Sunday, August 29, 2004

how to calculate the human cost of Bush's war?

That's the unanswerable question that nearly prevented me from installing the cost of the war counter at the top of this column. At least this is one way to keep track of part of the incalculable cost of Bush's tragic foreign adventure.

help for sick buildings

Nothing much to do with online journalism per se, but it's a cool story: Brick that breathes, lets in light, baffles sound, for noisy cities with bad air.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

How oj helps fight Swift Boat & other Bush campaign propaganda

The Swift Boaters' main grievance against Kerry has nothing to do with his actions in Vietnam but rather with Kerry's public opposition to the war after he returned to the United States. But even in this regard, the Swift Boat Veterans are fighting a war against the truth, not for it. They resent Kerry for having testified before Congress about war crimes committed in Vietnam by U.S. soldiers, but the historical record is quite clear that war crimes were committed. (Kerry gave his testimony shortly after Lieutenant William Calley's court martial for the My Lai massacre.)

The point to all of these attacks is not, as the Swift Boat Veterans pretend, concern for "the truth." Rather, they are engaged in a propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the behavior of a "target population" – in this case, voters.

The Swift Boat attack on Kerry uses a classic propaganda tactic: have PR professionals organize and launch a well-funded smear attack, an ad hominem barrage against Kerry's integrity, and do it through a front group with enough separation from the Bush campaign to pretend independence. Then use the right-wing echo chamber to keep the issue alive and churning, spitting plenty of mud and confusion. It's a strategy that is virtually guaranteed to hurt Kerry in the polls.

What seems surprising is that the Kerry campaign was so unprepared for this attack, especially since this has been a standard tactic used for decades by Bush's political mentor, Karl Rove. According to Dallas Morning News political writer Wayne Slater, "It's amazing how similar this type of attack is to the pattern of attacks I have seen over two decades - in some cases involving Bush's campaigns, in other cases they involved campaigns in which Karl Rove was a participant. In every case, the approach is the same: You have a surrogate group of allies, independent of the Bush campaign, raising questions not about the opponent's weakness but directly about the opponent's strength. In every case, it works."

....A year ago we launched a new website to help track front groups. We call it the "Disinfopedia." Among other things, it is an experiment in citizen journalism, using web-based "wiki" technology that invites visitors to not just read the information they find there, but to also edit and add to it. Our online editor, Bob Burton, helps us root out vandal attacks and misinformation, as does a growing community of online journalists who use the Disinfopedia. it all: Have Someone Else Say It by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton

Friday, August 27, 2004

how Bush decisions led to torture

The latest official reports on the prisoner abuse scandal contain a classic Washington contradiction. Their headlines proclaim that no official policy mandated or allowed the torture of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that no officials above the rank of colonel deserve prosecution or formal punishment. But buried in their hundreds of pages of detail, for anyone who cares to read them, is a clear and meticulous account of how decisions made by President Bush, his top political aides and senior military commanders led directly to those searing images of naked prisoners being menaced with guard dogs.
Read it all: How Torture Came Down From the Top by Jackson Diehl, in today's Washington Post

atrocities, then and now

Atrocities then:
For those who have studied the historical record of the U.S. prosecution of the war in Southeast Asia, neither the Republicans nor Democrats have confronted the full measure of those atrocities and what their legacy is, especially in the war on Iraq. While most studies of the war in Southeast Asia acknowledge that four times the tonnage of bombs was dropped on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos than that used by the U.S. in all theaters of operation during World War II, only a few, such as James William Gibson’s The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam, analyze the full extent of such bombing. Not only were thousands of villages in Vietnam destroyed, but massive civilian deaths, numbering close to 3 million, resulted in large part from such indiscriminate bombing. Integral to the bombing strategy was the use of weapons that violated international law, such as napalm and anti-personnel fragmentation bombs. As a result of establishing free-fire zones where anything and everything could be attacked, including hospitals, U.S. military operations led to the deliberate murder of mostly civilians.
...and now:
While Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have touted the “clean” weapons used in Iraq, the fact is that aerial cluster bombs and free-fire zones have continued to be part of present-day military operations. Villages throughout Iraq, from Hilla to Fallujah, have borne and are bearing U.S. attacks that take a heavy civilian toll. Occasionally, criticisms of the type of ordnance used in Iraq found its way into the mainstream press, especially when left-over cluster bomblets looking like yellow food packages blow up in children’s hands or depleted uranium weapons are dropped inadvertently on British soldiers. However, questions about the immorality of “shock and awe” bombing strategy have been buried deeper than any of the cluster bomblets.
Read it all: Hello ... So There Weren't Atrocities in Vietnam? by Fran Shor

