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Surf-Worthy Sites:

Administration and Cost of Elections

Alaska Wilderness League

American Antitrust Institute

American Association of Retired Persons

American Federation of Government Employees

American Friends Service Committee

American Institute of Philanthropy

American Lands Alliance

American Library Asociation

American Peace

American Rivers

Americans for Computer Privacy

Americans for Democratic Action

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Amnesty International

Anthrax Vaccine Network

Arms Control Association

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Atomic Veterans of America


Behind the Label

Black Box Voting

Bread for the World

Brennan Center for Justice


Business and Human Rights Resource Center

Campaign Against Arms Trade

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Campaign Finance Institute

Campaign for America's Future

Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water

Campaign for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor

Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Foods

Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

CEE BankWatch Network

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Defense Information

Center for Democracy and Citizenship

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Food Safety

Center for International Policy

Center for Justice and Accountability

Center for National Security Studies

Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Center for Public Integrity

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Center for Voting and Democracy

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Chemical Industry Archives

Chernobyl Children's Project

Child Labor Coalition

Child Protective Services Watch

Children's Defense Fund

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

Christian Aid

Chronic IllNet

Chronology of Incorporation and Monopoly

Citizen Action Project

Citizen Works

Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens for Tax Justice

Citizens Network on Essential Services

Clary-Meuser Research Network

Clean Clothes Campaign

Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Market

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Commercial Alert

Common Cause

Common Dreams

Commonweal Institute

Community Rights Council

Concord Coalition


Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Project on Technology

Consumer Research

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Corporate Crime Reporter

Corporate Europe Observatory

Corporate Responsibility Coalition

Corporate Sunshine Working Group

Corporate Welfare Information Center

Corporate Welfare Shame Page


Corps of Engineers Watch

Council for a Livable World

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Cronus Connection: Election Fraud and Voting Machines

Death Penalty Information Center

Defense and the National Interest

Democracy 21


Depleted Uranium Education Project

Depleted Uranium Watch

DES Action


Disabled American Veterans

Discernment Ministry International



Earth Institute


EarthRights International

Economic Policy Institute

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Electronic Voting

Endgame Research

Energy Future Coalition

Environmental Investigation Agency

Environmental Working Group

Facts About Olestra

Fair Taxes for All

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting


Families of
September 11

Families USA: Voice for Health Care Consumers

Family Farm Alliance

Farm Credit Quagmire

FAS Project on Government Secrecy

FDA Review

Federation of American Scientists

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Fielding's DangerFinder

Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies

Focus on the Corporation

Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights

Fourth Freedom Forum

Free Expression Policy Project

Friends of the Earth

Genocide Documentation Centre

Genocide in the 20th Century

Global Exchange


GRACE Factory Farm Project

Gulf War Veterans

Gush Shalom

Health Care Comparisons Worldwide

Health Privacy Project

Healthy Building Network

Heifer International

History House

Human Rights Watch

iAbolish: Anti-Slavery Web Portal


Independent Judiciary

Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton

Infact: Challenging Corporate Abuse

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Instant Runoff Voting

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

Institute for Health Freedom

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Institute for Policy Studies

Institute for Public Accuracy

Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

International ANSWER

International Atomic Energy Agency

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

International Federation for Alternative Trade

International Fellowship of Reconciliation

International Institute for Environment and Development

International Labor Rights Fund

International POPs Elimination Network

Jewish Unity for a Just Peace

Keep Antibiotics Working

Landmine Survivors Network

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters

Let's Invest in Families Today

Liberals Like Christ

Local Harvest

Los Alamos Study Group

Low Level Radiation Campaign

Maquila Solidarity Network

March for Justice


Measles Initiative

Mines Advisory Group


Mothers for Peace

Moving Ideas

National Center for Children in Poverty

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

National Committee for an Effective Congress

National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare

National Farmers Union

National Freedom of Information Coalition

National Freedom Scorecard

National Gulf War Resource Center

National Institute on Money in State Politics

National Labor Committee for Worker and Human Rights

National Organization for Rare Disorders

National Parks Conservation Association

National Priorities Project

National Vaccine Information Center

National Voting Rights Institute

Native American Rights Fund


Natural Resources Defense Council

Neturei Karta

New Rules Project


No Free Lunch: Just Say No to Drug Reps

No Spray Coalition

Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development

Nuclear Control Institute

Nuclear Threat Initiative

Office of Management & Budget Watch Money in Politics

Open Society Institute

Organic Consumers Association

Our Stolen Future

Oxfam International

Participatory Democracy

Pax Christi International

People for the American Way

Pesticide Action Network North America

Physicians for Human Rights

Polaris Institute

Political Money Line

Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Project Against the Present Danger

