Media Report Archive
half of June 2003
6.19.03 - Great news for sci-fi fans via Electrolite: The next installment of the amazing online political comic "Spiders" is due out tomorrow. If you haven't seen Patrick Farley's complex, beautifully drawn alternative history of the U.S. attack against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, you're in for a real treat. Imagine that the U.S. dropped one million tiny, spider-like recording devices into the country, which happens to already have its own anti-Taliban resistance movement led by Afghan women. The spiders scamper over the mountains looking for Osama bin Laden, monitored by volunteers in the U.S. who can talk directly to the folks on the ground. What a set-up, eh?
The dense and fascinating story, which takes place in a world just a little more connected than our own, moves things along with the briefest of glimpses into obviously complex characters. That's probably the major reason Farley's near-future scenario rings so true. And his page layouts - wow. They're some of. the most clever and experimental I've seen online, and a dramatic leap ahead of his previous work. Last we were told, the fourth "Spiders" installment was going to be the last. I hope that's not the case. [link]
6.19.03 - Don't forget: Instead of Jazz Anew tonight, there's live, blue-eyed-soulful house music from NYC's Tortured Soul at Retail. This is rare groove indeed for the area, with the mellow, modern 1970s vibe that always seems to get a room smiling. Of the mp3s, I particularly like "Epic" and the so-sweet "Don't Hold Me Down" (I'm hoping it'll have a little more bite live, but I'll leave satisfied either way). Thank Matt from the Soul Power list and the other Matt from the highly useful Triangle Future Music - two of the most community-minded promoters in the area and pals of mine, for full disclosure - for setting this one up. $5 before 10:30pm - how can you beat that? [link]
6.19.03 - Folks who blogged the Orrin Hatch "destroy their computers" story (from which the Senator is backing down already) should enjoy this pointed response from Rep. Rick Boucher at Ed Cone's site. Rather than simply allowing the world to feel his keyboard's righteous wrath, Cone got on the phone to do some (gasp) actual journalism. The co-founder of the Congressional Internet Caucus gives him plenty of juicy quotes:
On Hatch's proposal:
"Such a message would never be reported from committee, and if it made it past a filibuster in the Senate, we’d kill it in the House. The potential for targeting innocent computer users is enormous."
On Apple's new music service:
“It proves that people will pay for permanent, portable downloads. The recording industry should not fool around and waste time, it needs to deploy a Windows version.”
On Congress, which Boucher suggests is slowly figuring out the P2P issue:
“I think it is very important that members of Congress who make judgments on this have a working knowledge of computers and the Internet. Many do, but some members are technology-averse, including some, unfortunately, who are in positions of influence.”
Is that post any less "journalism" because it showed up on a weblog instead of a newspaper? Don't be ridiculous. Ed's careful blogging/reporting on the P2P issue (which annoyed the hell out of RIAA shill Howard Coble) provides a great model for others who want to try blurring the line for themselves. Despite obvious examples to the contrary, it's really not that hard to be opinionated and fair, or to get off your ass and work the phone once in a blue moon. It's looking more and more like Ed's model is the direction in which smart political bloggers will need to go if they're ever going to live up to their own "we're so powerful!" hype. [link]
6.19.03 - Here it is, as promised: The most jaw-droppingly ridiculous cartoon mascot ever. The folks at TotalObscurity call him Mr. Veiny, and while they miss the part where he tells crystal meth injectors to consider stopping, they do a fine job of translating his cheery messages:
Water is important! If you drink lots and lots of water while you shoot your veins full of toxic chemicals, your veins will remain nice and strong, able to deliver as much of the poison to your system as possible. Yay!
Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of the harm reduction approach to drug addiction. I also think the moronic RAVE Act Congress just passed will kill more people than it saves by discouraging club owners from a) having paramedics on call and b) allowing drug education groups to pass out literature. And, in case you missed it, Joe Biden's pet law has already enabled at least one direct attack on the First Amendment; it was recently used to shut down a benefit for pro-legalization groups in Montana. (That sound you hear is the salivating of prosecutors across the country.)
So, puritan moralizers aside, I agree you've got to reach addicts where they are with things like free needle exchanges and detailed, honest information the schools have always been too chicken to provide. It makes perfect public health sense. But come on - a smiling cartoon vein shouting "I feel great! Pump it up!" for crystal meth addicts? Forgive me if that seems a little, uh, tweaked. [link]
6.18.03 - Any straight editors out there who still believe closeted gay Republicans don't count as news should read this fascinating article from Cleveland Scene about the secret gay life of a ruthless longtime Republican county boss. The details offer a revealing glimpse of the outrageous hypocrisy required to live as a closeted right-wing politician. Here's one fave bit:
In the summer of 2001, Curry, who works for the Summit County Board of Elections, spotted Arshinkoff at the Leather Stallion, a gay bar on St. Clair. The Democrat made a point of greeting Arshinkoff "just to freak him out," he says.
Thirty minutes later, Arshinkoff came over and asked him to stay quiet about seeing him there, Curry says. Curry replied that it wasn't his style to out people. "It's just not my belief system," he says.
Arshinkoff seemed relieved. "If there's anything I can do for you, I'd be happy to do it," he said, according to Curry. Joking, Curry seized the gambit. He named two friends, both Democratic judges. "I want to see that the two of them never have any opponents," he said.
"I can do that," Arshinkoff responded.
There you go - the cost of being a closeted fag in the Republican party. The most awful thing about this story, of course, is that lots of folks knew Arshinkoff was gay but avoided publicizing it. It's called "enabling," y'all, and it's wrong. I understand it's a delicate issue, but as the case of Florida Republican Mark Foley proves (yes, that's a must-read), there comes a time when "dancing around the truth is just getting too weird to abide."
Is there any other issue on which journalists are so willing to violate the basic principles of their profession? On what journalistic grounds can you justify a situation where everyone in the state legislature and the local press - but no one in the general public - knows that a given right-wing politician is gay? Answer: None. The Republican Party platform "energetically" endorses the Defense of Marriage Act while denying what it calls "special legal protection" to lesbians and gays (free clue, Republicans: we just want the same legal protection straight folks already have). Given that, and the current push for civil unions/gay marriage, how on earth can any honest editor justify not asking a local gay Republican how they feel about gay and lesbian issues?
