Monkey Media Report Archive
The Triangle's near-daily
news and arts Weblog

2nd half of February 2003

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2.28.03 - Jeanne D'Arc's obituary for Mister Rogers might make you cry. Her blog Body and Soul is one of my current faves, by the way - beautifully written, sharply observant posts from a full-time mom with a "haphazard education." I liked Hip Surgery's take, too. Oh, and you really are special, you know. [link]

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2.28.03 - Daily Kos has been all over the rapidly failing Miguel Estrada judicial nomination, including a detailed rebuttal to Republican spin about the "unprecedented" nature of what the Democrats are doing. Bull. I'll have more later about Estrada, and about N&O columnist Rick Martinez' hilariously under-informed recent column about the nomination. [link]

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2.28.03 - Dragstrip Syndicate, Dynamite Brothers and The Spinns (those first two are mp3's) tonight at Kings. Here's something I wrote about Dragstrip's split residency between the Triangle and Richmond and how it's paying off for local bands. I keep hearing great things about Dynamite Brothers' raw, stripped-down blues so I'm looking forward to finally seeing them live. My ex-Chapel Hill roomie says I'm gonna love The Spinns, too.

As always, the just-bitchy-enough Trianglerock.com is the place to find out who's playing, er, "rock" in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. I'll be going insane next Thursday, for instance, trying to catch God is my Co-Pilot (!!) at Local 506 and Godspeed You Black Emperor at the Cradle. Thanks a lot, booking gods. The Sames are playing a benefit for the Duke Coffeehouse tomorrow night and history's apparently being made at the Skylight tonight, but I won't say anymore because I'm not sure if it'll get them in trouble. [link]

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2.28.03 - As the lawyer for Jesica Santillan's family testifies against punitive damage caps in front of Congress, the flood of non-substantive spin coming from Duke continues. Here's a letter ostensibly from the "Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Caregivers" that mentions "our most compassionate care." But it's not the immediate caregivers whose feet are being held to the fire, it's the decisions of the hospital's lawyers and administrators. Nevertheless, here's Duke Health CEO Ralph Snyderman telling the world he's "never been more proud to be a part of the Duke University Medical Center family than I am right now":

The surgical procedure was performed with technical excellence second to none, but tragically her organs were rejected due to a blood type mismatch... In my view, the institution has been open, honest and forthright. It immediately focused on determining the root cause of the error and in treating the patient and the family in the most appropriate and compassionate way.

Neither statement bothers to address the most important questions that have been raised about Duke Med's behavior. No acknowledgment that the way Duke handled the termination of Jesica's life support might have been outrageously insensitive to the grieving family. Not even a nod to the claim that Duke's decision to delay the public call for a transplant might have contributed to Jesica Santillan's death:

"Irrespective of what the donor- procurement people said, I still believe the huge amount of media coverage was a factor in getting the second donation," [UNC medical journalism prof Thomas Linden] said. "If they had gone public earlier, chances are, they might have gotten a second donation more quickly."

Finally, a doctor says it. The criticisms about the delay are easily summed up in one question: What possible advantage to the patient could there have been in putting off the public call for a 2nd donor?

Looks like the Duke lawyers and PR folks are continuing their losing streak. At this point, Duke's "keep silent" strategy couldn't be more obvious, so we'll have to wait for the trial to see just how "compassionate" Duke really was, and to get specific replies to the charges the family has made. I'm sure the legal maneuvering there will be even uglier than what we've seen to date - on both sides. Meanwhile, one of the country's best hospitals will continue to insult observers of the case with meaningless press releases that carefully avoid addressing the important questions.

One more thing: The Herald-Sun is reporting that family members can't bury Jesica in her hometown near Guadalajara. After meeting with the Mexican consul and Senator Elizabeth Dole, they still couldn't get assurances they'd be allowed back into the U.S. (where their standing to sue is already in question) after the funeral. Dole apparently asked "the appropriate federal agency to review the request." Wonder how hard the Republican Senator will push this one. She's already keeping mum about whether she supports a punitive damages cap (like there's a chance in hell she won't vote the way Bush and Cheney want her to). Is anyone else waiting to see Dole distance herself from the immigration aspect of the case as well? [link]

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2.27.03 - U.S. diplomat resigns over Iraq war. Read the resignation letter of the State Department's John Kiesling in the NYTimes:

...we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam...The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government.

