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  • Monday, November 28, 2005


    Me and The Decline of Western Civilization

    Due to smoke emitting from my housemate's laptop, we had to ship it off to CA for repairs. At least it's still under warranty. For anyone interested in such things, it is a cute and capable Averatec brand, fairly light with a 12.1 screen.

    Thus we are in the unenviable position of sharing a computer and a dialup internet connection for the duration. This is a recipe for madness and stress and anger management issues but we are coping moderately well. However, readers may note that I haven't been posting as frequently due to the situation. I'm trying to store up some items and rants for the future. Patience.

    In the realm of fun new timewasters, I've finally gotten my act together to pick up some software and move the turntable into the office to begin the process of ripping some of my multitudinous vinyl disks to the computer. This is not for the faint of heart. After some poking around, I settled on a software bundle over at DAK and their DePopper which cleans up the resulting WAV files of surface clicks and pops quite well.

    But, geez, what a production! First, there's playing the LP into the WAV recorder which seems to take an incredibly long time because it's done in real time. It's not like ripping a CD which can be done almost at the top speed of the CD drive. Fortunately, there's a component of the software which will break the songs apart. Then, while it's still huge WAV files (typically 20-50 megs per song), I have to run the DePopper on the files. It can be done in the background but still takes a couple of minutes per song. When that's done, I downsize the WAV files to MP3s which are about a tenth the size. Then comes the labeling and tagging of the tracks. There's a piece of software which supposedly can dig up all the individual track tag info from a whole album if all the tracks are submitted at one time but I haven't been able to get it to play nice yet.

    The upside is not having to rebuy stuff I already own. Yeah, some CD re-releases have interesting bonus tracks or are remastered but I'm looking forward to becoming reacquainted with my approx. 12 linear feet of vinyl music. So much of it isn't available on CD and may never be. Although the following is not entirely representative of what I own or what I've missed most over the years, here are the first few albums I've transferred.
    So that's what I'm doing in my spare moments.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005


    The COINTELPRO Papers, Part the Second

    Reading The COINTELPRO Papers is both enlightening and depressing. In my previous post on the book, I provided a rather spare introduction to the subject. While I've only gotten to Chapter 3, the need to write something about it is upon me.

    The basic thesis is that while the "official" COINTELPRO period covers from about 1955 through the early 1970s, the types of tactics and general view of any dissidents in the USA goes back at least to 1919 and runs to the present day. On page 1, Churchill and Vander Wall state it clearly:
    In Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (South End Press, 1988), We endeavored to prove among other things that the Bureau has since its inception acted not as the country's foremost crime-fighting agency -- an image it has always actively promoted in collaboration with a vast array of "friendly" media representatives and "scholars" -- but as America's political police engaged in all manner of extralegality and illegality as expedients to containing and controlling political diversity within the United States. In essence, we argued that the FBI's raison d'être is and always has been the implementation of what the Bureau formally designated from the mid-1950's through the early '70s as "COINTELPRO" (COunterINTELligence PROgrams) designed to "disrupt and destabilize," "cripple," "destroy" or otherwise "neutralize" dissident individuals and political groupings in the United States, a process denounced by congressional investigators as being "a sophisticated vigilante operation."
    The pages of the book are filled with examples of the extraordinary lengths the FBI went to in this process. It's clear from the documents that the FBI was targeting groups for their political beliefs, not because of criminality or illegality of action.

    Some of the actions might fall under the heading of dirty tricks and disinformation but there are plenty of examples of repression so brutal it boggles my mind that they were performed in the USA. And I don't consider myself naïve in such matters.

    Listing the details here would probably be boring but perhaps I'll include some highlights in a future post.

    Monday, November 21, 2005



    spread'emism (spread-them-ism), n. 1. the misleading idea that women can fuck and get fucked into political, academic and social equality with men via prostitution and pornography.
    A rather interesting site was brought to my attention and I'm passing it on. currently consists of just a front page article and a set of email exchanges between the author and Mary Christmas, an editor of $pread magazine. What also stood out to me was curious overlap and connection between the New York City Radical Cheerleaders and the founders of $pread.

    It may be a feminist tempest in a teapot but I found it informative and worth a look.

