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Lying Media Bastards

January 31, 2003

Meanwhile…

Teleportation Takes Another Step- “Scientists on Thursday say they have succeeded in teleporting laser photons over two kilometers (1.25 miles), the biggest distance yet achieved.” I have no idea what that means, but it certainly sounds like some kind of scientific breakthrough.

I.N.S. Shredder Ended Work Backlog, U.S. Says- remember how all those Middle Eastern immigrants got detained and deported last month for being in violation of immigration law? Remember how some of those people weren’t actually in violation because they had filed their paperwork and INS staffers hadn’t yet processed them? Well, one INS office in Laguna Nigel, CA found a clever way to eliminate their backlog– by destroying it. According to this LA Times article, this INS office simply shredded their towering stack of documents in their inbox, as many as 90,000 documents. Thankfully, two managers at this INS office are now facing federal charges.

Bush backs Big Brother database- last week, the Senate killed funding for the creepy Total Information Awareness program which would act quite literally as an agency that would spy and gather data on all Americans. Then, during his State of the Union speech, Bush called for the creation of a “Terrorist Threat Integration Center,” which sounded suspiciously like the Total Information Awareness program. This article is about the TTIC.

US is misquoting my Iraq report, says Blix- UN weapons inspector Hans Blix “took issue with what he said were US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s claims that the inspectors had found that Iraqi officials were hiding and moving illicit materials within and outside of Iraq to prevent their discovery. He said that the inspectors had reported no such incidents.”

‘Justice for Janitors’ refocuses on capital- I really don’t do enough coverage of labor issues here. The Service Employees International Union is working on winning better wages and benefits for its members in the jantiorial profession. They just had a great victory in Boston in the fall, and now they take their struggle to Sacramento.

In Time of War, Hope Triumphs in Porto Alegre- man, talk about zero media coverage! For the past three years, tens of thousands have been countering the corporate-dominated World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland with their own World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Unlike the former, which brings a small number of the world’s powerful together to scheme their way to world conquest, the latter is a huge meeting of the relatively powerless to scheme their way to a world which is a bit more equal and free. The WSF motto is “another world is possible.” Without that kind of hope, there wouldn’t be much to keep me going.

Posted by Jake at 01:44 PM
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Man Made Weather

War Talk Shifts From ‘If’ to ‘When’- I have a problem with this NY Times headline. I don’t remember a time when the war talk was “if.”

FCC Chairman Ho-Hums Anti-War Ad Controversy- a group called the Anti-War Video Fund tried to buy advertising time on a Comcast cable outlet in Washington, DC to play an anti-war commercial on CNN twice a day for the length of this week. Comcast accepted, then changed its mind because the ad “fails to substantiate certain claims or allegations,” specifically the one that “that the war was a violation of international law and was being conducted by ‘mercenaries.’”

The group went to the FCC to complain that the media oligarchy in America resulted in this “censorship,” and that they should do something about it. Said FCC chair and deregulation shill Michael Powell (no relation to Colin Powell. Oh wait, I mean “Colin Powell’s son”), “‘Issues like that have been around in the commission and in public policy since the beginning of time. That ad was about Washington, D.C. The fact that Comcast might own assets in another part of the country to which the ad wasn’t even placed’ doesn’t matter.”

Two main points here.

1) Let’s not pretend that this commercial is like every other commercial. Most TV ads have all kinds of unsubstantiated claims, and everyone knows it. This is a political ad on a controversial issue that could cause a backlash against Comcast. Pretending that its about standards or media monopoly is disingenuous. Comcast didn’t run the ad because they were afraid of negative consequences if they did.

2) I think there is a larger unspoken issue here that has a much more direct link to media consolidation and federal regulation than this specific ad. The reason that this organization felt the need to buy this advertising time is because the full spectrum of ideas and concerns about this war are not being covered by the broadcast media. The airwaves are supposed to belong to the people and serve the public interest. I can’t think of a more important public interest than facilitating debate about whether or not the United States should spend hundreds of billions of its tax dollars and send its own soldiers to another region of the world to destablize and kill. The mere existence of this attempted ad purchase says more about American media monopoly than anything else.

Prominent Ohioans among members of Bush’s all-star volunteerism team- ABC News reporter (? Anchor? Commentator? Mummy?) Cokie Roberts, and a number of other prominent public figures have joined “the president’s Council on Service and Civic Participation” which will “will recognize outstanding volunteer service among children and adults.” Conflict of interests, serving on a governmental committee that she is supposed to investigate? ABC doesn’t think so. I’m not going to pretend to care one way or the other, because I don’t give a damn what Cokie Roberts has to say about anything.

Coke to Slash 1000 Jobs- “Cost Savings to Be Put Toward Marketing.” One more reason to hate advertisers.

DaimlerChrysler’s Jeep Tricks- DaimlerChrysler recently bought a full-page ad in the NY Times to mourn the passing of cartoonist Bill Maudlin. Maudlin became famous during WWII for his comics in the U.S. military’s publication Stars and Stripes. Why would DaimlerChrysler care? Because they own Jeep, and many of Maudlin’s comics depicted soldiers fighting for freedom in U.S. Jeeps. Good way to commemorate a man who gave them free advertising, and to use his ghost for one last plug.

However, as the article above demonstrates, the cartoon used in the tribute ad is not one of Mauldin’s. It is a Maudlin strip that has been altered.

The original was a picture of a sorrowful soldier about to shoot a damaged Jeep, as though he was sadly putting a wounded horse out of its misery.

The new version is a picture of a sorrowful soldier near a damaged Jeep– holding a box of tissues. Cuz, like, his car is damaged, so he’s, like, sad…

Good going, DC, eulogize the man by convincing the public that he’s not funny.

Note: the title of this entry is from a quote from the movie Natural Born Killers, where Mickey Knox says that the media is “like the weather,” except it’s “man made weather.” Always thought that line was kind of profound somehow.

Posted by Jake at 01:01 PM

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New Thoughtcrimes

New posters added to the Ministry of Homeland Security site.

Posted by Jake at 12:12 AM
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January 30, 2003

So Very Tired

After yesterday’s marathon analysis session, you ain’t getting much today, unless my writing obsession kicks in.

Ads rushing out of Limbaugh show?- Bill Maher isn’t the only American who needs to “watch what they say.” After he announced on one of his shows that anti-war protesters were “anti-American,” angry progressives took aim at the sponsors of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. Some of them have consequently withdrawn their advertising dollars.

This link between Islamist zealot and secular fascist just doesn’t add up- more in-depth skepticism about the alleged Hussein-bin Laden link by a dude who’s an expert on Al Qaeda.

U.S. Renews Claims of Hussein-Al Qaeda Link- “The Bush administration’s renewed assertions of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda are based largely on the murky case of a one-legged Al Qaeda suspect who was treated in Baghdad after being wounded in the war in Afghanistan.” Now that’s comedy.

Divine Bullying- reading between the lines of Bush’s speech: oil, empire and Jesus. Also makes a good point about the U.S. “Shock and Awe” military strategy: will not only help defeat Iraq, but will be a terrifying lesson to any nation that might think about opposing the U.S.

Report: Iraqi spies in U.S.- apparently the U.S. anti-war movement is led by e-vil spies from Iraq. Who knew?

Senate Reviews Radio Consolidation; Sen. Feingold Chases Clear Channel- might the US legislature do something about corporate radio oligarchy?

Wal-Mart’s influence grows- ” Wal-Mart’s influence on the U.S. economy has reached levels not seen by a single company since the 19th-century rise of Standard Oil, economists and historians say. Even if you don’t shop at Wal-Mart, the retail powerhouse increasingly is dictating your product choices — and what you pay — as its relentless price cutting helps keep inflation low.” And this isn’t from some biased commie source, this is from USA Today.

US soldiers attack mountain hideout in biggest battle for a year- ” Hundreds of US soldiers supported by bombers and attack helicopters were last night locked in their most serious battle in Afghanistan for nearly a year. At least 18 rebel fighters, thought to be loyal to the Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, were killed in a US-led assault on their mountaintop hideout 15 miles north of Spin Boldak, a small border town in southern Afghanistan. ” Y’know, if I was president, I’d try to finish up this conflict before launching into another one. But that’s just me.

Hide and Seek- more proof that corporate crime is 100% completely gone in America.

Posted by Jake at 02:53 PM
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Extended Photo Op of the Union

[edit]

This entry is really, really long. For those of you with short attention spans, here is a summary:

Bush sucks and is a liar.

Thank you.

[/edit]

I was really torn about whether or not I should analyze Bush’s State of the Union address. It’s just a bunch of words, words that could keep us all distracted from the actions. Maybe I shouldn’t let myself be misdirected, ignore the speech and focus on the behind the scenes.

Then I remembered the name of this site.

What bigger bastard, what bigger lies could I be debunking?

Time to get to work.

Let’s start with some links to some other articles examining Bush’s speech:

Key Initiatives in the President’s State of the Union Message

Evidence is scant and some policy nuances are lost in Bush speech

Lobby Groups’ Wish Lists in Bush Speech

Fait Divers: The State of the Bush

Bush: Eager for Combat

The Sham on the Union

“[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
- U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3.

And now it’s just a media pageant, where president and legislators engage in this pantomime as one.

Begin.

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished citizens and fellow citizens: Every year, by law and by custom, we meet here to consider the state of the union.

Funny, one sentence in and he’s already screwed up. “Distinguished citizens and fellow citizens”? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that he didn’t mean to repeat himself so soon.

And as for the second half, fun trivia fact: from 1801 to 1913, there were no State of the Union addresses. Thomas Jefferson thought it was the sort of thing that a king would do, so he just sent written copies of his address to both houses of Congress and let them read it themselves. 112 years went by, and the for some reason, Woodrow Wilson decided that he ought to give his address as a speech.

In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure, our resolve is firm, and our union is strong.

This is really about all Bush says about the “state of the union.” It’s strong. Good to know.

To lift the standards of our public schools, we achieved historic education reform — which must now be carried out in every school and in every classroom, so that every child in America can read and learn and succeed in life.

As I understand it, Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Law” mainly has schools give kids lots and lots of tests to assess how well the schools are doing. Schools then are “rewarded” or “punished” with funding, depending upon how well they do. I wasn’t in school that long ago, and I know that tests are a terrible way of finding out what a student learns (they mainly reveal how good the student is at taking tests). It also may lead to “teaching to the test”– teachers focusing on teaching children the subjects, facts and strategies that will allow them to do well on the test instead of actually teaching them useful information.

I am not aware of any data which suggests that Bush’s education reforms are resulting in better schooling.

To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation.

Pretty much everyone agrees that the Bush tax plan was a massive handout to the rich, and that the tax plan coupled with massively increased military spending turned an enormous national budget surplus into a massive budget deficit. It’s also misleading to ever claim that a tax cut has fixed or harmed the economy. Economies change very slowly. It might be another year or two before Bush’s 2001 tax cut affects the overall economy.

To insist on integrity in American business we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account.

Heh.

Our economy is recovering.

Really? This statement does pass my common sense test: for the past year or two, about half of my friends have been unemployed, but two or three of them have found jobs in the past couple months. The Federal Reserve Board is keeping interest rates neutral, implying that they think the economy could go either way, towards recovery or further into recession.

92 million Americans will keep, this year, an average of almost $1,000 more of their own money.

Lefties all over the place have been pointing out this repeated distortion.

To quote the Whitehouse.org SOTU parody: “If Dick Cheney and a dozen penniless crack whores are riding a merry-go-round together, that still means the average person on that rig is worth about fourteen gazillion dollars. And therein lies the glorious logic of my administration’s strategy to positively influence economic indicators without actually helping the little people.”

To quote Citizens for Tax Justice, “31 percent of taxpayers would get nothing from the Bush plan… and the median tax reduction is only $289.”

A family of four with an income of $40,000 would see their federal income taxes fall from $1,178 to $45 per year.

Am I doing something wrong? I pay like a quarter of my income in taxes every year. This mystery household above is only paying a fortieth of their income? I gotta get me a family.

If this tax relief is good for Americans three, or five, or seven years from now, it is even better for Americans today.

Gee, can’t argue with that logic. If something is good at one time, it must be good all the time. I will now eat ice cream for every meal.

It is not fair to again tax the shareholder on the same profits.

Yeah, it must suck to be taxed twice.

to help the nearly 10 million senior who receive dividend income

About 75% of this dividend tax cut would not go to poor little old ladies, but to old folks making more than $75K a year.

We must work together to fund only our most important priorities. I will send you a budget that increases discretionary spending by 4 percent next year — about as much as the average family’s income is expected to grow. And that is a good benchmark for us. Federal spending should not rise any faster than the paychecks of American families.

Again, nice logic. If it’s good for a family, it must be good for a government. As you might notice, families and national governments are a bit… different.

The American system of medicine is a model of skill and innovation, with a pace of discovery that is adding good years to our lives. Yet for many people, medical care costs too much — and many have no coverage at all. These problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care.

That last sentence is the kicker, and is a tactic that Bush uses throughout the speech: making sentences true by combining concepts.

This is a compound sentence, comprised of a “these problems will not be solved with nationalized health care” part and a “these problems will not be solved by a system that dictates coverage and rations care” part. The second part is true, the first part is debatable.

But when you combine the two parts, you have a true statement. Any health care system, no matter what its structure, won’t solve problems if it dictates and rations. So naturally a “nationalized” health care system that had those two defects would not solve any problems.

But Bush manages to make it sound like these defects are part of the definition of a nationalized health care system. And most Americans (including myself) know so little about what a nationalized health care system looks like, that we might just take his “definition” as truth.

Instead, we must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy, choose their own doctors, and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need. (Applause.) Instead of bureaucrats and trial lawyers and HMOs, we must put doctors and nurses and patients back in charge of American medicine.

Note how the first word sets up a false dichotomy. Since nationalized health care systems are “inherently” flawed (rationed care and such), we must “instead” choose the opposite, obviously superior strategy.

The last sentence is another truth by combination. “Bureaucrats and trial lawyers and HMOs” control the practice of medicine, instead of doctors and patients.

There’s been a lot of illness in my family, mainly among my older relatives. Heart problems, cancers, leukemias, kidney failures, arthritis, vision problems, and more. I’ve seen my mother spend hours on the phone dealing with doctors and insurance agents and whatnot. Lots of bargains and discussion with bureaucrats and HMOs. But in her medical wranglings, she has never had to deal with trial lawyers. Never. Never ever ever ever ever.

This is a rhetorical slight of hand. It is true that these three, taken as a whole, control the medical industry. But how much do trial lawyers contribute to that whole? In my experience, not much.

To improve our health care system, we must address one of the prime causes of higher cost, the constant threat that physicians and hospitals will be unfairly sued.

Technically, its the threat that they be sued period, fairly or unfairly.

Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care, and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform.

A lot of weird focus on frivolous lawsuits. No one in my family has sued a doctor, none of my friends have sued a doctor. Actually, I don’t know a single person who’s sued a doctor, frivolously or seriously. Do you?

This whole argument that medical malpractice lawsuits are the cause of a lack of medical care in the United States seems unlikely. Just a few facts from the Institute of Medicine:

- “The IOM estimates the annual costs to society for medical errors in hospitals at $17 billion to $29 billion” while “the total amount spent on medical malpractice insurance in 2000 was $6.4 billion.”

- “for every 6 medical errors only 1 claim is filed.”
- “Malpractice insurance costs amount to only 3.2 percent of the average physician’s revenues”
- “While medical costs have increased by 113 percent since 1987, the total amount spent on medical malpractice insurance has increased by just 52 percent over that time.”
- “Government data shows that medical malpractice awards have increased at a slower pace than health insurance premiums.”

And many more.

I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home. I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70-percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years.

