Priority: Pork! The $388 billion spending bill passed by the Republican-dominated Congress last week includes some 12,000 earmarked projects--that is, blatant, old-fashioned political pork. Decisions to fund legislators' pet projects leaving vital projects underfunded offers a crystal-clear view of the so-called "moral values" of the GOP. Consider their priorities: provisions in the bill mean Pell grants (which help low-income students attend college) will become unavailable for 85 million students, but $1 million has been set aside for a "Wild American Shrimp Initiative." While funding for the National Science Foundation was cut by $105 million (despite Bush's promise to raise it by $272 million), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame still gets $350,000 and the Yazoo Backwater Pumping Plant in Trent Lott's home state of Mississippi gets $12 million. And, as Howard Dean pointed out recently, the bill cuts out $400 million to help farmers' soil conservation efforts, but--fret not--Congress has scrounged up $2 million to buy back a presidential yacht.
Write a slogan, win a Prius: The Center for a New American Dream, a Maryland nonprofit promoting sustainability and conscious living, will give a Toyota Prius hybrid to whoever sends in the catchiest, clearest slogan urging automakers "that the time for fuel-efficient vehicles is now." Contest info here.
"What about Majdanek?" From The Guardian:
Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin.

The incident was not as shocking as the recording of an Israeli officer pumping the body of a 13-year-old girl full of bullets and then saying he would have shot her even if she had been three years old.

Nor was it as nauseating as the pictures in an Israeli newspaper of ultra-orthodox soldiers mocking Palestinian corpses by impaling a man's head on a pole and sticking a cigarette in his mouth.

But the matter of the violin touched on something deeper about the way Israelis see themselves, and their conflict with the Palestinians...

The rightwing Army Radio commentator Uri Orbach found the incident disturbingly reminiscent of Jewish musicians forced to provide background music to mass murder. "What about Majdanek?" he asked, referring to the Nazi extermination camp.

The critics were not drawing a parallel between an Israeli roadblock and a Nazi camp. Their concern was that Jewish suffering had been diminished by the humiliation of [the violinist].

Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust".

"Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust," he wrote.
US is the only country using napalm: Despite a 1980 UN convention--which the US chose not to ratify--the US has been using napalm in Iraq, specifically in the attack on Fallujah.
The Vaginoplasty Monologues: "I was very, very self-conscious about the way I looked," said the woman from Boston. "Now I feel free. I just feel normal." Thanks to vaginoplasty--aka "vaginal rejuvenation" or plastic surgery to tighten vaginal muscles or excise fleshy labia--this woman now has self-confidence again. Whew.

Question: exactly who is she comparing her netherbits to when she feels so freakishly abnormal? It's not like women have the same vantage point for lockerroom comparisons as men. Carrie McLaren at Stay Free! forwards a Sunday New York Times article on the rise of genital plastic surgery among women, the fastest growing area of cosmetic surgery. And her link to a Women's eNews article features a gynecologist pinpointing the problem, "I can't tell you how many pages and pages of pornographic material woman have brought in to me saying 'I want to look like this.'"


(Headslap) D'oh! The Museum of Hoaxes sez:
America Looks Beyond is the name of a visionary new project jointly funded by the PEW Charitable Trusts and the Gates Foundation. Armed with a budget of over $1 billion a year, this is what they plan to do: "Starting in 2005, every high school student in America is going to be offered a six-week trip to a third world country. To broaden their horizons. To gain a more intimate understanding of the world. And to fight the global War on Terror in a positive way, through education and first-hand knowledge of how so much of the world struggles to survive." That would be great, if it were real. But, of course, it isn't real. As Glassdog points out, the site isn't registered to either the Gates Foundation or the PEW Charitable Trusts. It's registered to the media activist group AdBusters. So in other words, the site is a spoof... showing what people could be doing, but aren't.
(Via Preoccupations.)


A little break: Because seven kids, six adults, two additional dogs, and a turkey-shaped piñata will be descending on my 788-square foot house in just over 72 hours, blogging will be light this week. Happy Thanksgiving.
America Looks Forward: This is beautiful: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts are pooling a billion dollars for a new "plan for peace." They're hoping to raise $4 billion total for the project:
America Looks Beyond provides tomorrow's generation with opportunities today. Starting in 2005, every high school student in America is going to be offered a six-week trip to a third world country. To broaden their horizons. To gain a more intimate understanding of the world. And to fight the global War on Terror in a positive way, through education and first-hand knowledge of how so much of the world struggles to survive.
(Via Adbusters.)
JFK Reloaded: How bizarre is this: a new videogame, its release timed to coincide with the 41st annivarsary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, allows players to try their hand at killing the president. CNN's description of "JFK Unloaded":
Traffic Games said the objective was for a player to fire three shots at Kennedy's motorcade from assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's digitally recreated sixth-floor perch in the Texas School Book Depository.

