Monkey Media
Report Archive

March 2003

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3.31.03 - One of the FCC's few public hearings on media consolidation is being held at Duke University at 12:30 this afternoon. The Independent's Fiona Morgan covers the bases nicely, complete with a great pull-out guide to local media ownership (Duke's webcasting the event, too):

Duke will host one of only a handful of FCC hearings on the topic. Copps, fellow Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and their staff have organized the hearings on a shoestring budget over the objection of FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who has said that he doesn't think they're necessary, since anyone can file public comments by mail or online.

Btw, I hate to break it to you, but I think FCC Chairman Michael Powell has already made up his mind. [link]


3.29.03 - Just got back from a wonderfully engaging exhibit of Kathy Triplett's ceramic wall sculptures at Raleigh's Lee Hansley Gallery. The show, Wall to Wall: Kathy Triplett, incorporates found objects like bone, coral, metal, circuit boards and more into a series of relief tiles that explore "the ambiguous nature between the worlds of plants, animals and machines." I love variation-on-a-theme-style shows, and the colorful, organic pieces in this one really grab your eye. It runs through April 23. Lee Hansley Gallery, it should be noted, is owned by one of the Triangle's most aggressively outspoken and energetic art boosters, and is located in Raleigh's not-quite-yet-thriving Glenwood South district.

While we're in Artland, you have only one more day to check out the amazing four-person show, Brothers From Different Mothers, at Raleigh's downtown Lump Gallery (I meant to post about this sooner, but got distracted by little things like dead Iraqi children - sorry, Bill and Med). Since few things inspire us to keep going like good art, you owe it to yourself to wander through this rich and at times jaw-dropping exhibit featuring four edgy artists from Philadelphia (three of them from Lump exchange partner Space 1026). The most famous is probably Jim Houser, who uses a surreal cartoon style to explore a fascination with dada language in surprisingly poetic ways. Don't miss this show, even if you have to rearrange plans to head to Lump. It might still be up during the early part of next week, too. [link]


3.29.03 - "It's scary, okay? Let's face it: There are guys at the Pentagon who have been involved in operational planning for their entire lives, okay? . . . And for this wisdom, acquired during many operations, wars, schools, for that just to be ignored, and in its place have somebody who doesn't have any of that training, is of concern."

- Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf on Jan. 28, 2003, discussing Donald Rumsfeld's habit of ignoring military advice. Schwarzkopf added, "When he makes his comments, it appears that he disregards the Army. He gives the perception when he's on TV that he is the guy driving the train and everybody else better fall in line behind him -- or else."


3.28.03 - As the superior military of the United States brings [cough] democracy and freedom to Iraq, it's worth noting the lack of democracy and freedom in the U.S. armed forces. Like African-American soldiers during both World War I and World War II, soldiers in the U.S. military who happen to prefer cuddling up with members of the same sex are denied the basic democratic rights we're supposedly bombing into existence in Iraq. Three cheers for freedom, eh?

I bring this up now because I recently met ex-soldier Scott Osborn (right), a 17-year vet who served in Bosnia and was nearly deployed in Gulf War I, at the Bickett Gallery's Jazz Anew night. Osborn has long been out to his family, friends and co-workers in civilian life, and decided to come out to his superiors last December because he felt that lying about who he was violated the Seven Core Values that hang on dog tags around every Army soldier's neck.

Guess what? He was called up to go to Kuwait anyway. Not surprisingly, the military's willingness to disregard its own "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy piqued the interest of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (motto: "Say Nothing, Sign Nothing, Get Legal Help"). An SLDN lawyer sent Osborn's commanders a letter noting 1) how delighted the group was that the Army was letting him serve while openly gay, and 2) how eager SLDN was to chat with the press about the case. That sure helped the Army make up its mind. As stories about Osborn - who'd already left his job and home in Maryland for Fort Bragg - were about to appear in the gay press, the Army quickly gave him an honorable discharge. For his part, Osborn insists that leaving the military wasn't his desired outcome; instead, he says his coming out was "the culmination of more than a decade of mounting frustration" with military homophobia:

Despite his record of achievement, since December Osborn has contended with widespread suspicions that his public declaration that he is gay was motivated by an aversion to serving in Iraq.

“Everyone has questioned it,” he said.

Immediately after he submitted his letter to Cooper, his command launched an investigation...Just in the past week, his commander concluded that Osborn was being truthful in saying he was gay, and that there was no evidence that the declaration was made in order to avoid combat.

I'll admit having mixed feelings about this one. When I had a beer with Osborn at Bickett as he stopped in Raleigh for the night, he seemed like a great guy who didn't deserve to die in Cheney's idiotic war. But he also was clearly saddened that he'd been kicked out of an organization that had been part of his life for almost two decades. And I can't help thinking that his skills sure would be useful over in Iraq right now:

He is air assault qualified, which means that he can be dropped into “hot spots” by repelling [sic] from a helicopter, and is a cannon fire direction specialist who has used computer equipment to chart artillery trajectories. His current specialty is working as a liaison with local populations affected by battle, particularly in assisting dislocated civilians.

Anyone else think the U.S. could use someone like that? Too bad the Army apparently feels that the young troops getting killed in combat in Iraq are better off without a 17-year vet who happens to be queer. And, you know, who am I to question the sound judgment of our military brass? [link]


3.28.03 - Jeanne D'Arc does it again, with a truly beautiful post/mini-essay, this time about the complexity of human emotion, her abusive father and the mixed feelings of Iraqis confronting the reality of U.S. "liberation." Genius, really. If you find you don't have the patience to follow a post of that length, you deserve to live in a world with the FOX network. [link]


3.27.03 - I've been saying the same thing to straight guys for years:

"You are not homosexual if you commit one homosexual act."

- District Attorney Charles A. Rosenthal Jr. of Harris County, Texas, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark sodomy law case.


(great photo essay)

3.26.03 - As the possibility of house-by-house fighting in Baghdad comes sharply into focus, you might want to spend time at Urban Operations Journal. The site collects a wealth of data about urban warfare experiences - Russian soldiers in Grozny, U.S. soldiers in Hue City and Israeli soldiers in Beirut, among other places - as well as an image library, quotes collection and much more. I was a bit alarmed by the training section, which contains a number of documents from military officials concerned about the "scarcity of training resources" for Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT):

Because of the limited number of training facilities, and the varying level of importance placed upon MOUT by different commanders, training is infrequent and time consuming...less than one third of the infantry units in Second Marine Division received even the most basic in MOUT training in the last seven months...

Here's retired Col. Randy Gangle, who helped run a 2-year series of urban warfare experiments for the Marine Corps, talking to PBS a few weeks ago:

The casualty rate on the urban battlefield is about 30 percent. So, in other words, if you have an infantry battalion of a thousand men, you can expect about 300 of them to be either dead or wounded after the first day of fighting.

Horrifying, eh? But Gangle says the average marine, army infantry or tank unit probably gets only "two to three weeks of urban training a year":

We have found during our experimentation that it takes about four to five weeks of training to obtain proficiency, and proficiency equates to lower casualty rates on both sides, quite frankly, less collateral damage and less of your own. So if we're only doing two to three weeks, we're acquainted with urban combat, but we're not proficient at urban combat.

Think the polls would look different if U.S. citizens knew about 30% casualty rates? Or that urban warfare specialists are warning our soldiers are "not proficient" at the kind of combat we might be sending them into? I'm the first to admit I don't have a clue how this war's going to turn out, and I'm as bored with shallow "quagmire!" warnings as anyone else. All I know is that the deeper I look into the specifics of the combat the U.S. just started, the more pissed I get that our leaders are sending teenagers to die in it. [link]


3.26.03 - One of the first things you get used to when talking up the possibility of a nonviolent overthrow of a dictator is the quick, sneering dismissal of the idea that a popular rebellion could ever overthrow someone like Saddam Hussein. Once you learn to expect that, it's actually kind of fun to engage folks on this topic. Rick Martinez, a house conservative for the News & Observer (one of many in that particular house), did it today by sneering at activist Rania Masri's suggestion that lifting the economic sanctions and no-fly zones would do more to honor the Iraqi people and get rid of Saddam than anything else.

"I figure Iraqis who still have their tongues would have a good laugh at that one," he writes, buying completely into notions of the invincibilty of government power and the helplessness of ordinary people in the face of tyranny. You see that a lot from hawks who pooh-pooh the idea of nonviolent rebellion; it's pretty funny. Notice how Martinez frames the issue when asking Masri about "the position" of the peace and human rights movement:

Subjecting Iraqis to another 12 years of Saddam would be preferable to the war the U.S.-led coalition is conducting?

She said yes again.

