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  • Thursday, September 30, 2004


    Who says Big Media are Pro Business?

    Sony is stunned and so am I. See this lovely article AlterNet: MediaCulture: When Big Media Turns Right. Here's a little snip from it:

    L.A. Weekly has learned that CBS, NBC and ABC all refused Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD advertising during any of the networks’ news programming. Executives at Sony Pictures, the distributor of the movie for the home-entertainment market, were stunned. And even more shocked when the three networks explained why.

    “They said explicitly they were reluctant because of the closeness of the release to the election. All three networks said no,” one Sony insider explains. “It was certainly a judgment that Sony disagrees with and is in the process of protesting.”

    Monday, September 27, 2004


    AlterNet Review of "Runaway Train: The True Story of the U.S. Patriot Act"

    I never really know for sure whether my instinctive distrust of anticrime and antiterrorist laws is based in reality or just my biases. The US march toward a prison society approach to social and economic problems seems to be a destructive but politically popular. In the same way, there has been such intense criticism of the Patriot Act from civil libertarians, I'm often unsure how much of this criticism is warranted. Lots of laws could be used to suppress dissent but I often wonder how often these laws are used to suppress dissent. "Runaway Train" looks to address that question to some extent. Here's excerpt from the review AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Runaway Train: The True Story of the U.S. Patriot Act:
    "Yet these oversimplifications don't overshadow the film's compelling argument: the Patriot Act was indeed ushered into law before Congress could carefully consider its consequences and without any mechanisms for public intervention. The result is that while the US is no safer than it was before September 11th, this legislation has enacted legal changes that not only target possible "terrorists" but also criminalize almost any U.S. citizen who dissents. The many personal narratives in the film add a rich texture to these bare bone facts about the Patriot Act and illustrate who really pays for this reactionary and discriminatory legislation: immigrants, people of color, and potentially every single US citizen. "
    The review notes some problems but it's still seems worth viewing to me.

    Saturday, September 25, 2004


    Women Bloggers Unite!: What She Said!

    OK, maybe not such a huge thing but I caught a reference to this site on lyingmediabastards and thought it was a really great idea. What She Said! has as a subtitle "The next time some guy asks you where all the female bloggers are, tell them What She Said!" The links to other sites are titled "Progressive Women who Blog Politics". Check it out.


    Prescott Bush's connections to the Nazi regime

    This is a fairly old story but this Guardian story sheds some new light on it by including info from recently declassified documents. Here's a little bit from the story at Guardian Unlimited Special reports How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power:

    "His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.

    The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator's action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    The debate over Prescott Bush's behaviour has been bubbling under the surface for some time. There has been a steady internet chatter about the "Bush/Nazi" connection, much of it inaccurate and unfair. But the new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis' plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty."

    AmericaBlog also has this comment: "That's right. Bush is being sued by survivors of Auschwitz (!)because they say his family profited from the death camps. The Guardian also suggests that one reason Bush backtracked on Clinton's support of the World Court was because his family could be dragged in front of it!"


    Endorsing Terrorism?

    I always find selective enforcement of laws interesting. In the recent case of refusing entry to the US by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) on the grounds below, I have to say that strict application of the law would prove very sticky for US foreign policy. But I forget: states in power would never use terrorism. Right? AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Demonizing Moderate Muslims:
    "A provision in the USA Patriot Act states that anyone who uses his position of prominence to endorse terrorism or terrorist organizations may not enter the United States. This was what a DHS spokesman was referring to when he said that Islam was denied admission to the United States 'on national security grounds.'"

    Friday, September 24, 2004


    We get wingnuts

    Wow. I know from personal experience that New Orleans can grow a certain breed of twisted folk but this is, well, a sterling example :Blast Off!: We get wingnuts


    Republicans Admit Mailing Campaign Literature Saying Liberals Will Ban the Bible

    As they say, you can't make this stuff up. Well, such things sometimes are made up. Apparently some people who called the Bush-Cheney headquarters about this were told "the mailing could have been a Democratic plot." From the NYTimes article:

    "Republicans Admit Mailing Campaign Literature Saying Liberals Will Ban the Bible
    Published: September 24, 2004

    The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that 'liberals' seek to ban the Bible. It said the mailings were part of its effort to mobilize religious voters for President Bush.

