Hello from Plundered Democracy

August 08, 2006

A Song for Us

In case this doesn't get through on email, here is the song I was speaking about.

I won't say anything more here until we've heard something for certain.

Download jennifer_nettles_a_place_for_you.mp3

August 8, 2006 by Chris Boese | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2006

Pentagon admits to surveillance of gay groups, releases documents

This is so incredible and awful, I gotta quote it in its entirety. Thanks for the pointer, Aspidistra Flying!


Link: PageOneQ | Pentagon admits to surveillance of gay groups, releases documents.

Pentagon admits to surveillance of gay groups, releases documents

by PageOneQ

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of Defense, which confirm the military's surveillance of organizations working to repeal the Military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy, PageOneQ has learned.

The government's monitoring of anti-war protestors, including protests against the Military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, was first reported by Ron Brynaert of Raw Story.com in December.

"The very idea that the federal government believes freedom of speech is a threat to national security is unconscionable," Steve Ralls, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Director of Communications told PageOneQ today. “The Pentagon has acknowledged that collection of the information was perhaps inappropriate,” Mr. Ralls said as he cited an earlier report by United Press International on the Pentagon’s admission.

Mr. Ralls also explained that Servicemembers Legal Defense Network fully expects the federal government to “discontinue surveillance because there was no legitimate reason to begin it in the first place."

The Department of Defense, according to the 16 pages of documents it released, monitored protests against the DADT policy at college campuses in New York City, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. A counterintelligence agent reported on the protests against Military recruitment on campuses had "a strong potential for confrontation at this protest..." Discounting a theory that the protest was taking place in a separate location from Military recruiting, the agent wrote "tactics have included using mass text paging to inform others of the location of the recruiters."

The Department of Defense has indicated that it's search for documents relating to surveillance of groups opposed to Don't Ask, Don't tell continues.

The documents are available here.

The SLDN Press release is below.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Department of Defense (DoD) has released documentation confirming government surveillance of groups opposed to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. The government’s TALON reports were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense

Network (SLDN) in January. The release of the documents follows media reports indicating government surveillance of civilian groups at several universities across the country. The Department of Defense acknowledged that it had ‘inappropriately’ collected information on protestors in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to a February report by United Press International.

“The Department of Defense has now confirmed the existence of a surveillance program monitoring LGBT groups,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of SLDN. “Pentagon leaders have also acknowledged inappropriately collecting some of the information in the TALON database. That information should be destroyed and no similar surveillance should be authorized in the future. Free expression is not a threat to our national security.”

Although the recently released TALON reports may not be a complete list of groups monitored, it does confirm domestic surveillance of protests at New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. DoD has indicated that it continues to search for other documents related to SLDN’s FOIA request.

In February, SLDN filed a lawsuit as part of its efforts to obtain information related to the government’s domestic spy program. The TALON documents, complete information on the lawsuit and the domestic surveillance program are available online at www.Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.org.


April 11, 2006 by Chris Boese in Anima, AspidistraFlying, Feminisms, New Imperialism, Pocky Clips, Politics, Terrorism, United States, War | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2006

Reflecting on Fukuyama's neocon defection

This book review by Paul Berman, raises some issues that I'm wanting to stew over some more. I'm still not sure what I think yet, but this feels like the most rational and pointed look at the ironies and contradictions that make the neoconservative philosophy so peculiar, and notable in its very peculiarities.

I just wanted to pull out the bits here that help me remember certain ideas, so I can think about them some more.

Link: 'America at the Crossroads,' by Francis Fukuyama - The New York Times Book Review - New York Times.

March 26, 2006

'America at the Crossroads,' by Francis Fukuyama

Neo No More


In February 2004, Francis Fukuyama attended a neoconservative think-tank dinner in Washington and listened aghast as the featured speaker, the columnist Charles Krauthammer, attributed "a virtually unqualified success" to America's efforts in Iraq, and the audience enthusiastically applauded. Fukuyama was aghast partly for the obvious reason, but partly for another reason, too, which, as he explains in the opening pages of his new book, "America at the Crossroads," was entirely personal. In years gone by, Fukuyama would have felt cozily at home among those applauding neoconservatives. He and Krauthammer used to share many a political instinct. It was Krauthammer who wrote the ecstatic topmost blurb ("bold, lucid, scandalously brilliant") for the back jacket of Fukuyama's masterpiece from 1992, "The End of History and the Last Man."

But that was then.

Today Fukuyama has decided to resign from the neoconservative movement — though for reasons that, as he expounds them, may seem a tad ambiguous. In his estimation, neoconservative principles in their pristine version remain valid even now. But his ex-fellow-thinkers have lately given those old ideas a regrettable twist, and dreadful errors have followed. Under these circumstances, Fukuyama figures he has no alternative but to go away and publish his complaint.


His resignation seems to me, in any case, a fairly notable event, as these things go, and that is because, among the neoconservative intellectuals, Fukuyama has surely been the most imaginative, the most playful in his thinking and the most ambitious. Then again, something about his departure may express a larger mood among the political intellectuals just now, not only on the right.