    Sunday, November 20, 2005


    Buying Rebellion: Manufacturing Youth Culture

    It's no secret that many teens and twentysomethings gravitate to symbols, accoutrements, and stylings different from the previous generation. The desire to rebel, to strike out in new directions, to explore different social constructs is almost hardwired in its predictability and appearance. So predictable in fact that business interests have learned how to exploit it.

    Capitalism has commodified and packaged faux rebellion, seeking to channel these youthful impulses into profits. Companies now prowl the youth culture on campuses and in big cities, striving to perceive the first inkling and coalescence of trends in order to translate it into products. The companies create "lifestyle" accessories in order to reflect them back to the youth culture, assuring them that the products and services are integral to individuality and independence.

    In reality, all of these constructed items are intended to mire the youth in consumer desires, to provide a false dream for them to buy, to present a shimmering illusion of original culture. In previous years, this was called "co-opting" of youth culture. And, like previous generations, some see it as such while others are oblivious to the forces manipulating and shaping them.

    [I thought I had much more to say on this subject but, alas, I'm tired and having difficulty focusing this into a coherent form. I'm starting to frame things in rather insulting ways. Such as: "Slang, tattoos and baggy pants are not rebellion. Collectively, they become symbols of conformity." See? That's not a productive tone to take. Sorry.]


    White Phosphorus and Chemical Warfare

    [Update 11/22/05: In a textbook example of the word "irony," a recently declassified 1995 Pentagon document calls Saddam Hussein's military use of WP as an offensive weapon against the Kurds "chemical warfare." Yet when American forces use WP in that manner, they claim it's not a chemical weapon. Quelle suprise.]

    Recent attention to the use of White Phosphorus (WP) as an offensive weapon by American armed forces in the siege of Fallujah, Iraq point up how little most Americans know about the war and the methods used in prosecuting it. The offensive use of WP is strictly forbidden by chemical weapons treaties. Some military apologists argue that if WP is used solely against military personnel and not civilians, it is legal. In point of fact, it is illegal to use it as an offensive weapon in any manner against anyone. The US use may actually be a war crime.

    When used as an offensive weapon, WP acts on humans in a similar manner to Napalm. Where it touches skin, it burns and is able to burn right down to the bone. Because WP interacts violently with moisture, the moisture in the body actually fuels the reaction. Water will not put it out. WP is often used as a smoke screen for military action and the smoke also absorbs infrared radiation.

    In a recent BBC interview Lt. Col. Barry Veneble spoke about the US rationale:

    "White phosphorus is a conventional munition. It is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal," he said on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme.

    "We use them primarily as obscurants, for smokescreens or target marking in some cases. However it is an incendiary weapon and may be used against enemy combatants."

    Asked directly if it was used as an offensive weapon during the siege of Fallujah, he replied: "Yes, it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants".

    He added: "When you have enemy forces that are in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on and you wish to get them out of those positions, one technique is to fire a white phosphorus round into the position because the combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives," he said.

    Despite recurrent bluster about how "honorable" the individual US soldier is, I have doubts. Loyal, yes. Brave, yes. Devoted to their "band of brothers," yes. But war is not pursued on a small, individual scale; it is waged from the perspective of command structure and rules of engagement. Combat is no longer an honorable endeavor. It is an occupation of conquest, of domination and destruction. We find rationales to disguise the darksome process of soul theft on both sides.

    If this seems too critical of our gallant military men and women, assigning guilt and impugning their motivations in wartime, please consider this point: When was the last US military action that might be termed "defensive?" Defending your country in times of military need may be honorable and necessary but I contend the US has rarely engaged in such action since WWII (or before it for that matter.) The US has mostly used military force to intimidate the world and further imperial designs for the direct benefit of corporations.

    This is my cynicism speaking. This is my faith in the venal and grasping greed of government. Behind the screen of fine and noble words about freedom and spreading democracy, I perceive only coldly calculated cruelty and refined robbery. This is the dismal truth hidden in the shadows. Our blind trust cripples us and benefits the war merchants.

    How do you deal honorably with the dishonorable? How do you fight the unscrupulous? I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out.

    Saturday, November 19, 2005


    I am Pro-Choice

    A LiveJournal meme making the rounds asks that women who would get an abortion say so and men who are supportive put the following in their journal:

    I am pro-choice. I would help a woman get an abortion.

    Choice is everything. While there are always serious ethical issues around this subject, I believe we are all entitled to self-determination over our bodies and our future. If a woman decides she wants or needs to end her pregnancy, I will help her.