    The mailings include images of the Bible labeled 'banned' and of a gay marriage proposal labeled 'allowed.' A mailing to Arkansas residents warns: 'This will be Arkansas if you don't vote.' A similar mailing was sent to West Virginians."

    Thursday, September 23, 2004


    The Language of News and Politics

    I'm still on a quest into the inherent biases of news stories and the political narrative. I still gawk in wonder when I read a "news" story and begin (in my inexperienced way) to break down/separate the facts in the story from the metaphor and "framing" of the story. Usually what I end up with is more descriptive than substantive. The "story" overwhelms the "news", if you will. I guess that's inevitable to some extent. If a writer just laid out the facts with minimal connective tissue/themes, people probably wouldn't get past the first paragraph. George Lakoff has written about the very well developed construct of metaphor in right-wing intellectual circles, a framework of allusion that quickly conveys conservative concepts to a broad audience. Here's a recent article about this: AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Disease of Right-wing Framing

    Wednesday, September 22, 2004


    Terrorists! Everywhere! Oops, sorry...

    So the Patriot Act was supposed to help detect and arrest terrorists before they could carry out their dastardly deeds. The only domestic US conviction since 9-11-2001 was recently overturned. This means there hasn't been a single conviction in the US on terrorism charges since 9-11. Does that mean the law is working? See AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Taking Liberties for a look at this. If I recall correctly, and I may be wrong, there is very little evidence that laws or threatened punishment deter crime. So, if there are no convictions and no acts of terrorism committed in the US as far as I know since 9-11, I have to wonder at the efficacy of these laws. Just a thought.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2004


    Changing the Electoral College

    There have always been some people arguing that the Electoral College should be junked or altered in some way. This is the first I've seen recently of actual plans to do something. I'm a little hazy about the setup of the College but I think it's a part of the Constitution making it very difficult to change. Still, check out Political Wire: Will Colorado Make Election Rocky? for some current info on this subject.


    US soldiers watching Fahrenheit 9-11

    An interesting tidbit I got through AmericaBlog who, in turn, got it from kos who got it from The Christian Science Monitor. Ain't blogs fun? A happy little circle trading news stories that may not be all that important but sure seem neat! Here's the link to A strident minority: anti-Bush US troops in Iraq |

    Monday, September 20, 2004


    A grassroots tactic but you need a law...

    This is great use of law. I can think of a number of other situations where being able to ask for a card would provide excellent protection and accountability. This quote is from AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Catch and Release:

    Mike Walker recently got bumped by the cops – again. This time it went down on a Friday afternoon as he was heading home from school with his boy Brandon. The eighteen-year-old northeast Denver natives were treading steady down tree-lined 29th Avenue toward Williams Street when a District 2 Gang Unit police cruiser lurched across the intersection and onto the sidewalk in front of them. Two officers got out and told them they matched the description of a suspect in a ring of car thefts. "He said that the guy looked just like us," Walker recounts. "A big black man."

    A quick ID check proved that neither Walker nor his friend was their guy, but Walker says that Officer Rick Eberharter then accused him of representing the Tre-Tre Crips simply because he was wearing a blue hat, blue shirt and dark-blue jeans. (Actually, Walker is the son of Pan African Arts Society director Ashara Ekundayo and has been a local community activist since the age of fourteen.)

    Walker said, "No way," and quickly asked the officers if he and Brandon were being detained. Eberharter answered in the affirmative, and then, Walker says, he and his friend were handcuffed, searched, questioned, checked for outstanding warrants, verbally abused and finally cleared of all wrongdoing and released. "Have a nice day," Walker remembers the officers saying as he stuffed rooted-out pencils and binders back into his bag. But before the police peeled off, Walker made sure he did one thing: He demanded their business cards.