Does anyone out there doubt that 20 years from now Colin Powell is going to write a mea culpa book that rips apart the policies he's now defending? Save yourself the trouble, Colin. Resign now. Please. [link]

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2.27.03 - Great stuff being posted regularly at Back To Iraq - including a link to this frightening story that says a couple of Islamist Web sites are claiming an imminent terrorist attack on the U.S. - and at Where is Raed? (the only Weblog I know of that claims to be based in Baghdad) - including lots of pics and descriptions of buildings and neighborhoods (more here). As the U.S. prepares to "shock and awe" Iraqis into submission, the amazing details Salam provides about Baghdad's daily life, history and media (apparently, the new Egyptian host of the game show Waznak Thahab - Your Weight In Gold doesn't hold a candle to the Syrian guy he replaced) are must-reading. His take on the recently arrived "human shields" solidified my feeling that the campaign is a dumb idea, although the intentions are good, for what that's worth (i.e., not much):

I have not met any of [the human shields] in person, which just might happen in the next couple of days, what I dislike is the idea...One of the latest group to arrive in Baghdad, mostly Europeans, were welcomed to the Rasheed hotel , which is like the Waldorf Astoria of Baghdad, no other hotel is more expensive and exclusive. All of them were wearing T-shirts with what was supposed to be "Human Shields" in Arabic, but they had it all wrong it said "Adra'a Basharia" instead of "Duru'u Basharia" which got them a few giggles and a new name; they are now the "Adra'a" just to show how clueless they are...Anyway, what really got my goat this time was finding out that they get food coupons worth 15,000 dinars per meal, 3 for every day...

Do you know how much the monthly food ration for a 4 person family is worth, for a whole month not per meal (real cost, not subsidized)? 30,000 dinars, if you get someone to buy the bad rice they give you for a decent price. 15,000. What are they eating? A whole lamb every meal?...A lunch in any above-average restaurant will not be more than 8,000 dinars and that includes everything. 15,000 thousand is a meal in a super expensive restaurant in Arasat Street, in one of those places that really almost have an "only foreigners allowed, no Iraqis welcome unless you are UN staff" sign on it. I will stop calling them tourist when they stop taking all this pampering from the Iraqi government. Did I tell you about the tours? Today was Babylon day...Sorry, I just don't get it. What are they doing here?

It's easy to talk in the abstract about war (or, for that matter, fomenting a popular revolution) in Iraq. It's less easy to talk about it in a way that includes people like Salam. [link]

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2.26.03 - Not sure why I haven't seen more discussion of this one in the blog world: With Weapons of the Will: How to Topple Hussein Nonviolently by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall [copy here]. It's a 'must-refute' for those in favor of a costly U.S. invasion/occupation. Originally published in Sojourners magazine last September (and linked approvingly in a fascinating 3-part analysis at One Hand Clapping), the article points out that civilian populations have risen up a number of times to overthrow dictators who were at least as willing to engage in mass murder as Saddam:

It's essential to understand that unless a regime wants to murder the entire population, its ability repressively to compel a population's compliance is not infinitely elastic.

According to the authors, the key to sparking the kind of resistance that overthrew Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in Romania and Augusto Pinochet in Chile is breaking the stranglehold of fear that keeps the people in check. Once that happens - look out, dictator:

No one doubted the willingness of Pinochet's regime, in the 1970s and early 1980s, to use terror as an instrument of repression in order to assure the regime's control: Disappearances, brutal killings of dissidents, and arbitrary arrests had silenced most dissenters. But once that silence was broken in 1983 in a way that the regime could not immediately suppress -- through a one-day nationwide slow-down, followed by a nighttime city-wide banging of pots and pans in Santiago -- the regime was no longer able to re-establish the same degree of fear in the population, and mammoth monthly protests were soon under way.

In the case of Romania in 1989, it was the population of Timisoara that lit the bonfire:

[Shoot to kill orders] arrive in Timisoara that afternoon. At 17:00 water cannons and tear gas are used against the people, tanks and APD's enter the streets and the shooting begins at about 18:00. They fire indiscriminately into the crowd. This was the watershed of the Revolution - differentiating it from previous demonstrations such as strikes in the Jiu valley and the 1987 riots in Brasov. News spreads quickly, especially by foreign TV and radio transmissions from neighbouring countries. The scale of the massacre becomes more and more exaggerated with reports of up to 60,000 dead in Timisoara...That same night there are sporadic anti-Ceausescu riots in other towns...

Yep, that's how successful popular revolt usually works. It's interesting that when President Bush went to Romania last November, he called upon the memory of Ceausescu to drum up support for invading Iraq. "From that balcony, the dictator heard your voices and faltered," Bush said, while failing to mention that no foreign army had been necessary. (It should be added that Soviet hands were probably pulling strings behind the scenes in 1989, just as U.S. hands would pull them in Iraq today).

Ackerman and DuVall also note a key point about Saddam's rule that may make it easier to bring down than the regime of someone like Pinochet:

[Saddam's] hold on power is even more reliant on personal loyalties and their reinforcement by material rewards and mortal penalties. As such, the frequent reports of his repression should be seen not only as a sign of his brutality, but as evidence of the disaffection that his capricious, personal style continues to breed: He would not have to crack down if there were no one who might be disloyal.

In other words, if Hussein started ordering mass executions of crowds in broad daylight - a likely move - a military mutiny like the ones that took place in Romania and Chile would be an even more likely countermove. And it turns out there's also a strategic advantage from the perspective of a hawk like Rumsfeld:

[If a campaign began with] civilian-based incidents of disruption that were dispersed around the country and that did not offer convenient targets to shoot at, any attempt to crack down would have to depend on the outermost, least reliable members of Saddam's repressive apparatus.