    In the current political and social climate, there is a tendency to equivocate, to put conditions on the statement, to refine the argument. Yet the ultimate responsibility and decision lies with the woman who is pregnant. While some men lay claim to being equally responsible for pregnancy and desire to have control over the abortion decision, I find it difficult to sympathize with them.

    Despite men contributing half the DNA, every atom of that fetus/embryo will come through the woman's body. Perhaps in a situation where the eggs were artificially fertilized in a laboratory, there might be some equal claim by both parents on the resulting 8 or 16 cell blastulas sitting in a lab freezer but that's it in my mind.

    Friday, November 18, 2005


    The Right-Wing Christian Dictionary

    In an effort to help communication between right and left wing people, it behooves us to make some reference to The Right-Wing Christian Dictionary. Yes, it's more in the vein of The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce than a more scholarly tome but still worth a look. I guess it's made the rounds as a bit of internet flotsam but this is the first time I've seen it. Here are a few examples from it.

    Activist Anyone you disagree with. Thus, "activist" judges, "activist" unions, "activist" school boards, and "activist" homosexuals.
    Adam and Steve As in, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." A clever saying you can use whenever you want to prove how brilliant and original you are.
    All political objectives you oppose. Democrats, liberals, feminists, environmentalists, and gays have "agendas." Right-wing politicians have "hopes" and "dreams" and "godly plans of action."
    Compassion The feeling you say you are expressing when you attack people you hate (especially homosexuals), so that you don't have to feel guilty. See "gay bashing," "death penalty."
    Conservative See "God."

    Thursday, November 17, 2005


    Doing the American Regression Boogie

    Gary of American Regression left this note in my comments: "Hey Demi... How's about some link love? Ohhhhhhhhhh...Blog to Blog you baby!"

    Such a forward fellow! But who can resist such a plaintive proposition? Not I. Particularly when his blog includes such pleasant items as the graphic at left. If only it were as easy as a little oral action. Gary suggested he would be willing to take a hit for the team, as it were. Me, I'd be more leery. Not so much for the ick factor (which is high) as for my suspicion that I would end up finding out firsthand what "extraordinary rendition" is all about. I doubt B's handlers would allow me to remain communicado in the aftermath. They like cleaning up loose ends, so to speak.

    Visit Gary at American Regression: Proof of the "Left Behind" and view some of his high-class screeds. Fun and educational.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005


    Justifications for Torture

    On a recent Democracy Now!, there was a quote from National Security advisor Steven Hadley speaking on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN. Unfortunately I was unable to track down a source for the exact quote. I was able to find plenty of references to his appearance but every story focused on Hadley's denial that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence data to justify going to war in Iraq. A few hinted at the quote I was looking for but did not directly quote it.

    From the Daily Times, a Pakistani paper:
    WASHINGTON: A top White House official on Sunday refused to unequivocally rule out the use of torture in a bid to prevent a terror attack, arguing the US administration was duty-bound to protect the American people.

    The comment, by US national security adviser Stephen Hadley, came after US President George W Bush said during a trip to Panama earlier this month that Americans "“do not torture"”. It also came amid heated national debate about whether the CIA and other US intelligence agencies should be authorized to use what is being referred to as "“enhanced interrogation techniques"” to extract information from terror suspects that may help prevent future assaults.
    From Forbes:
    But appearing on CNN's 'Late Edition' program, Hadley elaborated on the policy, making clear the White House could envisage circumstances, in which the broad pledge not to torture might not apply. That appeared to include a possible imminent attack similar to that of September 11, 2001.
    The quote I was looking for went something like this: The issue of torture is more nuanced than generally framed in public. Suppose we (US security forces) had captured one of the Sept 11 hijackers on September 8th. Would torture be justified to prevent the events of Sept. 11? In other words, a "small" evil to prevent occurrence of a "larger" evil.

    This is the slippery slope of justification. This is the reason definitive parameters and limits need to be in place. Because under pressure there is the real danger of redefining those limits on the fly, to create very elastic ethical boundaries. When is it appropriate to use torture? If information is needed in the next twenty minutes? Two hours? Two days? Two weeks? What forms of torture are OK? Will torturing the person's wife or husband (or children or parents) be effective in gaining information? What level or kind of information is worth torturing for?