We've been here before. Simplistic hawks always present us with only two options: inspections as they've been done in the past or war. Apparently, the notion of including sanctions that hurt Saddam personally while freeing trade in the civilian economy so the people can get food, get healthy and start organizing is too much work or something. And so we send our 19-year-olds into the desert to "liberate" a people who, with just a bit of help, could liberate themselves, thank you. [link]


3.25.03 - Update on the Edwards protest: In their responses to the protest, neither Mark Kleiman nor Atrios (who also worries that "disrupting the democratic process in such a fashion is problematic") have addressed a key issue that led to the thing - namely, the claim that for over three years, Edwards repeatedly refused to even meet with the state's peace activists. Why isn't allowing *that* precedent to be set just as "intolerable," as Kleiman put it, as whatever precedent was set by the noisy drums and chants? Are citizens no longer allowed to hold their elected representatives accountable in even the most basic way? Apparently so. It's a strange kind of liberalism that prioritizes quiet over demands that elected leaders offer a minimum of basic respect to their constituents. [link]


3.25.03 - I see that one of blogdom's "liberal" hawks is outraged at the protesters who raised a ruckus at the John Edwards fundraiser in Raleigh Sunday night. Before I respond to Mark Kleiman, I should mention that he and I exchanged another round of emails over my critique of his support for a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq ("Kleiman Gets Fisked," one blogger called it). Kleiman has yet to offer a substantive reply to the criticism I offered of his simplistic "sanctions versus invasion" framing of the problem, nor has he addressed the compelling practical and moral arguments in favor of support for a country-wide rebellion against Saddam led by the Iraqi people themselves (instead of by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, with U.S. teenagers as the fodder). As the death toll rises and the prospect of close urban combat approaches, it's time to take another look at "liberal hawks" who have yet to explain why they decided an internal Iraqi revolt was a worse option than the current scenario. Your turn, Mark.

On to Kleiman's odd attack on the drummers and chanters protesting the Edwards fundraiser. The comments at Atrios' post nicely skewer the attempt to equate the protesters with the Republican mob that shut down the 2000 Florida recount, or with protesters who block abortion clinics. But Kleiman really swings wildly with this one:

...there's no better way to show good faith than meeting with someone in the afternoon and then denouncing him in the evening for refusing to meet with you. That's a great excuse for busting up his little soiree.

Let me see if I've got this right: After three years of repeatedly refusing to meet with local peace activists, Edwards agreed to sit down with them just hours before the start of a protest in front of one of Edwards' all-important fundraisers. Somehow, Kleiman spins this as the anti-war groups, not Edwards, acting in bad faith. Oookay.

More: Chapel Hill blogger and political activist Ruby Sinreich describes Sunday's shoving incident in the driveway outside Democratic HQ. Ruby was "right there" when it happened (I was about 15 feet away). She seems to put most of the blame on the cops' use of barriers to push the crowd backward (after a local Reverend's unsuccessful attempt to buy his way into the fundraiser).

Still More: The N&O printed my letter about police and protesters (I sent it yesterday morning). In the comments at Atrios, local John Iwaniszek says I was "hyperventilating a little" in my original description of the protest, which is probably true. Hey, it was an exciting night. But I did try to stick closely to what I saw with my own eyes, and the incident in the driveway did look ugly. I should have clearly noted that it lasted for just a few minutes out of an over 2-hour event, though. It never occurred to me that someone like Kleiman would extrapolate from what I described to build a case for massive hypocrisy among unnamed liberals. Live and learn. [link]


3.24.02 - My roommate and I were at the protest outside the fundraiser for Senator John Edwards last night. The event, held at the Raleigh headquarters of the N.C. Democratic Party, was effectively disrupted by a crowd of about 200-300 using little more than drums and chanting (ok, and some shoving). Here's what I saw:

We got there just after 6pm. The first thing I noticed was a woman with a sign that identified her as a legal advisor from the National Lawyer's Guild. She was busy reminding everyone that we didn't have to obey if the police ordered us to keep moving on a public sidewalk. Duly noted. My favorite moment came next, as the crowd (which seemed fairly diverse in age, race and appearance) waved $1 bills in the air while demanding to see its Senator. It was a nice visual effect; I recommend it highly. It's worth noting that local anti-war groups claim Edwards has repeatedly refused their requests for a meeting. Maybe they should try waving $2 bills instead.

A half-hour of speeches followed, and then the chants and drumming began. A friend who said he was considering getting arrested gave me his drums for safekeeping, so I started pounding out beats for the different chants and slowly got into the groove. It felt nice to exercise my Constitutional right to bang on stuff and yell at my elected representatives (I think from now on I'm only going to participate in protests if there are a lot of drums involved). As it got dark and the chants got boring, I wandered over to what looked like a commotion near the driveway.

For some reason, a large group of protesters was trying to stop police from closing the driveway's main entrance gate. Much shoving and yelling ensued, none of it pretty. The cops' superior strength eventually won the day, but I felt kind of sick as I watched. Strategies that treat cops as the enemy rarely seem to produce useful results. Anyway, word soon spread that the next move was to fan out across the property surrounding the building and continue drumming and chanting at the donors inside. I liked that strategy much better than trying to shove a cop, so I went through an alley and found myself with a group of people banging drums and plastic tubs at the back entrance to N.C. Democratic Party Headquarters.

The appearance of drummers on all sides of the building felt like a turning point. While the police were able to keep the crowd off the Democrats' property, the escalating noise and confusion clearly rattled the folks inside, who were staring out the windows in growing numbers. Donors began to leave, confronting angry chants as they walked out. Whenever the crowd's energy dropped, a drummer would appear out of nowhere, banging hard to encourage everyone to keep it up. I don't know if that was planned; I just know it happened a lot.

After twenty minutes of this, a wedge of police officers suddenly burst onto the scene at the back of the building. I didn't realize at the time that North Carolina's Democratic Presidential hopeful was in the middle of the flying V that zoomed past me, inches in front of my nose. I quickly learned it was indeed John Edwards who'd just been rushed past angry Democrats into the back entrance of his state party's headquarters. Not exactly a positive sign of Edwards' North Carolina support.

When my roommate and I left at 7:45, Edwards was inside. Some fundraising Dems were still staring out the windows, probably in shock, as the crowd continued to demand that Edwards show himself. Shouts of "Bring Edwards out! Bring Edwards out!" filled the air. The mood was a strange mix of furious and jubilant and showed no signs of abating any time soon. [Naturally, the TV news coverage was disappointing. WRAL 5 and NBC 17 left early, apparently; their stories lasted less than 30 seconds - ridiculously short, given the obvious local discontent with Edwards' Presidential run. ABC 11 did a much better job with a significantly longer and more detailed story, including close-up footage of the driveway skirmish, while presenting both the protesters and Edwards fairly.]

Last night's protest was one of the most interesting and effective small demonstrations I've seen in a long time. I'm usually wary of participating in public protests, since one or two idiotic missteps - or deliberate provocations - can unleash a mess of trouble on a movement. While I didn't agree with all of the tactics I saw last night (the two protesters who decided to stand in the way of a couple who were leaving the building, resulting in brief and pointless shoving with two police officers, struck me as particularly clueless), I was honestly impressed with the creative way protesters reacted to the shifting circumstances. Ditto for the Raleigh Police Department. I'm sure some will have a different view, but from what I saw as I wandered the crowd, Raleigh cops demonstrated admirable restraint and courage last night, in the face of a fluid, escalating, uncertain situation. [thanks once again to Randy for the great pictures] [link]


3.23.03 - The best moment from tonight's protest against John Edwards' position on the Iraq invasion - a protest that effectively disrupted a $100-a-plate dinner at state Democratic Party headquarters - was the sea of $1 bills waving above the crowd as people chanted "Bring Edwards Out!" over and over again. Edwards hadn't even arrived yet, but from where I stood, the loud, persistent crowd had obviously rattled the movers and shakers inside.

There were some ugly moments as well. I'm off to work, but more later. [link]


3.23.03 - So much for avoiding civilian casualties. Take a look as "Iraqi civilians scream for help as they are caught in the crossfire." Silly of me to expect anything other than bloody meat and broken bones among noncombatants, wasn't it? Here's what you're not seeing on U.S. television right now:

About 50 Iraqi civilians were killed in coalition bombing of the southern city of Basra, the independent Arab-language satellite station Al-Jazeera claimed last night. In footage seen across the Arab world, the station aired grisly and explicit images of the dead and wounded, including a child with the back of its skull blown off and blood-stained people being treated on the floor of a hospital.

"It's a huge mass of civilians," said one woman angrily as she stood among the casualties. "It was a massacre."

Funny how we're not seeing that footage - or footage of our own dead (left) and captured (below). I notice that CNN, FOX and MSNBC are all using Al Jazeera images of bombs and smoke over Baghdad (although CNN and FOX cover up the "Al Jazeera" ID every time they do so). So why won't they air Al Jazeera images that show us what war really looks like? What possible journalistic rationale is there for avoiding that kind of footage?

Al-Jazeera...quoted hospital officials in Basra as saying that a total of 50 people were killed – including one entire family and a Russian citizen – when US F-16 warplanes planes bombed the city...

