Good news for a change. Alternative weekly Chicago Reader published a print-only story today about a fascinating Northwestern University history student named Conor O'Neil who is using formidable family financial resources to produce his own first-class speaker series with featured appearances by:
author and New Republic senior editor John Judis (last week),
According to Deanna Isaacs of the Reader, "Every lecture will be recorded on DVD and made available without cost to public libraries in Evanston and Chicago and to anyone else who asks for them.... He wants the organization, which is also screening documentary films (schedule at www.cliosociety.com), to be thought of as an 'open mike' and invites program suggestions. The group is applying for nonprofit status, after which O'Neil says foundation money should start coming in. In any case, he says, he'll keep it going: these thinkers and writers 'are my heroes.'"
Talk about using your powers for good and not evil. Add yourself to my list of heroes, Conor.
Even as he advises the Pentagon on war matters, Richard N. Perle, chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board, has been retained by the telecommunications company Global Crossing to help overcome Defense Department resistance to its proposed sale to a foreign firm, Mr. Perle and lawyers involved in the case said today.
Mr. Perle, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, is close to many senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who appointed him to lead the policy board in 2001. Though the board does not pay its members and is technically not a government agency, it wields tremendous influence in policy circles. And its chairman is considered a "special government employee," subject to federal ethics rules, including one that bars anyone from using public office for private gain.
According to lawyers involved in the review and a legal notice that Global Crossing is preparing to file soon in bankruptcy court, Mr. Perle is to be paid $725,000 by the company, including $600,000 if the government approves the sale of the company to a joint venture of Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, and Singapore Technologies Telemedia, a phone company controlled by the government of Singapore.
The influence of people like Perle is destroying America. The twisted illogic, the lying, the conniving, and, most of all, the pocket-lining reveal their complete lack of morality — and not in the prurient Republican sense. Surely the only way Perle or anyone in the administration could get a blow job would be to pay for it with the money of foreign industrialists.
Could this administration and its influence brokers be any more unseemly?
Chemical facilities may be attractive targets for terrorists intent on causing economic harm and loss of life. Many facilities exist in populated areas where a chemical release could threaten thousands. EPA reports that 123 chemical facilities located throughout the nation have toxic “worst-case” scenarios where more than a million people in the surrounding area could be at risk of exposure to a cloud of toxic gas if a release occurred. To date, no one has comprehensively assessed the security of chemical facilities.
No federal laws explicitly require that chemical facilities assess vulnerabilities or take security actions to safeguard their facilities from attack.
More than a million times 123 is roughly half the US population.
While Tom Ridge fingerpaints with his terror colors and Rumsfeld serves as Secretary of Offense, no one's minding the security of the country itself — except for the same GAO that Dick Cheney has effectively (and partisanly) silenced.
Instead I offer you only these additional words from the Washington Post tracing the pattern that arcs across a number of similar resignations:
Beers declined to comment yesterday, but close associates said he had considered leaving the high-pressure job for some time before submitting his one-paragraph resignation letter on Monday. Although some speculated that his resignation was a protest against the White House's increased concentration on Iraq at the expense of the overall counterterrorism effort, others cited general weariness with fighting internal battles.
News of Beers's departure was followed yesterday by the third resignation of a U.S. diplomat over Iraq policy since last month. Mary A. Wright, the number two official at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia, had spent 15 years in the foreign service and 26 years in the Army and Army Reserves.
"I strongly believe that going to war now will make the world more dangerous, not safer," Wright said in a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. "In our press for military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world."
Wright, the highest-ranking diplomat to resign over the current situation, also criticized what she called a "lack of policy on North Korea" and said she disagrees with the administration's "lack of effort" in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She said the United States has "done little" to end the violence. She called on the administration to "exert our considerable financial influence" on the Israelis and Palestinians alike.
"I have served my country for almost 30 years in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world," concluded Wright, who won a State Department heroism award in 1997 in Sierra Leone. "I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of the administration and cannot defend or implement them."
John Brady Kiesling, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Athens resigned in February, telling Powell in a letter that he no longer believed he was upholding the interests of the American people and the world by supporting President Bush's policies.
"The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests," Kiesling said. "Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security."
John H. Brown resigned last week from the foreign service after serving for 22 years. He said: "The president's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century."
I imagine it must be very difficult to act in any counterterrorist capacity when every executive decision contradicts your very purpose. US counterterrorism efforts — the first line of true "homeland security" — have been eviscerated by Bush and scribbled over by Tom Ridge and his tiny, useless box of domestic alert crayons.