Thursday, August 26, 2004

NYC protesters target the media, too

Your media is broken and can't be fixed (from March on the Media)

Mainstream media are the target for protest in New York City next week: March on the Media, Wednesday, September 1, 7-10 pm, converge at 52nd Street and the west side of 6th Avenue. From the organizers statement:
For the past few years, the mainstream media have marched in lockstep with the Bush administration. Now it's time to march on the media.

Whether the issue is corporate abuse, the 2000 Florida recount, the Patriot Act or post- 9/11 detentions, the mainstream media have behaved more like lapdogs than watchdogs. When the Bush administration pursued a plan to attack Iraq, the media amplified the charges of the Bush partisans and ignored or downplayed dissenting views.

And it's important to remember that the media giants aren't yet happy with their domination of the public sphere. They have serious business before the government-- the business of getting even bigger. When the Federal Communications Commission sought to "relax" the limits on media ownership in 2003, big media companies were thrilled. Despite overwhelming public sentiment against the plan, the FCC went ahead with part of its plans. Thanks to hard work, media activists have successfully blocked these changes. We know where the media stand when it comes to their own self interest. But what can they say they've done in the public interest?

Dissension Convention

Dissension Convention promises "A Transatlantic Collaborative Multimedia Protest Jam" that "will coincide with the Republican Convention in New York. 10 pairs of net/digital artists from the Americas and Europe will create live, online multimedia performances. These will be projected at RNC NODE Postmasters Gallery, as well as by other appointed NY platforms in 'store windows, bars.' " The linked page includes information about how to participate or host your own mirror site for the protest.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

who pushes the "global warming's a hoax" story?

Exxon Secrets is interesting in its own right and demonstrates the way native Web capabilities (interactivity, multimedia, & etc.) lend themselves to investigative journalism.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

make a difference: support the Bangladesh Relief Fund

The Bangladesh Relief Fund
The Bangladesh Relief Fund is dedicated to help reduce poverty in Bangladesh and provide its people with hope and opportunity for the future. Recently, some of the worst floods in decades have submerged almost two-thirds of the country. While hundreds have died and many more suffer from the diseases that tend to follow large natural disasters, the principal challenge is that of reconstruction and prevention. To help Bangladeshis through this natural disaster, the Bangladesh Relief Fef Fund is conducting a campaign to raise $1 million. The funds will be used both for short term relief as well as for longer term poverty alleviation projects.

anti-war = treason?

Keep this in mind when the right-wing extremists accuse Kerry of giving aid and comfort to the enemy when he turned against the Vietnam war after distinguishing himself as a soldier in the war, from Did Vietnam Anti-War Protests Embolden Our Enemies? by Jeffrey Kimball:
Communist Vietnamese policymakers had correctly foreseen that the American people would come to believe that it was not in their interest to endure heavy costs and suffer high casualties in a distant war for unclear, abstract purposes. They had always assumed that the United States, which had global ambitions and global responsibilities, would be overextended in Indochina and that its troops, fighting on foreign soil, would likely suffer low morale. At the same time, North Vietnamese leaders and Viet Cong cadres put their faith in their own fighting ability, their own morale, and what they considered their own just causes. For Communist leaders, public opinion in Vietnam was therefore much more important than public opinion in the United States. They were, moreover, unsurprised that an antiwar movement had arisen from progressive elements in American society, and while they were marginally encouraged by it, they were also disappointed and realistic about its actual strength and could plainly see that American policymakers were able to continue the war with great violence despite the doubts of the American public and the activities of the antiwar movement. The Vietnamese were realistic enough to know that protest in the United States could not turn the war around in their favor. Its outcome would be decided on the military, political, and diplomatic fronts.

