Der Furor: A great dialogue between Jacob Weisberg and William Saletan on Bush's goofy campaign spot, "Kerry's Coalition of the Wide-Eyed." Weisberg's writing:
...the vileness ...must not be allowed to obscure its essential hilarity. What moron came up with this idea? What are they smoking in Karl Rove's office? C'mon, Will. This ad is the campaign equivalent of The Producers—an idea so egregiously tasteless and stupid that it might just succeed as camp.

Footage of Hitler shouting in German is juxtaposed with footage of Al Gore, Howard Dean, and Dick Gephardt getting worked up while criticizing Bush, Michael Moore getting booed for criticizing the Iraq War at the Academy Awards, and John Kerry using the phrase "kick your ass" (which is bleeped out, possibly in an effort to imply he said something worse). I know I should be disgusted by the attempted association of Democrats and Nazis, but it's too funny to get upset about. Cue the goose-stepping mädchen of the Brookings Institution!

What exactly does the Bush-Cheney campaign think that these Democrats have in common with Hitler? Basically, it's that they're too darned excited about politics.

No whiffleballs for Bush: After the prez sat for an interview with Irish journalist Carole Coleman, the White House complained that she "overstepped the bounds of politeness." Her crime, according to John Nichols, was not being "as ill-informed and pliable as the stenographers who 'cover' the White House." Read the White House transcript. More at BoingBoing.
Freedumb: Artist Steve Kurtz of the Critical Art Ensemble has been indicted not on bioterror charges, as the government initially implied, but for mail and wire fraud. After a 7-week grand jury investigation, prosecutors say Kurtz and Robert Ferrell, head of the human gentics lab at the University of Pittsburgh, schemed to illegally aquire a difficult-to-obtain bacteria. While a lesser charge than bioterror, a conviction could land Kurtz in jail for 20 years. Background on the case here and here.

Taping While Brown: I wonder if Purna Raj Bajracharya's crime is being Nepalese, by which I mean, looking vaguely Middle Eastern. While videotaping street scenes of his life in New York to send home to his wife, he accidentally taped a building that happened to house an FBI office. When they found out, the FBI threw Bajracharya into solitary confinement for three months, shackling him so fully at times he couldn't move and holding him in a 6 x 9' cell that was kept lit 24 hours a day, then deported him back to Katmandu. Now in Nepal, Bajracharya says he'd testify against those who mistreated him, despite his fears what the US government would do to him in retaliation. But he remains positive: "What happened to me could have been an isolated incident. I still believe the American government is the best in the world." (Via TalkLeft.)


WWJT? In a New York Times interview in which he says of Dick Cheney, charitably, "I don't think he's a mindful human being," Ronald Reagan Jr. weighs in on Abu Ghraib:
If you are going to call yourself a Christian -- and I don't -- then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog's leash? How can Christians tolerate it? It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight -- it has put them in greater danger.
Why Google hates Michael Moore: You'd think that when you google "Michael Moore movie" or "Michael Moore film" you'd get, you know, the Michael Moore movie everyone's been talking about, or at least the filmmaker's website. You don't. You get a link to Michael Moore Hates America, a Moore-style documentary by Minneapolis amateur filmmaker Michael Wilson. The Unknown Soldier investigates why this search strand--and most others involving Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11--lead mainly to anti-Moore screeds.

Google's Gag Order: Perrspectives--a left-leaning website whose ads have been removed by Google for “unacceptable content” and “language that advocates against an individual, group or organization"-- explores Google's anti-liberal bias.
Out: From Joy Garnett--artist, activist, and editor of my new favorite Eyeteethesque blog, NEWSgrist--comes a new site, I'm Voting Bush Out.
The political cost of abortion: A really creepy opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal:
Abortion has caused missing Democrats--and missing liberals. For advocates so fundamentally committed to changing the face of conservative America, liberals have been remarkably blind to the fact that every day the abortions they advocate dramatically decrease their power to do so. Imagine the number of followers that their abortion policies eliminate who, over the next several decades, would have emerged as the new liberal thinkers, voters, adherents, fund-raisers and workers for their cause...

As liberals and Democrats fervently seek new voters and supporters through events, fund-raisers, direct mail and every other form of communication available, they achieve results minuscule in comparison to the loss of voters they suffer from their own abortion policies. It is a grim irony lost on them, for which they will pay dearly in elections to come.
(Via BoingBoing.)


Fahrenheit burns Bush: I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night--go see it!--and my opinion pretty much matches that of John Birch Society writer (and avowed "ultra-conservative") William Norman Grigg's:
It will have a HUGE impact because Moore – his facile leftist economics notwithstanding – has nailed his case against the Bush regime flush to the plank. It will be all but impossible for anybody who sits still and watches this film to view Bush the Lesser as anything other than a petty, spiteful, dim-witted, bloody-handed little fool – and the figurehead of a murderous power elite. This explains why the Bu'ushists are threatening to go Abu Ghraib on Moore: They're busted.
(Via Cursor.)


