Lying Media Bastards

November 30, 2003

American Justice


Time magazine has written an extensive article about the Guantanamo Bay prisoners that the U.S. took during the Afghan war. It looks like the U.S. government is talking about releasing about 150 of the 600+ prisoners, because the Supreme Court has agreed to look into the issue, and could possibly invalidate the imprisonment altogether.

Back in late 2001, the U.S. scooped up hundreds of foreigners in Afghanistan and shipped them to a military base in Cuba. U.S. officials claimed that these prisoners were not prisoners of war, because international law gives prisoners of war certain rights. No, these were "enemy combatants", and were therefore subject to their captors' whims.

If these prisoners were all definitely members of Al Qaeda, you could possibly build a satisfactory argument to justify holding them captive for years with no trial. But no one knows if they are or not. Some probably are. Some are probably not Al Qaeda, but Taliban members who fought against the U.S. invasion. Some are probably even Afghan soldiers who disliked the Taliban and Al Qaeda but fought against the U.S. incursion. We'll never know, the whole thing is so shrouded in secrecy.

And now, the Time magazine article reports that "U.S. officials concluded that some detainees were there because they had been kidnapped by Afghan warlords and sold for the bounty the U.S. was offering for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters."

Which means that "some" detainees (possible the soon-to-be-released 140?) were not Al Qaeda or Taliban, but were innocent people kidnapped by profiteers and sold to the Americans. Reminds me of the transatlantic slave trade.

And as if being kidnapped and sold wasn't bad enough, these people then spent two years in a foreign country, away from their friends and family, on an island prison and treated as a terrorist. Fucking appalling.

They ought to call it the War on Terrorism and Whoever Happens to Get In the Way.

Posted by Jake at 10:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 27, 2003

Miami Vice Grip

At the FTAA protests in Miami, we saw a familiar pattern played out yet again.

1) Influential organization announces meeting in City X. Activists vow to protest meeting.

2) City X police begin solemnly warning local media about the potential threat of "violent protesters", "outside agitators", "anarchists", and "terrorists".

3) Local media begins running breathless stories like "Could City X Become Another Seattle?!", with pictures of masked anarchists or masked riot cops or both.

4) City X police create elaborate, militarized plan to protect the city. This usually involves inviting "experts" from other police departments, hundreds of cops in SWAT team gear, importing officers from surrounding towns, shifting prisoners from local jails to neighboring facilities to make room for protesters, procuring buses with which to transport huge numbers of arrested activists, and cordoning off large swaths of the city

5) Local protesters and the ACLU file a lawsuit against these measures. City responds by pointing out that they have set up a "free speech zone" (aka a "protest pen"-- an area far from the site of the contested meeting, bounded by steel fences, which activists are told is the only place where they are "allowed" to protest). If the city relents and cedes civil rights to the protesters, it does so at the last minute, and apparently does not notify the local police that they've done so.

6) Day of protest arrives. Massive throngs of law-abiding citizens march around the city with earnest slogan signs, listen to speakers at rallies, etc. The are constantly surrounded by a scary-looking paramilitary force.

7) A large group of protesters is cornered by cops, surrounded, ordered to disperse, not allowed to disperse, and is then arrested for failing to disperse. Beatings, rubber bullets and tear gas are sometimes involved. This sort of mass arrest is often done early in protest, to serve as a warning. Media shows no interest.

8) Cops get aggro on groups of protesters, hitting people with nightsticks, shoving people around, ordering them to move for no reason, shooting them with rubber bullets, spraying them with pepper spray, scaring them with concussion grenades, etc. They will justify these actions by claiming that the activists attacked them first, usually by throwing a plastic water bottle or rock at their armored bodies. Media shows no interest.

9) Protest ends, straggling protesters are harassed and/or arrested. Most arrestees are released within hours or days, after paying a fine or are let out with no charges. Activists sue city for violation of civil rights, but nothing happens. Media shows no interest.

10) Police hold press conference declaring victory. The fact that the fantasy violence that they predicted did not take place is proof that the city's repressive tactics saved the city. The police and city take credit for shit they had nothing to do with.

Much of this is based upon a lie told and retold since the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. The lie says that violent anarchists at the protests caused chaos, forcing the police to respond and quell the rioting. Since this came without warning, all cities must take even sterner measures to make sure it doesn't happen to them.

First of all, the time frame is wrong, and it pisses me off to no end. I have read, listened to, and watched videotapes of over 100 testimonials of personal experiences at the WTO protests. I was glued to the TV, radio, and internet during the course of the entire thing. I know a number of people who were there. And the truth of the matter is that Seattle police began tear-gassing and shooting rubber bullets at non-violent protesters the morning of the first day of the protests, and the infamous "Black Bloc" anarchists did not arrive on the scene until early that afternoon.

In other words, the cops began using violence against protesters before any protester "violence" took place.

Second, the protesters were not violent. The Black Blockers went on a rampage of vandalism against franchises of multinational corporations like Starbucks and Niketown. Vandalism is not violence.

