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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

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American Institute of Philanthropy

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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, April 05, 2003

The Secret War Machine

Bruce Sterling details how and from whom Al Qaeda learned their financing tricks in this month's Wired Magazine:

Admiral Poindexter's PROF interoffice email system (powered by an IBM mainframe) seems pretty backward nowadays, but there was an unmistakable Enron-style genius in routing charity money and Saudi profits through Israeli arms contractors to buy munitions for Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries. John Poindexter, Oliver North, Elliot Abrams, Richard Secord, John Singlaub, Robert MacFarlane, Adnan Khashoggi, Manucher Ghorbanifar: These legendary innovators created something truly new and brilliant - an offshore, autonomous, self-financing, global, anticommunist venture-capital outfit big enough to fight a private war against a sovereign nation. Lieutenant Colonel North liked to call it Project Democracy. It ran loops around Congress the way offshore Internet porn rings dodge the US Customs Service...

Considering the audacity of the scheme's challenge to Constitutional authority, its principals have done surprisingly well in the years since. Oliver North gave up his uniform to become what he always had been at heart: a right-wing political agitator. Elliot Abrams now manages Venezuelan revolution, counterrevolution, and counter-counterrevolution for the State Department. And, of course, John Poindexter is in charge of the Department of Defense's Total Information Awareness program.

But the real success story is the Contras, or rather their modern successor: al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's crew is a band of government-funded anticommunist counterrevolutionaries who grew up and cut the apron strings. These new-model Contras don't need state support from Washington, Moscow, or any Accessory of Evil. Like Project Democracy, they've got independent financing: oil money, charity money, arms money, and a collection plate wherever a junkie shoots up in an alley. Instead of merely ignoring and subverting governments for a higher cause, as Poindexter did, al Qaeda tries to destroy them outright...

dystopia 11:08 AM - [Link]

Another Iniquitous Judicial Nominee

This time it's Carolyn Kuhl, whose record as a lawyer and a judge shows the same disturbing pattern as the rest of Bush's nominees: gross disregard for the well-being of American citizens and unconscionable bias toward big business. Remember, these are lifetime appointments, so it does matter, very much.

According to Common Dreams:

At the Reagan Justice Department, Kuhl helped orchestrate the Reagan administration’s reversal of a long-standing IRS policy that denied tax exempt status to private schools that practice race discrimination, including Bob Jones University. Her position was soundly repudiated by the Supreme Court in an 8-1 ruling.

Kuhl also testified as a DOJ official against legislation that would have given veterans the right to go to court when denied benefits. In her testimony, Kuhl stated that the federal courts, which often represent a citizens’ last best chance for justice, “are not the enchanted land where all wrongs will be made right.”

Judge Kuhl was also unanimously reversed by the California Court of Appeal in a case involving a state law protecting whistleblowers and others who exercise their legal right to speak out in defense of the public good. In an opinion strongly critical of Kuhl’s decision, the Court of Appeal sternly stated that Kuhl’s ruling “constitutes a nullification of an important part” of the state statute. In another case, Kuhl reduced by more than $4 million the punitive damages awarded by a jury to a whistleblower who had been illegally fired.

More at People for the American Way.

dystopia 10:57 AM - [Link]

Today In Dystopian History: April 5

1792: George Washington cast the first presidential veto, rejecting a congressional measure for apportioning representatives among the states.

1894: A group of striking miners in Connellsville, PA, erupted in violence; eleven men died before the riot was finally quelled.

1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for conspiring to commit espionage for the Soviet Union.

1969: Approximately 100,000 antiwar demonstrators marched in New York City to demand that the US withdraw from Vietnam.

1975: A black businessman was severely injured outside the Boston City Hall by an all-white mob demonstrating against school busing. The mob used a pole attached to an American flag to beat the man.

1991: Former Texas Sen John Tower and 22 other people were killed in a commuter plane crash near Brunswick, Ga.

1992: A march and rally in support of abortion rights for women drew several hundred thousand people to demonstrations in Washington, DC.

1996: Fifty-four people were arrested in a Good Friday protest at the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in California.

dystopia 10:37 AM - [Link]

Friday, April 04, 2003

A Cabinet Packed with Money

The Center for Public Integrity reports that the average net worth of the top fifteen Bush cabinet members, including the president and vp, is between $9.3 million and $27.3 million, or almost ten times the average net worth of Clinton's cabinet members:

Overall, the average net worth of the top 100 members of the Bush administration was somewhere between $3.7 million and nearly $12 million.

Of Bush’s top 100 appointees, 34 come from for-profit businesses, 27 were drawn from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of federal, state, and local governments, 19 from non-profit entities including educational institutions, and 16 from lobbying firms and law firms with significant lobbying operations.

Four members did not fit these categories: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice Presidential Counselor Mary Matalin derived the bulk of their income from speaking fees; senior advisor Karl Rove and counselor Karen Hughes both worked for the Bush presidential campaign before joining the administration.

Must be nice, eh? Little wonder they don't have a clue what it's like out here in the real world.

BTW, notice that 73% of the top 100 came directly from the special interest sector. See below for more on that.

dystopia 4:23 PM - [Link]

Two Female POWs from the First Gulf War

Lately we've been seeing male POWs from the first Gulf War telling their stories, but hadn't heard anything from or about the two women POWs. We started wondering how they're doing these days so we went looking, and were happy to find that both seem to be doing okay.

Melissa Rathbun-Nealy was the first captured and spent 33 days in captivity. From the Holland Sentinel:

Today, the only outward traces of her service are a fingertip-sized shrapnel scar on her forearm and two scars the size of jelly beans in her upper arm from the puncture and exit of a bullet.

Now 30, she left the Army in 1993 and is a stay-at-home mom living off medical disability and her husband's pay. The San Antonio apartment she shares with her husband, fellow Gulf War veteran Michael Coleman, and their 7- and 8-year-old daughters bears no symbols of their days at war.

