Wherein Kendall helps me shed some idiotic (yet altogether widespread) assumptions, and we discuss the public attitudes that allow the government to continue to mow down civilians (and kill them indirectly) in Afghanistan.
A few decent articles from this weekend's globe and mail:
Russell Smith: Step outside the church of business for a moment
Proof that corporate culture is the new religion: its scandals, its ulcered intestines and remorseful self-loathing; the total astonishment of the media that their idols live in a corrupt and fantastical world. All this exactly parallels the convulsions of the Catholic Church.
Bad luck seemed to happen at the same time in both cases. Just as sexual-abuse allegations against priests seemed to tumble from the rafters across North America all at once, the corporate giants exploded and the expense-account tycoons were unearthed in several major companies in two tumultuous months. The most fervent promoters of business as the model for all human endeavour -- George W. Bush, for example -- became sanctimonious critics of the very culture that they have helped to create.
But sin and repentance don't shake a religion; they are a part of the religion. And the corruption in the system is so well known (again, as with the church), that many of its defenders are rationalizing the excesses, explaining them away as necessary. We have got to such a point of blind corporate worship that intelligent commentators can actually add up the orgiastic expenses of Eleanor Clitheroe, former CEO of Hydro One, and say they were justified, that the poor woman is victim of a witch-hunt.
Simon Houpt: Alotta promotion
This is what synergy looks like. For weeks, AOL's on-line service has been promoting Goldmember to its more than 34-million subscribers around the world. The current issue of AOL-owned magazine Entertainment Weekly features Austin Powers on the cover, with half a dozen articles on the movie inside. Last week, a division of Warner Music released the film's soundtrack.
This week, the AOL-owned U.S. cable station TBS aired the previous two Austin Powers movie to whet appetites. Eager moviegoers who wanted to buy tickets before yesterday's opening could log onto AOL-owned Moviefone.com and drown in Austin ads. On Wednesday, Mike Myers received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, an event dutifully reported by AOL media outlets CNN, People magazine, and a couple of dozen Web sites.
A side note on Austin Powers III: don't see it. It sucks. Ok, the first three minutes are priceless, but the rest of it just falls flat. And it's offensive. (And why is it that when Mike Myers decided to offensive/gross/politically incorrect/whatever, he did so in a way that unfalteringly upheld racist stereotypes? Wouldn't it be so much more interesting to offend sensibilities in a way that undermines the stereotypes? As a bonus, that approach would automatically not be gross and unoriginal, since no mainstream film producer has the guts - or moral sense - to do it.) I saw AP III on Thursday, but I still feel dirty.
Tom Tommorrow features a frozen Republican.
Meanwhile, Ashcroft holds daily prayer meetings at work.
Robert McChesney: The Place of Politics
Dean Baker proposes that all taxpaying Americans be entitled to divert $200 from their federal income taxes to any IRS-recognized nonprofit medium. This would constitute a multi-billion-dollar subsidy for the nonprofit media sector, without any government official determining the flow of funds. Crucially, recipients of these funds would be required to place their work in the public domain; it would not be covered by copyright laws. This is a brilliant way to think of media in the Internet age: provide for payment at the beginning and then have open access. This approach seems vastly superior to putting up electronic barbed wire all over the Internet, and converting our computers and television sets into vending machines.
The coverage on The Global Indymedia site is quite good these days.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow: The Meaning of the Gaza Bombing
One possible answer is that the Israeli government thought it so important to kill these two leaders of Hamas that it did so DESPITE the consequences to be expected: that Palestinian civilians wouild die, that suicide bombings would continue, Israelis would die as a result of retaliataory attacks, negotiations would become impossible again, the Palestinian Authority's authority again be undermined and its painstaking efforts for a cease-fire go for nought.
There is another, even more dreadful possibility: That the Sharon government took these actions not despite but BECAUSE it expects these consequences.
Norman Solomon: Will This Be an "Official Scandal" -- or Something More?
