to hand it to the German antiwar crowd for their creative float-building.

Railroading Rosenbaum: GOP hunts down a sitting judge

Republicans have a double-standard going. They won't release internal memos from Miguel Estrada's tenure at the Solicitor General's Office to give the Senate a more full picture of his judicial philosophy, arguing as Norm Coleman does that doing so would "compromise the ability of the Justice Department to represent the United States in court." At the same time they're working to subpoena a sitting judge, Minneapolis' own James Rosenbaum, chief judge of the US district court, to release sealed documents on his judicial decisions. Republicans, led by James Sensenbrenner, believe Rosenbaum's sentencing has been too lenient, specifically in cases of first-time drug offenses. Rosenbaum's attorney says the Judicial Committee's requests "overstep congressional authority and threaten the separation of powers," according to the Wall Street Journal.

This unprecedented act against a sitting judge is yet another way--like stacking the judiciary with neo-conservative activist judges like Estrada--for the Republicans to reshape the courts in their own likeness. Rosenbaum's sentences don't seem to entirely match with the Bush administration's demonstrated beliefs: some drug offenders get lighter sentences, while corporations don't get a judge who falls all over himself to bend the laws. For example, in 2000 Rosenbaum threw out a lawsuit filed by the logging industry in Northern Minnesota. The loggers, desiring to do more commercial timber cutting on federal land, argued that "deep ecology"--a way of looking at the interconnectedness between all living things--was guiding the Forest Service's policies and that this is a violation of the separation of church and state ("deep ecology," they say, is a religion). Rosenbaum called this "illogical." (Under Bush, the Forest Service continues to open more federal lands to commercial logging.)

Republicans seem particularly peeved that Rosenbaum resisted handing down sentences of a decade or more for minor drug offenses; sometimes his prison sentences were significantly below the federal minimum sentence. Last November, Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (Va.), ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, defended Rosenbaum, saying the Republicans wanted to punish Rosenbaum because they didn't like his views on the sentencing guidelines.

And Rosenbaum--appointed by Reagan in 1985--has been vocal about his criticisms of strict sentencing guidelines, especially as they apply to first-time offenders with dependent children. Low-level drug offenders, he says, often end up in prison with rapists and murderers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal prisons are flooded with drug offenders, mainly because of harsher sentencing guidelines passed in 1987; while the crime rate declined in the 1990s, the number of inmates--the majority drug offenders--rose from 33,000 in 1987 to 128,000 in 2002. And sentences for crack cocaine possession--prevalent among black offenders and a cheaper version of the cocaine preferred by white users, include considerably longer prison stays. Rosenbaum believes these tougher guidelines, especially for first-time offenders with dependent children, hurt moms and kids.

"When a man goes to jail, he usually leaves behind his children to his wife or girlfriend,'' he adds. "But let's face it. It is mothers who primarily care for children. What happens when they go to prison?'' Rosenbaum explains. ``It is extraordinarily infrequent that a male cares for them. What happens is that these children are either sent to live with a sister or a mother or become wards of the state?"

A judge like Rosenbaum must seriously irk conservatives who seem hell-bent on throwing the book at those committing crimes involving Christian moral character--minor drug offenses or Bill Clinton's dalliances with interns--but seem to have overlooked the billion-dollar deceptions of white collar criminals like Ken Lay and Dick Cheney. And they seem more intent on putting a long-serving judge through the ringer than a tight-lipped neo-conservative lawyer who's auditioning to serve on the country's second-highest court.

Yesterday, the Republicans agreed to hold off on their subpoena of Rosenbaum, for the time being. Let's hope they call off the dogs, because as U.S District Court chief judge John Coughenour says, this subpoena could have a chilling effect on judges nationwide. "I think it would be demoralizing and very disturbing to most of us" for Congress "to focus on individual judges and their practices," he said. "Judges struggle mightily with their sentencing decisions."

3.12.2003

History repeats?

Some think it's a stretch to draw parallels between the rise of Nazi Germany and the changes shepherded in by George W. Bush and his ideological compatriots. Undoubtedly, Bush is no Hitler. But in sociological and economic terms, you've gotta wonder what's afoot.

From Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom:
...certain socioeconomic changes, notably the decline of the middle class and the rising power of monopolistic capital, had a deep psychological effect. These effects were increased or systematized by a political ideology--as by religious ideologies in the sixteenth century--and the psychic forces thus aroused became effective in a direction that was opposite to the original economic interests of that class. Nazism resurrected the lower middle class psychologically while participating in the destruction of its old socioeconomic position. It mobilized its emotional energies to become an important force in the struggle for the economic and political aims of German imperialism.
(Thanks, Jim.)

Handouts and Haliburton


Dick Cheney still gets $1,000,000 a year from Halliburton, the company he used to head. The company that's on the short list of five US firms invited to bid on post-war reconstruction of Iraq (worth $900 million). The company that was contracted to build holding pens for Afghan prisoners in Cuba. The company contracted to put out oil well fires in post-war Iraq. With such war for profit, Cheney puts the "conflict" in conflict of interest.

Hip Hop for Peace

Breaking a three-year recording hiatus, the Beastie Boys just released an antiwar song. "None of us feels very comfortable with what Bush is putting forward and the way that Bush is representing the United States, and I don’t think he represents us," MCA said. "I mean, you just look at the TV and see this guy who’s supposed to be representing us and it just feels ridiculous." Download "A World Gone Mad." (Via Cursor.)

A letter from Norm

In the last year our national economy has moved from recession to recovery.

So writes Sen. Norm Coleman in a form letter I received yesterday. I'd written him to express opposition to the president's "economic stimulus" plan that includes abolishing the tax on dividend income, a plan that--as you've no doubt heard--should benefit the wealthiest one percent of Americans (those making more than $102,000/year). Why, I had no idea that our ebullient, ever-upward-arcing economy was so plump and healthy.

Many economic indicators signal a healing economy with a promising outlook, but more needs to be done to instill confidence in our markets.

We sure do need confidence in the markets. Because when I go to check up on my shriveled prune of a retirement plan, I can barely muster the strength to open the envelope. But, last time I checked, the president's budget called for record defecits, and the stock market was faltering due to fear of a war that hasn't yet made it to the president's budget sheets.

I firmly believe that tax relief is the key to economic recovery and job growth. During my tenure as mayor of St. Paul I put this belief to work. We achieved eight straight years of zero increases in the city's property tax levy. The result was 18,000 new jobs and $3 billion in new investments for our capital city.

Now there, Norm, this is some selective truth-telling. Paul Demko debunked--or at least filled in the gaps of--these claims in an October City Pages analysis:
According to the Minnesota Department of Economic Security, there were indeed 18,038 jobs created in St. Paul between 1993 and 2000, a jump of 9.7 percent. What the Coleman campaign fails to mention, however, is that the average increase in jobs statewide during those heady economic times was 20.1 percent. Even Minneapolis, whose two-term mayor was drummed out of office last year, had a better track record than St. Paul, with 28,303 new jobs generated, a rise of 10.1 percent.
Demko goes on to report that St. Paul has the state's highest vacancy rate for commercial spaces (at 21.2%), that the $3 million city-funded parking ramp Coleman built for Conseco now sits empty, and that the $100-million building he used to lure Lawson Technologies across the river from Minneapolis is now half empty (they laid of more than 345 employees in 2002).
"You can't run a city like Norm Coleman did and expect that to be sustainable," says Dan McGrath, executive director of Progressive Minnesota. "Norm Coleman might be a wonderful mayor in great economic times, but look at the economic disaster he's left in St. Paul."
I hesitate to give Coleman more ink, but his scattershot mathematics compels me. As does that fact that he's a rising star on the GOP scene--a "giant killer" who took down Walter Mondale. In the past few months, he's made campaign stops--er, official senatorial visits--to Republican fundraisers and conventions in Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Illinois and Wisconsin. And some say he's on the short list as a VP candidate in the not-so-distant future. Runs chills, doesn't it?