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03/23/03 - 03/29/03
03/16/03 - 03/22/03

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 26, 2003

UK to Offer Troops DU Testing

According to BBC News, urine tests to detect traces of depleted uranium will be made available to any of the 45,000 British servicemen and women returning from the Iraq War:

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the screening programme after concerns were raised about the effects of exposure to DU, including a possible greater risk of cancer or kidney damage.

Britain's leading scientific body - the Royal Society - claimed soldiers and civilians may have been exposed to dangerous levels.

The MoD said it had decided last year to offer urine tests to personnel returning from deployments where DU ordinance was used.

On Thursday the United Nations said people in Iraq need urgent advice on avoiding exposure to DU.

Just a few months ago, DH valiantly refused to believe me when I told him that the US had already used nuclear weapons in the Gulf War, in Bosnia and in Kosovo, and that we would probably be using them again in the Iraq War. He believes me now. You see, our government doesn't deny that we use DU weapons -- it just denies that that any lingering radiation from exploded munitions is harmful. Go figure. Better yet, go learn about it and make up your own mind:

Gulf War II: People Are Sick Over There Already
Trail of a Bullet: The Depleted Uranium Issue
The Trial of Depleted Uranium
Depleted Uranium Education Project
National Gulf War Resource Center
US Gulf Casualties Not Mentioned
Depleted Uranium: Extreme Birth Defects
Iraqi Cancers, Birth Defects Blamed on DU
Veterans Back Iraq Over Gulf War Illness
Leukemia Outbreak in Troops Causes Turmoil at NATO
Depleted Uranium Still Haunts Balkans
US Forces' Use of DU Weapons is Illegal

dystopia 2:27 PM - [Link]

White Resigns As Army Secretary

Reported today in the Washington Post:

Although speculation that White would leave his post had circulated widely for months, the timing of the announcement yesterday evening caught many in the Army by surprise. White had not informed many members of his senior staff about the move, and the Army's public affairs office also was caught off guard.

"We're a little shocked at the moment," an Army spokesman said...

White's departure opens the way for an across-the-board change in Army leadership. The top uniformed Army officer, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, is due to finish his term as chief of staff in June. No replacement has been nominated by President Bush.

I'll bet Rummy's tickled spitless. Here's more on White:

Dead Man Walking in the Pentagon?
The Thomas E. White Affair: The Documents
Special Counsel Needs to Investigate Army Secretary White's Role

dystopia 1:53 PM - [Link]

Baby Bells Bilked Consumers Out of Billions

Forbes Magazine reports on those funny little fees on your phone bill:

For the first time, the FCC auditors had traveled the country and spot-checked telephone buildings to verify the existence of equipment carried on the books. They discovered $5 billion in assets was missing outright. At least another $5 billion was impossible to audit, although federal law explicitly requires otherwise. Moreover, they looked at only 25% of the Bells' gear, the stuff at central switching offices; billions more in questionable accounting might lie in the rest of the network.

The implications were staggering. FCC auditors were intent on levying large fines and seeking billions in refunds. "When the audit team started getting huge numbers, the Commission started getting very, very nervous," says one senior person at the FCC. "The dollars were so huge that there was no way the FCC would pursue them," says a long-distance executive.

And so, even as the auditors continued digging, the Calls parties struck a backroom bargain that reshaped the regulation of the $120 billion industry to their mutual benefit--and simultaneously killed the audit and buried the existing evidence. In November 2000 the FCC voted to halt the audit work; 16 months later it dismantled the audit department altogether.

More on the FCC and the phone companies:

A Day in the Life: The FCC
How Michael Powell Helped Resurrect Ma Bell

dystopia 1:33 PM - [Link]

Culture of Fear

Carl Estabrook writes about the successful manufacturing of consent for the Iraq War in CounterPunch:

At a recent anti-war demonstration, I'm standing on a street corner and holding a sign proclaiming, "IRAQ HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11." A woman in a car stopped in traffic rolls down her window and says, "That's not true, sir." (The "sir" is undoubtedly not deference to my opinion but to my advanced age.)

"But it is, ma'am," I say. (Two can play this age game.) "Even the administration doesn't claim that."

"Do you want them to set off a nuclear bomb in Chicago?" she asks.

"But they don't have any! Even the administration --."

"Colin Powell proved they do, at the UN!" she says smugly, rolling up the window as the light changes -- and my own Terror Alert goes to red: this woman's pro-war view is compounded of fear and misinformation -- the dose that the world's greatest propaganda system, the US media, has successfully administered to Americans.

I'm planning to read Barry Glassner's Culture of Fear, but haven't gotten hold of a copy yet. In the meantime, I've been learning quite a bit from articles like these about how easily manipulated we are from so many different directions:

Beyond a Culture of Fear
Michael Moore Defends Bowling for Columbine
America’s Fear Channel
TV News of the '60s Focused on Facts, Not Fear
John Ashcroft: Minister of Fear

dystopia 1:01 PM - [Link]

Santorum's Guide to Appropriate Sex

I haven't posted anything on Rick Santorum's remarks on homosexuality because the subject is being covered ably and ad nauseum elsewhere and I really have nothing constructive to add, but I did laugh out loud when I read this bit on Boing Boing so I'm passing it along in its entirety:

Scarlet Pimpernel writes:

Below is a verbatim transcript of my call this morning to Senator Rick Santorum's Office.

SSO: "Senator Santorum's office."
Me: "Hello there... took me awhile to get through. Guess you're pretty busy what with all this going on."
SSO: "Yes."
Me: "Well I just wanted you to know that my wife and I are big supporters of the Senator, but we have just one question..."
SSO: "Yes?"
Me: "Does oral sex between a husband and wife, when they're both consenting... does that constitute sodomy?"
SSO: "Umm.. no. It does not."
Me: "HOT DAMN! (calling out to wife:) HONEY? GREAT NEWS!"
SSO: (stifles laugh)
Me: "Thank You. Thank You Very Much. Just one more thing..."
SSO: "Yes?"
Me: "How does the Senator feel about doggy-style?"
SSO: "Umm... I can't really speak for the Senator on that."
Me: "Oh Well... Thanks Again!" (Hangs up.)

If you've got questions for the Senator concerning appropriate sexual behavior, why not give him a call? (202) 224-6324

Santorum's list of comparables was way too long -- he's even the polygamists mad at him.

I think we might get more effective lawmaking if we had legislators who had enough mental capacity to understand simple things like the difference between the acts of consenting adults and the sexual abuse of a child.

dystopia 11:49 AM - [Link]

Remembering Guernica

On April 26, 1937 at 4:30 pm, the German Air Force, with help from Italy and the fascist national party in Spain, unleashed tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Guernica, a small city and a cultural and religious center in the Basque region of Spain. It had no military defenses and, after just a few hours, the city was left in ruins.