"Despite all the hand-wringing, the press avoids basic questions that challenge institutional power and not just a few powerful individuals."
Yes, some former private-sector heroes are becoming prime-time villains. And in Washington, after flak-catching functionary Pitt gets tossed overboard or decides that he must spend more time with his family, the ex-captain of (the U$$) Halliburton is likely to face increased pressure as more becomes known about Dick Cheney's former lucrative role as head of that particular books-cooking firm.
But the nonstop flood of corporate money into the coffers of the two major parties has not slowed. And while the latest "official scandal" shows no indication of abating anytime soon, there's still a shortage of high-profile reporting on the nation's extreme disparities of power.
On a less serious note, some guy named Jay Krasne has threatened to sue Kendall because a reply to an email criticizing an article of Kendall's now shows up on google. He claims that his name is "registered service marks" [sic], and that a reply to his email is libellous! If that wasn't bizarre enough, the guy could easily be mistaken for a rejected American Beauty subplot.
Village Voice: Buying Trouble
As John Ashcroft's Citizens Corps spy program prepares for its debut next month, it seems scores of American companies have already become willing snitches. A few months ago, the Privacy Council surveyed executives from 22 companies in the travel industry—not just airlines but hotels, car rental services, and travel agencies—and found that 64 percent of respondents had turned over information to investigators and 59 percent had lowered their resistance to such demands.I'll look over my shoulder twice and pay with cash next time I buy an Edward Said book.
A short evening visit to Sackville's waterfowl park.
The first issue of the superman comic is pretty interesting.
The Nation: A 12-Step Program for Media Democracy
Near the Canso Causeway, the "bridge" to Cape Breton, or "the island".
Noam Chomsky: A World Without War (World Social Forum, Feb 2002)
The importance of protecting the public from information was revealed dramatically at the April Summit. Every editorial office in the US had on its desk two important studies, timed for release just before the Summit. One was from Human Rights Watch, the second from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington; neither organization is exactly obscure. Both studies investigated in depth the effects of NAFTA, which was hailed at the Summit as a grand triumph and a model for the FTAA, with headlines trumpeting its praises by George Bush and other leaders, all accepted as Gospel Truth. Both studies were suppressed with near-total unanimity. It's easy to see why. HRW analyzed the effects of NAFTA on labor rights, which, it found, were harmed in all three participating countries. The EPI report was more comprehensive: it consisted of detailed analyses of the effects of NAFTA on working people, written by specialists on the three countries. The conclusion is that this is one of the rare agreements that has harmed the majority of the population in all of the participating countries.
The effects on Mexico were particularly severe, and particularly significant for the South. Wages had declined sharply with the imposition of neoliberal programs in the 1980s. That continued after NAFTA, with a 24% decline in incomes for salaried workers, and 40% for the self-employed, an effect magnified by the rapid increase in unsalaried workers. Though foreign investment grew, total investment declined, as the economy was transferred to the hands of foreign multinationals. The minimum wage lost 50% of its purchasing power. Manufacturing declined, and development stagnated or may have reversed. A small sector became extremely wealthy, and foreign investors prospered.
One thing that's crucial is that we're not going to win anything in this struggle without popular support. Having all the best arguments in the world so you can win all the debating society awards isn't going to get you anything in this debate, cause you're going up against spectacular organized money. And what we need to fight organized money, as Saul Alinsky says, is organized people -- we've got to be organized. We'll have people in Congress, but they're going to be at the end of the process, or at the middle of it.
A great Harper's Index this week.