Fukuyama offers a thumbnail sketch of neoconservatism and its origins, back to the anti-Communist left at City College in the 1930's and 40's and to the conservative philosophers (Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom, Albert Wohlstetter) at the University of Chicago in later years. From these disparate origins, the neoconservatives eventually generated "a set of coherent principles," which, taken together, ended up defining their impulse in foreign affairs during the last quarter-century. They upheld a belief that democratic states are by nature friendly and unthreatening, and therefore America ought to go around the world promoting democracy and human rights wherever possible. They believed that American power can serve moral purposes. They doubted the usefulness of international law and institutions. And they were skeptical about what is called "social engineering" — about big government and its ability to generate positive social changes.

Such is Fukuyama's summary. It seems to me too kind. For how did the neoconservatives propose to reconcile their ambitious desire to combat despotism around the world with their cautious aversion to social engineering? Fukuyama notes that during the 1990's the neoconservatives veered in militarist directions, which strikes him as a mistake. A less sympathetic observer might recall that neoconservative foreign policy thinking has all along indulged a romance of the ruthless — an expectation that small numbers of people might be able to play a decisive role in world events, if only their ferocity could be unleashed. It was a romance of the ruthless that led some of the early generation of neoconservatives in the 1970's to champion the grisliest of anti-Communist guerrillas in Angola; and, during the next decade, led the neoconservatives to champion some not very attractive anti-Communist guerrillas in Central America, too; and led the Reagan administration's neoconservatives into the swamps of the Iran-contra scandal in order to go on championing their guerrillas. Doesn't this same impulse shed a light on the baffling question of how the Bush administration of our own time could have managed to yoke together a stirring democratic oratory with a series of grotesque scandals involving American torture — this very weird and self-defeating combination of idealism and brass knuckles? But Fukuyama must not agree.

The criticisms he does propose are pretty scathing. In 2002, Fukuyama came to the conclusion that invading Iraq was going to be a gamble with unacceptably long odds. Then he watched with dismay as the administration adopted one strange policy after another that was bound to make the odds still longer. The White House decided to ignore any useful lessons the Clinton administration might have learned in Bosnia and Kosovo, on the grounds that whatever Bill Clinton did — for example, conduct a successful intervention — George W. Bush wanted to do the opposite. There was the diplomatic folly of announcing an intention to dominate the globe, and so forth — all of which leads Fukuyama, scratching his head, to propose a psychological explanation.

The neoconservatives, he suggests, are people who, having witnessed the collapse of Communism long ago, ought to look back on those gigantic events as a one-in-a-zillion lucky break, like winning the lottery. Instead, the neoconservatives, victims of their own success, came to believe that Communism's implosion reflected the deepest laws of history, which were operating in their own and America's favor — a formula for hubris. This is a shrewd observation, and might seem peculiar only because Fukuyama's own "End of History" articulated the world's most eloquent argument for detecting within the collapse of Communism the deepest laws of history. He insists in his new book that "The End of History" ought never to have led anyone to adopt such a view, but this makes me think only that Fukuyama is an utterly unreliable interpreter of his own writings.


He proposes a post-Bush foreign policy, which he styles "realistic Wilsonianism" — his new motto in place of neoconservatism. He worries that because of Bush's blunders, Americans on the right and the left are going to retreat into a Kissinger-style reluctance to promote democratic values in other parts of the world. Fukuyama does want to promote democratic values — "what is in the end a revolutionary American foreign policy agenda" — though he would like to be cautious about it, and even multilateral about it. The United Nations seems to him largely unsalvageable, given the role of nondemocratic countries there. But he thinks that a variety of other institutions, consisting strictly of democracies, might be able to establish and sometimes even enforce a new and superior version of international legitimacy. He wants to encourage economic development in poor countries, too — if only a method can be found that avoids the dreadful phrase "social engineering."

[this is perhaps the most frightening observation I've seen, but I'm happy to see SOMEONE from the neocon camp at least acknowledging that the majority of the "non-nation-building" nation-building rhetoric out of the Bush administration appears to be lifted directly from the Woodrow Wilson playbook, with any notion of a "League of Nations" surgically removed and replaced with U.S. despotic dominance, the U.S. as the single superpower to assume sovereignty over all as a self-appointed United Nations of One.

What I find so frightening in Fukayama's view here, and in the views of others who hold these ideas as well, distinctly neocon ideas since they bear little resemblance to the ideas usually attributed to traditional conservatism, is that the "promotion of democracy" as some kind of saving grace is purely rhetorical and bears no resemblance to what is actually happening.

I believe the word "democracy" is being corrupted, used as a code word for "governments that are easy to manipulate using massive influxes of capital to interfere, influence, and buy elections for our hand-picked and corruptible puppets." In other words, the opposite of true democracy (although one could argue it has become the way "democracy" is currently being practiced in the U.S.)

