Thursday, September 30, 2004

Are we safer now than we were four years ago?

Watch this ad, "One Question." OJ hopes Kerry asks this question, and answers it as forcefully as this ad does, in tonight's debate.

the passion of the bush

That's the title of Frank Rich's must-read column in today's New York Times. An excerpt:
...."George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," a DVD that is being specifically marketed in "head to head" partisan opposition to "Fahrenheit 9/11." This documentary first surfaced at the Republican convention in New York, where it was previewed in tandem with an invitation-only, no-press-allowed "Family, Faith and Freedom Rally," a Ralph Reed-Sam Brownback jamboree thrown by the Bush campaign for Christian conservatives. Though you can buy the DVD for $14.95, its makers told the right-wing news service that they plan to distribute 300,000 copies to America's churches. And no wonder. This movie aspires to be "The Passion of the Bush," and it succeeds.

More than any other campaign artifact, it clarifies the hard-knuckles rationale of the president's vote-for-me-or-face-Armageddon re-election message. It transforms the president that the Democrats deride as a "fortunate son" of privilege into a prodigal son with the "moral clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet." Its Bush is not merely a sincere man of faith but God's essential and irreplaceable warrior on Earth. The stations of his cross are burnished into cinematic fable: the misspent youth, the hard drinking (a thirst that came from "a throat full of Texas dust"), the fateful 40th-birthday hangover in Colorado Springs, the walk on the beach with Billy Graham. A towheaded child actor bathed in the golden light of an off-camera halo re-enacts the young George comforting his mom after the death of his sister; it's a parable anticipating the future president's miraculous ability to comfort us all after 9/11. An older Bush impersonator is seen rebuffing a sexual come-on from a fellow Bush-Quayle campaign worker hovering by a Xerox machine in 1988; it's an effort to imbue our born-again savior with retroactive chastity. As for the actual president, he is shown with a flag for a backdrop in a split-screen tableau with Jesus. The message isn't subtle: they were separated at birth.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

hammer down on US soldier for online truth-telling reports on a US soldier who went online to explain the dismal military prospects in Iraq and now faces a 20-year prison sentence for "disloyalty."

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

equal opportunity election theft

Time reports that a CIA plan for covert operations to influence the outcome of Iraqi elections - if and when they happen - has Capitol Hill opponents of the Bush Administration up in arms. Considering the Bush & Co. theft of the Presidential election in 2000, and ongoing dirty tricks to influence the outcome of this year's election, this comes as no surprise.

Monday, September 27, 2004

stage set for another Florida election fiasco

Former President Jimmy Carter warns in a Washington Post op-ed piece today that "some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida" despite efforts to correct the defects that became obvious when Bush stole the Florida election in 2000. No wonder Bush & Co,. aren't concerned about holding free and fair elections in Iraq - they don't make it a priority in the US, either.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

how many more Iraqi civilians must US forces kill before we end Bush's insane war?

...from:  Iraqi civilian casualties mounting by Nancy A. Youssef, Knight-Ridder Newspapers:
Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said.

While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher.

During the same period, 432 American soldiers were killed.

Iraqi officials said the statistics proved that U.S. airstrikes intended for insurgents also were killing large numbers of innocent civilians. Some say these casualties are undermining popular acceptance of the American-backed interim government.

That suggests that more aggressive U.S. military operations, which the Bush administration has said are being planned to clear the way for nationwide elections scheduled for January, could backfire and strengthen the insurgency.

....Many Iraqis said they thought the numbers showed that the multinational forces disregarded their lives.

"The Americans do not care about the Iraqis. They don't care if they get killed, because they don't care about the citizens," said Abu Mohammed, 50, who was a major general in Saddam Hussein's army in Baghdad. "The Americans keep criticizing Saddam for the mass graves. How many graves are the Americans making in Iraq?"