    If all of these questions strike you as beyond the pale, I'm with you. The essence of torture is rarely to extract valuable information. The essential nature of torture is to break someone's will and ability to fight. The essence is to destroy any semblance of resistance in the individual and any organized opposition. The essence is to terrorize and demoralize. Despite claims that torture will obtain useful intelligence in some situations, I doubt its effectiveness.

    One measure of a society is what it will do to remain a dominant power, what it will do to control its members and "outsiders." By that measure, by any ethical measure, the Bush administration's instance upon having the option of using particular torture techniques on prisoners is sickening. It is equivalent to the worst repressive regimes, perhaps not in quantity, but in intent and spirit. No obfuscation or prevarication can hide the bleak immorality of the administration's stance.

    I don't know the number of Iraqi prisoners who are dead by homicide and whose bodies show evidence of torture. One source says at least seven prisoners were tortured to death in US custody in Iraq. Of 27 prisoner deaths by suspected or confirmed criminal homicide, only one happened at Abu Ghraib. Just a few "bad apples." Right. "The US does not torture." Right. At least seven tortured to death. At least US citizens have their freedom, right?

    Sunday, November 13, 2005


    Janis Karpinski and Abu Ghraib

    While I haven't read Col. Karpinski's book One Woman's Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story (with Steven Strasser) (Miramax, 2005), she strikes me as a competent and imposing figure in all the interviews I've seen with her during the tour promoting the book. Her explanations of chain of command issues and responsibility make sense to me as a non-military person who nonetheless has a little understanding of military culture and structure.

    While some people might say she is presenting a self-serving story and narrative, she has consistantly taken personal responsibility for the parts of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse events within her control. However, she makes cogent arguments about the interrogators who were not under her command and her superiors who were not only unpunished but promoted in the aftermath of the investigation. Also of interest to me is her observation that one of the infamous Abu Ghraib photos showed thirty-two boots in the picture, indicating that at least sixteen non-prisoners were present. Um-hum, seven bad apples.

    Here's a little from a Democracy Now! interview with Col. Karpinski.

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: General Miller was sent to visit Iraq by Secretary Rumsfeld and the Undersecretary Cambone. And they came -- General Miller came to visit from Guantanamo Bay. He was the commander of detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and he was sent to assist the military intelligence interrogators with enhancing their techniques. And he brought with him the techniques that were tested and in use at Guantanamo Bay. And he brought a team of about 20 people, 22 people with him to discuss all aspects of interrogation operations, and actually, he did an in-brief. I was invited to participate or to attend to listen to his in-brief, because he was working almost exclusively with the military intelligence people and the military intelligence interrogators while he was there.

    But we owned the locations that he was going to visit, and he ultimately selected Abu Ghraib to be the focus of his efforts, and he told me that he was going to make it the interrogation center for Iraq. He used the term, he was going to “Gitmo-ize” the operation and use the M.P.s to assist the interrogators to enhance interrogations and to obtain more actionable intelligence. I explained to him that the M.P.s were not trained in any kind of interrogation operations, and he told me that he wanted me to give him Abu Ghraib, because that's the location he selected.

    AMY GOODMAN: You're both generals?

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Yes. He was a two-star.

    AMY GOODMAN: What about the dogs? Is that when the dogs were introduced?

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Shortly after his visit, he -- again, he was spending most of his time with the commander of the Military Intelligence Brigade, Colonel Pappas. In his in-brief, his introduction when he first arrived there with his team, he responded to one of the interrogators, the military interrogator's question, and he was listening to the comments, the criticisms that they were doing these interviews and they were not obtaining really valuable information, so he was there to assist them with different -- implementing different techniques to get more actionable intelligence.

    And one of the interrogators just asked the question about what he would recommend that they could do immediately, because they thought that they were doing a pretty good job with identifying the people who may have additional value or more military intelligence value, and General Miller said -- his first observation was that they were not -- they were being too nice to them. They were not being aggressive enough. And he used the example at Guantanamo Bay that the prisoners there, when they're brought in, that they're handled by two military policemen. They're escorted everywhere they go -- belly chains, leg irons, hand irons -- and he said, “You have to treat them like dogs.”

    AMY GOODMAN: You were there when he said this?