Harkening back to the blissful state of America before 9/11/01, it's hard not to be reminded of ousted FBI counterterrorism expert John O'Neill who sparred with then-ambassador to Yemen and soon-to-be administratrix of postwar Iraq, Barbara K. Bodine. He, too, couldn't get Bodine or anyone above him in the FBI to listen to his Chicken Little arguments about the sky falling — but the sky did fall on September 11, and it took him with it.
Because We the People can't hear a thing except for the bloodthirsty din of CNN and Fox News and the meaningless blathering of a docile White House press corps, the current crop of counterterrorism professionals is yelling a warning to all of us as loudly as they can — with their feet.
Our proximity to the fighting is unarguable. The collision of network-era news gathering tools, weblogs and interconnected internet communities will produce a kind of ecstasy of information and communication. The war will be fought as if it were on the other side of the thinnest sheet of glass. It will be as if we are there.
But will our high definition connections with the front line and the increasingly powerful illusion of understanding provided by the weblogs and news sites genuinely close the gap of understanding? As we get closer to events, have we gained any moral proximity? Are we any closer to genuine connection with those affected by war, with the effects of our judgments and those of our leaders? The answer, inevitably, is no.
All the technological superiority in the world does not make Americans or the British morally superior. To borrow Clarence Thomas's phrase, the Iraqi people will be subjected to a "high-tech lynching."
The House on Wednesday considered legislation that would make it more difficult for consumers to erase their debts in bankruptcy court. Democrats assailed the measure as unfairly to people who have been knocked off their financial feet by tough economic times.
Democrats evoked the specter of last year's corporate scandals in floor debate Wednesday, contrasting executives of bankrupt companies like Enron who received millions of dollars in bonuses with the plight of ordinary employees and retirees who were wiped out and may have had to file for bankruptcy.
Under the new requirements of the bill, ``People ... will be in economic slavery for five years,'' said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.
Democrats objected to Republicans having excluded from the vote several Democratic amendments, including one that would have made unemployed people who have exhausted benefits, terrorism victims and military personnel exempt from the bill's new requirements for bankruptcy filings.
The people at Webster's are feverishly rewriting the definition of "compassion," based on the degradation of American standards of usage.
"Give me one reason why Washington, D.C., and New York have to be protected and no other city should be protected," Daley said, noting they have stringent no-fly zones. "Don't you think we should have the same protection as the people of Washington, D.C.?"
Downtown Chicago is unusual in that it has a small working airport right at the edge of its illustrious skyline. About a mile away from Sears Tower is Meigs Field.
The FAA has not seen fit to create a no-fly zone in skyscraper-laden Chicago or to close Meigs Field, despite its proximity to the United States' tallest object of terrorist focus.
Why not? Because "homeland security" consists of protecting not American people but the really important stuff — inanimate objects of presidential significance like Mount Rushmore.
In George W Bush's America, human beings are expendable. Presidential images are not.
This year, George Bush "forgot" to produce an aid budget for Afghanistan, until he was forced to provide another $300m by Congress.
The Afghan government, which has an annual budget of just $460m - or around half of what the US still spends every month on chasing the remnants of al-Qaida through the mountains - is effectively bankrupt. At the beginning of this month the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, flew to Washington to beg George Bush for more money. He was given $50m, $35m of which the US insists is spent on the construction of a five-star hotel in Kabul. Karzai, in other words, has discovered what the people of Iraq will soon find out: generosity dries up when you are yesterday's news.
Unfortunately for the majority of Americans who did not elect George W Bush, the consequences of this short-sightedness will be with us for generations.
Tomorrow's terrorists are cultured in the Petri dish of yesterday's news. That's how the current batch was made, and that's how the next, bigger batch will be made too.
US foreign policy exhibits no sense of cultural strategy short of cheap sloganeering and leaflet airdrops. This administration shows zero understanding of national uniqueness, a blindness toward complex human needs, and, most importantly, a faith-based lack of comprehension of the concepts of cause and effect.
What is alarming is that Bush seems to have no reservations about the notion that God and the good are squarely on the American side. As Joe Klein put it in Time, the President's "faith offers no speed bumps on the road to Baghdad; it does not give him pause or force him to reflect. It is a source of comfort and strength but not of wisdom."
Bush's actions, if not his words, seem also to be in line with end-times scenarios imagined by some conservative Christians and fictionalized in the "Left Behind" series that has sold over 50 million volumes since 1995. Up to 40 percent of Americans believe that we are living in the last days, says historian Paul S. Boyer, and that history is racing toward an apocalyptic clash between the forces of good and evil. Millions of Americans believe that the Bible foretells regime change in Iraq, that God established Israel's boundaries millennia ago, and that the United Nations is a forerunner of a satanic world order (The Chronicle Review, February 14). Bush is giving tacit support to such a perspective with his hands-off policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his antipathy toward international cooperation and agreements, and his near apocalyptic discourse of good contending with evil.
