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Surf-Worthy Sites:

Administration and Cost of Elections

Alaska Wilderness League

American Antitrust Institute

American Association of Retired Persons

American Federation of Government Employees

American Friends Service Committee

American Institute of Philanthropy

American Lands Alliance

American Library Asociation

American Peace

American Rivers

Americans for Computer Privacy

Americans for Democratic Action

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Amnesty International

Anthrax Vaccine Network

Arms Control Association

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Atomic Veterans of America


Behind the Label

Black Box Voting

Bread for the World

Brennan Center for Justice


Business and Human Rights Resource Center

Campaign Against Arms Trade

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Campaign Finance Institute

Campaign for America's Future

Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water

Campaign for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor

Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Foods

Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

CEE BankWatch Network

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Defense Information

Center for Democracy and Citizenship

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Food Safety

Center for International Policy

Center for Justice and Accountability

Center for National Security Studies

Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Center for Public Integrity

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Center for Voting and Democracy

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Chemical Industry Archives

Chernobyl Children's Project

Child Labor Coalition

Child Protective Services Watch

Children's Defense Fund

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

Christian Aid

Chronic IllNet

Chronology of Incorporation and Monopoly

Citizen Action Project

Citizen Works

Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens for Tax Justice

Citizens Network on Essential Services

Clary-Meuser Research Network

Clean Clothes Campaign

Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Market

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Commercial Alert

Common Cause

Common Dreams

Commonweal Institute

Community Rights Council

Concord Coalition


Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Project on Technology

Consumer Research

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Corporate Crime Reporter

Corporate Europe Observatory

Corporate Responsibility Coalition

Corporate Sunshine Working Group

Corporate Welfare Information Center

Corporate Welfare Shame Page


Corps of Engineers Watch

Council for a Livable World

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Cronus Connection: Election Fraud and Voting Machines

Death Penalty Information Center

Defense and the National Interest

Democracy 21


Depleted Uranium Education Project

Depleted Uranium Watch

DES Action


Disabled American Veterans

Discernment Ministry International



Earth Institute


EarthRights International

Economic Policy Institute

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Electronic Voting

Endgame Research

Energy Future Coalition

Environmental Investigation Agency

Environmental Working Group

Facts About Olestra

Fair Taxes for All

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting


Families of
September 11

Families USA: Voice for Health Care Consumers

Family Farm Alliance

Farm Credit Quagmire

FAS Project on Government Secrecy

FDA Review

Federation of American Scientists

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Fielding's DangerFinder

Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies

Focus on the Corporation

Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights

Fourth Freedom Forum

Free Expression Policy Project

Friends of the Earth

Genocide Documentation Centre

Genocide in the 20th Century

Global Exchange


GRACE Factory Farm Project

Gulf War Veterans

Gush Shalom

Health Care Comparisons Worldwide

Health Privacy Project

Healthy Building Network

Heifer International

History House

Human Rights Watch

iAbolish: Anti-Slavery Web Portal


Independent Judiciary

Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton

Infact: Challenging Corporate Abuse

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Instant Runoff Voting

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

Institute for Health Freedom

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Institute for Policy Studies

Institute for Public Accuracy

Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

International ANSWER

International Atomic Energy Agency

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

International Federation for Alternative Trade

International Fellowship of Reconciliation

International Institute for Environment and Development

International Labor Rights Fund

International POPs Elimination Network

Jewish Unity for a Just Peace

Keep Antibiotics Working

Landmine Survivors Network

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters

Let's Invest in Families Today

Liberals Like Christ

Local Harvest

Los Alamos Study Group

Low Level Radiation Campaign

Maquila Solidarity Network

March for Justice


Measles Initiative

Mines Advisory Group


Mothers for Peace

Moving Ideas

National Center for Children in Poverty

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

National Committee for an Effective Congress

National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare

National Farmers Union

National Freedom of Information Coalition

National Freedom Scorecard

National Gulf War Resource Center

National Institute on Money in State Politics

National Labor Committee for Worker and Human Rights

National Organization for Rare Disorders

National Parks Conservation Association

National Priorities Project

National Vaccine Information Center

National Voting Rights Institute

Native American Rights Fund


Natural Resources Defense Council

Neturei Karta

New Rules Project


No Free Lunch: Just Say No to Drug Reps

No Spray Coalition

Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development

Nuclear Control Institute

Nuclear Threat Initiative

Office of Management & Budget Watch Money in Politics

Open Society Institute

Organic Consumers Association

Our Stolen Future

Oxfam International

Participatory Democracy

Pax Christi International

People for the American Way

Pesticide Action Network North America

Physicians for Human Rights

Polaris Institute

Political Money Line

Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Project Against the Present Danger

Project on Government Oversight

Project Underground

Project Vote Smart

Protection Project


Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibity

Rainforest Action Network


Reaching Critical Will

Reclaim Democracy

Reclaim the Media


Resource Center of the Americas

Responsible Wealth

Rethinking Schools

Right-To-Know Network

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


Save the Children

Secretive World of Voting Machines

Send a Cow

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Shared Hope International

Small Business Survival Committee

Society for Animal Protective Legislation

Soft Money Laundromat

Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace

Soldiers for the Truth

Soy Online Service

Sprawl Busters


Stop Carnivore

Stop Disney Sweatshops

Stop Patient Abuse Now Coalition


Sweetwater Alliance

Swords to Plowshares

Talion: Voting Machines

Tax Foundation

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ten Thousand Villages

Third World Traveler

Tort Reform Reader


Transparency International

Traprock Peace Center

Truth About Credit

20/20 Vision

UN Landmines Fact Sheet

UN Population Fund

Union of Concerned Scientists

United for a Fair Economy

United for Peace & Justice

Uranium Medical Research Centre

US Campaign to Ban Landmines

US Congregational Life Survey

US Public Interest Research Group

Veterans for Common Sense

Vital Voices Global Partnership

VoteWatch: Repository for Voter Complaints

Water Aid

Water Barons Government Accountability Project

Wilderness Society

WISE Uranium Project

Womens International League for Peace & Freedom

World Resources Institute

WorldWatch Institute

Worldwide Fund for Mothers Injured in Childbirth


Yucca Mountain Facts

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Saturday, June 14, 2003

Fast Forward Into Trouble

Food for thought in the Guardian:

Four years ago, Bhutan, the fabled Himalayan Shangri-la, became the last nation on earth to introduce television. Suddenly a culture, barely changed in centuries, was bombarded by 46 cable channels. And all too soon came Bhutan's first crime wave - murder, fraud, drug offences...

