The early bird gets the, er, worm.

Apparently, the man who wrote Bob Hope's New York Times obituary has been dead since 2000. (Via Everything Isn't Under Control.)

Don't phone and drive.

Driving while on a cellphone is more dangerous than drunk driving, according to a new study.

Democratic identity crisis
(and progressives on the Middle East)

As some John Kerry supporters ask him to be more like Howard Dean, the Democratic Leadership Council urges voters to dump Dean because his antiwar views represent the party's far left-wing (Why is opposition to America's first preemptive--and therefore likely illegal--war considered far left-wing?). Me, I wish Dean might act a bit more like Dennis Kucinich.

A key difference between the Dems' most progressive candidates, as one reader points out, is their attitudes toward Israel and Palestine. While Dean aligns himself with the conservative pro-Sharon America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)--which supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and refuses to negotiate with the Palestinians (who, while guilty of their own violence against Israelis, have lost some 2400 people in Israeli attacks), Kucinich's more balanced approach actually includes the welfare of the Palestinians in the peace equation:
If we seek to require the Palestinians, who do not have their own state, to adhere to a higher standard of conduct, should we not also ask Israel, with over a half century experience with statehood, to adhere to the basic standard of conduct, including meeting the requirements of international law?
(Thanks, Heather.)


Achievements in Misogyny

In Las Vegas, something dubbed "Hunting For Bambi" is gaining popularity. Salon's Erin Ferdinand writes about the sport that transforms violence against women into good fun for red-blooded men: "men pay thousands of dollars to shoot paintballs at women wearing nothing but their tennis shoes. The hunted receive $1,000 if they get shot, or $2,500 if they can run for a full hour without getting hit. Each client receives a commemorative video of the game."

America is a religion

Monbiot in The Guardian:
...The United States is no longer just a nation. It is now a religion. Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness. As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory: "Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, "come out," and to those in darkness, "be free".'"

So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons. The people who reconstructed the faces of Uday and Qusay Hussein carelessly forgot to restore the pair of little horns on each brow, but the understanding that these were opponents from a different realm was transmitted nonetheless. Like all those who send missionaries abroad, the high priests of America cannot conceive that the infidels might resist through their own free will; if they refuse to convert, it is the work of the devil, in his current guise as the former dictator of Iraq...


Carry it forward.

A bumpersticker on the SUV of a Republican Senate staffer at the Minnesota state capitol reads, "It’s time to park the bus"—a reference to the iconic green bus driven by the late Senator Paul Wellstone and the countless Wellstone yard signs and bumperstickers that remain displayed nine months after his death. It joins the particularly caustic bumpersticker that reads, in trademark Wellstone green and white, "He’s Dead, Get Over It." While Democrats speculate that GOPers are behind the stickers, Republican spokesman Randy Wenke suggests the opposite: "For all I know Democrats put this on the car themselves in order to try to energize their base."

If the "Get Over It" crowd thinks Wellstone’s legacy went down in that plane in northern Minnesota, think again. Carry It Forward, a new film by Lu Lippold and Laurie Stern, will tell the story of Sheila and Paul Wellstone’s progressive populism, while WellstoneAction, a grassroots group founded by Mark and David Wellstone, is working to train armies of community activists in their dad’s brand of progressive organizing. It seems the bus is just getting rollin’ again.


Sensitivity Training 101

When Spain's troops begin their patrols in Iraq, their uniforms will include patches depicting the Cross of St. James of Campostela, popularly known as "the Moor Killer" for his role in leading the Christian conquest of Spain from the Muslims in the Middle Ages. "To put the Cross of St James of Compostela on the uniforms of Spanish soldiers supposes an absolute ignorance of the society in which they will have to carry out their mission," read an editorial in El Mundo. (From The Guardian.)

Howard Dean on George W. Bush

When George W. Bush ran for president three years ago, he promised us an era of responsibility in Washington--instead we've got an era of irresponsibility unparalleled in our history. A week after discovering that the cost of occupying Iraq will be double the original estimates, we found out that the nation's deficit is 50 percent higher than estimated just five months ago. In fact, during his two-and-a-half years in office, the President has misled us, the American people, on nearly every policy initiative his administration has put forth.

Trust and credibility are at the very heart of the relationship between a government and its people. And that trust demands that leaders level with the people about what they are doing, the reason they are doing it and the consequences of their actions. The very soul of democracy is at risk when leaders are not straight and truthful with the people.

By now, we all know that President Bush misled the American people on the rationale for war with Iraq. We now know that the Niger uranium claim was discredited, that evidence regarding aluminum tubes was highly questionable, and that the link to al Qaeda was virtually non-existent.

Last week I asked sixteen questions about the war in Iraq that must be answered if the American people are to understand the truth around the rush to war and the failure to plan for peace.

These questions are, however, only one piece of a far broader practice by this administration of misleading the American people and breaching the fundamental trust that they have placed in their elected leadership. This practice goes far beyond misleading the country and the world about the reasons for taking us to war in Iraq, this practice extends into the state of the nation's economy, its environment, its schools and beyond.

Mr. President, today I call on you to level with the American people not just about the situation in Iraq but about the true intentions behind the agenda your Administration is pursuing:

• You claimed that your tax cuts would create jobs. Instead we have three million fewer jobs in our economy than when you took office.
• You claimed that we would only run deficits that were small and temporary. Instead, we now face deficits in excess of $455 billion--the largest in history--and red ink as far as the eye can see.
• You claimed that your tax cuts would strengthen and stimulate the economy. Instead, we have record numbers of personal bankruptcies, home foreclosures, and an unemployment rate that is the highest in 9 years.
• You claimed that the deficits were caused by the costs of 9/11, the war on terror, and homeland security. In fact, the cost of your tax cuts is three times the amount of those items--and your deficit forecasts do not even include the costs of the Iraq war.
• You claimed that your education program would live up to its name and that No Child would be Left Behind. Instead, school districts all across the country, including in your home state of Texas, are dumbing down their tests to ensure that their schools are not labeled as needing improvement. No Child Left Behind turns out to be a huge unfunded mandate on local governments that now must raise property taxes or find other sources of revenue to meet their legal obligations under the Act.
• You named your environmental initiatives 'Clear Skies' and 'Healthy Forests' when the truth is that Clear Skies allows more pollutants into the air and Healthy Forests is little more than a bill to reward the logging industry.
• You claimed that national and community service are central to your vision for the country. Instead, you have sat idly by while membership in the program is threatened to be cut by 80 percent.
• And you visited soldiers wounded in Afghanistan on January 17th and had the audacity to promise to 'provide the best care for anybody who's willing to put their life in harm's way' when the previous day your Department of Veteran's Affairs cut off health care access to 164,000 veterans.

