Shop til you're dropped. Another reason to observe Buy Nothing Day: when the 6 a.m. siren blew at a Florida Wal-Mart on Friday morning, a herd of thrift-crazed shoppers, intent on snatching up $29 DVD players, trampled 41-year old Patricia VanLester. Few shoppers noticed VanLester under foot, and when EMTs finally got to her she was unconscious on the floor, a DVD box under her. Wal-Mart, inspired by the spirit of the holidays, offered to put a DVD on hold for the still-hospitalized woman.

Quote du Jour, starring John McCain: "Congress is now spending money like a drunken sailor, and I've never known a sailor, drunk or sober, with the imagination that this Congress has."

The pain of the peacemaker. Father John Dears, an ardent anti-war activist, has borne the brunt of harassment by both the military and fellow Catholics for his viewpoints--including one episode where 75 soldiers chanted "Kill, kill, kill" in the front yard of his church. Of that confrontation he says: "We must be making a difference if the soldiers have to march at our front doors. That they failed to convert me or intimidate me, that they had to listen to my side of the story, may haunt their consciences as they travel to Iraq. No matter what happens, they have heard loud and clear the good news that God does not want them to kill anyone."


Photos from the front lines

Leif Utne prefaces his photos from the FTAA conference in Miami with these words:
For all the horror of the Miami police department's war on dissent, and all the anger I and others have rightfully expressed, I have to point out what a beautiful and inspiring sight it was to see some 15,000 people -- including young anarchists, middle-aged environmentalists, immigrant laborers, retired trade unionists, and more -- gathered together to oppose this undemocratic trade deal.

I hope these pictures convey both the horror and the beauty of what I saw.


Beating Bush beyond the grave: Remember how Sally Baron, a 71-year old Wisconsinite who died in August, requested in her obituary that memorial donations "be made to any organization working for the removal of President Bush"? On October 2, another such obituary appeared, honoring 81-year-old Louisiana resident Gertrude Jones. As Snopes' Urban Legends page reports, a guest book has been set up on Gertrude's behalf--with entries as recent as today--filled with 17 pages of comments, including more than a few by mourners who've been inspired to donate to the Democratic Party.

Nixonian tactics? An aide to Republican Orrin Hatch has been busted for hacking into computers in the offices of Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy and Dick Durbin. Hatch launched an investigation when the senators reported the thefts of memos from their servers. Plus, the Washington Post on The Nixon in Bush.

Humanitarianism? Norwegian soldiers serving in Iraq are baffled by politicians who call their efforts a "humanitarian mission." Didrik Coucheron of the BFO, an officers' organization: "Anyone can see that a uniformed soldier with a helmet, shrapnel vest and an AG3 across his stomach is a soldier and not a humanitarian construction worker."

Draft? If Bush is reelected, will he reinstate the draft?

Nobel prizewinner Jimmy Carter on Bush's unilateral attack on Iraq: "I thought it was a serious mistake, maybe the worst mistake in foreign policy that our country’s made in many years. But now we are there, we have to support our troops there and pray that we can cut down on our casualties.”

As my friend Jim says, "The Left needs its billionaires." We've got it in George Soros. Joe Conason looks into Conservatives' ire at Soros' ample funding of democratic causes. Plus: a rightwing perspective on the man and his Open Society Institute.
W's illegal W? When Bush flubbed a line in the State of the Union--the one where he referred to unconventional weapons delivered in a "wial" not a "vial"--it was just a slip of the tongue. But when Democrats discovered the same line used in a pro-Bush TV ad, delivered with silver-tongued perfection--i.e. rerecorded--it just might be illegal. If the Republican party rerecorded the line, they weren't being truthful when they said they didn't coordinate the ad with the president; if that's the case they may have violated campaign laws.

What's in a name? First brother Neal Bush has been up to no good, according to records released from his March divorce proceedings. On several occasions he had sex with women who were likely prostitutes in Thailand and Hong Kong, and was offered $2 million in stock from Grace Semiconductor, even though--as his ex-wife's lawyer put it--he had "not a lot of demonstrable business experience that would bring about a company investing $2m in you."

Woe is Yee. Captain James Yee, the Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay who was accused of espionage, can't catch a break from the government. While he's been set free after three months in captivity and assigned to a new unit--likely because the charges of espionage wouldn't stick--Yee has been hit by new allegations: adultery and having viewed porn on his computer, both crimes in the military. Said Yee's lawyer: "They have destroyed this man's reputation for what turns out to be no good reason, and now it appears they are pursuing matters in a completely vindictive manner."

A powerful, cinematic Flash animation brings out the dead, calculating that, if current trends continue, another 2,400 American soldiers will be dead in Iraq a year from now.

A mouth big enough to speak out of both sides of: FAIR's Nov/Dec issue of Extra! includes ample reasons why Rush Limbaugh ought to turn himself in for his illegal drug use, straight from the horse's mouth. Like this 1995 opinion: "...too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."

Friday is International Buy Nothing Day, a symbolic act of resistance against overconsumption as a Western cultural value. On the biggest shopping day of the year, stay home and claim your rightful role as a citizen not a mindless consumer. Adbusters reports that 62% of Americans will refrain from shopping on November 28.