Skepticism of all media outlets is the order of the day, of course, but if it's true that coalition forces just killed "a huge mass of civilians" - and that information is being broadcast across the globe - shouldn't U.S. citizens see the footage as well? Doesn't it make us less safe to be out of touch with what the rest of the world is learning about this war? [link]


3.22.03 - Must-read Guardian article, "Unscathed locals sense hope," on the relatively minor civilian casualties - i.e., no reported deaths - in Baghdad so far:

...on the streets of Baghdad, small signs of confidence emerged, reflecting the belief that this time the Americans might show mercy to cilvilians, unlike the confrontation over Kuwait in 1991. That war opened with attacks on Iraqi power stations and water treatment centres, plunging Baghdad into darkness during a bombardment that dragged on for more than 40 days, and inflicting a blow on its infrastructure from which the city has never recovered.

"This war looks different. When you have light, when you have water, when you have food, I think you feel more secure. You can feel the change," said Dhia AK al-Jaddue, a doctor in the casualty ward of al-Kindi hospital. "We expected something much more severe."

Thank you, universe. And thank you, military commanders who are aiming the bombs. I'm praying it continues like this - even if, as my roommate JB says, it earns Bush a Nobel Peace Prize. I laughed when I heard that, but she looked at me, raised her eyebrows and said, "I'm serious."

You know, she's probably right. Hell, they gave it to one of the most famous unindicted war criminals of the 20th century for helping end a conflict he'd prolonged for years, so why wouldn't they give one for this? I really don't give a shit, so long as we don't kill any more Iraqi children.

Folks who don't recall the mistaken U.S. bombing of the Amariyah shelter in Baghdad during Gulf War I should refresh their memory with this 1998 article, published on the 7th anniversary of the incident, as well as this amazing site, which includes interviews with the survivors. An estimated 400 civilians were instantly burned to a crisp, causing the Pentagon (and Colin Powell) to rethink the bombing strategy. The incident is still fresh in the minds of many Baghdad residents, who today treat Amariyah as a shrine.

Here's another relevant article, with news that more accurate bombs aren't necessarily reducing civilian casualty rates:

In the Gulf War, just 3 percent of bombs were precision-guided. That figure jumped to 30 percent in the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, and to nearly 70 percent during the Afghan air campaign last year. Yet in each case, the ratio of civilian casualties to bombs dropped has grown.

Wonderful. The article lists a lot of different factors contributing to the increased death rate, only some of which are relevant to Baghdad. But even as we're being told the war's most difficult phase lies ahead, I'm hoping this time we reverse the trend of beautiful civilians winding up dead from aerial bombardments. [link]


3.21.03 - The names of U.S. casualties are starting to arrive back home.
It's no surprise that family members' reactions to actual bloodshed are as diverse as the rest of America's thoughts about the invasion:

"I want President Bush to get a good look at this, really good look here.
This is the only son I had, only son."

- Michael Waters-Bey, father of Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Waters-Bey,
quoted from this TV news clip. ("When asked what he would tell President Bush if he got the chance, he replied: 'This was not your son or daughter. That chair he sat in at Thanksgiving will be empty forever.")

"It's all for nothing, that war could have been prevented. Now, we're out
of a brother. Bush is not out of a brother. We are."

- Michelle Waters, oldest sister of Kendall, with tears running down her cheeks

"I'm feeling sad now because my father is gone and I won't see him again."

- Kendall's 10-year-old son Kenneth (pictured above)


"There they are."

- Mark Beaupre (above left), after the family dog started barking at 3 a.m. and he realized military officials were walking up to his door to tell him his son,
Capt. Ryan Anthony Beaupre, had died.

"I wanted to know if he was O.K. with what he was going over there for.
He was. He said that this was something that needed to be done."

- Alyse Beaupre, Ryan's sister, on her last conversation with her brother.

"To be a pilot - that's all he really wanted to do. He was a lifer
and he really believed in everything he was doing over there."

- Colby Willett, cousin of Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin

"He told me this summer, don't tell this to dad, but if something starts up,
I'll be right in the thick of it."

- Carol Aubin, Jay's stepmother, on the attempt to keep the truth
from Jay's father
, who has a bad heart

"He gave his life in an effort to contribute to the freedom
of the Iraqi people. We just miss him terribly already.
He was a wonderful man.""

- Mark Kennedy, father of Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy, who had a wife, 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son


I'll say it again, for those who failed to get it before the dying began: We could have gotten rid of Saddam and freed the Iraqi people without risking the lives of these soldiers. That Cheney & Co. didn't even try, even as they made plans for cashing in on the "rebuilding" process, will be a black mark against this administration for as long as there are history books. [link]


3.21.03 - Well, that sure was a quick boycott. Just got word from Lisa McKay, program director for Raleigh country station WQDR, that the Dixie Chicks will be back on the airwaves Monday at 3pm. McKay was last seen telling the N&O's Dennis Rogers that 500,000 votes had been cast in QDR's online poll - a clearly absurd statement, since we know the station's poll software (now replaced) added as many as 85 votes for each click. Takes the number of actual votes down to around 5,000 to 10,000, and since you could vote more than once, the number of actual people voting was probably even lower. It's also worth noting that as of today CNN's Dixie Chicks poll has less than 138,000 votes cast (scroll down to view results). Does anyone really think that WQDR in Raleigh got more online votes than CNN?

McKay says she was unaware of the vote oddities, and points out that the phone lines were where the real action was, anyway. Calls ran overwhelmingly against the Dixie Chicks. They may do the same when the station reinstates the trio on its playlists, so Monday might be a good time to let QDR know you appreciate the move: 876-6464 or 1-800-233-9470. [link]


3.21.03 - NC Peace Action has details about the protest planned for Senator John Edwards' Sunday night appearance at Democratic Party HQ on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. 6:30pm. [link]


3.21.03 - Count me among those who think mainstream liberals like Eric Alterman and the folks at Tapped are being stupid and insulting by complaining about continued antiwar protests. Interesting Times says it best, so I'll quote him at length while mentioning that he's hitting on all cylinders these days:

Yes, we didn't stop the war. But I don't think many of those who went to the rallies expected that they would be able to stop it. Most of the people I talked to were even more skeptical than I was.

But we did get the word out that there is a significant number of people in this country who are vehemently opposed to the direction Bush is leading this country. He does not have the mandate his supporters and sycophants in the media say he does. We have sent a message to the rest of the people who are also uncomfortable with our present course of action that their discomfort is not isolated and they are not unpatriotic for feeling it...

These actions can give courage to those who might not otherwise have it, especially the leaders of the nominal opposition. Would Tom Daschle have felt comfortable making his recent comments about Bush's diplomatic failures and standing by them in the face of withering criticism if he had NOT seen the huge crowds of protesters in the streets?

Alterman's comment annoyed me because it seemed so dismissive of what has happened already. Far from being a failure, I consider the fact that we mobilized millions of people to get off their butts and publicly protest Bush's war even before a single shot was fired to be an extraordinary achievement. Remember that the Vietnam War had raged for years before the protest levels reached the kind we have seen in recent months.

Alterman's comment was insulting at a time when the anti-war movement needs to be applauded.

Alterman should apologize for his ill-considered crack. There's still plenty of work that can be done - and inspiration that can be provided - in the streets. Which doesn't mean that we don't need to see more creative, more joyful and (work with me) MORE FUN protests on our side, as well as better organizing that lasts longer than an afternoon. And yes, I'm guilty as charged on that last one.

Need some ideas? Try the great list of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action at the "A Force More Powerful" site, which Jeanne d'Arc at Body and Soul beat me to posting. Personally, after spending most of the day in a deepening pit of apathy and despair, I can highly recommend two things that I guarantee will rejuvenate anyone feeling blue on the anti-invasion side:

1) Organize your own personal dance protest. Seriously. I did an impromptu one last night at Bickett Gallery after a friend pulled me onto the floor and told me to make sure my feet sent a message to Iraq. I can't tell you how much those 15 minutes of hyper-movement eased the bleak tension I'd been feeling. Instead of screaming and shouting, it might be more effective to get some drums and dance in the streets until the cops come. Dance for civilians everywhere. Dance for the teenage U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. Dance until the universe feels you dancing and you smile at the recognition of that fact. I promise you'll feel much, much better.

It'd sure make for better TV, anyway.

2) Take time off the war shit and go hear some of your favorite loud music. Trust me on this one. Rock music helped bring down Milosevic in Serbia (video clip) so you know it can help you. And watching Bob Log tear up the stage at King's tonight restored a good chunk of my spirit, reminded me of my faith in chaotic beauty, and blew new life into my love for this amazing, fucked-up, gloriously stupid universe. Bring on the zombies; my guns are locked and loaded once again. [link]


3.20.03 - "I am disappointed that the President has decided that
removal of Saddam Hussein is the only way to avoid war.
That is not what the UN resolution required and that makes
it clear that the President is pursuing an agenda other
than enforcement of the UN resolution. I do not support
that agenda."