Four years on, those same subscribers are beginning to accuse television of smothering their unique culture, of promoting a world that is incompatible with their own, and of threatening to destroy an idyll where time has stood still for half a millennium...

Television always gets the blame in the west when society undergoes convulsions, and there are always those ready with a counter argument. In Bhutan, thanks to its political and geographic isolation, and the abruptness with which its people embraced those 46 cable channels, the issue should be more clearcut. And for those of us sitting on the couch in the west, how the kingdom is affected by TV may well help to find an answer to the question that has evaded us: have we become the product of what we watch?

dystopia 2:53 PM - [Link]

FBI Leader Meets with ACLU on Civil Liberties

A reluctant hats-off to Mueller for at least having the grit to face another group of pissed-off citizens so soon after his fractious meeting with the 9/11 families (see yesterday's post). Ashcroft chickened out, of course. Via the NY Times:

Mr. Mueller fielded tough and often skeptical questions from the audience on everything from the sweeping antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act to racial profiling. But he also defused tensions with a lively wit that contrasted with the somber tone he usually adopted in public.

He quipped that the civil liberties union should be thanking him for the recent surge in its membership, which has risen by 100,000 since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the group has raised civil liberties concerns about the government's antiterrorism campaign.

"I think you really do owe me," Mr. Mueller said to shouts of laughter.

It was a spirited and unusual meeting of ideological warriors — the first time, in fact, that any FBI director has ever addressed the organization, group officials said.

dystopia 2:20 PM - [Link]

Nature Conservancy Promises Change

The Conservancy was busted by the Washington Post last month in a special series of eye-opening articles. The NY Times reports today that the newly-humbled group has vowed to change its ways:

The conservancy said it will stop practices like providing subsidized loans to its employees and drilling for gas and oil on land it controls unless required by existing contracts...

The board said it would end the practice of buying or selling land along with board members, trustees and employees, to avoid any conflict of interest.

The board also said the conservancy would document all charitable gifts associated with its conservation buyer program. Under that program, the conservancy buys land that otherwise might be developed, attaches development restrictions to the property, and then resells it to supporters at discounted prices reflecting the reduced value of the property with the restrictions attached. Buyers then give the charity contributions to offset the discount, which the buyers can deduct from their income for tax purposes.

It sounds like the Conservancy admits to have been doing all these things, until they were exposed. Here's a link to the original Post series.

dystopia 2:05 PM - [Link]

Maryland Backs Off Rules on Poultry Waste

In a chickenshit move, the state's Republican governer announced that he will no longer hold poultry producers accountable for their waste runoff into Chesapeake Bay. The LA Times reports:

Reversing an effort by the previous administration of Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening to force the large firms to deal with the ecological damage that comes from their industry, Ehrlich said he would look for voluntary measures or economic incentives to staunch the flow of millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus into the bay and the rivers and streams that feed it...

Nearly 1 billion chickens are raised by Maryland farmers who are contracted by poultry corporations. The corporations deliver the birds or eggs to growers, provide the feed and then collect the animals for slaughter.

But they leave the farmers with the tons of manure produced by the birds. Though farmers historically have used the waste as fertilizer, it has become an increasing liability, and poultry companies have disavowed responsibility for it.

Unsavory Byproduct: Runoff and Pollution
Excessive Nutrients Damaging US Coastal Areas
Delaware Feuds Over Chicken Waste

dystopia 1:33 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 14

1775: The Continental Congress established the US Army; debate then began on the appointment of a commander-in-chief of Continental forces. John Hancock expected to be nominated but was passed over when John Adams suggested George Washington as a commander around whom all the colonies would unite.

1777: The Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag.

1846: American settlers in California rebelled against the Mexican government and proclaimed the short-lived California Republic.

1864: Black soldiers won Congressional approval for equal pay.

1917: Emma Goldman spoke at an anti-conscription meeting; police raided the gathering and arrested all the men of draft age who could not show proof of registration.

1927: President Porfirio Diaz of Nicaragua signed a treaty with the US allowing American intervention in his country.

1943: The Supreme Court ruled that schoolchildren could not be required to salute the American flag.

1951: Sen Joe McCarthy attacked Gen George Marshall, of Marshall Plan fame, for "always and invariably serving the world policy of the Kremlin." Equally to blame "in a conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any such previous venture in the history of man," he said, was Marshall's protege, Gen Dwight Eisenhower.

1954: President Eisenhower signed the order adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1968: A federal district court jury in Boston convicted Dr Benjamin Spock and three others of conspiring to aid, abet, and counsel draft registrants to violate the Selective Service Act.

1971: Attorney General John Mitchell warned the NY Times via phone and telegram against further publication of the Pentagon Papers, while HR Haldeman told President Nixon, "...out of the gobbledygook, comes a very clear can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment; and the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the President wants to do even though it’s wrong, and the President can be wrong."

1972: The EPA banned the use of DDT.

1985: The 17-day hijacking of TWA Flight 847 began shortly after takeoff from Athens, Greece; the hijackers were Lebanese Shiite Muslim extremists.

1987: The USS Stark's officers were found negligent in the deaths of 37 sailors after the ship, in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War to protect Kuwait's oil tankers, was hit by Iraqi Exocet missiles.

1989: The submarine USS Houston snagged a tow cable and sunk a tugboat southwest of Long Beach, CA; one crewman on the tugboat was drowned. The ship was in the area for the filming of the movie The Hunt for Red October.

dystopia 10:41 AM - [Link]

Friday, June 13, 2003

The Pentagon Papers

Ack! I forgot that I was going to post something on Daniel Ellsberg and the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which began in the NY Times 32 years ago today, and now I don't have much time. I'll just point you to a few places to go read up on them if you want:

Pentagon Papers: Secrets, Lies & Audiotapes
Pentagon Papers: The Secret War
Supreme Court Upholds Newspapers' Right to Publish
Ellsberg's Vietnam Memoir Takes Stock of His Role

dystopia 6:40 PM - [Link]

Thai Police Seize Radioactive Material

In the Washington Post:

Thai police, tipped off by US customs agents, said on Friday they had arrested a Thai national with 66 lbs of radioactive caesium-137, possibly intended for use in militant attacks, perhaps in the form of a dirty bomb...

"It could be deadly if it got into the hands of terrorists...