online storytelling spills out into the flesh world

Fray Day:
is an evening of true stories told by real people in real time. Events take place all over the world and are all a little different, but each event features a few featured performers and a storytelling open mic, where anyone can sign up to tell a true, personal story in 5 minutes or less. Some events also include music, poetry, and interactive art.

Monday, August 23, 2004

does scary dry-drunk Bush rage in war's shadows?

The history of alcoholism and cocaine use is a key issue because it not only speaks to Bush's character as an addictive personality, but tells us something about his erratic and alarming actions as president. His explosive temper probably provoked the disastrous siege of Fallujah last spring, killing 600 Iraqis, most of them women and children, in revenge for the deaths of 4 civilian mercenaries, one of them a South African. (Newsweek reported that Bush commanded his cabinet, "Let heads roll!") That temper is only one problem. Bush has a sadistic streak. He clearly enjoyed, as governor, watching executions. His delight in killing people became a campaign issue in 2000 when he seemed, in one debate, to enjoy the prospect of executing wrong-doers a little too much. He has clearly gone on enjoying killing people on a large scale in Iraq. Cocaine use permanently affects the ability of the person to feel deep emotions like empathy. Two decades of pickling his nervous system in various highly toxic substances have left Bush damaged goods. That he managed to get on the wagon (though with that pretzel incident, you wonder how firmly) is laudable. But he suffers the severe effects of the aftermath, and we are all suffering along with him now, since he is the most powerful man in the world. it all: Bush's Superficial Wounds in the Vietnam Era

Sunday, August 22, 2004

ripping open the Vietnam War scar

That's the effect of WWII generation Bob Dole's fatuous suggestion that Baby Boomer Kerry apologize for opposing a war that Kerry and and millions of other Americans, Vietnam veterans and others, in the US and around the world, rightly saw as criminal. This generational conflict poisons the heart of this election, as it did Clinton's, with Bush Jr. serving and continuing the belligerent foreign policy of Dole and the rest of Bush the Elder's generation: they are the ones who should should apologize for sending American forces into a criminal war and for the millions of people - Vietnamese, Americans, others, combatants and bystanders - they killed, injured, terrorized and otherwise hurt in that war. Then Bush and his backers should beg forgiveness of the families and loved ones of the victims of their butchery in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are the murderous fathers who hated their sons for opposing the war in Vietnam, the sons who dared to break the chain; they never have forgiven Baby Boomers for that implicit insult to the violence they suffered and inflicted in their own "great" wars, they will not stand by and see another Vietnam War protester elected President.

today's headlines
US Soldier Killed in Bomb Attack in Baghdad

Colorado Man Killed in Iraq Enjoyed Helping Others

Tennessee Marine Reservist Killed in Iraq

Dayton (OH) Man Dies in Iraq

Indiana Family Mourns Son

Connecticut Man Killed in Iraq

Two More Camp Pendelton Marines Killed in Iraq

Two Virginia Soldiers Killed in Iraq Helicopter Crash

Ohio Soldier's Death Puts Local Face on War

Idaho Man Killed in Iraq

Kansas Soldier Killed in Iraq

Virginian Killed in Iraq is Remembered

Texas Soldier Killed by Hostile Fire in Iraq

Palm Beach (FL) Soldier Killed in Iraqi Bombing
...nearly invisible off the 'net in the newspapers and TV news - along with the absent dead and wounded Iraqis - in the swirl of heroic Olympians and trash-talking Swift Boat Veterans; the dog days are here and the Apocalypse is near...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I have no numbers and I must count!