    Since 2001, every police officer in Colorado has been obligated to offer a business card if they detain someone in a traffic stop but don't cite or arrest them. This was established as part of House Bill 1114, which was passed a year after Governor Bill Owens's 2000 executive order banning racial profiling. The ban was issued in response to a series of nationwide studies that found that law-enforcement agencies were specifically targeting Black and Hispanic motorists for vehicle searches ("Target Practice," January 24, 2001). The bill not only required that business cards be given out, but mandated that all law-enforcement agencies have a written policy against racial profiling and provide officer training on the issue.


    Dem/Repub demographic info

    I found this fascinating. Sometimes I come across a bit of information and instantly have a gut feeling that this is a key piece of information to understanding... something, I don't know what. Such was the case with this bit from CJR Campaign Desk on "Rural R's and Urban D's":
    "In the 1980 presidential race, Democratic and Republican counties on average had about the same number of voters. By 2000, however, the average Democratic county had three times as many voters as the average Republican county. ...

    In the country's most partisan counties -- those where one party wins by more than 20 percentage points -- the split is overwhelming. In 2000, the average landslide Democratic county was eight times larger than the average landslide Republican county. [By contrast] in 1980, the average landslide Republican county was more populous than the average partisan Democratic county."

    Saturday, September 18, 2004


    Strange Representative Democracy

    I was vaguely aware of the following statistics but these figures are even worse than I thought. High profile races like the Presidency and Senate get a lot of notice and press but I wonder what percentage of the electorate actually participates in House races and more local elections (city, town and state offices)? This is from Political Wire: A Travesty of Democracy:
    The Economist notes that "if democracy means multi-party competition at the
    grass roots, America is not a full democracy in elections to the House of Representatives."

    "The sheer uncompetitiveness of most House races takes one's breath away. In 2002, four out of five of them were won by more than 20 points. The average margin was a stunning two to one, meaning some races had even bigger margins. Last time, 200 races had margins of 40 points of more and 80 were uncontested. So far this year, the uncontested figure is 68. In 2002, just four incumbents lost to challengers at the polls (another four lost in primaries). North Korea might be proud of the incumbent re-election rate: 99%. More than nine in ten Americans live in districts that are, in practice, one-party monopolies."

    Friday, September 17, 2004


    Taegan Goddard's Political Wire

    A site I just discovered is Taegan Goddard's Political Wire. It's updated constantly with squibs about breaking political and election coverage across the media. It appears to be fairly politically agnostic in coverage. That means its news sources are from the left and right of the spectrum as well as mainstream news organizations. I may eventually find Political Wire too intense and detailed for daily check-in but for the moment it seems very interesting in the leadup to the election.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2004


    Hijacking Catastrophe, a review

    I've written some here about the documentaries I've been watching by Media Education Foundation (MEF). Here is a thoughtful review of a recent doc: AlterNet: MediaCulture: Hijacking Catastrophe


    Free speech, for those who can afford it

    Forgive me for borrowing items from Americablog but the point/counterpoint of these was too good to pass up. First the original news story that started it: Moulton woman says she lost job for sporting Kerry sticker on car. Then comes some choice tidbits from a popular conservative website.

    There are two points that strike me. One, the startling disconnect between the newspaper account and the comments made about it on the conservative side. The comments seem to attribute facts to the story that aren't there. Perhaps these people are getting their facts from another source? Two, the idea that someone can be fired for having a bumpersticker on their car is so unjust, so bent on suppression of opposing views that it takes my breath away.

    Sunday, September 12, 2004


    Fascism: the definitions

    I'm such a curious person. I like words. See these following definitions and see if any of them sound familiar.

    Saturday, September 11, 2004


    The Distortions of Polling

    Still thinking about polls and the almost overwhelming problem of bias in them. Polling seems to work fairly well in very straightforward instances (say exit polling or even predictions of elections based on sampling "likely voters"), but whenever polls require more opinion, they fall flat. I found the article Deception and Public Opinion Polling by Mark Sapir of Retro Poll to be an excellent dissection of the problems with polls.

