A note of thanks: Eyeteeth, begun as a new year's resolution of sorts, will be a year old next week. Marking my first twelve months and several hundred posts, I want to thank you for reading. Your notes of encouragement, angry e-tirades (especially the "Axis of Drivel" comment!), and all the amazing links sent my way are truly appreciated. Best wishes for 2004.
Hawks seek to dial up terror war: The Pentagon's neocon hawk Richard Perle and former Bush speechwriter David Frum have delivered their new publication, End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, to the White House. As the Telegraph (UK) reports, the document demands "regime change in Syria and Iran and a Cuba-style military blockade of North Korea backed by planning for a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear sites. The manifesto, presented as a 'manual for victory' in the war on terror, also calls for Saudi Arabia and France to be treated not as allies but as rivals and possibly enemies."

Hijacking "Him": Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and co-director of the Servant Leadership School in Washington DC, writes on the hijacking of Christianity by warmongers and empire builders: "Was not 'His' message a direct challenge to empire--in his day the Roman Empire and religious and civil collaborators in the Roman occupation? Isn't that why the religious and civil authorities put their heads together and ended up torturing and executing him? Had Jesus allowed himself to be co-opted by the empire and its Quislings, had he chosen to divorce his nonviolent but challenging vision from the politics of the day, he could have died peacefully in his bed--as did the leaders of the institutional church in Nazi Germany." He ends with the powerful words of Bishop Peter Storey of South Africa:
I have often suggested to American Christians that the only way to understand their mission is to ask what it might have meant to witness faithfully to Jesus in the heart of the Roman Empire. Certainly, when I preach in the United States I feel, as I imagine the Apostle Paul did when he first passed through the gates of Rome--admiration for its people, awe at its manifest virtues, and resentment of its careless power.

America's preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa's apartheid, or by Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.

This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good. But it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all. All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.
Willie writes tune for Dennis: Willie Nelson, a longtime supporter of presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, has written a new song for the campaign. The song, to be performed at a January 3 fundraiser in Austin, TX, repeats this refrain: "And the bewildered herd is still believing / Everything we've been told from our birth / Hell they won't lie to me / Not on my own damn TV / But how much is a liar's word worth / And whatever happened to peace on earth?"

On Hope: In his latest book, Hope Dies Last, Studs Terkel writes, "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up." Subtitled "Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times," it's a excellent book, featuring interviews with dozens of famous (Dennis Kucinich, Francis Moore Lappe, Pete Seeger, Tom Hayden) and lesser known individuals (Voices in the Wilderness founder Kathy Kelly, Chicago alderwoman Helen Schiller, former UFW organizer and SEIU VP Eliseo Medina). Terkel writes, "Activists have always battled the odds. But it's not a matter of Sisyphus rolling that stone up the hill. It's not Beckett's blind Pozzo staggering on. It's more like a legion of Davids, with all sorts of slingshots. It's not one slingshot that will do it. Nor will it happen at once. It's a long haul. It's step by step. As Mahalia Jackson sang out, 'We're on our way'--not to Canaanland, perhaps, but to the world as a better place than it has been before." Buy it here (or order it from the struggling St. Paul independent bookstore Ruminator) and read excerpts here. (Thanks for the Xmas gift, Mom.)

"Hippie Deannies Go Home!" No caption needed for this photo, although Atrios offers a commendable attempt.


Beware farmers and almanac wielders: On Christmas Eve, the FBI sent an alert out to 18,000 law enforcement officials warning them to keep an eye out for anyone possessing a Farmer's Almanac. The FBI's crack team wrote (apparently unaware of the internet as a research tool), "The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning."

Perspective: Roughly a third of Americans believe Bush should be impeached for misleading Congress and the public about Iraq's threat to our national security, according to a new poll posted on Blah3.com. As Atrios points out, that's about the same percentage as those who wanted to take Clinton down for a stained dress.

How free is the Free Republic? A poster on Kuro5hin visited the Free Republic website, "an online gathering place for independent, grass-roots conservatism on the web." When he respectfully pointed out factual errors on the site, multiple times, his entries were deleted by the moderator within minutes. "The result was a quick lesson in the right-wing view of free expression. The experiment left an open question - where do you go on the web to engage conservatives in open debate?"

Somatic SuperFund site: WiredNews writes on new studies in biomonitoring--testing human urine, breast milk, and blood to see what foreign toxins are present--and the findings are troubling: African American kids have twice the levels of cotinine than other children and Mexican-American children have three times the levels of a DDT-derived chemical. Other research they cite:
- In March, California researchers reported that San Francisco-area women have three to 10 times as much chemical flame retardant in their breast tissue as European or Japanese women.