It's a start. At Fort Carson yesterday the president met with 98 relatives of 26 soldiers killed in Iraq--only the third such meeting. He still has not attended a single funeral for the 431 US citizens killed in Iraq in the armed forces, even though 40 of the funerals took place just four miles from the White House. Bush has carved out time, by contrast, to attend 41 fundraising receptions since the war began. (Via Cursor).

Neocon dingbat Ann Coulter waxes anti-Semitic:
In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats' other big idea – too nuanced for a bumper sticker – is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There's Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew – along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.
(Via Atrios.)

Southern Exposure. TalkLeft points out a timely, new group blog on Latin American affairs.

The Moral Myth of War

George Monbiot parses the moral arguments trotted out to justify war in Iraq:
The key point, overlooked by all those who have made the moral case for war, is this: that a moral case is not the same as a moral reason. Whatever the argument for toppling Saddam on humanitarian grounds may have been, this is not why Bush and Blair went to war.

A superpower does not have moral imperatives. It has strategic imperatives. Its purpose is not to sustain the lives of other people, but to sustain itself. Concern for the rights and feelings of others is an impediment to the pursuit of its objectives. It can make the moral case, but that doesn't mean that it is motivated by the moral case.

...the White House is not a branch of Amnesty International. When it suits its purposes to append a moral justification to its actions, it will do so. When it is better served by supporting dictatorships like Uzbekistan's, expansionist governments like Ariel Sharon's and organisations which torture and mutilate and murder, like the Colombian army and (through it) the paramilitary AUC, it will do so.

It armed and funded Saddam when it needed to; it knocked him down when it needed to. In neither case did it act because it cared about the people of his country. It acted because it cared about its own interests. The US, like all superpowers, does have a consistent approach to international affairs. But it is not morally consistent; it is strategically consistent.

It is hard to see why we should expect anything else. All empires work according to the rules of practical advantage, rather than those of kindness and moral decency.
(Thanks, Tamara.)


Weekend news

General Wesley Clark, on Bush's new ad campaign that questions the patriotism of Democrats: "I'm not critical of President Bush because he's attacking terrorists; I'm critical of the president because he is NOT attacking terrorists."

Clark is right, it seems. New York City--where, you recall, the World Trade Center once stood--is the nation's number one terror risk, but ranks 49th in federal counterterrorism aid--receiving only $84 million of the $900 million the city says it needs to protect itself. Also, Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reports that Osama bin Laden "is not an individual that is as important as is the ongoing campaign of the coalition against terrorists."

The Queen is steamed. George W. Bush's entourage has trashed the gardens at Buckingham Palace, doing more damage in three days than have the Palace's 30,000 annual visitors. Racking up "tens of thousands of pounds" of damage and destroying "historic and rare plants" dating back to Queen Victoria's reign, Bush and Co. turned the palace lawn into a helipad for Marine Force One and two Black Hawk helicopters.

Hoover's America: According to a confidential FBI memorandum, agents have been gathering extensive information on antiwar protesters, and police have been advised to report any suspicious behaviors to FBI counterterrorism squads. Critics say it squelches free speech. The ACLU's Anthony Romero: "The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent. The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."

The brutal murder of two American GIs in Mosul--their throats slit, skulls smashed with bricks, and bodies mutiliated--feels more like Somalia than Vietnam. CORRECTION: The US Army has retracted the story about throat-slitting and mutilation, but two GIs were killed by gunshots to the head.

An Exxon representative reports that worldwide annual emissions of carbon dioxide are expected to increase by 3.5 billion tons, or 50 percent, by the year 2020. Global demand for energy will increase by 40 percent, he added, assuring that "The oil resource base is huge -- it's huge -- and we expect it to satisfy world demand growth well beyond 2020."

Art of war: Howard Zinn and Radiohead's Thom Yorke discuss the role of artists in times of war in an excellent Alternet interview. Zinn: "True, the political power is controlled by the corporate elite, and the arts are the locale for a kind of guerilla warfare, in the sense that guerrillas in a totalitarian situation look for apertures and opportunities where they can have an effect. When tyrannies are overthrown--as, for instance, in fascist Spain or the Soviet Union--it starts in the culture, which is the only area where people can have some freedom."


FTAA action alert: activists jailed and allegedly tortured

Reports of violence at the Miami FTAA conference and in area jails, from United for Peace:
Protestors were attacked by police wielding batons, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber, wooden, and plastic bullets and other chemical agents. Over 100 protestors were treated for injuries; 12 were hospitalized. Police dispersed large groups of peaceful protestors with tear gas, pepper spray and open fire. Small groups leaving the protests were harassed, arrested and beaten. This campaign of fear and intimidation culminated in the closure and militarization of downtown Miami. There were confirmed reports of military tanks patrolling the streets after dark on Thursday night.

Our legal team estimates more than 250 arrests. People have become political prisoners and are being held in jail. More than 50 of them were arrested while holding a peaceful vigil outside the jail in solidarity with those inside. They were surrounded by riot police and ordered to disperse. As they did, police opened fire and blocked the streets preventing many from leaving.