Sure, the U.S. could put a chosen dictator or despot in place, as colonial powers have traditionally done, or perhaps use the methods of control previously employed by the Soviet empire, OR it could simply use capital and corruption to turn the word "democracy" into a pale shadow of it's true meaning, and simply use it as rhetorical cover for things we might call "democracy" that are really unregulated monopolies by non-local corporations seeking to find the best way to siphon as much wealth out of a nation as possible, as quickly as possible.]


I worry that Fukuyama's preferred language may shrink our predicament into something smaller than it ever was. He pictures the present struggle as a "counterinsurgency" campaign — a struggle in which, before the Iraq war, "no more than a few thousand people around the world" threatened the United States. I suppose he has in mind an elite among the 10,000 to 20,000 people who are said to have trained at bin Laden's Afghan camps, plus other people who may never have gotten out of the immigrant districts of Western Europe. But the slaughters contemplated by this elite have always outrivaled anything contemplated by more conventional insurgencies — as Fukuyama does recognize in some passages. And there is the pesky problem that, as we have learned, the elite few thousand appear to have the ability endlessly to renew themselves. HERE is where a rhetoric pointing to something larger than a typical counterinsurgency campaign may have a virtue, after all. A more grandiose rhetoric draws our attention, at least, to the danger of gigantic massacres. And a more grandiose rhetoric might lead us to think about ideological questions. Why are so many people eager to join the jihadi elite? They are eager for ideological reasons, exactly as in the case of fascists and other totalitarians of the past. These people will be defeated only when their ideologies begin to seem exhausted, which means that any struggle against them has to be, above all, a battle of ideas — a campaign to persuade entire mass movements around the world to abandon their present doctrines in favor of more liberal ones.

[that would entail actually being true advocates for liberal democratic ideas, rather than using them as a smokescreen for more fascist strong-arm tactics and overt manipulation.]


In "America at the Crossroads," Fukuyama describes the Hegelianism of "The End of History" as a version of "modernization" theory, bringing his optimistic vision of progress into the world of modern social science. But the problem with modernization theory was always a tendency to concentrate most of its attention on the steadily progressing phases of history, as determined by the predictable workings of sociology or economics or psychology — and to relegate the free play of unpredictable ideas and ideologies to the margins of world events.

And yet, what dominated the 20th century, what drowned the century in oceans of blood, was precisely the free play of ideas and ideologies, which could never be relegated entirely to the workings of sociology, economics, psychology or any of the other categories of social science.  [...]  Fukuyama is always worth reading, and his new book contains ideas that I hope the non-neoconservatives of America will adopt. But neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all — the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them.

Here's my deal: somewhere along the way I stopped worrying so much about the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them and instead started worrying more about those who pretend to ideologies, some potentially murderous, as crass cover for intentions that are far more devious.

Say what you like about Osama bin Laden, but the guy is apparently incorruptible and a true believer in his cause, however odious many of its basic principles may be to me.

So bin Laden has a murderous ideology, a cultural construct based in an interpretation of a venerable ancient religion. This is the lens through which he sees the world, and however I may not like it, it is reliable and consistent.

Many venerable ancient religions can be turned into murderous ideologies, perhaps ANY venerable and ancient religion, what with Pluto in Sagittarius. (I just had to throw that in... hey, you know Pluto will be moving out of Sag soon. Something to look forward to. When Pluto was in Scorpio, sex=death, and when Pluto moved into Sag, ideological purity=death. What do you suppose will happen when Pluto hits Capricorn, coming on the heels of these wars for ideology? Ambition=death. The will to power=death. So many people try to psych Pluto out, but Pluto has its own way of doing things, you know?)

But back to more rational thinking... It seems to me that it is easier to fight an ideologue than to fight a Machiavellian sophist. I dunno, maybe it's just me. One enemy seems a lot easier to understand and pin down than the other.

And once Pluto moves into Capricorn, we will just be aswim in Machiavellian sophists, as if we aren't gearing up for their ascendancy already.

So Berman may be more worried about how to characterize and combat an enemy that has an ideological beef with us, a clash of world views, and a desire to make one world view dominant over the other. So long as this fight is characterized by "my god is better than your god" thinking, a distinctly patriarchal view of religion that requires dominance just as surely as a dog pack requires an alpha, wars can only result. These are the wars of the "true believers," patriarchal true believers who make the fight an extension of rival high school football games with considerably more dick-waving, er, waving of big sticks. Even if the warfare is ultimately asymmetrical, broadswords vs. daggers or what have you.

Many cultures have allowed multiple religions, often matriarchal religions, to peacefully co-exist without a need for one to dominate or wipe out the others, without the culture of literalism, the book and the law, that demands the ascendancy one metaphysical interpretation of spirituality and one interpretation only.

In other words, this isn't high noon. The two patriarchal religions that are squaring off seem to think so, however, and they're saying, "This here globe isn't big enough for the two of us."

Both of them are of a piece, claiming allegiance to the same war-like Jehovah alpha god, nearly identical ascendant male deities, only with somewhat different commands and opposing claims of who exactly are the "chosen people."

I know one side is supposed to have white hats and the other side is supposed to have black hats, but they just look alike to me, with differences of degree in their oppression of women, the shrillness in which they impose their belief systems, and the manner in which they execute their will to power, to have power over others, and which commodities of power they prefer to use. Power and dominance are the coins in both of their realms. Ideology is merely the fuel that feeds it.

