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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

Annoyances.org

Anthrax Vaccine Network

Anti-Fascism.org

Arms Control Association

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Atomic Veterans of America

BailoutWatch

Behind the Label

Black Box Voting

Bread for the World

Brennan Center for Justice

B'Tselem

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

ChristianLogic.com

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

CivilRights.org

Clary-Meuser Research Network

Clean Clothes Campaign

CleanUpGE.org

Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Market

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

CokeWatch.org

Commercial Alert

Common Cause

Common Dreams

Commonweal Institute

Community Rights Council

Concord Coalition

CongressWatch

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

CorporateWatch

Corps of Engineers Watch

CorpWatch.org

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

DemocracyNet

Depleted Uranium Education Project

Depleted Uranium Watch

DES Action

Desaparecidos

Disabled American Veterans

Discernment Ministry International

Disinfopedia

DynCorpSucks.com

e.Hormone

Earth Institute

EarthJustice

EarthRights International

Economic Policy Institute

ElectionLine.org

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

Faith-BasedWatch

Families of
September 11


Families USA: Voice for Health Care Consumers

Family Farm Alliance

FamilyFarmer.org

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

GoogleWatch

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

HumanTrafficking.org

iAbolish: Anti-Slavery Web Portal

IdealsWork

Independent Judiciary

Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton

IndianLandTenure.org

Inequality.org

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

JoeCitizen.org

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

McSpotlight

Measles Initiative

MediaReform.net

Mines Advisory Group

MinistryWatch

Mothers for Peace

MoveOn.org

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

NativeWeb

Natural Resources Defense Council

Neturei Karta

New Rules Project

NikeWatch

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

OpenSecrets.org: 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

Privacy.net

Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Project Against the Present Danger

Project on Government Oversight

Project Underground

Project Vote Smart

Protection Project

PRWatch

Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibity

Rainforest Action Network

RaytheonWatch

Reaching Critical Will

Reclaim Democracy

Reclaim the Media

ReliefWeb

RememberJohn.com

Resource Center of the Americas

Responsible Wealth

Rethinking Schools

Right-To-Know Network

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

SafeMinds

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

SpyChecker

StateAction.org

Stop Carnivore

Stop Disney Sweatshops

Stop Patient Abuse Now Coalition

SurgicalEyes.org

SweatshopWatch

Sweetwater Alliance

Swords to Plowshares

Talion: Voting Machines

Tax Foundation

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ten Thousand Villages

Third World Traveler

Tort Reform Reader

Traidcraft

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

USFumigation.org

Veterans for Common Sense

Vital Voices Global Partnership

Voice4Change.org

VoteWatch: Repository for Voter Complaints

Water Aid

Water Barons

Whistleblower.org: 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

Yesh-Gvul

YourCongress.com

Yucca Mountain Facts


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Saturday, April 12, 2003

Tulia Post-Mortem

Mark Kleiman tells it better than I can:

After four years, the 38 (mostly black) defendants framed for drug dealing in the infamous Tulia, TX, cases are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. A judge who held hearings on the cases at the direction of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has recommended that all the convictions be vacated, and prosecutors have indicated that they will not attempt to retry any of the defendants if the court follows that recommendation. There's even a hint that the single officer whose obviously perjured testimony wrecked so many lives (and earned him a "Lawman of the Year" award) might be facing some criminal charges of his own.

Well, I'm glad to hear it. But if someone says "The system worked" I think I'm going to scream. A few things to think about before we start celebrating...


dystopia 2:47 PM - [Link]
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Perle Again

Checking out new (to me) blogs this afternoon -- found a good essay on the Richard Perle phenomenon at By Sand and Sea:

What continues to astonish me is that even though these guys keep talking about their objectives and they've already achieved at least two of them (Iraq and a UN in shambles), so few people have paid attention. No, most people don't believe that current events have the slightest connection to anything these guys have been bleating about for the past two years. That would be too much like...a conspiracy theory.

dystopia 2:35 PM - [Link]
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Bill to Repeal 2-Term Presidential Limit

Almost went over backwards in my chair on this one:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

The only name attached to this bill is Rep Josť E Serrano (D-NY), ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, Judiciary, and related agencies of the exclusive and powerful House Appropriations Committee. He has represented New York's 16th Congressional District in the South Bronx for nine years.

I've looked at his voting records, various bios and his own website, and I can find nothing that would lead me to believe he would like for this president to be able to serve more than one term, let alone two. It just wouldn't make any sense, because Serrano and Bush seem to be ideological opposites.

So I looked some more, and found that this amendment had already been proposed at least three times before, while Clinton was still in office: on January 6, 1999 by Serrano and Chris Shays (R-CT); on February 8, 1999 by Barney Frank (D-MA); and on March 11, 1999 by Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Henry Hyde (R-IL), Barney Frank, Howard Berman (D-CA), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Marty Sabo (D-MN) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

I don't know what to make of this. Don't these Democrats know about voting machines?

The latest bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, where no further action has been taken so far. Please, God, let it die there.

dystopia 12:33 PM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 12

1861: The Civil War began as Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

1864: Confederate Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Fort Pillow in Tennessee and slaughtered the black Union troops there.

1892: Voters in Lockport, NY, became the first in the US to use voting machines.

1963: Police used dogs and cattle prods on peaceful civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham; television coverage of the violence shocked the nation.

1980: At President Carter's request, the US Olympic Committee voted not to attend the Moscow Summer Olympics in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

1988: Harvard University won a patent for a genetically altered mouse, the first patent for a life form.

1989: Radical activist Abbie Hoffman was found dead at his home in New Hope, PA, at age 52.

1999: A Little Rock jury acquitted Susan McDougal of charges of obstructing the Starr investigation.

dystopia 10:45 AM - [Link]
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Friday, April 11, 2003

Selling Out Colorado Students

Hey, isn't this bribery and, um, illegal? What on earth is going on in Colorado? From the Associated Press, via the Charleston Gazette:

A Senate committee accepted a $78,300 check from a special interest group Friday and promptly approved a public school voucher program the group supports, saying the money was welcome given the state's financial crisis.