We are now receiving reports from people being released or calling from jail that there is excessive brutality, sexual assault and torture going on inside. People of color, Queer and transgender prisoners are particularly being targeted. There is a confirmed report of one Latino man arrested along with 62 others outside Miami-Dade County Jail Friday, who is currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit for an injury he received after being beaten in the head with night stick by an arresting officer.
Donate here to support legal efforts for the jailed protesters. Take other action steps here and here.


And in other news

Spam rage? Charles Booker of San Francisco was arrested this week in what may be the first case of spam rage: angered by being bombarded with unsolicited emails touting penis enlargement pills and Viag)ra, Booker threatened to send a "package full of Anthrax spores" to the spammers, to "disable" an employee with a bullet and torture him with a power drill and ice pick; and to hunt down and castrate the employees unless they removed him from their e-mail list. He was released on a $75,000 bond.

California will be the first state to require that electronic voting machines be equipped with printers so that voters and vote verifiers can ensure a tamper-free, fair election. Only problem is, the requirements won't go into effect until 2006.

From the archives: "Let the Eagles Soar." Or not.

Repression in Miami: A model for Homeland Security?

Two weeks ago, Miami mayor Manuel Rodriguez called the police build-up in anticipation of the FTAA conference "a model for homeland security." With reports coming in of severe repression of free speech, police infiltrating the crowds dressed as protesters and creating the pretext for violence, and countless cases of activists injured by police batons, bean-bags, plastic and rubber bullets, and pepper gas, perhaps we have reason to fear a secured homeland.

As Leif Utne reports, the security detail, comprised of some 6,000 self-proclaimed "Robocops," is headed up by Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who also oversaw security at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. Brenna Bell, of the National Lawyers Guild and the Miami Activist Collective, called Timoney's handling of the Philadelphia demonstrations "the most violent police repression of protesters in this country in recent history, until yesterday." The repression in Miami, she continued, "shows that free trade agreements are not possible without this kind of violence."

With $8.5 million of Miami's security expenses came from the $87 billion Iraq spending bill, it's no wonder protesters are calling "occupied Miami" a "police state."

PLUS: What's so bad about FTAA? Take a look at its precursor, NAFTA, to get an idea: while "total trade among the three NAFTA countries has more than doubled, passing from US$306 billion in 1993 to almost US $261 billion in 2002," the Economic Policy Institute has found that "between 1994 and 2000, the U.S. lost more than 3 million jobs and job opportunities—equal to 2.3% of the labor force." These job losses are largely attributed to NAFTA, which caused many manufacturing jobs to move to Central and South America, where labor is cheaper and both labor and environmental standards are weaker.

AND: More on the police state. The ultra-conservative news site NewsMax reports that Gen. Tommy "We don't do body counts" Franks says that if the US is hit by a WMD attack, "the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government."


Bush's bashing: new ad campaign questions Dems' patriotism

In its first TV commercial of the election campaign, the Bush administration comes out with a cheap shot, impugning Democrats for criticizing his bungled war on Iraq: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists." As MoveOn writes, "The ad doesn't question opponents' ideas, it questions their commitment to America. But there is nothing more un-American than attacking an adversary's patriotism for political gain." Help fund ads to set the record straight. Click here to donate and your giving will be matched $1 for every $2 donated.

ALSO: The remixed State of the Union (large videofile).

AND: Mapping the money in the campaign.

Why George loves Jacko

William Rivers Pitt writes:
Enron, the stock market, the reasons for September 11, the nomination of Henry Kissinger to chair the investigation into that event, the disinformation that was pushed by the Bush administration before the attack on Iraq, the civilian casualties during the attack on Iraq, the American troop casualties during and after the attack on Iraq, the missing weapons of mass destruction, the missing Osama bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan that is far from over, the outing of a CIA agent by the Bush administration in an act of political revenge, and about two hundred other explosive stories did not get the attention that Michael Jackson is getting now.


Leif and Pat and the FTAA

In an unlikely encounter in the Minneapolis/St.Paul airport on his way to cover the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations in Miami, Leif Utne spotted conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. The FTAA is one thing they agreed upon (in Buchanan's words): "I’m agin it!. [smiles] I’ve been against all this for years, and what they’re doing now, it’s madness...I approach it from the standpoint of protecting the American worker. Others talk about people in developing countries. I stand for American jobs."

What would the FTAA--essentially an expanded NAFTA--mean for media? Here's Free Press' take on it:
In the U.S., laws that limit media consolidation could be considered 'trade violations.' Policies that promote media localism, diversity, and pluralism could be classified as 'barriers to trade.' Multinational corporations could seek cash 'compensation' — paid for by taxpayer dollars — if tribunals of trade lawyers found our government's public interest media policies to be 'unduly burdensome' to competition. FTAA member nations would have to comply with FTAA rulings or face multi-million or -billion dollar punitive sanctions.
And what's so bad about the FTAA? Larry Weiss of the Minnesota Fair Trade Association explains.

Perle admits war was illegal

From The Guardian:
International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.

But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.
Read more.