Project on Government Oversight

Project Underground

Project Vote Smart

Protection Project


Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibity

Rainforest Action Network


Reaching Critical Will

Reclaim Democracy

Reclaim the Media


Resource Center of the Americas

Responsible Wealth

Rethinking Schools

Right-To-Know Network

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


Save the Children

Secretive World of Voting Machines

Send a Cow

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Shared Hope International

Small Business Survival Committee

Society for Animal Protective Legislation

Soft Money Laundromat

Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace

Soldiers for the Truth

Soy Online Service

Sprawl Busters


Stop Carnivore

Stop Disney Sweatshops

Stop Patient Abuse Now Coalition


Sweetwater Alliance

Swords to Plowshares

Talion: Voting Machines

Tax Foundation

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ten Thousand Villages

Third World Traveler

Tort Reform Reader


Transparency International

Traprock Peace Center

Truth About Credit

20/20 Vision

UN Landmines Fact Sheet

UN Population Fund

Union of Concerned Scientists

United for a Fair Economy

United for Peace & Justice

Uranium Medical Research Centre

US Campaign to Ban Landmines

US Congregational Life Survey

US Public Interest Research Group

Veterans for Common Sense

Vital Voices Global Partnership

VoteWatch: Repository for Voter Complaints

Water Aid

Water Barons Government Accountability Project

Wilderness Society

WISE Uranium Project

Womens International League for Peace & Freedom

World Resources Institute

WorldWatch Institute

Worldwide Fund for Mothers Injured in Childbirth


Yucca Mountain Facts

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Saturday, April 19, 2003

Jesus Plus Nothing

This article by Jeffrey Sharlet in Harper's Magazine was seriously trippy, so I finally had to print it out to run past DH, who has a far better grasp of some of the oddities of Christian thought than I do. I asked him if this was some kind of gnosticism or what, but I cannot repeat his response here. He even less pleased about what he read than I was:

Ivanwald, which sits at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is known only to its residents and to the members and friends of the organization that sponsors it, a group of believers who refer to themselves as "the Family." The Family is, in its own words, an "invisible" association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as "members," as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities...

In the process of introducing powerful men to Jesus, the Family has managed to effect a number of behind-the-scenes acts of diplomacy. In 1978 it secretly helped the Carter Administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and more recently, in 2001, it brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda for a clandestine meeting, leading to the two sides' eventual peace accord last July. Such benign acts appear to be the exception to the rule. During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise. "We work with power where we can," the Family's leader, Doug Coe, says, "build new power where we can't."

It's been way too long since any of these yahoos read the Bible through from beginning to end -- if they ever have, that is. They are master rationalizers, though.

Did you happen to catch the update on the kids from Waco the other night? Spooky, huh? So how is what they're doing to these young men and women passing through indoctrination centers like Ivanwald any different? Just higher up the social ladder, is all, with more money, more resources and more influence.

This is definitely part of the problem:

"Hey, you know what's interesting about King David?" From the blank stares of the others I could see that they did not. Many didn't even carry a Hebrew Bible, preferring a slim volume of just the New Testament Gospels and Epistles and, from the Old, Psalms. Others had the whole book, but the gold gilt on the pages of the first two thirds remained undisturbed...

dystopia 2:49 PM - [Link]

A Convergence of Fundamentalisms

P.K. James Heflin drops a dime on the religious extremists who hijacked his denomination and who are making very good progress in remaking our country as well. From the Information Clearing House, via the Valley Advocate:

Its fans call it the "conservative resurgence." Its detractors call it the "fundamentalist takeover." The astonishing fact is that many, perhaps most, Southern Baptists are unaware that the foundation of their faith has been officially pulled out from under them through systematic, long-term political manipulation. The people of God trust each other; when someone breaks the rules, they pray, they try to reconcile. But the abandonment of civil behavior always trumps good will.

Two people, Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler (a former appeals court judge), perhaps as far back as the '60s, created the plan to transform a denomination. Like fundamentalists of every breed, they started with a simple premise: We're right. Everyone else is wrong. God is on our side, so what we do to those in our way is irrelevant, if our right triumphs over their wrong. That the central, selfless directive of Christianity is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a petty detail, imminently ignorable to God's self-appointed chosen...

The Southern Baptist fundamentalists conquered their denomination; they have every reason to hope the Bush administration will make over the world in their image.

If you've never heard of reconstructionism, theocracy, dominion theology or any of this sort of thing before, you might want to google on it.

dystopia 11:27 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 19

1775: The Revolutionary War began with the battles of Lexington and Concord.

1861: The first blood of the Civil War was shed when a secessionist mob in Baltimore attacked Massachusetts troops bound for Washington, DC. Four soldiers and 12 rioters were killed.

1939: Connecticut finally approved the Bill of Rights after 148 years.

1971: As a prelude to a massive antiwar protest, Vietnam Veterans Against the War began a five-day demonstration in Washington, DC.

1973: John Dean issued his first statement about Watergate, saying cryptically that anyone who thought "I will become a scapegoat in the Watergate case...does not know me."

1984: Technical failure at the Sequoyah nuclear power plant near Chattanooga, TN, caused spillage of radioactive coolant water.

1989: Forty-seven sailors were killed in a gun turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa. The Navy and Bush administration officials immediately tried to pin the blame on gay love gone bad, but a subsequent investigation cleared the dead sailor and found negligence on the part of the Navy.

1993: A 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, TX, ended when fire destroyed the structure after federal agents began smashing their way in. Eighty-six people were killed including 17 children. Only nine people escaped the fire.

1995: A truck bomb exploded outside the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, and injuring 500.

dystopia 10:20 AM - [Link]

Friday, April 18, 2003

Favorite New Blog

Just discovered Puce Blog -- spirited commentary on American culture and current affairs expressed in merrily mangled syntax with plenty of 'tude. I'm still wiping away tears of laughter.

dystopia 6:28 PM - [Link]

Daily Show Does Bush

One of the few TV programs we watch with any regularity around here, profiled in The Nation:

Because Stewart is a comic and not a politician, one would expect that he would skewer Al Gore, were he President, with comparable glee. He has, for example, blasted Tom Daschle's criticism of the war by reminding viewers that Daschle voted for the war. Indeed, Stewart told the London Guardian that the show is neither Democratic nor Republican but simply seeks to represent the "politically disappointed." His special target is spin: "We're out to stop that political trend of repeating things again and again until people are forced to believe them." Nonetheless, he has consistently opposed the war, even in his more sober interviews with guests like the prowar comic and Saturday Night Live alum Dennis Miller.

