culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Friday, March 14, 2003
Duct tape is for little people. Only cockroaches and Republicans will survive Kim Jong Il's Saddam Hussein's nuclear Armageddon, thanks to their
safe rooms (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
roachFor Jack and Lani Garfield, duct taping the bedroom just won't do. Instead, they've totally updated an old bomb shelter in their backyard, complete with a special ventilation system, a generator and a two-way radio. The retired dentist and his wife, from Palm Springs, Calif., even fixed up the decor, hanging Cold War-era bomb test photos on the wall. "We're ready," says Dr. Garfield.
Cold War nostalgia? I remain dumbfounded at the kinds of atrocities that affluent people are willing to commit in the name of home decor.
With war looking likely, worried homeowners are investing in the latest home addition: the "safe room." With the help of home-security companies, they're putting in food-storage tanks in the basement, blast-proof walls in the garage and fiberglass pods that can be buried in the backyard. One security specialist is selling a portable shelter on eBay -- with two-day shipping included. And while experts say the rooms may not be as safe as some people hope, folks are shelling out from $3,000 to more than $50,000 for one, even when it's just a closet.

Of course, the number of people putting these things in is still small, but companies like American Saferoom Door in Los Angeles say business is up 20% in the past two months, while Zytech, a recently launched Maryland safe-room builder, says it already has a backlog of a dozen orders for its $26,000-and-up customized rooms. Alliance Security Products, a New York company owned by an ex-Israeli army officer, says its six-person tent can function as a safe room on the go. The company says it's sold 150 in the past month -- and has a waiting list four times that long.

Rex Bost's version will be a little more permanent. "We live in scary times," says the North Carolina builder. "This gives me peace of mind." His will be in the basement with foot-thick concrete walls and its own separate ventilation system. And in the event nothing bad happens, the space won't go to waste: He's planning to have it double as a place to practice his guitar, because it will have soundproof walls.
Woohoo! What a rock and roll rebel! I bet Rex Bost even has bumper stickers that say "If the safe room's Iraqin', don't come a-knockin'."
This week, more people have visited this site than in any entire month of our humble enterprise, thanks especially to mentions from
Tom Tomorrow at This Modern World, Matthew Yglesias, and Atrios.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
The GOP and bad medicine. Yesterday the Republican-controlled Senate voted to ban
"partial-birth abortions" (New York Times).

Daily Kos shows that the artificial hysteria accompanying this politically named medical operation — a rare and radical procedure by any standards — is just a tactical maneuver meant to open up a wider attack on women's (and doctors') medical and reproductive choices:
Now if this quote from Bush doesn't scare everyone who cares about Choice, then nothing ever will:
"Partial-birth abortion is an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity, and I commend the Senate for passing legislation to ban it," Bush said in a prepared statement. "Today's action is an important step toward building a culture of life in America."
Note Bush's choice of words: "an important step". All those who decry "slippery slope" arguments, that the ban on this rare procedure doesn't mean Bush and GOP will ban all abortions, need only read those words once again:
Today's action is an important step toward building a culture of life in America.
Code-word alert: "important step" equals "we're not stopping here," and "culture of life" means "we'll do anything that ultrapoliticized Christians from the South tell us to do."

RuminateThis points out that...
We're not talking about the wholesale slaughter of near-term babies. We're talking about a rare situation...where two doctors, unrelated to abortion, come together and agree that the pregnancy should end for medical reason. The extremists, who have no problem executing children and men on death row, have problems terminating pregnancies where the mother's health is in trouble. It's murder, they say. God told them so.


If the health of a pregnant woman is in an immediate danger that could be alleviated through termination of that pregnancy, shouldn't we stop relying on providence and instead rely on science? Shouldn't each situation and medical decision be left to the doctors involved, instead of some fundy fruitcakes who get their marching orders from On High?

Providence only gets you only so far before the shackles are applied and enlightenment is shadowed by repression. The fundamentalists have show us that much.
Those favoring the ban are, logically, predominantly Republican and male. There are a total of 14 women senators, who represented 25 percent of the votes against the ban.

Simultaneously, the Republican House voted to remove accountability from medicine by placing an arbitrary cap on malpractice damages, replacing the role of judges and juries with numbers chosen at random by Republican lobbyists. So according to the compassionate logic of the conservatives' plan, Linda McDougal, who had two breasts accidently removed by her doctors, will be entitled to damages of only up to $125,000 per surgically removed healthy breast.

Punitive awards are considered taxable by current IRS standards. The $250,000 lifetime cap on malpractice damages becomes especially ludicrous when you realize that Dick Cheney received $278,103 in 2001 in dividends alone which, through the magic of Republican reasoning, they are proposing to make totally tax-free.

Then, when you consider that 75 million Americans have gone uninsured within the last two years — coincidentally the reign of the oxymoronic "compassionate conservatism" — you realize that the Republican party is systematically attacking and debilitating American citizens by preventing their access to health care, to reproductive choices, and to meaningful remedies for medical errors.

And all GOP posturing is now done in the name of God, which makes it seem respectable and holy, but in fact it's homicide in slow motion. More than a few of the 2.8 million newly unemployed, and their children who go without health care, will get sick and many will die — all while the Republican-controlled Congress, Supreme Court, and White House play patty-cake with Christian zealots who are actively invading your bedroom, your workplace, your courts, your schools, your libraries, and your privacy in and out of your doctor’s offices.

speculumkarlAs in every other area of policy, this administration places political expediency over common sense, justice, decency, and the personal liberties of American citizens. There is no freedom — and no morality — without choice.

Who is best equipped to handle the speculum: your doctor, or Karl Rove*?

P.S. Today is the last day of Cover the Uninsured Week. Go visit The Bloviator who knows vastly more about these issues.

*Remember that Karl Rove helped Christian zealot Ralph Reed get a $500,000+ kickback from now-ailing and abandoned Enron Corporation, which, like Arthur Andersen, has since outlived its political usefulness to the White House and is now left out in the cold to die a slow death.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
How belligerence takes money out of your pocket. The slightest hint of a delay in the war on Iraq is enough to raise the Nasdaq 5 percent and the other major markets 3 percent in a single day (
New York Times):
Stocks rose sharply today (3/13/03), as investors overcame some of their worries about a possible war with Iraq and bought beaten-down shares after the United States indicated its willingness to delay a vote on a United Nations resolution against Baghdad until next week.
The beating your 401(k) account has taken since the Clinton years is linked to the uncertainty that Bush war plans impose on the financial markets, which translates into a general unwillingness to invest in jobs, facilities, or equipment. Add to that W's record deficit spending, the limitless costs of Iraqi reconstruction, the unknown costs of confrontation with North Korea, and anyone can see that the economy cannot recover until the beating of the war drums begins to fade.

It's ironic, but true: with the exception of the few industries to which his family is connected (energy, defense, security), Bush's war is very bad for business.
Digital genres, a May 30–31 conference at the University of Chicago:
In 1924 Gilbert Seldes' The 7 Lively Arts made one of the earliest and most powerful arguments that popular genres of entertainment such as jazz and cinema deserved the same critical attention afforded the fine arts - a view that is now widely accepted. This conference seeks to do today for digital genres what Seldes did for the lively arts eighty years before.