This just in: antiwar protesters are evil

The rightwing group AIM--ironically "Accuracy in Media"--has figured it all out: antiwar activists are "communists, socialists, radical Muslims and other America-haters." The article goes on to say, "Moveon.org is regarded even by the liberal U.S. media as a front of the Democratic Party. The group has benefited from millions of dollars from George Soros and Peter Lewis, financial backers of the drug legalization movement."

For a glimpse into AIM's editorial bent, consider this opinion on the "biased" media coverage of Martin Luther King day: "The major media deliberately concealed the facts about how the civil rights movement has degenerated into a collection of political extremists, homosexual militants, Muslim activists, and anti-American Marxists." Or a guest columnist's thoughts on the "militant" Democratic senators who opposed a handful of Bush's extremist judicial nominees:
Among those highly qualified people President Bush nominates are Roman Catholics who (unlike, e.g., Senators Daschle, Kennedy and Leahy) practice the Faith more than selectively; Blacks whose outstanding legal and/or judicial careers embarrass and expose the professional Black we-are-all-victims leadership; Americans who believe with our ancestors that we are a nation "under God" (an honored phrase from President George Washington's Farewell Address until its recent Ninth Circuit guillotine); and men and women of many faiths who believe abortion is the functional equivalent of murder.
Even their fundraising appeal asks you to "Support Accuracy in Media's Crusade for Honest News Coverage."

I would, if that's what they were selling.


Open Letters

The Guardian prints 60 open letters to George Bush from people all over Great Britain: playwright Harold Pinter, Conservative MP Michael Portillo, Salam Pax (the Baghdad Blogger), writer Polly Toynbee, Anita Roddick, and an opinionated 12-year old named Mickey.

Tunisian cyber-dissident freed

In an alarming number of countries around the globe, badmouthing the power elite can land you in jail. Zouhair Yahyaoui knows it all too well; after criticizing the totalitarian regime of Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on his now-banned website TUNeZINE, he was sentenced to a 28-month prison term for making fraudulent use of internet connections (read: distributing pro-democracy materials and criticizing Ali online). After several hunger strikes and alleged torture by prison officials, he was released today. Tunisia, one of the "countries most hostile to the free flow of information," according to Reporters without Borders, is--ironically--hosting phase two of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, a conference geared toward closing the divide between communication haves and have-nots. While Tunisia may seem like an unlikely host, they’ll be in good company: 60 percent of the 185 UN member nations participating in the summit don’t allow a free press.

For more information on the World Summit, taking place next month in Geneva, visit Communication Rights in the Information Society.

News of note

A new report by the prestigious Centre for Strategic and International Studies, written by Dr. Anthony Cordesman, paints a grim picture in Iraq. The Iraqi resistance reportedly has a war chest of up to $1billion, with an additional $3 billion stashed in Syria, and attacks on Americans by Sunni Iraqis will continue "until the day the US leaves." Cordesman concludes that US troops are dying because of the ideological approach of the Bush administration, stating that "four years into office, the Bush national security team is not a team".

Italy has all but shut down as some 250,000 people crowd around the Basilica of St. Paul to mourn the soldiers killed in Iraq. Why can't our government muster a commemoration even half as grand to honor our 400+ war dead?

Hi-tech protesters are chasing Bush across London.

George W. Bush is the "greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen," says the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

Falling short of legalizing gay marriage, Massachusetts has overturned the ban on same-sex unions.

The spoof website What Brand Are You? backfires--or succeeds spectacularly--as users of the site have trademarked 20 of the names, generated by an advertising agency to poke fun at the banal business of corporate naming.

Microsoft is going down the path paved by Google News: they've launched their own auto-generated news site, Newsbot.

Militarizing Marketing

The new Converse—recently bought out by Nike—is pinning its hopes for brand-name rebirth on the Loaded Weapon basketball shoe. MTV Europe will be conquering teen minds with a military strategist and four-times decorated Vietnam veteran Bill Roedy at the helm. And marketing experts are again talking about branding in terms of empire building. The trend prompts a question: has the Bush Doctrine leaked into marketing?

In September, the online journal MarketingProfs.com put an American imperial twist to an old theme—giving the oldest military treatise in the world, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (already repurposed in The Art of War for Executives by D.G. Krause and The Six Principles from Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Principles for Managers by Mark McNeilly), a Bush-style revisiting. "How can you reconfigure your marketing strategy to be more deceptive, agile and pre-emptive?," writes Michael Perla. Like the Bush administration ditching international law in the Iraq war, The Business Standard likewise urges marketing strategists to consider "who is making the rules—and imposing them onto their competitors? Making the rules makes you master of the game."

But achieving "market capture" means more than account planners fancying themselves five-star generals or bullet-ducking GIs. Brand strategists (strategy, by the way, comes from the Greek strategos for general) Wolfram Wordemann and Andreas Buchholz urge a rethinking of how consumers are perceived: "put yourself in the shoes of a conqueror and go for that territory in the consumer’s mind that will sustain your empire." And, just as in military propaganda campaigns, that means dehumanizing the enemy—only, in this case, the enemy and the coveted turf are one and the same.

Speaking at an American Association of Advertising Agencies conference in September, Olgilvy & Mather Worldwide’s Mark Earls urged account planners to stop thinking of consumers as individuals. He showed video clips of soldiers at war, soccer hooligans, and street riots to illustrate that humans should be treated like herds. As Ad Age reports, "Mr. Earls said that just as cats only swim when they have to, most people only think when they have to. Survival as part of the herd is a question of 'keeping up, not bumping into people and going vaguely in same direction as everyone else.'"