"If everyone would show up with a check, that would make this job so much easier," said state Sen Ron Teck, a Republican from Grand Junction.


Yeah, I'll bet.

While we're on the subject of taxpayer-funded school vouchers, Tommy Ates, in the Ethical Spectacle, gives his reasons for being against them:

The problems of the public system comes from the lack of adequate teacher salaries and plummeting tax-base of inner cities, as the ravages of white and black flight take their toll on funds for school infrastructure and special education. The solution of school vouchers, now approved by the Supreme Court, is the implicit notion that the American public school system is a failure and should be abandoned.

If this notion is true, what is the fate of whose youth unable to leave? No one wishes to discuss that question. Not conservative activists, not parochial schools, not middle-class parents who can afford to leave.

One can only conclude, these children 'left behind' are expendable. And no one wants to know the fate of children to whom no opportunities were given and whose place in society is a liability to all, whether that person be one's neighbor, one's pariah, one's class, or one's race. Apparently, even the courts are admitting (by omission) that the path of the underclass is a one-way drive.


His reasons run pretty close to my own, but I never see anyone suggest one possible way to help keep public schools viable. In my state (don't know how it is in others), the education system is bogged down with redundancy and duplication of effort. There are hundreds of independent school districts -- private little fiefdoms -- each with their own separate boards, payrolls, computer systems and other equipment and facilities, sometimes within just a few miles of each other. It eats up a lot of education dollars just to keep them all running. I'd strip it down and centralize all the administrative functions at the state and county levels.

Don't know for sure what-all else I'd do, but that's a start. Privatizing's not the answer, and neither are vouchers.

dystopia 3:20 PM - [Link]
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India-Pakistan War Threat Growing

Indian officials are saying that they have a much better case to launch a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan than the US had to attack Iraq. We'll probably be hearing that line pretty often in international disputes from now on. From Yahoo! News:

Sinha also argued that Pakistan was "a fit case" for US military action, because it had weapons of mass destruction and terrorists.

Fernandes also rejected Pakistani allegations that India had breached United Nations Security Council resolutions from 1948 to 1957 which call for a plebiscite among Kashmiris to choose rule by India or Pakistan. "Pakistan has a habit of lying and the issue of cross-border terrorism is a serious issue," Fernandes said.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Muslim militants in Kashmir. Islamabad denies the charge but says it offers moral and political support to what it describes as Kashmiris' legitimate struggle for self-expression.

Around 38,000 people have died in Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, since the launch of the armed insurgency by Islamic guerrillas in 1989 in the Himalayan territory.


Of, course, Pakistan has harsh things to say about India, as well. Both are nuclear countries, so none of this is good news. Here's some history on Kashmir:

Kashmir Flashpoint
Death Toll: India-Pakistan Partition

dystopia 2:43 PM - [Link]
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Red Cross Fears for Baghdad Hospitals

According to Reuters, the ICRC doubts that any Baghdad hospital is still able to function:

Spokeswoman Nada Doumani said she had just spoken to ICRC official Roland Huguenin-Benjamin in the Iraqi capital and that he had told her that "probably there are no more hospitals functioning because of looting, lack of medical personnel, people are scared."

"It is anarchy," she quoted him as saying.

An ICRC team had ventured out on to the streets but had not been able to visit all the city's hospitals. They did go to Medical City, however, and there they found very few people. "Operating theatres are no longer functioning. There are no more instruments in any case," Doumani said.


Paul McGeough reported on his descent into a charnel-house hell in the Sydney Morning Herald:

If it is possible to have a nightmare within a nightmare, Kindi Hospital is it. The horror of war in Baghdad is distressing, but it is not possible to walk into this hospital without questioning the very essence of humanity as we think we know it...

"I have done 12 operations today - crushings, fractures and amputations. You see that these Americans are hitting civilians - their homes, their streets, their cars and even those who walk about. They hit anyone. One of the ambulance drivers says they have struck Al Yarmuk Hospital, so now we worry about a strike here..."

Surgeon Mohamed Kamil says there has been a marked change in the nature of Kindi's workload since the arrival of US troops in Baghdad at the weekend. "We're now getting not just shrapnel wounds, but pieces of people," he says. "These are wounds from missiles and rockets. They are amputations. They require more urgent surgery."

The numbers have been rising steadily at the hospital - today it received more than 200 injuries and 35 corpses. Six other hospitals serving the city report similar figures and now they are having the overflow from Iraq's hard-pressed military hospitals foisted on them.


dystopia 1:54 PM - [Link]
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Contractor Goody Bag Legislation

The Project on Government Oversight issued an alert on legislation to be proposed by Rep Tom Davis (R-VA), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and the most recent head Republican fundraiser in the House of Representatives. POGO says the bill:

1) encourages use of time and material and labor hour contracts which allow contractors to engage in almost unlimited billing of the government without producing a product. These contracts require the government to pay for time and expenses rather than for milestones reached or work completed.

2) would expand use of speculative and unproven financing schemes known as share-in-savings contracts. According to law professor and acquisition expert Charles Tiefer, share-in-savings contracts "could propagate problems similar to those that accompanied deregulation of government-insured savings-and-loans institutions or procurement of defense spare parts in the 1980s by sole-source contracts."

3) would raise the requirements for TINA and CAS application from the current $550,000 and $7.5 million, respectively, to $200 million in the case of fixed-price contracts awarded to certain "commercial companies." Restricting TINA and CAS application when negotiating contract prices in a sole-source environment is like asking the government to put blinders on, and would lead to outrageous contract overpricing and wasteful spending.


Well, you see, there's an election coming up next year, and keeping those defense contractors happy makes them awfully good friends of the party...

dystopia 12:47 PM - [Link]
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Kill the Indian, Save the Man

According to ABC News, six former students of government-run Indian boarding schools have filed suit for abuses they suffered there:

The six plaintiffs all attended Catholic boarding schools in South Dakota, but claim in their lawsuit that psychological, physical and sexual abuse was inflicted on Indian children throughout the school system and covered up by a government which forced them to leave their homes for boarding schools...