- Indiana University researchers reported at the same time that levels in Indiana and California women and infants were 20 times higher than those in Sweden and Norway, which recently banned flame retardant.

- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year released data from 2,500 volunteers tested for 116 pollutants and found such chemicals as mercury, uranium and cotinine, a chemical broken down from nicotine.
The Reagan Dime? Conservatives, still miffed at what they thought was an unfair portrayal of Ronald Reagan in the infamous Showtime movie, are still lobbying to replace FDR's image with the Gipper's on the dime. A USA Today poll shows readers favor the switch. Cast your vote: the New Deal vs. the Iran-Contra scandal.


Social justice and the social gospel: What is the face of modern mainstream religion? Is it represented by Jerry Falwell, who after 9/11 said, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen'"? Unfortunately, to some degree, the answer is yes. But look further, to Rev. James Forbes of the famed Riverside Baptist Church in New York, for an engaged spirituality more hopeful for these rough times. "The church perhaps is the only institution in the nation that can ask: Okay, how are your policies squaring up, not only with the principles of the Bible, but with the principles found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Everybody else is scared to do it. The Church had better be afraid not to do it." Now with Bill Moyers examines religious diversity and the role of progressives of faith in an era dominated by do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do Christians.

Also: The Christian Left?
How parts of the Patriot Act II became law: On Saturday, December 13, when the media frenzy over Saddam's capture hit full throttle, George W. Bush quietly signed into law a federal spending bill that included key provisions of the Patriot Act II. David Martin reports:
Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism. ...The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies tucked away these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, a legislative behemoth that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government. The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters."
Full story here.
Make Mad Cow dead meat: In Europe and Japan, every adult cow is tested for Mad Cow Disease at slaughter--before it enters the food chain. By contrast, the US sporadically tests for the disease, checking only 20,526 cows prior to slaughter last year, out of 35 million prepared for your dinner table (the EU tested 10 million last year alone). Sign the Organic Consumers Association petition demanding that the U.S. government adopt and enforce mandatory testing for all cattle brought to slaughter, before they enter the food supply, and that they ban the feeding of blood, manure, and slaughterhouse waste to animals.
Operation Mass Appeal: M16, the British intelligence agency, now admits that it ran a covert operation to plant stories in the media overstating Saddam Hussein's alleged WMDs. The Sunday Times reports: "The admission followed claims by Scott Ritter, a former US Marine who led 14 inspection missions in Iraq, that MI6 had recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. He described meetings where the senior officer and at least two other MI6 staff had discussed ways to manipulate intelligence material." When will such a story emerge in the US, I wonder.
Wounded Knee: On this date in 1890, the federal government opened fire on some 350 Lakota (Sioux) indians on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The massacre at Wounded Knee (Canke Opi Wahkpala)--killing as many as 300 unarmed Sioux children, women, and men, including chief Big Foot (Sitanka)--essentially ended the Indian Wars. One hundred thirteen years later, the US government hasn't apologized for the massacre.

A member of the Santee Sioux tribe, Hoksila Waste (pronounced Hoke-shee-la Wash-tay), a.k.a. Sid Byrd, wrote at the time that the government feared a spiritual renewal among the Lakota that took the form of the Ghost Dance. Byrd believed that Big Foot died a martyr for embracing the ritual "as freely as other men embraced their religion." Six months earlier, in June 1890, Ms. Z. A. Parker witnessed and described The Ghost Dance.

Also: Click here for an incredible resource on the Massacre at Wounded Knee, including info on efforts to rescind 20 Medals of Honor awarded to participating troops, the author of The Wizard of Oz's declaration that genocide of the Lakota would be a good thing, and testimony given by Wounded Knee survivors.


Power to the unpopular! An unpopular kid at a Canadian high school--described as socially aware and more into science than sports--was voted valedictorian as a malicious joke by classmates who intended to ridicule him. But when Andrew Ironside, aware of the joke, took the podium for the commencement speech at Ontario's Oakville Trafalgar High School, the self-described "nerd type" took the opportunity to confront his classmates cattiness' and cruelty. "A lot of you were jerks," he said, adding that he'd "probably never see any of you again." The speech sent shockwaves through the school, prompting much soul-searching in the community, according to high school administrators. "Valedictorians always go up there and talk about how we have all these great memories--the best memories of our lives," said Ironside, now studying biochemistry at Brock University. "I didn't want to talk like that. I wanted to maybe help the people who didn't have the greatest time in high school." I especially love that his story concludes the National Post's weeklong series of articles on "ordinary Canadians who showed extraordinary courage."
On death and faith: Narrator Pi Patel in Yann Martel's excellent novel, Life of Pi:
I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: ‘White, white! L-L-Love! My God!’—and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, ‘Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,’ and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.
471 dead: The Washington Post reports, "The number of U.S. service members killed and wounded in Iraq has more than doubled in the past four months compared with the four months preceding them, according to Pentagon statistics."

