Sunday, October 31, 2004

trick or treat

Wooster Collective : A Celebration of Street Art

Saturday, October 30, 2004

from Wooster Collective : A Celebration of Street Art

Friday, October 29, 2004

stop the war

From early January until just before Christmas 1973, I lived and worked at Camp Howze, Republic of Korea, a few clicks south of Peace Treaty Village and the DMZ, in a US Army mechanized infantry battalion, out on the Frontier of Freedom in the Land of the Morning Calm.

I worked in the battalion motor pool. Clerk. Sending in requisitions for spare parts and supplies. Scamming to get what higher headquarters didn't provide. Never enough parts to keep all of the vehicles - jeeps, trucks, armored personnel carriers - running at the same time. Good thing the North Koreans didn't come charging down the river valley - the traditional invasion route to Seoul, 35 clicks south - the way our officers warned us would happen approximately 9,000 times that year.

A quarter of a century later, how many trillions of dollars invested, the Army still doesn't have the equipment it needs. And this time it's a war, not just scattered shooting incidents along the DMZ as it was in '73.

A real war.

The whole sad story: Along With Prayers, Families Send Armor, by Neela Banerjee and John Kifner, in the New York Times.

Stop the war. No matter who is elected next week. We've got to stop the war.

october surprise

Osama, of course.

Back to remind everybody that Bush dropped the ball, got us bogged down in Iraq, instead of getting the bad guys who attacked us on September 11, 2001.

Way to go, Pres, with that "dead or can run but you can't hide" thing.

"What you say on the Internet can affect your real life."

A blogger's nightmare come true: criticize the President, get the third degree from the Secret Service.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

100,000 dead Iraqis

The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by coalition forces has lead to the death of at least 100,000 civilians, reveals the first scientific study to examine the issue.

The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, finds the study, released early by The Lancet on Thursday.

The most common cause of death is as a direct result of violence, mostly caused by coalition air strikes, reveals the study of almost 1000 households scattered across Iraq. And the risk of violent death just after the invasion was 58 times greater than before the war. The overall risk of death was 1.5 times more after the invasion than before.

The figure of 100,000 is based on "conservative assumptions", notes Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US, who led the study.

That estimate excludes Falluja, a hotspot for violence. If the data from this town is included, the study points to about 200,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of war.

....continues: Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000, news service, 28 October 04

trick or treat

2004's Scariest Halloween Costumes

preparing for his next job as TV faith healer

Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq

Al Qaqaa is merely the turd on the iceberg. To put it in perspective, "Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq," Peter W. Galbraith's op-ed essay in yesterday's Boston Globe:
In 2003 I went to tell Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz what I had seen in Baghdad in the days following Saddam Hussein's overthrow. For nearly an hour, I described the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion -- the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower letting this happen.

I also described two particularly disturbing incidents -- one I had witnessed and the other I had heard about. On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.

When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere.

There was nothing secret about the Disease Center or the Tuwaitha warehouses. Inspectors had repeatedly visited the center looking for evidence of a biological weapons program. The Tuwaitha warehouses included materials from Iraq's nuclear program, which had been dismantled after the 1991 Gulf War. The United Nations had sealed the materials, and they remained untouched until the US troops arrived.

The looting that I observed was spontaneous. Quite likely the looters had no idea they were stealing deadly biological agents or radioactive materials or that they were putting themselves in danger. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as these sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing.

This is apparently what happened. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued earlier this month, there was "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program." This includes nearly 380 tons of high explosives suitable for detonating nuclear weapons or killing American troops. Some of the looting continued for many months -- possibly into 2004. Using heavy machinery, organized gangs took apart, according to the IAEA, "entire buildings that housed high-precision equipment."

This equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived.

This was a preventable disaster. Iraq's nuclear weapons-related materials were stored in only a few locations, and these were known before the war began. As even L. Paul Bremer III, the US administrator in Iraq, now admits, the United States had far too few troops to secure the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein. But even with the troops we had, the United States could have protected the known nuclear sites. It appears that troops did not receive relevant intelligence about Iraq's WMD facilities, nor was there any plan to secure them. Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites.

I supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At Wolfowitz's request, I helped advance the case for war, drawing on my work in previous years in documenting Saddam's atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds. In spite of the chaos that followed the war, I am sure that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein.

It is my own country that is worse off -- 1,100 dead soldiers, billions added to the deficit, and the enmity of much of the world. Someone out there has nuclear bomb-making equipment, and they may not be well disposed toward the United States. Much of this could have been avoided with a competent postwar strategy. But without having planned or provided enough troops, we would be a lot safer if we hadn't gone to war.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, is a fellow at the Center For Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. In the 1980s, he documented Iraqi atrocities against the Kurds for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

no sequel

The Times caption for the Kevin Lamarque/Reuters photo: "The promise of a sequel that never arrived: President Bush re-enacts 'Top Gun' on May 1, 2003."

We like fast-paced narratives with beginnings, middles and ends. We like an upbeat final curtain. "What the American public always wants is a tragedy with a happy ending," said William Dean Howells to Edith Wharton in 1906, by way of explaining why her refusal to let her heroine, Lily Bart, survive ensured that the stage version of "The House of Mirth" would flop. The president hoped to give the tragedy of 9/11 a speedy happy ending by laying out a simple war pitting God's anointed against the evildoers, then by portraying Iraq as the "central front" in that war, then by staging a stirring victory celebration weeks after that central battle began. But when our major combat operations turned out not to be "over," this purported final reel was seen as the one thing the American public hates even more than an unhappy ending - a false one.

The triumphalist cinema that had led up to it, culminating in the toppling of the Saddam statue, was, like "Mission Accomplished" itself, too slick. It whetted our appetite for sequels. But what came instead were pictures by upstart independent filmmakers hawking an alternative scenario to "Shock and Awe": the charred corpses of civilian contractors strung up in Fallujah, the beheading of Nick Berg, the tableaux vivants of Abu Ghraib, the neat rows of 49 slaughtered Iraqi recruits decomposing in the sun. The scenes the administration created to counter them all backfired. A surprise Thanksgiving visit by the president to the troops turned out to feature a "show" turkey supplied by Halliburton. An elaborately staged presidential D-Day address in Normandy was upended by the death of the war-winning president Mr. Bush's handlers hoped to clone, Ronald Reagan. The handover of sovereignty was marred by the shot of Paul Bremer re-enacting the fall of Saigon by dashing to a helicopter to flee. There hasn't been an unalloyed feel-good video out of Iraq since the capture of Saddam. That was before last Christmas.