I’m gonna be a bit skeptical about these. Remember the last energy policy that Cheney wrote with the help of the energy industry? Yeah.

I have sent you a Healthy Forests Initiative, to help prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of treasured forest.

Yes, something must be done about those dangerous trees. If only some helpful corporate entity would lend a hand, someone from the logging industry…

Tonight I’m proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles… With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.

The fine print tells us that this huge-sounding grant actually amounts to $144 million a year for 5 years “to develop the technologies and infrastructure needed to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen fuel for use in fuel cell vehicles and electricity generation”. And the goal is to have a hydrogen fuel cell car by 2020. However, the downside is that it will probably be a huge corporate handout at the same time.

Interesting Times points out that Al Gore, who was derided by the Right as an tree-hugging loony, predicted non-gas powered cars by 2017. Now the Republicans pat Bush on the back for calling for the same thing by 2020. What a difference 3 years makes.

Yet there’s power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people.

Uh oh. I see where this is going.

I urge you to pass both my faith-based initiative and the Citizen Service Act, to encourage acts of compassion that can transform America, one heart and one soul at a time.

“I urge you to demolish the wall between church and state, while allowing the government to evade its long-standing duty to help the poor and needy.”

tonight I propose a new $600-million program to help an additional 300,000 Americans receive treatment over the next three years.

This program will be $200 million a year for the next three years.”by providing vouchers to individuals identified in their communities as needing treatment.” I have no idea what that means.

In Afghanistan, we helped liberate an oppressed people

Anyone who’s looked into this at all knows it’s not true. Once the Taliban fled, most of Afghanistan was ruled by the warlord thugs of the Northern Alliance. Most women are still too afraid to go outside without their burqas. And the Taliban and members of Al Qaeda are reportedly working to take the country back. Go liberation!

I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

Strangely, it appears that none of this money will go out until 2004. Don’t know why. It “will begin with $2 billion in FY 04 and ramp up thereafter.” Over those 5 years, $1 billion will go to the “Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria” which is generally seen as the most effective funding agency. The Fund frequently purchases “goods and services and generic drugs that may be obtained more cheaply and efficiently from somewhere else.” The fear is that the other 93% of the money may have to be used to buy the more expensive, made-in-America AIDS drugs.

This fear is very real. Until 2000, it was official US policy to prevent African countries from gaining access to cheap, generic AIDS drugs because it might violate the patent rights of American pharmacuetical companies. The extension of that, forcing Africans to use US aid to buy high-priced American AIDS drugs is not very far-fetched.

There are days when our fellow citizens do not hear news about the war on terror… The war goes on, and we are winning.

Uhhh…

To date, we’ve arrested or otherwise dealt with many key commanders of al Qaeda. They include a man who directed logistics and funding for the September the 11th attacks; the chief of al Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf, who planned the bombings of our embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole; an al Qaeda operations chief from Southeast Asia; a former director of al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan; a key al Qaeda operative in Europe; a major al Qaeda leader in Yemen. All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries.

Wow, two directors, two chiefs, a key operative, and a major leader. I have no way of verifying any of this. I also wonder how many of the 3000 arrested suspects are actually involved in terrorism.

Many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way — they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.

Huh huh. Huh. Dude, we like, totally killed em. America rules.

We have the terrorists on the run. We’re keeping them on the run.

Again, I don’t know. Are we really making any headway in defeating anti-American terrorist networks? I’d really like to know.

One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.

* Jake’s Irony Meter breaks.

We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us.

Um, why must we assume this? It’s entirely possibly that Islamic militants are going to break down my front door and shoot me in the face with a shotgun, but that doesn’t mean I must start wearing a bullet-proof catcher’s mask around my apartment.

I am instructing the leaders of the FBI, the CIA, the Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense to develop a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, to merge and analyze all threat information in a single location.

Part of me wonders if this is Total Information Awareness part 2, after the Senate killed the funding for the first one.

Whatever the duration of this struggle, and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men — free people will set the course of history.

Yes, we’ll bomb and bomb and bomb until there is no more violence.

Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder.

* Jake hands George W. a mirror.

They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation.

This is probably the most terrifying and most irrefutible argument for attacking Iraq.

It is incredibly unlikely that Saddam Hussein would give weapons of mass destruction to anti-American Islamic fundamentalists because Saddam and the fundamentalists are enemies. They want to kill him and replace him with a religious government. He wants them dead because they are a threat to his rule.

Not a lot of love going on there.

But I can’t prove that this won’t happen, so people (like my barber) feel that we have “no choice” and have to go bomb Iraq “in self-defense.”

Again, see my bulletproof catcher’s mask comment above. It is literally impossible to prepare for all potential outcomes. Therefore you must spend your resources preparing only for those that are likely to occur. Which ain’t this scenario.

This threat is new; America’s duty is familiar. Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world. In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit. In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism, and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances, and by the might of the United States of America.

Okay.

While the United States did a good job stopping European fascism and Japanese imperialism in the 1940s, and opposing Soviet conquest during the Cold War, the U.S. is as guilty of domination as anyone. We’ve supported dictators in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We supported terrorist death squads in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Indonesia, Guatemala and Colombia. We have a huge army. We have nuclear weapons. We bully other countries into doing what we want them to do.

Just because Saddam Hussein is a bad guy does not make us the good guys !!!

If you want to read about nefarious U.S. doings worldwide, I can’t recommend the book Killing Hope highly enough. Go buy it now, and finish reading whatever book you’re on now, later.

And I’m especially curious, when exactly did the U.S. fight against “militarism”? Cuz I think we lost that one.

In all these efforts, however, America’s purpose is more than to follow a process — it is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world.

Ah, very clever. Bush appeals to the American culture’s core of pragmatism. The UN inspections are “following a process” not focusing on “results.” This is the very opposite of pragmatic, and will disgust Americans nationwide.

In Iran, we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction, and supports terror. We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny — and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.

I’d just like to remind the audience that in 1953, the U.S. overthrew the democratically-elected Iranian President Mossadegh and replaced him with a dictator known as the Shah, and helped keep him in power till 1979. Good to know that the U.S. has changed its pro-Iranian-oppression stance.

America is working with the countries of the region — South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia — to find a peaceful solution, and to show the North Korean government that nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation, and continued hardship.

If only the U.S. had learned this lesson sooner, and not had to face the isolation, economic supremacy and continued world dominance… wait a minute.

Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world.

Everyone shows contempt for the United Nations and the opinion of the world. All countries regularly ignore UN resolutions they don’t like. All countries do what they damn please– within the constraints of their own power. If you’re the U.S., that gives you lots of options. If you’re Bangladesh, you lay low and hope nobody hurts you.

The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct — were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq’s regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.

Did anyone really think that Saddam Hussein was suddenly going to have a change of heart and help disarm himself? I want those inspectors there for the exact reason Bush says they’re not there: to search Iraq top to bottom in an attempt to find hidden weapons of mass destruction. If they fail in this task, and we see something resembling a real threat from Iraq, we can take action then. But if we can avoid dropping high-powered explosives on the heads of innocent people, I’d like to do so.

[claims about chemical and biological weapons that Saddam Hussein has not accounted for]

Don’t know what to make of this. It varies quite a bit from the Hans Blix report given Monday. Does US intelligence know more than the inspectors? Are they lying? I have no idea.

From three Iraqi defectors we know…

Most Iraqi defectors that come forth with knowledge of Iraq’s weapons have been smuggled out of Iraq by the Iraqi National Congress, a group that wants to take power from Saddam Hussein. It is in their best interests that Saddam look like a monstrous threat. Anyone who is involved with the INC is suspect.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.

“The 1990s”? Which part? 1990, 13 years ago, before we bombed the hell out of Iraq? Or 1999, just four years back, after the weapons inspectors left the country.

[visits IAEA website]

Hmm, says here that the IAEA dismantled pretty much all of Iraq’s nuclear program back in 1998.

Funny, why would Bush mention an Iraqi nuclear plan that was eliminated?

Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.

Ah yes, those damned aluminum tubes.

The tubes that the inspector’s said were likely to be used for conventional weapons, but could theoretically be altered for use in a uranium enrichment process.

That clever bastard! Intentionally importing the wrong kind of tubes to throw us off the scent!

From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.
Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

If this is true, then it does seem unlikely that the weapons inspectors will be very effective. But again, I trust the White House about as far as I can throw it.

The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Most countries that possess nuclear weapons use them as to bolster their diplomatic position, and as deterrence. Sure, if Saddam had nuclear weapons (and I don’t think he does), he could use them for the purposes Bush mentions, but pretending that this outcome is inevitable is just plain dumb.

And it’s always a bit ironic when the president takes a self-righteous tone about nuclear attack, when the US is the only country that has ever actually used nuclear weapons to attack another country.

With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region.

I dunno. I think if Iraq makes the slightest move, they’ll be cruise missiled back to the Stone Age.

Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda.

Funny, that’s not what intelligence analysts are saying.

Again, another misleading statement. Iraq is indeed involved with terrorists; Saddam Hussein gives money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. But in the minds of most Americans, “terrorist” means “terrorist who wants to kill Americans.” So Bush can say something technically true, and know that his audience will take it to mean something different.

Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

See my “bulletproof catcher’s mask” comment again. Possible, highly unlikely, should use our resources on more likely threats.

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country — your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation

False dichotomy. Enemies of the Iraqi people are both ruling the country AND surrounding the country. Saddam Hussein oppresses them and U.S. bombs will kill them. They’re supposed to pretend that one of those forces is an ally?

And I certainly hope that Iraqi liberation doesn’t look like Afghani liberation.

The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq’s ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi’s legal — Iraq’s illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.

That will be an interesting day indeed. I’m looking forward to reading that report. I am skeptical that the U.S. has such evidence. And if it does, I’ll be pissed that they didn’t bother sharing some of it before (yeah, yeah, national security. But if Iraq was really a threat, and they knew that they couldn’t attack without the support of the American people, then it would have been in the interest of national security to release the info).

If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

This just in: Bush says the same thing he has said every day for the past six months.

Killing for safety, bombing for peace, leading a coalition of nobody.

Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American Armed Forces: Many of you are assembling in or near the Middle East, and some crucial hours may lay ahead. In those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you. Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and America believes in you. (Applause that goes on forever

Flag-waving motherfucker. This is just despicable, trying to boost his own popularity by praising American soldiers. This asshole, the one who’s going to send them off to die for empire and profit, he is using their image for poll numbers so that he can, well, send them off to die for empire and profit.

The technologies of war have changed; the risks and suffering of war have not.

Um, that’s not true. Advances in technology greatly decrease the risks and suffering of the victors. Jesus, we have remote-controlled robo-assassin planes! How can anyone say that the risks of war haven’t changed?

We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all.

* Irony Meter breaks again

If war is forced upon us…

Forced upon us by who? You, motherfucker! Who decided this asshole should be our leader?

… we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military — and we will prevail.

We will spare the innocent… by using the full force and might of the US military? That don’t sound good.

Those 800 cruise missiles that will hit the city of Baghdad in days 1 and 2 of the war, those won’t hit the millions of innocents there, will they?

But yeah, I think we’ll prevail pretty easily. Saddam Hussein will be thrown from power. Iraq will be carved into spheres of influence for the U.S. and its allies.

Blah blah blah blah blah

The end.

Posted by Jake at 02:17 AM

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January 29, 2003

State of the Shadow Union

God bless the folks at Whitehouse.org. God bless them to hell.

WhiteHouse.org’s 2003 State of the Union

Posted by Jake at 01:01 PM

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January 28, 2003

Heh. American Democracy in Action

Earlier today I posted a link to the State of the Union Drinking game. The folks on the popular Fark web community played said drinking game while watching Bush’s speech and posting their jokes and jibes all the while. It’s a fun read.

Relive it for posterity

Skip down to the first post after 9pm.

Posted by Jake at 07:49 PM
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More War

Desert Caution- former Gulf War general Norman Schwarzkopf is not convinced that war on Iraq is necessary, although he concedes that he is not privy to all of the intelligence that the White House has.

The Prince of Peace Was a Warrior, Too- Heritage Foundation loony argues that Jesus was not anti-violence, and might possibly support the war on Iraq.

800 missiles to hit Iraq in first 48 hours- alleged plan for U.S. attack, hitting Baghdad with 800 cruise missiles in the first two days of the assault. For the record, millions of civilians live in Baghdad. Advice to innocent civilians of Baghdad: get the hell out of the city. Of course, since this strategy is public, there’s every probability that it was intentionally leaked to the press to scare Iraq. Here’s to hoping.

Posted by Jake at 02:52 PM
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The Report

January 27th has come and gone.

It was The Day. The day of the UN weapons inspectors preliminary report about their work in Iraq.

Not surprisingly, we were treated to a bevy of contradictory statements. Headlines screamed that Iraq was not cooperating, while other reports claimed just the opposite. Various governmental officials claimed that the inspections were useless, or that they were going to give proof that they were useless, or that they were going to give proof that Iraq had weapons, or that we should give the inspections several more weeks, or that we should give the inspectors every opportunity to succeed.

Well, fuck all that. Let’s look at the report itself.

We’ve got two options: the full text of Hans Blix’s statement to the UN, or a Guardian article which quotes and analyzes key portions of Blix’s statement. Both are pretty worthwhile reads, if you actually want to know what’s going on.

Blix claims that there are two types of cooperation that they need from Iraq, Cooperation on Process and Cooperation on Substance. He states that Iraq has “cooperated rather well” with regard to the first, and implies that they are not doing as well on the second. The first is about giving the inspectors access to any part of the country they want. The second is about Iraq actively bringing information and evidence to the attention of the inspectors. And c’mon, this is Saddam Hussein’s regime we’re talking about. How much out of their way did we expect them to go to help deprive them of weaponry?

But onto the weapons.

Blix says that:

- as of 1988, Iraq had 6500 “chemical bombs,” and these have not been accounted for. These bombs could theoretically have contained “about 1000 tons” of chemical agent. But, as a Guardian analyst points out, these bombs would not be very useful without an air force with which to drop them.
- Iraq claims that it destroyed all of its VX gas in 1991, the inspectors are still trying to verify whether or not that is true.
- Blix mentions finding a “laboratory quantity” of thiodiglycol an ingredient in mustard gas. No word whether this chemical can be used for other purposes, or whether its presence is a clear indication of attempts to create mustard gas.
- Iraq has rebuilt a chemical plant, but it is capable of manufacturing many types of chemicals. The inspectors are still deciding whether or not to let it remain or have it dismantled.
- Iraq has a few SCUD missiles. The analysts estimate Iraq has between 2 and 20 of these.
- Iraq may or may not have anthrax.
- Iraq has some missile production capability. They have two types of rockets, the most advanaced of which could travel about 183 kilometers (about 113 miles. For reference, it is about 9670 km/6009 miles from New York City to Baghdad).

- there is no evidence that Iraq has nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs.

And that’s about it.

I can’t say that this report makes me particularly nervous about Iraq’s threat to myself living here in the United States. I certainly don’t like the sound of Iraq potentially having all that, but I’m not really scared about it. If I lived within 100 miles of the Iraqi border, I might. But as I’ve been saying all along, if Saddam Hussein makes the slightest aggressive move towards any of his neighbors, the US would bomb the hell out of him, with full UN approval. Is this report, or Iraq’s lack of cooperation, enought to justify a war on the country that might kill tens of thousands of people? That’s your call.

Just for the fun of it, let’s link to information about the United States’ nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons capabilities.

Posted by Jake at 02:46 PM
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The State

The Handbasket Report- our pal Geov Parrish offers his alternative to the political advertisment known as the “State of the Union address”– the Handbasket Report.