Why is this not the plan on the table in the White House? Why are we spending billions of dollars and endangering the lives of, for instance, my roommate's brother-in-law? The authors' final paragraph says it all:

Regimes have been overthrown that had no compunction about brutalizing their opponents and denying them the right to speak their minds. How? By first demonstrating that opposition is possible, peeling away the regime's residual public and outside support, quashing its legitimacy, driving up the costs of maintaining control, and overextending its repressive apparatus. Strategic nonviolent action is not about being nice to your oppressor, much less having to rely on his niceness. It's about dissolving the foundations of his power and forcing him out. It is possible in Iraq.

Sound like pie in the sky?

Tell it to Nikolae and Elena. [link]

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2.26.03 - Don't forget to do the Virtual March (it's like the Instant Mash but leaves less of a mess) today.

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2.25.03 - NY Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman is speaking at 5:30 today in Koury Auditorium on UNC's campus. I'll pass, thanks.

The guy's no worse than your average pundit (faint praise indeed), but I have an instinctive desire to spit whenever I hear his name ever since he wrote his now-famous attack on the democratic globalization movement that filled the streets of Seattle in 1999. "Is there anything more ridiculous in the news today than the protests against the World Trade Organization?" the widely published columnist asked, before characterizing protesters as "a Noah's ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions, and yuppies looking for their 1960s fix."

Yeah sure, it was the need for a quick '60s fix - not thoughtful concerns about the WTO's lack of transparency and undemocratic structure and decision-making - that explains why citizens got tear-gassed that day. And those calls for dramatic change in the WTO from US and UK trade representatives immediately after the protest? Pure coincidence:

With surprising frankness, at a press conference in Seattle, shortly after the ministerial collapse, then US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky described the dynamics and consequences of [WTO decision-making]: "The process...was a rather exclusionary one...And this meant 100 countries, 100, were never in the room..."

Barshefsky admitted that "the WTO has outgrown the processes appropriate to an earlier time. An increasing and necessary view, generally shared among the members, was that we needed a process which had a greater degree of internal transparency and inclusion to accommodate a larger and more diverse membership."

Imagine that. Hey, Thomas, was that you out in the streets forcing the issue of the WTO's exclusionary decision-making to the front of the globalization debate? No? I could have sworn I saw you next to that flat-earther with the tinfoil hat.

Wait, there's more. The next round of talks in Doha was even worse:

Doha was a low point in the GATT-WTO's history of backroom intimidation, threats, bribery, and non-transparency. But take it from the horse's mouth itself: no less than the EU's Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, described the Doha process as "medieval." Surprisingly, at a recent speech in Geneva, WTO Director General Mike Moore endorsed this view.

There are no records of the actual decision-making process in Doha because...the real decisions took place in informal groupings whose meeting places kept shifting and were not known to all. There being no records, there is little accountability and the principals in any deals can deny that they engaged in questionable behavior.

And that, my friends, is what the Seattle organizers were protesting, and why the struggle continues today. I still remember reading Friedman's 1999 column, which has since passed into legend as a classic example of frightened mainstream fence-straddling in the face of real change. If he's ever apologized to the thousands of people he insulted that day, I'd love to see it. Until then, I'll just go ahead and spit whenever I hear his name. Ptoo.

You want to go see the guy, knock yourself out. Just please do yourself a favor first and read Digby's recent scathing dissection at Hullaballoo. Friedman's muddle-headed waffling takes center stage once again. The guy's flipflops on foreign policy would be amusing if he hadn't been so useful to Cheney and Rumsfeld over the last two years.

That anyone would put much stock in Friedman's opinions after the childish, reactionary thinking he gave us in the aftermath of the Seattle protests and 9/11 attacks strikes me as bizarre. Digby says it better, so go. [link]

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2.25.03 - Thanks to medpundit for the Jesica Santillan link, very kind of you. Anyone new to her provocative healthcare blog should be sure to also hit the Medical Museums page for lots of interesting stuff.

That said, I think you go a bit overboard on the quick condemnation of Mack Mahoney, medpundit. Sure, Mahoney may have been a demanding patient's advocate, but would you really expect the family to do anything other than push as hard as possible for that 2nd transplant, even if the chances of survival are only 50%? And after such a horrible mistake, does anyone at Duke have the right to deny them that? Also, isn't the possibility of a new, directed donation (one that wouldn't have been donated without a public appeal) worth going to the media about as soon as possible? Finally, you seem to imply that minimizing bad publicity was a valid consideration on Duke's part during that first week. I don't think Duke's desire to keep its image polished should have any place in that kind of discussion.

But you're right on this: There's a lot we still don't know. On that note, here's an article from the Duke Chronicle (the Duke U. student paper); it contains the first example I've seen of UNOS spokesperson Anne Paschke claiming that Dr.Jaggers's request for the first set of organs for Jesica "represents a significant error":

"That's not policy," she said. "Organs are supposed to be cleared through our organization first." Paschke noted the error is not a common one.