"All my life I've never wanted to think about these things. I pushed them as far back as I could," tearful plaintiff Adele Zephier said at a press conference in Los Angeles to announce the lawsuit. "I'm really happy to be here today to tell everybody the truth about what happened to us as children.

Zephier said she was abused by nuns and sexually molested by a priest at a school run from 1948 to 1975 by St. Paul's Catholic Church in Marty, South Dakota. Her brother, plaintiff Sherwyn Zephier said he endured beatings at the school.


So is there anything to these allegations? Well, yes, of course. If you're Indian, you already know that (full disclosure: Cherokee).

Here's some info on a few of these schools, to give you an idea of what they were about, and what life was like there:

Carlisle Indian School
Canadian-Style Apology for School Abuse Not Expected in US
American Indian Boarding Schools: 'That Hurt Never Goes Away'
Former Students at Indian Schools Reflect on Experience
Canadian Indian School Abuses

dystopia 12:20 PM - [Link]
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This is Katie Leung?

I was picturing in my head a leggy, glamorous Chinese chick -- a femme fatale capable of tempting an FBI agent to risk career, family and everything else for her charms, but seeing this picture of Leung dispelled any such notion. She might have been a seductress twenty years ago, but she looks like an ordinary middle-aged woman now.

Noticed this little snippet in the NY Times article:

Mr Smith, who is married and has an adult son, lives in Westlake Village, Calif, just west of Los Angeles. Although voices could be heard inside the house today, no one answered the door.

Yep, that was most likely Mrs Smith telling her husband just what she thought about all this.

dystopia 10:57 AM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 11

1898: President William McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war against Spain.

1899: The treaty ending the Spanish-American War was declared in effect.

1947: Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major-league history.

1963: A hundred US troops of the Hawaiian-based 25th Infantry Division were ordered to temporary duty with military units in South Vietnam to serve as machine gunners aboard Army H-21 helicopters, the first commitment of American combat troops to the war in Vietnam.

1968: President Johnson signed the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

1970: Apollo 13 blasted off on a mission to the moon that was cut short when an explosion crippled the spacecraft.

1974: The Judiciary committee subpoenaed President Nixon to produce his White House tapes for their impeachment inquiry.

1985: The White House announced that President Reagan would visit the Nazi cemetery at Bitburg.

1985: Oliver North informed National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane that the illegal Contra supply operation had funneled more than $17 million in arms and equipment to the Contras, which had swelled from 9,000 to 16,000 personnel – although they had yet to mount a single effective military operation.

2001: Ending an 11-day standoff, China agreed to free the 24 crew members of an American spy plane after President George W Bush said he was "very sorry" for the death of a Chinese fighter pilot whose plane had collided with the American aircraft.

dystopia 10:35 AM - [Link]
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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Do We Really Want Recruits Like This?

Three young men, all 18 years old, chased down an autistic 15-year-old boy on a bike. They knocked him down with their minivan, then they kicked, stomped, choked and spit on him. Two of the thugs were sentenced to 90 days in jail; their lawyers refused to accept probation for them because it would disqualify them from joining the Marines.

From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

Brown County Circuit Court Judge Kendall Kelley described the incident as "outrageous."

Quayle told Kelley he was sorry and remorseful for his actions, which he said were "stupid and childish."

"What it was, in fact, was brutal -- that's different," Kelley said.


Are we that desperate to fill the ranks? Seems like vicious little bastards like these might tend to get a little too trigger-happy.

dystopia 5:44 PM - [Link]
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ANWR Drilling Slipped into House Bill

They're just never going to give up on this, are they? ABC News says it's been tacked onto a House energy package, so it could still pass:

Boosting vehicle fuel economy would do more to cut U.S. oil imports than taking the ANWR's crude, say drilling opponents.

"We cannot drill our way out of our dependence on foreign sources of oil," said Democrat Adam Schiff of California.

A recent Gallup poll found 73 percent of Americans favored higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and more conservation of existing energy supplies over greater production of oil and gas.


Salon.com says, "While the refuge drilling measure has a good chances of passing the House, it is certain to again run into trouble in the Senate, which rejected developing of ANWR's oil by a 52-48 vote two weeks ago."

Well, actually, Salon had more than that to say:

In addition to Arctic drilling, the emerging House energy legislation -- parts of which are being crafted in several committees -- would provide a broad array of financial breaks for oil and gas developers, require increased use of ethanol in gasoline, streamline approval for hydroelectric dams, and give federal regulators greater say in locating power lines.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) called it "a buffet table" for the oil and gas industry.

"Robin Hood is turning in his grave," said Rahall, who criticized a series of committee-approved measures that would allow developers to forego paying federal royalties when developing deep offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.


Just business as usual...

dystopia 4:57 PM - [Link]
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Who's Your Guardian?

Interesting Chicago IndyMedia article on a National Guard exercise called "Hoosier Guardian":

While officials and corporate media stress that this was anti-terrorism training, much of this operation intended to quell civil protests and work-related demonstrations at industrial sites. Fellow guardsmen portrayed working-class "demonstrators" and "protesters" who shouted anti-military chants, carried anti-government posters, and staged sit-down strikes. The Port of Indiana is located along an industrial corridor with an economy that has been ravaged by the bankruptcies of the steel industry and county governments, massive layoffs, and the elimination of insurances for retired steel workers. Guardsmen, armed with M-16 rifles and clubs, attacked the "strikers" and "protesters" who were both picketing and holding a sit-down strike at the time the armed soldiers moved in on them.

Just saw a timely reminder of how that sort of confrontation can turn out on the Discovery Times Channel -- a documentary about Kent State.

dystopia 4:05 PM - [Link]
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Next Target: Syria?

Sounds like we'll probably skip the UN this time. From Newsday:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and their main ideological ally at the State Department, undersecretary John Bolton, have all made menacing public remarks about Syria in recent days...

