Lying for war's sakeThe Bush Administration has a serious credibility problem. One day, Donald Rumsfeld tells the world that US claims that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction--the entire aegis for the war, mind you--was based on "good intelligence." The very same day, a secret transcript revealed that Colin Powell and British foreign secretary Jack Straw, during a February 5 meeting at theWaldorf Hotel in New York, admitted that the US-UK WMD claims couldn't be proven and were based on "assumptions." At the UN on February 5, Powell gave a very different assessment to the UN, offering an impassioned plea for war with Iraq based on intelligence gathered by "people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam is really up to." Let's not forget that the "good intelligence" Rumsfeld defends and the death-defying intelligence work Powell spoke of actually included a 10-year old graduate thesis they plagiarized and dubious information obtained from Iraqis on the Pentagon payroll. Now criticism is mounting that the US manipulated the data to support their war claims. Patrick Lang, a former director of Middle East analysis at the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency said of information on Iraq's supposed WMDS, the Pentagon "started picking out things that supported their thesis... It's political propaganda." Baroness Williams, Leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said yesterday: "As new and disturbing facts emerge, the war on Iraq begins to look more like a tragic mistake ... It is very depressing to see our fears confirmed."
Hollywoodizing September 11A personal friend of Karl Rove has produced a made-for-TV movie about the Bush Administration's version of their response to September 11. The Globe and Mail writes that "compared with other journalistic accounts of the period, the movie is clearly an effort to reconstruct Mr. Bush as a determined and principled military leader. The public image of Mr. Bush — who avoided military service in Vietnam and who has often been derided as a doe-eyed naif on satirical TV shows — is a key concern to White House communications officials, many of them friends of [the film's creator] Mr. Chetwynd." To air nationally in September, it depicts a hyperbolically decisive president:
"If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!"The reality is far more complicated and far less flattering. Which makes it more curious why, going into his re-election campaign, the president has classified--or, in MSNBC's word, censored--key Congressional reports on 9/11. (Via Cursor)
His Secret Service chief seems taken aback. "But Mr. President . . ."
The President brusquely interrupts him. "Try Commander-in-Chief. Whose present command is: Take the President home!"
at 1:42 PM
Love, Whole Foods-styleWhen workers at a Madison, Wisconsin Whole Foods Market decided to unionize, the corporate CEO sent out a memo calling the decision "a very sad chapter in the history of Whole Foods Market... Madison made a mistake in their choice. It may take time for them to realize it, but I believe that they eventually will. We all make many mistakes in life. It is all part of our growth process because that is how we learn, that is how we grow. When confronted by great stress in life, we have but only 2 choices: 1. Contract into fear. 2. Expand into love." But love isn't what pro-union workers at the 143-store chain have gotten: some have been fired (they say illegally), some have been assaulted, some threatened. Now the New York Times is reporting on the anti-union efforts of the "Wal-Mart of Natural Foods." (Via Cursor)
at 11:51 AM
News we could loseUS plans death camp in Cuba: According to Major-General Geoffrey Miller, the Pentagon has been toying with the idea of turning Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, so that prisoners held there (680 suspects held for 18 months without charge) can be tried, convicted and executed without having to leave the country.
Amnesty International states the obvious: the "war on terror" has left people more scared than any other time in post-Cold War history. The report says: "The 'war on terror', far from making the world a safer place, has made it more dangerous by curtailing human rights, undermining the rule of international law and shielding governments from scrutiny."
Counting bodies: "We don't do body counts," Tommy Franks said famously during the war on Iraq. Others do, and the counts aren't promising. While some organizations put civilian deaths from the war as low as 1,600, others go well over 7,000. And among Iraqi soldiers, the death toll is between 13,500 and 45,000.
at 9:43 AM
An army for peace?Mel Duncan, founder of the Nonviolent Peace Force, is selling peace bonds to raise funds to train, pay, and send nonviolent peace workers into war-stricken areas around the globe. Unlike other peace intervention groups, this one is not "about creating martyrs"; they train workers in nonviolent negotiations, human rights monitoring, and other skills. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, the group has offices in Belgium, Ecuador, India, Canada, England and San Francisco and more than 12,500 supporters in 47 countries. The sale of 100,000 "peace bonds"--at $10 a pop--will help fund the group's pilot project to send 15 workers to Sri Lanka for a three-year stint. Sri Lanka's 19-year old civil war has killed more than 65,000 people and displaced 1.6 million.
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Quoth Neil Young:
The reaction to France that the administration allowed to happen is so immature. These people have their own opinion - they're French! They're not fuckin' Americans, they're French ! Vive la difference, hello? And this big deal about Bush landing on an aircraft carrier? Talk about a six-year-old kid with a Tonka toy - we got it here.From The Guardian
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The F WordBefore you call someone a fascist, it's good to define your terms. Fascism, writes Ben Tripp, is "an extreme right-wing ideology which embraces nationalism as the transcendent value of society." Further, fascism relies on fundamentalist revolutionary ideas, it's defined through xenophobia, militarism, and supremacist ideals, it employs "mythic beliefs such as divine mandates, racial imperatives, and violent struggle." His point? Bush and his merry band of neoconservatives are fascists, "and they make Mussolini look like a mezzafinook." He writes:
[T]here are three sacred lines with regard to American democracy that can never be crossed: the line between privilege and power, the line between Church and State, and the line between civilian and military leadership. Cross any of them, and you're at fascism's doorstep. Cross two, you're on the threshold with your hand on the doorknob.
