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

January-February 2003

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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 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]


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?


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: 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]


2.14.03 - Something pretty in honor of St. Valentine's Day:





Ok, leave now if you can't handle graphic medical photos.



No, really.



I mean it.





Ok, here you go then...



Something not so pretty:

These photos are - allegedly - the result of the controversial use by the United States, NATO and other government groups of depleted uranium, which is used to create extremely dense tank armor and tank-busting bullets. The Christian Science Monitor provided a concise, must-read summary of the controversy on Dec. 20, including reports of dramatically increased deformities among children in Southern Iraq. The National Gulf War Resource Center is furious at what it sees as deception about DU from the Pentagon, which will almost certainly use DU again if it invades Iraq. The debate pits military strategy against the little studied risks to civilians, veterans and their children from exposure to DU. Many links to detailed info here. I just felt like sharing that, after hearing from a friend it was worth looking into. [link]


2.14.03 - Another banner drop over I-40 was posted this morning at NC Indymedia. Two messages: "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" and "Drop Bush! Not Bombs". The site helpfully provides details about how to deploy these things "in a safe fashion." Water balloons tied to the bottom with nylon string? Place it over the median? Those protesters think of everything. Count me among the people who think this is a great way to get the message out. [link]


2.13.03 - New set of links up at the Monkeytime TV page, all related to last night's show with Rania Masri and Mike Salmon. We set out to appeal specifically to conservative viewers while encouraging everyone to come have fun at this Saturday's statewide anti-war protest. Judging from the reaction, self-identified conservatives who doubt the wisdom of invading Iraq are relatively easy to find here in the heart of North Carolina. For me, the response was direct proof that calmly presenting the anti-war case while addressing pro-invasion arguments in an honest way is enough to bring people over.

Someone tell that to John "I have foreign policy gravitas, dammit" Edwards. The eight protesters arrested last Thursday outside his Raleigh office claim they've "tried to meet with Edwards for nearly a year" with no luck. Can it really be that as support for an invasion drops daily, the current frontrunner for the Democrats' vice presidential pick won't even talk with anti-war activists in his home state? Is that supposed to be a good sign? Hey, Edwards fans, I forget: Is ignoring the anti-war left supposed to make a Democrat more electable? Or was it less?

Let's see, we have 1) the strategic idiocy of letting angry voters go away angrier, and 2) the teensy problem that the Dems who'll bother to vote in primaries next year are unlikely to believe that Colin Powell, uh, "made a powerful case" for an invasion last week. But John Edwards is still the candidate to beat, right?

Whatever you say. I've mentioned before that Edwards' black voter/good ol' boy balancing act is going to be a hoot to watch (can't wait to see the native son tearing up backroads in that there stock car o' his), but right now all I can do is wonder what the hell Edwards' handlers are thinking. Cuteness only gets you so far, guys. [link]


2.12.03 - I love it. Left-wing blogger Atrios has been tracking government and media accounts of Osama bin Laden's latest speech, and they're full of fun. Turns out that Colin Powell's initial claim that the tape clearly demonstrates links between Al-Qaeda and Saddam was, uh, less than accurate:

Although Powell sought to characterize the tape as a concrete link between al-Qaida and the Iraqi government, White House officials acknowledged later to NBC News that it did not. Powell did not know it had not been broadcast when he spoke to the committee and was “a little on the front of his skis,” a government source said. [Update: MSNBC has changed its story about this multiple times; the above quote is not part of its most recent version.]

Are we supposed to have forgotten Osama bin Laden's opportunistic, post-9/11 exploitation of the Israel-Palestine mess? Puh-lease. Conservatives and liberals noted at the time that Osama had been paying only lip service to Palestinian issues before 9/11. Since then, he's continued to have a tough time claiming that struggle as his own:

Al-Qaeda has plainly sought access to the most ideologically compatible of the Palestinian groups, but has for the most part been rebuffed — Hamas and Islamic Jihad are wary of being swallowed up in bin Laden's global jihad against America and seeing their national jihad against the Israelis eclipsed (a fate the Palestinian Islamists see as having befallen Egyptian Islamic Jihad once it made common cause with al-Qaeda).