A Credibility Problem- liberal NYT columnist Paul Krugman reminds us what Bush said in last year’s State of the Union, and how many of his promises have been broken. My favorite bit: “When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs.” Guess he just forgot.

State of the Union Drinking Game 2003

I’m looking foward to the Whitehouse.org version that will surely come out today or tomorrow. And I’m working on a little something myself in honor of the occasion too…

Posted by Jake at 12:14 PM
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Stupid Broken Internet

My apologies for anyone who tried to listen to my radio show yesterday. Our webcast was massively screwy, I think due to that “slammer” internet virus running around.

Posted by Jake at 12:04 PM
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January 27, 2003

Where Are We Going, and What Am I Doing in This Handbasket?

Well, let’s start off with a light one.

“Moneyline” of Fire- okay, I don’t like taking potshots at celebrities’ family’s, but this one’s just too wierd. Debbi Dobbis is the wife of Lou Dobbs, host of CNN’s financial news show Moneyline. On Wednesday, Debbi Dobbs was arrested when she tried to board an airplane with a loaded handgun in her purse. Yes, look at that again. They won’t let you on a plane with fucking nail clippers these days, what the hell was she thinking carrying a loaded fucking semi-automatic pistol? Her story is that she put it in her purse for protection while at the Dobbs family farm, and forgot about it. I do dumb absent-minded things too sometimes, but aren’t guns heavy? Wouldn’t you pick up your purse and say “Jesus, why is this purse is heavy? Oh yeah, it’s heavy because it’s got a big fucking gun inside it.”

Regime Change- this should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It’s not news, it’s a history lesson. It has short summaries of 14 such interventions that the U.S. has undertaken since the 1950s: Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Chile, Grenada, Libya, the Philippines, Panama, Somalia, Hait, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. It cites an “analyst” who claims that the U.S. only has less than a 20% success rate with regime change.

VA to pay ex-GIs harmed by Agent Orange contact- during the Vietnam (Indochina) war(s), the U.S. dumped almost 15 million gallons of an herbicide called Agent Orange onto the jungle– and any people that might happen to be inside. Surprise surprise, the chemical turned out to be a dangerous carcinogen. 30 years later, the military agrees to give medical treatment to American veterans who got leukemia from the chemical (note: the herbicide Agent Orange was manufactured by the Monsanto corporation, and is nothing nothing nothing like the herbicide Roundup Ultra that the U.S. and Colombia have been spraying on the Colombian countryside in an attempt to eliminate the coca crop. Well, maybe it’s kinda similar).

Bush Moves to Restore Military Ties With Indonesia- this is despicable. The Indonesian army is known for two things: corruption and massacres. “‘The Indonesian military has sabotaged international efforts to attain justice for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor, exonerated itself of the strong implication that its elite Special Forces recently murdered two U.S. teachers and beat a U.S. nurse - yet the Senate voted to give the military a level of support not seen in more than a decade,’ said Kurt Biddle, Washington coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN). ‘Why is the Senate rewarding this behaviour?’”

Kiss My Axis!- I’m mainly intrigued by the first sentence “As the war on Iraq got down to business last week with the heaviest air bombardments in 10 years…”

The Guilt-Free Soldier- medical researchers are working on pills that could help minimize the mental and emotional effects of trauma on human beings. But it also works to minimize feelings of guilt, and the author worries that such anti-guilt medication could be used by soldiers on the battlefield, allowing them to do horrific things without felling any consequences.

Posted by Jake at 10:47 PM
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American TV Sucks

Check this out.

Holidays in the Axis of Evil

“The Bush regime claims that North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Cuba are part of an ‘axis of evil’. In a remarkable two-part travelogue, reporter Ben Anderson, armed with a hidden camera and a tourist map, visits all six rogue states and tries to find the reality of life in some of the most repressive regimes in the world.”

Airing on the BBC this month and next. Sounds great, and I don’t get to see it. Anyone in the UK wanna videotape it and mail me a copy?

Posted by Jake at 09:56 PM
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War Updates

Planning underway to manage Iraqi oil- the top secret Bush administration plan to manage Iraq’s oil fields for years after invading Iraq is not evidence that the U.S. war against Iraq is about oil. And almost as an aside in the article is this enlightening passage: “US special forces have been on the ground inside Iraq since September, monitoring the oil fields and rigs for booby traps and minefields.” You’d think someone would’ve mentioned that by now.

U.S. to disclose data on Iraqi non-conventional weapons- “The United States administration is planning on disclosing classified information that includes concrete evidence proving that Iraq is implementing its plan to arm itself with non-conventional weapons.”

The Human Cost- Robert Fisk is mad, both at chickenhawk politicians who send men to war without personal experience in battle, and the way that the media only shows romanticized, sanitized images of war, when the true grisly pictures might make us all more dedicated to averting such carnage.

Posted by Jake at 12:02 AM
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January 26, 2003

Israel News

I remembered that Israel is having elections on Tuesday, so I looked around for info about that, but stumbled over a lot of other Israel news.

Powell: Israel must offer Palestinians more than a ‘phony state’- wow, is the U.S. taking a stand in support of Israeli negotiations with Palestine? With Sharon in power, I can’t imagine they will do so.

Israel launches deadly Gaza raid-” Israeli forces have killed 12 Palestinians and wounded more than 50 in what is believed to be their biggest incursion into Gaza City since the Palestinian uprising began more than two years ago.”

Those who want change- Israeli paper Ha’aretz editorial supporting the non-right wing parties Labor and Meretz. Honestly, I don’t see why anyone would vote Likud. Likudnik Ariel Sharon ran on a party platform of security for Israel, and presided over (and helped cause) some of Israeli’s bloodiest days in recent memory. Why would you vote for them? But, Reuters claims that Likud will win easily. For more on the Israeli elections, read these articles here.

Posted by Jake at 11:47 PM

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America vs. Everybody

World Rebels Against America- travelling reporter sees evidence that people worldwide are angry with the U.S. and President Bush. In other news, the sun is a big hot ball of burning gas.

When will we resist?- “The clash of civilisations that George Bush and his minions are trying to fabricate as a cover for a pre-emptive oil and hegemony war against Iraq is supposed to result in a triumph of democratic nation-building, regime change and forcible modernisation à l’Américaine. Never mind the bombs and the ravages of the sanctions, which are unmentioned. This will be a purifying war whose goal is to throw out Saddam and his men and replace them with a redrawn map of the whole region. New Sykes Picot. New Balfour. New Wilsonian 14 points. New world altogether. Iraqis, we are told by the Iraqi dissidents, will welcome their liberation, and perhaps forget entirely about their past sufferings. Perhaps…

“In this entire panorama of desolation, what catches the eye is the utter passivity and helplessness of the Arab world as a whole. The American government and its servants issue statement after statement of purpose, they move troops and material, they transport tanks and destroyers, but the Arabs individually and collectively can barely muster a bland refusal. At most they say no, you cannot use military bases in our territory, only to reverse themselves a few days later.

Why is there such silence and such astounding helplessness? The largest power in history is about to launch a war against a sovereign Arab country now ruled by a dreadful regime, the clear purpose of which is not only to destroy the Ba’ath regime but to redesign the entire region. The Pentagon has made no secret that its plans are to redraw the map of the whole Arab world, perhaps changing other regimes and borders in the process. No one can be shielded from the cataclysm if and when it comes. And yet, there is only long silence followed by a few vague bleats of polite demurral in response. Millions of people will be affected, yet America contemptuously plans for their future without consulting them. Do we deserve such racist derision?

This is not only unacceptable: it is impossible to believe. How can a region of almost 300 million Arabs wait passively for the blows to fall without attempting a collective roar of resistance? Has the Arab will completely dissolved? Even a prisoner about to be executed usually has some last words to pronounce. Why is there now no last testimonial to an era of history, to a civilisation about to be crushed and transformed utterly, to a society that, despite its drawbacks and weaknesses, nevertheless goes on functioning?”

Europe urges restraint, but Bush knows best- more about world anger against the U.S., and also debunks some of the “America rules, Europe is a bunch of whining crybabies” rhetoric.

Posted by Jake at 11:33 PM
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Halftime Show

The Nuclear Option in Iraq- U.S. Strategic Command reviews military policy regarding nuclear weapons, possibly saying that using them should not necessarily be absolute last resort. My personal opinion is that this is a PR ploy that I’m going to call a “softener” (until I find out the real technical name). Bush and his crew decide on a crazy policy, then come up with a decoy policy that is two levels crazier, and tell the public their thinking about the latter. Public goes crazy, pundits and politicians rally their forces, and several days later, the Bushies “compromise” and scale down to the policy they’d wanted in the first place. The public breathes a sigh of releif, and Bush’s opponents puff out their chests, sure that they helped shape the administration. But no one seems to realize that the new policy is still crazy. It’s like Bush changing his policy from, say, stabbing an old woman with a samurai sword, to stabbing an old woman with a combat knife. While the final position is less extreme, neither choice is what I’d call “acceptable.”

FINDING GOOD REASON FOR WAR COULD TAKE MONTHS, BUSH WARNS- “US Prepared to Fight With or Without Reason, President Assures Nation”. As Tom Spencer says, The Borowitz Report rides the edge between satire and truth.

Affirmative Action: How much does it cost whites?- interesting blog entry with the results of a year-old study comparing the admission rates of whites to universities with and without affirmative action programs. For students with high SAT scores, the admission rates are about 0.3% lower. For students with low SAT scores, the admission rates are about 3.0% lower.

Dick Cheney Inc. vs. Human Rights- two posts on the Body and Soul blog that implicate corporations run by Dick Cheney in schemes smashing human rights in return for massive profits. Post 1 and Post 2

The Soul of the Law- pompous wind from conservative Robert Bork which berates the Supreme Court for supporting abortion, but mainly bashes international courts. Best quote: “We know from experience that international tribunals and forums will not be friendly to the U.S. When the U.S. aided the Nicaraguan insurgency, the International Court of Justice, despite having no jurisdiction, ruled that the U.S. had violated customary international law.” Um, no one should expect “friendly” treatment from a court, Mr. Bork, they should expect “fair” treatment from a court. And no matter what the jurisiction, I presume that most respectable courts would rule that organizing violent thugs to terrorize a foreign nation into regime change violates some sort of law.

Posted by Jake at 05:30 PM
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January 25, 2003

Too Easy

Donald Rumsfeld explains the complex factors involved in deciding whether or not to attack the moon:

“What are the benefits — what are the advantages and disadvantages of not acting? And of course, the advantage of not acting against the moon would be that no one could say that you acted; they would say, ‘Isn’t that good, you didn’t do anything against the moon.’ The other side of the coin, of not acting against the moon in the event that the moon posed a serious threat, would be that you’d then suffered a serious loss and you’re sorry after that’s over. And in weighing the things, you have to make a judgment; net, do you think that you’re acting most responsibly by avoiding the threat that could be characterized — X numbers of people dying, innocent people — and it’s that kind of an evaluation one would have to make.”

This quote is actually part of a larger back and forth about what factors make it okay to pre-emptively attack another country, and they just used “the moon” as an example. But damned if it isn’t much funnier taken out of context.

Posted by Jake at 12:14 AM
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Revolution! Dissent! Neckties!

For tears of laughter and a sad shaking of the head–

Avrilution.com

Embarassingly shallow call to arms, or blandly executed parody site? You decide.

[edit]

Heh, just listened to the audio clip of the greeting for the “Avrilution™ Hotline.” They reminded me to keep it Av-Real.

Posted by Jake at 12:03 AM

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January 24, 2003

Hooray!

Senate Blocks Funding for Pentagon Database- ” By a voice vote, the Senate voted to ban funding for the Total Information Awareness program, under former national security adviser John Poindexter, until the Pentagon explains the program and assesses its impact on civil liberties.”

Yay!

Well, it’s a good step. Keep an eye out for the day when the Pentagon releases its report about TIA’s effects on civil liberties (which will likely be full of lies).

Thanks to the John Poindexter Awareness Office for harassing the plan’s founder.

And you can get your TIA t-shirts here.

Posted by Jake at 08:59 AM
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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

The message from the Bush camp: ‘It’s war within weeks’- not anything we didn’t already suspect, but this time it’s backed up by “a European official” and “an informed source in Washington”. Wait, why did I post this link again?

Central Command Background Briefing- Looks like the Pentagon has found Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction: “A senior U.S. Central Command official will provide a background briefing regarding Iraq’s potential use of oil as a terror weapon, tomorrow, Jan. 24, at 11 a.m. EST in the DoD Briefing Studio, Pentagon, Room 2E781.” [Thanks to Oliver Willis]

Posted by Jake at 12:35 AM

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January 23, 2003

Unexpected Cross-Promotions

Now you too can experience joys and thrills of being a young aspiring sorcerer with new

Harry Potter Ecstasy Tablets!

Posted by Jake at 03:57 PM
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Two More, Then Bed

A Threat to Peace- don’t click on this yet! It’s a huge, huge map of the “American Terrorist Infrastructure.” Six square feet of U.S. cartography pointing out America’s military bases, weapons factories, and war criminal residences. Not really a “terrorist infrastructure” per se, just war and hegemony. But we lefties like to confuse war and terrorism to point out that while terrorism is the nightmare of the day, war is pretty bad too. Good info, someone worked really hard on this, I’d say download it if you’ve got the time or paper to print out something that size.

Some Banks Encourage Overdrafts, Reaping Profit- here’s how I understand this one. “Overdraft protection” is a feature that a person can get for their checking account that will protect them from bounced checks. You can write a check for more than your account balance, the bank will pay the difference to the check recipient, and then you have to pay back your bank. Sounds kinda like a loan.

Except…

Loans are strictly regulated by the government, and overdraft protection is not…

So banks are signing up their customers for overdraft protection without their customers expressly asking for it. They especially work on signing up their poorer customers with it. They advertise to their clients that they now have overdraft protection which will protect them from bounced checks, without giving more details. Details like the overdraft fee they will be charged for each overdraft.

They’ll cover bounced checks for maybe $100-$300, then give you a few days to repay the balance, and charge you $20-$35 per overdraft. Which, this article tells me, “translate[s] into an annual rate of 1,000 percent or more.” All while telling half-truths about the nature of the service that imply that it’s merely a free safety cushion for folks struggling to make ends meet.

Keeping my money underneath my mattress keeps looking smarter and smarter.

Posted by Jake at 12:30 AM
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Shockwaves

I posted an article earlier today about a recent court victory by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a lobby group for major record labels. In quick succession, I found an additional three articles also about the RIAA which make that victory look insignificant in comparison.

The first of these three was about the RIAA capitalizing on their latest legal victory by demanding that ISPs pay damages to the record industry for the music illegally downloaded by the ISP’s customers. As the article points out, this is sheer fantasy. The completely accurate analogy is quoted in the article, that “Blaming ISPs for giving these hardened criminals the bandwidth for perpetrating their heinous file-sharing acts is akin to blaming the highway department for creating roads that are used by dope smugglers.”

I don’t think the RIAA has a legal leg to stand on here. At best, they could hope to use this demand as leverage to coerce frightened ISPs into taking steps of their own to prevent file-sharing (or at least scare them into a cash settlement). But still, seems like a long shot.

Actually, let’s break away here for a minute to discuss the record industry itself. You can read these next four or five paragraphs, or you can listen to this interview I did with Rage Against the Machine (and now Audioslave) guitarist Tom Morello. He’s a savvy fellow who’s been in the business for about 15 years. That twenty minutes of audio might better explain what’s going on than I’m about to.

In succint terms, record labels–the entities which “release” a band’s album– are loan sharks. When you sign a contract with a record label, they will give you an “advance” which is actually a loan. You might get a $100,000 advance to pay for the studios and producers to record your album, and you have to pay back every penny to your label.