One intelligence source with good access to Pentagon civilian authorities said that Rumsfeld last week ordered the drawing up of contingency plans for a possible invasion of Syria and that Defense undersecretary Douglas Feith is working on a policy paper highlighting how Syria's support of terrorist groups is a threat to the region...

The conservative American Enterprise Institute this week published an article apparently calling for US attacks on Syria and Iran, which it said were sending forces into Iraq. "So they are coming to kill coalition forces, which means that there is no more time for diplomatic 'solutions.' The United States will have to deal with the terror masters, here and now," it said. Michael Ledeen, a go-between with Israel in the 1980s US plot to ship arms from Iran to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, wrote the article.


Funny how those Iran-Contra connections keep popping up.

Just who exactly is in charge of making these decisions on our behalf, anyway? I don't remember seeing any of these names on my ballot.

dystopia 3:42 PM - [Link]
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Vaccine Liability Compromise Collapses

The compromise was to close a legislative loophole on vaccine additives in order to force all parents of vaccine-injured children to go through the vaccine court, in exchange for doubling the statute of limitations period and a one-year grace period for parents who missed the deadline. Here's what happened next, according to the NY Times:

The majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, and other lawmakers arrived at work today expecting the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee to adopt the compromise, which tries to shield vaccine makers from lawsuits while expanding the rights of parents of injured children to bring claims before a special court.

Instead, when the meeting began, Congressional aides watched, stunned, as lobbyists for several vaccine manufacturers huddled anxiously with the staff of Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire and the committee chairman. Moments later, Mr. Gregg announced that the meeting, called a "mark up" in Senate parlance, would be postponed for lack of a quorum...

"We are concerned," said Ian Spatz, vice president for public policy at Merck, "with any changes that would add significantly to the already great burden of civil litigation against vaccine research companies such as ours."


And did you catch this part?:

Parents of injured children are required to bring claims to the court before suing; compensation is awarded through a taxpayer-financed fund.

Why on earth should taxpayers be footing the bill for corporate mistakes? Methinks that if the pharmaceutical companies were held liable for the side effects of their own products, they would have more incentive to make them safer in the first place.

The bottom line is that the pharmaceutical companies have no intention of compromising anything, ever. Big Pharma gets whatever it wants, cause it pays big bucks to make sure of it. And, make no mistake, Big Pharma can afford to.

dystopia 3:07 PM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 10

1942: About 66,000 Filipino and 11,796 US soldiers near the Philippine town of Mariveles surrendered to Japanese forces. Unable to feed their wounded and starving POWs, the Japanese opted for the 61-mile "Bataan Death March" to mitigate the problem.

1947: FBI agents visited Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Jane Wyman, accusing them of belonging to Communist front groups. Reagan quickly agreed to become a secret informer.

1956: Nat "King" Cole was attacked and severely beaten by a group of racial segregationists while singing onstage at the Municipal Hall in Birmingham, Alabama.

1963: The nuclear-powered submarine USS Thresher and its crew of 129 was lost off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

1972: Some 70 nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, signed an agreement banning biological warfare.

1981: The UN approved a world treaty assuring that no civilians should be attacked with "napalm, mines or booby-traps." The measure was defeated by US veto.

1984: The Senate condemned the Reagan administration's mining of Nicaraguan harbors.

1992: Financier Charles Keating was sentenced in Los Angeles to 9 years in prison for swindling investors when his Lincoln Savings and Loan collapsed.

2001: HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson held a briefing for major Republican Party fundraisers in his office, a practice supposedly deplored by Republicans during the 2000 campaign.

dystopia 10:17 AM - [Link]
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Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Doctor's Comments Stun House Committee

Opponents of a cap on medical malpractice awards presented to a House Judiciary subcommittee the case of a woman whose breasts were removed after being misdiagnosed with cancer. According to the TheState.com, this is what the woman's doctor had to say for himself before the committee last week:

She did not lose her life, and with the plastic surgery, she'll have breast reconstruction better than she had before. It won't be National Geographic, hanging to her knees. It'll be nice, firm breasts.

This man should not be practicing medicine. Period.

Malpractice caps benefit only the insurance companies -- they do nothing to bring costs down for the consumer or for the medical provider. The only way to get costs down is to make insurance companies behave themselves. Read here (PDF file) for some proof of that.

On edit: The doctor quoted above was not directly involved with Ms. McDougal's medical case; he was testifying before the committee because, well, I'm not quite sure why. The article doesn't really say, does it?

dystopia 4:30 PM - [Link]
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Group to Help Iraqi Amputees

The Limbless Association has set up a special fund to help provide prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation for Iraqi children injured in the war. These services are going to be desperately needed. If you'd like to help, please visit the Limbless Association website for more information.

dystopia 3:49 PM - [Link]
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Plagiarism in the Blogosphere

Everybody's buzzing about The Agonist, who was busted for passing off StratFor articles as his own work. You can read various comments about it here, there and everywhere.

The episode prompted me to review my own blogging habits. I have no training as a journalist or as a writer, so I went in search of some sort of "blog ethics" info. Found it in Rebecca's Pocket:

1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.

2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.

3. Publicly correct any misinformation.

4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.

5. Disclose any conflict of interest.

6. Note questionable and biased sources.


Sounds reasonable. I think I'm doing okay so far, except for #4. Once I see my posts in black and white (they're in white and blue on the preview version), they don't always read the way they sounded in my head, so sometimes I've tinkered with the wording a little, but usually while the post is still fresh. Or sometimes it's to fix a typo that I missed while proofreading. Or else I've forgotten to credit a source, so a few times I've had to go back and put it in. Here, slap my hand -- I'll try not to do that any more!

dystopia 3:08 PM - [Link]
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Poor Scarcer Than Minorities on Campus

The Educational Testing Service released a report recently that found only 3% of freshmen at 146 of the most selective colleges and universities came from families in the bottom 25% of Americans ranked by income, while 12% of students on these same campuses were black or Hispanic. As reported in the Houston Chronicle:

The picture is bleaker for those who come from the lower half of the income spectrum, regardless of their race or ethnic heritage. Only 10 percent of the entering class at those sought-after schools is made up of students from the bottom half of the income scale, Carnevale found.