The article caught my eye because I'd just been reading about Cesium-137 not too long ago. It's nasty stuff, and we have plenty of it right here in the USA:

In the spring of 1985, in response to a temporary shortage of cobalt-60, Radiation Sterilizers approached the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding a program in which companies could lease cesium-137 from the DOE for use in irradiation facilities, helping the DOE cope with the vast stores of cesium-137 waste produced at two nuclear bomb factories - Hanford in Washington, and Savannah River in South Carolina. Transferring this radioactive waste to the private sector has been, and continues to be, the main objective of the DOE's "Byproducts Utilization Project..."

On June 6, 1988, sensors at the plant detected a leak in the pool of water holding the cesium-137 capsules. It would take six months and over $1 million to find the source of the leak. In this ongoing contamination incident, at least three RSI employees were exposed to radioactivity, carrying it on their clothes into their cars and homes, taking it outside the facility. 25,000 gallons of water in the company's source pool were contaminated. It is unclear whether regulators were unable to recall all of the medical supplies, consumer products, and food products that had been shipped from the facility and were believed to have been contaminated in the incident. It would cost Georgia state and American taxpayers $47 million and several years to clean up the site.

One might conclude that there's already been at least one "dirty bomb" detonated in this country, courtesy of the corporate sector and the DOE.

dystopia 5:50 PM - [Link]

Firm Silent as Patients Died

For some, when profits are at stake, conscience goes out the window. The Washington Post reports:

A major maker of medical devices pleaded guilty yesterday to covering up thousands of incidents in which its product malfunctioned as it was being inserted in patients' bodies. Twelve patients died, and dozens needed emergency surgery...

The company reported 172 of those malfunctions but failed to disclose 2,628 others, court papers said. The device sometimes became stuck while being implanted, the plea agreement said. And during some failures, company sales representatives coached doctors in the operating room through untested, unapproved procedures to break part of the device and extract it from the patient's body, potentially averting the need to notify the FDA, the government added.

After a patient died during one such attempted extraction, seven employees sent an anonymous letter to the company and the FDA, court papers said. That triggered an internal investigation that led to a recall of the product in early 2001 and to the federal investigation.

dystopia 4:39 PM - [Link]

Meet Pvt Jesse Halling

A young man who did what his government asked of him was remembered by members of his platoon in the Washington Post:

"Some people label soldiers 'heroes' who don't reach that level, in my professional opinion," said Sgt Chris Dozier, the ramrod-straight and tall leader of the 2nd platoon of the 401st Military Police Company out of Fort Hood, TX, to which Halling belonged. "But Jesse was a hero. And that is what every soldier in the platoon thinks about him..."

As Halling swung out onto the street, "it was a full-out firefight from both sides," Ferguson said. Tracer fire, sound of big guns emptying, lights and screaming...Halling was hammering away with his .50-caliber machine gun...reloading his machine gun and squeezing off rounds from his M-16 rifle. All the while, he was telling Cedeņo and Glass where targets were, and also telling them to watch out, to get down...

Cedeņo told the other soldiers later that Halling, by remaining at his post, had saved his life. He never came down from the turret, seeking shelter in the relative protection of the Humvee, as many soldiers might have done...

"He never gave up; that's what you should put in the paper," Ferguson said.

Halling was killed by an RPG in this battle on Saturday, June 7, more than a month after the war in Iraq was declared over.

dystopia 3:53 PM - [Link]

Mueller Runs Into "Buzz Saw of Criticism"

FBI director Robert Mueller was flayed by irate 9/11 families in a closed-door meeting over the lack of accountability in the agency's intelligence failures and the secrecy surrounding the official investigation. MSNBC has details:

The FBI put out a bland press release about the meeting on Tuesday...But family members who attended the meeting at the J Edgar Hoover Building in Washington told NEWSWEEK the meeting quickly grew contentious...Many of those present were visibly annoyed with Mueller’s responses—especially over his refusal to commit to holding any bureau officials accountable for intelligence failures that preceded the attacks...

Much of the stiffest criticism came from the "Jersey Girls"...who have become increasingly radicalized by what they view as the US government’s failure to provide them with answers to many key questions...Mueller and other top bureau officials at the meeting repeatedly brushed aside their questions, saying...the answers might jeopardize against Zacarias Moussaoui...

Which led one angry widow inform Mueller that she didn't give a rat’s ass about Moussaoui.

dystopia 2:02 PM - [Link]

New Nuclear Plants Appear Too Pricey

Not that it will stop them from building more. An ominous report from the Charlotte Observer:

Later this year, three utilities - Entergy, Exelon and Dominion Resources - will begin seeking licenses to build new nuclear plants, reviving a practice essentially abandoned in America after 1979's Three Mile Island near-meltdown...

The last five US nuclear power plants cost 11 times as much to build per kilowatt produced as do current natural-gas plants. Even if new next-generation nuclear plants can be built much more cheaply, their construction costs still are likely to be two to four times higher than natural gas, coal or wind plants, according to the US Energy Information Administration...103 nuclear power plants produce about 20 percent of the nation's electricity, but the last one to go on line, Watt's Bar in Tennessee, turned on in 1996 after 23 years of construction and billions of dollars in cost overruns...

The biggest sign of a looming resurgence: The Senate voted 50-48 Tuesday in favor of $15 billion in federal loan guarantees for companies to build six or seven new next-generation nuclear power plants. The terms were part of broader energy legislation; the House of Representatives has voted for similar but lesser aid.

dystopia 1:15 PM - [Link]

Metallica Wants Military to Stop Using Songs


Metallica's Lars Ulrich isn't happy that the US military has reportedly used the group's music to terrify captured Iraqis...if the Army just has to play loud music during interrogations, it should find something really grating like...Norwegian death metal bands.

Ulrich is quoted as saying there's nothing he can do about Metallica's music being used.

"What am I supposed to do about it? "Get George Bush on the phone and tell him to get his generals to play some Venom?" he asked.

dystopia 12:57 PM - [Link]

Prisons for Profit: Free Market in Human Misery

Via Guerrilla News Network, a Greg Palast report:

One of the hottest stock market plays of the 1990s was the investment in hotels without doorknobs: privately operated prisons. And the hottest of the hot was a Florida-based outfit, Wackenhut Corporation, which promised states it would warehouse our human refuse at bargain prices...New Mexico rancher Ralph Garcia, his business ruined by drought, sought to make ends meet by signing on as a guard at Wackenhut’s prison at Santa Rosa, New Mexico, run under contract to the state. For $7.95 an hour, Garcia watched over medium-security inmates. Among the "medium security" prisoners were multiple murderers, members of a homicidal neo- Nazi cult and the Mexican Mafia gang. Although he had yet to complete his short training course, Garcia was left alone in a cell block with sixty unlocked prisoners.