Third, the cops didn't even try to stop the Bloc. At the time of the protests, there was white-hot debate on activist websites about how the Bloc had managed to vanadalize downtown Seattle and not get caught by the cops. A number of folks argued fervently that the way that the cops left the Black Bloc alone was proof that the Blockers were undercover police officers trying to stir up trouble. I don't bring that up to suggest that it is the truth, but to dredge up a historical memory of mine that again refutes the idea that the violence of Seattle was due to a rational police response.

The continued repressive reaction to protests in the U.S. is based upon this lie. I'm really sick and tired of it. And it's probably just going to get worse.

Posted by Jake at 12:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 24, 2003

Virtual Treason

The company Electronic Arts has created a series of WWII-themed video games it calls "Medal of Honor". They are fairly realistic scenarios in which you, an American soldier, go behind enemy lines to fight the Axis powers. The games are displayed in first-person, meaning that the games are a bit like virtual reality; the screen shows what your field of vision would be, and as you move the controller around, the field of view rotates and changes angle and so on. This perspective often provides a greater level of immersion into the game than other styles of presentation.

Most of the games in the series have taken place in or around Nazi Germany, probably because Nazis make such easy villains. But the latest Medal of Honor game is set in the Pacific theater ("Medal of Honor: Rising Sun"), and your character fights Japanese forces.

And starting today, Electronic Arts has begun to market the game to Japanese consumers.

In other words, an American company is trying to convince young Japanese men to buy a video game in which they would be fighting against Japan, and killing young Japanese men.

That's gotta be disturbing, doesn't it?

Some quotes from Japanese gamers from the article:

"You know, even though it's just a game, those are our fathers and relatives we're killing. There's something about it that I just don't like."

"This is a game in which you play as a foreign soldier and try to kill troops from your own country. I bet that you couldn't even sell a game like this overseas. I have a feeling that Japanese are the only people who would brush this off because 'it's only a game.' I don't know if that's good or bad..."

Strange world we live in.

Posted by Jake at 07:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 22, 2003


Anti-Flag- Turncoat
Soundgarden- Girl U Want
PJ Harvey- Oh My Lover
The Distillers- Sick of It All
Skinny Puppy- Optimissed
Bill Hicks- Go Back to Bed, America / Officer Nigger Hater
NWA- Fuck Tha Police
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Brother, My Cup is Empty
Against Me- Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
White Zombie- Super Charger Heaven (Adults Only Mix)
Nas- Get Down
The Von Bondies- Going Down
Mr. Lif & Edan- Get Wise '91
The International Noise Conspiracy- Capitalism Stole My Virginity
Beastie Boys- In 3s
Eric B & Rakim- Juice (Know the Ledge)
Motorhead- Ace of Spades
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Miles Away
Paris- Sheep to the Slaughter
The Vines- Get Free
Mike Ladd- Animist

*Kill Radio turned 3 years old in November '03, and we had a big concert/party to celebrate. Between bands, some of us Kill DJs got to do some DJin'. I only got about 25 minutes, and I graciously opted to replay that set on my show for those who couldn't make it to the Silver Lake Lounge that night.

Posted by Jake at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2003

No Rules

While "free trade" talks are going on in Miami, Bush is trying to convince the British that he still favors "free trade"-- despite his tariffs on British (and European) steel.

It boggles the mind that Bush can try to portray himself as a supporter of free trade. First of all, in every "free trade" agreement, the U.S. demands the protection of intellectual property, i.e. allowing holders of copyrights and patents to maintain monopoly control of related products. A real free trade framework would not allow such a thing.

The U.S. has racked up quite an anti-free trade record. First, there's the copyright thing. Then, back in 2001, the U.S. imposed an illegal tariff on Canadian soft lumber on phony pretenses. Then the steel tariff. And now, quotas on Chinese textiles.

To plagiarize myself:

The US does not care about free trade. Never has. The only thing the US has cared about is winning. And under the US-defined version of free trade, it usually does win. And when the US finds that it (or corporations within its borders) may lose out, they simply ignore the rules.

I'm not writing this to say "the US should stop the hypocrisy and follow its own rules." I'm writing this to say that the US does not have rules.

This nation sees rules as sets of restrictions that we can sometimes trick other countries into following. Nothing more, nothing less. All of the talk of "free trade" and globalization are just schemes, attempts to trick other nations into following rules that will deluge the coffers of US corporations with money.

Posted by Jake at 05:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Destroying the Rules to Save Them

A couple of weird, slightly related news items.

War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal- the hawk in question is Richard Perle, of the U.S. Defense Policy Board. For quite some time, the White House has been trying to argue that the invasion of Iraq was justified by international law, which it clearly was not. This story is being spun as a confession, as though the Bush administration is now begrudgingly admitting that they were naughty. But no, Perle used the invasion of Iraq as a moral exemplar to denounce the wickedness of international law.

As our beloved Bill Hicks once said, "that man must carry his balls in a wheelbarrow."

(In related news, Perle was just "found innocent" of ethics violations by the Pentagon. Apparently it's okay to use your defense department connections to make money for your business clients)

Perle's quote was "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

Following the script that the invasion was solely about Saddam Hussein, Perle's argument is that international law says it's illegal to go invade a country to liberate its people from dictatorial hellspawn. Therefore international law clearly is bad, eats live babies, and listens to Slayer.