--U.S. Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), March 17, 2003

Watt voted against the Iraq resolution, btw. Why is anyone listening to Tom Daschle instead of this guy? Read the whole statement here.

[via N.C.'s Common Sense Foundation] [link]


3.20.03 - The secret life of gay soldiers in the U.S. military:

...abiding by "don't ask, don't tell" requires much more of gays than simply remaining quiet about their sexual orientation. Elaborate charades must often be carried out just to ensure that suspicions do not arise.

"If a straight soldier gets a letter from his girlfriend," says J.R., "he can tell his buddies, pass the letter around, show them pictures. If you're gay or bi, you can't. If you get a letter or photo, you rip it up or burn it; you can't keep it." [link]


3.20.03 - Do yourself a favor: Don't bother with CNN, FOX, MSNBC or the rest of the war porn stations. Try these instead:

BBC reporters' Weblog from Iraq and Jordan (and Kuwait, Brussels, etc)
Weblog of Kevin Sites, a CNN reporter in northern Iraq, with audio reports
Sean-Paul Kelley is posting a stream of war developments at The Agonist
And, of course, there's Dear_Raed. [link]


3.20.03 - The U.S. National Security Council's senior director for counter-terrorism has suddenly resigned his position. The UPI story in the Washington Times does a good job on the competing explanations for why Rand Beers - who served under Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes - chose this, of all moments, to leave the government. "Personal reasons?" Maybe:

"There is a predominant belief in the intelligence community that an invasion of Iraq will cause more terrorism than it will prevent. There is also a tremendous amount of embarrassment by intelligence professionals that there have been so many lies out of the administration -- by the president, (Vice President Dick) Cheney and (Secretary of State Colin) Powell -- over Iraq."

Bamford cited a recent address by President Bush that cited documents, which allegedly proved Iraq was continuing to pursue a nuclear program, that were later shown to be forgeries.

"It is absurd that the president of the United States mentioned in a speech before the world information from phony documents and no one got fired," Bamford said. "That alone has offended intelligence professionals throughout the services."

I dunno, though. It's hard to believe Rand Beers would be very upset about, ahem, lying in public about terrorism, since he did it himself last November when he claimed FARC rebels in Colombia had trained with al Qaida in Afghanistan. The lie was part of a Bush administration attempt to get a lawsuit against the private mercenary company DynCorp dismissed by invoking the specter of September 11th:

DynCorp and the State Department are trying to convince US District Judge Richard Roberts to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed last September by an estimated 10,000 Ecuadorians against DynCorp because a trial could compromise the wars on both drugs and terrorism.

The suit claims the defoliation missions flown by DynCorp have resulted in chemicals blowing across the border between the two countries and has led to a major loss of crops and severe health problems for the local population...

"It is believed that FARC terrorists have received training in Al Qaida terrorist caps in Afghanistan," Beers says in the original document. "I wish to strike this sentence," the new version filed by Beers in August says.

Hell, maybe Beers really did hit his limit after being publicly caught up in one too many administration lies. Or maybe he's one of the many in the intelligence community who apparently feel that invading Iraq is stupid and dangerous:

"If it was your job to prevent terror attacks, would you be happy about an action that many see as unnecessary, that is almost guaranteed to cause more terror in the short-term?" said one official. "I know I'm not."

Either way, the article's a must-read. Anyone want to take a bet on how many days it'll take for this to show up in the N&O? Oh, and keep an eye on Colombia, which will surely be Cheney's next target.

Update: Via Counterspin, the Washington Post adds useful details, among them a claim of Beers' "general weariness with fighting internal battles." The Post also includes info about two other resignations I hadn't heard about previously, John H. Brown and Mary A. Wright, "the highest-ranking diplomat to resign over the current situation." [link]


3.20.03 - It hardly seems the time for, uh, naked tits and freaky blues, but I'd be remiss in the "arts" part of this "news and arts weblog" if I didn't mention that Bob Log III, former frontman for one of the greatest live bands I've ever seen, is scheduled to perform tonight at Kings. Check the R-rated "Boob Scotch" video for a taste of his raw, stripped-down, dada performance style. Hey, who knows, it might be just the thing to make you laugh, get you loving life again and rejuvenate that all-important desire to fight the power. Lord knows I need something. [link]


3.19.03 - Wake Forest basketball player Josh Howard - chosen as ACC Player of the Year on Monday in a unanimous vote (that's only happened once before) - joins the Dixie Chicks by standing up against war in Iraq in the Winston-Salem Journal today. How many of these folks will it take before America wakes up to the fact that this is a mainstream opinion? Anyway, there's a great Josh Howard photo gallery here. [link]


3.19.03 - A 30-second movie from J.P. Trostle, cartoonist for the Chapel Hill Herald, captures my feelings about this war's sledgehammer approach to "democracy" nicely [Quicktime, AVI]. And the above cartoon captures my feelings about Senator John Edwards' politically opportunistic, immoral position on this war nicely, too (note to Oliver: I can't see any chance of this guy getting the nomination; Gephardt's locking down the disgusting Demhawk position much more effectively). Get your black armbands ready.

By the way, Jack DuVall's presentation last night was amazing and inspirational. I filmed some of it and bought his stunning video, Bringing Down A Dictator, a detailed look at the brilliant, carefully orchestrated nonviolent campaign - using ridicule, rock music and massive civil disobedience - that kicked Slobodan Milosevic out of office when he tried to steal the 2000 Serbian election. The fact that the U.S. never even tried to spark this kind of thing before invading Iraq will go down as a black mark in our history. I'll show clips from the talk and video on Monkeytime TV tonight. More later. [link]


3.18.03 - Jack DuVall is speaking at UNC tonight! DuVall, a former Air Force counterintelligence officer, is the co-author of "With Weapons of Will: How to Topple Saddam Nonviolently," which I wrote about in February, and executive producer of "A Force More Powerful," a 3-hour documentary series about nonviolent resistance to tyranny. More after I hear him speak:

NONVIOLENT REGIME CHANGE: Alternative to War? A public forum on Nonviolent Conflict Featuring the showing of the PBS Documentary film; “Bringing Down a Dictator” Tuesday March 18th, 7:00pm, UNC-CH Gardner 008 (Preceeded by a workshop on direct action for 5, with food, at a location in the Union). [link]


3.18.03 - Be sure to read the stunning set of four emails from 23-year-old Rachel Corrie to her mother last month. Corrie, whose parents live in Charlotte, was the woman crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza last Sunday as she protested the destruction of Palestinian homes. More of Rachel's emails here. Here's one Palestinian's claim from April 2000 that very few demolitions in Jerusalem have anything to do with terrorism or suicide bombings. Here's a two-month-old article about the bulldozing of 62 shops in a Palestinian village. Israel says the shops were "built illegally."

Here's a must-read New York Times article - cited by the conservative media watchdog group CAMERA as "a balanced piece, interweaving the nitty-gritty of present day events with historical context and presenting conflicting political and religious views" - about the bulldozing of an Arab-owned orchard days after last November's horrible massacre of 12 Israeli guards at the Jewish settlement in Hebron. Excerpt:

Following the tradition of their tenacious movement, settlers converted sorrow and anger into territorial gain, building a rough outpost near the site of Friday's ambush. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon endorsed the settlers' aims during a visit to Hebron today...

After the rally, some youths attempted to run into Palestinian Hebron, only to be turned back by Israeli forces. In a turbulent crowd, they pounded on the doors of nearby Palestinian houses and then smeared the pale stone with blue graffiti: "Every Arab killed — for me it's a holiday," and, over and over, "Vengeance."

God - or the devil - is in the details, as they say, and from a secular perspective the details of this religious land claim are fascinating:

A man in running shoes, jeans and a prayer shawl strode to the edge of the clearing and began praying intensely, bending rapidly back and forth at the waist over his prayer book. The outpost took shape around him during the next four hours, as midnight approached.

A truck pulled up and, without a word, the driver unloaded a water tank the size of a small car beside the praying man, who did not look around. Steps away, two dozen young people formed a bucket brigade and began pulling stones from an old wall beside another orchard, passing them along to build an enclosure behind a green trailer.

First a lean-to appeared, then three silver tents were pitched. Benches were set up, and a rabbi began leading a group in prayers and songs. A flatbed truck arrived carrying a red container for conversion to a shelter. The work proceeded even though they did not have a formal permit to build a new settlement and did not know who owned the land...

Israeli children yanked up radishes from a Palestinian field, until Israeli police officers shooed them away.