At his fruit stand in southern Baghdad, Raid Ibraham, 24, theorized: "The Americans keep attacking the cities not to keep the security situation stable, but so they can stay in Iraq and control the oil."

Others blame the multinational forces for allowing security to disintegrate, inviting terrorists from everywhere and threatening the lives of everyday Iraqis.

"Anyone who hates America has come here to fight: Saddam's supporters, people who don't have jobs, other Arab fighters. All these people are on our streets," said Hamed, the ministry official. "But everyone is afraid of the Americans, not the fighters. And they should be."

can't trust him

Two-faced Bush

Friday, September 24, 2004

turning the power back on in Iraq

...from Mark Danner's damning, infuriating, compelling essay in New York Review of Books, Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story:
"I always knew the Americans would bring electricity back to Baghdad. I just never thought they'd be shooting it up my ass."
—Young Iraqi translator, Baghdad, November 2003

move over, bloodhound

New Scientist reports that researchers are training rats to sniff out and search for people. The police have been doing that for ages, of course, but in this case they're working with actual rodents.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

US out of Iraq now

Tom Engelhardt and Jonathan Schell explain why the US should pull out instead of staying put and making the hell we've created there even worse.
Let there be as orderly a transition as possible, accompanied by as much aid, foreign assistance and general sweetness and light as can be mustered, but the endpoint, complete withdrawal, should be announced in advance, so that everyone in Iraq -- from the beheaders and other murderers, to legitimate resisters, to any true democrats who may be on the scene -- can know that the responsibility for their country's future is shifting to their shoulders. The outcome, though not in all honesty likely to be pretty, will at any rate be the best one possible. If the people of Iraq slip back into dictatorship, it will be their dictatorship. If they choose civil war, it will be their civil war. And if by some happy miracle they choose democracy, it will be their democracy -- the only kind worth having.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

what if?

Once again, Juan Cole is the man with an essay that asks us to imagine what it would be like if the Iraq war was taking place here in the US. Here's an excerpt:
There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in the US were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs", but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

they're ninth cousins, twice removed

Somebody tell Bush that, next time he or his crew start their class critique of Kerry. The Guardian has the genealogical details:
Their common ancestor was a member of the minor Essex gentry called Edmund Reade who was born and died in Wickford without ever seeing the New World his offspring would fight over 400 years later. However, Reade's daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, both sailed to New England with their mother, probably in the 1630s. Both had married into powerful families, Winthrop and Lake, who ultimately begot the two presidential candidates.

Monday, September 20, 2004

what will Rather do now?

OJ hopes that Dan Rather is embarrassed enough to fight back and dig more deeply into the story of the National Guard documents -- especially how the documents got to him in the first place, and how right-wing bloggers with Republican party connections were primed to jump on the documents as soon as CBS reported the story. A story of dirty tricks remains to be unearthed.

a watershed in online storytelling

The Columbia River Basin Ethnic History Archive looks like another fine example of using the Web to tell complex stories. From the project description:
The 1,200-mile long Columbia River drains a 259,000-square-mile basin that includes territory in seven states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah) and one Canadian province. The Columbia River Basin hosts the five institutions involved in this project and a variety of people who have migrated to this part of the Pacific Northwest over the past two hundred years. The story of the region’s ethnic groups has been relatively hidden, and museums, libraries, and scholars have only just begun to gather the records, images, recollections, and artifacts of these groups and to write about their histories. The CRBEHA brings together selected highlights of the ethnic collections from leading repositories in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. In addition to the digital archive, CRBEHA provides tutorials on how to research and interpret library and museum resources, and encourages public dialogue about ethnic history sources and issues in its online discussion forum. We hope that this initial effort to survey and feature collection strengths will stimulate the documentation and preservation of ethnic materials and foster a greater interest in the history and cultures of the peoples of the region.
The project includes a discussion forum to engage students, teachers, and the general public.