The very existence of a gay Republican politician is newsworthy. Avoiding asking tough questions of gay elected officials who prefer to live in the closet is a betrayal of everything journalism is supposed to be about. End of story. [link]
6.17.03 - Hallelujah. "Shit-for-brains" is now officially in the dictionary. And not a moment too soon - something tells me we're going to need that one a lot over the next few years. In case that's not enough of a reason to knock a drink or two back for James Murray sometime this week, the fine scholars at the Oxford English Dictionary also approved both "bazillion" and "gazillion," two of English's best words to say out loud. Feel free to use them frequently, as in, "George Bush's attempt to raise a gazillion dollars before the next election is a sure sign of last-ditch desperation amidst the public unraveling of all of his lies."
Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Anyway, the fact that the OED has expanded to include blunt (as a noun), argileh, grindcore, gaydar, crystal meth and both skank and skanky - as well as new, up-to-date listings for [cough] "basket," "package" and "hump" - is surely cause for some sort of celebration.
On the down side, I'm not sure why it's taken so long for some of the new additions to make the cut. A phrase like democratic socialism [pdf] is hardly 21st Century teenage slang. Neither is conflict of interest, community college, gay pride, low riding (around since the 1930s), hunter-gatherer or - good lord - technical support. Where have these people been? What criteria are they using? American Heritage had roach motel back in 2000. And what's up with only now including a medieval classic like "beyond the pale"? Did someone at OED drop that one behind a desk in 1892 or something?
I know I'm being silly, but indulge me on this one, if you don't mind. As a longtime word freak, I still remember the moment I first understood the idea of cognates in different languages. For some reason, it made me physically happy to think of an invisible network of connections between English, Spanish and French. Laugh if you must. Two years later, I felt a similar rush as the Germanic roots of my native tongue unfolded in front of my eyes. I still get a kick out of the fact that "handwriting" and "manuscript" are essentially the same word in two different languages, masquerading as some strange thing called English.
I loved it, and kept the interest alive as a high school teacher, once using tree branches and index cards to teach an elective on Greek and Latin roots. I pitched it as a sure-fire SAT-booster, but it was also just a helluva lot of fun. Once the kids got the hang of thinking of "astronaut" as "star-sailor," they were off. Hell, I could have built the whole trimester around phobias alone.
Ok, I'll stop now. Next on the agenda is what I promise is the most jaw-droppingly ridiculous cartoon mascot you've ever seen. No, seriously. Ever.
Ok, one teeny bit more: Getting ready for bed, I remembered this "brilliant and effective" book has been by my pillow for the last two weeks. Who knew "sardonic" was a toponym? According to dictionary.com, its bitter meaning might come from a plant on Sardinia "which was said to screw up the face of the eater." I hope it's true. [Thanks to bendy over at alt.music.chapel-hill for the OED pointer] [link]
6.17.03 - Two of NC's best bloggers - Eric Mueller at Is That Legal? and Monkeytime fave Ed Cone - have both pointed to articles in central NC newspapers that demonstrate exactly how angry many people in the Southeast are at the Bush administration's failure to live up to its commitments to the textile industry:
"...it is very easy to see that the problem is in Washington," said Jim Chesnutt, CEO of National Spinning Co. in Washington, N.C...
In a release issued Wednesday, the association groups reminded President Bush of comments he maded Dec. 6, 2001: "In short, I intend to ensure that the interests of our textile industry and workers are at the heart of our trade negotiations." Textile executives said Wednesday they expect the president to live up to his pledge.
"Ultimately, it comes back to President Bush," Moore said. "And quite frankly, his words and deeds haven't meshed so far."
Yeah, well, he got his fast track authorization out of you; there's nothing else the textile industry can do for him. Have a nice day. Is there any doubt that a smart global trade position could cut across party lines and play extremely well in the Southeast? So why isn't anyone really hammering this issue? [link]
6.17.03 - I know, it's not funny that SARS has hit UNC Hospitals just up the road in Chapel Hill. It's also a bit strange that James Reed, the person who died of "heart failure and pneumonia" at the height of the Triangle's recent scare, has tested negative for SARS, even though he worked for three days in the same building as the person who brought the virus here from Toronto. Now there's an interesting coincidence, eh?
Nevertheless, it's time for some art. And via Matt Haughey's always-fine weblog, a few gripping reports from just one of the many informative sites linked at SARSWatch. Hours of fascinating reading material you won't find in the local paper, and plenty of links to great photos related to the virus. [link]
6.16.03 - Two long posts about John Edwards tonight.
First, in a thoughtful column in the Greensboro News & Record, blogger Ed Cone wonders why John Edwards isn't playing to his strength as a populist lawyer on the campaign trail (he also pokes at Edwards' stale Web site, comparing it to Howard Dean's attempt to work the online grassroots). Interestingly, Cone suggests free trade as a subject Edwards could be working to his advantage:
If Edwards can cast himself as a sophisticated economic populist, someone who understands the good things that corporations do as well as the bad ones, maybe his campaign can get some traction. People have complicated feelings about global capitalism, recognizing it as a great engine of wealth creation that often grinds up individuals, industries and whole regions for fuel. There's not much call these days to dismantle the system, but there is a sense that things are too one-sided and that regular people have lost control of their own destinies.
Ah, to dream. It's a nice thought, Ed, but you're overlooking one vital point: Edwards' campaign is being run right out of the "New Democrat" playbook written by the fine conservatives at the Democratic Leadership Council. They've made it quite clear there will be no questioning of free trade, fast track or the ridiculously secretive and undemocratic way decisions are made at the WTO. Why, goshdarnit, raising populist concerns about the speed of the particular strain of globalization now being shoved down our throats is just the kind of "interest-group politics" that causes Democrats to lose elections!