Large 1,000-pound bombs killed refugees hiding in dugouts, fleeing peasants were either killed by explosives or by machine guns from the planes, and herds of livestock were decimated. About 721 structures were destroyed. It was estimated that 1,600 civilians were killed or injured.

The German Luftwaffe bombed Guernica in order to test its modern new equipment. Officers were told to call the attack a mistake, and Nationalists were told by the Germans that Red extremists were responsible for the catastrophe. News of the bombing spread throughout the outraged world, but by 1942 all the major powers adopted the same bombing strategy. By the end of WWII, millions of innocent civilians had died during both Allied and Axis air attacks on enemy cities and towns.

Pablo Picasso, a popular Spanish painter of the time, was asked to produce a piece of art to decorate the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World Fair. Responding to the attack through his painting, he created a large mural depicting the horror of the bombing of Guernica. A tapestry of the painting hangs at the entrance to the United Nations Security Council and, in a controversial move, it was covered from view during Colin Powell's speech on war with Iraq earlier this year.

dystopia 11:27 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 26

1607: An expedition of English colonists went ashore at Cape Henry, VA, to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

1865: John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, was surrounded and killed by federal troops near Bowling Green, VA.

1954: Representatives from the world's powers met in Geneva to try to resolve several problems in Asia, including the war between the French and Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina. The conference marked a turning point in US involvement in Vietnam.

1968: Students seized the administration building at Ohio State University during a national student strike against the war involving as many as one million high school and college students.

1982: The Reagan administration violated the Foreign Assistance Act by approving the shipment of 2,500 electroshock batons to the apartheid South African police for use against black demonstrators.

1986: The world's worst nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl plant in the Soviet Union. An explosion and fire in the No. 4 reactor sent radioactivity into the atmosphere, which spread across most of Europe.

1991: In a telephone interview, Michigan judge Francis Bourisseau said that he would never grant an abortion to a minor, except perhaps for white girls raped by blacks.

dystopia 10:44 AM - [Link]

Friday, April 25, 2003

Embattled Lab Unveils New Nukes

Hey, you know that big chunk of your tax dollars that goes to the federal government instead of staying in your state to pay for things like education or health care or highway and bridge repairs? Well, this is how they plan to spend billions of it, according to Wired News:

The United States' arsenal of 10,000 nuclear weapons isn't enough. The country needs more bombs, and the place to make them is the scandal-plagued Los Alamos National Laboratory. That seems to be the meaning behind yesterday's announcement by Los Alamos officials that the lab has constructed the first plutonium pit -- the deadly heart of a nuclear warhead -- that's bomb-ready.

It's the opening trickle in what is scheduled to eventually become a torrent of new nuclear cores. For the next four years, Los Alamos will make about a half-dozen pits per year. After that, capacity will ramp up to 10 pits per year -- and then to as many as 500 new pits annually, as the new US Modern Pit Facility comes online in 2018.

According to the Bush administration's central plan for atomic weapons, the
Nuclear Posture Review, making additional nuclear cores is key to keeping America's potential adversaries cowed...

In other words, the mere threat of blowing up opposing countries a thousand times over isn't enough. America must have the option to make more nuclear weapons -- and faster -- than any other nation on earth.

dystopia 3:53 PM - [Link]

US Soldier Killed, More Wounded in Afghanistan

If this other war hasn't ended yet, how long will it be before we're through fighting in Iraq? CNN reports on our latest casualties:

A firefight near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan's Paktika province killed one US soldier Friday and wounded several others, including at least one Afghan soldier, US Central Command said...

The firefight happened when a platoon-size group was investigating suspicious activity near a rocket launch site "previously used by enemy forces," according to a Central Command statement.

"When the patrol reached the area, they received fire from approximately 20 enemy personnel," the statement said. "A second platoon-size quick reaction force responded to the vicinity when the enemy forces fled across the border into Pakistan."

Let's try to remember our troops -- and the civilian population -- in Afghanistan, okay? It seems like both have been forgotten amidst all the more recent excitement.

dystopia 2:47 PM - [Link]

Fencing Us Out

A tip picked up from Democratic Underground -- InfoShop News reports that a new fence built around the White House compound completely encloses Lafayette Park, a public space owned by the American people and a popular spot for protests. Go to InfoShop and check out the photos, then read the comments beneath.

Dunno about you, but this just chills me to the bone.

Thanks to DUers hussar for the tip and to kskiska for the quip:

Mr Bush...tear down this wall!!!

dystopia 2:25 PM - [Link]

Gingrich is an Idiot

Hey, I didn't say it -- she did! I won't argue the point, though:

US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Elizabeth Jones was asked to comment on Gingrich's recent harsh criticism of her department's Middle East diplomacy.

"Newt Gingrich does not speak in the name of the Pentagon and what he said is garbage," US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Elizabeth Jones told the Publico daily.

"What Gingrich says does not interest me. He is an idiot and you can publish that," she added.

Via Yahoo! News.

dystopia 2:10 PM - [Link]

Dixie Chicks Explain Bush Bashing

They were on ABC's PrimeTime Thursday last night with Diane Sawyer. Here's some highlights:

MAGUIRE: ...I also believe that yes, some of our fans were upset by it, but...does the punishment fit the crime? How far are you going to go? I think it's rational and totally acceptable for people to write a letter... and say "You know, I was really offended by what you said about the President"...we know some of our fans were shocked and...and upset, and we are compassionate to that. I totally understand it. My problem is, when does it cross the line? When is trashing Emily's property okay? When is writing a threatening letter okay...?

ROBISON: We're ... I think we're dealing with bigger issues than record sales and lost things like that…I'm concerned about my safety. I'm concerned about my safety for my family, for them ...
SAWYER: ...You really don't care about the sales ?
ROBISON: ...It's not that we don't care. We just put in perspective as to what is really important…You know, when you're getting death threats... you know, at our concerts this year, we have to have metal detectors, and to me that's just crazy…But we have to take those precautions because this thing has gotten so out of control...

MAINES: No. I'm not truly embarrassed that, you know, President Bush is from my state, that's not really what I care about. It was the wrong wording with genuine emotion and questions and concern behind it...
MAGUIRE: I felt like there was a lack of compassion every time I saw Bush talking about this. I honestly felt a lack of compassion. And I realized...
SAWYER: For whom? For... ?
MAGUIRE: ...for me...for people that are questioning this, for the people that are about to die for this on both sides...

Maguire went on to explain that what she had wanted to hear from Bush was that he had heard and did feel compassion for those who disagreed over the upcoming war, but that he had to do what he thought best. At this point, the program cut to a tape of Bush dismissing dissenters quite rudely with a variation on his "with us or against us" routine -- a perfect illustration of Maguire's point.

