Utne/Media reform

Check out the new issue of Utne, where I ponder such ponderables as whether a real movement for media reform is in the works or whether the groundswell of activism surrounding the FCC's June 2 vote on media ownership is just a blip of consumer outrage. It's on newstands now, or buy it digitally here. You'll be inspired.


A view from the inside. "George Bush isn't in control...the country's been hijacked," says Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Middle East specialist for the Undersecretary of Defence for Policy. She describes how "key [governmental] areas of neoconservative concern were politically staffed," adding: "What these people are doing now makes Iran-Contra look like amateur hour. . . it's worse than Iran-Contra, worse than what happened in Vietnam."

Linguist Noam Chomsky predicts that the Bush administration will "manufacture" a new threat to the American people in order to win the next election. "They have a card that they can play... terrify the population with some invented threat, and that is not very hard to do."

The FDA says meat and milk from cloned animals is safe to eat. Right now, the technology is too expensive for your butcher to sell much of the stuff, but when it becomes feasible, pray for a labeling law.

According to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, "More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years... Those companies donated more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush—a little over $500,000—than to any other politician over the last dozen years."

Will Bush's outright lie about the "Mission Accomplished" banner be his undoing? Dave Lindorff writes: "As voters, we're willing to forget many things. We'll forget about the stealing of an election, about scandals like the doctoring of a report on global warming, even about the deliberate outing of a CIA agent. But we won't forget being taken for yokels with a cheap lie."

A draft of Minnesota's statewide public school standards in social studies has come under attack for its conservative bias. While the standards aim to "reflect the greatness of the country," according to Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, the standards fail to include presidents Kennedy and Johnson while giving multiple mentions of Reagan and Eisenhower. Said Yecke, "I don't believe in the hate America agenda, and it would be inappropriate to have that agenda in our standards."

A young design guy and a 71-year old with tendonitis have teamed up to make some pretty cool t-shirts. Check out their limited-edition wares at sharpastoast.com.

Due to a server error, BoingBoing has been temporarily been moved.

Pun intended. Here's a book I thought I'd never see: The Pop-Up Kama Sutra.


Banner boondoggle

The New York Times covers Bush's fib about who put up the "Mission Accomplished" banner.



A Microsoft employee, noting on his personal blog that the PC maker had ordered a batch of new Apple G5's, got canned from his job for it!

The organic movement is gaining momentum in, of all places, Harlem, East New York, and Brooklyn. At least 6,000 New Yorkers, including many in the poorer parts of the city, have joined together in buying clubs and CSAs to get organic vegetables fresh from the farm.

Remember when the prez staged that expensive fly-in to the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce the end of major combat in Iraq? So did a reporter at yesterday's news conference: "At that time you declared major combat operations were over, but since that time there have been over 1,000 wounded, many of them amputees who are recovering at Walter Reed, 217 killed in action since that date. Will you acknowledge now that you were premature in making those remarks?" Bush's response:
I said, Iraq is a dangerous place and we've still got hard work to do, there's still more to be done. And we had just come off a very successful military operation. I was there to thank the troops... The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way.
Uh, right. In fact, the White House now admits it, and not the crew of the Lincoln, put up the sign.

Organic marketers are scrambling to cash in on the anti-junkfood movement by installing vending machines in high schools. In Rhode Island's Cranston High School West, Coke and candy bars have been replaced with soy chips, rice snack bars, pita chips and low-fat organic yogurt. And the movement is going national.

Trent Lott's suggestion for Iraq shows how deep his compassionate conservatism runs: "If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out."



So much news, so little time to make sense of it:

Is the media filtering out good news in Iraq? Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) looks into the Bush administration's complaints about war coverage.

An informant told US authorities that Ba'ath party spies had infiltrated the al-Rashid hotel in Baghdad, with some members posing as hotel employees; the military ignored this news--until Sunday's rocket attack on the hotel killed a US colonel and injured 17.

Buzzflash interviews Bill Moyers on war, politics, and the state of today's news: "Wave the flag, stroke the sentiments, stir the prejudices -- and you can keep the masses distracted from the real game happening out of sight, behind closed doors in boardrooms and oval offices."

Due to the war, Bush's job rating is, ahem, tanking.

MoveOn invites you to try your hand at a TV ad that tells the truth about the Bush administration in a new ad contest.

Clark on Bush

Retired general and Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Bush's culpability for September 11:
"There is no way this administration can walk away from its responsibility for 9-11," Clark told a conference, titled "New American Strategies for Security and Peace," "You can't blame something like this on lower level intelligence officers, however badly they communicated memos with each other. ... The buck rests with the commander in chief, right on George W. Bush's desk."

...Clark argued that Bush has manipulated facts, stifled dissent, retaliated against detractors, shown disdain for allies and started a war without just cause. He said Bush put Americans at risk by pursuing war in Iraq instead of hunting for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, pulling a "bait-and-switch" by going after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein instead of al Qaida terrorists.