He is among a small group of reformers who have pressed the idea of "class-based affirmative action." Public opinion surveys show that most people, even if they are skeptical of affirmative action based on race, strongly support giving extra help to students who have overcome disadvantages, he said.

"Opportunity and upward mobility is what America is all about. Americans want strivers to be given a chance," he said. "But we don't like to talk about class anymore. We know from our testing that a lot of kids out there are qualified to go to these schools, but they don't, and the truth is, nobody much (cares) about it."


Another view, from the NY Times:

States and universities are increasingly helping students who were once too well off to qualify, in hope that brighter students will attend state schools and out of recognition that college costs are so high that nearly everyone is feeling strain; since Georgia instituted its merit scholarships in 1993, at least 11 states have followed its lead; more than 5 percent of highest-income families got state grants in 2000, and university grants to highest-income students grew twice as fast as awards to lowest-income students in same period; one result is that wealthier families are able to buy cars for their college-bound children with money they would have spent on tuition; growth of awards based solely on merit has fueled national debate over very meaning of scholarships, and who should get them; civil rights groups are trying to challenge new scholarships in court; but state awards programs have become so popular that Tom Golisano, Independence Party candidate for governor of New York, has made them centerpiece of his campaign; Kelly Ryan has made good use of her college trust fund. It has bought a trusty Honda, trips to Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, some painful lessons about picking her own stocks and, if all goes well, maybe even her first piece of real estate after graduation. About the only thing it is has not paid for is, well, college.

No need for that. Ms Ryan is a scholarship student.


(Dang! You have to pay for NY Times archive pieces now? Bummer.)

dystopia 2:33 PM - [Link]
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Are American Elections Fixed?

Well, if you were asking me, I'd say we could resurrect G. Washington for President in 2004 and still lose, but that's just my opinion. Study up on it and decide for yourself what you think. Ernest Partridge writes in Online Journal:

We can well imagine the rebuttals to these concerns: "Aw, c'mon! These are paranoid ravings! Surely you can't believe that our national elections are fixed and that our national leaders are not fairly and honestly elected?

Well, perhaps our critics are right. The ballot boxes, and hence our elections, are 100 percent copacetic. But, given the nature of the technology, how can we know this? Moreover, and fundamentally, don't we have a right to verifiable guarantees that our votes, all of them, will be counted?

If our elections are to be fair races, then neither party should have any objections to the adoption of rigorous validation procedures, most notably: (a) random inspection of computer voting machines after the election, (b) publication of the software code, and (c) paper "receipts" given to each voter to inspect upon completion of his voting, to be then deposited in a "backup" ballot box.

"Backup" validations procedures, most notably a preservation of paper ballots, have been implicit in our elections from the very founding of our republic. Until now, that is...


Need more info? Black Box Voting is dedicated to the topic and has collected an impressive archive of info on voting machines and "funny" election results. Cronus Connection and Talion also have a wealth of info along the same lines. Search on voting machines and you'll find plenty more.

dystopia 2:14 PM - [Link]
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They'll Be Good! Honest!

Haven't the chemical manufacturers always been wonderful stewards of those vile toxins they produce? Why shouldn't we trust them to set their own safety standards for national security?

According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration is proposing just that:

Sen James M. Inhofe (R-Okla) is working with the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to craft a bill that would require chemical companies to abide by standards drawn up by their industry association, rather than be subject to mandatory government measures advocated by environmental activists and many Democrats, officials said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified 123 chemical plants where a terrorist attack could, in a "worst-case" scenario, kill more than 1 million people...

The measure rejects so-called "hazard reduction" requirements proposed in a competing Democratic bill. Under that legislation, the Homeland Security Department would require every plant to make use of the safest chemicals, technologies and processes available. Examples cited by the Democratic sponsors, Sens Jon S Corzine of New Jersey and John Edwards of North Carolina, include requiring sewage treatment plants to employ alternatives to chlorine, the widely used chemical that could release a toxic cloud if detonated.


dystopia 1:49 PM - [Link]
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Homeland Security: Butt Out

Jordan Noyes is an 11-year-old girl from Canaan, VT. She loves her country and wanted to do something to help, so she raised $720 to buy a bullet-proof vest for a local police dog. Things went downhill from there, according to the Caledonian-Record News:

Unfortunately, it was found that because of the new Homeland Security bill regarding gifts [873(b)], any gift, no matter how sincere, could not be accepted...

After receiving the news from border patrol, Jordan's mother did not know how to break the news to her daughter. Perry came over with the dog to explain in person why he could not accept the vest.

"I didn't understand it," a disappointed Jordan said Friday afternoon. "I still don't understand it."


I don't either, Jordan, but bless you for trying.

dystopia 1:32 PM - [Link]
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US Media Dig Deep for Politicians

Ah, but you already knew that, didn't you? From the Guardian:

Figures show that NBC network owner General Electric and News Corporation, owner of the Fox and Sky television networks and the New York Post, tipped the bulk of their soft money funds into Republican coffers in 2001-02. The two media giants are among the most prolific donors, according the data reported to the US federal electoral commission.

General Electric directed nearly 60% of overall donations - $1.92m - to the Republicans in 2001-02. The party received nearly twice the amount in soft money donations.

Ms Krumholz, the centre's research director, said media multinationals have a history of dipping their financial fingers in the political pie to protect their corporate interests.

"Donations from media companies, as with all industries, have grown over the last decade," she said.


That's why they've been getting whatever they ask for:

Big-Name Candidates Bow To Media Power
Media Companies' FCC Wishlist
Broadcast Industry Gets What It Wants in Washington

dystopia 1:25 PM - [Link]
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One Night in Rafah

Ben Granby at MidEastLog posted a harrowing narrative account written by Billie Moskona-Lerman about her first visit to the Gaza Strip. An Israeli woman, she was posing as a French journalist on this journey of discovery:

The first site Muhammad chooses to show me is at Block G on the northern edge of the city, where 400 houses had been destroyed. As we come near, inhabitants living in tents warn us not to come close to the tanks with their guns directed at us. "When they see something moving they shoot," a woman on a donkey warns Muhammad.