BTW, Diane Sawyer can kiss me arse, the obnoxious twit. She seems to be a bit confused on just who it is who needs to learn some lessons on patriotism from this episode.

Bush isn't from Texas anyway, Nat -- he was born in Connecticut from Yankee stock. Another indicator that he's not quite Texan: he's afraid of horses.

On a related note, I was showing someone yesterday that Toby Keith records on the DreamWorks label, owned by Universal Music Publishing Group, owned by Vivendi, a French company, when I noticed that Darryl Worley also records for the same label. Now what are these "all-American" boys doing making money for the French? Haven't they heard about the boycott? Shouldn't they be trying to break their contracts with Vivendi so they can sign up with an American company?


dystopia 1:11 PM - [Link]

Coverage Interruptus

I love Mark Fiore's flash cartoons -- here's his latest.

dystopia 12:46 PM - [Link]

Stew Leonard's Cash Registers

The November 2002 issue of Forbes Small Business profiled Stew Leonard and his supermarket chain. Unfortunately, I could not find that particular story on the FSB website.

If I could have linked you to that story, you could have read that Leonard spent several years at the minimum-security federal prison in Bradford, PA, for evading approximately $6.8 million in taxes. He also had to pay $15 million in back taxes, penalties and interest, a $650,000 fine and $97,000 to cover the cost of his incarceration. At the time, the IRS called it the largest tax evasion case in the US in which a computer was used.

Leonard had come up with a scheme around 1981 to install a custom-designed program called Equity in his cash registers to skim part of each day's receipts without leaving a paper trail visible to Leonard's accounting firm, Arthur Andersen(!). It was estimated that his total haul was more than $17 million over a decade.

What the software did was to determine which items were the day's biggest sellers -- at one point the cutoff was 200 items, later lowered to 50 items to spread the skim to a wider variety of merchandise -- and to deduct a percentage of those sales. The adjusted sales data was then overwritten on top of the real sales data, so there was no second set of records.

So why should you care? Because Stewie was able to do all this way back in the eighties when computers were still in their nascent stage. Knowing that he could do what he did back then makes the skimming of votes on electronic voting machines today seem not quite so far beyond the realm of possibility.

Over at Democratic Underground I saw a thread about some correspondence that took place between a DUer and Jay Bookman, deputy editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In response to the DUer's question regarding the lack of coverage on Georgia's possible computer voting fraud, Bookman replied:

The move toward electronic voting, with its lack of a paper trail, has raised the fear in some that the system can be fixed and manipulated to produce a certain outcome. I've looked into it a bit, enough to satisfy myself that based on available evidence it is a nonissue. There is absolutely no indication that anything of that sort has taken place. That's why you haven't read much about it in this or other newspapers.

Uh-huh. Rest assured you will not hear much about voting machines problems in the mainstream press. We're on our own in that regard.

This is an issue of tremendous concern to me, so I intend to holler long and loud about it to anyone who will listen. In that spirit, the following is a repost of an April 9 piece from my archive:

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. Do a search on voting machines and you'll find plenty more.

dystopia 12:03 PM - [Link]

Shooting Missiles at the Moon

Can you believe some idiots want to use bunker-busters to deliver scientific instruments beneath the surface of the moon? BBC News has details:

"The probes are based on bunker-buster penetrators, but instead of explosives, would carry sophisticated scientific instruments hardened against the shock of striking the lunar surface."

"The instruments were recently shock tested in the New Mexico desert by firing them at high speed into 2 metres (6 feet) of plywood, where they experienced 1200 G's of shock and worked perfectly afterwards..."

The proposals for the next round of the Discovery Missions Program are due later this year with the selection of the 3-5 finalists taking place a few months later. If Polar Night survives the proposal process, the first impacts would occur in 2007.

They say there would be no explosives on these missiles, but the moon has such a tiny mass compared to the earth's, and there's all kinds of different physical conditions in things like atmosphere and gravity. Plus it's oval instead of round and its center of gravity is a bit off-center. We don't need to be shooting high-speed anything into it. We don't know how much abuse it can take.

Mental picture: Moon as cue ball, bouncing off other planets as it caroms around the solar system.

I sincerely hope this idea goes nowhere, but if it's got Los Alamos, Sandia and the US Naval Research Center behind it, it just might.

dystopia 11:13 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 25

1901: New York became the first state to require automobile license plates; the fee was $1.

1945: Delegates from some 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.

1953: Senator Wayne Morse ended the longest speech in US Senate history. His speech on the Offshore Oil Bill lasted 22 hours and 26 minutes.

1962: The US spacecraft Ranger crashed on the Moon.

1967: Colorado Governor John Love signed the first law legalizing abortion in the US The law was limited to therapeutic abortions when agreed to, unanimously, by a panel of three physicians.

1987: In Washington, DC, 100,000 people protested over US policy in Central America.

1992: Islamic forces in Afghanistan took control of most of the capital of Kabul following the collapse of the Communist government.

1998: Starr cronies interviewed Hillary Clinton about Whitewater in a last-ditch attempt to film some future Republican television ads.

2001: Federal regulators ordered limited price controls on California wholesale electricity markets.

2001: The UN Human Rights Commission voted 27-18 in favor of a moratorium on the death penalty. Seven countries abstained, and Liberia was absent. The US and China voted against the moratorium.

dystopia 10:21 AM - [Link]

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Hot Item

Yup, I need one of these: American Psycho

dystopia 6:33 PM - [Link]

Gifts Flow to UN Population Fund After US Cut-Off

ABC News reports on the extraordinary results of a little project launched by a couple of ordinary American citizens:

Washington, responding to pressure from anti-abortion activists, cut off the payments after accusing the fund of indirectly helping China force women to have abortions under Beijing's one-child policy.

The UN agency, which specializes in maternal health and family planning programs in poor nations, has denied the allegation.

The $34 million represented about 12 percent of the fund's annual budget. Had the money not been rescinded, it could be used to annually prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 abortions and 4,700 maternal deaths, the fund said.

The individual gifts began pouring in after two American women launched an e-mail campaign urging friends to send in a dollar and contact other friends "to help right this terrible wrong."

Well done! It's only 1/34th of what was lost, but it's more proof that ordinary people can make a difference.

Meet the yahoos that caused the cut-off:

The Real American Taliban
Bush Backs Off Population Pact
For Faith and Family (PDF file)

dystopia 6:27 PM - [Link]

Nuclear Energy Update

Just ran across this article from Reuters:

The concrete shield thrown up to block radiation escaping the Chernobyl nuclear power station after it exploded in 1986 is collapsing and needs urgent reinforcement, Russia's atomic energy minister said on Tuesday.

Alexander Rumyantsev was speaking at a news conference almost exactly 17 years after one of Chernobyl's four reactors exploded and spewed clouds of radioactivity over much of Europe in the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster.

