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Surf-Worthy Sites:

Administration and Cost of Elections

Alaska Wilderness League

American Antitrust Institute

American Association of Retired Persons

American Federation of Government Employees

American Friends Service Committee

American Institute of Philanthropy

American Lands Alliance

American Library Asociation

American Peace

American Rivers

Americans for Computer Privacy

Americans for Democratic Action

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Amnesty International

Anthrax Vaccine Network

Arms Control Association

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Atomic Veterans of America


Behind the Label

Black Box Voting

Bread for the World

Brennan Center for Justice


Business and Human Rights Resource Center

Campaign Against Arms Trade

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Campaign Finance Institute

Campaign for America's Future

Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water

Campaign for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor

Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Foods

Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

CEE BankWatch Network

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Defense Information

Center for Democracy and Citizenship

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Food Safety

Center for International Policy

Center for Justice and Accountability

Center for National Security Studies

Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Center for Public Integrity

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Center for Voting and Democracy

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Chemical Industry Archives

Chernobyl Children's Project

Child Labor Coalition

Child Protective Services Watch

Children's Defense Fund

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

Christian Aid

Chronic IllNet

Chronology of Incorporation and Monopoly

Citizen Action Project

Citizen Works

Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens for Tax Justice

Citizens Network on Essential Services

Clary-Meuser Research Network

Clean Clothes Campaign

Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Market

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Commercial Alert

Common Cause

Common Dreams

Commonweal Institute

Community Rights Council

Concord Coalition


Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Project on Technology

Consumer Research

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Corporate Crime Reporter

Corporate Europe Observatory

Corporate Responsibility Coalition

Corporate Sunshine Working Group

Corporate Welfare Information Center

Corporate Welfare Shame Page


Corps of Engineers Watch

Council for a Livable World

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Cronus Connection: Election Fraud and Voting Machines

Death Penalty Information Center

Defense and the National Interest

Democracy 21


Depleted Uranium Education Project

Depleted Uranium Watch

DES Action


Disabled American Veterans

Discernment Ministry International



Earth Institute


EarthRights International

Economic Policy Institute

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Electronic Voting

Endgame Research

Energy Future Coalition

Environmental Investigation Agency

Environmental Working Group

Facts About Olestra

Fair Taxes for All

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting


Families of
September 11

Families USA: Voice for Health Care Consumers

Family Farm Alliance

Farm Credit Quagmire

FAS Project on Government Secrecy

FDA Review

Federation of American Scientists

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Fielding's DangerFinder

Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies

Focus on the Corporation

Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights

Fourth Freedom Forum

Free Expression Policy Project

Friends of the Earth

Genocide Documentation Centre

Genocide in the 20th Century

Global Exchange


GRACE Factory Farm Project

Gulf War Veterans

Gush Shalom

Health Care Comparisons Worldwide

Health Privacy Project

Healthy Building Network

Heifer International

History House

Human Rights Watch

iAbolish: Anti-Slavery Web Portal


Independent Judiciary

Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton

Infact: Challenging Corporate Abuse

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Instant Runoff Voting

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

Institute for Health Freedom

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Institute for Policy Studies

Institute for Public Accuracy

Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

International ANSWER

International Atomic Energy Agency

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

International Federation for Alternative Trade

International Fellowship of Reconciliation

International Institute for Environment and Development

International Labor Rights Fund

International POPs Elimination Network

Jewish Unity for a Just Peace

Keep Antibiotics Working

Landmine Survivors Network

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters

Let's Invest in Families Today

Liberals Like Christ

Local Harvest

Los Alamos Study Group

Low Level Radiation Campaign

Maquila Solidarity Network

March for Justice


Measles Initiative

Mines Advisory Group


Mothers for Peace

Moving Ideas

National Center for Children in Poverty

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

National Committee for an Effective Congress

National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare

National Farmers Union

National Freedom of Information Coalition

National Freedom Scorecard

National Gulf War Resource Center

National Institute on Money in State Politics

National Labor Committee for Worker and Human Rights

National Organization for Rare Disorders

National Parks Conservation Association

National Priorities Project

National Vaccine Information Center

National Voting Rights Institute

Native American Rights Fund


Natural Resources Defense Council

Neturei Karta

New Rules Project


No Free Lunch: Just Say No to Drug Reps

No Spray Coalition

Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development

Nuclear Control Institute

Nuclear Threat Initiative

Office of Management & Budget Watch Money in Politics

Open Society Institute

Organic Consumers Association

Our Stolen Future

Oxfam International

Participatory Democracy

Pax Christi International

People for the American Way

Pesticide Action Network North America

Physicians for Human Rights

Polaris Institute

Political Money Line

Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Project Against the Present Danger

Project on Government Oversight

Project Underground

Project Vote Smart

Protection Project


Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibity

Rainforest Action Network


Reaching Critical Will

Reclaim Democracy

Reclaim the Media


Resource Center of the Americas

Responsible Wealth

Rethinking Schools

Right-To-Know Network

Safe Tables Our Priority: Food Safety and Food-Borne Illness


Save the Children

Secretive World of Voting Machines

Send a Cow

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Shared Hope International

Small Business Survival Committee

Society for Animal Protective Legislation

Soft Money Laundromat

Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace

Soldiers for the Truth

Soy Online Service

Sprawl Busters


Stop Carnivore

Stop Disney Sweatshops

Stop Patient Abuse Now Coalition


Sweetwater Alliance

Swords to Plowshares

Talion: Voting Machines

Tax Foundation

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ten Thousand Villages

Third World Traveler

Tort Reform Reader


Transparency International

Traprock Peace Center

Truth About Credit

20/20 Vision

UN Landmines Fact Sheet

UN Population Fund

Union of Concerned Scientists

United for a Fair Economy

United for Peace & Justice

Uranium Medical Research Centre

US Campaign to Ban Landmines

US Congregational Life Survey

US Public Interest Research Group

Veterans for Common Sense

Vital Voices Global Partnership

VoteWatch: Repository for Voter Complaints

Water Aid

Water Barons Government Accountability Project

Wilderness Society

WISE Uranium Project

Womens International League for Peace & Freedom

World Resources Institute

WorldWatch Institute

Worldwide Fund for Mothers Injured in Childbirth


Yucca Mountain Facts

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Saturday, March 29, 2003

Watching CNN the Other Night

Wee hours of the morning. Aaron Brown's talking with Daryn Kagan live from Kuwait City.

Daryn's telling Aaron about how all the journalists and staff in their building keep birds (she held up a cage with two parakeets in it) in order to give them advance warning of a chemical attack. Daryn revealed that her birds were named Uday and Qusay.

Then Daryn's and Aaron's smiles quickly shriveled and they started stuttering and stammering something about "stress" and "perhaps inappropriate," and the segment quickly ended. We figured they probably realized the astroturf potential in reaction to this bit of dark humor being broadcast worldwide.