Points are awarded or subtracted based on how accurately the shots match the official version of events as documented by the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy's assassination.

Shooting the image of Kennedy in the right spots in the right sequence adds to the score, while "errors" like shooting first lady Jacqueline Kennedy lead to deductions.

Each shot can be replayed in slow motion, and the bullets can be tracked as they travel and pass through Kennedy's digitally recreated body. Players can choose to see blood by pressing a "blood effects" option.


Hope for progressives: You might've missed this fact from the election: the third-biggest vote-getter in the nation, after Bush and Kerry, was liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer in California, whose 6.4 million votes surpassed Kerry's take in the state by 200,000.
Mouse hunting: A Texas website is considering facilitating online deer hunting at the click of a mouse.
Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.

The idea came last year while viewing another Web site on which cameras posted in the wild are used to snap photos of animals.

"We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little light bulb went off in my head," he said.
Fastforward your way to jail: If a bill before Congress passes, you could end up in jail for fast-forwarding through commercials on a TV show you've recorded. The industry-friendly Property Protection Act includes a number of inane proposals including:
a provision that would make it a felony to record a movie in a theater for future distribution on a peer-to-peer network. IPPA would also criminalize the currently legal act of using the sharing capacity of iTunes, Apple’s popular music software program; the legislation equates that act with the indiscriminate file sharing on popular peer-to-peer programs. Currently, with iTunes, users can opt to share a playlist with others on their network. IPPA doesn’t differentiate this innocuous—and Apple sanctioned—act from the promiscuous sharing that happens when someone makes a music collection available to five million strangers on Kazaa or Grokster.
(Via Metafilter.)


DJ-D2: T-shirt for hip-hop sci-fi geeks of a certain generation.
Fiscal schmiscal: Congress just agreed to raise the federal debt limit by $800 billion, to a record $8.18 trillion. And the Iraq war is now costing more than $5.8 billion a month.
A Shaman's Call: Joseph Beuys and America. In 1974, German artist Joseph Beuys lived in a gallery with a live coyote for three days. Read my Adbusters feature on Beuys' work here:
As his three-day performance continued, a wordless dialogue with the animal ensued as Beuys sought to locate “the psychological trauma point of the United States’ energy constellation” – that is, the fracture between animal instinct and a mechanistic, consumptive Western worldview. As man and beast became acquainted, roles reversed: Beuys began sleeping on the coyote’s straw bedding, while the coyote took to pissing on “the daily diary of the American Dream,” The Wall Street Journal (marking turf, or making a briny critique of American materialism?).
Art and Commitment: The University of Minnesota is hosting a four-day symposium December 2-5 to explore "the social role of contemporary art through collaborative and interdisciplinary modes of art practice and scholarship." Scheduled speakers/performers include Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Marina Abramovic, Carol Becker, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and others. Details here.


The GOP's sense of justice: Curious. Republicans in Florida fought fiercely to uphold a law barring convicted felons from voting, a position that prohibited one in six African American men from casting votes November 2. But on the national level, the Republicans voted yesterday to repeal a rule that'd prevent Tom DeLay from continuing to serve if he's indicted by a grand jury for violating campaign funding laws. It's another GOP flip-flop: the rule they hope to throw out was created 11 years ago by Republicans to excoriate accused mail-frauder Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL).


Grey matter:
Update 11.19: The offical Grey Video site is down, so try Waxy to find mirror sites.
So you know DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, but how about the Grey Video, an AV mashup of Jay-Z and the Beatles? Also: Waxy.org gets a legal threat from Disney just for linking to a server where you can download the Kleptones' mashups of Queen songs.
Free speech, $1.00: A gallery of rubberstamped one-dollar bills. Earlier: More funny money.
Father, Son, Holy Toast:
"I made this sandwich 10 years ago. When I took a bite out of it, I saw a face looking up at me - it was Virgin Mary starring (sic) back at me. I was in total shock."
Now the blessed bread discovered by Floridian Diana Duyser can be yours on eBay. Starting bid: $3,000, but beware, the page has had 100,000 hits already.
The dead: Red Cross officials estimate that at least 800 civilians have been killed by US troops in Fallujah so far, a fact that few in the American mainstream press care to acknowledge. Meanwhile, the execution of an unarmed, wounded Iraqi in a mosque by a US soldier--an overt violation of the Geneva Conventions--may not be an isolated incident. According to Agence France-Presse, a correspondent found 27 bodies of Iraqis executed at point-blank range. And: The Toronto Star asks, when Bush visits Canada later this year, should he be welcomed, or brought up on war-crimes charges? Another milestone: Well over 1200 American GIs have been killed in Iraq so far. Well over 8500 enlisted have been injured, according to the Department of Defense.