Perhaps this is old news: hasn’t advertising long been the realm where "brand battles" take place and "guerrilla marketing" is employed? Hasn’t the account executive always been the macho, no-holds-barred field marshall? Indeed. In the context of preemptive war, terrorism, and a US administration wielding a $396.1 billion military budget, it simply becomes more clear. But it’s also more effective: armored vehicle sales have soared among the ultra-rich, up 20 percent in 2001. SUV sales, powered by ignore-the-rules marketing campaigns, have exploded like bombs bursting in air (Gregg Easterbrook, in the New Republic, wrote that "The whole point of the Hummer is a total--and aggressive--disregard for what anyone else thinks. The Hummer broadcasts such a blatant 'fuck you' to the rest of the world that it ought to be considered a new vehicle class, the FUV."). The real question is how do we, the enemy, establish a beachhead in our minds.

Militarizing Marketing 2

For all of its merits, our military is not, and cannot be, a democratic institution. The administration, and often the Army itself, try constantly to obscure this fact, most recently under the Thoreauvian rubric 'An Army of One.' Surely this had to be one of the most disingenuous recruiting slogans that has ever been devised, for no army has ever been about promoting individualism but rather its exact opposite, bending the wills of many individuals into a single, blunt instrument of incredible violence.
Kevin Baker, "We’re in the Army Now: The G.O.P.’s plan to militarize our culture," Harper’s, October 2003


Trillin: Questions for Bush

The New Yorker's Calvin Trillin has a few questions for the president at his next press conference. The first of sixteen:
Sir, although your supporters’ predictions that Iraqis would greet our troops with flowers haven’t been borne out, isn’t it possible that, given the problems with the water supply and the infrastructure in general, there is a serious shortage of flowers over there and that Iraqis might be greeting our troops with flowers if Iraqis had any flowers?

Oppose "NAFTA on steroids"

Bob McChesney writes:
The biggest showdown over corporate globalization since Seattle is poised to happen this week in Miami. At issue is the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement, described as "NAFTA on steroids."

The FTAA will eliminate U.S. jobs and foster worker exploitation in
developing countries. It could override environmental protections and
media ownership limits as "trade violations." It could enable U.S. media corporations to eclipse local cultures across the hemisphere and threaten public broadcasting.

Tens of thousands will protest in Miami. Add your voice and let's make
it millions. Join them with our 'virtual demonstration'.

SIGN the Free Press petition to stop the FTAA. This petition will be
delivered to Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative before the FTAA meeting.

And how are the children?

The GOP's new tactic for sidestepping campaign financing rules is pretty slick: sell your fundraiser--give up to $500,000 to the Republicans and schmooze with Tom DeLay at the Republican National Convention--as a children's charity. Both DeLay and Bill Frist are morphing fundraisers for kids and AIDs with GOP stump sessions. Said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, "They are using the idea of helping children as a blatant cover for financing activities in connection with a convention with huge unlimited, undisclosed, unregulated contributions."

ALSO: Nathan Newman blogs that the US joins some of the worst nations of the world in violating international child labor standards.


"George Bush was last night branded chicken," reports The Mirror (UK), because he bailed on a scheduled speech before Parliament out of fear of being heckled by antiwar MPs.


Worth reposting

Ellen Bass' poem "Prayer for Peace."

Security for Bush, not for the troops

With 418 soldiers now dead in Iraq, 57 in the last 11 days, Bush had better figure out how to prevent more killings. Instead, he's working out the details of his own safety during his upcoming visit to Britain. He's requested: the total closure of the Tube network, the presence of US military jets and Black Hawk helicopters, diplomatic immunity for Secret Service agents who might "accidentally" pick off a protester, and the right to use a tank-fired "mini-gun," a battlefield artillery. Most of these requests have been refused. Any US president should be protected when traveling, and this one probably has more to fear than most, but if George W. Bush demonstrated such care for Allied troops as he does for himself, the situation in Iraq would look very different.

Update 11/16: One in three Britons polled believe Bush is "stupid" while 60 percent think he's a threat to world peace, a new poll says.

17 more dead in helicopter downing

Two Black Hawk helicopters collided in mid-air in Northern Iraq, possibly the result of rocket fire, killing at least seventeen GIs.

Arms' Race: Why's Lynch a hero and Johnson a zero?

Remember Army Spec. Shoshana Johnson? She is one of five POWs captured in Iraq in March and put on TV, visibly terrified after having been detained, beaten, and held for 22 days. You might not recall her because another of the five captives, Jessica Lynch, seems to be generating all the publicity (like last night's lackluster appearance on David Letterman). But while Hollywood, seemingly undeterred by the factual inaccuracies of the Pentagon's rescue fable, can be dismissed as fickle and biased, why is the US government treating Johnson so shabbily?