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Yes, I was there when he said that. And he said, “They have to know that you are in charge, and if you treat them too nicely, they won't cooperate with you. And at Guantanamo Bay, they earn -- the prisoners earn every single thing they get, to include a change of color of their jumpsuits. When they get there, they're issued a bright orange jumpsuit. They're handled in a very aggressive, forceful manner, and they earn the privilege of transitioning to a white jumpsuit, if they prove themselves to be cooperative.”

    Saturday, November 12, 2005


    The COINTELPRO Papers

    I just started reading The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (Boston: South End Press Classics Series, 2nd edition, 2001) by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall. Churchill has been tarred quite heavily in recent years because of his essay after 9/11 titled "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." I have not read that essay or his book expanding on it.

    I'm finding the COINTELPRO Papers fascinating. Reproductions of many original FBI documents pepper the work, providing concrete examples of just how developed these tactics were/are. While the COINTELPRO program was officially ended in the 1970s, there is ample evidence that the methods themselves are alive and well.

    Among the groups that were affected by COINTELPRO were the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).

    I'll post more when I've finished the book but from what I've read so far, I can recommend it highly. It's a sobering look for anyone who dissents in American society, no matter how mildly.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005


    Management from Hell

    I love Molly Ivins' commentary. She's got a rapier wit and often provides a wry context for news items. Her recent piece titled Bush Gives management a Bad Name contains the following examples just after a recap of some of Michael Brown's FEMA emails during the height of the Hurricane Katrina crisis:

    Back in Iraq, the $30 billion appropriated for the reconstruction of Iraq is running out. According to a New York Times article on the report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, "Officials in charge cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for the hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished. ... (The report describes) an array of projects that went awry, sometimes astonishingly, like electrical substations that were built at great cost but never connected to the country's electrical grid."

    After two-and-a-half years and $30 billion, electricity in Baghdad is on intermittently, just as it was two-and-a-half years and $30 billion ago.

    So you figure, "Of course nothing's getting done -- there's an insurgency, the country's sliding into chaos." Let's look to Afghanistan, where peace reigns. How goes the rebuilding there? Oops. According to The New York Times, a New Jersey company got the contract to build 96 health clinics and schools by September 2004. To date, nine clinics and two schools have been completed and passed inspection.

    Yep, the US is really improving the lives of people around the world with military intervention. Another little tidbit I picked up recently in the October Harper's Index:

    Total U.S. spending on poppy eradication and other antidrug efforts in Afghanistan last year: $780,000,000[U.S. Department of State]

    Amount it would have cost to purchase the country'’s entire 2004 poppy crop: $600,000,000

    Ain't economics fun?

    Monday, November 07, 2005


    Alito's Way

    First, let me point you to a recent post by The Dark Wraith, Special Analysis: On Condemnation of Weakness. The Wraith (darkly) has some excellent points to make and it's well worth your time to read it. Some of the following links on Judge Alito were noted in his post.

    People for the American Way has a PDF titled The Record of Samuel Alito: A Preliminary Review which has some excellent summaries of his judicial record.

    Think Progress has very brief thumbnails of some of his decisions.

    Uhn, that's all for now.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005


    I'll be Post-Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy

    I vaguely had the idea of using this image as my icon but I don't think it would look very good reduced that much. I think it's amusing. I have a T-shirt with this slogan on it and I adore it. Unfortunately the print is a little small on the tee and hard to read. I'd prefer it to be a bit bolder.

    Yet there is a note of seriousness with it, of course. I'm tired of hearing the slagging of feminists by conservatives and the blithe obliviousness of many (male) leftists to feminist concerns. There is a rather blatant attitude that feminist issues are inherently less important than "real" issues, coincidentally defined by a male leadership. Quelle surprise!

    I feel freakish sometimes for being a male who cares about feminist issues. And it's not like I devote that much time and energy to these issues, but the fact that I spend any time on feminism in this blog seems unusual. Perhaps I just don't visit the right blogs or something. Perhaps I should make a bit more of an effort to find a few. If I do, I'll pass along the links here.

    Saturday, November 05, 2005


    Wit & Wisdom of the Maiden Aunt

    Like many others, I swoon when Twisty Faster speaks critically about the patriarchy. Her recent rumination on marriage and patriarchy is pithy and sweet. It has a subtle Twain-ish dark humor pervading it. Well, if Mark Twain wrote about blaming the patriarchy...