And we're now supposed to accept without question that Osama is suddenly tight with Saddam Hussein? Hell, Osama himself says (don't take my word for it; read the BBC transcript) that "socialists are infidels...whether they are in Baghdad or Aden." That's a shot across Saddam's bow if ever there was one; the Iraqi dictator heads the socialist al-Baath party. The closest bin Laden comes to being "in partnership with Iraq," as Powell put it, is when he reassures fellow Islamists "there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists."

If you're skeptical that a pan-Islamist fundamentalist like Osama and a secular tyrant like Saddam would ever form much of a natural alliance, you're not alone. Read John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, writing in the current issue of Foreign Policy:

The lack of evidence of any genuine connection between Saddam and al Qaeda is not surprising because relations between Saddam and al Qaeda have been quite poor in the past. Osama bin Laden is a radical fundamentalist (like Khomeini), and he detests secular leaders like Saddam. Similarly, Saddam has consistently repressed fundamentalist movements within Iraq. Given this history of enmity, the Iraqi dictator is unlikely to give al Qaeda nuclear weapons, which it might use in ways he could not control.

Intense U.S. pressure, of course, might eventually force these unlikely allies together, just as the United States and Communist Russia became allies during World War II. Saddam would still be unlikely to share his most valuable weaponry with al Qaeda, however, because he could not be confident it would not be used in ways that place his own survival in jeopardy. During the Cold War, the United States did not share all its WMD expertise with its own allies, and the Soviet Union balked at giving nuclear weapons to China despite their ideological sympathies and repeated Chinese requests. No evidence suggests Saddam would act differently.

The entire article's worth a slow read. Among other things, it explains in detail why Saddam's two previous attacks on his neighbors were not acts of a reckless nutcase but were instead carefully considered responses (albeit violent ones) to what Saddam perceived as direct and immediate threats to his power. The detailed analysis - short on spin and long on historical perspective - provides lots of food for thought. It's a nice antidote to the half-truths and distortions coming from Colin, Dick and Don right now. [link]


2.11.03 - The Chapel Hill Town Council joins other hotbeds of left-wing radicalism - like Des Moines, Iowa and Kalamazoo, Michigan - in symbolically snubbing the Cheney rush to war. I haven't found the text of the full resolution yet, but since the version that just passed leaves open the possibility of a U.S. first strike, it's a good bet it also leaves out the original suggestion that plans for the war are "morally bankrupt." Still, any port in a storm...and the number of ports is growing. [link]

Special to Eric Muller: A "silly" gesture? Perhaps. But in a country where anti-war messages are banned from public airwaves because of "unsubstantiated claims" (as if cable companies routinely substantiate the claims of weight-loss, baldness or business advocacy ads), gestures like those in Carrboro and Chapel Hill - while legally ineffectual - can still be important signals of popular discontent. Is it really "silly" that citizens unhappy with national media would act locally to express their views? Or that those citizens might hope to influence public discourse through dozens of similar resolutions in cities across the country? Hardly.


2.11.03 - "I just wish they would get on with the war and be done with it."

"War is good for the stock markets. It's uncertainty that paralyzes markets. War, as horrible as it is, removes uncertainty."

"Once the fighting starts, and we're seeing success, this market is going to rip."