Last weekend the Rove studio showed its desperation. In Florida Mr. Bush risked ridicule by re-enacting "Mission Accomplished," this time landing by helicopter in sports stadiums to the theme from "Top Gun," the same movie that had inspired the stunt landing on the carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. (The new banner read "Soaring to Victory.") This had been directly preceded by another cinematic misfire. On the same day that the president took to attacking Mr. Kerry for seeing the war on terror as "a metaphor," his own campaign released with great fanfare a new TV ad portraying terrorism as ... a metaphor. The metaphor in this case was a pack of wolves that looked as if they could easily be taken out by the rifle-bearing Kerry depicted in his equally ludicrous L. L. Bean photo op.

....Mr. Bush was, of course, far more entertaining in the debates than his opponent; he may be the most facially expressive president since the invention of television. But in 2004, this may not be the winning formula it was four years ago. Because the audience had seen the unplugged, petulant Bush in the first debate, it knew that his subsequent reinventions were as contrived (if not as effective) as Sally Field's in "Sybil." Unlike such natural performers as Reagan and Bill Clinton, he lets you see all the over-rehearsed preparation that goes into his acting. By the time he tried to mask his rage with inappropriate grinning in debate No. 3, he seemed as fake as the story line by which he had sold the country on the war in Iraq.

....from Decision 2004: Fear Fatigue vs. Sheer Fatigue by Frank Rich, New York Times, dated 31 October 2004, published online today.

Worth reading, despite Rich's tepid endorsement of Kerry. Next to Bush, Satan would look good.

does the New York Times right hand know what the left hand is doing?

As the right-wing Bush apologists scream bloody murder at their fantasy New York Times/IAEA conspiracy to defeat their man, the Times coverage of the Al Qaqaa explosives controversy doesn't look very organized at all. Bush Hits Back at Kerry Charge Over Explosives by Elisabeth Bumiller and Jodi Wilgoren gives Bush the opportunity to claim the Kerry is making "wild charges" without including the evidence to back Kerry's quesions that is presented in another Times story today, 4 Iraqis Tell of Looting at Munitions Site in '03 by James Glanz and Jim Dwyer.

Madison Avenue blogs

Any doubt that blogging has moved into the mainstream, and that the Apocalypse has in fact arrived, vanished with today's publication of a New York Times story about advertising agency blogs.

....continues: Madison Avenue blogs at

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

wiki waves

Will the public accept as authoritative an encyclopedia and a news service open to input and editing from just about anybody on the Web?

...continues at my latest column, Making Wiki waves.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I've seen this storyline somewhere before

From Does Bush Think He's Channeling God?
by Robert S. McElvaine, at History News Network:
I've seen this storyline somewhere before: A president who had been a feckless, party-loving, hard-drinking man, is visited by a messenger of God and suddenly changes his ways. Thereafter, he knows what is right and will listen to no one who suggests otherwise. This president, convinced that he is doing God's work--that he is God’s spokesman on earth--suspends civil liberties to fight crime. He repudiates international treaties and announces that the United States will build new weapons to put itself in a position of world dominance. He orders other nations to follow American dictates, or else. That the "or else" means using American military might for preemptive war is made clear to world leaders when they are assembled and shown a demonstration of American military power. They all immediately agree to do what the United States (and God) demands.

Then it hit me. The plot that sounds so much like the way George W. Bush sees himself and his presidency is that of a now obscure 1933 film produced by William Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan Studios, Gabriel Over the White House. In it, an irresponsible man named Judson Hammond, played by Walter Huston, is elected to the presidency on promises he doesn't intend to keep. "Oh, don't worry," an aide tells him, "by the time they realize you’re not keeping them, your term will be over." Then, driving his car recklessly, President Hammond has a tire blowout at 100 mph. He apparently dies from his injuries, but is transformed by divine intervention and emerges, literally born again, as a supremely confident leader who has no doubts in the rightness of his course. He demands that Congress give him dictatorial powers and then adjourn, so that he can solve all domestic and international problems. He once was lost; now he's found. But what has he found?

President Hammond's approach to the world, like that of George W. Bush, fits with neither traditional Republican isolationism nor the Wilsonian internationalism practiced by most presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Rather, the film, with the assurance that God is on the side of the United States, advances an approach to the world that might best be termed "isolated internationalism." With God on our side, this nation should neither withdraw from the world nor work out agreements with other nations to form cooperative international coalitions. Rather, the United States should simply declare what it will do and expect others to do. Other nations are welcome to join in a Coalition of the Willing, meaning those willing to follow unquestioningly the divinely inspired Leader of the United States.

Mr. Hearst's simplistic views of the world and of the solutions to its problems eerily foreshadow those that hold sway in Mr. Bush's White House today. God spoke through Hearst's fictional President Hammond; similarly the Bush who now occupies the presidency confuses himself with the one that burned in Exodus 3:2. "I pray to be as good a messenger of [God's] will as possible," Mr. Bush told Bob Woodward.

a raspberry for this Raspberry

Let me see if I've got this straight. It's OK, in the past, when tabloids push particular stories into the limelight so that top-tier pubs and media outlets have to cover them, but it's not OK now that bloggers are doing this?

Raspberrry's primary complaint seems to be that top-tier journalists are no longer the gatekeepers who get to decide what's worthy of coverage and what's to be ignored. Cause for celebration, not regret, in my book.

a brilliant dunce?

That's the title of my latest column at Silicon Valley Watcher, which begins:
Randall Stross's assault on Steve Jobs in yesterday's New York Times takes Apple-bashing in general and Steve Jobs-bashing in particular, to a breath-taking new high.

Continues: A brilliant dunce?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

too much reality?

PressThink thinks so.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

how to conduct effective oral history projects and interviews

Internet Scout Report review of The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide (links to .pdf):

Oral history is in some ways the oldest form of expression, as people have told one another stories since the time of the first human societies. People have continued to grow more interested in recording the voices and experiences of others throughout the past few decades, and the works of such popular authors as Studs Terkel have kept oral histories in the limelight. For those persons interested in learning more about how to conduct such interviews, this guide from the Smithsonian Institute will be quite intriguing and useful. Authored by Marjorie Hunt, this 35-page guide offers a broad interview on how to conduct effective oral history projects and interviews. The guide also offers information on how to present the findings that are collected through such a project (such as a scrapbook), along with providing a list of web-based and print resources.

Don't wait. Turn to the people around you and harvest their stories before they're gone.

"where is that darned WMD?" bush joked, while a US soldier died

Remember that "joke" video produced by the White House, the one that showed President Bush having fun looking for weapons of mass destruction? This ad tells the simple story of a US soldier who died that same day, killed in Iraq while looking for WMD. Powerful stuff. The ad should be on TV coast-to-coast, or at least in the battleground states.