On August 31, 1999, they took the opportunity to run amok, stabbing an inmate, then Garcia, several times. Why was Garcia left alone among the convicts? Let’s begin with Wackenhut’s cutrate Jails "R" Us method of keeping costs down. They routinely packed two prisoners into each cell. They posted just one guard to cover an entire "pod," or block of cells. This reverses the ratio in government prisons—two guards per block, one prisoner per cell. Of course, the state’s own prisons are not as "efficient" (read "cheap") as the private firm’s. But then, the state hadn’t lost a guard in seventeen years—where Wackenhut hadn’t yet operated seventeen months...

Wackenhut has also moved into juvenile detention and the mental hospital industry, among other things here and there.

The Record: For-Profit Prisons Raise Quality Concerns
Steeltown Lockdown
Private Prisons
Private Prisons: Profits of Crime
Meal Plans and Private Prisons

I was devastated when I visited Debt to Society a while back and looked up the stats for my own state over the past 20 years. The incarcerated population had jumped from under 5,000 to over 23,000 from 1980-2000, the 8th fastest increase in the country; it had already doubled by 1986, under the Reagan administration, and had tripled by the end of the first Bush administration. We're also #6 in the proportion of incarcerated drug offenders among all states, and for the year 2000, we had the 4th highest incarceration rate overall.

A gift from the US Prison-Industrial Complex.

dystopia 12:00 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 13

1772: Massachusetts' royal governor Thomas Hutchinson announced he would begin receiving his salary directly from England, effectively removing any control the Massachusetts Assembly had over the upper levels of government. The announcement was followed by a Royal commitment to directly pay the salaries of judges of the Superior Court, yet another means of denying any local control of government or jurisprudence.

1888: Congress created the Department of Labor.

1920: The US Post Office ruled that children may not be sent by parcel post.

1933: Congress passed the Home Owners Refinancing Act to help Depression-stricken citizens refinance their homes.

1940: Surplus stocks of artillery weapons and rifles were assembled from US government stores; the first shipment left on the SS Eastern Prince for the voyage to Britain. US neutrality laws were subverted by first "selling" the arms to a steel company and then reselling them to the British government.

1966: The Supreme Court ruled in Miranda vs. Arizona that criminal suspects must be informed of their constitutional rights before being questioned by police.

1977: About 200 indigenous peoples from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia convened the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Barrow, AK, urging the ban of all weapons testing and disposal in the Arctic.

1979: The US Court of Claims granted the Lakota Nation a $17.5 million award for the government's illegal taking of the Black Hills in South Dakota in 1877. The offer was rejected by the Lakota; months earlier, Union Carbide had announced that it found a significant uranium deposit in the Black Hills National Forest.

1988: A federal jury found Liggett Tobacco liable in the lung cancer death of the plaintiff, but innocent of misrepresenting the risks of smoking.

1989: President Bush exercised his first presidential veto: "This bill would increase the minimum wage by an excessive amount and thus stifle the creation of new job opportunities..."

1994: A jury in Anchorage, AK, blamed recklessness by Exxon and Capt Joseph Hazelwood for the Exxon Valdez disaster.

1996: The 81-day Freemen standoff ended as 16 members of the anti-government group surrendered to the FBI and left their Montana ranch.

dystopia 9:58 AM - [Link]

Thursday, June 12, 2003

World Day Against Child Labour

A good day to learn more about the extent of child labor and child slavery worldwide:

Child Labour Statistics
Global March Against Child Labour
Human Rights Watch: Child Labor
Bangladesh Textile Firms Left in the Lurch
The Small Hands of Slavery
Child Labor in Pakistan
Camel Jockeys in the Middle East

dystopia 2:42 PM - [Link]

State Department: Trafficking in Humans Rising

The Trafficking in Persons Report, release by the State Department, says poverty, government inaction and the demand for cheap labor are encouraging the growth of illegal networks that lure men, women and children into forced labor or sexual slavery. CBS News reports:

"Human trafficking not only continues but appears to be on the rise worldwide," the report states. It estimates that between 800,000 and 900,000 people are smuggled across borders each year, with up to 20,000 of them reaching the United States.

"Traffickers exploit the aspirations of those living in poverty and those seeking better lives," the report reads. "They use dramatic improvements in transportation and communications to sell men, women, and children into situations of forced labor and sexual slavery with virtually no risk of prosecution..."

Rights activists faulted the State Department for going soft..."The report gives undue credit for minimal effort and ignores government practices, such as summary deportation and incarceration, that effectively punish trafficking victims."

More info on human trafficking:

Ruthless Trade of the 'Body Brokers'
Women Raise Trafficking Issue as Urgent
Bosnian Police Smash Human Trafficking Network

dystopia 2:00 PM - [Link]

Threats Rising for US Public Water Supplies

The Natural Resources Defense Council released a study of drinking water quality in 19 US cities which found that pollution and deteriorating, out-of-date plumbing were sometimes delivering drinking water that could pose health risks. The Environment News Service reports:

None failed, but the citizens within the five cities rated poor - Alburquerque, Boston, Fresno, Phoenix and San Francisco - are drinking tap water is sufficiently contaminated so as to pose potential health risks. In particular, pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems face health risks from tap water in these cities...

The report found an increase in the frequency of periodic spikes in contamination in many cities, an indication that aging equipment and infrastructure may be inadequate to handle today's contaminant loads or spills...

Although it documented only a small number of cities that were in outright violation of national standards, the organization says this does not imply low contaminant levels but rather low standards.

From a related ENS article:

Before Christine Todd Whitman resigned from her office as administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May she had decided to sign off on a rulemaking decision drawn up by EPA water administrators declaring Florida exempt from certain provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Published in the
Federal Register on May 5, the exemption will permit Florida to legally pollute drinking water aquifers with inadequately treated waste through municipal underground injection control (UIC) wells...

Monitoring tests conducted by the EPA and the FDEP in the 1990s and again this year have shown the UIC waste is migrating upward into aquifers the region relies on for drinking water.

dystopia 1:39 PM - [Link]

Handout Photos Don't Tell the Whole Story

Allan Wolper on the White House's iron control over press access, via Editor & Publisher:

The picture was propaganda-perfect...Eric Draper, who is George Bush's personal photographer, took the poignant photo last April 11 and developed it in a darkroom at Anacostia Naval Station in Washington, DC. It was then sent to the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters....

