My friend Garrick Ruiz is a dedicated activist who's a hell of a lot braver than I'll ever be. He's currently in the Occupied Territories. He traded Los Angeles for a warzone, with the simple goal of helping desperate people, and bringing their stories back to the US. He staunchly opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestine. His belief is not based upon speculation or some kind of "anti-American" agenda, it's based on experience; he was already in Palestine earlier this year, before Ariel Sharon's re-invasion of the area, and Garrick's seen what the occupation has done.
When he can find access to a computer, Garrick is writing reports and sending them back to a bunch of us Americans via email. I don't think he'd mind me sharing. I'll post these on the site when I receive them.
Because Garrick's already been to Palestine and back once, I'm not too worried about his safety. But I know I should be. I hope he makes it back in one piece.
I haven't had computer access for several days. We have been in Ramallah for almost three days now. Ramallah has been under curfew for seven days. What that means is that everyone in the city and its a pretty big city has to stay in their houses 24 hours a day. The Israeli military lifts the curfew every few days for a few hours at a time and people must scramble to purchase basic supplies such as food. Of course no one other than store owners (and them for only a few hours every few days) can work so there is very little income throughout the city. We have been staying at Sheikh Zaid hospital, the main hospital in Ramallah and the major trauma center in the west bank. People may have read the reports about this hospital having to bury 21 people in two mass graves in the parking lot back in April because the bodies kept piling up inside the hospital and the army would not allow a lifting of curfew even to bury the dead. Those graves are still there the families of those murdered by the Israelis have decided to leave the graves there as a symbol of the brutality of the Israeli military and a testament to the martyrdom of their loved ones.
Yesterday many of us walked to a village outside of Ramallah called Diribziya. Curfew is absolute for Palestinians but we as internationals can get away with a lot more. We walked with another group of people from the International Solidarity Movement who are staying in the village to help out with a summer camp for children. People in the village were worried the army would try something to prevent the camp from happening or intimidate the participants and so they requested an international presence. This walk was unbelievable. It was about 20 kilometers or about 12 miles there and back. Along the way we saw many ways in which the military destroys Palestinian infrastructure. Simply driving their tanks, APCs and bulldozers over roads tears them up. But in many places they have deliberately destroyed roads or created roadblocks so that people cannot get through. The worst of these was blocking the road connecting Diribziya and something like 30 other villages to Ramallah. It was a series of ditches, earth emankments, barbed wire and boulders toatlly blocking access. These villages are very dependent on commerce with Ramallah and so you can imagine the negative effects this has on supplies and such, not to mention the fact that it further cuts Palestinians off from each other in their own country.
I'm really sorry to interrupt this message. I have to go. There is much more to report. Suffice it to say that the situation here is unbelievably bad. gunfire and shellfire are regular here and Ramallah is not nearly the worst from everything we have heard. I will write more when I can.
In the days before the camera, any attempts to visually document news events had to be done via illustrations and drawings. And in the past several months, I have run across many examples of unique modern journalists doing the same thing, telling their stories via words and drawings, be they realistic or cartoonish.
The first example I found of this was Joe Sacco's graphic novel Palestine. (you can read some fragments of "Palestine" here and here. Just keep clicking "next"). Sacco went to Palestine for a number of weeks to document what he saw, meet the people and tell their stories. Interestingly, Sacco seems to have no interest in making anybody look like a good guy, even himself. He is the central character, and tells of his experience in the Occupied Territories, and retells the stories that people told him.
Next, I stumbled across cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall's To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue. Rall went to Afghanistan during the US attacks there, wrote some columns and drew some cartoons. I read some sample pages of the book I found on the net, and it seemed good, but I haven't been able to find those links again.
And most recently, I came across War News Illustrated. To my knowledge there have only been three strips in this series so far, one about Sept. 11, one about the US attacks on Afghanistan, and one about the aftermath in Afghanistan.
And to a lesser extent, I suppose you could add The Comic Strip of Neoliberalism and Addicted to War to that list. Actually, I guess I'd consider those two to be comic education rather than comic journalism.
Sacco and Rall's works of documenting a warzone reminds me another man who reported from warzones, a photojournalist named Kevin Carter. His tale always makes me think of some of the more soulful issues of journalism. What's more important, telling the world the tales of the suffering, or helping out a single sufferer within arm's reach?
My last bit about the American flag and Pledge of Allegiance for awhile. Or until it gets crazy again. Meaning I'll probably be writing about it again within several hours.
One "specialist in church-state law" says that the "under God" portion of the Pledge of Alleigiance might be Constitutional after all (second to last paragraph), that it might be considered a "ceremonial deism," a phrase that was once religious but by now has lost all meaning. Like "God damn it," I suppose.
And finally, one last bit of flag stuff: Pride and Grief for Sale, a gallery of tactless and crude attempts to use the American flag to make a buck.
Sigh. This is getting out of control, and I'm sure it will only get worse. The Pledge of Allegiance thing. It's the top story on all the newscasts, the topic of debate on pundit arena combat, and already the beginnings of a new electoral strategy by conservatives. And I really resent the fact that I'm going to have to set aside time writing about important issues to clear up this nonsense.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, that serves 9 Western states (California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii)(and, interestingly, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) made a decision today that the "1954 Act," which added the words "under god" to the Pledge of Allegiance, violated the Establishment Clause of the of the US Constitution, and that therefore forcing kids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school is therefore unconstitutional as well.
And frankly, it is. The Pledge basically has three parts:
1) pledging allegiance to the flag
2) pledging allegiance to the republic
3) declaring to no one in particular that the US is "under God," "indivisible," and chock-full of justice and liberty.
The "under God" portion is religious. We all know that it refers to the Christian god, although supporters argue that it doesn't specifically say. I suppose there are many ways you could interpret "one nation, under God," to me it seems to mean that the nation is being watched by God, or is the only nation recognized by God, or that the laws of the republic are subservient to the laws of God. Requiring kids to make this statement about the relationship between the state and God seems to be religious, which therefore violates the Establishment Clause.
Of course, the spin of the media-politician nexus doesn't appear to be "one of thirteen Federal Circuit courts has found that forcing kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance violates the separation of Church and State." Focusing on the controversy and potential outrage, their spin is more like "the Supreme Court says that its wrong to be American." And many folks do not, and will not ever believe the facts to be otherwise.
(it's also amusing to note that the original Pledge was written by a socialist, one of the political factions most widely hated by folks who think the Pledge is keen)
I always found it pretty ridiculous that American schools forced kids to take a loyalty oath every morning. To a piece of striped cloth ("Hail to thee, poly-cotton blend, I am thy servant! Command me, and thy will be done!"). Once I gave the issue some thought in school, I stopped saying the Pledge. Not out of anti-Americanism, or defiance, but because I didn't see the point. I still don't.
I think some conservatives are arguing that we need kids to say the Pledge because they need to learn about patriotism and loyalty to their nation. Saying a bunch of words by rote because someone tells you to does not instill such values.
But I'll bet you already knew that.
This guy spells out almost exactly what I think about Bush's recent speech about Palestine. Either Bush's demands that Palestine reform itself into the semblance of a modern nation while fragmented, impoverished and under military occupation is either the stupidest thing ever said by a politician, or an obvious green light to the hawks in Israel. I'm thinking it's the latter.