"We can see a situation where the roof could fall in, or rather the supports that hold up the roof could fall down," he said, adding that the concrete itself was leaking radiation. "There are a lot of holes in the sarcophagus," he said.

On April 26, 1986, the world's worst nuclear power plant accident took place at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Ukraine. Fallout from the explosion drifted for hundreds of miles, finally reaching across most of Europe. Within days of the disaster, 32 locals were dead and dozens more suffered radiation burns, but it was only after Sweden reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

Seems like it's usually the children who pay the heaviest price for mankind's stupidest moves, doesn't it?:

Chernobyl Cancer Might Have Been Prevented
Ukraine: Counting Chernobyl's Cancer Cost

Our nuclear power plants are aging. They spring leaks. Human error, poor training, lack of communication, the natural deleterious effects of time, pressure, temperature and moisture -- it's just a matter of time, I think:

US Nuclear Accidents
Calendar of Nuclear Accidents and Events
Timeline of Nuclear Technology 1983-1998
Timeline of Nuclear Technology 1961-1981
Timeline of Nuclear Technology 1942-1959

Find the Customizable Mortality Maps link in the sidebar on the left and go look at our rising cancer rates over the past thirty years. Maybe we're already paying a much higher price than we realize for all this nuclear crap.

Here's part of Cheney's energy plan that resulted from the meetings that everybody's suing to get details about:

America's Energy Future Doesn't Have to Look Like This (PDF file)

You can read it if you use the zoom feature on the toolbar. Those yellow dots represent the 100 new nuclear power reactors (along with 1200 new fossil fuel plants) the Bush administration claims we must build in order to meet our energy needs.

One more thing you should probably know about using nuclear power in the US:

Price-Anderson Act

Nuclear waste storage and nuclear weapons plants are also topics that get much less attention than they deserve, but I'll be merciful and spare you those for today.

Last but not least, a fascinating but frightening tale of American ingenuity:

The Radioactive Boy Scout

dystopia 3:57 PM - [Link]

Stuart the Land Mine Activist

I've been checking in with journalist Stuart Hughes' blog every few days to see how he's getting along since losing his leg (but not his sense of humor) after stepping on a land mine in Iraq. In it, he speaks frankly about coming to grips with his loss:

Another unexpected benefit of only having one foot comes in an e-mail from Gavin Bell who notes that "annoying sounds of toenail clipping will be reduced by 50%" A fair point well made.

Hughes has also been looking into the land mine situation and offers these links for more info:

Mines Advisory Group
Playing with Death
Landmine Survivors Network
Ottawa Treaty on Antipersonnel Mines
United Nations Landmines Fact Sheet
Minnesota Campaign to Ban Landmines
US Companies' Production of Antipersonnel Mines

According to the UN fact sheet, more than 2,000 people are killed or wounded every month by land mine explosions. Most of the casualties are civilians, and most are killed or injured after hostilities have ended.

Visit Stuart's blog and join me in wishing him well. And please do what you can to support the clearing of mine-infested areas as well as efforts to ban land mines entirely.

dystopia 12:47 PM - [Link]

Breastfeeding as a Terrorist Act

A must-read in the Montreal Gazette:

Wolfe says she refused a flight attendant's offer of an airline blanket to hide herself because it hadn't been sealed and, given the SARS scare, she'd rather use her own things. Thus, unbeknownst to her, a "Level 1" crew complaint was filed...

Wolfe began to nurse the baby again, using her own bib and blanket. She says the man got out of his seat, walked over to hers and stood staring at her. She says she approached him afterward and twice asked if he had a problem with her feeding her son.

"He marched past me and to the very back of the cabin to talk to the flight attendant," she wrote. "He told her, 'This woman just assaulted me.' ... He then explained that the asking of two questions by a 'foreign national' in international airspace made him feel the victim of terror and as such he wanted to file an assault charge."

I would've offered to fix the big crybaby a sugar tit. More:

She says the flight attendants also began to call her and her travelling party "foreign nationals in international airspace on an international flight during a time of war." And she was informed both of the complaint and that it could be upgraded to a Level 3, which meant possible mandatory detainment by US authorities for 24 hours, RCMP involvement and criminal charges for an act of war upon an American.

This is America?

dystopia 12:19 PM - [Link]

Fuel Storage Pays Off for Senator Turned Lobbyist

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, another player in the revolving door game is former Idaho senator Jim McClure:

But Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group in Washington, said McClure's motivations for working the issue are far from noble. "Obviously, the guy has totally cashed in," said Cook. "This is absolutely the way Washington works. You get the very best influence peddler money can by and they trump the facts and democracy every time, and in this case he is trumping the demonstrative opposition of an entire state."

McClure retired from the Senate in 1991 after serving as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for most of the 1980s. In Washington, he frequently admonished Congress to re-energize public support for nuclear power after dangerous reactor accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986, as well as the multibillion-dollar bond default handed to ratepayers for five never-finished nuclear power plants in the Northwest...

One of the amendments McClure secured on unanimous consent -- a voice vote -- was considered the deal maker: giving states veto power over having a nuclear waste storage facility located within their borders. Opposition evaporated and the entire legislation passed in 15 minutes, although weeks later, lawmakers complained that McClure had misrepresented the language of the amendment during the rush. Instead of giving states more authority to block potential waste repositories, the amendment actually neutralized several state laws restricting nuclear plant development.

dystopia 11:46 AM - [Link]

Out of the Question

Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post about a couple of ridiculously pointless press conferences:

Did President Bush discuss UN sanctions on Iraq with the Spanish prime minister? "I don't have the specifics of their call." Timing of the lifting of sanctions? "We have not set a specific time line." Timing of weapons inspections? "I don't have a time frame." Aid groups proselytizing in Iraq? "I haven't seen the reports." Scientists going to Iraq to find weapons? "That's a question you ought to put to DOD." Syrian proposal for disarming Middle East? "They know our views, and I will leave it at that." Will Bush make statements about Cuba? "I don't have anything on that." Information on Bush's discussion with Gen Tommy Franks? "No."

After more such questions, the reporters shifted to a gentle line of inquiry: Bush's weekend plans. Friends visiting? "If he has friends joining him, I don't have a list of them." How about his parents? "At this point, I don't have anything on that." Is it possible to inquire? "If we get any updates on his visitors and can share them with you, we will." Where will he go to church? "We will have details on that tomorrow." What's for Easter dinner? "We will try and endeavor to get the menu..."

When the matter is inconsequential, such as what the president is eating for dinner, the White House's determination not to answer the question is harmless, and often amusing. But it is indicative of something larger. In a study of communications in the Bush White House, to be published in the June issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly, academic Martha Joynt Kumar writes that the administration's intense control over information has the benefit of keeping the message simple and unified. But it also leaves presidential policies unexplained and White House responses inflexible.