While Lynch gets movie and book deals, plus an 80 percent disability benefit, the African American Johnson gets only a 30 percent benefit for her injuries (a difference of between around $700 per month). Jesse Jackson blames racism: "Here's a case of two women, same [unit], same war; everything about their service commitment and their risk is equal. . . . Yet there's an enormous contrast between how the military has handled these two cases."

Alternet's Farai Chideya invokes a poem by Nuyorican Poetry Slam winner Kahlil Almustafa in a story on the discrepancy:
There are no lack of
affirmative action programs on the front lines
of the U.S. military, there is full equality
in killing and in death...

Yr coming home
has been covert, quiet
sneaking back into the country
beneath media radar. Yr life as a single, Blk mother
will not make any front page news.

Perhaps there is a codicil: Yr life as a single, Blk mother
will not make any frontpage news
until people wake up, and raise hell.
Earlier: Minorities in the Military: The Bitterness of Sgt. Akbar.

Army of God?

The Nov. 10 issue of Newsweek tells of an unexpected prayer by Bravo Company's battalion chaplain before a battle in Iraq: "Lord, there are bad guys out there. Just help us kill 'em." (Via They Blinked.)

Visual thesaurus

A Welsh View links to an online visual thesaurus that allows you to type in a word and view "an interactive map showing the meaning of your word." Nice graphical interface, and a mapping system not unlike Kartoo, the cartographic "metasearch engine."

Old news: linking Saddam and 9/11

In a speech on October 8, 2002--the one where he reported (falsely, it turns out) that Saddam Hussein had a fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used to disperse chemical and biological agents and that Iraq had ballistic missiles that could travel hundreds of miles--George W. Bush mentioned September 11 five times. This speech is a good place to start in untangling how the administration was successful in conflating Saddam and September 11, even though no link between the two exists. While he never directly connects the two, his rhetoric slyly juxtaposes them. Any half-listening American couldn't help but morph the tragedy of 9/11 with the tyranny of an Iraqi dictator when the president reports that Hussein killed or injured 20,000 of his own people, "more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September 11." In other cases, he simply invokes 9/11--having seen such terror, we must protect ourselves--leveraging the fear of terrorism in service of his pet project in Iraq.

New York's Republican governor George Pataki wasn't so sly. At an April 11 rally at Ground Zero, he told a crowd of some 25,000: "Some of you may have seen yesterday in Baghdad a picture of a statue of that evil dictator being toppled and dragged through the streets by Iraqis. Let's melt it down. Let's bring it to New York and let's put it in one of the girders that's going to rise over here as a symbol of the rebuilding of New York and the rebuilding of America." Paraphrasing Amy Goodman's comment in Madison last week, this would be the first factual link between September 11 and Saddam Hussein.

Snapshot of the economy

Jesse Jackson, speaking at the media reform conference in Madison last week said, "Growth without jobs is like a swimming pool without water." While some economic indicators are inching upward, the ones that most affect the average American aren't. First-time jobless claims rose by 13,000 last week, while the total number of unemployed workers increased by 49,000 to 3.53 million in the week ended Nov. 1. And personal bankruptcies have hit a record high, rising 7.8 percent in fiscal 2003 to 1.63 million.

Changing the tone: Chittister on real democracy

"This country went to war on the slimmest of national debates in a congress of mutes in a country that calls itself a democracy," writes Joan Chittister, OSB, in the National Catholic Reporter. "If we want to win the peace, preserve democracy and convince anyone anywhere that our kind of democracy is worth having, we're going to have to practice it ourselves this time."

Changing the tone: Bush and boobs

"After coming to office with a vow to restore dignity to the White House, the president yesterday took a brief sabbatical from that effort: He granted an exclusive interview to a British tabloid that features daily photographs of nude women and articles akin to those found in our own National Enquirer," reports the Washington Post.

More on war: counting the dead (or not)

Four hundred American GIs have been killed in Iraq so far. It took two years to reach this kind of death toll in Vietnam, but only seven months in this war.

So, who's dying? According to War Times, "while about 10 percent of all military personnel are Latinos, Latinos make up 17.7 percent of the frontline combat occupations... In the Army, Latinos and Latinas occupied 24.7 percent of such conscripts and in the Marine Corps, 19.7 percent. In other words, Latinos and Latinas are over-represented in combat positions that offer little if any 'civilian job transferability,' but much increased chance of death or injury."

Virtually unreported are the injuries. And it's hard to count these. The first stopping off point for injured soldiers leaving Iraq--a military medical center in Landstuhl, Germany--has treated 7,714 troops so far.

Even harder to track are the American civilian contractors killed in Iraq--a number that, according to Editor & Publisher, exceeds the military death toll.

And don't forget the Iraqi civilians. While Tommy Franks famously asserted, "We don't do body counts," many organizations do. Estimates run from 3,200 to 10,000 civilians killed--figures that are sure to skyrocket now that the moronically named "Operation Iron Hammer" is under way. When the military doesn't care to count the innocents they've killed, the context of Bush's statement--"The citizens of Iraq are coming to know what kind of people we have sent to liberate them"--becomes abundantly clear.