Remember Afghanistan? While Bush administration officials pooh-pooh the claims made by an anonymous CIA counterterrorism expert in Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror--among them, that the US waited so long after 9/11 to strike against the Taliban that terrorists were long gone by the time bombs started falling --news out of Aghanistan is increasingly bleak. While the Bush administration has focused on bringing "democracy" to Iraq, Afghanistan has seen the Taliban's power expand. Sixteen people were recently killed by the Taliban for possessing voter registration cards from the September election, and five employees of Doctors without Borders were murdered by the Taliban in early June. Plus opium production has gone through the roof; according to the UN, Afghanistan now produces 75% of the world's supply of illegal opium. Imperial Hubris' author also says we're probably far from catching Osama bin Laden and that al-Qaeda is probably stronger than ever. And: Home of the Not-So-Free, by the Dissident Voice's Kim Petersen.
Got Democracy? A new wave of appropriated images from Abu Ghraib is showing up around San Francisco, only this time the hooded man is featured against a tattered image of the American flag. "It's not pro-Democrat, it's not pro-Republican--it's supposed to make you think," says the poster's creator. "Do these people in Iraq have democracy? And do we have democracy? The Guantanamo Bay issue of suspending people's rights...smacks of McCarthyism, which is a kind of fascism. ...If (this) were any other country--and use the criteria that Bush uses toward other countries--we'd not be called a democracy now." And: God Less America!


Immoral Majority: What's the proper term for the GOP's moral malaise of late--moral relativism? Hipocrisy? Plain old bullshit? Whatever you call it, the Republicans seem to be full of it lately. A week ago, Bill Clinton lost his cool during a BBC interview, frustrated by questions about Monica Lewinsky. Rightwingers had a field day. Yet when Dick Cheney tells a respected senator to "Go fuck" himself, the GOP--not to mention the second highest officeholder in the land, who "felt better" having cussed out a colleague--says it's no big deal. And this on the day the Senate voted to toughen penalties for TV and radio stations who broadcast indecency. Likewise, a new commercial on George W. Bush's campaign site visually likens John Kerry and other Democrats with Hitler. Remember the hue and cry when one of a thousand citizen-made TV spots in MoveOn's Bush in 30 Seconds contest likened Bush's tactics--but not the man himself--to Hitler's? Responding to criticisms by the Democrats, the Bush commercial now features this explanation: "[John Kerry] has not denounced liberal supporters like Al Gore, George Soros, and many others who have made speeches comparing the president to Adolph Hitler." I could debunk the facts--neither Al Gore nor George Soros "compared the president to" Hitler; both made reference to our times as feeling like Nazi-era Germany, but compared only tactics and not leaders--but I'm more curious about their logic. Never the party to take the higher ground, they're saying: we can do it, because THE DEMOCRATS NEVER SAID IT'S WRONG. In an election between an incumbent who looks to his opponent's party for moral leadership, I know who I'll choose.

The Democrats are running an online petition drive to get the president to pull the offending spot from his site. (Aside from comparing passionate Democrats to "wild-eyed" Hitler, I don't think it's such a bad spot. Makes me like the few Democratic firebrands we've got even more. What do you think? Lemme know using the comment link below.)

OK, OK, I will challenge the facts: What Gore said:
The absence of enlightened nation-building after world war one led directly to the conditions which made Germany vulnerable to fascism and the rise of Adolf Hitler, and made all of Europe vulnerable to his evil designs.
What Soros said:
When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans. My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitised me.
The C Word: Cheney brings political civility to an all-time low, say columnists.
Paying the price: A new study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus finds that the war in Iraq--which has already has a $126 billion pricetag--will end up costing each American family$3,415. The "annual costs would be enough to provide healthcare for more than half of the 43 million US citizens who lack medical insurance," reports The Guardian. The IPSFPF study also does body counts (figures are for deaths prior to June 16 and therefore don't include death tolls from this week's nationwide attacks):
- Up to 11,317 Iraqi civilians have been killed
- 6,370 Iraqi soldiers or insurgents have been killed
- 952 coalition trips killed, including 853 Americans
- Around 694 troops were killed after George Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003
- 50–90 civilian contractors and missionaries killed
- 30 journalists
More math: Mayor Bloomberg assures New Yorkers that the inconvenience of holding the Republican National Cenvention in the city will pay off, bringing an estimated $250 million into the local economy over four days. Matthew Yglesias crunches the number and questions whether almost $7 per day per New Yorker is really worth it. "The city will, I assume, be spending a lot of money on police overtime, barricade construction, etc., which will probably bring the average net economic gain down even further. Then you've got to consider that beyond inconveniencing NYC's 8 million residence, there are millions and millions of people living in Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Westchester who work in the city and will also be paying the inconvenience tax."


Rubber Republican: From the Minneapolis Star Tribune's gossip column, Item World:
When you move into the Uptown location once occupied by Condom Kingdom, I.W. figures you’re gonna get some interesting mail. But nothing prepared Domain Architecture and Design owner Lars Peterssen for the letter that arrived on his doorstep earlier this month. It was addressed to Kondom King. And it was from President George W. Bush. "Will you join Laura, me and the entire Republican Party leadership as we gather… to celebrate my first term in office?" read the letter accompanying the White House invitation. "All of us want to recognize and honor the commitment and sacrifices you’ve made for our Party and our nation." Kondom—er, Lars—was gigantically amused by the mailing. "One of my employees suggested we send in the money and go in appropriate costume," he said. And that would be? "Rubber over the head with a big point on the top."