Hmm. That seems to contradict the implication in the AP article below that it's relatively normal for doctors and organ banks to make judgement calls that don't always strictly adhere to recipient lists. Looks like the legal jockeying between Duke and UNOS has begun in earnest. Can anyone clarify which take is more accurate? [link]

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[thanks to The Agonist] [link]

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2.24.03 - I can't do it. For a second, I was actually going to link to the picture up at Yahoo! of Jesica Santillan's 8-year-old brother Ulises, or that picture of Jesica's mother crying. What the hell was I thinking?

Thanks to The Durham Herald-Sun for being the first media outlet I've seen to sharply examine allegations from Jesica's family of stupid, clumsy and/or downright inhumane behavior from the Duke University Medical Center's lawyers and public relations staff:

Reporters gasped as Duke’s Jeff Molter interrupted Mack Mahoney while Mahoney was offering the information-hungry media his perspective of the renowned medical center’s tragic ruination of the diminutive Jesica’s final two weeks of life.

The scene represented a series of Duke public relations problems dimmed only by the sadness of their origin...Molter, who’s been running the medical center’s public relations machine for nearly three years, backed off at the apparent urging of a colleague...

Please note: I am not attacking Dr. James Jaggers, who's already accepted responsibility for his error and is, no doubt, in a pit of despair over it. I can't imagine...hell, I sure didn't have the courage to become a healer. I was glad when the Winston-Salem Journal reported Saturday that Mahoney not only called Jaggers "a good skilled man" but also "regretted" that he might lose his job. It's also worth noting that at least one coronary drug site that recently featured Jaggers prominently has replaced his name and image with a picture of someone else from three years ago. Jaggers' life - like Jesica's family's life - will never be the same.

I am, however, wondering about the decisions made by Duke PR and legal staff (that's Duke Hospital CEO William Fulkerson above), which allegedly included 1) questioning Mack Mahoney's power of attorney just as he was advocating for publicity that might hurt Duke's image, 2) refusing to allow press into the hospital, 3) cancelling a meeting after Mahoney showed up with an attorney, even though the hospital had already consulted its own attorneys, 4) pulling the plug on Jesica without her family's consent and then telling the world the family "did not protest," and 5) releasing a misleading statement about the family's supposed refusal to donate any of Jesica's organs - a statement that resulted in the grief-stricken relatives receiving "several scathing emails" before putting a clarification up at their Web site. Any of those alleged behaviors would be awful. All of them together show a pattern of rudeness and inhumanity that would be beyond belief. We'll see if any of the allegations turn out to be true.

Laura Meckler of the Associated Press finally got around to asking the question that's been nagging at me for days: Why did Carolina Donor Services release the type A heart and lungs for Jesica in the first place? She wasn't on the list, I thought to myself, which means the supposedly strict rules that determine organ donation are more malleable than we thought. Is there another scandal here? Well, not quite:

If a transplant coordinator is having trouble finding a match from the official list of waiting patients, the coordinator might start contacting doctors to see whether they have a patient who can use the organs.

"You may call some major (transplant) centers and say, 'I don't want these organs to go to waste. Do you have anybody?'" said Howard Nathan, executive director of the Gift of Life Donor Program in Philadelphia. "The most important thing is to give the organ to a needy patient."

Ok, that makes sense. Geographical proximity to the donor plays an important role, too. Meckler goes on:

Could someone on the list have benefited from the organs? Were they offered to everyone on the list before Jesica got them? Whatever the rationale, the informal matching used in this instance worries some.

"The way we engender trust is by having a system that's accountable," said Dr. John Holman, a kidney-transplant surgeon at the University of Utah...The computerized matching system was created "because people were suspected of gaming the system," he said. "It's there to create a sense of fairness."

To be honest, I find it hard to believe that a purely computerized system would be more fair overall than a system that allows room for human judgement. A system driven by lawyers and PR professionals, however, is another matter.

Update: The Raleigh News & Observer has lots of detail about the two competing versions of Jesica's last hours. [link]

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2.23.03 - Duke doctors pulled the plug on Jesica Santillan yesterday, before the family was able to get the second opinion they wanted. However absurd it might have seemed to keep Jesica on life support, you'd think Duke would have bent over backwards to be kind to this particular family. Instead, we have this:

Medication to keep her heart going was discontinued at 5 p.m.; her heart stopped seven minutes later and a ventilator was then turned off.

Renee McCormick, a spokeswoman for a charity created to pay Jesica's medical bills, said the Santillan family didn't know until then that doctors were taking her off life support.

"They were hysterical," McCormick said. "The family's been treated so poorly. They're very hurt. These are human beings."