Unlike other late-night comedy shows, which safely go for cheap laughs by dissing Saddam,
The Daily Show has recaptured the pre-9/11 sensibilities that prevailed about Team Bush before the attacks encased him in Teflon. The studio audience howls and applauds in delight at Stewart's irreverence. Its core audience (73 percent) is the coveted 18-to-49 demographic. And here's some cheering news: More people (4 million) tune in to The Daily Show in a given week than watched Fox news at the height of the war (3.3 million).

What do you call it when you get more reliable information and more logical discussion of the issues on a comedy show than on any of the mainstream news channels? Ironic, or just way screwed up?

dystopia 5:35 PM - [Link]

It's Still the Economy, Stupid

The White House PR machine has already gone into spin cycle over expectations of a post-war economic recovery. Reuters reports:

While polls show this president receiving his own postwar boost, White House chief of staff Andrew Card acknowledged the biggest immediate challenge would be: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."

Democrats blame Bush's last round of sweeping tax cuts for turning budget surpluses into record deficits and for costing the private sector more than 2.6 million jobs. They say new tax cuts proposed by Bush will only make matters worse.

If he fails to jump-start growth that could also pump up the stock market, "then Bush is potentially vulnerable to being defeated in 2004," said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee.

"We're running out of time," added a top Republican congressional aide with close ties to the administration.

Remember those pre-war morons who kept saying, "But war is always good for the economy!"? Yeah, but only when it goes on for years on a massive scale and factories across the nation are retooled to produce parts for everything from canteens to aircraft carriers. Jobs are created that way.

The little month-long wars we have these days don't do that. They only create uncertainty, and that's bad for the economy. Only the lucky few get to profit from war anymore.

dystopia 2:45 PM - [Link]

Activists Create Killer Tobacco Company

It's so wrong that a prank like this can be so successful, but it's still pretty funny. The sad part is that it brilliantly illustrates how screwed up our corporate oversight system really is. Details in USAToday:

Licensed to Kill Inc received its corporate certification from the Virginia State Corporation Commission on March 19. The company's documents list two officers: James Packard Love of Arlington and Robert C Hinkley, a Brooklin, Maine, attorney and corporate activist...

According to the SCC filing, Licensed to Kill was created expressly for "the manufacture and marketing of tobacco products in a way that each year kills over 400,000 Americans and 4.5 million other persons worldwide." The Web site features a message purporting to be from Licensed to Kill's chairman and chief executive, "Rich Fromdeth," and touts the company's cigarette brands, including "Global Massacre" and "Genocide."

Anna White, a spokeswoman for Essential Action, said the group "wanted to show how easy it is to incorporate a company in the US and how the government has literally given corporations a license to do whatever they want, regardless of the threats to public health and safety."

Here's the Licensed to Kill website, and some relevant reading:

The Corporation and America
Chronology of Incorporation and Monopoly

dystopia 2:05 PM - [Link]

Iraq's "Most Wanted" Trading Cards

Somebody just bought a set on eBay for $122.50 plus $5.35 shipping.

According to Stars & Stripes, all the cards being offered for sale so far are fakes:

The troops don’t have the cards yet, either, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Megan Fox. "The cards have been sent to CENTCOM, but they have not been distributed yet," Fox said Tuesday, after speaking to an official in Qatar.

Meanwhile, there are fewer than 200 actual decks to be handed out, according to Navy Lt Cmdr Jim Brooks, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency. "CENTCOM asked for a couple hundred [decks], and we made them in our own print shop and sent an initial shipment out before the war," Brooks said in a Tuesday telephone interview...

What is readily available is a computer “PDF” file that allows anyone with Internet access to download the playing card templates for free.

Just so you know.

dystopia 1:16 PM - [Link]

Trading with the Enemy

Some points to ponder, from CBS MarketWatch:

When individual Americans are accused of helping terrorists, they're thrown in jail and their names are dragged through the mud. But when major US corporations are caught trading with the enemy, they get just a slap on the wrist from the government.

In the past two weeks, the government has revealed that 57 companies and organizations have been fined for doing business with terrorists, despots and tyrants. However, neither the government nor the companies are forthcoming with the public about the details of the illicit trade with rogue governments like Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Sudan...

But why are the government's cops so reluctant to tell us about the crooks they've captured? Who ever heard of a shy prosecutor, especially one who can show success in the war against terrorism?

Read the April 2003 report at the Memory Hole.

dystopia 12:19 PM - [Link]

Drug Courts Worth the Cost

Some interesting stats out of California, from the Los Angeles Times:

Rehabilitating criminals by drug court rather than prison saves the state an estimated $18 million a year and dramatically reduces recidivism, according to a report presented Tuesday to the California Judicial Council...

This fiscal year, the state is providing about $12 million to 47 counties to run drug courts, which are separate from Proposition 36 programs mandated by a 2001, voter-approved law. That measure funnels drug offenders to treatment programs rather than prison; drug court handles repeat offenders, as well as those accused of non-drug crimes motivated by substance abuse...

