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Surf-Worthy Sites:

Administration and Cost of Elections

Alaska Wilderness League

American Antitrust Institute

American Association of Retired Persons

American Federation of Government Employees

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American Library Asociation

American Peace

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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, May 03, 2003

Fritz Blitzes AWOL Bush

Wyeth just went to the SC Jefferson-Jackson dinner and wanted to share what Sen Fritz Hollings said, in case the press forgets to mention it:

I saw President Bush on that aircraft carrier in the Pacific yesterday. Incidentally, that's the closest he's ever got to the War in Vietnam.

dystopia 1:26 PM - [Link]

Making a Bad Joke of Human Rights

An LA Times editorial on the UN Human Rights Commission:

It's hard to take the UN Human Rights Commission seriously when it allows Libya, China, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe to pass judgment on nations accused of oppression and torture. Cuba's reelection to that panel Tuesday, at a moment when much of the world is aghast at Fidel Castro's summary executions and in-your-face imprisonment of activists, journalists and librarians, is like an absurd sketch on "Saturday Night Live..."

The answer is that it can't shake loose from an obsolete election system that chooses the Human Rights Commission's 53 members based on geographical representation, rather than on a nation's record on the matter that is the panel's raison d'être. Regional groups get to decide among themselves who will fill an area's allotted seats. By negotiating with other members in the region, human rights pariahs such as Cuba can easily wrangle one of several seats allotted per region — and thereby assume a role that only a surrealist could fully appreciate.

I must not be a surrealist.

dystopia 1:10 PM - [Link]

Behind Cuba's Crackdown

Finally came across an article that gave me a better idea of what's going on in Cuba lately. The World Press Review has it:

If anything, Cuba’s draconian measures have bolstered an argument that many Castro critics have been making for years: that whenever the US embargo seems on the verge of being weakened, the tricky commandante does something provocative to stir up the pro-embargo lobby. This historical pattern repeated itself most recently in 1996, when Cuba shot down two airplanes belonging to the anti-Castro Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue, killing four people. The planes were flying over international waters. Immediately after this incident, the Helms-Burton Act was approved by the US Congress, further tightening the US embargo — and Castro’s own grasp on power...

There is little question that Cason’s actions have enraged the Cuban government. At an April 9 press conference, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque asserted that Cason “came to Cuba with the plan of creating a single party of dissidents in Cuba,” a plan he advanced, Pérez Roque says, by channeling funds to dissident groups and encouraging them to unite. By way of evidence, Cuba points to the millions of dollars in US funds routed into non-governmental organizations like Freedom House and the Center for a Free Cuba, which fund anti-Castro programs inside Cuba. It alleges that dissident journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who received a 20-year prison sentence, was caught with US$13,000 in cash—a huge amount of money in a country where the average monthly salary is around US$15 a month.

dystopia 12:45 PM - [Link]

Smithsonian No Safe Haven

A physicist/photographer published a lovely book of his wildlife photos from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and some of them were to be exhibited at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Then someone mentioned the book in a Senate debate on oil drilling on C-Span. From the NY Times:

But it has been nothing but trouble ever since. The Smithsonian exhibit will still open on Friday, though in a much different version than what had been scheduled. Mr. Banerjee and the book's publisher say members of the Smithsonian told them that the museum had been pressured to cancel or sharply revise the exhibit of birds, caribou, musk oxen and other images he had photographed.

Smithsonian officials say that no pressure was applied and that the changes to the show — it was moved from the main floor rotunda to a lower-level room, and captions were deleted and truncated — are part of the routine, last-minute preparations for a major exhibition...

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, plans to question Smithsonian members at a hearing next week and will display some of Mr. Banerjee's pictures and the deleted captions. "I want the world to see the caption of the little bird that the Smithsonian says is too controversial for the public," Mr. Durbin said. "There was political pressure brought on this exhibition. And it's a sad day when the Smithsonian, the keeper of our national treasures, is so fearful."

Maybe stuff like this had something to do with it. Ya think?

dystopia 12:04 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: May 3

1886: Simmering tensions between strikers and scabs came to a boil at the McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago. Police were called in and began attacking the workers. Two unarmed strikers were killed, while others were beaten and wounded.

1921: West Virginia imposed the first state sales tax.

1951: The Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees began hearings into the dismissal of Gen Douglas MacArthur by President Truman. Partisan politics played a significant role in the hearings, instigated by Republican senators eager to discredit the Democratic administration.

1963: Eugene "Bull" Connor directed security forces in Birmingham to unleash police dogs on civil rights protesters, and then blast them with high-pressure fire hoses. TV networks showed the horrifying footage to a shocked national audience.

1971: Anti-war protesters began four days of demonstrations in Washington, DC, aimed at shutting down the nation's capital. More than 12,000 were arrested.

1980: Sixty thousand marched on the Pentagon to demand an end to US military involvement in El Salvador.

1988: The White House acknowledged that Nancy Reagan had used astrological advice to help schedule Ronnie's activities.

1999: The Dow Jones closed above 11,000 for the first time.

dystopia 11:39 AM - [Link]

Friday, May 02, 2003

GOP Beats Campaign Finance Reform

In the Washington Post:

The decision is a victory for the Republican National Committee and dozens of interest groups, who contended that the law would undermine their ability to participate in politics. It is a loss for Republican Sen John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen Russell Feingold of Wisconsin who fought for years to get a new law enacted. They argued that it was time to end the corrupting influence of big money in politics.

The ruling came from a special three-member, fast-track panel of Appeals Court Judge Karen Henderson, District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and District Judge Richard Leon...

The court made its ruling effective immediately, barring the Federal Election Commission from enforcing the restrictions it struck down.

According to Public Citizen, Henderson and Leon are Bush I and II appointees, in that order, and Kollar-Kotelly was appointed by Clinton, so it's no surprise that the vote was split 2-1. This is why judicial appointments matter.

dystopia 4:11 PM - [Link]

Keeping Our Priorities in Order

The Taliban West strikes again:

The American delegation joined with Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya and others in efforts to delete a phrase - included in previously agreed-upon UN statements dating back a decade - that calls on countries to condemn violence against women and "refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration" to avoid the obligation to stop the violence...

From Marie Cocco's column in Newsday

dystopia 3:19 PM - [Link]

Stealth Legislation Squashed

Temporarily, at least. The CIA and the Pentagon want broad new powers to demand personal and financial records on people in the US, per the NY Times:

The proposal, which was beaten back, would have given the CIA and the military the authority to issue administrative subpoenas — known as "national security letters" — requiring Internet providers, credit card companies, libraries and a range of other organizations to produce materials like phone records, bank transactions and e-mail logs. That authority now rests largely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the subpoenas do not require court approval.