(Via Cursor.)


The Urban Archipelago: A refreshing take on the Red State/Blue State dichotomy, from Seattle's The Stranger, posted with apologies to my rural kin:
We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on...

If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country, we need a new identity politics, an urban identity politics, one that argues for the cities, uses a rhetoric of urban values, and creates a tribal identity for liberals that's as powerful and attractive as the tribal identity Republicans have created for their constituents. John Kerry won among the highly educated, Jews, young people, gays and lesbians, and non-whites. What do all these groups have in common? They choose to live in cities. An overwhelming majority of the American popuation chooses to live in cities. And John Kerry won every city with a population above 500,000. He took half the cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000. The future success of liberalism is tied to winning the cities. An urbanist agenda may not be a recipe for winning the next presidential election--but it may win the Democrats the presidential election in 2012 and create a new Democratic majority.
Full article here. (Thanks, Blythe.)
Voices no government can suppress: Observing "how little place or space there is in our news for the voices of Americans. The media invariably steps in the way," Tom Engelhardt introduces a new essay by Howard Zinn to commemorate the publication of the book Voices of a People's History of the United States. The premise of the companion to Zinn's classic People's History: "I wanted my readers to experience how at key moments in our history some of the bravest and most effective political acts were the sounds of the human voice itself... To omit or to minimize these voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations. I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of color, or women -- once they organize and protest and create movements -- have a voice no government can suppress." Zinn then includes a few of America's "missing voices":
Any historian would have difficulty matching the eloquence of the Native American leader Powhatan, pleading with the white settler in the year 1607: "Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?"

Or the black scientist Benjamin Banneker, writing to Thomas Jefferson: "I apprehend you will readily embrace every opportunity, to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions which so generally prevails with respect to us, and that your Sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are that one universal Father hath given being to us all, and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also without partiality afforded us all the Same Sensations and [endowed] us all with the same faculties."

Or Sarah Grimké, a white Southern woman and abolitionist, writing: "I ask no favors for my sex. . . . All I ask of our brethren, is that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy."

Or Henry David Thoreau, protesting the Mexican War, writing on civil disobedience: "A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart."

Or Jermain Wesley Loguen, escaped slave, speaking in Syracuse on the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850: "I received my freedom from Heaven and with it came the command to defend my title to it. . . . I don't respect this law -- I don't fear it -- I won't obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it."

Or the populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease of Kansas: "Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street."

Or Emma Goldman, speaking to the jury at her trial for opposing World War I: "Verily poor as we are in democracy, how can we give of it to the world? . . . [A] democracy conceived in the military servitude of the masses, in their economic enslavement, and nurtured in their tears and blood, is not democracy at all."

Or Mississippi sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer, testifying in 1964 about the dangers to blacks who tried to register to vote: "[T]he plantation owner came, and said, 'Fannie Lou. . . . If you don't go down and withdraw your registration, you will have to leave . . . because we are not ready for that in Mississippi.' And I addressed him and told him and said, 'I didn't try to register for you. I tried to register for myself.'"

Or the young black people in McComb, Mississippi, who, learning of a classmate killed in Vietnam, distributed a leaflet: "No Mississippi Negroes should be fighting in Vietnam for the White Man's freedom, until all the Negro People are free in Mississippi."

Or the poet Adrienne Rich, writing in the 1970s: "I know of no woman -- virgin, mother, lesbian, married, celibate -- whether she earns her keep as a housewife, a cocktail waitress, or a scanner of brain waves -- for whom the body is not a fundamental problem: its clouded meanings, its fertility, its desire, its so-called frigidity, its bloody speech, its silences, its changes and mutilations, its rapes and ripenings."

Or Alex Molnar, whose twenty-one-year-old son was a Marine in the Persian Gulf, writing an angry letter to the first President Bush: "Where were you, Mr. President, when Iraq was killing its own people with poison gas? . . . I intend to support my son and his fellow soldiers by doing everything I can to oppose any offensive American military action in the Persian Gulf."