Soleless consumption: Nike is developing shoes bound for the trash--lightweight, disposable running shoes that only last for 60 miles. Price: $45. They're also developing a $250 shoe, "arguably the most high-tech shoe ever built... it is complete with a computer microchip and operating system that analyzes a runner's step and starts making cushioning adjustments in the heel of the shoe based on the runner's impact with the particular terrain after just three steps." Whew, just in the nick of time for both of these important manufacturing developments.
A "frank exchange of views": That's how Dick Cheney referred to his comments to Sen. Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate yesterday. When Cheney scolded Leahy for suggesting that the Veep was profiting from Halliburton's contracts in Iraq, the Vermont senator reminded Cheney that he'd once called Leahy a bad Catholic for his views. To which the vice president replied--all statesmanlike, I'm sure--"Go fuck yourself." These guys have really changed the tone, eh? And: A big "And how!" to this opinion by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager (via Atrios):
As for the liberals who think that using the f-word in public is no big deal, it is good to have them say so. Anything that clarifies the massive values-differences between the Left and the Right is helpful. We who are not on the Left think public cursing is a big deal, because we believe that people can pollute their soul, their character, and, yes, their society, just as they can pollute their rivers and their air and their lungs.


Bushies for Nader:TalkLeft posts this note from a reader in Oregon: "I am a Democrat who, a short while ago, gave my email address and phone number to the local Republican party to receive updates on what they were up to. Today I received a phone call from the local Republican party asking me if I wanted to go the Nader convention. They explained the need to get Nader on the ballot to help President Bush. The name on the caller ID on my phone said 'Bush Cheney' implying that they were calling from the Oregon Bush Cheney headquarters."


USDA held captive by industry? Get this: the USDA just decided that frozen french fries can now be legally classified as fresh vegetables.
What is art? (And what is bioterror?) The outrageous case of Steve Kurtz, the Buffalo, NY, artist who'll likely be charged under the Patriot Act for possessing harmless bacteria and lab equipment (part of his work with Critical Art Ensemble), continues to get ignored by major media outlets. Look for my new Adbusters feature on the case, and consider donating to his defense fund. An excerpt:
Critical Art Ensemble is an internationally recognized art group that explores “the intersections between art, technology, radical politics, and critical theory.” The biotechnology industry it has chosen to address in recent years contributes overwhelmingly to Republican candidates—nearly three-quarters of its $25.8 million in donations to date went to the GOP. The installation at MASSMOCA was to include a DNA extractor that would test food from the local supply for transgenic contamination. “There is no legal way to stop huge corporations from putting genetically altered material in our food,” says CAE spokeswoman Carla Mendes. “Yet owning the equipment required to test for the presence of ‘Frankenfood’ will get you accused of ‘terrorism.’”

Whether Kurtz’s story is a case of post-9/11 paranoia or a move intended to silence outspoken artists will probably never be known, but if it ends up in court, it will raise broader issues about free expression in John Ashcroft’s America. Artist Greg Sholette says Kurtz’s “art itself is going to be up on trial. Critical Art Ensemble has a strong tradition of critiquing capitalism and pushing the edges through its art, but always within constitutional boundaries.” Those boundaries, too, might be on trial: recall that it was Bush, who in 1999, reacted to a spoof site created by the conceptual art collective ®™ark by declaring, “There ought to be limits to freedom.”
Also: Thanks to Paul Shoebridge, the home page now has a pull-down index that features all of my art-related pieces (see "More art activism").
Culture-jamming war porn: Someone jammed a UK billboard promoting the Royal Air Force's "Air Tattoo," a big military airshow, inserting images of suffering from Vietnam, including "napalm girl," Kim Phuc. The term "war porn" is getting increasing usage, applying either to the titillation of violent war imagery or the near-erotic worship of war machines. Air shows are great entertainment, but if we forget that we're seeing equipment made explicitly to kill--"c'mon kids, let's go see the new electric chair exhibition at the fair!"--we're buying into what Salon calls the "military industrial porn complex."

And: I just got an email update from the excellent magazine, Orion, entitled "Weapons of Mass Illusion." OK, people, Weapons of Mass Deception was a great book (as was Danny Schecter's book of the same name, which came out just weeks after Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's), but isn't it time we give the "weapons of mass __________" trope a rest?


Terror teddybear: From The Smoking Gun:
The FBI has subpoenaed records related to the online sales of a teddy bear carrying the message 'Bush Kills Arabs Dead,' apparently as part of a probe into who delivered one of the plush toys to the Michigan home of a federal magistrate, The Smoking Gun has learned.

But, TSG has discovered, the Detroit U.S. Attorney's grand jury investigation will find that the teddy bear, pictured at right, wasn't some sort of a terror threat, but rather a gag gift purchased by a friend of Mona Majzoub, the federal magistrate...
Today's soundtrack: Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra's Who Is This America?--politically engaged, butt-shaking afropop in the spirit of Fela and Femi but straight outta Brooklyn.
Tao te ka-ching: From The Australian:
A THAI Buddhist monk agreed to strip corporate sponsorship logos from his famous Bangkok temple Monday after the brash advertisements caused an uproar in the deeply religious kingdom.

Thai television showed images of monks holding large ceremonial fans bearing advertisements for the 'MK' restaurant chain and the BTS mass transit system, as well as prominent sponsorship signs above rows of golden Buddha statues

The use of logos on monk's ceremonial fans, which usually carry reflective passages on the nature of death during traditional Thai funerals, drew particularly harsh criticism...