He called Bush's labeling of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an axis of evil in his January 2002 State of the Union address -- "the single worst formulation in the last half century of American foreign policy."
More here.

"Domestic terrorists" in the White House

Bush and Ashcroft are seeking to extend the powers of the Patriot Act. On their wish list is the right to hold suspects without bail and to expand the death penalty to include cases of "domestic terrorism." The definition of the latter is wide open, though, since Section 802 of the existing act defines domestic terrorism as "acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state" that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." So protesters at abortion clinics or Earth Firsters could be tried--and potentially killed--under these proposed additions. Curiously, it could also be used to define the White House insiders who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as "domestic terrorists." My, how those in White House flag-lapel-pin brigade would bristle at that. (Links via Cursor).

Krugman on Bush's "willful ignorance"

Paul Krugman writes on Bush's "willful ignorance," asking why the president is so flabbergasted that Islamic leaders are suspicious of America's intentions. He writes:
Surely it's important to understand how others see us, but a new, post 9/11 version of political correctness has made it difficult even to discuss their points of view. Any American who tries to go beyond "America good, terrorists evil," who tries to understand — not condone — the growing world backlash against the United States, faces furious attacks delivered in a tone of high moral indignation. The attackers claim to be standing up for moral clarity, and some of them may even believe it. But they are really being used in a domestic political struggle.

Last week I found myself caught up in that struggle. I wrote about why Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister — a clever if loathsome man who adjusts the volume of his anti-Semitism depending on circumstances — chose to include an anti-Jewish diatribe in his speech to an Islamic conference. Sure enough, I was accused in various places not just of "tolerance for anti-Semitism" (yes, I'm Jewish) but of being in Mr. Mahathir's pay. Smear tactics aside, the thrust of the attacks was that because anti-Semitism is evil, anyone who tries to understand why politicians foment anti-Semitism — and looks for ways other than military force to combat the disease — is an apologist for anti-Semitism and is complicit in evil.

Yet that moral punctiliousness is curiously selective. Last year the Bush administration, in return for a military base in Uzbekistan, gave $500 million to a government that, according to the State Department, uses torture "as a routine investigation technique," and whose president has killed opponents with boiling water. The moral clarity police were notably quiet.

Why is aiding a brutal dictator O.K., while trying to understand why others don't trust us — and doing something to create that trust — isn't? Why won't the administration mollify Muslims by firing Lt. Gen. William Boykin, whose anti-Islamic remarks have created vast ill will, from his counterterrorism position? Why won't it give moderate Muslims a better argument against the radicals by opposing Ariel Sharon's settlement policy, when a majority of Israelis think that some settlements should be abandoned, and even Israeli military officers have become bitterly critical of Mr. Sharon?
Full column here.

Puff Daddy aka P.Diddy aka Sean Combs aka... Sweatshop kingpin?

Hip hop artist Sean Combs' line of clothing is allegedly manufactured in a Honduran sweatshop, according to new charges.

POWs beaten, burned, Bushed

As POWs in the first Gulf War, 17 veterans were whipped, beaten, burned, electrically shocked and starved while in captivity. In 2002, the POWs launched and won a lawsuit against Iraq, to the tune of nearly a billion dollars. A success story! Except for the fact that Bush administration won't let them have it.


Joseph Hough on religion's role in turning America around

Bill Moyers interviewed Union Theological Seminary faculty president Joseph Hough on this week's episode. An amazing interview covering themes from the "obscene" disparity between the rich and the poor, and the duty of the three Abrahamic religions--Islam, Christianity, Judaism--to rebel against an immoral status quo. He begins the interview discussing this bold act of refusal: "I think that it would be a wonderful thing if we could stand together, these three great Abrahamic traditions, and say, 'Look, we do not countenance this sort of thing. It is not only unfair, it is immoral on the basis of our religious traditions, and we believe it's an insult to God.'
MOYERS: And "it" is what?

HOUGH: The growing gap between the rich and the poor which has become almost obscene by anybody's standards, and the stated intentional policy of bankrupting the government so that in the future there'll be no money for anything the federal government would decide to do... [I]t's not just a political pundit issue. It's not just a think tank issue. It is a deep and profound theological issue. And it has to do with whether we are faithful to the deepest convictions called for by our faith.

Because the central teaching of Jesus is-announced when he says, from Isaiah 61, "God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, deliverance to the captives, freedom to the oppressed, and the year of Jubilee." And as you know, the year of Jubilee was the year when land reform was supposed to take place, debts were to be canceled, slaves freed.


MOYERS: Again, I come back to the paradox, which is that-these policies to which you are protesting, which you say are immoral—were enacted by a Congress and an Administration elected to a significant degree with the support of the religious right — Conservative Christians who got active in politics and saw that their candidates were elected, and they're seeing now the policies that they believe they elected those officials to carry out.