The typical recidivism rate for drug-addicted criminals is about 80% to 85%, said Butte County Superior Court Judge Darrell Stevens, chairman of the Judicial Council committee that presented the report. But only 12% to 17% of drug court participants relapsed.

Wow! You mean it's cheaper and more effective than just warehousing them? Imagine that!

dystopia 11:05 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 18

1906: A devastating earthquake struck San Francisco at 5:13 am, followed by a major aftershock three hours later. More than 3,000 people were killed by collapsing structures or by fire over the next three days.

1941: Bus companies in NYC agreed to hire black workers after a four-week boycott.

1942: An air squadron from the USS Hornet led by Lt Col James H Doolittle raided Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

1945: American war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by Japanese gunfire on the Pacific island of Ie Shima, off Okinawa.

1978: The US Senate voted 68-32 to turn the Panama Canal over to Panamanian control on Dec 31, 1999.

1983: Sixty-two people, including 17 Americans, were killed in the suicide bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut; the bombing was in retaliation for CIA-sponsored assassinations in Lebanon.

2002: Four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were killed when they were mistakenly bombed by an American F-16 pilot.

dystopia 10:42 AM - [Link]

Thursday, April 17, 2003

On a Happier Note

I think I've already hit my bitch-and-moan quota for the day, so let's go see what the pandas are doing.

More animal cams here.

Some true-life adventures from Scylla:

The Horror of Blimps
The Stupidest Thing I Ever Did

Test yourself:

Do you know your arse from your elbow?

What kind of affliction are you? (I'm gonorrhea)

Which Peanuts character are you? (Linus)

What flavor are you? (chocolate)

Can you Fly the Copter? Not me. I'm not any good at the Sheep Game, either. Friggin' sheep won't go where they're supposed to go.

When office supplies attack!

dystopia 3:43 PM - [Link]

Transcript of Tim Robbins Speech

I missed the first part of Robbins' speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday, but I knew if I waited a day or two I'd find the transcript somewhere online. Sure enough, Common Dreams has it.

dystopia 2:56 PM - [Link]

Conscientious Objectors in US Wars

Not a subject you hear that much about, but there have been more of them in our wars than I would have guessed. In the Iraq War, according to IPSNews:

"The bare minimum is several hundred, and this number only includes the ones that have come to my group and to groups we're associated with," CCW official J.E. McNeil told IPS. "There will be others who will have gone through different channels, and some people do it on their own," she added...

As it is in the British army, CO discharge is a long-established practice in the US armed forces and always peaks in wartime. CCW says there were an estimated 200,000 COs in the Vietnam War, 4,300 in the Korean War, 37,000 in World War II and 3,500 in World War I.

The military granted 111 COs from the army in the first Gulf War before putting a stop to the practice, resulting in 2,500 soldiers being sent to prison, says Bill Gavlin from the Center on Conscience and War, quoting a report from the
Boston Globe newspaper.

During that war, a number of US COs in Camp LeJeune in North Carolina state were ”beaten, harassed and treated horribly”, Gavlin says. In some cases, COs were put on planes bound for Kuwait, told that they could not apply for CO status or that they could only apply after they'd already gone to war.

The Center for Conscience and War has a What Do I Believe About War? page with more detailed info.

dystopia 1:59 PM - [Link]

Saudis' Legal Counterattack

A $1 trillion lawsuit on behalf of the victims of September 11 was filed in August 2002 against more than seventy defendants, including three Saudi princes, several Saudi banks and Islamic institutions, the Sudanese government and the Saudi Bin Laden Group, a construction firm run by Osama Bin Laden's family. Here's a report on who's representing the defendants, from MSNBC:

Baker & Botts, Sultan's law firm, for example, still boasts former secretary of State James Baker as one of its senior partners. Its recent alumni include Robert Jordan, the former personal lawyer for President Bush who is now US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

An internal list of other law firms retained in the case, reviewed by
NEWSWEEK , reads like a veritable "who's who" of the US legal community. Among those firms and their Saudi clients are: Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (Prince Mohammed al Faisal); Kellog, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans (Prince Turki al Faisal); Jones, Day (the Binladin Group); Ropes & Grey (Khaled bin Mahfouz); White & Case,(the Al-Rajhi Banking Group); King & Spalding (the Arab Bank and Youssef Nada); Akin Gump (Mohammed Hussein Al-Almoudi); and Fulbright & Jaworski (Nimir Petroleum.)

But legal sources say some high-priced firms and their senior partners have been wary of the Saudi overtures—despite offers of retainers that, in some cases, have ranged as high as $5 million. One former Clinton administration official at a big law firm said he was personally approached to represent a high-ranking Saudi prince in the case but turned it down. "I kept asking myself, ‘do I want to be representing the Saudis against the 9-11 families—especially after all the trouble we had getting cooperation from the Saudis on terrorism’," the official said. "I finally just said no."

dystopia 1:23 PM - [Link]

Judges Question Bid to Stop Cheney Suit

Happy news from the Los Angeles Times:

The Bush administration took the unusual step of coming to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in the midst of the case...

Tatel, an appointee of President Clinton, said the administration has failed to show that it is suffering legal harm at the hands of the lower court. Edwards, a Carter-era appointee, told a government attorney flatly that "you have no authority" to ask the appeals court to intervene in the middle of the lawsuit...

The third member of the panel, Appeals Judge A Raymond Randolph, expressed doubt that the Cheney task force is required to disclose information about its inner workings. However, Randolph, an appointee of Bush's father, also questioned whether the administration should be seeking appeals court intervention.