My god. Someone tell me that's not what Duke just did. I'll have more later, but for now here's a good chronology of the medical decisions made in this mess. [link]

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2.21.03 - Here's a preview I wrote for the Indy about this Sunday's concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock, an amazing African-American a capella group started 30 years ago by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Reagon, btw, was a charter member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (one of the most important civil rights groups of the 1960s), born from an April 1960 meeting at Raleigh's Shaw University. The show's a benefit for the North Carolina Deaf Blind Associates and Arts Access NC, two groups that do fantastic work helping people with disabilities participate fully in the Triangle's cultural and political life. I guarantee you'll leave this concert a more beautiful person. [link]

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2.21.03 - Libertarian Party challenges Bush to answer 10 questions before going to war with Iraq. [via The 50-Minute Hour] [link]

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2.21.03 - Charlotte Observer raises questions about organ donation and Jesica Santillan's illegal immigrant status. Surprisingly, the state INS director actually demonstrates human emotion, probably because Elizabeth Dole and Jesse Helms have both been involved in Jesica's life:

"It's a compelling, human story," Gottlieb said of Jesica's ordeal. "I really don't know what's gained by making an issue of her immigration status."

I agree. Now, about those other compelling human stories... [link]

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2.21.03 - Does anyone else smell a serious PR coverup at the Duke University Medical Center over its botched heart transplant in 17-year-old Jesica Santillan? The allegation from the folks at Jesica's Hope Chest that a Feb. 16 phone call from Senator Elizabeth Dole (scroll down) was responsible for a dramatic shift in the attitude of Duke Medical Center's staff towards Jesica and her advocate, Mack Mahoney, hasn't gotten nearly enough attention from the local press. The Dole call has been reported, but the devil is in the details, as they say, and these details are stunning:

After the NBC news team got detained by police while interviewing the family outside of Duke University Medical Center, Mack and Jesica's parents were called into a board meeting with the hospital administrators and department heads. They were challenging Mack's power of attorney, attempting to restrict visitors, refusing the family to be able to take photographs of Jessica, wanting the photographs to be removed from the website that had any hospital personnel in them, wanting to limit Mack's access to Jessica and her medical information and restricting the press from entering the hospital. All the while, completely ignoring the pleas of her parents to have Mack retain all access to Jesica. This was a horrendous meeting with translator's, attorneys, etc., all present.

Well, that's sure an interesting time to start challenging Mack Mahoney's power of attorney - after you've put the wrong heart into the girl whose life he's been trying to save. According to the site, Duke also said early on it "would not assist us in procuring donator organs outside of their system." How nice. The legal maneuvering had been going on for days, Mahoney told the N&O:

When hospital administrators called Mahoney to a meeting Friday night, he showed up with a medical malpractice lawyer, and the Duke officials canceled the meeting...

I bet Duke officials had already been in close contact with their lawyers at that point. But when a citizen brings one they cancel? Hmm. But let's go back to the Hope Chest description of the Feb 16 showdown:

In the midst of this conference, Senator Dole called Mack on his cell phone. Mack proceeded to tell Senator Dole in detail, what had happened during the surgery, after the surgery, about the media being detained, the hospital administrator wanting to restrict Mack's access to Jesica and the horrors of the past week. Everyone in the room was silent, as Mack explained the dire situation Jesica was facing to Senator Dole. Mack explained to her, that he was sitting in front of the hospital administrator right then. Senator Dole asked to speak with him. Mack said, "Sir, Senator Dole would like to speak with you." The administrator shook his head no in disbelief.

Amazing, isn't it? You can guess the rest.

When Mack hung up the phone, the hospital administration ended the meeting promptly, by escorting Mack immediately upstairs to the ICU. There, they added Mack's daughters and attorney to the ICU visitors list. They let him once again take photographs of Jesica and they informed the head of the ICU ward, to assist Mr. Mahoney with whatever he needed. The hospital's tone instantly changed the minute Mack hung up the phone with Senator Dole.

The response of Duke to these accusations has been less than forthcoming, to say the least. When asked about the cancellation of Mahoney's meeting with administrators, Duke spokesmodel Rich Puff (right) demonstrated a truly classic PR move by telling the paper he "didn't know what happened at the meeting." Gosh, Rich, think you could find out for us? I mean, your bosses won't talk to anyone but you, right? How's about you go ask them what happened? Mahoney also claims Duke officials "tried to keep him from talking to the media and taking Jesica's picture," "persuaded him to keep quiet about the mistake at first," and "told him Jesica would have to leave the hospital if he didn't abide by their restrictions." Puff declined to comment about all of those except the last one, saying Duke "would not do something like that." I guess we're to believe Duke would do all the rest, eh? Trying to restrict Mahoney's access to Jesica and challenging his power of attorney?

No amount of image repair work from the hospital's PR specialists will have the slightest effect until Duke publicly answers those questions. Meanwhile, Wednesday's Herald-Sun ran a story, "Error unlikely to scar Duke’s reputation," that quoted a spokesmodel for the American Hospital Association who actually said Duke handled the episode "exactly the way they should." The very same article says a hospital employee ordered a Herald-Sun reporter off Duke property earlier that day, even though Jesica's parents had invited him in. Is that "exactly" the right way to handle this?