Or Orlando and Phyllis Rodriguez, opposing the idea of retaliation after their son was killed in the Twin Towers: "Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel. We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son's death. Not in our son's name."


Tweedy: "I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic." Boingboing's Xeni Jardin interviews Jeff Tweedy, brainchild of Wilco, about filesharing, music, and intellectual property. Excellent interview:
WN: What if the efforts to stop unauthorized music file sharing are successful? How would that change culture?

Tweedy: If they succeed, it will damage the culture and industry they say they're trying to save.

What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.

Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either.

WN: How do you feel about efforts to control how music flows through the online world with digital rights management technologies?

Tweedy: A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.

Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.

People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.

I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic.
Baby tax: The Times covers Lakoff:
If George Lakoff had his way, the Kerry campaign would have run a commercial attacking the "baby tax." Dr. Lakoff, a Berkeley linguistics professor and Kerry campaign adviser, wanted to divide the interest on the national debt by the number of Americans born each year. The result, $85,000 per newborn, say, would have been handed to a baby in the form of a bill, and the baby would have started to cry. That, Dr. Lakoff says, "frames" the issue "in a way people can understand."
Full story here.
Vote on tax cuts: Visit the website of Minnesota Sen. Norm "I'm a 99% improvement over Paul Wellstone" Coleman to vote on whether Bush's tax cuts should be made permanent. Despite biased phrasing--"Do you support extending the President’s tax relief, which has helped create almost 1.7 million new jobs this past year and has reduced the tax burden on nearly 1.9 million Minnesota taxpayers?"--80% of Minnesotans answered "no." (Thanks, Andy.)



"Allah": Yes to nukes: Osama bin Laden has obtained a fatwa--religious permission--from a Saudi religious leader to use nuclear weapons on Americans, according to the no-longer-anonymous author of Imperial Hubris (and former CIA agent ) Michael Scheuer. Good thing we spent $146 billion and counting tracking down nonexistant WMDs in Iraq while leaving bin Laden uncaptured. See Scheuer on 60 Minutes tonight.

The Sanctity of Entertainment: A CBS News producer who broke into programming of the crime drama CSI: New York to report the death of Yasser Arafat was canned for the offense.

Educational-Industrial complex: A west Philadelphia high school, a joint development with the public school district and Microsoft, is selling naming rights to the facility. Bidding starts at $5 million, but the frugal-minded can slap their brand name on a single classroom for around $25 thousand.

Spread the meme: Thanks to Star Tribune letter-to-the-editor writer Marc Conklin for devising a meme I hope catches on to describe so-called Christians who oppose gay marriage but support war on innocent Iraqis: "the piously correct."

The lessons the "piously correct" ignore: The kick-assest nun around, Joan Chittister, OSB, reminded Bill Moyers on Friday night of the truly radical nature of Christianity by pointing out the rarely quoted (by rightwing Republicans, anyway) Beatitudes. Y'know the ones, "Blessed are the peacemakers," etc.

Dear George letter: Bob Jones III scares the hell out of me. Read why.

The Gospel According to Zogby: Peace, poverty, and greed are the three most urgent "moral values" cited by voters according to a recent Zogby poll. The survey also found that "Catholic voters overwhelmingly think that issues of economic justice are the greatest moral crisis in the United States today." "Greed and materialism" and "poverty and economic justice" (31%) were mentioned twice as often as abortion (16%) and gay marriage (12%).

Wireless warmongering: The Pentagon is spending $200 billion to create a global wireless web network to give the US a--retch!--"Gods'-eye-view" of the battlefield, according to the CEO of Lockheed-Martin.

US accused of flying "torture flights": The Times on Sunday says the US is using an executive jet to deliver terror suspects to countries with poor human rights records to perform "torture by proxy."

Would you fight a foreign invader on your soil? Watching the 1984 film Red Dawn last night--about a band of high school insurgents resisting a Soviet/Cuban occupation of the US--I couldn't help but think it a fitting film for the final days of the Battle for Fallujah. Only this time, the US is the bully. (I'm not alone in this observation; a San Francisco Chronicle writer made that argument in July, dubbing the Patrick Swayze vehicle as shamelessly conservative as Fahrenheit 911 is liberal and opining that "Like many Hollywood war movies, the patriotic premise breaks down when real war breaks out.")



"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation."