They're cute when they splutter, aren't they? (Be sure to check the final paragraph in that last link.) It gets even better when the DLC goes into full demonization mode. Rather than address issues of basic democracy in trade negotiations, "New Dems" take the hilarious tack of slamming globalization skeptics as people who stand for the "renunciation of wealth and ambition." Sure, that's what the critics of Doha were doing - renouncing wealth and ambition. Whatever you say, DLC.
We've been over all of this before, of course. The real issue here is that the business-first "New Dems" have hijacked the Democratic Party away from ordinary citizens - citizens that John Edwards once had a reputation for protecting. Demanding that global trade agreements include a serious commitment to both U.S. workers and the environment is a huge no-no for money-hungry New Dems.
These are the folks John Edwards is hanging out with as he makes his longshot run for the White House (and hurts NC Democrats' chances of holding onto his Senate seat in the process). Ed Cone is right in wondering why Dems aren't articulating globalization issues more often. But he's wasting breath if he thinks there's a chance in hell John Edwards is going to be the man to lead that particular charge. [link]
6.16.03 - Second Edwards post tonight: Highly regarded political blogger Markos Zúniga, aka Daily Kos, is in the middle of an interesting (if early) series about the six top Democratic presidential candidates, including a not particularly hopeful take on Mr. Edwards. Zúniga claims our senior Senator must place fourth in both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries (ahead of Lieberman and Graham but trailing Kerry, Dean and Gephardt) in order to reach the all-important "Southern" round on Feb. 3, 2004. Even then, Zúniga says, Edwards must kick ass in at least three of the following primaries: South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Delaware and Arizona.
Predicting's a silly game (especially given the absurd ease with which voters switch allegiance during primaries), but the above scenario seems unlikely, to say the least. My Magic 8-ball is warning me to expect an early Edwards withdrawal after the "NASCAR Democrat" hype comes crashing to the ground in mid-February. When I ask the 8-ball if Edwards' presidential ambitions will end up handing a Senate seat to the slavering Republicans just outside the light of the campfire, it tells me to "Ask again later." I'm not taking that as a good sign.
You know, at this point only two things about Edwards' bizarre presidential run make sense:
1) Edwards is positioning himself for vice-president as much as anything. Assuming he actually wins a Southern primary or two, his money, his youth, his accent and his position as an Iraq war apologist will make him a formidable choice for that secondary slot.
2) The guy must not like being in the Senate very much. [link]
6.16.03 - I laughed out loud when I saw the News & Observer's Sunday "Q" section yesterday. "Where are the weapons?" asked the ridiculously mealy-mouthed lead article. "Knowing all not possible" opined the second. It briefly noted the possibility that "information was intentionally manipulated to support certain conclusions" while spending paragraph after paragraph offering excuses for the "imperfection" of the heavily manipulated Cheney/Bush "intelligence" used to justify bombing a country that had never attacked us. As if that wasn't enough, we also got a balancing opinion from a Duke University professor that began, "A failure to find weapons of mass destruction does not prove the war on Iraq was based on a lie."
What a crock of shit. If Orage Quarles and Melanie Sill are looking for reasons their paper's market penetration is shrinking in Wake County, they should look no farther than this kind of soft-pedaled pablum. The fact that the N&O can't bring itself to address, for just one example, the blatant lies Colin Powell told before the UN in February - lies that Quarles & Co. passed along as true in editorials they have yet to correct - is all you need to know to understand why so many of us have written the Raleigh paper off on national and international issues. I publicly challenge anyone at the N&O to explain Powell's description of this translated conversation as anything other than a deliberate lie:
The State Department's transcript of the actual conversation makes it evident that Powell had embellished the quote to make it appear much more incriminating. Instead of being a directive to "clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas and the abandoned areas," as Powell claimed, the transcript shows the message from headquarters was merely "to inspect (emphasis added) the scrap areas and the abandoned areas." The damaging admonition that Powell said he quoted, "Make sure there is nothing there" is not in the transcript and appears to be an invention.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, the State Department's press and public affairs offices said I should study Powell's presentation posted on the department's Web site. Instead of clarifying or explaining the discrepancy, the posted material simply confirmed the disparity.
I've got $25 that says Quarles and Sill can't do it. And yet, here's their paper, four months later, still dancing around the issue of the Bush administration's outright fabrications on the road to war. That's war, mind you. Not budget nonsense or redistricting shenanigans, but war. With cluster bombs and innocent civilians dying. And the N&O - that famous defender of the weak against powerful monied interests - is still unable to call a spade a spade. Can you say "irrelevant" to today's news consumers? I knew you could.
McClatchy, are you listening? Your Raleigh daily is rapidly losing whatever semblance of respect it once had in this area. Why should we bother with tentative half-steps that do a disservice to the truth when we can easily find sharper, more intelligent analysis at the click of a mouse? Answer: We shouldn't
It's all downhill from here, McClatchy. Better get used to the ride. [link]
6.15.03 - After last month's evil, carefully orchestrated display aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln - in which a jerk who went AWOL from his cushy National Guard assignment during the Vietnam War was presented as someone with a heroic fighter pilot past while the media obediently looked the other way - I don't want to hear a word about the glee many of us are taking in this hilarious bit of proof that our Fearless Liar (who apparently can't tell if a Segway is turned on before attempting to ride it) just happens to be all-too-human:
Ha. We can play the easy visual game, too, Mr. Rove. By the way, be sure to check awolbush.com's comparison of the military records of now-prominent Democrats and Republicans. Not totally fair, I know, but still an eye-opener. [link]
6.13.03 - Just got back from the Jazz Anew weekly at Bickett Gallery, where the vibe in the room was intimate and friendly, as usual. Sitting on one of the couches, I had a conversation with a friend about meditation, sex and yoga that reminded me why I've always been drawn to Buddhism, even if I never follow through with it for any length of time. (Maybe next time around I'll take existence a bit more seriously.)