    Retro Poll is trying to conduct polls somewhat differently than the usual news and political opinion polls. Here is their mission statement:
    Our Mission: Retro Poll is a citizen based voluntary non-profit organization which aims to contribute to building a free, open and democratic society in the U.S. Retro Poll designs and performs opinion polls that look at the relationship between public knowledge and public opinion. In so doing so, Retro Poll reveals how the government and corporate media distort information in order to manipulate, confuse and disorganize the public's will.

    Here is their most recent poll from spring of 2004.

    That said, I'm still a bit of a junkie for infomation. So here is a aggregate polling site covering the current Electoral Vote predictions for the 2004 presidential election.


    I, Flip-flopper

    Apologies to Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius for the heading.
    Didn't I say I was looking forward to the new Censored book? I think I did. However, coming across what must be an advance look at the top 10 stories (the book has 25 stories plus additional material), I found myself getting quite depressed about the state of mainstream journalism. Some of these stories are a testament to the gaps in the information available to the the ordinary person in our society. Note how many of the sources for these stories are not mainstream. Sullenness is lapping at my mind. Still, I think spreading the word on these stories now will help us pay more attention in the future. Right?

    Thursday, September 09, 2004


    Voting machines and glitches

    "Sum of a Glitch" by Bev Harris in the Sept. 20, 2004 issue of In These Times goes over the concerns about the accuracy of voting machines. It's been said that this is one of the most underreported stories in our country. Whenever I read stories about voting machines, I always try to break down the sources for the story. In most mainstream press accounts, the spokespeople for the makers of the machines, who are often considered credible for some reason, usually say that the problems are not significant. "It didn't change the result." But it does, Blanche, it does. There are quite a few examples in this story and for many other stories. Do as the Ms. Harris did and enter "voting machines and glitch" into Google and get back about 9,330 hits. Here is one from Wired News. Here is one from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). A disturbing slice of our political system.

    Tuesday, September 07, 2004


    Terror in 1984, uh, 2004

    I read this and immediately zoomed in on one phrase. Terror Case Collapse Blow to Bush; Adds to List of High-Profile Losses

    With fighting terrorism a cornerstone of President George W. Bush's re-election
    campaign, the Bush administration has been unapologetic in its aggressive
    approach. "You have to have a zero-tolerance policy for anything that
    could germinate into a terrorist plot or facilitate a terrorist plot
    said U.S. Attorney David Kelley of New York.

    Monday, September 06, 2004


    Murdoch and Me

    So we have DirectTV, a satellite provider of TV. We live in a rural and hilly area where reception is exceedingly poor (like receiving only two stations). Our town isn’t serviced by any cable company and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Some people can live without access to TV but I’m not one of them.

    I didn’t pay much attention when there was a proposal for Echostar, another satellite provider, to merge with DirectTV. That fell through and guess what? This is from The Center for Public Integrity website:

    News Corp., which was active in blocking the EchoStar deal, eventually prevailed in the bidding wars and bought a controlling interest in Hughes for $6.6 billion. Unlike EchoStar, News Corp. managed to get the deal through federal anti-trust regulators. In March 2004 Hughes Electronics became The DirecTV Group under News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment Group. Link to source.

    News Corp. and Fox, of course, are owned by Rupert Murdoch, funder of conservative causes everywhere. I’m feeling a little ill at the moment. I’m really hoping that there won’t be any “streamlining” of the channel lineup because I know which will go first.

    LinkTV is one of my few lifelines in the relatively barren television media landscape. They have recently started showing Democracy Now! in the morning and at 6pm. DN! isn’t perfect but it’s head and shoulders above the regular spectrum of shows on TV. Watching DN! also brings home how far to the right all political discussion on TV has slipped. Political concepts the conservatives on TV call “liberal” or “radical” all seem to be centrist or, in rare instances, somewhat to the center-left. Intellectually I understood this to be the case but actually seeing and hearing progressive-left viewpoints really shows how closed and narrow mainstream TV is these days.