The surprise proposal was tucked into a broader intelligence authorization bill now pending before Congress. It set off fierce debate today in a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, officials said. Democrats on the panel said they were stunned by the proposal because it appeared to expand significantly the role of the CIA and the Pentagon in conducting domestic operations, despite a long history of tight restrictions, officials said...

There was some disagreement over exactly how the provision originated. Several Senate aides active in the debate said that Senator Roberts had included it in the authorization bill. But a senior Congressional official said the Bush administration had initiated the proposal and that Senator Roberts had not objected.

dystopia 2:46 PM - [Link]

Pot and Porn Outstripping Corn?

The Guardian has a startling report on the American economy:

Marijuana, pornography and illegal labour have created a hidden market in the United States which now accounts for as much as 10% of the American economy, according to a study. As a cash crop, marijuana is believed to have outstripped maize, and hardcore porn revenue is equal to Hollywood's domestic box office takings...

While the nation's largest legal cash crop, maize, produces about $19bn (£11.9bn) in revenue, "plausible" estimates for the value of marijuana crops reach $25bn. Steve White, a former coordinator for the US drug enforcement administration's cannabis eradication programme, estimates that the drug is now the country's largest cash crop...

The total number of illegal immigrants is estimated at about 8 million and many are being paid cash in a shadow economy..."Maintaining the current level of poverty among migrant farmworkers saves the average American household around $50 a year."

dystopia 2:40 PM - [Link]

Bookie of Virtue

Dag! Washington Monthly outs Bill Bennett big-time in its June 2003 issue:

Few vices have escaped Bennett's withering scorn. He has opined on everything from drinking to "homosexual unions" to "The Ricki Lake Show" to wife-swapping. There is one, however, that has largely escaped Bennett's wrath: gambling. This is a notable omission, since on this issue morality and public policy are deeply intertwined. During Bennett's years as a public figure, casinos, once restricted to Nevada and New Jersey, have expanded to 28 states, and the number continues to grow. In Maryland, where Bennett lives, the newly elected Republican governor Robert Ehrlich is trying to introduce slot machines to fill revenue shortfalls. As gambling spreads, so do its associated problems. Heavy gambling, like drug use, can lead to divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, and bankruptcy. According to a 1998 study commissioned by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, residents within 50 miles of a casino are twice as likely to be classified as "problem" or "pathological" gamblers than those who live further away.

If Bennett hasn't spoken out more forcefully on an issue that would seem tailor-made for him, perhaps it's because he is himself a heavy gambler. Indeed, in recent weeks word has circulated among Washington conservatives that his wagering could be a real problem. They have reason for concern. The
Washington Monthly and Newsweek have learned that over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a "preferred customer" at several of them, and sources and documents provided to the Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million...

Bennett--who gambled throughout Clinton's impeachment--has continued this pattern in subsequent years. On July 12 of last year, for instance, Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesar's Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City. And just three weeks ago, on April 5 and 6, he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. "There's a term in the trade for this kind of gambler," says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. "We call them losers."

dystopia 1:03 PM - [Link]

Corporate Frauds Seeking Tax Refunds

Per ABC News:

MCI, Enron, Qwest and HealthSouth are either pursuing or considering filing for tax refunds or credits for payments made on billions of dollars falsely claimed as earnings, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

MCI, which plans to emerge from bankruptcy in the fall, has already collected $300 million in tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service, the Journal reported, citing a source close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity...

A Chicago-based tax attorney said corporate fraud should have no effect on the ability of companies to recoup tax overpayments. "It's not the government's money, it's the shareholders' money," Richard Lipton, the tax attorney, told the newspaper.

Robert S McIntyre, in a May 2002 article in The American Prospect, wrote about corporate welfare and said that Enron, for example, had paid no income taxes at all in four out of the previous five years, despite $1.8 billion in reported US profits. Enron's total taxes over the five years were a negative $381 million. Its corporate-tax welfare totaled $1 billion.

dystopia 12:20 PM - [Link]

Santorum Flees!

According to the NY Times, several parents of gay children were allowed to meet for 30 minutes with Rick Santorum over his recent remarks:

"What we tried to do in this meeting was reach him on a human level, and we found no humanity there," said Melina Waldo, a former constituent of Mr. Santorum who lives in Haddonfield, NJ. She said he was "condescending, belligerent, argumentative and arrogant."

Santorum apparently tripped over a chair on his way out. One parent said, "He couldn't get out of there fast enough."

dystopia 12:03 PM - [Link]

CEOs at Defense Contractors Earn Top Pay

Research released by United for a Fair Economy found that median CEO pay at the 37 largest publicly-held defense contractors grew 79% from 2001 to 2002, while overall CEO pay rose 6% in the same period:

The study also looked at the size of campaign contributions by the largest defense contractors and found a strong correlation between campaign contributions made by a company in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles and the value of defense contracts awarded to that company. Ninety percent of the difference in contract size can be accounted for by size of contributions. For example, top arms contractor Lockheed Martin was also the top campaign contributor among defense firms.

Read the full report here (PDF file).

dystopia 11:23 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: May 2

1776: France and Spain agreed to donate arms to American rebels fighting the British.

1926: US Marines landed in Nicaragua to put down a revolt and to protect US interests.

1957: Sen Joseph R McCarthy, the controversial Republican from Wisconsin, died of illness exacerbated by alcoholism at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Yankee Stadium officials requested a moment of silence after wire services reported McCarthy's death, but the request was retracted when they learned the news referred to the former red-baiting Senator and not the former Yankee manager.

1970: Student anti-war protesters at Ohio's Kent State University burned down the campus ROTC building.

1974: Former Vice President Spiro T Agnew was disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

1985: Brokerage giant EF Hutton & Co pled guilty to charges it engineered a massive check-writing swindle and agreed to pay $10 million in fines and restitution to victimized banks. None of the 24 employees involved faced criminal charges; Attorney General Ed Meese chose not to prosecute on grounds that they had not "personally benefited" from their "corporate scheme."

2002: Pipe bombs exploded in six mailboxes in rural parts of Illinois and Iowa, injuring six people.

dystopia 10:26 AM - [Link]

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Keep Your Girls Close to You

In 1994, my mom and I took a road trip out west with my daughter and my niece, both giggly young teenagers. We hit El Paso on a Monday morning and found that all the tourist places were closed for the day, so we decided to hop on a trolley and go see what Juarez looked like.

We were waiting to catch our ride across the border when a woman walked up and told us, "Keep your girls close to you. They take young girls over there." I didn't know what she meant right then, but I do now. She meant exactly what she said.

BTW, it's not American girls they take -- whoever's doing it is smarter than that.