More links on this administration's penchant for secrecy:

Bush Administration's Suffocating Secrecy
Bush View of Secrecy Is Stirring Frustration
Hiding Past And Present Presidencies
What Are They Hiding?

dystopia 10:47 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 24

1899: A strike by miners in Wardner, Idaho, turned violent when management rebuffed workers' various demands. The miners had pushed for a pay raise (to $3.50 per day), as well as the closing of the company stores that mine owners used to pay and, by serving as hard-driving creditors, to enforce tacit control over workers.

1944: In US v. Ballard, the Supreme Court ruled that no governmental agency could determine "the truth or falsity of the beliefs or doctrines" of anyone—even if the beliefs "may seem incredible, if not preposterous to most people." But the court also reiterated its position that while freedom of belief is absolute, the freedom to act on those beliefs is not.

1967: Gen William Westmoreland said in a press conference that "ninety-five percent of the people were behind the United States effort in Vietnam." He asserted that the American soldiers in Vietnam were "dismayed, and so am I, by recent unpatriotic acts at home." This criticism of the antiwar movement was not received well by many in and out of the antiwar movement, who believed it was both their right and responsibility to speak out against the war.

1980: An ill-fated military operation to rescue the 52 American hostages held in Tehran ended with eight US servicemen dead and no hostages rescued.

1985: With the hangover of the Reagan tax cuts sending the government into deeper debt, President Reagan told the nation that economic growth had not been sufficient to cover the shortfalls in revenues and that many middle-class entitlements would be cut in his 1986 tax reform plan.

1990: Junk bond guru Michael Milken pled guilty to six felonies and agreed to pay a $600 million penalty. He was later sentenced to ten years in prison.

1995: The Unabomber struck again, killing timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray in his Sacramento office when he opened mail addressed to his predecessor.

dystopia 10:22 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Vehicle Crash Deaths Highest Since 1990

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that rollovers involving SUVs last year were up 9.8 percent over 2001, and that alcohol-related fatalities have been rising steadily since 1999. More from ABC News:

Nearly a quarter of the deaths, or 10,626, occurred in rollover crashes, including those in highly popular sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, said in a report...

In an open letter on Wednesday, coinciding with the NHTSA's report, attorneys general from 40 US states and territories warned auto makers to stop "deceptive or unfair" advertising that could mislead consumers about the safety and handling of SUVs...

In another disturbing trend, the report said the number of occupant fatalities among children between 8 and 15 rose nearly 9 percent in 2002.

Frontline did an excellent program a while back on SUV rollovers. That's where I learned that in the 10-year period during which Ford-Firestone related rollovers caused some 300 deaths, more than 12,000 people -- 40 times as many -- died in SUV rollover crashes unrelated to tire failure.

dystopia 6:41 PM - [Link]

I Miss Flying

Incoming flights pass high above me on their way to the local airport. Due to an odd acoustical quirk, when I'm sitting at my computer next to the window I can hear the engines decelerating, and it sounds almost exactly like when I'm sitting on a plane that's about to touch down. I can close my eyes and imagine landing in some far-off place, ready for a new adventure.

That's what I love best about flying. You can step on a plane one morning and, just a few hours later, step off into a whole 'nother world. Beats the hell out of driving, any day.

I love the absurdity of airplanes. I know there are physical laws of flight and I can easily see how a bird or a butterfly can do it, but the thought of packing human beings into metal tubes, along with thousands of tons of cargo and jet fuel, and launching the entire package through the air and bringing it safely back to earth again still boggles me. I like it that way -- don't bother trying to explain aerodynamics to me.

I think my fascination with airplanes came from my dad, who flew on a B-17 bomber crew in Europe during WWII. He was a ball-turret gunner, but he would never talk to us about it. One of the few stories we got from him was that he once watched in horror as the little round window between his guns came loose mid-flight and spun off into the distance.

When I was very young, Daddy sometimes used to load us into the station wagon and drive us out to the International Airport, where we'd park alongside the road (it was out in the country then) and watch planes take off and land for hours. Picnic lunch and all. I remember that Braniff's planes had color schemes that I presume were cued to the model of plane, and so we'd yell, "Here comes a BI Bluie!" "It's a BI Brownie!" "A BI Orangie!" "A BI Reddie!"

September 11 put a screeching halt to my air travels. DH was a white-knuckle flier anyway, so it was hard enough to get him on a plane before then, and it will be awhile before we fly again. These days, we drive. Long, tedious hours trapped in a car. Earthbound.

The Week the Skies Went Silent -- after that, I understood that there isn't anything that can't be done, if deemed necessary. I sat here at my computer by the window every day that week, mostly searching the Internet for information about what had just happened, but sometimes just sitting and listening to the silence, wondering was going to happen next. It was so eerie.

dystopia 2:53 PM - [Link]

Teens Held at Guantanamo

The US military revealed that three minors, aged 13 to 15, are being held at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay. BBC News has more:

Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay still holds about 660 detainees from more than 40 countries, mostly arrested in during the 2001 bombing campaign in Afghanistan following the 11 September attacks in the US...

"That the US sees nothing wrong with holding children at Guantanamo and interrogating them is a shocking indicator of how cavalier the Bush administration has become about respecting human rights," spokesman Alistair Hodgett told the Associated Press news agency.

Since the first group of detainees was sent to the camp in January 2002, several inmates have attempted suicide, and several have been released for lack of evidence.

Related info:

Guantanamo Was Prepared for Suicide Attempts
Guantanamo Detainees on Hunger Strike
One Year On: Legal Limbo of Guantánamo Detainees Continues
Afghan Detainees' Deaths Ruled Homicides

dystopia 2:15 PM - [Link]

Local Officials Defy Patriot Act

A report on the grassroots revolt against the thought police from the Washington Post:

The Arcata ordinance may be the first, but it may not be the last. Across the country, citizens have been forming Bill of Rights defense committees to fight what they consider the most egregious curbs on liberties contained in the Patriot Act. The 342-page act, passed by Congress one month after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with little input from a public still in shock, has been most publicly criticized by librarians and bookstore owners for the provisions that force them to secretly hand over information about a patron's reading and Internet habits. But citizens groups are becoming increasingly organized and forceful in rebuking the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act for giving the federal government too much power, especially since a draft of the Justice Department's proposed sequel to the Patriot Act (dubbed Patriot II) was publicly leaked in January.

Both the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act, which created the Cabinet-level department, follow the Constitution, says Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo. Federal law trumps local law in any case, which would mean Arcata would be in for a fight -- a fight it wants -- if the feds did make a Patriot Act request. LaRae Quy, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco FBI office, whose jurisdiction includes Arcata, said that the agency has no plans to use the Patriot Act in Arcata any time soon, but added that people misunderstood it. Although some people feel their privacy rights are being infringed upon, she said, the agency still has to show "probable cause for any actions we take."