Record contracts usually guarantee the artist 10-15% of the profits from their album sales (meaning that the record label, who has not written a single lyric or sung a single note of the music, receives 85-90% of the profit). The record label helps itself to 100% of your cut until you have paid them pack, while simultaneously taking their 90%. So if your 10% amounts to a dollar an album, then your band must sell 100,000 albums before you make a single penny.

I remember being shocked years ago hearing about world famous musicians going bankrupt. Everyone knew that rock stars were rich, how could they have spent all that money? Because of this loan system. Bands go into debt to record an album, and receive additional advances/loans to pay for concert tours, to film videos, etc. If your record doesn’t sell well, you can not only make no money, but end up in the hole.

And what’s worse, is that labels hold the artists’ futures in their hands. Artists sign contracts for multiple albums, and the record label can choose to release/not release, promote/not promote your album as they see fit.

So let’s say you have a four record deal. You go into debt for album #1, and it does poorly. You remain in debt. You borrow some more money to record album #2, but the label is no longer confident in your sales power. They release your record, but don’t put much effort into promoting it. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, your album sells poorly. Your debt has increased. You borrow even more and record album #3. The label decides to not even bother releasing it. So what the hell do you do now? Any songs you record now will be the property of your label. You can no longer make your career as a recording artist.

There are other factors, like copyright and merchandising and such, but I’m not going there today (for more info about the inner workings and ecnomics of the record industry, I highly recommend the Rap Coalition website. RC is basically a quasi-labor union and business education center for rap artists. Good stuff there).

I point all this out mainly to: 1) inform, and 2) show how despicable it is when the RIAA self-righteously condemns file-traders for depriving their artists of money (maybe they just don’t like competition on that front). They are about sucking consumers and artists dry, and to pretend otherwise is just vile.

Anyhow.

Now we get to article #2, The Year the Music Dies. This article points out the dire straits that the record industry is in. Record labels serve three main functions, and other players can now perform those functions.

1) Capital. The advances/loans given to artists is often necessary to pay for things like recording and going on tour. This is the primary leverage that the industry still has. But the more artists come to realize the economic situation involved (getting a loan in exchange for 85-90% of all profits made on future sales of their album), we might see artists turning to alternate financial sources and releasing their albums themselves. Also, the costs of recording keep decreasing as recording technology and software drops in price.

2) Promotion. With their vast capital, marketing know-how, and connections with the media, record labels (especially the majors) can pack a real punch in raising an artist’s profile and convincing consumers to purchase the artists’ albums. But we sink into a catch-22 here: massive promotions are needed to generate massive sales to pay for the massive costs of a massive record release. But what if the costs were much lower…? See below.

3) Distribution. Here is the number one fear of the record industry. Labels have to pay for the manufacture and physical transportation of millions of compact discs to recoup their advances. So what happens when music can be distributed for practically nothing, say, over the internet? This cornerstone of the label empire is completely stripped away. In the past, artists could never distribute their records on a national or international level because they could never afford it. Now they could pretty easily sell their songs for download online…

I think what we see here is a need for a supreme restructuring of music finance, in the downward direction. The previous reality was that due to the expense of massive distribution/promotion/production costs, you needed the backing of rich and powerful corporations. One RC article claims that it is not worth most record labels’ time to have artists who’s records sell less than 200,000 copies. So imagine a different world, where an artist makes not 12% but 100% of the profits of their sales, where they record their album with moderately-priced technology, and distribute it via the internet for pennies. And because the costs are so much lower, you need to sell far fewer albums to earn a living.

(Actually, I envision a potential future where you can buy records at a kiosk at the mall, where the proprietor simply downloads the music from a label’s server via high-speed internet, and then fast burns it to a blank CD that he has on-hand. More economically and ecologically efficient that producing millions of copies and trucking them from coast to coast)

The article points out that the industry faces this huge challenge, and that in its arrogance and short-sightedness, has alienated all of its potential allies: politicians, webcasters, customers, musicians, songwriters, radio, television, etc. Even, interestingly, the mega-corporations that own the labels. The author points out that a conglomerate like Sony might find that they make more money selling mp3 players which play illegally-downloaded music, than they do from records sold on the Sony record label. What happens then?

And our final RIAA-related article of the day:

Music Industry’s Chief Lobbyist Leaving

For several years now, the RIAA’s loudest, shrillest voice has been its head, Hillary Rosen. She screamed about Napster, about webcasters, CD-copying, always complaining how the industry was losing money because of the efforts of people who simply love music. Anyone who’s taken more than a casual interest in these issues probably has little love for Rosen. And today, she has announced that she will resign from the position at the end of the year [insert thunderous applause here].

Why?

“Rosen’s departure comes as the organization sought to soften its image among Internet consumers, many of whom viewed the RIAA and Rosen personally with antipathy over incessant pressure for crackdowns on sharing digital music over the Internet.”

This theory backs up the previous article’s dire forecast. If the music industry wants to survive, it needs to win back some allies. And Rosen’s departure could get music fans back on their side.

Interesting stuff. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

Posted by Jake at 12:08 AM

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January 22, 2003

Do They Even Try Anymore?

Surfing Television News For Antiwar Demonstrations- non-scientific examination of cable news coverage of this weekend’s anti-war protests via flipping back and forth among the channels.

War Journalists Should Not Be Cosying Up to the Military- Robert Fisk attacks war reporters who try to suck up to and sympathize with the subjects of their stories, the military. Key passage:

So here’s a thumbnail list of how to watch out for mendacity and propaganda on your screen once Gulf War Two (or Three if you include the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict) begins. You should suspect the following:

Reporters who wear items of American or British military costume – helmets, camouflage jackets, weapons, etc.

Reporters who say “we” when they are referring to the US or British military unit in which they are “embedded”.

Those who use the words “collateral damage” instead of “dead civilians”.

Those who commence answering questions with the words: “Well, of course, because of military security I can’t divulge…” Those who, reporting from the Iraqi side, insist on referring to the Iraqi population as “his” (ie Saddam’s) people.

Journalists in Baghdad who refer to “what the Americans describe as Saddam Hussein’s human rights abuses” – rather than the plain and simple torture we all know Saddam practices.

Journalists reporting from either side who use the god-awful and creepy phrase “officials say” without naming, quite specifically, who these often lying “officials” are.

The Unseen Gulf War- what happens when photojournalists don’t “cosy up to the military.” Grisly, terrible images of the aftermath of the U.S. ground war in Iraq, by photographer Peter Turnley. I think you owe it to yourself to check these out, but the pictures are mainly of charred corpses.

The dangers of plumbing public view on Iraq war- article that claims that Americans have very complex and conflicting views about the proposed war on Iraq. But strangely, they tell this tale primarily from the point of few of hand-wringing journalists who apparently have a hard time talking about individuals’ beliefs without an official opinion poll handy. The subject of the story, the complicated desires and fears, is treated as a frustrating and terrifying aberration, which reporters hope will go away once the war begins in earnest. In the author’s defense, I notice that he is the paper’s media columnist, and perhaps this was the only way he could “officially” write about this subject.

Sensitive? Step Aside- Most news outlets seem unable to cover the topic of science with an ounce of intelligence or accuracy. Any “new study” that is “provocative,” confirms commonly-held beliefs, or contradicts commonly-held beliefs gets coverage, even if that study was designed and performed by Professor Idjit from the University of Can’t Do a Damn Thing Right. The above article is about a new study which “proves” that “women who are on birth control pills are more attracted to sexy, macho men, while women who aren’t on the pill prefer sensitive, caring guys.”

The first five paragraphs of the nine paragraph article state the study’s “conclusions” in fairly objective terms (except for the word “suggests” that appears once). By this point, many readers will have stopped reading the article and moved on to another. But the final four paragraphs point out significant flaws with the study, flaws big enough to make its “conclusions” meaningless. So the story is that there isn’t really a story. That sort of thing drives me nuts!

Posted by Jake at 06:46 PM

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Wargames

The proposed U.S. war on Iraq has many possible outcomes. The following is an online “game” that depicts a fairly negative conclusion.

Gulf War 2 (aka World War 2.5)

When I say “fairly negative” I mean “extremely grim, with a bit of tongue in cheek,” and when I say “game” I mean “you get to click on a few things, but it’s pretty much a short animated movie.”

I think it’s worth your while, should take you about 8-10 minutes to play/watch. While I don’t agree with the designers’ predictions, it does a pretty decent job of showing some of the complexities of Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Posted by Jake at 05:54 PM

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File-Traders to be Keelhauled

ISPs Must Forfeit Download Data- “Internet providers must agree to requests by the music industry to track down computer users who illegally download music, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a case that could dramatically increase online pirates’ risk of being caught.”

“The case arose from efforts by the recording association to track down a customer of Verizon Communications who was freely sharing copies of more than 600 songs by well-known artists.”

Hmm, I would interpet that to mean that people who download music who keep large numbers of mp3s of popular musicians (and probably video files of popular movies) in file directories that other people with file-sharing programs can download would be the most likely targets. If you are a file-trading/sharing person, you might want to… take appropriate steps.

Watch your asses, ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by Jake at 12:35 PM
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January 21, 2003

Now This Here is Pretty Fucked Up

The newly formed National Commission on Terrorist Attacks is being given $3 million and a little more than a year to investigate the 9-11 attacks.

In 1996, a federal commission received $6 million to investigate the notion of legalizing gambling.

And, according to blogger Atrios, the federal government spent $70 million to figure out if President Clinton had sex with an intern.

Call your elected Congressmen and tell them they’re all fired.

Posted by Jake at 09:45 PM
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An Enigma, Wrapped in a Puzzle, Wrapped Inside a Dumb-Ass Texan

One question keeps coming up again and again in critiques of the pending Iraq war: why are we really fighting Iraq?

The Coming War With Iraq: Deciphering the Bush Administration’s Motives gets you most of the way there.

The essay is in two parts. The first examines all of the public reasons that the Bush administration gives for needing to go to war with Iraq. This section is convince, but is a little thin. For example, when pondering whether or not the U.S. is really concerned about WMD, he more or less says “if the U.S. was really worried about WMD, they would be fighting Pakistan or North Korea instead. Since they’re not, they can’t really be concerned about WMD. Next question.”

But part two, the “why we’re really going to war” portion is well done. Author Michael Klare finds three interrelated reasons, all based upon American global dominance and the role that oil plays in that dominance. Frankly, I think I’m going to rework my personal position statement on the pending Iraq war, and supplement it with Klare’s conclusions.

Give it a read, at least the second half.

Posted by Jake at 04:00 PM
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Snikt! Bamf! Tariff!

It had to happen sometime. International trade regulations have gone post-modern.

The X-Men is a popular comic book series that now straddles quite a few forms of media and merchandising. The X-Men universe is one in which more and more people are being born as “mutants,” people with strange body alterations that usually manifest as some form of super powers. Some mutants look very different (blue fur, extra heads, etc.) while some look just like you and me (regular looking humans with mental telepathy or super strength). The majority of humankind seems to fear and hate the mutants, making an obvious parallel towards race relations (and/or treatment of homosexuals in society). Kinda clever, and it’s at the very core of the X-Men concept.

Heady discussions are waged: can’t we all just get along? Should mutants have their rights curtailed to protect us from their powers? What does it mean to be human? In fact, the comic’s most popular villain believes that mutants are not homo sapiens, they are homo superior, the next stage of human evolution. He wages war on the regular humans, who he sees as inferior, while other humans wage war on mutants, considering them beasts and freaks.

It should be no surprise that you can buy action figures of your favorite X-Men characters. They’re made in China and then imported. Which is how the philosophical questions of the X-universe become of concern for international trade.

According to U.S. trade law, “dolls” are subject to a tariff of 12%, and “toys” are only subject to a 6.8% tariff. To maximize their income, U.S. customs argues that X-Men figures are dolls, and to minimize their costs, Marvel (the company responsible for X-Men) is arguing that they are toys. And according to U.S. customs law, “dolls” are models of human figures, while the “toy” classification is made up solely of “creatures” such as monsters and robots.

So a judge for the U.S. Court of International Trade had to read briefs from both parties and study the action figures in question to determine whether or not the X-Men were human.

Fucking bizarre.

The verdict?

Not human.

Good going, judge. You’ve just set back mutant-nonmutant relations by 40 years.

Posted by Jake at 12:52 AM
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January 20, 2003

Protest Round-Up

On January 18, there were two massive anti-war protests scheduled to take place in San Francisco and Washington DC. While many people who lived far from those two cities made long pilgrimages, many folks simply organized at home. And not just in the U.S., but in at least 37 countries worldwide. Below is an incomplete (and questionably accurate) list of numbers of people protesting in cities around the globe (in no particular order).

Menomonie, WI- 200
San Francisco, CA- 200,000
Washington, DC- 200,000
Christchurch, New Zealand- 2000
Northwood Military base, UK- 150
Tokyo, Japan- 4000
Volkel, Netherlands- 100
Toronto, Canada- 15,000

Vancouver, Canada- 20,000
Montreal, Canada- 25,000
Saskatoon, Canada- 7000
Buenos Aires- 1000
Damascus- 20,000
Cairo, Egypt- 1000
Lahore, Pakistan- 200
Paris, France- 20,000
Marseille, France- 10,000

Hong Kong, China- 60
Halifax, Canada- 15,000
Ottawa, Canada- 3000
Honolulu, HI- 1300
Tampa, FL- 2000
Bellingham, WA- 600
Spokane, WA- 1500
Yorba Linda, CA (Nixon Library)- 800
San Luis Obispo, CA- 1200

Tucsuon, AZ- 5000
Albuquerque, NM- 1000
Reno, NV- 600
Salt Lake City, UT- 1000
Oklahoma City, OK- 800 (at Federal Building)
Houston, TX- 200
Fayetteville, AK- 500
Columbia, MO-500
St. Louis, MO- 100

Tallhassee, FL- 50
Miami, FL- 300
Charlottesville, VI- 900
Montpellier, VT- 3000
Portsmouth, NH- 150
Ann Arbor, MI- 1200
Rockford, IL- 300
Madison, WI- 800
Minoqua, WI- 50

Albany, NY- 300
Seattle, WA- 2500
Gainesville, FL- 50
Lincoln, NE- 500
Durham, NC- 1000
Wichita, KS- 70
Shannon Ireland- 1000
Rome, Italy- 4000
Firenze, Italy- 5000

Montpellier France- 2000
Nice, France- 1500
Vienna, Austria- 1000
Muenster, Germany- 500
Portland, OR- 20,000
Heidelberg, Germany- 2000
Tuebingen, Germany- 5000

Can’t verify the numbers, got them off an IMC site and an International ANSWER press release, so take em with a grain of salt.

[edit]

Found a much more thorough accounting of protests at the JMBzine Poliblog. By that author’s account, over 600,000 people from 135 cities came out to protest the war this weekend (including the small group of scientists who protested in Antarctica. Yes, you read that right, Antarctica).

Posted by Jake at 11:30 PM

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MLK Day

I played three different speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. on my radio show today. Turned on my car stereo as I drove home, tuned to KPFK and heard part of a fourth speech. I suppose its a good way to commemorate King, immersing myself in his words.

[I plan to upload the speeches to the Kill Radio archive later this week]

Shortly after 9/11, I was quite depressed thinking that the vast majority of Americans at that time had their values pointed in the exact opposite direction of King’s (and now, some folks argue that King would be considered a domestic terrorist).

I played his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon and his “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam speech (and in the drive home, I heard his “Beyond Vietnam” speech). They are both excellent, and I highly recommend reading (or listening to) them both.

Both give testament to King’s deep committment to his fellow man, and to the compassion and love espoused by Jesus. But his Vietnam speech is much more interesting.