HOUGH: Well. That's true, Bill, but my Dad, as I told you, is a Baptist preacher. He was until he was 84. And there was a notorious drunk in town who when he got drunk, he really went after preachers. But he said he was born-again Christian. And one day, someone asked my father if he thought Brother Suggs was a born-again Christian. And my father said, "Only God knows that."

But, you know, the Lord Jesus said, "By their fruits, you shall know them." And speaking as a humble fruit inspector of the Lord, I'd say that if this person is a Born Again Christian, there's a mixed signal somewhere." I feel the same way.

If Tom Delay is acting out of his Born Again Christian convictions in pushing legislation that disadvantages the poor every time he opens his mouth, I'm not saying he's not a Born Again Christian, but as a the Lord's humble fruit inspector, it sure looks suspicious to me. And anybody who claims in the name of God they're gonna run over people of other nations, and just willy-nilly, by your own free will, reshape the world in your own image, and claim that you're acting on behalf of God, that sounds a lot like Caesar to me.

MOYERS: Can a secular democracy, in a pluralistic society, where there are many faiths, including people of no faith, can that democratic government be expected to represent the religious, prophetic imperatives of people like you?

HOUGH: Well, maybe so, maybe not, Bill. But I'm getting tired of people claiming they're carrying the banner of my religious tradition when they're doing everything possible to undercut it. And that's what's happening in this country right now. The policies of this country are disadvantaging poor people every day of our lives and every single thing that passes the Congress these days is disadvantaging poor people more.
Read the entire interview.

No White House webcrawling for "Iraq"

UPDATE 10/28: Jim Liedeka writes in to explain:
A robots.txt file is a set of rules that web crawlers are expected to
follow when indexing a site. When google or altavista or others crawl a
web site, they are supposed to read the robots.txt file and do what it
says. The file describes resources which should not be indexed by the

There is nothing compelling anyone to do that but it's bad manners to
ignore it. Mostly everyone plays by the rules (except spammers). If I
wanted to point a web crawler at the whitehouse.gov site and ignore the
robots.txt file, there's nothing preventing me from doing so. It's just
a convention that everyone follows.

Usually these files are used to exclude dynamic content which it
wouldn't make sense to index.
(Thanks, Jim.)

Apparently the White House has monkeyed with its official web site to prevent directories containing the word "iraq" from being indexed by search engines. This somewhat tech-heavy (for a tech lightweight like me) page outlines how they did it. Can anyone tell me more about this? (Via Boing Boing.)

Carbombs in Baghdad

Five car bombs on the same day--one directed at the Red Cross, the others at Iraqi police stations--have killed 34 people and injured 224 in Baghdad. Given this tragedy, Bush's response--painted in simplistic, ham-fisted and shockingly un-nuanced terms--seems nothing short of insane: "The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity that's available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become... [They] can't stand the thought of a free society. They hate freedom. They love terror. They love to try to create fear and chaos."

Also: military officials estimate that Iraqi guerillas have from 650,000 to a million tons of arms caches at their disposal--a staggering amount of firepower, equal to more than a third of the US' total stockpile.


Odds and ends

One in six "original" Warhols is a fake.

Celebrity sells? Not according to a new survey.

Progressive radio station, OutrageRadio, to debut on the internet.

Grade school can be hard.

Student at "Christian" school admits he's gay, gets expelled.

The 9/11 Commission may have to subpoena the White House to force them to hand over critical documents.

All Halliburton, all the time. (A new blog.)

Compassionate conservatism?


Harvard psychology chair Daniel Schacter, in his new book The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers writes about "consistency biases" that lead us to recast past beliefs and feelings so they resemble what we now believe and feel, "blocking" (having a name on the tip of your tongue, for instance, and not being able to recall it), and suggestibility. Of the latter, Schacter writes:
This refers to memories that are implanted as a result of leading questions, comments or suggestions made when a person is trying to call up a past experience. This is especially relevant to the legal system, and can sometimes wreak havoc. Ten months after an air disaster in Amsterdam university staff were asked: “Did you see the TV film of the moment the plane hit the apartment building?”, and two-thirds said yes, recalling the speed, the angle of impact, what happened to the fuselage. There was no TV film of the incident.
Marketers are clamoring to get in on the action. "Memory morphing," championed by Jerry Zaltman, a psychologist affiliated with Harvard Business School, is a practice of constructing advertisements to create false memories. In his book How Consumers Think, he writes, "When asked, many consumers insist that they rely primarily on their own first-hand experience with products - not advertising - in making purchasing decisions. Yet, clearly, advertising can strongly alter what consumers remember about their past, and thus influence their behaviours... What consumers recall about prior product or shopping experiences will differ from their actual experiences if marketers refer to those past experiences in positive ways." Disney's "Remember the Magic" ad campaign, researchers say, was created to invoke real or imagined memories of a happy childhood, for example. Elizabeth Loftus, a former University of Washington professor, did a study where she showed subjects a TV spot that suggested children visiting Disneyland had the opportunity to shake Bugs Bunny's hand. Later, many from the study believed they'd remembered meeting the cartoon rabbit during childhood visits to the park--an impossibility since Bugs is a Warner Brothers character. Loftus said: "This brings forth ethical considerations. Is it OK for marketers to knowingly manipulate consumers' pasts?"

