Wednesday, September 27, 2006

punked


We Americans are different: we think we're special and the rest of the world thinks we're especially isolated and willfully ignorant. Newsweek, it turns out, panders to both sides of the equation, printing two dramatically different versions of its weekly magazine-- one for domestic readers and a completely different version for foreign readers. Check it out here.

This week, in the European, Asian and Latin American editions of the magazine, readers are presented with a cover story on the unfolding disaster of American policy in Afghanistan and a warning of future entanglement and bloodshed. In the U.S. edition of the magazine, however, the cover story is a book review article of the latest work by American celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz (the one who took the photos of Tom and Katie and Suri!).

I suppose it's only fair to mention that the Liebovitz piece is... an exclusive! Here are the teasers from the foreign and domestic editions (you guess which is which):

1) The Rise of Jihadistan
Five years after the Afghan invasion, the Taliban are fighting back hard, carving out a sanctuary where they—and Al Qaeda's leaders—can operate freely.

2) Through Her Lens
In her new book, Annie Leibovitz, our most famous photographer, places celebs side by side with surprisingly personal images of love and loss. An exclusive.

So, is it that Newsweek thinks U.S. readers don't give a shit about the unraveling disaster in Afghanistan? (Do we?) Or is it that Newsweek thinks we care more about Annie Liebovitz and her celebs? (Do we?) Or is it that Newsweek thinks we've had enough of bad news? (Have we?) Or is it that Newsweek doesn't want to print any more bad news about Bush leadership this election season? (Why?)

Why exactly won't Newsweek run what it clearly thinks is an important story on major events for the only people who have the power to influence those events?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

anti-americanism and the left

Whatever you think of Hugo Chavez and his Bush is Satin speech yesterday to the UN General Assembly, he may be inadvertently sabotaging the American Left by aligning himself with them. Waving a copy of Noam Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States, Chavez said "It's an excellent book to help us understand what's been happening in the world throughout the 20th century...and what's happening now."

Was Chavez’s endorsement of Chomsky a great moment for those who see Chomksy’s powerful and unwavering political activism as embodying the spirit of freedom of expression in America? Or will Chavez’s speech work to further the Bush administration long campaign to characterize anyone who challenges its policies as unpatriotic?

The conservative Frontpagemage.com suggests the latter:

"Chavez and Chomsky made mutual admirations pacts; Osama bin Laden makes allusions to Michael Moore; the Huffington Post legitimizes the ravings of a leftist fascist and an Islamofascist; and the Unholy Alliance grows steadily clearer day-by-day."

A Washington Post story claims the speech proves that there is no such things as bad press. At the very least Chavez is getting people reading. The Chicago Tribune reports that sales of Hegemony or Survival, have jumped into the top 10 of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com and that its publisher has ordered an additional paperback printing of 25,000 copies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

american blackout

Alleged voting irregularities during both the 2000 and 2004 were under reported by the mainstream news media. They are most commonly thought of as mere rumors generated by conspiracy theorists unhappy with the election results, as inadvertent errors caused by technological problems on the part of voting equipment or organizational mishaps on the part election officials.

American Blackout, a film by Guerilla News Network’s Ian Inaba, premiering in select theatres this month, convincingly demonstrates that these irregularities are not as innocent as the powers that be would have us believe.

In a review of the film Shari Frilot writes:

"Ian Inaba's American Blackout is a stylish, intelligent and provocative documentary that looks at the historic and systematic disenfranchisement of the Black vote through the lens of the political career of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia).... While tracking McKinney's career, Inaba reveals a host of ways in which Black political power is systematically squelched, ranging from the slander that assailed McKinney when she stood up to the Bush administration on 9/11 and Iraq, to the political machinations that disempowered the Black vote in the Georgia Democratic primaries and the Ohio presidential election in 2004. Inaba reminds us that African Americans have long fought a war inside our country for their right to vote, and unfortunately that war rages on today. American Blackout emotionally revitalizes the core of our power as American citizens—the right to vote—and effectively reveals that the fate of Black voters is inextricably tied to the fate of all Americans."