A furious Thai woman who attended a funeral at the temple told the Thai Post newspaper that whenever she looked up for words of comfort she instead saw a sign enticing her to eat at 'MK'.
And: To earn back karma points for conflating Buddhism and Taoism just to make a bad pun in that headline, here's a public-domain version of LaoTzu's Tao te ching. OK?


Siva in Counterpoise: Counterpoise, a radical library journal, has reprinted excerpts from my interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of the new book The Anarchist in the Library, in its new issue. More on Siva here.
Draft Bruce: The founder of New York's Irving Plaza has put a hold on Giants Stadium for the night of September 1--just as the nomination of George W. Bush for re-election will be going on across town--in the hopes that Bruce Springsteen will accept his offer to play a concert there to steal Bush's thunder on national TV broadcasts. Sign the petition to Draft Bruce.
More exaggerations by Bush and Co.: As the Supreme Court gets ready to rule on the legality of holding 595 suspected terrorists in Guantanamo without charge, the New York Times finds that " that government and military officials have repeatedly exaggerated both the danger the detainees posed and the intelligence they have provided."
Not OK to be gay: Since the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality was established in 1994, some 10,000 personnel have been discharged for admitting being gay--770 of them in the last year, according to a new report.


CBS' double standard: CBS refused to air Adbusters' Buy Nothing Day ads because, as Robert Lowary wrote in '97, the network's "policy precludes accepting commercial advertising that takes an advocacy position on one side of a controversial issue of public importance and urges the viewer to take action in this regard." They refused to run commercials for PETA and MoveOn during the 2004 Super Bowl for the same reason. Yet they're apparently perfectly fine running an ad bashing Bill Clinton, timed to coincide with Clinton's appearance on 60 Minutes tonight. The ad, by Citizen's United, the rightwing flaks who got the infamous Reagan biopic pulled from CBS' airwaves for being mildly critical, essentially blames Clinton for today's terrorism. Learn more, and find a link to contact CBS, at Media Matters for America. And: Putting the ass in Compassionate Conservative, Fox's Bill O'Reilly tells his fans, "I don't have any respect by and large for the Iraqi people at all. I have no respect for them. I think that they're a prehistoric group... They're just people who are primitive."
Put up or shut up, Dick. If Iraq had continuing and deep ties with al-Qaida, as Dick Cheney continues to assert, why didn't he offer evidence when he testified before the 9-11 Commission?
Israel's Kurdish alliance: Seymour Hersch, who broke the Abu Ghraib story for The New Yorker, drops another bomb. Excerpts from The Guardian:
Israeli military and intelligence operatives are active in Kurdish areas of Iran, Syria and Iraq, providing training for commando units and running covert operations that could further destabilise the entire region...

Israel's aims, according to Hersh, are to build up the Kurdish military strength in order to offset the strength of the Shia militias and to create a base in Iran from which they can spy on Iran's suspected nuclear-making facilities.

"Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way - a balance against Saddam," one former Israeli intelligence officer told the New Yorker. "It's Realpolitik. By aligning with the Kurds Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. The critical question is 'What will the behaviour of Iran be if there is an independent Kurdistan with close ties to Israel? Iran does not want an Israeli land-based aircraft carrier on its border."

...According to Mr Hersh, Israel decided to step up its role in Kurdistan last summer after it was clear that the United States incursion into Iraq was failing, principally because it feared the chaos would strengthen Iran. The Israelis are particularly concerned that Iran may be developing a nuclear capability.

...In the autumn the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak told the US vice president, Dick Cheney, that America had lost in Iraq. Israel "had learned that there's no way to win an occupation," he told Mr Cheney, and the only issue was "choosing the size of your humiliation".

From July last year, argues Mr Hersh, the Israeli government started what one former Israeli intelligence official called "Plan B" in order to protect itself from the fallout of the chaos prompted by America's failure ahead of June 30. If the June 30 transfer of sovereignty does not go well, "there is no fallback, nothing," a former National Security Council member tells Hersh. "The neocons still think they can pull the rabbit out of the hat in Iraq," a former intelligence official says. "What's the plan? They say, 'We don't need it. Democracy is strong enough. We'll work it out.'"

Israel has a longstanding relationship with the Kurds, whom they regard as one of the few non-Arab allies in the area. The Iraqi Kurds, who played a key role in providing the United States with intelligence ahead of the war, have been angered by the United Nations resolution on Iraq earlier this month. The resolution did not affirm the interim constitution that granted them minority veto power in a permanent constitution and so could potentially leave them sidelined.

One Turkish official told Mr Hersh that Kurdish independence would be calamitous for the region. "The lesson of Yugoslavia is that when you give one country independence everybody will want it. Kirkuk will be the Sarajevo of Iraq. If something happens there, it will be impossible to contain the crisis."
Also: Co-created by Neal Pollack, of all people, a new site, Pray For Reason.


Tenuous links, weird logic: Bush and Cheney keep trumpeting on about how there really are links between al Qaida and Iraq, despite the 9/11 commission's findings to the contrary. Their tactic will probably work, to a degree: those who trust authority more than facts will buy their arguments (only, what authority does this lot of bunglers have anymore? The Commission's report shows an administration bordering on incompetence in their preparedness for and response to the 9/11 attacks). But whatever links may exist seem far more tenuous than Bush's links to bin Laden's family, Rummy's handshake with Saddam in 1983 (back when the Evil One was on the US payroll), or the US's $40 million payout to the Taliban in early 2001 for their efforts in the War on Drugs. As Condi implied in an NPR interview this morning, changing the subject: does anyone dispute the world's better off without Saddam in power in Iraq? 'Course not, but a more appropriate question is: was it worth it? Was shooting our proverbial wad in Iraq worth it when Osama runs free and his henchmen continue to capture and decapitate Americans?