Number-one demographic

"In 1940, less than 8 percent of Americans lived alone. Today that proportion has more than tripled, reaching nearly 26 percent. Singles number 86 million, according to the Census Bureau, and virtually half of all households are now headed by unmarried adults."

War news

One year ago today, I joined more than 10,000 people in St. Paul who were protesting the ramp-up to war with Iraq and celebrating the life of Paul Wellstone. It's heartening--and sad--that we're in essentially the same place today: 100,000 antiwar protesters gathered in DC and another 20,000 in San Francisco to demand an end to the war on Iraq. A 30-year old Air Force sergeant, speaking at the DC rally:
I think there is a lot of sentiment inside the military that what we are doing isn't right. Technically and legally we did sign up for this, and it's our responsibility to fill what our responsibilities are, but the people making the decisions also need to use us as a last resort.
While one counter-protester in Washington (part of a group calling peace activists "anti-war racists") said she's "pretty happy" with how the war in Iraq is going, other news suggests there's little cause for glee: anti-American attacks are becoming bolder, more sophisticated and frequent (26 attacks per day). Eight to 10 rockets were fired at the Al Rasheed hotel where US military officials live, killing a colonel and injuring 15. The strike, fired from "near blank-point range," comes a day after a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by rocket-propelled grenade fire near Tikrit.

Also: 10,000 marines come home!


One year ago today...

The politics of conviction is a winning politics.
--Sen. Paul Wellstone
It's been a year since the late Senator Paul Wellstone died with his wife, daughter and staffers in a plane crash in northern Minnesota. It's been a rough year--war, federal fiscal irresponsibility, CIA leaks--and his voice is sorely missed. He was a good man, and I wish he was still around.

Henan AIDs crisis

China's Henan province is "the ground zero of arguably the world's worst HIV/Aids epidemic," according to The Guardian, with up to a million people infected. In the village of Xiongqiao it's likely that every adult has the disease. The shocking culprit, in general terms, is "China's peculiar blend of profit-at-all-costs capitalism and hide-and-control communism." Specifically, the problem is the province's largely unregulated trade of human blood:
The system had been adapted so that villagers could give such huge amounts of blood without suffering anaemia. After extracting plasma from each 800cc donation, the collectors would pump 400cc back into the arms of the donors. It is believed that people's blood often got mixed up in this way, spreading HIV to almost everyone involved.
As in China's response to SARS, the goverment refused to accept the magnitude of the AIDs problem until 2002, when its AIDs statistics were amended from 30,000 to a million in the course of a single day. Western media sources estimate that China will have 10 million AIDs-infected citizens by 2010.


Mayor for a day

When San Francisco mayor Willie Brown leaves the country, he appoints a temporary acting mayor, a title some see as an honorary role. But during Brown's recent trade trip to Asia, acting mayor Chris Daly went ahead and appointed two environmentalists to the Public Utilities Commission--former Sierra Club president Adam Werbach and architect Robin Chiang. Within 20 minutes of the swearing-in ceremony, Daly's credentials as mayor were yanked.

What Road?

I'd move, too, if my street was named this.

Barbie Dull

The Ann Coulter action figure, to begin shipping next month, includes a sound chip loaded with 14 Coulter tirades from "Why not go to war just for oil?" to "Liberals hate America; they hate flag wavers."


Star Tribune:
"Outlandish spin" on the Bush budget

A surprisingly critical editorial in today's edition of the usually moderate Minneapolis Star Tribune:
When the White House reported Monday that the federal deficit for 2003 came in below expectations -- a mere $374 billion -- President Bush's aides were quick to celebrate. "We can put the deficit on a reasonable downward path if we continue progrowth economic policies and exercise responsible spending restraint," budget director Joshua Bolten told the Wall Street Journal.

This outlandish spin is an insult to the nation's taxpayers and suggests that the White House is reading its own budget documents as badly as it read the prewar intelligence on Iraq. A new report by two respected budget watchdogs -- the probusiness Committee for Economic Development and the hawkish Concord Coalition -- shows that the federal budget outlook is now the worst in the nation's history and that the Bush administration is doing absolutely nothing to fix it.

White House aides continue to predict that federal deficits are shrinking. But look at what they omit from their calculations: $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, $400 billion to overhaul Medicare, $500 billion for Bush's defense buildup and $1.8 trillion to extend the "temporary" tax cuts passed recently by Congress.