The conference is based on the idea that digital and network technologies are creating new methods of communication that, like the popular genres of the 1920, allow novel forms of creativity and expression. After a half-century dominated by the mass-media, we argue that it is these new genres - the genres that will preoccupy us on this side of the millennium - that are the true successors to Seldes' lively arts. What can slash, blogs, massively multiplayer games, fan fiction, chat rooms, and other popular genres tell us about how humans communicate? And how do they shed light on human meaning making more generally? Moving away from Seldes' concept of 'art' to a more embracing notion of 'genre' as a general method of understanding the structured, meaningful, and dialogic nature of cultural production, the conference examines a wide variety of cultural production enabled by digital technology. Please join us.
Guest speakers will include Greg Costikyan, Edward Castronova, AKMA, and keynote speaker David Weinberger.

I don't even know what "slash" is. Link via AKMA.
lynne c
The Rittenhouse Review reminds us of Lynne Cheney's conflicted status:
Furthermore, in National Public Radio's archive addresses to the National Press Club, Mrs. Cheney's status is conflicted. In the archive she is identified as Lynne Cheney, "Wife of Vice President Dick Cheney." The page at the web site devoted to the address she is identified as a "senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute," but the photo of Mrs. Cheney on the same page comes from the White House.
Speaking of photos from the White House, we're always happy for a gratuitous opportunity to run this parody photo.
Shocking and awful. Jeanne d'Arc of
Body and Soul reports on Cheney and Rumsfeld whose misspent youth consisted of building hostile regimes they can now work to dismantle. She also provides a scary picture I have never seen before.
Oliver North accompanies the gung-ho media.
Newsday reports on the evaporation of objectivity among war correspondents:
Among some of the media accompanying military units, there is a palpable gung-ho attitude. Many reporters have decked themselves out in uniforms virtually indistinguishable yankfrom those of the soldiers they will be covering, some even going so far as to have their names and the word "Correspondent" embroidered on their breast pockets. At least one reporter marched to the front with a large American flag clipped to his backpack.

The Fox News Network dispatched former Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, a conservative commentator, to a Marine unit to cover the war.
The Stockholm Syndrome finds a cousin in Baghdad. Link via Romanesko.
Halliburton tosses the UK some of the spoils of war. Dick Cheney's
current employer may throw a few subcontracting bones in Tony Blair's direction to prop him up among UK industrialists (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
At first glance, terms of the potential reconstruction effort look identical to those of the 1991 war against Iraq, with U.S.-based engineering giants Bechtel Group Inc. (X.BTL), Halliburton Co. (HAL) and others looking like prime candidates to be named prime contractors. But experts say practical and political challenges this time could also cause a larger share of work to flow toward U.K. companies.

"Particularly because our prime minister has gone out on a limb to support the U.S. administration, there is likely to be an expectation among British companies that they would be asked to bid for contracts," said David Claridge, managing director of Janusian Security Risk Management Ltd. in London.


"Where we would hope the U.S. would look with a favorable eye on U.K. companies is in subcontracting," he said.

The U.K. is so far the only country to provide weapons and soldiers for the planned U.S.-led invasion.


One recent estimate by Yale University economics professor William D. Nordhaus puts the cost of [Iraqi] reconstruction and nation-building at between $25 billion and $100 billion. Washington's diplomatic isolation may shorten the list of countries willing to help pay those costs, with the U.S. the only nation to outline spending plans.


Even a short war could bring huge damage to Iraq's airports, railroads, bridges, ports, communications centers and power systems, Rosser said, presenting opportunities for U.K.-based companies with these skills.

U.K. companies were understandably reluctant to speak on the record about the amount of business they expect to gain after any conflict in Iraq.

Among those that have spoken publicly is medical instrument supplier Smith & Nephew Plc (U.SN). Its chief executive, Chris O'Donnell, recently called a surge in war-related demand an unasked for benefit for his industry.

A spokesman for Smith & Nephew said the company would expect demand to rise for bandages, "keyhole" surgery equipment and orthopedic products such as limb implants. He declined to estimate how much additional demand there might be.


Of these, Amec Plc (U.AME) is a primary beneficiary, not only because it fought oil well fires in Kuwait, but because it has greatly expanded its global work in oil and gas engineering and construction services.

And, according to a senior company official, Amec's relations with the U.S. Department of Defense are "stronger and closer" than ever thanks to the company's clean up and reconstruction of the Pentagon building and the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Buttery biscuits for Bush and Blair, and a shroud of political silence for the people of the US and the UK who oppose their manias.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Translation: "The Bush Warriors: America's military campaign against evil." ["Die" means "the" in this context.]

The accompanying article (in German only) dated March 4 is entitled "The war that came out of a think tank," referring to the Project for a New American Century [pdf file]. There's also a chart (also in German) of "Washington's Power Circle," with all the usual suspects.

Der Spiegel ("The Mirror") is a German newsmagazine roughly equivalent to Time or Newsweek in the US.

In the cover illustration, W's pretzel pendant is a nice touch.

UPDATE: In defiance of his own name, No More Mister Nice Blog nicely provides a link to the above article's English translation.
W stands for Wackenhut, and vice versa. Steven Baum at
Ethel points us to a 1992 article from the sorely missed Spy Magazine. The story reports on a Wackenhut employee and former Marine named David Ramirez who was sent on a mission in the winter of 1990 to accompany a truck from Texas to Chicago:
A little before 5:00 on the morning of the third day [of the mission], they delivered the trailer to a practically empty warehouse outside Chicago. A burly man who had been waiting for them on the loading dock told them to take off the locks and go home, and that was that. They were on a plane back to Miami that afternoon. Later Ramirez's superiors told him — as they told other SID agents about similar midnight runs — that the trucks contained $40 million worth of food stamps. After considering the secrecy, the way the team was assembled and the orders not to stop or open the truck, Ramirez decided he didn't believe that explanation.

Neither do we. One reason is simple: A Department of Agriculture official simply denies that food stamps are shipped that way. "Someone is blowing smoke," he says. Another reason is that after a six-month investigation, in the course of which we spoke to more than 300 people, we believe we know what the truck did contain — equipment necessary for the manufacture of chemical weapons — and where it was headed: to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And the Wackenhut Corporation — a publicly traded company with strong ties to the CIA and federal contracts worth $200 million a year — was making sure Saddam would be getting his equipment intact.
The eight-page article is well worth reading if you're curious how Saddam procured all his evil WMD.

And as if this isn't enough, here's another article about Wackenhut's involvement in W's prison privatization and profit scheme back in the good ol' days when Dubya was just a guvna....
George and Richard Wackenhut, owners of Wackenhut Corporation, operate 13 prisons in the Lone Star State. They are so enthusiastic about fellow Republican George "Dubya" Bush bush faceand his race for the presidency that they have contributed considerable sums to his election campaigns.

Bush's ties to the prison-industrial complex raise troubling questions about his posturing as a "compassionate conservative". It sheds light on his "lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" policy on the incarceration of drug users — even though Bush does not deny reports that he snorted cocaine in his youth.

It also reveals much about his hard-line support for the death penalty which he has imposed 137 times since taking office, more than any other governor.

Bush sent Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham) to his death despite widespread doubt about his guilt. He also executed Karla Faye Tucker, the first women in 100 years executed in Texas, despite worldwide calls for clemency.

The death penalty is a centerpiece of the GOP's [Republicans'] policy of criminalising youth and people of colour.

That policy has resulted in the incarceration of 1.8 million people in US prisons, rivalling the number of youth attending college.