I don't have an international lawbook handy, but I'm pretty sure that international law regarding invasion pretty much goes like this.

It's illegal to attack another country unless:

a) that country attacked you first;
b) that country is going to attack you any minute
c) the UN gives you approval to do so.

So actually, as long as you can muster up the UN votes, it's never illegal to invade.

And speaking of the UN...

Iraq war saved the UN, says president- as long as Bush is president, the spinning of George Orwell's corpse in its grave could be used to power turbines, and form a source of limitless energy, bringing electricity to billions.

We now have a third fictional rationale for the war:

1) Stop Saddam Hussein's immense arsenal of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons
2) Free the Iraqi people from tyranny
3) preserve the legitmacy of a bunch of jabbering diplomats

Okay, that last insult isn't really deserved. The UN does a lot of great humanitarian work, and does occasionally resolve international disputes. But most of its resolutions go unheeded, and no one cares. Just ask Israel. The UN's legitimacy was not really at stake.

Actually, Bush didn't claim that this was why we went to war, but that it's salvation was a wonderful outcome of the invasion. I just used his statement for humorous effect. I do that sometimes. If I ever do so without making clear that a bit of kidding is involved, call me on it, citizen.

And you gotta love this Bush quote:

"And who will say that Iraq was better off when Saddam Hussein was strutting and killing, or that the world was safer when he held power? Who doubts that Afghanistan is a more just society and less dangerous without Mullah Omar playing host to terrorists from around the world? And Europe, too, is plainly better off with Milosevic answering for his crimes, instead of committing more."

Hmm. The Saddam Hussein bit is possibly true, although I have seen polls in which Iraqis overwhelmingly say that Baghdad is more dangerous now than it was before the war. The Afghanistan bit is ridiculous. I don't have numbers to back it up, but I'm pretty sure that Afghanistan is much more dangerous now. Warlords and thugs rule, people starve, and fundamentalist factions still treat women like the Taliban did. In addition, the Taliban are sneaking back into the country, as are members of Al Qaeda. We brutalized the nation, left its people to the wolves, and don't even get to wear our lousy "We Destroyed International Terror in Afghanistan" t-shirts.

As for Milosevic (an odd example to bring up since his overthrow happened on Clinton's watch), he was overthrown by an uprising of the Serbian people, not an UN action. At best, you could possibly thank NATO for (not the UN) bombing the hell out the country back in 1999, which might have helped bring the overthrow around.

I get quite tired of this. The invasion of Iraq was about boosting US political power, period. Everything else is perfumed rhetoric, trying to hide the stench of conquest.

Posted by Jake at 05:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fuck Free Trade

Protesters taking the streets of Miami to oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas, yet another trade treaty that'll put more power in the hands of corporations while throwing workers to the dogs and shitting on the environment. Take em to school, kids.

For frequent updates:

FTAA IMC- covering protests is what Independent Media Centers do best.

Resistance Radio- audio stream with continuous coverage, also from IMC

2003 FTAA Protests - Showdown in Miami- from anarchist news source News, personal accounts, and lots and lots of intense pictures.

This is my patriotism, ladies and gentlemen. People putting themselves on the line to fight against exploitation and abuse by the powerful. I don't care where a person's from or what their passport says, I'm proud of the people who resist, and proud to count myself among their ranks.

Posted by Jake at 09:46 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Satire

On President Bush's trip to England, he did a single exclusive newspaper interview with conservative Murdoch-owned tabloid, The Sun. Obviously feeling a bit peeved by this, rival tabloid The Mirror, published a mock interview, featuring all the harsh questions Bush probably didn't get asked by The Sun, and all the truthful answers he probably didn't give in response. Fun stuff, give it a read.

Posted by Jake at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Thanks to everybody who came to the Kill Radio Third Anniversary party and made it such a success. I honestly thought that it would be just us playing to ourselves, but we packed that tiny Silverlake Lounge till it was crowded and sweaty.

Sabretooth Tiger was good. Mash Up Soundsystem was good. Fungal Kingdom seemed to have gotten better and louder. Several women got naked in unusual ways. DJ lydiadeetz graciously gave up some of her time to expand my tiny 15 minutes to a less tiny 20+ minutes. I got a compliment on my DJ set* from a fellow KR DJ, which obviously means that I rocked the joint slightly.

If you were there, I was the guy wearing the Viking helmet.

I should be back in the studio on Monday to do my usual show of music and politics. 2-4pm PST.

*Jake's playlist:

Nas- Get Down
The Von Bondies- Going Down
Mr. Lif & Edan- Get Wise '91
The (International) Noise Conspiracy- Capitalism Stole My Virginity
Beastie Boys- In 3's
Eric B & Rakim- Juice (Know the Ledge)
Motorhead- Ace of Spades

Posted by Jake at 09:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 16, 2003

¿Dónde Está La Fiesta?

Kill Radio, the internet radio station for which I broadcast, turns three years old this month. Three years of music, activism, piracy, news, long boring meetings, art, radical politics, where does the time go? We're having a li'l party/concert/event here in Los Angeles to celebrate. I'll be DJing an incredibly short set at about 8:45pm (well, I think I'll be there, life's on the chaotic side lately), if you want to stop by and say hello.