Reuters has an update on the Juarez murders, and maybe some new leads, via ABC News.

dystopia 3:35 PM - [Link]

Sale of Mexican Voter Data Raises Storm

For the second time today -- WTF! From the Guadalajara Reporter:

"A probe has been launched into how the Atlanta-based corporation ChoicePoint, Inc was able to purchase data on Mexico’s 65 million registered voters as well as six million licensed drivers in Mexico City.

According to an investigation carried out by the Mexico City newspaper
Milenio, ChoicePoint was commissioned by the US government to obtain the data.

Mexican legislators want President Vicente Fox to ask his US counterpart for what reason the US government needs this confidential information.

Hesiod has a good long gossipy post on this, with lots of links.

dystopia 1:46 PM - [Link]

A Matter of Perspective

It was a foolhardy stunt.

But you’ve got to hand it to Nate Moquin: It took a lot of guts.

Nate dared to make a joke out of a ritual that the female of our species holds sacred: the wedding.

He pulled it off too. And after cooling off for a few weeks, his bride-to-be, Sarah Palmer, even is starting to laugh about it.

It's pretty funny -- go read the rest in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

dystopia 1:21 PM - [Link]

Bush Chooses Iraq Civilian Administrator

WTF! Another Kissinger pal? I don't know anything about Bremer, and a quick search didn't turn up much. Is this a demotion for Garner, BTW? It sure sounds like it. Yahoo! News reports:

Bremer's selection, disclosed Wednesday by a senior US official, will put him in charge of a transition team that includes retired Army Lt Gen Jay Garner and Zalmay Khalilzad, the special White House envoy in the Persian Gulf region.

Bremer left the State Department, where he was an assistant to former secretaries William P Rogers and Henry Kissinger, to join Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm studded with both Democrats and Republicans that held top US government posts. Currently, Bremer serves as chairman and chief executive of Marsh Crisis Consulting company.

dystopia 1:05 PM - [Link]

Good News/Bad News on Iraqi Artifacts

The good news is that some of the artifacts are being returned by locals who held them for safekeeping, some are still in safekeeping but their locations are confirmed, others have been confiscated from looters, and there is hope that some items may have survived in underground vaults.

Some of the bad news, from the NY Times:

Word of what happened to regional museums is only just reaching Baghdad. Mr Khalil, who is responsible for all national antiquities museums, said he had been told that the museums in Nimrud, Ashur, Hadra, Samarra and Nineveh had not been looted, but that serious damage, including looting of storerooms, was done to the museum in Mosul in northern Iraq.

"We were about to open a new museum in Tikrit, but it was bombed," he added.

Information is also just trickling into Baghdad about the situation at the 32 excavation sites operated by the National Museum.

Hanna A Khaliq, general director of excavations, said the sites had been well protected from looters until the beginning of the wars. She said that she had so far heard from nine sites. In five — Mosul, Kirkuk, Nadjaf, Baa-Kuba and Ashnuna — buildings linked to the sites were looted, but she had no detailed information of the extent of the theft of recently found objects.

Looting of antiquities is nothing new, of course; it's just getting more press than usual. In the May/June 1996 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review I read an article, "Magnificent Obsession: The Private World of an Antiquities Collector," and found this exchange between Robert Deutsch, a Tel Aviv antiquities dealer-turned-author, and the article's author, Hershel Shanks. They were discussing whether Deutsch should cover looted treasures in his published works:

"To ignore items just because they weren't found in an excavation is crazy," he says. Even if it's looted? I ask. "I don't mind. If I found the Bible illegally exacavated, I'd publish it. The fact is that some important finds do not come from controlled excavations. So what do you want to do with them? Nothing?"

Doesn't this encourage looting?

"This is an argument I can just laugh at," he replies. "You know that in Greece and in Italy and in Turkey and in Syria and in Iraq, if they catch you with [illegal] antiquities, they put you for 20, 30 years in jail. Nobody is looting there? If you want Greek items or Italian items or Iraqi items or Egyptian items, go to London and you can find all you want."

dystopia 11:54 AM - [Link]

Bush's Role in State Fiscal Crises

A rippin' Robert Kuttner rant in the Boston Globe:

This conservative claim is malarkey. During the 1990s, state spending adjusted for inflation and population was basically flat. The slight net state spending increase over a decade -- from 8.0 percent to 8.4 percent of personal income -- was more than accounted for by net cuts in federal aid and state increases in Medicaid costs. Other net outlay declined.

States didn't increase Medicaid services. Rather, Medicaid costs went through the roof. Medicaid pays for nursing home care, and the population is aging. Medicaid underwrites basic health care for the poor at a time when low-wage jobs don't provide health coverage. Medicaid costs have increased by about 50 percent since 1997 alone.

The other two causes of the state fiscal crisis are the current economic downturn and the foolish decisions promoted by conservative politicians during the boom years to legislate permanent cuts in state taxes.

If, like Grover Norquist and George W. Bush, you want to plunder public services, starving government is clever policy. But if you want states and cities to deliver the usual services that voters want, it is not smart to shred the tax base. However, between 1996 and 2001, states legislated permanent cuts in their tax codes of some $40 billion a year.

Norquist slipped under my radar for a while -- he doesn't get much press and, besides, how can you take someone named Grover Norquist seriously? -- but he's another one that bears watching. Read this undated Clinton-era interview with him in Salon and shudder. There's a more recent profile of him in The Nation.

dystopia 10:46 AM - [Link]

Janeane Garofalo Lays Down the Law!

She minces no words in this month's The Progressive:

The mainstream media has, in my opinion, been so grossly negligent, so disturbingly devoid of authentic debate, and actual dissemination of information. They are, in theory, the custodians of fact, the watchdogs of government. That's the theory. At a time as important as this, they have absolutely rolled over to the conservative hawkish agenda.

The parents of the troops who die and the parents of Iraqi civilians who die should have the right to slap a lot of these media outlets with a suit of criminal negligence. Military parents would have a legitimate case, especially against Fox and the New York Post for cheerleading this thing the whole way, for waving the flag, and using knee-jerk, sycophantic, pseudo-patriotism as a tool to galvanize public opinion...

I never imagined this would be my life. I never imagined that I would never care about dumb things anymore. I never imagined I'd be a person who could transcend that kind of nonsense. But beyond that, I never imagined I would be penalized for speaking out in favor of social justice. I never thought that anyone who spoke out for peace, and diplomacy, and social justice would be pilloried.

Me neither, J. That was the biggest shock, I think.

dystopia 10:15 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: May 1

1805: The state of Virginia passed a law requiring all freed slaves to leave the state, or risk either imprisonment or deportation.

1863: The Confederate Congress decreed that captured Negro soldiers from the Union Army were to be summarily put to death, on the grounds that they had already "incited servile insurrection."

1886: General strikes occurred in major cities across the country in support of an 8-hour workday.

1937: President Franklin Roosevelt signed an act of neutrality, keeping the US out of World War II.