But to date, 89 cities have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act, with at least a dozen more in the works and a statewide resolution against the act close to being passed in Hawaii.

USA PATRIOT stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." I think it would have been more accurate to call it the U SAP Act -- "Unconscionably Screwing the American People."

dystopia 1:31 PM - [Link]

MSNBC Reveals Israel’s WMD

From Cursor's Media Patrol: The most astounding web page of the week, along with commentary by Ira Chernus.

Also, Newtie and the Hawks bash the State Department and declare war on the road map for peace.

And, the Democracy Now! transcript of its interview with a Reuters photographer who was standing next to the AP cameraman who was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier.

And, fake hate mail.

BTW, Cursor was one of the first newsblogs I followed regularly, before I even knew what a blog was. I still think it's one of the best.

dystopia 12:41 PM - [Link]

Fox News Engineer Charged with Smuggling

Customs officials have already seized some Iraqi artworks, weapons and other materials being smuggled into the US, according to the Washington Post:

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint says that Johnson, who accompanied US troops in Baghdad, gathered up the paintings at a palace that belonged to Uday Hussein, one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sons. The paintings depict Saddam and Uday.

Johnson, who initially told Customs officials he was given the paintings by Iraqi citizens, said he had planned to keep them "for decoration" and to provide one to his employer, the affidavit says. It is US policy that all such items belong to the Iraqi people.

Johnson works as an engineer for the Fox cable news network. Executives at Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bringing home a souvenir for Rupert, eh?

A Boston Herald reporter was busted, too, but they let him go.

Interesting bit in the Guardian:

This was in contrast to scenes over the past few days when an American television network took carloads of documents from the foreign ministry and other civil service buildings. Several key treaties from Iraq's diplomatic archives have been removed by the American television reporters.

dystopia 11:34 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 23

1908: President Theodore Roosevelt signed an act creating the US Army Reserve.

1945: Less than two weeks after taking over as president, Harry Truman gave a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Truman felt FDR had been naive in believing Stalin would cooperate with the West after WWII, and was convinced that a tough stance was the only way to deal with communists -- a policy that came to dominate America's early Cold War policies.

1963: William Lewis Moore, a postman from Baltimore, was shot and killed in Attalla, AL, during a one-man march against segregation. Moore had planned to deliver a letter to the governor of Mississippi urging an end to intolerance.

1969: Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to death for the assassination of Sen Robert F Kennedy. The sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.

1971: In the final event of Operation Dewey Canyon Three, nearly 1,000 Vietnam War veterans returned their combat medals to the government.

1985: Coca-Cola Company announced it was changing its 99-year-old secret formula. Public pressure forced them to reintroduce the original drink 79 days later.

2002: American cardinals attended a meeting with top Vatican officials to discuss a sex abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church in the US.

dystopia 11:01 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Vietnam Memorial Adds Hundreds of Names

Some casualties of war take longer to die than others. Yahoo! News reports on the annual ceremony held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor some of them:

Montgomery was honored Monday as a Vietnam war casualty during a ceremony that also paid tribute to nearly 400 other Vietnam veterans who died from Agent Orange-related illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments related to their service.

Their names were added to the "In Memory" list kept inside the park rangers' kiosk near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Because these veterans died years after and thousands of miles away from Vietnam and not from combat-related wounds, their names cannot appear on the black granite wall honoring the war's official dead.

"These people need to be listed some place," said Montgomery's widow, Carolyn Montgomery, who traveled to the ceremony from Rockford, Ill.

dystopia 6:01 PM - [Link]

Bestseller Success for Controversial Works

The Guardian says books by Michael Moore, Greg Palast and Noam Chomsky are outselling more mainstream authors:

The books are comfortably outselling titles which might seem at first to better reflect the zeitgeist, such as Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism and similar.

Concluding his recent book tour, Moore said: "I look out into the auditorium or gymnasium and I see Mr and Mrs Middle America, who voted for George W Bush and believed in the American dream as defined by the Bushes and Wall Street. Then they woke up to realise it was just that, a dream."

Information is power, and you won't get much of either by watching TV. Turn it off and read some (non-fiction) books, okay? Dig out your old library card and start using it again, and support your local independent bookseller!

dystopia 5:47 PM - [Link]

Genetic-Environmental Links to Diseases Decoded

The Environment News Service reports that scientists are beginning to look into the relationship between environmental exposure, human genes and disease development:

Only a few, relatively rare, diseases are caused by defects in a single gene, and scientists have come to believe that it is the interaction between human genes and environmental exposures that sets the stage for the majority of disease development.

Timing is the third factor thought to play a role in disease development - children, for example, are often found to be more susceptible to exposures.

Environmental exposures are not just pollutants and industrial byproducts, they include diet, pharmaceuticals, infectious organisms and natural compounds.

dystopia 5:34 PM - [Link]

Families Give Up Kids to Get Treatment

Reuters AlertNet reports on another side effect of the health care crisis:

Thousands of US parents are being forced to give up their mentally ill children to foster care or even the juvenile justice system because they cannot otherwise pay for treatment, a report said on Monday. The report by the General Accounting Office has probably found only the tip of the iceberg, mental health groups said, as only a few states cooperated with the investigation...

"Although no agency tracks these children or maintains data on their characteristics, officials said most are male, adolescent, often have multiple problems and many exhibit behaviors that threaten the safety of themselves and others."

But the children had not committed crimes, nor had they been abused or neglected, said Elizabeth Adams, a spokeswoman for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

dystopia 5:22 PM - [Link]

Charley Reese Rant

He's on fire today:

There is a definitely a whiff of anti-intellectualism — so characteristic of fascist states — in the air. Beware of bully boys who worship the military and scoff at museums and libraries. Beware of people whose limited brains see everyone as either an ally or an enemy. Beware of people who can't tell the difference between patriotism and military conquest. Beware of people so stupid and ignorant that they accept anything and everything the political and the media demagogues tell them...

I'm no longer concerned about liberals or conservatives, leftists or rightists. I just pray to God for a non-ideologue with a three-digit IQ. If we don't elevate the level of intelligence and integrity of our government, we are going to end up floating on the cesspool of history.

Amen cubed!

dystopia 3:06 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 22

1792: President George Washington proclaimed American neutrality in the war in Europe.

1864: Congress authorized the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on US coins.

1889: The Oklahoma Land Rush started at noon as thousands of white homesteaders began staking claims on 1.9 million acres of land in Indian Territory.

1898: The first shot of the Spanish-American War was fired as the USS Nashville captured a Spanish merchant ship off Key West, FL.