Anyway, there's a Bikram Hot Yoga place in town which I've been meaning to check out, and this friend's recommendation did the trick. I'll let you know if I see any benefits aside from 100-megaton atomic testicles. Meanwhile, here's this:
The upshot is that a number of lamas generally regard
Oh, and be sure to keep next Thursday open. Jazz Anew is moving to Retail that night to host a special live show of ultra-sweet and soulful house by NYC's electronic trio Tortured Soul. Just think of it as good ol' fashioned Western yoga. [link]
6.12.03 - Had a fun chat on Monkeytime TV last night with Margaret Mullen and Greg Hatem, two of the driving forces behind the latest bloom of hope for the future of downtown Raleigh. Mullen is the new president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, where she arrived after working wonders in Phoenix. I figure anyone who helped turn an empty, shapeless city core into the country's "most sought-after example" of a downtown renaissance is worth a listen.
Greg Hatem is a developer who bought up lots of property in the warehouse district about 7-8 years ago (just before prices skyrocketed, I'm told). His company, Empire Properties, focuses more than most on things like preserving historic character. Hatem also seems to appreciate the role that art and history play in creating a thriving downtown. Two years ago, he donated the use of an empty warehouse so that Raleigh's orphaned Contemporary Art Museum could host the amazing Memories of Nature, one of the best gallery shows I've seen around here. And when a caller asked what the guests thought of downtown Asheville's historic urban trail (designed by volunteers and built with donations, by the way), a visibly enthusiastic Hatem said one of the things Raleigh most needed to do was cultivate its heritage in similar ways.
They were fascinating guests; the calls came nearly non-stop. It's obvious that a lot of people in Raleigh are ready for something interesting to happen downtown. Hell, most of Mullen's suggestions were common sense enhancements that should have been made long ago - large green banners hanging along the street to direct folks to public parking, for instance. Opening the private parking lots that close at 5pm. Stopping predatory towing. Water gardens. Public art. It's an embarrassment, really, that Raleigh has yet to implement this stuff. Mullen said the city is about 15 years behind everyone else, which makes me (perhaps unfairly) think of former mayor Tom Fetzer and what I recall as his near-total lack of vision for downtown, and total lack of willingness to commit any money for public culture. Whatever happened to that ol' drag-queen attacker, anyway?.
Ah, who cares; it's his loss. Lots of folks in Raleigh now want to see a unique, communal downtown life, but that's only going to happen if different kinds of people toss their ideas into the mix and convince the more stodgy property owners to expand their limited notions of what downtown can be. The opportunity's clearly right here in front of us. Why shouldn't you have as much of a say in this as someone whose conception of "vibrant downtown culture" is yet another sports bar?
I guess we'll see if the current excitement translates into more downtown landlords willing to host experimental art shows. I'm hopeful, but not holding my breath. [link]
6.11.03 - Great information and visuals at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. The thoroughness of the site's documentation of the racist past - from Daddy Rice to Jar Jar Binks - can be stunning. [via the archive at sharpeworld] [link]
6.11.03 - In this week's Indy, Bob Geary explains what's most absurd about the Meg Scott Phipps scandal:
[T]he saddest thing about Phipps is how stupidly she ran her campaign, because if she'd done things the old-fashioned way, they would've smelled just as bad but would have been legal...one idiot connected to Amusements of America, the company she picked, was giving big wads of cash and writing checks over the "legal" $4,000 limit to intermediaries, instead of doing what Strates had always done--get the concession operators to kick in and pay them back later with smaller fees on their "joints."
That's a fun little allegation. This kind of thing goes on all the time, perfected by years of practice and kept at a slightly lower pitch so it doesn't draw so much attention. Yeah, that sounds about right. Here's the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, Barbara Allen, in the N&O last Sunday:
"I don't think you can single out one party for political corruption. We've got plenty in both parties, I'm sure."
Plenty? Is that so? Well, Barbara, you'd be in a position to know. Any chance you could, er, do something about it? [link]
6.10.03 - Toronto began issuing gay marriage licenses yesterday. Ontario's highest court joined the courts of British Columbia and Quebec by declaring that a heteros-only definition of marriage is a violation of the Constitution. You can imagine the shrieking in right-wing religious circles as it slowly dawns on them that Canada is leaving anti-gay discrimination behind:
All three contenders for the leadership of the governing Liberals plus the leaders of three of the four opposition parties in Canada's parliament Tuesday expressed their unequivocal support for providing equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Meanwhile, back in the land of the free, it's hard to find a Democrat willing to stand up for a radical concept like full social and legal equality:
"It is disheartening that in 2003 six of the nine Democratic candidates - including all of the front-runners - do not support full equality for our families," said Sean Cahill, Director of the Task Force Policy Institute and an author of the report. "Arguing that anything less than the freedom to marry is acceptable is arguing that GLBT people should be content with less than full equality under the law."
I doubt most straight voters know that John Edwards' position on civil unions - let the states handle them - leaves same-sex partners ineligible for Social Security and other federal benefits. (So much for equality, eh, John?) Even the current Straight Gay Savior can't bring himself to say "gay marriage" in public:
Dean, however, does not support gay marriage, as he believes the concept of marriage is a religious issue. As he recently told the Advocate magazine, "the issue for me is not marriage but equal rights under the law. If the Catholic Church doesn't want to marry gay people, I think that's the Catholic Church's right."
I must have missed the day where supporting "gay marriage" became equivalent to forcing the Catholic Church to perform one. Dean's attempt to spin "marriage" as a purely religious word is, frankly, pathetic. Does he seriously expect lesbian and gay folks to believe words like "spouse" and "unmarried" have no civil significance? Please. They're enshrined in all sorts of laws that have nothing to do with religion; he knows that. And screw all of this "civil union," "domestic partnership" and (love this one) "adult interdependent relationships" garbage; that was yesterday. Here's today:
"Only full marriage with all of its tangible and intangible benefits, its social resonance and its personal significance will stand up to the fair and reasonable measure of equality that we as Canadians have as our core belief."