Wonderful, aren't they? These marvelously amoral quotes come from "Operation Safe Return: History offers mixed lessons in preparing portfolios for war," the lead article in the N&O's "Work & Money" section Sunday. The article warns against rushing to invest in defense industry stocks, which have plunged recently, and helpfully suggests health-care, pharmaceutical and discount retail industries because "Whatever happens, people will still need milk and drugs." Meanwhile, the fact that "the fighting" entails raining bombs onto the heads of millions of innocent civilians goes unmentioned, except for the vague nod to horrors in the second quote above. The least the reporter could have done was briefly acknowledge that some investors might just have one or two moral qualms about profiting from a U.S. invasion of a much weaker and poorer country. That s/he didn't is simply sad. Does the business section exist in a complete moral vaccuum? [link]


2.11.03 - AARP Bulletin takes a look at the deceptive claims of three pharmaceutical industry front groups that claim to speak for millions of older Americans. Turns out that neither the United Seniors Association, the Seniors Coalition nor the 60 Plus Association listed any revenue at all from membership dues:

In a news release issued in November 2002, the Seniors Coalition claimed "four million members," but the federal tax return it filed for 2000 identified [Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] as its biggest donor and listed no revenue from "membership dues and assessments."

"Astroturf lobbying" groups like these specialize in dumping large amounts of ad money into close election races, skewing the democratic process in favor of large company interests against the interests of poorer (and thus politically weaker) individuals. At the same time, they have the gall to pretend to speak for the grassroots. Democrats and Republicans have both benefited from this kind of thing in the past, but in 2002 the drug business tilted the scales heavily toward Republicans for the first time. "This is an industry that's not only spending more on direct lobbying than any other industry but also spending more on front groups and related entities than any other industry," said one critic. From the AARP story:

Kenneth Goldstein, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin who oversees the Wisconsin Advertising Project, says the drug industry has also emerged as unquestionably "the top-spending industry" in terms of political advertising.

Indeed, the industry invested more than $30 million in the 2002 elections, with more than a third of that bankrolling television ads bearing the name of United Seniors Association...Charles Jarvis, the chairman, president and CEO of United Seniors, is a former executive vice president of Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based organization run by conservative activist James Dobson.

The heavily conservative tilt doesn't stop with drug issues, either:

United Seniors announced in November 2001 that it was backing a plan "to allow more production of domestic energy in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Its news release did not mention the organization's receipt of more than $181,000 from Anchorage-based Arctic Power, which has promoted drilling in the refuge.

Sure is some interesting conservative networking going on there. There's little love lost between these groups and the AARP, and the battle is sure to heat up as Big Pharma calls in its election favors from this year's Congressional winners. Look for deceptive messages about generic drugs, cheaper Canadian imports, direct-to-consumer marketing and more to appear on TVs and radios near you. [link]


2.11.03 - Someone better check the temperature in Hell. How often do you see the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League on the same side of an issue? [link]


2.10.03 - Fantastic article in the Chicago Tribune yesterday about Dean Smith's quiet, persistent efforts to end the death penalty in North Carolina (use "cypherpunk" as login/password). "Don't make me out to be too much of a hero," the coach tells the reporter, but it sure is hard to finish the article without renewed admiration for this amazing Tar Heel icon:

"You're a murderer," Dean Smith told Gov. Jim Hunt in a voice as mild as his point was not.

Smith then pointed at one of the governor's aides and in turn at each of the other half-dozen people in a meeting room in Raleigh in November 1998.

"And you're a murderer, and you're a murderer, and I'm a murderer," Smith said.

Legal execution, he went on to say, is a communal act, one he did not believe was moral or effective.

The piece is running in the Chicago Tribune, of course, because Illinois has led the way in calling for a moratorium on the death penalty after a large number of - oops - innocent people were found on death row. I've discussed elsewhere why I disagree on strategic grounds with outgoing Governor Ryan's sudden commutation of all Illinois death sentences, but our Governor's outraged response - "It's a travesty" - has to be taken against the obvious evidence that North Carolina has more than enough execution messes of its own to clean up.