We got a chuckle out of it, anyway.

dystopia 1:04 PM - [Link]

Conflicted Defense Policy Board

According to the Center for Public Integrity, nine of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, from which Richard Perle just resigned as chairman, have ties to defense contractors that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001-2002:

According to its charter, the board was set up in 1985 to provide the Secretary of Defense “with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning major matters of defense policy.” The members are selected by and report to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy—currently Douglas Feith, a former Reagan administration official. All members are approved by the Secretary of Defense. The board’s quarterly meetings—normally held over a two-day period—are classified, and each session’s proceedings are summarized for the Defense Secretary. The board does not write reports or vote on issues. Feith, according to the charter, can call additional meetings if required. Notices of the meetings are filed at least 15 days before they are held in the Federal Register.

The board, whose list of members reads like a who’s who of former high-level government and military officials, focuses on long-term policy issues such as the strategic implications of defense policies and tactical considerations, including what types of weapons the military should develop.

Michael O’Hanlon, a military expert at The Brookings Institution, told Time magazine in November 2002 that the board “is just another [public relations] shop for Rumsfeld.” Former members said that the character of the board changed under Rumsfeld. Previously the board was more bi-partisan; under Rumsfeld, it has become more interested in policy changes. The board has no official role in policy decisions.

Nice little set-up. We noticed the board was instituted during the Reagan administration; we'd guess it was probably Cap Weinberger's bright idea. Here's a list of who all's on it:

Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee

Perle and Feith have ties to Turkey, too. The first part of this article from the Arab-American Institute is mostly concerned with Israel, but the second part is all about Perle and Feith and Turkey, which is pretty interesting due to the recent turn of events over there:

New Questions About Feith

Almost immediately upon leaving office, Perle and Feith teamed up to sell their access as foreign lobbyists. One of their earliest clients was the government of Turkey.

In 1989, Feith registered International Advisors Inc. (IAI) as a foreign agent representing the government of Turkey. In official documents, one of the stated purposes of the work of IAI was to "promote the objective of U.S.-Turkish defense industrial cooperation."

The move was heralded in the Turkish press as creating a "warmer atmosphere" between Turkey and conservative members of Congress and "the strong Jewish lobby in the United States." It was thought that these relationships would help Turkey's military ties and sales to the United States. IAI was described in both the United States and Turkish press as Perle's brainchild. The Wall Street Journal, reported in early 1989 on the creation of IAI as follows:

"Richard Perle, who among other things supervised U.S. military assistance to Turkey during his recent seven-year hitch in the Pentagon, has created a company in Washington to lobby for Turkey. The company, International Advisors Inc., is headed by three men, including two who worked under Mr. Perle at the Defense Department. According to a statement the company filed with the Justice Department, it will 'assist in the efforts for the appropriation of U.S. military and economic assistance' to Turkey."

The article also says Perle and Feith advised the Bosnian government without registering with the DOJ as required.

dystopia 12:21 PM - [Link]

Perle and China

The New York Times reports that Richard Perle advised a major American satellite maker while he was head of the Defense Policy Board, and while the satellite company was under suspicion of illegally transferring rocket technology to China. We also noticed a China connection in the Global Crossing case. What the hell is he up to?

The case against Loral, which originated in 1997 with a Pentagon finding that Loral and Hughes Electronics had improperly turned over technical information to the Chinese, was settled in January 2002. Loral, without admitting or denying that it had violated the law, agreed to pay a $20 million penalty, the largest settlement of a technology transfer case at the time.

The government accused Loral of providing Chinese officials with confidential materials from an American panel that investigated the February 1996 crash of a Loral satellite, which was built for Intelsat, the international consortium, and was launched by a Chinese Long March rocket.

The inquiry into Loral and other companies resulted in restrictions that have prevented the industry from seeking new business with China.

It remains to be seen what other Perle capers will come to light, but at least people are digging now and taking a closer look at everything he's ever done. He's gonna have to cash in a lot of IOUs to get out of this pickle.

dystopia 11:41 AM - [Link]

Halliburton Out of the Running

But only as a main contractor. They'll probably still be in there as a subcontractor. Newsweek takes a thorough look at the situation:

Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman, referred all questions about the contract to USAID. But a UN official who follows the issue told NEWSWEEK that the Iraq reconstruction contract probably wasn’t worth the bad publicity for Halliburton, which depends on maintaining a favorable image both in Washington and the Arab world (where it gets much of its oil-related business, and where the war is increasingly unpopular). “This kind of political controversy was not in their corporate interests,” he said...

The controversy over the awarding of the first postwar contracts only to US companies is part of a larger ongoing issue of whether Iraq’s transformation will be more U.S.-led or multilateral. On Thursday, Bush and his No. 1 ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, dickered at Camp David over how central a role the United Nations would play in postwar Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has taken the lead on postwar as well as wartime issues, is pushing a plan that relies on speed, efficiency and US “unity of command” in contrast to United Nations-led nation-building efforts in places like Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. Blair, in part because he is under terrific political pressure at home to take a multilateral approach, has effectively become the spokesman for UN interests in Washington.

dystopia 11:15 AM - [Link]

Alligator Alert!

The Louisiana State Department of Fish and Wildlife is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen, and golfers to take extra precautions and keep alert for alligators.

They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as "little bells" on their clothing to alert, but not startle the alligators, unexpectedly. They also advise the carrying of "pepper spray" in case of an encounter with an alligator.

It's also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of alligator activity and be able to recognize the difference between young alligator and adult alligator droppings.

Young alligator droppings are small, contain fish bones and possibly bird feathers.

Adult alligators droppings have little bells in them and smell like pepper.

From Comedy Central's Joke of the Day

dystopia 11:00 AM - [Link]

Down in the Boondocks

Looks like Aaron McGruder is as emotionally drained as we are at this point:

The Boondocks

We think know how he feels. We had to knock off early yesterday -- spent some downtime on the sofa reading a good book. It helped, a little.

dystopia 10:49 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: March 29

1943: Rationing of meat, butter and cheese began during World War II.

1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. They were executed in 1953.

1971: Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering at least 22 Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre. He spent three years under house arrest.

1973: The last US troops left South Vietnam, ending America's direct military involvement in the Vietnam War. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam.

1974: Eight Ohio National Guardsmen were indicted on charges stemming from the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University. The guardsmen were later acquitted.

1979: The Committee on Assassinations Report issued by U.S. House of Representatives stated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy.

1988: Congress discontinues aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; two top Justice Department officials resign from the Meese Justice Department in disgust over Meese’s involvement in influence peddling in the WedTech oil pipeline case.

1995: The House of Representatives rejected a constitutional amendment that would have limited terms to 12 years in the U.S. House and Senate.

1999: The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 10,000 for the first time, at 10,006.78.

2001: Probably the dumbest of the Felonious Five, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, tells a House subcommittee that the Bush v. Gore case "was not the most difficult decision that the Court has made, for many of us."

dystopia 10:21 AM - [Link]

Friday, March 28, 2003

Congress Gives Up On Faith-Based Push

We've been pretty nervous about the increasing commingling of religion and politics over the past twenty years or so. From Newsday:

Backers argued that people looking for social services should be able to choose religious providers if they want to. Opponents worried about discrimination against people based on religion and feared the wall between church and state was crumbling.

A divided House approved Bush-backed legislation opening a dozen new social programs to religious groups. It allowed these groups to hire or fire based on their religion, and allowed them to skirt state anti-discrimination laws.

The bill was strongly opposed by civil rights groups and others, and when it got to the Senate, sponsors Santorum and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn, scaled it back.