King is well-known for his civil rights stances, but the Vietnam speech shows that King has broadened his perspective. He talks about the triple threats of racism, militarism and economic exploitation,” all very reasonable targets for a man dedicated to freedom and justice for all.

I am most moved by his simple logic for opposing the Vietnam war, a logic that would ensure his opposition to all war.

Having focused his efforts on helping the poor, King says that he can’t support the war because it takes money away from funds that could aid the poor. Then he opposes the war because it will send large numbers of poor people to the frontlines to die. And finally, he makes his decision based upon his committment to non-violence as the highest form of conflict resolution:

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

Perhaps that’s what I most admire about Martin Luther King. He held fast to a series of moral principles, and followed them to their true and extreme conclusion.

And I’ll conclude with a passage from “Beyond Vietnam” that shows just how radical (yet eminently reasonable) King’s positions had taken by the end of his life. I urge you to read the remaining paragraphs and think on them, and how they may be relevant today:

“The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

“In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military ‘advisors’ in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’

“Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered …

“This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.”

Posted by Jake at 11:14 PM
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No Time for Complex Media Analysis, Dr. Jones

War Stories- longish rumination about journalism in time of war and coverage of conflict. Most interesting are the discussions about whether or not the American audience wants “real reporting” or “rah-rah reporting.” Examines journalistic freedom, access to battlefields, and a reporter’s own national pride affecting their coverage.

Advertisers, the Middle-Aged Dis Youth with Slang- a few months back, CNN Headline News announced that it was going to start incorporating hip new slang into its newscasts, to the jeers of journalists everywhere. They now appear to have changed their mind about that. The article then goes on to argue that attempts by adults to fake respect and understanding of young folks is insulting, and that if programmers and advertisers wanted to win the respect of youth that they should take them seriously and listen to what they have to say. What the author doesn’t seem to realize is the inherent disrespect in advertising. As an advertiser, you’re trying to trick people into buying your products. You simply can’t have respect for someone you’re trying to dupe, especially if you successfully do so.

The More Pernicious Bias is Less Substance, More Fluff- an LA Times reporter assures us that the media is biased, but not politically so (they’re just biased in favor of conflict and sensationlist material). I’m sold.

DMCA: Ma Bell Would Be Proud- to really understand media industries in the U.S., you need to study all of telecommunications, not just television and newspapers. One of the most boring aspects of learning about telecom history is about Bell Telephone, the company that literally held a monopoly on all American telephone services for most of the 1900s. The article above is the most painless summary of Ma Bell I’ve seen. But the majority of the article is about a bizarre usage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to prevent consumers from buying generic ink cartridges for their computer printers.

Pharmaceuticals vs. Human Health- a new article in the British Medical Journal argues that recent studies which show a high amount of sexual dysfunction in women were funded by drug companies which manufacture medications to treat sexual dysfunction in women. The article goes so far as to claim that these drug companies might be fabricating medical conditions that don’t really exist in attempt to sell more drugs. And now, in the top article link, PR company HCC De Facto is seeking to generate media that will counter BMJ’s claims by contacting women’s health groups in Canada and Australia. “Clumsy efforts like this are based on what PR practitioners refer to as the ‘third party principle.’ It is all about seeking to invisibly orchestrate patient groups and community groups—who are seen as many times more credible than sponsoring companies—to parrot the claims of the PR companies’ clients.”

Posted by Jake at 10:00 PM

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In the Hizzouse

New “Get Your War On” strips are up

Posted by Jake at 09:30 AM
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January 19, 2003

I Surrender

‘Kangaroo Jack’ Tops Box Office in Debut

Posted by Jake at 07:05 PM
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They Don’t Need No Education

Lot of talk about affirmative action again. Why? Because of President Bush. Students at the University of Michigan have filed a lawsuit against the school for its affirmative action admissions policies, and in a fairly rare move, the White House filed a brief with the Supreme Court, who is about to hear the case. The brief opposes affirmative action.

Why would Bush & co. do this?

My thoughts: 1) a reverse “wag the dog” ploy, distracting the public from international issues (like the war) with a debate about domestic policy; 2) reassure conservatives that the White House hasn’t forgotten its roots in the wake of the Trent Lott scandal; 3) win back the lost bigot vote by supporting a policy stance that can easily be interpretted as racist.

Liberals are actually coming back swinging with a semi-effective tactic. When conservatives argue that “affirmative action” and “quotas” are unfair, liberals are coutnering with “neither are legacy admissions.” “Legacy” is a term that means “we let this student into the school because one of his relatives went to this school.” And the liberals are right, it’s not fair. Your aunt went to Harvard so you should get to go too? What kind of logic is that? Unfortunately, the argument doesn’t try to justify affirmative action at all. As a political tactic, it’s quite good. As a debate strategy, not very.

Conservatives are often fond of justifying their opposition to affirmative action by quoting Martin Luther King’s famous statement about people being judged “not be judged by the color of their skins but bythe content of their character.” Therefore the modern exemplar of civil rights and black struggle is on their side. But when you examine his views more thoroughly instead of grabbing a single quote, MLK certainly seems to have been in favor of affirmative action. That link there has many longer quotes by King, and answers to specific questions about some sort of “preferences” and reparations, and King argues in their favor (perhaps most explicitly in “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro”). But, to be fair, here is an article which claims that King was not so much in favor of race-based preferences/reparation/aid as he was in favor of these policies color-blindly aiding people living in poverty. I think the author’s argument is weak, but you can see for yourself.

I wrote a column in my old college newspaper that touched on affirmative action, and I got a response from a conservative who actually brought up a good point and something of an alternative solution. Her comment went something like “why do we wait until minorities turn 18 and are entering college to help them out? Why don’t we improve their elementary and high schools?”

Excellent point, really. Let’s educate everyone a little better. Or hell, a lot better, whether we re-think affirmative action or not. American schools are terrible. I’ll talk about that in detail one of these days.

The reason that affirmative action and college admission are important is that a college education, whether you learn a single fact or not, is frequently a gateway to a well-paying career, no matter what your race. So it’s almost like people of all races are fighting each other for a middle to upper class future. For middle class kids (generally more white than non-white), this means fearing a drop in their quality of life. For poorer kids (generally more non-white than white), this means fearing their only opportunity for a better life. And the reason for this anxiety is due to the exclusivity of college admissions.

But why the hell are colleges hard to get into? Why the hell do they try to accept only the smartest people? Why shouldn’t everyone be welcome to continue their learning, regardless of what their high school grades were? Hell, couldn’t you make a case that only the dumbest kids should get into college, to try to give everyone the amount of schooling they need to survive and succeed?

Maybe there is competition for college acceptance because there are a limited number of colleges in the U.S. Then build some more! Build enough colleges to accomodate the demand for education! There’s no goddam reason we need to be fighting each other to learn.

But then again, [insert something about how colleges are specifically set up this way to insert necessary capitalist stratification into society, a goal that has nothing to do with education].

Posted by Jake at 12:18 AM
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January 18, 2003

Welcome Hilary Duff Fans!

For some reason, hundreds of fans of teen actress/singer Hilary Duff keep visiting the site because of one post I made months ago about how the Disney corporation was using its media power (pardon me, “synergy”) to cross-promote her into superstardom.

The comments section of that short post is becoming a mini-debate among Duff’s fans. Non-fans, feel free to join in, but be polite. They’re my guests.

Enjoy the site young’ns. While you’re here, why not check out our selection of anti-war commentary and corporate capitalism critiques? And listen to my radio show, it’s entirely possible that you won’t hate it.

PS- It’s “Hilary” not “Hillary”. You’re finding my site by using the same misspelling I used in my original post about the lady.

[update: 5/21/03]

You people in the comments section are a bunch of idiots. I didn’t mind you coming to my site to talk about Hilary Duff, either to praise her or criticize her. But now you’re coming here to pathetically beg for her email address, or have let yourself believe that some anonymous person who claims to be Hilary Duff is actually the real deal. This is the internet, and faking stuff is real easy.

Why would she spend time emailing strangers she’ll never meet, when she could be spending time with her friends and family? Why the hell would she come to a site of politics and media analysis (cuz that’s where you are)?

Answer: she wouldn’t.

So, to protect you from your own foolishness, I’m shutting down the comments on this one, and on the other Hilary Duff post on my site. Go do your Hilary chatting someplace else.

[/update]

Posted by Jake at 11:19 PM
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Heh

From today’s anti-war protest in DC

Posted by Jake at 11:08 PM
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January 17, 2003

To the Point

How is it that WhiteHouse.org is so good at saying what I think Bush is really feeling?

President Denounces Michigan Admissions Quotas: “Derserving Legacy ‘C’ Students Are Being Displaced by Uppity Negro Trash!”

Posted by Jake at 09:36 AM
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The Funny Pictures

I forgot to mention that I like this week’s This Modern World comic.

Go check it out.

Posted by Jake at 08:55 AM
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More on Beers

I have a bit more information to add to last night’s post about the pro-U.S. campaign aimed at Muslims. I wrote my entry based upon a CBSNews.com article which was based upon a Wall Street Journal article. I’ve found the original source. It has a few more interesting quotes and facts.

- Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan all refused to play the TV ads

- the cost of producing and airing the ads was $7.5 million of the project’s $15 million budget
- the full Youssef Ibrahim quote: “The ads were extremely poor. It was like this was the 1930s and the government was running commercials showing happy blacks in America. It is the policy itself we have to explain. You have to grab the bull by the horn, and the bull is ‘Hey, here’s our policy and there are good reasons for it,’ instead of saying, ‘Gee, there are a lot of happy Muslim people here.’”
- quote from an adman at Ogilvy & Mather, “The real question on the ‘Shared Values’ campaign is whether it does more good than harm. My premise was that any effort to address ordinary people that have been ignored too long is worthy. But Islamic opinion is influenced more by what the U.S. does than anything it can say.”
- says the article, “Those involved with the ads respond that the idea behind them was simply to show there isn’t an anti-Muslim movement by the American public.” That’s a goal? So the point of view of the average Muslims changes from “Americans hate Muslims” to “Americans hate foreign Muslims.”
- one of the “stars” of the ad, Ohio Muslim Abdul-Raouf Hammuda, spoke in Lebanon as part of this campaign. “The reaction varied from those who were supportive to the idea of building this campaign to others who were suspicious and skeptical that life for Muslims in America was really all that good,” he said.

And here’s another, more direct piece from the Christian Science Monitor, focusing specifically on what Muslims think about the U.S.:

- Indonesian Muslim Ahmad Imron says “We know that there’s religious freedom in America, and we like that. What we’re angry about is the arrogant behavior of the US in the rest of the world.”
- “On the street, the reaction is the same, from street peddlers to US-trained academics: The US media campaign isn’t relevant to Muslims’ concerns. What saps their support for America is not impressions of how Muslims are treated inside the US, but their opinions about America’s international relations - particularly with Israel and Iraq. Moreover, analysts say, if the US proceeds with plans to invade Iraq, its standing among Muslims will only fall.”
- Mohammed Adam Hesa: “Sometimes we feel that America is a bully. Like with Iraq. They don’t show any evidence. They just want to go to war.” And the knock-out blow, “If the US wants a better image, why doesn’t it change its policies?”
- the article reveals a fact I have not seen anywhere else, that there is a website devoted to this campaign, OpenDialogue.com
- most of the comments posted on that site’s “Comments from around the world” section are fairly mild, this one from “Aida in Indonesia” is blistering: “Do you really want to build a better understanding between Americans and Muslim? Or do you just want to win this campaign? We are not stupid or blind or deaf. We read your intention not by what you say but what you do. We are not easy to believe you anymore after so many disinformations by your politicians, mass media and others. This won’t work if you see us as an object. Be fair on the Palestinian issue, stop killing Iraqis and bombing their country, repair the destruction of what you did in Afghanistan, don’t play tricks with the IMF. Do you want us to suffer more? Do you hope us to be tender with this situation?”

So what do you think would’ve had more effect on Muslim opinion: the Beers ad campaign, or using that $15 million as humanitarian aid to feed starving Muslims in any foreign country?

Posted by Jake at 08:52 AM
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January 16, 2003

The Politics of Smug

Can we please stop with the SUV bashing?

We all know that they are suburban mini-vans disguised as monster trucks so that daddy can run to the supermarket to pick up diapers and drop the girls off at soccer practice without feeling emasculated. They are so tall and wide that it’s hard to see the other cars on the road. They use more gas than regular cars. And to the more scholarly, they are more dangerous to others in case of a collision.

And I hear many liberals trumpetting the cause these days. SUVs use more gas and “support terrorism.” SUVs are more likely to kill in an accident.

… but they still drive cars themselves.

How about getting off your high-fucking-horse? Your car uses gas too. So you support terrorism a little bit less, way to go, Gandhi. Your car is a slightly safer death chariot than an SUV, you big brave rebel you.

Yeah, I hate SUVs too. But for those of you who wear your opposition like a badge of honor, cut it the fuck out.

Unless your only form of transportation is your feet or your bicycle. In which case, flame on.

Posted by Jake at 11:58 PM

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Pay No Attention to the Oppression Behind the Curtain

I’ve written about her a number of times, Charlotte Beers. She’s a former PR exec who got hired by the State Department to propagandize the Islamic world into thinking that America is keen. I find her apallling; I hate the PR industry, and I am offended by the apparent State Dept. belief that you can easily overcome decades of harmful U.S. intervention in the Middle East with just the right set of feel-good television commercials.

Overthrowing the Iranian government, supporting Saddam Hussein, supporting Israel, supporting the Saudi government, supporting Turkey, attacking Iraq, economically sanctioning Iraq, bombing Afghanistan, etc. the U.S. has taken some pretty… let’s say “questionably moral” stances on Middle East issues, and those stances have frequently resulted in dire suffering by the region’s residents. It’s almost common sense to assume that the United States hates Arabs and Islam (an incorrect assumption, we would have treated any religion or ethnicity sitting on top of that much petroleum in a similar fashion). Charlotte Beers’ job is to convince these people to believe what the TV tells them, not what the see with their own eyes.

When someone tries to cover-up something bad that they have done, we call it “whitewashing.” When corporations start a PR campaign to pretend that they are eco-friendly, it is called “greenwashing.” I’ve even heard of corporate PR campaigns to pretend that they don’t exploit their employees called “bluewashing” (as in “blue collar”). So I think we need a name for what Charlotte is trying to do.

I’m gonna call it “lovewashing”.

We want those Arabs and Muslims to know that America wuvs them!! We wuv them soooooo much!!!

Actually, Beers seems to have a reputation among some of her PR peers as a hack, that she was a powerful figure in their industry because she had prominant business connections, not because she was particularly skilled at manipulating public opinion. So she’s really got her work cut out for her.

On to the good news.

Beers spent $15 million on a PR campaign aimed at the Islamic world called “Shared Values,” which was supposed to curry sympathy for America by pointing out the good lives of Muslim Americans.

The State Department has halted these ads, and wants to review their effectiveness before continuing to shell out money.

And how effective are they? Let’s ask Council on Foreign Relations member Youssef Ibrahim:

“It was like this was the 1930s and the government was running commercials showing happy blacks in America.”

Ouch!

You can see some of the campaign for yourself on the State Department’s “Muslim Life in America” site. If that doesn’t make foreign Muslims forget their decades of repression, nothing will. Except maybe some big heavy bombs. Of Love.

Posted by Jake at 11:28 PM
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War Creep

Empty Chemical Warheads in Iraq- You’ve probably heard this breaking story already. UN weapons inspectors found 11 or 12 “empty chemical warheads” in an ammunition storage facility southwest of Baghdad. Frankly, I’m not sure what the term “warhead” means. Is that the tip of a missile? Is that a whole missile? [searches around internet a bit] Okay, I think that it’s just the tip.