The details:

Kill Radio Third Anniversary Party Thang
Tuesday November 18
Silver Lake Lounge
2906 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles
21 & up
$0 cover charge

The show'll also feature bands Snake Versus Wizard, The Shakes, and Mash Up Soundsystem (haven't heard the first two, but the third is excellent). Should be a good time (at least for me). Please come by, make us feel cool.

Posted by Jake at 08:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Sorry to my radio listeners, but I'm missing yet another show tomorrow (11/17).

And I might miss more shows in the near future. I'm out of town most of the time these days, due to a long term family crisis. No idea when it will get resolved. I try to get back up to L.A. about one day a week, and I hope to make that day coincide with my radio show.

This has easily been the worst year of my life, and it's possible that next year will be even worse. Obviously, there have been plenty of great things that have happened to me in 2003, but they are completely overwhelmed by the badness, like a mountain's shadow over a match flame. I'm doing my best, but it's not easy.

To try to maintain some normalcy in my life, I will keep trying to do the radio show and website as much as I reasonably can (in fact, a major website redesign is imminent. And, uh, has been for a couple months now...). But if the site languishes here and there, I'm sure y'all'll understand.

Oh. And this is my 1000th post. Hoo-ray or something.

Posted by Jake at 08:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bush Conquers London

I remember some days back, I read a headline which claimed that protesters were going to "shut down London" for President Bush's visit to Britain. Turned out the article had it backwards. Bush was going to shut down London for his own visit. His/the secret service's demands for the president's safety border on Howard Hughes-esque paranoia. Good on the British that they refused the most crazy.

Among the crazy demands for Bush's visit:

- shut down the London subway system

- fly Air Force planes and helicopters over London

- place "battlefield weaponry to use against rioters"

- bullet- and blast-proof rooms at Buckingham palace

- massive road closures

Of that list, I think the UK only agreed to the last.

But I left out the two most crazy, because they deserve extra ridicule.

1) Secret service should be permitted to carry a minigun on them to protect the president

2) Secret service agents and snipers should be immune from prosecution if they kill a Briton

Okay, the first list essentially added up to "control of London should temporarily be transferred to the United States government, and put under martial law." The second set essentially say "if necessary, we'll kill every one of you British motherfuckers."

A "minigun" is a bit of a misnomer. It's not mini. It's the type of gun that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to mow down a police batallion in Terminator 2. I'm not real up on my weapons jargon, but I think that most of us would call it a "big-ass machine gun." Imagine someone firing a machine gun in a crowded London street. Bloodbath.

And the second is possibly more crazy. Imagine that, the president of the United States actually asked the British government if it was okay for some of his employees to kill British citizens. "Can we commit murder, can we, please? No? Fine, then you're not invited to my birthday party!"

Yeah yeah, these are "dangerous times" and in large crowds anybody could be a threat. But when a leader starts treating his people as the enemy... you've got trouble.

Posted by Jake at 06:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 13, 2003

Fought for Freedom

Anti-Iraq war veterans pulled from parade- "Members of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War were yanked off a downtown Tallahassee street, directly in front of the Old Capitol, while marching in the [Veteran's Day] parade they had legitimately registered in." But not to worry. Says parade chairman Ken Conroy, denying that he was suppressing the veterans' free speech, "They can have their free speech, just not in the parade. They belong on the sidewalk." Good to know.

Posted by Jake at 09:03 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

"First they ignore you,
Then they laugh at you,
Then they fight you,
Then you win"
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Posted by Jake at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2003

The Crazy Factor

I don't usually write about conservative writers and columnists. Why take on them when I can take on the politicians and corporate assholes directly? Well, I do semi-regularly write about these pundits when they really piss me off, write insane shit, or seem to be successfully spreading information that's just wrong.

Today, Bill O'Reilly is pushing button #2. So here we go.

In Friday's "Talking Points" on "The O'Reilly Factor", Bill O'Reilly argues that theft, breaking and entering, illegal surveillance, and slander, is the same thing as selling books.


More specifically, O'Reilly compares the actions of "Nixon's plumber's union" (I presume he means Nixon's dirty tricks squad "the Plumbers") to the selling of anti-conservative books on the Democratic National Committee's website.

Where to begin.

O'Reilly's central argument seems to be that DNC head Terry McAuliffe is using DNC money to hire authors to write books smearing Republicans and then selling those books to raise money for the DNC and attack their opponents. And this is despicable behavior, and we should all be real outraged and stuff.

First of all, O'Reilly doesn't name any of these books. If he did, maybe we could start to agree with him. But without any examples of these smears, we either take his word for it or visit the DNC site. In my searching, I could only find any books for sale on the DNC blog, and those were Nation reporter David Corn's "The Lies of George W. Bush" and comedian Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Not exactly shadowy hacks hired to do hit pieces.

Are they smear jobs like O'Reilly suggests? Can't speak to the Corn book, as I haven't read it (and I can't imagine a Nation reporter writing anything as entertaining as a smear. Most Nation articles read like stereo instructions). But I've been reading the Franken book. Very anti-conservative, but I don't know that any portion of it is untrue or inappropriate.