At least we have Dean Smith. "I do not condone any violence against any of God's children, and that is why I am opposed to the death penalty," he wrote in A Coach's Life, his 1999 autobiography. By the way, any non-sports fans wondering why a Chapel Hill basketball coach makes such a good ally in the call for a statewide moratorium might want to spend time at Sports Illustrated's site honoring Smith as 1997 Sportsman of the Year. [link]


2.8.03 - UNC Law School professor and blogger Eric Muller nails Howard Coble for his remarks about FDR's decision to jail thousands of Japanese-American families without trial. Coble, you'll recall, said he'd apologize only if it can be proven that FDR didn't jail the citizens out of concern for their safety. Coble's strategy of forcing opponents to prove a negative is a well-known "fallacy of relevance," but that didn't stop Muller from faxing his evidence anyway. Two marvelous posts have also come from Seattle-based journalist/blogger David Neiwert, who in the process of proving that Coble doesn't know what he's talking about also skillfully eviscerates Republicans who are trying to claim the moral high ground. Apparently, we're supposed to believe that most elected Republicans objected to the round-up as it was happening. Yeah, tell me another one.

Historian after historian has stated that Coble is engaging in ignorant, happy-faced revisionism, but we still haven't gotten our promised apology. Greensboro journalist/blogger Ed Cone sums it up nicely:

Coble can now pull a Clinton and argue himself into a corner, or he can do the right thing and say he misunderstood history and said something wrong last week. We're waiting, Howard.

Oddly enough, none of the folks I've read who are diligently documenting Coble's wrong-headedness have bothered to mention the highly relevant fact of FDR's extraordinarily insulting views on race-mixing, discussed here Thursday. It's a strange absence, given the diligence with which everyone's been digging up information. Is the notion that FDR's racism might have played a role in the internment really that far beyond the pale? I sure don't think so.

One additional note: Eric Muller is the author of a book about - if you can believe this - the U.S. prosecution and imprisonment of young male Japanese-Americans who refused the draft while they and their families were in concentration camps:

In January of 1944 the government demanded still more. It announced that it would begin drafting the very same Japanese American men it was jailing on suspicion of disloyalty...They were to join the same army that had been guarding them for years, and that continued to aim weapons and searchlights at their parents and siblings.

Read the fascinating first chapter of Muller's Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II for a real eye-opener. [link]


2.8.03 - Thanks to Rattmouth for helping me create the new site logo and to Esotic for owning such a cool orangutan picture. I love you guys.


2.8.03 - The N&O finally got around to covering blogs last Wednesday. Longtime local writer Karen Mann does a decent job introducing the notion to a mainstream suburban crowd, although the clear line she draws between blogging and reporting seems off-base to me. Is there a particular reason solid journalism can't be part of a Weblog? None that I can see. Insisting there's an inherent difference between blogging and journalism - and many serious bloggers apparently do just that - has always struck me as bizarre.

I, um, also couldn't help notice that the list of Triangle blogs accompanying the article left me out. Serves me right for not updating for a month. [link]


2.6.03 - I can't think of a better intro to Japanese-American internment camps than these striking photocollages of their ruins. The site, by Cleveland State University photography prof Masumi Hayashi, is rich with information and visuals. Does anyone spend a full half hour at a site anymore? If so, I nominate this one. [Also posted at Metafilter] [link]


2.6.03 - Did he really just say that? On Tuesday, U.S. House member Howard Coble (R-NC), actually said on a Greensboro call-in radio show that he felt President Franklin Roosevelt did the right thing in ordering the round-up of all Japanese-American citizens during WW II:

"Some probably were intent on doing harm to us," he said, "just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."

Excuse me? "These Arab-Americans?" If the existence of a U.S. Congressman who justifies the round-up of all members of a given race on general suspicion isn't bad enough, you should know that the 71-year-old Coble - last seen annoying conservatives for being a lapdog of the RIAA - just got named head of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, which - get this - oversees the FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Prisons and administrative aspects of the INS. I feel less safe already.

Nicely demonstrating how out-of-touch he is, Coble told the N&O he was "taken aback" by the fuss. One wonders what rock Howard's been hiding under for the last 30 years (probably the same one as Cass Ballenger). And what are we to make of his disgustingly revisionist statement that the roundup was done to help the Japanese-Americans? You see, "it wasn't safe for them to be on the street," so we had to put them away for their own good. Good lord. Coble's a fool if he really believes that.