George W. Bush, son of unimaginable privilege, crossed the first line when he was selected to be president by the Supreme Court and accepted the job. He crossed the second line when he revealed his divine imperative, such as when (after the disaster of 9/11) he spoke of being "chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment." (attributed by Tim Goeglein, deputy director of White House public liaison and a barrel of laughs at any party.) When George climbed out of that airplane in his shiny new war suit, he didn't just carry his own cute little self across the deck: son of privilege, chosen of God, and wearing a military uniform, he passed through the doorway from mere wickedness to fascism. Our struggle in the time ahead is to resist the urge to follow him.
at 12:09 PM
Embedded reporter catches flakA journalist embedded in Baghdad with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) writes in Editor and Publisher about the two wars fought in Iraq: one he witnessed and wrote about and one Fox News covered. While Fox showed celebrating Iraqis tearing down statues of Saddam, Ron Martz witnessed and reported on "bloody street fighting in Baghdad." Many of the countless letters Martz received from readers questioned his patriotism, ancestry, and sexual orientation--and one woman suggested he tune into Fox News to get unbiased news coverage!
The criticism was not limited to me. They even criticized soldiers for doing what all soldiers do - complain. When I voiced complaints from soldiers about lack of mail, water, and spare parts, they were called "whiners" and "crybabies." And when I quoted one soldier who had been under fire almost daily for four weeks complaining about faulty intelligence, one reader suggested he be stripped of his uniform and sent home in disgrace.(Thanks, Andy.)
A friend recently told me she believes TV has significantly "dumbed down" the American public and lowered the collective IQ. After seeing and hearing the public reaction to this war, I am beginning to believe she is right.
I thought embedded print journalists were doing the public a service by giving them a close-up, personal view of the war without it being filtered through military minders and censors. Apparently, the public, at least that part of the public that prefers to get its news from TV, does not want that. What they seemed to want from this war was for the coverage to fit their own biases and preconceived notions. No other views were tolerated. And TV seems in large part to have given them exactly what they wanted.
at 11:03 AM
Bush: The poor aren't necessarily killers.The president, on the link between poverty and terrorist extremism:And the poverty problem -- listen, this nation is committed to dealing with poverty. First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill.
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Shocking Gall: Boycott Ford"Shock and awe"--as we all know by now--is a military euphemism for firebombing, dropping anywhere from 800 to 3,000 bombs on a country in 48 hours. But now Ford Motor Company is teaming up with country singer Toby Keith (whose song "The Angry American" includes the cornball lyrics "we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way") to cutesify the term. Keith's new tour, which will promote Ford's new F-150, will be dubbed the "Shock 'n' Y'all" tour. Yet another reason I'm glad to drive a Subaru.
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Carrying a peaceTwo Lutheran churches in the Twin Cities are suing the state of Minnesota for violating their religious freedom by passing the new conceal-and-carry gun bill. The law, which goes into effect next Wednesday, will allow places like churches to prohibit guns on premises, but forces them to allow guns in parking lots. This--argues Edina's Community Lutheran Church--goes against their Christian principles and the nonviolence they've been promoting since the Vietnam war. The church site also includes, adjacent the parking lot, a childcare center and playground.
It's nice to see the faithful weighing in on the antiviolence side of the debate. The Letters to the Editor section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has featured plenty of folks quoting the bible to support their right to lug a Luger (Christ said: "Let he who hath no sword, sell his cloak and buy one."). In this climate of fuzzy theology, I'm not sure how to take this letter-writer's screed:
Regarding the Legislature's recent "conceal and carry" decision, I've chosen to write a haiku poem:
If he had been armed
Jesus could have saved himself
at 1:06 PM
Sell your kid to RufflesIf you had a baby this week and chose to name it Horton-- after potato-chip maker Ruffles' 1950s mascot "Baby Horton"--you could win $50,000. Only trouble is, little Horton won't be your baby, but Ruffles'. Read the fine print:
By accepting Award, Award Recipient agrees, and agrees to confirm in writing, that Sponsor shall have the right to use Award Recipient's and Baby's name, likeness, voice, and biographical information in any and all media now known or hereinafter developed without territorial, time or other use limitations for advertising and promotional purposes (except where prohibited). By accepting Award, Award Recipient further agrees, and agrees to confirm in writing, that Award Recipient and Baby (where possible) shall take part in media events designated by Sponsor on times and dates as reasonably requested by Sponsor.
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Operation Gut PrivacyThe snitchily named Operation TIPS, a vast network of personal data on potential terrorists and law-abiding citizens, has been renamed yet again. First TIPS, then the ominious Total Information Awareness program, and now the Terrorism Information Awareness program, the Orwellian data tracking system is still just as scary. The Pentagon will gather information that could fill the Library of Congress more than 50 times over, stuff like passport applications, visas, work permits, driver's licenses, car rentals, airline ticket purchases, arrests or reports of suspicious activities. Plus it'll give federal agents access to commercial databases of financial, education, medical and housing records. Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, says that "Since 9/11, the FBI is authorized by the attorney general to go looking for information about individuals with no reason to believe they are engaged in, or planning, or connected to any wrongdoing."