Second, O'Reilly suggests that the DNC is hiring these authors to write these villanous tracts, but doesn't come right out and say it. He can't, because there is no evidence to back that claim up (hence the insinuation-only scheme). He then implies that buying copies of these books to sell on the DNC website is akin to hirng the authors to write the books in the first place. Eh. Kinda, sorta, not really.

Third, what's with the focus on McAuliffe? Was this book plan his idea? Did he approve it? Does McAuliffe even know the details of the DNC website?

And McAuliffe "does the bidding of the Clintons"? What the hell is O'Reilly talking about?

This article is equal parts attack on the book sale, and, ironically, a smear on McAullife. Why? I don't know. Maybe O'Reilly ran out of things to be pretend to be outraged about this week and really had to stretch to fill his quota.

Fourth, for fuck's sake, they're books! The Democratic party is selling books that praise Democrats and decry Republicans?! Has the whole world gone topsy -turvy?! Spreading one's political ideas via the printed word is the highest form of treachery. Let's travel back in time and hang Thomas Paine!

I think my favorite bit is this:

A political party jacking up book sales of dubious people is bad enough, but using the publishing industry to advance political power is disgraceful. The bestseller lists are full of political books. And that's fine. My book isn't political, but "Who's Looking Out For You" is an enormous success. So we obviously don't have a problem with the publishing industry putting ideas into the marketplace.

Yes, the fact that a man with a daily television show on one of the nation's largest TV news networks owned by one of the world's largest media conglomerates can get his book published and sell many copies is proof that the "marketplace of ideas" is open to all.

What a prick.

And I agree, using the publishing industry to advance political power can be disgraceful.

I also like the bit where O'Reilly asks why the DNC doesn't sell a nicer liberal book, like the new one from Alan Colmes (who describes himself as a moderate. And is a complete tool). Which is a good question. I think the answer is that for once, the Democrats are actually out to win an election.

So, in conclusion, Bill O'Reilly = ass. No big surprise there.

Posted by Jake at 10:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Skeletor vs. Truth

Fuck fuck fuck Donald Rumfseld.

On Feb. 20, a month before the invasion, Rumsfeld fielded a question about whether Americans would be greeted as liberators if they invaded Iraq.

"Do you expect the invasion, if it comes, to be welcomed by the majority of the civilian population of Iraq?" Jim Lehrer asked the defense secretary on PBS' "The News Hour."

"There is no question but that they would be welcomed," Rumsfeld replied, referring to American forces...

But on Sept. 25 ... Rumsfeld was asked about the surging resistance.

"Before the war in Iraq, you stated the case very eloquently and you said . . . they would welcome us with open arms," Sinclair Broadcasting anchor Morris Jones said to Rumsfeld as the prelude to a question.

The defense chief quickly cut him off.
"Never said that," he said. "Never did. You may remember it well, but you're thinking of somebody else. You can't find, anywhere, me saying anything like either of those two things you just said I said."

[emphasis mine]

More of Rumsfeld's historical revisionism at that link above.

Posted by Jake at 06:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

We [Heart] "Democracy"

A number of blogosphere folks have made mention of Bush's recent speech about democratizing the Middle East. He gave the speech at a gathering commemorating the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy. I'll comment on the speech in a minute, but first let's look at the NED.

Near as I can figure, the NED is a "non-governmental" organization that is completely funded by the U.S. government, yet is not accountable to the government or taxpayers. This money is used to fund political actors in other countries, usually U.S.- and business-friendly political parties, candidates, and labor unions. Who says this? American subversion chronicler William Blum and a Republican Congressman from Texas.

So Bush makes his remarks upon an American committment to Middle Eastern democracy on the anniversary of an organization that meddles in foreign political affairs for U.S. advantage. Sounds... shady.

Bush's speech itself is hard to analyze because it is almost 100% airy rhetoric. He doesn't go more than three words before peppering a sentence with "democracy", "liberty", or "freedom". Given that many U.S. politicians will use "democracy" to refer to regimes who's only democratic institutions are farcical elections, and "freedom" to mean "the ability for foreign investors to extract profit", it's hard to know where to even begin analysis and criticism. Suffice it to say that American politicians know that the American public (and indeed much of the world) hold these concepts in high esteem, and mouthing their corresponding syllables is a good way to sway public opinion to your side, truth or accuracy be damned.

The concrete core of Bush's speech basically calls upon Americans to commit themselves to a decades-long project to bring "democracy" and "freedom" to the Middle East. This is the benevolent face of neoconservative foreign policy, to transform the entire region into U.S.-friendly free markets with nominal democractic features. I can completely support the goal of Middle Eastern democracy, but trust the Bush administration's goals, motives and and strategies about as far as I can throw the White House. This is a problem I run up to again and again regarding Bush policy, that I can agree with their publicly stated goal, but I think that this goal is just a facade to cover up plans to dominate by force for the benefit of the few.

The current lack of democracy in U.S.-occupied Iraq should be a warning sign to the Bush democratization rhetoric. And if that doesn't do it, the decades of U.S. support for Middle Eastern dictatorships (continuing even as we speak) should be like a big shrieking neon warning sign.