Tribe without names for numbers cannot count but can help confirm the Whorf thesis that language can determine the way we think or what we are able to think.

when "fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man"

Molly Ivins credits Lewis Lapham as her source for the killer quote of the day:
Remember what it was like just before the war? Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- Colin Powell told us to the pound how many tons of this, that and the other -- Saddam had a reconstituted nuclear program, he had numerous ties to Al Qaeda, and he was an imminent threat.

As the president put it, we couldn't afford to wait until the smoking gun was a mushroom cloud.

"To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just another attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand the question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action; fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man... Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect."

The quote is from Thucydides, the Father of History, writing about the day in 415 B.C. when Athens sent its glorious fleet off to destruction in Sicily.

....Still trying for something useful, I'm on the Lessons to Be Learned program. It took the Bush administration months and months and months of false claims to persuade a majority of the American people that declaring war on a country that had done nothing to us was a necessary thing to do. Almost to the day the fighting started, polls showed most Americans had grave doubts about the enterprise. Then most of us went along because, hell, if our people are over there fighting, then we're behind them.

What we need to figure out is why so many of us then became so invested in this awful enterprise. As the president says, fool me once, shame on, uh, somebody or other. John Kerry isn't going to remind any of us we were wrong -- that would be rude. (Sooner or later, someone is going to ask Kerry the question he so famously asked about Vietnam: "How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He'd better have an answer ready.) The reason Kerry won't "blame America first," as the Rush Limbaughs would put it, is not just because none of us likes to have our nose rubbed in our mistakes, it's a political calculation. In case you hadn't noticed, John Kerry is winning this presidential race -- that's why he's running such a cautious campaign.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

do big media journos finally see the light?

Unfortunately not. Read TomDispatch's fine analysis of the way the media is covering the war in Iraq and the stories they continue to miss.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

what do sexy males, sunscreen, and blue tits have to do with being a better mom?

Researchers at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology at the Centre for Terrestrial Ecology can answer that question.

media's picture of Kerry based on RNC distortions

Extra!, the magazine published by mediawatch group, FAIR, has just published an article detailing how the media picture of Kerry adopts the Republican National Committee's allegations and distortions. Worth reading and passing along.

Monday, August 16, 2004

now + 25 years = ?

Ignoring any unseemly backside cracks, Ars Electronica invites predictions for the next 25 years as it celebrates its 25th anniversary and prepares for a September 2-7 run in Linz, Austria.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

"A West Texas girl, just like me"

Today's Doonesbury explores recent pitfalls in Bush's treacherous travels through the badlands of his oral English.

Friday, August 13, 2004

US soldiers go online to tell their stories

Operation Truth is a new web site that aims to "educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand."

Africa blogs

...and BlogAfrica aggregates them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

once upon a digital time...

COINE (Cultural Objects in Networked Environments), an ambitious European project that aims to provide "the tools to enable everyone - even those without previous computer skills - to become writers and creators and to publish their work on the World Wide Web," reaches the end of its funding next month. COINE brought together 23 user groups centered on universities, libraries, museums and archives, to let people build web sites to tell their stories. Project organizers say they plan a "move into the mainstream marketplace" but details remain unclear. Meanwhile, COINE continues to invite new story contributions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

O'Reilly sputters, fizzles, continues ethics tailspin

The Daily Howler dissects Fox News hound Bill O'Reilly's shameful litany of lies and name-calling in his confrontation with surprisingly gracious New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Meet the Press the other night, serving two purposes: demonstrating the brain-death of the right-wing press generally, and providing an object lesson in how professional journalists don't work. Krugman provided a positive model, answering O'Reilly's smears with fact, politely stated. Al Franken, Michael Moore, now Krugman - who will be next to induce O'Reilly to expose himself as a reckless right-wing propagandist? Al Franken had Krugman on his radio show this morning, played excerpts of O'Reilly's persiflage, and countered it with facts - funny stuff, albeit gut-wrenchingly so.