In December 2002, US District Court Judge John Bates, a December 2001 Bush appointee, dismissed the GAO's lawsuit against Cheney. Details from FindLaw:

Judge Bates said, in essence, Mr Comptroller, you are only an agent for the Congress; therefore, you have suffered no real injury by the Vice President's refusal to produce information. In addition, Mr Comptroller, you have provided the court no information suggesting that the folks you work for on Capitol Hill, my constitutional co-equals known as the Congress, are in any way injured by your failing to get the requested information from the Vice President. And unless plaintiffs (or those they stand in for) have suffered injury, they have no standing to sue.

The judge reminded the Comptroller that the Congress could subpoena the requested information. But it had not even attempted to do so. In light of this fact, the judge implied, how could the Court even be sure the GAO was truly representing Congress's interests in trying to get the same documents in its suit?

Hmmm, so Congress could have just subpoenaed the info that so many people have been itching to get hold of? They're not going to subpoena squat, of course, but it's still interesting to know.

dystopia 12:29 PM - [Link]

Republican Easter Bunny

Talking about carrot-and-stick routines in my last post reminded me of this tricky little beast:

Wascally Wabbit

Be careful -- he's a taker, not a giver. You might have to knock him around a little bit to make him let go!

dystopia 12:17 PM - [Link]

Jobless Claims Second Highest in a Year reports that more Americans than expected filed new unemployment claims last week:

States received 442,000 applications for jobless insurance in the week ended Saturday, up 30,000 from a week earlier, the Labor Department said. Claims exceeded 400,000 for a ninth straight week, a reading that some economists consider a sign the economy is too weak to create jobs.

"The labor market is still being rocked back on its heels," said Oscar Gonzalez, economist for John Hancock Financial Services Inc in Boston. "Businesses don't yet appear willing to take any big risks on equipment or people until the recovery seems firmly under way."

Um, what recovery? Doesn't somebody have to make some moves before recovery will even begin? Buncha chickenshits.

The supply-siders tell us that we have to give businesses, not people, all the breaks because they create jobs. You know, jobs -- the carrot part of the old carrot-and-stick routine. With our tax dollars we provide the business world with corporate welfare, market access programs, trade agreements, offshore tax shelters, deregulation, federal bailouts, etc, etc. So where the hell are all the jobs?

dystopia 12:01 PM - [Link]

Powell Regrets 1973 US Actions in Chile

According to Yahoo! News:

When a student asked Secretary of State Colin Powell about the 1973 military coup in Chile, the retired general turned diplomat made no secret of his deep misgivings about the US role in that upheaval. "It is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Powell said, quickly adding that reforms instituted since then make it unlikely that the policies of that Cold War era will be repeated.

The matter might have ended there had not Washington operative William D Rogers taken notice of Powell's televised comment. Rogers served under Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1975-76 as the department's top official on Latin America and maintains a professional relationship with Kissinger.

In a highly unusual move, the State Department issued a statement that put distance between the department and its top official. The statement asserted that the US government "did not instigate the coup that ended Allende's government in 1973" — a reference to the elected president, Salvador Allende.

Rogers was concerned that Powell's comment was reinforcing what he called "the legend" that the Chile coup was a creation of a Kissinger-led cabal working in league with Chilean military officers opposed to Allende. He called the department legal office to point out that there was a pending law suit against the government and Powell's comment was not helpful.

Rogers does indeed maintain a professional relationship with Kissinger -- he's a vice-chairman of Kissinger Associates. He can hardly be considered an an unbiased source.

Wonder if Powell regrets My Lai as well.

dystopia 11:42 AM - [Link]

Toby Keith Aiding the Enemy

Toby Keith is betraying the the American people!

He records on the DreamWorks Records label, owned by Universal Music Publishing Group. Who owns Universal Music Publishing Group? Vivendi, a French company!

Boo! Hiss!

Why is this "all-American patriot" making money for the French? If he was truly a loyal American, he'd do whatever it took to get out of his contract with those treacherous Frenchies!

Heh heh heh...

Oh, chill. I'm just spoofin' on the Freepers.

dystopia 10:44 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 17

1959: Twenty-two people were arrested in Times Square in NYC for refusing to take part in a civil defense drill.

1961: About 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles launched the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in a failed attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro.

1965: The FBI Laboratory in Washington reported their inability to make out the vocals on the hit single "Louie Louie," thus being unable to determine whether the record constituted obscene matter.

1967: The US Supreme Court barred Muhammad Ali's request to be blocked from induction into the US Army.

1969: A jury in Los Angeles convicted Sirhan Sirhan of assassinating Sen Robert F Kennedy. Sirhan received a death sentence, but it was later reduced to life in prison.

1973: Nixon announced "major developments" in the Watergate case and insisted that none of his assistants, past or present, "should be given immunity from prosecution."

1991: The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 3,000 for the first time.

1993: A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted two former police officers of violating the civil rights of beaten motorist Rodney King; two other officers were acquitted.

dystopia 10:15 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Symptoms of a Sick Society

John Balzar's report on the health insurance crisis, in the Los Angeles Times:

Among large companies, 22% say they are about to eliminate health-care coverage for employees who are nearing retirement. An additional 13% already have.

About 44% of these companies have raised the health-care premiums paid by retirees, and 36% now demand that retirees pay a greater share for medical treatment. The average increased cost for new retirees last year was 20%.

Looking ahead, 82% of large companies say more premium increases and benefit caps are coming in the next three years.

