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Forces enter demilitarised zone ; Fierce sandstorms may delay invasion

Forces enter demilitarised zone
Forces enter demilitarised zone


Guardian staff and agencies Wednesday March 19, 2003

Allied forces today moved into the demilitarised zone straddling the Iraq-Kuwait border in preparation for the imminent attack on Iraq, Kuwaiti security sources cited by Reuters said.

more at  http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,917373,00.html

homepage: homepage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,917373,00.html


Testing 19.Mar.2003 13:41

AJ

Lying Media Bastards: February 2003 Archives
Feb 27, 03
1000 Words

Baghdad Snapshot Action

"On February 13, 2003, teams of artists and activists postered New York City with thousands of copies of snapshots from Baghdad. Quiet and casual, the snapshots show a part of Baghdad we rarely see: the part with people in it.

"The snapshots were taken by a friend of ours who just got back from Baghdad working with the Iraq Peace Team. Yes, he saw Iraqis suffering and struggling. But he also saw Iraqis dancing and laughing. This moved him because laughing under the weight of the UN sanctions and the threat of an absurd war is no easy task. We were moved because the people in the pictures remind us of our friends & family.

"Thousands of snapshot posters now pepper Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens."

"We want to show New York the people who will get both liberty and death in one fatal stroke if this war begins. We want you to show them in your city. The entire snapshot collection is online as pdfs. Print them out and poster them anywhere and everywhere."

The New York Baghdad 2 were arrested for their action. Their case goes to trial March 13.

Posted by Jake at 12:35 AM
Feb 26, 03
Skeptical to the Opposition

I get tired of this sort of thing.

MSNBC is cancelling the Donahue talk show. Donahue was a fairly liberal, fairly open-minded political debate/interview program that the station had put on in attempt to support its sagging ratings. Despite the fact that Donahue got some of the network's highest ratings, the show is being cancelled.

That's not the part I'm tired of, we'll get there in a minute.

Now, the lefty blogs are all abuzz at a month-old MSNBC study which claimed that Donahue had to go, because it could hurt the network if they were "stigmatized" as anti-war by Donahue's views. And therefore this proves that the media is pro-war, blah blah blah (as if you couldn't tell by simply turning on a television).

But what's our source here? The source of all of this hubub is a column by Rick Ellis, in which he claims that received this report from an "NBC news insider." Rick Ellis writes for AllYourTV.com, a site I have never heard of in my life.

So that's it. The left-wing of the blogosphere is running amuck over an alleged report by an unnamed source mentioned on a column by an unknown writer in an unknown website. Some of my fellow bloggers are even claiming this pile of anonymity is a "smoking gun" proving media bias. But if a White House claim had come out with this hazy type of sourcing, they'd be crucifying it. Sorry folks, if you're going to be picky and skeptical, you have to view every source of information to that kind of critical eye, even the ones that confirm what you already believe.

So that's what I'm tired of, selective skepticism, selective eagerness. For all I know, Rick Ellis is true-blue and his article is 100% pure fact. But until I have some harder evidence, I can't embrace his claims, and I wish some of my compadres would hold out for better support as well.

Posted by Jake at 08:16 PM
Feb 25, 03
Media Assault

Pentagon's Recipe for Propaganda- unlike the Gulf War, the Pentagon is at least pretending to give reporters full access to the battlefield. This will be done by having journalists go through specialized combat-preparedness training, and then "embedding" them within a military unit "for life":

At a recent orientation meeting with Washington bureau chiefs, [Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Bryan] Whitman described the ideal "embed" as one who follows a unit (ground, air or sea) from load-out to deployment through combat (subject to field approval) to the "march on whatever capital we happen to march on" to the return trip home and the "victory parade." This could take "two weeks, two months, two years." If reporters leave a unit there is no guarantee they can return or even join another unit. Probably they will be "pooled" in mobile media clusters that form and dissolve as the action dictates. "Itinerants" (reporters working independently) are not encouraged.

In other words, journalists will be trained as soldiers, and then live, work and risk their lives with American soldiers for the duration of the war. Could this lead the reporters to identify very strongly with the soldiers and lead to strongly positive coverage of the war? Nah.

Journalists Are Assigned to Accompany U.S. Troops- as if the mild brainwashing above wasn't enough, journalists will need to get permission from "their" commanding officer about "live, continuing action," "future operations or postponed or canceled operations." While that sounds reasonable in the name of military secrecy, I also note that "the outcomes of mission results can be described only in general terms," and most tellingly, that "other ground rules remain to be spelled out." Which could presumably include complete censorship when the military feels like it.

MSNBC adjusts image as war looms- apparently the MSNBC news channel is "rebranding" itself as a "hard news" station. Which probably has more drawing power than their previous, unofficial "we kinda suck" brand image.

Caught on Film: The Bush Credibility Gap- are the Democrats growing some balls? They are allegedly beginning a new political and media strategy of questioning the truthfulness of George W. Bush. This page is a series of comparisons between what Bush says at political photo ops, and how his true policies frequently contradict this statements 100%. The page appears on the Appropriations Committee Democrats webpage.

Fla. Court Overturns Reporter's Jury Award- this one pisses me off because I've been writing about this story for years. Back in 1997, two Tampa reporters put together a series of television news segments about the use of artificial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) in dairy cows to increase their milk production. The two found that rBGH posed a risk to human health, and that there was really no way of knowing if the milk Floridians were drinking came from rBGH cows or not. Enter Monsanto, one of the most evil corporations on planet Earth. Before the story aired, Monsanto (which manufactures and sells "Posilac," the most popular brand of rBGH) intimidated the reporters' television station into re-editting the piece so that it was "more fair" to Monsanto's point of view. But repeated re-writse were not good enough for the scared execs, and eventually the reporters were fired for refusing to lie in their story.

The reporters recently sued their old employers, claiming that they had violated the state's whistleblower act. The two argued that they were about to "blow the whistle" on their station's illegal practice of distorting the news, and that their station illegally fired them in retaliation. They won the suit.

And then their win was overturned. This latest judge found that the whistleblower claim didn't hold up, because her station did not violate the law. And since they didn't violate the law, they couldn't have a whistle blown on them.

The ruling explicitly claims that when a TV station distorts the news, it is not violating FCC regulations. In other words, it is perfectly legal for television news to lie to you. Which is good for the Fox News Channel, I suppose.

Posted by Jake at 10:23 AM
War, Doom, Nausea

The War Behind Closed Doors- PBS documentary that looks behind the "WMD" and "oil" reasons for the war on Iraq to what I feel is the core: the desire to reshape Middle Eastern politics to favor the U.S. I missed it on TV, but the entire broadcast is on this site in streaming video. If you can't handle that kind of bandwidth, I'd at least recommend reading this analysis, keeping in mind that the U.S. frequent defines "democracy" as "any pro-U.S. government, no matter how corrupt or repressive, that has elections."

Bush Set to Be Pivot in Diplomacy- "The president is scheduled to give a major speech Wednesday laying out his vision of a new Middle East, beginning with the disarmament of Iraq ... The goal is to portray Iraq as only a piece in the broader U.S. plan to reconfigure the Middle East political map and make it conform to democratic changes that have swept much of the rest of the world over the past 15 years." See my comment above about the U.S. definition of "democracy."

Iraqis will not be pawns in Bush and Blair's war game- "An American attack on my country would bring disaster, not liberation," says Iraqi intellectual in exile Kamil Mahdi.

Disquiet on the Northern Front- this should be one of the more disturbing stories you read about the pending Iraq war. The Iraqi Kurds of northern Iraq want their own autonomous state. The Turks don't want them to have one, because it may incite Turkish Kurds to try to fight for their own independence. So as part of their deal to cooperate with the U.S. on the war, Turkey wants to send 80,000 of its own troops into northern Iraq. It is unclear whether or not these troops are intended to get between the two forces, preventing the Iraqi and Turkish Kurds from joining forces, or if it is an actual plan by Turkey to crush the Iraqi Kurds and prevent their independence. The Iraqi Kurds have announced that any Turkish troops sent into Iraq's Kurdish regions will be seen as invaders. Meaning that the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein could easily blossom into a Turkey-Kurdistan war within weeks or months.

The other part of the article is also a bit disturbing. Iran has sent a proxy army (5000 Iraqis who are loyal to Iran) into Iraq. No idea how that will play out. Not surprisingly, with Iraq about to be rent asunder, Iran wants to have some forces there to nab some of the pieces.

U.S. on Diplomatic Warpath- could it have been any more blatant that America was buying Turkey's cooperation for the war? I also found it intriguing that Turkey demanded that the deal be spelled out in writing because they were promised aid in 1991, but did not receive it.

The Bush administration's actions are ridiculous from a reasonable, objective point of view. What incentive does any country in the world have to join the U.S. in a seemingly pointless war? Why should any world leader risk their political position by taking an incredibly unpopular stand on the issue? For example, 94% of the Turkish population is against the war. In a democratic regime, that could mean losing an election. In a non-democratic regime, that risks the possibility of a coup. The common sense reaction for most world leaders is to "respectfully disagree," to steal a recent Bush quote, and not join in the war effort.

The U.S. knows this, and has now jumped into both the bribery and intimidation games (hmm, kinda like the mafia). Not only is the U.S. paying huge amounts in aid and loans to get regional cooperation and Security Council votes, the U.S. is now threatening to withhold or end aid to countries that don't support the war. Motherfuckers.

U.S. Officials Say U.N. Future At Stake in Vote- "You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the [senior Russian] diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not." That's a little shaky due to the quasi-anonymous sourcing, but it's pretty much what I've felt since August. The U.S. has always intended to invade Iraq, and everything else was just a sideshow.

Missile Defense Waiver Sought- "The Bush administration is proposing to exempt the Pentagon's controversial missile defense system from operational testing legally required of every new weapons system in order to deploy it by 2004." That's right. The Bush administration wants its missile defense system so badly that they don't even care if it works. And evidence from previous tests shows that it doesn't. And in the few tests where the missile defense system does work, it is usually rigged.

Posted by Jake at 08:39 AM
Feb 24, 03
Metaphoric Smithereens

I've been thinking a lot about metaphors in political discussion because they're being used so often to try to discredit anti-war activists at the moment. Of course, no metaphor holds up under intense scrutiny, but some of them don't even hold up to a second glance. So, it's time for me to kick some metaphors in the nuts.

The first I keep hearing is the Appeasement Metaphor. It is usually said in a haughty nasal tone, like "These protesters remind me a bit of Neville Chamberlain before World War II." The implication being that protesters are being "soft" on Saddam Hussein the way that England and France were "soft" on Adolf Hitler. Therefore we anti-war activists are responsible for the Holocaust or WWII or something.