the simple, bloody truth: violence begets violence

Juan Cole:
....I deeply disagree with using helicopter gunships and warplane bombardment of civilian neighborhoods as key tactics in fighting urban guerrillas. If the LAPD bombed Watts to get at the Cripps and the Bloods, there would be outrage. (In fact, that sort of thing was done in Philly with regard to MOVE and did cause outrage). You can't attack urban areas that way without killing a lot of innocent people. It isn't right, and I suspect it is a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. It is also politically inadvisable, since the people you are bombing in Kut and elsewhere started out only having a few guerrillas amongst them, but are pushed into vehement anti-Americanism by seeing their relatives killed this way.

just how bad Is bush?

That's the title of a History News Network essay by historian Robert S. McElvaine, who writes:
The truth is that the current administration is not the most disastrous in our history. George W. Bush's record on running up debt to burden our children is only the worst since Ronald Reagan. His record on government surveillance of citizens is only the worst since Richard Nixon. His record on foreign-military policy has gotten us into only our worst foreign mess since Lyndon Johnson sank us into Vietnam. His economic record on job creation is only the worst since Herbert Hoover. His record of tax favoritism for the rich is only the worst since Calvin Coolidge. His record of trampling on civil liberties is only the worst since Woodrow Wilson or perhaps John Adams.

....Here's why Bush's presidency has been a disaster, although not quite the worst in our history. This president has:

Taken, in the wake of the terrorist attacks three years ago, the greatest worldwide outpouring of goodwill the United States has enjoyed at least since World War II and squandered it by insisting on pursuing a foolish go-it-almost-alone invasion of Iraq, thereby transforming almost universal support for the United States into worldwide condemnation.

Promoted the extraordinarily dangerous doctrine of preemptive war.

Presided over the loss of more than a million American jobs, the worst record since Herbert Hoover.

Misled the American public about weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to Al-Qaida in Iraq and so led us into a war that has plainly and predictably made us less secure, caused a boom in the recruitment of terrorists, is killing American military personnel needlessly and is threatening to suck up all our available military forces and be a bottomless pit for the money of American taxpayers for years to come.

Failed to follow through in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al-Qaida are regrouping, once more increasing the threat to our people.

Insulted and ridiculed other nations and international organizations and then found it necessary to go, hat in hand, to those nations and organizations begging for their assistance.

Inherited an annual federal budget surplus of $230 billion and transformed it into a $400-plus billion deficit in less than three years. This negative turnaround of nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars is without precedent in our history.

Perhaps worst of all, wrapped himself in the flag and used the horrors of 9/11 to divert the voters' attention from the disasters that his policies have produced.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

lost: the battle for the soul of broadcast journalism

In the context of the current frenzy of media critique and recriminations, and of successful efforts by the Bush Administration to manipulate the news, this review of Salant, CBS, and the Battle for the Soul of Broadcast Journalism: The Memoirs of Richard S. Salant is worth reading, and the book is a must-read, too; here's a big chunk of it:
This was a period before audience fragmentation, and CBS was the place to be in major league broadcast news.  Richard Salant led CBS through some of its more tumultuous times and was involved in heated political challenges that made his professional life quite interesting.  He was also a buffer for his journalists against active White House interventions; it is evident that President Nixon had little restraint when it came to passing along his dissatisfaction with Salant's correspondents.  Salant was also a rarity in that he was a conceptual thinker within the ever-expanding profit-centered reality of the news business.  This man was also the ultimate broadcast news insider and he both criticized and cherished the news business that he had such a strong influence over.  One of the most revealing parts of this book involves his discussion of the deleterious nature of the emerging political economy of TV news near the end of his career and beyond.

Richard Salant's working period at CBS News probably qualifies the halcyon days of network television news.  The big three television networks have never had the reach and influence that they had in the days before niche broadcasting and channel proliferation.  Salant's career was framed against enormous changes emerging in the political economy of television news.  He reluctantly approved the creation of the 60 Minutes program in 1968, but would have preferred that this program money go to the more ambitious documentaries that he thought would offer more social value for the dollars spent.  The recent impact of Michael Moore's documentary work certainly confirms that argument.