Hey, isn't equality a core belief here, too? So why is the entire Democratic presidential field buying the conservative consultant line about the supposed third rail of "gay marriage"? And why are so many fags and dykes settling for this insulting "We'll give you your civil rights later" nonsense without a fight? Because Gephardt has a lesbian daughter? Because Edwards lets his kids play with the twins over at Elizabeth Birch and Hilary Rosen's place?
Is either of those supposed to mean anything to me? Look, it's simple: My right to equal protection under the law is not negotiable. Edwards, Gephardt, Dean and all the rest know this, but they insult us anyway by refusing to say it out loud. Screw 'em. There's no way I'll support a candidate who can't even be bothered to try telling Americans that gay marriage is a basic right demanded by the U.S. Constitution. [link]
6.10.03 - Ed Cone has some interesting thoughts about life in Greensboro-Winston Salem - and downtown development in general - in response to a Forbes article ranking the area 38th on its "Best Cities for Singles" list. He nails it with this:
Cool happens in increments before it explodes, and little things are going on now. The neo-hippy troupe converting the old junk shop down by Undercurrent may or may not succeed in creating the “artists’ collaborative” they envision, but that’s the kind of thing we need to reclaim those great old buildings, one by one. The City should be doing everything possible in terms of tax policy, parking rules, etc. to encourage such activity.
Amen. Downtown Raleigh could use some of that kind of encouragement, too. Instead, we seem to be getting condos and more condos. And more condos. Maybe something like this would help.
Delicate political sensibilities are part of the reason that a more complete picture of the German resistance has been so long in coming. During the Nazi era the breadth of internal opposition was hidden from the German people and, except for the failed Stauffenberg plot...from the rest of the world. Yet Gestapo records reveal that approximately 800,000 Germans in a population of more than 66 million were jailed for active resistance during the Reich's 12-year reign.
Less than a million out of 66 million over 12 years. Is that supposed to be heartening or horrifying? I'm feeling a little of both over here. Because, you know, I'm not so sure the ratio in the United States would be any better if - god forbid - we ever ended up in Ashcroft's dream world. Now that I think about it, actually, 1 in 66 citizens willing to seriously oppose an internal fascist takeover sounds about right.
Anyway, I don't know what keeps you going, but one thing that helps me are specific stories about citizens like Mildred and Arvid Harnack. They were among the leaders of a large left-wing activist circle the Nazis called "The Red Orchestra." The group had about 100 members and engaged in underground resistance for over seven years before being broken in 1942. Both Harnacks were executed.
[By the way, here's something for anyone who needs a succinct intro to the Stalinist vision of humanity: After the war, East German textbooks changed Arvid's final words from "I believe in the power of love" to "I die as a convinced Communist." Folks, it just doesn't get any more revealing than that.]
Fans of outdated notions like, oh, political courage might also enjoy this essay about Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, perhaps the most vocal anti-Nazi in Germany's spiritual [cough] community. It's a fascinating read from beginning to end, exploring among other things the relationship between German Jews and certain Christians who wanted to save them from Hitler only to "complete" them in Christ. Beats Auschwitz, I guess. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis, too.
Downer, I know. Let's try someone a bit more fun. Meine Damen und Herren, I give you the world's most famous photomontage artist, John Heartfield (that's him screaming at the toad above). One of a group of Berlin Dadaists credited with a more political approach to the movement, Heartfield has as solid a claim to the title of the 20th Century's Premier Punk as anyone I can imagine. At the height of Germany's anti-British hysteria during World War I, for example, Heartfield decided it was a perfect time to Anglicize his name (it had been Helmut Herzfeld). A year later, he and George Grosz began publishing an anti-war magazine, New Youth. He joined the Communist Party in 1918, helped produce biting manifestos with titles like The Artist as Scab, and was present at the 1920 First International Dada Fair in Berlin, which included a sculpture titled Prussian Archangel - "a lifesize mannequin of a soldier with the head of a hog, suspended from the ceiling." The public and art establishment were outraged; the artists were charged and fined 300 francs for defaming the military. Heartfield wasn't bothered; he just kept lobbing graphic bombs at Germany's growing police state, including the beautifully creepy and provocative "Self-Portrait with Police Commissioner" from 1927. He also began a long association with AIZ, a magazine that at its peak reached half a million people a week.
And then came Adolph. When the National Socialists strutted onto center stage, Heartfield really found his voice. Scathing collages like "Hurrah, The Butter Is All Gone" (a personal fave, like some twisted Nazi Norman Rockwell), "The Cross Was Not Heavy Enough," and "The Real Meaning of the Hitler Salute" were perfect for exposing the wealthy industrialists, church leaders and military expansionists behind the Nazi rise to power.
Here's how one site describes the effect of Heartfield's work:
As Germany spiraled ever downward into the abyss of fascism, Heartfield's art became increasingly acrid and aggressively political. In unrelenting denunciations of the Nazis and their backers, his works became ingrained in the mind and eye of a generation. Every week, a half a million copies of AIZ would be distributed to anti-Fascists impatient for the latest Heartfield photomontage...
The situation had become dire. There were mass arrests and executions, the concentration camps were beginning to fill up. Recognizing the power of Heartfield's art, the Nazis were determined to arrest him, but he escaped to Prague in 1933, where he continued his artistic work against the terror in his homeland. The Nazi regime protested his being able to exhibit in exile and demanded his extradition, ultimately depriving him of German citizenship. After the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia he made a narrow escape to London, where he organized anti-Fascist groups, spoke at political rallies and wrote on the relationship of art and politics.
Take a moment to think about what it meant to distribute the toad collage at the top of this post - in Hitler's freaking Germany - with the caption, "Voice From The Swamp: Three thousand years of consistent inbreeding prove the superiority of my race!" I'm laughing, sure, but also shaking my head in wonder. Or this one of Hitler as a butcher ready to carve up France over the words, "Don't be frightened. He's a vegetarian." Looks like Heartfield beat the Residents to it by about 40 years. Hell, here's one that could pass for the cover of a Dead Kennedys single. AIZ even had the guts to publish a special issue during the 1936 Berlin Olympics - with detailed maps of concentration camps that were then being built. Just imagine how edgy those images must have been in that atmosphere, and how much courage it took to go after Hitler, Goering and the rest so directly.