At least US$35 billion is spent each year on prison incarceration and the "privatisers" of the GOP see this industry as a lush pasture for super-profits.
No wonder the Repubs are better at catching bong dealers than terrorists. They're much easier to catch, and much more lucrative to imprison, as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation boasts in its "Fast Facts" (excerpts):
  • WCC was one of the first companies ever to capitalize on the trend toward government outsourcing of correctional and detention services.
  • Today, we are one of the world's largest public companies managing privatized correctional and detention facilities - and we're the second largest provider of correctional services to the United States Federal Government.
  • We estimate the United States private correctional and detention industry at $40 billion. We have a 21 percent share of the United States market and 55 percent share of the international market for a combined global market share of 27 percent.
  • We have 57 correctional and hospital facilities under contract and/or award, which comprise approximately 42,500 beds for males, females, adults, juveniles, pre-trial and sentenced offenders and special needs.
That works out to about $8 billion for their share of the US market, and probably lots more for the rest of the world.

With 42,500 beds (sounds so cozy, doesn't it?), Wackenhut approaches the achievement of the hotel and resort company Westin and its 52,000 beds. As another global leader in the temporary human storage industry, perhaps Wackenhut should recycle some of Westin's ad campaign headlines: 1) "Good business people go to Heaven." 2) "Work like the devil. Sleep like an angel." 3) "He's the best in sales. He's the best in golf. He deserves the best in bed. Who is he sleeping with?"

Peek behind the drapes and you'll see that Wackenhut and elected officials are sleeping with each other.
Fresh astroturf growing under our feet. We called it
five days ago, and it's already in the papers (Juneau Empire) word for word:
After all the empty talk in Washington about fixing important entitlements programs, something refreshing happened this week: The President delivered a remarkably sensible blueprint for fixing Medicare and dramatically improving the quality of health care for all seniors.

Choice is an important element of this proposal. Seniors would be given the same kinds of choices currently available to members of Congress, with traditional Medicare still an option, and they wouldn't be forced into HMOs. Also included is long overdue relief for runaway prescription drug costs, with a new discount card and an additional subsidy for poor seniors.

The partisan bickering in Washington over Medicare has gone on for too long, and it's time for Congress to come through for seniors this year.

The president's plan, with its emphasis on giving Medicare the funding it needs and providing better benefits, seems like an excellent starting point.

Jeff Pomeroy
Eagle River
On your marks, get set, Google!
reedWho would Jesus indict? Ralph Reed, Christian political zealot and GOP consultant, received over $500,000 in contracts from major Bush contributor and now spectacularly bankrupt Enron Corporation. Reed was recommended to Enron by Karl Rove in the late 1990s when he was heading the campaign to make George W. Bush president of the US.

According to the
Houston Chronicle, the $500,000 contract was revealed in a new ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) who noted an "apparent lack of work for the money," a phrase which translates into "bribe" or "kickback" in English.

(By the way, the FEC website is fun for kids of all ages. You can type in "Lay, Kenneth" on this page and see all the hard and soft money ($358,910!) contributions he made to a huge laundry list of the new right wing, including George W. Bush, Charles Hagel, and even the $25,000 he personally gave to the Ashcroft Victory Committee.)

In another recent article on Enron, we learn that Jeff Skilling, the CEO who helped sell $110 million in fictitious broadband revenues (the Blockbuster deal code-named "Braveheart") to investors, "has not surfaced as a target for charges over the deal."

So we watch Ralph Reed, Ken Lay, and Jeff Skilling wander, overcompensated and unpunished, into the sunset.

Meanwhile, who bore the brunt of the Enron indictments? The only one who noticed that the emperor was naked — Arthur Andersen:
[Arthur] Andersen partner Carl Bass, a member of an internal review team demoted for disagreeing with Enron on interpretation of accounting rules, testified that he discouraged Enron's attempt to sell its share of the Blockbuster deal to CIBC because it was not "a real business with cash flows."
But it was Arthur Andersen, the firm, that was indicted in the resulting scandal. Not Enron profiteers Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay, Ralph Reed, or, for that matter, "boy" Karl Rove and the "genius" of his Bush 2000 campaign. They used real, albeit stolen, money from fake businesses to engineer a highly questionable election.

Again, we must ask as we have asked many times before, why was Arthur Andersen and not Enron indicted? Was it because Arthur Andersen was Halliburton's auditor while Dick Cheney was its CEO, who would be protected from damaging revelations upon Andersen's demise? This is the same Halliburton that built the interrogation camps at Guantanamo Bay, that has the postwar Iraq oil fields contract, that lost radioactive dirty bomb components in Nigeria, that is being investigated for its own questionable accounting practices, and that blew Dick Cheney a $20 million goodbye kiss.

As the USA moves ever closer toward a cynical corporate Christian theocracy, it's not an idle question: Who would Jesus indict?

UPDATE: And, an hour later, we get our answer! Thirty minutes ago, the Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd) reported the following:
Arrest warrants brought in Houston charge Kevin Howard and Michael Krautz with securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and making false statements to FBI agents. Both are executives with Enron Broadband Services.

The two men, who still work for Enron, surrendered Wednesday morning to FBI agents and were scheduled to make initial court appearances later in the day.

The charges stem from an attempt by Enron, in partnership with the Blockbuster Inc. video outlet chain, to set up an Internet video-on-demand business using broadband technology. Like many other Enron transactions, this one carried a fanciful code name: “Braveheart.”
If your reaction to the names Kevin Howard and Michael Krautz was "Who?" — your reaction is totally correct. Whatever their involvement, they are scapegoats.

Jesus works in mysterious ways.

UPDATE #2: The conflicts of interest are multiplying as far as you can see — Even acting as Vice President, Dick Cheney is still on the payroll of Halliburton, receiving up to $1 million a year (Guardian).
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
bodineBarbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad.
CNN reports that the postwar Iraq state will be governed by none other than terrorists' friend and former ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine:
A central sector, including Baghdad, will be administered by Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, the sources said. She served in that post in October 2000, when the destroyer USS Cole was bombed in Aden harbor.
Barbara was central to defeating the FBI's counterterrorism investigation of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen while she was ambassador there as reported by PBS Frontline.

That investigation was headed by John O'Neill, the maverick FBI counterterrorism expert who was forced out of the bureau in August 2001 because he wouldn't act appropriately worshipful of his inept superiors like interim FBI director Tom Pickard. O'Neill had the names of two of the hijackers who flew into the Pentagon on his desk one month before 9-11, when he was kicked out the FBI door. He subsequently took a job which turned out to be his last — John O'Neill died in the attack on his new employer, the World Trade Center in New York City.

Barbara Bodine, the new Queen of Baghdad, is ironically enough the same person who forced O'Neill out of Yemen in 2001 as he tried to connect the Al-Qaeda dots back to Osama bin Laden, who had known ties to Yemen and who is not now, and never was, Iraqi.

Barbara Bodine is a harbinger of death. She stymied the USS Cole investigation, and helped to prevent the one man who was figuring out Osama bin Laden's real story from acting effectively. Her presence in the scheme for postwar Baghdad expands the arguments about incompetence and deception as basic principles of Bush foreign policy.

Thanks to American Samizdat for the link.
TBOGG puts the invective on pause for a moment, and movingly rhapsodizes about
Harper Lee, Simon & Garfunkel and other firsts.
Prosecuting cancer victims. (
A federal judge has refused to prohibit the U.S. government from potentially prosecuting two women with painful ailments whose doctors say marijuana is their only medical solace.

In the first case of its kind, the two California medical marijuana users sued Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking a court order allowing them to smoke, grow or obtain marijuana without threat or fear of federal prosecution.