    I can't resist quoting a little:

    See here. The patriarchy I blame isn't people, it's a system. It is a hierarchical system of dominance at the gilded pinnacle of which pink-faced male captains of industry luxuriate, and at the rat-infested bottom of which poor brown women die screaming in filth and penury. In between are sub-hierarchies, but one constant obtains across all class, cultural and geographical lines: within any given hierarchy, women are consistently relegated to the lowest possible status.

    And the rich white guy outranks everybody.

    So check this out: I'm blaming patriarchy, not impugning the feminist credentials of women who, for whatever reason, decide to get married. Or carry tiny handbags. We all do what we gotta do.

    These thoughts parallel my own on the institution of marriage. And tiny handbags.


    The Inner Life of Pres. Bush #1

    tip o' the Wacom tablet to Paul the Spud of Adventures of the Smart Patrol.


    That Darn Alito Binder!

    I want to see a copy of this 600 page "Judge Samuel A. Alito Briefing Binder" AP got a copy of. I know it's spin from the White House, but I still want to gawk at it and see if there's any dirt.

    A quick search hasn't turned up any copies online. If you know of one, point me at it.


    California's Constitutional Amendment Prop. 73: Infanticide

    This was passed along to me from Ariki of Ariki Art through PBU. Ostensibly to protect minors and assert parental control over teenagers' decisions concerning abortion, it also has the effect of establishing in the state constitution that abortion is infanticide. Here is some of the relevant text from the official PDF.
    SECTION 1. Title
    This measure shall be known and may be cited as the Parents'’ Right to Know and Child Protection Initiative.
    SEC. 2. Declaration of Findings and Purposes
    The people of California have a special and compelling interest in and responsibility for protecting the health and well-being of children, ensuring that parents are properly informed of potential health-related risks to their children, and promoting parent-child communication and parental responsibility.
    SEC. 3. Parental Notification
    Section 32 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:

    SEC. 32. (a) For purposes of this section, the following terms shall be defined to mean:
    (1) "“Abortion"” means the use of any means to terminate the pregnancy of an unemancipated minor female known to be pregnant with knowledge that the termination with those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born. For purposes of this section, "“abortion"” shall not include the use of any contraceptive drug or device.
    Will this definition also be applicable to adults? Obviously not in this particular amendment, but having this definition in the State Constitution doesn't seem like such a hot idea to me. Too much like a precedent in my opinion.

    Nota Bene: This is PBU45, my contribution this week to the consortium known as the Progressive Blogger Union (PBU). This is the final post for PBU since Deb is closing the project down. It's been lots of fun and I'll miss these mini blogswarms. To find out what other members of PBU are saying about California Prop. 73, this link should take you to a page where other PBU member posts are available. is a social bookmark and search engine. It categorizes and links all kinds of things on the web. Or you can go to this PBU page and click on "PBU45 from all users". You can also plug "PBU45" into the Technorati search engine.

    Friday, November 04, 2005


    Censored 2006: Going to the Source

    Censored 2006: The Top 25 Censored Stories by Peter Phillips and Project Censored is the dead tree version but you can go to the Project Censored website and find all sorts of tidbits. The following is a list of a few of the stories posted on Nov. 1 that I think worth noting.
    And don't pass up the chance to check out the detailed Media Ownership guide. It's actually a chapter from the book in PDF format. See how a very few mega-media companies own and control the vast majority of our entertainment and news sources. Get mad.

    Bloggers tend to be on top of the immediate news and action. I like the annual Censored volume because it's a little bit of a step back to try and gain perspective on the past year. It's like those annoying Top Ten lists at the end of the year but containing really important information rather than empty filler. Info junkies and those who like to look behind the curtain should check it out.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005


    Alito and the Federalist Society

    While using Google Image to find pictures of Samuel Alito, Bush's current Supreme Court nominee, I was intrigued by one image that was on the Federalist Society domain. "Oooo!" I thought. "I don't think anyone's mentioned his Federalist Society connection! I'll scoop that s**t!"

    Following the link gave me a "404 Not Found" message. Hmm. So did the Fed. Soc. delete his picture to obscure his connection? A little more digging on the Federalist Society site found The Role of the Lawyer in the Criminal Justice System, extended excerpts from a presentation made by Judge Alito at the 1997 National Lawyers Convention, entitled "The Crisis in the Legal Profession." This probably means little but it's still interesting.