Rhonda Cornum, a flight surgeon, was held only eight days but had a much harder time of it. She's still in the Army, according to

Five of the eight crew members did die. Cornum survived -- only to be captured by Iraqi soldiers and held eight days as one of the Gulf War's 23 pows. Few who know the wiry, iron-willed doctor with the golden-green eyes are surprised she survived both ordeals. "I felt sorry for the Iraqis who captured her," says former supervisor Maj Gen. John Ryneska. But she didn't have an easy time. Cornum broke both arms, shattered her knee, and took a bullet in her right shoulder. An Iraqi guard sexually assaulted her. Repeatedly interrogated, she refused to reveal classified information.

dystopia 3:46 PM - [Link]

Are They Freaking Insane?

How can this be? Yahoo! News reports that "the Pentagon says Geraldo Rivera is welcome to go back into Iraq with US troops - now that he's learned his lesson."

Um, we're not sure that he's learned any lesson at all, and we are very disturbed that Roger Ailes should be able to wield this much power over the Pentagon. There's just a wrongness here that cannot be excused. According to the Washington Post:

But after Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes called a Pentagon official, Whitman said the situation was still under review -- part of an apparent agreement under which Rivera will be voluntarily recalled instead of officially evicted.

Besides the fact that he put American lives in danger, we would have fired Geraldo simply for his shameful display the other night.

Quite honestly, it may not be safe for Geraldo to go back to Iraq, according to embedded KSTP News reporter Dean Staley:

Staley reported members of the Army's 101st had mixed reactions Rivera as he passed through their camp in Iraq.

"Some of them wanted a picture or autograph. Others were really angry because they had heard what Geraldo had done and they understood the reason he was being sent home." Staley said.

dystopia 2:34 PM - [Link]

Conflict of Interest at Dept of Interior

This is just one example of a growing problem. Many Washington politicians, including senators and congressmen, cabinet members and party officials, head straight into lobbying or think tank positions once they're out of office, where they sell their connections and expertise for mega-bucks. Sometimes they actually resign from office without serving out their terms in order to take these jobs.

Via Yahoo! News:

Before the Senate confirmed Griles in 2001, he promised to refrain for a year from involvement in any issue in which one of his former clients or employers had a financial interest.

Though Griles is listed as a lobbyist for Chevron in reports filed with Congress by his firm, he says he did no personal lobbying for the company.

While Griles' nomination was pending before the Senate, Chevron was paying Griles' firm $80,000 to lobby the Interior Department, according to reports filed with Congress.

In September 2001, two months after he was confirmed, Griles participated in the first of at least four meetings with Interior Department colleagues about the Chevron project, according to Griles' appointment calendars, which were obtained by news organizations and environmental groups under the Freedom of Information Act.

Federal lobbying rules are written by politicians, so there's not much stopping power there, nor much inclination. How many of these guys do you think are capable of not thinking about these incredible money-making opportunities while they're still casting votes for or against potential future employers?

dystopia 2:17 PM - [Link]

Military Rivalry a Cause of Friendly Fire?

The New Scientist looks into the causes of friendly fire incidents, and efforts to prevent them:

Yet the number of accidents could still be reduced - and not just by finding technological solutions. "The deeper issues of inter-service rivalry and the difference in cultures between army and air force, and even within those, are very rarely addressed," says Snook, now at Harvard Business School. "They are often the biggest contributor to friendly fire."

As an example, he cites the shooting down of two US Army Black Hawk helicopters by two US Air Force F-15s in the No Fly Zone over northern Iraq in 1994. The incident, which killed 26 servicemen, occurred in part because the jet pilots had no record that the helicopters would be in the area.

When asked why the Black Hawks had not been entered on the mission sheet detailing the aircraft in the air that day, the USAF serviceperson responsible said: "We don't consider helicopters to be aircraft."

dystopia 1:47 PM - [Link]

US Companies Cut More Jobs

CBS News reports that we lost 108,000 more jobs in March but somehow, after huge job cuts in February, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8%.

We aren't terribly confident about the accuracy of official unemployment figures to begin with. Too many "adjustments." Also, we have issues with the government helping to keep unemployment down by letting real wages fall, which doesn't benefit anyone but the shareholders and the CEOs.

We aren't sure how many reservists are on active duty right now. A big number, is all we know. If the the ones called up to serve in the war and to fill homeland security posts were sent home today to go back to work, what would the unemployment rate be then? Because if the reservists get their regular jobs back when they come home, whoever's filling in for them has to go find something else to do. So what are the real numbers?


dystopia 1:22 PM - [Link]

Margaret Atwood's Letter to America

Sometime back in the mid-90s we read Ms. Atwood's stunning book, The Handmaid's Tale (skip the movie, a total waste of film). It was about an America devastated by bio-disaster and suffering under the tyranny of Christian extremists, and it was absolutely terrifying.

Ms. Atwood, a Canadian, writes to us about what she loves about our country, and to ask what went wrong:

I won't go into the reasons why I think your recent Iraqi adventures have been -- taking the long view -- an ill-advised tactical error. By the time you read this, Baghdad may or may not look like the craters of the Moon, and many more sheep entrails will have been examined. Let's talk, then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're doing to yourselves.

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened...

dystopia 1:07 PM - [Link]

Coke Bottler Faces Death Suit

According to BBC News, a US District Court has ruled that Coke's main bottler in South America can be held liable for the murders of four union members in Bogota, Colombia:

It was the first time a US judge has ordered a company to stand trial for alleged human-rights violations committed overseas under the Alien Tort Claims Act.

While there are still a number of legal hurdles, Panamco faces the embarrassing prospect of Colombian trade unionists detailing abuses, in the courtroom.

Similar lawsuits are pending around the US against corporations including oil company Talisman, for its operations in Sudan, and engineering firm Unocal over torture and slave labour allegations in Burma.

Corporations usually succeed in getting such cases dismissed before they reach trial.

More on this story:
The Real Thing: Murder
Coca-Cola Accused of Using Death Squads to Target Union Leaders
Coca-Cola Killings: Is Plan Colombia Funding a Bloodbath of Union Activists?