Raich suffers from a variety of ailments, including scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea, fatigue and pain. Raich and her doctor say marijuana is the only drug that helps her pain and keeps her eating. She says she was partially paralyzed on the right side of her body until she started smoking marijuana.
Who will Ashcroft prosecute next? What exactly are the Department of Justice's priorities? Do we have any idea who the anthrax murderers-by-mail of October 2001 were? Have there been any indictments of millionaire thieves and former Enron CEOs Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling?

No, the Department of Justice prefers to focus on prosecuting women with brain cancer and closing down the websites of bong dealers. Once again, common sense evaporates in the law enforcement priorities of the Maniac from Missouri.

Breast-fearing Ashcroft continues to exhibit bitterly insane behavior, probably due to permanent psychological damage caused by his having lost an election to a dead man.
The Hall of Gratitude. I don't thank the referrers to this site often enough. These are the sites I am most grateful to for their links to and mentions of this humble enterprise:
Also, many thanks to TalkLeft and Atrios for mentions and referrals to individual posts here.
Monday, March 10, 2003
The growth market in dissent is evidenced by
new publishing successes in antiwar and related books by authors such as Noam Chomsky or Gore Vidal. These sales successes are occurring without the benefit of press coverage, which seems to be reserved exclusively for right-wing authors. Hmmm, I wonder if Eric Alterman knows about this.... Link via Moby Lives.
Bud Light. TalkLeft has more on the
seizure of bong websites, a new frontier for the Government that will be challenged strenously in the courts and a possible violation of the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights. We last discussed the issue here.
There's no business like war business. Everything about it is appealing, says the
Army Times (via Romanesko):
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar — In a warehouse that until a few weeks ago housed American tanks and armored vehicles, which are now in Kuwait preparing for a war against Iraq, a Hollywood set designer is overseeing feverish efforts to complete a $200,000 stage in time for military briefers to deliver news of that war to gathered reporters and a worldwide television audience.

The glitzy, high-tech set, half as wide as a basketball court, features a soft focus blue and white map of the world as its backdrop. Hanging from industrial gray steel stanchions and girders will be five 50-inch and two 70-inch plasma video screens. The TV screens will display all manner of video, computer images, maps and just about anything else officers from America’s Central Command might want to show.

This set will have more audio-visual bells and whistles than anything in the White House or the Pentagon.

In fact, said a technician flown here from the White House to install the electronic gear, "this totally sets a whole new standard to present information."


The designer of this high-tech, high-impact set is George Allison, 43, whose last major credit was art director for the Mike and Kirk Douglas movie "It Runs in the Family." He also designed the $89 million set for ABC’s "Good Morning America." More important, he has designed stage settings for appearances by President George W. Bush.

"It’s about bringing the level of technology up from the flip chart to the modern age," Allison said as he sat, paint spattered on his arms and hands, watching the final touches on his set. "It’s trying to send a very clear message about technology and the use of it."

Air Force Col. Ray Shepherd, director of public affairs for Central Command, said, "We use the latest technology in our military operations. It’s only fitting we use it here."

Besides, he said, most Americans get their news from television and are used to a certain level of visual sophistication. "We want to come as close as we can to the standards they're used to seeing on television," he said.

As a symbol of the American military’s growing media sophistication, you couldn't do better than the briefing room/TV set. The set is part of a 17,000-square-foot media center that will host journalists not just from America but from every European country, China, Japan and even the Arab TV network al-Jazeera, which some in the military refer to as the enemy station. Not only do these journalists speak a babel of foreign languages, they use a babel of television systems. Not to worry. The military technicians in the media center will be able to convert any form of video into any other of the world’s formats. On the spot.

bush warehouse[...]

"I can’t tell you how much high-level support we’re getting for this," Shepherd said. One reflection of that high-level interest: Central Command's "strategic communicator" is Jim Wilkinson, who came over from his job as deputy communications director at the Bush White House.

It was Wilkinson who dreamed up the stretched canvas backdrops that appeared behind Bush with key phrases printed on them: Strengthen Medicare, A Home of Your Own, Corporate Responsibility. And it was Allison who designed them.

Allison's set in the Qatar briefing room has had its share of glitches. He was told the ceiling would be 15 feet high and he designed the set accordingly. When he arrived he found the ceiling was only 11.5 feet high. The stage was lowered.

One more measure of how important the military thinks the appearance of this stage is. Most of the set was built in Chicago and then sent by Federal Express to Qatar. At a cost, Allison said, of $47,000.

But the final measure of how little may have changed in military-media relations is this: Unnamed Defense Department officials ordered the Central Command public affairs officers to bar photographs of the set while it was under construction. No explanation was offered.
Places! Lights... camera... cue Ethel Merman Colin Powell....
There's no people like show people,
They smile when they are low
Even with a turkey that you know will fold,
You may be stranded out in the cold
Still you wouldn't change it for a sack of gold,
Let's go on with the show!
"Sing out, Colin!" yells stage manager Karl Rove, with his clipboard, smiling from the wings with a wave of approval. Next, he turns on the STANDING OVATION sign (#7).
Today kicks off
Cover the Uninsured Week, an effort to address the problems faced by the 75 million Americans without medical insurance. That's more than three times the total population of Iraq.

UPDATE: All week long, Ross at The Bloviator will cover this issue with his expert insight and customary thoroughness, starting with this post.
This shit is wack. The Bible Code, which consists of playing Word Search with "revealed" texts compiled by shepherds, naturally "reveals"
some nasty stuff, some of which might be believed by sedated American nuclear theocrats:
A Future World War

13] In Deuteronomy WORLD WAR and ATOMIC HOLOCAUST both occur with two dates 2000 and 2006. There is also IT WILL STRIKE THEM, TO DESTROY, ANNIHILATE crossing WORLD WAR.

14] From Genesis 44:4 to Exodus 10:16 there is encoded ARMAGEDDON in the Hebrew form of Harn Megiddo (Mount Mediggo) now the site of an Israeli Airbase. Also there is ASAD HOLOCAUST (Asad is Syria's president) and SHOOTING FROM THE MILITARY POST.
That sucking sound, besides all your money disappearing to pay for a Crusade, is The Rapture lifting every Christian fundamentalist cretin skyward after they've created hell here on earth.
Having more than one point of view makes headlines in Houston. The headline "Two sides of the dial tackle war: Talk radio stations air opposing views" in the
Houston Chronicle reveals that the right-wing bias of talk radio is so entrenched that the very existence of opposition is now considered a news item:
Separated by less than a city block, KPFT-FM, a listener-supported champion of "progressive" causes, and KPRC-AM, a heavyweight of right-wing talk programming, have marshalled thousands for rallies and marches that aired views on war with Iraq.

Though they maintain a cordial collegiality, the stations are at odds by their very nature.

At KPFT, one of six Pacifica stations nationwide, political passion trumps profit. The station formally has editorialized against U.S. intervention in Iraq and has moved news and commentary into prime-time slots. Weekly listenership approaches 158,000.

KPRC, one of eight Houston stations of the Clear Channel Communications megachain, officially is neutral. But its two talk-show hosts, Pat Gray and Chris Baker, conservatives in the Rush Limbaugh mold, have boosted the station to a No. 2 ranking in the local AM market. As a commercial station, its passion is profit.
This story is much bigger than right-wing bias on the radio. It's the massive nationwide corporate subsidization of right-wing bias that is the real problem.

You would think that owning eight radio stations in Houston alone would be enough, but you would be wrong about that. Clear Channel is one of the chief corporate behemoths in favor of relaxing the rules of media consolidation. They want more. They want all the public airwaves to themselves, and Colin Powell's son Michael, the lackey of a lackey and head of the FCC, is helping them as much and as quickly as he can.
How do you say "flattered" in Japanese? Early this morning I inexplicably got a flurry of hits from the
Shonen Knife home page.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
lynne cQ: Why are there clowns at the rodeo?