Factor in these realities, Concord says, and the federal deficit is not getting smaller, it is getting bigger. The group estimates that the federal deficit will never fall below $420 billion any time in the next 10 years -- each one a record -- and that within a decade interest payments alone will consume 15 cents of every dollar the taxpayer sends to Washington...
Read the entire editorial.

(Thanks, Andy.)


"Sailor-mongering" and free speech

In an unbelievable LA Times article, Jonathan Turley revisits the Greenpeace lawsuit I mentioned awhile ago: John Ashcroft has dug up an obscure, rarely used 1872 law prohibiting "sailor-mongering"--luring sailors off their ships with booze or hookers--to prosecute a peaceful protest off the coast of Florida (two activists boarded a boat to draw attention to Bush's severe mahogany harvesting policies). If his prosecution is successful, Greenpeace could lose its tax-exempt status and be forced to report its every actions to the government. Writes Turley:
Such a prospect must secretly delight many in the administration who see the group as an ever-present irritant. After all, it was Greenpeace that held the first demonstration at the president's ranch after his inauguration, causing a stir when activists unfurled a banner reading "Bush: the Toxic Texan. Don't Mess With the Earth."

Since that time, Greenpeace has waged a continual campaign against Bush's environmental record. Ashcroft's jihad against free speech, however, is not limited to environmentalists. Consider the case of three Dominican nuns. Last year, Sister Ardeth Platte, 66, Sister Jackie Hudson, 68, and Sister Carol Gilbert, 55, participated in a peaceful demonstration for nuclear disarmament.

As part of the protest, the three nuns cut through a chain-link fence around a Minuteman III missile silo. There is only a light fence because the missile is protected by a 110-ton concrete cap that is designed to withstand a nuclear explosion. The nuns proceeded to paint crosses on the cap and symbolically hit it with hammers. They then knelt, prayed, sang religious songs and waited for arrest. The most the government could allege in terms of damage was $3,000.

However, the Ashcroft Justice Department wanted more than compensation and a common misdemeanor. It charged the nuns with obstructing national defense, which subjected each to a potential 30-year prison term. When the government pushed the court to impose sentences of as much as eight years, the judge refused. However, the judge found, as alleged by the government, that the three nuns had put military personnel "in harm's way." Accordingly, he imposed on them sentences ranging from 2 1/2 years to 3 1/2 years.


It is also notable that other organizations have not faced such attacks. For example, in this same judicial district in Florida, the Cuban American group Democracy Movement organized a protest in which members sailed into a government-designated security zone. Although the members were charged, the organization was not. Similarly, other groups viewed favorably by the administration — such as anti-abortion groups — have not been subject to criminal indictments of their organizations for such protests.

The extraordinary effort made to find and use this obscure law strongly suggests a campaign of selective prosecution — the greatest scourge of the 1st Amendment.
Read the full article.


Winning Iraq for America

Doesn't something seem wrong about this? (From Kevin Sites' Iraq blog.)

Lone dissenter

Sen. James Jefford, I-VT, the sole dissenter on a Senate vote urging Geoge Bush to give soldiers fighting in Iraq War on Terrorism medals:
Those who support giving this medal to our troops in Iraq are once again trying to make a connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq that simply does not exist. I am a veteran and I wholeheartedly support our troops, but I believe it does the men and women in our military a great disservice to misrepresent the reasons why they are in Iraq. They certainly deserve medals for their service, but I will not be a part of the White House campaign to redefine this war.

Double standard

A Washington Post editorial makes a good, but obvious point: while Bush correctly derided the Malaysian president's comments that "Jews run the world by proxy" as "wrong and divisive," he ought to apply that same level of scrutiny to inflammatory viewpoints held by members of his own administration. Chief terrorist hunter Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin said, among other oddball remarks, that he'd capture a key Somali warlord because "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." While some in the Islamic world fear that Boykin's remarks demonstrate American hostility toward Muslims, the Bush administration remains mute.


unswoosh backlash

Adbusters' Black Spot sneaker has been generating some buzz, not all of it good. Linda Baker writes on it for Salon (full article here), and readers respond. Learn more about the sneakers.

Plus: more on "the ethical sneaker" here and here (scroll down to "Does the Shoe Fit?").

Exporting free speech?

When George W. Bush and Chinese president Hu Jintao address Australia's "people's house" on Thursday, the people won't be allowed anywhere near. Protesters will be confined behind the Old Parliament building, and speakers must be faced away from the hall where Bush is speaking so that anti-war activists can't be heard. No public address systems allowed.

BK rations

The new Burger King in the former Saddam Hussein International Airport in Iraq serves up 5,000 burgers a day, mostly to US soldiers and military contractors, propelling it into the top-10 list of best-selling BK franchises in the world. Ah, freedom!