Their bill initially offered tax breaks and made it clear that religious groups may not be excluded from government contracts for reasons such as having a religious name or displaying religious symbols.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a good resource for researching these issues -- you can google it and find lots more.

We could post a long list of theocracies gone wrong, along with a blistering discourse on the fallibity and weakness of man and the history of religious oppression, and all the other reasons we're against mixing religion with politics, but we're just not in the mood to get into it today. We will simply state that, as Christians, we prefer to support the church of our own choosing, rather than supporting with our tax dollars a church chosen by governmental decree.

A side note -- found an interesting history of the 1601 Elizabethan Poor Law:

Before the Reformation, it was considered to be a religious duty for all Christians to undertake the seven corporal works of mercy. These were deeds aimed at relieving bodily distress: in accordance with the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 25 vv. 32-46) people were to:

feed the hungry

give drink to the thirsty

welcome the stranger

clothe the naked

visit the sick

visit the prisoner

bury the dead

After the Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England, many of the old values and moral expectations disappeared so it became necessary to regulate the relief of poverty by law.

Since these values and moral expectations were heavily imprinted on us from birth (full disclosure: Presbyterian) we are puzzled about this, though we do not dispute it. How did these responsibilities get lost during the Reformation shuffle?

dystopia 12:43 PM - [Link]

Dear Oppressed People

New flash cartoon from Mark Fiore makes an excellent point about "promises":

Congratulations on Your Liberation!

Check out more of his work here.

dystopia 11:59 AM - [Link]

It Will Be a Cakewalk

Richard Perle, in a July 11, 2002 PBS interview:

Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder.

Ken Adelman, former UN ambassador, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, February 13, 2002:

I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps.

Dick Cheney on Meet the Press, March 16, 2003:

The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces and are likely to step aside.

Christopher Hitchens, debating on January 28, 2003:

This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention. The president will give an order. will be rapid, accurate and dazzling ... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on.

We say, be careful what you wish for.

There's more in the article at, if you have a subscription.

dystopia 11:21 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: March 28

1834: The Senate voted to censure President Andrew Jackson for abusing his authority and meddling with the finances of the Second Bank of the US. An ardent supporter of states' rights, Jackson transferred chunks of the money from the national bank to state institutions, claiming that his actions were in response to the bank's putatively partisan position during the 1832 elections.

1941: Glenn Seaborg and his co-workers showed that plutonium-239 undergoes slow-neutron fission. Production of a plutonium bomb subsequently became a goal of the Manhattan Project.

1946: The State Department releases the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, outlining a plan for international control of atomic energy. The report represented an attempt by the US to maintain its superiority in the field of atomic weapons while also trying to avoid a costly and dangerous arms race with the Soviet Union.

1965: US Senators Frank Church & George McGovern come out against the Vietnam War.

1979: The worst accident in the history of the US nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close. Cooling water, contaminated with radiation, drained from the open valve into adjoining buildings, and the core began to dangerously overheat.

dystopia 10:47 AM - [Link]

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Richard Perle Resigns

The Prince of Darkness is no longer head of the Defense Policy Board. Not that it makes much difference -- he'll still be in the loop.

What we hope is that his resignation will make people pay closer attention to the rash of anti-PNAC and anti-Perle publicity lately, like this editorial from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Mr. Perle's arrangement with Global Crossing calls for him to get $125,000 whether or not Global Crossing obtains the concession it seeks from the Department of Defense. But if he gets the concession, he receives another $600,000. Mr. Perle says he is "counseling" Global Crossing.

The bottom line is that neither Mr. Perle's politics nor Global Crossing's nor Trireme's nor Autonomy's character or nature is the question in point. It is the conflict of interest that is the problem. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who appointed Mr. Perle in 2001, should tell him to withdraw from the Global Crossing contract or resign from the Defense post, or should fire him, now.


dystopia 5:08 PM - [Link]

Study Finds Indians Owed $60.94

From the LA Times -- your tax dollars at work:

Gingold said the report could not be trusted, calling it an exercise in addition based on documents supplied by the Interior Department. The department, he said, has mismanaged the trust fund. Many trust fund documents have been destroyed, moved or otherwise mishandled through the years, he said.

Some members of Congress agreed.

"An audit was conducted on accounts whose records were probably incomplete or tampered with over the years," said Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee. "No effort was made to verify the accuracy of those records. And, lo and behold, no problems are found.

"And to top it off," Rahall said, the audit was only conducted on the accounts of four of the some 300,000 Indians involved."

We are very, very angry about this. Surreal doesn't even begin to describe it. Please refer to our earlier post on this subject.

dystopia 4:29 PM - [Link]

Russia Launches ICBM

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

"This has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with Iraq," an officer at the Russian Strategic Missile Forces press service told AFP by telephone. "This has been in the planning for months," the official said.

Russia had fought bitterly against strikes on Iraq, with President Vladimir Putin taking a tough stance against the war in recent days. Analysts have interpreted Mr Putin's comments to mean that there has been a rupture in Moscow's relations with Washington sparked by the war.

When contacted by AFP earlier, a Russian military space agency official had refused to answer whether the test had been planned before or after the US-British military attack on Iraq.

Just letting us know they still work...

dystopia 4:20 PM - [Link]

Lasik Flap

The FTC went after a couple of laser eye surgery firms on false advertising charges, and the companies involved have settled without admitting they broke any laws.

Being rather myopic ourselves, we had followed the development of laser eye correction with some interest for many years -- just waiting for them to get all the bugs worked out. We were quite angry, therefore, when we found Surgical Eyes early last year and learned that there was a far greater range of possible side effects and a higher possibility of permanent damage than we had been led to believe.

We'll keep our specs.

dystopia 4:08 PM - [Link]

Saddam Received Key to Detroit

From ABC News:

Saddam Hussein donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Detroit church and received a key to the city more than two decades ago, soon after he became president of Iraq.

The events contrast sharply with the attack Saddam's regime is now facing from a U.S.-led coalition, reflecting his changed relationship with the United States since Washington helped Saddam covertly in his 1980-88 war with Iran.

Saddam's bond with Detroit started in 1979, when the Rev. Jacob Yasso of Chaldean Sacred Heart congratulated Saddam on his presidency. In return, Yasso said, his church received $250,000.

"He was very kind person, very generous, very cooperative with the West. Lately, what's happened, I don't know," Yasso, 70, said Wednesday. "Money and power changed the person."

Better change the locks.

dystopia 3:57 PM - [Link]

But It's a Great Time to Buy Stock!

Consumer confidence has reached its lowest level in almost ten years. Plus, new home sales plunge and factory orders are the weakest in three months. The economy grew a puny 1.4 percent in the 4th quarter of 2002, home foreclosures hit a record high in the same quarter, and the budget deficit could also be about to hit a historic high.

What a train wreck!

dystopia 3:47 PM - [Link]

A Timely Reminder

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

dystopia 3:05 PM - [Link]

Senate Panel OKs Owen Nomination

Now it goes to the Senate floor. According to the Charlotte Observer, today's the 51st day of filibuster on Estrada's nomination:

Democrats contend Owen, nominated by President Bush, is an anti-abortion and pro-business judicial activist whose opinions and rulings have been overly influenced by her personal beliefs. Owen said that she would be a fair and impartial judge if confirmed by the Senate for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans...