"The way an institution reacts sends signals about their humanity," the hospital industry flak said. Amen to that. The head of the med center's news office added, "We've been more than helpful and continue to be more than helpful." Well, that sure does contradict the claims up at the Hope Chest site. Let's see if anyone bothers to follow up on what appears to be aggressive insensitivity on the part of Duke Med's administration during the first week after the botched operation. [thanks to effugas at Metafilter] [link]

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2.21.03 - "In Search Of The Poetry In Technology," an amiable debate about machines and nature between Meredith University professor Betty Adcock and ibiblio.org director Paul Jones, is worth a read. The two poets go over familiar ground in an interesting way, touching on Keats' famous vampire poem "Lamia," Bill Gates, Buckminster Fuller and Neil Postman, and offering some fun barbs along the way.

"...We have as little control over ourselves as ever, murdering the planet while waxing rhapsodic over the technological feat of looking for live microbes on Mars," says Adcock. She adds, "The most gifted and privileged among us, heroes whose eyes are only on speed, volume, innovation and profit, are bringing about vast losses we will someday see as tragic." Jones isn't having it: "The ambivalence of Keats toward the philosopher-scientist and toward the Lamia is the point. Any intelligent person would share his attraction and his caution."

Neat debate. I bring it up now because Raleigh's Bickett Gallery is hosting both Adcock and Jones as part of "NC Poets Against the War" tonight at 7:30pm. The free event is part of the national movement created by ex-Marine poet Sam Hamill, who felt "nausea" at the thought of attending a literary celebration organized by Laura Bush and decided to subvert it instead. The move, it should be noted, struck some as ridiculously rude:

The White House book parties have been a tempest waiting to happen, and Mrs. Bush got away with her apolitical literary events for an astonishingly long time, given the art community's disdain for her husband...She's always been a book-reader, and her invitations have been politically inclusive to a degree unknown during the Clinton years.

Characterizing a wartime White House event honoring Walt Whitman as "apolitical" is a bit of a stretch, but I do think there's a fair point about leaving the First Lady's bibliophilia out of politics in there somewhere. Regardless, the result for us is one of the more interesting gatherings of North Carolina-based poets we'll probably see for a while: Margaret Rabb, Ariel Dorfman, Daphne Athas, John Balaban, Al Maginnes, Jim Clark, David Riggsbee. See you there. [link]

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2.20.03 - As morning zoo DJs drive armored vehicles over French bread, country club managers throw out wines and Colin Powell says that two of our best allies in that other war are actually cowards, it's a perfect time to reflect on military hysteria. Let's take a look back at one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in U.S. history, shall we?

Start with this: Of Fraud and Force Fast Woven: Domestic Propaganda During the First World War. It provides a fantastic overview of the activities of President Wilson's Committee On Public Information, which released a flood of manipulative distortions between April 1917 and November 1918 to solidify mass support for a U.S. entry into an unpopular war. Sound familiar?

Led by journalist George Creel, CPI's multiple divisions placed anti-German messages in movies, songs, posters, billboards, newspapers and much, much more. There was even a Bureau of Cartoons reminding artists in fine Soviet Realist fashion that "the worth of each cartoon depends upon how much it aids in the national cause." The result, of course, went far beyond increased support for war (scroll to "Anti-Germanism Grows Violent"):

On the night of April 4, 1918...a group of Maryville, Illinois, coal miners apprehended Robert Paul Prager, a co-worker whom they suspected of being a German spy. They marched him from his home in Collinsville, forced him to kiss the American flag and to sing patriotic songs in front of a gathering crowd, and questioned him about his activities as a German spy. Prager insisted on his innocence and on his loyalty to the United States. But the mob was not appeased, and they hanged him from a tree on the outskirts of town.

The moronic frenzy we're seeing now isn't quite at that point, but we're not too many steps away from, say, something like this:

...Attacks on German music included the banning of Beethoven in Pittsburgh and the arrest of Dr. Karl Muck, the German-born conductor of the Boston Symphony, on charges that he was a threat to the safety of the country. The same motive lay behind the removal or vandalism of statues of poets Johann Goethe and Friedrich Schiller and other German cultural giants. German-language classes were dropped from school curricula and German textbooks banned...streets, parks, schools, and even towns were re-christened: Germantown, Nebraska, for example became Garland and Berlin, Iowa, was renamed Lincoln. Restaurants served "liberty steak" in place of hamburgers and "liberty cabbage" for sauerkraut. In Massachusetts, a physician even renamed German measles "liberty measles."

"Liberty measles?"

Well, it's no goofier than "Freedom Fries." [link]

*****

2.20.03 - The funniest thing about the Cubbie's Restaurant "Freedom Fries" incident - in which owner Neal Rowland renamed his French fries to support U.S. troops on their way to Iraq - is that Cubbie's is located in one of the few North Carolina towns that was settled by French people. The Europeans who landed in 1709 at what would become Beaufort, NC (not to be confused with BYOO-Fert, SC) were French Huguenots escaping religious persecution from Louis XIV. Most of them landed in New York and South Carolina during the 1600s, but a small wave of French-speakers found its way to North Carolina. Hell, the name "Carolina" itself came from a Huguenot; he was honoring Charles IX of France.