This metaphor falls apart in so many ways.

Let's look at the scenarios.

In the 1930s, Germany had violated many aspects of the Treaty of Versailles, their WWI surrender agreement. They had built a huge, technologically- advanced army and taken over/merged with Austria. In 1938, Adolf Hitler demanded that Germany be given the Sudetenland, big chunk of Czechoslovakia. If Germany got this land, they would stop their efforts for expansion. If they didn't.... In order to prevent war, Britain and France agreed to give the Sudetenland to Germany (Czechoslovakia had no say in the matter). Britain and France cheered that they had achieved peace, and then Hitler conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia. With 60+ years of searing 20-20 hindsight, it is commonly agreed that Appeasement was one of the stupidest foreign policy moves ever. Because all of us 21st century folks know that you shouldn't trust Hitler, Britain and France of the 1930s should also have known not to trust Hitler.

In 1980, Saddm Hussein tried to take over Iran, and after nearly a decade, failed. In 1990, Saddam Hussein took over Kuwait, and then was forcefully routed and kicked out by a U.S.-led international force. Iraq was then bombed and embargoed for over a decade. Iraq may have violated some aspects of its own surrender treaty, and the U.S. argues that therefore Iraq should be invaded and Saddam Hussein should be removed from power. In this scenario, "appeasement" is to disagree that Iraq should be invaded, or prefer that weapons inspectors continue to scour Iraq for "weapons of mass destruction" and find evidence of these alleged treaty violations.

Probably the biggest differences here are 1) Germany demanded land; Iraq has not demanded anything of anyone, and 2) 1930s Germany was a military juggernaut; 2003 Iraq is a frail shell of its 1991 military self, which was easily routed even then.

The analogy also assumes that things would've been much different, much better, if Germany had not been appeased. But would they? The implication is that WWII could have been avoided if only there had been no appeasement. But no one knows what would've happened. Maybe Germany would have been repelled. Maybe they would have easily destroyed their two unprepared rivals. Hard to say.

So how does Iraq figure in? If we refuse to attack Iraq, will it conquer or seek to conquer all of the region? In its current military state, that seems unlikely.

The next analogy is one that popped up in my memory lately. Right before the U.S. war on Afghanistan began (the 2001 one), there was a joke being passed around by pro-war folks. It went something like "when you see someone protesting, go up to them and punch them in the face. When they punch you back, smile and say that's what the U.S. is doing, fighting back when necessary." I admit, this pissed me off, the whole smug "they're just hypocrites who don't know what they're talking about" thing. I also didn't like the idea of strangers punching me in the face as part of some alleged object lesson (I tend to oppose most Jake-face-punching policies).

Now, the problem with this metaphor is degree. I've thought an awful lot about force, power and violence since 9-11, both figuratively and literally. When you take any action, the more force you use, the more likely you are to cause unintended damage. For example, cutting someone with a scalpel during a surgery is a reasonable application of violence, because of its limited use and its precision. But when you use more force, like cutting them with a hatchet or chainsaw, you are causing huge amounts of unintended damage. This is one of the reasons that modern warfare is so catastrophic: modern armies try to achieve surgical goals with hatchets.

It reminds me of the 1999 war against Serbia. The idea was to protect the Albanian Kosovars from attack by the Serbians. To achieve this goal, U.S. planes dropped bombs from tens of thousands of feet in the air. At the time, I argued that if the U.S. really cared about achieving this goal, they should send ground troops in to physically prevent such attacks, either by getting in the way or attacking the attackers. Much less physical force would have been used, with much less destruction.

Which is why this analogy falls apart. A fist is a much more precise instrument of physical force than is a cluster bomb or a daisy-cutter. And frankly, I would whole-heartedly support an elite team of U.S. forces springing into action in Iraq, punching every evil-doer in sight until Iraq was disarmed and/or until Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It's when you start using high-powered explosives and depleted uranium shells in areas highly populated with innocent folks that I take up opposition.

And finally, we have Bush's explanation for why 11 million peace protesters don't make a difference: "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus group'. The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security - in this case - security of the people."

Actually, this could lead to an interesting debate about the role of leaders in a democratic republic: do the people elect a leader and then respect that leader's judgement, or do they elect a representative who they expect to respond to their wishes while in office? We see Bush's stance on the issue, he's a "you've elected me, now I do my thing" man.

But Bush's comment is bizarre because "size of crowd" is more or less what American democracy (actually, America is a republic, not a democracy. But when you call it "American republicanism," people get confused). The number of people who show up at the ballot box IS the democracy.

And you have to see that there's a difference between a small group of 5-15 people in a quasi-office setting answering questions because they are bored or because someone offered them money, and tens of thousands of people sometimes travelling extreme distances to march around in 10 DEGREE NEW YORK WEATHER of their own free will to express their strongly-held opinions.

Bush's comment is also amusing because I'm sure the Bush administration makes extensive use of focus groups, at least during election campaigns.

In conclusion, metaphors are stupid. Thank you.

Posted by Jake at 10:52 PM
Feb 21, 03
Axis of Countries Where the U.S. Is Fighting for Some Reason

Okay, so we have U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and plenty of troops ready to invade Iraq.

Well, now we will also have fightin' troops in Djibouti (apparently to watch over the hot zones of Yemen and Sudan) and the Philippines. Which is odd, as the Filipino constitution forbids U.S. troops from combat inside the country (why? Probably because U.S. soldiers killed more than one million Filipinos while trying to take control of the country back in 1903).

And apart from the active fighting forces, the U.S. also has military bases in Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Ireland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Krygyzstan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Tajikistan, Turkey, UK, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.

Because we have to protect ourselves, y'see?

Posted by Jake at 12:49 AM
In a World... With TV Commercials on Movie Screens...

Okay, very minor issue, but one that should make all movie-goers happy.

Ads Before Movies Prompt Lawsuit

Yay!

An English teacher in Chicago has filed a class action lawsuit against Loews theaters, claiming that saying "the movie starts at 3pm" and then showing 10 minutes of advertisements (excluding the movie previews) before the film starts is a "deceptive business practice."

Is this a frivolous lawsuit? Probably. But I hope she wins.

Posted by Jake at 12:19 AM
Pax Wal-Martica

Fortune magazine has named Wal-Mart as its "biggest Most-Admired company" for 2002.

The article points out how Wal-Mart is so huge that nearly every business has to alter its practices to suit Wal-Mart.

How huge is Wal-Mart? Let's check some creepy facts:

  • Wal-Mart's sales on one day last fall--$1.42 billion--were larger than the GDPs of 36 countries.
  • It is the biggest employer in 21 states, with more people in uniform than the U.S. Army.
  • It plans to grow this year by the equivalent of--take your pick--one Dow Chemical, one PepsiCo, one Microsoft, or one Lockheed Martin.
  • If the estimated $2 billion it loses through theft each year were incorporated as a business, it would rank No. 694 on the FORTUNE 1,000.


If that doesn't blow your mind, then get off my site, you fucking cyborg.

Wal-Mart sells 39% of the nation's dog food, 32% of its disposable diapers, and 30% of its photographic film. What kind of market share do you need before its an illegal oligopoly?

The whole article is very interesting, examining Wal-Mart's cutthroat business techniques (well, some of them). The key seems to be Wal-Mart's insistence on purchasing items from their retailers at the absolute lowest possible price, allowing Wal-Mart to sell these items to consumers at a very low price. Unfortunately, it also means that the retailers need to pay their workers as little as possible to maintain their low sales price. Which presumably pushes wages down for huge portions of the population, who then need to rely on the great deals at, uh, Wal-Mart.

So that's the Wal-Mart secret, using their economic clout to get the lowest prices available and draw in maximum customers because of their deals.

Well, that and repeatedly violating their workers' rights.

Posted by Jake at 12:11 AM
Feb 19, 03
Beers Strikes Again

Charlotte Beers is the Maginot Line of America's propaganda offensive against anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Yes, through the magic of television ads and radio, the Arab and Muslim world will come to love America despite the harm caused by its foreign policy.

Beers has yet another unlikely-to-work plan: a new "consumer lifestyle" magazine aimed at young Arab men ages 18 to 25.

"The magazine, according to a State Department official, is meant to foster dialogue with young Arabs and dispel some of the 'misperceptions' they may have about the United States." It's always about correcting "misperceptions." Many Arabs might believe that America would kill them all to get their oil, but that's a misperception. And what would better foster "dialogue" between Arabs and Americans than a one-way medium like the glossy magazine?

Posted by Jake at 11:23 PM
Safety First

Perhaps you've heard about the new Ready.gov website, where the Department of Homeland Security tells you how to prepare for a terrorist attack. It has the potential to be this millenium's answer to Duck and Cover, the kitchy 1950s film that instructed schoolchildren to protect themselves from nuclear attack by hiding under their desks.

I looked over Ready.gov's advice for terrorist attacks, and for nearly every scenario (biological attack, chemical attack, radiation attack, nuclear attack), the advice is pretty much the same: Get Out of There!

They also advise you to make up an emergency kit, like the one you'd have in case of earthquake, or tornado. Or a nuclear attack from the Russians.

Of course, this is one of those clever "Panic! Don't Panic!" sort of things. Tom Ridge gets on the television and calmly tells you that the threat of terrorism is so real that you should pack a fucking "In Case of Terrorism" kit to keep in your kitchen, while at the same time acting like you should feel safer because now you're informed and prepared.

Should we mention that having such a kit would not have saved a single life on 9-11? Of course we shouldn't.

Should we mention that most Americans who don't live in highly populated cities or near highly symbolic landmarks will probably never, ever have to worry about a terrorist attack? Maybe.

Should we mention that in the most terrorism-laden year in the United States that around 3000 people died, while in nearly every year more than 40,000 people die in car accidents? Only if we want to be crucified.

Posted by Jake at 10:25 PM
Yeargh!!

Well, I have just kinda successfully upgraded my version of Movable Type, the software that runs this website. Still got some problems on my end, but I don't think y'all will notice any difference unless I fuck things up trying to fix errors behind the scenes.

Anyone who has a Movable Type weblog with the TrackBack feature turned on want to lend me a hand in setting up mine? I just followed all of the instructions and nothing happened.

Posted by Jake at 02:04 PM
Skewered

The new Ampersand cartoon gets it exactly right.

Posted by Jake at 12:16 PM
Shame Offensive Derails?

Just a short while ago, I wrote about the new rhetoric of the pro-war factions in the U.S.: argue that the Iraq war will be about liberation and democracy, and anyone who opposes war therefore supports slavery and repression.