Our friend Billmon strains out the most ironic bits out of the speech, the most amazing being this one:

They [successful societies] prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people.

[insert your own snide retort here]

And how did the Arab world respond to this speech?

Bush democracy call draws scorn

Indignant Arabs Say Bush Democracy Speech a Sham

I haven't seen any articles about American response to the speech but I imagine they'd have headlines like "Americans Don't Give a Damn" and "Americans Wish Middle East Would Just Go Away".

Posted by Jake at 10:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Is There a Spoon?

Everyone seems to be weighing in on the new Matrix movie today, so I'll hop on the bandwagon.

Saw it last night. I liked it, but I'm not sure that it made sense. Actually, I'm pretty sure it didn't make sense.

As long as you're not expecting too much, you'll might enjoy it.

Posted by Jake at 12:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Rant Mania

Cowboys and Indians-

In 1999, a federal court ordered the Interior Department to account for oil, gas, timber and grazing royalties that should have been paid to Native American landowners over more than a century. The Department owes somewhere between $6 and $12 billion to 500,000 people.

The article goes on to explain how the Senate passed a sneaky-ass bill that postpones payment of these royalties till at least 2004. And then they tacked on a number of anti-environmental, pro-business amendments.

Silly word games and weapons of mass destruction- since the inspections of Iraq have turned up no evidence of WMDs, anti-war folks have angrily been decrying Bush's lies that Iraq was an "imminent threat." Conservatives then went on a counter-offensive, claiming that Bush never said such a thing. In this article, Josh Marshall digs up a number of quotes in which Bush and his staff did say (and imply) that very thing.

Escape by Voice Vote- what scummy bastards. Fearing backlash no matter how they chose to vote, just about the entire U.S. Senate cravenly agreed to do a "voice vote" on Bush's plan to spend $87 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan. A voice vote is not recorded, so you can't check and see how your senator voted. Who wants to deal with all that "acountable to the people" crap?

NBC chief: Our shows 'sucked'- well duh. Apparently the latest Nielsen TV ratings show a huge drop in viewership by men ages 18 to 34. As this is the group thought to have the most disposable income, it is the group most sought after by advertisers, and therefore also by TV networks. Most networks are taking the surprising step of claiming that the ratings must be wrong. The head of NBC chooses to blame his network's lousy program choices-- and faulty ratings.

I find this extremely fascinating, because Nielsen ratings are amazingly faulty. Their methods are very sloppy, and there is no way if knowing that the ratings that Nielsen gives actually tell you how many people are watching which shows. Yet all the networks and all the advertisers accept their numbers as fact. The entire television industry is based upon this ridiculous, silent agreement to believe in the accuracy of Nielsen. Is this agreement starting to crack?

House Nixes Anti-Profiteering Penalties in Iraq Spending Bill- that Iraq bill that the Senate just took their silent vote on? The original version had segments that would punish those who tried to rip off the Iraq efforts for their own personal profit. The House decided to remove those parts. Yay team.

I'm tired. Going to bed.

Posted by Jake at 01:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Bringing the Funny

Energize!- Adam Felber pares down the Bush administration to its core policy: Cut its taxes. If it doesn't have taxes to cut, blow it up.

Sitcom- Billmon takes us into the future, to look back at the censoring of presidential docudramas from 2010 to the present.

Two Rascals Invade a Home and Blame the Owner for Their Erroneous Actions- A collection of comical drawings of like theme, arranged sequentially so as to present a tale of drollery and wit, with cunning political ramifications.

Posted by Jake at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Know Your Audience

I gotta give props to Wesley Clark for this 30 second campaign video that he showed at the youth-oriented "Rock the Vote" Democratic debate yesterday.

Posted by Jake at 09:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Fun From Those Scummy Wal-Mart Bastards

Jeez, this is pretty unbelievable.

Imagine that you earn $8 an hour working for Wal-Mart. Then, you learn that the store is recruiting workers, at $10 an hour, to convince neighbors and shoppers to vote against a law that would limit the size of "big- box'' stores in unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Great, you think. I'll apply. But Wal-Mart won't hire its own workers because the corporation isn't sure it's legal to use them to promote a political campaign.

When you realize that Wal-Mart will pay higher wages to those campaigning to keep your wages low, you get angry – which is how I've learned about the Arkansas retailer's countywide plans to repeal the ordinance.

Several city and county governments across the U.S. are realizing that Wal-Mart stores have negative impacts. The stores drive down wages throughout the community, and due to their lousy health care policies, more workers have to turn to Medicaid (funded by taxpayers) to get by. The governments are responding by passing laws to prohibit such stores.

Wal-Mart is striking back by forming fake grassroots organizations, and gathering signatures to overturn these ordinances. And, as the above paragraph mentions, the signature-gatherers are getting paid more than many Wal-Mart employees. What a slap in the face.

Wal-Mart is a corporation that has far too much power. They drive small stores out of business. They drive down local wages. They try to cheat their employees on health care. The very possibility of Wal-Mart grocery stores in southern California led to the supermarket labor strife here right now. They demand that the producers of their products sell them at rock bottom prices, driving down the wages of factory workers worldwide.