Last gasp: Israeli artist Emilio Mogilner's not-so-subtle metaphor, 1 Breath Time, featured in my new Adbusters online column.


A simple apology: FaithfulAmerica.org--an online community that "believes in the common good and in community... [rejects] a go-it-alone culture that reduces our politics and our personal lives to selfishness and fear... [and acccepts] the separation of church and state, but not the separation of moral principles from politics"--has produced a simple, powerful commercial apologizing to the Muslim world for torture at Abu Ghraib. The spots began airing on Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya yesterday, paid for by visitors to their site. Donate, watch the ad, or endorse it here. (Via BAGnewsNotes and Cursor.)

Is avarice still a deadly sin? I wonder if Christian leaders will contribute their considerable marketing muscle to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11--a film described by a Fox News columnist as "a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty  —  and at the same time an indictment of stupidity and avarice"--the way they did Mel Gibson's crucifixion flick?


Is Bush bungling his way into a constitutional crisis? From Salon.com:
From failing to anticipate 9/11 to pressuring the CIA to produce bogus justifications for war, from abusing Iraqi prisoners to misrepresenting the nature of Iraqi insurgents, the Bush White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies they corrupted, coerced or ignored have made extraordinarily grave errors which could threaten our national security for years. By manipulating intelligence and punishing dissent while pursuing an extreme foreign-policy agenda, Bush leaders have set spy against U.S. spy and deeply damaged America's intelligence capabilities.

"It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything since then has been a horrible mistake," [Thomas] Powers [author of Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al Qaeda], says. 'The CIA is politicized to an extreme. It's under the control of the White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis -- what really amounts to a constitutional crisis."

Signal Orange: Interesting, simple project to raise awareness of the 834 American soldiers killed in Iraq:
"Signal Orange represents the dead with the living — wearing T-shirts in their names. There is one shirt for each soldier who died. The front states how he or she died, the back reads, “(Rank) (First) (Last) can’t vote anymore.”

The signal orange color of the shirt was chosen for the same reason it is used where caution is required — it’s the most visible color in person, on camera, and on video. The shirts are to be worn in places where the media is focused, whether that focus is momentary or constant. Examples might include the audience outside a morning talk show, or a parade, or a sporting event, and it certainly includes the Republican National Convention in NYC come September.

Signal Orange doesn’t say that these soldiers or their families condemn or support the war, and it doesn’t speak for them. Whether they opposed or supported the war, they were fighting for our right to decide democratically whether a war is just or not. They’ve been buried twice—once in the ground, and once in the media. If we can make them visible in the media through Signal Orange, we can demonstrate that they had voices that have been lost.
(Via BoingBoing.)
New and improved: AlterNet, revamped.


Red Cross to Bush: Release Saddam Hussein, charge him, or break international law.
Today's numbers from Bush's America:

54 Discrepancy in years between the Bush administration's falsified report that global terrorism is at a 34-year low and actual statistics that suggest terrorism may be at a 20-year high.

127 Number of American "bad apples" being investigated for torture in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9 Percentage of new US job layoffs attributed to outsourcing.

2 Number of top Iraqi officials murdered this weekend.

1 Rank of Afghanistan in global heroin production.

$1+ trillion Pricetag for the proposed defense bill over the next decade.

Bush has gotta go: Sez who? Try 26 diplomats and high-level military officials from the Clinton, Carter, and Reagan administrations. As one signatory of a document to be released on Wednesday said, the consensus among the 26 is that "we are so deeply concerned about the current direction of American foreign policy … that we think it is essential for the future security of the United States that a new foreign policy team come in." And: The Washington Post editorializes that "The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed Mr. Bush's view of the world, but he never adjusted his fiscal strategy; he continues to reduce the tax burden on the wealthy and leave the government without adequate resources for the fight. He has yet to invest the funds and energy, on a scale appropriate to an existential struggle, in public diplomacy, Arab-language training, foreign student exchanges, nuclear materials control and many other ventures that are key to eventual victory. And he has yet to acknowledge that the downsized military he favored in 2000 is no longer suitable in 2004."