But even as these arguments were made, new information was coming to light.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Tony Blair was asked on three separate occasions about whether or not a post-war Iraq would be a democracy, and he dodged the question all three times. "The future governance of Iraq is something to discuss with the UN. There are a lot of difficult issues to be resolved without speculating about that," he said. But there were a few other ominous remarks.

"Asked if Britain would support breakaway elements which wanted to create a Kurdish state in what is now northern Iraq or a Shi'ite Islamic state in the south, Mr Blair insisted that his commitment to Iraq's territorial integrity was 'absolute.'" This implies that the U.S. and its (paid-for) coalition will prevent Kurds or Shi'ites from seceding, by force if necessary. That don't sound real democratic.

Blair also told the journalists to look to Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai as an example of what a future Iraq might look like.

Uh oh.

Karzai was sort of forced upon Afghanistan during that country's loya jirga, a convention to select a leader. The most popular choice was the former Afghan king Zahir Shah, but U.S. representatives managed to keep postponing the convention until they could convince Shah to withdraw his name from the list of candidates.

Karzai is also a former consultant for Unocal, and worked for the CIA during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (and possibly again during the Taliban's reign).

So that's what we have to look forward to in Iraq? A "democratic" process in which the nation's reins are turned over to a leader in the pocket of the oil industry and American intelligence services?

One of the "war for democracy" articles I cited recently claimed that the "Iraqi people" wanted this war, but only mentioned "Kurdish leader" Barham Salih and "Iraqi intellectual" Kanan Makiya.

Since then, U.S. plans may have changed. Because now two other "Kurdish leaders," Sami Abdul-Rahman and Hoshyar Zebari are accusing the U.S. of going back on its promises for a democratic Iraq. They claim that the new U.S. plan is to eliminate the top leaders of Saddam Hussein's regime and the Ba'ath party, and to replace those figures with members of the U.S. military.

And that "Iraqi intellectual"? He wrote an article for this weekend's Observer entitled Our Hopes Betrayed on the very same subject.

From the U.S. point of view, democracy could be harmful, as the nation's large Shi'a population could move Iraqi policy in a more Islamic direction, and independent Kurds in the north would worry Iraqi neighbor Turkey.

That's one of the problems with democracy, it's always possible that the voters will make decisions that run counter to your own self-interest. Which is why the U.S. is very supportive of democracies (or dictatorships) which share American goals, and is so unsupportive (and occasionally overthrow-y) towards democracies (or dictatorships) that oppose American goals.

Posted by Jake at 12:53 AM
Feb 18, 03
Some Racism is More Equal Than Others

A good thought-provoking post over at Orcinus about anti-Asian racism in America.

When a US Congressman in charge of homeland security endorsed the mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans, guilty or innocent, into internment camps in WWII, there was no public outcry.

When basketball star Shaquille O'Neal mocked new Chinese player Yao Ming by mocking his language (said O'Neal, "Tell Yao Ming, 'ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh'"), everyone helped him sweep it under the rug as just a harmless joke. And when sports radio talk shows encouraged people to follow Shaq's example and call them up with jokes about the Chinese, no one batted an eyelash.

Think what you will about the separate incidences above, but they all point to an apparent American perception that that racism towards Asians is either acceptable, or is "not really racism."

The link above is a good piece on the subject, especially for us white folks who are often sheltered from thinking about racial issues.

Posted by Jake at 01:03 PM
We Will Bury You

From HotJobs.com:

MORTICIAN-$6,000 Sign-On Bonus
Location: New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA
Position Type: Employee
Position Duration: Full-Time
Date Posted: 02/18/2003

We are looking for candidates Nationwide!!!!

The Navy Mortuary Affairs Program is responsible for the recovery, preparation and final disposition of Navy and Marine Corps deceased personnel and their eligible beneficiaries.

Yes, now you too can be a Navy Mortician.

Weird.

Posted by Jake at 11:30 AM
Feb 17, 03
Protest Pix

Wow. Check out this site.

170 Pictures from over 110 Protests around the World on February 15/16, 2003

Posted by Jake at 11:43 PM
The Shame Offensive

On the Friday afternoon before the massive British peace protests kicked off, Tony Blair landed an excellent pre-emptive soundbite:

''If 500,000 people are on the march, that is less than the number of deaths Saddam is responsible for. If one million people are on the march, that is still less than the number of people who died in wars that he started.''

And so began the newest counter-offensive by pro-war conservatives.

The Iraq war isn't about oil, it's not about weapons of mass destruction, it's not about UN resolutions. It might have been a few days ago, but it's not anymore. Now the war is about defeating a tyrant and saving a nation's people from oppression. The hawks on the side of peace and freedom, and the doves are on the side of fascism and suffering.

Example: this column by Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes. The article is titled "Fascist Pigs!", and contains this tagline:

"Demonstrations over the weekend show the left's dedication to preserving murderous, dictatorial regimes--no matter what the cost."

You may have thought that you were against the war because you didn't want bombs dropping on the heads of Iraqi children, or because you opposed U.S. imperialism, but you were wrong. You oppose the war because you like it when people are crushed 'neath the iron fist.

And this article here from the usually liberal Guardian which informs us that the Iraqis want us to invade their country and liberate them. Well, some do. Well, one "Kurdish leader" and one "Iraqi intellectual" want the invasion. And "the Iraqi opposition." So if you oppose the war, you are opposing the will of the Iraqi people, you lying piece of shit hypocrite you (well, kinda).

It's a powerful argument, of course. Someone tells you that the stance you've taken on a particular issue (opposing Iraq war) will actually work against values that you hold dear (life, freedom) can throw you into a muddle.

At this point in an argument, many lefties make a dumb mistake. They will say something like, "Oh yeah, if the U.S. government is so big on freedom, why do we support dictatorships in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia? Why aren't we trying to free those people?"

To anyone who does not already hold the same point of view, this generally sounds like run-of-the-mill America bashing. It sounds like the speaker is saying "we can't try to free the Iraqi people because it would be hypocritical." Which in turn sounds like the speaker would rather keep one group of people in chains in order to maintain some sort of consistency in their wanky moral philosophy. Which in turn makes the listener think that the speaker is an ass.

What these leftys are simply trying to do is to give historical (and current) evidence to support a counter-theory. These folks are arguing that since the U.S. has so frequently supported dictatorships and opposed or ignored so many lieration struggles, that the "no, we're going in to free the Iraqi people because we treasure democracy and liberty" claims made by the government look very unlikely. Which means that the government is planning an attack for ulterior motives, and is lying to the American public.

I think a lot of American leftists could take some "how to talk to people who aren't radicals without sounding like an asshole" lessons.

Speaking of assholes, there is another pro-war contingent out there, who might more accurately be called anti-anti-war. I always see a couple of these folks at peace rallies, like these fellas. These are people who do not argue in favor of war based upon the costs and benefits, but based upon their deep-seated disgust of everything liberal and their deep-seated feelings of national pride. Personally, I think it is part of a weird nexus where a person's feelings of self-esteem are tightly tied to their personal identification as Americans. And criticizing or maligning any portion of America-- its government, flag, policies, history or culture-- then becomes a personal attack on that individual. It's as though when I say "I oppose the war on Iraq," I have come up to an anti-anti-war person and said "you are a disgusting person."

But that could just be my undergraduate psychology degree talking.

Anyhow, let's talk about this democracy angle some more.

First of all, if we are going to talk about democracy, we should be concerned with what the Iraqi people actually want. While the "Iraqi opposition" (some of whom will continue living comfortably in Britain for the duration of the war) claims that the Iraqi people want the war, is that what the actual Iraqi citizens want? Obviously it's hard to tell. Gallup isn't calling up Iraq and asking them poll questions. I've spoken with several people who travelled to Iraq this past year, and they told me that everyone they talked to didn't want the war because they didn't want more destruction. But how freely would those people be to declare their support for revolution in Saddam Hussein's Iraq? As the Iraqi people are the ones who will bear the full brunt of this war, I cannot support any military action that Iraqi people don't support. This small bit of anecdotal evidence leans towards the "don't support the war" side.

There are no immediate plans for democracy in post-war Iraq. The U.S. has come up with a three stage plan to take Iraq from leaderless dictatorship to modern quasi-republicanism. First stage is "US military-led rule" that would last about a year and a half (a la Afghanistan). Second stage is an "international civilian administration (a la Kosovo). And the third is a U.S.-friendly government that at least looks kind of democratic in about two years. At least that's the U.S. version. The UK says that their troops will remain in Iraq for at least three years.

I'm with the skeptics on this one. Iraq is not a united country that was lead by an evil dictator for a few years and can be freed and restored to its former state. Like so many nations, Iraq is a country that was cobbled together by the West, lumping together people of many different ethnicities, religions, tribes and interests. And they've been living under nothing but dictatorships for decades, and any time a popular leader began to rise, Saddam had them killed.

And on top of that, even some of the Iraqis who allegedly want the U.S. to invade are furious about the foreign military rule to democracy plan. Mainly furious with the first part. To maintain stability, it looks like the U.S. wants to keep many members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath political party in charge of the country.

So when you are attacked for opposing the freedom and democracy of the Iraqi people, just remember the two main issues: what do the Iraqi people want? and do any of the proposed U.S. actions make progress towards that goal?

[Thanks to Dack, Nickie, and my own verbosity]

Posted by Jake at 09:43 PM
More Short Bits

Today seems to be a day of tiny blog entries by yours truly. That's just how it goes sometimes.

No radio show today, KillRadio.org is down for some reason.

And nearly every article over at Dack.com today (2/17) is fascinating and disturbing. The UN, Afghanistan, the Kurds, Germany, anti-war protest, democracy in Iraq, Al Qaeda, the Philippines, biochemical weapons, and more. Go visit and learn.

Posted by Jake at 12:49 PM
Desaparecidos

"Desaparecidos" is the title of a recent article by the Resource Center of the Americas. It is a list of "10 Questions the Major News Media Didn't Ask in 2002" about North America, primarily Latin America. I haven't read it all yet, but it looks like a good piece that asks some important questions.

Posted by Jake at 12:44 PM
First in a Series

Here's some happy news:

"U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials on Monday that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards."

Whee.

[via Atrios]

Posted by Jake at 12:14 PM
Feb 16, 03
Blogging Central

Pyra, the company that brought you Blogger and all the .blogspot.com websites, has now been bought by Google.

Two reasons to be wary of this.

1) Google has a history of massive, unaccountable data collection. For example, Google keep records of every search that is made by IP address. Meaning that theoretically, every single internet search you've ever made using Google could be compiled. Some might consider that a threat to their privacy.