But the great majority of readers who saw the image didn't know where it really came from or who took it, because it was published with either an
AP or AFP or Reuters credit, giving it a credibility that it didn't deserve. I became interested in this shell game after the New York Times and the New York Daily News were delivered to my door...

dystopia 1:21 PM - [Link]

Female Workers Claim Sexual Harassment

The LA Times says:

The Treasury Department is investigating claims that Denver Mint supervisors demand sex from female employees in exchange for promotions.

Thirty-two of the 107 women working at the Denver Mint signed the formal class-action complaint filed this month. They said women are routinely passed over for promotions and raises, and are harassed by men who post pornography and obscene graffiti.

UPDATE: Found a more detailed article at

dystopia 12:58 PM - [Link]

My Name is Shinseki, and I Am a Soldier

The NY Times reported some of Gen Eric Shinseki's remarks upon his retirement as Army Chief of Staff:

"You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader," he said. "You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it. And without leadership, command is a hollow experience, a vacuum often filled with mistrust and arrogance."

dystopia 12:33 PM - [Link]

US Seeks Missing Airliner in Africa

Reuters points out a potential source of airborne WMDs:

The United States is trying to find an airliner that took off from the Angolan capital of Luanda on May 25 and has not been seen since, a State Department official said on Thursday...

The United States is especially sensitive to missing planes because of the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, when Arabs hijacked four planes to hit targets in New York and Washington...

US officials noted that many planes with murky backgrounds come and go across Africa because of the poor transport systems on the ground. Governments impose very high landing fees, encouraging evasion.

dystopia 11:47 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 12

1775: In the first naval action of the Revolutionary War, a group of local patriots boarded the British schooner Margaretta, capturing its commander and crew in a successful attack conducted from the decks of a captured British supply ship.

1775: British Gen Thomas Gage declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion, and offered amnesty for all who laid down their arms, except for Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

1776: Virginia's colonial legislature became the first to adopt a Bill of Rights.

1876: Marcus Kellogg, a journalist traveling with Custer's 7th Cavalry, filed one of his last dispatches before being killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

1957: Gen Samuel T Williams, head of the US Advisory Group in Vietnam, said, "We have exactly 342 men, the number allowed by the Geneva Armistice Conference. It would be a breeze if we had more."

1961: Army Maj Gen Edwin Walker was disciplined for indoctrinating his troops with John Birch Society materials.

1963: Medgar Evers, a Mississippi NAACP leader, was assassinated in the driveway outside his home in Jackson.

1967: The Supreme Court unanimously struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriages.

1972: Gen John D Lavelle, former 4-star general and USAF commander in Southeast Asia, testified before the House Armed Services Committee; he had been relieved of his post and demoted after he repeatedly ordered unauthorized bombings in North Vietnam.

1985: The House approved $27 million in aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, while 1,756 people were arrested in 150 cities over two days for protesting against the illegal American arming and financing of the Contras.

dystopia 10:23 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Breast Cancer Linked to Birthplace, Early Residence

Promising developments from Science Daily:

Geographers and epidemiologists from the University at Buffalo, using life-course data from a cohort of breast cancer patients and controls in Western New York and geographic information systems (GIS) technology, have shown that women who developed breast cancer before menopause tend to cluster based on where they were born and where they lived at their menarche (start of menstruation). The clustering indicates that these women may have been exposed to something in the environment at those times in their lives that increased their risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer..."Researchers are moving more toward a life-course approach in studying the development of chronic disease," said Han. "At UB, we are developing spatial statistical methods to combine geographic information systems, mapping and visualization with epidemiology to help identify patterns of disease."

Finding clustering of cancer patients based on where they were born and lived during early life is significant..."If we just look at where the women lived when they were diagnosed, we miss something important..."

In future studies, the researchers will combine the GIS results with information on the location of steel mills, chemical factories, gasoline stations, toxic-waste sites and other industrial sites in existence in the two counties between 1918-80. They then will calculate the distance between these sites and the women's homes at the time of birth and menarche, and compare this information for the participants with and without cancer.

dystopia 5:56 PM - [Link]

1990s a Good Decade for US Children

Interesting figures from Kids Count, a project of the Annie E Casey Foundation. They say that between 1990 and 2000 the US infant mortality rate fell 25%; child deaths fell nearly 30%; teen deaths by accident, homicide or suicide dropped 28%; births to girls 15 to 17 years old fell 27%; the high school dropout rate fell 10%; and child poverty fell 15%.

The only negatives in 8 of 10 indicators they found were that more babies are being born dangerously underweight, and that 17% more families are headed by a single parent.

Via the Seattle Times.

dystopia 5:31 PM - [Link]

Big Sugar Fails To Remove Judge

Some good news out of Florida, via Tampa Bay Online:

The sugar industry has failed to persuade a federal appeals court to remove US District Judge William Hoeveler from presiding over an Everglades cleanup agreement that he has supervised for 15 years.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled Tuesday that sugar companies lack legal standing to intervene in the agreement to seek Hoeveler's removal. The companies were not a party to a lawsuit brought by the US government in 1988 to force Florida's compliance with clean water standards in the Everglades.

dystopia 5:07 PM - [Link]

Aid Worker Encounters Congo's Child Soldiers

An update on the war in the Congo with a report from a World Vision worker in the Toronto Star:

"There are two things you see as you move around ... thousands upon thousands of displaced people and soldiers, particularly child soldiers. They are armed with AK-47s (assault rifles) and rocket launchers."

The UN says 500 civilians have been massacred in inter-ethnic fighting around Bunia in the past month and 50,000 have been killed since 1999...just a fraction of the dead in the long civil war that has killed an estimated 3 million people, mainly from disease and starvation, since 1998 in the former Zaire...

"I found hundreds of children who are unaccompanied. Their parents are either dead or lost," Maher said.

dystopia 3:51 PM - [Link]

Blog Trolling

Cruised a few blogs this morning and found some good bits:

The Apostropher found an interesting article on Laura Callahan, the Homeland Security official with the (allegedly) bogus degree; also a fascinating Smithsonian Magazine article on a historic treasure found in the Capitol basement.

Major Barbara (permalink bloggered) dug up lots of info on Reed Slatkin, including his business dealings with Cheney's Halliburton; Slatkin's currently facing federal prison time for investor fraud:

Among many wide-ranging schemes, Slatkin was a key company insider in the formation of an oilfield firefighting company instrumental in the Halliburton "alliance" which put out oil well fires after the invasion of Iraq. SEC documents show the company, Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc, was created under the aegis of the contractual “alliance” with Halliburton in 1997. At that time, Vice President Richard Cheney was Halliburton’s CEO – responsible for overseeing such operations on behalf of the Board of Directors. Recently, Halliburton subsidiary KBR was granted a controversial secret contract to put out Iraqi oil well fires and rebuild the Iraqi oil production infrastructure. The firefighting work was subcontracted to Boots & Coots, allegedly with no competitive bidding, even though the company teetered on bankruptcy.