Wal-Mart is making the world a worse place.

Boycott Wal-Mart.

Posted by Jake at 08:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

For the Chillun

Is it just me, or is this creepy as fuck?

Posted by Jake at 10:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I spoke with KPFK reporter Jerry Quickley today. He was in New York, just returned to the country after spending about two weeks in Iraq, so I asked him a few questions about his time there (technically, I was "pre-interviewing" him for a radio show I produce for KPFK and Axis of Justice, the Axis of Justice Radio Network. No, I didn't choose the title). The fellow was literally in Iraq last week, so this was some pretty fresh data. For the most part, his answers were what we just keep hearing from the country, bad news on most fronts.

But there was one moment of clarity in our talk. Jerry said that he'd spoken with about 150 Iraqis during his trip, and two had been in favor of the U.S. occupation, and everyone else was against it. And the majority of these anti-occupation folks wanted the U.S. to leave as soon as possible.

Jerry also said that he'd talked to maybe 12-15 U.S. soldiers about their feelings regarding the occupation, and he said that every single one of them wanted to leave and go home.

The Iraqis want the Americans to leave Iraq, and the American soldiers themselves want to leave Iraq, so... what's the problem exactly?

Up until today, I'd been one of these folks who was bitterly opposed to the war, yet felt that since we were there, that the U.S. should fix the electric and water infrastructure, and provide security until Iraq got itself on its soon-to-be-democratic feet. Tthe fact that the Bush administration did not seem interested in any of this made my stance quite a confusing one; it's kind of like calling the cops about a burglary, having them shoot your dog, but hoping that now that they're there, that they'll stay and paint your living room.

But now, if Jerry is correct, it seems a significant number of Iraqis would rather risk the consequences of rebuilding their demolished country on their own, than continue to struggle under U.S. occupation. And if the occupation meant profits for Halliburton, withheld liberties, random shootings by terrified/crazed American soldiers, and still not having the electricity back on, what would they really have to lose by having the Americans leave?

I'll give it some more thought, but I am now much more significantly on the "leave" bandwagon than on the "stay" one.


I usually let my commenters say whatever they like and don't respond, giving them the last word on the subject. Seems the fair thing to do. But I just got one that I think misunderstands part of what I wrote, so let me clarify.

The passage in question reads "a significant number of Iraqis would rather risk the consequences of rebuilding their demolished country on their own, than continue to struggle under U.S. occupation". The commenter interprets this to mean something like "those dumb Iraqis can't rebuild their country without the help of us smart Americans." This was not what I meant, although I see how one could read it that way.

To me, the bottom line is that Iraq is a nation that has been bombed and starved for over a decade, and is therefore very poor and many of the institutions and infrastructure that would be helpful/mandatory for rebuilding, have been destroyed. I'm not saying that the U.S. has more smarts that Iraq, but that the U.S. has more dollars than Iraq. It seems that the Iraqi people are willing to say "we think we have enough dollars and determination to rebuild our country without help from Uncle American Moneybags." And with all that I've heard about the terrible destruction and impoverishment of Iraq, that seems like a pretty gutsy decision. Granted, when your friends and neighbors are being shot by Uncle Moneybags' pals on a semi-regular basis, I imagine that makes the decision much easier.

So, to sum up, I was referring to Iraq's financial and logistical capacity, not implying that Iraqis were in some way inferior to Americans.


Posted by Jake at 12:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

We Don't Need No Thought Control

In mid-November, CBS plans to air a mini-series dramatizing the life of former president Ronald Reagan. According to Newsweek, the series was "meant to be a warts-and-all portrait of an American icon". Think of any TV biopic you've ever seen, where they often make the person out to be a bit more selfish and volatile than you would've thought, but make the person look good overall, because otherwise the audience wouldn't want to watch that person for multiple hours. I imagine this was to be something like that.

Enter nutty conservatives.

I'm sure that there are many conservatives who think that Reagan was a good president or even a great one, but don't spend much of their day thinking about it. There are others who literally spend hours on end working to get Reagan's face on the ten dollar bill, or Mount Rushmore. It's probably this latter group that is up in arms that this mini-series might not be 100% adoring of the former president.

Now I have no problem with nutty conservatives voicing their opinion about the mini-series, or even trying to get it cancelled (and it looks like it might actually succeed). What bothers me is when our president's political party begins implying that they have the right to preview media that they think might disagree with their point of view before it becomes public. That's about one step away from the government itself asking to preview such media, and only a couple more steps from their to outright political censorship by the government.


CBS has indeed pulled the mini-series:

CBS insisted it was not bowing to pressure about portions of the script, but that the decision was made after seeing the finished film.

"Although the miniseries features impressive production values and acting performances, and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans for CBS and its audience," the network said in a statement.

The mini-series will now be shown on a CBS sister network, Showtime.


Posted by Jake at 10:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

How We Got Here Redux

A few days back, I posted a long summary of the events, decisions and ideologies that led the U.S. into war with Iraq (although one reader did point out that I left out the British intelligence dossier fiasco).

Now there's a new article in the NY Times that not only sums up how the war decisions were made, but how the post-war decisions were (or weren't made), how we ended up at war with Iraq, and how we ended up in the sticky situation we are now in.