Coke is by no means the only multinational accused of violent and immoral behavior in more vulnerable parts of the world -- not by a long shot. We definitely see this as a step in the right direction, although there's still no guarantee that anyone will be held accountable.

dystopia 12:07 PM - [Link]

The Echo Machine

Today's The Note outlines the machinations of the GOP media machine gearing up for 2004:

...invisible hands move each and every time with simple goals:

1. Make the "vulnerable" Democrats seem so left they've left America.

2. Sow discord among the Democratic candidates.

3. Dominate the political portion of the news cycle with rhetoric that puts the Democrats on defense (because when you are playing defense, you're not playing offense).

4. Get congressional Republicans, Rush, Drudge, et al, conditioned to rowing all together when the White House/RNC says "stroke" (to build teamwork and musculature).

5. Agitate Tom Daschle (the White House's goal pretty much every day).

Current target being Kerry and his regime change comments, with which we happen to agree whole-heartedly. We especially enjoyed his response, via a spokesman, to the machine's efforts toward him:

"Unlike many of his Republican critics, Senator Kerry has worn the uniform, served his country, seen combat, so he'd just as soon skip their lectures about supporting our troops.

"There is simply nothing that Tom Delay can teach John Kerry about patriotism or service to country. The Republican right wing, particularly those who have never worn the uniform, are picking the wrong fight with the wrong Democrat."

On top of that, a Kerry aide told
The Note: "We just won't allow a war hero's patriotism or love of country to be questioned by the usual gang of rightwing thugs, especially by those who chose not to serve when their time came. John Kerry has battled the Viet Cong. Tom Delay has battled fire ants and cockroaches."


Kerry, by the way, was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star.

Unfortunately, we cannot endorse Kerry as a candidate for president because, among other reasons, he didn't vote against this war when he had the chance. That's a hard one to get over.

dystopia 11:49 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 4

1917: The US Senate voted 90-6 to enter World War I on the Allied side.

1949: Twenty nations, including the US, signed a treaty creating NATO, which assured European stability for the rest of the century. The military alliance, which provided for a collective self-defense against Soviet aggression, greatly increased American influence in Europe.

1964: CBS-TV touched off a censorship controversy by its cancellation of the irreverent and anti-war "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."

1968: Dr Martin Luther King was shot to death in Memphis.

1975: A US Air Force transport plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans crashed shortly after takeoff from Saigon, killing more than 130 people, most of them children.

1986: Oliver North wrote a memo to Admiral Poindexter clearly linking the arms-for-hostages deal with the illegal funding of the Nicaraguan Contras.

1988: Arizona Governor Evan Mecham became the first US governor to be impeached and removed from office in nearly 60 years. He was convicted for obstructing justice by discouraging a state official from investigating a death threat, and also for misusing $80,000 in public money.

1991: Sen John Heinz (R-PA) and six other people were killed when a helicopter collided with Heinz's plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pa.

1995: Republican Senator Al D’Amato used a mock-Japanese accent on a radio talk show to ridicule Judge Ito, who was presiding over the OJ Simpson case. D'Amato apologized two days later on the Senate floor.

dystopia 10:43 AM - [Link]

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Asinine Quote of the Day

Found in the NY Times:

"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes," the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, blithely told CongressDaily.

dystopia 5:15 PM - [Link]

Blaming the Victim

This press release from the World Health Organization says that we can prevent a potential increase in cancer rates of 50% by 2020 if we simply quit smoking, eat better and get more exercise.

Hardly a single word about environmental, foodborne and workplace toxins, which we believe to be among the major causes of cancer. We did notice, though, that the report mentions several times the increase in local cancer rates as industrialization reaches previously undeveloped parts of the world.

Found an article at that explains our concerns about exposure to man-made chemicals:

"Researchers at two independent laboratories found an average of 91 industrial chemicals, pollutants, pesticides and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine volunteers," reported the Environmental Working Group's Bill Walker. "In the entire group, a total of 167 chemicals were found. Like most of us, the people tested do not work with chemicals on the job and they do not live near an industrial facility."

A day later, the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its long-awaited second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, which screened blood and urine from 2,500 Americans for 116 chemicals. Together, both reports showed Americans' bodies have become repositories for chemicals, pesticides and pollutants that are the building blocks for modern living habits and lifestyles.

So why don't we hear more about the cancer-causing potential of chemical exposure from the American Cancer Society, or from the Susan G Komen Foundation?

Well, now, that's a very good question...

dystopia 2:35 PM - [Link]

Uncle Sam's Other War

We were really PO'd when we learned that we'd been eating genetically engineered foods for years without even knowing it. Here in the US, you see, the profits of mega-giants like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland take precedence over the consumer's right to choose whether or not they want to eat the stuff. The rest of the world doesn't give a crap about our profits. They don't want to eat bio-engineered foods, nor do they want these crops grown in their countries.

Here's an article from about our current tussle with the European Union over GM foods:

Since 1998 the European Union has required the labelling of all GM foods. This has amounted to a de facto moratorium on US imports of GM foods because Uncle Sam stubbornly refuses to label them. Small wonder, since consumer polls on both sides of the Atlantic show that most shoppers want GM foods labeled, precisely so they can avoid them...

Washington has repeatedly threatened to bring a case against the European Union to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Unfriendly to social, environmental and public health considerations, the WTO has a dispute resolution mechanism whose workings have been repeatedly denounced by civil society groups as untransparent and undemocratic.

When a member country brings a case against another for erecting an "unfair trade barrier" in the WTO, the accused country is guilty until proven innocent. The accused country has to prove its innocence, the accuser has to prove nothing. The cases are heard behind closed doors by panels of unelected trade bureaucrats.

So is genetically engineered food necessarily bad for you? We don't know. Nobody does. According to the MultiNational Monitor, the industry is almost completely unregulated:

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a remarkable "Statement of Policy" that would forever change the food supply. Touted by then-Vice President Dan Quayle as a deregulatory initiative, the FDA determined that genetically engineered foods were "substantially similar" to conventional crops, and thus were not required to be labeled or undergo special safety testing before they entered the marketplace.