Jerry at Bad Attitudes Journal found me a great Mencken quote:

“The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naīve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who loves his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”

dystopia 12:22 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 11

1621: Sir Edwin Sandys reported to the Virginia Company the colony's exasperating dependence on the cultivation of "that smokie weed of Tobacco." Sandys argued that the high price of tobacco was behind the neglect of all other crops.

1773: The royal governor of Georgia issued a proclamation describing land recently ceded by the Creek Indians, encouraging farmers and artisans to settle there with their families.

1873: The Charleston, WV, mayor and city council appointed Ernest Porterfield as their first black police officer. Within an hour, the remainder of the white police force resigned. Rather than ask for Porterfield's resignation, the mayor hired a new force.

1913: Police fired at IWW/AFL maritime workers striking against the United Fruit company in New Orleans, killing one and wounding two.

1963: The University of Alabama was desegregated when Gov George Wallace, facing federalized Alabama National Guard troops, ended his blockade of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and allowed two black students to enroll.

1964: Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and 17 companions were arrested in St Augustine, FL, in violation of Florida's unwanted guest law, for their attempt to desegregate a well-known and popular restaurant.

1971: In San Francisco Bay, the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz by American Indian protesters ended.

1990: The Supreme Court struck down a federal law prohibiting desecration of the American flag.

1993: The Supreme Court ruled that people who commit hate crimes may be sentenced to extra punishment.

1993: The Supreme Court ruled that the City of Hialeah, FL, could not outlaw animal sacrifices for religious reasons.

dystopia 10:43 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Anti-Poppy Spray Kills Five in Afghanistan

A disturbing report via Pakistan's International News:

"I was working in my poppy fields when suddenly a black aircraft appeared," Qadeer told AIP. "The plane circled very low over our poppy fields. We could not see what it sprayed, but after it disappeared we smelt a very pungent odour."

A few days later, he noticed his poppy plants decaying. Fruit and vegetables also began rotting, he said. The farmer said that a woman in neighbouring Manogi village died soon after eating a plum. Four children died in Markikhel village after eating fruit, he claimed.

"I am a farmer and I know it is not a crop disease. It is all due to spray of some poisonous material," Qadeer claimed. The news agency said that it had received reports of similar aerial spraying of poppy crops in five other Nangarhar districts...

There was related article yesterday in the Guardian:

Mr Hussain and other locals are convinced that the American military secretly tried to wipe out their crop two months ago. The farmers believe that, operating in darkness, US forces sprayed their fields with herbicide.

The US has been heavily involved in funding and carrying out crop-fumigation programmes in countries in South America, but the agreement of the governments concerned has been integral to the process.

Crop spraying in Afghanistan would be a different matter - effectively an attempt at bio-sabotage in a country where the approval of the population's representatives had not been sought.

dystopia 5:49 PM - [Link]

WMD Threat Not Motive for War, Ex-Spy Says

Australia's leadership is in the hot seat along with with Bush and Blair. An Australian intelligence officer, who resigned in March in protest over the Iraq War, spoke his piece in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Australia's premier intelligence analysis agency told the Federal Government that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction threat was not the prime motive for the United States going to war against Iraq, a former intelligence officer said yesterday.

It was regarded as a "secondary issue", less important than regime change and reshaping the Middle East by putting in place a pro-US government in an oil-rich country and introducing democracy to the region....

"It was also about the credibility of the US military. The US sees its military and threat of force as one of its most important foreign policy tools. They had threatened to use force and would lose credibility if they didn't...The sum of all of these things was bigger than the impact of WMD."

dystopia 5:30 PM - [Link]

Haley Barbour Heads Home

Home is Mississippi, where the former RNC chairman and lobbyist wants to be the next governor. The NY Times reports:

Mr. Barbour must overcome the charge that he has spent his career as a fixer. His law firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, ranked seventh among Washington firms in terms of lobbying revenues last year, according to a study by The National Journal, and Fortune listed the firm as No. 1 in terms of political influence.

I hope they already have voter education and registration efforts cranked up over in Mississippi, like now, 'cause anyone running against Barbour is gonna be buried under an avalanche of cash:

Revolving Door Where Lobbying Rules Don't Apply
Barbour: The GOP's Utility Man
Haley Barbour's Nightmare

dystopia 4:55 PM - [Link]

Indian Voter Intimidation in South Dakota

After controversial statements by local whites were printed in the Wall Street Journal last fall, the ACLU sent poll watchers to Bennett County, SD, to oversee last week's elections; according to Native American Times, the watchers reported some disturbing episodes in an area with a 55% Lakota population.

Here's how Indian voters were disenfranchised last November by a county auditor who had a direct interest in the election:

[R]oughly one third of registrations gathered in the voter registration drive in Bennett County...were blocked...and voter activists, as well as the newly registered voters, were not made aware of any alleged problems until after the closing date to be filed in time for the election.

Claussen explained that Williams had taken blocking registrations to a new level...“The registration card asked for a mailing address and a physical address if it is different from the mailing address”...For a physical address they wrote, ‘8 miles north of Allen.’ If you look on a map, eight miles north of Allen puts you into Jackson County, but if you actually follow the highway that is northbound for eight miles, the way people actually drive, you remain in Bennett County...”

With voter activities in Bennett County gathering national attention, a week before the general election in November, 2002, the
Wall Street Journal ran an article in which several white residents of Martin revealed why they feared Indians becoming officials there and why they fear the involvement of Indians in the election process.

Dang subscription-only WSJ--now I'll have to hunt around and see if I can find out what was said.

dystopia 4:08 PM - [Link]

Mother Risks Life to Clear Mines

What life is like in a country ravaged by war, via the Middle East Times:

After separating from her husband, faced with a seriously ill daughter, no job and no social support in sight, Vrgoc decided to join a two-month demining course five years ago just because she would be paid to attend.

She soon got a job with Vilakol, a Bosnian mine clearance company, and planned to work there for only a month. Five years on, she is still in demining gear...Vrgoc spends some six months a year away from home...

"I feel free and safe in a minefield. It seems that it is the only place where my principles do not upset anyone," Vrgoc said with a wry smile.