The film’s website features the film trailer asks people to help spread the word, to donate money, and to host screenings of the film.

Monday, September 18, 2006

our man in arabia


Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum-- aka "Sheik Mo"-- has been celebrated by Time Magazine as a world-shaping titan and embraced by the Bush family as a business partner. This week, however, a court in Lexington, Ky., indicted him as a trafficker in boy slaves. The class-action suit accuses the Sheik of financing the kidnapping and transfer of young boys to Dubai, where they are put to work as camel jockeys to entertain the petro-dollar elite. Tom Flocco offers this summary of the story being reported this week by AP:

The U.S.-based suit alleges that Mohammed and his brother were part of a conspiracy "to buy boys in the slave trade and hold them in bondage in brutal camps in the Dubai desert." The lawsuit reportedly detailed information involving thousands of boys as young as four years old who were prized because they weighed less than 44 pounds. Sheikh Mohammed's personal 747 aircraft was parked at Bluegrass Airport this week in Lexington [...] AP has not reported whether evidence exists regarding young boys being trafficked out of Lexington. The sheikh was reportedly there purchasing thoroughbred yearlings.


Time raves that although Sheik Mo's "family-run city-state is no democracy [...] it has become a model of business-style governance." Ah yes of course, how we love business-style governance, where mere enslavement is no barrier to achieving the dream-life of wealth and success!

But Sheik Mo-- in addition to being a world-shaping titan and an alleged slaver-- is a poet. And in an online offering called "The Ferocity of the Lions," he may be hinting at his true feelings on the matter of the enslaved boy jockeys:

Oh the hope of my life!
Oh the peak of my desire!
Tell me how to get rid of the manacles.

The rest of his verse is less clear but equally evocative... that is to say, a complete mystery of sillines. I have no idea what any of it is about. My guess, though, is that if Saddam Hussein, another of the region's ruler-poets, had embraced "business-style governance" when he had the chance, he'd likely be at the races today, scribbling his verse in the open air instead of in a tiny jail cell and making plans to buy buildings in Manhattan and horses in Kentucky.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

WoT review


War on Terror
A Review of Work Performed, September 2006

I. Update

1) There are 140,000 American young men and women fighting in Iraq and 19,000 fighting in Afghanistan. President Bush claims the period of "employment" for these men and women will not end any time soon and that it will be up to future leaders to finish the job he has begun.

2) Osama bin Laden has recovered from kidney troubles and is up and moving about again in the undisturbed climes of a place called Waziristan on the Pakistan border. He reportedly holds meetings in the oak-forested Waziristan hills with members of the regrouped and expanding Taliban. A Senior White House official reports specualtion among Bush advisors that Bin Laden has employed an ancient Oriental cloaking spell to hide all of Waziristan from the President and from U.S. spy and war technologies.

3) War on Terror-partner Pakistan has announced its complete resignation in the matter of policing the stretches of its border that include darkened Warziristan.

4) British partners in the reignited Afghan theater of the War on Terror submitted harrowing reports this week, including one from Helmand Province, where a British battalion found itself unexpectedly fighting insurgents as part of its goodwill mission to begin reconstruction in the area: "We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming. We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming. We have used B1 bombers, Harriers, F-16s and Mirage 2000s. We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs. At one point our Apaches helicopters ran out of missiles because they had fired so many. Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed."

5) The War on Terror operation in Iraq, meantime, is seen in all corners-- with one notable exception-- as a steaming mess of reeking quagmire. This week 's serving came with an escalation of violence and a higher-than-the-usual-high-number of shot and bombed people.

II. Summary and Findings

1) The primary goals of Phase One of the War on Terror included (a) killing or capturing Osama bin Laden, (b) destroying al Qaeda, and (c) taking control of Afghanistan and Iraq.

2) A fair assessment on the progress made so far on Phase One is: not so good, poor. Look in the coming weeks, however, for additional and probably sunnier reports on the progress of Phase One from the leaders of the War on Terror, who will be in the possession of information and facts vital to an overall assessment but also unfortunately unavailable to non security-cleared analysts and voters.