"It continues to be clear that Justice Owen is one of the most frequent dissenters on her court in Texas in cases involving workers, consumers, and victims of discrimination," Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a written statement.

Where do they find these people? Is there a special rock somewhere they grow under?

dystopia 2:54 PM - [Link]

What's Going On in Colombia?

According to the Boston Globe, three more Americans are dead:

The US government says the three Americans kidnapped last month were on an antidrug mission searching for coca crops, the raw material for cocaine. US officials said the plane had engine failure. Leaders of the Revolutionary Armed of Colombia claimed responsibility for the kidnapings and said it had downed the aircraft with gunfire. A fourth American and a Colombian soldier who were aboard that plane Feb. 13 were fatally shot near the crash site, apparently by the rebels.

The guerrilla group, which is included on the US State Department list of international terrorist organizations, has said it will only release the American hostages in exchange for rebels held in Colombian jails. The Americans were employed by Department of Defense contractor California Microwave Systems, one of several private military and intelligence companies working for the US government in Colombia.

Well, they might have been hunting for coca crops, or they might have been doing something else:

As U.S. Special Forces arrived in early January to train Colombian troops in the protection of oil pipelines, violence by both leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries soared. The first few days of 2003 were violent, with guerrillas branching out into a new form of attack – suicide car bombs – while paramilitaries continued their systematic executions. True to the usual one-sided coverage of the North American press, however, guerrilla-sponsored bombings have made headlines while dozens of paramilitary murders have gone virtually unnoticed. Additionally, the delivery of military aid has been reported on without accompanying contextual analysis.

More on our "new project":

Occidental's Cozy Relationship with Colombian Military Turns Fatal
New Role for US in Colombia: Protecting a Vital Oil Pipeline

What's with all the defense contractors running around down there, anyway? Could it be because private US companies paid by the state department and staffed by former US special forces and pilots, don't face the same restrictions as the US military?:

US Military Contractors Involved in Colombian Gun Battle
US Pair's Role in Bombing Shown

And the military-industrial complex continues to rake in the bucks:

Military Contractors' Stake in Colombia
Blank Check from Washington for Colombia's Dirty War

So what are we doing in Colombia? Fighting a drug war? Are you sure?

dystopia 1:51 PM - [Link]

September 11 Commission Starved for Funds

Time Magazine reports on the most recent attempts to stymie the investigation:

The latest effort to curtail funding has angered victims of the attacks. Stephen Push, a leader of the 9/11 victims' families, who are closely monitoring the commission, said the White House decision was another in a long line of efforts to water down or shrink the panel's role. "I think the fact that they didn't include it—didn't warn Gov. Kean that they weren't going to include it, didn't return my phone call—suggests to me that they see this as a convenient way for allowing the commission to fail," said Push. "They've never wanted the commission and I feel the White House has always been looking for a way to kill it without having their finger on the murder weapon." Push said the White House has ignored his phone calls and emails for weeks.

Other commission members were equally disheartened. Commission member Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, said the probe is off to a disturbingly slow start and that failure to quickly provide the funding increase wouldn't help. "The White House should be strongly supporting that effort, given President Bush's compelling statement when he signed this bill into law," said Roemer, who last year served on the House-Senate joint inquiry on 9/11 that led to the creation of the commission. Roemer has gone so far as to draw comparisons with the $50 million provided to investigate the recent Columbia tragedy in which seven people died. "If we're looking at well over $11 million for that, we certainly should be looking for at least the same vicinity of money for how 3,000 people died and how to strengthen our homeland security," he said.

dystopia 1:01 PM - [Link]

BuzzFlash Hits Record Number

BuzzFlash has been an invaluable resource for the staff of The Daily Dystopian for some time. We know we can always rely on them to point us toward some important bit of info we missed.

We're happy to report that BuzzFlash reached a record number on Monday of 114,000 visitors in one day! We're thrilled with the news because it means that more and more people are relying less on the mainstream media to get the information they need. That's always good news.

Thanks and congrats, BuzzFlash!

dystopia 12:38 PM - [Link]

Bordering on Insanity

Two of the Marines fighting in Iraq, Jose Gutierrez and Jose Garibay, weren't native-born Americans -- they were immigrants from south of the border. Nonetheless, they chose to commit themselves to the protection our country, and they died in service of it. We owe them both our respect and gratitude.

Susan Estrich compares their commitment and sacrifices with those of some of our home-grown "patriots":

Maybe someone will tell Chris Simcox and all the other pretend soldiers patrolling our border with Mexico about Jose Gutierrez, the real soldier who died this week fighting for our country.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, 22, was the second U.S. soldier killed in action in Iraq. Simcox and his Civil Homeland Defense Corps would consider him an enemy. I'd call him an American, and a patriot.

Gutierrez came to this country six years ago from Guatemala, speaking not a word of English. He took some 14 trains to get here, risking his life. He was arrested once as an illegal immigrant. He was eventually taken in by an older couple. He learned English and graduated from high school. He wanted to be an architect, but put off going to college. He chose to give something back to the country that had given him everything. He joined the Marines.

dystopia 12:20 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: March 27

1866: President Andrew Johnson vetoed a civil rights bill which later became the 14th Amendment.

1973: The White House announces that, at the request of Cambodian President Lon Nol, the bombing of Cambodia will continue until communist forces cease military operations and agree to a cease-fire.

1984: Faced with a cut-off of aid for an increasingly terroristic Nicaraguan Contra force by Congress, Reagan National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane begins making plans with CIA Director William Casey to enlist third countries to funnel the aid covertly.

1990: The US government begins the operation of TV Marti, which broadcast television programs into communist Cuba. The project marked yet another failed attempt to undermine the Castro regime.

2001: California regulators approved electricity rate hikes of up to 46 percent.

dystopia 10:36 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Iraqi Christians

Did you know that about a million Iraqi citizens are Christians? We wonder how they're doing now that the war has started.

Iraqi Christians Fear Invasion Backlash:

With many involved in trade, Iraq's Christians are known for being trustworthy, Ibrahim says. Ibrahim and other Christians interviewed during two weeks in the capital say they believe a U.S.-led war would be seen by many Iraqis as a battle between the Christian and Muslim worlds. "People will think we are with the Americans," he says. Iraqi officials say there is ethnic harmony in the country. Ibrahim believes many Christians hesitate to mention tensions publicly, for fear of conflicting with official thinking on religion.

In fact, Christians in this country long known for its Western links and secular culture already have sensed a shift toward Islam. "Right now, Christians are afraid of the future, of what will happen. Most of the Christians are preparing to leave," Ibrahim says. Hundreds of thousands already have. From the moment the 1991 Gulf War ended, Christians from one of the world's most ancient communities began a stampede to the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia.

About 1 million of Iraq's 24 million people are Christian. An estimated 500,000 Christians live in central and southern Iraq. That's 50% fewer than the number that lived in that area a decade ago. About 500,000 live in northern Iraq's three provinces, which comprise a semi-autonomous territory governed by two Kurdish parties. The area, which is under U.N. protection, is patrolled by British and U.S. jets. Many of the Christians are Assyrian Catholics, known as Chaldeans here, similar to those in Syria and Lebanon. Their liturgy is in Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken.