Salant was also an uneasy witness to the emerging deregulation of broadcast news; he saw the evolving and disturbing new definitions of the public interest that provided real policy debates during this period. Salant was also a powerful player in creating the new and growing political boundaries for television news--in fact, we are now living with the changes that were starting to emerge during his watch.  He was a man who also zealously guarded against the distracting encroachments of glittering production values, music beds for news items, and the other dazzling new techniques that took away from what he thought of as the truth-telling qualities of the news.  Salant deplored all narrative trickery that served to bury truth under a commercial canopy and robbed the news of its enduring value in his discerning eyes.  One can only imagine how far Salant's contemporary at CBS could go with any current debate about the intrinsic value of truth telling in this highly commercial epoch of conglomerate news interests.

....Richard Salant defined news as disobedience in all phases of life, active dissent that can wrench the social fabric.  He also saw it as useful reports about life out of focus.  His memoirs represent a stark reminder of the changes in the political economy of television news in recent decades.  Salant died in 1993, and for many years before that he was in despair about television news becoming just an entertainment vehicle. These were not just the ravings of a retired executive, and Salant clearly proved his mettle by fighting against the growing commercial preoccupation of the news during his era.  He also railed against the increasingly commercial production values for news that looked more like the dramatic license exercised by show business types for their fictional representations.  He argued that this did not represent the potential truth-value that news should strive to achieve.  This memoir makes an important contribution to a debate crossing journalistic and scholarly boundaries, and it serves us in current debates about the democratic quality of the news representations that we receive.  One can only hope (vainly, I suspect) that the networks and cable news empires of today will hire more people like Richard Salant.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

mainstream journos have failed miserably

from: This Time Bill O'Reilly Got It Right by Frank Rich, in today's New York Times:
At some point after 9/11, the news business jumped the shark and started relaying unchallenged administration propaganda — though with less zeal and showbiz pizazz than Fox. The notorious March 2003 presidential news conference at which not a single probing question was asked by the entire White House press corps heralded the broader Foxification to come. As Michael Massing, a frequent critic of this newspaper and others, put it on PBS's NewsHour, the failure of the American news media to apply proper skepticism to the administration's stated rationale for war in Iraq is "one of the most serious institutional failures of the press" since our slide into Vietnam. Mr. Massing attributes some of this to the fear of challenging a president then at the height of his popularity. Whatever the explanation — and there are many, depending on the news organization — the net effect was that the entire press came off as Fox Lite. The motive to parrot the administration line may not have been ideological, as it was at Fox, but since the misinformation was the same, news consumers can't be blamed for finding that a distinction without a difference.

The W.M.D. flimflam was hardly the last time that government propaganda supplanted journalism. Though the chagrined major newspapers have since worked hard to compensate for their prewar lapses, the electronic media that give most Americans their news have often lagged behind, especially cable. From Jessica Lynch to "Mission Accomplished" to, most recently, the bogus charges of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, there is a tendency to give administration-favored fiction credibility first, often cementing the spin into fact well before the tough questions are asked (if they're ever asked). It's a damning measure of the news media's failure to provide a persuasive dose of reality as an antidote to Washington fairy tales that so many Americans came to believe that the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis, not Saudis. A Newsweek poll just two weeks ago shows that 42 percent of Americans (among them, 32 percent of Democrats) still believe that Saddam was "directly involved" in the 9/11 attacks.