Left-wing Israeli groups routinely object to settler theft of Palestinian crops and cropland. The groups claim that many of these thefts do not occur after terrorist attacks and note that settler attacks on peaceful Palestinian olive harvesters can themselves be terror-filled (read the Oct 15 testimony). The deeper issue, of course, is that the extremely fundamentalist Jews who insist on expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories - in opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of Israelis, if the polls are accurate - want nothing less than the complete elimination of any Palestinian claim on the land. An angry young yeshiva student in the NYT piece says it best:

"If they continue to make trouble, no Arabs, and a Jewish city. If they're good people — if they know this is our land, that God gave it to us — they can stay. If they behave like animals," he added, nodding at the site of the shooting, "then not."

Note that in this worldview, the Arabs can only remain in Hebron if they not only stop the terror attacks but also be "good people" by acknowledging the Jewish fundamentalists' divine mandate to the land those Arabs have been living and farming for decades, if not centuries. Well, that's sure a helpful position.

Here's more about the conflict between olive harvesters and settlers:

- BBC story about fighting between settlers, terrorists and farmers near Yanoun

- Israeli Defense Forces guard "innocent" Palestinian olive harvesters

- Jerusalem Indymedia looks at the olive harvest's economic and political elements



3.17.03 - What to do when the bombs start falling? I dunno...maybe take time to review the fascinating history of the black armband?

Take Zimbabwe cricket player Henry Olonga (right), for example. Last month, Olonga pissed off his President, fascist dictator Robert Mugabe, by wearing a thin black armband during a World Cup cricket match in Harare. Together with teammate Andy Flower, who joined him on the playing field to mourn the death of Zimbabwe's democracy, they risked their careers - and lives - to embarass Mugabe in his own capital:

Olonga also called on other Zimbabweans to overcome their fears and stand up for what they believe. "The more people hesitate, the more people hold back, the less we can achieve to bring about a restoration of sanity and dignity to the nation of Zimbabwe. I hope that by our stand, people will be inspired to follow suit," he said.

Amazing, isn't it? After being ordered not to wear black armbands in their next match, Flower and Olonga wore white ones instead. The crowd went wild, with a few brave souls unfurling banners that stated "Mugabe equals Hitler" and "Zimbabwe Needs Justice." 26 fans were arrested that day. Later, after a game in Sri Lanka, Olonga's friends had to orchestrate his escape from Mugabe's secret police. He's now in hiding and rumored to be seeking asylum in the UK, where he hopes to - of all things - continue his singing career.

Olonga's courage should be an inspiration to certain other singers currently beseiged by small minds - and to everyone who feels out on a limb in these kneejerk times. It ain't that hard to stick to your guns. So do it.

Oh, one more thing: I know it's a small, silly gesture, but if the bombing of Baghdad begins, I'm going to start wearing a black armband.

[Thanks to Dave L. for the suggestion. And yes, that Michael Jordan story in the first paragraph is a joke] [link]


3.17.03 - Oh boy. We get to see what kind of man our President is. Will he respond to this episode the way the leader of a democracy should? Or will the political usefulness of a France-bashing U.S. population keep him quiet? Stay tuned.[via Atrios] [link]


3.16.03 - Hey, has anyone else noticed that WQDR's Dixie Chicks poll adds as many as 85 votes to its alleged "Total Votes" every time you click? Talk about inflating your audience numbers. I've noticed this in the past with polls at QDR's sister station, AM gabfest WPTF, but then it was a consistent 2 votes for every one click. QDR's poll is all over the map - click once and it might add 25 votes, 32 votes, 67's completely random and always massively inflated. Taking an average of 30-60 votes per click, what we get instead of the implication that over 55,400 people have voted is a much more realistic count between 900 and 1800. And since you can vote as often as you like, the number of people who've actually bothered to register their opinion is surely much less than that.

Wait, it gets better. If you vote that you "Still love" the Dixie Chicks, the poll not only adds an unpredictable number of votes to that category, it also consistently adds a larger number of votes to the "Don't like them at all" category. Try it for yourself if you don't believe me; I even deleted their cookies and voted again to check. Is this the kind of garbage fueling the continued anti-Dixie Chicks hysteria? Here's the station's request line: 919-860-9470, or 1-800-233-9470 if you want them to pay. [link]


3.16.03 - Anyone looking for an example of the brutality at the heart of the "liberal hawk" argument should check out Mark Kleiman's reaction to Salam's thoughts [see below] about being bombed. For some reason, Kleiman decides it's time for disgustingly snide titles like "Picky, Picky, Picky" as civilians in a country that has never attacked the US. confront an atomic-strength bombing. Kleiman's answer to those civilians who'll die unnecessarily? "Sorry, Salam, this isn't about your safety, it's about ours."

Appalling doesn't begin to cover the level of insensitivity here. Now, I've enjoyed Kleiman's blog in the past; it's generally thoughtful and interesting. But the fact that his position on the need for a US invasion of Iraq routinely results in some of his most obnoxious and least logical posts should be telling him something. That it hasn't speaks of serious blindness on his part.

Of course, I'll need an example to back that up. Let's leave aside the obvious point that Kleiman has yet to explain why he feels a US attack is smarter than, say, a strategy of full support for a popular anti-Saddam rebellion - which, by the way, has never been tried. Instead, let's examine a clear case of a Kleiman "liberal hawk" post that completely fails the tests of basic logic and basic understanding of recent Iraqi history. A polite but unsatisfying email exchange - which ended with Kleiman ignoring the most serious point under discussion - solidified my view that his argument is riddled with glaringly obvious flaws that make it unsupportable.

Kleiman begins with an absurdly simplistic framing in the post's title, "Bombs Versus Starvation: The Humanitarian Case Against 'Peace.'" He goes on to base his argument on a false dichotomy so obvious it's embarrassing:

Yes, the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad will kill innocent civilians; so do the sanctions. What reason is there to think that, if we eschew an invasion now, the sanctions will end before killing a larger number of people than will die as a result of the fighting? Or is starving children to death, or causing them to die of disease, somehow less violent than dropping bombs?

As if those are really our only two options. Yep, that's the anti-war position in a nutshell: let's continue starving Iraqi children to death. Kleiman's Limbaugh logic, which equates all "sanctions" with the killing of innocent civilians, is rather shocking in its ignorance. Apparently, he's completely unaware of the intense, decade-long debate about what kind of sanctions the international community should be using against Iraq - a debate that at its pre-9/11 height included both Colin Powell and Dick Cheney calling for "a substantial loosening" in an attempt to reclaim the moral high ground and lessen civilian suffering (and in Cheney's case, probably, make a buck for his pals at Halliburton).

Here's the key point about sanctions I have yet to see any "liberal hawk" (let alone the pro-war amen chorus) address:

At no time since 1991 did the U.N. sanctions specifically target the personal finances and ability to travel of Saddam and his inner circle, even as the sanctions prevented the construction of water purification and electrical plants necessary for the health of the overwhelmingly young civilian population.

Read that again, slowly. Then take a moment to note that the US and UK banned civilian staples like eggs, water pumps and refrigeration devices as "dual use" items with possible military applications. Be sure to scroll down for Powell's famous statement that "you can do certain things with eggs that can create a biological weapon" (I think he meant to say that fertilized eggs can be used to grow viral toxins [link fixed], but who knows). Congressman Tony Hall of Ohio described the utter immorality of the US sanctions policy in April 2000:

RAY SUAREZ: So after the sanctions were put in place, Iraq was allowed to sell some of its oil and buy needed supplies. Why is there this kind of privation?

REP. TONY HALL: Not enough food, not enough medicines are coming in, in any large quantities. That's the first thing. Secondly, there is a sanctions committee; it is called the 661 Committee, and it's made up of a lot of bureaucrats that are not particularly sensitive to emergency needs and to the disease and things that are going on there. They hold up lists of consumer... not consumer goods, but humanitarian goods like medicines and foods and refrigeration parts that they need to keep serum for polio cool, and they hold these parts up for... because there might be a list of maybe a hundred items, and there might be two or three items that they don't like, so the whole list is held up...

Two months later, Hall put it even more bluntly: "The prime killer of children under 5 years of age - diarrheal diseases - has reached epidemic proportions, and they now strike four times more often than they did in 1990...Holds on contracts for the water and sanitation sector are a prime reason for the increases in sickness and death."

This is a crucial point in the anti-invasion argument - and one that Kleiman ignores completely. "The social disintegration brought on by sanctions...diminishes the already slim chance that internal Iraqi discontent could be converted into sustained popular rebellion: people consumed with finding their next meal do not have time to overthrow dictators." Add to that disintegration the decisions by both Bush I and Clinton to sell out Iraqi resistance movements in the interests of regional stability, and you have a classic example of a morally bankrupt foreign policy.

After such a long, horrific history in which the U.S. actively prevented the Iraqi people from overthrowing Saddam on their own, here come the "liberal" warmongers like Mark Kleiman to instruct us about "the humanitarian case" for bombing the fuck out of a country that has never attacked us. "If the alternative to war is continued sanctions," Kleiman asks, "and if sanctions (and the Iraqi government's response to them) are killing about 90,000 Iraqi children per what sense is war a more violent option than continued sanctions?"