And me, I'm anticipating Pluto in Capricorn. I figure, ultimately, once Pluto moves, true believers will be corrupted by that power, by ambition. I'm not picking on Capricorn. Some of my best friends have their SUNS in Capricorn. But this is PLUTO in Capricorn, and power corrupts.

I think a day will come when we will wistfully long for true believers, as we face unending death, suffering, and wars over far less, over this person or that group's mere ambition and crass willingness to reach and grasp with Machiavellian slipperiness.


March 26, 2006 by Chris Boese in Anima, Books, Culture, Current Affairs, Feminisms, History, New Imperialism, Pocky Clips, Politics, Radical Democracy, Religion, Spirituality, Terrorism, United States, War | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 14, 2005

Alito Watch: this doesn't look good

Question is, will these views about the legality of the constitution lead to a credible challenge to Samuel Alito's candidacy for the Supreme Court?


Link: CNN.com - Document: Alito denied that Constitution protected abortion rights - Nov 14, 2005.

Document: Alito denied that Constitution protected abortion rights

Supreme Court nominee expressed views in 1985 job application

Monday, November 14, 2005; Posted: 2:07 p.m. EST (19:07 GMT)


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote back in 1985 that he was proud of his Reagan-era work helping the government argue that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," documents showed Monday.

Alito, who was applying in 1985 to become deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, said in a document that he was proud of his work in the solicitor general's office from 1982-1985, where he helped "to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly."

"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," he said.


Here's what the opposition is planning:

Link: CNN.com - Liberal groups to step up pressure on Alito nomination - Nov 10, 2005.

November 14, 2005 by Chris Boese in Anima, Current Affairs, Feminisms, Health, Politics, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 24, 2005

Dots Before Our Eyes

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation comes news they've cracked the code that lets the government know your laser printer printed that dissident newsletter you've floated around the office.

What's that?  You didn't know your laser printer was putting tracking marks on your documents?

The news release says: "The U.S. Secret Service admitted that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected color laser printer manufacturers, ostensibly to identify counterfeiters. However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known."

The Roanoke Times writes in an editorial that this affects all major printer brands, by the way:

"The Secret Service confirmed a year ago that it had worked with manufacturers to include tracking information on documents printed by color laser printers made by more than a dozen companies, including Xerox, Canon, HP, Epson and Dell."

Big Brother cometh, all salute!

Posted by CountryDew.

October 24, 2005 by in CountryDew, Current Affairs, Cyberculture, United States, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 03, 2005

Stuck in Traffic

Stuck In Traffic 
A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. Nothing is moving.
Suddenly a man knocks on the window. The driver rolls down his window
and asks, "What happened?"

"Terrorists kidnapped President Bush and are asking for a $10 million
ransom. Otherwise they are going to douse him with gasoline and set
him on fire. We are going from car to car to take up a collection."

The driver asks, "How much is everyone giving on average?"

"About a gallon."

October 3, 2005 by coffenut in Coffenut | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 02, 2005

Local Public Access TV losing government funding?

Who benefits from locking out public access to the television spectrum? That's the question that needs to be asked.

Here's a clue: it isn't the "public."

Link: Democracy Now! | Local Public Access TV Under Attack From Trio of Congressional Bills.

Friday, September 30th, 2005

Local Public Access TV Under Attack From Trio of Congressional Bills

Listen to Segment || Download  Show mp3 Watch 128k stream Watch 256k stream Read Transcript

Local public access television across the United States is being threatened by legislation introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Critics say the bills could eliminate the only source of funding public access providers receive and would take away control from local governments. We speak with Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media and George Stoney, who many consider the father of public access. [includes rush transcript]

Local public access television across the United States is being threatened by legislation introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Proponents of the legislation claim that the bills will breakdown monopolies in the cable industry and open the door to increased competition. But critics say the trio of Congressional bills will lead to the elimination of public access television in this country.

Senate Bill 1504 - the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act - was introduced in July by Republican Senators John Ensign of Nevada and John McCain of Arizona. According to the bill, the act would "eliminate government managed competition of existing communication service" and "provide parity between functionally equivalent services."

Essentially, the legislation would eliminate a requirement for telecommunications companies to pay franchise fees to local municipalities. These fees are required as compensation to the community for use of the public right of way through which the companies route cables and utilities. By eliminating the franchise fees, the bill will eliminate the only source of funding that the public access provider receives.

The bills would also replace local cable franchises with national franchises and the concern is that this will take control and oversight away from local government as well as cut channel capacity for public, educational and governmental access channels or PEGs.

  • Anthony Riddle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Media.
  • George Stoney, longtime media activist. His career has
    spanned more than half a century. He has produced, written and directed
    more than 50 films and television series. Much of his work has focused
    on issues of racial justice, social responsibility, community, and
    freedom of speech. An early advocate of video as a tool for social
    change, Stoney is also the founder and administrator of public access
    programs throughout the United States and Canada. He is currently a
    professor of film and television at New York University's Tisch School
    of the Arts.


