Arranology

Archive for June 2004

Arrested for Videotaping a Building

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A report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells the story of a Nepalese man who was thrown into prison under the PATRIOT Act for accidentally videotaping the building in NYC where the FBI has its HQ.

NEW YORK — It took no more than a week for James P. Wynne, a veteran FBI investigator, to confirm the harmless truth that only now, more than two years later, he is ready to talk about. The small foreign man he helped arrest for videotaping outside a tall office building in Queens on Oct. 25, 2001, was no terrorist.Yet Purna Raj Bajracharya was swallowed up in the government’s new maximum-security system of secret detention and secret hearings for three months, and his only friend was Wynne, the same FBI agent who had helped decide to put him there.

Bajracharya, 47, was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places such as a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was videotaping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building in his viewfinder happened to include an office of the FBI.

When Wynne filed his FBI report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just for videotaping.

The article gives a pretty good picture of how Ashcroft’s JD is using–or mis-using–its new powers and how ‘byzantine’ the system has become. And what do they use to excuse this malfeasance? You guessed it:

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that although he was unfamiliar with the case, the system of secrecy that Bajracharya encountered is lawful and necessary. “The idea that someone who has violated our immigration laws may be of interest on a national security level as well is an unfortunate reality, post- 9/11,” he said.

Bajracharya was jailed for three months ‘in a 6-by-9-foot cell kept lighted 24 hours a day.’ Welcome to neo-America, Baj.

Written by Mick

June 30, 2004 at 3:06 pm

The NRA Will Get Their Uzis

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The Republican Congress is going to let the ban on assault weapons expire. Mark Morford on getting Bush out from under another promise:

Isn’t that great? To hell with logic and to hell with your kids’ safety and to hell with even trying to prevent moron gangbangers and terrorist wanna-bes and imbecilic white supremacists from easily getting their hands on a nice AK-47 that can mow down a schoolyard full of tots in 10 seconds flat. Instead: Down with liberal scum who would take away our God-given right to bear nasty ultraviolent weaponry that no one anywhere can justify the existence of. Go, NRA!What, too sarcastic? Well, hold onto your sides, because it gets even funnier. Even little gun-lovin’ Bushie himself declared during the 2000 campaign that he actually supported an extension of the ban (pretty hard, even for Shrub, to defend Uzis in the wake of Columbine and 101 California, et al.), a law that outlaws 19 types of insidiously lethal weaponry, the very guns most highly prized by jittery meth-lab owners and killing-spree advocates and homophobic militia members deep in the Montana woods. Oh, and also by upstanding, white-bread NRA members. Oh my yes. They need assault weapons. Must have them. Or so they claim.

But Bush, he is just so happy. He won’t have to see that bill at all. He won’t have to sign a thing before the election and risk annoying the Bible-quotin’ gun lovers of America. The NRA lobby will kill it before he even has to try to pronounce the phrase “high school gun rampage.” Oh man is he ever relieved.

Because to the NRA, the rule is absolute: No gun law is a good gun law, and any ban of any kind is a slippery slope (always, always a slippery slope) until the government stomps in and takes away all your rights to do anything fun at all, and so screw the painfully obvious, skull-crushingly sad fact that allowing assault weapons back into the culture is the equivalent of allowing, say, convicted rapists loose in a sorority house.

How much do terrorists and murderers owe the Pubs? Let us count the ways….

Written by Mick

June 30, 2004 at 2:50 pm

F 9/11’s Competition

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In a snarky NYT piece that avoids sliding into snide mockery by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin, reporter Bill Werde notes that Disney, which refused to distribute F 9/11 for fear Jeb Bush would misuse the power of his office as the Gov of Florida to extract revenge by scotching their plans for Disneyworld, is distributing a documentary after all.

The film is called America’s Heart and Soul and was desxcribed in the NYT (I won’t call it a review because it wasn’t) as ‘an effort to showcase not just the beauty of the land, but the very soul of the United States — its people.’ The writer doesn’t say how well it did with its effort but that may perhaps be judged by the fact that the only way Disney can get people to watch it is to pay them.

In Sacramento the conservative group Move America Forward, whose Web site criticizes “Fahrenheit 9/11,” organized an advance screening of the Disney documentary “America’s Heart and Soul,” due in theaters on July 2. That film, directed by Louis Schwartzberg, celebrates ordinary Americans and, Disney says, their extraordinary stories. “Disney brought the movie, rented the theater and even paid for the popcorn,” Howard Kaloogian, the chairman of Move America Forward, said.

Dennis Rice, Disney Head of PR, told Werde that the company had done likewise ‘close to 100 times’, including screenings for the Sierra Club and the AARP.

Sounds like you got a real winner there, Denny. Send a limo for me and remember–I like lots of butter on my popcorn. Let’s not be frugal. After all, it’s on The Mouse.

Trust the conservatives to answer the specific charges Moore makes with a mindless ‘patriotic’ film that runs up the flag and salutes it while ignoring them. I want to see the head-to-head numbers on this one.