3) Happily, Phase Two of the War on Terror is less ambitious, amounting merely to regime change in North Korea and Iran and the creation of a pro-American, Israel-friendly, democratic but not-too-democratic, endlessly oil-supplying Greater Middle East.

III. Conclusions and Recommendations

1) Aaaahhhh! This plan totally sucks! Who do we call to cancel this work-order and receive a complete refund!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

hacking diebold

Computer Scientists at Princeton released the results of the first-ever independent assessment of Diebold voting machines today.

And the news ain’t good.

In a Salon story today, Brad Friedman writes:
“The study reveals that a computer virus can be implanted on an electronic voting machine that, in turn, could result in votes flipped for opposing candidates. According to the study, a vote for George Washington could be easily converted to a vote for Benedict Arnold, and neither the voter, nor the election officials administering the election, would ever know what happened. The virus could also be written to spread from one machine to the next and the malfeasance would likely never be discovered, the scientists said.”

Friedman is one of the founders of VelvetRevolution, the umbrella organization of more than 100 election integrity groups that “acquired” the Diebold system and handed it over to Princeton researchers.

The study was released along with a videotape demonstration. Marty Kaplan at The Huffington Post posted his own demonstration How to Hack a Diebold Voting Machine.

In the past Diebold has not been very eager to hear criticism of its products. Perhaps because, as Swarthmore Students discovered in 2003 when they uncovered internal Diebold memos, Diebold is well aware of security problems with their machines. The company tried to sue the students for posting the memos on the Web, but the students won the suit with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You can read the details here, and more about e-voting and election fraud here.

What’s next? Diebold vs. Princeton?

Monday, September 11, 2006

"if you want an audience, start a fight"




Disneyland visitors were greeted by a blow up doll dressed up as a Guantanamo Bay inmate wearing a bright orange jumper and black hood at the Rocky Mountain Railroad ride. The piece stayed up for an hour and half before staff shut down the ride to remove it. The culprit? None other than the enigmatic world famous guerilla artist Banksy, whose political and social pieces have graced the walls of the West Bank to San Francisco's Haight Street. He's even snuck his paintings into famous museums such as the Louvre in Paris.

Last week Banksy, who calls himself a "guerrilla artist", hit out at hotel heiress Paris Hilton.

He tampered with hundreds of her new albums in music stores, replacing her CD with his own remixes and giving the tracks titles such as Why Am I Famous?, What Have I Done? and What Am I For?

He also changed pictures of her on the sleeve to show her topless and with a dog’s head. Click here for the full article


The man's a genius, and a legend in the street art world; he was named Esquire's 2005 Artist of the Year. Check out his site: http://www.banksy.co.uk/

whadda they know

Truth Out today posted an Agence France Presse round-up of international newspaper editorials. There are no big surprises but the general disgust on the part of editors around the world toward the Bush response to the attacks in the last five years is sobering.

Papers in Europe and the Middle East were the most brutal-- which may seem a foregone conclusion now, but in the immediate wake of the attacks, European editors across the political spectrum couldn't have been more supportive, exclaiming across the top of Le Monde, of all places, that "We are all Americans." And editors in the terror-plagued Middle East expressed hoped that al Qaeda, in awakening the sleeping giant that day, would at last meet its end. Obviously most of all of that good will is long gone.

The British Financial Times: "The way the Bush administration has trampled on the international rule of law and Geneva Conventions, while abrogating civil liberties and expanding executive power at home, has done huge damage not only to America's reputation but, more broadly, to the attractive power of Western values."

Lebanon's Daily Star: "Instead of isolating and wiping out Al-Qaeda, Bush has created a long list of new foes in his ever-broadening war on terror. In doing so, he has bolstered the popular impression that the United States is waging a crusade against Islam-- an impression which Al-Qaeda skillfully exploits in order to gain more support."

Egypt's Al-Ahram: "Five years ago, the history of the world changed twice, once in the hands of Bin Laden and his gang, and once in the hands of Bin Bush and his administration."