First of all, good job inspectors! Those weapons can’t be used to hurt anyone now (unless, I suppose someone steals them, attaches them to rockets and launches them at cities).

Second, what does this mean with regards to the war. No one seems to be saying yet. Do these devices violate UN resolutions? Are these violations enough to justify war?

UN officials seem to be saying that it “might not be a smoking gun.” And one unnamed US official said that the warheads might be a “smoldering gun”. Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make any sense.

In other horrifying war news, Iraq may be training 10 to 15-year old boys to fight as soldiers. Sounds terrible. I’m hoping it’s a false report, as it’s based solely on a document from a US think-tank.

And CNN and Fox News Chanenl are already vying for war coverage supremacy.

Posted by Jake at 05:26 PM

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Shots Fired in War Against War

17 Anti-War Protesters Arrested in L.A.- bit of street theater outside the Federal Building in downtown L.A., over a dozen peace activists laid down on the sidewalk (thereby violating the law) holding up small coffins labelled with various concepts like “Iraqi civilians, “civil liberties” and “truth,” and pretended to be dead themselves. 17 were arrested, dozens others rallied in support without violating the law themselves.

Photos here

Posted by Jake at 05:06 PM
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Caught

President Bush is calling for “medical liability reform,” calling for a limit to the amount of money you could receive if you sued your doctor for malpractice. The argument is that “excessive” malpractice judgements lead to towering rates for malpractice insurance for doctors, which lead to increased medical costs, which lead to increased medical insurance costs for people like you and me. So you see, it’s not the insurance industry’s fault for these high prices, it’s the fault of people who are the victims of medical mistakes.

Anyhow, Bush today gave a speech in Pennsylvania to explain his proposals, and as all good politicians do, had a number of “regular Joes” around who’ve been affected by this issue; in this case, Dr. Joes who have been forced to move from state to state because the malpractice insurance rates were too high.

I haven’t analyzed the whole speech of looked into the backgrounds of all the doctors, but the new blog Emphasis Mine found that one of the Joes, Dr. Greg Przybylski of New Jersey is “[responsible] for management of a given legislative and regulatory issue” for the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

In other words, one of Bush’s examples is a lobbyist for the neurosurgeons, one of the groups that surely would like their malpractice insurance rates lowered.

That’s the sort of thing that makes a person like me, y’know, a little suspicious…

Posted by Jake at 12:06 PM
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January 15, 2003

I Don’t Know, But I’ve Been Told, the Press is Easily Controlled

Very interesting debate on Democracy Now! yesterday.

The U.S. military has fucking OWNED the press corps since the early 1990s. They controlled what reporters saw, where they went, and what made the news for the Gulf War. This tight control led to amazingly positive coverage of every aspect of the Gulf War, and similar controls were instituted for every U.S. conflict through the war on Afghanistan (to the point that when Washington Post reporter Doug Struck tried to investigate the results of a U.S. missile attack in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers prevented him from doing so at gunpoint, threatening to shoot him). The goal of course is to prevent any negative news from reaching the American public, as it could lead to popular opposition to a particular military campaign and make its continuation politically difficult for the folks waging it.

But now the military seems to be changing tactics. They are now talking about bringing U.S. reporters along with the troops for the pending war in Iraq. And to that end:

“Over the last few months the Pentagon has held a series of journalist-training programs at military bases. One hundred twenty journalists trained last November at the Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Norfolk Naval Station; another wave of reporters trained last month at Fort Benning, and another session is scheduled this month at Fort Dix in New Jersey.”

Tuesday’s Democracy Now held a roundtable discussion on this issue, made up of three journalists and a Pentagon spokesman. Go listen, it’s the second item on the page, in Real Audio format.

There’s a few different interpretations of this change in Pentagon policy:

- the Pentagon has done an about face, and feels that hard-hitting and honest coverage of the war will not harm the war effort, or might even aid it.

- the Pentagon is lying about letting the reporters coming to the war and this reporter boot camp is just a distraction.

- the Pentagon is hoping to make the reporters identify with the soldiers’ point of view, so that they will naturally write stories favorable to the military.

I dismiss option #1 out of hand.

The more experienced war correspondents on the DN show “guaranteed” that the reporters would never ever get close to battle, so it sounds like they suport option #2.

But I wouldn’t count out option #3. It’s much riskier than #2, but if it worked properly, it would pay off big: this would be a long-term investment that could permanently affect the journalists’ point of view, the experience making them forever sympathetic to the trials and tribulations faced by soldiers in wartime. And this sympathy could easily shape every story that reporter writes for the rest of their career. The Pentagon no longer needs to spend time and energy spinning that reporter, that reporter is now a friendly face in the media.

I recommend listening to the clip above, it’s maybe 20-30 minutes long. At the very least, listen to the exchange between the cynical reporter and the Pentagon guy about “respect for journalists.” Pentagon guy gets reamed, and rightly so.

Posted by Jake at 11:05 PM
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One Cliche to Rule Them All

Sorry, couldn’t resist this one.

Posted by Jake at 01:27 PM
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Lock Up the White Folks

Last week, I posted a link to a report from the Boston Globe about racial profiling, which found that blacks’ and latinos’ cars were stopped and searched more often by Boston police than were whites’ cars. It also found that whites who are stopped are found with illegal drugs slightly more often than blacks and latinos, which makes the whole “pragmatic” logic about the need for racial profiling in the first place.

Now the Seattle Times has done a similar study of their own police force, with nearly identical results: minorities’ cars searched more often, whites found with drugs slightly more often.

Bad cop, no donut!

Posted by Jake at 01:12 PM
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Huge Sucking Sound

I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to reprint an entire article here. It’s a very good one from my pals at Eat the State. It will probably be posted to their website soon, but I think it’s so important that it should be available for reading immediately. It’s about how the Bush economic stimulus plan could do more than just “not stimulate” the economy, it could shipwreck the damn thing. I’m actually kind of scared now.

Anyhow, the article.

—-
A Tax-Cut That Would Sink the Economy
by Maria Tomchick
ETS Vol.7, No.10

The US media is expending a lot of ink and air time evaluating the potential economic effects of George Bush’s new tax-cut proposal. So far, most of the discussion has centered around how much economic stimulus the plan will provide and how long it will take to work. No one, however, is discussing the very real possibility that George Bush’s tax-cut, especially the elimination of taxes on dividends, could harm the US economy and drive it deeper into a recession.

To understand how this might happen, let’s look at consumer spending, the one thing that’s kept the US economy afloat amidst massive layoffs and corporate bankruptcies. Low interest rates are primarily responsible for keeping consumer spending alive; big-ticket items–like new homes and cars–are a great bargain right now because of low rates on mortgages and auto loans. Despite the worst Christmas shopping season for retailers since 1970 (when the government began to keep track of shopping patterns), consumer spending is still going strong.

The Bush plan could change that by raising interest rates. Removing the tax on dividends would make dividend-paying stocks more attractive to investors than interest-paying investments: bonds, certificates of deposits (CDs), money market funds, treasury bills, bank savings accounts, etc., which are all taxable. To attract investors to those interest-bearing investments, interest rates would have to rise to offset what people pay in taxes. So banks and finance companies, corporations, and the federal government would have to pay more interest on their debts.

To recoup some of that interest paid out on CDs, bonds, savings accounts, etc., banks and finance companies would have to raise the interest rates they charge on home-equity loans, auto loans, credit lines, credit cards, and business loans. Mortgage rates would rise, too. Rising interest rates could stop the hot housing market in its tracks, just as increased rates on auto loans would make people decide to drive their old car a little while longer than they’re inclined to do today. As finance companies raise the rates on credit cards, more Americans would spend less on new purchases and focus instead on paying down their credit card debt. This would send consumer spending into a tailspin.

Currently, low interest on corporate bonds and bank loans to businesses have allowed many debt-ridden companies to continue to make payments on their debts. Once interest rates rise, however, companies that are just barely keeping their heads above water could find themselves squeezed from both ends: lower consumer spending would mean lower profits, while higher interest rates would mean the companies would have to pay more to banks or to investors on their debts. This could start a second wave of corporate bankruptcies.

Meanwhile, another fallout of cutting taxes on dividends would negatively effect state and local governments. Currently state and local governments, which are required to balance their budgets and not operate in at a deficit like the federal government, are struggling to plug enormous gaps between their incoming tax revenue and their increasing expenses. The Bush tax-cut plan could make those gaps even wider.

Here’s how: state and local governments, including school districts, fire districts, and cities, have the ability to issue municipal bonds to pay for special projects, construction, and even operating costs. For example, the State of California has just issued bonds to help it pay for the high energy costs the state incurred during its recent energy crisis.

Municipal bonds are tax-free for the investor, making them highly attractive investments–there’s no shortage of people who want them. Because they are one of the few tax-free investments available, municipal bonds carry very low interest rates, and this helps state and local governments keep a lid on their debt costs.

But once the tax on dividends is removed, the picture changes. To attract investors and compete with dividend-paying stocks, municipal bond interest rates would have to rise. State and local governments would then have to pay higher interest expenses to investors, putting even more of a pinch on their budgets. Returning to our example, if the Bush tax-cut plan passes, the State of California could face bankruptcy.

Notably, state and local governments are major employers and major spenders in nearly every community in America. Taking this into account, the Bush tax-cut plan could have the effect of destroying jobs and curbing spending at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

But it gets worse. When state and local governments are pinched and forced to cut services to the poor, homeless, and unemployed during an economic downturn, the nonprofit sector usually steps in to help. Nonprofit groups–from food banks and homeless shelters to groups providing job training and education services–subsist on donations primarily from wealthy people. But once dividends become tax-free, many wealthy people will no longer have an incentive to make charitable contributions to offset their taxable income. Nonprofits would suffer a severe funding shortage at a time when their services are needed more than ever.

The Bush administration argument for this tax-cut plan has focused on its ability to boost the stock market. Yet a jump in the stock market doesn’t usually lead to a recovery, it usually reflects a recovery that’s already in progress. Most economists agree that corporate profits have to increase in order for a recovery to begin. And an increase in consumer spending across all sectors would boost corporate profits immensely.

The Bush plan, however, puts money into the hands of people who simply can’t spend it. According to the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities, the richest 5% of Americans would receive two-thirds of the tax cut. These are people who have already reached their top limit on spending; they simply can’t spend all the money they earn in a year. Most of his tax-cut, then, would have no effect whatsoever on consumer spending.

Any tax-cut, even one that was more equitable and aimed at people who are lower on the socio-economic scale, would have a minimal economic stimulus effect, because during economic downturns people tend to either save or pay down their debts when they get extra cash. Bush’s 2001 tax cut proved that.

It was a $1.3 trillion tax break that gave back $300 to every working American–much more than most people will see from his new plan–yet it did nothing to stop the economic downturn prior to September 11. A better proposal would be to take a portion of the current tax-cut plan, maybe half (or about $300 billion), and simply give it to state and local governments to help them plug the holes in their budgets, pay wages to employees, and build infrastructure like roads and schools. This would provide far more economic stimulus than the current plan, which would only exacerbate our current economic woes.

Posted by Jake at 01:04 PM
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January 14, 2003

Staving Off Singularity?

The bad news:

Music, technology groups agree on copyright plans- Hollywood and Silicon Valley have been at war for the past year. The entertainment industry was fearful that computers and the internet will lead to piracy and profit-loss. The entertainment industry has therefore been lobbying the Government mandate the technology industry incorporate some kind of copyright-protection hardware into their systems. But now it looks like the two have made nice, and are going to work together, with their monopolistic control of popular culture and information technology. Don’t sound good to me.

The good:

FCC’s Powell Concerned by Media Concentration
Senate Questions FCC Media Ownership Review
FCC Chair To Attend Another Public Forum

FCC chairman Michael Powell has been pushing to eliminate laws which prevent companies or individuals from owning the local newspaper and the local radio station and the local TV station and the local cable company and etc. simultaneously. And it looked like he was going to succeed. But as the above links show, Powell seems to be facing opposition.

In his testimony before Congress, Powell says that he’s concerned about media concentration, “particularly radio.” He received a number of critical questions from members of Congress. And he has finally condescended to attend a public forum on the topic with pro-keep-the-ownership-rules FCC commissioner Michael Copps (Jan. 16 at Columbia University’s Law School in NYC, if you’re interested).

So there’s two possiblities here.

1) Powell is facing enough opposition to his deregulation plans that he is having to soften his stance.

2) Powell is seeking to lull his opposition into a false sense of security by using rhetoric that makes it sound as though he is softening his stance when he has not wavered.

My theory: something in the middle.

Posted by Jake at 06:36 PM
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Musical Chairs

AOL-TW Chairman of the board Steve Case (and former CEO of AOL)resigned this weekend (only 6 months after former AOL-TW CEO Gerald Levin quit).

Then, 24 hours after Case’s resignation, the chairman and CEO of CNN News (a subsidiary of AOL-TW) Walter Isaacson also resigned.

Last Thursday, Thomas Mottola, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music (the guy Michael Jackson called “the devil”) resigned to start his own record label.

Andrew Lack (interesting name), president of NBC is leaving to take over as the new head of Sony Music.

And finally, from the Wall Street Journal:

Facing Crisis, Media Giants Scrounge for Fresh Strategies

Posted by Jake at 06:13 PM
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January 13, 2003

01-13-03

RJD2- The Horror
Nas- Made You Look
Bad Religion- Generator

Sisters of Mercy- Alice
Circle Jerks- Coup d’etat
Fear- Let’s Have a War
2 Many DJs- The Stooges vs. Salt n Pepa
One Minute Silence- Remain Calm
System of a Down- Roulette

Hot Hot Heat- Talk to Me, Dance with Me
Fishbone- Subliminal Fascism
Mr. Lif- Earthcrusher
DJ /Rupture- I am Soundboy/Are You That Somebody
Country Joe and the Fish- Vietnam
Anti-Flag- Underground Network

Ani DiFranco- When Doves Cry (live)
Mclusky- Day of the Deadringers
The Liars- The Garden was crowded and outside
Queens of the Stone Age- Regular John
TPWDT- Bunny Calliope
MC5- American Ruse

Refused- New Noise
Rage Against the Machine- In My Eyes
Propellerheads- You Want It Back

Posted by Jake at 12:39 AM

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January 12, 2003

The Saddest “I Told You So”

On September 22, 2001, I went to an anti-war protest at the Federal Building in Westwood, California. Although it seemed a vain goal, I felt that I had to do something to try to prevent the U.S. from attacking Afghanistan. I couldn’t think of any better plan. I was also scared, fairly certain that at some point, some frat boys from the local college would drive by in a Jeep and kick our asses for being “terrorist-lovers” or something.

(Our asses were not kicked. My friend John Kawakami suggested that maybe it was because they couldn’t find parking)

I had written up a one-page flyer to hand out, which for lack of a better title, I called “Common Sense: Why a War Against Afghanistan is a Bad Idea.” As Los Angeles is a terribly non-pedestrian place, there weren’t many folks to hand them out to. So I ended up sticking them on free newspaper racks in the shopping district before driving dejectedly home.

My flyer had three simple reasons why a war with Afghanistan was a bad idea.

1) A War Against Afghanistan Will Not Get Rid of the Terrorists.

I still use the metaphor today, that you can’t destroy an international terrorist network like al Qaeda by bombing a country any more than you could destroy the Mafia by bombing Italy. Sure enough, al Qaeda seems to be functioning today.

2) A War Against Afghanistan Will Kill Thousands of Innocent People.
The best, most conservative estimate I’ve seen of Afghan dead was in a January 2002 report by the Project on Defense Alternatives called Strange Victory: A critical appraisal of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghanistan war. The PDA report reasoned that 1000-1300 Afghan civilians died due to U.S. bombing, and that another 3000-7200 (well, up to 18,000, depending on how you juggle the numbers) died due to the bombings’ effects on getting humanitarian aid to starving Afghans. So a reasonable estimate of 4000-7500 Afghan non-combatants killed due to the U.S. invasion.