Good lord, what an uninformed question. Implying that folks "in the 'peace' camp" are in favor of continued violence against civilians - when we're the ones who've been arguing for years for sanctions that help, not hurt, Iraqi civilians' chances of overthrowing Saddam - is as ignorant and insulting as what's-his-head regularly gets.

Kleiman doesn't seem to have noticed, but during the six months prior to the 9/11 attacks (and Donald Rumsfeld's immediate decision to use them as an excuse to go after Saddam), there was plenty of discussion in the Bush administration and elsewhere about implementing sanctions that wouldn't kill quite so many Iraqi children. The Economist noted in May 2001 that the sanctions "merely help to devastate Iraq’s economy and bolster its cruel dictatorship." A February 2001 Brookings Institute report called for "a whole new logic to the reform of Iraqi sanctions" and recommended strategies like the following:

1) Lift sanctions on the export and import of consumer goods. "Initially, this reform would have a relatively minor impact, given the small size of the civilian economy and the limited ability of average Iraqis to purchase civilian goods. However, this action would have immediate psychological value...[and] would legitimize existing black market trade in consumer items, forcing down the current prices of many commodities."

2) Allow foreign investment in the civilian economy. "Such investment is essential if the humanitarian situation of Iraqis is to improve. Although the small size of the non-state economy in Iraq limits the opportunities for private sector investment, the decrepit state of civilian infrastructure offers abundant possibilities for those wishing to invest in Iraq. An investment code restricting the sort of investments that were permissible should seek to ensure that inflows of foreign capital do not further military purposes or greatly bolster the fungible resources of the regime."

3) Tighten the freeze on private foreign assets of the Iraqi regime. "The United Nations has long hesitated to demand that member states freeze the private assets of individuals, as opposed to those of states. As a result, many members of the Iraqi regime are still able to access many of their overseas assets. Clamping down on these resources would increase pressure on the regime while sparing Iraqi civilians any further harm."

4) Enforce travel bans on regime leaders. "The international community has no interest in further isolating the average Iraqi from the rest of the world...While loosening travel restrictions on most average Iraqis, imposing international travel bans on regime figures—similar to those in place against Slobodan Milosevic and his cronies—would further de-legitimize those in power in Iraq. These travel sanctions should serve as interim measures while the United States steps up its efforts to build international support for the indictment of Iraqi figures by war tribunals."

None of the above have been tried yet, of course. I say they'd work, along with a coordinated international campaign to create a popular Iraqi revolt, to rid the world of Saddam. Without endangering U.S. soldiers and dropping an atom-bomb's worth of ordnance on Iraqi civilians like Salam Pax.

Sadly, the Bush push for "smarter sanctions" included few of the substantive changes left-leaning observers had been calling for, and "forbade outside investment in Iraq's private sector, making it virtually impossible for Iraq to rebuild its tattered infrastructure." The plan was ultimately derailed by Russians anxious to get back billions in Iraqi contracts that had been frozen far longer than anyone expected back in 1991.

This is where diplomatic efforts should be focused. Instead, "liberal hawks" spin simplistic arguments that place "the peace camp" squarely on the side of those who've turned a blind eye to the suffering of the Iraqi people and sold them out again and again. Like I said, it's a stunning blind spot. Repeat after me, Mark:

"There has never been an assets freeze on Saddam Hussein or his close associates."

Ask yourself why that is, "liberal hawks." I'm all ears. Then start wondering how on earth you can believe a massive bombing that murders Iraqi civilians - whose country has never attacked us - is the US's best available option.

And then ask yourself how you could possibly have grown to support such a brutally amoral foreign policy. I'm all ears on that one, too. [link]


3.16.03 - Salam Pax - in Baghdad - offers a scathing rant against the almost certain U.S. bombing of his city at Where is Raed? Must-reading. Hope he survives. [via Body and Soul] [link]


3.16.03 - Got an email from the progressives at Muslim WakeUp! - where "prayer is better than sleep" - about their delightful Hug a Jew! program. They have lots of sharp analysis of Muslim life in America and abroad, as well as detailed news and satire. Be sure to check the video of their, um, gorilla street protest about the real missing link between Osama and Saddam. [link]


3.15.03 - Virginia Congressman Jim Moran's clearly offensive statement about "the Jewish community's" support for an Iraq invasion has lots of folks sorting out criticisms of right-wing government policies from criticisms of "the Jews." It's really not that difficult to get a handle on this, once you get past the aggressive emotion so many folks bring to the table. These might help:

1) In the blog world, Amygdala lays out the different kinds of criticisms nicely for Calpundit. He also links to today's NY Times, which notes polls showing that "Jews are less likely than the public at large to support military action against Iraq." The article also includes concerns from one lobbying group that the accusation that "Jews control foreign policy" sets them up to be used as a scapegoat if the invasion/occupation goes badly. Hold that thought.

2) Michael Kinsley helpfully points out that the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee brags about its influence on its own Web site, and then pokes hard: shouldn't brag about how influential you are if you want to get hysterically indignant when someone suggests that government policy is affected by your influence.

Touche. Fortune has also repeatedly placed AIPAC in the top 5 on its "Power 25" list of the country's most effective lobbyists. And while nothing's stopping anyone from trying to organize a similarly powerful Arab-American group, the point here is that while Moran's comments were ridiculously broad and offensive, that's not the case every time someone dares to question the extent to which a small group of conservative Jewish lobbyists might be affecting U.S. foreign policy.

3) A more interesting and provocative argument comes from antiwar activist Stephen Zunes in the liberal Jewish mag Tikkun:

...there are far more powerful interests with a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than AIPAC. These include the oil companies, the arms industry, and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted "Jewish lobby" and its allied donors to congressional races...

It is noteworthy that in the authorization of force for the 1991 Gulf War, the majority of Jewish members of Congress voted against the war resolution, which is more than can be said for its non-Jewish members. In the more lopsided vote authorizing the use of force this past October, a majority of Jewish members of Congress did authorize the use of force, though proportionately less so than did non-Jewish members.

Oops. So much for Jim Moran. By quoting Israelis who feel their country is being used as an attack dog by politicians beholden to U.S. military contractors and energy companies, Zunes also undercuts the notion that AIPAC speaks for all of Israel (even as it's routinely labelled a "pro-Israel lobby" by outlets like the conservative Washington Times). Newsflash: The political positions of AIPAC - or Paul Wolfowitz or any other conservative Jewish hawk - do not mirror the positions of the majority of the Israeli population, let alone the majority of American Jews. The dismantling of Jewish settlements is just the most obvious example where the two diverge sharply. Anyone who ignores that fact to discuss "the Jewish community" and its monolithic take on Iraq is spouting ignorant bigotry.

Even more provocative, however, is Zunes' suggestion - echoing the concerns of at least one American Jewish leader in the NY Times story above - that some U.S. policymakers might be setting Israel up for a fall if the Iraq invasion goes badly. Instead of placing blame for a failure on "the undue influence of the oil companies, military contractors, right-wing ideologues, and excessive corporate influence," it would be all too easy to scapegoat those all-powerful "Jewish special interests." Don't bother telling me it couldn't happen here. Just look at the idiocy provoked by the French fries thing.

Takes the argument to a new level, doesn't it? Zunes calls the possibility of that type of sellout "not likely," but thinking about it raises all kinds of fascinating questions about the way U.S. policymakers have used Israel for their own interests in the Middle East - a point often overlooked by those who are quick to accuse Jews of using the U.S. to serve Israel. Zunes claims he's heard from Arab foreign ministers that U.S. officials tell them "it's really the Jews who are behind this" - an excuse used to moderate Arab anti-American sentiment. Sure sounds like plausible Realpolitik to me. He also says he hears the same thing from U.S.-based "security analysts" with links to the defense establishment. If he's right, the politically diverse "Jewish community" has a lot bigger problems to deal with than stupid comments from folks like Jim Moran.

4) Finally, National Review looks at Moran's fascinating history of violent incidents - including shoving another Congressman back in 1995 - and notes the role of Virginia's Republicans in keeping Democrat Jim Moran in a safe district. Ah, our old friend: partisan redistricting. If anyone's going to defeat Moran, it'll have to happen in the Democratic primary. Rest assured AIPAC is already on the case. [link]


3.14.03 - Talk about your perils of "embedded" reporting. Fayetteville Observer military reporter Tanya Biank was yanked from Kuwait earlier this week after her boyfriend, a major in the division she'd been covering for months, proposed to her. For more on the bizarre attempt by the Pentagon to remove itself from the scrutiny of civilians - the folks who, ahem, control the military in this country, according to a little document called the Constitution - check Editor & Publisher's informative Iraq and the Press page. Particularly good is 13 Questions We Wish They'd Asked, a direct smack in the head to the sleepwalking White House Press Corps. I like #6 and #9. [link]


"In some instances it's hard to tell what's dietetic about the recipes at all,
except that they're unspeakably grim. And yet also, completely insane."