Jordan's Al Ghad: "The administration of George W. Bush used a vengeful mentality in dealing with the 9/11 crime and has turned the entire world into a battleground."

The Australian papers were reportedly more sympathetic.

conspiracy theories...





As America remembers 9/11 five years later (as if we'd forget only five years later) with memorial services and explotation movies and TV specials(World Trade Center, United 93, ABC's "The Path to 9/11," etc.), let's not forget the conspiracy theories we love to google so much.

I'm no conspiracy theorist, and no, I haven't sat down and watched the entirety of Loose Change, the low-budget documentary that strings together news reports to present an alternative version of how it all went down. If you haven't seen or heard about it, here it is.

Of course this controversial film sparked some outrage with many people passing the film off as complete BS. But one guy went through and did his own fact-checking, so here's "Screw Loose Change" done sorta VH1 pop-up video style with annotated comments to refute the claims.

But really, you can't trust anyone these days.

9/11: the disney version

September 11, like all commemorative days, is an event during which our collective memory is actively shaped. And this year Disney owned ABC is vying for significant influence over how 9/11 is remembered. Last night and tonight ABC stations nationwide are broadcasting “The Path to 9/11” a two-part miniseries described by Salon’s editor-in-chief Joan Walsh as “an anti-Clinton hit job written by a conservative Iranian-American, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a friend of Rush Limbaugh, that lards blame for the tragedy on President Clinton and his cabinet and airbrushes the culpability of George W. Bush and friends.”

Clinton spokesman Jay Carson told the LA Times that the film, which ABC is billing as a “docudrama” based on the 9/11 Commission’s findings, is "indisputably wrong." Cyrus Nowrasteh admits that the film’s most controversial scene – where a Clinton administration official passes up an opportunity to kill Osama Bin Ladin — was based on nothing at all, telling a right-wing radio station that the scene was “improvised.”

Media Matters reports that a New York Times story on Saturday September 9 falsely attributed a petition of 200,000 urging ABC to cancel the show to the Clinton Administration and Democratic party officials when in fact the petition was signed by people across the political spectrum. On Saturday, ABC claimed that criticisms were unfair because they were not yet done editing. You’ve got to wonder then, why they sent out review copies to conservative media organizations and conservative bloggers. Editor and Publisher’s Greg Mitchell said it “raises eyebrows” that review copies were not sent to liberal bloggers and liberal media outlets.

The Washington Post describes one of the most outrageous scenes of the film:

“Clinton himself is libeled through abusive editing. A first-class U.S. operative played by Donnie Wahlberg argues the case for getting bin Laden while the al-Qaeda leader is openly in view in some sort of compound in Afghanistan. CIA officials haggle over minor details, such as the budget for the operation. The film's director, David L. Cunningham, then cuts abruptly to a TV image of Clinton making his infamous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" remark with regard to Monica Lewinsky. The impression given is that Clinton was spending time on his sex life while terrorists were gaining ground and planning a nightmare.”

Disney also planned to distribute the historically false “Path to 9/11” to tens of thousands of American classrooms, via lesson plans created by Scholastic – the world’s largest publisher of children’s books – with whom Disney enjoys content sharing deals. The study guide suggests that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had a role in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Scholastic cancelled distribution on Friday after thousands wrote the company to complain.

Blogger Deborah White called The Path to 9/11 “ classic” Disney:

“a live-action cartoon complete with heroic white men (in suits) and a token white heroine (in a skirted suit), brooding Middle Eastern men, very artful and pretty photography, and oodles of dramatic background music.”

Sometimes its difficult to pinpoint precisely how big media conglomerates inhibits democracy. But not last night. And not tonight. For more on who owns what media and to join the protest movement against media consolidation go to Stop Big Media.

Friday, September 08, 2006

our CEO president

What comes of government streamlining? Private firms get hired to act in the government's place. That arrangement has a nice ring in the mouths of small government "let the market decide" advocates, but it doesn't always work out so smoothly in practice. Our tax-payer billions have bought us an inefficient mess of a War on Terror, for example, one overseen by our "CEO" president. Bush's heavily nongovernment-corporate-contractor-conducted war is more evidence that exposes the "small government" philosophy as fantasy.