More links:

Terror Fallout Hurts Iraqi Christians
Keeping Their Heads Down
Iraqi Christians Also Suffer from the Sanctions

dystopia 4:10 PM - [Link]

What the Experts Are Saying

A stunning report from the front, via Daily Kos:

This is Billmon, interrupting Kos's regularly scheduled programming to bring you this special bulletin.

A reporter friend of mine just slipped me something interesting. It's a background analysis of the situation facing the coalition forces in front of Baghdad, written by a fairly well known military officer and commentator who under the circumstances is going to have to remain unidentified, other than to say that he is fairly well known military officer and commentator. I was told I could post this as long as I carefully scrubbed out all personal references, which I think (hope) I've done.

This memo doesn't spill any secrets, but it is a thoughtful analysis based on Officer X's conversations with some of his colleagues -- all of whom are harshly critical of the war plan and Rumsfeld's meddling with it. I've added descriptions of some of the acronyms, and cleaned up the spelling a bit. Otherwise it is verbatim...

Go. Read it. Now.

dystopia 3:23 PM - [Link]

Update on the Saudi Oil Supply

We did some poking around and learned a little bit.

Basically, most of the oil deposits around the world are now believed to have been detected with modern technology, so there's little speculation that some vast unknown field still lurks somewhere. Saudi Arabia faces increasing market competition from South American, West African and Caspian Sea producers, and is no longer the 800-pound gorilla it once was.

And, oh, yes, it will all run out eventually. Some say worldwide supply will peak during the current decade, and estimate total depletion sometime between 2030 and 2050.

Here's some of the info we found; decide for yourself what you think:

Forecast of Oil and Gas Supply to 2050 (PDF file)
How Important Is Saudi Oil?
A World with Two Swing Oil Producers?
Oil Experts Draw Fire for Warning
World Energy Production, Population Growth, and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge

BTW, Marner was absolutely right about sky-high unemployment in Saudi. They're in bad shape over there.

dystopia 2:05 PM - [Link]

China Readies for Future US Fight

Of more concern to the LGNS is the perceived expansion of American unilateralism if not neo-imperialism. As People's Daily commentator Huang Peizhao pointed out last Saturday, U.S. moves in the Middle East "have served the goal of seeking world-wide domination."

State Council think-tank member Tong Gang saw the conflict as the first salvo in Washington's bid to "build a new world order under U.S. domination."

Chinese strategists think particularly if the U.S. can score a relatively quick victory over Baghdad, it will soon turn to Asia -- and begin efforts to "tame" China.

Makes us kinda nervous. We'd heard ominous warnings before Sept 11 from some quarters that China is actively planning to attack the US within the near future, but we paid little heed. It sounded pretty silly at the time, but with all the improbable events we've witnessed since then, who can say what's possible anymore?

If we ever do go to war with China, they'll be using American technology against us:

The Boeing Company and China
2 US Aerospace Firms Fined in China Rocket Case
Firms Accused of Giving Space Technology to China
Gates Reveals Windows Code to China

Just out of curiosity, we looked up the population stats of China and the US, and got a fresh jolt of perspective.

We really oughtta quit burning our diplomacy bridges.

dystopia 1:23 PM - [Link]

Turkey and the Kurds

We noted with some horror that Turkey wants to send troops into northen Iraq:

Turkey fears that Iraqi Kurds in the semiautonomous north will declare independence in the aftermath of the Iraq war — and encourage Turkey's own Kurds to do the same.

Turkey also wants to make sure Iraqi Kurds do not take control of oil fields in Iraq's Mosul and Kirkuk provinces, and wants Turkish soldiers at the border to prevent an influx of Iraqi refugees.

Bad idea. Very bad idea. Here's Thomas Oliphant in the Boston Globe:

At issue is the fate of the Kurds, one of history's most ruthlessly suppressed peoples. For centuries their aspirations for their own state have been brutally put down with massive loss of life -- in recent times not just by Iraq but by Turkey and Iran as well. Very belatedly, after in effect abandoning the Kurds immediately following the first Gulf War, the establishment of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq made possible a dozen years of successful Kurdish autonomy, free of the genocidal policies of Baghdad. To Ankara's credit, US and allied planes that have enforced this protective policy take off and land from Turkish bases.

More recently, however, Turkey has turned menacing and irresponsible as a new, Islamist-dominated government prepares to take over. The contrast between the Kurds and the Turks has been instructive. In the run-up to war, the Kurds early on committed themselves to autonomy within a post-Saddam Iraqi federation and placed their approximately 60,000 fighters clearly under US command. They have operated heroically to assist special forces operations against Iraq as well as against Ansar, a terrorist Taliban-like organization operating near the border with Iran that the Bush administration cites as the link inside Iraq with Al Qaeda...

[Turkey's] traditional claims of concern about refugees streaming toward its border in fear of Saddam are patently bogus now; the real fear is of the impact of successful Kurdish autonomy on the Kurds in Turkey it continues to oppress.

The Kurds speak for themselves on issues they face:
Give Us Back Our Name!
aka Kurdistan

dystopia 12:51 PM - [Link]

Bush's Tax Cut Halved

Despite a Republican majority in the Senate. Well, by sugar! That's news!

The setback for Bush came a day before the Senate planned to vote final passage on a $2.2 trillion budget blueprint for next year.

That outline originally provided for $726 billion in tax reductions through 2013 -- the full figure requested by Bush. Last week, $100 billion was taken out of it to pay for the costs of war with Iraq, and earlier Tuesday another $13 billion had been diverted to finance enhanced veterans' benefits.

The budget document maps Congress' overall tax and spending plans, which are put into effect by other bills later in the year.

An effort by Republicans to try restoring the tax cut's size was possible before the Senate completed its budget.

So the possibility of a bigger cut's not completely dead in the water just yet.

Currently reading David Stockman's The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed (Harper & Row, 1987). We're no fans of Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1981 to 1985. He freely admits his own incredibly stupid flubs and gross miscalculations that doomed from the beginning his supply-sider plan for economic revolution. Still, he seems to insist that the staggering $1 trillion deficit this country suffered under Reagan was entirely the result of political backbiting in Congress. We spread the blame a little more generously.

Anyway, it's a fascinating read and we're culling snips for a report we'll post later. Many of the same people involved, the same issues being argued, the same fog permeating the presidential brain, then and now. That massive tax cut was an unmitigated disaster, so it's hard to have much faith this one will turn out any better.

dystopia 11:59 AM - [Link]

Nurse Dies 5 Days After Smallpox Vaccination

The number of adverse reactions so far in the vaccination program is small, but growing. It's beginning to look like people with heart conditions should not take the vaccine:

Three of the seven people under investigation suffered heart attacks, including the Maryland woman who died, another woman who is now on life support and a third woman who was hospitalized and released. All three were health care or public health workers in their 50s.

Two other people developed angina, or chest pain.

All five of these patients had risk factors for heart disease before the vaccination, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension or use of tobacco, Gerberding said.

The other two patients under investigation suffered from heart inflammation.