The rest of the way we do half crawling among the ruins, through the narrow alleys, careful not to raise our heads. The tanks are some 200 metres away, their guns at the ready. It is important to Muhammad to show me the site of the mass house demolition. He had photographed house after house and entered the houses into his internet site, which is daily visited by 900 people from all over the world.

Row after row of destroyed houses, with personal belongings scattered and strewn around. Dolls, furniture, bicyles, books. We crawl through the alleys to avoid the threatening guns of tanks. "They can shoot at any moment, just at any suspicious movement," he says and leads further in. The fear comes crawling up my feet and legs. Finally, when we come closer and closer to the tanks and the ruins become deeper and deeper, I raise my voice: "Enough!" Muhammad yields to the French journalist, and we get into the taxi and move on.


Ms. Moskona-Lerman lives in Tel Aviv and, prior to this visit, had no real idea of the terror, devastation and despair the people in these camps live under. If she didn't know, close as she is geographically, it's not terribly surprising that few Americans do.

dystopia 11:21 AM - [Link]
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Stuart Hughes Lost His Leg

I've been reading Hughes' Northern Iraq Weblog for a few weeks now, so it was startling to find that he also became a casualty of this war when he and his colleagues stepped out of their vehicle and into a minefield. Cameraman Kaveh Golestan was killed instantly.

Hughes is recovering in a hospital in Cyprus, and has resumed blogging:

Saw the surgeon this afternoon and the die has been cast; the foot goes tomorrow. He said when he opened up the wound yesterday he knew he had no options. There's no soft tissue left to connect any new vessels onto, so the decision's been made for him. Obviously it's a heart-breaking thing to come to terms with but in a way it's been made easier by the fact that there are no options to consider. The saddest thing is that I have five perfectly perky toes held in place with a meccano set of pins and bolts but, in medical terms, that's not enough to save my ballrooom dancing career. Like a killer virus, the landmine has done what it's designed to do with perfect precision. I feel no bitterness but I hope whoever manufactures the things is pleased with their handiwork.

Jim Muir had driven Hughes and Golestan that day, along with an interpreter and a guide, to cover fighting at the front near Kifri. He wrote a heart-breaking account of what happened for the BBC:

By then I had realised Kaveh was missing.

I shouted: "Where's Kaveh? Where's Kaveh?"

Rebeen, who had not had time to get out of the car as he was in the middle, shouted: "He's over there, to the left. He's dead."

I looked over to the left, and there was a body lying about 10 metres away in a dip, covered with dust.

I said: "That's not Kaveh."


dystopia 11:02 AM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 9

1865: Lee surrendered his army to Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

1939: Interior Secretary Harold Ickes arranged for Marian Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow the Black singer to perform at Constitution Hall.

1942: American and Philippine defenders on Bataan capitulated to Japanese forces during World War II; the surrender was followed by the notorious Bataan Death March, which claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

1969: The Chicago Eight, indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, pleaded not guilty.

1984: Nicaragua asked the World Court to declare US support for guerilla raids illegal.

1989: More than 600,000 marched in Washington in support of abortion rights.

1996: Dan Rostenkowski, the once-powerful House Ways and Means chairman, pleaded guilty to two mail fraud charges in a deal that brought with it a 17-month prison term.

2002: Former Arthur Andersen auditor David B Duncan pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to ordering the shredding of Enron documents, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

dystopia 10:36 AM - [Link]
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Tuesday, April 08, 2003

US Incarcerated Hits Record Number

According to the Washington Post, the DoJ reports that the population of American prisons and jails has topped 2 million for the first time ever. That's one out of every 142 US residents. That's twice as many as in 1990:

The Sentencing Project, a group that promotes alternatives to prison, said state and federal policies continue to drive up incarceration rates despite sharp drops in violent crime rates since 1994.

"The relentless increases in prison and jail populations can best be explained as the legacy of an entrenched infrastructure of punishment that has been embedded in the criminal justice system over the last 30 years," said Malcolm Young, the group's executive director...

An estimated 12 percent of black males, 4 percent of Hispanic males and 1.6 percent of white males in their twenties and early thirties were in prison or jail.


Just by coincidence, or perhaps not, the number of for-profit prisons has also skyrocketed during the past few decades.

dystopia 6:53 PM - [Link]
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Wooden Bullets

Surely you've seen the pictures by now:

Police were trying to clear protesters from an entrance to the docks when they opened fire and the longshoremen apparently were caught in the line of fire.

Six longshoremen were treated by paramedics and at least one was expected to be taken to a hospital. It was unclear if any of the protesters was injured
(yeah, right).

"I was standing as far back as I could," said longshoreman Kevin Wilson. "It was very scary. All of that force wasn't necessary."


How does this happen in America? How is this so different from a place like Iraq? Because nobody died? What if that projectile had hit the girl's temple and killed her? Would people say, "She got what she deserved" once again, just like they did about the kids who died at Kent State, or about Rachel Corrie?

Why was that guy shot multiple times in the back?

This shit has gotten way out of hand.

dystopia 6:18 PM - [Link]
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Menace at MousePlanet

Found via Politics in the Zeros:

Fearing an anti-France backlash because of the French government's strong stance against the US in the Iraq war, Disney is quietly increasing the security presence around the France pavilion at Epcot, and reassigning some of the young French nationals with French-speaking Italians and Canadians. Based on the behavior of some visitors to the area, unfortunately, park officials seem justified in having serious concerns. One MousePlanet staff member recently witnessed a group of rowdy American men storm through the pavilion as they shouted epithets and made obscene gestures at the cast members.

dystopia 6:01 PM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 8

1913: The Seventeenth amendment was ratified, requiring direct election of senators.

1935: Congress voted to approve the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a central part of FDR's "New Deal."