Heard a very good segment on Democracy Now! this morning about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the government and on doctors themselves. Pretty much everyone on the program was a critic of pharmaceutical advertising to the public, and the attempts by pharma sales reps to court and seduce doctors into thinking better of their products. One guest was a representative of the drug industry. To his credit, he stayed on message: "we need marketing and sales reps to get information out to doctors about new drugs." Unfortunately, it was his only message and was easily deflated by the doctors: "yeah, but the information you're giving out is biased."
Two articles about Africa's involvement in this week's G8 summit. Some African leaders are trying to sell the West on an aid package they call Nepad. This article claims that the Nepad plan is all about making poor Africans beg before powerful Western overlords who hold all the cards. This article argues that not only is Nepad a "a sell-out of Africa's legitimate aspirations for social, environmental and economic justice," but that it will fail to help develop Africa as well.
"A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and cannot be recited in schools."
But holding people in prison indefinitely on no charges is still A-Okay!
Okay, here's another big mess to unravel.
On May 29, the Clear Channel-owned Seattle radio station "The Beat 95.7" changed its name and format. Now it was "Quick 96". While The Beat had been an R&B station, Quick 96 would be something new: a station that solely played 7 second snippets of songs (mainly country, Top 40, and "adult contemporary"), 462 "songs" an hour. Fans of The Beat were outraged. The rest of the radio world was baffled, amused or angered.
I'm not 100% sure what to make of this. It seems obvious that the Quick format was either:
a) a publicity stunt
b) a terrible mistake that programmers rectified quickly
c) a method of driving away unwanted listeners to prepare for the "superhits" format
"A" seems like a very likely answer, but I would't write off "C". R&B stations often have a large African-American audience. And for the most part, advertisers don't want African-American audiences, they want white audiences, because of the generalization that white folks, on average, have more money than black folks. Perhaps the betrayal of The Beat listeners was intentional, to make way for an all white, 60s rock-luvin audience.
Lucky (?) for us, we now have another chance to observe and learn.
On June 21, the Clear Channel-owned Seattle radio station "Star 105.9" changed its name and format. Now it's "Quick 106" (note how the title bar on the page says "Quick96.com". That's how I first stumbled onto case #1). Star 105.9 was one of those "easy-listening/music you're allowed to listen to in your office cubicle" formats. And of course, Quick 106 is broadcasting the same 7 seconds format as Quick 96. I believe the station is still broadcasting the Quick format (at least that's what I heard when I tried to "tune in" on the station's website).
Anyone live in Seattle and want to turn on 105.9 FM and tells us what's on? Are they still broadcasting sonic shrapnel, or have they whipped out their new surprise format?
According to this comment on ClearChannelSucks.org, 105.9 has already made the changeover to 105.9 The River and is playing bland classic rock, a la KJR-FM. Although The River site doesn't explicitly tell us that it's the same station we've been discussing, the frequency is the same and the site is registered to Clear Channel (as according to Internic).
News reporters have deadlines that they have to meet when turning in stories. And knowing this, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has been holding press conferences about touchy subjects at around 5pm, too late for reporters to write and turn in a story about it. By the next day, the story is less timely, less relevant, and receives less coverage in the paper. He's been doing this about a number of anti-environmental policies enacted lately.
The second half of the article above also talks about conservative pundit and Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes. Lately Barnes has been ranting about the lack of conservative reporters. How to solve this grave concern? Donate money to the Institute on Political Journalism, a summer class for aspiring journalists that focuses on conservative economics and journalistic ethics. And is run by Fred Barnes.
In the past week, I saw three different television commercials for two similar stores that followed a particular, unusual theme. I found it bizarre, bizarre enough to research it. But as you can tell from this site, it doesn't take much to get me to leap into research mode.
The commercials were for two convenience store chains (I'm not sure how general that term is. Convenience stores are 24-hour shops that primarily sell alcohol, soda, cigarettes and snack foods), 7-11 and AMPM. The main difference between the two is that AMPMs are attached to gas stations (ARCO gas stations. ARCO, short for Atlantic Richfield Company, a subsidiary of British Petroleum).
Commercial #1 I'd seen for the first time several months ago. A young guy, perhaps 17, is in a parked car, eating snack foods with his girlfriend. He asks her to go in to the AMPM and buy him more stuff to eat. She tells him to do it himself, and he says "but I've already been in there three times today! It's embarassing!" Cut away to a voiceover telling you to buy nachos or something. Then we see that the guy is putting on a disguise to go back into the store: his girlfriend's furry pink sweater and large, feminine sunglasses. He so loves AMPM that he'll dress up like a woman. Tee-hee.
Commercial #2 has a guy sitting in a parked car with a large cup of 7-11 soda in his lap, between his legs. His friend opens the door and sits down in the passenger seat. He places his own cup of soda in his own lap between his own legs. But his cup is twice as big as his friend's. The two exchange glances at each other's soda cups. An oh so subtle play on comparative penis size. We are clearly supposed to identify with the first guy, feeling inadequate because his cup is smaller.
Commercial #3 has two guys sitting in a parked car, with one guy eating some kind of chips. After finishing all the chips in his hand, he begins licking his fingers. After licking several fingers, the hand is wrenched violently away, and we see that the hand actually belonged to his friend. His friend had been holding the chips, and the chip-eating-guy had starting licking his male friend's fingers (to the ladies out there unfamiliar with male-male relationships, licking another man's fingers is usually considered inappropriate among friends).
So we've got three commercials here for convenience stores and convenience store products that all center around violations of the general concept of masculinity: cross-dressing; inadequate penis size; and quasi-homosexual physical contact. What the fuck is going on here?
Interestingly, there is a method to this homoerotic madness. I managed to find this press release on the 7-11 website regarding their new advertising campaign. Some interesting quotes:
"We’re emphasizing the ‘crave’ factor in these new spots,” said 7-Eleven marketing vice president Bob Merz."
"'7-Eleven satisfies your urges; sometimes you’ve just got to have a Big Gulp or a Slurpee or a hot dog. We're conveying that with ads that are clever and surprising, and relevant to our audience,' said GSD&M President Roy Spence. '7-Eleven’s core customer base is young, on-the-go, adventurous and predominantly male. They'll appreciate the humor, but more important, they’ll know we understand them.'"
And, while not relevant to the discussion at hand:
"...constants in the campaign remain the 'Oh Thank Heaven' tagline framed by a new audio 'Slurp … aaah' mnemonic device.
Mnemonic device? Clever bastards.
And if we pop over to the AMPM Franchising site, we can download a brochure entitled Too Much Good Stuff, which explains why you would want to own your own AMPM franchise. On page 10 of the brochure, under the topic of "Marketing Support," there is this revealing quote:
"...the 'too much good stuff' theme has uniquely positioned us as a place where you can give in to your urgent wants and indulge."
So there's our explanation. Convenience stores operate under the assumption that their customers are not making their purchases based upon need or logic, but upon cravings, wants and desires. Which makes sense, because nearly all of the products at a convenience store are unhealthy, and could be bought at other stores for lower prices. And since the customers are primarily young males (according to the 7-11 press release), it makes sense to show male characters giving into their cravings for soda and snacks, cravings so intense that they violate the norms of masculinity or of platonic male-male relationships*. And since we're dealing with heady topics like desire and urges, it makes sense that we see somewhat sexually-charged behavior like cross-dressing and finger-sucking.