Swoosh, spoof, suit

Riffing on Nike's tendency to buy up local real estate and slap its swoosh and name all over it, the European art collective 0100101110101101.org has created a convincingly authentic faux-Nike website, Nike Ground. As Carrie McLaren of Stay Free! writes, the site portrays
the company as real-estate vultures who buy streets and squares in cities around the world in order to rename them and install giant monuments of the swoosh. The site looks and feels so much like a Nike site that even the savviest web surfers should be forgiven for missing the point. But if ambiguity makes for a muddy message, it also insures that Nike will take note, and indeed -- Phil Knight et al. have issued a 30-page injunction demanding the immediate removal of material related to copyrighted material.

Here's hoping that Nike Ground gets a ton of publicity for this and
spurs much-needed discussions about the corporate takeover of public
More at Rhizome.


Outdoing the Ford Probe

A new car is having to be renamed for the Canadian market after the manufacturers were informed of an unfortunate double meaning.General Motors are still working on the new name for the LaCrosse after learning the word is slang for masturbation in French-speaking Quebec.


A Hispanic man who spoke to his 5-year-old daughter in Spanish has been ordered to use primarily English around the girl as a condition of his visitation rights.
Full story.

9/11 "hijacker" lives

Is this the state of American intelligence gathering? With the surfacing of Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri in Morocco recently, American intelligence on the September 11 terrorist attacks is thrown further into question: four of the 19 suspected hijackers have reportedly turned up alive.

ALSO: Why did the White House override the air-travel ban and approve the repatriation of 140 Saudis, including memers of Osama bin Laden's family, on September 13, 2001?

Suicides in Iraq

Three more US soldiers were killed in Iraq yesterday, bringing the number of combat deaths to 212. A less-reported fact is that 10% of "non-hostile" deaths--120 troops so far--are the result of suicide. Facing yearlong tours of duty amid daily guerrilla attacks, 13 soldiers have taken their own lives and another 478 have been removed from the country due to mental health disorders.


Google Labs

I just discovered labs.google.com, Google's beta-testing site for weird noodlings by in-house engineers. Great research potential with a few glitches.

Schizophrenic architecture

Born in 1850, Karl Junker was a young and talented architect in Germany when, in his 30s, chronic schizophrenia set in. His one and only building project--his own ornate, highly detailed house in Lemgo, a space he filled with carved furniture, sculptures, and panel paintings--made tangible in its dazzling complexity the interior reality of the man. Read John MacGregor's Raw Vision profile of Junker and his house. (Additional photos here and here.)


While it's still expected to pass, opposition to the president's request for $87 billion in Iraq reconstruction funding is mounting. Do your part; call your Congressional representatives through MoveOn's campaign.

Morale is so low in the US Armed Forces that nearly 50% of soldiers say it's unlikely they'll re-enlist, according to a new survey.

When W spoke of a "crusade" against terror, was it merely an unfortunate word choice? What if you consider it alongside the views of the government's chief terrorist hunter Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin? He believes God, and not the people, elected Bush president, and feels that terrorists want to destroy the US "because we're a Christian nation." An excerpt from a recent slideshow he gave:
“Well, is he [bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam] the enemy? The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He’s called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.”
Gunmaker Smith & Wesson has launched a line of home accessories: Wild West-themed soap dishes, cigar store Indians, teakwood tables, and more. "One of the things the gun industry has pushed for is to get away from the image as something sinister and portray the industry as a sport," said Diaz, author of "Making a Killing, The Business of Guns in America."

Techno Smurf? Hip Hop Smurf? What the hell is going on here?


Are you an enemy of the NRA?

The NRA is keeping a blacklist of so-called anti-gun organizations, journalists, activists, and celebrities, writes the New York Times' Bob Herbert (yep, he's on the list). The 19-page document singles out such rogue groups as B'nai B'rith, the YWCA, the Kansas City Chiefs, Hallmark, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, not to mention Art Garfunkel, Walter Cronkite, Dr. Joyce Brothers, C. Everett Koop, Ann Landers, and Coleman McCarthy. Herbert writes:
No number of gun-related fatalities or serious injuries is sufficient to deter the N.R.A. from its fanatical course. A former N.R.A. lawyer has admitted in an affidavit in a lawsuit that distributors and gun dealers have for years been illegally diverting guns that end up in the hands of criminals, and that the industry has closed its eyes to the practice.

Instead of fighting to end this threat to the public's safety, the gun lobby and its allies in Congress are pushing legislation that would protect the practice by granting special immunity from liability to gun manufacturers and sellers.

The big item on the legislative agenda next year is the federal assault-weapons ban signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Because of a sunset provision, the law will expire next September if it is not renewed by Congress and the president. The gun lobby has made it clear that it will do all in its power to bury the ban. The plan is to not even let the issue come up for a vote.
Learn more at NRAblacklist.com or StoptheNRA.com.

Read Regular

While there have been great software-based technological advances in battling dyslexia, now there's a typographic approach: the new Read Regular typeface. Each letter in the font is individually designed so that letterforms typically flipped by dyslexics--b and d, for example--are visually unique, and unnecessary flourishes (a lowercase g with two loops) are stripped out.