1948: Glenn Taylor, an Idaho Senator, was arrested in Birmingham, AL, for trying to enter a meeting through a door marked "Negroes Only" in protest of segregation.

1960: The Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 reconnaissance plane near Sverdlovsk and captured its pilot, Francis Gary Powers.

1970: Students at Kent State University rioted in downtown Kent, OH, in protest of the American invasion of Cambodia.

2001: Thomas Blanton, Jr, became the second ex-Ku Klux Klansman to be convicted in the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, AL, that claimed the lives of four black girls.

dystopia 9:53 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Power of the Sacrosanct Accusation

WSJ editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz writes about asking questions that no one wants asked, in the Opinion Journal:

Though I knew little of any of these patterns at first, it was clear at once that merely to raise questions about the accusations was enough to raise hackles. This I discovered when I asked the station's news director if we could report on certain questions being asked about the Michaels case. I was not the only journalist who found the charges against Kelly Michaels strange. I suggested a media story on the case; I was, after all, the media commentator. The reaction was explosive: I was never to mention this issue again, I was informed, in a bellow. "This is the most hated woman in the state and you're not going to talk about her or ask questions like that. Period."

It was a cue. Anything that provoked such volatile response--and it wasn't the news director alone who expressed such feelings; more than a few people on the station's news staff made clear their distress that I would cast doubts on this prosecution--was clearly worth looking into. It became more and more interesting as I encountered the "no questions" attitude--first from a band of people working as journalists, and then, far more insistently, from the prosecutor, Glenn Goldberg, whose question to me, and the answer, was simple: "What is there left to know? The jury has spoken. She's convicted..."

Learning about all this was more easily said than done. The prosecutors had taken care to seal the trial transcript, arguing that the victim children's privacy must be protected. I was nevertheless able to find my way to the forbidden trial records and discovery materials, which I sat reading for weeks in a back room of what seemed to me to be some wild, unpopulated place. It was only suburban New Jersey. I stumbled out after each day's reading, quaking at what I had read, unable to come to terms with the facts: a trumped-up prosecution, a woman imprisoned for long years on the basis of some of the most preposterous charges ever heard in an American courtroom...

dystopia 4:10 PM - [Link]

Attorney Asks Why Halliburton Not Pursued

I doubt he'll ever get a satisfactory answer. From KRQE News in Albuquerque:

An attorney for the head of a New Mexico anti-terrorism training firm is asking why prosecutors have zealously pursued his client for allegedly stockpiling warheads but ignored the company from they purchased the weapons.

That company would be...Halliburton! They sold bombs to a guy like this:

H.E.A.T. president David Hudak has been indicted on charges of the unlicensed exportation of defense services and use of explosive materials during the commission of a felony. H.E.A.T. trained anti-terrorism teams -- predominantly from foreign countries -- on the use of explosives to raid structures and airplanes.

Hmmm...who else is Halliburton selling bombs and stuff to, I wonder?

dystopia 3:21 PM - [Link]

Patriot Raid

Jason Halperin writes about his personal introduction to the Patriot Act, and how the Act contradicts constitutional guarantees in AlterNet:

"You have no right to hold us," Asher insisted.

"Yes, we have every right," responded one of the agents. "You are being held under the Patriot Act following suspicion under an internal Homeland Security investigation..."

When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month..."

Three days later I phoned the restaurant to discover what happened. The owner was nervous and embarrassed and obviously did not want to talk about it. But I managed to ascertain that the whole thing had been one giant mistake. A mistake. Loaded guns pointed in faces, people made to crawl on their hands and knees, police officers clearly exacerbating a tense situation by kicking in doors, taunting, keeping their fingers on the trigger even after the situation was under control...

Halperin says over 600 people of South Asian descent are currently being held without charge by the Federal government and offers this sobering reminder:

Patriot Act II, among other things, would allow the Justice Department to detain anyone, anytime, secretly and indefinitely. It would also make it a crime to reveal the identity or even existence of such a detainee.

It's a Very Bad Sign for a country when the people in it can be disappeared.

dystopia 2:48 PM - [Link]

Copps Blasts Powell and Networks

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps lashed out at Chairman Powell for refusing to provide the public -- or even Copps' office -- with advance notice of the precise changes being contemplated, even though the vote is only a month away, and at the networks for keeping the public entirely in the dark on the ramifications of media consolidation. From TelevisionWeek:

"We don't know what we will be voting on," the commissioner said. "We don't have the details, or even the broad configuration, of what the new system will be." Mr. Copps also urged the agency to consider a pending request by Hollywood's creative community to require the major TV networks to set aside 25 percent of their prime-time schedules for independently produced programming.

In addition, he urged the agency to consider beefing up its license renewal process to ensure that broadcasters are meeting their public interest obligations. "Before the genie is out of the bottle, we'd better understand the consequences, because there' s no putting the genie back after we vote," he said.

Go see what Powell has to say for himself.

He is Colin's son, oh yes. What? Do you think nepotism in Washington is against the rules or something? Well, of course not -- they get to make their own rules up there.

dystopia 2:06 PM - [Link]

Kennedy Warns on US Nuclear Tests

Teddy says Americans have no idea of the changes afoot in US nuclear policy, per the Guardian:

In the next few days, congressional committees will debate a proposal by the departments of defence and energy to repeal a 1994 ban on the research and development on low-yield nuclear bombs...

The defence department is also planning a conference at the strategic command headquarters in Nebraska to rewrite nuclear policy. On the agenda are a new generation of weapons, including mini-nukes and a "robust nuclear earth penetrator" that will burrow into the earth before detonating, destroying command bunkers and arsenals.

Advocates of the "bunker-busters" argue that the fallout would be contained in the underground cavern hollowed out by the blast. But Matthew McKinzie, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council, said yesterday that calculations based on the Pentagon's own computer modelling suggested that a 0.5 kiloton nuclear warhead would have to burrow 55 metres to eliminate atmospheric fallout.

Scientists claim there is no known material hard enough to punch more than 16 metres into the earth. Sidney Drell, a nuclear control campaigner and former Stanford University physics professor, said a nuclear warhead which only burrowed 16 metres down would throw a million cubic feet of radioactive dust into the atmosphere.

dystopia 1:43 PM - [Link]

War Uproots Colombians

BBC News reports on ongoing hostilities in Colombia, and the people caught in the middle:

Last year, 410,000 people were forced to flee, according to Codhes, which also estimates that since 1985 almost three million Colombians have been driven from their homes...

"Today displacement is no longer a side-effect of the armed conflict. It is a central strategy pursued by the opposing groups, and by those who promote and profit from confrontation."

And while the majority of those fleeing remain within Colombia, a growing number seeking refuge in neighbouring countries - nearly 22,000 last year.