Mr. President, it is time for the truth. It is time for the truth on Iraq but, more importantly, it is time to level with the American people on the true intentions of your administration. It is time to end the empty rhetoric and false promises. The issues at stake are too serious: the lives of our soldiers; the livelihood of our families; the health of our children; the future of our world.

Let us instead work together to rebuild our national community-a community where we truly do not leave any child behind, where we preserve clean skies and healthy forests, and fulfill Harry Truman's dream of health care for all Americans. We must preserve the fiscal trust for our children and grandchildren and ensure that our seniors have access to the Social Security and Medicare that we promised them.

"Let's give people a reason to care about their government and to engage in politics again-to believe that their opinions matter and that their leaders listen. Let us work together to take our country back and to restore our lost idealism-to restore our moral force in the world community and to make this a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people. We can do this, and we will-one voter, one supporter at a time. We will end the empty rhetoric and make the American people believe again.

From TruthOut.org.

It's a grand old flag.

People are getting worked up about this photo. But here's the real flag desecration.


Who's unpatriotic now?

That's what Paul Krugman asks:
...the invasion of a country that hadn't attacked us and didn't pose an imminent threat has seriously weakened our military position. Of the Army's 33 combat brigades, 16 are in Iraq; this leaves us ill prepared to cope with genuine threats. Moreover, military experts say that with almost two-thirds of its brigades deployed overseas, mainly in Iraq, the Army's readiness is eroding: normal doctrine calls for only one brigade in three to be deployed abroad, while the other two retrain and refit.

And the war will have devastating effects on future recruiting by the reserves. A widely circulated photo from Iraq shows a sign in the windshield of a military truck that reads, "One weekend a month, my ass."

To top it all off, our insistence on launching a war without U.N. approval has deprived us of useful allies. George Bush claims to have a "huge coalition," but only 7 percent of the coalition soldiers in Iraq are non-American - and administration pleas for more help are sounding increasingly plaintive.

How serious is the strain on our military? The Brookings Institution military analyst Michael O'Hanlon, who describes our volunteer military as "one of the best military institutions in human history," warns that "the Bush administration will risk destroying that accomplishment if they keep on the current path."

But instead of explaining what happened to the Al Qaeda link and the nuclear program, in the last few days a series of hawkish pundits have accused those who ask such questions of aiding the enemy. Here's Frank Gaffney Jr. in The National Post: "Somewhere, probably in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is gloating. He can only be gratified by the feeding frenzy of recriminations, second-guessing and political power plays. . . . Signs of declining popular appreciation of the legitimacy and necessity of the efforts of America's armed forces will erode their morale. Similarly, the enemy will be encouraged."

Well, if we're going to talk about aiding the enemy: By cooking intelligence to promote a war that wasn't urgent, the administration has squandered our military strength. This provides a lot of aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden - who really did attack America - and Kim Jong Il - who really is building nukes...
Read more.


Free speech for me, but not for thee:
Sinclair, Fox and the FCC

A TV station in Madison, Wisconsin, has refused to run a commercial accusing the Bush admininistration of misleading the nation about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. The twist(s):
1. The ads were paid for by the Democratic National Committee.
2. The station, WMSN, is an affiliate of the demonstratedly right-wing Fox network, run by longtime Bush supporter Rupert Murdoch.
3. WMSN is owned by the fiercely conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Complaints by DNC chair Terry McAuliffe were met by a Fox spokesperson’s assertion that the decision wasn’t made on the national level: "You would think a man in his position would know the difference between a local affiliate and a national news network."

Of course that’s what’s funny about the story: WMSN is about as local as Wal-Mart. Sinclair Broadcast Group, a fervently rightwing network of 62 local stations nationwide, pipes in much of its on-air content from the corporate HQ in Baltimore. For a taste of Sinclair’s extremist bent, tune into NewsCentral and its commentary section, The Point. You’ll hear a Sinclair corporate VP calling peace activists "wack jobs" and the "liberal" media the "hate-America crowd." Given WMSN’s refusal to run a DNC TV spot criticizing the prez, last night’s edition was particularly audacious :
"Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…"

That’s from the First Amendment. The operative issue here is Congress. Congress shall not censor speech. But anyone else can and may. No private entity has an obligation to carry the speech of another, because that would violate the free speech rights of the carrier, be it a newspaper, magazine, Internet site, radio or whatever.

But John McCain and the Senate Commerce Committee don’t get it. They’re angry because radio stations – responding to listeners -- elected to not carry the Dixie Chicks earlier this year. Wake up, Senators. Hundreds of bands don’t get played on the radio every single day.

The irony here is that by threatening radio stations into playing certain groups the Senate Commerce Committee is--for all practical purposes--violating the First Amendment it claims to uphold. It’s time they step outside and get a good breath of fresh air.
Har-dee-har-har. Yes, the First Amendment’s a wonderful thing, as long as you’re not talking about Democratic ad campaigns! The whole commentary, though, feels more like whining: after Sinclair’s costly and enduring lobbying of the FCC to loosen media ownership rules in their favor, the House of Representatives has voted by a staggering 400-to-21 margin to do just the opposite.


Strong medicine.