Laugh now, liberals; you won't like this next part. The reason it's ludicrous to suggest that FDR had Japanese-Americans' best interests at heart is simple: For much, if not all, of his life, FDR was a staunch anti-Japanese racist, and that means pre-Pearl Harbor as well as post-, thank you. For evidence, just take a look at the future liberal icon's views on race and immigration, clearly demonstrated in a famous series of editorials for the Macon Telegraph in 1925. Here's one from April 30, written as FDR was "taking the waters" at a nearby Georgia spring in hopes of easing his polio:

Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population. Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results...In this question, then, of Japanese exclusion from the United States, it is necessary only to advance the true reason -- the undesirability of mixing the blood of the two peoples. This attitude would be fully understood in Japan, as they would have the same objection to Americans migrating to Japan in large numbers.

Unfortunately, Japanese exclusion has been urged for many other reasons -- their ability to work for and live on much smaller wages than Americans -- their willingness to work for longer hours, their driving out of native Americans from certain fruit growing or agricultural areas. The Japanese themselves do not understand these arguments and are offended by them.

Marvelously revealing, isn't it? Arguing against Japanese immigration on economic grounds is horrid, but arguing against it on grounds of racial purity is, well, rather noble. If you want a bit of a laugh, check how many of the reviewers on this page avoid calling FDR an out-and-out racist while discussing Greg Robinson's book By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Screw that. Of course FDR was a racist. Here's my current favorite quote:

The argument works both ways. I know a great many cultivated, highly educated and delightful Japanese. They have all told me that they would feel the same repugnance and objection to having thousands of Americans settle in Japan and intermarry with the Japanese as I would feel in having large numbers of Japanese come over here and intermarry with the American population.

Ah, the cultivated and highly educated (that must be one to the left) - they know how to keep the races from engaging in that oh-so-"repugnant" miscegenation. The 1925 editorials conveniently get left out of the myth of Noble Liberal Roosevelt, giving juicy ammunition to outlets like David Horowitz' Front Page Magazine as it bashes left-leaning apologists with the clear evidence their hero was a racist. Fair enough. Guess we'll see if the mag goes after a Republican apologist like Coble. It's not hard to hear the same elitist garbage in Coble's remarks about "these Arab-Americans" we see all around us today. [Thanks to Greensboro journalist Ed Cone's blog for the first link] [link]


2.5.03 - I love it. Last night I actually heard Rush Limbaugh's replacement accuse the French government of opposing an invasion of Iraq because of its existing oil contracts. So, let me get this straight: France's foreign policy is being completely driven by concern over oil, but even suggesting that U.S. foreign policy might be taking oil into account is beyond the pale. Yeah, got it.

Of course, the oil thing is a bit of a moot question, as "liberals" like U.K. columnist Julie Burchill prove themselves more than willing to go to bat for Cheney with delightful quotes like this:

So what if it is about oil, in part? Are you prepared to give up your car and central heating and go back to the Dark Ages? If not, don't be such a hypocrite. The fact is that this war is about freedom, justice - and oil. It's called multitasking. Get used to it!

You can be sure Karl Rove's people are vigorously focus-grouping that message as we speak. But Burchill should know better than to blithely frame the issue in such a completely disgusting way. Let's see, my two choices are 1) "shock and awe" innocent women, children and men in Baghdad with a massive rain of bombs, or 2) give up central heating and go back to the Dark Ages.