Written by Mick

June 30, 2004 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Film, Media, Politics

Mark Fiore: The Corporation at War (and he doesn’t…

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Mark Fiore: The Corporation at War (and he doesn’t even mention Dick Cheney)

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 7:54 pm

Power to the People

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Nick at Net Politik (another brand-new blog–May 16) writes in comments to ‘Censoring Blogs’ (he’s the one I got the letter from) of a paper by James F Moore of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School on the ‘second superpower’. At least in part, Moore thinks it’s us.

As the United States government becomes more belligerent in using its power in the world, many people are longing for a “second superpower” that can keep the US in check. Indeed, many people desire a superpower that speaks for the interests of planetary society, for long-term well-being, and that encourages broad participation in the democratic process. Where can the world find such a second superpower? No nation or group of nations seems able to play this role, although the European Union sometimes seeks to, working in concert with a variety of institutions in the field of international law, including the United Nations. But even the common might of the European nations is barely a match for the current power of the United States.There is an emerging second superpower, but it is not a nation. Instead, it is a new form of international player, constituted by the “will of the people” in a global social movement. The beautiful but deeply agitated face of this second superpower is the worldwide peace campaign, but the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights. This movement has a surprisingly agile and muscular body of citizen activists who identify their interests with world society as a whole—and who recognize that at a fundamental level we are all one. These are people who are attempting to take into account the needs and dreams of all 6.3 billion people in the world—and not just the members of one or another nation. Consider the members of Amnesty International who write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and the millions of Americans who are participating in email actions against the war in Iraq. Or the physicians who contribute their time to Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres.

It’s a good point and it’s also one of the reasons I think we have to fight for the freedom of the internet: this is our major tool for communication, organization, and cohesion. It crosses all borders, ties people together who have no other connection, and makes it possible for the people of the world to talk past their govts. The inherent power of that capacity has to be terrifying to govts everywhere–it may be the biggest single threat to their power that they’ve ever faced. It is almost inevitable that they will try to control it to their own advantage when that threat becomes more than a mere annoyance.

And that’s why the actions of the South Korean and Chinese govts are so dangerous–they are leading the way in putting into the hands of the powerful the capability of crippling if not destroying the only weapon we have–and a powerful one it is, too. It is the planetary voice of the people, nothing less, and it must be guarded and protected as the precious resource it is. We have not even begun to see what this thing can do; the possibilities are endless–international coalitions, international co-ordinated movements, international online meetings, preparations, and discussion.

This is the voice we’ve never had before in history, the tool we’ve never had that will allow us to come together. We can’t risk losing it.

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 4:51 pm

Junior Protests Treatment in Ireland

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Fannie at terrette (this week’s featured female blogger) reports that according to DemocracyNow, Bush has formally filed a protest with the Irish govt concerning his treatment by an Irish reporter.

It turns out the White House responded angrily to being asked difficult questions. Democracynow.org has reported that the White House has filed a complaint with the Irish Embassy. Curiously, the questions Bush were asked were scripted; the journalist, Carole Coleman, submitted them to the White House three days in advance. It has also been reported (see links at Lies.com) that the White House has “retaliated” by canceling a schedule interview with Laura Bush that Coleman had been given permission to conduct. Apparently, this order fits in with the “pre-emptive” strategy of the Bush Administration.Intimidating journalists in this manner is, as I illustrated in a recent post (“Clinton’s revealing interview”), something for which the Bush Administration can cite the Clinton Administration as a precedent. Bush takes the tendency to new depths of incivility, as he stubbornly pounds out abstract, delusional talking points that bear no substantive information of any kind.

There’s more. Have a ball. And check out the pictures while you’re there.

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 4:19 pm

Reaction to F-9/11 & Juan Cole’s Criticism

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Pulled from Comments:

Review of Fahrenheit 9/11 by KrytonMy wife and I and our 13 year old niece went to see it Sunday afternoon.

I knew much of what was in this movie, but not all. I didn’t realize, for instance, that only one member of Congress has a child serving today. But seeing it all pulled together made for an unforgettable experience. I thought Moore could’ve added even more, but the film as it is lasts 2 1/2 hours. He couldn’t possibly put in everything

We’ve all seen the replays of 9-11 a thousand times. That’s what makes Moore’s extraordinarily respectful treatment of it all the more powerful. I could hear people literally choking back tears during that scene.

It’s a stunning documentary. My niece and wife both cried several times. Even I must admit to tears.

As a general rule, I thought that the movie was at its most scathing when it showed us raw footage: Bush sitting in the classroom (yes, it really was that long; Bush telling a roomful of billionaires, “Some call you the elite. I call you my base;” the Republican Stepford Wife attacking the mother of a dead soldier.

Bush and Jeb together, smirking aboard a plane. Bush smirking to a reporter that he’ll win Florida. “Count on it,” he smirks. “Write it down,” he smirks. His cousin John at FOXNEWS declaring him the Florida winner. The other networks retract their earlier call for Gore and go along with FOX. Bush with Kathryn Harris, his Florida campaign manager who just happened to also work for Jeb, who also just happened to be the person in charge of Florida’s vote.

Bush’s Arbusto/Harken ties to Saudis. Bush’s black-lined National Guard records. Bush practicing facial expressions before a televised speech; Bush sitting in that 9-11 classroom, eyes darting this way and that, searching vainly for brain matter. (I’d hoped Moore would’ve included the t.v. image of Bush’s vacuous terrified face the evening of 9-11 when he returned to Washington).