Protesting the prez in the UK

Students in the UK, organizing through text messenging and online message boards, are warned that missing school to protest George W. Bush's visit will be treated as truancy. The protests, which will culminate with a toppling, Saddam-style, of a statue of Bush in Trafalgar Square, was met with mixed opinions from political figures. Seeming to miss the point of peaceful protest (and the real source of antiwar activists' concerns about the Iraq invasion), Conservative education spokesman Tim Collins said, "Anti-Americanism is not on the national curriculum." His Liberal Democrat counterpart, Phil Willis, said, "[T]he arrival of the President at such an important time is an issue that is of interest to schools. If young people choose to attend these demos I hope that schools will look at that in a positive rather than a negative way."

Also: a survey by readers of The Independent (UK) suggests Brits aren't pleased about Bush's official state visit--by a 10-to-1 margin.

Quote of the Week

The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, via Cursor:
You have a war fought by the underclass, financed by the underclass and for the profit of the upperclass. I think Bush's going to lose [the election], unless he makes some radical change, which he's not going to do.

Moyers on media reform:
If journalism committed to telling the truth is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy

Bill Moyers' keynote address to the 1700-attendee National Conference on Media Reform is now available online (along with speeches by Al Franken, Studs Terkel, Sen. Russ Feingold, and others, plus media coverage of the conference and audiovisual files of the proceedings). An excerpt from the speech:
Never has there been an administration so disciplined in secrecy, so precisely in lockstep in keeping information from the people at large and – in defiance of the Constitution – from their representatives in Congress. Never has the so powerful a media oligopoly – the word is Barry Diller’s, not mine – been so unabashed in reaching like Caesar for still more wealth and power. Never have hand and glove fitted together so comfortably to manipulate free political debate, sow contempt for the idea of government itself, and trivialize the people’s need to know. When the journalist-historian Richard Reeves was once asked by a college student to define “real news”, he answered: “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.” When journalism throws in with power that’s the first news marched by censors to the guillotine. The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it.

Which brings me to the third powerful force – beyond governmental secrecy and megamedia conglomerates – that is shaping what Americans see, read, and hear. I am talking now about that quasi-official partisan press ideologically linked to an authoritarian administration that in turn is the ally and agent of the most powerful interests in the world. This convergence dominates the marketplace of political ideas today in a phenomenon unique in our history. You need not harbor the notion of a vast, right wing conspiracy to think this more collusion more than pure coincidence. Conspiracy is unnecessary when ideology hungers for power and its many adherents swarm of their own accord to the same pot of honey. Stretching from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal to the faux news of Rupert Murdoch’s empire to the nattering nabobs of no-nothing radio to a legion of think tanks paid for and bought by conglomerates – the religious, partisan and corporate right have raised a mighty megaphone for sectarian, economic, and political forces that aim to transform the egalitarian and democratic ideals embodied in our founding documents. Authoritarianism. With no strong opposition party to challenge such triumphalist hegemony, it is left to journalism to be democracy’s best friend. That is why so many journalists joined with you in questioning Michael Powell’s bid – blessed by the White House – to permit further concentration of media ownership. If free and independent journalism committed to telling the truth without fear or favor is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy. And there is a surer way to intimidate and then silence mainstream journalism than to be the boss.

Be Dennis Kucinich's girlfriend


Spinning the dead

While Bush has banned media coverage of dead soldiers returning from the Middle East and hasn't attended a single funeral for the nearly 400 troops killed in Iraq, he has found time to meet with the families of the UK's Iraq war dead during next week's visit. Bush says the 54 British soldiers died in a "noble cause," but Robert Kelly, who lost his 18-year old son in a gunfight near Basra, says, "For these people to meet families, it is only for their own gain. They are not sympathetic towards people like me. They don't really care that my son lost his life."

Stateside, the ban on media coverage of incoming coffins from Iraq has been expanded; now military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery are off limits too. "You can't understand the true cost of war if you can't see the amputees and the people who have been killed," said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. "The results of war have to be witnessed at graveside, whether you like it or not."

Also: When did "body bags" become "transfer tubes"?


Guiness is good for you

Apparently, the ad slogan is correct: a new University of Wisconsin study found that a pint of Irish stout a day can reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Media groups allege assault by US troops

"It's back to the bad old days where journalists are being treated as adversaries," says AP Washington Bureau Chief Sandy Johnson of reports of US troops physically harassing members of the press in Iraq and confiscating equipment. According to Editor & Publisher, 30 media organizations, led by the Associated Press, have complained to the Pentagon for abridging their freedom of speech. (Via BuzzFlash.)

Vote for unprovoked war

What many consider a violation of international law George W. Bush aims to make a campaign virtue. In his reelection bid, Bush (and a gaggle of Republicans up for reelection) will tout the "doctrine of preemption" as a visionary policy for safeguaring the US from terrorists. Democrats, understandably, aren't impressed. Said Howard Dean, the doctrine isn't hugely successful: "The first time we used the preemption policy, it got us into an enormous amount of trouble."

Banning Aqualung in the name of Liberty

What did Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson say to get his band's music banned "forever" from New Jersey's WCHR-FM? Something treasonous? Not really: "I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It's easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism." (More excerpts from the scandalous interview here.) The station is unabashedly dubbed "105.7 FM The Hawk." (Via Cursor.)