Percentage of Iranians and Kuwaitis, respectively, who say that the September 11 attacks were "totally justifiable" : 8, 18
Percentage of Americans who say this : 5
Amount the U.S. Agency for International Development spent to build Bethlehem University's Millennium Hall : $1,200,000
Months after the building's inauguration in December that Israel used three U.S.-made missiles to destroy it : 2.5
Greg Palast: Venezuela and Argentina: A Tale of Two Coups
This was no minor matter to the US. As OPEC's general secretary Alí Rodriguéz says: 'The dependence of the US on oil is increasing progressively. Venezuela is one of the most important suppliers of the US, and the stability of Venezuela is very important for [them].' It was the South American nation that broke the back of the 1973 Arab oil embargo by increasing output from its vast reserves way beyond its OPEC quota. Indeed, I learned from Alí Rodriguéz that the 12 April coup against Chávez was triggered by US fears of a renewed Arab oil embargo. Iraq and Libya were trying to organize OPEC to stop exporting oil to the US to protest American support of Israel. US access to Venezuela's oil suddenly became urgent.
Immanuel Wallerstein: The Eagle Has Crash Landed
The real question is not whether U.S. hegemony is waning but whether the United States can devise a way to descend gracefully, with minimum damage to the world, and to itself.
It's Googlezon!. A much faster way to look up things and browse at Amazon.com... without going to Amazon.com.
Ritt Goldstein: US Planning to Recruit One in 24 Americans as Citizen Spies
(Just in case you hadn't heard.)
Salon: Flag-draped voyeurism
A survey of (bizarre) conflicting cultural treatment of 9-11.
Robert Scheer: A Fox is About to Reassure Us Hens
You don't need to prove anything that isn't already widely known to establish that Bush's criticism of corporate america is hypocritical and toothless.
John Garside: The potential political power of weblogs.
Linux.com: Washington Post offers MP3's of local bands
links via New Media Musings
Mark Levine: The Gore Exception. That dialog, which explains very clearly the contradictions behind the Supreme Court's decision to hand the election to Bush, made the rounds after the election. But it's still important, and as relevant as ever.
Kendall started a Weekly Review at Monkeyfist.com.
How gross is "Psy-Ops"? This gross.
"Why is it such a pain in the ass to setup an Internet broadcast?" ... "OpenDJ pays for and maintains the hardware, the software, and the fat pipe to the Net. You generate the music, or listen to the music, or both. Enjoy, it's my treat."
According to Salon, Rudolph Giuliani will earn "$8 million this year in speaking fees alone." Yow. I can't imagine that criticizing him for being a CYNICAL BASTARD and taking advantage of 9-11 for immense personal profit would be very American. Yep. Definitely un-American.
(last three via Daily Churn)
Ted Rall: How to win the war on terror
Addressing Islamist demands--not caving in outright--would eliminate most of the broad-based Muslim support for jihadi groups. Moreover, they'd do us more good than harm. Withdrawing our support for the corrupt Saudi dictatorship might lead to a less pro-American regime, for example, but it would begin to inoculate us from the mostly-justified criticism that we pro-democracy Americans promote oppression wherever it suits our business interests. Stopping or reducing our $3 billion per annum flow of arms to Israel would allow us to truly act as an impartial negotiator in the Middle East, not to mention put a dent in the deficit. We could still offer to defend Israel in the event of an invasion, and while that stance wouldn't sate Osama et al., it wouldn't spark much anger among the great Arab mainstream.
It's a simple equation, really: Parse Islamist demands into the acceptable and unreasonable, ignore the ridiculous and respond constructively to the mainstream. Take away the cause's raison d'être and the cause goes away. To be sure, there may always be a few lunatics willing to blow themselves up for Allah. But their bank accounts will be small and so will their bombs.
I said the same thing in Rushdie's Rhetoric and Righteous Response last year, but Rall gives more examples.
I was on the CBC this morning! Khalil Akhtar interviewed me about the state of activism in general, and now everyone who listened to the CBC in New Brunswick at 8:20 this morning knows just how articulate I am when I try to answer Big Questions about "anti-globalization" protests.