More info on health insurance issues:

The High Price of Health
Bruised and Broken: US Health System

I remember back in the old days when you could just go to whatever doctor you wanted, whenever you needed to. Once you'd paid your insurance deductible for the year, most everything else was covered. You didn't have to get permission to be treated, and you didn't get kicked out of the hospital after a predetermined number of days. I remember how they sold us on the HMO scam. It was going to be streamlined, less bureaucracy, more efficiency, and cheaper for the consumer. The classic lies of deregulation.

I worked at a retail pharmacy right after high school, just before Reaganomics, and the only prescriptions that cost more than $20 or so were for Tagamet and Clinoril; they were more like $70 per scrip, and many customers balked at that. Designer drugs weren't being advertised on TV back then, so those millions of dollars in advertising costs weren't being passed on to the consumer yet.

I remember a time before the hospitals were bought out by mega-corporations, when providing care to the community mattered more than providing a profit to the shareholders. Before doctors went corporate. They both share part of the blame as well, and lawyers do, too, but none of them are powerhouse players on the scale of Big Pharma and the insurance industry.

It's not that hard to figure out how things got so screwed up. Go check out the Soft Money Laundromat and to see how much money the insurance and pharmaceutical industries have put into getting what they want, and then go look at Forbes 500 to see how they can afford to spend so much. Then educate the people around you, keep up with relevant legislation, pester your elected representatives every chance you get, and vote accordingly.

dystopia 4:29 PM - [Link]

Is Google Too Powerful?

By the time I started hearing about this, it was too late. I'd already looked up thousands of keywords that might get me on The List. Oh, well.

Google just bought out the parent company of Blogger (sooo glad I didn't sign up with them) and, according to the BBC:

Google is a privately-owned US company that has a policy of collecting as much information as possible about everyone who uses its search tool. It will store your computer's IP address, the time/date, your browser details and the item you search for.

It sets a tracking cookie on your computer that does not expire until 2038. This means that Google builds up a detailed profile of your search terms over many years. Google probably knew when you last thought you were pregnant, what diseases your children have had, and who your divorce lawyer is.

It refuses to say why it wants this information or to admit whether it makes it available to the US Government for tracking purposes.

GoogleWatch is one place to get more info. And there's another problem with Google -- hackers love it.

dystopia 3:59 PM - [Link]

New Medical Privacy Rules

Bad news from the Christian Science Monitor:

As of Monday, a new federal medical-privacy rule gives data-processing companies, insurers, doctors, hospitals, certain researchers, and others legal permission to share citizens' personal health information - including genetic information - without individuals' consent.

Citizens will be notified that their data legally can be exchanged with others. But under the federal rule, they won't be guaranteed the right to stop the flow of data for purposes related to treatment, electronic claims processing, and healthcare operations - this last term being so broad that it includes marketing...

In essence, the federal government is giving the medical industry regulatory authority to decide whether personal health information can be obtained by others without patients' permission. What's more, some powerful industry groups strongly support having the federal rule preempt state medical-privacy laws. Given their lobbying success, it is likely that in the near future these groups will attempt to accomplish this.

So you can look forward to being denied affordable health coverage if your genetic code shows a predisposition to things like cancer or heart disease, long before you ever need any treatment.

dystopia 3:22 PM - [Link]

Pension Theft

I wish I could vote for somebody like Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, candidates like him never show up on my ballot.

Older workers are fighting a proposed Treasury Department regulation that would make it easier for companies to switch them from defined-benefit pensions to cheaper "cash-balance" plans that give them smaller pension checks than they were promised. According to Marie Cocco in Newsday:

Rep Bernie Sanders (I-VT), long an ally, tried a new tactic in the long-running battle. He had the Congressional Research Service calculate what members of Congress would lose if their current pension plan were converted to a "cash-balance" system.

The results: House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) lump-sum benefit would fall from $540,572 to $164,455. House Republican leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) would suffer a loss of nearly 60 percent, knocking the value of his pension to $251,086, down from $608,143 under the current system. Sanders' own benefit would be cut by 72 percent under a cash-balance formula...

He is sponsoring legislation that would force Congress to switch its own pensions to cash-balance plans if the Bush administration rules go through for everyone else. It is quite unlikely to pass.

Woo-hooo! Go, Bernie!

If you ever want to holler at your congressman, the toll-free number is 1-800-839-5276.

dystopia 2:49 PM - [Link]

Why I'm Not a Democrat Either

Used to be. Never was terribly interested in politics, though, until the past few years. What changed? I had questions, lots of questions, like why earning a decent living and raising kids here in the heartland of the wealthiest nation on earth keeps getting harder and harder. Why insurance and medical care have gotten so expensive. Why my kids didn't get the same quality of education that I got in the public schools just twenty years earlier. Why mom-and-pop had to shut down the store and go to work for somebody else. Why my cousins can't afford to be full-time farmers and cattlemen like their fathers were. Why all the breaks seem to go to people who don't need them. What the hell happened to us? How did solid, hard-working, tax-paying citizens drop to the bottom of the food chain?

So I started looking for answers, first at my local library and later on the Internet, and I found them. I studied American history, the framing of the Constitution, Marbury v. Madison, the robber barons, corporate personhood, the development of the two-party stranglehold on our political process, the rise of Corporate America and the entrenchment of the special interest and lobbying groups that have displaced us as "constituents." Many other topics, too. I learned all about the corruption and greed and deceit that robbed us of what our country might have been. It's been a devastating journey. I've been forced to re-evaluate just about everything I ever thought about anything, and I have few illusions left.