2) Consolidation. This site reminds us that Google has made some major data purchases in the past, and wonders about Google's capacities to centralize the decentralized internet.

Just keep an eye out, blogspot folks.

Posted by Jake at 11:25 PM
The Big Ol' Protests

How big were they?

The most recent estimate I've heard is "8 to 11.5 million people," but you can do the math.

(the above link goes to a breakdown of protest attendance for as many cities worldwide as the authors can find. If you know of one that wasn't listed, drop em a line)

I attended the L.A. protest. And in one of those weird circular life things, I unknowingly had breakfast with the fellow in this picture that I linked to in my blog entry about the last big L.A. peace protest.

I couldn't tell you how many people were there, but it was huge. For those of you familiar with L.A. geography, the rally portion of the protest stretched from Sunset and La Brea to Sunset and Highland. To those of you not familiar with L.A. geography, there was a cramped mass of humanity about 1500 feet long, five traffic lanes and two sidewalks wide. In America's most pro-driving, anti-walking city. I actually took the subway to get there, which I think means that they are revoking my L.A. citizenship.

All the stuff you've heard before. Huge numbers of people from all walks of life. A lot of creativity in the ways people expressed their love of peace, opposition to war, hatred of George Bush, etc. Pretty inspiring to have so many people on your side.

I was told that 70 different speakers were scheduled to speak at the rally. A few actually got your passions flowing, but most semi-shouted the same wan rhetoric about "wanting peace" and how we were "going to stop this war." I'm not trying to badmouth them, but I've never understood why you'd give a speech if you had nothing new to say.

So what effect will this have on the war?

As I've said before, all forms of protest have to change the cost-benefit ratio of a particular government policy or action. Activists who want to make a change must alter the balance so that the cost of decion-makers following their current course outweighs the benefits to those decision-makers. Which in this case, would mean that protesters would need to take action so massive and consequential that Bush & co. would feel that the costs of going to war were greater than the benefits.

Well, the Bush administration thinks that the successful waging of this war will give them enormous advantage on the geopolitical stage, securing them a steady supply of oil and giving them some say in who else gets any oil. And the cost of this war is that (we'll be generous) a million or more American protesters will refuse to vote for Bush in 2004 if he wages this war, people who probably wouldn't have voted for him anyway. And if Bush chose to avoid the war, he would not gain that oil control, and he would lose damn near all of his political capital.

Frankly folks, I don't know what we could to do make the cost of war overcome the benefit the war will have for the White House. But I've never been much of an optimist.

Posted by Jake at 10:31 PM
Feb 14, 03
News and Facts and Stuff

False Alarm?- "A key piece of the information leading to recent terror alerts was fabricated, according to two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York." This should make you very skeptical about the terror warnings released by Washington. Not this statement above, but how our national security is based upon some really flimsy information-gathering techniques.

Apparently, a "captured al Qaeda member" told police that his allies had developed a way to sneak bombs past airport security, and would be using "dirty" bombs on specific targets around the country. That's it, the nation thrown into terror on the unsubstantiated allegations of a man who probably doesn't feel too compelled to tell the truth to American authorities.

But it gets worse. How do we know he's lying? Cuz he failed a lie detector test. Lie detector tests are so unreliable that you can't use them as evidence in court! And that's the basis for knowing that everything's okay? Who's running the Homeland Security Office, the Three Stooges?

MTA Police Spot Check Commuter Trains- maybe these guys didn't get the "our terror source lied" memo. "The nation's heightened terrorism alert has prompted Metropolitan Transportation Authority police to conduct spot searches of commuter trains and stations... Metro-North train conductors will be making announcements on all trains that passengers and their belongings could be subject to search by police and bomb-sniffing dogs."

Afghanistan omitted from US aid budget- remember Afghanistan, that country we recently bombed back to the pre-Stone Age? The White House cares a lot about Afghanistan, and wants to help rebuild it. They care so much that they are spending ZERO DOLLARS on humanitarian aid in Afghanistan for 2003! Motherfuckers, what a bunch of motherfuckers. Even though the Bush budget left it out, Congress stepped in and is giving $300 million.

Exposing Bush and His "Techniques of Deceit"- very interesting piece that shows the misleading rhetorical devices that Bush & co. are using to convince people that war on Iraq is necessary.

Billboard Ban- the organization MoveOn.org has tried to buy space on billboards across the country from the Viacom (yes, that Viacom) billboard chain. The ads would have the anti-war message "Inspections Work. War Won't." Very simple, and doesn't really have any more unsubstantiated claims than your average toothpaste commercial. But Viacom has turned it down on some shady-sounding formal grounds; Viacom claims that MoveOn didn't pay up front and didn't place the ads 30 days in advance, as is Viacom policy. MoveOn claims that no one every told them what the guidelines were.

This is similar to an earlier story about an anti-war group that couldn't by airtime for their TV commercial. At the time, I argued that the particular instance of quasi-censorship wasn't as big a deal as the fact that activists felt so shut out of the media debate that they felt they had to buy their way on in 30 second increments. But two incidents becomes a pattern. Peace activists can't even buy their way into the debate now, and our only stand-ins can be a few liberal celebrities who are then attacked by the right for being hypocritical airheads.

Posted by Jake at 10:21 AM
The Truth Comes Out

We have finally discovered the really real reason that Bush wants to attack Iraq so badly.

Is Hussein Owner of Crashed UFO?

Yes, according to Pravda, an Unidentified Flying Object fell from space and onto Iraqi soil back in 1998. And that the U.S. must therefore invade to prevent Saddam Hussein from reverse-engineering the UFO and gaining access to dangerous alien technology.

This of course puts us in grave danger of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda-Martian alliance, an Axis of Intergalactic Evil, if you will.

But fear not, because the U.S. has apparently been reverse engineering the Roswell spacecraft. So if Iraq launches a suprise attack with their photon torpedoes, we can defend ourselves with our giant samurai robots.

Hey, I read it in Pravda, it has to be true!

Posted by Jake at 09:45 AM
Feb 13, 03
Behind the Scenes

I've got a question for some of you long-time bloggers: after a long amount of time passes, do you get to a point where you check your website stats and referral logs obsessively?

Seriously, just about every day I feel compelled to look and see how many hits and pageviews I got, and see if any people reached my blog from a link on a new website. I guess I like seeing what looks like progress: more people visit every month, and more and more people are liking my work enough that the add me to their pile o' links.

But the referral page (when you click on a link that takes you to a page on my site, my web server company makes a note of the web address where you clicked, and gives me a list of those addresses) shows me some interesting things lately.

1) I got over 100 hits from www.iaea.org. That's the International Atomic Energy Agency, one of the entities responsible for disarming Iraq and North Korea of their (alleged) nuclear weapons. I don't see any links to me from their page, so I theorize that my site was visited by someone within the IAEA itself. I'd like to think that a copy of my altered satellite photo is haning up on a bulletin board at IAEA headquarters.

2) Got over 100 hits from the Free Republic forums, aimed at my post about Viggo Mortensen's anti-war stance during a Charlie Rose interview. The FR messageboards are absolutely insane with mean-spirited, vitriolic conservatism, featuring loads of that style of right-wing humor in which talk about the death and torture of liberals is just good-natured fun (cuz liberals are traitors to America, it's okay to poke a little murderous fun).

Anyhow, the FReepers (as Free Republic users like to call themselves) are trying to organize a boycott of movies and entertainment featuring artists who have spoken out against the war. Which is their right, I suppose, but still a little goofy. Now that some Freepers have found my site, I anticipate angry, hate-filled comments to go up by a factor of four.

3) Apparently, LMB is the subject for a college writing class' homework assignment (Heh, their professor apologizes for my "salty language"). This obviously means that I've become mainstream, and you all should go find yourself a hipper, more underground site to visit (or at least start telling people that I used to be good, but that all my albums after "Bleach" have sucked). Note to the college kids: the internet looks back. Today's assignment: write an article about me writing about you writing about me without your brain exploding.

And while on the subject of referrals, I should mention this.

Apparently, advertisers have devised a new gimmick by somehow faking a link to a person's site so that it shows up in their list of referring sites. The curious reader then clicks on the fake referrer to see who linked to them, only to find an advertisement, usually for porn sites. I discovered this phenomenon some weeks back, wondering why quiveringfuckholes.com would be linking to my rants on media and politics.

Well, that's enough weird meta-bloggery for now.

Posted by Jake at 11:54 PM
Feb 11, 03
Answers Without Questions

The headlines as of late have been buzzing about the "split" in NATO. The U.S. proposed a plan to send troops and military equipment into Turkey, to "defend Turkey against a possible new Gulf war." France, Germany and Belgium are opposed to the plan.

The media are running with the "NATO in crisis" angle: will NATO survive? what will this blow mean to the war on Iraq? why are these evil Euro-bastards so thick-headeded? etc.

But here's a good question I haven't seen anyone ask yet.

Why would Iraq attack Turkey?

Seriously. Iraq is about to be invaded by the United States, and possibly several other "coalition" nations who will not stop until they have defeated Saddam Hussein. It's still uncertain how much they'll help, but Turkey is certainly on the U.S.' side.

So why would Iraq attack Turkey? Saddam Hussein suddenly says, "I'm not getting my ass kicked badly enough by U.S. daisycutters, cruise missiles and cluster bombs, so I'll go open up a second front on the war!"?

Oh wait, here's another explanation:

"The United States says those measures are needed to protect Turkey ? the only NATO nations bordering Iraq ? from an Iraqi missile strike, as the U.S. prepares to move troops into Turkey for a possible northern front against Iraq."

Oh. The U.S. wants to put troops in Turkey to invade it from a mystery invasion, and to position troops for a Northern front in Iraq war. That makes much more sense.

So why would these NATO dissenters oppose this plan?

"France and its supporters argue that military planning would set NATO on a path to war and undermine efforts for a peaceful solution."

Oh. That makes sense too.

Posted by Jake at 11:09 PM
Axis of Power-Mongering

Sigh.

Well, Osama bin Laden has apparently eluded death and is calling on all Muslims to attack America, as is his shtick.

The above link is only to "excerpts" of the bin Laden audiotape, I couldn't find the whole thing.

More specificaly, bin Laden seems to call for Iraqi Muslims to fight against the upcoming American invasion, and warn Muslims in other countries not to cooperate with the U.S. battle plans.

Sadly, I'm sure that many are going to see this as the "smoking gun" proving an Al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein alliance. To me, seems more like an act of opportunism on the part of bin Laden, trying to get innocent Iraqi Muslims to fight against bin Laden's foe.