The 1992 FDA policy opened the floodgates for nearly 50 different genetically engineered crops and foods to enter the US market. More than half of all soybeans and a third of the corn crop in the United States are now grown from genetically engineered seed. Other engineered crops that are rapidly gaining acreage include canola, cotton, potatoes, tomatoes and sweet peppers.

The FDA's policy was a godsend for the biotech industry, which had invested billions of dollars developing a variety of genetically engineered products -- all spliced with foreign genes creating crops never before released into the environment or eaten by humans. If the industry's new products were required to undergo a battery of tests to prove their safety -- similar to what is required for a new drug or food additive -- it would set them back years, perhaps even decades.

dystopia 1:08 PM - [Link]

Where's Kim?

According to the Seattle Post, North Korea's Kim Jong Il has been oddly absent from public display since February 12:

One South Korean newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo, said this was the longest Kim has not been shown in state media in years. He kept a low profile for several years after the 1994 death of his father and predecessor, Kim Il Sung, prompting speculation that his hold on power was shaky. But Kim Jong Il apparently used that time to consolidate control of the government, gaining political capital by observing a three-year mourning period for his revered father...

Kim is not the only North Korean leader shunning the spotlight, said the Unification Ministry spokesman. Several top generals and aides have also been absent from the North's media. The spokesman said they were most likely bunkered down taking notes on US military tactics in Iraq while watching US, British and Middle East news networks.

"He is watching very carefully the developments in Iraq. That is what we know," he said. "They will be doing a case study of the war."

There's some bi-partisan discomfort in Congress regarding this administration's refusal to deal with North Korea. From The Hill:

“ I’m not saying they don’t have a policy,” said Hastings, who has introduced three resolutions condemning the North Korean government. “I just don’t know what the hell the policy is.”

He added, “I perceive North Korea as the most volatile threat America is facing.”

Several foreign policy aides to former Presidents Bush and Clinton, including National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Harvard professor and Pentagon official Ashton Carter, have also called for direct talks.

In contrast, House and Senate conservatives are backing the administration, arguing that talking directly with North Korea is blackmail and appeasement.

A short history of our recent relations over there:

Easing the Threat of North Korea

dystopia 12:47 PM - [Link]

Panel Approves Ban on Conflict Diamonds

The NY Times reports that the Senate Finance Committee has finally approved a bill to ban US trade in the diamonds that fund Africa's civil wars.

Here's why it matters, from AlertNet:

In Angola, for example, the cycle of wealth is characterised by a guerrilla army -- UNITA -- that obtains more than 200 million dollars a year from the sale of high-quality rough diamonds. They fetch around 300 dollars per carat. Thanks to the diamonds, UNITA controls a powerful infrastructure. Individuals in UNITA's service, such as Victor Bout, own airline companies capable of shipping huge arsenals of weapons from Eastern Europe to its guerrilla operation bases, with stops along the way in several African countries.

The cycle of poverty, closely linked to the cycle of wealth, is devastating: more than 25 years of civil war, 800,000 dead, more than three million people displaced, schools and water system destroyed, state budgets giving the greatest share to the military and a population that can barely cultivate its fields because they are covered in landmines. Angola -- with Cambodia and Afghanistan -- is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world and, according to UNICEF, is the worst country for a child to grow up.

More on conflict diamonds:

Crackdown on 'Blood' Diamonds
Diamonds: A Rebel's Best Friend
Official Mum on Pat Robertson African Diamond Probe

dystopia 12:20 PM - [Link]

Josette Shiner

Another creepy Bush nominee, this time to the post of deputy US trade representative:

Josette Shiner, who currently holds the job of associate US trade representative for policy and communications, will replace Deputy US Trade Representative Jon Huntsman, who has overseen USTR activities in Africa and Asia since August 2001...

Shiner worked from 1982 to 1997 at the Washington Times, beginning as a reporter and rising through the ranks to become managing editor. The newspaper is owned by the Unification Church, headed by the controversial South Korean religious leader Rev Sun Myung Moon.

She was also President and Chief Executive Officer of Empower America, where she developed its agenda of technology policy, trade, education reform and tax reform, and she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has been a member of Moon's Unification church since 1975.

dystopia 11:51 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 3

1948: Truman signed into law the Foreign Assistance Act, or Marshall Plan, which channeled more than $13 billion in aid to Europe between 1948 and 1951.

1960: Melting of fuel elements caused a release of radioactivity at the Test Reactor at Waltz Mills, Pa.

1963: Martin Luther King, Jr., launched a voter registration drive in Birmingham, Alabama. Police Chief "Bull" Connor responded with fire hoses & attack dogs.

1968: North Vietnam agreed to meet with US representatives to set up preliminary peace talks.

1974: Following a congressional probe, President Nixon agreed to pay $432,787.13 in back taxes for the past three years. He had been paying taxes commensurate with an annual income of $15,000; as president, he had in fact earned $200,000 a year.

1996: An Air Force jetliner carrying Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, along with 32 other Americans, crashed into a mountain near Dubrovnik, Croatia, killing all aboard. Although many who view Brown's body comment that he appeared to have been shot in the head, this is never fully investigated.

1996: Theodore Kaczynski was arrested by FBI agents and accused of being the Unabomber, the elusive terrorist blamed for 16 mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 during an 18-year period. Inexplicably, it takes the FBI months to search his tiny 8 x 10 foot dwelling in Lincoln, Montana.

2000: A federal judge in Washington ruled that Microsoft violated US antitrust laws by keeping "an oppressive thumb" on competitors during the race to link Americans to the Internet.

dystopia 11:09 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Sony to Shut Down Springfield Factory

It's not so unusual, but here's what so bad about it:

Government agencies gave Sony about $8 million in incentives, tax credits and other help to build the factory, and over the following five years waived the company from paying about $4 million in property taxes. Sony only began paying its full portion of property taxes in the 2001-02 tax year.

The plant was opened only eight years ago.

Lobbyists and special interest groups are thoroughly entrenched in at the state and local levels. We're pretty sure the good people of Springfield never had a chance of getting a better deal out of Sony.