Failed airstrikes killed civilians: The Pentagon now admits it ordered some 50 failed airstrikes to try to take out Saddam Hussein and his key advisors early in the Iraq war, far more than were previously disclosed. And the missions killed significant numbers of civilians, according to a New York Times report:
According to Human Rights Watch, a failed April 5 strike that singled out General Majid in a residential area of Basra killed 17 civilians; a failed April 8 strike that was aimed at Mr. Hussein's half brother Watban Ibrahim Barzan in Baghdad killed 6 civilians; and the second raid on Mr. Hussein and one or both of his sons, on April 7 in the Mansur district of Baghdad, killed an estimated 18 civilians.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Garlasco described the campaign to attack high-value targets as "abject failure," saying, "We failed to kill the H.V.T.'s and instead killed civilians and engendered hatred and discontent in some of the population."
Tickle Me Reagan: Shipping next week, the new Ronald Reagan action figure utters Reaganisms like "They try to track them, but federal grants are like rabbits: they multiply like crazy and when they're out you can't catch 'em." And: What would the Michael Moore action figure say? (Scroll down).
Bush/Pope 2004: "It is just unprecedented for a president to ask for help from the Vatican to get re-elected, and that is exactly what this is," says Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, about a report that Bush met with Vatican officials in hopes of getting the church hierarchy to pressure American bishops to speak out against gay marriage and other social issues.
Dick's on Lynndie's list: The 100-name witness list for Pvt. Lynndie England's hearing on her involvement in torture at Abu Ghraib includes high-profile Bushies including Dick Cheney. By putting top government officials like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Ricardo Sanchez, and others on their witness list, "England's attorneys are serving notice that in defending their client, they will attempt to put on trial the Bush administration's policies on intelligence gathering from detainees. Like most other military police reservists charged in the abuse scandal, England has claimed military intelligence officers ordered the MPs to 'soften up' the detainees prior to interrogations." Also: The Lynndie England Fan Club: "Support Her... Or Get Out."
Doe John Kerry rock? Apparently. Who knew?
Weed like a win: During the big game between England and France today, Lisbon police will be turning a blind eye to tokers, while targeting drunks. "If people are drinking they lose control, if they smoke cannabis they don’t," says Alan Buffry of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance. “Alcohol makes fans fight. But cannabis smokers will be shaking hands and singing along together.” (Via TalkLeft.)


A secret women's language: Nüshu, a written language passed on to women in China's Hunan Province, is one of the world's oldest languages--and the only exclusively female language known. Researchers found that the calligraphy has more than 2,000 characters and that "the content of nüshu writings have proved to be revealing about society, history, nationality and culture... It is, however, a written language only. Women formed their own written symbols to represent the words in their local dialect. Hence men can usually understand nüshu if they hear it read aloud." Read more here.

Special favors for special friends: Josh Marshall links to this curious tale:
Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.

The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky.

The Saudis then took another flight out of the country. The two ex-officers returned to TIA a few hours later on the same plane.

For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.

But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.

Reagan's Themepark America: From the Village Voice, "The Death of a Salesman":
I think that Reagan, like no other American, deserves the honor of being the first person ever embalmed at Disneyland.... Ronald Reagan is the man who destroyed America's sense of reality--a paltry target, all in all, given our predilections. It only took an actor: the real successor to John Wilkes Booth. In our bones, we had always been this sort of bullshit-craving country anyhow, founded on abstractions: not land (somebody else's), not people (Red Rover, Red Rover, send Emma Lazarus right over), not even shared history (nostalgia isn't the same thing, and try pulling that Civil War Shinola anywhere west of the Rio Grande). Just monumental words and wordy monuments, with two convenient oceans between them and circumstance; from Nat Turner's status as three-fifths of a man--even though we ended up hanging all of him--to Reagan's child Lynndie England (b. 1983, the year we invaded Grenada and lost 241 Marines in Lebanon), any shortfall could be blamed on something lost in translation. But it was Reagan, whose most profound Freudian slip was the immortal "Facts are stupid things," who beguiled us into living in the theme park full-time, and so much for the Declaration of Independence's prattle about "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind"--actually the only time we ever expressed much concern for those. Since his 1980 opponent, Jimmy Carter, was about the sorriest embodiment of the reality principle imaginable--Three's Company 's Mr. Roper on the world-historical stage--facts didn't have a prayer.
Also: for more "Gipperporn," read Wonkette.com.


Green art: British artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey explore germination, decay, and growth in their beautiful, largely grass-based art. Check out their range of work, from an 1866 London church entirely covered with sprouting grass to images "imprinted into living grass through the controlled production of chlorophyll."
Reagan fans no fan of Bush? Much has been written on the impact of Reagan's death on the presidential campaign, and many pundits say Bush will benefit. But this quote, buried within a wire report, might suggest otherwise. "[Reagan] made me proud to be an American," said Patricia Fuller, 67, of Thousand Oaks. "We need that again very badly, someone to bring that pride back. I hope there's someone out there." (Via Atrios.)
Spirit of the games: In Greece, Samsung is distributing cards to Olympic torchbearers that read, "If approached by media, please remember the following message: 'I am honoured to have been given the opportunity by Samsung to be a torchbearer for the Samsung Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay.'" And: While we're in the realm of overt branding, Pringles has announced that it'll begin printing messages and images on its chips. Hasbro's Trivial Pursuit Junior will be the first featured item, with questions from the game printed on each reconstituted potato-related crisp.


See it: The Agronomist, a new film by Jonathan Demme, "tells the story of Haitian national hero, journalist, and freedom fighter Jean L. Dominique. As owner and operator of his nation’s oldest and only free radio station, Dominique fought tirelessly against Haiti's overwhelming injustice, oppression, and poverty." (Thanks, Kemi.)
They're at it again: The 40th president's body isn't even cold yet, and Reaganiacs are already clamoring to get the Gipper on the $10 bill. Headed by Grover Norquist--who famously equated the estate tax with the "morality of the Holocaust" and says his goal is to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub”--the efforts would replace America's first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, on the bill.