....Any sideshow that can turn the press itself into the subject, whether it's about typewriter fonts or "Crossfire" hosts doing double duty on the Kerry campaign, serves an administration that would like to distract attention from its defeats in the current war, from Abu Ghraib to Fallujah to Tora Bora. When the press isn't creating its own embarrassments, the administration will step in to intimidate and undermine journalists who don't regurgitate its approved narrative. That impulse was most nakedly revealed when a principal architect of the administration's Iraq policy, Paul Wolfowitz, blamed bad news from the occupation on the cowardice of reporters too "afraid to travel" beyond Baghdad to gather all the festive developments. (Mr. Wolfowitz later apologized, but only after he had been repeatedly chastised for slurring the some 30 reporters who had been killed covering his war.)

Friday, September 17, 2004


Sad to hear that they painted over a beautiful 9-11 memorial mural in New York City, as we erase whole neighborhoods, families, villages in the assault on Iraq. OJ yields, momentarily, to the frantic wave of despair as the world comes unbuckled in war and fire, pain and death.

no exit in sight and more will die

Bob Herbert, in a powerful op-ed essay in today's New York Times, This Is Bush's Vietnam, concludes:
George W. Bush is now trapped as tightly in Iraq as Johnson was in Vietnam. The war is going badly. The president's own intelligence estimates are pessimistic. There is no plan to actually win the war in Iraq, and no willingness to concede defeat.

I wonder who the last man or woman will be to die for this colossal mistake.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

counting & naming the Iraqi dead

3,000 Iraqi dead named, in the Guardian:
Iraq Body Count (IBC), a volunteer group of British and US academics and researchers, came up with 3,000 names by combining its database of dead civilians gleaned from media reports with the work of on-the-ground Iraqi researchers....Neither the US nor the UK, the former occupying powers, attempted to count or identify the civilian dead and the IBC list represents the most comprehensive project of its kind. ....the group estimated that a further 12,000 civilians on top of the 3,000 identified had died in Iraq since March 2003....A spokesman for the Pentagon said it did not keep track of civilian casualties because it was not fighting civilians.

Iraq war is illegal

The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, declared explicitly for the first time last night that the US-led war on Iraq was illegal. Mr Annan said that the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN security council or in accordance with the UN's founding charter. In an interview with the BBC World Service broadcast last night, he was asked outright if the war was illegal. He replied: "Yes, if you wish." He then added unequivocally: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal." ....Mr Annan also questioned whether it will be feasible on security grounds to go ahead with the first planned election in Iraq scheduled for January. "You cannot have credible elections if the security conditions continue as they are now," he said.
...from: Iraq war was illegal and breached UN charter, says Annan, in the Guardian.
[photo from Guardian]

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

how others see US

Bolivian labour and anti–privatisation organiser Oscar Olivera at
Against the world, against the people, against life: that is what the United States means to me.

It means a state apparatus run by the gangsters of petroleum companies and banks operating with the commercial and investor arms of the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Its big companies spread their tentacles to all parts of the world, even to the remotest corners of the countryside and city. And it means the omnipresence of an invading army that assassinates and tortures those who oppose the policies of its government.

A country where people consume anything and everything they can.

A country where people are fearful, but know that their fear is a product of media propaganda.

I have not always thought this way. Before I first visited the US four years ago, I had a different impression of your country. Because I had seen so many of those Hollywood films which portray the US as a land of perfection – a land of cultivated, tall, white people – I could feel something of the inferiority complex that such propaganda displays create in the hearts of those who live outside your country’s borders. At the same time I could see what creates the desire in so many to live like the Americans do – to live what we have all learned to call “the American dream”.

But a dream is all it is.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

they shoot journos don't they?