If you wanted to take it further, I'm sure you could deepen the analysis to say something about a tendency towards homosexuality in young men, or links between food and sexual desire, but I'm not going there.
*Well, that doesn't totally work. Commercial #2 is not about violating norms. It actually implies that giving into your cravings more fully makes you more masculine: buying more soda gives you a larger penis. Therefore in that case, giving in to your desires is completely in line with masculinity.
Well. That's an hour of my life I'll never get back.
This was my first show at the new, temporary home of Kill Radio, courtesy of LA's Independent Media Center. It was beautiful. I'm up on the top floor of the building, the sun is shining through tall, open windows, a cool breeze is blowing in, I have a great view of MacArthur Park, its trees and lake, a view as near to the horizon as the haze will allow, the sidewalks below alive with people, and I'm spending this time playing some of my favorite music and speaking my mind. There are worse ways to spend a summer afternoon.
Against Me!-What We Worked For
Beat Junkies w/Chris Lowe and Large Professor- CT to NY (Uncut Action)
Pulp- Common People (live)
Nikka Costa- Everybody Got Their Something
Powerman 5000- Megatronic
Paris- What Would You Do?
The Plugz- Hombre Secreto
Rage Against the Machine- Mic Check
The White Stripes- Little Room
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Rifles
Bad Religion- Entropy
The Vandals- Anarchy Burger
Tiger Army- Incorporeal
The People Who Do That- Let's Roll
Gary Jules- Mad World
Justin Sane- The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook
Blackalicious- Alphabet Aerobics
Pearl Jam- Soon Forget
The Distillers- LA Girl (live)
Bill Hicks- Hooligans
Nine Inch Nails- Ringfinger
Los Villains- Killing Fields
Eddie Def- Universal Noisemaker
Soggy Bottom Boys- I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow
The Slackers- Married Girl
Nine Inch Nails- A Warm Safe Place (drum and bass mix)
Hello Mr. and Ms. Reader.
You'll notice that each entry on this page has a little link marked "comment" down at the bottom. You can click on those and post your responses to anything I have written here. Please make use of them. Tell me what you like, or hate, correct me when you think I'm wrong, or post additional info to flesh out the topics I'm discussing. Let's get our interactive on.
Also, feel free to email me with question and comments and such. But I'd REALLY appreciate it if you sent me links to news articles you think would interest me. I've got a jillion email addresses, but let's stick to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LMB Consumer Relations Dept.
In the wide world of politics, news and activism, it's very easy to cocoon yourself with the comforting words of the like-minded. You know what you believe, you have your interpretation of how the world works, and everyone around you feels the same way. Spending too much time in this state can make you forget how you arrived at these conclusions in the first place. The people who are the sharpest thinkers and debaters are the ones who throw themselves headlong into areas where their thoughts are not common, and they are forced to defend themselves over and over.
At the very least, I think it's good to expose one's self to jarring, well-thought out points of view that threaten your own every now and again.
Blog superstar Brendan O'Neill recently posted an article that does some pretty decent challenging of left-wing thoughts and causes (although many times on his site, he points out that terms like "left" and "right" to describe political views are out-of-date and not particularly helpful anymore). O'Neill's article explains why he doesn't support human rights, isn't an environmentalist, isn't an anti-capitalist, anti-war, or a multiculturalist. Honestly, I think some of his explanations misrepresent the -ism that he is saying he opposes, but there's some good, challenging points that I don't usually hear lefties refuting.
If you've managed to find your way to this site, I imagine you've frequently asked yourself this question (let's face it, we all have):
"I'm a wealthy American investor looking to enter the lucrative 'Let's Exploit the Mexicans' industry. Where can I find this information? Where are the newsletters that meet my needs"?
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Find out which exploitative maquiladora factory is right to manufacture your company's useless crap. Learn all about cheap real estate in the poorest sections of Mexico. Read about how the bylaws of NAFTA guarantees you hefty profits made off the backs of brown-skinned people you never cared about in the first place. Discover where you can find luxury accomadations near (but not too near) your new factories. And sign up for their free newsletter about the latest financial crises in Mexico that will crush the souls of the nation's poorest and have you laughing all the way to the bank.
Ever since the WTO protests in Seattle, it's been par for the course for the authorities to view demonstrators, no matter what their cause or tactics, as a threat to be nullified*. While this makes a certain amount of ignorant sense, these tactics have now escalated: law enforcement don't just see activists as a threat, in Canada, they even see journalists as a threat.
Three Canadian journalists, Dan Rubenstein of Vue Weekly, Pamela Foster of Upstream Journal, and photojournalist Elaine Briere were denied entry to the recent G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta because they are "security risks." All three have tried to get further information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), but they won't give out any. But, they helpfully point out that the journalists can apply to find out why their applications for press credentials were denied by filling out a form and waiting 30 days. As the G-8 summit begins June 26 (and the "security risks" first heard about their rejection June 20), that won't help much.
What the hell is Canada thinking? Maybe they've been listening to this guy.
The whole thing reminds me of this depressing and profound Frank Zappa quote:
"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre."
*Just want to use this opportunity to remind you all about a convenient historical re-write done by the media in this country. Anytime there's a major protest these days, you'll hear the newscaster say something about police response to the violence, and cite the violence of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. In fact, that order is exactly backwards. I have read literally hundreds of first-hand accounts of the Seattle protests, and the police began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters some hours before the "violent" anarchists began their vandalism spree. In the usual version of the story, it was the anarchists smashing windows that sparked, um, "zealous" police response.
Police struck first, chaos ensued; quite frankly, the term "police riot" is probably the most appropriate. But instead of a tale of out-of-control cops lashing out at largely peaceful protesters, the common-knowledge story then became one in which exceedingly violent demonstrators destroyed the city and law enforcement had to crack down to stop it. This new story has became the rationale for excessive, pre-emptive, and questionably legal police tactics dealing with large-scale protests ever since.
Thanks, mass media!
The short version:
The US Copyright Office is currently trying to figure out how much in royalty payments internet radio/webcasting organizations should have to pay to artists and record labels for the songs they play. All of this sounds mundane, until you discover that the decision of this office has the potential to decimate nearly all internet radio.
Anyhow, a Copyright Office committee, known as the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) put together a list of suggested royalty rates back in February. In May, the Copyright Office rejected these suggestions, and put together their own plan that they just released this past week.
I won't bore you with the details (you can do that yourself, here), but while the rates are lower than those suggested by CARP, they are still pretty high. High enough that come Sept. 1, when royalties will be due retroactively to 1998, most internet broadcasters will probably file for bankruptcy. All that will be left standing will be major radio stations that also happen to webcast, or private "stations" set up by the record labels themselves, who can play songs from their own catalog without paying fees.
Which, in my analysis, is the whole point. This isn't about "fair market value" of the songs played as the record industry claims. It's not about money, it's about control. Eliminating all but the huge business players maintains a similar status quo to the broadcast radio world. No one rocks the boat, and the professionals quietly rake in their money.
As y'all may know, I'm an internet broadcaster myself. I have a show on Kill Radio, a mix of music and political commentary. So obviously I have a vested interest in this. My thoughts on the subject are 1) copyright is nonsense, 2) we're a non-profit station, why should the record industry make money off of us? 3) we're actually giving free exposure to these bands, providing a service, 4) most for-profit webcasters seem willing to pay royalties, just at rates small enough that their stations can survive.