3.13.03 - Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974.

What, you need more than that? Ok, try this: Wendy's descriptions will
have you spitting coffee out of your nose. Or something. [via MeFi]


3.13.03 - The death of a manic mentally ill person at the hands of seven police officers in Greenville, NC last week is being examined by the State Bureau of Investigation. Eugene Boseman's girlfriend says she watched police hit him "in the back, sides and head as he lay face down." I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy trying to subdue a manic bipolar person, but studies of interactions between police and the mentally ill suggest it's unlikely the cops' only option was beating Boseman down.

I wonder, do Greenville police get any special training in how to defuse situations involving mentally ill suspects? The Consensus Project has a number of specific suggestions for 1) recognizing the signs of severe mental illness and 2) stabilizing the scene using "deescalation techniques:"

If the person is acting erratically, but not directly threatening any other person or him-or herself, such an individual should be given time to calm down. Violent outbursts are usually of short duration. It is better that the officer spend 15 or 20 minutes waiting and talking than to spend five minutes struggling to subdue the person.

Even in situations involving busy traffic (as was apparently the case with Boseman in Greenville), officers trained to patiently deescalate have succeeded in helping mentally ill people. But even though Memphis led the way in 1988, it's only recently that U.S. cities - Cincinnatti, Phoenix and Tampa, e.g. - have begun to implement special "crisis intervention teams" and mandatory training for officers. That's especially sad since the Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse has evidence that injury rates drop dramatically for both suspects and officers in cities that take a more enlightened approach. "Unfortunately, these programs have been tragedy-driven," says one mental health advocate. "That’s what it has taken to move communities in most places. That and being sued."

We'll have to wait for the SBI report to get the officers' side of the story, but if Eugene Boseman's death gets Greenville police to rethink the way they deal with mentally ill suspects, then maybe his family can at least get a little peace from that. You know, since they apparently didn't get to say goodbye to him in person. Family members claim that police refused to allow them to see the body, providing them a Polaroid instead. It sure would be nice to see a reporter ask the department about that particular move. [thanks to Nancy for this one] [link]


3.13.03 - I feel more functional already. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill has a new branding campaign and logo, so please begin selling the area as a thrilling "region that is indeed a family of communities" immediately. Please note the exciting forward tilt to that Triangle above. While you're at it, feel free to chip in that extra $5000 you've got there in your purse. This new chapter in local history, revealed yesterday, is designed to provide us with "a sense of regional unity and identity."

Funny, I hadn't noticed one missing. Sure, if there were ten fewer miles between Carrboro and Garner the local arts and music scenes might be hitting previously unknown heights, but that's hardly the kind of thing a media campaign is going to change. Making sure there are trains running after last call would do far more to create a friendly regional vibe than any amount of hilariously vague corporatespeak.

After we get trains here, I mean. Hey, maybe someone should do a media campaign about that. [link]


3.13.03 - Thanks to all the skaters who called the show last night; you were great (rerun times here). I was surprised when Tommy Harward called, too. Here's the link to his flatland freestyle clips (try this, this and this). Here's an article called "The Dilemma of Freestyle." And here's a summary of injury rates per thousand participants for skateboarding ("surprisingly safe"), basketball, football and other sports, using data from an October 2002 study in the perfectly named Journal of Trauma.

Btw, if a story one caller told about Raleigh police is true - a cop hauled two 15-year-olds who were walking with skateboards into the police station, made them stand with their noses in a corner for a half hour and then failed to cite them for anything - someone in the RPD needs to check themselves. I'll post more skate links tonight. [link]


3.12.03 - Tonight's guest on Monkeytime TV will be the guy who organized last Sunday's skate protest. 18-year-old Travis Knapp-Prasek spoke before Raleigh's City Council last week and is also the brains behind Skate NC, a site he started 2 years ago and whose forum now serves over 1200 registered users. Travis will be phoning in at 8 to talk about local skaters' battles with police (who destroyed a homemade skatepark behind the abandoned women's prison last month) and the attempt to build a park downtown. Hey, it's more than I was doing at 18, that's for sure. [link]


3.12.03 - Great article about the Iraqi left from last week's LA Weekly; turns out many of them "firmly oppose the Bush administration’s war plans." Here's what they do support: "Iraqi leftists want the international community to back an Iraqi-led military uprising against Saddam."

The leftist party has also long been Iraq’s most diverse political movement, cutting across traditional population lines to incorporate many disenfranchised majority Shias and minority Kurds. Even though tens of thousands of Communists and other leftists have perished in Saddam’s gulags and are still actively targeted by the ruling Ba’athist regime, the Iraqi CP today maintains a clandestine network across Iraq that experts deem to be of significant scale and political potential.

That network provides some of the best and most detailed reporting on armed resistance and government repression within Iraq. Indeed, human-rights activists, from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International, rely heavily on the detailed reporting that comes out of Iraq via this network.

So why aren't we hearing more about these folks? Oh, yeah:

The Communist Party and other Iraqi leftist groups refused to join the recent U.S.-backed Iraqi opposition meeting in London, pointing out that Washington has only been planning to replace Saddam’s regime with another minority dictatorship. The Iraqis closest to Washington remain deposed aristocrats...

Instead of the U.S.-backed return of the old ruling class, the Communist Party and Shia and Kurdish opposition groups want U.N.-monitored elections inside a post-Saddam Iraq leading to a federal representative government. This is an ongoing struggle yet to be adequately reported, unfortunately, in any U.S. publication, and the issue represents a genuinely democratic frontline with, so far, few if any so-called American progressives on it.

A federal representative government? Can't have that! Far better to install a U.S. puppet and leave most of Saddam's terror-driven bureaucracy in place, right? The article overstates Western progressives' ignorance of the Iraqi left's concerns, I think, but it's probably true that the absurd fear of the word "communism" in the U.S. is partly to blame for the lack of more vocal support. Hopefully, the LA Weekly article could move that along.

Also, be sure to read this Guardian piece debunking the right-wing lie that the "true voice of the Iraqi people" is behind Bush:

A new myth has emerged in the pro-war camp's propaganda arsenal. Iraqi exiles support the war, they claim, and none took part in last month's march through central London. So if the peaceniks and leftwingers who joined the protest had the honesty to listen to the true voice of the Iraqi people they would never denounce Bush's plans for war again.

This is a common refrain from the talk radio amen chorus - led locally in all its deceptive ignorance by WPTF's Jerry Agar. But what's this?

Wrong, and wrong. A large number of Iraqis were among the million-member throng, including two key independent political groups. They carried banners denouncing Saddam Hussein (thereby echoing the sentiments of many non-Iraqis since this was not a protest by pro-Saddam patsies, as the pro-war people also falsely claim). They represented important currents in the Iraqi opposition, and ones whom the Americans have repeatedly tried to persuade to join the exiles' liaison committee.

Folks like Agar don't know jack about the "true voice" of the Iraqi people. The difference is that I don't pretend to. The very idea that the Iraqis who've been running clandestine resistance and intelligence from inside the country for years (while the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress preened in exile) might prefer an alternative to a massive U.S. bombing is outside folks like Agar's comprehension. And if it wasn't? So what? Agar's perfectly happy insisting that we're saving Iraq's neighbors even as 95% of the people in Turkey, for just one example, oppose a U.S. invasion. They must not know what's good for them. But Agar sure does.

Read to the end of the Guardian commentary, where an Iraqi opposition leader who's rejected invitations to, as he puts it, "give a cover to US military operations" describes why the sanctions used since 1991 have kept Saddam in power. [thanks to Dave L. for these] [link]


3.11.03 - This might be a good time to take a brief tour of the use of the veto by the five permanent UN Security Council members. The chart is part of Global Policy Forum's detailed collection of resources about the movement to reform the Council, including lots of news, data and commentary. A Christian Science Monitor article provides a nice overview of the issues involved. I posted this at MeFi last November but it's even more relevant today. [link]


3.11.03 - Be sure to check the reaction of local skateboarders [hmm, those posts are gone; try here, here and here] to the police crackdown of Sunday's protest in Raleigh. Yeah, sure, skating's illegal on Fayetteville Street Mall. But as an astute 18-year-old pointed out to the N&O (in an article that gratuitously likened skaters to cockroaches, it should be noted), Fayetteville Street Mall is about to be torn up by the city. So why the need to ticket kids who skate it? It's worth remembering, too, that Raleigh scuttled plans for a skatepark in the mid-90s, citing liability concerns that have been, er, dealt with just fine by other cities.