While many senators were congratulating themselves for passing a deeply flawed Medicaire prescription drug bill for seniors, Minnesota's Mark Dayton--who reluctantly signed the lame legislation--inserted an amendment that would give senators "a taste of their own medicine." Doug Grow reports:
The amendment requires senators to receive prescription drug benefits no greater than those being proposed for senior citizens. It so happens the benefits proposed for seniors are drastically inferior to those currently enjoyed by our illustrious senators.

"I've never had so many dirty looks in my life," Dayton said of his colleagues' reaction to his amendment. "I didn't sense great enthusiasm for anything but to strangle me or have me removed from the building."

Short of strangling its creator, what was a pol to do with the "taste of our own medicine" amendment?

To vote for it meant the senators actually would be taking benefits from their own pockets. To vote against the amendment was a confession that the pols wouldn't want to live with the legislation they pass for others.

But our heroes didn't get to the Senate without learning how to wiggle out of tight spots. On June 24, the "taste of our own medicine amendment" passed in the Senate by a stunning 93-3 vote.

Don't, however, jump to the conclusion that Dayton has turned the U.S. Senate into a egalitarian culture. Despite their votes, many senators have no intention of being tied to the same pathetic prescription drug plan they devised for seniors.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper that covers the ins and outs of Washington politics, has reported that Republicans supported the Dayton amendment only because they were promised by caucus leaders that it would be killed even before the conference committee of House and Senate members dealt with it.

"Most members saw this [the amendment] as demagoguery," Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was quoted as saying in Roll Call. "We weren't going to condone it publicly by taking it seriously. So we all voted for it."

Neat twist. You're a demagogue if you want senators and citizens to receive like treatment...

Weapons of Mass Redaction

By the inimitable Maureen Dowd. Read it.

Muted objects.

I’ve long been enamored of objects. Growing up Catholic, I memorized the names of sacred objects—alb, patten, censor, scapular, monstrance, chalice—and encountered material things that were supposedly more spiritually hardwired than others. (One indelible memory from St. Francis Cabrini Elementary School: in homage to Christ’s real-life suffering, I filed down the center aisle of church to kiss the bloody, scuffed knees of a ceramic replica of Jesus on the cross.) As an advertising copywriter, I worked to convince people that of two functionally identical products one possessed mythic powers to make its owner happier, thinner, wealthier; later, as a writer for Adbusters, I helped debunk some of those myths. Now I work at a contemporary art center, a temple of objects testifying to processes that already occurred, energy already spent: Lucio Fontana’s art was the slashing of a canvas long ago, moreso than the defiled picture plane on display; Kazuo Shiraga’s Pollock-esque painting is energized by the knowledge that he created it not with brushes but with his feet while hanging from a rope.

Objects have stories, and that's what I love about them. An increasing problem with modern industrial culture, though, is that it mutes objects. As we maximize the distance between a product's creator and its user, we detach the thing from its stories. It wasn’t so long ago, writes Rebecca Solnit in an excellent essay for Orion, that
everything was recognizable not just as a cup or a coat, but as a cup made by so-and-so out of clay from this bank on the local river or woven by the guy in that house out of wool from the sheep visible on the hills. Then, objects were not purely material, mere commodities, but signs of processes, human and natural, pieces of a story, and the story as well as the stuff sustained life. It's as though every object spoke--some of them must have sung out--in a language everyone could hear, a language that surrounded every object in an aura of its history.
Today, objects are silenced: a sweatshirt from the Gap won’t tell of the abuses of the worker who made it, a gold ring is separated from the spent ore and the toxic processes used to extract it from the ground. And many people like it this way. Why should the suffering of a worker 3,000 miles away affect my enjoyment of a steaming cup from Starbucks? But while Marx wrote that "All commodities are only definite masses of congealed labor-time," Solnit concludes otherwise, ending on a hopeful note: "what cheers me are the ways people are learning to read the silent histories of objects and choosing the objects that still sing."


Bye-bye Bananas

Yes, we'll have no bananas ten years from now, according to experts. Insects, disease, and--more than anything--thousands of years of selective breeding have weakened the fruit to such a degree that scientists "will be unable to prevent the extirpation of the banana as an edible commercial crop." So, while new studies suggest genetically modified foods pose a "very low" risk to humans, there are bigger issues. The demise of bananas "may be one more powerful argument in the hands of those who are concerned about genetic modification of foods." (Via BoingBoing.)


Grinding out the news:
Upton Sinclair, media control, and capitalist journalism

Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders.

--Walter Bagehot
, journalist and economist (1826–1877)
Public discourse—mediated public discourse, that is—seems to be in rough shape. The New York Times has been struggling with scandals, the FCC is cozily cocooned in the pockets of corporate media owners, mainstream journalists essentially spout the Bush administration’s press releases on the war, and just about every news operation is clamoring to produce the mostly false rescue story of Jessica Lynch in Iraq. Just this week, I was shocked to see that Donald Rumsfeld’s admission that the war in Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction (a complete about-face from his pre-war statements) didn’t even make my local paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Shouldn’t this be a screamin’ front-page headline: "White House Lied About War Motivations"? From Jayson Blair’s fabricated news to the hyperbolized heroics of Pvt. Lynch, where’s the truth here? Backburnered to focus on stories that attract viewers and readers and, ultimately, make the media bosses richer? Or presented in such a way as to not scare off advertisers?

Probably, on all counts. Upton Sinclair--always an incisor, never a grinder, using Bagehot’s terminology--nailed it when he said, "Politics, Journalism, and Big Business work hand in hand for the hoodwinking of the public and the plundering of labor." Media scholar Robert McChesney described it in modern terms in his report to the UN on media ownership issues:
Alongside its merits…professional journalism also tends to generate a tepid journalism that reflects the range of existing elite opinion. It therefore reinforces conventional business-as-usual politics and marginalizes the new, the critical and the radical, especially if it is threatening to entrenched economic interest. It presupposes the capitalist status quo as the natural and proper democratic ordering of social life. On the most ominous work of the state that requires the greatest democratic monitoring—engaging in war—professional journalism has proven to be mostly a stenographer to those in power.
In the same report, McChesney adds that, "With hypercommercialism and growing corporate control comes an implicit political bias in media content. Consumerism, class inequality, and individualism tend to be taken as natural and even benevolent, whereas political activity, civic values, and anti-market activities are marginalized."