Bush grinning with Saudis. Cheney grinning with Saudis. Bush 40 grinning with Saudies. James Baker grinning with Saudis. Rumsfeld grinning with Saudis. Repeat. Repeat. Prince Bandar perched on the edge of a sofa with Bush 40. Ashcroft singing his soaring eagle song. (Anyone remember that eagles are carnivorous predators?)
Huge bombs bursting over Iraq, lighting up the night sky like the end of the world; Iraqi women and children screaming and crying, terrified. American GIs with limbs blown off. Bush smirking “Bring ‘em on.” Bush smirking. Bush smirking. Bush smirking.

A Flint MI woman who in earlier years as a counsellor encouraged young people to join the military as a way to escape Flint’s poverty, is devastated when her own son is killed in Iraq. She sits on a sofa with her husband and large family around her, reading the last letter she received from her son. Her voice breaks. She reads on. Her voice breaks again and again. She can barely finish the letter. She finally does. She’s completely emptied. She sits silent, washed in grief, tapping the letter against its envelope, expressing extreme anguish by wordlessly hitting paper with paper…

Take kleenex with you. And vote Bush and his demonic crew out of office in November.

I was listening to Randi yesterday and people were calling in from all over the country (AA is on 14 stations now and has a large internet audience) about their experiences. I haven’t heard stories like that since Star Wars–lines around the block in small towns; theaters adding one or two showings and, in the multiplexes, putting it on a couple more screens; one guy, I can’t remember where he said he was from but it was a Red State, said he figured that, in his highly conservative area, he might be the only one at the showing but when he got there, the multiplex had put F9/11 on 8 screens and every single showing was sold out; another one said he saw it first with a university crowd, sort of leftish, and when he decided he wanted to see it again, he ended up in a conservative area (the only place he could find a ticket, apparently) and even there it was on 4 screens and the houses were packed; one woman heard what was going on and showed up 3 hoiurs early to get her tickets–she got the last two…for the day.

That last woman said, ‘There’s a hunger in this country for somebody to tell the truth about what’s been happening the past three years.’ From the sound of it, they’re not hungry, they’re starving.

Not that there hasn’t been criticism. charlie at BiteSoundBite has reservations after reading Juan Cole’s review.

My argument is that the Iraq connection to 9/11 is specious and that connections of the same type can be made between al Quaeda and governments of the region whom we call friends and do not invade. I thought that Moore was doing the same thing, but now I don’t think he was. I still enjoyed the movie, and would reccomend it. But read Juan Cole’s remarks first, go in with a cool head.

Cole took Moore to task for his ‘illogic’ and ‘Saudi-bashing’.

The Saudi bashing in the Moore film makes no sense. It is true that some of the hijackers were Saudis, but that is only because Bin Laden hand-picked some Saudi muscle at the last minute to help the brains of the operation, who were Egyptians, Lebanese, Yemenis, etc. Bin Laden did that deliberately, in hopes of souring US/Saudi relations so that he could the better overthrow the Saudi government.The implication one often hears from Democrats that the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Pakistan after the Afghan war rather than Iraq is just another kind of warmongering and illogical. There is no evidence that either the Saudi or the Pakistani government was complicit in 9/11.

I respect Cole a great deal, but he’s being very legalistic here. There’s no hard evidence that the Saudi govt or Musharraff personally were involved in or supported specifically the AQ action against the US, but there’s plenty of evidence that Saudi businessmen with close ties to the Royal Family (which is the govt) and even certain members of that family have been giving tacit financial support to fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups like AQ, Hamas and Hezbollah for years all during the time they were promising to do something just like this. The israeli govt has been protesting that support for more than a decade, and for more than a decade the Saudis have been denying it.

Pakistan has a military govt, and while Musharraf himself hasn’t been proven to have terrorist ties, certain of his high-ranking military officers, especially those in charge of the areas around the Afghanistan border, have been up to their necks protecting and supporting the Taliban and the AQ since the early 90’s. During the Afghan War, Israeli intelligence–and most of the other intelkligence services, including our own–were reasonably certain that bin Laden was hiding out in the mountains across the border in Pakistan, shielded by the Pakistani military; some of them think that’s where he is now, most of the time.

The relationship between the Saudi Royals, the Pakistani military, and AQ is way too complicated to go into here (part of the Saudi support is pure baksheesh, for example); suffice it to say that the connections are undeniable and decades long, and during all that time powerful elements of both entities have been supporting terrorist groups promising to do something just like the 9/11 massacre. If they weren’t directly involved in the planning and execution of 9/11, they certainly were parties to everything that led up to it. Like Moore, I think that makes them as guilty as if they flew those planes themselves. Cole is splitting hairs here, and while he’s technically accurate, it’s a distinction that’s hardly worth making to anybody except a lawyer.

As for Cole’s contention that the Saudis were picked ‘at the last minute’, I’d like to know where he’s getting this. All the information I’ve seen says that those cells were smuggled into the US over the course of two years; a year before the attacks took place, the pilots were getting flight training. Here. The pilots were mostly Saudi. Two years is not ‘the last minute’.