1942: The War Production Board accelerated the transformation of the nation's economy by ordering a halt to all production that was not deemed necessary to the war.

1952: President Truman seized the steel industry to avert a nationwide strike.

1970: The Senate rejected Nixon's nomination of the racist, genital-exposing G Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court.

1988: Former Reagan aide Lyn Nofzinger was sentenced to prison for illegal lobbying for the Wedtech Corporation.

1995: Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated that in retrospect he believed America's policies in Vietnam were "terribly wrong."

dystopia 10:32 AM - [Link]
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Monday, April 07, 2003

Guess Who Came Through?

Wasn't sure of what I saw on TV -- it was so quick -- so I went hunting, and it looks like it's true! Heh-heh-heh...

The family of Pfc Jessica Lynch cannot afford airline tickets to Germany. It took four days for somebody to step up to the plate, and it was the HJ Heinz Company that finally offered use of its private jet to take the Lynches to Germany.

Normally, I don't have much good to say about too-rich and too-powerful business entities. But this was the right thing for any of the big corporations or any wealthy individual to do, and so I'm willing to salute Heinz for being the ones to do it.

In case you didn't know, "Mr Heinz" is John Kerry, Democratic candidate for president in 2004.

Also, it was Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) who expedited the family's passports.

Interesting that the Republicans didn't beat them to it, but then maybe that's just not where their "hearts and minds" are. Who knows?

BTW, there are other seriously injured soldiers stuck over there whose families can't afford the trip, either. Is anybody coming through for them?

dystopia 3:28 PM - [Link]
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Barbados Bites Back

Good for them! They got threatened by former Iran-Contra player Otto Reich, now Special Envoy for Western Hemispheric Initiatives, and they just ain't gonna take that crap lightly:

Miller said she believed that Reich had fully and freely availed himself of the very tradition of freedom of speech which both democracies held dear.

“It is that freedom of speech that allows small states like Barbados to express its views on matters of principle which it coinsiders to be of fundamental national and regional importance.

“Barbados as a long standing friend and ally of the US was deeply disappointed that Ambassador Reich seemed unable to accept that expression of an opposing view by another sovereign state, is not a hostile or unfriendly act, but rather the most vibrant example of the democratic traditions and freedoms which we both espouse.”


Amen, sister!

Thuggishness is nothing new for Reich. He's always been that way:

Public Diplomacy and Covert Propaganda
Bush's Contra Buddies
Iran-Contra Success Stories

Guys like this don't belong in public office. They belong in prison. And your tax dollars are paying their salaries.

dystopia 2:45 PM - [Link]
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Library Troubles

Librarians are facing several crises. With the passage of the USA Patriot Act, they are now required to reveal reading and Internet records of their patrons to the FBI upon request, and they are prohibited from telling anyone about it under penalty of law.

Luckily, many brave souls are outraged at this violation of the 4th Amendment, and are either passively or actively fighting back at this injustice and also at forms of censorship being imposed by modern McCarthyism.

That's not the only problem our libraries are facing. They're also at the bottom end of the list of spending priorities, of course, and many face closure due to our tanking economy.

Library Use Rises as Services Are Scaled Back
Library Patrons Feeling the Sting of Budget Cuts
Library Budget Devastated

Here's some cool librarians you might enjoy:

Librarian.net
Librarian Avengers
Warrior Librarian

Knowledge is power, folks. Use it or lose it.

dystopia 2:04 PM - [Link]
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Historians Speak on Iraq War

This conference, televised on C-Span (check archives for video replay), was held in Memphis on Saturday, and featured a range of historians from all over the country addressing the historical foundations and consequences our foreign policies, and also our American history and how it's been recorded.

Learned about some groups I didn't know about before:

Organization of American Historians
Historians Against the War
Hague Appeal for Peace

A couple of other things I learned:

After the Civil War, the Supreme Court established in the Milligan case that the Constitution is not suspended during wartime, and that civilians cannot be tried under a military tribunal.

One gentleman (didn't catch his name) said that Bush plans to abolish the income tax in his second term. Hadn't heard that, but I had already heard about the plan to institute consumption taxes, which place an unfair burden on the poor because the tax on a gallon of milk is the same for a poor man as it is for a rich man.

A female historian (sorry, no name again) made the point that if we allow the re-making of our universities on the corporate model, then we can't be surprised when opinions contrary to corporate interests are silenced. Just like what happened with the news media.

Another one said that her favorite protest sign so far was:

War: How Americans Learn Geography

A painful truth.

Only one person spoke in favor of Bush while I was watching, and he said that George Bush told him that the Reverend Billy Graham had planted a mustard seed of faith in him, and that was all he needed to know. That's pretty scary (see yesterday's sermon).

dystopia 12:10 PM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 7

1830: Sen Theodore Frelinghuysen denounced a bill submitted by President Jackson that called for removal of most Indians in the southeast to lands west of the Mississippi. He asked the Senate when it was ever proclaimed "that the right of discovery contained a superior efficacy to all prior titles?"

1922: The US Secretary of Interior leased the Teapot Dome naval oil reserves in Wyoming.

1933: Prohibition ended in the US.

1954: President Eisenhower coined a famous Cold War phrase when he suggested the fall of French Indochina to the communists could create a "domino" effect in Southeast Asia. The so-called "domino theory" dominated US thinking about Vietnam for the next decade.

1966: The US recovered a hydrogen bomb it had lost off the coast of Spain.

1988: In Fort Smith, Arkansas, thirteen white supremacists were acquitted on charges of plotting to overthrow the federal government.

1990: Former national security adviser John M Poindexter was convicted of five counts at his Iran-Contra trial. A federal appeals court later reversed the convictions on technical grounds.

dystopia 10:44 AM - [Link]
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Sunday, April 06, 2003

Old Movies

Caught some oldies but goodies this weekend:

The Day the Earth Stood Still was an anti-atomic peace-mongering film. For a 52-year-old movie, we were fascinated by how timely it is.