Alisdair Gray


RIP Iris Chang: Chinese-American journalist and author Iris Chang, whose controversial 1997 book The Rape of Nanking prompted the Japanese to reexamine atrocities by its army during the 1937 invasion of China, was found dead today at age 36 of an apparent suicide. Her book graphically addressed some truly horrific history: "An estimated 20,000-80,000 Chinese women were raped," Chang wrote. "Many soldiers went beyond rape to disembowel women, slice off their breasts, nail them alive to walls. Fathers were forced to rape their daughters and sons their mothers as other family members watched... Not only did live burials, castration, the carving of organs and the roasting of people become routine, but more diabolical tortures were practiced." Chang, who suffered from clinical depression, wrote three major books, including her most recent history, The Chinese in America.

Read an interview with Chang here.
Liquid sin: Lovejuice, Boo Bee Juice, Cockolada? What's up with all the naughty-named novelty drinks? (A visit to Engrish.com, yields a few more: BJ Coffee, Human Water, and a truth-in-advertising favorite, BM Coffee.)


A spiritual Left: Tikkun founder and rabbi Michael Lerner calls for a new spiritual Left:
Imagine if John Kerry had been able to counter George Bush by insisting that a serious religious person would never turn his back on the suffering of the poor, that the bible's injunction to love one's neighbor required us to provide health care for all, and that the New Testament's command to "turn the other cheek" should give us a predisposition against responding to violence with violence...
Full text here.

Not-so-subtle message to antiwar protesters: No one seems to know why an army tank showed up at an antiwar rally in Los Angeles yesterday...
Ask a simple question: Common Dreams relates this Q and A at a White House press briefing yesterday:
Russell Mokhiber: Scott, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health last month estimated that the war in Iraq has resulted in 100,000 Iraqi deaths. The administration has said in the past that it doesn’t do body counts, but do you consider 100,000 to be in the ballpark of number of Iraqis killed as a result of the war?

Scott McLellan: I don’t know of any specific estimates on the civilians. I know that the United States military goes out of its way to minimize the loss of civilian life. And what we are working to achieve in Iraq is an important cause that will make America more secure. And we are working side by side with the Iraqi people to move forward on free elections because a free Iraq will help transform a dangerous region of the world and make America more secure. And our men and women in the military are doing an outstanding job. They are serving and sacrificing in a very important cause.

Mokhiber: If I could follow up on that, does the President have an estimate before him on the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the war?

Scott McLellan: I’m not aware of a precise estimate, an estimate of that nature.
Live to vote another day: In a story where she quotes Marine Lt. Col. Gareth Brandl as telling the BBC, "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah," Naomi Klein sums up the situation in Falluja:
With all the millions spent on "democracy-building" and "civil society" in Iraq, it has come to this: If you can survive attack by the world's only superpower, you get to cast a ballot. Fallujans are going to vote, goddammit, even if they all have to die first.
Put your money where your "moral values" are: Daily Howler links to the Tax Foundation tables that show the “red states”—"the states whose denizens love to preach that bracing self-reliance—routinely take in more federal money than they submit in taxes." He continues:
We’re tired of stupid political arguments based on blatantly cherry-picked Scripture, and we’re tired of listening to talk-show conservatives stage their endless Pity Parties. Do “northeastern elites” have troubling values? Sorry, but one of their values is handing free money to the less fortunate—a value red-staters seem to affirm as they stuff the free dough in their pants.
(Via Derelection2004.)


More: The Pentagon has announced the first 14 American deaths since the siege on Falluja began, but the real toll will be in civilian lives. “[W]e are once again declaring open cities and bombing them to rubble,” writes Jerome Doolittle of Operation Phantom Fury. “Again, we are destroying the village in order to save it. Again we return to the insane business of using high explosives to spread democracy, defined once more as submission to America’s will.” The real sadness of the battle is that of the city’s estimated 200,000-300,000 residents, some two-thirds or more have fled—those who remain, chiefly those too poor to go elsewhere, are now being forced by the US military to stay.


On Falluja: From The Guardian:
Assaults on cities serve symbolic purposes: they are set showpieces to demonstrate resolve and inculcate fear. To that end, large numbers of casualties are required: they are not an accidental byproduct but the aim. That was the thinking behind 9/11, and Falluja risks becoming a horrible mirror-image of that atrocity. Only by the shores of that dusty lake in Dreamland would it be possible to believe that the ruination of this city will do anything to enhance the legitimacy of the US occupation and of the Iraqi government it appointed.
From Tony Kevin of the Sydney Morning Herald:
This attack will also violate the rules of war and the Geneva conventions in having grossly indiscriminate effects on civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure. America's largely untrained in battle but over-armed forces will start their attack "humanely", but as they inevitably take numbers of lethal casualties, their tactics will quickly escalate to indiscriminate bombing and shelling of the city using their WMD armories.