"I am a journalist. I'm dying, I'm dying," screamed Mazen al-Tumeizi, a correspondent for the Arabic television channel al-Arabiya, after shrapnel from a rocket fired by an American helicopter interrupted his live broadcast and slammed into his back...."I am a journalist. I'm dying, I'm dying," screamed Mazen al-Tumeizi, a correspondent for the Arabic television channel al-Arabiya, after shrapnel from a rocket fired by an American helicopter interrupted his live broadcast and slammed into his back....The slaughter in Haifa Street took place only a few hundred yards from the heavily defended International Zone (what used to be called the Green Zone) which houses the headquarters of the Iraqi government and its American ally. It is a measure of the military failure of the US occupation that it has failed to assume control of this Sunni Muslim neighbourhood in the heart of the capital. Early yesterday, insurgents fired more than a dozen rockets and mortars into the International Zone. The zone contains the US embassy and Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace.
...from: "I'm a Journalist! I'm Dying! I'm Dying!" by Patrick Cockburn

Monday, September 13, 2004

top 25 censored media stories of 2003-2004

Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2003-2004:
1: Wealth Inequality in 21st Century Threatens Economy and Democracy
2: Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Holds Corporations Accountable
3: Bush Administration Censors Science
4: High Levels of Uranium Found in Troops and Civilians
5: The Wholesale Giveaway of Our Natural Resources
6: The Sale of Electoral Politics
7: Conservative Organization Drives Judicial Appointments
8: Cheney's Energy Task Force and The Energy Policy
9: Widow Brings RICO Case Against U.S. government for 9/11
10: New Nuke Plants: Taxpayers Support, Industry Profits
11: The Media Can Legally Lie
12: The Destabilization of Haiti
13: Schwarzenegger Met with Enron's Ken Lay Years Before the California Recall
14: New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom in Area Studies
15: U.S. Develops Lethal New Viruses
16: Law Enforcement Agencies Spy on Innocent Citizens
17: U.S. Government Represses Labor Unions in Iraq in Quest for Business Privatization
18: Media and Government Ignore Dwindling Oil Supplies
19: Global Food Cartel Fast Becoming the World's Supermarket
20: Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN
21: Forcing a World Market for GMOs
22: Censoring Iraq
23: Brazil Holds Back in FTAA Talks, But Provides Little Comfort for the Poor of South America
24: Reinstating the Draft
25: Wal-Mart Brings Inequality and Low Prices to the World
The Project Censored web site links to more information about each of these stories.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

September 33rd

That's the title of TomDispatch's latest must-read essay.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

"have patience, and keep shuffling the cards"

Most of an essay by Spanish novelist, Javier Marias, on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks:
Mr. Aznar's administration had been in power for eight years when it was voted out three days after the attacks. Everyone who made malicious comments about our election results deliberately forgot two things: that in times of crisis, people tend to support the existing government, and that Spain has endured terrorism by the Basque separatist group ETA for 30 years without faltering. Perhaps it's simply that our hides have toughened, our hearts and minds have grown more accustomed to futile, gratuitous murder. It is a terrible thing, but little by little you get used to the possibility of indiscriminate attack, just as we've all grown used to the certainty that there will be deaths on the highways every weekend. "It's always going to happen - let's hope it doesn't happen to us," becomes the unformed, unconscious thought.

Maybe that's why Spain, six months later, seems already to have overcome the trauma of the railway bombings. There is no more fear than there was before, and neither are there any fewer liberties. The current Spanish government has shown no interest in constantly sounding the alarm. Our habits seem as unchanging as the streets, the bars, the restaurants, the stadiums, the airports and the train stations, all just as crowded as ever - and as lively and buoyant. It's also certainly true that for most of us not, a day goes by without remembering the almost 200 victims of March 11, with pain and a keen awareness that chance, fate and bad luck continue to be as important today as they were in humanity's less foreseeing epochs.

Here in Spain, we don't feel as if we are at war, because we aren't. And neither are the inhabitants of the United States, however vociferously many Americans may insist that they are. War is something else entirely. No semi-normal life can be led while a war is going on. The Madrilenians who lived through the siege of their city from 1936 to 1939 know that very well. The survivors of the daily bombardments of London during the Second World War know it, too. And those Americans who participated in that war know it also.