Too bad that wasn't enough, though. Why did so many Germans completely fail to notice what they were losing? Is it too facile to answer that by asking why so many Americans are completely failing to notice it now?
6.7.03 - Since no one else entered, looks like I win the pool. As predicted, Meg Scott Phipps (right) finally resigned. It sure is interesting to go back and read some of Phipps' previous comments in light of what we now know - namely, that she was lying through her teeth from the start:
In N.C. Board of Elections hearings a year ago, Phipps testified that she didn't realize her campaign was repaying McLamb's debts. Documents seized in the federal investigation show otherwise: The morning after she took office, for example, Phipps emailed McLamb to ask for his loan account numbers.
Don't expect this scandal to go away; the details get more salacious by the minute. Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Blanton has just been indicted on charges of witness tampering, lying to the FBI, obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury - including lying about his extramarital affair with an unnamed "official of the Department of Agriculture."
Gosh, wonder who that could be. I've said before that I feel for Phipps' two young sons, and the details now emerging only solidify that feeling. I hope I'm wrong, and that Blanton was having an affair with former campaign manager Linda Saunders - or even former Hee-Haw guest and assistant commissioner Bobby McLamb (left) - but with prosecutors claiming the affair is what gave Blanton "motive to participate in concealment of possible wrongdoing," we can be forgiven for suspecting the worst. The indictment clearly places Blanton and Phipps together at the top of a huge heap of lies:
On April 1, 2002, a News & Observer reporter questioned Phipps about the McLamb loan payments...that night, Phipps, Blanton and Saunders got together in a Raleigh townhouse and concocted a story to tell the reporter: that Phipps never offered to help McLamb pay off his loan and did not know about the payments. The reporter had requested copies of checks written by Phipps' campaign. The indictment says the trio whited out the memo lines on the checks, where McLamb's loan number was written.
In the following weeks, Blanton, along with an unnamed person, pressured Saunders to lie to the State Board of Elections and to state and federal agents about Phipps' knowledge of the loan payments, the indictment says. He told Saunders to "stick to the story" concocted at the townhouse.
"Saunders was repeatedly told that if Commissioner Phipps' knowledge of her campaign's payment of the McLamb loan became public, Commissioner Phipps would lose her job and Saunders would then lose her job," the indictment says. "Saunders was then reminded that, due to her financial situation, Saunders could not afford to lose her job."
Well, that sure does help explain the $68,000-a-year "special assistant" position created for Saunders after she told her story to the Board. The devil really is in the details, isn't it? Be sure to refresh yourself about the specifics of Saunders' testimony; the sheer chutzpah becomes comedy gold in light of what we now know. "Meg doesn't keep up with the finances," Saunders said with a straight face. "Numbers were just not her thing."
Is there any doubt that Phipps is about to be indicted? Hell, at this point I wouldn't be surprised to see her father, revered former governer Bob "I could beat Easley's ass" Scott, threatened with indictment as well. It sure would be an effective way to get Phipps to plead guilty. The former governor's possible role was the subject of speculation yesterday from the N&O's Rob Christensen, who noted that "Many of the things [Phipps] was accused of doing wrong were once standard fare in politics." Christensen linked the shift in attitude to Watergate, but ultimately let Phipps off the hook too easily:
We can only guess how much Bob Scott advised his daughter on how to get elected agriculture commissioner in 2000. Scott himself was called before the grand jury Thursday. But if he told his daughter how things used to be done, he did her a disservice.
Come on, this is a 47-year-old woman we're talking about here. And, as Charlotte Observer columnist Jack Betts pointed out last summer, Phipps also broke campaign laws that were already in place when her famous father was in kindergarten:
Phipps is a lawyer and former administrative law judge, the daughter of former Gov. Bob Scott and granddaughter of the late Gov. W. Kerr Scott. She professed to be unaware of some basic state law, including the 70-plus-year-old ban on corporate contributions and the state law banning cash contributions of more than $100.
These are the ABCs of campaign finance law. Only a political incompetent could be ignorant of them. There are more complex campaign laws, the intricacies of which would bore you to tears. But a political candidate and lawyer professing ignorance of the ban on corporate contributions, or the requirement of detailed information about contributions of $100, is about as credible as a 16-year-old professing ignorance of the meaning of a red light.
We also know Linda Saunders testified that she "sometimes turned to Phipps' father, Bob Scott, with questions," and that the old-school pol "learned very quickly that things weren't done like they used to be." So any lack of awareness of relevant laws doesn't seem to have been the problem; the Innocent-Meg-Misled-By-Dear-Old-Pa thing isn't going to work.
If I had to offer a theory, I'd suggest that Phipps and Blanton knew full well the plan was illegal. They bet on not being noticed, perhaps encouraged by Phipps' father's stories about How Things Were Done in the past.
They lost. [link]
The media cops, like televangelical forerunners, prepare us for the advent, final coming or Rapture of the police state...Just as the murder-mystery is always an exercise in sadism, so the cop-fiction always involves the contemplation of control. The image of the inspector or detective measures the image of "our" lack of autonomous substance, our transparency before the gaze of authority. Our perversity, our helplessness. Whether we imagine them as "good" or "evil," our obsessive invocation of the eidolons of the Cops reveals the extent to which we have accepted the manichaean worldview they symbolize...
We propose an esoteric hermeneutical exegesis of the Surrealist slogan "Mort aux vaches!" We take it to refer not to the deaths of individual cops...mere leftist revenge fantasy...but rather to the death of the image of the flic, the inner Control & its myriad reflections in the NoPlace Place of the media - the "gray room" as Burroughs calls it. Self-censorship, fear of one's own desires, "conscience" as the interiorized voice of consensus- authority. To assassinate these "security forces" would indeed release floods of libidinal energy, but not the violent running-amok predicted by the theory of Law 'n' Order.