Don’t believe it? Adbusters magazine has been repeatedly told they can’t buy airtime for their Buy Nothing Day "uncommercials" because, according to an NBC spokesman, "We don't want to take any advertising that's inimical to our legitimate business interests" adding that Buy Nothing Day is "in opposition to the current economic policy in the United States." (Sinclair was in the same boat: he had to self-publish The Brass Check because no publisher would print it and no reviewers would write about it.) Those who do make it on network TV and profess non-mainstream opinions are characterized as hippies (peace activists), anarchists (antiglobalization demonstrators), or lunatics (Noam Chomsky). And consider how the Dixie Chicks became pariahs (for a moment) for saying they were embarrassed the president came from their home state, while rightwing loudmouths like Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage (although, thankfully, only on radio now), and Rush Limbaugh can spew hate without any sort of backlash.

How did things get so bad? One could argue, they’ve always been this way, with only varying degrees of severity. McChesney wrote an excellent piece for Monthly Review on Upton Sinclair’s little-known expose on the media, The Brass Check. Pointing out the bias in Progressive Era newspapers, Sinclair reported that newspaper owners used their papers to convey their own, always partisan and usually conservative, points of view. (Clear Channel’s pro-war rallies and their post-9/11 banning of "unpatriotic" songs by John Lennon and others seems to fit in here.) This was the era of "yellow journalism," when "profit-hungry publishers published whatever was necessary to attract the mass readership that would win over advertisers."

These days, the line between corporate America, American media, and the American government seems to blur. The "revolving door" of agencies like the EPA and the FCC is well documented. Likewise, no one’s surprised by the vast sums of money the Bush camp raises through "pioneer" fundraisers like Clear Channel CEO L. Lowry Mays and Enron’s Ken Lay. As Bush aims to raise a record-setting $200 million for the ’04 campaign, that staggering sum is still small potatoes compared to the money in big media. As McChesney reports, the merger of AOL and TimeWarner in 2000 was "470 times greater than the value of the largest media deal in history that had been recorded by 1979"—a sale valued at somewhere around $160 billion. This money, or a portion of it, has got to find its way back to the hands of those who broker the deals. Consider, the recent finding by the Center for Public Integrity that FCC officials met with big media representatives 71 times before the June 2 ownership vote that tipped in favor of corporate media; the FCC only met with the public a handful of times. From 1999 to 2002, the top 25 media companies spent $82 million on lobbying.

Again, looking back to Sinclair’s era, this stuff’s not new. In 1910 Charles Edward Russell wrote in Bob LaFollette’s magazine The Progressive, "If the people of the entire United States could be informed every day of exactly what happens at Washington and the reason for it, the peculiar stranglehold that the corporations have upon national legislation would last no longer than the next election." Well let’s make it so. Let’s be diligent and add momentum to the "media revolution" McChesney spoke of in his recent interview. It’s being spearheaded by groups as diverse as FAIR, Common Cause, Adbusters, Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy, and others. Join them, then write letters to the editor, to your local TV station, or the ombudsman at the daily paper (Lou Gelfand at the Star Tribune must be pretty sick of me by now). As Harvard professor Hugo Munsterberg wrote in 1911,
If the country is governed by public opinion, and public opinion is largely governed by the newspapers, is it not essential to understand who governs the newspapers?

War and the Vote

Retiring general Tommy "Bring 'Em On" Franks says we could be in Iraq at least another four years. Can our country really sustain that? It's costing us on average $3.9 billion a month--nearly double the $2 million previously estimated by Donald Rumsfeld--to maintain our forces in Iraq. With as many as 25 attacks against US troops happening each day, with deaths occurring almost daily, we have to weigh the human toll as well. All for a war that was sold on the premise that Iraq was in violation of UN Resolution 1441 and had weapons of mass destruction. All because, as the president said in the State of the Union address, Iraq at one time had "biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax... 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin... the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent..." With all those specific details, it's a tad disengenous that Rumsfeld now admits WMDs weren't the real reason for the war: "The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit [of WMDs] ...We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light - through the prism of our experience on 9/11."

This war--its (false) connection to the tragedy of September 11, the doctored intelligence documents, the president's outright lie about Iraq's access to uranium--must become a campaign issue next year. Americans, like Frederic, Wisconsin's Dan Gabrielson (killed yesterday by a rocket-propelled grenade north of Baghdad), are dying for it. And, according to one expert, it's not reducing the threat of terrorism one iota. There are plenty of reasons to vote Bush out of office--or impeach him--but this one tops my list.


News from the commercial front: trends, sell-outs, oddities of consumerism

Will the virtual Slim Shady please stand up? Forget MTV: more and more pop stars are choosing to debut their soon-to-be-hit singles on video games. Like pop-punkers Good Charlotte, whose "Anthem" was featured in the game Madden NFL 2003, Blink-182 will use the game's 2004 edition to premiere their song "Action." Hip hop star Fabolous went a step further; he used video-game maker Electronic Arts' ad motto as the title of the single "It's in the Game," which appears in NBA Live 2003. But for some stars, even that's not enough: celebrities from Jon Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne to game show host Alex Trebek and rapper Ludacris are negotiating with video game makers, including the maker of The Sims, to include their digitized likenesses in the games. Eminem's Slim Shady should be a game character early next year.

Sending out non-recyclable promotional CDs was once the sole domain of AOL, but now free CDs are, er, popping up everywhere—including in soft drink cup lids. The LidRock company produces CDs for independent record labels then embeds them into the lids of disposable soda cups at movie theaters. In one case, some 4.8 million of pop singer Rachel Farris' CDs will be distributed at Regal Entertainment Groups' 530 theaters in 36 American states. Such enhanced CDs, including music, videos and sometimes interviews, have been used by Acuvue contact lenses, Pepsi campaigns in Spain and Latin America eventually adding more than 2.5 million CDs to landfills. (Nomoreaolcds.com, founded in 2001, aims to deliver a million AOL CDs—a stack three times larger than the Empire State Building—to the company in protest of the free-CD practice. So far, they've collect 193,331 CDs.)