A: "To protect the cowboys, and the kids like the make-up," says the
Houston Chronicle, now that it's officially rodeo season in Houston.

Lynne Cheney is apparently unwilling to play the clown at Cowboy Bush's Amateur Rodeo in Washington DC, despite the event's successes at roping Katherine Harris, Antonin Scalia, Colin Powell, and countless other little dogies for the big GOP roundup, as flank rider Karl Rove keeps the herd moving toward the branding iron.

In case you're wondering, this parody photo is one being fought by White House legal counsel at American taxpayer expense.
Saturday, March 08, 2003
"My colleagues say I'm a phenomenal fighter, despite my looks," Marina said. "Women are the sparkle in the army. If women, the flower of life, are present, then the army will be reborn."

Russia crowns
Miss Shooting Range (BBC).

Lucky for her Marina's not in the US Air Force, where 54 accusations reveal a culture of rape.
capozzola for senate

Capozzola. That's One P, Two Z's.
Friday, March 07, 2003
Tomorrow's astroturf today. Here are the two canned letters the GOP is feeding their zombie shills today:
Improving Medicare

After all the empty talk in Washington about fixing important entitlements programs, something refreshing happened this week: the President delivered a remarkably sensible blueprint for fixing Medicare and dramatically improving the quality of health care for all seniors.

Choice is an important element of this proposal. Seniors would be given the same kinds of choices currently available to members of Congress, with traditional Medicare still an option, and they wouldn't be forced into HMOs. Also included is long overdue relief for runaway prescription drug costs, with a new discount card and an additional subsidy for poor seniors.

The partisan bickering in Washington over Medicare has gone on for too long, and it's time for Congress to come through for seniors this year. The President's plan, with its emphasis on giving Medicare the funding it needs and providing better benefits, seems like an excellent starting point.

Shame on you, Marcy Kaptur!

I'm outraged by Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's comparison of terrorist Osama bin Laden to our Founding Father George Washington.

I agree with Paul Begala when he said, two nights ago on CNN's Crossfire, "Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. You were right to call her on it and I just -- I can't defend it. I never will -- the notion that anybody could compare this murderer to our Founding Fathers is insane," Begala said.

Shame on you, Marcy Kaptur!
Watch for these letters, and their telling phrases (like
"remarkably sensible blueprint" [zero hits right now] and "Shame on you, Marcy Kaptur!" [also zero hits]), in Letters to the Editor across the country in the coming weeks.

On your mark, get set, Google!
cheney rippleFeasting at the Cheney trough. The silly
uproar over a parody of Lynne Cheney made us want to look a little closer into the family's numerous conflicts of interest and compromises of reality.

First of all, Atrios asks the question why White House legal counsel — paid for by American taxpayers — is being inappropriately called in to head the anti-parody effort on behalf of Dick's wife. "God, we spent 6 months arguing about which phone Al Gore used to call donors," says Atrios.

Meanwhile, back at the Halliburton trough, things are looking rosy (WSJ, subscription required):
The Pentagon said it is tapping a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, to oversee efforts to control oil-well fires, should Saddam Hussein torch Iraq's oil fields in the event of a U.S. attack.

The Pentagon said it intends to use a plan developed by Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., a unit of Houston-based Halliburton, if Mr. Hussein sabotages his fields. The plan also addresses assessing damage to oil facilities, the Pentagon said.

Mr. Cheney served as chief executive of Halliburton until 2000, when he stepped down to become the running mate of President Bush.

The development positions Kellogg Brown & Root as a leading candidate to win the role of top contractor in any petroleum-field rehabilitation effort in Iraq. The job could involve coordinating dozens of smaller specialty contractors that do everything from helping clear mines and build roads to putting out fires and repairing damaged wells.
But Halliburton is also playing its own special role in the War on Terror — for the other side (also WSJ):
Halliburton Co. says an oil-field device that contains radioactive material was stolen in early December from its operations in Nigeria.

Atomic-watchdog officials are concerned that the material -- americium 241 -- could be used to create a so-called dirty bomb, an explosive to scatter radioactive agents in a densely populated area.


The theft occurred between the towns of Wari and Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta, in the heart of the country's oil-producing region. The well-logging device, which was in a locked storage box that weighs about 200 pounds and is the size of a small car engine block, is used to detect the presence of oil at various depths, said Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall.

Michael Levi, director of the Strategic Security Project for the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington think tank, said these devices typically contain about 10 curies of radioactive americium. If this were combined with a pound of TNT and exploded, an area covering 60 city blocks would be contaminated with a radiation dose in excess of safety guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
Thanks to Halliburton, this will put a whole new spin on Nigerian email scams.

Back to wife Lynne Cheney. Although this gentle flower requires legal princes paid for by American taxpayers to defend her dubious virtue, she's doing okay in the financial department. Since leaving defense giant Lockheed's board of directors in 2001, she's helping to destroy wealth by decimating shareholder value in mutual funds (Forbes):
Politicos and their friends feast at the fund trough. American Express' stock funds were the worst performers among the largest 25 fund families, says Lipper. Yet for 45 of its 47 retail funds, directors still signed off on expense-ratio increases last year. Guarding fund shareholders' interests are Lynne Cheney, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Senator Alan Simpson. Each earned $122,000 for fund stewardship last year.
Why, that's almost as much as the $105,000 Dick would have saved on his taxes in dividend income alone!

It all adds up to the same thing: rewarding incompetence is a family value if you're a Cheney Republican.

For further reading: American Prospect, CNN, ABCNews
2.8 million people have lost their jobs under the Bush Jr. administration. (
Houston Chronicle):
Nearly 2 million jobs have been lost since hiring peaked in March 2001.

In February alone, 8.5 million people were unemployed, a 2.8 million increase since the fall of 2000. The number of long-term jobless tripled during this period. About 1.9 million people have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, comprising 22 percent of total unemployment.

Businesses have been wary of making long-term hiring and spending commitments as the economy struggled toward recovery. But any improvements in the jobs market now appear to be quashed as the nation inches toward war with Iraq.

It was that same climate of uncertainty that dampened business confidence in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- and which soured job prospects for the unemployed.
So much for the recovery due to the first tax cut, which W wants to worsen with a second tax cut on passive dividend income.

No wonder Home Depot is sold out — the rich are duct-taping billions of dollars to the bodies of their heirs as the estate tax withers. Meanwhile, only working people bear the financial brunt of this insane march to a needless war.
Thursday, March 06, 2003
Fighting back. Seeing the Forest offers a number of ways to ease your level of frustration by
resisting the right wing. Go!
Terry Lynn Barton goes to jail. The US Forest Service employee got the maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison on Wednesday for starting Colorado's worst wildfire, destroying 138,000 acres and 133 homes (
San Francisco Chronicle):
"More of a sentence than she already has will hurt even more," Brandy [daughter, 15] said between sobs. "And for those of you who have lost your houses, I'm so sorry, but if you knew my mom you would never, ever, hate her. You would love her."
I don't hate Terry Lynn Barton. I hate disproportionate sentencing. Because after all those acres and homes were destroyed by someone who should know better, I still can't help but think that she got off relatively light.
lynne cThe picture the White House doesn't want you to see. There's no sense of humor at all in the White House, as evidenced by
this story (Associated Press via FindLaw):
An Internet lampoon of Vice President Dick Cheney's wife is no laughing matter at the White House, which has asked a satirist to remove pictures of her - complete with red clown noses - from his Web site.