Soylent Green, from 1973, stars one of our least favorite actors. We did catch ourselves chuckling, though, at the irony of Charlton's railing against a corporate totalitarian regime that eats its own people.

The Running Man, starring Ah-nuld. If you haven't noticed any social, cultural and political parallels between modern-day America and the decline of the Roman empire, then you don't know your history, dearie. We're arranging marriages for cash on television now, for Pete's sake. Fighting to the death on a regularly scheduled prime-time TV show will probably be here in another decade or two.

Watched any war lately?

BTW, it was a hoot seeing Jesse Ventura with hair!

dystopia 12:25 PM - [Link]
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Reading Isaiah

I've been getting really, really fed up with those who tell me I must trust and obey the president because he is anointed by God, or some such nonsense. I don't see it quite that way.

Our country is a democratic republic of states. Our presidents are only temporary; they come and go in quick succession and they are not the law unto themselves. They do not wield absolute power. We are not bound to pledge allegiance to them. The law of the land is the United States Constitution, including all amendments ratified by the states, and that is the secular authority I feel bound to obey and to protect, according to God's law.

The Bible warns us that human rulers are not infallible, even those of the hereditary House of David:

Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them. -- Isaiah 1:23

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? -- Isaiah 10:1-3

If God didn't make all the kings of ancient Israel behave properly back then, what on earth makes you think He would do that with our elected officials today? It's simply ridiculous to draw that conclusion.

Unworthy people have managed to use all sorts of devices, from stuffing ballot boxes to murdering rivals, to gain power over a nation. That's not God's doing, so don't blame it on Him.

And another thing...

Slavish devotion to a president or any other mortal being skates perilously close to a violation of the second Commandment, if not right over the edge. Stop it immediately and repent!

Chasing after wealth is a definite violation. Rationalize it all you want, but Colossians 3:5 specifically says so:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Regarding abuse of the third Commandment on the part of some of our elected and appointed officials:

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. -- Exodus 20:7

If someone is truly touched by the grace of God, then you will be able to see it in their words and actions. It shines through:

By their fruit you will know them. -- Matthew 7:20

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. -- Galatians 5:22-23

Okay, that's my sermon for the day.

dystopia 11:35 AM - [Link]
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Today in Dystopian History: April 6

1712: The first organized slave revolt in New York City ended with the burning and mutilation of the slaves.

1830: Relations between the Texans and Mexico reached a new low when Mexico refused to allow further emigration into Texas by settlers from the US.

1953: The Hot Springs, Arkansas professional baseball team was voted out of the Class C Cotton States League after the club refused to cancel contracts with two black pitchers.

1965: President Johnson authorized the use of ground troops in combat operations in Vietnam.

1983: Interior Secretary James Watt banned the Beach Boys from the 4th of July celebration on the Washington Mall, saying rock 'n' roll bands attract the "wrong element."

1987: Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis said on ABC's ''Nightline'' that blacks "may not have some of the necessities" to hold managerial jobs in major-league baseball.

1990: Police traced a series of obscene phone calls to the president's private White House telephone. The caller turned out to be the president of American University in Washington, Richard E Berendzen. He was later forced to resign his position but was never charged with any crime.

dystopia 10:35 AM - [Link]
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Listen While You Surf:

C-Span

CapitolHearings.org

i.e. America Radio

Political Strikes

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Randi Rhodes Show


Newspapers and News Sites:

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Blogs I Like:

A Rational Animal

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Magazines:

AlterNet.org

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Look It Up:

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CancerIndex.org

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Resources for Compiling a Legislative History

Rulers.org

Search Systems

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Uniform Commercial Code

US PIRG Pollution Locator

VOA Pronunciation Guide

What Are the Odds of Dying?

Where To Do Research

Who Owns What?

Working Reporter

World Atlas of Maps, Flags and Geography Facts


Professional Opinions:

Al Kamen

Arianna Huffington

Boston Globe Editorials

Chris Brauchli

David Hackworth

Derrick Z Jackson

EJ Dionne, Jr

Geov Parrish

Guardian Unlimited Columnists

Harold Meyerson

Houston Chronicle Editorials

Jimmy Breslin

Joe Conason

John Nichols

Jules Witcover

Katha Pollitt

Los Angeles Times Editorials

Marie Cocco

Miami Herald Opinions

Mike Hersh

Molly Ivins

New York Times Opinions

Nicholas D Kristof

Paul Krugman

Robert W Jensen

SF Gate Opinions

Sydney Morning Herald Opinions

Thom Hartmann

USAToday.com Editorials

Walter Shapiro

William Greider


Public Opinion:

Bartcop Forum

BBC Great Debate

Bill Maher Forums

Brunching Shuttlecocks

Capitol Grilling

Capitol Hill Blue Reader Rant

ChickLit Forums

Christian Forums

Civilization Fanatics

Cynic's Message Board

Democratic Underground

Fabulous Forums of Fathom

FaithForum.org

Guardian Talk

Internet Infidels

Language of Propaganda

MilitaryCity.com

News Bulletin Board

Political Corrections

Poynter Online

PRWatch Forums

Ship of Fools

SpywareInfo Support

Straight Dope

TVSpy WaterCooler

Urban Legends Forum

Veterans Benefit Network

VoteWatch Forum

Walk Away from Fundamentalism


TV Worth Watching:

Biography.com

C-SPAN

Daily Show

Discovery Times Channel

Frontline

History Channel

Now with Bill Moyers

Sundance Channel's Documentary Mondays

Washington Journal

Washington Week


Trivial Pursuits:

Biblical Curse Generator

Boondocks

BushFlash Animation Features

Capitol Steps

Dana Lyons

Doonesbury

Elizabethan Curse Generator

Fling the Cow

Future Feed Forward

Is It Over Yet?

JibJab

Mark Fiore's Animated Political Cartoons

MiniPutt

News-at-Ten

Puppet Man

Ready.gov

Rumsfeld Invaders

SadWeek

Sheep Game

Snowball Fight

Spaced Penguin

The Onion

Unofficial Official Simulator

WhiteHouse.org

ZEFrank.com

Zug


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)