God by the numbers: According to a Star Tribune poll of Minnesotans, 34 percent of respondents said that Islam is more likely than other religions to "encourage its believers to be violent," compared to 3 percent for Christianity, 5 percent for Judaism, and 7 percent for Hinduism, and 5 percent for Buddhism. I don't get it: how many wars have been fought for the honor of Buddha? And how many have been fought in Christ's name? Maybe this explains it: only 24 percent of those polled said they have a "good understanding" of Islam at all.

Futures forecasting: The Iowa Electronic Markets, an actual money market fund/research tool that has predicted the outcomes of presidential elections since 1988 within a 1.7% margin of error, indicates that Howard Dean will most likely be the Democratic challenger to George W. Bush in 2004.

Bushmouth: Dubya Speaks logs text and audiofiles of our mush-mouthed president's verbal manglings. Here's one worth a listen: "It's in the interest of -- uhh -- uhh, long-term peace in the world that we -- uhh -- work for a free and secure and peaceful Iraq. A peeance, freeance secure Iraq in the midst of the Middle East will have enormous historical impact."

Graffiti slideshow: While many websites catlogue graffiti art, Graffiti Archaeology appears to be the first to record the evolution of art on graffiti walls over time. Wired News reports.

Bruce pardoned: Comedian and biting social satirist Lenny Bruce, who died of a drug overdose in 1966 at age 37, has been pardoned forty years too late for an obscenity conviction.


Happy holidays! I'm off to slug nog, score gifts, and bask in the chaotic hum of Christmas music (please Mom, can we retire the Mannheim Steamroller Xmas CD, just for a year?), kid-scream, and the sound of overstimulated dogs skittering across hardwood in pursuit of six nieces and nephews. Next post December 28.



Saddam delivered? A report in the UK's Sunday Express, citing "an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer," posits that Saddam Hussein was ratted out by members of the al-Jabour tribe, handed over to the Kurds, who drugged him and alerted the US military as to his whereabouts. The unnamed source says, "Saddam was not captured as a result of any American or British intelligence. We knew that someone would eventually take their revenge, it was just a matter of time." The story would explain why some, like Saddam's daughter who appeared on CNN, say Hussein appeared sedated and didn't fight back when apprehended by US troops. Of all the news outlets covering this story, not one is an American mainstream news operation.

Judge: 20 felonies by police at FTAA summit. A Miami judge, hearing a case against two protesters at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit last month, admitted that he personally witnessed "no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers" while attending the protests. ''Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported the police during my entire career,'' he said. "This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community." Two hundred thirty-one protesters were arrested during the November 20-21 event in Miami; of those at least 27 misdemeanor charges have been dropped. How many police officers were charged? None. As the judge, Richard Margolius, said, "'None? Pretty sad commentary. At least from what I saw.''

Bad math: Iraq GI injuries near 11,000. The Bush Administration has been under-counting the number of injured and maimed GIs in Iraq, according to UPI. As of December 17, the Pentagon website listed only 2,273 soldiers as wounded--omitting 8,581 medical evacuations because the Pentagon doesn't technically consider non-combat injuries "casualties." We haven't seen this kind of toll since Vietnam, says Aseneth Blackwell, a Vietnam war widow and former president of Gold Star Wives of America (a support group for spouses of killed military personnel). "It is staggering," she says. "To see these guys walking around up there with an arm missing, a leg missing, that is when it hits you in the face."

Joke of the day: Bush, speaking at a $2,000/plate fundraiser in Whippany New Jersey: "I came to this office to solve problems and not pass them on to future presidents and future generations."


Phi-Q test. A new online quiz asks you questions on your views of morality and ethics, then pairs you up with famous philosophers. My values are most like Thomas Aquinas' (100% match) and Spinoza's (98%), but they only jive with Sartre 65% of the time.

World Summit on Information Surveillance? A creepy development at last week's World Summit on the Information Society, a UN-sponsored conference held in Geneva to address the widening "digital divide" between the West and "third-world" countries--secretly bugging the attendees with RFIDs:
Officials who attended a world Internet and technology summit in Switzerland last week were unknowingly bugged, said researchers who attended the forum. Badges assigned to attendees of the World Summit on the Information Society were affixed with radio-frequency identification chips (RFIDs), said Alberto Escudero-Pascual, Stephane Koch and George Danezis in a report issued after the conference ended Friday in Geneva. The badges were handed out to more than 50 prime ministers, presidents and other high-level officials from 174 countries, including the United States.

