Daily Archives: June 29, 2004

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

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

Power to the People

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.

Junior Protests Treatment in Ireland

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.

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

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.

Censoring Blogs

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:


Thank you,

Kevin Kim
(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:


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.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Michael Moore

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)

Women Blog, Too!

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.