Eventually, the attackers will flatten the city and kill everyone that still resists in it. Falluja will be the Iraqi people's Masada, and it will sow seeds of deep anti-Western hatred in the Middle East for decades to come.
And Xinhuanet reports that 35 US soldiers have been kidnapped in the city.
Blue & Grey and Red & Blue: It's been said America is the most divided it's been since the Civil War. The statement is especially eerie when comparing a map of free and slave states from that era with red and blue states today. (As Yasmil points out, red states are probably also home to the country's lowest per-capita educational spending; if anyone can find a map of that, please email.)
Duh-bya: Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks chides liberals for constructing an explanation for the election loss that reassures "they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them." He writes, "This year, the official story is that throngs of homophobic, Red America values-voters surged to the polls to put George Bush over the top."

He's wrong. We on the left don't think we're morally superior to Bush's fans (that kind of judgment is their game).

But we sure are smarter.

A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland backs this thesis up. It found:

* nearly 70 percent of Bush supporters still believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda
* a third of Bush voters believes we found WMDs in Iraq, and
* more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.

As the Times' Bob Herbert concludes, "This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won." Another source correlating presidential preference with average IQ backs Herbert up: The 16 states with the highest average IQ went to Kerry; the bottom 25 went to Bush.

(Thanks, Ben.)


Monbiot: Choose Life. In a recent visit to the website of one of my favorite writers, British journalist and author George Monbiot, I stumbled upon his advice for young writers. I love his advice about living frugally that flies in the face of American more-is-more career ambition: "If you can live on five thousand pounds a year, you are six times as secure as someone who needs thirty thousand to get by." But I especially appreciate his critique of "progress":
So my final piece of advice is this: when faced with the choice between engaging with reality or engaging with what Erich Fromm calls the “necrophiliac” world of wealth and power, choose life, whatever the apparent costs may be. Your peers might at first look down on you: poor Nina, she’s twenty-six and she still doesn’t own a car. But those who have put wealth and power above life are living in the world of death, in which the living put their tombstones – their framed certificates signifying acceptance to that world – upon their walls. Remember that even the editor of the Times, for all his income and prestige, is still a functionary, who must still take orders from his boss. He has less freedom than we do, and being the editor of the Times is as good as it gets.

You know you have only one life. You know it is a precious, extraordinary, unrepeatable thing: the product of billions of years of serendipity and evolution. So why waste it by handing it over to the living dead?


JC: In her essay "No Longer Christian," Karen Horst Cobb gets biblical:
Let me tell you about the Christ I know. He was conceived by an unmarried woman. He was not born into a family of privilege. He was a radical. He said, “It was said an eye for and eye and a tooth of a tooth, but now I say love your enemies and bless those who curse you.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Mattew 5: 3-9) He said, “All those who are called by my name will enter the kingdom of heaven." He said, "People will know true believers if they have the fruit of the spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control.“

He knew he would be led like a sheep to the slaughter. He responded with “Father forgive them.“ He explained that in Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile, slave or free male nor female. He explained that even to be angry is akin to murder. He said the temple of God is not a building, but is in the hearts of those are called by his name. He was called "the Prince of Peace." His final days were spent in prayer, so that he could endure what was set before him, not on how he could overpower the evil government of that day. When they came for him he was led away and didn’t resist his death sentence.

This is a stark contrast to the call of the religious christian right, who vote for war and weapons, and suggest towns and villages be leveled to bring freedom and peace to the people. They proudly boast this country’s superiority, suggesting God has blessed our nation.
Peace is War:"It is becoming more than clear that violating human rights is an inherent and necessary part of the process of implementing a coercive and unjust political and economic structure on the world," said Arundhati Roy at the 2004 Sydney Peace Prize earlier this month. "Increasingly, human rights violations are being portrayed as the unfortunate, almost accidental, fallout of an otherwise acceptable political and economic system. As though they are a small problem that can be mopped up with a little extra attention from some non-government organisation." She continues, stating that Iraq is "a sign of things to come":
Iraq marks the beginning of a new cycle. It offers us an opportunity to watch the corporate-military cabal that has come to be known as "empire" at work. In the new Iraq, the gloves are off.

As the battle to control the world's resources intensifies, economic colonialism through formal military aggression is staging a comeback. Iraq is the logical culmination of the process of corporate globalisation in which neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism have fused. If we can find it in ourselves to peep behind the curtain of blood, we would glimpse the pitiless transactions taking place backstage.