1952: An atomic test conducted in Nevada was the first nuclear explosion shown on live network television.

1954: Sen Joseph McCarthy began hearings investigating the US Army, which he charged with being "soft" on communism. The televised hearings gave the American public their first view of McCarthy in action, and his recklessness, indignant bluster, and bullying tactics quickly resulted in his fall from prominence.

1970: Earth Day, an event to increase public awareness of the world's environmental problems, was first celebrated in the US. Millions of Americans participated in rallies, marches, and educational programs.

1987: The American Physical Society said that the Star Wars missile system was "highly questionable" and would take ten years to research.

1990: Pro-Iranian kidnappers in Lebanon freed American hostage Robert Polhill after nearly 39 months of captivity.

1996: Ken Starr's office leaked the story that there was a "50-50" chance that Hillary Clinton would be indicted for her role in Whitewater -- an election year ploy after the failure of Al D’Amato’s banking committee to find a crime in Whitewater and the FBI's determination in 1992 that the Clintons had committed no crime.

2000: Armed immigration agents seized Elian Gonzalez from his relatives' home in Miami in a pre-dawn raid.

dystopia 10:32 AM - [Link]

Monday, April 21, 2003

Americans Open Wallets for Iraqis

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the difficulties of raising money for humanitarian aid for post-war Iraq:

But while Americans are famous for their generosity in the face of natural or human disasters, some international aid groups say it's been more difficult to raise money for Iraq than for other high-profile war-torn areas, such as Afghanistan or Kosovo.

There's been no direct plea from President Bush like there was for Afghanistan, and some people may believe the US government will take care of the humanitarian needs. Until this week, the media - usually the single biggest trigger for giving - has focused more on US troops than on Iraqi suffering. It's also been difficult to raise awareness about famine, lack of water, and medical needs, when those problems are just beginning to be identified.

"The situation is very confusing for people," says Janet Harris, a development director for the International Rescue Committee. "They have a lot of ethical dilemmas because the US is the belligerent in this situation." But, she adds, "the press controls where people's consciousness is, and as the stories are beginning to turn [to the humanitarian crisis], we're seeing more and more spontaneous calls - 'What can I do? How can I help?'"

dystopia 4:47 PM - [Link]

Americans Protest Public Education Cuts

People can only take so much, you know. It's been very painful in my state. Details from the Charlotte Observer:

Since January, hundreds to thousands have protested in Arkansas and California, Maryland and New Jersey, Texas and at least 15 other states. The crowds in Frankfort and in Oklahoma City topped 20,000. New Yorkers hope a May 3 event will draw 30,000 in support of public schools.

"The scale of the protests is as large and as extensive as we've seen since the '82-'83 recession," said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. "And now, schools are more reliant on the states. So when the states cut back, the impact on local school districts is more severe than anything we've ever seen..."

Casserly, the urban schools advocate, said protests remind leaders which issues will drive people to the streets. But gauging the impact of mass action is tough, he said. "It's hard to imagine legislators going into session saying, 'We've got crowds at the barricades. We better put these items back in the budget,'" Casserly said. "It happens much more subtly than that. But it's still constructive."

An update on another public school issue from CBS News:

The idea seemed reasonable to lawmakers. The department itself deemed the technology safe in 1999 after concluding that its benefits - preventing food poisoning - outweighed the risk of any potential side effects.

As schools wait for the government to offer them the chance to buy the meat, fears about irradiated food have resurfaced. Parents and consumer groups worry such meat has unknown long-term health effects and want more research.

Irradiation, which involves directing gamma rays produced by the radioactive material, cobalt 60, or electricity at meat to kill harmful bacteria. Research shows that most of the radiation passes through without being absorbed. The small amount that does remain kills the bacteria...

"It's just one more thing that we've got to worry about kids ingesting and being exposed to," said Davis, of Cranford, NJ. "You don't know what the impact of that is 20 years later."

dystopia 2:34 PM - [Link]

Sugar Industry Threatens World Health Organization

How to play hardball, via the Guardian:

In a letter to Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO's director general, the Sugar Association says it will "exercise every avenue available to expose the dubious nature" of the WHO's report on diet and nutrition, including challenging its $406m (£260m) funding from the US. The industry is furious at the guidelines, which say that sugar should account for no more than 10% of a healthy diet. It claims that the review by international experts which decided on the 10% limit is scientifically flawed, insisting that other evidence indicates that a quarter of our food and drink intake can safely consist of sugar...

The association, together with six other big food industry groups, has also written to the US health secretary, Tommy Thompson, asking him to use his influence to get the WHO report withdrawn. The coalition includes the US Council for International Business, comprising more than 300 companies, including Coca-Cola and Pepsico...

The WHO strongly rejects the sugar lobby's criticisms. An official said a team of 30 independent experts had considered the scientific evidence and its conclusions were in line with the findings of 23 national reports which have, on average, set targets of 10% for added sugars.

In the letter to Mr Thompson, the sugar lobby relies heavily on a recent report from the Institute of Medicine for its claim that a 25% sugar intake is acceptable. But last week, Harvey Fineberg, president of the institute, wrote to Mr Thompson to warn that the report was being misinterpreted. He says it does not make a recommendation on sugar intake.

dystopia 1:47 PM - [Link]

Congress Urged to Tighten Rules on Coal Plants

Important news from Reuters:

In a shot across the bow of the Bush administration's clean air policies, a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration said that regulations governing pollution from aging coal-fired power plants should be drastically rewritten. The academy is an independent organization created by Congress in 1984 to offer suggestions on how to improve local, state and federal government management...

The government should end special treatment of older plants, and give them 10 years to either install pollution controls or shut down, the academy said. Congress did not intend old plants to be run indefinitely, the report said....

That delay in cutting dirty air has caused thousands of premature deaths and respiratory illnesses, it said.

If this sort of thing matters to you, be sure to let your congressman know how you feel: 1-800-839-5276.

dystopia 1:11 PM - [Link]

US Delegation to N Korea for Nuclear Talks

Some movement at last on the North Korean front, from Reuters:

A senior State Department official said the delegation led by the assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, James Kelly, departed Washington for Beijing, ending doubts over the talks prompted by a confusing North Korean statement on Friday about reprocessing spent fuel rods...

North Korea appeared to try to end confusion about the status of its nuclear program by quietly correcting a Web site version of an English-language statement that had originally said Pyongyang was "successfully reprocessing" nuclear fuel rods, a provocative step in Washington's eyes...

The United States wants to talk to the North Koreans about closing down its nuclear programs, while North Korea wants assurances the United States will not attack it.

The NY Times reports that the hawks are stirring the pot again:

Just days before President Bush approved the opening of negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program, Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld circulated to key members of the administration a Pentagon memorandum proposing a radically different approach: the United States, the memo argued, should team up with China to press for the ouster of North Korea's leadership...