Phrases like "esoteric hermeneutical exegesis" aside, I think Hakim Bey makes a provocative, convincing case in that 1990s essay (here's another good one). Don't get me wrong; I still like a well-filmed gun ballet as much as the next guy; it's just that lately I'm more interested in visual fictions that aren't so dependent for their power on the imagery of violence and state control.
Like Six Feet Under. It's as good as mega-conglomerate television is ever gonna get in my lifetime, I'm sure. Especially after a 12-hour day, a beer and some early Nat King Cole (scroll down, drum-n-bass heads, for the speedy genius of "Jack the Bellboy"). When I finished my lab experiment in slow-roasting red potatoes with lots of garlic and dill from my friend Stef's garden, and noticed the season finale I'd missed Sunday was about to come on, I sure was one temporarily contented monkey.
Trust me; it's been a rare feeling. Only the most dedicated crusader would begrudge a citizen some not-so-mindless vegging in front of the TV after all that, right? Right. So anyway, I watched the season finale and drank another beer; both did me just fine. The show's had its flaws (it's mainstream TV, duh; the plots are gonna be way too conveniently abbreviated), but this episode once again dealt with deep issues in pretty fascinating ways. Lust for self-destruction, the limits of family, the need for betrayal, the intrigue of new relationships and the rekindling of old ones...all handled at least as well as in that adorably sappy art flick you hated yourself for liking so much. The finale also satisfactorily wrapped up HBO's obnoxious serial teasing, which means our house will probably start subscribing again when the show comes back next season. Easy access to non-stop Shrek, Ocean's Eleven and All Over The Guy is just too damn captivating - and yeah, I'm being kind of serious.
Have I mentioned death yet? Obviously one of the main draws, and Six Feet Under really peaks when handling the spiritual stuff (and non-monogamous relationships, but that's an entirely different post). Nate's car ride o' doom at the end of the show was a fun scene, and so was Claire's beautiful, uplifting visualization of an afterlife. Let's hope it upstages the standard version in lots of monkey heads (hey, whatever works). And the show manages to cover all this without the eyeball-grabbing trappings of fictional cop culture. For some reason, that seems like a more difficult achievement. [link]
6.2.03 - Guess what? The rookie cop who arrested Eric Rudolph makes $10 an hour. That's $20,800, before taxes, for a year's worth of police work. Wonderful. Here are some more odd details and useful links for deepening your understanding of this particular terrorist murder spree:
"What in the world were you thinking when you did this?" Listen to three audio clips from nurse Emily Lyons (above), who was brutally wounded in the 1998 abortion clinic bombing in Birmingham that also killed a police officer. Lyons publicly challenged her anonymous attacker only a month after being robbed of almost all sight, and then announced to the world that her work would go on. What an amazing person.
Court TV's Crime Library has a six-part series that's the best summary I've seen of the case, with lots of interesting details. I'd forgotten, for instance, that the 1997 bombing at The Otherside, a lesbian and gay bar in Atlanta, eventually caused the place to close:
McMahon and Ford decided to close the Otherside, largely because of difficulties that followed the attack. The total cost of the damage was almost $700,000. Insurance paid less than a third of it. There were also many lawsuits filed by patrons who had been at the Otherside on that fateful night. According to McMahon, all the lawsuits were eventually dismissed by the courts or decided in the club’s favor, but the court battles inevitably sapped money, time and energy.
Lawsuits? Three cheers for the marvelous queers who were community-minded enough to sue the owners of a bar targeted by a homophobic terrorist. You go, girls.
More: There's an amazing interview at the Southern Poverty Law Center site with a woman who was married for six years to one of Eric Rudolph's brothers (not the gay one). During the 2001 chat, Deborah Rudolph provided lots of fascinating info about Eric's life, including how much he made selling pot ($60,000 a year at one point), his favorite nickname for television ("the Electronic Jew," natch), and her theory about why Rudolph's brother Dan sawed off his own hand and sent a videotape of the mutilation to the FBI. This part also stuck out:
IR: Did you know Eric well? What was it like to be with him?
RUDOLPH: Oh God, yes. Eric stayed in my home a lot. He would sleep all day, then stay up all night and eat pizza and smoke pot and watch movies by Cheech and Chong. I mean, what do I not know about the guy? If you were to walk into my house, you’d see him hanging out with his brothers, talking about an issue they were discussing on TV with a joint hanging out of his mouth. They’d say, "Hey dude, let’s eat a pizza." It was like "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure."
I wonder if Eric preferred "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey." You know, with Death around.
By the way, the Asheville Citizen-Times has made all of its past Eric Rudolph coverage available on one page (not very well-organized, but still useful). I liked this one from February 1998; it describes a few interesting local reactions to the media and FBI.
And let's not forget the Fayetteville abortion clinic bombing attempt that took place after the hunt for Rudolph kicked into high gear. Is this copycat still at large?
Finally, as a necessary counterpoint to the wave of overgeneralizations already appearing about the residents of western North Carolina, be sure to read this thoughtful CNN article from March 2001 about the "culture of distrust for government" among many people in the area. The relevant history includes the horrific forced relocations of the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears, a large number of Civil War deserters who "had no interest" at all in fighting for the Confederacy (mentioned here recently), theft of land by mining, logging and railroad companies as well as the federal government, and, of course, still-fresh memories of the government's disgusting, violent and incomprehensible battle against citizens who dare to make their own liquor:
"Do you remember what they used to do in these mountains in the '20s and '30s?" area resident David Luther told USA Today. "Moonshine. Who do you think it was that used to lock up our grandfathers for making moonshine?"
I'd probably still be pissed about that, too. Now, here's the kicker:
Despite the region's history, visits to Andrews in the summer and fall of 2000 uncovered very little antipathy toward the federal task force. In fact, quite the opposite seemed to be true.
As the snide slurs ("Elvis Presley commemorative pocket knives" - yeesh) once again start flying in the direction of the western North Carolina mountains, and editors stretch the definition of "newsworthy" to fill space with hillbilly color, you might want to keep that thought in mind.