Monday, August 09, 2004

debunking bogus Jesus journalism

W. Ward Gasque - credited as a "graduate of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Leadership (1993), he is President of the Pacific Association for Theological Studies" - tackles the theory that Judaism and Christianity "came primarily from Egyptian religion" in an intriguing essay.

10 reasons why Bush can lose

TomDispatch lines them up in a must-read.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

what's the antimatter?

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that antimatter is fueling two new start-up companies and raising hopes for fast interstellar travel. That's better than worrying about al Qaeda this Sunday morning, I suppose, or pondering the New York Times infographic that shows how much more secure we might be if Bush & Co. had spent on security here at home the money it has squandered in blood and fire and graft in Iraq.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

storytelling by randomized juxtaposition

I decided to utilise the comment feature and create an illustrated version of the Sherlock Holmes tale The Speckled Band. I broke the text up into 58 sections, picked a keyword from each bit of the text then searched for a photo that was tagged with that word. I then wrote the text into the coment box for each photo linking to the next photo and bit of the text.

Or is this just another "Male and Single" artist "utilizing" a blog to troll for a date with a slick-sounding non sequitur rap?

Friday, August 06, 2004

everybody's a media critic

Media Matters for America is demonstrating the power of the internet to enlist media consumers as media watchdog activists, by offering an online form to report distortions and lies. Finally, the Web is catching up to the online journalism vision I offered nearly a decade ago, in which people everywhere read, respond, correct, and add their own stories to the news stream.

looney toons

Les Triplettes de Belleville jangling in the background, The Daily Howler continues its eye-opening mission with Voters live in Cartoon Nation:
News orgs have all adopted the “Ad Watch” format, in which they clarify statements made in TV ads. Some day, in a brighter age, news orgs will run regular “Spin Watch” features, in which they present campaigns’ most common spin-points, and clarify them for their readers. (Everyone knows what they are.) But at present, this obvious thought never enters the heads of the lazy, disinterested boys and girls who make up the group which we still call a “press corps.” What is their practice, their common group culture? You’ve seen it—they stare into space, they burble and snore, dozing their way toward another election. How do they educate the electorate? Carlson says what is blatantly false; Brazile and McMahon make no effort to challenge; and even the nation’s major newspapers refuse to consider correcting these claims. Why wouldn’t voters believe what is false, when such statements are recited routinely? Your national press corps—corrupted, asleep—recites bogus facts as it dreams.

Everyone knows what the current scripts are. And all agree to pretend that they’re accurate. Result? You live inside a Cartoon Nation. Cartoons currently litter our “news.” But how can Americans know this?

Everyone knows the Standard Claims which voters are hearing, again and again. Kerry is the most liberal Senator! (Except, of course, for the fact that he isn’t.) He voted against the $87 billion! (Bush himself threatened the veto the bill, six days after Kerry’s vote.) He has voted to kill every weapons program! (So has John McCain, as McCain himself pointed out, if one adopts the tortured “logic” driving that cartoonish claim.) He tried to gut the intelligence services! (By cutting their budgets one percent. The Republican Congress cut them by three.) He voted to cut defense spending! (At the same time a DefSec named Cheney was doing it.) And, of course, he’s a Big Flip-Flopper. These comic-book claims now create Cartoon Nation, the nation in which our elections are run. But the Washington Post; the New York Times; the NewsHour with Lehrer; Nightline with Koppel? All these news orgs are simply too lazy to clarify these comic book claims. Readers, you live in a nation in which lazy “journalists” simply yawn at scripted misstatements. How are voters supposed to know that these claims are just silly—cartoons?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

China admits psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners

Haven't seen this in the US mainstream media yet, but maybe I missed it. Psychiatric News reports that China admits it "used the psychiatric establishment to punish members of Falun Gong for their cultural and political beliefs."
Chinese psychiatrists tell the WPA that they will remedy flaws in their country's psychiatric system that led to misdiagnosis and mistreatment of members of the group Falun Gong.