There has been an exodus of educated Colombians out of the country, but the vast majority of the displaced are peasants with little education. They flee from rural areas to the slums of big cities but once there find no jobs and little government help, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott.

We aren't helping the situation any, as usual. Related links:

Human Rights Groups Sue Petroleum Company
Skewed Coverage of Colombian Conflict
Military Contractors' Stake in Colombia

Other Colombia news:

Drug Production Soars Despite Plan Colombia
When Did Poisoning Foreign Farmers Become US National Security Policy?

dystopia 12:05 PM - [Link]

Terrorist Attacks Declined Sharply in 2002

The State Department reports that the number of international terrorist attacks, including those against US interests, dropped 44% from 2001. The AP has more, via

In 2002, there were 199 terror attacks worldwide, a drop of 44 percent from the 355 attacks recorded in 2001. A total of 725 people were killed last year, far below the 3,295 - including thousands in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania - who died in 2001.

Attacks on the United States declined from 219 to 77. The drop was due mainly to a falloff in pipeline bombings in Colombia - from 178 to 41.

Thirty US citizens, including seven at a resort in Bali, Indonesia, five at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief, in Pakistan, were killed in 2002.

The American victims included a hiker and a missionary in the Phillipines, two American diners in a West Bank pizzeria, two attending church services in Islamabad, Pakistan, three people at a missionary hospital in Yemen, and Laurence Foley, an administrator of the US Agency for International Development in Jordan.

Of course, one man's law enforcement is another man's terrorism (drone attack in Yemen, for example), so it depends on who's doing the counting.

Anyway, it's good to note downward trends like this. It helps to keep these things in perspective.

dystopia 11:06 AM - [Link]

Physicists Catch on to Voting Machines

The American Physical Society's newsletter gives a heads-up to its membership on the issue of electronic voting machines:

The Florida fiasco in the 2000 election sent officials across the country scurrying to modernize voting in their jurisdictions. Touch-screen electronic voting machines suddenly became a hot technology. They are fast and convenient, but are they reliable, tamper-proof and free of programing errors? There is absolutely no way of knowing! The machine code is a proprietary secret of the company that supplies them. This puts vote counting under the full control of a private company, with no independent checks or audits. Such machines are a serious threat to democracy, yet few people are even aware that there is a controversy. Touch-screen machines that print paper ballots would do, so long as the voter can check the ballot, which would go in a secure box to be available for manual counting. Opposition to paperless electronic voting machines is being organized by David Dill, a computer science prof at Stanford. He is seeking signatures of technologists, on a statement to warn the public of this threat to the integrity of the voting process.

Thanks to Junkdrawer at DU for the tip.

Read here if you wonder what I think of voting machines.

dystopia 10:34 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 30

1789: George Washington took office in New York as the first president of the United States.

1948: The US and 20 Latin American nations signed a charter establishing the Organization of American States (OAS), designed to facilitate better political relations between the member states and, at least for the US, to serve as a bulwark against communist penetration of the Western Hemisphere.

1970: Nixon told Congress: "We have scrupulously observed the neutrality of Cambodia for the last five years." Over 3700 bombing raids had been conducted over Cambodia by that point. He then announced the US was sending troops into Cambodia, an action that sparked widespread protest.

1973: Nixon, announcing the Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Kleindeinst and Dean resignations, said, "Justice will be pursued fairly, fully and impartially."

1975: Saigon fell to the Communists, necessitating a sudden helicopter evacuation from the US embassy's rooftop. Said one of the pilots: "We sent the journalists out on one of the earliest lifts because they were becoming a pain in the ass."

1977: About 1,415 protesters were arrested in the occupation of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.

1984: President Reagan signed cultural and scientific agreements with China. He also signed a tax accord that would make it easier for American companies to operate in China.

1996: About 120 activists were arrested over eight days in Washington, DC, in support of a White House fast by Sister Diana Ortiz, who was kidnapped, tortured, and raped by US-trained and supported Guatemalan Army officers in 1989. She was fasting to demand that the US government release information on her assailants.

dystopia 10:16 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Too Bummed to Blog

Think I'd rather go see what's on other people's minds:

Behind the Homefront has a couple of interesting posts, on the newly exposed rift among members of the independent September 11 commission over access to documents compiled during a congressional inquiry on the attacks, and on a WSJ report that the EPA ordered employees not to discuss pollution from perchlorate, a rocket-fuel component which may be contaminating drinking water and produce.

Brief Intelligence took a day off from posting, too, but left a list of good reads.

Steve Perry of Bush Wars has several good bits: a belated rule change in awarding Iraq contracts; the top Brit military commander's reluctance to take on another discretionary war; and some bleak hints on the future of free access to Internet news sites.

I think BuzzFlash qualifies as a blog -- the link titles manage to convey plenty of editorial 'tude.

Daily Kos announces that he and Mrs K have a little one on the way! More happy news: Bush's sinking poll numbers.

The Daily Outrage on Rummy's renovation plan -- the Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act.

Dan Kennedy's Media Log on Ashleigh's trip to the woodshed.

Eschaton adds the wiener's take on Ashleigh, plus the lack of press coverage of accused spy Katrina Leung's GOP fund-raising activities and other oddities in the case, and the ongoing hostage crisis in Nigeria in which 27 Americans are being held.

dystopia 2:52 PM - [Link]

Angry Workers Up The Ante

Hard to believe we still haven't gotten past this crap. CBS News has the Wal-Mart story:

Male managers at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, required their female counterparts to attend meetings at strip clubs and at Hooters restaurants, lawyers said in documents filed Monday in federal court...

The suit, filed in San Francisco in June 2001, alleges there are nearly double the number of women in management at competing retail stores and that male Wal-Mart workers get higher pay than women for the same duties. It also says the retailing giant passes over women for promotions and training, and retaliates against women who complain.

Christine Kwapnoski, one of the original seven plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she personally has been passed over for promotions many times in the 16 years she's worked at the Sam's Club division of Wal-Mart. "Because I've been around a long time, I have seen a lot of good women get promoted over, seen a lot of good women get discouraged," said Kwapnoski, in an interview with CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone. "I've seen a lot of bad men get promoted."

The Chicago Tribune covers the Dial Corporation case:

Women from the chemistry lab, for instance, were advised to visit the factory floor "in pairs," because of the hooting, hollering and whistling that ensued, the lawsuit alleges. One male worker invited female colleagues to view family photos that showed him having sex. Another was known for bringing naked dolls to work.

After one woman reported her supervisor for groping and harassing her, she said, a male co-worker then grabbed her crotch while jerking upward and shouting, "Do you like this?"

Because training was deficient, investigations ineffective and management likely to strike back, women were discouraged from complaining, the lawsuit says.