What a hilarious universe, eh? [link]

*****

2.19.03 - Help save Glenn Reynolds' brain!

Zombies have sucked Glenn Reynolds' brain dry. That's the only explanation I can come up with for the bizarre, illogical stuff Reynolds has been posting lately at Instapundit. I mean, come on - the guy's a freaking law professor. Blog Grand Central and all that. There's no way the real Reynolds couldn't see through the swiss cheese logic that's been showing up lately at his site.

Therefore, zombies must have ripped his brain out of his head and eaten it. QED.

Now, I know this hypothesis will meet with skepticism in certain circles, but the evidence is irrefutable. Take, for example, this post, which approvingly quotes Mark "Insulting Yowling My Specialty" Steyn as he spews absurdly off-base generalizations about "the left" from his perch at Canada's National Post. Here's the excerpt that the groaning undead who've sucked the juices out of Reynolds' skull recommended to the world as worth reading:

How far are the "peace" crowd prepared to go? Well, they've stopped talking about their little pet cause of the Nineties, East Timor,

Note the shallow and obfuscatory use of the nameless strawman. Exactly who is Steyn talking about here? We don't know. Whoever they are, though, "they've stopped talking" about East Timor, dammit...

...ever since the guys who blew up that Bali nightclub...started listing support for East Timor's independence as one of the Islamist grievances against the West.

Wow. A classic fact-free insult from Steyn. The insinuation that leftists "stopped talking" about East Timor in order to appease terrorists like those responsible for the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks is about as low an accusation as you can make in public debate. It's also easy to demonstrate as complete horseshit. A 2-minute search pulled up one of Steyn's favorite left-wing demons, Howard Zinn, plastered across the front page of the East Timor Action Network. Zinn's message - dated two months after the Bali bombing, thank you - notes that East Timor's official independence leaves a huge amount of difficult work ahead and encourages readers to help the folks at ETAN do it. ETAN's latest effort? An attempt to stop last month's U.S. Senate decision to keep training the brutal Indonesian military that not only occupied East Timor for decades but also appears to have - oops - recently killed some American citizens. Sadly, the lefties at ETAN failed to convince the Senate to stop supporting the military forces who've been butchering East Timorese since 1975.

Oh, but Steyn assures us that "the left" has "stopped talking" about East Timor because it doesn't want to annoy Islamists who are angry that East Timor got its independence. Good lord. The man's either a crackpot, a liar, or - uh oh - another victim of the brain juice zombies.

Steyn's appallingly sloppy rant obviously lacks the most basic requirements of an argument; it wouldn't pass muster in any first-year Logic course and would get laughed out of a high school current events discussion. And yet here's our man Reynolds - hey, have you heard he's a law professor? - passing this nonsense along with an approving nod. Quite an eye-opener, isn't it? Surely the real Reynolds is capable of noticing unsupported generalizations when they walk up and bite him in the ass, right?

Right.

Zombies it is then.

Update: Randy at Beautiful Horizons had a similar reaction to Steyn's aggressively ignorant accusations, and puts the screws to Reynolds about admitting his mistake:

When I make a factual error, I truly hope that someone will point it out to me so that I will have the opportunity to acknowledge my mistake and correct it. I seem to remember you saying that you do the same...Perhaps it's time to do more than pay lip service to that claim. [link]

*****

2.18.03 - Glenn Otis Brown, the Executive Director of the brilliant Creative Commons Project, is speaking at UNC Wednesday afternoon. I can't make it because I'm doing Monkeytime in Raleigh later, but I have faith the public-minded folks at ibiblio will record him.

If you haven't heard of Creative Commons, you should know they're one of the more important groups to show up on the cultural scene in a long time. Dedicated to encouraging the maintenance and growth of the seriously threatened public domain, Creative Commons is doing things like creating a new set of free and voluntary licensing agreements that has the potential to radically alter the way society thinks about copyright issues:

Our aim is not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier...Creative Commons will also work to build an "intellectual works conservancy." Like a land trust or nature preserve, the conservancy will protect works of special public value from exclusionary private ownership... Our ultimate goal is to develop a rich repository of high-quality works in a variety of media, and to promote an ethos of sharing, public education, and creative interactivity.

It can't come a moment too soon.