Er, no. There are other options aside from beginning a bombing campaign that is sure to slaughter thousands of women and children. The position is morally bankrupt, and no amount of "realpolitik" icing can alter that fact. And don't give me that "containment doesn't work!" crap. The U.S.- U.K. sanctions policy - coupled with the repeated selling out of the rebel Kurds and other groups - didn't "contain" Saddam. It bolstered him, while killing thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians. Clinton-Gore ignored the chance to make fundamental changes to U.S. Iraq policy when it might have done some good, opening Iraq to trade and spreading democratic ideals while helping rebuild the country after the war (hey, it worked in Germany and Japan). Now that the warmongers are in full effect, we're told that the moronic policy of keeping Iraq poor and isolated under a totalitatarian dictator was the U.S.'s best shot at a peaceful solution, and that the time has come for a high-altitude slaughter of Iraqi people.

Good God. This is what the richest country on earth comes up with to spread its ideals? [link]


2.2.03 - The sudden closing of Humble Pie hasn't stopped Jazz Anew, thank the gods. The multi-faceted scene that sprung up around Matt Routh and Dave Zahn's Thursday night dance party took a serious hit, but Matt (aka DJ.exe) has bounced back nicely. It looks like Raleigh's most consistently fun regular bar night, along with two of Humble Pie's best bartenders, are moving to the Bickett Gallery, with a kickoff from 10pm-2am this coming First Friday. Hopefully, Jazz Anew will continue drawing its freaky mix of smart professional types, earnest breakdancers, house music connoisseurs and bi and gay folks each Thursday after that.

Durham, Carrboro and Chapel Hill headz can get a taste of what they've been missing tonight at Henry's Bistro, when DJ.exe brings his crates to Dyssembler, the "monthly electronic audio-visual event" run by good folks from WXYC. Anyone who went to the annoyingly overcrowded Dieselboy party at NV a few weeks ago might want to consider checking out how things are done, Raleigh style. And yeah, Matt's a good friend. But the beautifully open and unpretentious crowds at his parties sure don't show up because of me. [link]


2.3.03 - Two of the absolute greats of 20th century music - both percussionists - died over the weekend. Master conguero Mongo Santamaria - working with Perez Prado and Tito Puente in the 1950s and Cal Tjader in the 60s - helped invent the genre that now goes by the name "Latin Jazz." I highly recommend starting here if you don't know much about Santamaria; it's an amazing collection of his first two albums as a leader in the late 50s. The CD is filled with gorgeous, hypnotic Afro-Cuban rhythms in a mostly traditional style, along with jazzier gems like "Afro-Blue" (later covered by Coltrane).

Lou Harrison was a brilliant experimental composer, one of my favorites after John Cage. In fact, the two of them used to go "rummaging through the city's automobile junkyards" together, searching for "anything that would ping, bong, or twang," and "spent hours testing the pitch and resonance of flower pots in the local nurseries." Now that's my kind of musician. Harrison studied with Henry Cowell, Arnold Schoenberg and Virgil Thomson, and was an early advocate of the work of Charles Ives. He was particularly interested in blending musics from different cultures, once saying, "It is no longer apropos to know just the music that you were raised in, but you must know one other. Otherwise you are not a citizen of the twentieth-century world."

Amen. Be sure to scroll down at the page for this:

In 1967 Harrison met his life-partner William Colvig. With Colvig's training as an electrician and amateur musician and his interest in acoustics, the pair soon set off on a decades-long career of instrument building and tuning experiments. In 1971 they constructed an American gamelan, integrating Indonesian sounds, junk materials, Lou's old percussion ensemble experiences, and his devotion to pure intonation systems. Together they built a set of various sized metallophones from materials at hand or easy to procure...Aluminum slabs cut to length and carefully filed to pitch formed the keys of the large metallophone; #10 tin cans stacked in varying numbers served as its resonators...To this pitched percussion they added galvanized garbage cans and empty oxygen tanks cut to various lengths and struck with sawed-off baseball bats.

Colvig, who died in 2000, was a fascinating guy in his own right.

Thank you, Lou Harrison and Mongo Santamaria. Hope you're enjoying the music wherever you are. I'll be sure to continue enjoying yours. [Thanks to Walt Davis] [link]


2.1.03 - Level of eBay interest in space shuttle Columbia merchandise pre- and post-explosion. Yep, it's the same item.