About as close as their comes to an alliance is bin Laden claiming that it's "OK" for Muslims to fight alongside Iraqi "infidels" to defeat the greater evil, the American "crusaders" (and Israel. Most Arab and Muslim power-mongers try to play on sentiment in the region by linking the U.S. and Israel, instead of focusing on the countries singularly when appropriate). Granted, bin Laden could have called for Iraqi Muslims to overthrow Saddam Hussein instead, but I don't think it would have the same emotional resonance as a "death to the Great Satan" decree. Saddam may be an infidel, but he is not the same threat bin Laden's dream of a unified Middle Eastern Islamic kingdom (presumably one in which he is the King) as the United States.

I do get tired of bin Laden's assertions that this is a U.S. war on Islam. It's not, and never has been. It's a war for power, and any Muslims who are not in the way of U.S. schemes are totally off America's enemy map. But it's as much in bin Laden's interests to insist that this war is about religion as it is in Bush's interest to insist that this war is not about oil.

Posted by Jake at 05:09 PM
Feb 10, 03
Gallons of News

Saudis Plan to End U.S. Presence- possibly the most interesting news of the day. Allegedly, the Saudi royal family is going to ask the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Saudi Arabia as soon as Iraq is disarmed/conquered. And if we remember our history (and few do), the U.S. military presence is (allegedly) why Osama bin Laden founded Al Qaeda in the first place: he claimed that the "infidels" should not be allowed in the land of Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. And honestly, the U.S. might accept this offer, because they can just move their bases into Iraq.

The Police State Enhancement Act of 2003- the ever-insightful Geov Parrish on the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," AKA "Patriot Act II".

Powell's Flimsy Evidence- Dayum! Maria Tomchick (who edits Eat the State with Geov above) strips bare Colin Powell's UN report, stripping it down to a skeleton of error, misdirection and ambiguity.

White House Floats Idea of Dropping Income Tax Overhaul- "President Bush, having already set off a firestorm over his proposals to cut taxes and revamp retirement accounts, suggested today that the time might be near to drop the income tax as a whole and replace it with some form of consumption tax." The more I think about it, the more pro-rich this idea is. If you make a small wage, and spend nearly all your money on day to day living, nearly 100% of your income is taxed. If you have a very large income, you probably have a substantial part of your income that you put in savings or the bank or something, meaning that a much smaller percentage of your income is taxed.

Suspicious Package Sent To Ashcroft Ends Up Being Porn- heh. Someone sends pornography to America's Puritan-in-Chief, Attorney General John Ashcroft.

77,000 body bags- in 1991, the Pentagon purchased 16,000 body bags for American casualties in Gulf War I. In 2003, the Pentagon purchased 77,000 body bags. Maybe they were just on sale....?

Comparing the News- I'm just going to steal this entry from Calpundit:

It's interesting to see how different newspapers treat the same news. Here's how the Washington Post reported yesterday's negotiations between Iraq and the UN team:

The top U.N. arms experts said tonight that they were unable to reach agreement with Saddam Hussein's government on several key issues they had traveled here to resolve in a bid to build support for continuing weapons inspections.

And here's the Los Angeles Times:

The top two U.N. weapons inspectors came to this capital over the weekend wanting something spectacular from Iraqi authorities to prevent a war. After two days of intense and arduous meetings, they announced Sunday night that what they got was not bad.

And the differences are even more pronounced if you read the full text of each article. It's kind of hard to believe that both papers are actually reporting the same meeting.

Bad Boy Done Good- Puff "Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs" Daddy just signed a huge deal with Vivendi Universal: V-U will distribute and promote the albums released by Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment record label, and Combs will make tons of money.

I only bring this up because of my record industry tirade some weeks back. If you as a musician sign a deal with a record label, you make like 12% of the profits from the sales of your own album. According to Wendi Day of the Rap Coalition, if you start your own record label and sign a distribution deal with a big label, you make like 80% of the profits. If any of you reading this are aspiring musicians, try for option #2.

Hopefully this will be the only time I ever tell anyone to emulate Puff Daddy.

Reinventing the Marketing Communications Business- more industry talk about last week's "Madison + Vine" conference about merging the advertising and entertainment industries.

Venezuelan Agencies End Anti-Government Ad War- apparently, for the length of the "let's drive President Hugo Chavez from power" oil industry strike in Venezuela, there were no commercials aired on television-- except for propaganda ads against the President. Try to imagine a similar situation here. Imagine that America was led by a popular, populist, liberal-to-radical president who had incurred the wrath of the business class. The business class incited a labor strike that lasted for two whole months, hoping to make us so miserable that we call for our president to resign just to stop the country from falling into a depression. And all the while, all of our television commercials have been replaced with anti-president propaganda. All of them.

The strike has final broken, but the country lost two months of oil revenue and the economy is in turmoil. And the advertisers are starting up work again.

For the curious, we have some the anti-Chavez print ads here (in pdf), and a video of one of the commercials. The TV ad shows that pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez folks don't have to fight, they can play soccer instead.

Posted by Jake at 12:57 PM
Feb 08, 03
Little for Your Money

Not exactly sure where Ampersand dug up this slightly dusty article, but it's an important read.

Is US Health Really the Best in the World?- article from the Journal of the American Medical Associations (JAMA) from July of 2000. Here's the key sentence: "The high cost of the health care system is considered to be a deficit, but seems to be tolerated under the assumption that better health results from more expensive care". What if this assumption--that high American health care costs equal higher quality care--was untrue?

According to this article, the assumption is indeed false.

Among a number of studies comparing the results of American health care to that of other countries, the U.S. frequently ranks near last, and rarely ranks higher than the median.

In other words, we're getting screwed.

Posted by Jake at 12:37 AM
Feb 07, 03
The Rosiest Picture

Yet another essay by Chomsky, but I find this one's conclusion very enlightening.

I've seen a few pundits and bloggers lately pondering the "rosiest outcome" of the war on Iraq. Could you still oppose the war if everything went beautifully according to plan, minimal violence, etc.?

Well, Chomsky predicts the silver lining, "a quick victory, no fighting to speak of, impose a new regime, give it a democratic fa?ade, make sure the US has big military bases there, and effectively controls the oil."

He then gives some pretty concrete reasons why the U.S. will probably prevent anything resembling real democracy from taking place in Iraq: cuz it could lead to power for the Shi'ites (who are generally not real U.S. friendly) and/or the Kurds in the north (which could lead to instability in America's ally, Turkey).

Posted by Jake at 03:57 PM
Media News

Connecticut to Vote on Ad Tax- I'm gleeful about this one. "As early as tonight Connecticut legislators could vote on a proposed 6% sales tax on state and national advertising." Said billboard advertising exec John Barrett, "We are quaking in our boots. It would have a major impact on us. Advertisers are all working on fixed budgets. Because the advertising industry doesn't have much in variable costs, it would come right off our bottom line." And I hope it destroys you.

STEVE HEYER'S MANIFESTO FOR A NEW AGE OF MARKETING- I really have been meaning to write a comprehensive article on this topic. Advertisers are scared out of their minds these days, finding that simply buying space in existing entertainment media is increasingly expensive and ineffective. Therefore advertisers are seeking to integrate themselves with the entertainment producers and also produce their own entertainment. They're calling it "Madison + Vine," the name of a famous advertising district with a (formerly) famous movie-making district.

The Steve Heyer fellow mentioned above is a honcho at Coca-Cola, which seems to be embracing this radical shift in the biz. This is a speech he gave at the "Madison + Vine" conference this week.

Some fun quotes:

- "Coca-Cola isn't black water with a little sugar and a lot of fizz anymore than one of your movies is celluloid digital bits and bytes, or one of your songs is a random collection of words and notes. Coca-Cola isn't a drink. It's an idea. Like great movies, like great music. Coca-Cola is a feeling."

- "Coca-Cola is refreshment and connection. Always has been... always will be."

- "We will use a diverse array of entertainment assets to break into people's hearts and minds. In that order. For this is the way to their wallets. Always has been. Always will be."

Man, I gotta stop there. That speech is so full of jargon, buzz-words and self-congratulatory emptiness it's making my eyes hurt.

Bad Data- good news analysis by Notes on the Atrocities. The author digs into a poll-centric news story, only to find that poll questions themselves are biased and misleading, which leads to an unreliable and shady news story.

Posted by Jake at 03:49 PM
Money News

Nobel winners attack Bush economics- " Ten Nobel prize winning economists have attacked President George W Bush's tax cutting policies... The most pointed criticism by the economists is that the proposed tax cuts will not deliver what they are meant to do - to provide a boost to the US economy which is struggling to recover from a recession in 2001... The statement, which has been signed by almost 400 economists, will be formally released at a news conference by the Washington-based think-tank on Monday 10 February."

Is the Maestro a Hack?- "Although financial reporters have started to realize that Mr. Bush is out of control ? he has "lost his marbles," says CBS Market Watch ? the sheer banana-republic irresponsibility of his plans hasn't been widely appreciated. That $674 billion tax cut you've heard about literally isn't the half of it. Even according to its own lowball estimates, the administration wants $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade ? more than it pushed through in 2001. Another $575 billion or so will be needed to fix the alternative minimum tax ? something officials have said they'll do, but haven't put in the budget."

Posted by Jake at 03:32 PM
Censorship by Selection

Here's an interesting media story.

A Democrat and a Republican in the House of Representatives introduced a bill to repeal the Congress' authorization for the president to use force in Iraq. Maybe it'll pass, probably it won't, but still an interesting story, don't you think?

If so, you can't have a job at a major news outlet.

As Ruminate This reports, no major news outlet ran the story. Or more specifically, they "decided not to run it."

More at yesterday's Notes on the Atrocities, a blog I just discovered and am very impressed with. Already stuck it into the links section on the right.

[thanks to Michele for the heads-up]

Posted by Jake at 03:27 PM
Gah!!

Ready for USA PATRIOT ACT Part II?

Shit.

Long story short, the Justice Dept. has written a secret bill they want to push through Congress called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. The Center for Public Integrity got ahold of a draft and is publicizing the contents.

Read it all yourself here (in pdf format). It's 120 pages.

Also, there is supposed to be an episode of the Bill Moyers news show Now at 9pm tonight. Guess it's time to fire up the VCR.

To me, the two scariest parts of the bill are:

- Section 312 apparently removes the rules which prevent the police from spying on individuals and organizations. Not that I think that COINTELPRO ever really stopped, but this certainly unhooks its leash.