No one likes "big government," or at least all the bloated bureaucratic inefficiencies the term implies, but there's too much the government has to do today to not be pretty damned huge: managing security and business and economics and the environment and workforces and science and health and disease across states and nations and continents takes a great deal of resources, including people.

You want to find out how our business-style "small government" works, how it undercuts fiscal responsibility and almost all of the other kinds of responsibility that define democratic rule? Robert Greenwald's new film on the war, Iraq for Sale, takes a stab. At the website for the film there are links to supporting investigative pieces all published today to coincide with the film's release, including one at alternet and the American Prospect and Colorlines.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

the redistricting game

Before this year’s November elections a team of researchers at USC plan to launch a game that simulates how legislative redistricting works--who does it, what their motivations are, and the impacts on communities and legislative representation. As the redistricting game website explains:

“Right now, the political system in many states provides the state legislatures themselves draw the line. While this system can sometimes work well, it has also proven subject to a wide range of abuses and manipulation that often has the result that incumbents are re-elected time and time again.”

In a presentation at USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication today, the game’s creators explained that their ultimate goal, based on the idea that games are capable of setting disposition, is not to simply educate young people about redistricting but to get them interested in learning about the rules and structure of politics.

Researchers at the center Sasha Costanza-Chock and Mimi Ito challenged the game creator to imagine how to make the game more of a conversation—not just kids learning about grown-up politics but also kids teaching adults about their political systems and mode of political participation--the dynamics of lunchroom cafeterias to protests organized on and about Friendster (also see my post from yesterday). They pointed out that kids, after all, are systematically excluded from “grown-up” politics. And perhaps if adults paid attention, they could learn a thing or two from the too-young-to-vote set.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

revolt against facebook

Facebook released several new features Tuesday, including something it calls "news feed," which appears on users' homepages and reports every move their friends make. It's not the information that's new, just how it's being presented. And apparently many of the 8 million-plus Facebook users don't like it. According to Al Tomkins, by 9:45 pm Wednesday night, 419,304 students had joined electronic protests against "news feed." Time tries to explain what everyone is so worked up about, with links to college newspaper coverage. And Forbes writes on the ramifications for Facebook advertizing.

uberman olbermann

Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's Countdown, is all over the web today for lambasting the Bush Administration's new election-season angle of attack on media dissent (the most effective way to limit any dissent). In a series of speeches this week, first Rumsfeld and then Bush linked American journalists with the Nazis and al Qaeda, implying that members of the media who questioned Administration policymaking were tools of a nefarious plot launched by al Qaeda to use the media "divide the American nation." Last night's sharp-eyed analysis is, as usual, delivered in stirring fashion by old Olbermann, who seems to be feeding off the increasing callowness of the Bush spin machine to channel Edward R Murrow more powerfully each day. It's a hell of a contest we have unfolding before us. You can watch the video as well as read Olbermann's recent batch of righteous dispatches online here.

it's the end of the world (wide web) as we know it...

...well, not yet, but a case which threatens free speech on the net has been brought to the California Supreme Court:

The California Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in San Francisco Tuesday on whether someone who posts a defamatory comment by another person on the Internet can be sued for libel.

Two civil liberties groups say the court’s eventual ruling, due in three months, could have far-reaching implications for free speech on the Internet.

While the case before the court concerns individuals—a Canadian doctor seeking to sue a women’s health activist for posting a third person’s comment about him—the court’s ruling could also determine whether Internet service providers can be held liable when they knowingly allow defamatory remarks to be posted. (full article here


Yes, the freedom to post whatever we want may be at risk. Bloggers (and anyone who posts on a message board, leaves comments on webites, or has a myspace) beware, if this goes down, anyone who reposts a third party's defamatory statements can be sued for libel. Yup, reposting someone else's words is grounds for being sued. Good thing that's just a quote from a news report up there.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

and the award goes to Mos, in jail!