Fake war stories

From the Gannett paper, The Olympian:
Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.

And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.

The five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers' efforts to re-establish police and fire departments, and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based.

"The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened," the letter reads. It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you. It's not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers' hometown papers.

Six soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter's thrust. But none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and one said he didn't even sign it.

Marois, 23, told his family he signed the letter, said Moya Marois, his stepmother. But she said he was puzzled why it was sent to the newspaper in Olympia. He attended high school in Olympia but no longer considers the city home, she said. Moya Marois and Alex's father, Les, now live near Kooskia, Idaho.

A seventh soldier didn't know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.

"When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: 'What letter?' " Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. "This is just not his (writing) style."

He spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital where he was recovering from a grenade explosion that left shrapnel in both his legs.

Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.

"Everything it said is dead accurate. We've done a really good job," he said by phone from Italy, where he was preparing to return to Iraq.

Sgt. Todd Oliver, a spokesman for the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which counts the 503rd as one of its units, said he was told a soldier wrote the letter, but he didn't know who. He said the brigade's public affairs unit was not involved.

"When he asked other soldiers in his unit to sign it, they did," Oliver explained in an e-mail response to a GNS inquiry. "Someone, somewhere along the way, took it upon themselves to mail it to the various editors of newspapers across the country."

Lt. Col. Bill MacDonald, a spokesman for the 4th infantry Division that is heading operations in north-central Iraq, said he had not heard about the letter-writing campaign.

Neither had Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

A recent poll suggests that Americans are increasingly skeptical of America's prolonged involvement in Iraq. A USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll released Sept. 23 found 50 percent believe that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, down from 73 percent in April.

The letter talks about the soldiers' mission, saying, "one thousand of my fellow soldiers and I parachuted from ten jumbo jets." It describes Kirkuk as "a hot and dusty city of just over a million people." It tells about the progress they have made.

"The fruits of all our soldiers' efforts are clearly visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops, and children have returned to school," the letter reads. "I am proud of the work we are doing here in Iraq and I hope all of your readers are as well."

Sgt. Shawn Grueser of Poca, W.Va., said he spoke to a military public affairs officer whose name he couldn't remember about his accomplishments in Iraq for what he thought was a news release to be sent to his hometown paper in Charleston, W.Va. But the 2nd Battalion soldier said he did not sign any letter.

Although Grueser said he agrees with the letter's sentiments, he was uncomfortable that a letter with his signature did not contain his own words or spell out his own accomplishments.

"It makes it look like you cheated on a test, and everybody got the same grade," Grueser said by phone from a base in Italy where he had just arrived from Iraq.

Moya Marois said she is proud of her stepson Alex, the former Olympia resident. But she worries that the letter tries to give legitimacy to a war she doesn't think was justified.

"We're going to support our son," she said. But "there are a lot of Americans that are not in support of this war that would like to see them returned home, and think it's going to get worse."
Also: Counterspin Central recaps the coverage of this "astroturf" (i.e. fake grassroots) campaign.

Magnae clunes mihi placent!

And to lighten things up a bit, Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby's Got Back"--aka "I Like Big Butts"--in Latin:
magnae clunes mihi placent, nec possum de hac re mentiri.
(Large buttocks are pleasing to me, nor am I able to lie concerning this matter.)
quis enim, consortes mei, non fateatur,
(For who, colleagues, would not admit,)
cum puella incedit minore medio corpore
(Whenever a girl comes by with a rather small middle part of the body)
sub quo manifestus globus, inflammare animos
(Beneath which is an obvious spherical mass, that it inflames the spirits)
virtute praestare ut velitis, notantes bracas eius
(So that you want to be conspicuous for manly virtue, noticing her breeches)
clunibus profunde fartas(*1) esse
(Have been deeply stuffed with buttock?)
a! captus sum, nec desinere intueri possum.
(Alas! I am captured, nor am I able to desist from gazing.)
(Via Boing Boing.)

Iraq: A catalogue of killing

At least 95 US soldiers have been killed by hostile actions in Iraq since Bush declared major combat over, including one killed by a landmine on Sunday and two in an ambush on Friday. The Guardian catalogues the killing. While these daily deaths seem to be migrating from the front page to the inside of major newspapers, the president blames the mainstream media's "filter" for focusing only on mayhem in Iraq.



For the first time in its history, the umbrella organization Greenpeace has been indicted for civil disobedience undertaken by its supporters. The federal indictment of two activists who boarded a cargo boat off the coast of Florida in April 2002 represents a turning point in American dissent, says Greenpeace. "Never before has our government criminally prosecuted an entire organization for the free speech activities of its supporters," said John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA.

At least Gov. Schwarzenneger won't be able to run for president, right? We'll see. Orrin Hatch has proposed what some are calling the"Arnold Amendment," a constitutional amendment that would change the rule that only "natural born citizens" can hold the top executive office.