The Interview [4 minutes, 1.8MB, MP3]
This being a weblog and all (I guess), it was only a matter of time before I linked to some personality test or other and shared my score. Predictably, I succumbed to curiosity and the Political Compass test (via rebecca's pocket). Also predictably, I'm solidly left-libertarian:
Economic Left/Right: -7.25Now I don't have to do that ever again. Whew.
SJ Mercury: Bush vows to punish corporate lawbreakers
"We'll vigorously pursue people who break the law, and I think that'll help restore confidence to the American people. Listen, there has been a period of time when everything seemed easy -- markets were roaring, capital everywhere, and people forgot their responsibilities...
"I have been calling for a renewed sense of responsibility in America, and that includes corporate responsibility," Bush said.
The Daily Enron: Bush's Insider Trading
The SEC investigated G. W. Bush for insider trading during his father's term as President and decided to take no action. Career SEC officials, clearly miffed by their inability to charge the son of a sitting President, made their feelings clear in a 1993 letter to Bush's attorney. In the letter, the SEC emphasized that the decision not to charge Bush "must in no way be construed as indicating that (Bush) has been exonerated."
Washington Post: Memo Cited Bush's Late SEC Filings. This report cites a lot of facts with no context on what they might mean. A thoroughly lacklustre piece of journalism.
MotherJones: Bush Family Values. This one takes the opposite approach to that of the Wash. Post.
Although a handful of good reporters for the New York Times, LA Times, Village Voice, and Wall Street Journal have diligently been digging through business records for months, something has been missing: an overview that "connects the dots" in the myriad deals that have been examined, making it clear that cashing in on influence has become a pattern of behavior extending through the first family.
Bottom line: Given the power and influence at play, it's not at all clear that Bush didn't do anything illegal. But of this we can be sure at the very least: he derived immense financial benefit from executive bonusses and privileges while at a company that was losing money. A stronger (but still accurate) version is that his daddy pulled a lot of strings to bail out his failing businesses more than once.
A page about the distinct possibility that AIDS was originally spread from an unproven polio vaccine which was administered to 1 million Africans between 1957 and 1960. If this site isn't misrepresenting facts and changing the articles it has published, both the timing and the location of the disease point to the vaccine. Given the implications, it's not suprising that publications have been pressured to keep research and articles out of circulation.
Although the theory has not been properly examined, many people seem to believe it has been refuted. Hilary Koprowski published a letter in Science in 1992 attacking the theory. In 1993, Rolling Stone, which had published a widely publicised article by Tom Curtis about the theory, published an "update", interpreted by Science as a retraction. The public record thus suggests that these contributions have been the final word.
Actually, this appearance of "refutation" was due to the exercise of power, not scientific judgement. Science refused to publish a reply to Koprowski's letter by Curtis and, later, another reply by eminent biologist W. D. Hamilton. Nature has received substantial submissions about the theory from at least six scholars but has not published any of them. Rolling Stone's "update" was the aftermath of a legal action for defamation by Koprowski against Rolling Stone and Curtis. Thus, it has been editorial prerogative and legal action that have given the impression that critics of the theory have been unanswered.
Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse, by Juan Gonzalez.
Within days of the September 11th attack in New York City, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman, together with Time Man-of-the-Year Rudy Giuliani, reassured New Yorkers that air "contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency’s concern levels."
In fact, EPA tests taken at the time showed high concentrations of toxic materials in the air downtown, including asbestos, dioxins, and heavy metals. Con Edison and the Port Authority revealed—two months after the attack—that nearly 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel and transformer oils, much of it contaminated with low-level PCBs, had escaped beneath Ground Zero. And independent measurements of indoor air, widespread because the agency declined to test private buildings, showed astronomically higher readings.
NY Daily News: Asbestos Fallout Is Found In Co-op Near WTC Site, also by Juan Gonzalez.
Trying to figure out where to go to grad school (if at all), I emailed Robert McChesney and asked him (basically): "what's a lefty/media/journalism/philosophy type to do?"