Some of Cole’s other comments seem uncharacteristically simplistic, as well.

The story Moore tells about the Turkmenistan gas pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan also makes no sense. First, why would it be bad for the Turkmenistanis to be able to export their natural gas? What is wicked about all that? It is true that some forces wanted the pipeline so badly that they even were willing to deal with the Taliban, but this was before Bin Laden started serious operations against the US from Afghan soil, beginning in 1998 with the East Africa embassy bombings.

If Cole thinks dickering with the Taliban over the pipeline stopped in ’98, he’s misinformed. It went on through intermediaries in Turkmenistan right up until the Afghan War. Again, Cole seems unaccountably willing to accept the narrow notion that working through other people makes you innocent. I don’t. It doesn’t.

I still cannot understand why the pipeline is evil. Afghanistans would collect $2 bn. a year on tolls, and the Turkmen would be lifted out of poverty, and Pakistan and India might have a new reason to cooperate rather than fighting. I personally wish it could be built immediately.

This is startlingly naive. The pipeline is evil because the Turkmen would NOT be lifted out of poverty; they’d never see a nickel of the money. They’d be rooted out of their homes as they were in Burma and forcibly moved out of the way of the pipe to new villages where they’d be resented for taking up some of the village’s increasingly scarce resources–land, food, water–while individuals in the Turkmen govt got richer and richer.

That is the way it works and has worked for decades: Burma, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, the list winds ever on. Mr Cole has taken the view of investors that the pipeline will be of value; Mr Moore has taken the people’s view that the pipeline will be of value…to investors. Perhaps Mr Cole should look at the history of Halliburton/KBR’s pipeline in Burma and show us some evidence that it lifted the Burmese ‘out of poverty’. If he can do that, I may take him more seriously.

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 2:38 pm

Posted in 9/11, Film, The Blogosphere

Censoring Blogs

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About two years ago, I had a long argument with a friend of mine who’s a computer techie and has been since the days of COBAL and FORTRAN over whether or not it was possible to censor the net. I was not then and am not now anything remotely resembling a techie but it seemed to me that it wasn’t all that hard to envision a computer program that could identify certain sites by keywords or some other profiling mechanism and shut them down. I said I would expect an authoritarian govt, ours perhaps, to take the technology she saw as ultimately freeing precisely because it was impossible to control and use it to do just that–control the flow of information. ‘There’s too much of it,’ she said. ‘It’s too scattered in too many places. No govt will ever be able to stop even part of it.’

Well, I now know we were both right. Unfortunately, I was more right than she was. In a world increasingly run by authoritarians, pessimism is a reliable predictor of events.

Nick at Net Politik posts a letter from a Korean blogger named Kevin Kim. The South Korean govt has shut down access to Blogspot, Moveable Type, and other blogging services to South Koreans. All South Koreans. Here’s the text of the entire letter he sent out to help make people aware of the situation.

Fellow blogger,I am sending this message to the bloggers on my blogroll (and a few other folks) in the hopes that some of you will print this, or at least find it interesting enough for comment. I’m not usually the type to distribute such messages, but I felt this was important enough to risk disturbing you.

As some of you may already know, a wing of the South Korean government, the Ministry of Information and Culture (MIC), is currently clamping down on a variety of blogging service providers and other websites. The government is attempting to control access to video of the recent Kim Sun-il beheading, ostensibly because the video will have a destabilizing influence. (I haven’t seen the video.)

Many Western expat bloggers in Korea are in an uproar; others, myself included, are largely unsurprised: South Korea has not come far out of the shadow of its military dictatorship past. My own response to this censorship is not so much anger as amusement, because the situation represents an intellectual challenge as well as a chance to fight for freedom of expression. Perhaps even to fight for freedom, period.

South Korea is a rapidly evolving country, but in many ways it remains the Hermit Kingdom. Like a turtle retreating into its shell, the people are on occasion unable to deal with the harsh realities of the world around them. This country is, for example, in massive denial about the atrocities perpetrated in North Korea, and, as with many Americans, is in denial about the realities of Islamic terrorism, whose roots extend chronologically backward far beyond the lifetime of the Bush Administration. This cultural tendency toward denial (and overreaction) at least partially explains the Korean government’s move to censor so many sites.

The fact that the current administration, led by President Noh Mu-hyon, is supposedly “liberal”-leaning makes this censorship more ironic. It also fuels propagandistic conservative arguments that liberals are, at heart, closet totalitarians. I find this to be a specious caricature of the liberal position (I consider myself neither liberal nor conservative), but to the extent that Koreans are concerned about what image they project to the world, it is legitimate for them to worry over whether they are currently playing into stereotype: South Korea is going to be associated with other violators of human rights, such as China.

Of the many hypocrisies associated with the decision to censor, the central one is that no strong governmental measures were taken to suppress the distribution of the previous beheading videos (Nick Berg et al.). This, too, fuels the suspicion that Koreans are selfish or, to use their own proverbial image, “a frog in a well”– radically blinkered in perspective, collectively unable to empathize with the sufferings of non-Koreans, but overly sensitive to their own suffering.