The reason I'm no longer a Democrat is that there is no longer any significant difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. After witnessing the rubber-stamp behavior of House and Senate Democrats since September 11, I had even more questions that needed answers:

Behind the DLC Takeover
Death of the Democratic Party
How the DLC Does It
Republicans' Favorite Democrats
Which Democratic Party?
Triumph of the Right Wing of the Democratic Party

I've already looked into all the alternative parties I could find, but they were all so laden with extraneous issues that were either not a priority to me or directly opposed to my own values. I couldn't find a single one that fit me. Pointless, anyway, unless the duopoly of the two-party system can ever be broken up. And then there's the voting machines...

I have no idea who I'll be voting for in 2004. I'm still waiting for the candidates to get themselves sorted out. None of them look promising so far. It's very discouraging.

That's why I've been unloading some of this stuff on a blog. Things that make me angry, and things that hurt. I have no idea if anybody reads anything I post, but it doesn't really matter -- other bloggers cover the same ground as me, and do it better. This is just my own form of therapy. Sort of like my primal scream.

dystopia 12:47 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 16

1818: The US Senate ratified the Rush-Bagot amendment, disarming the US-Canadian border.

1862: Slavery was abolished by law in the District of Columbia.

1943: Chemist Albert Hofmann inadvertently experienced the world's first acid trip when a miniscule quantity of lysergic acid diethylamide accidently seeped through his skin. After leaving work early, he went home and settled into "a not unpleasant intoxicated condition."

1947: America's worst harbor explosion occurred in Texas City, TX, when the French ship Grandcamp, carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer, caught fire and blew up, devastating the town. Another ship, the Highflyer, exploded the following day. The explosions and resulting fires killed more than 500 people and left 200 others missing.

1968: The Pentagon announced that troops would begin coming home from Vietnam.

1971: Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) threw their medals on the Capitol steps.

1972: In an effort to help blunt the ongoing North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive, the US resumed bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong after a four-year lull.

1992: The House ethics committee listed 303 current and former lawmakers who had overdrawn their House bank accounts.

dystopia 10:36 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Guy's Got a Point

I'm not terribly interested in whoever "Mr Wolff's tormenter" might be, but this paragraph of David de la Fuente's letter to Jim Romenesko gave me a rueful chuckle:

I know a lot of folks here don't rely on, trust, or are aware of the blogworld, but I get more revealing news there than I do from much of the mainstream press, and the way things have gone with the Iraq war (cities falling when they haven't, divisions surrendering that didn't, weapons found that weren't), you can't argue that these people are any more inaccurate than we are.

No argument here.

dystopia 5:52 PM - [Link]

CNN Exec Defends Silence on Iraq Atrocities

Eason Jordan's oblivious on this issue, according to what he wrote in an internal CNN memo per the Washington Post:

"Some critics say if I had told my Iraq horror stories sooner, I would have saved thousands of lives," he wrote in his message to staffers. "How they come to that conclusion I don't know. Iraq's human rights record and the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime were well known before I wrote my op-ed piece. The only sure thing that would have happened if I told those stories sooner is the regime would have tracked down and killed the innocent people who told me those stories."

Jordan has been pelted with criticism since he detailed the incidents last Thursday night on Aaron Brown's CNN program and, more thoroughly, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times the next day...

With regard to cynicism among critics that he had decided to report nothing about the atrocities while making trips to Iraq to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders, Jordan told The TV Column, "It should be noted that news execs from every TV network in this country went themselves to Baghdad to argue their case."

Yes, it should be noted. I don't think Jordan's story is unique -- he's just the only one that's admitted to it.

dystopia 5:22 PM - [Link]

Right-Wing Attack on American Labor

Fascinating analysis on the attitudes and tactics of the right wing from a biased source, the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO chapter, but well-sourced. Definitely worth reading and passing along:

The Right believes that anyone who does not succeed or prosper in the system lacks the necessary self-discipline, or was born with the wrong genes. There are no flaws in the system or in institutions; the flaws are in the individual. Because the term "survival of the fittest" sounds too cruel, the Right has popularized the concept of "personal responsibility." However, that means being personally responsible for such things as retirement security, health care, and coping with the loss of a job due to unfair trade agreements or corporate mergers. Those who do achieve wealth and power are the "most fit," the product of natural selection or social Darwinism. They deserve the most privileges and highest power. For the Right, the growing income inequality in the US is only a natural and perfectly acceptable consequence of the "survival of the fittest."

Shocking? No. Not at all. I see proof of it every day.

dystopia 2:30 PM - [Link]

Sly Move by Senator Hatch

I sure wish these control freaks would keep their hands off my civil liberties. The Los Angeles Times reports that Orrin Hatch is maneuvering to repeal the sunset provisions of the USA Patriot Act, meaning that the changes would become permanent:

The 300-page law included some overdue reforms that brought this nation's surveillance laws into the 21st century, making it easier, for example, for federal agents to tap a suspect's cell phones in addition to his or her home and business lines.

But the act also granted the government broad new powers in criminal investigations, often involving suspects with no connection to terrorism. This represents a dramatic shift in the balance of US law away from individual civil liberties. Agents can now search an individual's home without his knowledge or consent and demand that librarians and booksellers tell them what books a person has borrowed or bought. The government can more easily detain individuals, hold them for a longer time without charging them and more easily deport non-citizens.