I can remember when there was no protection against this sort of thing: "If you don't like it -- quit!" Easy to say if you're not raising kids alone during Reaganomics. I remember the outrage amongst the many of the male employees when the first sexual harassment sensitivity training packets were handed out. Female employees were battered with pejoratives, since they couldn't physically touch us anymore. It was rough for a while.

That was twenty years ago. I guess I thought we'd come a lot farther than this by now.

dystopia 10:46 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 29

1894: Coxey’s Army arrived in Washington to protest rampant unemployment. Coxey and others were subsequently arrested for trespassing at the Capitol.

1970: About 30,000 US and 50,000 South Vietnamese troops launched a limited "incursion" into Cambodia, including 13 major ground operations to clear North Vietnamese sanctuaries 20 miles inside the Cambodian border.

1974: President Nixon announced he was releasing edited transcripts of secretly made White House tape recordings related to the Watergate scandal.

1975: The US embassy in Vietnam was evacuated as North Vietnamese forces fought their way into Saigon.

1984: In California, the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor went online after a long delay due to protests.

1992: Deadly rioting claimed 54 lives and caused $1 billion in damage in Los Angeles after a jury in Simi Valley acquitted four police officers of almost all state charges in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.

1996: Search and rescue teams began dragging Maryland's muddy Wicomico River after former CIA director William Colby was reported missing.

1997: Staff Sgt Delmar Simpson, a drill instructor at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, was convicted of raping six female trainees.

2002: A year after the loss of a seat it had held for over 50 years, the US won election to the UN Human Rights Commission.

dystopia 9:52 AM - [Link]

Monday, April 28, 2003

Fury at Agriculture Post for US Businessman

Dan Amstutz, a former senior executive of Cargill, the biggest grain exporter in the world, has been named to head agricultural reconstruction in post-war Iraq. The Guardian has more on objections to Amstutz in that role:

Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy director, said Mr Amstutz would "arrive with a suitcase full of open-market rhetoric", and was more likely to try to dump cheap US grain on the potentially lucrative Iraqi market than encourage the country to rebuild its once-successful agricultural sector.

"Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," Mr Watkins said. "This guy is uniquely well-placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market - but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country."

With President Bush on record as saying he wants American farmers to feed the world, Oxfam is worried that the Iraqi agricultural sector will be left unprotected from cut-price US competition at the crucial early stages of its reconstruction.

I'm a bit worried myself -- Amstutz is another player in Washington's revolving-door game. Some profiles of Cargill:

Cargill: Arrogance Incorporated
Cargill: The Invisible Giant

dystopia 6:02 PM - [Link]

Diller and Powell on Media Concentration

From the transcript of media mogul Barry Diller's interview on Now with Bill Moyers:

BARRY DILLER: ...five, ten years ago there were thousands and thousands of cable operators, you know? Serving their local communities. Now, there are three big ones and three mid-size ones. And no one else essentially. So, and the...
BILL MOYERS: And the consequence is?
BARRY DILLER: Still, the consequences are in any completely concentrated area, the consequences have to be that when you get that kind of size that, in fact, it has to restrain the ability of any new player. It gives them such buying power. It gives them such overwhelming power in the marketplace that, in fact, everyone has to do essentially what they say.
BILL MOYERS: The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Powell, and others say, "Look, we have 500-plus channels. We have the satellite. We have the wide open internet that they are gonna know so well." I mean, these have radically changed the media landscape.
BARRY DILLER: Yeah, yeah.
BILL MOYERS: Perhaps we have more diversity.
BARRY DILLER: No, we don't. Because what we have is an absolute fact that five companies control 90 percent of all of it. It has been reconstituted. Instead of it being three channels that were controlled by a few people, there are now 500 controlled by a few people...

An article in today's gives FCC chief Michael Powell's view:

"We have finally taken this by the reins," Powell told newspaper executives attending the Newspaper Association of America convention. "It's difficult to maintain the rule in its current form." Powell appeared as a guest of The Associated Press, which holds its annual meeting on the first full day of the convention...

Powell's comments on cross ownership were met with approval from Dean Singleton, vice chairman and chief executive officer for MediaNews Group and the NAA's chairman.

"When the ban on cross ownership falls, what will rise is the opportunity to combine the immediacy of television and radio with the depths of newspapers, along with the interactivity and continued updates of the Web," Singleton said.

Oh, yay. A decision will be made in just over a month, scheduled for June 2. It's time to yell like hell, folks! Contact your senator, your reps and the officials at the FCC by phone or by snail mail and let them know how you feel about this.

dystopia 4:24 PM - [Link]

EPA Enforcers Blast Whitman

It appears that our EPA agents are being kept busy performing menial tasks for EPA director Christine Todd Whitman instead of policing polluters, and fines and DOJ referrals have dropped accordingly, per this article in the Sacramento Bee:

Several sources told The Bee that they object to headquarters routinely diverting their agents from high-stakes investigations to protect Whitman on trips to agency meetings, speeches, media events and political fund-raising event...

"We are talking about highly trained agents who go up against major corporate violators of our nation's environmental laws, companies armed with the best defense lawyers," said one enforcement manager. "To have agents of this level of training acting as a valet service for a sub-Cabinet administrator is a misuse of taxpayer funds."

The EPA's criminal division was forced to take on the "protective service detail" because the agency's independent Office of Inspector General could not provide the higher level of security the Bush administration thought was needed for government officials, a Whitman spokesman said.

Yahoo! News adds:

The lists of do's and don'ts instruct agents who chauffeur the EPA administrator to ensure they rent only a Lincoln Town Car, tune the radio to smooth jazz or classical music and set the volume low, and keep an eye out for a Starbucks coffee shop or Barnes & Noble book store.

The "professional conduct" lists, obtained by The Associated Press, say the former New Jersey governor prefers to be addressed as governor, rather than ma'am or administrator...

The agents are pulled from offices around the country for several days at a time depending on where Whitman travels, and the added duties are straining already overtaxed resources in the crime unit, the managers told AP. They spoke only on condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal. The agents normally investigate alleged violators of environmental laws, gathering evidence for criminal prosecutions.

Whitman is just one person on a long list of federal agency officials who need to follow HHS's Janet Rehnquist right out the door. This administration is shot through with corruption everywhere you look, and it's costing us a whole lot more than tax dollars.

dystopia 3:43 PM - [Link]

A Pain in the Eye That's Forever

I used to think I wanted to have Lasik eye surgery, but I changed my mind when I found the Surgical Eyes website. I was pretty angry to find that there was a whole range of possible side effects that I'd never heard about, even though I had followed news of development of the surgery quite eagerly.