And to add insult to injury, there's this:

Link: FCC Releases Orders for Internet Backdoor Wiretap Access.

FCC Releases Orders for Internet Backdoor Wiretap Access

by Brendan Coyne

Sep 29 -  Quietly last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a 59-page document outlining new rules forcing broadband internet and voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone service providers to open up their systems to federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

In releasing the rules, the FCC opened up a 30-day public comment period. The regulations, which are planned for implementation in 2007, were decided upon in the beginning of August and made public Friday without a news release or other announcement.


In a statement yesterday, Electronic Freedom Foundation attorney Kurt Opsahl said that "a tech mandate requiring backdoors in the Internet endangers the privacy of innocent people, stifles innovation and risks the Internet as a forum for free and open expression."

Opsahl’s organization is a nonprofit electronic privacy advocate that has grown vocal in opposition to increasing government regulation of electronic communications in recent years. The Electronic Freedom Foundation is considering a court challenge to the FCC’s proposed rules, the statement noted.


Scouted by Aspidistra Flying

October 2, 2005 by Chris Boese in AspidistraFlying, Current Affairs, New Imperialism, Politics, Television, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

So are any of the folks at the protest getting symptoms?

I don't know what to think of this story at all. It is just too puzzling all around. There was an anti-war rally, but I believe First Lady Laura Bush was involved with that Book Festival, wasn't she?


Link: Biohazard Sensors Triggered.

Biohazard  Sensors Triggered

Mall Germ Levels  Likely Not a Threat

By Martin Weil  and Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 1, 2005; B01

Biohazard sensors showed the presence of small amounts of potentially dangerous tularemia bacteria in the Mall area last weekend as huge crowds assembled there, but health officials said they believed the levels were too low to be a threat.

Health authorities in the Washington area were notified yesterday that the bacteria were found in and near the area between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, where crowds gathered Saturday for an antiwar rally and a book festival.

The notification, which came from federal health officials, said that after the initial detection, subsequent tests "supported the presence of low levels" of the bacteria. However, officials also said they did not believe the findings posed a health problem.


Health officials said the usual incubation period for tularemia is less than a week.

Roebuck said people who were on the Mall but who do not have symptoms need not be concerned.

Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, joint pain, dry cough and conjunctivitis.

Officials said the quantities detected were too small to have been an attack.

In nature, the bacteria are found in rodents and small animals, and "the working hypothesis" is that something in the environment got stirred up, D.C. Public Health Director Gregg A. Pane said.

But he said it was puzzling that the finding was from a day when the Mall was packed with people.

"Why that day? That's what is not explained," Pane said. "It was just this 24-hour period and none since."

At least one official suggested that so many people on the Mall might have triggered the alert, since dry conditions would have made it easier to raise dust.

Tularemia is not spread from person to person. It can be contracted by direct contact with the bacteria that cause it -- by swallowing them or, if they have been suspended in air, through inhalation.

The germ that causes tularemia is considered a biohazard because it is highly infectious and was tested in the 1960s by the United States as a biological weapon. The disease is treatable with antibiotics but, if left untreated, can be fatal.


He said the CDC expected to notify hospitals nationwide as a precaution because so many people came from out of town to the Mall last weekend.

Similarly, he said, he expected area health officials to watch for symptoms into next week.

Authorities recommend that people who visited the Mall between 10 a.m. Sept. 24 and 10 a.m. Sept. 25 should see a physician if they experience symptoms.

October 2, 2005 by Chris Boese in Anima, Current Affairs, Funny Strange, Health, Politics, Radical Democracy, Science, Travel, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 30, 2005

Hanging on to His Precious?


Scouted by Aspidistra Flying

September 30, 2005 by Chris Boese in AspidistraFlying, Current Affairs, Politics, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 22, 2005

Out, Out Damn Spot

Looks like my favorite poet, Sharon Olds, doesn't want to associate with those in the current regime. They do, after all, have blood on their hands.

In a letter to Laura Bush, Olds declines an invitation to the September 24 National Book Festival.  She says:

"So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. . . . I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

". . . But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

" . . . So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it. "

Eyebrows raised - CountryDew

September 22, 2005 by in CountryDew, Culture, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 20, 2005

Bush administration gives FDA women's health appointee the "Woof"

Link: FDA Rethinks Women's Chief.


FDA Rethinks Women's Chief

Toigo Is Acting Head; Agency Denies Naming Veterinary Official

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 20, 2005; A21

One week ago, the Office of Women's Health of the Food and Drug Administration sent an e-mail notice to women's groups and others announcing the appointment of Norris Alderson as its new acting director.

An FDA veteran trained in animal husbandry who spent much of his career in the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine, Alderson quickly became the subject of active and largely negative comment on the Internet and elsewhere.

Gee, ya think? I wonder what was their first clue? The fact that they clearly thought expertise on women's health is on par with expertise on dogs? Will women have to start barking to get their concerns met? Woof woof!