He gave me a few names of places, and from that list, the interdisciplinary Communications Studies departments at U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (where McChesney teaches, coincidentally) and UC San Diego look really good for what I'm interested in. UMass might be a distant third. The Berkeley School of Journalism would be a long shot to say the least, but I might apply if I'm feeling overconfident.
'Problem is, those are both fairly selective PhD programs, and I have no idea if I can get myself accepted. So I'm going to apply to a few Masters programs in Canada as a contingency plan.
The reason I'm spouting all this is the off chance that there might be someone reading who would know of a program (anywhere in the US or Canada) that I might be interested in. Bijan Parsia pointed me at ILS at UNC, which I haven't looked at closely yet.
Any other ideas?
A rather convincing argument that freely shared music hurts big musicians a little, and helps non-top 40 musicians a lot. Also includes extensive details on how the record industry screws artists.
So, the question must be asked: how much long term harm would really be done if the record industry disappeared overnight?
Ian Hanomansing: Where's the Coverage of Convergence?
ICANN, the supposedly democratic body that is in charge of governing internet domain names, seems to be avoiding the most basic principles of transparency. Salon's interview with John Gilmore has details, and bit of interesting history of the domain name system.
The strings that were pulled before and during the Clinton administration's "Green Paper" and "White Paper" process, that ultimately resulted in the creation of NewCo, also known as ICANN, were pulled by SAIC. SAIC is a very interesting for-profit company with a multibillion-dollar annual revenue, most of which comes from classified contracts with the U.S. military. What's even more interesting about SAIC is that there is no external control on it: It is "employee-owned," i.e., there are no outside stockholders. If you leave the company, you have to sell your shares in it. SAIC's board of directors reads like a who's who of the military-industrial complex (former secretaries of defense, spy-agency heads, etc.). When you read about the government wasting billions on "homeland security," guess who gets it. SAIC's home page features their new brochure on "SAIC -- Securing the Homeland."
Somebody at SAIC noticed that a tiny company had gotten the temporary monopoly to run the domain name system, and was being paid a few million dollars by the government, over a few years, to do all the work. In March 1995, SAIC acquired this company (Network Solutions) for $3 million, from its founder, who had won the bid because his five- or 10-person company was "minority owned." (He later complained bitterly that they'd screwed him.)
Within the next six months, somebody inside the U.S. government suddenly decided that Network Solutions (the new SAIC subsidiary) could charge every domain name holder $50 per year, extracting hundreds of millions of dollars from Internet users. That policy was instituted despite the best efforts of the Internet community to stop it. That's one string that was pulled. Who exactly pulled it? Sounds like a job for an investigative reporter.
I helped to design and build the infrastructure for CORE to become a domain name registry. It cost us less than 25 cents per year per name to run. Even if you added the likely legal bills from NSI suing us, it amounted to less than $2 per year for each domain name. NSI is still charging $6 per year, and doing it in much higher volumes, where it should actually cost them less than 1 cent per year to do the work.
ABC News: Eight Cities in Patriot Act Revolt
The Northampton group has a web site which might help to "Make your city or town a Civil Liberties Safe Zone".
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I - VT): Congress Cannot Ignore Corporate Control of the Media.
(But I bet they will.)
In a similar vein, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is making noise about media concentration here in Canada. (But it doesn't appear that the media are covering it.)
NYRB: What else is news?. Russell Baker reviews five books about contemporary journalism.
CBC's Ideas has a truckload of very interesting interviews. It's easily one of the best radio programs that I've heard. What's even better is that they have a huge set of past episodes available for online listening.
I recently listened to the John Ralston Saul lecture, which is quite good. I subsequently started reading his Voltaire's Bastards, which I had lying around for a long time, and which is also quite interesting. Though this review begs to differ.
Happy Canada Day. My first two waking hours were spent listening to comedians make fun of Canadian Prime Ministers on the CBC. If NPR spent the Fourth of July making fun of the fat, rich white presidents of years past and present, what's left of their funding would probably disappear overnight.