The trio's report said they were able to obtain the official badges with fraudulent identification only to be stunned when they found RFID chips -- a contentious issue among privacy advocates in the United States and Europe -- embedded in the tags.

Researchers questioned summit officials about the use of the chips and how long information would be stored but were not given answers. The three-day WSIS forum focused on Internet governance and access, security, intellectual-property rights and privacy. The United States and other countries defeated an attempt to place the Internet under supervision of the United Nations.

RFID chips track a person's movement in "real time." U.S. groups have called for a voluntary moratorium on using the chips in consumer items until the technology and its effects on privacy and civil liberties are addressed...

"During the course of our investigation, we were able to register for the summit and obtain an official pass by just showing a fake plastic identity card and being photographed via a Web cam with no other document or registration number required to obtain the pass," the researchers said. The researchers chose names for the fake identification cards from a list printed on the summit's Web site of attendees.

The hidden chips communicate information via radio frequency when close to sensors that can be placed anywhere "from vending machines to the entrance of a specific meeting room, allowing the remote identification and tracking of participants, or groups of participants, attending the event," the report said.

The photograph of the person and other personal details are not stored on the chip but in a centralized database that monitors the movement. Researchers said they are concerned that database will be used for future events, including the next summit to be hosted by Tunisian authorities...

"The big problem is that system also fails to guarantee the promised high levels of security while introducing the possibility of constant surveillance of the representatives of civil society, many of whom are critical of certain governments and regimes," the report said. "Sharing this data with any third party would be putting civil-society participants at risk, but this threat is made concrete in the context of WSIS by considering the potential impact of sharing the data collected with the Tunisian government in charge of organizing the event in 2005," it said.

The organization Reporters Without Borders was banned from attending the summit and launched a pirate radio broadcast to protest the ban and detail press-freedom violations by some countries attending the meetings, including Tunisia.

"Our organization defends freedom of expression on the Internet on a daily basis. Our voice should therefore be heard during this event, despite this outrageous ban," said Robert Menard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders. Tunisia is among several countries Reporters Without Borders has accused of censoring the Internet, intercepting e-mails and jailing cyber-dissidents.
(Thanks, Emy.)
A groundswell of support for reforming the media. My article on the unprecedented growth of the media reform movement for Utne magazine is now online, thanks to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting:
If you know anything at all about the Federal Communications Commission, says media scholar Robert McChesney, you shouldn't be surprised by its June 2 vote to relax rules restricting how many media outlets a company can own. The FCC, he explains, is traditionally a "captured" agency -- one that has internalized the values of the industry it regulates -- so its decision to hand over more power and wealth to media conglomerates shouldn't be shocking. But here's what is: Despite a virtual blackout on the issue by network news, the public flooded the FCC and Congress with some 2 million responses -- the vast majority opposing deregulation. (Even Congress took notice, with the Senate voting September 16 to roll back the FCC ruling.) Does this groundswell signal an isolated consumer uprising or the growing strength of a new movement pressing for media democracy?
Read the entire article here.

Also: Thanks to LiveJournal blogger Lindsay for typing in a piece I cowrote with Clayton Trapp in the latest issue of Adbusters on the disturbing new trend in radio frequency identification chips that are replacing traditional barcodes.
Mediating the vote. The Nation's John Nichols writes that when "Ted Koppel steered one of the most critical debates of the Democratic presidential contest toward horserace questions about endorsements, poll positions and fund raising, [he] inadvertently created an opening for a serious discussion about one of the most important issues in America today: media policy." Indeed, Dennis Kucinich's rebuke of Koppel has opened the issue wide open. Says Kucinich:
The response of the American people to the exchange between Ted Koppel and myself demonstrates that there is great concern about the proper role of the media in a democratic society. The American people clearly do not want the media to be in a position where they're determining which candidates ought to be considered for the presidency and which ought not to be considered for the presidency. Such practice by the media represents a tampering with the political process itself. The role of the media in this process has now become a national issue central to the question of who's running our country, and I intend to keep this issue before the American people...
The media-minded Kucinich, concludes Nichols, even has his own anti-soundbite soundbite: "I don't think ABC should be the first primary. The first primary should not be on a television network."
Two resources: Since the mainstream press continues to gloss over the US' role in funding Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime and US knowledge of use by Hussein of chemical warfare against Iran in the early '80s, I post two excellent histories of the longstanding US-Iraqi friendship. Both stories--Robert Parry's "Missing US-Iraq History" and The National Security Archive's "Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984"--are illustrated with the infamous image of Donald Rumsfeld greasing palms with Saddam. Important context as you read the mainstream press's descriptions of Hussein's treachery.