3) A War Against Afghanistan Might Create New Terrorists.
“Bombs dropping on the innocent might push some desperate Afghans over the edge. Attacks from the US might have the unintended effect of inspiring a new generation to enlist in a terrorist army,” I said.

At the time, this seemed like a reasonable prediction. But as the months drew on without any news reports of such things, I began to think that maybe I’d been paranoid. After all, how many widows and orphans have U.S. intervention in Latin America created? And they haven’t begun terrorist attacks on us. Maybe the Afghans were going to just move on with their lives, tragedy fading and the cycle of violence coasting to a stop.

Then, I read this:

Latest Al Qaeda Recruits: Afghans Seeking Revenge

According to that article, Al Qaeda is seeking to exploit the anger of grieving Afghans to convert them to their jihad. And it’s working.

So I’m three for fucking three. Not that you needed Nostradamus to figure that out.

Funny, you usually feel good when you’re right. Yet all I can do is sit here and blink away furious tears.

Posted by Jake at 11:54 PM
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News Salad

Illinois Governor Commutes All Death Sentences- Three days before leaving his position as governor of the state, George Ryan has announced that he is changing the sentences of all 167 of Illinois’ death row inmates from execution to 40 years to life in prison. The link above is to a lengthy but worthwhile speech about his decision, the death penalty, flaws in the judicial system, victims’ rights, families of the executed, and more. Given the timing of the decision (just before he leaves office and can’t face the political fallout of the decision) and length of the speech (way, way beyond the press release/soundbite length that would get him proper spin on the news), I think this was an actual political decision made by a man looking to do what he thought was best for his state and its people. Essentially, Ryan claims that due to the number of innocent people on death row, and the completely haphazard way in which execution is meted out as justice, that he could not leave these men to die.

The United States population seems to be deeply divided on the issue of the death penalty, with most seeming to think that it’s both pragmatic and justified on many occasions. But many European countries seem to think that it’s simply a moral outrage and completely unacceptable. Any European readers want to comment below about the unity of opinion on this issue in your country (or lack thereof if I’m misinformed)?

U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past- “On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2½-page document marked “TOP SECRET” that outlined the plan for going to war in Afghanistan as part of a global campaign against terrorism. Almost as a footnote, the document also directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq, senior administration officials said. The previously undisclosed Iraq directive is characteristic of an internal decision-making process that has been obscured from public view. Over the next nine months, the administration would make Iraq the central focus of its war on terrorism without producing a rich paper trail or record of key meetings and events leading to a formal decision to act against President Saddam Hussein, according to a review of administration decision-making based on interviews with more than 20 participants. With the nation possibly on the brink of war, the result of this murky process continues to reverberate today: tepid support for military action at the State Department, muted concern in the military ranks of the Pentagon and general confusion among relatively senior officials — and the public — about how or even when the policy was decided.”

Quite frankly, it looks as though the top members of the Bush government simply decided that we needed to invade Iraq before they even had a clear idea as to why this was necessary. That might be an even more frightening reality: that we weren’t going to Iraq for oil, that we were going to Iraq “just because.”

Battle of the Boffins- read the whole article and still don’t know what a “boffin” is. But the article is mainly about the new U.S. high-tech weapons and toys that will be used in the upcoming Gulf War 2.

Activist Deported to Toronto- rather harrowing tale of Canadian activist Jaggi Singh. I first heard about him with some of his anti-globalization journalism, and then when he was mysteriously kidnapped and arrested by police during the 2001 FTAA protests in Quebec. He was standing near an amusing activist prop, a catapult that was lobbing teddy bears over the chain link fence surrounding the summit meeting’s compound, and cops nabbed Singh, charging him with some sort of weapons possession offense. But recently, Singh was in Israel and Palestine, as a human rights monitor/reporter with the International Solidarity Movement. The link is Singh’s own story of how he was arrested, beaten and deported by Israeli police.

A Split Screen In Strike-Torn Venezuela- an American’s first-hand account of the strife in Venezuela, arguing that nearly every “fact” about the conflict heard in the American media is false.

Posted by Jake at 01:17 PM
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The Protest

Big anti-war protest in downtown Los Angeles yesterday. As usual, check out the local IndyMedia coverage of the event. I have a lot of problems with IndyMedia (which most people would probably see as boring technical disagreements), but no one covers a protest like they do. Where the mainstream media will give you a single photo, two vague soundbites and a couple statistics (estimated number in attendance, number arrested, poll numbers showing why you shouldn’t care what the protesters think, etc.), IndyMedia will usually have continually-updated live reports, audio and video of a protest, followed by dozens of first-hand accounts, lengthy interviews with participants, and many many photographs which might give you the feeling of being there. I’ll put my favorite photo of the protest here, to give this entry a bit more punch:

[edit]

Posting the photo here seems to be messing with many people’s browsers, so just click here to see it.

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It was a tame protest, which I suppose I have mixed feelings about. I went without any pretensions that this event was going to have any effect on government policy. It was mainly a mildly rebellious way for people to voice their anti-war opinions. And that’s never a bad thing, standing up and speaking your mind. And I was very relieved to be in a protest where I wasn’t fearing for my physical well-being because I was ringed with hundreds and hundreds of cops in riot gear, stroking their weapons; this protest simply had maybe a hundred uniformed officers, a handful of traffic cops, and a much more relaxed atmosphere. Nice change of pace.

Maybe the protest helped increase vocal opposition to the war. Maybe someone seeing the protest on TV news said to themselves, “wow, I didn’t know that many people felt the same way that I do hating Bush and this war. Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid to speak out.” Maybe somebody who attended it as their very first protest made some friends and vowed to get even more involved. But the only way this protest might have made an impact on Washington would’ve been if there had been some massive distrubances caused by the protesters, with the foreboding that there would be more and more such disturbances unless the government changed its policy. That didn’t happen, so I imagine the White House watched the news coverage and shrugged before continuing along the pre-set path.

Then you get to the familiar “battle of the numbers.” Police, politicians and “city officials” nearly always downplay the number of attendees of any sort of protest, while protest organizers inevtiably try to play them up. The press usually cites both numbers and leaves it at that, which is really pretty lazy of them. You’re a reporter, you’re at the protest, try to give me your own damn estimate!

Saturday’s number battle:

First Cop estimate (acc’ding to LA Times)- 3000 protesters
Current Cop estimate (LA Times)- 5000-7000 protesters
Cop estimage (acci’ding to CNN.com)- 2000 protesters
Protest organizers- 20,000-50,000 protesters

I was there. I wasn’t able to see the entire march, but I’d estimate about 6000-8000 people. Last time I tried to estimate a march size, I guessed 8000 and the local paper estimated 12,000, which may say something about my estimation skills. So take it all with a grain of salt.

Lots of folks at the protest, many I think for their first. Many folks in wheelchairs, many folks with dogs. Lot of the usual suspects. I think actually that’s one of the reasons that cops exhibit so much fear and anger towards protesters, is because they don’t recognize the usual suspects, because they are so unfamiliar with common activists, organizations, behaviors and practices. I go to a protest and immediate start some mental calculus: “okay, there’s the Green party giving out bumper stickers. There’s an anarchist contingent, dressed in black and masking up; they might be stirring some shit up today, better stay away from them if I don’t want to get arrested. There’s the folks with the giant puppets. There’s some dude who’s gonna try to sell me his damn Worker’s Revolutionary Working Communist Worker newspaper, I’ll start walking this way to avoid him. There’s some white dude from a cultish Communist org somewhat suspiciously chanting slogans in Spanish. There’s some IndyMedia folks, there’s some unaffiliated folks. There’s a beaming teen-aged girl who probably hasn’t been to a protest before, unaware that the mis-drawn peace logo on her homemade sign is actually the Mercedes-Benz logo.” And countless, countless others.

And for me, the highlight was the very beginning of the rally outside the downtown Federal Building. It began with an ad-hoc rock band made up of famous and semi-famous musicians from years past: some guy from Deep Purple, some guy from Toto, some guy from Shelia E (or Sheena E?)’s band, some dude from Jackson Browne, and SLASH FROM GUN ‘N ROSES!

At which point I quipped to everyone who would listen, “Dude, how can we lose? We’ve got SLASH on our side!”

Posted by Jake at 12:42 PM
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January 10, 2003

Santarian Economics

More details about the less-than-equitable aspects of the Bush “economic stimulus plan.”

From the Village Voice:

Almost half of the projected benefits from President Bush’s plan to scrap taxes on dividends would go to the one percent of the population whose incomes top $1 million. The scheme has been promoted as beneficial to the elderly, but in fact, only six percent of the elderly with incomes under $50,000 get anything out of it… Further, taxpayers who earn $35,000 or less come away with $27 more a year…

At a time when we are supposedly trying to get rid of subsidies to farmers and other groups, Bush is offering a direct subsidy to Wall Street. The argument is that eliminating the tax would spur the market. Original predictions showed stocks would rise 20 percent. By Monday these projections had sunk to 6 to 8 percent. And critics were beginning to point out that the president’s plan would hurt other sectors of the economy, leading to a probable decline in the housing sector and the sucking of money away from small business…

Meanwhile, as the Republicans ready yet another giveaway to the rich, Bush plans to cut back on domestic spending by holding the budget to $316 billion, according to The Washington Post.

Or, to put it another way:

Go find somebody else to explain how this will save our economy, cuz I sure can’t.

Posted by Jake at 11:08 PM
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“There’s one law for the rich, another for the poor, and I’m out to fuck that system”
-Abbie Hoffman

Posted by Jake at 06:01 PM
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January 09, 2003

You Have the Right to be Detained

Lots of lefties up in arms about this one, but I think they’re getting a couple of facts wrong in their fear.

A court of appeals has found that the president can detain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” without worrying much about their Constitutional rights.

However this specific case was decided almost solely on the fact that the plaintiff, Yaser Esam Hamdi, was captured on the battlefield in a foreign country, and therefore declaring him an “enemy combatant” was legal.

So we’re not quite yet to the point where the president can just point any old American and say, “you, you’re a terrorist, detain him forever.” If you are an American in another country where the U.S. might wage war, go ahead and feel nervous. The rest of us are theoretically safe, for now.

Read the court decision yourself (in .pdf format) here.

Posted by Jake at 04:56 PM

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As American as White Supremacy II

We now have something of a sequel to the Trent Lott saga: the re-nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (he was nominated once by George Bush I). Who is Charles Pickering? Check out this skewering he receives from Counterpunch. And in the name of fairness, you should also read this defense of Pickering.

Even the defensive article points out that Pickering “has a bad habit of injecting his personal views into legal opinions on controversial issues” and that he is “not entirely comfortable with key principles of civil rights law,” which seems to suggest that as a higher court judge, he might use his prejudice to make decisions, not the law.

That’s the uber-nice way of looking at him. In 1960, he drafted a law that would strengthen Mississippi laws prohibiting blacks and whites from having sex with each other. Frankly, that might be all you need to hear. Even after 40 years, would a man with that kind of disgust and prejudice be able to change into the color-blind type of person we’d want to see on the bench? Personally, I doubt it.

But it goes on. It seems that in the 1970s, Pickering had ties to the state’s Soveriegnty Commission, “a kind of secret police force which worked to keep Mississippi segregated in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The Sovereignty Commission, often employing KKK thugs, spied on civil rights organizers, politicians, preachers and rockers (including B.B. King, Elvis Presley, James Brown and the Rolling Stones) … The Commission also helped to cover up attacks on blacks and civil rights workers by the KKK and other vigilantes.” As a Mississsippi state senator, he voted to both give money to these thugs and to keep their records sealed from the public on two different occasions each (although perhaps his reasons for support were not racist. In 1972, he asked the Commission to spy on an active labor union in Pickering’s home town. So maybe it was about secret power to fight strikers instead. Or not)

So after reading about this fellow, I ran across a number of other articles about the fine state of race relations in the U.S.

Have you heard of Matt Hale? He is the founder of World Church of the Creator, a neo-nazi “religion” who’s goal is to bring about RaHoWa- Racial Holy War. They hate just about everybody, claim the Nazi Holocaust never happened, etc. You can find your own link to their site, cuz I ain’t putting it here.

Matt Hale’s gotten a lot of press, arguing that he’s being persecuted, that his First Amendment rights are being attacked, and so on. When he keeps his rhetoric turned down to the mild tones of “white pride” and “celebration of white culture,” he’s somewhat convincing. But when non-racists aren’t looking, he’s just the rabid, fire-breathing nazi you’d expect.

Oh, and he’s currently under arrest for trying to have a judge assassinated. Pardon me, for trying to have a “kike and nigger-loving judge” assassinated. Happily, according to the sidebar of this article, Hale’s “church” seems to be falling apart.

But I’m going somewhere with this.

The recent Trent Lott scandal strongly suggested that conservative politicians were using code words to win over the votes of racists without arousing the suspicions of non-racists (well, non-overt racists). But we haven’t looked at this phenomenon from the racists’ point of view. Do they see politicians pandering to them covertly? Let’s ask Matt Hale. I’ll reprint this short blog entry from David Neiwert:

Here’s an excerpt from from an interview Matt Hale gave a columnist for the Greenwich Village Gazette Aug. 8, 2000:

The caller also told me that he was now leaning toward Bush and that his victory in November would give him and the white-supremacist movement “cause for celebration and hope.”

The man calling himself Mr. Hale told me that he was persuaded by Bush after watching both party conventions this summer.

“The conventions left me with the impression that the Democrats actually mean it when they say they want a diverse tent and the Republicans are like ‘OK, this is a way to get some votes so let’s go throw bait to the blacks.’ So they trot out their yard (N-word) for show and dress them better than black democrats could ever dream of.’”

Bush was endorsed by Hale, David Duke and Don Black of Stormfront [another white supremacist group]. This is not to imply that Bush is racist. Rather, it is clear that he makes enough gestures that are interpreted by extremists as sympathetic to gain their votes.

So yes, I guess that racists are getting the message soft and clear.

Back in 1998, during a parade in New York City, three firemen dressed up in blackface, “threw chunks of watermelon and fried chicken to parade goers and made it appear as if one of the men in blackface was being dragged … the same summer that a black man in Texas was dragged to his death from a pickup.” Mayor Giuliani fired the three men. Well, now those three men are suing to get their jobs back.

And finally, Atrios posts a casting call for a new “reality” dating show on NBC. The interesting bit:

MEN SHOULD BE 26-34 YRS OLD & CAUCASIAN
AND
WOMEN SHOULD BE 21-34 YRS OLD & ANY ETHNICITY

Um.

Kinda interesting. Only white guys, but women of any race. I suppose this one is an easy answer. Women of different races on television are non-threatening, as they are usually just different “flavors” of T&A. But men are a different story. To me, the most glaring example is Asian men. I’ve seen a jillion movies and TV shows with sexy Asian women as characters, but very, very rarely with sexy Asian men. C’mon Hollywood, let’s give our Asian brothers a little love.

Posted by Jake at 10:07 AM
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Good News, Bad News

So rarely do I have good news to report:

Radio: Where’s the Diversity?- about a summit meeting of musicians, record labels, and consumers, all fed up with the radio industry. Senator Russ Feingold was there, and he vowed to “reintroduce legislation this year to ban ‘the current shakedown system’ of payola, bar companies that own both radio stations and concert promoters from using their leverage to bully artists and record labels and strengthen the Federal Communication Commission’s radio merger review process. It would also close loopholes allowing companies to exceed current ownership caps by controlling stations through third parties.”