I am writing this letter not primarily to criticize all Koreans (I’m ethnically half-Korean, and an American citizen), nor to express a generalized condemnation of Korean culture. As is true anywhere else, this culture has its merits and demerits, and overall, I’m enjoying my time here. No, my purpose is more specific: to cause the South Korean government as much embarrassment as possible, and perhaps to motivate Korean citizens to engage in some much-needed introspection.

To this end, I need the blogosphere’s help, and this letter needs wide distribution (you may receive other letters from different bloggers, so be prepared!). I hope you’ll see fit to publish this letter on your site, and/or to distribute it to concerned parties: censorship in a supposedly democratic society simply cannot stand. The best and quickest way to persuade the South Korean government to back down from its current position is to make it lose face in the eyes of the world. This can only happen through a determined (and civilized!) campaign to expose the government’s hypocrisy and to cause Korean citizens to rethink their own narrow-mindedness.

We can debate all we want about “root causes” with regard to Islamic terrorism, Muslim rage, and all the rest, but for me, it’s much more constructive to proceed empirically and with an eye to the future. Like it or not, what we see today is that Korea is inextricably linked with Iraq issues, and with issues of Islamic fundamentalism. Koreans, however, may need some persuading that this is in fact the case– that we all need to stand together as allies against a common enemy.

If you are interested in giving the South Korean Ministry of Information and Culture a piece of your mind (or if you’re a reporter who would like to contact them for further information), please email the MIC at:

webmaster@mic.go.kr

Thank you,

Kevin Kim
bighominid@gmail.com

http://bighominid.blogspot.com

(Blogspot is currently blocked in Korea, along with other providers; please go to Unipeak.com and type my URL into the search window to view my blog.)

PS: To send me an email, please type “hairy chasms” in the subject line to avoid being trashed by my custom-made spam filter.

PPS: Much better blogs than mine have been covering this issue, offering news updates and heartfelt commentary. To start you off, visit:

http://marmot.blogs.com/korea/

http://jeffinkorea.blogs.com/

http://aboutjoel.com/

http://oranckay.net/blog/

http://kimcheegi.blogs.com/

http://gopkorea.blogs.com/flyingyangban

http://rathbonepress.tblog.com/

http://blog.woojay.net/

Here as well, Unipeak is the way to go if you’re in Korea and unable to view the above blogs. People in the States should, in theory, have no problems accessing these sites, which all continue to be updated.

PPPS: This email is being cc’ed to the South Korean Ministry of Information and Culture. Please note that other bloggers are writing about the Korean government’s creation of a task force that will presumably fight internet terror. I and others have an idea that this task force will serve a different purpose. If this is what South Korea’s new “aligning with the PRC” is all about, then there’s reason to worry for the future.

China has likewise engaged recently in episodic and targeted net censorship, shutting off access not just to blogging websites but to university, political, and business websites that they see as ‘de-stabilizing’. I don’t have to tell you that what China can do, America can do better. I also don’t have to tell you that there are people in this country–the AG, for instance–who would have no qualms whatsoever about unplugging anti-Bush, anti-war, and pro-choice sites if he thought he could get away with it.

The good news is that the SK bloggers are still allowed–‘allowed’, mind–to post, though who knows how long that will last? If Kim and other SK bloggers succeed in embarassing their govt sufficiently, the next step is even simpler than the first: shut down any international net traffic originating from SK that isn’t business-oriented.

Kevin has given us a peek at the potential future of the net and its astounding capacity to let people talk to each other almost face-to-face regardless of their geographic or political separations. It is possible, after all, for a govt to control even this enormous and enormously complex resource. We–all of us–could be out of business in a matter of hours if the president ordered it, say, as a matter of ‘national security’. The net could be restricted using any parameters the govt wished to use, just as SK is doing. There is nothing in place to stop them. Enterprising techies might be able to find ways around the blocks, but if they did they would be facing arrest.

So to my friend and to anyone else who cares about this little but promising playground and political/social/cultural nest of ours, I say make this an issue. Go to the websites on Kim’s list, leave supportive messages, email the MIC. Remember: South Korea today; us tomorrow. The technology is there, the will is there, all that’s missing is the certainty that nobody cares. Once they’re sure of that, we’re history. Show them we care. Show them, as Kevin said, that ‘censorship in a supposedly democratic society simply cannot stand.’ Make the price too high.

One thing about right-wingers: they know when they’re paying too much.

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 6:00 am

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Michael Moore

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From The Guardian, Oct 3, ’03:

1. Michael Moore is a life-member of the National Rifle Association of America. (He joined in a bid to challenge Charlton Heston for its presidency and disband it from within, obviously).2. He lives with his wife and his daughter in a $1.2m home in New York City.

3. While at school, he won a merit badge as an Eagle Scout for putting on a slide show that exposed environmentally unfriendly businesses in Flint.

4. He directed the Rage Against The Machine video Sleep Now In The Fire, which was filmed outside the New York Stock Exchange. At the end of the shoot, which had turned into a chaotic, impromptu concert, he was arrested and the Stock Exchange was forced to close down.