- Section 501 says that if you are "a member of, or [provide] material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a 'terrorist organization,'" then they can revoke your American citizenship. And if you're not a U.S. citizens, you don't have any rights as a citizen. While I'm not too worried about the rights of terrorists, I do worry about people who might be erroneously suspected of ties to terrorists, and even more about members of non-terrorist groups that the U.S. designates as "terrorist" for their own political reasons. For example, in a recent FBI report, Threat of Terrorism to the United States, the FBI director singles out the Workers' World Party, Reclaim the Streets, the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front as "threats." For fuck's sake, Reclaim the Streets is a group that throws impromptu street parties without permits! If I go to an RTS party, does that mean I can be terrorist-sympathizer and lose my citizenship?

Anyhow.

Stay alert. There's a massive effort underway to screw us all. It'd be nice to stop it, or at least put up a fight when they try.

Posted by Jake at 03:09 PM
More on (Moron?) O'Reilly

As you read here yesterday, Bill O'Reilly is an asshole. Well, that shouldn't have surprised anyone. But he's at it again:

On yesterday's O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly referred to Mexicans as "wetbacks".

Yeah. Go read the link, I won't bother trying to put it into context.

Actually, when I think back on it, the first time I saw Bill O'Reilly on TV, maybe five or six years ago, he was a racist fuck even then.

He was interviewing world famous rapper Chuck D of the group Public Enemy. Remember, Chuck D, internationally famous, has sold millions of albums. Just setting the stage.

Somehow or another, they get onto the topic of welfare. O'Reilly actually says to Chuck D, something like "why should we give our hard-earned money to you people...?"

"You people?" Chuck D's a goddam millionaire. Chuck is not getting any welfare checks. O'Reilly has slipped up, and he most likely means "why should we hard-working white people give our money to poor, lazy blacks?"

I imagine O'Reilly will weasel his way out of this latest scandal through simple, bald-faced lies. Just check out this past example from O'Reilly's bizarre crusade against rapper Ludacris' endorsement of Pepsi:

"First of all -- Ms. Rousseau. First of all, I never do anything tacitly. I do things directly. I simply said I wasn't going to drink Pepsi while [Ludacris] was on their payroll. No boycott was ever mentioned by me."

-- Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, 02/03/03

"I'm calling for all responsible Americans to fight back and punish Pepsi...I'm calling for all Americans to say, Hey, Pepsi, I'm not drinking your stuff. You want to hang around with Ludacris, you do that, I' m not hanging around with you."

-- Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, 08/27/02

But I'll lay off now. Bashing Bill O'Reilly is like shooting fish in a barrel. Actually, it's more like shooting the barrel.

Posted by Jake at 11:59 AM
Danger! Danger!

http://www.straybulletins.com/pix/threat.jpg



The Homeland Security Threat Level has been raised from "Elevated" to "High." This means that all Americans should... I dunno. Stay out of buildings that might get hit by planes? Stop breathing air that might be tainted with anthrax? Run around in a panic? Go back to bed? Spend all day in the reinforced concrete bomb shelter that they don't have? Set fire to all the nearby mosques? Kill anyone who looks at them sideways?

How does this knowledge (well, alleged knowledge) that I'm more likely to be killed by terrorists now than I was yesterday, help me in any way, shape or form?

Wow, what an incredibly useless warning system.

Well, unless it's used for scaring the public and distracting them from other events of the day. In which case:

Wow, what an incredibly powerful distraction system!

Posted by Jake at 11:35 AM
Feb 06, 03
Two More

Geov Parrish and Robert Fisk argue that Colin Powell didn't prove a damn thing in his UN presentation.

Some of the best points:

- Geov reminds us that we won't be "launching" a war on Iraq, but an "escalation." The US and UK have been bombing Iraq pretty regularly since the early 90s.

- Geov on Powell's evidence. "There is still absolutely no evidence that the Iraqi government, now or at any foreseeable point in the future, poses a security threat even to its immediate neighbors -- let alone to the United States, halfway around the world. There is no evidence that Iraq, a country whose military is a fifth of its size ten years ago, a country crippled militarily (and in many other ways) by the most rigorous sanctions in world history, a country whose every move is closely monitored, a country which knows that any aggressive twitch would be instantly suicidal, now even possesses the capacity to inflict harm on any other country -- let alone is a threat to do so, and let alone that the United States is among those threatened."

- Geov on the "link" between Al Qaeda and Iraq. "A man seeks medical care in the only city in Southwest Asia that has both the medical facilities needed to treat him effectively and a government that would not arrest him as soon as the Americans asked them to do so. The leaps necessary to get from that point to the it-requires-war point would exhaust Superman. They include the man's guilt on the alleged charges against him; his group's association with Al-Qaeda and/or capacity to inflict damage against the United States; any evidence that the Iraqi government made contact with him -- let alone significant contact, let alone had a working relationship while he was in the country; evidence that such a relationship could overcome, and survive, the deep-seated animosity and strong political, ideological, and especially religious differences between the two parties (Saddam Hussein's government and Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al-Qaeda); and evidence that the threat thus established is serious enough to warrant an invasion and overthrow of Iraq's government."

- Fisk feels that the telephone conversation and graphics were rather silly.

- He points out that Powell's claim of "decades" of contact between Saddam and Al Qaeda is impossible, as Al Qaeda was only formed 5 years ago.

- While Powell pointed out that Iraq had ties to Hamas, Fisk reminds us that Hamas has official headquarters in the capitols of Lebanon, Syria and Iran, but not in Iraq.

Posted by Jake at 10:29 PM
Finally, the Demonization

You should probably give this a read.

Comfort and the Protesters

It's an editorial from the tabloid-ish New York Sun paper about a New York anti-war protest scheduled for February 15. The organizers are having trouble getting a permit for their protest, which is just fine with the NY Sun:

"Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly are doing the people of New York and the people of Iraq a great service by delaying and obstructing the anti-war protest planned for February 15. The longer they delay in granting the protesters a permit, the less time the organizers have to get their turnout organized, and the smaller the crowd is likely to be. And we wouldn't want to overstate the matter, but, at some level, the smaller the crowd, the more likely that President Bush will proceed with his plans to liberate Iraq. And the more likely, in that case, that the Iraqi people will be freed and the citizens of New York will be rescued from the threat of an Iraqi-aided terrorist attack."

After derisively mentioning the protesters' concerns about free speech and the First Amendment, the Sun drops this mind-melter:

So long as the protesters are invoking the Constitution, they might have a look at Article III. That says, "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."

Wait for it.

There can be no question at this point that Saddam Hussein is an enemy of America....

And there is no reason to doubt that the "anti-war" protesters ? we prefer to call them protesters against freeing Iraq ? are giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein...

So the New York City police could do worse, in the end, than to allow the protest and send two witnesses along for each participant, with an eye toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual treason prosecution.

There you have it. Publicly disagreeing with Bush's plans for war on Iraq is treason. I want you all to go down to your local police station and turn yourselves in.

I was going to write the Sun an angry letter, but realized that they were unlikely to print a letter that began "Dear Lying Sacks of Crap."

But, I'm gonna turn things on their head a bit, just cuz I can.

Osama bin Laden is undoubtedly an enemy of the United States.

Osama bin Laden wants Saddam Hussein overthrown, because he is not a fundamentalist Muslim.

A war on Iraq will likely overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Won't this be giving "comfort and aid" to Osama bin Laden, our enemy?

Therefore, all supporters of the war on Iraq have committed treason, and should be arrested.

Blah.

Posted by Jake at 10:06 PM
Treasure Trove

So much good, painful news.

Tony Blair on Iraq- Tony Blair gets owned! Blair was interviewed on BBC Newsnight by a fairly aggressive journalist named Jeremy Paxman, and a pretty skeptical studio audience. When Blair tries to lie or tell half-truths, Paxman argues. When Blair tries to dodge a question, Paxman refuses to let it go. Can we fly this fellow over here to interview Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and the like? My favorite exchange:

JEREMY PAXMAN: And you believe American intelligence?

TONY BLAIR: Well I do actually believe this intelligence -

JEREMY PAXMAN: Because there are a lot of dead people in an aspirin factory in Sudan who don't.

DAAAAYUUUMMM!!!

First Korean border crossing opens- I didn't hear about this anywhere. " The two Koreas have re-opened their land border for the first time in half a century, despite continuing anxiety about the North's nuclear programme. About 100 South Korean tourism officials passed through the heavily fortified frontier by bus on Wednesday, travelling to the scenic Mount Kumgang tourist resort, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) to the north." It's good to see long-time rivals finally unite in peace, harmony, and hatred of the United States.

N.C. Congressman OK With Internment Camps- Rep. Howard Coble, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and creepy-looking old man said in a radio interview today that the U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII was the right thing to do. "We were at war. They (Japanese-Americans) were an endangered species. For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street." Yes, we did it for their own good. And when the Klan burns a cross on a black family's lawn, it's just to provide them with free heat and light, and save them money on electric bills. "Some probably were intent on doing harm to us," said Coble, "just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us." Start buying your Arab friends wire-cutters and grappling hooks today.

US to unveil greenhouse gas commitments- oh for fuck's sake. "President George W. Bush's ... climate change initiative, which aims for an 18 per cent reduction in 'greenhouse gas emissions intensity' - measured against gross domestic product over the next decade." [emphasis mine]. That's right, our environmental policy is going to be explicitly tied to the nation's economic indicators. Look at the bright side! The higher your risk of skin cancer, the better the economy!

Bush's Messiah Complex- creepy, creepy look inside the empty, narcissistic, Jesus-loving head of George W. Bush.

Confronting the Empire- recent Noam Chomsky piece, I think it is a transcript of a speech he gave at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil last week.

Posted by Jake at 09:39 PM
Fun in MediaLand

Wealth of Opinions- Paul Krugman is one of the few mainstream liberal newspaper columnists who actually takes some good swings at conservative politicians. This long, fawning piece about Krugman has one interesting tidbit buried in paragraph 39: "It wasn't long before Krugman started ripping the Republican presidential candidate [George W. Bush], though he says [NY Times editor Howell] Raines barred him from using the word 'lying' for the duration of the campaign." Covering a presidential campaign and not being allowed to use the word "lying"? Why not have him go scuba diving without an oxygen tank?

Colin Powell Is Flawless -- Inside a Media Bubble- media critic Norman Solomon comes up with a list of good, insightful questions that the press should be asking Colin Powell-- questions that might tarnish his reputation as American Superman.

First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment- "Associated Press staffers Tony Winton and Cathy Wilson recently stood outside the Miami Herald building and handed out info on their sluggish contract talks with AP. Eventually, the newspaper's guards and an attorney confronted them. Wilson says the Herald lawyer told security: 'Make sure the police arrest these people.' Winton adds: 'This [newspaper] is a paragon of the First Amendment! -- except in front of our building.'"