Here's Doug Thompson's take on all this, via Capitol Hill Blue:

If our government had been doing its job in the fist place, the attacks could have been prevented. Both the FBI and CIA have already admitted to Congressional hearings that they dropped the ball.

They got that information without the USA Patriot Act, which gives the FBI broader, rights-infringing wiretap powers. They got it without the Pentagon's new Total Information Awareness System, a giant computer tracking system that will keep tabs on the financial transactions and travel of all Americans. They didn't need a new, bloated, federal bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security.

Most of all, they didn't need to rip the Bill of Rights to shreds and flush it down the nearest toilet.

All they needed to do was their jobs.

The Patriot Act won't fix this. What we need is accountability.

Oh, and while we're at it, have you reviewed the provisions of Patriot Act II yet?

dystopia 2:15 PM - [Link]

Pipe Maker Fined Over Safety Violations

McWane again, parent company of Tyler Pipe -- one of the most dangerous workplaces in America. From the NY Times:

Since 1995, there have been more than 4,600 injuries at McWane plants. The company, which makes cast iron water and sewer pipes, employs about 5,000. Three workers were killed because the company willfully violated federal safety laws, OSHA inspectors found. The company has also amassed hundreds of environmental violations in that time...

Union officials, long critical of OSHA's enforcement efforts, said that yesterday's fines were far too light given McWane's history and the gravity of the new violations.

"These are things that kill people," Margaret Seminario, director of safety and health at the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said of the new violations at Tyler Pipe. "Here you have very, very serious hazards, an employer with an atrocious record. And you get basically a slap on the wrist with respect to enforcement."

Frontline did a chilling profile of this company not too long ago. And McWane isn't the only company like this -- just one of the worst.

dystopia 1:59 PM - [Link]

Lost to History

Susannah Rutherglen writes in the Yale Daily News:

This past week, as Saddam Hussein's 24 years of rule over Iraq came to an apparent end, 7,000 years of human history vaporized along with them. The citizens of Baghdad, armed with clubs, guns and sticks, stormed the National Museum of Iraq and smashed or stole 170,000 artifacts, some dating back virtually to the Garden of Eden. In perhaps the worst instance of cultural destruction ever seen in the Middle East, two days of pillaging ended with the disappearance of some of humanity's very first works of art: precious gold filaments and jewelry from Sumeria; ceramics from the time of the Hanging Gardens of Nebuchadnezzar; harps, cuneiform tablets, sculptured heads, tapestries and friezes; even, ironically enough, the ancient tablets of the Code of Hammurabi, one of the first works of law known to civilization. Curators stood by weeping as American soldiers, flouting the 1954 Hague conventions, stood by and blithely witnessed the catastrophe.

As a historian and a Christian, this is not quite as painful as the loss of human life, but it hurts all the same. I'm pretty sure that private collections all over the world will soon be adding some exciting new pieces. We'll never see them again. CNN's Jim Clancy reports:

They now believe, because of some of the evidence that they have found, that some of the items were taken [by art and cultural] professionals. Among other things they found were glass cutters that they said are not sold in Iraq. They are looking into that...

One of the things that was taken was a bronze bust dating back about 7,000 years. It weighed hundreds of kilograms and was taken off the second floor. The curators say no normal looters did that.

dystopia 12:37 PM - [Link]

Good Cop, Bad Cop

The Guardian reports that Bush put the kibosh on the Axis of Evil's plans to invade Syria next:

The Bush administration is nevertheless determined to use its military ascendancy in the region to exert diplomatic and economic pressure on Damascus and resolve what Washington sees as longstanding problems, including the threat to Israel posed by Damascus-backed Islamic extremists, Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Syria's chemical weapons.

Mr Rumsfeld repeated accusations yesterday that Syria had tested chemical weapons in the last 12 to 15 months. However, Syria is not a signatory to the chemical weapons convention and would not be breaking international law if it did possess, nor is it suspected of selling chemical weapons to others.

One US administration official conceded: "They've not taken any actions that we can see so far that would justify military action."

Yeah, we'll see. Plenty of threatening rhetoric was coming out of the White House just yesterday.

I just got a mental picture of Bush jumping up and down, yelling "I'm the person who gets to decide, not you!"

I sincerely hope and pray that this guy will follow in his father's footsteps...right out the door after one term.

dystopia 11:50 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 15

1861: Three days after the attack on Fort Sumter, SC, President Lincoln declared a state of insurrection and called out Union troops.

1922: A Senate resolution was introduced to investigate the Teapot Dome Scandal under the Harding administration.

1970: Rep Gerald Ford called for the impeachment of Associate Justice Douglas, stating that "an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."

1986: The US launched an air raid against Libya in response to the bombing of a discotheque in Berlin on April 5; Libya said 37 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

1987: In Northhampton, MA, Amy Carter, Abbie Hoffman and 13 others were acquitted on civil disobedience charges related to a CIA protest.

1991: Microsoft acknowledged that the Federal Trade Commission had launched a broad antitrust investigation that would probe virtually every aspect of Microsoft's business.

1994: Randall Terry, founder of the abortion clinic-blockading Operation Rescue, began a seven-city tour promoting the impeachment of President Clinton.

2000: Six hundred anti-IMF (International Monetary Fund) protesters were arrested in Washington, DC, for demonstrating without a permit.

dystopia 10:24 AM - [Link]

Listen While You Surf:


i.e. America Radio

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Newspapers and News Sites:

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Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio



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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)