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Manufacturing DissentRock and Rap Confidential writes that "the attack on the Dixie Chicks was a political maneuver no less calculated than the Watergate break-in." Phone calls urging radio stations to pull the Dixie Chicks from their playlists, it turns out, originated from Republican Party headquarters in Washington. And an alternative concert timed to draw crowds from the Chicks tour-opening show was organized by the Republican Party in South Carolina.
Earlier: Michael Franti's hip-hop band Spearhead has been under surveillance by the FBI for being part of the "resistance."
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Averting tragedy in the CongoThe war in the Congo has killed some 50,000 people in four years and displaced another 500,000 people from their homes. Fresh off the "liberation" of Iraq, you'd think the US might want to step in to avert another Rwanda-style humanitarian disaster. Nope. While the UN is discussing the issue, only the French--remember them?--have taken action.
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Rove gunning for FeingoldThe man who hand-selected Norm Coleman to run against Paul Wellstone in Minnesota's ugliest election is now meddling in campaigns a state away. Bush advisor Karl Rove is gunning for the Senate's remaining independent voice, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold. John Nichols writes that Rove wants to replace Feingold--co-author of the McCain-Feingold bill to restrict campaign contributions and a vocal opponent of the Bush agenda--"with a more pliable individual. Rove has already been calling around Wisconsin looking for just the right Republican challenger to Feingold's 2004 re-election. Indeed, he has been so aggressive that some Republicans are already complaining - as Minnesota Republicans did in the run-up to the 2002 Senate race there - that the White House is trying to impose its own candidate on the contest." (Via Cursor)
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Scanning the newsFiasco in Iraq: The contrast between US military might in Iraq and America's effectiveness in restoring peace and democracy in the country is like night and day. Some policy analysts call it a "fiasco." While Rumsfeld complains that "you couldn't know how it would end," Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute thinks "the Bush Pentagon is so reluctant to accept open-ended military commitments, so ill disposed to acknowledging that it has a military that isn't up to all the tasks they face, that it simply assumed that it could restore civil order with a small, small force."
Ass on Wheels: The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports: "Under current tax law, it's permissible to write off $25,000 from your taxes in the first year after the purchase of a 6,000-pound truck or SUV. (Then there's the gravy of 20 percent a year after that.) But the Senate bill increases the tax deduction to $100,000."
No surprise: Just south of my hometown, a pro-war activist got into a melee with an anti-war activist. All in celebration of Armed Forces Day.
Department of Defense misplaces $1 trillion! Not to mention 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, 36 Javelin missile command launch-units, and--don't forget--1 Osama.
at 8:16 AM
Dressing up democracyArundhati Roy:
Democracy, the modern world's holy cow, is in crisis ... every kind of outrage is being committed in the name of democracy. It has become little more than a hollow word, a pretty shell, emptied of all content or meaning... Democracy is the Free World's whore, willing to dress up, dress down, willing to satisfy a whole range of tastes, available to be used and abused at will.
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Truth in AdvertisingCalifornia Peace Action has taken out ads showing the infamous 1983 photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein after having brokered an arms deal in Iraq's war with Iran. The ads--to run on transit boards in DC, Boston, and Chicago and in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times--reads, in part:
U.S. troops die for the failures of policy makers. The war in Iraq marked the seventh consecutive time that American troops have been sent into combat against a regime the U.S. had previously backed. We aided both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. While American soldiers and innocent civilians paid the price, policy makers avoided accountability.Burned into the photo is the headline that predicts future US-funded wars: "Who are we arming now?"
at 8:44 AM
Oh God.The end really is near. Like one letter away. I accidentally transposed two letters in the URL for Eyeteeth and got this. Am I being targeted by fundamentalist apocalyptic nutjobs? It would seem so, but actually the "Mega site of Bible studies and information" owns the URL http://blogpsot.com/. So if you mistype the address of ANY weblog hosted by Blogger, you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about the end of days:
Will Russia and some Arab nations invade Israel and the U.S.A. become involved? Yes.Turns out you'll be directed to the same site if you try to access soapopera.com, mmjb.com (a miscue of MusicMatch Jukebox), aaronsbible.net/.com/.org.and God knows how many others. (Read through the guest book to see some of the odd mistyped URLs people used to access the site, from the former Iraqi website to porn pages.) Seems to me that if the "truth" they're pushing is so self-evident, they wouldn't need to be so deceptive to call attention to it. Then again, some people can't seem to discern between technological trickery and divine intervention. One guestbook signer wrote: "I found this site by accident but I'm very glad I did! Was it an accident or did God direct me here???????."
Will 1/4th of the world’s population die? Yes.
Will there be a one-world system or global economy? Yes.
Will diseases increase such as AIDS? Yes.
Did you know the Bible tells us about what is happening?