But the story is still being written. At least two Congressmen have declared that these new rates are unfair (with a battle cry of "Viva el small businessman!"), and may attempt to override the Copyright Office decision via legislation.
For more information than you ever thought possible on this topic, check out the Radio And Internet Newsletter. It's very biased in favor of webcasters, but it's still very informative and pragmatic.
In a way, I almost hope that the record industry succeeds on all its current legal fronts. If they managed to wipe out webcasters, file-trading on the internet, kids copying CDs on their computers, etc., they might have to acknowledge that their low sales aren't due to all these evil outside forces, but because the music they're selling is crap.
Talk about paranoid.
In the three zillionth attempt to derail the International Criminal Court, the US has announced that it will not take part in any UN peacekeeping actions unless all US troops that participated would be permanently exempt from prosecution by the ICC.
From the rational anti-ICC point of view, the ICC is dangerous because enemies of the US could use it for their own political ends, accusing innocent American military personnel of war crimes.
From the irrational anti-ICC point of view, anyone who suggests that the US should follow any sort of rules whatsoever is an enemy of the United States.
From the rational, impartial point of view, what the hell's the big deal? The ICC pretty much prosecutes people who commit acts of genocide. Is it really asking that much that Americans agree not to commit genocide?
In other news, the Bush managed to turn a plan to help African and Caribbean nations fight AIDS into a boon for US-based multinational corporations.
Bush has pledged $500 million to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS from mother to child (the article has a typo, it's "million," not "billion"). Sounds good at first.
First of all, it's interesting to note that the money will only be used to fight mother-to-child AIDS transmission. This is due to Bush's crazed Christian conservative, sex=hellfire stance.
But more importantly, the money is not being sent to the "Global Fund" to fight AIDS, a group that would buy cheap, generic AIDS drugs for the sick. Instead, most of this money is likely to be spent on expensive patented AIDS drugs from US pharmaceutical giants. The difference in price is not a small thing; generic AIDS drugs can cost less than 25% of name brand price. Using the money to buy generics would make it stretch a lot further.
So not only will the money do much less good, but it will end up in the pockets of the US elites of the drug industry.
But I suppose the fact that Africans can get generic AIDS drugs at all is a step forward. Even back in 1999, the US was threatening South Africa with trade sanctions if they tried to manufacture generics to treat their 3 million+ HIV-infected citizens.
It's just your average, everyday story of American sickness. María Teresa Macias took her children and left her psychopathic, abusive husband. The husband stalked her, tormented her, eventually killed her, and then killed himself. Familiar as any other story in the newspaper these days.
But the primary way that this story differs is the extent to which the police could have prevented Macias' murder, but didn't. Between 1994 and her death in 1996, Macias called the Sonoma County sheriffs over 20 different times for help, and to report her ex stalking, harassing and threatening to kill her. Most of those calls were made in the last three months of her life as her ex-husbands threats became more frightening and serious. Both Macias and some of her friends told the police that the psycho was going to kill her. And police did nothing. And then he did kill her.
It appears that the sheriffs, for whatever reason, didn't take Macias' reports seriously. They didn't even bother to write many of her reports down, so that even if a cop did want to do his job properly, he didn't have the records to do so. Even when the police found the ex violating the restraining order, they didn't do much about it. It seems their attitude was that Macias was just a hysterical woman and they just had to humor her, because they figured that the husband would never follow through on his threats.
After her death, Macias' mother, with the help of a women's rights group called the Purple Berets, filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's department, claiming that they had violated Teresa Macias' right to equal protection under the law. They argued that the sheriffs had discriminated against Macias as a woman, a latina, and a victim of domestic violence.
Don't know if those claims are accurate or not, but it seems sure that police incompetence and negligence cost a woman her life.
There's a mildly happy ending to this. Sonoma County agreed to pay Macias' mother and her three children $1 million. They admitted no wrongdoing or guilt. "'We don't believe the sheriff's department in any way discriminated against Macias, but we do believe it's in the best interest of everyone involved, including the children, to bring closure to the case,' said Paul Kelley, vice chairman of Sonoma County Board of Supervisors."
Maybe the Sonoma sheriffs will take domestic violence reports a little more seriously now. Maybe.
Prominant Southern Baptist preacher Rev. Jerry Vines spoke at a convention of his church where he called the Islamic prophet Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile", and argued that the Christian god Jehovah was superior to Allah, because "Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist."
*cough coughABORTIONCLINICBOMBERScough cough*
One of our nation's unintentionally leading funnymen, Rev. Jerry Falwell, stuck up for Vines, possibly because he can really sympathize with saying dumb, controversial shit in public.
But I'll admit, the only reason I wrote anything about this "news" is because it involved Jerry Falwell slightly, therefore granting me license to post this picture of a fully-clothed Jerry Falwell on a waterslide.
Exporting Enron- Enron's US divisions are in bankruptcy, but the company still continues its shenanigans on the international stage. And it's trying to get US taxpayer money to do it.
Court Jousters- conservative lawyers working behind-the-scenes paving the legal way for the Bush administration's more Constitutionally-questionable actions.
EPA Says Toxic Sludge is Good for Fish- yeah. Cuz toxic sludge dumped into the Potomac River (by the Army no less) forces fish to flee the area, and therefore aren't caught by fishermen. I'd put a dark-humored analogy here to point out how ludicrous this argument is, but it's just too easy.
Finished writing an article about the recent Bush-Putin nuclear arms treaty, and posted it on the Stray Bulletins site.
Check out The Treaty That Wasn't.
The US Marines evidently deserve partial script credit for the new John Woo movie "Windtalkers." They got to tell the filmmakers to delete several scenes from the movie that were "un-Marine", or more accurately, which showed Marines doing naughty things.
Like digging gold fillings out of enemy corpses' mouths and killing unarmed soldiers with flame-throwers.
Why would the directors bow to the pressure of the Marines? Cuz the Marines controlled military equipment that the filmmakers wanted/needed to use as props and sets for the film. And why would the Marines lend them equipment? To help make a movie that glorified the Marines.
So now everybody's happy.
Earlier this week, George W. Bush declared a new doctrine of "pre-emptive self-defense" (a policy in violation of international law, if anyone cares) and authorized the CIA to use lethal force to remove Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
This plan to invade Iraq has been visible to the naked eye for months now, and I've yet to hear a truthful and compelling reason why, apart from "we would like to have their oil." Well, I have heard one new reason why (in the article discussed below), "Donald Rumsfeld is very interested in getting rid of Saddam Hussein because he wants to reduce the amount of money required to keep troops in the Persian Gulf to patrol Saddam Hussein."
Hell, I don't know what else I can say about this that I haven't already said several hundred times. I'm opposed to an attack on Iraq. It'll kill a lot of innocent Iraqis. It'll kill a lot (okay, some) American soldiers. It'll make Arabs hate the US more. It'll make the region more unstable. There's no guarantee that Iraq will be any better under a new leader than it was under Saddam Hussein. If the invasion was coupled with a plan to help rebuild Iraq and institute a stable, democratic, Iraqi-centered government, maybe I could support it.
So yeah, here're some links.
Iraq and Ruin- interesting at least because it is a mainstream news article that analyzes other mainstream news articles. Pretty much debunks most of the "Iraq's gonna get your momma" stories. Ends on the creepy note that even the military is not real keen on attacking Iraq because (among several reasons) Saddam might turn chemical and biological weapons on the US troops. Thanks George, we were all dying to see the sequel to "Gulf War Syndrome".