Friday, October 22, 2004

100 reasons why Bush is a loser

100 Facts and 1 Opinion: The Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration

black prince bush

From a Socialist Worker Online interview with Counterpunch journalist Jeffrey St. Clair:
Justin Frank’s book Bush on the Couch is very instructive. Frank shrinks him, literally as well as figuratively. He focuses on the relationship with Barbara Bush, who is this horrid Gorgon-like creature. When you hear stories about how she brought up her children--heavy into corporal punishment, verbal abuse and neglect. So it’s not surprising that he turns to sadistic activities.

Later, when he becomes head of his fraternity at Yale, the Dekes, he invents the new hazing ritual, which is branding the initiates on the tailbone. They heat up a wire clothes hanger until it’s red hot, and they brand them.

Abu Ghraib springs right out of the Bush imagination. It’s no stretch. In the first debate, the question turns to his daughters, and he said that he wished that he could keep them on a leash. Maybe the instructions weren’t coming from Rumsfeld. So maybe they were George’s e-mails right to Lynndie England--get the leash out, start branding people.

He’s an elite, but he’s kind of the black prince--the demented sadistic king. His business career is a failure, from beginning to end, and he’s always been bailed out because of his father’s political and financial connections. He wrecks his businesses, but makes out with millions of dollars.

It’s one thing to be unstable and be working class or middle class--then you’re eventually going to have to pay the consequences. Bush has always been an exception, and with the American aristocracy, that’s the way it is. Whether it’s his National Guard tenure or any other thing, he’s always been an exception. He’s always had this force field around him that protects him from all the damage that he does.

fasten your seat belts

Paul Krugman, in today's New York Times, on the coming chaos of voter disenfranchisement and fraud:
A broad view of the polls, then, suggests that Mr. Bush is in trouble. But he is likely to benefit from a distorted vote count.

Florida is the prime, but not the only, example. Recent Florida polls suggest a tight race, which could be tipped by a failure to count all the votes. And votes for Mr. Kerry will be systematically undercounted.

Last week I described Greg Palast's work on the 2000 election, reported recently in Harper's, which conclusively shows that Florida was thrown to Mr. Bush by a combination of factors that disenfranchised black voters. These included a defective felon list, which wrongly struck thousands of people from the voter rolls, and defective voting machines, which disproportionately failed to record votes in poor, black districts.

One might have expected Florida's government to fix these problems during the intervening four years. But most of those wrongly denied voting rights in 2000 still haven't had those rights restored - and the replacement of punch-card machines has created new problems.

Orcinus details why "If you thought Florida in 2000 was a debacle that inflicted a grievous wound on American democracy, just wait. Thanks to Team Bush, the 2004 election is shaping up to make that look like a tea party."

John Dean's article gives a good overview, too.

high school journalism

From today's Internet Scout Report, this review of High School Journalism:
As part of its efforts to help high school journalism flourish, the American Society of Newspaper Editors has created this site to assist the efforts of both teen journalists and their teachers. Visitors unfamiliar with some of the terms that are used in the argot of the journalism world will want to take a look at the "What is That?" area, which contains definitions of such terms as "desk assistant" and "photo editor". Aspiring journalists will want to take a look at the "Ask a Pro" area, where a host of working journalists provide answers to how they got involved in the business, and what they do and don't enjoy about the everyday work of being a journalist. For those seeking to keep tabs on the world of high school journalism, the news section of the site digests recent news and opinion pieces that have appeared in various periodicals. Rounding out the site is a database of high school newspapers that have an online presence so that fellow journalists and educators can take a look at what others are doing.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

PressThink continues its fine coverage of the Sinclair affair, alarming stuff with deep implications for journalism, TV, and politics.
....keep in mind Sinclair's incapacity to accept anything even remotely critical about itself. Only the purest of motives reside in the company's heart. Only the wisest of moves is made by the company's head. Thus, if something happens at Sinclair, Sinclair had always intended it to happen.

Although its plans evolve, the company never changes its mind. It never backs down. It never learns because it already knows. Most especially, it is always the innocent party, always under attack by the most unscrupulous and outrageous foes, a minority who never let up. These are the characteristic beliefs of all ideologically-driven groups that operate in the paranoid style of politics.

Attention Sinclair shareholders: the people who run the company are an ideologically-driven group that operates in the paranoid style.

a tale of two Silicon Valleys, redux

Back on the two Silicon Valleys tip again - this time looking at the Silicon Valley that liberates people ... while the shadow side exploits them.

...continues at Silicon Valley Watcher

From Eschaton

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

the bulge is an iPod

from Happy Go Larry, via Boing Boing

a hacker manifesto

That's the title of a new book that explores the shifting boundaries and conflicts over intellectual property and piracy ... and defines a powerful "new progressive class, the hacker class."

The book's author is McKenzie Wark, Professor of Cultural and Media Studies at Lang College, New School University, in New York. Here's the publisher's description:
A double is haunting the world--the double of abstraction, the virtual reality of information, programming or poetry, math or music, curves or colorings upon which the fortunes of states and armies, companies and communities now depend. The bold aim of this book is to make manifest the origins, purpose, and interests of the emerging class responsible for making this new world--for producing the new concepts, new perceptions, and new sensations out of the stuff of raw data.

A Hacker Manifesto deftly defines the fraught territory between the ever more strident demands by drug and media companies for protection of their patents and copyrights and the pervasive popular culture of file sharing and pirating. This vexed ground, the realm of so-called "intellectual property," gives rise to a whole new kind of class conflict, one that pits the creators of information--the hacker class of researchers and authors, artists and biologists, chemists and musicians, philosophers and programmers--against a possessing class who would monopolize what the hacker produces.

Drawing in equal measure on Guy Debord and Gilles Deleuze, A Hacker Manifesto offers a systematic restatement of Marxist thought for the age of cyberspace and globalization. In the widespread revolt against commodified information, McKenzie Wark sees a utopian promise, beyond the property form, and a new progressive class, the hacker class, who voice a shared interest in a new information commons.


A Hacker Manifesto book page at Harvard University Press

A Hacker Manifesto at, which says, "McKenzie Wark's A Hacker Manifesto might also be called, without too much violence to its argument, The Communist Manifesto 2.0. In essence, it's an attempt to update the core of Marxist theory for that relatively novel set of historical circumstances known as the information age."