I See You. Since 9/11 we've seen an explosion in anti-terrorism technology, from advances in biometrics and recognition software to the installation of some 30 permanent surveillance cameras in downtown Minneapolis (donated by Target Corporation to police the 22-block region surrounding their corporate HQ). But the mother of all surveillance tools might be the touchy-feeling sounding LifeLog project currently being developed by the US government's DARPA. An "ontology-based (subsystem)," LifeLog tracks every aspect of a person's interactions with the world using "a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audio-visual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual's health," according to Wired. While participation in the program is voluntary, civil libertarians are wondering what the applications might be. If the intent is to create behavioral profiles to help weed out potential terrorists, make sure your morning latte run and leisurely park-bench rendezvous with the daily paper don't coincide with Saddam's.

Net worth. With the internet overrun by corporations--a 2001 study by Jupiter Media Matrix determinded that 14 companies control 60% of users online time (down from 110 companies in 1999)--the future of independent online media doesn't look good. FCC media bureau head Ken Ferree announced last week that there's no need to impose rules preventing broadband internet providers from altering or entirely blocking out content created by its competitors. So, if Eyeteeth pisses off AOL Time Warner, there's nothing to stop them from keeping my site off of AOL altogether. Something hopeful: the Ninth Court of Appeals ruled recently that bloggers deserve libel protection, since blogs repost already available material and, thus, consist entirely of commentary (i.e. speech). Take that, AOL.

You're the man. Or not. According to The Guardian, trend-spotter Marian Salzman coined the term "wigger" (a white surburban hip-hop fan) and predicted the resurgence of '70s fashion. Let's hope she's not right about this catchword: the "metrosexual man"--target market (and wuss) extraordinaire. I quote: "marginalised by the women's movement, portrayed as useless in TV sitcoms and told by scientists that his Y-chromosome is in decline [he] is worth millions to marketers. Advertisers, she argues, will soon be capitalising on his low self-esteem and targeting him with products to 're-empower' him. Meanwhile, you can recognise metrosexual man, says Salzman, by the fact that he's increasingly family-focused and struggling to adopt female characteristics in a world in which gender traits are converging. 'The definition of what it means to be male and middle-aged is changing... tits and arse will be replaced with appeals to men's minds; the laddish must give way to the sensitive. I don't think companies realise how much men have changed.'"

For balance: I've posted it before, but here--again--is an excerpt from Wendell Berry's brilliant poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


FCC Rollback

If the country is governed by public opinion, and public opinion is largely governed by the newspapers, is it not essential to understand who governs the newspapers?

-- Harvard professor Hugo Munsterberg, 1911
An action alert from Bob McChesney's Free Press:
A month ago the FCC dramatically relaxed media ownership regulations, stifling the cornerstone of American democracy: a free, fair, and open public debate.

Because one million Americans raised their voices against the FCC decision, the Senate Commerce Committee recently sent a bill to the Senate floor for a vote that would roll back many of the rules. Today the challenge is to get that bill to the floor of the Senate and House for a vote.

Call your Congressional representatives and demand that they support the rollback.


An opening salvo:
Robert McChesney on democracy, the FCC, and launching a media revolution

We shouldn't be surprised, says media scholar Robert McChesney, that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) didn't side with the American public when it voted on June 2 to loosen rules governing how many media properties one company can own. The decision, dubbed "the fastest, most complete cave-in to big corporate interests" by US Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), fits into the FCC's long history as a "captured" entity working for the benefit of big media. But McChesney says there's hope: the unprecedented outcry against the rule changes—750,000 people flooded the FCC with comments, and after June 2, some 300,000 more contacted Congress—is merely the opening salvo of a new revolution in media activism. The co-author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy, Our Media, Not Theirs, and others and professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, McChesney spoke with me last Tuesday.

Paul Schmelzer: How do you rate the health of democracy when you consider the recent FCC fiasco? On one hand, FCC chair Michael Powell disregarded some 750,000 public comments overwhelmingly against loosened media ownership rules, while at the same time he and other FCC staffers met with media representatives 71 times. On the other, the elected members of the Senate Commerce Committee jumped in to fight for the will of the people, voting to undo the FCC's decision. How’s our democracy faring?

Robert McChesney: Boy, that’s an interesting question. I think democracy is not healthy at all in the United States, nor has it been in awhile, and it’s certainly not getting better by almost all objective criteria. But, at the same time, you can look at the FCC media ownership debacle as in fact indicating that there might be a resurgence of popular interest, certainly in an area that has traditionally been entirely off limits to the public or public participation. It’s been done in the most corrupt manner imaginable behind closed doors. One can look at what’s taken place in United States in the last six months as extraordinarily hopeful, in that sense, to democracy.

PS: The Commerce Committee stepping in was promising, if unexpected, but the FCC head Michael Powell doesn’t believe he’s in the business of public interest.

BM: The matter is far from resolved. The Senate and the House can overturn what the FCC has done, and the odds aren’t great that they will. Or even if the Senate does so, both the leadership in the House and the White House are dead-set against overturning what the FCC has done. But something could happen in the appropriations committee where a rider is added to a bill to de-fund what the FCC has done to stop it. So it’s very much in play now, certainly as much now as it was before the FCC vote on June 2nd.
What's happened in the last six months is the opening salvo of a whole new wave of political activism around media policy issues, unlike any we’ve ever seen in this country.
So I’d say we shouldn’t be talking in the past tense because we’re right in the middle of it right now and it’s very much up-for-grabs in the next three or four weeks. And even if we are to lose in the coming weeks and the FCC’s decision stands, I don’t think that means everyone just goes back to sleep for another 65 years. I think instead what we can anticipate and should anticipate is that what’s happened in the last six months is the opening salvo of a whole new wave of political activism around media policy issues, unlike any we’ve ever seen in this country, or certainly not in modern history. We should expect that this will be an issue and will remain an issue for the foreseeable future on the stage as a legitimate political issue.
PS: So what do you think is behind the FCC’s vote on June 2. Mere greed?