Speaking of Reagan: It's over-the-top, all-Ronny-all-the-time coverage of Reagan's death on US TV and radio these days. Even NPR gushes for what seems like hours for a president that many of us see as the most destructive of the 20th century. Sure, he deserves his due--dead presidents make news--and it's indeed worthy of headlines (and our compassion), but I find the ubiquity of coverage, the overwhelming lack of nuance and balance, bizarre. My problem with the reportage is how it's told (what details are left out in the name of "good taste"?) and how often it's told (if half of Morning Edition is about Reagan, what stories were bumped?).

Instead of this tasteful framework for the story--"A contentious president, Reagan was beloved by many for X, Y, and Z, but despised by others for A, B, and C. But those of all political stripes must admit he left an indelible mark on the American psyche."--we get emotion-laden stories that leave out some key moments in Reagan's presidency. John Nichols writes, "All of a sudden, the man who redirected tens of billions of dollars away from domestic needs to build up the largest nuclear arsenel on the planet, ran up record deficits, saw members of his administration investigated and indicted at a staggering rate and, himself, came close to being impeached for allowing aides to create a shadow government that peddled weapons to sworn enemies of the United States and used the profits to fund illegal wars in Central America was remade as a statesman who restored dignity and direction to his country." And when other news is covered--especially on broadcast news--it gets short-changed. When's the last time you heard about the hunt for Osama bin Laden on the evening news? In-depth coverage of US GIs dying in the nearly forgotten war in Afghanistan? The brutal civil war in Sudan that's killed 30,000 people (300,000 more expected to die unless aid arrives soon)? This--news about death that can be prevented--is front-page news. Right?


Pulling the plug: According to MediaChannel, Italy's largest power utility--a state-owned entity--pulled the plug on two left-wing radio stations planning coverage of the massive protests around Bush's visit with the pope. Organizers say as many as 250,000 activists hit the streets. "It is something outrageous because while [Italy's] communication law recognizes the important role of local broadcasting, this role is taken away in a special day with great need of information and communication" Cynthia D'Ulizia the director of Radio Città Aperta said.
Nader on corporatism and conservatism: "Just as progressives have been abandoned by the corporate Democrats and told,'You got nowhere to go other than to stay home or vote for the Democrats,' this is the fate of the authentic conservatives in the Republican Party," says Ralph Nader in an American Conservative interview with Pat Buchanan. Referencing "the giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being named George W. Bush," Nader tries to lure true conservatives to his candidacy. And his logic's not half-bad:
I once said to Bill Bennett, “Would you agree that corporatism is on a collision course with conservative values?” and he said yes.

The impact of giant corporations, commercialism, direct marketing to kids, sidestepping parents, selling them junk food, selling them violence, selling them sex and addictions, selling them the suspension of their socialization process—years ago conservatives spoke out on that, but it was never transformed into a political position. It was always an ethical, religious value position. It is time to take it into the political arena.
(Thanks, John K.)
Art or bioterror: The Bush administration, continuing to confuse it's WMDs for a hole in the ground, is now seeking to prosecute members of a respected art collective for making art critical of genetic engineering:
Three artists have been served subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against a university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology equipment.

The subpoenas are the latest installment in a bizarre investigation in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken an art project for a biological weapons laboratory. While most observers have assumed that the Task Force would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of Steve Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their "case" against the baffled professor.

Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes--are, like Kurtz, members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), an artists' collective that produces artwork to educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. They were served the subpoenas by federal agents who tailed them to an art show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The third artist, Paul Vanouse, is, like Kurtz, an art professor at the University at Buffalo. He has worked with CAE in the past.

The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly bizarre case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate)," said Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that this investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is positively frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made freedom of speech in this country." Da Costa is an art professor at the University of California at Irvine.

According to the subpoenas, the FBI is seeking charges under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act. As expanded, this law prohibits the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system" without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose."

Even under the expanded powers of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is difficult to understand how anyone could view CAE's art as anything other than a "peaceful purpose." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted mainly of CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to test store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically modified grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any university's basic biology lab and even in many high schools.
The investigation focuses on the use of E. coli in a work called GenTerra, which has been part of a touring exhibition for two years.

Steve Kurtz's lawyer says this case is about the First Amendment: "It allows people to be different and express themselves in unique and creative ways. It's unsettling any time that the government comes down on someone because of the message they're trying to send or because they're different, because they're not cookie-cutter individuals in the eyes of clean-cut, blazer-wearing people. He's to be applauded for his individuality."

Read full release here. See CAE's biotech projects here
Remembering Reagan: Ketchup as a vegetable. Manuel Noriega. Iran/Contra. "The bombing begins in five minutes." MX missiles. CIA-sponsored car-bombing in Lebanon (killing 80+ civilians). Silence on AIDs... Just a few of the things you won't be hearing about in the glowing, amnesiac remembrances of Ronald Reagan in coming days. And: Prof. William Anderson writes that "the longest-term effect of his presidency will be the loss of freedom for many people in this country, and especially the loss of entrepreneurial freedom."


The Madness of King George: According to White House staffers, the president is getting increasingly erratic, one moment saying he's guided by "God's will," the next calling those he perceives as disloyal "fucking assholes." In a report for Capitol Hill Blue, one aide says, "This is what is killing us on Iraq. We lost focus. The President got hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war but the President insisted the focus stay on those two, tenuous items.” Also: former US weapons inspector David Kay calls those who continume to claim WMDs will be found in Iraq are "delusional," stating unequivocally, "There are not actual stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction."