ALEC is a group you probably ought to know about. From The American Prospect:

With friends in high places, ALEC throws big parties, likes to get around, and is full of ideas. Never heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council? That's just the way ALEC likes it. As obscure as it is influential, the council bills itself as the "nation's largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators." The press, too, tends to describe the organization in those terms. But in point of fact, ALEC represents corporate interests, and it has an impressive stake in a high-stakes game. This year, approximately 150,000 bills will be considered by the 50 state legislatures, and about 25 percent of them will become law -- more than 75 times the number enacted by Congress. Collectively, these laws will profoundly affect the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

Special-interest groups have always known this and are already heavily invested in state politics. According to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity, the number of state lobbyists dwarfs the number of state legislators six-to-one. What's more, these lobbyists spent more than $565 million in 2000 alone. So it should be no surprise that big corporations, which have traditionally plowed their money and muscle into the federal arena, have increasingly realized that they too must play ball at the state level. ALEC is their pinch hitter.

dystopia 3:42 PM - [Link]

Support the USO

A venerable American institution, the USO isn't just about entertaining the troops any more. They now provide Internet access, free phone cards, libraries, cyber cafes and travel assistance for members of the military, plus they operate mobile canteens and airport centers stateside and abroad. They maintain family and community centers in the US and overseas to help military families adjust to new surroundings and to offer support to families separated by deployments.

Also found a link there to, where you can e-mail messages of support to members of our armed forces.

dystopia 3:26 PM - [Link]

When Journalists Are the News

We didn't take issue with what Peter Arnett said -- you can get the same info from about a kazillion different news sources; we just have problems with who he said it to and with the fact that, as a journalist, he was being interviewed by anybody at all. That's not his job. We do have to give him points, though, because he had the gonads to go on live TV bright and early Monday morning and apologize for being an idiot, unlike some other egotistical twits we could name.

While channel-surfing Monday night, we caught the ever-hypocritical Bill O'Reilly blasting Arnett in one breath and then turning around and defending Geraldo in the next. We heckled him and moved on.

Then last night on the Daily Show we saw the actual clip of what Geraldo did, which was to lay out troop movements and the location of an undisclosed supply line. And then we saw another clip of Geraldo, still in Iraq, reacting to MSNBC's reaction to what he did. It was an astonishing performance.

Geraldo went off in a typically snarky self-absorbed tirade, with several members of our military standing within frame, presumably hoping for a chance to let the folks at home see that they were OK. They didn't look very happy. He did ask one of them if he wanted to say anything, but the poor guy barely got a sentence out before Geraldo yanked the mike back and resumed his childish personal attack against his former colleagues, whom he described as "rats." Totally inappropriate and unprofessional. And this was after he revealed sensitive information to the enemy.

Why did it take so long to get him out of there? Why is he still employed? Why isn't Senator Bunning (R-KY) calling for Geraldo to be tried as a traitor, instead of Peter Arnett?

We're pretty sure the unit Geraldo was assigned to breathed a huge sigh of relief to see the ass-end of him. We'd be just as happy not to ever see him again, anywhere.

We don't like the idea of journalists as celebrities, any more than we like the idea of our modern robber barons dictating what editorial viewpoint will be broadcast to the general public. We don't get a whole lot of real news anymore. What we get is infotainment, and we're worse off both individually and as a country as a result.

BTW, we believe all cable news channels should be clearly labeled with the following warning, just like psychic hotlines and phone sex networks. We would require them to keep it onscreen at all times: "For entertainment purposes only."

dystopia 2:17 PM - [Link]

Coalition of the Willing

Now up to 47 nations! Constantine von Hoffman, a freelance journalist based in Boston, gives us a rundown on the Gross Domestic Product and military spending of each of our allies, and what each contributes to the war effort.

According to these figures, the only allies that spend more of their GDP on military expenditures than the US are Turkey, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Latvia is still deciding how they will participate. Albania sent 70 troops. Hungary is providing nothing, apparently, but is allocated $15 billion in US aid.

More of your tax dollars at work.

Why do these countries bother to offer support that's basically meaningless? Adam Entous offers some insight:

Wrapped into the $75 billion war budget [Bush] proposed to Congress on Tuesday were grants and loans worth billions of dollars for what he called "partners and friends" in the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Assistance is also being offered to many less obvious members of Bush's so-called "coalition of the willing" from Afghanistan and Colombia to the Philippines and Slovakia, which Bush said will help them "wage the broader war on terror." Administration officials say the US aid is urgently needed to cushion the economic shock of war in the Middle East and beyond.

"Their economies are directly affected by the war and we are doing what we can to help them," an official said, noting that many countries supportive of the war effort were left out of the war budget and other nations, including Israel and Egypt, received far less money than they were seeking.

Found via the bookmark-worthy PRWatch Spin of the Day.

dystopia 12:44 PM - [Link]

Corporate America's Most Wanted

Arianna Huffington puts out a BOLO for some villains we seem to have forgotten amidst all the recent excitement:

Ken Lay, former chairman and CEO of Enron. Aka "Kenny Boy," "The poster child for cash-and-carry government," and "One of the Top 25 Wealth Creators of the last quarter century."

Wanted for: cooking the books; cashing in $100 million in Enron stock in the year before the company collapsed, costing 5,000 employees their jobs; urging employees to invest their hard-earned money in Enron stock even after he'd been warned that the company was about to "implode in a wave of accounting scandals;" and overseeing a company that avoided paying any taxes in 4 of its last 5 years by creating 881 offshore subsidiaries.

Hide-outs: Jus' Stuff, the secondhand store his wife opened to unload some of her pricey baubles. Known associates: fellow Enron Gang members Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow, "good friend" George W. Bush, and the dozens of politicians who gladly accepted campaign contributions from Lay and Enron.

Warning: considered dangerous and psychopathically indifferent to the suffering of others. Didn't hesitate to stab thousands of Enron workers and investors in the back or "turn out the lights" on millions of powerless Californians. Approach with extreme caution.