Anti-war train drivers refuse to move arms freight- two train engineers in Scotland refused to drive trains carrying ammunition intended for UK forces in Iraq. Apparently they are the only two engineers in the area familiar with the route. And their union seems to be supporting their decision to oppose war in this fashion. Good work, fellas!

And of course, we have bad news. Some pretty immense bad news, really.

One generation to save world, report warns- doh! ” The human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself, according to the 2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute. The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept, the institute says in its 20th annual report.” Guess that means we all need to get to work.

Posted by Jake at 09:14 AM
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January 08, 2003

The Pain of the Obvious

Sigh. I am reading all kinds of repulsive current events today, and my response is “of course it is,” “of course they did,” “of course that happened.” My cynical belief system is that just about any terrible thing you can think of has, or is currently happening.

World Health Organization Infiltrated by Food Industry- “The food industry has infiltrated the World Health Organisation, just as the tobacco industry did, and succeeded in exerting “undue influence” over policies intended to safeguard public health by limiting the amount of fat, sugar and salt we consume.” Well of course they have.

US Weapons Dossier May Remain a Secret- “Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, has suggested that Washington may present little or no evidence of Iraq’s quest for banned weapons even if President Bush decides to go to war.” Well of course they might.

War’s Cost May Dwarf Stimulus Effect- Bush stimulus package: $674 billion over 10 years. Iraq invasion costs: $100 billion to $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Will our military spend more money than the stimulus generates? Of course.

Iraq War Could Put 10 Million In Need of Aid, U.N. Reports- of cou… Shit.

Posted by Jake at 11:37 PM
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Capitalist Media Prognosticating

The business magazine Forbes has printed an issue which focuses on predictions for the world of commerce in 2003. They had one section on “Media, Marketing & Entertainment” which had a few interesting ideas. I don’t really know anything about this panel of precogs, but I’m going to comment on what I feel to be their more accurate and inaccurate predictions.

“Advertisers are going to start calling the creative shots on TV.”

I think that this is true. In the wake of the dot-com bubble burst, advertisers want more for their money. They have finally awoken to the fact that the commercials they run on TV or banner ads they place on websites might not be increasing their sales. They now only want to spend money on sure things, which has left a lot of the advertising-driven media into a frenzy. In the author’s words: “imagine a marketer running a focus group to find out what kind of show their target demographic wants to see–or which storylines interest those potential consumers most–and then handing their notes to the producers and scriptwriters, who program accordingly. Advertisers are already quietly experimenting with co-financing television programming, which buys them ad time, product placement and other subtler efforts at ‘brand integration.’ It will take us back to the original soap operas, just far more meticulously engineered.” I think that’s where television is headed.

“It’s time to buy [stock in] cable. A growing number of cable operators are finally making good on their plans to deliver new services like video-on-demand.”

This seems somewhat true. I have read that some cable companies are working on video-on-demand, but your selection will primarily be long-form ads, sponsored mini-movies, and promotional material for movies and musicians (again, largely due to the changing demands of advertisers). Does anyone reall “demand” this kind of programming? I don’t think that this kind of VOD is going to make cable companies much money.

“Despite the industry’s efforts to sell music legally online, many music buyers prefer to steal it. Barring some breakthrough in anti-piracy technology, the bloodsucking is sure to continue.”

This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This guy below does:

“The music industry’s problems … run much deeper than [piracy]. Management needs to find the next hot genre, artists are rebelling against the pay structure, and radio consolidation has turned the station programmers into the real hit makers.”

Music sales are down because 1) the music that most labels are releasing is terrible, and 2) the country is in a recession. The second music “expert” here also adds in the additional factors of employee-employer conflict and the rise of radio power over label power.

“Movie-rental late fees will disappear altogether … they will be a thing of the past for those who catch on to disposable DVDs.”

I doubt this one. This idea came out and was killed about four years ago. It was called Divx, DVDs that would have some kind of computer chip installed which would prevent you from watching a movie more than once or twice. If this predicted new version of disposable DVD becomes reality, hackers will break the code, I’m sure of it.

So there you go. America’s business experts, or whoever they are, and the media world of 2003. Stuff will happen, or maybe it won’t.

Posted by Jake at 10:36 PM

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January 07, 2003

Big Ol’ Media News Roundup

I guess I couldn’t really call this site Lying Media Bastards if I didn’t link to this:

Media Whores Online Whore of the Year 2002- I don’t like MWO very much. Sometimes they are right on in their criticism of Republicans, sometimes they break good stories of journalistic malfeasance, and they mirror the tactics of their Attack-Conservative counterparts quite well. And their tagline, “the site that set out to bring the media to its knees, but found they were already there,” is inspired. But their “conclusion,” so to speak, is that the solution to American problems is the election of moderate-to-liberal Democrats, which just baffles me. Like Democrats aren’t also in the pockets of corporations that wouldn’t bat an eyelash about killing us all, as long as our corpses could be re-animated and issued credit cards.

Anyhow.

The link above is your chance to vote for the journalistic “whore” of the year, the reporter or pundit who most went out of their way to ignore the facts to take the side of conservatives. Go ahead and make your mark.

Virtual Journalist!- another little piece I found on the MWO site yesterday. An amusing, easy little web-game in which you pretend that you are a newspaper reporter, dealing with all the economic and political pressures real journalists face. It does a pretty good job of pointing out what I feel are the real obstacles that steer American journalism into the sewer. Ends with a touching (yet not entirely relevant) flash music video.

Networks Petition FCC on Ownership Limits- the FCC is wrapping up its “public comment” time in which citizens can voice their opinions about ownership limits, the laws which prevent media companies from buying up all their competitors to become oligopolies and monopolies. News Corp. (owner of Fox television), NBC, and Viacom (owner of CBS and MTV) all filed their opinions that eliminating all ownership limit rules would not be a bad thing at all. In fact, eliminating the rules would serve the public interest, presumably by reminding us that there are still flavors of potato chips and toothpaste we have not yet tried.

FCC Flooded With Letters Opposing Media Consolidation- many Americans seem to be taking advantage of this opportunity to tell the FCC what they think; the FCC has received 1700 letters of comment. However, this article quotes a “former FCC insider” who has some disheartening opinions on the subject. He claims that “the [FCC] commissioners are likely to take notice of the volume of letters, but not necessarily to what the writers advocate,” and that comments made by the broadcast industry itself are likely to be taken more seriously. Which means that even this tiny democratic opening in the policy process is just like every other aspect of it, dominated by corporate interests.

Posted by Jake at 09:55 PM
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White Crime

The Boston Globe is printing the results of a long investigative study in which they examined whether or not Massachusetts police officers engage in racial profiling. Not surprisingly, they do.

But here’s the interesting part:

“Although blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be searched, whites are more likely than any other racial group to face drug charges following a search.”

In other words, African-Americans and latinos are stopped and searched more often than whites (50% more often, according to the study), but the data shows that searches of white people’s cars result in discovery of crime more often.

As a social scientist myself (kinda. I’ve got several important-sounding social science degrees), I know that this sort of thing should have caveats and warnings all over it (and if you’re interested in them, post a comment here and I’ll do what all good academics do: tear this report into tiny “these results are inconclusive” pieces). But to me, the main point is this:

Many folks seem to accept, or at least not oppose, racial profiling. They might agree that it’s not egalitarian or just, but that maybe it’s “necessary,” buying into the stereotypes that people of color are simply more prone to criminal behavior than white folks, and that therefore racial profiling is simply an odious but pragmatic policy. If we can accept the data of this news report, the police would catch more criminals by searching white people’s cars.

I don’t say this as a smirky “see, white people are the real problem” jibe, but as a frowning “racial profiling is a dumb fucking idea” reality check. Racial profiling is a bad idea because it is a distraction. If you look at the numbers of this study, there really isn’t that much difference in arrests among the races-

16% white
12% black
10% Hispanic
7% Asian
6% Native American
4% Middle Eastern

Frankly, there’s not that much difference among those top 3, once you factor in margins of error.

Police shouldn’t be in search of people of a certain race, thinking that they may have committed a crime, but should be trying to use clues and evidence to track down the right culprits, no matter what their race. Anything else is not only unjustly punishing members of one ethnicity, but threatens to let some criminals get away altogether.

Posted by Jake at 08:41 PM
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01-06-03

First LMB of 2003, dear god!

This was a fun show, I only played songs off of music critics’ “best of 2002″ lists, picking out the songs and bands that were my favorites. The best of the best, I suppose.

The Rezillos- I Remember Punk Rock
The Rezillos- I Can’t Stand My Baby
Mr. Lif- Live from the Plantation
Mr. Lif- Return of the B-Boy
Johnny Cash- Hurt

Johnny Cash- Personal Jesus
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Rich
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Miles Away
RJD2- The Horror
RJD2- Good Times Roll pt. 2
Hot Hot Heat- Talk to Me, Dance with Me

The Liars- Grown men don’t fall in the river, just like that
The Liars- Mr your on fire Mr
DJ /Rupture- High Resolution
DJ /Rupture- I am Soundboy
Mclusky- To Hell with Good Intentions
Mclusky- The World Loves Us and Is Our Bitch

2 Many DJ’s- Beastie Boys vs. Herbie Hancock vs. INXS vs. ACDC
2 Many DJ’s- Peaches vs. Basement Jaxx
And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead- It Was There That I Saw You
J-Live- Satisfied?
Enon- Natural Disasters
Dalek- Spiritual Healing

Cee-lo- Closet Freak
The Notwist- Pick Up the Phone
System of a Down- Ego Brain
The White Stripes- Hello Operator

My musical conclusions of 2002: go out and buy the new albums from RJD2, Interpol, the Liars, Mclusky, and maybe the Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP.

Posted by Jake at 08:06 PM
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What Doesn’t Kill Irony Just Makes It Stronger

You’ve probably heard the story by now.

The FBI started a manhunt for 5 illegal immigrants with alleged ties to terrorist organizations, made finding these guys their top priority. This frantic investigation was spurred by the shaky testimony of Michael John Hamdani, a man in custody for breaking laws in both the U.S. and Canada. And, surprise suprise, it turned out that Hamdani was lying. There was no “terrorist 5″.

For some reason, the FBI turned off all their skepticism alarms, and figured that even though there was no evidence to support this guy’s claims– a guy who might very well be lying to try to get himself out of trouble– they went full-speed ahead to capture the imaginary bad guys just the same.

Guess what this guy was being detained for. Go ahead, guess what crimes landed Hamdani in the hands of the police in the first place?

Fraud and forgery.

If the authorities can’t trust a man who professionally spins lies to fool the authorities, then who can they trust?

My head hurts.

Posted by Jake at 02:55 PM
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Worse Than You Thought

The folks over at Testify! have done some digging into proposals for the Bush economic stimulus package that lay bare the rotten innards of “compassionate conservatism.” Some of the highlights:

Cutting heating oil assistance

Cutting free lunches for poor children
“Military pay hike reduction” (gotta love that doublespeak)

And more. Check out the link above.

Posted by Jake at 01:40 AM
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January 05, 2003

It’s Funny Cuz It’s True

From this week’s edition of the Ironic Times:

Profiles of Our New Allies
The Kurdish Militias

Where: Northern no-fly zone
Principal Virtue: Hate Saddam
Human Rights Violations: Ethnic cleansing, torture, extrajudicial executions
Policy Towards Women: A little worse than Taliban
Why We Love Them: Will help us defeat evil

Posted by Jake at 11:59 PM
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Cold War 2.0

Okay, why is this getting NO news coverage?

Israel is building a 220-mile long, 26 foot high wall around the West Bank

You’d think that someone might find that story interesting. Or, given the enormous geopolitical ramifications of the Israel-Palestine conflict, some people might even find the story, y’know, important.

Posted by Jake at 10:53 PM
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LMB Radio

I’m excited about tomorrow’s show (I have a weekly internet radio show. Check the upper right corner of this page). I spent the morning going over the year-end fave lists of music critics who’s opinions often match my own, and downloading tracks from any of the albums that sounded interesting. So tomorrow’s program will be more or less “Jake’s Best of the Critics’ Best of 2002.”

Of course, no LMB show is complete without some speechifying and commentary. Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about the media spectacle I helped organize this past Friday, breaking Santa Monica law to feed the homeless. And other relevant recent nooz.

Posted by Jake at 08:48 PM
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January 03, 2003

No War But the Class War

I very distinctly remember I heard the phrase “class war” on television. I think it was the mid-1990s, and Republican Congressmen tried to pass a tax cut. Some generic conservative legislator told a reporter “the American people are tired of hearing about ‘class warfare.’”

I had two thoughts nearly simultaneously.

“No, I want to hear more about this ‘class warfare’ you’re talking about.”

and

“Wait a minute, how can I be tired of it if I haven’t heard anything about it yet?”

It’s absolutely hilarious, really. When conservatives try to cut taxes for the rich, they try to pre-emptively defeat the “class warfare” criticism by pretending that that angle has already been discussed at length, refuted and everyone is so sick of the topic that they want to vomit, even though not a single word on the subject has yet been uttered.

For example, regarding an “economic stimulus package” (what the hell does that really mean, anyway? Who’s being stimulated and how?) that he has yet to unveil, President Bush said “Some would like to turn this into class warfare. That’s not how I think.” Well Mr. President, that’s all well and good, but how YOU think is irrelevant to this situation. I’ll bet you a trillion dollar deficit that Cheney or Rove assembled this package, not you.

But his economic stimulus plan is to cut taxes, mainly on the rich. What’s the saying, “a rising tide lifts all yachts?”

And I’d like to say a few words about Bush’s 2001 tax cut. The idea was to cut over $1 trillion over the course of ten years. But to make the plan look more pleasant, most of the savings don’t go into effect for another 6 or 7 years, when folks like your and me won’t be paying attention. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, by the time the 10 year tax plan has come and gone, 84% of the benefits will have gone to the richest 1% of the population.

Our first Chief Justice, John Jay once said, “the people who own this country ought to govern it.” He’d probably like the Bush administration.

Posted by Jake at 10:23 PM
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Memory Hole

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has a program which tracks mass-layoffs by large employers in the U.S. Until recently, the program has had a lot of work to do, because our shaky economy is making for lots of mass layoffs. These statistics remind us of our poor enconomic state, which makes the Bush administration look bad.

So, the White House took a bold step to rectify this situation. It shut down the mass layoff statistics program. Hey, it’s easier than actually dealing with the economy.

It’s also ironic to note that the program was shut down once before during tough economic times, in 1992– by George W. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush.

Posted by Jake at 09:55 PM
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January 01, 2003

Happy 500th Post!

U.S. Bombs Hit Pakistan Town After Border Clash

Yeah, go read that headline again.

Border clash? Bombing Pakistan? “A gunbattle between U.S. and Pakistani troops”? Yeah, this is going to go over well with the Pakistanis, many of whom are fundamentalist Muslims who hate the United States, hate their president, and could potentially get their hands on some of their nation’s nuclear weapons.

This is the 500th LMB post. Not quite so joyous anymore.

Posted by Jake at 10:30 PM
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Korean Primer

Generally, my scholarship on world affairs has focused on areas in which the United States has been involved in covert or overt military campaigns since the 1950s. That means that I’m pretty well informed about North America, South America, and parts of the Middle East, but pretty poorly informed about Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. My ignorance on that last region is going to make analysis of the current “crisis” in North Korea a bit of a chore.

So I’m glad that I ran across this: A Korean Primer, an entry on the Agonist weblog. It seems to be a fairly objective look at the major players involved in Korean politics, what they want, and what they fear.

I’ll try to better educate myself on the subject, and in the meantime, continue to post links about it by people who seem to know more than I do.

Posted by Jake at 02:18 PM

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Proof That There is No God

Kangaroo Jack: The Movie

Posted by Jake at 02:11 PM
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