But the New York Civil Liberties Union struck back Wednesday on behalf of John A. Wooden, 31, threatening a lawsuit to protect his First Amendment rights to parody the White House and Bush officials on his site,

The official White House site is

Cheney counsel David S. Addington warned Wooden's Chickenhead Productions Inc. that Lynne V. Cheney's name and pictures - altered to show her with a red clown's nose and a missing tooth - could not be used to make money without her consent, and asked Wooden to delete the photos and "fictitious biographical statement about her."

Instead, Wooden cautioned Web site visitors that the vice president "wishes you to be aware ... that some/all of the biographic information contained on this PARODY page about Mrs. Cheney may not actually be true."
Here's the deal: We'll remove the picture of his wife from this site on the day Dick Cheney releases the minutes of all six secret energy task force meetings between his and Enron's staff in early 2001.

If the GAO can no longer sue Cheney for his secrets, maybe we can shame the coward. Put Lynne Cheney's parody picture on your blog. And join the ACLU.

UPDATE: More from Reuters/FindLaw here.
Six card monte, or How a company without money helped "elect" a man without scruples. From today's
Houston Chronicle:
In his report to the court, [bankruptcy] examiner Neil Batson said that in the [Enron-funded Bush campaign] year 2000, for example, Enron reported net income of $979 million but actually earned only $42 million. And its cash flow was a negative $154 million, instead of the reported $3 billion.

To conceal its poor performance, Enron used special purpose entities to employ six accounting techniques, outlined in voluminous detail by Batson in a 2,000-plus page report.


The report is likely to bolster the case of shareholders who are suing the company, legal experts said.

It also said that because many of the transactions were improper -- if not illegal -- as much as $5 billion in cash and assets could be recovered by the bankrupt company and, thus, its unsecured creditors.


The examiner several times specifically states Enron broke Securities and Exchange Commission rules and, in the case of special purpose vehicle and prepay transactions, materially misrepresented its financial condition.

"I think the fact that he used the word 'materially' is important. It expresses his belief that there is a substantive violation of criminal law," said Jacob Frenkel , a former federal prosecutor and SEC lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Frenkel also said he reads Batson's statements to be asking, "Why is it taking the feds so long to figure this out?"
Perhaps the feds are having difficulty recovering the $5 billion stolen from Enron shareholders, employees and creditors because they are so intently focused on quickly rounding up the purveyors of bongs.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
The newest power voting bloc: the uninsured. From
Just under 75 million Americans — nearly one of every three people under age 65 — were uninsured for at least part of the last two years, according to a study released Wednesday to announce the kick-off of "Cover the Uninsured Week."
Hello? Democrats? Anybody there? Is this thing working?
"Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides raw material to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world. Best of all, mass death's a stimulus to just ordinary folks, little fellows, to try 'n' grab a piece of that Pie while they're still here to gobble it up. The true war is a celebration of markets."
Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon, page 105. Emphasis added.

Via Pynchonoid.
World War H2O. Who gets access to the world's fresh water will influence many future conflicts, according to this report in
The Economist.

One particular tidbit about the past jumped out at me:
...there have been 37 violent conflicts involving water between nations in the past 50 years, 18 of these involving Israel.
Israel represents about half of all global water-based conflicts. Given the size of the planet surface, that seems like a lot for a country with the tiny footprint of Israel.

In its single-minded march toward Iraq, the current administration is undermining the United Nations at the time we may need it most. Solving the Israel problem might solve a number of smaller, seemingly intractable problems. But that would of course require "the vision thing" — something that escapes the White House inventory whenever a Bush occupies it.

If international markets for water are, as some suggest, a viable solution, is the international market for breathable air far behind?

Sounds like a job for President Gore.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
A wild free-for-all media bias smackdown debate has been called for by, challenging Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter to defend their books, Bias and Slander, which supposedly prove that liberals dominate the news media.

In the left corner is Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?:
Alterman shows that both books rely on unfounded assertions strung together with low invective.

Coulter’s errors "are even more egregious than the insults, and her footnotes are ... a sham," Alterman says. "The sheer weight of these, coupled with their audacity, demonstrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of a journalistic culture that allows her near a microphone, much less a printing press."
Give them a couple of weeks to respond, but bet on a no-show. If no Coulter or Goldberg publicist comes to call, Eric wins by forfeiture.
Suddenly we're getting welcome hits from, which will be added to the permanent links at the next update.

You guys must be psychic. How did you know we watched an unbelievably bad Tom Cruise film last night?

Vanilla Sky — Skimble says: 3 out of 10. (Roger Ebert was much more generous.)
How conspiracy theories get turbo-charged. The essential ingredient of any conspiracy is secrecy. It doesn't hurt when you combine
leading CEOs, the powerhouses of American business media, attorneys general, and the Senate Majority Leader, and swear everyone to silence:
One might expect a lot of news when the nation's top CEOs, the Senate majority leader and the head of the New York Stock Exchange get together.

Not this time.

Except for a three-hour press conference, the recent meeting of the Business Council at the Boca Raton Resort & Club was kept secret. Even reporters who participated in sessions are mum.

The Feb. 19-21 event hosted the likes of conservative columnist George Will, NYSE Chairman Dick Grasso, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and attorney generals from Iowa and Pennsylvania.

Panel discussions focused on business leadership, corporate litigation brought on by states, health care costs and the future of retirement benefits.

But don't click on CNBC or pick up the Wall Street Journal to find out what happened.

Their journalists were there, but they agreed not to report on the event.

CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and the Wall Street Journal's editor for management news, Joann Lublin, were invited to participate in panel discussion before a ballroom full of CEOs.

But the journalists, along with their fellow panelists and attending CEOs, agreed to a code of silence that the powerful and private Business Council requires.

The organization counts the heads of Wal-Mart, General Electric, General Motors, Dell Computer, Sprint, Bank One, Hewlett-Packard and Merck & Co. among its 125 members.
In the 1990s the US stock market and its various bubbles formed the casino economy.

Now we have The Sopranos' economy — honor among thieves. Specifically, conservative thieves.

Now, more than ever, silence is golden.
Underappreciated blog of the day. One of the prevalent themes of Skimble is that power, and the potential for abuse of power, resides in the boring shit: financial information, regulatory matters, scientific data, ownership schemes, economic reports. We ignore these at our collective peril — and one of the best sites for finding new insights into a host of less-exposed topics is
bad things.

With a subtitle like "things that piss me off," how can you resist?
Monday, March 03, 2003
Lysistrata Chicago.
Boing Boing supplies us with nearly a full day's worth of important posts about media and spectrum. Start with the linked post and scroll down — much goodness to be had.
Plagiarism as seen from the vantage point of the
plagiarized. From The Morning News.
Friday, February 28, 2003
The World Trade Shuttle went kaboom. It's a tragic shame that American legislators are so eager and willing to grandstand about investigating the causes behind the deaths of
7 people who knew the risks of what they were doing (Washington Post), and yet do nothing for 17 months about investigating the real non-Iraqi causes behind the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocents.
Picture this: Bush lied. Compare and contrast the reality of 17 photo ops, 17 speeches, and 17 lies
caught on film!
CNN keeps a tight lid on reality TV. When American television executives finally get their real war, probably sometime in the next few weeks,
CNN will be hard at work editing, removing or "rebalancing" the reality of its reporters' accounts from the front (The Independent):
"All reporters preparing package scripts must submit the scripts for approval," it [a new CNN document, "Reminder of Script Approval Policy"] says. "Packages may not be edited until the scripts are approved... All packages originating outside Washington, LA (Los Angeles) or NY (New York), including all international bureaus, must come to the ROW in Atlanta for approval."