But there is no war against terrorism. There can be no such thing against an enemy that remains dormant most of the time and is almost never visible. It's simply another of life's inevitable troubles, and all we can do as we continue to combat it is repeat Cervantes's famous phrase, "Paciencia y barajar": "Have patience, and keep shuffling the cards."

Read Juan Cole today, too, on what al Qaeda was trying to accomplish and how the Bush Administration has helped their cause.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

oj builds a bridge to the past

Chiloe Stories explores the culture of a group of islands off the coast of Chile, to preserve distinctive local traditions before residents are connected to the mainland by a bridge - Latin America's longest - in 2010. It's the fruit of a cooperative project between the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina and the Faculty of Communication at the University of Andes.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Iraq blogs

BBC reports in the midst of war, Iraqis go online to tell their stories.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

oj, with passion

Shamelessly harping on the nearly 3000 souls toasted on 9/11, the third anniversary of whose incineration would be mourned the very next week, Bushwa pumped up the paranoia as the lynch mob swooned in the aisles. Although the President often mumbles in a patois only his fellow Texans can decipher, his intentions were crystal clear. Filling the hearts and minds of the American electorate with fear and loathing is his most ballistic missile, and the malignant exploitation of national tragedy his hole card in the battle to retain the White House.

I longed for an overripe tomato to toss at this dangerous bozo strutting around down below on the circular stage but the sentries at the Garden gates, perhaps remembering an earlier Eden, had proscribed all round fruit from being carried onto the premises.
Read it all: The Politics of Darkness: North/South by John Ross

Friday, September 03, 2004

how hard is it to sort out facts from lies at the RNC?

Not hard at all, and worth reprinting the entire article to see how easy it is:
GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions
By Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 3, 2004; Page A01

Speakers at this week's Republican convention have relentlessly attacked John F. Kerry for statements he has made and votes he has taken in his long political career, but a number of their specific claims -- such as his votes on military programs -- are at best selective and in many cases stripped of their context, according to a review of the documentation provided by the Bush campaign.

As a senator, Kerry has long been skeptical of big-ticket weapons systems, especially when measured against rising budget deficits, and to some extent he opened himself to this line of attack when he chose to largely skip over his Senate career during his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention last month. But the barrage by Republicans at their own convention has often misportrayed statements or votes that are years, if not decades, old.

For instance:

Kerry did not cast a series of votes against individual weapons systems, as Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) suggested in a slashing convention speech in New York late Wednesday, but instead Kerry voted against a Pentagon spending package in 1990 as part of deliberations over restructuring and downsizing the military in the post-Cold War era.

Both Vice President Cheney and Miller have said that Kerry would like to see U.S. troops deployed only at the direction of the United Nations, with Cheney noting that the remark had been made at the start of Kerry's political career. This refers to a statement made nearly 35 years ago, when Kerry gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson, 10 months after he had returned from the Vietnam War angry and disillusioned by his experiences there. (President Bush at the time was in the Air National Guard, about to earn his wings.)

President Bush, Cheney and Miller faulted Kerry for voting against body armor for troops in Iraq. But much of the funding for body armor was added to the bill by House Democrats, not the administration, and Kerry's vote against the entire bill was rooted in a dispute with the administration over how to pay for $20 billion earmarked for reconstruction of Iraq.

In remarks prepared for delivery last night, Kerry denounced the Republican convention for its "anger and distortion" and criticized Cheney for avoiding the military draft during the Vietnam era.

Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt defended the statements made by convention speakers, though he declined to address details beyond supplying the campaign's citations of votes. "Whether it was in the '70s, '80s or '90s, Sen. Kerry has demonstrated a general pattern of hostility to a strong national defense," Holt said.

Votes cast by lawmakers are often twisted by political opponents, and both political parties are adept at combing through legislative records to score political points. Former senator Robert J. Dole's voting record was frequently distorted by the Clinton campaign eight years ago -- as well as by his GOP rivals for the Republican nomination.