The Office of Women's Health serves as a liaison with women's health groups and as an advocate on women's issues; critics said that a man with a primarily veterinary background could not properly fill the role.

The last director, Susan Wood, resigned last month to protest the agency's unwillingness to make a decision on whether to make emergency contraception more easily available.

Three days after the Alderson announcement, the FDA main press office sent out a very different announcement. It said that 20-year FDA veteran Theresa A. Toigo would be the new acting director of the women's health office, and that she would be a champion for women's health inside and outside the agency. Alderson -- and the statement announcing his appointment -- was never mentioned.

Asked yesterday who exactly was running the office, FDA spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said that Alderson had never been appointed acting director. She said that Toigo would take over from the departed Wood, and that her office knew nothing about the statement regarding Alderson, who is the agency's associate commissioner for science.


The seeming mystery thickened when several women's groups said that not only did they receive e-mails announcing Alderson's appointment, but also that he was also listed on a Health and Human Services directory last week as the acting director of the office. In addition, people who have spoken with women's health office staff said that Alderson was introduced to the staff last week as the new acting director, and that he even had some one-on-one discussions with staff members about future plans.


Hmmm, this gives one pause. Is Toigo a "fake" appointee, the equivalent of the PR figurehead boss, while some politically-connected vet really is still running the office?

Former director Wood called Toigo a good choice. "She's a very capable and dedicated person who will do an excellent job," Wood said.

But many women's health groups remain unhappy with the FDA and what they consider to be the agency's questionable leadership.

"Once again, this episode shows the agency's complete tone-deafness," said Kirsten Moore, director of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. "It underscores our concern about the degree of competence at the leadership level, and about political appointees who just don't know much" about the issues before the agency.

Can you spell F-E-M-A?

Posted on behalf of Dr. Alaska

September 20, 2005 by Chris Boese in Dr Alaska, Feminisms, Health, Politics, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2005

President's nephew arrested on Sixth Street: no comment necessary

Link: President's nephew arrested on Sixth Street.


President's nephew arrested on Sixth Street

John Ellis Bush charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest.

John Ellis Bush

By Tony Plohetski, Steven Kreytak


Saturday, September 17, 2005
The youngest son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — and the nephew of President Bush — was arrested in downtown Austin early Friday on charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest, officials said.                  
John Ellis Bush, 21, was taken into custody around 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Trinity and Sixth streets in the downtown entertainment district. Bail was set at $2,500, but he was released around 10:30 a.m. Friday on his own recognizance — meaning he must pay $2,500 if he doesn't appear for court.

An affidavit on the public intoxication charge was not immediately available; according to an affidavit for the resisting arrest charge, Bush continually pushed against an officer for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as the officer attempted to handcuff him.

"Subject further resisted by pushing back with his body as he was restrained at the (Austin Police Department) transport van," the document said.

Bush could not be reached for comment.


Public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Resisting arrest is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Scouted by Anima


September 19, 2005 by Chris Boese in Anima, Current Affairs, Funny Ha-Ha, Funny Strange, Politics, United States | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 12, 2005

Patients put down

Link: Patients put down
September 12, 2005

DOCTORS working in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans killed critically ill patients rather than leave them to die in agony as they evacuated.

With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.

One New Orleans doctor told how she "prayed for God to have mercy on her soul" after she ignored every tenet of medical ethics and ended the lives of patients she had earlier fought to save.

Her heart-rending account has been corroborated by a hospital orderly and by local government officials.

One emergency official, William Forest McQueen, said: "Those who had no chance of making it were given a lot of morphine and lain down in a dark place to die."

Euthanasia is illegal in Louisiana and the doctors spoke only on condition on anonymity.



September 12, 2005 by coffenut in Australia, Coffenut, Culture, Current Affairs, Pocky Clips, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2005

This site showed up on one of our Google ads under the heading "Private Prisons"

Link: Omni View: Innovative Incarceration.

When I clicked on the link, it mostly was talking about Native American reservation corrections sites... but I found the entire thing REALLY disturbing.

First of all, what kind of outfit tries to sell itself as a "Private Prison"?! What is a Private Prison?

If there are "private prisons" in the U.S. (or elsewhere) it would seem to me that they would have to be EXTRA-LEGAL facilities for incarceration of human beings, because as far as I know, only governments are given the power to confine and enslave people against their will, based on their legal systems.

SO, if an entire system of "private prisons" exists (and I'm thinking of the "prison franchises" in Neal Stephenson's wonderful sci-fi cyberpunk book Snow Crash, the "Hoosegow" and "The Clink") they'd either come from this freakish movement to "privatize" and subcontract government functions (yeah, like to Haliburton)...

OR the Google ad is pandering directly to an invisible subculture of facilities confining humans against their will, say for sweatshop labor, sex slaves, etc, in other words, a winked-at subculture reinstituting slavery.

Now that last bit is just pure speculation on my part, spinning out from that bizarro Google Ad Words phrase "Private Prisons," I suppose appealing to the eccentric millionare owning an island (if ads are out to reach these people they must be a dime a dozen) needing to enslave an entire facility of human beings for forced island labor.