A Buddhist perspective: Vietnamese Buddhist monk and "engaged Buddhism" practitioner Thich Nhat Hanh discusses torture, compassion's role in international politics, and more in this Beliefnet interview. "The very ideas of terrorism and imagined weapons of mass destruction are already collective karma in terms of thinking and speaking," he says. "The media helped the war happen by supporting these ideas through speech and writing. Thought, speech and action are all collective karma." And: Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams writes that torture imagery like those revealed at Abu Ghraib are "all too familiar" in Ireland. Plus: A new UN report says that torture at Abu Ghraib "might be designated as war crimes by a competent tribunal".

Fuming about gas prices? With American gasoline prices averaging $2.05 a gallon (and hitting $5.79 a gallon in the UK last week), how come Iraqis are only paying five cents a gallon? The answer: US subsidies. Since Iraq can't refine it's oil into gasoline, the US buys fuel at $1.50/gallon from neighboring countries and has it shipped in to Iraqi service stations--costing US taxpayers more than $500 million for a three-month supply.


A black eye for freedom of expression: San Francisco gallery owner Lori Haigh, in a group show of Berkeley artists, put Guy Colwell's painting Abuse in the front window. Within two days of its installation, the gallery window was egged, trash was dumped at the door, and hateful phone messages started pouring in. The painting features three American GIs amid a group of nude men wired up and hooded, Abu Ghraib style. Haigh eventually moved the painting to an interior wall, but continued to be harassed: one gallery visitor spat in her face, callers told her to leave the neighborhood "before you get hurt," and a man rang her doorbell and when Haigh emerged, he punched her in the face, giving her a black eye. She has since closed the gallery out of fear for her children's safety.

iPod, iRaq, iHop: Now The Onion offers another evolution of iPod, a "new 40 gigabite iHop breakfast platter" that "holds up to 10,000 pancakes."
Something cranky this way comes: Michael Moore's Palm d'Or-winning new film Fahrenheit 9/11 has been picked up for distribution, and will open in the US June 25 (see the trailer online). While it's been getting rave reviews, one bigwig isn't thrilled: Ray Bradbury (author of the sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451) is, shall we say, displeased at Moore's appropriated title, calling him a "horrible, horrible person" and "a screwed asshole... He stole my title and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission."


Lakoff on "Framing": In an insightful interview UC-Berkeley professor George Lakoff discusses how conservatives are better than progressives at "framing," why hands-off conservative foundations yield better results, and how the "nurturant parent" model dominates progressive movements:
[T]he progressive worldview is modeled on a nurturant parent family. Briefly, it assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that. Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. On a larger scale, specific policies follow, such as governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation, universal education (to ensure competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (derived from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values, which are traditional progressive values in American politics.

The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline — physical punishment that by adulthood will become internal discipline. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant, disciplined children are on their own. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or be cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.

So, project this onto the nation and you see that to the right wing, the good citizens are the disciplined ones — those who have already become wealthy or at least self-reliant — and those who are on the way. Social programs, meanwhile, "spoil" people by giving them things they haven't earned and keeping them dependent. The government is there only to protect the nation, maintain order, administer justice (punishment), and to provide for the promotion and orderly conduct of business. In this way, disciplined people become self-reliant. Wealth is a measure of discipline. Taxes beyond the minimum needed for such government take away from the good, disciplined people rewards that they have earned and spend it on those who have not earned it.
Anarchy, tangentially... Tangentium, "an online journal devoted to alternative perspectives on IT, democracy, and society," has dedicated its May issue to Anarchism, Activism and IT. Lest you freak out at that first A-word--as so many do--the publication runs a great article on anarchy:
The trouble with anarchism is that the word "anarchy" has developed false connotations. There is nothing in its Greek origins which implies chaos, violence or vandalism. It in fact describes a particular type of association, or a decision-making method, in which there are no identifiable leaders or rulers. The word is derived from a-, the prefix denoting the absence of something, and arkhos, ruler; compare this with monarch (one ruler), oligarch (few rulers) and so on. Now, it is true that language evolves, and therefore so do meanings. But in a country where the high form of language is still called the "King's/Queen's English", we cannot forget that control over the evolution of language is just one more means of exercising political power. When one sees the relatively abstract word "anarchy" applied to the material phenomenon of, say, a riot, one must remember that this is an application of a metaphor. Therefore, perhaps the first and most important task of the modern anarchist is to seek to reclaim the word.
It's a distinction Siva Vaidhyanathan makes in his book The Anarchist in the Library: his point is that anarchy's tactics--but not necessarily its political philosophy--might hold the key to reviving democracy. He sees distributed and decentralized communication technologies like WiFi, filesharing, and open-source software as a way of resisting hegemonic rule. "No self-defined anarchist has ever sparked a revolution," he writes. "But the ideologically uninitiated who have trafficked in the habits of anarchism—chiefly unmediated communication—have toppled dozens of tyrants."
i is for...
The new iPod ad campaign is ripe for jamming. From the iRaq subversions mentioned earlier to a new, more benign trend--interpreting what the "i" in iPod stands for: Impolite. Isolated. Insecure. Irrational. Idiotic. I'm less Interested in the commentary than in the lightning rod this campaign seems to be. Also: From the folks who created Black People Love Us and Fundrace comes a term that can explain the phenomenon: contagious media."
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Via Stay Free, a disclaimer at the Playmobil online toy store:
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