Thanks to the always interesting political art blog, NEWSgrist, where I learned about the new book and which provides details of the book launch party on October 21 in New York.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

the french magnanimously mitigate Bush's public health failure

The French saved our butts in the American Revolution, support the US war in Afghanistan, and even after the "freedom fries" nonsense and anti-French trash talking of the past three years, here they come stepping in to help save American lives once again, in the wake of the Bush Administration's incompetence in public health planning and oversight. Aventis-Pasteur, headquartered in Lyon, France announced today that it will supply 2.6 million doses of flu vaccine.

down & dirty

Edward Olshaker details the Bush campaign tradition of dirty personal smear tactics in a History News Network essay, "Do the Bush Family Pols Play Dirty?" Excerpt:
In early March, Senator John Kerry made perhaps the most surprising comment any presidential candidate has made this year—a blunt warning that the Bush machine “will attack my character and even my wife’s.” His remark did not receive the kind of coverage we would probably be seeing if, for example, George W. Bush had warned of a Democratic smear campaign against his wife Laura. In fact, it appears to have slipped by virtually unnoticed.

A look back at previous Bush family presidential campaigns—in 1988, 1992, and 2000—reveals a disturbing pattern of personal attacks on the families of their opponents, a variation on the larger theme of character assassination that also has included impugning the patriotism of opponents (Dukakis, Clinton, McCain, and Kerry) and questioning their mental health (Dukakis, McCain, Gore, and Dean). Perhaps at this point, in the middle of the fourth Bush presidential campaign, the increasingly docile media simply accepts this strategy as business as usual.

The smearing of Teresa Kerry by Bush surrogates was already under way as Kerry spoke, and has only increased in frequency and vitriol. Radio-show host Rush Limbaugh, who was praised by Bush as “a national treasure” when his drug habit got him in trouble with the law last year, has mocked Mrs. Kerry’s personal appearance and refers to the Kerrys as “Mrs. John Heinz and John F-ing Kerry” on his website. Fellow radio conservative and best-selling author Michael Savage, who has hosted Dick Cheney on his show, has spent hours fixated on the “wife who looks like a deranged lunatic,” describing Teresa Kerry as “sinister” and “spooky” because of her accent. “This is America—foreign accents don’t sell,” declared Savage, who also called the Kerry daughters “losers” and Elizabeth Edwards “a disaster” and “a deficit to the campaign.”

In what might be the first-ever racial attack on a presidential candidate’s wife, a radio ad directed at black voters denigrates the African-born Mrs. Kerry as “a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants”—essentially, a colonialist oppressor, although in reality she actively protested apartheid.

sending missionaries to the red state heathens

From What would Jesus do? Sending missionaries to the red state heathens! by Jane Stillwater, published by Al-Jazeerah, 17 October 2004:
Send me to Georgia! Send me to Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Utah! I'll preach fire and brimstone to those heathens. "In the future, if you want to become patriotic Christians, you gotta start honoring Jesus, stop voting for those White House pagans and their drive-by-shooting foreign policies that are endangering our safety -- and jail George Bush for his attacks on our freedom, our liberty, our safety and our Constitution!"

Red state heathens, it's time to step up to the rail and come to Jesus!

What would Jesus do? Does "Thou shalt not kill" sound familiar? And how about "Love thy neighbor" too.

Jesus was the ultimate Brave Man. Definitely braver than you and me. Always remember that Our Lord was brave enough to face down a terrible, painful and lonely death rather than deny his principles and resort to violence and/or dirty tricks. Did you see Jesus in the court of Pilate begging for his life? Did you hear Him wetting His pants and crying, "Oh spare me! Spare me! Kill somebody else!" Or did you see Special Forces op Jesus in his camo toga out murdering civilians in the Roman Green Zone? If He had done that, He would not have been the Son of God. He would have been just one more faceless "Bring it on!" demagogue in an endless historical parade of bullies, pimps and thugs. And we today would be worshiping some pantheon of gangster punks instead of Him.

If the red states elect George Bush this year, they also need to think about this: Who will they elect in 2008? Another demagogue just like him? And then another and another -- until finally one of them just calls an end to the election charade altogether. That's just plain SINFUL

partisan hack journalism

That's the title of my latest Silicon Valley Watcher column. Excerpt:
Substitute "President Bush" or "John Kerry" for "iPod" in the current rash of stories about an upcoming announcement from Apple and media critics would be screaming about partisan hack journalism.

I've got nothing against Apple - have been a proud Mac user for years - or the iPod, but these stories illustrate one of the worst aspects of technology business journalism: the myopia that leads some journalists and publications to amplify new product announcements into major news events.

Continues: Partisan hack journalism

Bush & Co to ER docs: believe us, not your lyin' eyes

Doctors gathered in San Francisco for the annual conference of the American College of Emergency Physicians warn that the "flu vaccine shortage could trigger a public health 'catastrophe' this winter if a bad flu strain emerges and patients swamp already overcrowded hospital emergency rooms" and urged President Bush "to convene a 'crisis summit' to plan how to handle a potential surge of unvaccinated influenza victims," according to today's San Francisco Chronicle.

Instead of a request for more information or a dialogue, the ER doctors' warning drew "an angry rebuke from the Department of Health and Human Services." An HHS official noted that the department "has spent $1.2 billion since Sept. 11, 2001, to improve the public health infrastructure," according to the Chronicle report, which observed:
Yet emergency department doctors say they are operating even now -- without the additional strain of a flu outbreak or a bioterrorist attack -- in a severely stressed system, with high levels of ambulance diversions and a lack of intensive care beds.

Monday, October 18, 2004

update: how Bush & Co facilitated the flu vaccine crisis

Hullabaloo has the definitive coverage of the s Bush Administration's twisted priorities that contributed to the flu vaccine crisis by trying to force an unnecessary smallpox vaccine program even as it ignored warnings about the flu. (Scroll up on that page for an interesting take on a possible October Surprise, good background, and links to other blogs covering this topic.)

Viacom's rejecting political ads again

From media watchdog FAIR comes news that media megacorp Viacom is blocking independent campaign ads from its cable channels MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central, following the company chairman's declaration of support for Bush's re-election.

search & destroy

That's the title of my latest column at Silicon Valley Watcher. Excerpt:

Against the daily news backdrop of bombings and aerial attacks, veteran Silicon Valley journalist, John Markoff's article,"Google Envy Is Fomenting Search Wars" in today's New York Times comes as no surprise.

Business as war is a trope that journalists haven't been able to leave alone in the 20+ years I've been covering Silicon Valley, even in the most peaceful times. It's become distressingly common as fighting has intensified in Iraq and the rest of us citizen-soldiers are supposed to keep Silicon Valley, and the rest of the homeland, safe from terrorists.