See, I made that whole thing up too, OK?

I don't think there are hundreds of millionares in the market for private prisons. I don't know that a million would be enough to pull it off these days, unless you buy the island from some dictator in a currency-deflated devasted, poverty-stricken economy usually associated with the so-called "Third World," but now shown to be alive and well and propagating in the U.S. (see also Katrina and New Orleans).

So if we rule out elitist oligarchies hunkering down with a kidnapped slave class on islands and in isolated compounds, ready to open the plantation for business with the apocalypse at the end of the world's oil supply (within 30 years to one generation, sources say), what kind of market does that leave for "private prisons"?

Enough of a market to advertise on Google, I guess. Chinese factories? I dunno. The link above is definitely a site I will watch, to see if it is linked to such evils.


September 10, 2005 by Chris Boese in Anima, Culture, Cyberculture, Funny Strange, New Imperialism, Pocky Clips, Politics, United States, War, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2005

A Priceless Photo


sneezed along by Coffenut

September 8, 2005 by coffenut in Coffenut, Current Affairs, Funny Ha-Ha, Pocky Clips, Television, UK, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My favorite sound bite yesterday

Link: nancy1.mov (video/quicktime Object).


"At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had ''absolutely no credentials.''

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown...

''He said 'Why would I do that?''' Pelosi said.

'''I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'''

''Oblivious, in denial, dangerous,'' she added."

Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi discovers how clueless the president is, and it boggles her mind. Which is what makes this video clip so precious.

Yo Nancy! Most of us have that reaction to very nearly everything he has to say, like living in a world of one long non sequitur.

Or like how Keith Olbermann introduced his timeline of who knew what when regarding the Hurricane Katrina response, some of us feel like the only way people could entertain such diametrically opposite perceptions of the same events is if we are actually on different planets.

My problem is, one of those planets seems to be so unaware of how deeply its unconsciously racist assumptions go, it can't even dredge up normal-sounding or credible PR spin to rationalize the depths of inhumanity it is willing to stoop to.

The secret of lying with PR, as far as I can tell, is for the PR person to truly understand the perceptions of those she or he wants to persuade or plant an idea virus with, to achieve success. Karl Rove is good at planting idea viruses in the heads of bigots, homophobes, and it turns out, racists who don't know they are racists because they just think all black people are scary and want to hurt them, and who don't care if the black people are thirsty or hungry or drowning or dying in staggering numbers. His absurd words and assumptions sound like bizarro-world non-sequiturs to those of us who don't buy into that peculiar world view, and who find such a world view flatly immoral and about as unChristian as you can get.

We don't have to go very far back to remember when those attitudes were considered unthinkingly obvious to some powerful white people: just take a look at that  lynching photo exhibit that has made the rounds of so many galleries. Or perhaps the history of the South and also in the North, when Blacks weren't considered full human beings.

If these people ACTUALLY BELIEVED they were full human beings, their PR people would not have slipped so easily into the glib PR spin that is now being sneezed about by right-wing freepers chanting the planted phrase "blame game," just like earlier this year they chanted "up or down vote up or down vote" like trained parrots.

Do you think they are actually PROUD to be trained parrots?


ps here's a transcript of that bit from Keith Olbermann:

Olbermann's intro:

"Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, the thought may have already crossed your mind: Is this disconnect between the two sides simply political, or have the members of each policy simply begun to inhabit separate and mutually exclusive planes of existence -- you know, like separate universes?

Perhaps a simple recap of who has said what when since the advent of Hurricane Katrina might help bring us all back to the same solar system."

Here is the video. As Crooks and Liars says, "how in God's name could our President say something so false that is so well documented on national TV?"

September 8, 2005 by Chris Boese in Anima, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, New Imperialism, Pocky Clips, Politics, Television, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FEMA planned to leave people behind


Though officials involved in the scenario acknowledged that tens of thousands of residents would be without the means to evacuate New Orleans in the absence of government help, the Hurricane Pam scenario teams did not determine strategies for evacuating people ahead of time. Instead, officials predicted that only one-third of the city’s residents would make it out in time and designed their response plan around that assumption.

Instead, in July, public officials began videotaping messages for distribution by DVD warning residents to begin making their own advance plans for emergency evacuation in case of a hurricane. According to the Times-Picayune, the messages, which were to be released this September, informed New Orleans residents that they were to be largely responsible for their own safety.

A bleeding heart liberal might see this as premeditated mass murder, but it's actually the new neocon plan for dealing with all social problems.  Think of what it could do for the health care mess.  First, abolish insulin manufacture and other meds used to treat diabetes, then make a DVD urging all diabetics to just make more insulin.  If they are too ignorant and disobedient to comply, then they just die like they deserve to.  Think of all the money we'd save!


September 8, 2005 by in Current Affairs, Eridani, Pocky Clips, Politics, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 07, 2005

U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead

They cite issues of "respect for the dead," but it also helps banish the images from the minds of a public that would probably hold the federal officials who messed up so badly. Convenient, eh?

Link: Reuters AlertNet - U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead.