FCC Chiefs Clash Over Media Rules- we've got two opposing forces in the FCC today: Michael "Corporate Bitch" Powell, and Michael "Listen to the People" Copps. Powell says that they should make decisions about reforming media ownership rules (greatly loosening them) now, while Copps is trying to hold public hearings on the issue around the country. Powell seems kinda mad at Copps disobedience.

Copps: Silenced by fear- the same Michael Copps mentioned above says that there are many people inside the media industry who fear the effects of deregulation and consolidation, but do not speak out for fear of being fired.

Posted by Jake at 03:47 PM
I Can't Believe You Won't Shut Up

Bill O'Reilly yells at man who's father died in 9/11.

Seriously, you have to read that one.

What a supreme asshole.

Posted by Jake at 01:41 AM
Now, a Word from the Military

The Agonist has an interesting three part interview over on his site. He interviewed a "general officer" in the Air Force about the U.S., Iraq and Korea (well, I can't verify that this interview actually took place. The Agonist seems like a pretty straight shooter, it seems as though this officer was a relative, and the anonymity the officer is given make it a plausible truth)(it's hard work being a skeptic).

Anyhow, read the interview. It'll give you a new point of view, not a lefty analysis, not the media parroting of White House staff, but a fairly hawkish yet pragmatic soldier who'll be fighting these wars if alll goes as planned.

Part I
Part II
Final Thoughts

Posted by Jake at 12:18 AM
Feb 05, 03
Church & State

Got a sample ballot in the mail today, election for school board rep or something.

The front of the book says:

ATTENTION VOTER:
Your Polling Place
may have changed.
(See back cover)

So, I turn to the back cover and look for my new instructions.

YOUR POLLING PLACE IS:
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I have to go to a fucking cult headquarters if I want to participate in American democracy.

Posted by Jake at 11:43 PM
Powell Brings the Heat. But Not Much Light

Today Colin Powell brought his powerpoint presentation of doom to the UN Security Council. You can read all the text here, and most of his photos and slides can be seen here (unfortunately not all of the slides can be enlarged).

Now, I could go through and analyze Powell's report line by line, but I don't have much to go on. Powell says "we intercepted this suspicious sounding phone call that might be about hiding chemical weapons from inspectors." Maybe it's the real deal, maybe those quotes are taken out of context, maybe the tape is a forgery. How the hell would I know?

And the satelite photos:

http://www.straybulletins.com/pix/iraqsatphoto1.jpg



Seriously, how many people on Earth could tell if this analysis is accurate? How many experts on satellite imaging are also experts on military bases and weapons of mass destruction? A hundred? A thousand?

Or, it could be complete fabrication. I'd have no way of knowing.

http://www.straybulletins.com/pix/iraqsatphotox1.jpg



It's all the same to me.

Here's what some other people think:

This fellow thinks that the reason for Powell's presentation was not to give evidence about whether or not Iraq had these weapons, but to deliver a message that the U.S. will go it alone if it has to. I'm skeptical of that interpretation because the White House says that on almost an hourly basis.

This fellow thinks that Powell's presentation was unconvincing, but wishes he'd said more about the al Zarqawi terrorist network itself, not its thin-to-nonexistent ties to Iraq.

This fellow sees the presentation as yet another power-play in manipulating the press.

This fellow sees the presentation as political theater.

But skipping to the end, after Powell's presentation 10 of the 14 members of the UN Security Council voted to continue on with the weapons inspections. France voted for tripling the number of inspectors, which seems like a good idea to me.

All of this information is useful on its own, but not in this context.

I remain convinced that the U.S. government seeks to invade Iraq as part of a larger plan to reshape the Middle Eastern geopolitical situation to its own advantage. Since "manipulating the political landscape of the Middle East" would not be a very acceptable reason to either the U.S. populace or the international community, a more acceptable reason was cooked up: weapons of mass destruction. An America still reeling from its first major terrorist attack would be very willing to fight for this reason. The rest of the world is a bit more skeptical.

So in context, whether or not Iraq has these weapons is irrelevant. The only thing relevant to this campaign is: do they buy it? Are enough American people convinced that war is acceptable that there won't be an outcry against the action? Are enough foreigners convinced (or intimidated or bribed) to accept this war so that they won't get in America's way?

Iraq probably does have some supply of chemical and biological weapons. After being ravaged by the Iraq-Iran war, the Gulf War, and over a decade of economic sanctions, I don't think these supplies are very plentiful, and I don't feel Iraq is very dangerous. I'm sure some folks would say "are you willing to bet your life on that?" And if the alternative is killling tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the answer is "yes, I am."

The inspectors aren't hurting anyone, and under the close scrutiny of the entire world, I doubt that Iraq is likely to attack anybody. Nobody likes a stalemate, but this is one I can live with. Some weapons are found and dismantled, a few hundred inspectors spend months and years on a potential wild goose chase, and the citizens of Iraq are not turned into piles of ash and bone.

Until there's a good and slightly peaceful way to replace Saddam Hussein's regime, or until the Iraqi people ask us to wage a war of liberation in their name, the stalemate is probably the least bloody option.

Of course, the Bush administration and I don't see eye to eye on this issue.

Posted by Jake at 10:21 PM
The Semi-Newsy News

The Powell Address--Live Coverage- satirical "live update" style post with frequent reactions by the author while watching Colin Powell present his evidence that Iraq must be razed from the Earth.

Mexican farmers stage mass protest against U.S. imports- a new wave of tariffs were eliminated between the U.S. and Mexico as part of 1994's NAFTA treaty. This means that countless Mexican farmers now have to compete with heavily-subsidized American crops. Tens of thousands of these farmers went to Mexico City last week to voice their anger. If history's any lesson, many of these farmers will lose business, go bankrupt, and be forced to look for work (read: sweatshop factory jobs) near the border-- that is, if these maquila jobs aren't shipped to China first.

Hide Your Books- odd tale of TV vs. books in an American elementary school classroom. And surprisingly, the students side with the books while the administration sides with the television.

Shakira Calls For Peace, Explains Mongoose Mystery- I'm impressed. I'd figured that rock-pop star Shakira was just like any other brainless, apolitical music celeb. But this article describes how she is inserting an explicit anti-war message into her concert performances:

"Near the end of Shakira's live show, a short film is projected on giant screens, depicting puppet caricatures of President Bush and Saddam Hussein playing chess. The visual is comical at first, like something from Genesis' 'Land of Confusion' video. But as violent war footage begins to intersperse with the match and the shot slowly pans out to reveal the puppeteer is the Grim Reaper, it develops into a disturbing segment that changes the tone of the Colombian singer's concert."

"'I think that we see war as a virtual thing and we even get to believe that bombs fall on top of cardboard cutouts and stuff like that,' Shakira said. 'They don't. They kill real people, real children, real mothers and millions of innocent people. I come from Columbia [sic], which is a country that has been under the whip of violence for more than four decades, so I've seen the consequences of war and I've seen the psychological damage that it does in a society. And I think that we're never ready for war.'"

Jesus, as she shows some depth, telling about her experience with death and oppression where she grew up, MTV spells the name of her country wrong. Jerks.

Posted by Jake at 11:31 AM
Feb 04, 03
It All Falls Apart

Well, the day is fast approaching when Colin Powell will reveal to the world the secret alliance between the Iraqi leadership and Al Qaeda.

...or maybe not.

Powell to detail al Qaeda travels in Iraq- "But secretary of state will not suggest alliance exists." Hmm...

Powell to Charge Iraq Is Shifting Its Illegal Arms to Foil Inspectors- "Mr. Powell hopes to convince the Security Council that further action is needed to make Iraq comply with orders to eliminate weapons of mass destruction." Looks like a change of plans. No longer with the Bush administration try to win their war on Iraq by a tenuous Saddam-bin Laden connection, but by pointing out that Iraq is hiding their weapons. Which we've all pretty much known since 1992.

Leaked report rejects Iraqi al-Qaeda link- the BBC got its hands on a leaked British intelligence report which claims that there are absolutely no links between Iraq and al Qaeda. What's the opposite of "smoking gun"?

This "Iraq is hiding their weapons so we need to bomb them" strategy is not going to go over very well with the American people. They're not going to get upset about it, and they're certainly not going to see it as a justification for war, unless the fear card is played and played hard ("Saddam Hussein is going to spray your daughter in the face with nerve gas right now and you'll have to watch her writhe in pain till her face explodes and she dies!!! Is that what you want?!?! Is it?!?!?!").

On the other hand, I think that there will be a substantial portion of my American bretheren who will tire of this spectacle and say "let's just attack already." Good ol' America, prisoner of its addiction to entertainment.

[forcefully stolen from Dack]

Posted by Jake at 11:56 PM
Oddz, N's

The Real Thing- interesting article that gives a tiny introduction to Brazilian presidnet Luis "Lula" da Silva, and then compares Lula's seemingly genuine populism with Bush's fake-ass version. I really hope that Lula is successful. He's got a rough road ahead, with a massively impoverished population on one side, and ruthless financial investors on the other.

Media Masochism- okay, just a little more from Eric Alterman. His new book "What Liberal Media?" is out, and this blog entry of his riffs on that topic.

AOL to Subscribers: Don't Leave!- America Online lost 170,000 of its U.S. subscribers last financial quarter. They're still the world's biggest ISP, but maybe this signals the turning of the tide. Haw haw!

Posted by Jake at 10:48 PM
Money

The White House released their proposed budget for 2004 today. Looks bad. You can read the whole thing by clicking here, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Here's the uber-quick summary.

- $1.5 trillion in NEW tax cuts over the next 10 years, ON TOP OF last year's $1.35 trillion tax cut.
- a $16.9 billion INCREASE in the military budget which DOES NOT INCLUDE THE COSTS OF A WAR ON IRAQ. Okay, granted, that war will probably take place this year. But the military occupation will likely continue into 2004.
- "overall freeze in domestic spending."

Democrats are actually standing up to mouth harsh words about the budget. They're starting to get good at that, talking tough before utterly caving in.

Well, let me take that back. In the Days of W, people act like the Democrats and Republicans are opposing forces. Remember how Republican Clinton was? And Gore? And Lieberman? Both parties are pro-big business. The Democrats seem to think they can get a little political support by aiding the little people. That's the primary difference. Well, and there seems to be a smaller percentage of Democrats who are batshit crazy.