5. The New York Times has never reviewed Moore’s controversial book, Stupid White Men – even though it was on their bestseller list for 59 weeks.

6. He hosted bingo games in his house to raise the money to finish his first film, Roger and Me.

7. Stupid White Men was due to be released on September 12, 2001. In the light of the terrorist attacks, publishers HarperCollins got cold feet and asked Moore to re-write 50% of the book. He refused. Five months later, the book was released unchanged.

8. Aged 18, he became one of the youngest people in the US to be elected to public office when he won a seat on his local school board.

9. When Bowling For Columbine was screened at Cannes in May 2002, it received a record 13-minute standing ovation.

10. He is an honorary Canadian.

They’re close–I only knew three of them, 7, 8 & 9. About #8: he ran for the express purpose of getting his high school principal fired. A year later, the principal was gone. He calls it ‘every kid’s fantasy’ and says he’ll never go into politics because he’ll never be able to equal that high.

By the way, as predicted, Fahrenheit 9/11 isn’t playing within 50 miles of me (40 actually but who’s counting?). I guess I’ll have to wait for the video.

PS. Is #10 a slur?

(Thanks to lovedonnaz of An American Parrothead in Canada)

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 3:25 am

Posted in Film

Women Blog, Too!

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Thought I forgot, dinch’ya? I didn’t, I just didn’t have time to get to it yesterday or Sunday.

This week’s entry is another new blog (I’ve been scoping them out), only active since March, but it already has a thriving community of commenters, including Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat. Fanni Terrette’s blog, called–appropriately enough–terrette, is by turns sprightly, thoughtful, and opinionated, sometimes all three at once. As you know by now, I’m attracted by good writing, and Fanni is good. From her review of Fahrenheit 9/11:

Some reviewers reject this multi-genre approach. As Jeff Simon for the Buffalo News wrote of Moore, “Tom Brokaw, he ain’t.” To this, I say: Thank God Moore ain’t Brokaw, because the need NOT TO BE BROKAW or BROKAW-LIKE is one of the major points of the movie. (Besides, who could ever sit through two hours of BROKAW, and who would actually pay for it?) Simon also calls Moore a “slob” and a “bully.” These kinds of responses express well the sort of contempt in which the stiffly conventional talking heads of corporate media hold Moore, who simply out-maneuvers them in a multitude of ways and ends up at a point far closer to the truth than they can ever hope to reach. They must despise him for revealing them in their cold, impotent light.

See what I mean about all three at once? As far as Fanni is concerned, everything’s on the table, and pictures of Japan (she’s quite a decent photographer–

‘Noh mask, or, the face of the blog troll’, and funny too)

–alternate with political commentary, international news, and personal observations without ever giving one the sense that’s there’s anything odd about the combination because she integrates it all so seamlessly. Here she is at the Canton, OH airport, apparently a stopover where she was meeting her brother on a trip back to Buffalo from Canada.

Over the weekend, I found myself in the Canton-Akron airport (Ohio) and, while waiting there for a brother to fly in from out of town, I was startled by the sight of an Air Force recruitment poster. I only wish I had had a camera to capture it. But let me describe it, so that you can understand my reaction. Pictured on the poster was a handsome, smiling, broad-chinned man wearing a flight jacket and helmet, apparently standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. What unsettled me was that, despite his bold, handsome features, the man was a stunning likeness of George Bush Jr. It was a muscled-up George Bush minus the characteristic smirk. A man in his fifties with slightly graying hair… not exactly the typical Air Force recruit. I asked an elderly couple standing next to me if they had noticed the likeness, and they gasped out acknowledgment. They, too, were offended by this cheap attempt to bolster the president’s macho-militarism by proxy.What does this suggest about our Air Force? And is the big-brother-like, insidious intrusion of George Bush’s likeness the only card left in the conservative hand that tries to brush a portrait of Bush, the military hero and foreign policy strong man? When I see George Bush’s face, am I supposed to think “tough, handsome, fighter guy”?

It’s this ability to connect a moment in a purely personal experience with its larger universal meaning that is the strength of Fanni’s blog. In our everyday lives, she seems to be saying, even when we think we’re isolated, unaffected by far-away events, there are connections all around us whether we see them or not. She wants us to look.

I think she’s right.

Written by Mick

June 29, 2004 at 12:16 am

Posted in The Blogosphere

Bush Sovereignty, Vol 2

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Just before Viceroy Bremer escaped bolted fled ran away from left Iraq, he signed a number of orders specifically limiting the power of the new Iraqi ‘govt’.

BAGHDAD, June 26 — U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq’s legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq’s interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country’s democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi’s choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.

Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.

So who’s running Iraq again? Oh yeah, we are.

Written by Mick

June 28, 2004 at 3:38 pm

Bulletin: Bremer Gone

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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reporting that Viceroy Bremer has left Iraq, effectively transferring the Bush version of ‘sovereignty’ two days early.

Bremer began discussing the possibility of an early transfer 10 days ago with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. But the two agreed Sunday to go ahead with the sovereignty transfer earlier than planned, said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity.Several officials said the deception was meant to undercut the ability of Iraqi insurgents to spoil the handover with a hail of car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

In other words, the terrorists are in charge and we have to sneak our govt in under their radar? Boy, I’m sure glad things are going well in Iraq; I’d hate to think what would happen if it wasn’t.