"The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein". The interview imparts more information about the internal politics of Iraq than I've heard in, well, ever. She describes Iraq as a prison constructed by Saddam and guarded by his efficient army of thugs. If Saddam is deposed, the country will likely turn into a civil war along ethnic and tribal lines. There is also some interesting description of Iraq as a tribal society, and what that means.
I will try to make this a weekly feature for the weblog.
The Tyndall Report is a weekly publication which documents how much time the American television news spends on particular topics each week. In other words, it's a way to see what the mainstream media think is important this week, or at least what they're telling most Americans to think is important.
(I'm assuming that all of the "2001" dates on the page are typos, and really refer to 2002).
So, what did Israel's recent re-occupation of the Occupied Territories really accomplish?
If you really want to know, read this. It's a very long and thorough analysis of the events that took place, and the status of Palestinian-Israeli-American politics and interrelationships since the incursions.
If you've been a longtime reader of LMB, you might remember my comments about Coca-Cola's attempt to replace water as the world's most popular drink. Well, there's another battle going on between Coke and water, and it's not half as pretty.
In the Indian town of Palchimada there is a Coca-Cola factory that is stealing and contaminating all the water in the area. The factory is pumping out hundreds of thousands of liters of groundwater daily and is depriving thousands of locals of drinking water. And the water that Coke is not pumping away is becoming contaminated and undrinkable.
And apparently, Coke is stealing water from at least two other areas nearby two other factories.
The folks at CorpWatch are hoping that you can help them take action and pressure Coke into behaving in a non-homicidal way. You can click here and send a free fax to Coca-Cola's CEO, the appropriately named Douglas Daft.
I'm not big on turning blogs into diaries, but I feel compelled to document this.
Friday, June 14, 2002
7am- wake up tired.
7am-8am- search net for interesting news articles for RATM.com.
8am-1:20pm- call activist groups, organize presentation for 2pm meeting re: Ozzfest's "Axis of Justice" political activism tables
1:20pm-2:20pm- battle traffic to the Westside for meeting.
2:20-4pm- meet with System of a Down's Serj Tankian about Axis of Justice. Serj is amazingly friendly. His phalanax of managers are very hip and very good at pretending to be friendly (before I leave I check my neck for fang marks). I manage to convince members of an internationally famous metal band and a handful of music industry mercenaries to watch a short, powerful documentary about Nike's exploitation of its Indonesian workforce. Take that, forces of evil.
4pm-8pm- goof off, play mildly commie/rebel-oriented video game Red Faction, eat Zankou Chicken.
8pm-9pm- voyage with Candice & Jeremy through creepy parts of downtown LA's wherehouse district for a performance of "interactive machine art."
12:30-1:30- meal at Palms Thai, home of Thai Elvis. These sort of things don't even strike me as surreal anymore. The salty fish fried rice is so salty that it makes me want to throw things. Thai Elvis sings "Happy Birthday" twice.
late am- bed.
Kill Radio has been evicted from its original home in a tiny, stuffy office on the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Blvds, and has temporarily moved into the office of the LA Independent Media Center. Things are going to be crazy for a while. Due to space, time, and, well, security constraints, the programming schedule might jump around, die, shimmy around, and otherwise behave strangely. I've offered to share my show's slot with late-night DJs who don't feel safe walking around with a heavy crate of LPs at 3am in a once-crack-infested neighborhood. So I might be on the webwaves tomorrow afternoon, or I might not.
BUT, the upside of all this is that this temporary shacking up will result in a permanent shacking up in what looks like an excellent new space come September. Over in Echo Park, it'll be a large storefront shared by Kill Radio and LA IMC. With the extra space we can fulfill more of our community service goals: hold meetings; let activist organizations use the space; concerts; film screenings; guest speakers; etc. I'm excited about it, but the next three months might be sucky for the station. Please bear with us, and we'll do the best that we can.
The US Justice Department is arguing that George W. should have the power to imprison American citizens who have not been convicted of a crime for as long as he wants. It's one of those "we've got to destroy freeom in order to protect freedom" sort of things.
I'm not sure what to make of the specific case, Jose "Dirty Bomb" Padilla. We are constantly forced to rely on the unreliable Bush administration for information. Many of the announcements about terrorists and attacks these days are hyper-exaggerated tales told at a particular time for a specific domestic political purpose, and after that goal is achieved, the truth slowly trickles out. This story began as "we just caught a guy who was going to nuke America" to "a month ago, we caught a guy who was talking about planting a bomb mixed with radioacitve materials. Pretty soon it will probably be downgraded to "we heard about a guy who once thought about firecrackers while walking through a mud puddle."
But back to the legal stuff. The guy's not a foreign soldier, he's a US citizen, and saying that you can just imprison him because you want to violates his rights. But honestly, it's not his rights I'm that concerned about. I'm concerned about my rights. If there's a precendent that the president can just throw one American citizen in jail, that means he can do it to another. And maybe you trust and love president Bush, and "know" that he would never abuse this power. But it wouldn't end with Bush, this precedent and power would follow the presidency. Even if you trust Bush, are you sure you can trust the next president? Or the next?
And finally, y'know how 17 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian? Well, guess which Middle Eastern nationality is not on the new racial profiling list of visiting Arabs and Muslims?
As soon as I post this link, I will rush to the hospital for treatment of severe smirk-related trauma.
He doesn't say that in a figurative or metaphorical way. The article is filled with direct quotes like "The evil intentions attributed to Clear Channel are not true at all" and "because we are leading change, we are perceived as evil."
I'm quite fond of this fake news article:
REMAINING U.S. CEOs MAKE A BREAK FOR IT-
Band of Roving Chief Executives Spotted Miles from Mexican Border
And this one is very funny too, but not so much for its satire but for its form. Read it, you'll see.
Thanks to Satire Wire
And you're going to be hard-pressed to beat our man Dack in the category of Succint Political Humor in the Form of a Tiny Multimedia Webpage
Does anyone remember when EPA bigwig Eric Schaeffer resigned, claiming that the Bush administration was trying to destroy the agency? Here's what he was talking about.
The US Environmental "Protection" Agency (EPA) has proposed reforms to the Clean Air Act that will make it easier for industry to continue polluting. And the plan's backers are barely even trying to put a positive spin on this. First, they make the unconvincing claim that the current regulations actually prevent some companies from upgrading their machinery so that it would be more pollution-free. Then they make the stronger argument that more pollution means lower electric bills for all. Yay!
It drives me crazy. Pollution is what economists call an "externality": when you can get someone else to foot the bill for something that gives you profit. Imagine if no factories had smokestacks, if all the smoke and air pollution that a factory produced was confined to the building. The companies would have to put in high-powered air filters to keep the air breathable, hire someone to clean the used filters, and cart away all the filtered dust and smoke particles. Or they'd have to buy their employees oxygen tanks and goggles so they could work in that environment. Imagine the colossal expense they'd rack up. But instead, they pump all that shit into the air, into our lungs, damaging our bodies, and they pocket the change. Fucked up? Hell yeah.
State troopers in Seattle are randomly searching ferry passenger's cars. Evidently the searches are voluntary, but if you refuse, the captain of the ferry can refuse to let you on the boat. Which kinda makes it mandatory. Best explanation of this pretty blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment comes from Washington State Patrol Capt. Glenn Cramer: "This is a special-needs time."