The date of this extraordinary message is 27 January. The "ROW" is the row of script editors in Atlanta who can insist on changes or "balances" in the reporter's dispatch. "A script is not approved for air unless it is properly marked approved by an authorised manager and duped (duplicated) to burcopy (bureau copy)... When a script is updated it must be re-approved, preferably by the originating approving authority."
I thought the commercials were supposed to do the selling, not the news. CNN is now one of several 24-hour nonstop sales networks, alternating between advertiser shrieking and government shilling.

Link via Cursor.
You, me and the FCC. Lobbyists outnumbered the public at the FCC's public hearing on media ownership in Richmond, Virginia (
Washington Post):
Do the People care who owns their TV and radio stations, who feeds them their media gruel? By midday, 195 of the People had made their way to the convention center here. One hundred nineteen of them were white men in suits; many of those men were grumbling about the trip down from Washington. Twenty-two people were scheduled to address the commission; 13 of them had traveled here from the District.

But Anthony Mazza and his friends had made it in from Philadelphia, where they have grown so tired of bland broadcast fare that they attached cardboard TV set frames to their heads and sat in the hearing room wearing blue lab coats -- their protest against 500 channels of nothing to watch.

"Listeners are turning off the radio in huge numbers and the media companies don't care," Mazza says, "because the only thing that matters to them is getting their share of whatever audience there is." Mazza, 30 and unemployed, has a show on Radio Volta, a small community station in Philadelphia that lets him play everything from hard-core hip-hop to old country songs to swing-era jazz. It's all his choice, radio the way it used to be, one person programming for whoever might listen.

That is not the corporate way, as described by Mark Mays, president of Clear Channel Communications, the behemoth that dominates the radio dial in many cities. Clear Channel, he said today, plays "the music our listeners want to hear," as determined by "extensive local audience research, listener requests and feedback." Mays argues that Americans like the wave of consolidation that swept through the radio industry after 1996, when the FCC eliminated the limit on the number of radio stations a company could own nationwide and raised the number a company could own in any one city from two to eight. That reform, Mays and other media executives argue, increased the variety and quality of programming, bringing big-city talent to little towns where the radio station used to be owned by a local family and programmed by low-rent talent.

And what if the people in those little towns liked their homey old radio stations the way they were? In Richmond, where Clear Channel owns six stations, Mays proudly announced that it has enriched the airwaves by adding alternative rock and hip-hop to the menu of formats on the local dial.
Now that's progress. How exciting and generous of Clear Channel to create artificial monopolistic markets from which it alone will profit.

Philadelphian Anthony Mazza and his Radio Volta has as much right to occupy the public airwaves as any corporate entity. The FCC, however, especially under the stewardship of industry sycophant Michael Powell, has recently repositioned itself as a handservant to the corporate and religious broadcasters of the US.

From correspondent Brandon Gilette at Poynter's Convergence Chaser:
Clear Channel Communications CEO Mark P. Mays called the radio ownership experience following 1996's rule change "the canary in the coalmine, providing evidence of the dangers of deregulation — dangers, they say, that await other media that would follow in radio's footsteps. This analogy doesn't fly for one simple reason — the canary isn't dead. To the contrary, it is alive and well, healthier and more robust than ever."

[FCC] Commissioner [Michael] Copps' retort: "You're right, it's not dead –- it immediately acquired the coal mine, and now controls 12 radio stations down there."
If you're sick of media gruel, look into some of the alternatives. Like the Prometheus Radio Project and the Media Access Project.
Thursday, February 27, 2003

Graphic by
RT2 Design, who will send you a PDF file suitable for framing if you ask nicely.
Right-wing patriots for asbestos. In addition to its public service efforts to eliminate IOLTA legal aid for the poor (see PLA's coverage
here and here and our own post here), the Washington Legal Foundation reveals its pro-asbestos advocacy:
In a recent study for the Washington Legal Foundation, former Attorney General Griffin Bell suggests a number of strategies for judges to assert control over asbestos litigation, including insisting on proof of injury, ensuring the reliability of medical evidence, and limiting punitive damages.
Well-funded right-wingers snuggled in their charity think tanks insist that they and they alone should determine the proper compensation of anyone hurt by asbestos — not judges, not juries, not you.

File under: Washington Legal Foundation, right wing 501(c)(3) "charity," big sugar daddy Richard Mellon Scaife, nasty IOLTA aid for po' folk, asbestos-caused mesothelioma, McTort reform, class warfare, plutocratic evil running rampant.
Blogger: the screenplay. Here's the script for the trailer of Critical Mass, a cinematic chronicle of blogging's rise and fall by George Partington at
High Water.
toesMore symbols of Texas. State flower:
bluebonnet. State reseller: Linda "Jus' Stuff" Lay. State murder weapon: Mercedes-Benz. State final meal: various.

And now a new Texas classification — state black market body parts: fingernails, toenails and torsos...
Galvestonian Allen Tyler put more than $18,000 in his pocket by selling fingernails and toenails from bodies donated to the University of Texas* Medical Branch for medical research, newly released records show.

Tyler supervised UTMB's Willed Body Program for more than 30 years until he was fired almost a year ago. He also received at least $56,000 in direct payments from a New Jersey firm; UTMB officials believe its owner and Tyler profited from the illegal sale of bodies or body parts, the records show.

Records examined by the Houston Chronicle this week show that between November 1999 and August 2001, Tyler received at least $18,210 from Watson Laboratories Inc. of Salt Lake City for hundreds of human fingernails and toenails. The firm used the nails to test experimental medicines.


Tyler received $4,005 from Watson in one transaction. The money paid for 232 fingernails at $15 each and 35 toenails at $15 each, according to Tyler's records. Tyler sent letters directing the company to make out checks to him, and he gave his home address in Galveston as the place to which the payments should be sent, records show.


After Tyler was fired, UTMB officials discovered that he had allowed the ashes of scores of body donors whose remains were cremated to be commingled, making it impossible to return ashes to donors' families who had expected to receive the remains. After UTMB informed the families of the mixed ashes, relatives of several body donors filed lawsuits -- all still pending -- against Tyler and UTMB seeking damages.


The newly released records include many invoices that show how donated bodies were used.

Among dozens of those invoices, more than 30 reflect shipments of body parts -- mostly human torsos -- to a company called Surgical Body Forms, owned by Agostino "Augie" Perna.

The Perna-related invoices direct that checks be made out to Tyler and sent to him at his office or his home.
We wouldn't ordinarily pay this much attention to the symbolic character of Texas, except that the state has generously offered to share the genius of its former governor with us and the rest of the world.

*Let's not forget that the esteemed University of Texas and its macabre cache of donated and mutilated human cadavers is also a major client of the dastardly and mysterious Carlyle Group.
deleteBubble Boy gets popped. Frank Quattrone, star investment banker, becomes ensnared in his own coverup (
Wall Street Journal, subscription required):
Frank Quattrone, Credit Suisse First Boston's investment-banking star, was apprised of three regulatory inquiries, including a criminal probe, into the firm's IPO practices days before he urged colleagues to purge files.