Some people who had it done but wish they hadn't tell their stories in the East Bay Express:

During her stint as a Navy ocean systems technician, Brenda Ross ripped four tendons off her right kneecap and spent months in painful recovery in hospitals in Iceland and the United States. She was married in a wheelchair wearing a pair of her husband's sweatpants, and spent the next five years struggling with knee pain and learning to lose her limp. But that injury now seems to Ross like a sunny stroll on the beach compared to her collision with LASIK vision-enhancement surgery...

Surgery had turned her world into a blurry, warped collage. "If somebody was standing in front of a light source, whatever was in the background behind them would end up looking like it was on top of them." Not only was there distortion, but Ross saw a veiny veil over everything, as if she were seeing her own eyelid. To make matters worse, she said, her surgeon was completely unreceptive to her plight. She recalls him saying, "I don't see what your problem is; people drive with one eye every day..."

But because her brother had already undergone successful laser vision correction in both eyes, Ross found it tough to convince her family and friends how horrific her own sight had become. "I was becoming so terribly depressed and giving up all hope," she recently recalled. "When I finally saw Dr Ginsburg, he put that spark of hope back in, not that I was going to find a cure necessarily, but that this wasn't all in my head, that I wasn't making this up. ... I felt like 'Oh my gosh, I'm being validated. For once, somebody understands.'"

My eyes are already so bad I'm afraid I'll eventually go blind. No way am I going to risk what I've got left. I'll just make do, thank you.

dystopia 3:17 PM - [Link]

Want Drugs With Those Fries?

Michael Khoo of the Union of Concerned Scientists writes about the overuse of antibiotics in the commercial meat industry in

About 13 million pounds a year are fed to chickens, cows and pigs to make them grow faster or to compensate for unsanitary conditions. That's about four times the amount used to treat sick people...

Consumers in America are now waking up to the antibiotic-resistance issue and its connection to animal agriculture. In 2002, a Harris Poll found that 93 percent of consumers are aware of the threat of antibiotic-resistant disease, and a Taylor Nelson Sofres poll found 62 percent of consumers oppose the routine feeding of antibiotics to food animals...

The mantra for antibiotics is, "The more you use them, the faster you lose them..."

It's not just happening in the fast food industry -- antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be found in meats at your local supermarket. Some progress is being made with chicken producers, but not nearly enough:

Chicken, Bacteria & Antibiotics
Farmers Bow to Consumers on Chicken Antibiotics
Antibiotics in Chicken Feed Slowly, Quietly Eliminated
Overuse of Antibiotics Created New Superbugs
Keep Antibiotics Working

dystopia 2:46 PM - [Link]

US Diplomats Puzzled by Ashcroft's Claim

Ashcroft ruled Friday that Haitians who seek asylum should be detained indefinitely without bond because he says that the State Department says terrorists are using Haiti as a staging point for getting into the US. Some State Department officials are questioning this. Per the Washington Post:

Cheryl Little, executive director of Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, said Ashcroft's opinion is the latest in a string of government decisions "manipulating our very serious national security concerns to justify targeting nationals of Haiti." Advocates for Latino and Muslim immigrants made similar comments on behalf of their constituencies.

Ashcroft's opinion says the attorney general has broad discretion in determining the status of would-be immigrants.

Immigration advocates have been troubled by Ashcroft's continued influence over immigration policy after most of the nation's immigration apparatus was transferred to the Homeland Security Department March 1. Since then, Ashcroft has given the FBI, US Marshals and local police authority to arrest people on immigration violations.

"As disturbing as this decision is, it's really not that surprising, because Ashcroft has managed to keep his finger in all the immigration-related pies and ensured he can exert his authority shoulder-to-shoulder with (Homeland Security Secretary) Tom Ridge," said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum.

Reaction from US consular officials in the Miami Herald:

A spokesman for the State Department's Consular Service said his agency is puzzled by Ashcroft's comment.

"We all are scratching our heads," said spokesman Stuart Patt. "We are asking each other, `Where did they get that?'"

Patt said he doesn't know the source of Ashcroft's information. He said the agency has no published reports addressing that concern, though he did not rule out any internal documents on the matter.

Petty Officer Anastasia Barnes, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said none of the migrants picked up in an Oct. 29 incident near the Rickenbacker Causeway -- or any other time by cutters stationed near Haiti -- fit the profile listed by Ashcroft.

dystopia 2:31 PM - [Link]

Lieberman Seeks Donations Probe

Finally, Lieberman does something I can agree with. From the Washington Post:

Katrina M Leung, 49, recently jailed on charges that she was a "double agent" who passed classified information to the People's Republic of China, was a well-known political fundraiser for Republicans in Southern California. She and her husband have contributed $27,000 to national GOP causes since 1992.

By calling for a campaign finance investigation of Leung, Lieberman hopes to renew the government's inquiry into alleged attempts by China to influence the 1996 elections, this time with the focus on a prominent Republican fundraiser.

But the request also calls more attention to the Chinese fundraising scandals that dogged Democrats during the Clinton-Gore administration. No other prominent Democrat has made an issue of Leung's GOP connections since she was arrested April 9, and a campaign director for a rival candidate declined to comment yesterday.

I still think Lieberman's a Republican mole. Here's more:

Spy Case Arrest Shocks GOP Friends
FBI Warned Lawmakers About China Contributions
A Passage to China Update: House Approves PNTR
Justice May Probe Links Between China Policy, Campaign Cash

Some others with uncomfortably close Chinese ties who work for the current administration:

US Advisor Aided Maker of Satellites
Revolving Door Poses Danger to Defense
Dissident Wu Very Surprised at Chao Pick

dystopia 1:58 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 28

1635: Virginia Governor John Harvey was accused of treason and removed from office.

1965: To forestall what he claimed would be a communist dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, President Johnson sent more than 22,000 US troops to restore order on the island nation. Johnson's action provoked loud protests in Latin America and skepticism among many in the US.

1970: President Nixon gave his formal authorization to commit US combat troops, in cooperation with South Vietnamese units, against communist troop sanctuaries in Cambodia.

1977: American spy Christopher Boyce was convicted of selling US secrets to the Russians.

1978: At the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility near Denver, over 5,000 protested and 284 were arrested for blocking railroad tracks entering the plant.

1980: President Carter accepted the resignation of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the failed rescue mission aimed at freeing American hostages in Iran.

1989: Mobil announced they were divesting from South Africa because congressional restrictions were too costly.

1994: Former CIA official Aldrich Ames, who betrayed US secrets to the Soviet Union and then Russia, pleaded guilty to espionage and tax evasion, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

1996: President Clinton gave 4 1/2 hours of videotaped testimony as a defense witness in the criminal trial of his former Whitewater business partners.