Invaded and occupied Iraq has been made to pay out $US200 million ($270 million) in "reparations" for lost profits to corporations such as Halliburton, Shell, Mobil, Nestle, Pepsi, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Toys R Us. That's apart from its $US125 billion sovereign debt forcing it to turn to the IMF, waiting in the wings like the angel of death, with its structural adjustment program. (Though in Iraq there don't seem to be many structures left to adjust.)


So what does peace mean in this savage, corporatised, militarised world? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the Aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India? What does peace mean to non-Muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources? For them, peace is war.

We know very well who benefits from war in the age of empire. But we must also ask ourselves honestly who benefits from peace in the age of empire? War mongering is criminal. But talking of peace without talking of justice could easily become advocacy for a kind of capitulation. And talking of justice without unmasking the institutions and the systems that perpetrate injustice is beyond hypocritical.

It's easy to blame the poor for being poor. It's easy to believe that the world is being caught up in an escalating spiral of terrorism and war. That's what allows George Bush to say, "You're either with us or with the terrorists." But that's a spurious choice. Terrorism is only the privatisation of war. Terrorists are the free marketeers of war. They believe that the legitimate use of violence is not the sole prerogative of the state.

It is mendacious to make moral distinction between the unspeakable brutality of terrorism and the indiscriminate carnage of war and occupation. Both kinds of violence are unacceptable. We cannot support one and condemn the other.
Full text here.
Tell the DNC: Got a better way to run a campaign? Feel like the Kerry-Edwards team ended up being Bush Lite? Want the party to be more progressive and grassroots? Tell the Democratic National Committee.


Myth of the liberal media: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) looks into how the New York Times spiked a story on "Bush's bulge":
Five days before the presidential election, the New York Times killed a story about the mysterious object George W. Bush wore on his back during the presidential debates, journalist Dave Lindorff reveals in an exclusive report on this week's CounterSpin, FAIR's weekly radio show (listen here). The spiked story included compelling photographic and scientific evidence that would have contradicted Bush's claim that the bulge on his back was just a matter of poor tailoring.

"The New York Times assigned three editors to this story and had it scheduled to run five days before the election, which would have raised questions about the president's integrity," said Lindorff. "But it was killed by top editors at the Times; clearly they were chickening out of taking this on before the election."

Lindorff says two other major newspapers, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, also decided not to pursue the story, which featured a leading NASA satellite photo imaging scientist's analysis of pictures of the president’s back from the first debate.

The Times' bulge story is the latest example of possible self-censorship by major news media during the election campaign. In September, CBS's 60 Minutes decided to delay until after the election an investigative segment that questioned the Bush administration's use of forged Niger uranium documents in making its case for the Iraq war, saying that "it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election" (New York Times, 9/25/04; FAIR Action Alert, 9/28/04).

And on September 10, CNN reporter Nic Robertson said of a CNN documentary on Saudi Arabia, "I don't want to prejudge our executives here at CNN... but I think we can be looking forward to [it] shortly after the U.S. elections." The segment is now scheduled to air this Sunday, five days after the election.
Click here or here for more.
Red + Blue = Purple: There are some compelling tracts being published (in jest, I assume) about blue states breaking away from red states (see CB Shapiro's two-country approach which woefully excludes blue states Minnesota and Wisconsin from the breakaway USA-Blue). Not a bad idea: if blue states of the upper midwest and the coasts seceded, they'd take with them the nation's richest resources of cultural, financial, and intellectual production. They'd take chief population centers of LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Boston, etc., and all the universities, technology firms, art museums, movie studios, financiers, and people that go with 'em. The red states would at last be free to live in moral purity without the evils of monogamous gays, stem-cell research, just wars, or living wages. But are we really that divided? Probably. But a clever new vote map breaks down election results into more nuanced shades of gray--or, rather, purple.

Oh, and by the way, Kerry won, according to investigative journalist Greg Palast's research on the discarding of ballots in Ohio.
Leave No Child Alive: Wow. On Wednesday, an Air National Guard F-16 fighter plane doing maneuvers over the New Jersey township of Little Egg Harbor strafed an elementary school with cannon fire. No one was hurt and the damage was minor, but damn!
So close, yet so far away. Saskatchewan became the seventh Canadian jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriages Friday after a judge ruled the current federal law on the subject unconstitutional. (Thanks, Adrienne.)
A global apology: Geez, we're real sorry, world, for what this election will do to you. (Thanks, Ben.)
Bush's "mandate"? W got 51% percent of the vote and now he and his cohorts are claiming a "clear mandate"--and the ever-complicit media is helping propagate the meme. Just a sampling of what we're up against over the next four years of the rightwing media-industrial complex. And: Breaking down the mandate. Plus: Hello, Canada? We'd like to secede.