    Of course, I will undoubtedly find that his Federalist Society credentials are well known and no secret at all. [Update: I posted this without completely finishing my trawl through the Federalist Society site. On a page marked Participants and Speakers, I found Alito's name tucked a couple pages down, between Jim Wright and a little above Robert Bork. Once you get near the end of the list, past all the lawyers and judges, it's a hodgepodge of odd bedfellows. The list is mostly people who have spoken at Federalist Society events.]

    I can't seem to stop digging at the Federalist Society for Alito links. I found the following in a PDF from July, 2005.
    Others on President Bush's reputed short list include Federalist Society members John Roberts and Michael McConnell, both appellate court justices. Still others on the list have addressed the group, including appellate Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, Emilio Garza, Edith Hollan Jones and Samuel Alito, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
    In a rather large PDF of the October, 2004 Engage, the Journal of the Federalist Society, there is an ad for the Society's November, 2004 Annual Lawyer's Convention and Judge Alito is a featured speaker. It might be easier to look at this cached Google page for the event since it's much smaller.

    media girl has some extensive quotes from other feminist bloggers about Alito's nomination. Well worth a look.

    [Addendum: I know I'm a wimp about this sort of thing but I hope it's clear that the image of a skull and crossbones over Judge Alito's face is not intended to be a threat towards him, implied or actual. I'm not marking him for death or suchlike. The skull and crossbones symbol has been used for well over 150 years as a symbol for poison. I'm implying he might be poisonous for our Supreme Court and therefore shouldn't be confirmed. Sheesh! If only I could be certain everyone who sees my blog could take a joke... Still, I really don't want a 5AM visit from the Secret Service asking questions, poking around and exciting the dogs. That reminds me: I need to send in my membership renewals to the Communist Party and the ACLU so I can carry their cards with pride. Ta!]

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005


    The New McCarthyism and Scare Tactics

    Senator Joe McCarthy was/is well-known for his notorious and virulent hunt for Communists in the US government in the 1950s. The recent film Good Night and Good Luck tells part of this story.

    McCarthy’s Cold War anti-Communist zealotry is legendary. The memorable image of him waving a sheaf of paper and claiming to have a list of pro-Communist sympathizers working in government positions was effective in raising public fears. Of course, many people at the time didn’t pay much attention to the fact that his claimed number of names fluctuated erratically from proclamation to proclamation. This is a classic tactic of the “red scare.”

    With the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, Communists aren’t the bugaboo they once were. You still see the occasional Red-baiting in relation to Cuba or some South American countries but it’s a less powerful enemy in the American psyche than previously. However, there is always a use for a scary enemy, one to point to and say “Oo, bad, bad people. Attack or be attacked!”

    Currently, the central idée fixe of our new McCarthyism is terrorism and “radical Islam.” Anti-Semitism is also often used as a tarring accusation to denounce opponents, particularly anyone with objections to the methodology and tactics of the Israeli military or Israeli policy toward the occupied Palestinian areas. Juan Cole has a good example of this in his article The New McCarthyism.

    There will always be people willing to find scapegoats, to focus the public’s attention on an “enemy.” Often it’s a simple magician’s trick of misdirection, diverting our attention away from important matters to allow the thieves of government to steal and cheat the public. These are the lies of politicians, corporations, and the military. The trick is to learn to look for the issue or topic that is being shoved aside in the clamor.

    When I first started reading newspapers regularly (around 8th or 9th grade), I always skimmed the front page of the New York Times. What really interested me was the small news items tucked at the ends of the inside stories. They were usually only a few paragraphs long but I always had the sense that they were more important than the flashy front page stories with their headlines. Even then, I didn’t trust the editors to accurately assess what was truly important to my world, to prioritize the right stories. Despite their experience and skill, I didn’t trust their judgment. I still don’t.

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    Alito and Bush

    What to say about Mr. Alito? A USATODAY story starts like this:
    In nominating U.S. appeals court Judge Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, President Bush chose a reliably conservative jurist who has narrowly interpreted constitutional rights and who has been a stickler for rules that strengthened the hand of government and businesses.
    Harriet Miers, who had no experience and little indication of intellectually superior thought (she thought Pres. Bush the most brilliant man she had ever met!), dropped out. Now we have Alito, who looks to be just what the ruling cabal wants in a Supreme Court Judge.

    Will the Dems "grow a pair"?

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