Does the President believe we are living in the last days of history and does he see his own actions as leading toward a divinely ordained, cataclysmic conflict with the forces of evil? If it is not a literal reading of biblical prophecy that is informing his policies, then what does he mean by his talk of providence?
The American people have a right to know how the President's faith is informing his public policies, not least his design on Iraq.
The Christian Century describes itself as "a magazine that believes the Christian faith calls people to a profound engagement with the world--an engagement of head and heart. We think Christians must articulate their faith in a way that is socially meaningful and intellectually compelling."
The alarm these reasonably sympathetic Christians are feeling with respect to the potential outcome of Bush's rhetoric must be recognized for the threat it represents.
We secular American citizens must figure out more concrete ways to forestall an artificial, Republican-bred but American taxpayer-funded Apocalypse.
In January Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. would not exploit Iraqi oil reserves for its own purposes, and that oil would be held "in trust" for the Iraqi people. The U.S. government has held talks this year with Iraqi opposition groups about administration of oil fields after Saddam Hussein leaves power.
Later, in whispered tones that you must listen closely for, comes the following (same article):
Speaking Friday at the European Institute conference, James Placke, Middle East specialist at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said in the aftermath of a potential war, existing Iraqi oil field agreements with foreign companies will likely have to be recast.
"I think it's likely that the playing field will be leveled, which probably means that the existing memoranda of understanding will be renegotiated to fit into a very different framework from the one in which they were originally agreed upon," Placke said.
In the initial two-to-three-year phase of recovery and rebuilding, oil services companies like Halliburton Co. (HAL) and Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) would be the main foreign contractors, rather than large integrated oil firms like Shell, he said. Assuming political stability and internal security, Iraq could use that transition phase to set a framework for longer-term relationships with foreign oil firms, he said.
Iraq's oil reserves are estimated at more than 112 billion barrels, the second-largest after those of Saudia Arabia. Recent production capacity under the U.N. oil-for-food program has been 2.5 million barrels a day, but industry analysts project production could be more than twice that level with sufficient time and investment.
In December the Council of Foreign Relations and the Baker Institute projected Iraq's oil export infrastructure would need investment of $5 billion, and its fields would need another $5 billion plus $3 billion per year in operating costs to raise production to pre-1990 levels of 3.5 million barrels a day.
"Likely have to be recast," "renegotiated," "assuming political stability," "could be," and "would need" conditionalize every promise ever made to anyone, anywhere. Except, of course, for clandestine promises made to Halliburton, Dick Cheney's company and current compensator extraordinaire.
But in the article you will find another name, Baker, that brings back unhappy memories of December 2000, when the name of the president of the United States was still unknown. Besides running post-election campaigns for children of his cronies, James Baker — James A. Baker III to his friends — has an institute of his own. This institute issues papers, like "Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq", which pays lip service to other concerns but is more about oil than anything else. The document is explicitly about the setting of priorities. For example, the 270 trillion cubic feet of Iraqi natural gas receive a chapter of their own in the addendum, entitled "Good potential, but not a priority."
With the international focus of its recommendations, this report appears to have been the foundation of Colin Powell's remarks in January. The uni-national involvement of Halliburton was evidently appended after the initial publicity, which suggests that the entire paper might have been a Powell-appeasing tactic from the get-go. "Let's get Colin to present this 'oil in trust for the Iraqi people' concept — we can always change it later," is the thinking.
To better understand how these men want this campaign to unfold, we must go back in time. Like any good right-wing think tank, the Baker Institute comes up with radical ideas, pronouncements, and wish lists, such as those found in this set of policy recommendations from April 2, 1997:
...Iran's influence on the question of exports from Central Asia should also be revisited.
The United States, with its global responsibilities, must maintain a firm and consistent policy on Iran. However, the United States must recognize that it has not been successful in bringing our allies to the same level of sanctions on Iran.
Iraq is mentioned, but the focus on Iran in unmistakable. In other words, there will be an aftermath to the Iraq campaign, and it will consist of Iran.
"I think it's likely that the playing field will be leveled," Placke said in the first article cited above. Not "level." Leveled.
The playing field will indeed be leveled, one way or another, by unscrupulous US corporate concerns. The coming war is a campaign of military clear-cutting for American industrial interests to get closer to the assets they crave.
For the Cheneyesque gang, the playing fields from which obstacles must be removed are actually three: First, Iraq. Second, Iran. Third, the Central Asian republics.