So will any of these guys ever do the perp walk? We're not terribly confident about that.

dystopia 12:15 PM - [Link]

Sept 11 Families and the Independent Commission

We've been watching the family members' testimony on C-Span this week. Stephen Push, whose wife was a passenger on the plane that hit the Pentagon, described the failure to prevent the attacks as "a failure of leadership in this country that cuts across decades and political parties." He is absolutely correct.

Back in September 2002, the Senate voted to create an independent commission with the authority to look into the roles of law enforcement, commercial aviation, US diplomacy, border control, immigration and intelligence prior to the attacks, and to recommend how to prevent future disasters. Only eight senators voted against the creation of an independent commission, and we think you should know who they are:

Kit Bond (R-MO)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Phil Gramm (R-TX)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
George Voinovich (R-OH)

If you ever voted for any of these yahoos, please don't do it again.

Not surprisingly, there appear to be some conflicts of interest among members of the "independent" commission, according to CBS News:

Brunner checked out the commissioners and discovered that out of 10, at least six represent the very companies they're now investigating.

He says they are: "Fred Fielding, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines; Slade Gordon represents Delta Airlines; Sen. Max Cleland – $300,000 from the airline industry; Jim Thompson represents American Airlines; Richard BenVinesta represents Boeing and United Airlines; and Rep. Tim Roemer - Boeing and Lockheed Martin."

"They're all up to here, with either being connected to the airlines or to the manufacturer of the airplane," says Brunner.

One positive in all this mess: Kissinger will not be involved. Overtly, anyway. But then again, he never does anything overtly.

dystopia 11:50 AM - [Link]

Joy and Pain

We were jubilant that Pfc Jessica Lynch was rescued from Iraqi custody, but our happiness was tempered by the subsequent news that eleven bodies were also recovered. Our hearts go out to the families who are still waiting, and we continue to pray.

dystopia 10:53 AM - [Link]

Click for Mankind

We've added Clear Landmines to our daily rounds -- it's quick, it's painless, and it's an easy way to do something to help out your fellow man. This Canadian organization has sponsors who pay per click for clearing mine-infested lands in countries that have been devastated by warfare.

Today they've added an additional sponsor, so the amount of land our click helped to clear doubled to 42 square centimeters. It doesn't sound like much, but during the month of March the site received 55,971 clicks, which will clear 142 square yards of land.

Please take a moment to stop by and add your 1/2 cent's worth, too. Better yet, bookmark the page and stop by every day!

dystopia 10:31 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 2

1792: Congress passed the Coinage Act, which authorized establishment of the US Mint.

1865: Confederate President Jefferson Davis and most of his Cabinet fled the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va.

1870: Feminist Victoria Woodhall became the first woman to campaign for the US presidency.

1917: Jeannette Pickering Rankin, the first woman ever elected to Congress, took her seat in the US Capitol as a representative from Montana.

1917: President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany, saying, "The world must be made safe for democracy."

1966: 100,000 Vietnamese demonstrated in Da Nang against the US and South Vietnamese governments.

1970: Massachusetts enacted a law which exempted its citizens from having to fight in an undeclared war.

1980: President Carter tried to soothe the nation's ailing finances by signing the Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act just one year after he had eliminated controls on oil prices; the demise of these regulations sent oil profits soaring.

1982: President Reagan authorized much broader powers for the feds to hide and/or withhold information on citizens on "national security" grounds.

2001: The Senate approved a campaign finance reform bill, but Majority Leader Trent Lott refused to send the bill to the House for consideration; it only went to the House after the Republicans lost control of the Senate.

dystopia 10:19 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Post D-Day Depression

It had to be said. Geov Parrish does so admirably over at

For me, in many ways, the US street demonstrations of the last week have been nearly as depressing as the invasion itself. They have been primal screams, by definition unsustainable, when what is desperately needed is sustainable responses. They have been expressions of what protesters have felt they need to say, rather that what protesters felt other Americans needed to see or hear. They have been reactions to what has been done, rather than demands for what should be done now. They have used the shopworn tactics, iconography, and slogans of 40 years of left street protest.

And, by this conduct, they have turned their backs on the far broader segment of Americans who have in recent months also been alarmed by this government's direction, but who have over a matter of decades expressed quite clearly that they find the activist left's tactics, iconography, and slogans to be profoundly unappealing...

But what we can control is what we say (and hear), how we act, who we appeal to and work with, and to what ends. Much of the political rhetoric in this country – with or without a war in progress – is so over the top and intolerant as to be anathema to a secular democracy, and many Americans know that, too. What is lacking is a coherent, appealing alternative. Times of crisis and maximum dissent are precisely when those alternatives should be on display – not when they should be abandoned for the protest equivalent of comfort food.

dystopia 11:33 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 1

1847: Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty.

1866: Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson's veto of Civil Rights Bill, which gave equal rights to all men born in the US, except Indians.

1985: The Environmental Protection Agency ordered the end of the dumping of sludge off the New Jersey coast.

1987: In his first major speech on the epidemic, many years and tens of thousands of deaths after the disease was first identified, President Reagan told a group of doctors in Philadelphia, "We've declared AIDS public health enemy No. 1." The Reagan administration subsequently did very little about it.

1992: The House Ethics Committee released a list of the twenty-two most flagrant abusers of the defunct House bank, which had closed in the fall of 1991.

1996: Asked about the oil industry's ties to violent dictatorships around the world, Dick Cheney told Petroleum Finance Week that "the good Lord didn’t see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments."

1998: US District Judge Susan Webber Wright dismissed Paula Jones' lawsuit against President Clinton, saying her claims of sexual harassment fell "far short" of being worthy of trial.

dystopia 11:07 AM - [Link]

Monday, March 31, 2003

What We've Been Reading

Currently reading Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics, by Kevin Phillips (Little, Brown and Company, 1994). Just on the second chapter so far, but we did find an online book review of it.

We've been studying contemporary American politics from Nixon onward lately, and it's been very helpful. We feel like we have a better grasp of the issues than we did before, and a little more insight on what we're up against.