BM: There’s absolutely no element of surprise about what the FCC did. The shock would’ve been if they voted any other way… It’d be impossible to know anything whatsoever—one one-millionth of one percent—about the FCC and be surprised by what they did on June 2nd. The shock on June 2nd was that two of the five members so adamantly opposed what was done, in the strongest and most principled language imaginable. That’s what was unprecedented in FCC history. The shock on June 2nd was that 750,000 Americans e-mailed, wrote and telephoned the FCC saying “We don’t approve of this”—and maybe 10 Americans wrote, emailed, and telephoned saying “We do”—despite the fact that the chair of the FCC, Michael Powell, exclusively asked Americans to contact him and tell them what he thought. He found out, and he ignored him. That’s what was surprising.
There’s absolutely no element of surprise about what the FCC did. The shock on June 2nd was that 750,000 Americans e-mailed, wrote and telephoned the FCC saying “We don’t approve of this."
The way the FCC has always worked has been exceptionally corrupt throughout its history. This is no change in pattern. Traditionally the FCC is your classic “captured” regulatory agency: it has internalized the values of the industry it regulates. So Michael Powell naturally thinks what makes money for the biggest media companies means they’re doing a better job of serving the public, so my job is to help them to get bigger and richer. The empirical evidence—as in the case of radio that shows that making the biggest companies richer doesn’t serve the public—he just basically ignores or dismisses as baloney. But he doesn’t face up to that because he’s so captured by this mindset. This mindset has traditionally been encouraged as well by the pattern of most members of the FCC, upon leaving the FCC, accepting very lucrative positions with the very industries they were once regulating. That’s been the pattern, and Michael Powell will probably follow in that pattern; unless he wants a political career, he almost certainly will… Is it greed? Greed? Yes, but that’s not really the correct word. The correct word is corruption. That’s the accurate term to describe what the FCC has done. Exceptional corruption. World-class, major-league, in-your-face corruption. And that’s the only way to understand it. It’s the perfect word to describe it.
Is it greed? Yes, but that’s not really the correct word. The correct word is corruption. That’s the accurate term to describe what the FCC has done. Exceptional corruption. World-class, major-league, in-your-face corruption.
PS: How would you respond to Michael Powell who famously admitted his ignorance about what “public interest” means? I think if it’s the guy’s job, he should come to an opinion about this. He also says it’s Congress’ job to respond to the will of the people, not his, as the head of a regulatory agency.

BM: It’s his job, theoretically, to do what Congress tells him to do… Congress is supposed to give him general guidelines and he’s supposed to implement these guidelines. Where Congress ends and the FCC begins, of course, is a gray area that’s subject to debate and interpretation. But, he’s correct: he’s not supposed to be making fundamental philosophical decisions. Those are supposed to be made by our representatives… The fact, though, is that the Congress sends mixed messages, and it gives him an enormous amount of gray area to move in a direction he’s most comfortable. And his comfort zone is serving the big corporate media owners, pure and simple. And that’s where he’s naturally going to gravitate, unless he gets explicit wording to the contrary out of Congress. Congress has woken up on this issue. And what they’ve done the past two months has been extraordinary. But traditionally Congress has not been a place you’re going to get a lot of criticism of commercial media. It’s just not going to happen there. Politicians depend on commercial media for coverage. There’s a very powerful lobby. They don’t want to mess with it. And there’s nothing to be gained by messing with it. You’re not going to get any votes for doing it, generally speaking. These issues are off limits, they’re usually behind closed doors. Once again, what’s striking in the last few months has been the huge increase in the number of members of Congress who are willing to stand up to that lobby.
But traditionally Congress has not been a place you’re going to get a lot of criticism of commercial media. Politicians depend on commercial media for coverage. There’s a very powerful lobby. They don’t want to mess with it.
PS: I’m trying to look at the big-picture issue here, and I’ve been reading a lot of what you’ve written (on Upton Sinclair’s critique of Progressive Era newspapers and your report to the UN Research Institute on Social Development on global media ownership trends). I’m wondering if this whole FCC debate is the harbinger of bad things to come or does represent a nearing culmination of actions under way.

BM: I look at the glass as being half-full. Harbinger of bad things? Nothing about what the FCC did should surprise anyone who’s studied this, as I’ve said before. This is the logical culmination of what’s been going on the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years. There’s no grounds for getting upset about this today any more than there was three years ago or seven years ago. In fact, a year ago when the FCC announced it was going to do this review, I wrote an article saying, “It’s done. The fix is in. We have no hope.” The real story here is how the fix wasn’t in. They couldn’t pull it off so smoothly. That, in fact for the first time in US history, there was an enormous grassroots campaign to oppose it. Unprecedented! And it still blows the minds of everyone in Washington. William Safire, the conservative columnist who writes for the New York Times, has written three or four columns critical of the FCC [and] he said in his last column he’s never written articles that have gotten so much popular response—letters, e-mails he’s received, all favorable. This is an issue that’s just simply exploded in our society. Common Cause, the group that does public interest lobbying in Washington, their head, Chellie Pingree, said that by far this issue is the one that their membership has been most excited about of any thing they’ve ever worked on. It’s just exploded. People get it.
We might not succeed. But what we’ve done already is throw a few hand grenades and raised a little bit of hell in a way that no one anticipated.
And the real story here is exactly how the path we’ve been on is now being challenged. Now, we might not succeed. But what we’ve done already is throw a few hand grenades and raised a little bit of hell in a way that no one anticipated. All the smart money thought the fix was in, I thought the fix was in. This is what’s exciting. We don’t know where it’s going to go. But we do know nothing will ever be the same again. We do know that there are going to be lots of people organizing on this issue in Washington and around the country to reform our media system in a way that was unthinkable three years ago. That’s what we do know.
PS: How did that all happen? How did this grassroots thing happen when there was a virtual blackout from the mainstream media.