The age of decency: Gambling addict/morality crusader Bill Bennett offers a chilling take on things: "Having restored decency to the White House, President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal ("The Great Relearning," as novelist Tom Wolfe calls it) — no less in legislation than in federal court appointments. It is, after all, the main reason George W. Bush was reelected."

Balancing Bennett: Alternet's Janette Batz Cooperman writes that "I must abandon the solace of thinking my political opponents benighted, uneducated and cognitively impaired. But I refuse to think them more moral," and the late Hubert Humphrey offered a standard with which we can assess the next four years (or the last four): "the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
Who abandoned Bush? Signs of hope from Counterpunch: a side-by-side comparison of Bush voters in 2000 and Bush voters on Tuesday:
Bush 2000 / Bush 2004

African-Americans: 8% / 11%
Whites: 54% / 58%
Hispanic: 41% / 44%
Married: 53% / 56%
Not Married: 38% / 40%
Union Members: 37% / 40%
Gays: 25% / 23%
Gun Owners: 61% / 67%
Protestants: 63% / 59%
Jewish: 19% / 25%
Catholics: 45% / 52%
Republicans: 91% / 93%
Democrats: 10% / 11%
Men: 51% / 55%
Women: 43% / 48%
18-29 year olds: 46% / 45%
30-44 year olds: 49% / 53%
45-59 year olds: 49% / 51%
60+ 47% / 54%

Based on National Exit Polls.


Keep it simple, stupid. Advice for Democrats from William Saletan:
Do what the Republicans did in 1998. Get simple. Find a compelling salesman and get him ready to run for president in 2008. Put aside your quibbles about preparation, stature, expertise, nuance, and all that other hyper-sophisticated garbage that caused you to nominate Kerry. You already have legions of people with preparation, stature, expertise, and nuance ready to staff the executive branch of the federal government. You don't need one of them to be president. You just need somebody to win the White House and appoint them to his administration. And that will require all the simplicity, salesmanship, and easygoing humanity they don't have.

The good news is, that person is already available. His name is John Edwards...
(Thanks, Ben.)
Break silence:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
--Martin Luther King, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," delivered at Riverside Church, New York City, Apriil 4, 1967
Justice, American-style: US-led forces failed to protect Iraqi antiquities after the fall of Baghdad, then they let the 380 tons of explosives at al Qa-Qaa get away. Now, according to Human Rights Watch, they're failing to secure official documents of Saddam's regime and mass graves. The report states:
In the case of both documents and mass graves, U.S.-led coalition forces failed to secure the relevant sites at the time of the overthrow of the former government. They subsequently failed to put in place the professional expertise and assistance necessary to ensure proper classification and exhumation procedures, with the result that key evidentiary materials have been lost or tainted. In the case of mass graves, these failures also have frustrated the goal of enabling families to know the fate of missing relatives. The findings of the report are all the more disturbing against the backdrop of a tribunal established to bring justice for serious past crimes, the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Human Rights Watch has serious concerns that the tribunal is fundamentally flawed and may be incapable of delivering justice.
More from The Guardian.

Iraq update: 1124 US troops dead. Hungary's 300 troops will be brought home from from Iraq, joining Spain, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and The Philippines. Other countries withdrawing or planning on withdrawaing troops: Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, The Netherlands, Moldova, and Bulgaria.


November 3: Morford:
It simply boggles the mind: We've already had four years of some of the most appalling and abusive foreign and domestic policy in American history, some of the most well-documented atrocities ever wrought on the American populace and it's all combined with the biggest and most violently botched and grossly mismanaged war since Vietnam, and still much of the nation still insists in living in a giant vat of utter blind faith, still insists on believing the man in the White House couldn't possibly be treating them like a dog treats a fire hydrant.

Inexplicable? Not really. People want to believe. They want to trust their leaders, even against all screaming, neon-lit evidence and stack upon stack of flagrant, impeachment-grade lie. They simply cannot allow that Dubya might really be an utter boob and that they are being treated like an abused, beaten housewife who keeps coming back for more, insisting her drunk husband didn't mean it, that she probably had it coming, that the cuts and bruises and blood and broken bones are all for her own good.
And: MarryaCanadian.com.