Then I read this article and figured that it was too ludicrous to be true. Then I researched it, and it is indeed true.
Perhaps you remember the US withdrawing from the International Criminal Court treaty, the one that would try those accused of war crimes anywhere in the world. The US supported a version of the treaty that made all Americans exempt from the court, but pulled out when they discovered that they would not be above the law.
So the US did one better. The US Congress introduced the American Servicemembers' Protection Act of 2001, which vowed that the US would in no way cooperate with the ICC. And even further, claimed that the US had the right to "use all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release from captivity of any person ... who is being detained or imprisoned against that person's will by or on behalf of the International Criminal Court" (Section 8, paragraph a). Which the Dutch have interpretted to mean (I think correctly) that the Act would give the president the right to invade the Netherlands to free Americans accused of war crimes from The Hague.
But, if I understand my legislation process correctly, it appears that both the House and Senate versions of this bill were sent to committee in May 2001, and were never actually voted on.
Over in Chicago, there's an artist named Stu Helm. He does a lot of stylish and colorful drawings and comics ranging from the political to the sexual to the bizarre. He has been creating art under the nickname "King VelVeeda" for 13 years now.
Enter the folks from Kraft. Kraft manufactures Velveeta Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product (I don't know what's in Velveeta, but I couldn't help but notice that the word "cheese" is almost non-existent on the Velveeta website). And Kraft is not happy that the trademark of their wholesome quasi-cheese is being "diluted" by the King and his "unsavory" art. So they're suing him. They also filed a restraining order against KV, preventing him from using his nickname in any way. Meaning that the vast majority of his work must be censored and hidden, because he signed the works under his psuedonym. Check his site, CheesyGraphics.com, and see how many of KV's works have been replaced by "THIS ARTWORK IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE TO LOOK AT, COURTESY OF KRAFT FOODS."
"Diluting a trademark" and "doing irreprable harm" are phrases that turn up in Kraft's legal documents. Who do they think they're kidding? I'm guessing that the amount of business that Kraft is losing due to KV is close to zero dollars. Perhaps a blind schizophrenic on crack might mistake comic book drawings for cheese product, but I don't think that's a very important demographic for Kraft.
Big business has spent a lot of time here in the US playing up the idea of "frivolous lawsuits" and "tort reform," pretending that half of America is filing crazed lawsuits against big companies, wasting the time and money of the courts (and therefore taxpayers). But looks like they're not exempt from their own frivolity.
The US embassy in Venezuela has issued a travel warning to Americans in Venezuela, citing the "unstable political environment and unpredictable security situation." Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was just victim of a coup attempt in April, in which some folks believe the US played a hand. Wonder if the Venezuelan embassy knows something that the rest of us don't.
Odd news here, Ralph Nader recently spoke at a policy meeting of powerful Republican figures, urging them towards a more populist agenda.
On one hand, Nader was clever. While many cynics decry the Republicans as the party of Big Business, many Republicans see their party of one of individual liberty and traditional cultural values. Nader challenged these power brokers to focus on the true Republican ideals rather than a pro-corporate agenda.
It's doubtful that his meeting will have any impact on those he spoke to, and fairly likely that the Democrats will use this meeting as an opportunity to "prove" that Nader was in cahoots with the Republicans to defeat Al Gore in 2000.
Sometimes I find good news links that I don't bother posting here. That's because I help run another website, and post news links and bits of commentary there, and don't feel inclined to do it all over again for my personal site. So I'll go ahead and plug the other site, it's got lots o' news and such. Updated with 3+ articles everyday.
Brand spanking new website: ClearChannelSucks.org
I'll quote part of their FAQ here, about why they created the site:
I have to disagree with part of #2, because Clear Channel is hemoraging money. Maybe we'll get lucky and the company will collapse on itself.
The evolving story of Afghanistan.
What Lies in Afghanistan's Future? Prospects for the Loya Jirga- Members of the Afghan Women's Mission dissect the recent history of Afghanistan and look glumly towards the future.
Disillusioned Delegates Walk Out of Loya Jirga- 60-70 delegates (out of 1500-1700) of the Loya Jirga meeting to create a new Afghan government have left. They claim that they have no real say in many of the important decisions, and are appalled that the warlords are being included in the discussions.
Afghans Protest Over US Manipulation of Summit Influence at Loya Jirga- the US seems to have encouraged former Afghan king Zahir Shah to withdraw as a potential Afghan leader. Many of the loya jirga delegates are upset that a foreign country is influencing the course of their conference.
Gangsters, Murderers and Stooges Used to Endorse Bush's Vision of "Democracy"- from Robert Fisk. That title kinda speaks for itself.
And this one is interesting too, USA Today Berlin bureau chief Steve Komarow is in Afghanistan keeping a daily journal of his experiences at the loya jirga.
According to columnist Max Robins, the media giant Clear Channel has sent a memo out to all of its employees asking them to donate a percentage of their salaries to Clear Channel's political action committee. Presumably this PAC will lobby Congress to give up its current concerns about media monopolies. While the memo says that employees are free to decline this funding opportunity, the employees seem scared that they will be punished for not supporting the PAC.
Bonus fun: Read the Clear Channel Creed!
I could easily delve into these articles and get my analyze on, but I think that all the facts point in a pretty simple direction.
2) Bush tells West Point Graduates that the US will fight for "human liberty" against "terrorists and tyrants" and for "free and open societies on every continent."
3) Bush tells conservative International Democrat Union that US must strike first against terrorists and "oppose the new totalitarians with all our power."
Okay, what's the common theme here? First of all, they all use and misuse lofty rhetoric about freedom and liberty. Second, all of them talk about striking first at enemies. Third, all of them include "hostile nations with chemical, nuclear or biological weapons" in that enemies list.
Hmm, sounds kinda like... Iraq. Tyrannical leader, hostile nation, and brimming over with nukes, anthrax and nerve gas, according to secret, nonexistent US evidence.
No one in the Middle East seems particularly concerned about Iraq as a threat. Hell, just about no one in the world sees Iraq as a threat. Except the US. Frankly, no one seems to know if Iraq does indeed have any WMD (weapons of mass destruction), although I'm sure Saddam Hussein would love to have some. Maybe we'd know for sure if Iraq had any such weapons if the US hadn't intentionally tried to fuck up the weapons monitors. But if the weapons inspectors had come back and said that Iraq was clean, the US would lose its already paper-thin rationale for invading the country.
So that's it. Just more "we've got to attack Iraq" talk. Excuse me, we never say "Iraq," we say "Saddam Hussein." Because there is only one person living in all of Iraq, and he's evil, so it's okay to indiscriminately bomb and starve the whole country, because he's the only person we'll hurt.
And as a final note, I noticed that in the first article above, they quote military expert Michele Flournoy. That's the first time I can ever remember a news outlet asking a woman about military issues.
This is an interesting factoid that fell through the cracks.
These days, the press are attacking Bush's incompetence on terrorism, the CIA's incompetence on terrorism and the FBI's incompetence on terrorism.
"On May 8, 2001, the president charged Mr. Cheney with overseeing a 'national effort' to coordinate all federal programs for responding to domestic attacks in league with a new Office of National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency."
"That day the vice president went on CNN to explain his duty. After noting that 'one of our biggest threats as a nation' may include 'a terrorist organization overseas,' Mr. Cheney said: 'We need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense. The president's asked me to take on the responsibility of overseeing all of that, reviewing the plans that are out there today.'"