The Bible gives us over 50 descriptions about the people at the time of the end. These fit the people of today perfectly, but did not fit the people of fifty years ago. Here are some:
A. Some would depart from the faith and go into devil worship-1 Tim 4:1. This is perfect.
B. People would mock about the last days and not believe-2 Pe 3:3; Jude 18.
C. People would become lovers of themselves-2 Tim 3:1,2. Remember the TV commercials—"I do it for me"?
D. People would be disobeying their parents-2 Tim 3:1,2.
E. People would be grateful for nothing-2 Tim 3:1,2.
F. Homosexuality would increase-Lk 17:28,30; ref Gen 19:5; Ro 1:24,26,27.
G. People would be without self-control in sex-2 Tim 3:1,2,6; Rev 9:21, Lk 17:28,30; Jude 7. Is this not the great sex generation?
H. People would love pleasures more than God-2 Tim 3:1,2,4. This is true. Shall we go on a picnic, watch football, or sleep. Church?—we can go another time. Our American motto "In God we trust" has become a joke. Remember, these were all predicted centuries ago as part of the signs that we are at the time of the end.
I. People would be taking drugs-Rev 9:21. The Greek word for sorceries, in Rev 9:21, means pharmaceuticals or drugs. God’s Word is 100% right on every one.
It has been said that it is virtually impossible for anyone to make 11 straight predictions, 2000 years into the future. There is only one chance in 8 x 10 to the 63rd power, or 80 with 63 zeros after it that such a thing could be done. If such a set of predictions existed, it would have to be the Word of God.
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Unconcerned about bin LadenWhile the White House busies itself powdering the president's nose, giving "tax relief" to the rich, and leveling Baghdad in the name of American national security, terrorism seems somewhat unhindered. The truck bombings that killed 34 in Saudi Arabia on Monday appear to have been personally ordered by a still-living Osama bin Laden. Take Back the Media compiles quotes by an extremely distracted president on the issue of Osama:
"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." (09/13/01)
"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'" (09/17/01, UPI)
"...Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county . Now he's maybe in control of a cave. He's on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we're going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that's what's happening. He's on the run, if he's running at all. So we don't know whether he's in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open -- we just don't know...." (12/28/01, as reported on official White House site)
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." (03/13/02)
"I am truly not that concerned about him." (03/13/02, reported in The New American, 4/8/02)
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Calvin's urinary tractsWhat drives someone to express deeply held convictions through car-window stickers showing a cartoon boy or his tiger urinating? Boing Boing links to a lengthy, ahem, tract on the evolution of the "Calvin peeing on ________" meme. My favorite, a generation or two removed from the early versions, shows Calvin hosing off the words "JAP CRAP." Consider: does the owner of the sticker hate Japanese imports? Or, conversely, since our cartoon pal is taking a leak on the words, perhaps the driver despises the very notion, the concept if you will, of poorly made Asian autos: "I piss on the notion that you think the Japanese produce inferior transportation technology." I wish I'd asked the driver of the monster truck sporting that sticker to clear this up for me. In retrospect, it's probably OK I didn't.
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Dumping dowriesA bride in India has become a national hero for sending her husband to jail for demanding a dowry. UPI reports: "Nisha Sharma has now called on other Indian women to resist the demand for dowry, which is banned but widely expected in Indian society. Sharma, a 21-year-old software engineering student, called police when Munish Dalal and his parents allegedly demanded a car and $25,000 in cash at the time of her wedding."
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Oily adviserThe Pentagon's adviser overseeing the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry admitted that "absolutely" he faces conflicts of interest because of financial ties he has to companies bidding on the country's oil contracts. But rest assured: he promises to try to avoid any conflicts by distancing himself from the oil-contracting process.
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Made-for-TV presidencyPresident Bush seems to be all about image and very little about substance. Several reports have enumerated the extremes the administration will go to to "sell" policy decisions, influence opinion polls, and play for the cameras. And I'm not just talking about the costly and unnecessary press conference aboard the USS Lincoln:
The White House efforts have been ambitious — and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America's symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.To sell his monster tax plan, Bush appeared on TV in Indianapolis, but, to convey the impression that the tax cut benefits not just the rich, Bush staffers asked the VIP audience members to remove their ties. Sadly, this stuff works: despite a mushrooming deficit, a $350 billion tax cut just passed, and Bush's approval rating remains sky high. I wish we had an electorate that would vote on diplomacy and results, rather than manufactured, reality TV-style charisma.
For a speech that Mr. Bush delivered last summer at Mount Rushmore, the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.
And on Monday, for remarks the president made promoting his tax cut plan near Albuquerque, the White House unfurled a backdrop that proclaimed its message of the day, "Helping Small Business," over and over. The type was too small to be read by most in the audience, but just the right size for television viewers at home.
at 11:57 AM
Slam Dunks1. Dunkin' Donuts will become the first national brand to sell espresso drinks made exclusively with Fair Trade Certified coffee.
2. Organic fast food? That's what Real Mealz is. The chain is opening outlets in Germany and the Netherlands.
at 11:24 AM
Can Bush count?The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the government will end 2003 with the biggest budget deficit in American history: $300 billion. Some private analysts have painted a grimmer picture, putting the figure at $425 billion. Next week, Republicans will try to ram through legislation in the Senate--already passed in the House--that will raise the government's borrowing limit by $984 billion to $7.38 trillion.