Saddam's revenge. From the Sydney Morning Herald web diary:
When I saw the close ups of the tyrant I thought of his accessories, did you? Who will join him when he's tried for crimes against humanity? Which multinational companies and which western politicians? Reconciliation requires confession from all parties, after all, if all sides are to move forward to a democratic and free Iraq. You can bet the Iraqis haven't forgotten history. I wonder if Saddam's decision not to kill himself was about his final revenge--looking the West in the eye and saying "You too."
While the US mainstream press seems to be overlooking the fact that Saddam was on the CIA payroll when many of his atrocities were committed and WMDs acquired, Deakins University professor Scott Burchill, says, "It is hard to believe that either Washington or London would relish the prospect of an open trial. They would not want Saddam to adumbrate their support for him -- credit-by-credit, pathogen-by-pathogen, weapon-by-weapon -- during the 12 years before he became an official enemy by invading Kuwait in August 1990."


Buy Nothing Christmas. Former Adbusters managing editor Aiden Enns and his wife, after a move to Winnepeg, have formed the all-volunteer Buy Nothing Christmas movement, a "national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a prophetic 'no' to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans. They are inviting Christians (and others) all over Canada to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged." Their hip website suggests an alternative Christmas, not necessarily one devoid of gifts ("When you do buy things, we encourage you to remember principles like buying locally, fairly-traded, environmentally friendly packaging, recycling or re-using, buying things that last, and so on. The main aim of this campaign is...to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth."), but one richer in meaning.


And the Dems respond... Now that Saddam is captured, Democratic presidential hopefuls are falling over themselves to get on the happy train. Kerry, Lieberman, and Gephardt all reminded us that they supported the Iraq war resolution--a fact this voter won't soon forget. Lieberman however seems to think that capturing the Iraqi leader somehow proves wrong antiwar activists, like Dean: "If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a more dangerous place. I consistently supported Saddam's removal for the past decade, and am prepared to do what it takes to win the war on terrorism at home and abroad." Dean responded to the news with class: "President Bush deserves a day of celebration. We have our policy differences but we won't be discussing those today."
Tell Nader. I like Ralph Nader, but there's no way in hell I'm supporting a 2004 presidential run. Thanks to his exploratory committee's website, now I can tell him. You can too.
Saddam Hussein captured!


So long public domain... From USNews:
The Bush administration has removed from the public domain millions of pages of information on health, safety, and environmental matters, lowering a shroud of secrecy over many critical operations of the federal government. The administration's efforts to shield the actions of, and the information held by, the executive branch are far more extensive than has been previously documented. And they reach well beyond security issues...

Among the findings of the investigation:

Important business and consumer information is increasingly being withheld from the public. The Bush administration is denying access to auto and tire safety information, for instance, that manufacturers are required to provide under a new "early-warning system" created following the Ford-Firestone tire scandal four years ago. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, meanwhile, is more frequently withholding information that would allow the public to scrutinize its product safety findings and product recall actions.

New administrative initiatives have effectively placed off limits critical health and safety information potentially affecting millions of Americans. The information includes data on quality and vulnerability of drinking-water supplies, potential chemical hazards in communities, and safety of airline travel and others forms of transportation.

Beyond the well-publicized cases involving terrorism suspects, the administration is aggressively pursuing secrecy claims in the federal courts in ways little understood--even by some in the legal system. The administration is increasingly invoking a "state secrets" privilege that allows government lawyers to request that civil and criminal cases be effectively closed by asserting that national security would be compromised if they proceed.

New administration policies have thwarted the ability of Congress to exercise its constitutional authority to monitor the executive branch and, in some cases, even to obtain basic information about its actions...
Read the full story.


Gnu School Mix: Net artist Rick "Cuechamp" Silva's 35-minute mix of pop and hip-hop songs gets really good halfway through when diva/rapper Missy Elliott gets the hoedown treatment.
Who the hell said that? Will Durst recaps the year with a quiz of worldly wisdom:
1. "With a healthy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."
A) Tom Delay, revealing his secret strategy to keep Republican Members of Congress in line when they express concerns about the Bush administration's rampant deficit spending.
B) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on his feud with Colin Powell and the State Department.
C) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spokesman, H. D. Palmer, on cutting K-12 funding.
D) Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassaman, battalion commander of the forces occupying Abu Hishma, Iraq, explaining a plan to keep the village safe by encircling it in a wall of barbed wire.