So basically, as of May 2001, it was Cheney's job to bring the CIA, FBI and federal government all into line on the issue of terrorism.
Slaying at Gay Bar Probed as Hate Crime- Four to six skinheads snuck up on two gay men in a Riverside bar parking lot and stabbed them in the back with knives. The victims were armed with packets of vacation photos.
What a bunch of fucking cowardly scum. Tell ya what, skinheads, you want to prove your hetero superiority, do it right. Go down to the nearest gay gym, leave your weapons at home, find the biggest roid-pumping gay bodybuilder you can find, wait till he's facing you, then clock him.
"I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street..."
-Gen. Smedly D. Butler
I'll be broadcasting my interview with Justin Sane of Anti-Flag. We talk a bit about Justin growing up, politics, music, what punk means, the war on terrorism, activism, etc. He's a good, smart fella.
And since some of you folks tuning in will surely be punk fans, I'll make sure to open and close the show with some tunes of that variety (although I would have done that anyway).
And if you miss it, don't worry, I'll rebroadcast it in a few weeks, and put a link to the audio file too.
Back in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up a pro-USSR president, beginning several decades of destruction.
Actually, that might not be entirely true.
According to then US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US got involved in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviets did with the hope that it would draw the Soviet Union into the region and give the USSR its own "Vietnam war." So either the US helped foment a civil war in Afghanistan for its own Cold War ends, or Brzezinski is making shit up to write himself into the pages of history. Hard to say.
Anyhow, the Soviets fought the US-backed Mujahadeen for over a decade before conceding defeat. Then the Mujahadeen began fighting for power amongst themselves, grinding the country to dust in the process.
In the late 1990s, the Pakistan-backed Taliban militia began to grow and conquer in Afghanistan. They managed to beat back the Mujahadeen warlords, who now joined together into a force we call the "Northern Alliance" to fight their common enemy, the Taliban.
After the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan and drove the Taliban from power (more or less).
Which brings us up to the present. Afghanistan is officially ruled by interim president Hamid Karzai, who is best known for, well, wearing a little fuzzy hat. His government has little money, no police force, and only a small national guard to try to control a chaotic, quasi-feudal nation. The warlords rule, and everyone knows it.
So begins Afghanistan's Loya Jirga. The Loya Jirga is a summit meeting of hundreds of Afghan representatives who will try to crib together a new government and constitution. The Times (UK)'s grim prediction:
"What is likely to unfold is a week of bewildering allegiances, treachery, and backroom deals between warlords who should not be there, local militiamen who have bribed and intimidated themselves onto the floor, and a Loya Jirga assembly that some monitors claim will produce a pre-determined outcome favoured by the United States — a result that would enrage the already disaffected majority Pashtuns."
Read the Times article. It's a good window into the impossibly complex and ruthless world of Afghan politics, and explains why victory over the Taliban didn't necessarily improve the life of anyone in Afghan (well, maybe the lives of the warlords).
"Let's start with the blindingly obvious. No prospective terrorist is going to register with John Ashcroft's program to fingerprint Middle Eastern and Muslim visitors, let alone provide the INS with continuing details of their movements inside the country. Only the law-abiding folks are going to do that. Ashcroft's latest assault on freedom and decency seems less like an effective law enforcement tool than a handy compendium of names and addresses to round up new residents once the camps are ready to open."
Other highlights of the article include: the fact that the anthrax-laced mail case of 2001 has still not been solved; the folly of racial profiling (focuses police attention on physical characteristics, not criminal behavior); the claim that John Ashcroft has probably thought that jailing all Americans would be a good way to fight terrorism; that all of the (unconstitutional) expanded law enforcement powers have yet to charge a single person with a terrorism-related crime; and the battle cry that we must begin the fight to reclaim our eroding civil liberties right now.
I have always found that the bastardized, marginalized genres of entertainment are the ones with the most opportunity for subversion. If you're not a fan of science fiction, you wouldn't know that a huge number of sci-fi novels are about violent overthrow of governments (oppressive ones, of course). Comic books like The Invisibles and Preacher assault mainstream cultural and religious values. Horror movies like Dawn of the Dead ruthlessly mock consumer culture and make eerie statements about the human capacity for violence.
It goes on. Transgressive social commentary can be found in gangsta rap, punk rock, public access television, even personal websites.
I'm not saying that these entertainment forms are always rebellious and insightful. Probably 90% of the time, they're crap. But it seems to me that since the mainstream turns up its nose at these "immature" or "low" forms of culture, that the authors of these projects can get away with saying bold, controversial things without facing harmful consequences.
Which is why I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find bits of radical political philosophy buried in a sci-fi video game. I shouldn't have been, but I was.
In most ways, Deus Ex, originally released in 2000, was both a video game and sci-fi cliche. It's 50 years in the future (yawn), and you are a bionically enhanced (yawn) secret agent (yawn) fighting terrorists (yawn) in a Blade Runner- type cyberfuture (zzzzz...).
So after you complete some missions for your UN anti-terrorist task force, you begin getting clues that you are working for the wrong side. Your character realizes that the "terrorists" are actually working to counteract the oppressive plans of your employers at the UN.
It wasn't till my character ended up in a Hong Kong bar plying a barkeep for information that I realized that something unusual was going on. Every time the bartender spoke, you could choose a response from several provided for you and your character would reply. The conversation was made up of these exchanges. I barely noticed when my search for clues had turned into a debate about the nature of democracy... Yes, while the bartender was arguing for safety and security, my character was offering counterarguments for the freedom of man like he was Locke or Rousseau instead of a sci-fi action hero.
The conversation eventually ended, and my character again began shooting at villains and sneaking into enemy strongholds. But I continued to be impressed that the game had snuck this intellectual discourse into the middle.
And I would be even more impressed by the game's conclusion. The game approaches climax as your hero has managed to enter the inner sanctum of the villains, Area 51. But you are given three different options on how to conclude the game, none of which is "correct" or better than the others, each of which will radically change the life of every person on Earth.
One of your allies tells you that you should simply kill the main villain. Once destroyed, both you and this ally can use the powerful resources of Area 51 to rule Earth from the shadows, corrupt elites giving the illusion of freedom to the masses. People would have order and security, but not power or self-determination.
Another ally is an advanced AI, poweful enough to control every electrical and telecommunication network on Earth. It wants you to flip some switches to give it access to the world, which it will then rule with cold computer efficiency. It offers you the chance to merge with its systems, so that its efficiency will be tempered by human sensibilities. Basically, it proposes benevolent totalitarianism. Order and security, tinged with fear and powerlessness.
And finally, a third ally instructs you to utterly destroy Area 51. The base is a hub of all the world's communications and electricity. Destroying the base will lead to a "new dark age," but one in which people will not be controlled by plutocrats or dictators. People will create their own societies, not on a global scale, but on a local scale that they can actually comprehend. Technocide for democracy.
"My god," I realized, "this video game is forcing me to think about the nature of government, and which form I think is the best: the corrupt corporate 'democracy' of the modern era; totalitarianism; or anarchy!"
Beat that, Pac-Man!
Each choice has its own ending, which concludes with an interesting and appropriate literary quote.
Of course I had to try all three finales to see what happened. But what was my first choice? What would Jake the Super-Cyborg have done if forced to choose among the three?