Then there's the deficit. It's huge. If I may describe it visually:

http://us.news2.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/nm/20030204/bush_deficit_graphic.gif



Interestingly, if you read between the lines, even the Bush administration admits that their 2001 tax cuts helped cause the deficit. Not that that should be anything but obvious, but presidents like to lie about even the most obvious of things.

And our most damning exhibit comes from the Financial Times, that orange-y paper that caters to the world's wealthy investor class:

"It is now clear that Mr Bush's tax cut of 2001 is also too large."

When your tax cut for the wealthy worries the wealthy, you should probably take that as a warning sign.

I don't understand the math (I'm not schooled in economic theory), but the FT claims that the Bush budget will maintain a permanent deficit, and that will lead to "an annual reduction in national income of about $1,000 per person in the US by 2012." Meaning that long-term deficit spending will cost you American readers a thousand dollars a year every year.

So, in conclusion: Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Posted by Jake at 10:39 PM
We Have Met the Enemy, and Watched His Streaming Video

Britain's Channel 4 will be airing an interview with Saddam Hussein tonight, conducted by anti-war activist and former member of Parliament, Tony Benn.

I imagine it will be a pack of lies, but it might be interesting just the same.

After the official broadcast, you'll be able to view clips and read transcripts online here.

[update]

The video and transcript are now available at that link above. Largely useless. The one potentially good point that Saddam makes is that if there were links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, that Iraq would be proud to announce them. That's not necessarily true, but it would be in line with Saddam's arrogant persona.

Posted by Jake at 09:30 AM
Late Nite Summaries

What Liberal Media?- Liberal columnist Eric Alterman has a new book which tries to attack the myth that the U.S. media has a liberal bias. Click on the "continue" link for the first chapter in .pdf format. I recommend reading the first 2 and a half pages, as they are primarily quotes from famous conservatives admitting that the media is not liberal, and that accusations that it is are just political ploys. My favorite is from former Republican Party chair Richard Bond, "There's some strategy to [bashing the liberal media] ... If you watch any great coach, what they will try to do is 'work the refs.' Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one."

Saddam's Arab 'brothers' desert Iraq- "The Arab world's startling weakness and subservience to the West has never been more evident than in its open or discreet co-operation with Bush's plans to invade "brother" Iraq. Though 99.99% of Arabs bitterly oppose an American-British attack on Iraq, their authoritarian regimes, which rely on the U.S. for protection from their own people and their neighbours, are quietly digging Iraq's grave.

Every Arab leader knows the U.S. will crush Iraq, so none will support unloved megalomaniac Saddam Hussein and risk ending up on Washington's hit list.

In order to deflect the coming fury of their people over the almost certain invasion of Iraq (barring a last-minute coup against Saddam Hussein), Arab rulers have ordered their tame media to launch broadsides against Iraq and lay blame for the impending Gulf War II on Saddam. Never has the Arab world's chronic disunity, backstabbing and petty tribalism been more pathetically on display."

Iran: the next target?- a forward-looking piece that claims that the U.S. goal in Iraq is to install 2-4 military bases near oil fields inside the country to secure oil production and transport. These bases also then become a warning to other countries in the Middle East. The author then goes on to examine the effects these bases would have on surrouding countries (mainly Iran), and what that will mean for the war on Al Qaeda.

FOX News: The Network America Trusts' (To Pay 'Saddam')- interesting point. Reporters staying in Iraq are pumping thousands of dollars into Iraq's ruined economy, and are indirectly giving money to Saddam Hussein. I'm not highlighting this to condemn Fox News, but to point out the tricky situation reporters are always in. They are not like invisible cameras who objectively record situations, they are human beings who's actions and very presence change the situations they are trying to record.

Media Concentration is a Totalitarian Tool- according to this author, proposed changes in FCC law will allow a single company to "own all the radio stations, television stations, newspapers and cable systems in any given area," and claims that "presently, 10 companies own over 90 percent of the media outlets."

Posted by Jake at 12:01 AM
Feb 03, 03
LMB Playlist 2-03-03

Bad Religion- I Wanna Conquer the World
System of a Down- Chik n Stu
Public Enemy- Shut em Down
The Fugs- Kill for Peace
Mindless Self Indulgence- Royally Fucked
Missy Elliot- Work It
Akira Yamaoka- Silent Hill Theme
Guns n Roses- You Could Be Mine
Skinny Puppy- Grave Wisdon
Beck- Debra
Against Me- Those Anarcho Punx Are Mysterious
Gza- Animal Planet
Marilyn Manson- Fundamentally Loathsome
Mclusky- To Hell with Good Intentions/Clique Application Forms
Primus- Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Portishead- Theme from "To Kill a Dead Man"
Anti-Flag- Stars and Stripes
International Noise Conspiracy- Smash It Up
The White Stripes- Hello Operator
And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead- It Was There That I Saw You
Hot Hot Heat- No, Not Now
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Miles Away
Queens of the Stone Age- Regular John

Posted by Jake at 10:29 PM
Coalition of Willing Leeches

U.S. woos war allies with cash, weapons: Iraq's neighbors swap staging sites for billions in aid

The U.S. is spending billions of dollars to enlist the aid and support of south and central Asian nations for the Iraq war.

The article cites a few numbers, but it's kinda hard to tell what's what. The money comes in the form of aid, loans, military hardware.

- Pakistan: $1.2 billion
- India: $78 million
- Jordan: $777 million
- Turkey: $689 million - $5.7 billion

What a bargain.

Posted by Jake at 12:21 AM
When It Leaks, It Floods

Last week, a story was leaked to the press that the U.S. planned to attack Iraq with 800 cruise missiles in the first 2 days of the attack.

Now, the NY Times has an article claiming that the U.S. will use "3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles" in the first 2 days of attack. Presumably that includes the 800 cruise missiles.

But...

The NYT article is astonishingly detailed, listing the numbers of fighter planes, support planes, and aircraft carriers. It lists the specific army and marine divisions that will be involved, tactics, supply plans, and more.

How does the NYT know all this? Because "military and other Pentagon officials" told them.

Which gives us two possibilities:

- the U.S. military is so unconcerned about Iraq's military capabilities that they don't care if the enemy knows the details of the attack.

- the U.S. military intentionally planted a whole bunch of disinformation into the NYT.

Posted by Jake at 12:13 AM
Feb 02, 03
All the News That's Fit to Manufacture

You may have heard the news last week that Eight European Countries Affirm Solidarity with United States Against Saddam. I just read the headlines, and assumed that a bunch of world leaders had gotten together and Issued a Statement of their support for the war on Iraq.

Not so.

After France and Germany publicly announced their opposition to the Iraq war, the Wall Street Journal solicited Iraq-oriented op-ed pieces from the Prime Minister of Italy and the President of Spain. Seeing that the two shared views on the war, the paper's editors had a brainstorm to contact other heads of state and see if they wanted to collaborate on a piece. Near as I can figure, the letter was written by government hacks in Britain and Spain, and the other countries just signed on. And, to turn this letter into an international show of solidarity, the world leaders insisted that it be published simultaneously in the major papers of each country.

So three conclusions here:

1) The eight European leaders didn't actually decide to go out and write a statement of support for President Bush. The WSJ didn't tell these leaders what to think, but it seems as though they wouldn't have thought this plan up on their own.
2) The WSJ organized an international publicity blitz to support U.S. war policy.
3) The Wall Street Journal then got to lead the pack by first publishing this breaking story that they sort of created. PT Barnum would be proud.

In their defense (well, kinda), I don't think this was ideological. I don't think the WSJ did this because they want war to happen. If you read the LA Times article about all this, the WSJ editors are crowing about their journalistic hucksterism. It sounds like they just wanted to get a scoop and sell newspapers. If they had to manufacture the scoop themselves, fine.

[Thanks to Thinking It Through]

Posted by Jake at 10:07 PM
Amateur Hour

Let's say you were an aging white male PR executive who was told to create a webpage for young people, maybe 10-15 years old.

It might be uncomfortable, as you are really out of touch with this age group, not knowing what they enjoy, what they think is "cool," what words they use, what they want.

Now let's say you were an aging white male PR executive who was told to create a webpage for 10-15 year old girls. Even trickier. Not only were you young so long ago, but you were never a young girl.

Now let's say that you're an aging white male PR executive who needs to create a webpage for 10-15 year old girls, encouraging them to eat more beef.

Apparently, you'd scan the graphics for a Barbie doll box, read an issue of Teen People, and then create this pile of crap:

Cool-2B-Real

"Cool-2B-Real is about real girls like you! Whether you're in school, playing sports or just having fun, strive to be the best you can be! Real girls are 'keepin' it real' by building strong bodies and strong minds... and they're feeling great about themselves!"

And if you check the fine print at the bottom:

"This project was funded by beef producers through their $1-per head checkoff and was produced for the Cattlemen's Beef Board and state beef councils by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association".

The site is hilariously bad.

Not only is there nothing there that would make a young girl want to spend time on the site, but there's also nothing that's going to convince young girls that they need to eat more steak. Or beef tacos. Or kabobs. Or beef on bamboo. Or nacho beef dip.

And the beef council is not all that subtle. Among all the boring talk about self-esteem and keeping fit (with anything resembling a slang word put in "quotes"), are these very out of place references to meat. For example, on the Keepin' It Real page, there are sections about self-esteem, "smart snacking," exercise, and a poll question: "What type of beef do you most like to eat with your friends?"

Slick.

So we've learned a valuable lesson. PR execs aren't always nefarious schemers who are warping our minds. Sometimes, they're idiots.

[thanks to "saint aaron"]

[update]

I think I found the boys' version, Burger Town. They're even more blatant that the C2BR site. Poll on the front page "Eat up! How many ounces of cooked beef make one serving? 10 to 11? 5 to 6? 2 to 3? 3 to 5?"

And their KidsCom Cookbook is loaded with all-beef recipes, including--I shit you not-- salads made of meat!!

Both of these sites are apparently products of KidsCom, which is owned by Circle 1 Network which is part of or subsidiary of SpectraCom. Spectracom's company history page tells us that in 1994, "KidsCom.com [was] developed as a pilot project for Kraft Foods."

[Update II]

Andy has shown us one more youth-meat site, Pork4Kids. If you thought the other sites were funny, man, are you gonna dig this one. Of course, this site gives you recipes for meat-laden salad, games, and most strangely, a smiling, cartoon pig mascot who is apparently cool with the idea of web visitors killing and grilling his entire race.

Posted by Jake at 03:24 PM
Feb 01, 03
Passing Through

I felt compelled to do as most bloggers are today, to say a few words about the deaths of the Columbia astronauts today. Then I realized that you're all smart people, and don't need my help to realize that that people dying in an accident is sad.

Posted by Jake at 04:49 PM