BM: That’s a great question. You had a lot of people working on it in the margins, and I think that a lot of things came together. I started a group called Free Press; we started that group in December, thinking that we were going to slowly ramp up in two or three years to be a media activist group. Suddenly we’re thrown in the middle of this fight, so we sort of became a serious organizing group right away. Most importantly, I think, was groups like MoveOn, the antiwar group. This is a membership-driven group with over a million people who participate via the internet. And their members during the antiwar drive were so upset by the terrible press coverage in the US news media that when the word got out the FCC was going to give companies like Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel the right to own a lot more media than they already own, the people flipped out and said, “This is absurd!”That gave a lot of momentum to this drive. People linked up the fact that we’re making lousy policies in support of this war and crappy media coverage, and the media coverage is being provided by a couple of companies that want to increase their power. I think that generated lots of enthusiasm and interest, and a lot of the momentum that opposed the invasion of Iraq went to people who said “OK, let’s nip this thing in the bud and stop having a press system, a media system where this corporate media serves up the government line uncritically to us.”
MoveOn's members during the antiwar drive were so upset by the terrible press coverage in the US news media that, when the word got out the FCC was going to give companies like Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel the right to own a lot more media than they already own, the people flipped out and said, “This is absurd!”
And I just think the truth of the matter finally dawned on people in a manner it never has before, which is: media are very important to politics in this country. The right-wing has understood this for a long time. Since the 1960s and 1970s, they’ve devoted inordinate influence to making the media more sympathetic to the political right. They understood that once they accomplished that, everything else would fall into place. I think a lot of people realized: they know something we don’t. So I think you’re seeing a lot of minority groups, journalists, who sort of feel that what they’re doing is impossible to do in the commercial environment. Recording artists, musicians, entertainers, directors. People in the kitchen of corporate media see what concentrated ownership has done to their ability to do good work. All these groups said, hey, this issue became a symbol of the problems with media, and they jumped on it.

Finally, the whole notion of concentrated media is anathema to everyone. That’s why 750,000 people contacted the FCC and the 300- or 400,000 since then who’ve contacted Congress runs 99.99% against letting fewer companies own more media. You could probably find more people who want to put Osama bin Laden on Mt. Rushmore than you can find who want to let fewer media companies own more media in this country. It’s simply a non-starter across the political spectrum. That’s been the corruption of this that’s become transparent, because the arguments on behalf of this are ridiculous and implausible.

PS: It seems that the Left’s tactic with media is related to content: get the protesters out and get coverage. And, while the Right does that too, it seems they’ve been working at the structures that underly media much longer: who gets the licenses, how the spectrum’s divvied up…
You could probably find more people who want to put Osama bin Laden on Mt. Rushmore than you can find who want to let fewer media companies own more media in this country.

I think you’re right. The left hasn’t fought over these policy issues until now. They’ve either not recognized them as serious issues, so they haven’t felt they’ve had a hope, and I think increasingly they’ve seen their leverage in the political culture and the media culture as much less as a result and, absolutely, they’re wising up. You can’t expect to get favorable coverage of an antiwar movement, or even decent coverage of the war, on the radio when one company owns all the stations, like Clear Channel, that’s sponsoring pro-war rallies and its management is completely in bed with the current administration. It’s just unthinkable to ban the Dixie Chicks when they say something critical about the maximum leader. This is simply not going to happen, and people have to wakeup to it.

PS: So, how does this all fit into the conservative values of free market capitalism or neoliberal ideology?

BM: What can be said without trying to get into the motivations—the unspoken motivations, which gets us into a difficult turf of moronic speculation—is that having corporate commercial media is a crucial part of the US global vision for the world. Has been for a long time, but especially since the early 1980s at the dawn of what’s called neoliberalism, under Reagan and Thatcher, and certainly carried on since then by the United States and Britain. This vision of the world is one in which the non-profit, non-commercial sector is small, in which commercial interests run everything, and it’s one in which the idea of media as a commercial enterprise is central, under the belief that, if it’s a commercial enterprise, the chances are very good that the coverage and culture that will emanate from it will be sympathetic to broader commercial interests. And I think that’s true. And that’s why they proposed it and pushed it worldwide.
PS: Isn't there also a problem with appointed officials? Michael Powell, like the Electoral College and the Supreme Court that decided the last election, seems to have increasing power…

BM: I think that’s more or less the way its always been, but I think the problem you’re getting at, though, is there’s an anti-democratic… the stuff like Electoral College, that’s not a recent development. The US Senate was put in as an explicitly anti-democratic institution, and it was an appointed body until the 20th century… It was a house of lords keeping check on the unruly masses. The Supreme Court, part of its function historically was to be a check on the unruly masses as well that might get out of hand in the House of Representatives.
Having corporate commercial media is a crucial part of the US global vision for the world. This vision of the world is one in which the non-profit, non-commercial sector is small, in which commercial interests run everything, and it’s one in which the idea of media as a commercial enterprise is central, under the belief that, if it’s a commercial enterprise, the chances are very good that the coverage and culture that will emanate from it will be sympathetic to broader commercial interests.
Our system has always had significant anti-democratic elements built into it, and it’s impossible to read the Federalist Papers today and not see quite clearly a theme running through these debates of this tremendous concern that the mass of the population couldn’t be trusted to govern their own lives, that they’d threaten the status quo if they were given that sort of power. So those problems still remain, and there are forces in our society in the United States who are very much of the school that we should minimize the role of popular forces in our society. The problem with all these appointed officials, like Michael Powell, is the elected aren’t always that much better. This is where we have to look at things like the role of big money in politics, the role of lobbyists, the corruption of that side. While they are accountable to elections, most elections in our country are no more competitive than were the elections to Stalin’s Politburo. The vast majority are not even contested in any serious manner. We have deep fundamental problems with regard to democracy in the Untied States. Appointed positions is part of it, perhaps, but a lot of it goes to the structure of how our system was set up. And a lot of it has to do with the corruption of how our politicians are selected, and just the way our system is set up to discourage effective popular involvement, all along the way.