So Mos Def got thrown in the clink last night for his guerilla concert outside Radio City Music Hall, which was hosting the gala Video Music Awards. Mos was out there singing the "Katrina Clap" in a flatbed truck before New York's Finest hauled him away. Here are some of the highly sought after lyrics (thanks to these guys):

Listen homie, It's dollar day in New Orleans,
It's where there water everywhere and people dead in the street

And Mr. President he 'bout that cash,
He got a policy for handlin' the bruthas and trash,
And if you poor you black,
I laugh a laugh, they won't give when you ask,
You betta off on crack, dead or in jail, or with a gun in Iraq
And it’s as simple as that,
No opinion my man it's mathematical fact,
Listen, a million poor since 2004,
And they got illions and killions to waste on the war,
And make you question what the taxes is for,
Or the cost to reinforce the broke levee wall,
Tell the boss he shouldn’t be the boss anymore (or or),
Ya'll, by any means

It's dollar day in New Orleans,
It's where water everywhere and baby's dead in the street
It's enough to make you holler out,
Like where the fuck is Sir Bono and his famous friends now,
Don't get it twisted man, I dig U2,
But if you aint about the ghetto, Then Fuck You Too,
Who care bout Rock N' Roll when babies can't eat food,
Listen homie that shit ain't cool,
It's like dollar day for New Orleans

Feel that Katrina Clap!
Let's make them dollars stack!
And rebuild these streets,
God save these streets,
God save these streets,
God save the soul,
Feel that Katrina Clap!
See that Katrina Clap!

Friday, September 01, 2006

spinning Iraq, again and again

It is no wonder this guy wore a "Bullshit Protector" over his ear during the president's address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars this week. We're going to need a lot more of these things.

In the run up to the first Gulf War, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as Nayirah provided tearful testimony before the House of Representatives' Human Rights Caucus in which she claimed that Iraqi soldiers had torn hundreds of babies from hospital incubators and killed them. Her lurid testimony made a compelling argument for military action. You bet it did, because that was the point. Then-President Bush quoted Nayirah at every opportunity. In six speeches over the course of one month after the testimony, he referred to the "312 premature babies at Kuwait City's maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor."

A year after the start of the war, Harper’s Magazine publisher John MacArthur wrote in the New York Times that, after extensive investigation, he discovered that no such thing ever happened, that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait's Ambassador to the US and Canada, and that her fabricated testimony was part of PR firm Hill and Knowlton’s campaign to drum up support for the war. Ambassador Saud Nasir al-Sabah denied the charge, saying "If I wanted to lie, or if we wanted to lie, if we wanted to exaggerate, I wouldn't use my daughter to do so.” You can read more about it here.

The second President Bush has enjoyed the same heady mix of Iraq + war + PR. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the US-led military force in Iraq is looking to pay a PR firm $2 million "to effectively communicate Iraqi government and Coalition goals and to build support among our strategic audiences." The contract asks the winning firm to monitor international news in Arabic and English as well as US national and local news. An anonymous PR practitioner told the Post that military commanders want news "to be received by audiences as it is transmitted [by government writers] ... because they don't like the way it's been turning out."

In this case, as in most, the word "monitor" is code for "control" -- the message and its reception, to whatever extent that may be possible. I can just imagine the mad creative frenzy of proposal writers at those PR firms today, poring over reports of Hill and Knowlton’s Nayirah, hatching all sorts of similarly plotted faux news stories full of blood and tears, while that $2 million contract dances like sugarplums in their heads.

Former FEMA director Mike Brown says Bush told him to lie...

Mike Brown took the blame for the government's lack of action during Hurricane Katrina last year, and was removed from his position as FEMA director. Bush's old buddy Brownie is now saying he was a scapegoat and Bush told him to lie:

O‘DONNELL: So let me get this clear. Someone in the White House was telling you to lie?

BROWN: Well, yes. They give you the talking points. Whenever you go out to do any interviews they always have the talking points. Here‘s what the message for today is and here‘s how we are going to spin everything. That‘s just the way Washington, D.C. works and that‘s just wrong.

Read the full transcript from his interview on Hardball (you gotta scroll down to the bottom to find it, sorry).