Columbus and Genocide: Re-educating Yecke

Minnesota's Education Commissioner says that, while Christopher Columbus' men brought diseases that wiped out tens of millions of Native Americans, she doesn't "characterize that as genocide." Criticism of the comment has been appropriately fierce. Activist Clyde Bellecourt says Cheri Pierson Yecke "is totally scholastically retarded," and Chris Mato Nunpa of Southwest Minnesota State University listed the terrors inflicted on indigenous Americans: the use of armored dogs to rip Indians apart, cutting off the hands of those who couldn't meet gold quotas, and using Indians for sword practice. "Genocide happened," Mato Nunpa said. "Western Europeans and Euro-Americans were extremely efficient killers of indigenous peoples. It is shameful that a person such as Ms. Yecke is so ignorant and yet is in such a powerful and influential position." This might be a good place for the Education Commissioner to start.

Route Rummy

Twenty-six members of the House introduced a resolution yesterday urging the president to fire Donald Rumsfeld.

Save Our Oops, Part II

Cursor links to FreewayBlogger, a gallery of roadside activist banners. Also: Jim Lasser, the designer behind the apolitical Sharpastoast.com, has two antiwar pieces included in the upcoming book Peace Signs: A Collection of Posters and Graphics Against the War in Iraq--culture-jammed logos for the NFL's Oilers and Patriots.

Plus: The End of the World (large animation file).

Sen. Al Franken?

Minnesota-born comedian-author Al Franken is considering moving home and running against Norm Coleman in 2008! Not only is he a progressive with a sense of humor (a rare thing!), but he's right on target with his assessment of the current political climate:
I felt like after 9/11 this president had a chance. We were united in a way that I had never seen, and he had a chance to take this country forward in a spirit of mutual purpose and mutual sacrifice. Instead, he just hijacked it and used it to his own political ends... I do think this administration has been dishonest with us. And it feels like [Sen.] Norm [Coleman] does what this administration wants him to do.


Hearing from the Silenced Majority

I've driven the 250-some mile stretch from Minneapolis to Madison a half dozen times since the war on Iraq started. This weekend, heading to the National Conference on Media Reform with Leif and Mike, I noticed a subtle change. On three or four overpasses just inside the Wisconsin border someone had stenciled in bold black letters "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS." Had the message been anti-war, you can bet it would've been painted over in a day. But the final version of the stencil had been changed, two letters painted over:
Maybe I'm reading too much into roadside graffiti, but I had to think, perhaps a real change is afoot. Perhaps the "silenced majority" (as Amy Goodman called opponents of Bush and proponents of democratic reform) is speaking up. The conference bore this suspicion out--with 1600 international attendees; brilliant keynotes by Studs Terkel, Al Franken, Bill Moyers, and others; plus encounters with the on-the-ground activists who are doing the heavy lifting in media reform. Media reform--and, more broadly, media justice--is a bona fide movement, and it's gaining momentum.

I'll be posting this week on issues raised in the conference. Before then, check in at Free Press to find clips from the conference.

Also: An action alert from Common Cause:
Today, the Senate is expected to begin debate on a spending bill that includes a provision that blocks the FCC from implementing a higher ownership cap – a "cap": that allows one company to own television stations reaching up to 45 percent of the national audience. The provision now in the spending bill (H.R. 2799) maintains the current 35 percent national cap. The House approved a similar measure, keeping the 35 percent limit, by a vote of 400-21.

Unfortunately, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is threatening to strip this language from the bill by offering an amendment to allow the higher 45 percent ownership cap.

On the up side, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is expected to offer an amendment that would re-impose the newspaper-TV cross-ownership ban. Without such a ban, one media giant could own a local newspaper, up to three TV stations and up to eight radio stations in one media market.

These votes may be the Senate's last opportunity this year to address media ownership issues. This could be our last chance to tell Congress we oppose the FCC's outrageous and unpopular media ownership rules – rules that will increase media consolidation and decrease the diversity of voices that is so important to our democracy.

Please call your Senators today and ask them to vote:

1. AGAINST Sen. McCain's amendment allowing the higher 45 percent national ownership cap favored by the FCC


2. FOR Sen. Hutchison's amendment re-imposing the newspaper-TV cross-ownership ban.
To find your Senators' contact info, click here.


media reform conference

I'm off to the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin, so I won't be updating the site until after Sunday. Check out the conference activities (which will be archived on the official website) here.


Conservative Catholic counter-reformation

From Cursor:
So Help Me Scaife Charles Pierce reports on the "counterreformation" being waged by a faction of religious and political conservatives who oppose efforts to liberalize the American Catholic Church, and whose "magazines and think tanks are funded by the same foundations that have been the fountainhead of movement conservatism over the past three decades."


Too real for public office

From Charles Bowden's profile of Dennis Kucinich in the November/December issue of Mother Jones:
No one who is not a Christian; who is black or brown; who is not a man; who is openly homosexual; who opposes NAFTA and the WTO; who is poor; who opposes war or wants to cut the Pentagon budget; who is short or grossly fat; who wants to increase the budget for social services; who endorses total gun control; who likes to drink, has committed adultery, or smokes dope and admits it; who has sought out psychiatric care.

No one can be elected president who has been battered enough by life to be qualified to be president.