The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the Chinese Society of Psychiatrists (CSP) came to an agreement in May on a response to allegations from around the world that the Chinese government used the psychiatric establishment to punish members of Falun Gong for their cultural and political beliefs.

After meeting in New York in May during APA's annual meeting, WPA President Prof. Ahmed Okasha and CSP President Prof. Donfeng Zhou issued a joint statement saying that the WPA acknowledges that the CSP has cooperated in a three-year investigation of alleged psychiatric abuses of Falun Gong members who were sent to Chinese psychiatric hospitals and clinics.

The CSP's investigation identified "instances in which some Chinese psychiatrists failed to distinguish between spiritual-cultural beliefs and delusions, as a result of which persons were misdiagnosed and mistreated."
China cancelled a scheduled WPA invistigation trip, however, and some in the international psychiatric community doubt the Chinese government promises in yet another human rights abuse scandal.

Elsewhere, The Epoch Times, a dissident Chinese publication, investigates a high-ranking persecutor of the Falun Gong sect.

golden shower of Saudi gifts for Bush, family, aides

Quelle surprise! The Saudis exceed all other foreigners in giving Bush & Co. lavish gifts, by an embarrassingly large margin. Funniest bit of the article: this time it's the French guy who thinks the American guy smells funky and needs to clean up his act. Oo, la, la!
French President Jacques Chirac, an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, nonetheless gave Bush $1,900 in gifts, including a set of Christian Dior cologne, after-shave lotion and soap

your story deserves to be told

You or somebody you know must have a tale to tell about getting tired of having sand kicked in your face by the school bully, then muscling up to get revenge. From the H-Childhood email discussion today:
I am a Ph.D. candidate in History at Rutgers University, writing a dissertation that uses the life and career of Charles Atlas as a window through which to view mid-twentieth-century masculinity, consumption, childhood, ethnicity, class and race (Atlas was an Italian immigrant).

I am extremely interested in speaking with former students (or their children) of Atlas’ Dynamic Tension course, especially during its early years (1925-1955). Oral interviews will cover, among other things, students’ motivations for enrolling in the course and the benefits they derived from it. Any written or visual sources, such as diaries, exercise journals or photographs, that might mention Atlas and his course or showcase an Atlas student would also interest me greatly.

Please refer all possible interviewees to If they do not have email access, please provide a telephone number and/or address at which they might be reached.

Thank you for your help.

Dominique Padurano
Department of History
Van Dyck Hall
16 Seminary Place
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

flying on a wing and a bird brain

According to a Nature report, that's the flying dinosaur Archaeopteryx, the magpie-sized half-bird, half-reptile that "soared soared above the still lagoons of Bavaria 147 million years ago."

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

whatever happened to Abu Ghraib, civilian casualities & the rest of the Iraq nightmare?

TomDispatch tells all. Or, at least more than the morning papers. Rolling Stone reports details of Abu Ghraib torture that Congress is sitting on instead of investigating.

how to tell war stories

Defense contracting giant, Boeing, is sponsoring a series of workshops to teach US soldiers how to tell war stories, according to an article, Trying to Make the Pen as Mighty as the Sword in today's New York Times. The article links to three stories written by soldiers in the workshops, which will result in a book of war stories from Iraq and Afghanistan to be published next year.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

best recent headline:

Bush the Sodomite

if you can't say something nice don't say anything

Columbia philosophy professor Sidney Morgenbesser died Sunday morning. Born in 1921, Morganbesser was famous for his wit. One well-remembered story about him regards an Oxford philosopher giving a speech at Columbia University 20 years ago. When the don said that in most languages two negatives make a positive, but in no language do two positives make a negative, Morganbesser refuted the point by waving his hand dismissively and saying, "Yeah, Yeah." ...

...from: The Witty Professor: Sidney Morgenbesser, on NPR (thanks to Dave Monroe for the heads-up)

Baseball and dissent

Ron Briley uncovers an interesting story in his History News Network article, Baseball Player Carlos Delgado’s Summer of Discontent: Dissent and the National Pastime