Markoff's martial prose covers all the hot spots in the latest war to control the personal computer desktop....

...continues: Search & destroy.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

surprise! Bush lied about sending US forces into Iraq equipped with what they need

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I argued with an old friend about whether or not the soldiers on the ground would have what they needed to fight. After spending a year on the "frontier of freedom" just a couple of kilometers from the DMZ dividing North and South Korea, in a mechanized infantry battalion drawing combat pay during most of 1973, I had seen first hand the problems the Army had keeping enough spare parts in inventory to keep its vehicles rolling. My friend, also a veteran, said, No way, the Army had solved those problems in the years after I left.

Today the Washington Post published Top Army Commander in Iraq Complained of Poor Supply Situation, Document Shows, which includes:
The lack of key spare parts for gear vital to combat operations, such as tanks and helicopters, was causing problems so severe, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez wrote in a letter to top Army officials, that "I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low."

....He also said units were waiting an average of 40 days for critical spare parts, which he noted was almost three times the Army's average. In some Army supply depots in Iraq, 40 percent of critical parts were at "zero balance," meaning they were absent from depot shelves, he said.

sci-fi soldiers of the future

I'd call Nick Turse's article on Pentagon R & D programs for the sci-f-soldier of the future unbelievable if I hadn't spent considerable time researching DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency) myself back in the '80s. Excerpt:
Sleepless soldiers are all well and good while the fighting goes on; but how does one prevent sleepless, anxiety-filled nights after those missions end? Once upon a time, it seems, most soldiers had a great revulsion against close-quarters killing. During World War II, it has been estimated that as few as 15-20% of American infantry troops actually fired their weapons at the enemy. By the Vietnam years, the military had managed to bring that number up into the 90-95% range! Obviously, the armed forces had found ways to turn American men into more efficient killers. But how to deal with the pesky problems of regret, remorse, and post-traumatic stress disorder?

Well, last year, writing in the Village Voice, Erik Baard raised the specter of the creation of a "guilt-free soldier," noting that researchers from various universities across the U.S. (including Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and UC-Irvine) were working on various methods of fear-inhibition and also memory-numbing by using "propranolol pills… as a means to nip the effects of trauma in the bud." He further reported that at Columbia, the lab of Nobel laureate in medicine Eric Kandel had "discovered the gene behind a fear-inhibiting protein, uncovering a vision of 'fight or flight' at the molecular level." When asked by Baard if he was funded by DARPA, Kandel answered, "No, but you're welcome to call them and tell them about me."

Will DARPA take Kandel up on his tacit offer? It seems only natural that a soldier unburdened by morals, ethics, or remorse would be the military's dream. But for now, DARPA seems fixated on another long-term project -- creating cyborg soldiers -- which might make an anti-morality morning-after (combat) pill superfluous.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

faith-based president: clueless, certain, wrong

From Without a Doubt by Ron Suskind, in the New York Times Magazine:
There is one story about Bush's particular brand of certainty I am able to piece together and tell for the record.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. ''You were right,'' he said, with bonhomie. ''Sweden does have an army.''

This story was told to me by one of the senators in the Oval Office that December day, Joe Biden.

....In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ''Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.''

....George W. Bush and his team have constructed a high-performance electoral engine. The soul of this new machine is the support of millions of likely voters, who judge his worth based on intangibles -- character, certainty, fortitude and godliness -- rather than on what he says or does. The deeper the darkness, the brighter this filament of faith glows, a faith in the president and the just God who affirms him.

The leader of the free world is clearly comfortable with this calculus and artfully encourages it. In the series of televised, carefully choreographed ''Ask President Bush'' events with supporters around the country, sessions filled with prayers and blessings, one questioner recently summed up the feelings of so many Christian conservatives, the core of the Bush army. ''I've voted Republican from the very first time I could vote,'' said Gary Walby, a retired jeweler from Destin, Fla., as he stood before the president in a crowded college gym. ''And I also want to say this is the very first time that I have felt that God was in the White House.'' Bush simply said ''thank you'' as a wave of raucous applause rose from the assembled.

a bit of sanity on the Washington Post editorial page

From Outrage That Rings False by Hilary Rosen:
Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Thursday that John Kerry will pay a heavy political price for what he did. Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife, said, "This is a bad man."

The crime? John Kerry in the final presidential debate suggested that we are all God's children and used Mary Cheney as an example of a healthy gay person loved by her family.

The response from the Cheneys and the Bush campaign has been blatantly political. In fact, it is they who are using Mary Cheney -- using her now to score points against Kerry and John Edwards over an issue on which they themselves are guilty of the wrongs that Kerry and Edwards are fighting against. Even after almost 30 years in Washington, I am surprised by the overwhelming hypocrisy and meanness of the Bush reelection campaign.

Let's review the facts. Before the election season, this administration opposed every initiative to offer equality for gay men and lesbians. Indeed, it has gone out of its way to be punitive, with such actions as the Office of Personnel Management's announcement that the federal government has no intention of honoring the Clinton administration's order to add sexual orientation to anti-discrimination rules in the federal government.

The Republican leaderships in both houses of Congress brought this amendment to the floor. Anyone watching the debate would cringe at the dehumanizing and painful things said by Republican sponsors of the proposal about gay people.

All of the Cheneys have sat back as senators and members of Congress who stood up for their position against the constitutional amendment were attacked in campaigns across the country. In Texas, North Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina and elsewhere, Republican candidates are using the gay issue against Democrats who have done nothing more than vote to protect the notion of fairness and equality in our Constitution.

Where is the outrage of Dick and Lynne Cheney over this?

excuse me, but if Bush & Co. can't handle flu shots, how can they handle a terrorist attack with biological agents?

Watching the news last night - old folks lined up at flu shot clinics all around the San Francisco Bay Area, waiting for hours, people cutting in line, nobody knows how much vaccine there is and if it's even worth waiting in line - then experiencing the same cluster-fuck myself when I tried to get a flu shot at my local Kaiser HMO hospital this morning, I'm wondering what would we do in the event of a real public health emergency, a terrorist attack with biological or chemical weapons for example, where huge numbers of people needed to be vaccinated or otherwise treated on a mass scale?

The Kerry campaign should relate the flu vaccine shortage to the Bush's failure to actually equip first-responders, and other public health workers and organizations, for the disaster they've been holding over our heads to scare us into voting Bush. Three years of jive-ass terror alerts, terrorizing the public about possible anthrax or other biological attacks, but insufficient planning and preparation to actually do anything about it.