And don't forget: 60 million Americans find themselves uninsured during a year, 2.7 million people who had jobs when Bush took office now don't, and the unemployment rate recently jumped to six percent. The president's solution to these woes--a plan shot down by Alan Greenspan: give $550 billion in tax cuts, primarily to the rich.
"Yes, I'm worried about the deficit, but I'm more worried about the fellow looking for work," said the president, preposterously, on his tax-cut campaign stop in Omaha. "I'm more worried about the single mom who's worried about putting food on the table for her children so she can find work."
at 8:17 PM
A day in the life.Tired of war, Bush, "and now the numbers," downsizing, unreturned phonecalls, tepid Democrats, country music, right-wingers, Cub Foods, potholes, Republicans, SARS, Fox News, loudmouth pundits, prescription drug commercials, pollen, dog-fur dustbunnies, beautiful people, cell phones, news about the Dixie Chicks, Dick Cheney, anything that rhymes with Rumsfeld, SUVs with flags, terrorism, much of the state of Texas, nicknames like Dr. Germ and Chemical Ali, "The Matrix Reloaded," my job, "Liberate Iraq" lawn signs, Darryl Worley, Clear Channel, orange-stained fingers from Cheetohs, Michael Powell, Tony Blair, redundancy, redundancy, the president's flight suit, people who say "Westconsin," patriotism, or whatever else is getting under your skin these days? I can't help with any of that. Sorry. But I can recommend a visit to A Day in the Life, a web site that shows a single photo every day. Just one. Shot by a different photographer from a different location. It's...simple.
at 7:53 PM
A friend of the workin' stiffThe Washington Post reports:
About 340 workers at an Omaha plastics factory will lose pay or have to work next Saturday to make up for time lost during a visit by President Bush on Monday to promote his "jobs and growth plan," their boss said today.
Brad Crosby, president of Airlite Plastics Co., said about 170 of his workers will lose a full day's pay and another 170 will be docked for part of their pay for Monday unless they make up the time they spend attending Bush's speech.
Airlite, which will shut down for its first shift and part of the second shift to provide a photogenic backdrop for Bush's speech, will be the Monday afternoon stop on a two-day swing by Bush to pressure senators to support a large tax cut as the measure heads to the Senate floor.
at 5:12 PM
Since President Bush took office in January 2001, some 2.7 million jobs have been lost from private-sector payrolls, including more than half a million in February through April alone, according to government statistics.
There is little in recent economic data to suggest a sharp resurgence in growth. The most optimistic projections see a recovery of only 1.5 million jobs by the end of 2004, leaving hundreds of thousands unemployed as they go to the polls.
at 7:31 AM
Loaves and McFishesIt may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, but how about a fat man? To fund the pope's fifth visit to Spain this year, the Spanish church is partnering with grease-giant McDonald's. Tickets to the two-day pope-a-thon will run from $11 to $43, and the faithful will leave with a bagful of Catholic schwag--"You Will be My Witnesses" tour cap, CD, rosary and prayer book--plus a full belly from meals provided by McDs. God and McDonald's: talk about a co-branding partnership made in heaven.
at 7:26 AM
What the f_ _ _ is up with the music biz?Trying to thwart illegal downloads of her new album “American Life,” Madonna released decoy mp3s on file-sharing network KaZaA that, while the full length of a single, carried only the queen of pop’s voice, sneering, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” An annoyed hacker community told Madonna what they thought: one broke into her website and posted three mp3s of “American Life” songs and quipped “This is what the fuck I think I’m doing...” And dozens of remixes called cutups and mashups (set to trance, house, and techno beats) of Madonna’s tsk-tsking have been collected on various sites. Dmusic is holding a contest for best remix, offering “Boycott RIAA” t-shirts and stickers for prizes. The New York Times says that the publicity caused by these remixes can only boost sales of an album filled with such “joyless narcissism”: “Planned or not, it's the kind of free-range collaboration the Internet was made for.”
In other music news, a Spanish artificial intelligence company has stumbled onto a computerized hitmaking formula, they say. Polyphonic HMI’s “Hit Song Science” analyzed every song from the last five year’s Billboard top 30 for factors including melody, beat, harmony, pitch, octave, and timbre. Studying the data clusters, they realized they could compare unreleased songs to past chart-toppers and predict its popular success. Sound silly? Sony, RCA, and Universal (UK) have already signed on, and Hit Song Science accurately predicted the success of 8-Grammy winner Norah Jones.
at 7:14 AM
Blogger glitchTry to say something nice about yer mom for Mother's Day, and Blogger won't let you. Apologies for the rather unremarkable, Blogger-glitch-inspired conclusion to the previous post. Happy mother's day, nonetheless. Especially you, Ma.
at 2:10 PM
Mothers Day Proclamation(s) of PeaceBefore Hallmark got to it, Mother's Day wasn't so much about flowers and cards and tender poems. It was about peace. Julia Ward Howe, best known for authoring the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," wrote the following proclamation in response to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. It's a call to arms, of sorts, calling women--and men--to be engaged mothers (and fathers):
Arise then, women of this day!Of course there were other Mother's Days, but this one seems most apropos today. I'm reminded, because of the example of my own mom--her example of peace-making, and the kind of Catholic social-justice "engaged spirituality" she and my dad taught me--of an excerpt from one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," which, ending with the powerful command "Practice resurrection," seems to fit the kind of mother's day we need today:
Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
'We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
'Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause.
'Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.
'We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
'From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own, it says "Disarm! Disarm!"
'The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
'Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.'
As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
Ask yourself: will this satisy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Wil this disturb the sleep
of a women near to giving birth?Seems like a decent measure to me. (After all Saddam and Osama and George W and Dick aren't women.) But women aren't faring so well in this world. Globally women (and children) suffer disproportionately in terms of poverty, violence and disease (Billl Gates speaking on NOW Friday night backs this up, as did Cheryl Thomas, director fo the 0 comments
Protest music"What does the peace movement need?" asks Sojourners associate editor Julie Polter. Music:
We need laments and elegies: Innocents (and innocence) have died and will again, and the struggle to hope is hard and haunted by loss. In "Solo le pido a Dios," Argentinean vocalist Mercedes Sosa sings, roughly translated, "All I ask of God is that I don't become indifferent to suffering."
We need rants and rally cries: Anger is often what shakes us out of fear or complacency and gets us to the street or voting booth. Le Tigre, Ani DiFranco, and the Coup might do. If your thing isn't newer music or curse words, dig out Public Enemy's "Prophets of Rage" or "Fight the Power," Dylan's "With God on Our Side," or most anything by The Clash.
We need wordplay and songs that make us move: Without humor and play, we'll tire before the job is done and drive others away with our self-righteousness. Stevie Wonder's 1974 "You Haven't Done Nothin'" seems especially prescient for the current administration ("We are amazed but not amused/ By all the things you say that you'll do") and you get the Jackson 5 singing backup on the "Doo, doo wop" chorus. Or sing along with Billy Bragg on "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards": "The Revolution is just a T-shirt away."
We need to sing, even if we can't agree on the song.
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HelliburtonCheney's former company, and current holder of a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq, Halliburton makes the news yet again:
The Houston-based company, once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, said it discovered during an audit that one of its foreign subsidiaries operating in Nigeria paid $2.4 million to an entity owned by a Nigerian national in order to get favorable tax treatment.
The individual pretended to be a tax consultant though he worked for a local tax authority, the company said in the filing. Halliburton said the payments 'clearly violated' its code of conduct and internal control procedures and added that it is cooperating with the SEC in its review of the situation. It may also have to pay as much as an additional $5 million in taxes in Nigeria.
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Democratizing oral historyIn an effort to democratize the recording of oral histories, radio documentarian David Isay is is building a 6 x 8’ confessional/recording booth so that passersby in Grand Central Station can stop and record their own histories. The Studs Terkel-meets-Karaoke-meets-This-American-Life project will expand, if funding permits, to locations throughout New York. His goal is to chronicle working life in the City as comprehensively (or moreso) as the WPA did two generations ago. "This is our beachhead against 'The Bachelor'" Isay said, referring to the reality television show. "It's about reminding America what kind of stories are interesting and meaningful and important." Read The New York Times’ story on the project.
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Rumsfeld's short attention spanIn The Two Faces of Donald Rumsfeld, The Guardian looks at Rummy's relations with North Korea and its nuclear industry: in 2000, he was on the board of a company that sold North Korea two light water nuclear reactors for $200 million. In 2002, he helped designate the country part of the "Axis of Evil" for its nuclear program. Rumsfeld doesn't "recall" the sale being brought before the board.
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You've heard of him now.Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London: "I think George Bush is the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties. He is not the legitimate president."
Ari Fleischer on the highest-ranking official in the UK's largest city: "I've never heard of the fellow."
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Murdoch, bias, and media concentrationOn the same day News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch tries to convince a Congressional committee to allow him to buy up satellite company DirectTV, the UK's Independent Television Committee is investigating Fox on nine complaints of bias. It's a strong case for stricter media ownership rules: if Murdoch owns everything, is a right-wing "warmonger," and runs a biased news operation, what becomes of an informed democracy?
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Irony: Not dead.The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn writes about the irony of the president's jet-landing on the USS Lincoln: Bush asked for a transfer from his Texas Air National Guard post in Houston to a desk-job in Alabama, then wandered off, a year early, never to return to the Guard. That story got some news coverage in the 2000 election campaign, enough to raise the "character issue," prompting Sen. Bob Kerrey to ask, "If he is elected president, how will he be able to deal as commander in chief with someone who goes AWOL, when he did the same thing?" But, as Zorn reports, the story all but died: searching through the LexisNexis database for the last seven months of the 2000 campaign he "found 114 stories referencing Bush, the Texas Air National Guard and Alabama. Over that same span, nearly 10 times that many stories--1,076 to be exact--referenced Al Gore and the expression 'invented the internet'"--a fact which has some, however exaggerated, basis in fact. Despite the dearth of reporting on Bush's AWOL year, wouldn't you think the press might catch the irony of an AWOL commander in chief donning a flight suit to play Top Gun? Nah. Zorn writes:
Imagine the derisive merriment in the columns and on the chat shows if former President Bill Clinton revived the skirt-chasing issue by touring a sorority house or if Gore delivered a lecture to the engineers at Netscape Communications Corp. Think of the snickering and the sardonic rehash of history.