As the Iraq drama unfolds, Mr. Cheney has become the war counselor with the lowest profile but the highest credibility with Mr. Bush. Repeatedly, he has defined the bottom line for U.S. policy: Mr. Hussein's prompt removal from power, with or without a broad international coalition.
Messrs. Bush and Cheney have shared that goal since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks made vivid the threat posed by anti-American terrorists who might obtain weapons of mass destruction. Before then, the administration had been content to contain Mr. Hussein. A debate over whether to join with Iraqi exiles in a renewed push for regime change languished inside the State Department. Mr. Bush never really addressed the question directly, for it never was pushed up to him.
Even after Sept. 11, the White House initially postponed its move toward regime change to keep focused on its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. "We've got Saddam Hussein bottled up for now," Mr. Cheney said at the time.
But with little public notice, Mr. Cheney began working on the Iraq issue with a new dedication. He quietly sought out experts on the politics and culture of the country. He reached out to Iraqi exiles such as Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile whose family led the country decades ago and who seeks to lead a post-Hussein Iraq. And he began hosting a series of small dinner parties -- some at his elegant official residence in Washington and others at the "undisclosed locations" where he'd been secluded for security reasons -- to share ideas with anti-Hussein intellectuals such as Princeton University scholar Bernard Lewis, Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami and conservative author Victor David Hanson.
The hard line struck at these gatherings provided intellectual support for Mr. Bush's own instincts. As the defense secretary in the first Bush administration, which closed the first Persian Gulf War without removing Mr. Hussein from power, Mr. Cheney had been called on for years to account for that decision. In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld adopted a wicked grin once when he prodded the vice president to admit to a crowded room of Pentagon employees that "not going to Baghdad" was one decision he regretted from his stint as Pentagon chief. "Yeah, I guess you're right," the vice president responded.
State Department and CIA officials mistrust the wealthy, American-educated Mr. Chalabi, who was convicted in a Jordanian banking scandal more than a decade ago. But Mr. Cheney and his senior staff have remained stubborn advocates of Mr. Chalabi, a man they first got to know in the mid-1990s at the barbecues and golf games held at private seminars hosted by groups such as the Aspen Institute.
The last act of the diplomatic endgame has remained a subject for debate into its final hours. Administration officials say Mr. Powell doesn't want to force a Security Council vote that faces certain defeat, fearing long-term damage to the U.N. and American alliances. Mr. Cheney and his allies would be happy to force Security Council members to "show their cards," as Mr. Bush put it in a recent news conference.
He is also content to endure the barbs of world opinion to achieve the goal he shares with the president. Noting his own Western heritage, Mr. Cheney said on NBC Sunday that "the notion that the president is a cowboy ... is not necessarily a bad idea. He cuts to the chase ... . The leaders who will set the world, if you will, on a new course, deal effectively with these kinds of threats we've never faced before, will be somebody exactly like President Bush."
"Showing their cards"? "Cowboys"?
Enough with the manly metaphors. These are not rough-and-tumble cowpunchers. They are among the most insular and coddled men this country has ever produced, and Cheney's particular brand of partisan "cartel-capitalist" arrogance and incompetence, driven by insatiable industrial appetites, ranks among the most disgusting displays of official behavior in American history.
The march of astroturf. Since ten days ago when we first located a fake Medicare letter that Republicans had written for shills to sign and send to their local papers, those letters have so far appeared verbatim in four newspapers:
Juneau Empire, courtesy of GOP shill Jeff Pomeroy of Eagle River.
A: When you read the Letters to the Editor in your home newspaper, the assumption is that you are reading the unvarnished opinions of your fellow citizens, not the scribbling-for-hire of professional political hacks at GOP headquarters. All questions of the mean-spiritedness of the policies themselves aside for the moment, the astroturf deception is especially insidious because it's so petty. You think you're reading your neighbors' views when in fact you're reading a political advertisement. Upon discovering that you have unwittingly read a piece of astroturf, you feel cheap, dirty and violated afterward. Or you should, anyway.
Q: Why do Republicans have to stoop so low?
A: Because their domestic agenda never resonates with anything resembling popular appeal, so they are forced to create phony consensus with tacky bribes, like the shabby bumper stickers, mouse pads, T-shirts and tote bags that astroturfers Jeff Pomeroy, Dirk Maurins, Paul Burnett and Raymond C. Joyner will receive for being good apparatchiks via GOP Team Leader, the official GOP propaganda and bribery website.
If you're just tuning in, "astroturf" refers to bogus Letters to the Editor because they represent "fake grass roots" politics.
For 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'."
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."
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.
As 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*?
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.
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.
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.
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 from 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.
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.
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.
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 and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.