Yesterday this amazingly (given CNN's consistent deference to Bush and his lies) to the point CNN report (scroll down at that page) yesterday, about the contradictions in Bush's brain-dead critique of Kerry's health care plans:
WOODRUFF: Every Friday, of course you know this, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider takes the temperature, so to speak, of the political scene. This week, he practically has chills -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. This week there was an issue that hit home with voters and forced the candidates to rethink their scripts. It even walked off with the political play of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): They're standing in line in Florida and Michigan, in New Jersey. The line goes around the block. Eager swing state residents lining up to vote? Not exactly. They're lining up for flu shots.

DR. CHARLES GONZALEZ, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: It's incredibly serious. We have half as much vaccine as we should have.

SCHNEIDER: How did that happen?

BUSH: We relied upon a company out of England to provide about half of the flu vaccines for the United States citizens.

SCHNEIDER: Uh-oh. Sounds like outsourcing. The president had a solution.

BUSH: We're working with Canada, hopefully they will produce a -- help us realize the vaccine necessary.

SCHNEIDER: But hasn't Bush expressed problems with drug imports from Canada?

BUSH: My worry is, it looks like it's from Canada, it might be from a third world. We have to make sure before somebody thinks they're buying a product, that it works.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush made a plea to the public.

BUSH: If you're healthy, if you're younger, don't get a flu shot this year.

SCHNEIDER: Sounds like rationing, something the president said would result from Kerry's health care plan.

BUSH: Government sponsored health care would lead to rationing.

SCHNEIDER: The government has the situation under control the president says.

BUSH: The CDC responsible for health in the United States is setting those priorities and allocating the flu vaccine accordingly.

SCHNEIDER: Isn't that government control?

BUSH: My opponent wants the government to run the health care.

SCHNEIDER: Maybe the answer is legal reform.

BUSH: Vaccine manufacturers are worried about getting sued, and so therefore they have backed off from providing this kind of vaccine.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry says the issue is the whole health care system.

KERRY: There still aren't enough flu vaccinations. What's the president's solution? He says, don't get one if you're healthy. That sounds just like his health care plan to me, hope and pray you don't get sick.

SCHNEIDER: The flu bug has infected the campaign. The side effect was the political play of the week.


Schneider failed to correct Bush's mistake - Chiron, the flu vaccine manufacturer, is a US company, not British, but it was making the vaccine in a British factory.

Latest news, from the San Francisco Chronicle, is that all of Chiron's flu vaccine is contaminated and unsafe for use, in a story that raises serious questions about the competency of Bush's FDA:
A mere week before the British authorities pulled the Liverpool plant's license, Chiron Chief Executive Officer Howard Pien told a congressional committee that the company would still be able to release 46 million to 48 million doses of vaccine to the United States market.

Crawford has since acknowledged that the FDA did not communicate with its British counterpart on the Chiron matter until it learned of the Oct. 5 decision. The agency was relying on information supplied to it by Chiron.

There is no indication that the British decision was based on discovery of additional contaminated vaccine. Instead, inspectors acted based on the plant's failure to adhere to a set of quality control guidelines known as Good Manufacturing Practices.

The FDA had conducted a similar inspection of the Liverpool facility in June 2003, and the plant met the American standards.

Friday, October 15, 2004

dodgy Dowd

In her too-cute spin on debate No. 3, Maureen Dowd sounds like a teenaged girl upset because the two guys didn't start throwing punches to prove who's manly enough for her; I'm increasingly disappointed in her columns these days.

a tale of two Silicon Valleys

That's the title of the new column just posted at Silicon Valley Watcher.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"I see America Bertlusconi-izing"

Jay Rosen has a thoughtful essay at his Pressthink blog, on Sinclair's October Surprise, covering in some detail how the company has positioned its 62-station television empire to trumpet the owners' pro-Bush, right-wing message to 25 percent of US households. Sliming Kerry in battleground states just days before the election appears to be only the next in a series of outrages designed to make Sinclair the new Fox News. Rosen includes links to other Sinclair-related stories and resources for activists who wish to bring pressure to bear against the company. If Bush is elected and lets media consolidation proceed, the situation will only get worse, as fewer companies gobble up broadcast outlets and use them to project their partisan political propaganda.

Sinclair's partisan political move is unfair, a real October Surprise, and those who oppose it are right to pressure advertisers and local stations in an effort to make them stop. OJ expects that investigation will reveal substantial links between Sinclair's move and the Bush campaign - Daily Kos and other blogs have already begun to report same.

At the same time, there's something to be said for having a variety of media which project distinct points of view. A formative experience for OJ was a year in France, where the daily news came in a spectrum of political hues, from royalist through right-wing, center, left-wing, all the way to Communist. Getting anything like a complete picture of any given news event meant having to read several daily newspapers - but the resulting, multifaceted view was fascinating and informative. Those newspapers made no bones about their partisan proclivities, and readers knew what they were getting.

That situation didn't arise overnight in France, of course. If that's what the US broadcasting establishment is evolving towards, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Game-designing women

Centipede, first arcade game designed by a woman, 1980

What does it mean that women make up only one in 10 of the people in the computer games industry?

That's the question Katie Hafner poses in her New York Times article today, "What Do Women Game Designers Want?"

Male domination is more complete than the 10 percent figure might suggest, since "most tend to be in jobs in customer service, marketing and quality assurance," Hafner observes. "Relatively few women work as game designers and producers, and even fewer are programmers."

Hafner covers the male taste for shoot-em-up violence, "the testosterone-fueled attitude among upper management that ... pervades many game software companies," and the "chicken-and-egg" dilemma of how to get more women into game design when few women play computer games while growing up.

Hafner highlights Austin, Texas-based video game company, Ion Storm, and its star designer, Denise Fulton, and Silicon Valley programmer Nicky Robinson who managed to blast into the blood-and-guts brigade with Battle Tanx and Army Men.

Things didn't have to work out this way.

I remember attending a party, in the late '70s, in Menlo Park with my brother and some of the people he went to school with at Stanford. They had been out of school for a few years then. Among the party-goers was David Oppenheim, one of my brother's college roomates; a few years would pass before he created the first MIDI interface for the Macintosh and started OpCode, a trailblazer in music software.

Op introduced me to a friend of his, a woman who had just designed a video game for Atari. I believe this was Dona Bailey, and that the game was Centipede, which Atari released in 1980, the first arcade game designed by a woman.

I remember her excitement about her work and about the way she had successfully made a place for herself among the men who then dominated not only video games, but the entire field of computer programming.

The female drive to parity in this male bastion seems to have been a case of one step forward, two steps back, unfortunately.