Wow. She's got my respect and admiration. I'm counting my blessings.

Seven years after the war ended there are still more than 1.3 million mines and unexploded bombs at several thousand locations throughout Bosnia. Nearly 500 civilians have lost their lives in accidental mine explosions in the post-war period...

Please support efforts to clear landmines and to ban their manufacture and use.

dystopia 3:42 PM - [Link]

US Home Loan Chief Fired Over Audit Inquiry

A government-backed mortgage company that offers low-cost financing just fired its top three honchos in yet another corporate accounting scandal. From the Guardian:

Freddie Mac was set up by Congress in 1970 to create a steady and larger supply of funds to mortgage lenders. It buys mortgages and repackages them as securities that it sells to investors on Wall Street.

Its importance to the US economy was underlined as the dollar weakened and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped below 9,000 in afternoon trading yesterday...

The company said it had fired president and chief operating officer David Glenn for not fully cooperating with a review of its earnings statements between 2000 and 2002. Freddie Mac said in January it would restate its numbers for those years after hiring a new auditor to replace the now defunct Arthur Andersen.

BusinessWeek published a very informative piece in the spring of 2002 on the "solid business principles" of Freddie Mae/Freddie Mac.

dystopia 3:13 PM - [Link]

Cadmium Disrupts Ability to Fight Cancer

Bad news from Environment News Service:

Cadmium, a naturally occurring metal found in food, water and cigarette smoke, disrupts a DNA repair system that is important in preventing cancer...The metal, primarily used to make batteries, is a known human carcinogen and has long been known to cause human lung cancer in cadmium-related industries unless strict safeguards are taken...the amount of cadmium needed to inhibit repair and increase mutations was remarkably small...

The primary health concerns are for industrial workers who may be exposed to generation concentrations, but the general population can be exposed to cadmium from breathing cigarette smoke, drinking contaminated water or eating foods that contain it. Smoking doubles the average daily intake.

Cadmium disappears from organisms very slowly and its half-life in the human body can be as long as 20 years.

Arrrg. I checked the CDC's Toxic Substances Registry and found a 1999 fact sheet that indicates cadmium is pretty wicked even without the cancer link.

Please keep the batteries to your laptop, digital camera, camcorder, etc., away from small children. If one should break open, handle it very carefully.

dystopia 2:33 PM - [Link]

Trial Lawyers Could Use a Good Lawyer

The legal profession is being targeted by the GOP in its ongoing campaign to protect Corporate America from its victims, per the Christian Science Monitor:

Many Republicans want to curb what they view as a corrosive tide of civil litigation in America. George W. Bush made his mark as governor of Texas on this issue of tort reform. Bill Frist, a doctor unhappy about malpractice suits, took the reins as Senate majority leader this year.

The result: ATLA lobbyists are fighting a wave of legislation this year aimed at capping what juries can award, curbing class-action suits, and protecting individual industries from litigation. Similar bills are getting passed in states, and even attorneys themselves are piling on - filing petitions to limit plaintiff lawyers' fees.

I'm not that crazy about lawyers either, but in this battle they're the lesser of two evils. If the GOP wins, people lose.

BTW, you know those big ambulance-chaser ads on the back of your phone book? If you're under forty you might not remember, but lawyers didn't advertise to the public like that before the Bates v. State Bar of Arizona decision in 1977. It was after the mass advertising onslaught started that the country got so sue-happy.

Then Corporate America started buying up thousands of non-profit hospitals and health care facilities across the country. Neither move worked out for us in the long run; medical costs and premiums for health and liability insurance began rising exponentially.

dystopia 1:58 PM - [Link]

Which Personality Disorder Do You Have?

Heeheeheee...! I love these silly little quizzes--they're usually pretty accurate:

Which Personality Disorder Do You Have?

brought to you by Quizilla

dystopia 12:36 PM - [Link]

French Students 'Not Welcome' in US

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The teenagers from Carcassonne, in south-west France, were told that four of the American families who had agreed to put them up had withdrawn the offer. Other host families, meanwhile, could not guarantee that the children would not be greeted with "unpleasantness"...

In Carcassonne, the decision was met with anger and disbelief. Nicole Blachon, an English teacher who has arranged and accompanied the trips since 1976, said that the French pupils and their parents were "profoundly shocked".

She said: "I couldn't believe it when I read the message. It took me a week to tell the children and their parents because I was so ashamed.

"The parents are frankly scandalised by this xenophobic view...

dystopia 12:03 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 10

1692: Bridget Bishop was hanged in the first official execution of the Salem witch trials.

1856: Defeated Rogue River Indians began boarding the steamer Columbia, which took them to their new home, the Grande Ronde reservation, hundreds of miles away in northwest Oregon.

1963: Congress passed a law mandating equal pay to women workers.

1966: The IRS told the Sierra Club it would lose its tax deductible status if it kept taking such political stands.

1975: The Rockefeller Commission report was released, documenting charges of domestic surveillance under the Johnson and Nixon administrations; CIA-sponsored Operation CHAOS kept records on 300,000 citizens and groups, and infiltrated agents and provocateurs into black, anti-war and political organizations in the US.

1988: A bicycle messenger was prevented from entering the Justice Department because he was wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed, "Experts agree! MEESE IS A PIG."

1998: Mitsubishi agreed to pay an unprecedented $34 million to 300 female workers at its Normal, IL, plant to settle a particularly vile sexual harassment lawsuit.

dystopia 11:04 AM - [Link]

Monday, June 09, 2003

Merge Left

From PRWatch's Spin of the Day, a TomPaine interview with Joe Bevilacqua:

The rules of political engagement have changed, and progressives had best observe the planful discipline that has brought right-wing conservatives to such powerful heights. The ladder of these heights was built, rung by rung, through the efforts of non-profit organizations...

In a slow and calculated manner over the last 30 years, the Right has built a solid organization that is only now reaping the fruits of its labors in the form of unprecedented governmental, corporate and media control. The Left has sat quietly, letting it happen. Some say that even if the Left starts now, it might take another 30 years to regain its share of the power and put things back in balance...

"I wrote an article about this in
The Nation in January," says Borosage. "Kevin Phillips went to the Democratic Caucus after the defeat in November and basically he just read them the riot act. He said, 'You know it's pathetic. We have Gilded Age inequality here, declining wages, workers getting screwed, middle-class people are getting screwed and you people are losing elections. It's just ridiculous!'"