A much better memento would be to simply remember this detailed, inspirational bio of Kalpana Chawla (above), the first Indian woman in space:

"When I joined engineering, there were only seven girls in the whole engineering college. I was the first girl to go into aerospace engineering. The department chair kept trying to channel me into electrical or mechanical, and I thought this is weird, why is he trying to do that?"

Finally, the professor got the message that she was determined to pursue aerospace engineering, and he would tell his other students, 'She's here because this is what she wants to do'. Said she: "That's the message I want to give other women: do something because you really want to do it. Even if it is a goal which is not necessarily within reach."

Apparently, she came from a very conservative Indian family:

...all hell broke loose when Kalpana revealed plans to study aeronautical engineering in Chandigarh, with uncles and other relatives joining in the uproar. Her siblings, however, stood by her. "Our family did not allow us to leave home and study elsewhere, but we want you to go ahead," elder sisters Sunita and Deepa advised Kalpana. When the opposition showed no signs of relenting, Kalpana simply packed her bags and told her mother, "I am going to Chandigarh to join."

Earth (above, from the shuttle last Sunday) could have used her for many more years. What a loss. More about the others as I find it. [link]


1.2.03 - Sharp column from the Locke Foundation's John Hood up at the National Review site, warning fellow conservatives to take John Edwards seriously. So far, Hood is the only conservative I've seen who's managed to grasp that the "He's a trial lawyer!" smear simply won't work against Edwards, who actually - gasp - behaved ethically during his legal career. Hood notes that many Republicans "appear poised to repeat" the mistake made by incumbent Senator Lauch Faircloth in 1998 by writing Edwards off as "easy to lampoon and demonize." Hood nails the key bit:

Americans may resent their lawsuit culture, but they are attracted to its practitioners, especially those attorneys who stand up for us regular people against the big, bad businesses or big, bad governments...Given the tear-jerking nature of some of his most-celebrated cases, involving maimed children and swindled adults, Edwards's background as a plaintiff's attorney is a political asset, not a liability.

I made the same point here on Nov. 13. Edwards' handlers are surely salivating at the thought of hearing the "TRIAL LAWYER!" smear in the 2004 race. There may be plenty of good reasons to resent the power of lawyers, but the same can easily be said for tight-fisted insurance companies, incompetent health care providers and criminally negligent businesses.

Which makes Hood's dismissive characterization of some of Edwards' cases as "tear-jerking" a tad misleading. What the free marketeer skips over is that corporations do sometimes ignore safety improvements - and thus do sometimes maim or kill innocent people - in the rush for the almighty buck. That's exactly what happened in Edwards' most famous case, which brought to light a string of injuries related to the Sta-Rite company's pool drain covers and won millions for Valerie Lakey, who now spends every night of her life getting nutrients fed to her by a machine. Thank heaven for trial lawyers, eh?

There's one other wrong note in Hood's generally perceptive piece - the way he spins Faircloth's incompetent 1998 campaign. He correctly notes the Republican's "tactical error" in going personal (who can forget those hilariously off-key Arthur Finkelstein ads pairing Edwards and Clinton as "two tobacco-taxing liberals who have a habit of stretching the truth?"), but ignores Faircloth's difficulty forming coherent sentences and his absolute refusal to debate Edwards in public. Those not-so-minor details just might have had something to do with why neither candidate "spent much time debating" policy. Many factors played into Edwards' 1998 victory, but anyone who was here at the time could see that Faircloth also looked feeble on the campaign trail. That's why he deliberately avoided situations where he would have to think on his feet, a strategy that might have worked if he hadn't also come across as surprisingly fragile in his own ads. There were even unconfirmed rumors of a stroke. Regardless, any summary of the 1998 race has to include the Feebleness Factor, which was painfully obvious (if little discussed) at the time. [link]


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