In today's New York Times story, Hafner notes that Nicky Robinson now serves as director of technology at LimeLife of Menlo Park, working on mobile phone applications for women ... a career move that would seem to indicate that sex roles in Silicon Valley remain rigid, despite the wishes of even the most successful game-designing women.

What Do Women Game Designers Want? by Katie Hafner, New York Times, October 14, 2004
Ion Storm
Centipede Wikipedia article

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Netscape 10 years after

Here's another Silicon Valley Watcher column I want to publish here while it's still timely.

Netscape 10 years after

What a Web we've woven this past decade! Now gather 'round, young whippersnappers, and I'll tell you the story about the time I met Marc Andreesen when he still called the browser "Mosaic NetScape."

Once upon a time, 10 years and a couple of months ago, I met the fresh-faced programmer on his very first round of press interviews. My interview with him appeared in the November 1994 issue of Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier, a magazine for interactive multimedia developers and designers that I created and edited in those halcyon days of yore. Like Andreesen, many of the people our magazine pulled together as a community went on to make the World Wide Web a viable publishing and communications platform.

Best quote from Andreesen in that interview: "I was going for a degree in electrical engineering until I found out how hard it was."

CNET has a good package of stories today reliving Netscape's history, from its rocket ride to a $5 billion buy-out by AOL through its subsequent decline, and new hopes for a Firefox revival.

But, I've got a bone to pick with one of them, "Where are Netscape's pioneers today?" by Paul Festa.

Festa's article is fine, as far as it goes. But he fails to mention three key people who worked with Andreesen to create the browser: Eric Bina, who together with Andreesen wrote the original UNIX version of the Mosaic interface while working at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications in 1993; Jon Mitterhauser, who wrote the NCSA Windows version of Mosaic; and Aleks Totic who wrote the NCSA Mac version. Andreesen went out of his way to give them credit for their efforts in my interview with him back in '94. (Festa does mention Mitterhauser in the lead story in the CNET package, "Netscape: Bowed, but not broken.")

Andreesen and the original Netscape team made one excellent decision that I quizzed him about in that interview, in the company's office on the main drag in Mountain View. They chose not to pursue what was at that time considered the Holy Grail: interactive TV.

"It's going to be years before we have interactive TV," Andreesen told me. And he was right.

Whether or not it's been enough years yet remains to be seen, in light of Microsoft's latest kludgy effort to merge the PC with the Tube.

A decade on the Web with Netscape by CNET Staff
Where are Netscape's pioneers today? by Paul Festa
Staff Writer, CNET
Netscape: Bowed, but not broken by Paul Festa
Staff Writer, CNET
Netscape's first press release via CNET
Windows of opportunity in Microsoft's media push CNET round-up of Microsoft's Media Center launch
Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier, news story in Wired issue 1.04

how technology failed in Iraq

I've begun writing columns daily (sometimes several brief items per day, too) for Silicon Valley Watcher. I'll occasionally reprint them here. If you find them of interest, please click through to the Silicon Valley Watcher site, where I expect you'll enjoy columns by my partner Tom Foremski, and by other writers as we ramp up more editorial material and services in the coming weeks and months. And please pass the url along to others who might have an interest.

Here's one that I posted this morning:

How technology failed in Iraq

Without the defense and aerospace industries, Silicon Valley might still be harvesting prunes instead of chips. Yes, war and the rumors of war have been very good to entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, shareholders, and employees of companies that supply the military. Now a dirty little secret is emerging.

Despite all the boasts of "smart" bombs and networked military forces, bloody experience in Iraq demonstrates that high-tech's military promise is this war's pitfall.

That's the thrust of David Talbot's meaty article in the November issue of Technology Review, MIT's prestigious magazine.

"The Iraq War was supposed to be a preview of the new U.S. military: a light, swift force that relies as much on sensors and communications networks as on heavy armor and huge numbers," Talbot writes. "But once the shooting started, technology fell far short of expectations."

Talbot's piece reads like the latest Clancy techno-thriller. But the dead and wounded soldiers and civilians are real enough.

Talbot buttresses this dismal picture with evidence from "a forthcoming, largely classified report on the entire Iraq campaign, under preparation by the Santa Monica, CA, think tank Rand."

One big problem: we didn't learn from the high-tech failures of the first Iraq war.

Watching our President refuse to acknowledge or admit a mistake in the current blood and fire nightmare over there, I guess that doesn't surprise me.

No worries about job security in Silicon Valley's defense and aerospace related shops, however.

Technology-driven "force transformation" will march on, if not in step with freedom and democracy, certainly a step or two ahead of the Grim Reaper.

How Technology Failed in Iraq by David Talbot

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Chimperor embarrasses US on the world stage, again

What will Bush do next to alienate allies and create new enemies?

From an article by Naomi Klein in the Guardian (a shorter version of an article published today in the Nation, which will undoubtedly wind up in publications around the world):
President Bush's special envoy, James Baker, who has been trying to persuade the world to forgive Iraq's crushing debts, is simultaneously working for a commercial concern that is trying to recover money from Iraq, according to confidential documents.

Mr Baker's Carlyle Group is in a consortium secretly proposing to try to collect $27bn (£15bn) on behalf of Kuwait, one of Iraq's biggest creditors, by using high-level political influence. It claims Mr Baker will not benefit personally, but the consortium could make millions in fees, retainers and commission as a result.

Other countries, including Britain, have been urged by Mr Baker to relieve the new Iraq regime of its $200bn debt burden. Iraq owes Britain approximately $1bn.

One international lawyer described the consortium's scheme as "influence peddling of the crassest kind".

....When George Bush appointed Mr Baker, a former secretary of state, as his unpaid envoy on December 5 2003, he called Mr Baker's job "a noble mission". But Mr Baker is also a senior counsellor and an equity partner with a reported $180m stake in the merchant bank and defence contractor the Carlyle Group.

erasing history

That's what they'll be doing at the National Archives as spooks slice up the Nixon White House tape recordings to get rid of potentially embarrassing references to Nixon family matters . . . and internal Republican Party politics, reports the Los Angeles Times.

krugman tells it straight

In his column today, alerting readers to lies that Bush is likely to spew in the third and final debate tomorrow night and providing the relevant facts, Paul Krugman chooses not to mince words, and OJ wishes journalists everywhere would follow his example:
By singling out Mr. Bush's lies and misrepresentations, am I saying that Mr. Kerry isn't equally at fault? Yes.