Area 51 was atomized in a cataclysmic fusion reaction. Electric lights winked out across the globe, as final radio transmissions fuzzed out into static, and then silence. No guarantees, no happy promises. Just rebirth, and the opportunity to build my own world, our own world, from the ground up, with our own hands.
Just finished recording an interview with guitarist/frontman Justin Sane, of the Pittsburgh punk outfit Anti-Flag. I'll be airing the interview this coming Monday, June 10, around 2pm.
Anti-Flag are good fellas, making your world a better place, whether you like it or not, sucka!
(sorry, I watched "Undercover Brother" last night).
I'll rebroadcast the interview some weeks later (once Kill Radio finds a new space. We're being evicted June 15. Wheeee!!!!), and I'll make the audio file of the interview available on this site soon. And sometime after that, I'll post a transcript to the upcoming Interviews section of the Stray Bulletins site. I'll also transcribe my previous interview with Jim Keady and Leslie Kretzu of the anti-sweatshop organization Educating for Justice.
My previously scheduled interview with Peter Hart of FAIR is being postponed until Kill Radio has a new home.
Although most of us have forgotten about radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, he is still going on strong, still listened to by millions of Americans on hundreds of radio stations. Rush is not stupid, but his arguments usually are. I studied Limbaugh against my will for nearly a year and a half as a grad student. He is funny, and his main persuasive tactic is his humor. Take an opponent's viewpoint, exaggerate it wildly, and mock it. That's Limbaugh in a nutshell.
Now that even George W. is kinda/sorta recognizing the existence of global warming, one of Limbaugh's favorite environmental issues to bash, Rush has to confront this change of heart. Rush's conclusion:
That's it. Rush's evidence is "some scientists told me so" and a statement about the power of human technology based on nothing.
This isn't even really an issue folks. Even the conservative, business-friendly Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on global warming concedes that humans are causing it.
I have no problem with people raising questions about scientific research methods or conclusions. If a report is wrong, then it's wrong, and everyone should know. But the vast majority of the public skepticism on this topic is corporate-funded flak disguised as legitimate scientific disagreement.
I really can't understand Rush's reasoning behind saying what he does. I can't believe that he really believes that humans have no effect on the environment. Is he on the payroll of the oil companies? Does he own stock in air-conditioning? I really want to know.
There is a hip new dance among young people these days, known as the C-walk (see the C-walk in action). The dance is being banned by LA high school principals because the "C" stands for "Crip", the notorious LA street gang.
Reading the article, the Crip Walk was apparently used as a form of gang sign a decade ago, but seems to be just another dance by now (much the way that "Coca-Cola" no longer contains coca products). None of the principals can name any actual trouble or violence that the dance has caused, but they are banning it just the same. School administrators are absolute geniuses at cracking down on behaviors that are not themselves dangerous, but that are symbolic of real problems that principals are powerless to influence.
In other news, LA principals will soon be banning the Electric Slide (due to the physical dangers of high-voltage), and the Robot (to prevent attacks from cyborgs).
Even as a young male who enjoys looking at beautiful, scantily-clad women, I find Maxim magazine offensive. Something about the photos they use that crosses the line between "marvel at my sexiness" and "imagine me in a dirty, dirty porno movie." It's just kinda icky.
The magazine has also seemed personally insulting. Maxim tries to present itself as the epitome of all things male, but I'd like to think that being a man has little to do with lying to women for sex, DVD players and knowing which cocktail is hip this month.
Apparently I'm not the only one to feel this way about Maxim; former Maxim editor Dave Itzkoff also finds the magazine repellent. He has written a piece that's sort of a confessional, explaining the utter shallowness of the magazine, its creation and its goals during his tenure. I found this quote pretty much summed up the article:
"Now, belatedly, I understand the dilemma its success has raised, one that cuts right to the heart of this industry: Is a magazine supposed to engage, enlighten and edify its readers, or is it only intended to distract them as they flip from one advertisement to the next?"
US media in a nutshell.
"Peace for the World, Pretzels for Bush"
- German protest sign
One of the problems I have with a lot of left-wing political argument is that it divides the world too neatly into "us" and "them" categories. Big Media Big Targets shows how messy some of the divisions really are. It documents a strange alliance between the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) union and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) so they can battle giant broadcast conglomerates. The Recording Industry vs. the broadcast industry? I want ringside seats for this one.
This recording/broadcast schism is based upon payola. Quite literally, record companies pay fellows called "independent promoters" to bribe radio stations to play certain records. And if you're not bribing the radio stations, your bands won't get played. This is not cynicism or some wild-eyed conspiracy theory. This is standard operating procedure in the music industry. And apparently the recording industry has just about had its fill of having to pay to get their records heard...
Pilfering from Publishers documents a large bank's attempts to take money from small, independent publishers in seeming violation of all law and common sense. It also discusses a new strategy by the giant Borders bookstore chain; sounds like the big company is shifting its responsibilities for sales and market research onto the publishers themselves. If you are a publisher and your company's business is dependent on a chain like Borders, you are likely to take on this extra responsibility-- even if the company is charging you over $100,000 for te privilege.
And to examine the complete opposite end of the spectrum, here is a bit of reflection about Idle Kids, a new independent anarchist bookstore in Detroit and the nature of DIY itself. Look at me: I'm a writer, a journalist, a radio DJ, an activist, and an artist. Never had any training for any of these things, I never asked for anyone's permission. Didn't know what the hell I was doing at first, I had to make it up as I went along, learning as I stumbled.
Doing what you didn't think you were able not only makes you feel like a more powerful and capable human being, but it awakens you to the truth that maybe "real" "official" reporters or politicians or artists are not special or superior. They are no better than you or I. Go get 'em.
Rage Against the Machine- Fuck tha Police (live)
The Evolution Control Committee- Rocked by Rave
Mike Ladd- Animist
Oingo Boingo- Goodbye Goodbye Goodbye
Mr. Bungle- Desert Search for Techno Allah
Pulp- Common People (live)
Sparta- Quiero Volver
Sharpshooters & DJ Spooky- Analyze
Bad Religion- Modern Man
Venetian Snares- Befriend a Child Killer
The Wailers- Simmer Down
Bob Dylan- Masters of War
Beat Junkies- Keep It Movin'
Anti-Flag- A New Kind of Army (live)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Bang
Quicksand- How Soon Is Now?
David Bowie- The Heart's Filthy Lesson
Famous Monsters- Monster Girls Are Go!!
The Distillers- LA Girl (live)
Venetian Snares- Dollmaker
Meet the Press: The Corruption of Journalism in Wartime by columnist and cartoonist Ted Rall is a nice piece of media criticism.
Rall was in Afghanistan reporting on the US war back in the fall of 2001. He describes his fellow press corps members as largely ignorant of the region they were covering, and relying upon press conferences by generals that no one could trust. He talks about pampered TV reporters who threw money around, both compromising their stories and driving up prices for local goods & services. He also tells of a reporter who's work he admired, who watched his every report of civilian casualties excised from his articles by editors state-side who considered such description of suffering "redundant."
Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.
Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.
All brought to you by Jake Sexton, The Most Beloved Man in America ®.
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"I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street..."
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CreditsDesign and Layout by Mark McLaughlin and Quang Tang
LMB Logo by Quang Tang
Alt "One Hell of a Leader" logo largely stolen from Obey Giant.
All other material by Jake Sexton (unless otherwise cited)