1999: The House rejected on a tie vote of 213-213 a measure expressing support for NATO's five-week-old air campaign against Yugoslavia. The House also voted to limit the president's authority to use ground forces in Yugoslavia.

dystopia 10:56 AM - [Link]

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Genesis 1

The first chapter of the first book of the Bible has probably been read more often by more people than any other. It tells a famous story most of us learned from earliest childhood, so perhaps we tend to skim through it a bit too quickly and miss some delightful details. It holds within its 31 verses a wealth of thought-provoking information.

Regarding the six "days" of creation, some believe the days were 24-hour periods just like we have today. Others say each day was however long it took God to finish the work He was doing for that particular day. There are other theories out there as well, but I guess I tend more towards the latter view, because time was created by God and I believe He's much too big to be subject to His own creation.

According to verses 6-8, on the second day God created an expanse to separate the waters below from the waters above, and He called the expanse "Heaven." Hmmm, a covering of waters way high up in the sky? Imagine that! Were these "waters above" the same "windows of heaven" that opened in Genesis 7:11?

I've heard a theory that the pre-flood world was under am encircling canopy of frozen hydrogen, thus leaving the atmospere with a much higher oxgen content and an increased atmospheric pressure. If this were the case, the world would have been like a huge hyper-baric chamber, thus causing all life to be prolonged dramatically. This would account for the biblical pre-flood longevity, as well as explain why, and how it didn't rain until the flood (Gen 2:5-6).

God created vegetation -- all the various plants, trees and shrubs -- on the third day. He had already created light and darkness before then, but He didn't create the sun and the moon and the seasons until the fourth day, the day after He created plants! I'm a gardener, so stuff like that intrigues me.

On the fifth day, God created the creatures of the sea and the birds of the sky. He also blessed them and, as far as the Bible records, the only other creature He blessed within that first seven days was man. That doesn't mean that He didn't bless all His other creations as well -- it just doesn't say whether He did or not.

God spent an entire day of creation period making all the fabulous and fantastical creatures in the sea (watched Blue Planet lately?) and the air, and then He blessed them. They once were so plentiful that flocks of birds could darken the sky. Today, these creatures are threatened by man, his destructive tendencies and his manipulation of the environment. Habitat destruction, hunting, introduction of alien species and pollution from pesticides and other man-made chemicals have decimated fish and bird populations, and have already driven some species to extinction. Many others threaten to follow. I wonder how God must feel about the progress we've made at destroying so much of His work?

God created the beasts of the earth, cattle and creeping things on the same day He created man. I wonder why he didn't create the rest of the animals on the same day he made fish and birds? Why didn't man get a creation day of his very own? Should we see any significance in this? Beats me, but I still like to wonder about it.

In verse 28 we are given instructions to be fruitful and multiply and to replenish the earth and subdue it, and to have dominion over all the animals. Some people take this to mean that the earth is ours to do whatever we dang well please with it, for good or for bad, but I strongly disagree. God created and gave to us everything we need to survive on earth, and entrusted us with the responsibility of maintaining it in good order. We were instructed to be good stewards of the home He made for us, and we failed miserably at it.

Finally, in verses 29-30, God gave man and animals permission to eat only plants for food, not meat. This is not to say God necessarily wants us to be vegetarians, though, because He did give man and animals permission to eat meat as part of the covenant He made with Noah after the Flood. I wonder: What did man wear before he was allowed to kill animals for food? Linen? Cotton? Wool? Could he use skins from an animal that had died in an accident or of natural causes? Since animals were vegetarian, too, were they dangerous to people? Did man need weapons to defend himself from animals before the flood, or just from his fellow man?

So many things to think about from one little chapter! I'm sorry I don't have any answers to these questions for you, but that's not the point anyway. The point is to make you think.

dystopia 3:57 PM - [Link]

The Alien in Your Midst

Excerpted from an article by Jacob Milgrom in the December 1995 issue of Bible Review:

The implications of the Biblical ger in the socio-political sphere are far-reaching. Every nation (at least among the western democracies) has an equivalent status to the ger: the permanent resident. Such a person is granted the same tights and responsibilities as a citizen except the right to vote. The Torah, however, mandates for the ger more than equality under the law. The Torah first calls on Israel to remember the Eqyptian experience: "You shall not oppress a ger, for you know the feelings of a ger, in having yourselves been gerim in the land of Egypt" (Ex 23:9). How is one to empathize with him or her? The Torah then tells us: "You must befriend the ger, for you were gerim in the land of Egypt" (Deut 10:19); "You shall love him as yourself for you were gerim in the land of Egypt" (Lev 19:34).

Each of the many uses of the term
ger in the Bible is pregnant with consequences for our time. First, as the Psalmist reminds us, we are all gerim on God's earth. The unprecedented concern over ecological matters proves that even nations have awakened to the biblical premise that we have no right to pollute or squander its resources: "The earth is the Lord's and all that it holds (Ps 24:1).

As Americans we are fully aware of the flood tide of Hispanic aliens pouring across our southern borders. To be true to the biblical command, we must love the
gerim by reaching out to them, befriending them, admitting them into our hearts and lives...

From the perspective of the Torah, the treatment of the
ger is frought with universal consequences. It is the acid test of democracy; it challenges the moral integrity of the human soul.

dystopia 10:36 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: April 27

1773: British Parliament passed the Tea Act, designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and thus granting it a monopoly on the American tea trade. The Boston Tea Party soon followed.

1805: US agent William Eaton led a small force of US Marines and Berber mercenaries against the port city of Derna in Tripoli on a mission to depose the ruling pasha who had seized power from his brother, one more sympathetic to the US.

1861: In a blatantly unconstitutional act, President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus inside a zone between Philadelphia and Washington, DC. A year and a half later, he expanded the scope of his order to the entire nation.

1865: The steamboat Sultana, carrying 2,100 passengers, exploded and sank in the Mississippi River near Memphis, killing about 1,700 people on board. Most of those killed were Union veterans and survivors of Andersonville and other brutal Confederate prisoner of war camps.

1874: The White League, a paramilitary White supremacist organization in the South, was organized.

1936: The UAW, or United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, split from the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and became the first democratic, independent labor union concerned with the rights of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers.

1937: The nation's first Social Security checks were distributed.

1953: The US offered $50,000 and political asylum to any Communist pilot that delivered a MIG jet.

1973: Acting FBI Director L Patrick Gray resigned due to the Watergate scandal.

1978: Convicted Watergate defendant John D Ehrlichman was released from an Arizona prison after serving 18 months.

1979: Navajo Indians protested in vain as Gulf Oil sank a uranium mine into a sacred mountain on their reservation.

1998: House Speaker Newt Gingrich took time off from adultery to tell a group of GOP leaders that anyone who defended President Clinton for anything were unpatriotically undermining the Constitution of the United States and were demeaning and destructive.

dystopia 10:08 AM - [Link]

Listen While You Surf:


i.e. America 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)