The civilian program has so far vaccinated less than 25,000 people; the mandatory military program has vaccinated more than 100,000 troops since December.

dystopia 11:22 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History

1966: Over 50,000 march in Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade in New York City.

1967: Ten thousand protest in NYC Central Park Love-In.

1969: John & Yoko Ono-Lennon start seven-day bed-in against the Vietnam War.

1979: The Camp David peace treaty is signed in an attempt to end hostilities between Israel and Egypt.

1986: Oliver North writes a memo to Robert McFarlane on his efforts to circumvent US and foreign law in the shipment of missiles to the Contras.

dystopia 10:19 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

DOE Flea Market

We see in the LA Times that we've missed another good sale:

The Energy Department sold 23 trucks for 17 cents each, a $9,000 copier for a nickel and a drilling rig for $50,000, just a few examples of hundreds of deals that squandered government resources, federal investigators have found...

The new report, using low-key language typical of government audits, said equipment sales at the Nevada Test Site were "not in the best interest of the taxpayers." The sales were all made to a single community organization, the NTS Development Corp. of Las Vegas.

The 23 trucks were in good condition and worth a total of $448,000, auditors found. The copying machine was less than a year old.

In other cases, the test site sold equipment that was not surplus and later had to be replaced at full cost. That included laboratory equipment that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had requested but never received. Livermore subsequently had to buy new equipment for $2.5 million.

Oh, man! We coulda used that copier!

dystopia 4:27 PM - [Link]

Saudis Running Out of Oil?

Eugene Marner made some startling statements in yesterday's Online Journal:

First some background: U.S. oil production peaked in 1970; North Sea production peaked in 2000; every major oil province in the world is in irreversible decline, except for the Middle East. The Middle East countries have been the "swing producers." That is, whenever more oil has been needed to meet world demand, the Saudis could be relied upon to pump a little more because they were assumed to have the great infinite reservoir of oil. Now, if we stop to think clearly about that rather amusing notion for a moment, we will realize that, on a finite planet, there are only limited amounts of everything. So there must be an end to the oil sometime.

The Saudi announcement tells us that "sometime" is now; that they will no longer be able to be our trusty "swing producer." Saudi Arabia has 37 percent unemployment, millions of angry, idle young men and is desperately in need of money. So there is no chance that they would not pump as much as they could, especially at today's high prices. What we learn from this is that Saudi Arabia has now reached the peak of its oil production. It's not going to run out immediately. But extraction will decline inexorably from now on until it's all gone in 30 or 40 years. Of course, there is still Iraqi oil, but Iraqi reserves—once we've got our hands on them—will postpone the world peak by only months or a very few years. We have all grown up on the exuberant up slope of the world's oil production curve. We shall live the remainder of our lives on the down slope.

We seem to recall the end of the oil supply being a frequent topic of speculation in the 1970s, but haven't heard much about it since. Of course, we know the world supply cannot be infinite, but how close to the end are we, for real?

We're intrigued. We'll have to go study on it.

dystopia 4:06 PM - [Link]

McLibel Revisited

First heard about this 1990 McDonald's libel suit against two British activists when we came across an update in the Observer just the other day:

McDonald's predicted the trial would last three to four weeks; they must have expected to be able to walk all over us, knowing that we were unrepresented and had no experience of the libel courts. In fact, it lasted 313 days, becoming the longest trial in English legal history. Representing ourselves was exhausting and stressful, but support from people writing in kept our spirits up, as did news of protests around the world.

The verdict was devastating for McDonald's. The judge ruled that they exploit children with their advertising strategy; deceptively promote their food as nutritious; pay low wages and are responsible for cruelty to animals. I think McDonald's bitterly regret taking us on. They spent an estimated 10m on the case only for all their dirty linen to be aired in public. Because the judge ruled against us on some points, however, we were ordered to pay damages to McDonald's. We appealed and the damages were reduced from 60,000 to 40,000. We've never paid them a penny though!

Way to go! We liked the McSpotlight website, too -- packed with interesting reading.

dystopia 3:55 PM - [Link]

Money and Happiness

From the Guardian, by Polly Toynbee:

Lord (Richard) Layard, the LSE's director of the centre for economic performance, has this week delivered three startling lectures which question the supremacy of economics. It doesn't work. Economies grow, GDP swells, but once above abject poverty, it makes no difference to citizens' well-being. What is all this extra money for if it is now proved beyond doubt not to deliver greater happiness, nationally or individually? Happiness has not risen in western nations in the last 50 years, despite massive increases in wealth.

This sounds like the stuff of vicars, Greens and prophets of doom with sandwich boards in Oxford Street. Yes, we've considered the lilies of the field while getting on down to Dixons, humming "money can't buy me love" all the way to the bank. Retail therapy feels good. So most of serious politics, and thus our national life, revolves around cash, its getting and spending...

In pursuit of money, working ever harder, we are, says Layard, on a "hedonic treadmill" - a phrase that resonates with most of us. Right across Europe people report more stress, harder work, greater fear of insecurity, chasing elusive gains. The seven key factors now scientifically established to affect happiness most are: mental health, satisfying and secure work, a secure and loving private life, a safe community, freedom and moral values.

An American view on the same subject from

Getting More, Spending More, Working a Lot More:

Americans work more hours per year than the workers of virtually every other industrialized nation -- more than the Japanese -- and we're working longer hours now than we did 50 years ago, despite a doubling in productivity.

The Labor Department reports that the productivity of American workers rose 5.1 percent over the past year, the highest rate in a decade and a half.

Amazingly, American workers now produce our 1948 standard of living by July. We could take August through December off. But instead of using some of that productivity for leisure, in 2001 we shuffle off to work, bleary-eyed, lunchbox in hand, to work something that is beginning to resemble a six-day workweek.

And we call it progress.

dystopia 2:42 PM - [Link]

Third US Diplomat Resigns Over Bush Policy

Mary Ann Wright’s Letter of Resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell:

I disagree with the Administration’s policies on Iraq...

I disagree with the Administration’s lack of effort in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...

I disagree with the Administration’s lack of policy on North Korea...

I disagree with the Administration’s policies on Unnecessary Curtailment of Rights in America...

I have served my country for almost thirty years in the some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world. I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration and cannot defend or implement them. It is with heavy heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign due to the Administration’s policies...

It appears that people ruled by conscience are simply not compatible with this administration.

dystopia 2:20 PM - [Link]

Injudicious: Deborah Cook

We've heard plenty about Estrada, but not about this nominee to the US Court of Appeals. She sounds amoral and scary as hell:

In case after case, Justice Cook has found ways to protect corporations pestered by sick or fired workers. When a bank argued that a jury's sex-discrimination verdict should be thrown out because the judge improperly "steered" the jurors to their result, Justice Cook was the only member of the Ohio Supreme Court to buy it. When a female Dairy Mart employee sued for psychological injuries after she was robbed while working alone, Justice Cook argued, in dissent, that the woman had no claim — a position a majority of the court called "absurd."

At Judge Cook's confirmation hearing, even the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Orrin Hatch, a strong supporter, felt a need to ask her why she dissents so often. It is not, "as has been implied," she said, "a matter of my particular bent or preference for any side of a case." She dissents, she said, when she disagrees about the law.