In a series of e-mails on Dec. 3, 2000, the securities firm's in-house lawyer David Brodsky informed Mr. Quattrone about the investigations into the underwriting of technology stocks by CSFB, a unit of Credit Suisse Group. The e-mails were sent two days before Mr. Quattrone, in a Dec. 5 e-mail, urged CSFB bankers to follow the advice of a CSFB banker to dispose of notes, valuation analyses and other internal memos to protect the firm against lawsuits resulting from the bursting of the technology-stock bubble.
For sales of stock worth billions of dollars, the stakes were certainly high enough (New York Post via Shepherd, Smith and Bebel PC):
Quattrone and his crew made CSFB the top underwriter of tech IPOs during the tech boom in 1999. They underwrote $6.08 billion worth of IPOs on 62 separate issues, according to Thomson Financial.

In 2000 CSFB slipped to No. 4, behind Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, with $4.72 billion and 44 separate issues.
Earlier in the same article, we get a sense of Quattrone's scope by comparing his crimes with those of Merrill Lynch:
A probe by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer against Merrill Lynch made public scandalous e-mails that rocked the firm, causing the stock to drop more than 25 percent and forcing Merrill to pony up $100 million and institute reforms to settle the case.

But CSFB had many more underwritings under star tech banker Frank Quattrone than Merrill did.
Now the time has come for CSFB's Frank Quattrone, Bubble Boy Extraordinaire turned Superstar Email Deleter, to pony up his share of the loot.

Merrill Lynch's $100 million fine is all well and good, and CSFB's $200 million fine or whatever it ends up being will be very nice, I'm sure, but why aren't any of these people going to enjoy some quality downtime in jail? A good working definition of class warfare would be when only the lower classes go to prison for their crimes, while the masters of Enron, Tyco, Merrill Lynch and CSFB get wrist-slapped (if anything) and fined in trivial amounts relative to the enormity of their thefts and indiscretions.

While Rome is burning, Ashcroft's Department of Justice spends our resources chasing down every last one of those deadly and destructive head shop owners and game "warez" bootleggers. Priorities!
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
A number of changes and additions were made to the permanent links in the right column.

Please try every single link and tell me what you think of the selection.

"Supreme Court Rules for Anti-Abortion Groups":
A jury in 1998 in Chicago found the anti-abortion groups violated the extortion and racketeering laws and awarded the plaintiffs $258,000 in damages.

The defendants were barred from trespassing, setting up blockades or behaving violently at abortion clinics for 10 years.

A U.S. appeals court upheld the judgment, including the nationwide injunction issued against the groups.

The Supreme Court reversed the ruling, lifting the nationwide injunction.
Once again, juries are pawns in a much larger and more corrupt game.

Graphic by RT2 Design, who will probably email you a pdf file suitable for printing and displaying if you ask nicely.
oxleyQuid pro quotient. Somebody needs to explain to Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) the general concept of ethics, and it ought to be the House ethics committee (
Washington Post):
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Democratic leaders will meet as early as today to determine how to respond to allegations that top aides to Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) suggested that a congressional probe of mutual fund companies might ease if the industry dismissed one of its most prominent Democratic lobbyists or hired a Republican. As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Oxley oversees mutual fund companies.

"That is an extraordinarily serious allegation," Hoyer said. If proven true, "it's both unethical and frankly borders on perhaps being criminal."
Oxley oversees a $6 trillion industry that is currently under investigation, and his aides allegedly "suggest" that it might be a good idea to fire a Democrat or hire a Republican. Low IQ, but high QPQ (quid pro quotient).

Investigate the bastard.

UPDATE: An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) adds a twist of the conservative zealot Grover Norquist to the story:
When the new ICI lobbyist is hired, "I would be surprised if it wasn't a Republican," said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

Mr. Norquist launched the so-called "K Street Project" in 1998 to pressure trade associations to hire Republicans and contribute more to the party.

He said the research confirmed his view that industry lobbying efforts were faltering because trade groups relied on "aging, left-wing Democrats" to make their case to Republican congressional leaders and staff.

"This ICI is a poster child for this -- it's one of the worst," said Mr. Norquist.

The $6.3 trillion mutual fund industry should be leading the charge to create private accounts within Social Security and expand savings plans, such as the 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account, but has neglected to do so because its Democratic lobbyists oppose the idea, Mr. Norquist charged.

Congressional Republicans adopted legislation to expand IRAs and 401(k)s "all on their lonesome, without any help from those guys," said Mr. Norquist. He figures the ICI will be little help on tax reform in 2003 unless it shakes up its lobbying team.

"All they have is contacts with washed-up Democratic congressmen," said Mr. Norquist. "They're in a time warp, they don't know the majority, or how the majority thinks."
Interestingly, the administration, in total defiance to Norquist, is simultaneously backing away (NYT) from its own push to further destroy Americans' ability to amass retirement savings, preferring to focus almost exclusively on tax cuts for the rich and preemptive war in Iraq.
Travel through time with faith-based science. When it comes to global warming, we can only get on our knees and pray that the public wakes up to the colossal irresponsibility of Bush policy decision makers (
New York Times):
A panel of experts has strongly criticized the Bush administration's proposed research plan on the risks of global warming, saying that it "lacks most of the elements of a strategic plan" and that its goals cannot be achieved without far more money than the White House has sought for climate research.

The 17 experts, in a report issued yesterday, said that without substantial changes, the administration's plan would be unlikely to accomplish the aim laid out by President Bush in several speeches: to help decision makers and the public* determine how serious the problem is so that they can make clear choices about how to deal with it.

The president has said that more research is needed before the administration can even consider mandatory restrictions on heat-trapping greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The expert panel, convened by the National Academy of Sciences at the administration's request, said some of the plan's proposals for new research seemed to rehash questions that had already been largely settled.


"In some areas, it's as if these people were not cognizant of the existing science," said one member, Dr. William H. Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. "Stuff that would have been cutting edge in 1980 is listed as a priority for the future."

For example, the report said, far more is already known about human activity's contribution to global warming than is suggested by the administration's plan, which, the panel said, expresses too much uncertainty about the question.

*The public have already made up their minds, with 75% of all adults recognizing the existence of global warming and 70% supporting the Kyoto agreements, according to this Harris poll. Even a 54% majority of propaganda-susceptible Republicans approve of the Kyoto agreements.
When the current administration is not selling out to organized religion, it's selling out to organized industry. To counter this rampage of organized racketeering against the desires and resources of American citizens, we should consider reconfiscating our country under RICO legislation.

With all the familiar faces from the 1980s, the revival of Star Wars, the rhetoric of empire, and now the erasure of more than two decades of environmental research, I wonder if Ralph Nader supporters have yet figured out that they successfully campaigned to reelect Ronald Reagan.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
The Better Rhetor gives a pithy lesson in propaganda, analyzing Weekly Standard magazine covers as a cumulative visual argument for an inevitable war. Simple and ingenious.
Bong! You're dead. Now Ashcroft's misnamed Department of Justice is
stealing the websites of people who do not sell drugs or kiddie porn. Link via TalkLeft, who says: "This takes asset forfeiture to a new and very chilling level."

Weren't these the same people who said government was too big, too invasive?

If you care about destruction of privacy and confiscation of private property, it's time to get busy with NORML and the increasingly crucial ACLU.

Much as they'd like to, Ashcroft and his theocratic thugs can't rule the entire world. There's always Amsterdam.
Seymour Hersh and his recent New Yorker reports on Pakistan and North Korea have been extraordinarily valuable in decoding the world scene for those of us trying to keep track. This profile page by Bill Moyers' show NOW includes references to his work on Kissinger and Cambodia, My Lai, Korean Flight 007, and the other September 11, the CIA-supported military coup in Chile in 1973.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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