But for Bush in flyboy attire, a discreet silence. The only voices I encountered raising this issue were David Corn in the Nation; Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin, who asked, "Tell me if you ever heard of anybody with as powerful a resistance to shame as Bush"; and talk station WLS-AM's token progressives Nancy Skinner and Ski Anderson, who spent a full hour Sunday afternoon savoring the irony of it all.
There was no relentless examination of the damning timeline on cable news outlets, no interviewing the commanders who swear Bush didn't show up where he was supposed to, no sit-downs with the veterans who have offered still-unclaimed cash rewards to anyone who can prove that Bush did anything at all in the Guard during his last months before discharge.
So much for the cynical distortion that has become conventional wisdom in many circles. So much for the myth of the "liberal media."
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Byrd on Bush's theatricsSen. Robert Byrd, in a speech yesterday:
...President Bush's address to the American people announcing combat victory in Iraq deserved to be marked with solemnity, not extravagance; with gratitude to God, not self-congratulatory gestures. American blood has been shed on foreign soil in defense of the President's policies. This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial. This is real life, and real lives have been lost. To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the President to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech. I do not begrudge his salute to America's warriors aboard the carrier Lincoln, for they have performed bravely and skillfully, as have their countrymen still in Iraq, but I do question the motives of a deskbound President who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech...Full text.
We are reminded in the gospel of Saint Luke, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Surely the same can be said of any American president. We expect, nay demand, that our leaders be scrupulous in the truth and faithful to the facts. We do not seek theatrics or hyperbole. We do not require the stage management of our victories. The men and women of the United States military are to be saluted for their valor and sacrifice in Iraq. Their heroics and quiet resolve speak for themselves. The prowess and professionalism of America's military forces do not need to be embellished by the gaudy excesses of a political campaign.
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Bush's photo opPaul Krugman on Bush's "Top Gun" campaign commercial aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln:
At first the White House claimed the dramatic tail-hook landing was necessary because the carrier was too far out to use a helicopter. In fact, the ship was so close to shore that, according to The Associated Press, administration officials "acknowledged positioning the massive ship to provide the best TV angle for Bush's speech, with the sea as his background instead of the San Diego coastline."Read it all.
A U.S.-based British journalist told me that he and his colleagues had laughed through the whole scene. If Tony Blair had tried such a stunt, he said, the press would have demanded to know how many hospital beds could have been provided for the cost of the jet fuel.
But U.S. television coverage ranged from respectful to gushing. Nobody pointed out that Mr. Bush was breaking an important tradition. And nobody seemed bothered that Mr. Bush, who appears to have skipped more than a year of the National Guard service that kept him out of Vietnam, is now emphasizing his flying experience. (Spare me the hate mail. An exhaustive study by The Boston Globe found no evidence that Mr. Bush fulfilled any of his duties during that missing year. And since Mr. Bush has chosen to play up his National Guard career, this can't be shrugged off as old news.)
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Free speech is organic.UPDATE 5/6: Sen. Linda Berglin reports that Dille's amendment was shot down and lines 8.6–8.11 have been removed!
Minnesota state Senator Steve Dille has inserted some keenly pro-business language into a new bill that's aimed to synch up Minnesota's organic farmers with the national organic standard. Dille's aim? To silence farmers who speak out against factory farming and large-scale feedlots. Here's the wording he's trying to insert into bill SF990:
7.34 (d) For the purposes of expanding, improving, andIn other words, if you're an organic farmer vocally opposed to factory farming, you won't get funding from the Department of Agriculture.
7.35 developing production and marketing of the organic products of
7.36 Minnesota agriculture, the commissioner may receive funds from
8.1 state and federal sources and spend them, including through
8.2 grants or contracts, to assist producers and processors to
8.3 achieve certification, to conduct education or marketing
8.4 activities, to enter into research and development partnerships,
8.5 or to address production or marketing obstacles to the growth
8.6 and well-being of the industry. The commissioner may not
8.7 provide a grant to or contract with an individual or
8.8 organization that in the previous 36 months has taken, or
8.9 participated financially in, an action to prevent a person from
8.10 engaging in agricultural activities or expanding an agricultural
Call Dille at 651.296.4131 now and tell him to nix lines 8.6 through 8.11 in SF
990, then call your state Senator and tell them to uphold the rights of farmers to speak out against practices that are endangering their livelihood and the environment.