2. "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
A) Donald Rumsfeld, articulating his frustration at the Coalition's inability to find Hussein's fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction.
B) Spokesperson for the legal team of Michael Jackson's accuser speaking either on behalf of his client's case or the King of Pop's missing nose cartilage.
C) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver making a Freudian slip in defense of her husband's groping accusations.
D) Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, disputing whether the West Bank wall Israeli soldiers are erecting exists because he's banned all photographs of it.

3. "Wal-Mart is the greatest thing that ever happened to low-income Americans."
A) W. Michael Cox, chief economist of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas.
B) W. Michael Cox, a man who obviously never tried to run a household paid minimum wage with little or no benefits.
C) W. Michael Cox, a man whose portfolio apparently includes absolutely no Kroger, Safeway, Jewel or Albertson's stock.
D) All of the above.

4. "I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."
A) Former Vice President J. Danforth Quayle.
B) President George W. Bush.
C) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
D) Reality Show Star Paris Hilton.

5. "We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns- the ones we don't know we don't know."
A) Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld during a briefing on Iraq.
B) My Uncle Bud after eight hours on a bar stool at Tony's Tavern watching an entire Sunday slate of NFL football.
C) AARP directors defending their decision to endorse Medicare reform even though it may end up costing seniors more money.
D) Iowa State Elections Chairman, Bob Roberts, explaining the state's arcane caucuses regulations.

6. "Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."
A) Actor Tom Cruise on the decision to portray little or no blood in the battle scenes of his new movie "The Last Samurai."
B) Condoleeza Rice, referring to the official White House policy of preventing journalists from documenting returning body bags.
C) Russell Crowe's character, Jack Aubrey, in the film adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander."
D) Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, when questioned as to why the Pentagon refuses to provide kill figures for enemy combatants.

Answers are 1. D) 2. A) 3. D) 4. C) 5. A) 6. D)
Off Target: Concluding that many civilian deaths in Iraq are avoidable, Human Rights Watch releases a new report on the US use of cluster bombs in populated areas and the targeting of specific Iraqi military leaders. "Its no good using a precise weapon," says HRW director Kenneth Roth, "if the target hasn't been located precisely." Democracy Now speaks with Fernando Suarez del Solar whose son, Jesus, was among the one of eight American GIs killed by unexploded cluster bombs in Iraq.

Courageous Kucinich: During a recent debate among Democratic presidential candidates, Ted Koppel harangued Dennis Kucinich, suggesting he's a "vanity candidate": "You're not doing terribly well with money; you're doing even worse in the polls. When do you pull out?" Kucinich answered, "When I take the oath of office. When you're there to cover it." In a sharp rebuke of a media that takes the focus of politics away from issues only to fixate on cash and cache, Kucinich went on, "I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country. We start talking about endorsements, now we're talking about polls, and then we're talking about money." In what many see as retaliation for the candidate's crowd-pleasing speech, ABC has pulled three of its "off-air producers" who were covering the campaigns of Kucinich, Sharpton, and Braun.

Zinn! Historian Howard Zinn, in the speech he hopes a Democratic presidential candidate will one day read, calls for the removal of all US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: "I am proposing a fundamental change in the foreign policy of our country... I believe that we should use our great power not for military purposes but to bring food and medicine to those areas of the world that have been devastated by war, by disease, by hunger. If we took a fraction of our military budget we could combat malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS. We could provide clean water for the billion people in the world who don't have it and would save millions of lives. That would be an accomplishment we could be proud of. But how proud can we be of military victories over weak nations, in which we overthrow dictators but at the same time bomb and kill the people who are the victims of these dictators?"


The Most Phallic Building in the World.
Something funky in the Bush camp. In what cynics (like me) might consider merely a photo op to build support among African Americans for Bush, Colin Powell appointed the Godfather of Soul to a fictitious cabinet post, saying "I hereby appoint you secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk."

Halliburton: gouging the guv'ment. The US is paying Halliburton "an average of $2.64 a gallon to import gasoline and other fuel to Iraq from Kuwait, more than twice what others are paying to truck in Kuwaiti fuel, government documents show."

How Dems got their groove back? Former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal writes that Gore's early endorsement of Dean indicates, at the very least, that Democrats have regained their voice. Let's hope so.

Dear Santa. South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority has banned a commercial by the Post Office that invites kids to write letters to Santa Claus. The ruling, spawned by a complaint from journalist Andrew October, found the commercial to be misleading to kids. According to October the commercial encourages "a falsehood that could break the fragile spirits of the already disillusioned youth of South Africa."