Save endangered species by allowing them to be killed, that's essentially the Bush administration's new plan. As the Washington Post reports, Bush is: "proposing far-reaching changes to conservation policies that would allow hunters, circuses and the pet industry to kill, capture and import animals on the brink of extinction in other countries. Giving Americans access to endangered animals, officials said, would feed the gigantic U.S. demand for live animals, skins, parts and trophies, and generate profits that would allow poor nations to pay for conservation of the remaining animals and their habitat."

How to turn your hard-drive into a Buddhist prayer (mani) wheel.


Bill of Rights Security Edition

BoingBoing blogger and SciFi writer Cory Doctorow has been passing out sheet-metal versions of the Bill of Rights dubbed the "security edition." As Nelson Minar blogs, it's problematic at the airport, which is the whole point:
The craziest thing, though, was the security edition Bill of Rights that Cory gave me. It's a prop intended to cause trouble; it's the bill of rights printed on metal, guaranteed to cause hijinks at the security scan.

I'm not one to make displays like that so it was an accident it came with me to New York. But now where do I put it going home? In checked luggage, where security may find it while I'm not around and decide to punish me for being clever? Or in my hand luggage, where it may cause my bag to be searched and an awkward conversation? Maybe I should just leave it behind.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated"

Then I realized, I was stressing about what people would think about me having a copy of the Bill of Rights! It's a terrible thing we've done to ourselves.


Catholic spin on AIDs

Update 10/10: The World Health Organization has rejected the Church's irresponsible claim: "From a scientific perspective, anyone who claims that a male condom does not protect against AIDS is wrong," said WHO spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib.

Troubling news from The Guardian:
The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk.

The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to the HIV virus.

A senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation that they are untrue.

The church's claims are revealed in a BBC1 Panorama programme, Sex and the Holy City, to be broadcast on Sunday. The president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, told the programme: "The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom.

"These margins of uncertainty... should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with regard to cigarettes, which they state to be a danger."

The WHO has condemned the Vatican's views, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."

The organisation says "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage or slippage of condoms - but not, the WHO says, holes through which the virus can pass .

Scientific research by a group including the US National Institutes of Health and the WHO found "intact condoms... are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest sexually transmitted virus... condoms provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses".

The Vatican's Cardinal Trujillo said: "They are wrong about that... this is an easily recognisable fact."

The church opposes any kind of contraception because it claims it breaks the link between sex and procreation - a position Pope John Paul II has fought to defend.

In Kenya - where an estimated 20% of people have the HIV virus - the church condemns condoms for promoting promiscuity and repeats the claim about permeability. The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."

Sex and the Holy City includes a Catholic nun advising her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because "the virus can pass through".

In Lwak, near Lake Victoria, the director of an Aids testing centre says he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition. Gordon Wambi told the programme: "Some priests have even been saying that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids."

Panorama found the claims about permeable condoms repeated by Catholics as far apart as Asia and Latin America.

RIP Neil Postman



Sixty percent of Americans believe at least one of these incorrect statements about the war in Iraq, according to a new study: that US forces found WMDs, that evidence shows Saddam Hussein collaborated with the 9/11 terrorists, and that international public opinion about the war was either overwhelmingly in favor or evenly divided. Of those holding these misperceptions, only 23 percent said they get their news from NPR or PBS. A startling 80% of those who rely on Fox News thought at least one of these statements to be true. Fox's comment on this? None whatsoever.

(Via Cursor.)


I'm on a deadline, so blogging will (continue to) be light. My apologies, fathful reader(s?).


Lego outsider art?

Dot.com millionaire Brendan Powell Smith used his vast wealth to fill his apartment with thousands of Legos. To "justify having that much Lego," the 30-year old atheist set out to depict some of the goriest, oddest sections of the Bible in his chosen media. The result: The Brick Testament.
(Thanks, Adrienne.)

Sorry candidate.

Schwarzenegger doesn't remember saying in a 1975 interview, "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power..." And he sure is sorry for all the women he's groped and, as some argue, sexually harassed. Why's he still the front-runner? (Isn't he more lecherous than, say, Gary Hart?) As Richard Blow writes, Arnold's behavior constitutes "a pattern of behavior that would almost certainly disqualify any non-celebrity candidate for higher office."


Color commentary

Rush Limbaugh, on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, opined that reporters have gone easy on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb because they are "very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There's interest in black quarterbacks and coaches doing well," adding that--despite three Pro Bowl appearances, McNabb is not "as good as everyone says he has been."

McNabb's response: "The people who were watching in the African-American homes, the kids, the parents.... When they hear something like that, what do they think?"

Read FAIR's June 2000 analysis on the inappropriateness of Limbaugh doing color commentary, then for ABC's "Monday Night Football"--a gig he ultimately didn't get.

Poser iPod

Can't afford an Apple iPod? Download a paper version and impress your friends.