U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead

07 Sep 2005 00:56:29 GMT Source: Reuters

NEW ORLEANS, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.

The Bush administration also has prevented the news media from photographing flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that the government is trying to block images that put the war in a bad light.


Aspidistra Flying


September 7, 2005 by Chris Boese in AspidistraFlying, Current Affairs, New Imperialism, Pocky Clips, Radical Democracy, Television, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 06, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Zoo animals fared better than people

Zoo animals fared better than people

Tuesday, September 6, 2005 Page A1

NEW ORLEANS -- When wise men go to figure out what happened here after hurricane Katrina, when hard on the heels of great natural disaster came a sudden and shocking breach in the civil order, they may want to talk to Dan Maloney.

Mr. Maloney, vice-president and general curator of the Audubon Zoo located in a sprawling and lush city park, was explaining yesterday why, as the enormous storm first approached, staff decided to leave the pink flamingos to their own devices.

"We figured," he said with the biologist's sure logic, "that it was less risky to leave them out to hunker down on their own, and find their own safe places, rather than shove them into a small box somewhere."

And that, of course, is a pretty good description of just what happened to as many as 45,000 of the human beings who lived here, most of them African-Americans and most of them poor and not terribly lucky in the first instance.

Running for their lives from homes that were washed away when the levees broke and water began rising up from the drains, they were directed to or deposited at two major public buildings, the Superdome and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, both on higher ground in the centre of the city.

There, cheek to jowl -- squawking infants and sick old folks crammed together in a darkened sports stadium and a cavernous centre meant to hold huge crowds for only a handful of hours -- they lived for five interminable days and nights.

Stripped even of privacy and dignity, surrounded by human waste as toilets overflowed, without food and water much of the time, their pleas for help often met by blank stares from the few in authority they saw, most nonetheless suffered in silence with that terrible weary acceptance that is near bred in the bone in black Americans raised in the South.

But a very few of their number -- criminals and drug addicts in the main -- slipped into the vacuum left by law enforcement, and in the result, what followed was unimaginable violence.

The dome and the convention centre were the equivalent of Mr. Maloney's "small box." As James Pellet, a 57-year-old African-American who refused to go to either place and who in fact refuses still to leave his beloved city, put it the other day while picking through the trash along Convention Center Boulevard, "I saw a scientific experiment once, where they clambered up a bunch of rats together, and they went crazy and attacked each other. This looked very similar to me."

Mr. Maloney had much better success at the zoo.

The morning after the hurricane-cum-flood, only one adult bird was a little the worse for wear (and after intravenous fluids, has rejoined the flock), while all five of the newborn chicks soon came peeking out from behind their parents' skirts, much to the delight of their keepers.

Ditto the baby egrets, with their ridiculous snowy punk cuts. Ditto the West African crown chicks. Ditto the five giraffes, led by Murphy, the male Mr. Maloney calls "the perfect giraffe" because while he wasn't hand-raised (and thus isn't overly familiar with people and prone to aggression), he is comfortable with human beings while retaining "enough of his giraffiness."

In fact, though the zoo wasn't spared by the storm and is surrounded by neighbourhoods that remain drowned, the big trees that were smashed seemed to fall the right way. Almost no animals were lost or injured, only a couple of river otters died and an alligator is missing, which Mr. Maloney suspects has merely temporarily relocated.


As Mr. Maloney put it, "We stay, because animals can't leave."

He is married to Laura, the executive director of the local SPCA, making them perhaps the only couple in the United States where one spouse is in charge of a city's exotic animals and the other of its pets. They met when both were working at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Mrs. Maloney is leading an enormous rescue effort here, heading the lead agency of the half-dozen whose volunteer members are now saving abandoned animals from decimated neighbourhoods.


Indeed, all over New Orleans, I encountered people who stayed behind, and rode out Katrina, because they wouldn't leave without their dogs. There are also lost animals darting here and there, adopting the first person they see, as a little bedraggled terrier was there when a senior named Caroline (she's already the victim of identity-theft and doesn't give out her last name any more) opened her front door after the flood.

If this all sounds like foolishness, this effort to save pets where people have died and lost so much, it isn't, I don't think. Caring for the vulnerable -- and animals are in their way as vulnerable as the very old and the very young -- is one of the distinguishing and most noble of human characteristics.

Besides, as Mr. Maloney said yesterday, "There's no question that the wild world can be brutal and unforgiving at times, but there's no malice in animals. Oh, they can hold grudges, and they get their feelings hurt, but there's nothing nefarious about them."

No malice; no meanness, and the ability to bring out what's good in their keepers: No wonder the zoo feels so peaceful. It's a place where people are gentle with one another and their charges, where humans sleep with snakes, and may be safer than with their own kind.


September 6, 2005 by coffenut in Coffenut, Good Earth, Pocky Clips, Radical Democracy, United States | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2005

Gas Prices



September 5, 2005 by coffenut in Coffenut, Culture, Current Affairs, Funny Ha-Ha, New Imperialism, Pocky Clips, Politics, Travel, United States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)