    I also really like Mosaic: World News From The Middle East. "Mosaic features selections from daily TV news programs produced by national broadcasters throughout the Middle East. The news reports are presented unedited and translated, when necessary, into English." American media are generally very limited when it comes to international news, providing little insight and relying on a "newsworthy" event to cover anything. If I depended on mainstream media coverage, well, let's just say I would wonder why there's anyone left in the Middle East considering the number of car bombs going off there.


    Adsense by Google

    Blogger is offering a connection to Adsense by Google, a way for Google to place ads on your blog and maybe get a little money. I thought, why not? How bad can this capitalist placement be? Judging by the first two ads put on my blog, kind of bad. The first is for supporting the RNC and to "advance the responsible Bush/Republican agenda." The other ad is for a conservative book club.

    My initial view of this was the obvious: who has the money for advertising? Who invests most in advertising? I'm particularly struck by the first ad which, in one short sentence, promotes what I consider a lie. And there it is on my blog, immediately giving and presenting an opposing view that I see too often everywhere in the media. It's possible that after I get some more traffic through the site, the nature of the ads may change. Maybe. If they don't change in a week or two, I'll drop the program.


    Transgender and Feminist Politics

    I found this site on Questioning Transgender Politics very interesting. This seems to be an attempt to delineate the boundries between the feminist community and the sometimes fractious assertion of inclusion in it by transgendered persons. While the feminist community probably doesn't give a shit what I think of this analysis since I'm a man (singing: I say M, A, N, man child), I still agree with the fundamental basis of this site. I think it's a fundamental right of an oppressed group to define who is part of that group. Looking at it from that perspective, the *demands* of some trans people to be included in women's events becomes an awful kind of recapitulation of patriarchy imposing itself on feminist politics. The site is very clear that they "do not advocate against people who feel that they are transgendered" but still assert that the politics of the transgendered is not the politics of feminism. And, though this is a gross simplification, I don't believe a man who has had surgery and hormones is then a woman. But, then again, I don't subscribe to the boundries of our culture's gender roles either. Most people who meet me think I'm, ah, very effeminate (read: flaming queen.) I prefer the term "theatrical."

    I also liked the page on 12 Trans Myths and Feminist Responses, laying out the differences between Trans Arguments and the Feminist Response. If you like cogent feminist analysis, I think this is a great site. It's probably not too popular in some circles but I think it's a reasoned and careful approach.

    Sunday, September 05, 2004


    Lockdown Manhattan

    Lockdown Manhattan is a good first person story about the protests and police response in New York City during the Rep. Nat. Convention. I've heard similar stories to the ones below. There was a police/general expectation that 1,000 people a day would be arrested at the RNC but, in the end, about 1,725 people were arrested over the course of the week. At some point, I think the authorities attempted to reach some kind of quota or something.
    The police told us to get in a single line and we’d be fine. We got in a line, and then they arrested every one of us.

    We were told as long as we stayed on the sidewalk and kept a pedestrian lane we could march. We stuck to the sidewalk and kept a lane open, but we were arrested anyway.

    The police said Go this way and you’ll be fine. When we did, there was another line of cops: it was a trap.

    They said you can’t put the banner there but you can hold it here; when the guys held it where they were told they were arrested. Then half of us who were there were arrested, and half were not.


    Faith in the System

    Fun little article in the Sept/Oct. 2004 Mother Jones. "Faith in the System" has a few quotes and some factoids about religion and politics in the USA. However, I'm really not sure of the sources or the validity of some of these bits.

    Unique among the nations, America recognized the source of our character as
    being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. We have no king but
    Jesus. - John Ashcroft


    The Republican Noise Machine

    This is a recent interview with David Brock who I've mentioned before. It's over at the Mother Jones site. The interview is about his newest book, The Republican Noise Machine.

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