The handover ceremony took place inside the Green Zone, in an office in the building once used by the former Iraqi Governing Council. About a dozen officials were present, seated in gilded chairs in a formal room with Louis XIV decor.Bremer sat on the couch with Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer. In the middle of the room was a table, in the center of which was a bowl of flowers with a small Iraqi flag in it.

At 10:26 a.m. everyone stood. The two leaders exchanged documents, overseen by Iraq’s chief justice Midhat al-Mahmood. In that moment, U.S. sovereignty over Iraq was transferred to an Iraqi government.

Well, some of it was. Sort of. Juan Cole is unimpressed.

It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a precipitous flight. It is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Americans must have developed intelligence that there might be a major strike on the Coalition Provisional Headquarters on Wednesday if a formal ceremony were held to mark a transfer of sovereignty. Since the US military is so weak in Iraq and appears to have poor intelligence on the guerrilla insurgency, the Bush administration could not take the chance that a major bombing or other attack would mar the ceremony.


This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show. That’s what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let’s see if they fall for it.

Yes, let’s. I’m taking bets. You won’t like the odds.

So the question naturally arises: ‘Now that it’s actually happened, what’s really changed?’ Cole sees only one real difference.

What has changed? The big change is that Allawi now controls the Iraqi government’s $20 billion a year in income. About $10 bn. of that is oil revenues, and those may be hurt this year by extensive sabotage. To tell you the truth, I can’t imagine where the other $10 bn. comes from. The government can’t collect much in taxes. Some of it may be foreign aid, but not much of that has come in. The problem is that the Iraqi government probably needs $30 billion to run the government properly, and with only 2/3s of that or less, the government will be weak and somewhat ineffective.Since Bremer was a congenital screw-up, just getting him and his CPA out of the country and out of control may be a good step forward. Allawi won’t care about Polish style shock therapy for the economy. Allawi does not have any investment in keeping Iraq weak or preventing it from having a proper army. But how the Iraqi military, if brought back, can operate in a security environment where there are 160,000 foreign troops under US command is unclear.

He’s being kind. The appropriate word is ‘impossible’.

Well, at least the ‘ending’ fits (very important in Hollywood movies and Imperial occupations): we started this with a lie and we’re ending it with a deception. You have to admit, there’s a certain symmetry to it.

Written by Mick

June 28, 2004 at 2:54 pm

Like Father Like Son:Selling Out the Kurds

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As pressure for Kurdish independence builds, Junior is in Turkey making nice with PM Erdogan.

A senior American official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said, “These meetings today made clear that whatever the differences U.S. and Turkish governments had over Iraq, from this point forward — and both the Turkish president and the Turkish prime minister in their meetings made this clear — from this moment forward, Turkey sees its interests and the American interests in Iraq as parallel and consistent.”

The article concentrates on the old news of the Turkish Parliament’s refusal to allow US planes to bomb Iraq from Turkish soil or US troops to use Turkey as a staging area for the invasion (that oh so diplomatic fellow, Paul Wolfowitz, demanded that the PM apologize for Parliament’s decision; Erdogan declined the invitation), but the only current interest Turkey has in Iraq is the Kurdish resistance which they see as a threat to their claims on the region.

It is possible, of course (this is, after all, Junior, not a competent international diplomatist), that Erdogan and Bush never discussed the Kurds. It is also possible that I am in a position to assure you of a seat on the next flight to San Bernadino via my personal jet-pack transport plane, the Fruitless Shrub. Anything is possible.

Aligning US and Turkish interests at this ticklish point could mean only one thing, realistically: Junior is following in Daddy’s footsteps and selling Kurdish independence out in order to strengthen US oil interests just like Poppy did. This is going to make the handover really…interesting.

Written by Mick

June 28, 2004 at 2:31 pm

F9/11 Breaks All Records

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The right-wing attempt to stop theaters from showing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 has run into a snag: $22Mil at the box office its opening weekend, making it the highest-grossing opening for a documentary ever. The Associated Press, with its typical “objectivity” claims without evidence of any kind that F9/11‘s success was the fault of  “left-wing groups, which mobilized members to see it during the opening weekend.” Sure, that must be it. Phaedrus, with his usual keen eye for patently absurd right-wing memes, takes heart from this one.

If this blockbuster debut is a result of left wing groups mobilizing their members to see it, then the left in this country is a lot bigger than Americans have been led to believe. Notice the subtle bias in the article, though. “Left-wing groups” vs. “conservative groups.” If they’re really conservatives, and not right wing authoritarians, why did they try to keep people from seeing the movie?

This is a question that answers itself. Phaedrus was actually one of those weekend warriors, and you can read his review here.

I felt so sorry for Lila Lipscomb. She went to D.C. to aim her anger and hatred at the White House. Another woman told her to blame Al Qaeda. She walked away, and said to Moore something like, “People are so ignorant. They don’t know. I didn’t know.” And she dissolves into tears. In that moment I felt sorry even for the right wingers. People don’t know what they don’t know.