Passing on. Ruben Gonzalez, the spirited jazz pianist of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, has died at age 84. Ry Cooder called him a "cross between Thelonious Monk and Felix the Cat" and The Beat's Robert Tarte dubbed him "the Lee 'Scratch' Perry of Cuban acoustic music, part nutcase and total certified genius too overwhelmed by his own talent to plow safe performance ruts." Check out his amazing discography here, and hear for yourself.

Is that why W can't find the WMD's? The New York Post oddly juxtaposes the headline "Nukes Missing" (from a story about missing "dirty bombs" in Moldova) with a photo of Bush with two kids from the Nutcracker. Very strange.

Compassionate conservatism? Dick Cheney on a Monday hunting trip personally shot more than 70 pheasants in a 10-person hunting party that killed a total of 417 birds, a count that doesn't include the countless mallards killed. According to The Humane Society, 500 farm-raised pheasants were released into a confined space prior to the visit by Cheney. "This wasn't a hunting ground. It was an open-air abattoir, and the vice president should be ashamed to have patronized this operation and then slaughtered so many animals," a Humane Society representative said. (Via BoingBoing.)

Calling all whistleblowers. California congressman Henry Waxman is making an open call for whistleblowers at the Pentagon, the CIA, and other agencies to spill the beans on the Bush administration for creating false links between al-Qaeda and Iraq's alleged WMDs. In a TomPaine.com report on Waxman's efforts, which includes opportunities for anonymous and on-the-record tips, Robert Dreyfuss also questions whether Israel doctored data to exaggerate Iraq's WMD threat. He writes, "According to informed U.S. sources, a secret intelligence team was set up in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office before the war in Iraq to generate data adding yet more justifications for war—intelligence that Sharon’s office then shared, in English, with [US neocon advisor William] Luti’s OSP [Office of Special Plans]—even though the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, was said to be much more cautious and restrained about the threat to Israel from Iraq."


Neuromarketing: Mining the Mind. Researchers at Emory University are getting federal funding to conduct "neuromarketing" studies--MRI research geared toward determining which parts of the brain react to different types of advertising and making marketing more effective. In a Dec. 1 letter to the university's president, Commercial Alert's Gary Ruskin questions whether Emory's attempts to locate the brain's "buy button" breaches the Belmont Reports standards for ethical experimentation on human subjects. If so, they risk losing federal funding. Writes Ruskin, "It is wrong to use medical research for marketing instead of healing. If Emory University doesn't stop this immediately, we will do everything in our power to shut down Emory's federal funding."

Also: There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex.


Clothed in dissent. American Apology Shirt sells t-shirts emblazoned with the words of George W. Bush ("In a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution."); an apology for our president, written in all the offical UN languages; and excerpts from the infamous Diebold memos. The best part of sites like this is the letters page. One writer sees this apparel as "tantamount to treason."

Reagan redux. The AP, writing that Republican efforts to replace FDR with Reagan's image on the dime came in response to CBS's supposedly unfair depiction of the former president in a miniseries, reports that Nancy Reagan is against the legislation to alter the coin. Also: Alternet considers why the new HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Angels in America"--which features a far harsher critique of Reagan's AIDs policy than did the scuttled CBS miniseries--won't be the center of a rightwing media campaign.


Google speaks: As Newday reports, there's been another "Google bombing": do a search on the phrase "miserable failure" and see what you get.
More draft speculation. Ted Rall ponders the possibility of forced conscription should Bush get re-elected. The context: 60,000 of the 130,000 troops stationed in Iraq come from the National Guard or reserves. 90,000 more are serving in Kuwait, Afghanistan, South Korea, Kosovo and Macedonia. According to Stars & Stripes, 49 percent of soldiers won't re-enlist. Rall writes:
In early November, the Pentagon website DefendAmerica.mil put out a call for applicants willing to serve on Selective Service System draft boards. "Serve Your Community and the Nation--Become a Selective Service System Local Board Member," the ad read. "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 local and appeal boards throughout America would decide which young men who submit a claim receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on federal guidelines." Noting that the SSS hopes to fill its 8,000 draft board slots by spring 2005, many journalists are wondering aloud whether the Bush Administration plans to reinstate forced conscription of 18-to-26-year-olds after the election, just on time for invasions of Iran, Syria and/or North Korea.
Drafted for what? On the eve of Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq, three more US soldiers are killed. In Afghanistan, US troops, working on intelligence that Taleban fighters were "preparing an attack from a house," bombed a home in Ghazni, killing ten people, including nine children.


Nature fights back. BoingBoing links to photos of trees munching on signs: an engulfed No Parking sign and a bark-bent didactic plaque.