The memorandum was described by several officials who have seen it, including critics of the Pentagon approach who say it is ludicrous to think that China — which is acting as intermediary between North Korea and the United States — would join in any American-led effort to bring about the fall of the North Korean government.

"The last thing the Chinese want," said a senior administration official dealing with the delicate diplomacy, "is a collapse of North Korea that will create a flood of refugees into China and put Western allies on the Chinese border."

dystopia 1:00 PM - [Link]

Angola's Vaccination Attack on Measles

Countries all across Africa have been devastated by decades of civil warfare and genocide. Unfortunately, if you look closely enough, you can often detect less-than-helpful American meddling in some of these foreign conflicts.

The Angolan Civil War ended last year, and it sounds like things are finally beginning to look more hopeful for the people there, according to ABC News:

Angola launched its first national vaccination campaign since the end of its 27-year-old civil war on Monday, to stop measles killing thousands of its children.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates some 10,000 Angolan children die of measles every year. Across the country the disease kills 100 infected children in every 1,000 compared with one in every 1,000 in the developed world...

Around a million people died in Angola's civil war which ended in February 2002 when government forces killed UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Land mines and bad roads still make parts of the country inaccessible but UNICEF says personnel carriers, helicopters and UN aircraft will help reach the children.

dystopia 12:09 PM - [Link]

GOP Weary of Judicial Struggle

Bob Novak brought me some happy news this morning:

Senate Republicans are tiring of the battle to confirm contested judicial nominees, indicating that Sen Edward M Kennedy's Democratic plan to prevent President Bush from shaping the federal judiciary is succeeding.

Weekly meetings of Republican senators produce increased grumbling. The senators ask the White House and the Republican leadership why they should keep fighting to confirm as appellate judges Washington, DC, lawyer Miguel Estrada and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. Not only liberal GOP senators but also some old guard committee chairmen claim this fight is neither important nor politically prudent...

I hope it's true. We'll see.

dystopia 10:41 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 21

1649: The Maryland Toleration Act, providing for freedom of worship, was passed by the Maryland assembly.

1847: Lewis Keseberg, the last member of the Donner Party still stranded in the mountains, was escorted to safety. Later accounts said that Keseberg was found "seated, like a ghoul, in the midst of dead bodies, with his face and hands smeared with blood, and a kettle of human flesh boiling over the fire."

1863: Union Col Abel Streight began a raid into northern Alabama and Georgia with the goal of cutting the Western and Atlantic Railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta. The raid ended when Confederate Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Streight's entire command near Rome, GA.

1930: The warden of the Ohio State Penitentiary ordered a lockdown upon the report of a fire. The fire spread and over 320 inmates were killed.

1943: President Roosevelt announced that several Doolittle pilots had been executed by the Japanese.

1953: Roy Cohn and David Schine, two of Sen Joseph McCarthy's chief aides, returned to the US after a controversial investigation of United States Information Service posts in Europe. They reported that over 30,000 books in the libraries were by "pro-communist" writers, including Melville, Steinbeck, and Thoreau, and demanded their removal. The State Department, which oversaw operations of USIS, immediately complied.

1986: Capone's vault in Chicago's Lexington Hotel was opened during a live TV special hosted by Geraldo Rivera. Except for a few bottles and a sign, the vault was empty.

dystopia 10:17 AM - [Link]

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Hard Sayings

Read a book last fall called Hard Sayings of Jesus, by F.F. Bruce (IVP, 1983), where I found the following passage. I felt pretty smug when I first read it, agreeing with Mr Bruce 100% because I had certainly run across plenty of the people he described. I kept going back and reading it again and again, happy to find that somebody else had put into words exactly what it is about some people that gets on my nerves so much.

It was only later that it hit me (right between the eyes) that I'm not excluded from the group Mr Bruce was talking about. I've got plenty of firmly held prejudices and convictions of my own, just not the same ones my adversaries have:

"One reason for the complaint that Jesus's sayings were hard was that he made his hearers think. For some people thinking is a difficult and uncomfortable exercise, expecially when it involves the critical reappraisal of firmly held prejudices and convictions, or the challenging of the current consensus of opinion. Any utterance, therefore, which invites them to engage in this kind of thinking is a hard saying.

Many of Jesus's sayings were hard in this sense. They suggested that it would be good to reconsider things that every reasonable person accepted. In a world where the race was to the swift and the battle to the strong, where the prizes of life went to the pushers and the go-getters, it was preposterous to congratulate the unassertive types and them them that they would inherit the earth or, better still, possess the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps the beatitudes were, and are, the hardest of Jesus's sayings."

dystopia 5:37 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 20

1606: The first charter of Virginia was issued. Part of the colonists' stated goals were to civilize the natives: "...and may in time bring the infidels and savages, living in those parts, to human civility."

1861: Colonel Robert E Lee resigned from the US army two days after he was offered command of the Union army and three days after his native state, Virginia, seceded from the Union.

1871: With passage of the Third Force Act, popularly known as the Ku Klux Act, Congress authorizes President Ulysses S Grant to declare martial law, impose heavy penalties against terrorist organizations, and use military force to suppress the Ku Klux Klan.

1914: Ending a bitter coal-miners' strike, Colorado militiamen attacked a tent colony of strikers at Ludlow, CO. Sixty-six men, women, and children died during the strike, but not a single militiaman or private detective was charged with any crime.

1962: The New Orleans Citizens' Council offered a free one-way ride for blacks to move to northern states.

1970: In a televised speech, President Nixon pledged to withdraw 150,000 more US troops over the next year "based entirely on the progress" of the Vietnamization program.

1971: The Pentagon released figures confirming that fragging incidents in Vietnam were rising. In 1970, 209 fragging incidents caused the deaths of 34 men; in 1969, only 96 fragging incidents took place.

1971: The US Supreme Court upheld the use of busing to achieve racial desegregation in schools.

1973: Thousands of cubic meters of radioactive waste flowed out of the Hanford nuclear weapons complex near Richland, WA.

1980: The first Cubans sailing to the US as part of the massive Mariel boatlift reached Florida.

1984: In Washington, terrorists bombed an officers club at a Navy yard.

1985: Sixty thousand people rallied in Washington against military involvement in Central America.

1999: Two students went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, killing 12 students and one teacher before taking their own lives.

2001: A Peruvian air force jet shot down a small plane carrying American missionaries in Peru's Amazon jungle region, killing Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter, Charity. CIA contract workers had misidentifed the plane as involved in smuggling drugs.

dystopia 9:34 AM - [Link]

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Books Worth Reading (linked to reviews):

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

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

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

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

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (1962)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearing the Air, by Daniel Schorr (1977)

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

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

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

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

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