One document frequently cited by Republicans is a 350-word article in the Boston Globe, written when Kerry was lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and battling to win the Democratic nomination for senator in 1984 -- a period of soaring deficits in the wake of a huge defense buildup by President Ronald Reagan. Calling for a "strong defense," the article said, Kerry proposed to slow the rate of growth in defense spending by canceling 27 weapons systems, in part to reduce the deficit and also restore cuts Reagan had made in domestic programs.

While Cheney said Kerry opposed Reagan's "major defense initiatives," the campaign does not cite any votes against such defense programs while Reagan was president, relying instead on a campaign speech before he was elected senator.

Six years later, Kerry took part in a complex and serious debate in Congress over how to restructure the military after the Cold War.

Cheney, at the time defense secretary, had scolded Congress for keeping alive such programs as the F-14 and F-16 jet fighters that he wanted to eliminate. Miller said in his speech that Kerry had foolishly opposed both the weapons systems and would have left the military armed with "spitballs." During that same debate, President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, proposed shutting down production of the B-2 bomber -- another weapons system cited by Miller -- and pledged to cut defense spending by 30 percent in eight years.

Though Miller recited a long list of weapons systems, Kerry did not vote against these specific weapons on the floor of the Senate during this period. Instead, he voted against an omnibus defense spending bill that would have funded all these programs; it is this vote that forms the crux of the GOP case that he "opposed" these programs.

On the Senate floor, Kerry cast his vote in terms of fiscal concerns, saying the defense bill did not "represent sound budgetary policy" in a time of "extreme budget austerity." Much like Bush's father, he singled out the B-2 bomber for specific attention, saying it is "one of the most costly, waste-ridden programs in a long history of waste, fraud and abuse scandals that have plagued Pentagon spending."

Asked why the campaign was attacking Kerry for having similar positions as Cheney, White House communications director Dan Bartlett responded: "I don't have the specifics of [when] then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was in charge of the Pentagon, but I think we'd be more than willing to have a debate on whether Dick Cheney or John Kerry was stronger on defense."

Appearing on CNN, Miller said he had "gotten documentation on every single one of those votes that I talked about."

Cheney, in his own speech, skipped over that period, going directly from Kerry's vote against authorization for the first Persian Gulf War to the post-Sept. 11, 2001, period.

Republican documents also cite a long list of Kerry votes against various weapons systems, including the B-2 bomber. But Kerry's opposition in the 1990s often hinged on his concerns about the impact on the budget deficit of congressional efforts to add money for the plane.

"We are going to build B-2 bombers even though the Pentagon does not want the B-2 bombers, even though the Pentagon never submitted a request for the B-2 bombers," Kerry said during a budget debate in October 1995.

Kerry's vote last year against the administration's $87 billion proposal to fund troops in Iraq and pay for Iraqi reconstruction has also been the focus of Republican attacks. "My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor," Bush said last night.

Kerry actually supported all those things, but as part of a different version of the bill opposed by the administration. At the time, many Republicans were uncomfortable with the administration's plans and the White House had to threaten a veto against the congressional version to bring reluctant lawmakers in line.

In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground -- "I support our troops in Iraq and their mission" -- but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."

Yesterday, the State Department said that only $1 billion of that money has been spent in the 11 months since the bill was passed.

Researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Mindboggling that the rest of the media haven't been able to meet Republican distortion with on-the-record facts! That is, after all, the first job of a journalist, online or otherwise.

something new to do in Amsterdam's cafes

How good can it get? Now you'll be able to sit in a dope cafe in Amsterdam and connect wirelessly to the Internet, thanks to a new project to blanket the city with Wi-Fi coverage, beginning with the inner four canals. Monthly service will cost 15 euros.

oj clarifies misleading campaign coverage's new derelection2004 is having fun sorting the pearls from the persiflage in the so-far-mostly-atrocious Presidential campaign media coverage. The online journos at Columbia Journalism Review make The Campaign Desk a daily must-click, too.