PS: So, where do you see the next battle for information control taking place? The internet? FCC media bureau chief Ken Ferree just said this week that "net neutrality” isn’t a big concern; that is, the FCC need not enact regulations to prevent broadband internet providers from altering--or filtering out completely—web content generated by their competitors.

BM: There are a number of issues that will be alive in the next year or two. Internet issues are some of them. Public broadcasting will be a big issue to come to play. Advertising to children. Ownership of radio stations. There’s a whole series of issues people will be organizing around. The group I’m with, Free Press, we list them on our website. Ken Ferree, who is really cut from the same sort of knucklehead mold of Michael Powell—whatever makes money for the big guys is good, and my job is to come up with some bogus fig leaf to put over their self-interest, that’s his motto—we’ll be battling Ken Ferree. He’s going to be on the wrong side of every fight until he leaves his position with the FCC and accepts a job working for industry at a very high salary. That’s his career trajectory. His work should be understood in that context, that’s what he’s all about.
That’s the big picture here: getting the people involved in the policymaking for media policies to recreate the structure. That’s the revolutionary change we’re in the midst of right now. It’s like the Civil Rights movement in 1951. It’s not 1963, it’s 1951. But it’s not 1896 either. We’ve come a long way in the last year.
We’ve got a lot of fights in front of us. But keep in mind—I’m going to be Johnny One-Note here--that until this year we would’ve thought that all these fights would’ve been done behind closed doors with minimal public involvement and would’ve had terrible outcomes. That would’ve been obvious. Now, suddenly, everything’s in play. Now, suddenly, we might have millions of people get involved in these issues, whereas before it was hundreds in many cases, not even thousands. Now, suddenly, there’s a chance we can actually win these issues. We can actually change our media environment in a way that would’ve been unthinkable six or 12 months ago. Whether it’s gonna happen, that’s gonna take a lot of hard work, but now it’s not totally absurd to talk about it. It was totally absurd to talk about it in these terms ayear ago. It was totally hypothetical.

PS: In your UN report, you mention efforts to have the World Trade Organization regulate culture. Is there a movement to categorize culture as trade?

BM: Oh yeah. That’s one of the big issues in the whole global trade negotiations. It’s been fought out, and it hardly gets any press coverage at all and very few people know about it. But it’s a hot issue, absolutely.

PS: It strikes me if that happens—if intangibles are regulated the same way as tangible goods—we might not have Bollywood, the Cannes festival, and Japanese gameshows where contestants endure excruciating pain to win big prizes.

BM: I don’t know. The logic of what the trade deals are would basically eliminate the ability to have public subsidies, so public broadcasters would be in deep doo-doo. They’d eliminate government subsidies as unfair competition with commercial media. And they’d also make it easier for US and international/transnational companies to go in and buy up local media. I think those are the two direct implications. Then you can consider what the logical results of that would be.

PS: As we focus on the 45% cap and the cross-ownership in the recent debates, is there a bigger question we’re missing?

BM: It’s a much bigger question. Our media system operates the way it does because of its structure. The structure is due almost entirely to policies, government policies made in the public’s name, entirely outside the public’s informed consent. So now basically, we have a debate emerging that maybe we should have these policies reflect the public… That’s the big picture here: getting the people involved in the policymaking for media policies to recreate the structure. That’s the revolutionary change we’re in the midst of right now. It’s like the Civil Rights movement in 1951. It’s not 1963, it’s 1951. But it’s not 1896 either. We’ve come a long way in the last year. Whether it’s going to keep going at this pace, I don’t know. I’m doing everything I can to blow on the flames. A lot of people are. We’ll see. I think it will. I think this has legs.


The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

--Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)


Independence day: Required reading

The Declaration of Independence: read it closely. It goes something like this:
...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

Faux News

Twisting Fox's "We report. You decide." news tagline, Agitproperties.com was doing a brisk business with their parody t-shirts for "Faux News: We distort. You comply." Then the fog of war set in: the country stopped buying antiwar merchandise and the Agitproperties' web hits dwindled to a few hundred a day. Then Fox got wind of the satire and sent a cease-and-desist letter. Now t-shirt sales are booming, and hits are soaring over the 41,000/day mark.

A link from the neoconservative Free Republic includes a subscription-only Salon.com story on Fox's actions, plus reams of rants from flipped-out Freepers.

Hearing voices

George W. Bush to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Mazen:
God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.


Courtesy The Guardian, a brief history of Liberia (requires Flash), and why you should care.


Driving America

The Operation Iraqi Freedom SUV: obscenely large with a veneer of patriotism hiding its insatiable appetite for oil. How fitting.

Support our troops?

An Army Times editorial blasts the Bush Administration:
In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap — and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones...

US missile plan renders allies obsolete

The Guardian reports:
The Pentagon is planning a new generation of weapons, including huge hypersonic drones and bombs dropped from space, that will allow the US to strike its enemies at lightning speed from its own territory.

Over the next 25 years, the new technology would free the US from dependence on forward bases and the cooperation of regional allies, part of the drive towards self-sufficiency spurred by the difficulties of gaining international cooperation for the invasion of Iraq...

A US defence website earlier this month invited bids from contractors to develop the technology and the current edition of Jane's Defence Weekly reports that the first flight tests are scheduled to take place within three years.

According to the website run by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) the programme is aimed at fulfilling "the government's vision of an ultimate prompt global reach capability (circa 2025 and beyond)".

The Falcon technology would "free the US military from reliance on forward basing to enable it to react promptly and decisively to destabilising or threatening actions by hostile countries and terrorist organisations", according to the Darpa invitation for bids.

The ultimate goal would be a "reusable hypersonic cruise vehicle (HCV)... capable of taking off from a conventional military runway and striking targets 9,000 nautical miles distant in less than two hours."