The promise of this movie–and the opening week shows it has one–is that it has the capacity to cut through the Murdock/Malone/Mighty Wutlitzer-induced national ignorance-quotient. They’ll see here what they haven’t read in their papers or seen on TV or heard on the radio, and it’s going to have an effect. Phaedrus gets the last word (at least until I finagle a way to see it).

I have seen the movie and you must see it. Like most Moore films it is absolutely hilarious at times. However, I spent much of the movie with tears rolling down my cheeks. Honey Punkin’, who’s as tough as raw brisket, said she turned her head to wipe her cheek because she was crying, and she saw that the guy next to her was wiping his cheeks as well.

Now that’s the power of truth.

Update: Rue the Day Dept–The LA Times reports a curious stat. Remember how Disney violated its contract to distribute F9/11 because it was afraid Jeb would use the govt to get back at them for handling a movie critical of his bro? Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein, who cut the deal with Disney, found another distributor in less than a week (Britain’s Lion’s Gate Films) because the buzz was that this doc was going to make a ton of money. Well, it seems that feeling was right.

“Fahrenheit 9/11″ had a better opening than any of the nine feature films Disney has released this year.

In fact, almost better than three of the nine put together. Another bad business decision, Mr Eisner. They’re starting to mount up, aren’t they? And the AP slur gets a little reality-check, too:

Informal surveys of theaters and rival studios also indicated that the film was attracting crowds wherever it played in the GOP-leaning “red states” as well as the Democrat blue. Much of the audience was predictably left of center, but in addition to places like the liberal enclave of Santa Monica it was doing well even in several cities in the president’s home state of Texas.

I love it when right-wing fantasy slams into hard-core reality.

Written by Mick

June 28, 2004 at 12:44 pm

Posted in 9/11, Film, Iraq

Kenny-Boy Speaks

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And says what you figured he’d say: ‘It’s somebody else’s fault.’

Kenny-Boy Lay, ex-CEO of Enron and the chief architect of its rise and fall, has been invisible in the two years since his company imploded but his trial is finally approaching and now he wants to talk–to ‘tell his side’.

Mr. Lay said that he had remained silent on the advice of lawyers, but is coming forward now to explain his views of a story that he says has become infused with myths. While not saying so explicitly, he suggested that he was motivated by a desire to tell his side both to the prosecutors on the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force who have been investigating him and the citizens of Houston who may well sit in judgment on him.

In other words, he wants a crack at some pre-trial spin, hoping to influence jurors before they’re chosen since it’s illegal to try to influence them afterward. That’s the corporate mind for you.

Beginning with the standard corporate line of defense (you’ll recognize it–Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush have all used it, and more than once), “I take full responsibility for what happened at Enron. But saying that, I know in my mind that I did nothing criminal,” Lay went on to shoulder that responsibility in the standard, time-honored corporate way–by shoving it off on somebody else.

“At our core, regrettably, we had a chief financial officer and a few other people who, in fact, mismanaged the company’s balance sheet and finances and enriched themselves in a way that once we got into a stressful environment in the marketplace, the company collapsed.”

So it’s really all Andy Fastow’s fault and poor Kenny-Boy, the CEO, was totally out of the loop and knew nothing about all the skullduggery that was going on right under his nose. All he did was sign the papers and give the orders that set up the dummy partnerships and the ghost accounts and the bogus sales and…and…and…

Mr. Lay labels criticisms of that set-up as 20-20 hindsight, created only because the world now knows that Mr. Fastow used the vehicles to manipulate Enron’s earnings and loot the company, all without his knowledge, Mr. Lay said.”At the time it seemed the appropriate thing to do,” he said. “And I had no reason to doubt or distrust Fastow.”

But legal experts dismiss the entire venture as foolhardy from inception. “It’s just not common sense thinking,” said John J. Fahy, a former federal prosecutor now with Fahy Choi in Rutherford, N. J. “Your C.F.O. cannot be put in a position where he is in conflict with the company. He is simply too important. The idea is just crazy.”

But Poor Kenny, he really didn’t understand any of that. They told him to sign and he signed. He was just the CEO, what could he do?

Kenny? For $100 I’ll pretend I believe that’s possible. For $500 I’ll pretend it’s plausible. For an even $1K I’ll pretend that I don’t think you’re a lying sack of corporate scum ready to lynch your employees to save your own greedy ass or a hypocritical tapeworm trying to don the mantle of the underdog after lording it over the peasants for years as the Boss Hog with the Heart of Blue Steel, cunning, ruthless, an endless bag of tricks up your sleeve.

On second thought, you better make that $5K. I don’t think I’d be believable for just one.

This is the guy who thought walking into the Oval Office to tell the putative Pres of the US who to pick as energy czar was the way things were supposed to be, as if corporate control of govt decisions and over policy-makers was his god-given right and democratic elections an inconvenient annoyance that could safely be dismissed as a ‘legal technicality that needn’t concern us’. Now, right before his trial begins, he wants to make like he’s an innocent dupe. As Phaedrus would say, ‘Yeah, yeah. When the Pope shits in the woods and pigs fly.’

Written by Mick

June 27, 2004 at 12:40 pm

Posted in The Corporatocracy

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