5.30.03 - Via a scientific friend comes a link to a neat collaborative art site, whose photography section includes a fascinating pointer to some thoughts about the right to photograph people and items in public view:
The right to take photographs is now under assault more than ever. People are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples include photographing industrial plants, bridges, and vessels at sea. For the most part, attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.
Governments love to place cameras on street corners to keep track of unruly citizens, but prefer to reserve for themselves the right to take pictures. Whatever. Politicians aren't the only ones who can use a camera:
Bystanders have the right to record police officer enforcement activities by camera, video recorder, or other means...An officer shall not seize, compel or otherwise coerce production of these bystander recordings by any means without first obtaining a warrant. Without a warrant, an officer may only request, in a non-coercive manner, that a bystander voluntarily provide the film or other recording. These requests should be made only if the officer has probable cause to believe that a recording has captured evidence of a crime and that the evidence will be important to prosecution of that crime.
Sure, I have mixed feelings about photographers who steal my soul without permission, but I'll live with those. Much more important in the 21st century is making sure everyone knows his or her rights and remedies when stopped or confronted for - gasp - taking pictures [pdf]:
The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs.
At the very least you should know what laws they're breaking:
They Have No Right to Confiscate Your Film
Running a weblog is a chore. Everyday a decision arises about what, if anything, to write and post. Regular publishing is a blogging “value”. Being regular is thought to be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for weblogging success. I have managed a weblog for just about a year and I’ve been less than successful at maintaining a regular flow...I have to admit it. The biggest reason for the failing flow of my blog has been sloth, pure laziness, seasoned with fear...of failure.
...I’ve discovered that writing is actually work, that [it] takes time and, like bread dough, needs to rest between kneading. And I like it.
Here's my favorite part:
We all have something to say and we all have an obligation to figure out how to say it. We are not all literary geniuses, but we are all citizens who must pay for the privilege of our citizenship by participating with our ideas.
5.25.03 - Take time to linger over this fascinating article about a major financial company's response to the male-to-female transformation of one of its employees. The story of how Prudential Financial treated 6' 2" windsurfer Mark Stumpp as he transitioned to Margaret Stumpp (above) serves as a much-needed counterpoint to the constant stream of news about the brutal, murderous reactions many transsexual folks encounter. It's full of inspirational tidbits like these:
One of the first trials came a few weeks after Stumpp's return, when they took a call from a longtime client, a labor union whose members' reputations as men's men did not gibe with her heels and pantyhose. The union officials asked to meet Stumpp to re-evaluate her suitability to continue managing their business. The department braced to lose the account.
The meeting was scheduled over dinner at a steakhouse in a Midwestern city...The first few hours were spent discussing the stock market and the economy, smoothed over by a couple of drinks. Gradually, the men's doubts appeared to ease.
"You know, you really don't look so bad," one leaned over to tell Stumpp. She chalked it up as a compliment. Prudential kept the account.
Like the story of gay high school football captain Corey Johnson, Margaret Stumpp's courageous stand clearly demonstrates that - homophobic morons like Rick Santorum aside - people are actually capable of getting over their uncomfortableness with sexual identity issues, including relatively unusual subjects like sex reassignment surgery. If you simply honor the fear and uncertainty that surrounds transgenderism while also treating transgendered folks with basic dignity, it's really not that big a deal to be a boss, friend or family member of someone who's transitioning. Ta da.
Just don't forget to call "bullshit" on obvious bullshit, like Prudential did with regard to Margaret's post-operative use of the women's bathroom:
To ease the uncertainties of some female colleagues, Andrews set aside a small bathroom for her for six months. After that, she could use the women's room. Six months and a day after Stumpp returned, a female employee protested Stumpp's presence in the adjoining stall of the women's room. "Grow up!" Andrews said.
The rebuke was meant to set a tone, he said. While the company did not expect all its employees to accept Stumpp personally, they would be expected to do so professionally.
And that, ladies and gentlemen (and everyone else), is that. [link]
Nowadays, many Iraqis visiting Sulaymaniyah and other Kurdish areas are shocked to see women in senior government positions, not covered by head-to-toe garments or simply walking in the streets unaccompanied by a male relative.
The Shiite clerics have moved quickly to constrain the freedom of women as a show of their authority. That has left many women in these southern cities, especially professionals like Ms. Jacob, wrestling with the losses and gains in the post-Hussein era.
The cleric appointed to run the educational system in Basra, Ahmad al-Malek, declared that female teachers would not be allowed to receive their emergency salary payment if they appeared without a head scarf.
Female students at the university said they were being harassed by followers of these Shiite clerics for not wearing head scarves, and many shops in the market have put up signs that read, "My sister, cover your hair."
"My brother, up yours" would be a nice response. Can you imagine having the freedom to walk, talk and dress however you like and then watching it get taken away? Where the hell are all those secular Shiites when you need them? Oh, right, they're being led by a U.S.-sponsored shyster who's almost universally disrespected by Iraqis:
"Many in the Pentagon have been surprised that Chalabi's claim the Shi'a would identify with him as a natural Shiite leader hasn't yet been proven," said a well-placed administration official who requested anonymity. "His description of the Shi'a and their beliefs and interests was way off and misled them about what the Shi'a want."
Some are even suggesting that Chalabi "is pushing harder than anyone else for speedy formation of the interim government because it would maximize his group's representation, and that the more time passes, the more it will be clear that he has little public support." And he's the coalition's man? Great. The final word comes from Joseph Wilson, "the last senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad":
"We had limited knowledge about the clan, tribal and clerical bases of power outside of Baghdad and particularly in the south. We relied on a few exiles who had not been there in decades. We're just beginning to pay the price for not fully understanding that Iraq has its own set of political relationships that depend on anthropological and sociological structures we didn't grasp."
You mean Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. didn't have clue one about how to handle a post-invasion Iraq before they began dropping cluster bombs and depeleted uranium on a civilian population? Golly, what a shocker. [link]
2nd half of February 2003
January and first half of February 2003