Here's some of the hard-copy books we've read, and why we liked them:

Clearing the Air, by former CBS reporter Daniel Schorr (Houghton Mifflin, 1977), gave us the Watergate story from a journalist's point of view, leaning heavily on White House tapes and documents to outline the birth of the GOP media machine. Lots of info on intelligence hearings revealing CIA misdeeds, too.

How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes from an Impeachment Summer, by Jimmy Breslin (Viking, 1975), told us the Watergate story from Tip O'Neill's corner. It was quite an education on the inner workings of old-time political power-brokering, now being replaced by a new and more venal breed of politician.

Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976, by Jules Witcover (Viking, 1977), was a marathon read, indeed, but we stuck with it and gained valuable understanding of fundraising and the campaign trail from the candidates' point of view, mainly Ford, Reagan and Carter.

The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, by David Stockman (Harper & Row, 1986) is the story of the first term of the Reagan White House by the man whose plan for revolutionary economic reform drove the economy into the ditch (it seems to us the current administration is following the same plan). Stockman confirmed everything we ever thought about Reagan and his administration, but it was even worse than we ever knew. Offers a close-up view on the workings of Republican congressional politics, too, plus we learned a lot about ins and outs of the national economy.

All these books are packed with names that regularly make headlines today -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Lott, Kissinger, Pat Buchanan, etc. -- so they're just good gossipy reads, anyway. We heartily recommend all of them; check your local library or second-hand bookseller.

dystopia 6:19 PM - [Link]

Homeland Security Gone Silly

Geographical headaches for some who live on the border, from the New Brunswick divison of CBC-Canada:

War on Terrorism Hits Rural Paradise; and

Orange Alert on the Pedersen Farm:

The mailman is still getting through, but the paper carrier is not. Marion has to pick up her newspaper from a neighbour down the road and around the corner in Canada. The Pedersens own an apartment in Perth-Andover and when their tenant came to the farm to pay the rent, she was stopped, detained and searched.

Marion has spoken to a number of Canadian politicians but they don't seem to have much clout in Washington these days. She's now hoping Ottawa will consider another solution and it's one that she really didn't want to have to think about: "For me I would like to see them buy us out. I want out. It's ruined my life here. At the state of mind I'm in now, I would be happy. Before that I didn't want to leave. It was my home. It'll be difficult. Yeah. But you have to do what you have to do, because you have to go on living."

dystopia 5:47 PM - [Link]

The Greening of Hate

Junk science and the environment are two items on our long list of pet issues, so this article in the New Scientist caught our eye:

I first realised that the right wing was attempting to penetrate the mainstream environment movement when I sat on a panel at an environmental meeting in the University of Oregon in 1994. Beside me was a professor and environmentalist, Virginia Abernethy of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. She seemed to me to blame immigrants for overpopulating our country and destroying our environment. Some of the audience liked her ideas but I thought they were racist.

I started to investigate and found she wasn't alone among conservationists. She was a leader of the group called the Carrying Capacity Network, which sounds like a benign environmental organisation but its main campaign is to halt what it calls mass migration to the US. They blame migrants for destroying pristine America. For instance, they blame Mexican migrants for starting fires in national forests near the border. This group has prominent environmental scientists on its advisory board. People like biologist Tom Lovejoy, the green economist Herman Daly and the ecologist David Pimental. I call this the greening of hate.

More about environmentalism under attack by special interests:

Clearing the Air: Why I Quit Bush's EPA
Bid-Rigging, Bad Science, and the Beach
Corporations Urged Not To 'Appease' Environmental Groups
EPA Forcing Fewer Fines: Polluters Paying 64% Less
A Skeptical Look at The Skeptical Environmentalist
ExxonMobil Emerges as Major Funder of Greenhouse Skeptics

dystopia 4:37 PM - [Link]

Real Live Preacher

We've had the blues for days, so we checked in with our favorite blogging preacher for some spiritual comfort.

We came across RLP (can't remember how) a few months ago, and we enjoy his stories because his moral center is so comfortable and familiar, and because he makes us think. Like him, we were gently raised by gentle people with the traditional values and expectations of the old-time Protestantism that prevailed among descendants of frontier folk in the heartland before the televangelists came along and screwed everything up.

Preacher's blog entries are usually reflections on the sad, sweet and often bittersweet details of everyday living and his interactions with the people within his orbit. Sometimes he does let go on a rant, though, and we think this one is stellar. On the face of it, it's about how Christians deal with the issue of homosexuality, but it packs a far more powerful (and very timely) message.

We liked this one, too: A Preacher, a Rabbi, and a Professor Go into a Computer Store

dystopia 3:44 PM - [Link]

507th Maintenance Company

There are so many stories of senseless and tragic accidents coming out of Iraq right now. In the midst of the horror and destruction of ongoing war, it's presumptuous to quantify any one event as more tragic or more wrong than another, but this is the story that haunts us. More than half of these kids are the same age or younger than our own. Where are they?

On Sunday, March 23, a unit of fifteen soldiers took a wrong turn and ran into a heavily armed Iraqi combat unit that included two tanks and automatic weapons near An Nasiriyah. Most of them were relatively green Army recruits -- cooks, supply clerks and mechanics -- with little or no combat training. They were part of a supply line stretched so thin, there was no combat unit on hand to watch over them.

MSGT Robert Dowdy, 38
SGT James Riley, 31
SGT Donald Walters, 33
CWO Johnny Villareal Mata, 35
SPC Edgar Hernandez, 21
SPC Joseph Hudson, 23
SPC Shoshana Johnson, 30
SPC James Kiehl, 22
PVT Ruben Estrella-Soto, 18
PFC Jessica Lynch, 19
PFC Patrick Miller, 23
PFC Lori Piestawa, 22
PFC Brandon Sloan, 19

The bodies of these two young men have been recovered:

SPC Jamaal Addison, 22
PFC Howard Johnson II, 21

We think we have a pretty good idea what went wrong (see next item below); we just cannot understand why some of these people were ordered to take part in the initial advance into the heart of Iraq. If they really needed to bring along administrative and service support that badly, couldn't they have at least scattered these people among combat units, instead of loading entire support units into vehicles and leaving them so vulnerable?