There were senators who were prepared to explore the matter further. But Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, in an extraordinary move, had scheduled a single confirmation hearing for Justice Cook, Mr. Sutton and a third nominee. Democratic senators devoted most of their question time to Mr. Sutton. Justice Cook was all but ignored. When Senator Charles Schumer asked for her to return for more questions, Senator Hatch refused, saying it would not be fair to Justice Cook.

Alliance for Justice profiles Cook on their Independent Judiciary page:

According to the National Journal, an Ohio trial attorney who has appeared before her stated that, “If I had to rank Cook, she is by far the most conservative justice in her views about the role of courts on constitutional issues.” Richard Mason, director of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers said, “She too often chooses to side with corporate interests.” Justice Cook is also perceived by many as out of the mainstream on the court; she has authored well over 300 dissents, more than any other Justice in the eight years she has been on the court, and a large majority are dissents against injured workers, consumers, and other plaintiffs and in favor of big business interests.

dystopia 2:05 PM - [Link]

Keeping the Whole Pie

Clare Short is a member of British Parliament and secretary of state for international development. As the official representative of our closest ally, she came over last week to work out the division of post-war Iraq contracts and was brusquely sent home empty-handed:

President George Bush promised Tony Blair at the Azores summit that the UN would have a key role after the war ends. But the Pentagon believes this should be confined to humanitarian assistance and is pressing ahead with its own plans, which would put US companies in charge of the country's schools and hospitals.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the US agency for international development has called for American companies to bid for more than $1bn (640m) worth of reconstruction contracts, including running health and education services.

Without a UN resolution, Whitehall lawyers say that the US and UK occupying forces would have no legal right to run the country's institutions. "There is no legal mandate for that sort of activity," said one Whitehall official. "It's all quite bizarre."

While state department officials are believed to be sympathetic to the British vision, the Pentagon is determined to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by branding the postwar reconstruction effort with an American flag.

"Winning hearts and minds" and "branding" are PR terms that might sound good during a PowerPoint presentation (to some people), but for real world Iraq they sound pretty stupid.

dystopia 12:21 PM - [Link]

General Concern

FYI: If you ain't in defense these days, you ain't nobody.

General, Ex-Defense Contractor, to Rebuild Iraq

The retired general tapped by the Bush administration to oversee rebuilding of post-war Iraq was, until just a few weeks ago, an executive at a leading defense contractor working on missile systems that would be used to bomb Baghdad.

Although a Pentagon official said Jay Garner's new role as head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance does not constitute a conflict of interest, ethics experts say the appointment raises troubling questions.

Why, they ask, would the White House pick a man from a company directly concerned with attacking Iraq to spearhead the country's aid and restoration?

A puff piece on the new governor of Iraq in Fortune Magazine:

Garner's civilian status is a big plus. After President Bush's heavy-handed walk-up to war, the last thing the U.S. needs is a modern-day General MacArthur rolling into Baghdad. And it will take someone with serious business know-how to "introduce a capitalist system where there's been central-control socialism since the 1960s," says Ariel Cohen, a foreign-policy expert at the Heritage Foundation. Garner has that too. He directed several major Defense Department programs, including Star Wars, a Rumsfeld favorite.

dystopia 11:41 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History

1894: Coxey's "Army" of the unemployed marches from Ohio to Washington, DC, demanding economic reform.

1911: Triangle shirtwaist fire kills 146 workers locked inside a factory in New York City, stirring public outrage and spurring workplace safety reform.

1915: First submarine disaster; US F-4 sinks off Hawaii, 21 lives lost.

1965: Viola Gregg Liuzo, a housewife and mother from Detroit, drove alone to Alabama to help with the Selma march after seeing televised reports of the attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She was driving marchers back to Selma from Montgomery when she was shot and killed by a Klansmen in a passing car.

1972: 30,000 in Children's March for Survival, Washington, DC, protesting welfare cuts.

1981: Vice President Bush is named the leader of the crisis management team of the National Security Counsel, but later claims not to know what the they did.

1982: The Nicaraguan government declares a state of emergency as US-backed terrorists destroy infrastructure throughout the country. The government petitions the United Nations to help stop what it calls a US invasion of the country.

1985: Ed "Hasn’t Been Indicted Yet" Meese sworn in as Attorney General.

dystopia 10:50 AM - [Link]

Monday, March 24, 2003

Meet the Dragon Slayers

Our posts have been awfully negative lately, so we flipped through the files to find something happier to talk about, and came up with this amazing group of young women we first heard about last summer:

A team of seven high school girls, the angels of Aniak provide the only round-the-clock emergency medical care available to 3,000 people in 14 villages across an area the size of Maryland. At an age when many of their peers are obsessing over glitter eye shadow, these volunteer EMTs -- each of whom has 200 hours of medical and fire-safety training under her belt -- respond to 450 calls a year. The youngest Dragon Slayer, 14-year-old Erinn Marteney, pulled a toddler from a burning home the day after Christmas. Mariah Brown, 17 (Pete's daughter), was once bitten by a drunken man as she dressed his wounds. Team members have revived fellow teens who tried to kill themselves and grandmothers in cardiac arrest. They have rescued a villager who fell through ice, snowmobilers injured in collisions and survivors of small-plane crashes. "It really changes how you are as a person," says Erica Kameroff, 16.

Getting to the victims -- most of whom, like the Dragon Slayers, are Yupik Eskimos and Athabascan Indians -- is a challenge in itself: No roads connect Aniak, 350 miles west of Anchorage and surrounded by rivers, to the rest of Alaska. Through early May the team uses frozen waterways as thoroughfares, traveling in snowmobiles and four-wheel-drive vehicles. In warmer months, when the ice thaws, they often rely on boats...

The following year, after Jeremiah's tangle with the four-wheeler, Brown began teaching emergency trauma training classes to adults. Local kids, including Jeremiah, clamored for admission as well. Eventually there were too many calls for the adults, who had job and family commitments, to make a steady EMT team. After five years of service the boys too bowed out, preferring impromptu hunting or snowboarding trips to the rigors of rescue work. "This is Alaska," says Kris Vanderpool, 16. "Guys have better things to do than go to meetings." Adds Jeremiah: "They don't like to be told what to do by girls." And so the Dragon Slayers -- a nickname for firefighters that Jeremiah found in a magazine -- became an all-girl brigade.

Just awesome. Saaaaaaa-lute!

dystopia 6:03 PM - [Link]

Afghan War Vet Kills Himself in Jail

This has been such a horrible tragedy for so many families:

An Army Special Forces soldier charged with killing his wife after returning from Afghanistan nine months ago hanged himself in a jail cell, officials said.

Master Sgt. William Wright was one of four soldiers at Ft. Bragg near Fayetteville suspected of killing their spouses last summer.

Three of the four were in Special Forces units. Each has committed suicide.

A little background on what happened:

Medical Team to Investigate Fort Bragg Slayings
Fort Bragg & Lariam

Civilian experiences with Lariam:

Christoph Hartmann
Lariam (Mefloquine) Info

A study published in the British Medical Journal (31 August 1996, 313:13) found that "About 0.7% (1 in 140) travellers taking mefloquine can expect to have a neuropsychiatric adverse event unpleasant enough to temporarily prevent them from carrying out their day to day activities, compared with 0.009% (1 in 1100) taking chloroquine and proguanil.