Blueprint for a Mess

It's long, but find some time to read it, it's good stuff.

Posted by Jake at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on Fox News Bias

Yeah yeah, it's completely obvious to anyone with a frontal lobe that the Fox News Channel has a conservative slant. But recently we got the first inside evidence of how the Fox News honchos control the channel's politics. Now, we have a few more. All of these are letters sent by journalists to the journalism news site Poynter Online that I am reprinting below because I can't link to the individual letters themselves.

The first letter is by an ex-Fox News editor:

The right-wing bias was up-front and obvious 10/31/2003 8:54:43 PM Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From MATT GROSS, assistant editor, New York magazine:
As a former editor at -- and therefore clearly a disgruntled ex-employee -- let me just say that the right-wing bias was there in the newsroom, up-front and obvious, from the day a certain executive editor was sent down from the channel to bring us in line with their coverage. His first directive to us: Seek out stories that cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk radio and yell at their televisions. (Oh, how I'd love to stick quotation marks around what is nearly a direct quote.)

What followed was a dumbing-down of what had been an ambitious and talented news operation. Stories could be no more than 1,000 words, then 800 (I heard it was reduced further after I left, in March 2001). More and more effort was devoted to adapting FNC "scripts" into Web stories, which meant we were essentially correcting the errors of FNC "reporters" who couldn't be bothered to get the facts.

To me, FNC reporters' laziness was the worst part of the bias. It wasn't that they were toeing some political line (though of course they were; see the embarrassing series on property rights from 2000), it was that the facts of a story just didn't matter at all. The idea was to get those viewers out of their seats, screaming at the TV, the politicians, the liberals -- whoever -- simply by running a provocative story.

The bizarre and sad part of this was that, at the Website, most of the reporters, editors, and producers were liberals -- and not only liberals but young, energetic, ambitious, talented journalists. Some of my friends still work there, and some of them no doubt wish they could leave for a better job elsewhere. Why don't they (and why didn't Charles Reina)? Well, despite the Bush administration's clear success in revitalizing the U.S. economy, the job market for journos is still pretty poor, especially if your portfolio is full of badly reported 600-word clunkers. (Sorry, guys.)

But what do I know? I haven't worked there in two and a half years -- I haven't voluntarily watched FNC since then -- so maybe things have changed. But from what Reina wrote, and what I experienced, it doesn't sound like it.

And the second letter is from a fellow who claims to have seen this mysterious Daily Memo:

He's seen The Memo 10/31/2003 12:15:24 PM Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From DAVID COHEN: The daily Fox News Channel coverage memo exists. I saw one once while visiting a friend who works there. It was different from memos I've seen at other news organizations. At the other news organizations, I've seen notes on coverage and providing direction on things like, "don't ignore this element," or "lead with reaction" on stories where there has been little or no movement in a period of time.

In a 24/7 news operation assembled by a couple of hundred people, the memo serves a useful function in ensuring consistency of numbers, pronunciation and other facts. Very helpful when wires and other sources disagree. The Fox memo was the only one I've seen that suggested a political line.

One of the arguments put forth by those critical of most news
organizations and detailed in Bernie Goldberg's book BIAS, was that
they had an institutional bias and were populated with like-thinking
individuals. Charlie Reina's exposure of the FNC daily memo simply
shows that it has its own institutional bias and seeks to ensure that
everyone who works there gets the message.

If I worked at Fox, I'd admit the memo's presence. But in doing so,
Fox would then admit that its detractors are correct -- that fair and
balanced is nothing more than a slogan, the "tastes great, less filling" of the news business.

The pressure is now on for someone at Fox News to leak the Daily Memo, to prove that the Channel is explicitly and intentionally ideological. If anyone wants to send a copy my way, feel free.

Posted by Jake at 11:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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November 24, 2003

Virtual Treason

The company Electronic Arts has created a series of WWII-themed video games it calls "Medal of Honor". They are fairly realistic scenarios in which you, an American soldier, go behind enemy lines to fight the Axis powers. The games are displayed in first-person, meaning that the games are a bit like virtual reality; the screen shows what your field of vision would be, and as you move the controller around, the field of view rotates and changes angle and so on. This perspective often provides a greater level of immersion into the game than other styles of presentation.

Most of the games in the series have taken place in or around Nazi Germany, probably because Nazis make such easy villains. But the latest Medal of Honor game is set in the Pacific theater ("Medal of Honor: Rising Sun"), and your character fights Japanese forces.

And starting today, Electronic Arts has begun to market the game to Japanese consumers.

In other words, an American company is trying to convince young Japanese men to buy a video game in which they would be fighting against Japan, and killing young Japanese men.

That's gotta be disturbing, doesn't it?

Some quotes from Japanese gamers from the article:

"You know, even though it's just a game, those are our fathers and relatives we're killing. There's something about it that I just don't like."

"This is a game in which you play as a foreign soldier and try to kill troops from your own country. I bet that you couldn't even sell a game like this overseas. I have a feeling that Japanese are the only people who would brush this off because 'it's only a game.' I don't know if that's good or bad..."

Strange world we live in.

Posted by Jake at 07:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
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