We can understand the need for mechanics toward the front, but in the case of Shoshana Johnson, for instance, who was a cook: Who was she supposed to cook for? The troops are eating MREs, aren't they? The space she occupied could have been filled with more MREs instead, and in her case we would only have lost some food instead of a human being. Was she there because an officer couldn't do without hot meals in the midst of war? We don't know whether that's the case, but we do wonder, and we are angry.

dystopia 1:04 PM - [Link]

The Battle Between Rumsfeld and the Pentagon

Fresh from his very public tussle with Richard Perle, Seymour Hersh turns his sights on Rummy:

Offense and Defense

The TPFDL called for the shipment in advance, by sea, of hundreds of tanks and other heavy vehicles—enough for three or four divisions. Rumsfeld ignored this advice. Instead, he relied on the heavy equipment that was already in Kuwait—enough for just one full combat division. The 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Stewart, Georgia, the only mechanized Army division that was active inside Iraq last week, thus arrived in the Gulf without its own equipment. “Those guys are driving around in tanks that were pre-positioned. Their tanks are sitting in Fort Stewart,” the planner said. “To get more forces there we have to float them. We can’t fly our forces in, because there’s nothing for them to drive. Over the past six months, you could have floated everything in ninety days—enough for four or more divisions.” The planner added, “This is the mess Rumsfeld put himself in, because he didn’t want a heavy footprint on the ground.”

Plan 1003 was repeatedly updated and presented to Rumsfeld, and each time, according to the planner, Rumsfeld said, “‘You’ve got too much ground force—go back and do it again.’” In the planner’s view, Rumsfeld had two goals: to demonstrate the efficacy of precision bombing and to “do the war on the cheap.” Rumsfeld and his two main deputies for war planning, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, “were so enamored of ‘shock and awe’ that victory seemed assured,” the planner said. “They believed that the weather would always be clear, that the enemy would expose itself, and so precision bombings would always work.”

We're supposed to hate the sin and love the sinner. It's very hard to do.

dystopia 11:58 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: March 31

1840: President Martin Van Buren declared that federal employees would only put in ten-hour days. Though later legislation would bump the Federal workday down to a more reasonable eight hours, Van Buren's apologists pointed to the ten-hour mandate as proof that he did in fact care for the "average" American.

1965: Responding to questions from reporters about the situation in Vietnam, President Johnson said, "I know of no far-reaching strategy that is being suggested or promulgated," though he had already sent 3,500 Marines to Da Nang to secure the US airbase there, ostensibly for defensive purposes.

1968: President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election.

1970: 2,500 Berkeley students turn in their draft cards.

1981: Vice President George Bush’s son Neil was scheduled to lunch with the brother of attempted Reagan assassin John Hinckley on the day after Reagan was shot. When the local press learned of the planned meeting, they canceled it.

1991: After 36 years in existence, the Warsaw Pact -- the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its eastern European satellites -- came to an end. The pact was formed in 1955, primarily as a response to the decision by the United States and its western European allies to include a rearmed West Germany in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

1992: The UN Security Council voted to ban flights and arms sales to Libya, branding it a terrorist state for shielding six men accused of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 and a French airliner.

1999: Three US Army soldiers were captured by Serb forces near the Yugoslav-Macedonia border.

1999: Four New York City police officers were charged with murder for killing Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, in a hail of bullets.

dystopia 11:30 AM - [Link]

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Three American Communities

Each formed in very different places and for very different reasons -- their histories, their futures, and the people who live there:

Last Days of a Leper Colony

Land of the Free

Shaker Remnant

dystopia 7:38 PM - [Link]

Meet Red Jacket

Sagoyewatha, or Red Jacket, Chief of the Senecas, addressing the missionary Reverend Cram from the Boston Missionary Society at Buffalo Creek in 1805:

We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.

We first knew you as a feeble plant which wanted a little earth whereon to grow. We gave it to you; and afterward, when we could have trod you under our feet, we watered and protected you; and now you have grown to be a mighty tree, whose top reaches the clouds, and whose branches overspread the whole land, whilst we, who were the tall pines of the forest, have become a feeble plant and need your protection.

You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind, and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did He not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the book?

Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all...we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own. . .you say you have not come to get our land or our wealth but to enlighten our minds. . .you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbours. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother, you have now heard our answer to your talk, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are going to part, we will come and take you by the hand and hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey and return you safe to your friends.

As the Indians began to approach the missionary, he rose hastily from his seat and replied that he could not take them by the hand; that there was no fellowship between the religion of God and the works of the devil.

This being interpreted to the Indians, they smiled, and retired in a peaceable manner.

dystopia 6:19 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: March 30

1855: About 5,000 "Border Ruffians" from western Missouri invaded the territory of Kansas and forced the election of a pro-slavery legislature. It was the first election in Kansas.

1870: The 15th amendment to the Constitution, giving black men the right to vote, was declared in effect.

1891: Signaling a growing movement toward direct political action among desperate western farmers, "Sockless" Jerry Simpson called on the Kansas Farmers' Alliance to work for a takeover of the state government.

1903: Revolutionary activity in the Dominican Republic brought US troops to Santo Domingo to protect American interests.

1909: In Oklahoma, Seminole Indians revolted against meager pay for government jobs.

1948: Henry Wallace, former vice-president and current Progressive Party presidential candidate, lashed out at the Cold War policies of President Harry S Truman. Wallace and his supporters were among the few Americans who actively voiced criticisms of America's Cold War mindset during the late-1940s and 1950s.

1950: President Truman denounced Senator Joe McCarthy as a saboteur of US foreign policy.

1970: After years of struggle and a nationwide boycott, the United Farm Workers signed the first table-grape contract with two of California's largest grape growers.

1981: President Reagan was shot and seriously injured outside a Washington, DC, hotel by John W. Hinckley Jr. Also wounded were White House news secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a DC police officer. Secretary of State Alexander Haig declared himself in charge of the government.

1984: The US ended its participation in the multinational peace force in Lebanon.

dystopia 10:38 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)