We don't know whether or not Lariam caused these men to behave the way they did. There may be a combination of issues involved, but if the British Medical Journal study is true and the information was out there, they should never have been given this drug. There were other anti-malarials available.

Is Lariam still being given to our troops? We hope not. Why risk it if there are questions about its safety?

dystopia 5:40 PM - [Link]

The Biggest Good Thing?

Atrios alerted us to this odd bit of lunacy. We're sure Peg probably didn't mean it quite that way but, still, what a friggin' idiot!

The coming victory is going to be the biggest good thing that has happened in the world, the West and the United States since the twin towers fell.

Fortunately, this is the first time we've had occasion to read a column of Ms. Noonan's, but we probably won't do it again. The very first paragraph of today's piece left us cold:

So far so good. The war has begun, and the world hasn't ended (alarmists, pessimists and prophets on left and right please note). Saddam Hussein may be hurt or dead. And so, on to Baghdad.

Um, we're not sure which war she's been watching, but ours didn't merit such a bright and cheery report after this horrible weekend.

dystopia 4:16 PM - [Link]

No Momentum on BIA Mismanagement Case

Ampersand, over at Alas, a Blog, gives us an update on this incredible abortion of justice:

Last September, I blogged about Judge Royce Lamberth adding Gale Norton to the list of Interior Department officials held in contempt of court for their persistent mismanagement of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Since 1887, the federal government has forcefully "managed assets" on American Indian land, and is legally required to pass the profits on to the legal owners (mostly individual Indians but also some tribes). Instead, the government has withheld billions of dollars, and has kept records so poorly that it can't even say how much money is owned, and to whom.

Not much has changed since September... the BIA remains the single most incompetent and corrupt part of the Federal government, and their court-ordered efforts at reform continue to be as ineffectual as they are insincere. But there have been a couple of blackly funny quotes in the press lately. I laughed out loud when I read this bit, about Interior Department Assistant Secretary Steven Griles. Griles (a man whose political career defines the term "conflict of interest") was explaining to a skeptical House of Representatives panel his request for an increase of $183 million to the funding for fixing the accounting problems (for a total of $554 million).

Many links -- please read them all.

The issue here is not in any way about "reparations." This about about the government leasing Indian lands to oil companies, mining companies, loggers, ranchers, etc. Royalties alone from the use of the land bring more than $1 billion a year, and the Indians who own these lands may or may not get some of it, depending on which way the wind blows, or some such criteria. These are some of the poorest of all American citizens, and they deserve better.

dystopia 3:41 PM - [Link]

Bob Novak: Un-American?

We almost managed to feel a sympathy pang for Bob, who's complaining about being listed, along with Pat Buchanan, at the top of the dishonor roll in "Unpatriotic Conservatives: A War Against America," the cover story in the current National Review:

We are accused of advocating "a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies." Concluding, he writes of us: "[T]hey are thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure if it should happen. They began by hating the neo-conservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country."

That demonstrably is not true of Pat Buchanan, and it is certainly not true of me. Anybody who makes a living by dispensing strong comment should be inured to attack, even when the accusations are totally false. During the nearly 40 years that I have been privileged to write this column, I have not subjected readers to my personal controversies. Now, however, I feel constrained to identify myself as a Korean War-vintage Army officer (non-combat) who has always supported our troops and prayed for their success during many wars. This war is no exception. Dealing with statements about me even so calumnious as Frum's might seem petty in time of war. But broader issues are at stake. Frum represents a body of conservative opinion that wants to delegitimize criticism from the right of policy that has led to war against Iraq.

We couldn't help but notice his remarks in yesterday's column on Daschle's "harsh comments" about this administration's diplomatic skills. Bob seemed to be forecasting political fallout over these comments, but he wasn't speaking up for dissent just yet. Not until today. Hold on just a sec while we grab our violins...

dystopia 3:05 PM - [Link]

Halliburton's ME Ties Challenged by Pension Funds

We were delighted to see this article in the Daily Telegraph, but wonder what kind of media play it will get in the US:

Two New York City pension funds have demanded that Halliburton review its businesses in Iran and other nations because of "concerns about corporate ties to states sponsoring terrorist activity".

Halliburton asked the Securities & Exchange Commission, the Wall Street watchdog, for permission to ignore the resolution and so avoid a shareholder vote on the issue. The SEC refused.

William Thompson, the New York finance director who manages the $31 billion pension funds of city police and firefighters, has also asked General Electric and ConocoPhillips to consider their own dealings in Iran and Syria.

Mr Thompson said: "We believe their use of offshore subsidiaries to establish operations with countries that sponsor terrorism violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

These dealings may indeed be legal according to our current laws, but it doesn't make them morally right.

dystopia 12:43 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History

1964: 1,172 are arrested in a sit-down protest against nuclear weapons in Parliament Square, London.

1965: The first teach-in to oppose the Vietnam War is held at University of Michigan.

1967: Martin Luther King, Jr., announces his strong opposition to the Vietnam War.

1989: Exxon tanker Valdez, with a drunken captain at the wheel, strikes a well-charted reef at Prince William sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea.

1998: Two young boys open fire at their Jonesboro, AR, school, killing four students and a teacher and wounding ten others.

1999: US and NATO begin 78 days of bombing in the former Yugoslavia.

dystopia 10:24 AM - [Link]

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Rough Weekend

We can no longer keep track of the casualty count in this war -- too many, too fast. And now POWs, friendly fire and fragging. We are dispirited, heartsick.

Prayers, tears, head in hands. Please let this war end soon.

dystopia 7:47 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History

1918: Trial of 101 Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW) begins in Chicago, for opposition to World War I.

1942: The US government begins moving native-born Americans of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes to imprisonment in detention centers.

1980: Archbishop Romero is assassinated in El Salvador.

1983: Reagan proposes Star Wars missile defense system that no one believes works.

2000: After being called on Republican anti-Catholicism in an election year, House Speaker Denny Hastert rushes to appoint a Catholic priest as the House chaplain.

dystopia 10:33 AM - [Link]

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Books Worth Reading (linked to reviews):

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood (1986)

How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes from an Impeachment Summer, by Jimmy Breslin (1975)

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (1990)

Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, by Paul Carroll (1993)

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (1962)

The Road Ahead, by Bill Gates with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson (1996)

Charismatic Chaos, by John F MacArthur, Jr (1992)

The American Way of Birth, by Jessica Mitford (1992)

Ethel: A Fictional Autobiography, by Tema Nason (1990)

Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics, by Kevin Phillips (1994)

Flying High: The Story of Boeing and the Rise of the Jetliner Industry, by Eugene Rodgers (1996)

Clearing the Air, by Daniel Schorr (1977)

Trammell Crow, Master Builder: The Story of America's Largest Real Estate Empire, by Robert Sobel (1989)

The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, by David Stockman (1986)

Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum, by Michael Wallis (1995)

Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976, by Jules Witcover (1977)

Belly Up: The Collapse of the Penn Square Bank, by Philip L Zweig (1985)