No shit. There was a quote that I liked:

In order for birds to fly, they need a left and a right wing.

dystopia 1:29 PM - [Link]

Bush and the New Tyranny of the Rich

A thoughtful read by Michael Kinsley on the breakdown of the social compact in American politics, in Slate:

Separation of the spheres also depends on an unspoken deal, a nonaggression pact, between democracy's political majority and capitalism's affluent minority. The majority acknowledge that capitalism benefits all of us, even if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also take comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledge that their good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw. They recognize that domestic tranquility, protection from foreign enemies, and other government functions are worth more to people with more at stake. And they retain a tiny yet prudent fear of what beast might be awakened if the fortunate folks get too greedy about protecting and enlarging their good fortune.

That was the deal. Under George W Bush, though, the deal is breaking down. With Republicans in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, the winners of the economic sphere are ratting on their side of the bargain and colonizing the sphere next door. Campaign contributions are only the crudest way power is transferred from the economic sphere to the political one. In addition, there are well-financed lobbying organizations, including some masquerading as research institutes. There is the inherent complexity and boredom of tax and regulatory issues, which repel people who don't have a major financial stake. There is the social milieu of the president and most members of Congress. They may not all come from the worlds of posh aristocracy or self-satisfied business success (Bush remarkably straddles both), but these are the worlds they are plunged into as they rise to congressional leadership. And, in the back of their minds, these are the worlds they may hope to find a place in when they lay down the weary burdens of power.

A good book on the subject is Kevin Phillips' Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics (1994), an in-depth examination of how the "political and economic influence has shifted from the grassroots of America to a new 'guardian class' in Washington."

dystopia 1:04 PM - [Link]

Daniels Says US is Fiscally in Fine Shape

Based on that statement, if Daniels is not a hide-bound Reaganite idealogue, then he's a dopehead. You make the call. Via the Washington Post:

The only regret Daniels expressed was that the White House had not been able to move even more swiftly and aggressively in carrying out Bush's agenda -- from rewriting Medicare and Social Security to reining in programs the White House sees as wasteful...

Daniels, an assistant to the president under Reagan and the administration's liaison to state and local officials, made it clear that shrinking government for the long run was one of his missions...

Daniels was asked whether he would have done anything differently if he had known in 2001 that the country was in a tax-collection bubble and that the surplus projections would prove illusory. "The original spending proposals slowed down the rate of spending, but you could've slowed it down further," he said. He said that, for example, the administration could have stretched out planned increases for the National Institutes of Health and "could have grown education spending a little slower."

If you haven't read David Stockman's book The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed (1986), please look for it at your local library or through a second-hand bookseller. It's a harrowing glimpse inside the Reaganite cult--their methods and motivations--and it reads like a script for the current administration's wreck-o-nomic program.

UPDATE: Just found William Raspberry's column on the subject:

For a truer understanding of what he may actually have in mind, it may be helpful to go back to the Reagan administration's "supply side" approach (which the current president's father once dismissed as "voodoo economics"). As Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, later acknowledged, the real intent of the Reagan tax cuts was to produce a "strategic deficit that would give you an argument for cutting back the programs that weren't desired."

Trying to kill the programs directly wouldn't work, the reasoning went. After all, every federal program exists because it has a constituency willing to fight for it. But suppose there simply wasn't the money to pay for all the programs. Then the constituencies would have to decide among themselves which to cut and which to keep.

And if legislators insisted on keeping more than the budget would allow, then they -- and not the tax-cutting president -- would be branded as fiscally irresponsible budget busters.

That, so far as I can tell, is pretty much what's happening now.


dystopia 11:49 AM - [Link]

Supreme Court Deadlocked on Agent Orange

The question was whether it's too late for sick Vietnam vets to sue chemical companies over Agent Orange exposure. The ninth justice, John Paul Stevens, recused himself from the case; his only son was a Vietnam vet who apparently died of cancer at age 46. From

Business groups had feared a ruling that would threaten to reopen many class-action settlements at a cost of millions or possibly billions of dollars...

In this case, the court was asked two questions. First, whether people who are unaware of their involvement in a class action suit are allowed to argue later that they were not property represented. And second, what standard should be used if those lawsuits are allowed.

Justices, in issuing a two-paragraph unsigned opinion, did not deal with either question. The effect of tie votes, which are extremely rare at the court, is to affirm the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals judgment and allow litigation to proceed in the lower court.

dystopia 11:16 AM - [Link]

What I'm Reading

The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself, by Daniel J Boorstin (1983). So far I've been reading about how different civilizations developed their own methods of marking time, and how we wound up with the calendar and units of time that we use today. Fascinating--this stuff is exactly my cup of tea.

Boorstin focuses on those parts of the history of man that led to the development of the clock, the compass, the telescope, the miscroscope, the printing press and movable type--all essential elements of discovery, and not one of them funded by an IPO.

dystopia 10:38 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 9

1623: The English negotiated a treaty with the Potomac River Indian tribes; after a toast symbolizing eternal friendship, the Chiskiack chief and 200 members of the tribe dropped dead from poisoned wine.

1628: Thomas Morton of Massachusetts was the first person known to be deported from what is now the US, after he scandalized his Puritan contemporaries by erecting a maypole and celebrating May Day.

1772: British revenue cutter Gaspee ran aground in the darkness at Namquit Point near Providence, RI; a group of patriots boarded the grounded ship, put the commander and his crew ashore, and defiantly burned the Gaspee.

1836: The Battle of Shepherd's Plantation was fought between the Georgia militia and Creek Indians in the vicinity of Fort Jones, FL.

1863: The Nez Perce reservation in Idaho was reduced to 1/10 of its original size to accommodate white settlers and railroads.

1912: Anarchist Emma Goldman's lecture series in Seattle was threatened by US military veterans who protested her right to speak.

1950: Two of the Hollywood Ten were imprisoned for refusing to cooperate with House Un-American Activities Committee.

1954: Joseph Welch, special counsel for the US Army, asked Sen Joseph McCarthy during the Senate-Army hearings: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

1963: Arinell Ponder, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and five students were beaten and arrested for using the white Trailways bus bathrooms in Winona, MS.

1964: The CIA submitted a memo challenging the "domino theory" backbone of the Johnson administration's policies in Southeast Asia.

1986: The Rogers Commission released its report on the Challenger disaster, criticizing NASA and rocket-builder Morton Thiokol for management problems leading to the explosion that killed seven astronauts.

dystopia 9:51 AM - [Link]

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TV Worth Watching:


Daily Show

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Trivial Pursuits:

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Puppet Man

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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)