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Abandoning Virtue?William Bennett--former drug czar, conservative Republican activist, and author of "The Book of Virtues"--wrote that we need "to set definite boundaries on our appetites." One unchecked appetite of Bennett's, writes Joshua Green in the Washington Monthly, is gambling:
Few vices have escaped Bennett's withering scorn. He has opined on everything from drinking to "homosexual unions" to "The Ricki Lake Show" to wife-swapping. There is one, however, that has largely escaped Bennett's wrath: gambling. This is a notable omission, since on this issue morality and public policy are deeply intertwined. During Bennett's years as a public figure, casinos, once restricted to Nevada and New Jersey, have expanded to 28 states, and the number continues to grow. In Maryland, where Bennett lives, the newly elected Republican governor Robert Ehrlich is trying to introduce slot machines to fill revenue shortfalls. As gambling spreads, so do its associated problems. Heavy gambling, like drug use, can lead to divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, and bankruptcy. According to a 1998 study commissioned by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, residents within 50 miles of a casino are twice as likely to be classified as "problem" or "pathological" gamblers than those who live further away.The Net's abuzz about this one, generating opinions on all sides (Slate and The Weekly Standard). My favorite is a commentary by Patrick Rooney of The Washington Dispatch:
If Bennett hasn't spoken out more forcefully on an issue that would seem tailor-made for him, perhaps it's because he is himself a heavy gambler. Indeed, in recent weeks word has circulated among Washington conservatives that his wagering could be a real problem. They have reason for concern. The Washington Monthly and Newsweek have learned that over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a "preferred customer" at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million.
The reasons [Jonathan] Alter and Green went after William F. Bennett are clear: 1. Bennett is a high-profile Republican and supporter of the president; 2. He’s at odds with the National Education Administration (NEA) from his stint as Education Secretary under Ronald Reagan and also for his K12 initiative which seeks to give parents and kids high-tech internet tools to succeed, thus threatening the NEA’s current education monopoly; 3. He was U.S. Drug Czar and articulated boldly against the legalization of drugs; 4. He has promoted heterosexuality and pointed out the danger of the homosexual life; and most recently 5. He has blasted the anti-freedom critics of our war with Iraq with clear, common-sense observations: “Those who march against the U.S. and the U.K. today, those who condemn Bush and Blair and remain silent when it comes to Hussein, are in league with the wolf’s view that the shepherds are destroying liberty.”Too moral, eh? I think the problem with the right is that it's only immoral if they're not doing it.
William Bennett was simply too rational, too articulate, too... moral, for liberals to take.
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Bush Pioneers revealedAs part of a lawsuit under way in Dallas, the Bush campaign was forced to reveal its full list of fundraising "Pioneers"--a cadre of 538 well-connected people. Each member agreed to raise at least $100,000, but, the records show, many generated three to five times that amount. Bush expects the group to raise a record-setting $200 million. What do the Pioneers get in return? According to the Houston Chronicle, at least 19 Bush Pioneers received ambassadorships. At least 44 are from the energy industry, including Enron's Ken Lay, who raised $112,000 for Bush. Tom Ridge, now the head of Homeland Security, raised at least $251,550. Court records show that Bush and Co. were lying about the scope of the Pioneer program, which until now listed only 212 members. "As we thought all along, the campaign was not being forthright in the size of the Pioneer network and the amount of money it was delivering to the Bush campaign," said Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice.
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Repost: Vaidhyanathan on Cultural DemocracyThe Eyeteeth interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan, NYU professor and author of the upcoming book "The Anarchist in the Library," has been making the rounds on the internet. A wide-ranging interview, it covers topics from the Patriot Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to the vital role of librarians in our culture. Read it here or pick up the link at Utne.
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Don't forget: Bush went AWOLIt's worth repeating, since the major media essentially blacked out the fact when reporting on the president's glorious campaign stop/jet landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln: essentially, Bush went AWOL on the last six months of his military obligations with the Texas Air National Guard. Remember that when you see W in his flight suit in the sure-to-follow campaign commercials.
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Attacks on journalists are war crimesFrom The Courier Mail:
US attacks on a Baghdad hotel housing foreign journalists and an Arab television station were war crimes, the head of the international journalist watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) said yesterday.
"Seeing an American tank firing at the Palestine Hotel and Americans hitting Al-Jazeera television, we're no longer talking professional risks. These are war crimes," said RSF secretary-general Robert Menard.
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Vicious about dogs, but not warNewsday's Jimmy Breslin wonders: why are people more pissed off about his comments about dogs than about the president's lies about the war: "I had written that the war was a fake and a fraud, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that George W. Bush was a myth, or thereabouts. Only a few people were angered. Most were vicious in defense of their dogs. That would seem to show where their interests are. The dog is more important than a war."
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Datamining Latin American votersThe Florida company that bungled voter registrations in 2000, disenfranchising thousands of black voters and throwing the election to George W Bush, has a $67 million contract with the Bush administration to gather detailed personal information, possibly illegally, on thousands of people in Latin America. Choice Point earned $11 million last year from the Department of Justice, but the Bush administration won't reveal what the data is being used for. Read the story in The Guardian.
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AdbustersThe new issue of Adbusters is out and includes the CD compilation "Live without Dead Time"--titled after a Situationist slogan--mixed by DJ Spooky and featuring tracks by Saul Williams, Asian Dub Foundation, Michael Franti, Public Enemy, Fugazi and others. Don't miss my story on Adcreep: how ads are weaseling their way into hospital-room TVs (General Electric's The Patient Channel, which features "health programming," interrupted by ads for prescription drugs: talk about captive audiences!), online video games, and--yes--weblog culture.
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