Btw, I didn't drive to Chapel Hill to see Ahmed Rashid because of a threatened ice storm that, uh, didn't actually show up until the next night. Sorry to the person who was waiting to see my write-up, but you can listen to Rashid's 2/12 appearance on NPR's Fresh Air instead. [link courtesy of the marvelous Rebecca Blood] [link]

*****

2.18.03 - Kings is showing films about Japanese Visual Kei - aka J-Rock Fashion - tonight. The outrageous pop style - which, by the way, has a huge online following - includes lots of sexual ambiguity and cross-dressing in its kitchen sink mix. It should be familiar to anyone who lived through and/or loved '80s goth (me, I was goth on the inside). Here's what seems like a decent short intro:

These bands got their inspiration from American hair and glam metal bands...J-Rock is not confined to just 80's rock. It is also a fusion of Goth, Punk, Electronica and Instrumental into a rainbow, with bands selecting a few shades from each form...Most but not all J-rock bands follow a pattern of sorts, with each member taking an assigned role in the band, with one member of the all male band portraying a woman...In Shazna, it was Izam who took the female role, acting like the "Free Spirit" and also almost unrecognizable in his role as a woman.

Scott Williams is hosting the event, part of Kings' regular Tuesday night movie series designed to keep the place hopping between weekends. It's working, too; last week's tribute to Joe Strummer drew a huge crowd. Check Kings' site for info. [link]

*****

2.18.03 - Ok, I've put up a page of video captures from the Raleigh anti-war rally. Sure, I love seeing the shots of worldwide crowds (the pic above shows Israelis and Palestinians in Tel Aviv; also check Barcelona, Madrid and Rome), but focusing on the local scale is just as worthwhile. I dare you to look at the people who marched in Raleigh and then tell me this movement doesn't fit squarely within the U.S. mainstream. I dare you. The page also incorporates a rant about coverage that focuses mainly on the conflict with 65 counter-demonstrators as somehow worth the same amount of time as the concerns that brought 7,000 marchers into the streets in the first place. I call that pathetic journalism. [link]

*****

2.17.03 - Great photos from the Raleigh anti-war protest here. The ice storm knocked out our Net connection today but I'll post my video captures shortly. The wagon-circling by the generally pro-invasion corporate media couldn't be more obvious after the unprecedented outpouring we saw Saturday. Late that night, I actually watched a CNN anchor (the Asian-American woman who's not Connie Chung) respond with, "Yep, that's right" after a U.S. government spokesperson claimed something like, "Sometimes you have to go to war to keep peace."

Yep, that's right? I'm sorry, I wasn't aware it was the job of CNN news anchors to validate the opinions of their guests. Two days later I find out CNN appears to have doctored a transcript of a statement by Hans Blix by simply leaving out important information about Blix's evaluation of Iraqi compliance. It's enough to make you believe in a sinister cabal that really does call in all its cards at opportune moments to manipulate the truth.

I mean, if you don't already. [link]

*****

2.15.03 - First shots from today's peace rally in Raleigh:

I'll have more about media coverage of the rally later; for now, suffice to say that Time Warner's local all-news channel 14 actually ran a story at 5pm claiming there were "several hundred" anti-war protesters. I was, er, kind enough to call and suggest they contact the Raleigh Police Department. The 5:30 story upped the estimate to "several thousand;" the 6pm story quoted police sources saying there were 6,000 people surrounding the state capitol. Rest assured it was probably closer to 10,000.

All of channel 14's stories ran footage of the 65 counter-protesters without bothering to mention how few of them there were, failing to even offer an estimate (I counted each of them). All three stories also described the small crowd across the street as "a patriotic counter-protest," even after being told how insulting that was to the thousands who'd marched. Like I said, more later. News14's phone number is 882-4000. Press "1" to get the folks in the newsroom. [Thanks to Jerry for the pics.] [link]

*****

2.15.03 - Wow. Just found out that journalist Ahmed Rashid is speaking tonight in Chapel Hill. As if the anti-war rally in Raleigh wasn't enough to fill my day. Rashid's book Taliban provides a detailed dissection of the militant Islamist takeover of Afghanistan; he's one of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable voices I've heard since 9/11:

You cannot allow having these failed states around the world, where terrorism and drugs and weapons and extremism breed. That has to mean, surely, a much greater U.S. involvement with the world around it.

Nicely put. If there's a better argument against Islamist terror and in favor of Western democracy than demonstrating through concrete action that Afghanistan is being rebuilt as a democracy, I'd love to hear it. But it appears that demonstrating American values in action isn't high on the U.S. government's current list of priorities:

...in its budget proposals for 2003, the White House did not explicitly ask for any money to aid humanitarian and reconstruction costs in [Afghanistan].

The chairman of the committee that distributes foreign aid, Jim Kolbe, says that when he asked administration officials why they had not requested any funds, he was given no satisfactory explanation, but did get a pledge that it would not happen again.

Holy shit. Did the administration really just assign zero dollars to help rebuild a country that had previously sunk so low as to harbor Osama bin Laden? What, did Bush somehow miss that it was the same kind of lawlessness we're seeing now that brought the Taliban to power in the first place? Looks like Cheney and Rumsfeld got their Afghan military base and the people be damned. How stupid and reckless can this administration get? [link]

*****

2.14.03 - Code Orange, my ass. I'm much more scared of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, aka Patriot Act II. Just asking for the powers the central government is asking for should be enough to get Bush impeached. If you're not reading George Paine's War Blogging, you're missing one of the sharpest and most intelligent anti-war voices in the country. [link]

 

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