Mr. Kerry sometimes uses verbal shorthand that offers nitpickers things to complain about. He talks of 1.6 million lost jobs; that's the private-sector loss, partly offset by increased government employment. But the job record is indeed awful. He talks of the $200 billion cost of the Iraq war; actual spending is only $120 billion so far. But nobody doubts that the war will cost at least another $80 billion. The point is that Mr. Kerry can, at most, be accused of using loose language; the thrust of his statements is correct.

Mr. Bush's statements, on the other hand, are fundamentally dishonest. He is insisting that black is white, and that failure is success. Journalists who play it safe by spending equal time exposing his lies and parsing Mr. Kerry's choice of words are betraying their readers.

Monday, October 11, 2004

a simple request: a plan for Iraq, please, & no more bogus journalism about bogus plans

Bob Herbert, in his op-ed piece, Webs of Illusion, in today's New York Times:
If Mr. Bush has a plan to clean up the mess in Iraq, he should say so. If he has a strategy - besides more tax cuts - to bolster employment in the U.S., he should tell us. If he's in touch with the real world in which these and other very serious problems exist, he might consider letting us know.
Tom Engelhardt brings his considerable journalistic powers to bear on the sudden appearance of a Bush & Co. plan for Iraq, however lacking in detail and substance, just when Senator Kerry has made us all aware, if we weren't already, of the lack of same. His essay also explores the dangers of top-tier journalists relying on anonymous sources. Of the so-called "plan" Engelhardt writes:
On close inspection, the plan, news of which was evidently offered exclusively to the New York Times, proves to be a strange mix of fantasy and emptiness, at least as reported in the imperial paper of choice. But there's no question that getting it onto the front page of the Times with the media equivalent of immunity was a modest coup for the Bush administration. First of all, the front page of the Times ratified that there is such a "plan" at a moment when the administration has been embarrassed by Iraq's devolution into reconstruction-less chaos and the loss of significant portions of the country to the insurgents. Under the circumstances, this was a small domestic triumph of planning.
Meanwhile, our fearless Chimperor makes it clear that the top priority plan is to manipulate the fighting of the war in order to manipulate the electorate in the run up to next month's election, with a decision to refrain from major assaults in Iraq until after the vote. Let the GIs sit and stew - and draw fire from insurgents and their car bombs - so voters don't see any more of the fighting and dying that has resulted from Bush's disastrous Iraq fiasco.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Sometimes I see no reason why we're here"

Who are you going to believe? The Chimperor's rosy Iraq scenario, or the Marines on the ground?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bush shows his true colors in Debate II (jeno mules via Daily Kos)

(lynne1 via Daily Kos)

That's the name of my new venture, together with old friend and Financial Times correspondent, Tom Foremski, at, naturally. If you have any interest in Silicon Valley (the original one, south of San Francisco), check it out. It's a humble beginning, but we'll be rolling out more editorial elements and services in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, October 08, 2004

guided by voices?

Bush spokesman denies the President receives any sort of audio signal prompting him with words to speak in public situations, ignores larger issue of what it says about public confidence in the President that this sort of question is asked in the first place.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

. . . by Andy Axel, apparently, via From Here to Obscurity.

I have a dream

No weapons of mass of destruction, Bush & Co. now must admit, thanks to Bush's own inspector's 1,000-page report, but they continue to insist that Saddam had the "intention" to build them again.

In that same vein, OJ will admit to having the intention, a very strong intention, driven by a powerful desire, for some time now, to spend a long weekend in a romantic hideaway with Julia Roberts, and to win the California Lottery, and to finally buy that castle in Spain, but . . .

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

will W ever use the W-word?

Tom Engelhardt has published another must-read essay, Withdrawal on the agenda. Here's an excerpt, but please click and read it all:
The problem for the Bush administration, of course, lies not in "taking" the no-go cities of Iraq, but in what to do with them, once taken. You can kick down the doors to apartments, shops, offices, and governmental buildings; it's less easy to kick down the doors to people's brains. Bombs and other heavy armaments, however "precise," are by their nature indiscriminate and tend to do quite the opposite -- as of course does the kicking down of a door if a hostage isn't on the other side. Nor can you build up doors on your own side based solely on military training and a paycheck, though both presidential candidates have put great emphasis on the need to speed up the training of Iraqi troops and police. You can train someone to fire a gun or wield a baton, but you can't train him to be loyal. You can't train him not to see the obvious. You can't train him to be the Iraqi of your dreams.

As we all know by now, there are only 140,000 American troops in Iraq. Our troops can't be left garrisoning "taken" cities all over the country. There aren't enough of them. So those cities will have to be turned over to the troops and police of a regime whose prime minister's major speech in the United States was at least partially written by someone on the Bush election team. We all know -- or should know -- more or less what's likely to happen to the cities where (non-Kurdish) Iraqi troops are the main or sole garrisoning force. They will not remain "taken" for long. Things will get more desperate. The time of withdrawal, which will by then be a defeat beyond measure, will sooner or later be upon even a second Bush administration.

Monday, October 04, 2004

10 questions for Cheney

John Nichols asks them at The Nation.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Orcinus to bloggers: follow basic journalistic standards

Orcinus has an article worth reading today about the the blogosphere's "potential to be a great innovation in American journalism." Key points:
If bloggers want to act as journalists, they need to conform to basic journalistic standards. Or they will, in the end, pay for it.

....the newly proclaimed journalists of the blogosphere might want to pause for a moment and consider some advice from a journalist who has been through a few document wars and court threats: If you're going to level serious charges of unethical or scandalous or especially criminal behavior, then you had by God better be ready to back it up in court.
The article offers an update on the "Killian memos" which - and why is OJ not surprised? - appear to be genuine (or at least not forged) after all. Orcinus details a dreadful story about right-wing bloggers who are trying to destroy the academic career of an expert who has investigated the memos...and the possibility that Utah State University will drag them into court to defend him.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

hope it's true on November 2

...from the ever-inspiring NewsGRIST.

UPDATE: If the latest Newsweek poll is to be believed, Bush is toast.

Now watch for Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove to roll out a nasty October Surprise.

Friday, October 01, 2004

President Barney Fife or President Elmer Befuddled?

Kerry spanked Bush badly last night (transcript here), making the President look every bit the whining airbrain misleader that he is. Tom Shales agrees, in the Washington Post, as did most credible observers in last night's post-debate spinfest. Shales quotes an unnamed observer who got it right:
"It was Andy Griffith meets Barney Fife," he said, with Kerry in the Griffith role -- solid, sanguine, sensible -- and Bush as the nervous Fife.

Here's a peek at the notes Bush was scribbling when he wasn't making monkey faces last night - yes, I know that's not fair to monkeys, sorry.

Business Week said he looked like Elmer Befuddled