Bloodvertising. Blood is fun, say the makers of the new video game Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance. Deemed the "bloodiest ever," the game will be promoted in the UK through advertisements that, thanks to cartridges of red dye placed behind plexiglass, will ooze for six days, dripping fake blood onto the pavement.

Rankled Reaganites want to replace FDR's image on the dime with none other than that of the 40th president's. Roosevelt, who founded the March of Dimes and himself was diagnosed with polio, is chided by Republicans for expanding government through the New Deal.

Looting the future. The Bush Administration, writes economist Paul Krugman, "governs like there's no tomorrow."


Real Turkey. When George W. Bush made his swashbuckling Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad not all was as it seemed. The turkey the Prez brandished on the front page of papers cross-country wasn't a turkey at all, but a "decoration"--a prop provided by Bush's spin team.

Love, Franken-style. Al Franken says: "If you listen to a lot of conservatives, they'll tell you that the difference between them and us is that conservatives love America and liberals hate America. They don't get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America the way a 4-year-old loves her mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding  what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world." (Via Utne.)

Dean slams Big Media. Despite receiving huge campaign contributions by Disney, Sony and Vivendi, Howard Dean says he'd "break up giant media enterprises."

Ohio nixes touchscreen voting. The state of Ohio will be using punch-card voting in the 2004 elections because of security flaws in its four brands of electronic voting machines.

Worry less. Rick Perlstein, on a taking-the-pulse tour of middle America, finds that Democrats and liberals have to worry a little less about beating Bush: now even staunch Republicans are getting skittish about the president. But Dems still need to capitalize on Bush's dismal record on war and the economy. Writes Perlstein: "Here's a riddle: What do shuttered factories manufacture? Democrats. Or at least they might, if the national Democratic Party had the balls to do what needs to be done."

Not that kind of terrorism. When authorities cracked a terrorist plot in Texas in March--discovering illegal weapons, a sodium cyanide bomb, fake IDs and chemicals like HCl--why didn't anyone report on it?

Trafficking in Torture. TalkLeft links to a new Amnesty International report, The Pain Merchants, that fingers the Bush adminstration for "violating the spirit of its own export policy by approving the sale of tools to countries known to use them to torture detainees." In addition to shipping some 10,000 leg irons to Riyahd, US companies last year exported $14.7 million and $4.4 million, respectively, in electro-shock weapons and restraints that can be used for torture.

Boycott Coke tomorrow. Eight years ago tomorrow, Isidro Gil, lead negotiator for a Colombian food and beverage workers’ union was shot dead at Coca-Cola's bottling plant. On the same day, Coke allegedly kidnapped Luis Adolfo Cardona and looted and burned the union hall to the ground. Seems like a fitting date for a Boycott Coca-Cola Day of Action.

No Big-Box X-mas. Do the bargain-basement prices at Wal-Mart redeem its abysmal labor practices (substandard wages, forcing unpaid overtime on its workers and refusing to provide affordable health insurance)? Tell Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. that, because of their labor record, you'll be taking your business elsewhere this holiday season.


Soylent Dean. A new downloadable poster from the Howard Dean campaign screams, "My God! His campaign!! It's made out of PEOPLE!!"


A known unknown genius: Donald Rumsfeld has won this year's probably-not-so-coveted Foot In Mouth Award for this unintelligible utterance from a recent press conference: "Reports that say something hasn't happened are interesting to me, because as we know, there are known unknowns; there things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns--the ones we don't know we don't know."
A second-grader in Lafayette, La., was scolded and forced to write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again" after he told a classmate his mother is a lesbian, the American Civil Liberties Union alleges. According to the ACLU, which filed a complaint with the Lafayette Parish School Board on Monday, 7-year-old Marcus McLaurin was waiting in line to go to recess on November 11 at Ernest Gaullet Elementary School in Youngsville when classmates asked him about his mother and father.

McLaurin responded that he has two mothers because his mother is gay. When the other child asked for an explanation, McLaurin told him, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl," according to the complaint.

A teacher, overhearing the remark, scolded McLaurin, telling him "gay" is a "bad word" and sending him to the principal's office. The following week the school required the boy to attend a behavioral clinic at 6:45 a.m., where he was forced to repeatedly write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again," the ACLU said. The child was also made to sign a "Student Behavior Contract," where he wrote, "I sed bad wurds."
Full story here. Update 12/5: Superintendent James Easton says, "An apology is not due. The child was not singled out because his parent is gay."
Harper's online: At long last, Lewis Lapham and company have come up with an online version of Harper's Magazine. While much of their print content remains unavailable, the Index is now online (with handy hyperlinked footnotes) along with archival material from the magazine's early--i.e. post-1850--years. The site's designer, Paul Ford, discusses the project.