Greenville's public skatepark came after the town was named one of the top 25 skate spots in the country by Thrasher magazine. Charlotte's "lighted and supervised" Methodist Home Skatepark is publicly owned. Asheville opened its city-run, grocery-store sponsored skatepark in October 2001. Cary has a city-owned park managed by, of all things, a Christian chain that hosts "Praise and Skate" bible studies on Tuesdays across the Southeast. All of these places have private skate parks as well, but the towns felt the need to do more to serve the increasing numbers of young people who prefer skating to, say, baseball. If we're going to have parks, we might as well have parks that actually interest the kids we want to keep off the streets. And if other towns can manage the liability issues, why can't Raleigh? Or Durham? Or Chapel Hill? Hell, even Elizabeth Dole's hometown has been debating the idea. But don't take my word for it:

Some industry watchers hopefully predict that skateboarding will soon be a generally accepted youth sport nationwide, with its own publicly funded practice spaces as common as baseball diamonds and basketball courts...

Just a couple years ago, virtually no city council or parks department was interested in attracting or accommodating skaters. Participants in the sport have generally been regarded as mischievous, if not delinquent youths, known for commandeering public plazas, school steps and other spaces to the irritation of nearby adults...

Insurance problems — which are often cited as the reason for the failure of the first wave of skate park construction, in the 1970s — have proven surprisingly manageable...Using government data, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports fewer people are taken to emergency rooms annually for skateboarding injuries than for activities such as bicycling or football.

The boom in skate parks is unlikely to keep skaters off the rails and steps of banks, schools and other buildings, however. But it has often improved relationships between skaters and police and city officials.

Imagine that. So what's up with the Triangle? And while North Carolina skate culture may not quite live up to some of its more self-important hype, it's still bizarre that at this stage in the development of the sport, Triangle governments are lagging so far behind in supporting skating's generally sharp and creative culture.

Skaters will always find interesting places to hone their skills, of course, and Sunday's protesters weren't exactly coy [now gone] about their plans, but it's still hard to see how they deserved $120 dollar tickets from a city that routinely ignores them.

Update: N&O reports today that Raleigh's marathon-running mayor has asked city staffers for information about the "possible location and cost for a skateboard park." Go cockroach skaters, go. [link]


3.11.03 - So are we invading yet? No? Well, what are we wating for? Everybody knows there's ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THE UNITED STATES CAN BACK AWAY FROM ITS RIDICULOUSLY OVERPLAYED HAND without conceding total defeat, right?

Wrong. [link]


3.10.03 - George Bush, Sr. warns against a unilateral invasion of Iraq. No, really. From the London Times (because we probably won't see it in the N&O):

THE first President Bush has told his son that hopes of peace in the Middle East would be ruined if a war with Iraq were not backed by international unity...The former President’s comments reflect unease among the Bush family and its entourage at the way that George W. Bush is ignoring international opinion and overriding the institutions that his father sought to uphold...

Mr Bush Sr even came close to conceding that opponents of his son’s case against President Saddam Hussein, who he himself is on record as loathing, have legitimate cause for concern. He said that the key question of how many weapons of mass destruction Iraq held “could be debated”. The case against Saddam was “less clear” than in 1991, when Mr Bush Sr led an international coalition to expel invading Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Objectives were “a little fuzzier today”, he added.

[Update: Very different spin from the Boston Globe in an article titled "At Tufts, elder Bush defends US Iraq policy." Fascinating to compare. I should have checked the speech myself - apologies. Still, the following point remains.]

So why the hell is the administration so hell-bent on an invasion right this second? Digby lays out the "shockingly incoherent" march to war in a pointed post at Hullaballoo:

the problem isn't that there is one overarching sinister reason for the insane foreign policy actions we are taking. It's that every member of the administration has his own overarching reason, and they are all competing and conniving and complimenting...

Makes you feel all safe and secure, doesn't it?

[thanks to Whit on for the Times article] [link]


3.10.03 - The Salty Vicar nails the moral argument in a comment at The Gutless Pacifist:

Let it be clear, we will have hit first, with the most powerful weapons in the world, a country that has been bombed repeatedly for 12 years. In no ethical system is this permissible, except for the current caricature of policy we are pursuing. A previously modern, secular, wealthy country has been destroyed. This is why we go after Iraq and not Korea. Iraq an easy target. It will be easy. It will be wrong. I can get a couple Jesus quotes to back me up about loving enemies, besides.

Who knew a "30-something, salsa dancing, irish fiddling, suburban Anglican vicar" who writes beautifully about war, God, sex and more would become one of my favorite bloggers? A few of his more intriguing posts:

"What happens to clerical authority when you hear a priest fart, or catch him scratching his belly?"

"No good leftist should ever be caught defending French intentions. Remember Rwanda, Zaire, Greenpeace."

"The faith is not about Jesus being superman. That's just a lazy kind of blasphemy by those who can't imagine a dancing, sweaty, passionate, joyful, wild and crazy God, bloody, salty."

Delightful. [link]


3.8.03 - Why President Bush didn't call on former UPI reporter Helen Thomas at his press conference Thursday night. [link]


3.8.03 - War is stupid dot com.

"Why does the Air Force need expensive new bombers? Have the people we've been bombing over the years been complaining?" — George Wallace

"General fear and anxiety create hatred and aggressiveness. The adaptation to warlike aims and activities has corrupted the mentality of man; as a result, intelligent, objective and humane thinking has hardly any effect and is even suspected and persecuted as unpatriotic." — Albert Einstein

And other great quotes. [via Liberal Arts Mafia and Jeanne d'Arc's very useful list of links, which, er, includes me. Thanks to both of them] [link]


3.7.03 - Why yes, this is a post about a gallery of strange and goofy tampon art. [via the neat My So-Called Lesbian Life] [link]


3.7.03 - Triangle Future Music has details about tonight's Roller Boogie party. What Roller Boogie party? Why, the one at the Raleigh Skate Ranch from 11:30 to 4am. It's a benefit for the marvelous Crape Myrtle nonprofit, which has been providing practical services for people with HIV and AIDS in our area for a long time. Chadwick is spinning 70's and 80's retro, so feel free to dress the part. My pal (and fellow CTV-er) Ida Mae tells me I'm doing drag this evening. I can't wait. Btw, Crape Myrtle's beginning to branch out into other kinds of work as well, which can only mean good things for the Triangle's future.

Note: Bell bottoms and roller skates don't mix well with alcohol, so there'll be no beer sales at Skate Ranch tonight (dang - call Ryan Adams, that's his next hit). Fermentation fans plan accordingly. [link]


3.7.03 -

Muslim, Christian, Jew.

Palestinian, Israeli.

Ok, now what?

Despite the losses of top commanders, Hamas has never been as popular as it is now. Its political star is soaring, and not only because it continues to exact a toll from Israelis, but because it is seen as handling the day to day problems of the masses better than the Palestinian Authority. Israeli sources say Hamas now controls at least 10 percent of the medical facilities in Gaza.

Sorry I asked.



3.6.03 - I was wondering yesterday about the effects of an Iraq war on the U.S. advertising market. It feels obscene to even think about it, but anything beats watching the latest round of lies Bush is spewing in a desperate attempt to shore up his crumbling war rationale.

"War is good for the newspapers" is commonly accepted on the left as an explanation for the pro-invasion tilt in the mainstream press. It's also commonly accepted on the right as an explanation for journalists' slavering hunger for battle stories.

But is it true? Did CNN's viewership really increase by 500% after September 11? Did Operation Desert Storm really cost the Washington Post millions of dollars? Maybe. But proprietary ad numbers are almost impossible to verify, which allows media spokespeople to spin them however they like. To be honest, I find the poor-mouthing difficult to believe. Most media outlets rely on wire copy and pool reports to cover war, after all. But who knows? Maybe the military sends TV networks and newspapers the same inflated bills it sends Congress. What's CBS going to do - complain?

To help sort this out, here are a few recent, occasionally contradictory articles about what an Iraq war might mean for U.S. media interests:

Love this quote from the 2nd bullet: "This is the best thing that ever happened to newspapers. It teaches us how to sell again -- and sell with the fervor we should have had for years." Well, thank god for small blessings. It's probably also worth mentioning that overall ad spending went up last year even as Cheney & Co. were ratcheting up the war talk: "Ad spending gained strength in the third the fourth quarter spending was steaming along at a healthy pace." The growth was fueled in part by "three major automotive advertisers" and "entertainment companies."

Big cars and Hollywood movies. Yep, those'll probably do just fine. A World War II ad touting "the importance of the legitimate stage and motion pictures in civilian life in wartime" hints at Karl Rove's not-so-secret weapon - "comedies and musicals to make you forget the petty annoyances of wartime and send you home happy." And these days we don't even have to leave the house; the happiness just pours over us in our living rooms. I wonder, will Disney still do well after U.S. society becomes mired in "petty annoyances" like the ones that just occurred in Haifa and Jabalya?

Extra: If you're a freak like me and find the intersection of advertising, government and war fascinating, you'll probably enjoy scrolling through "Combatting Advertising Decline in Magazines During WWII" as much as I did. [link]


3.5.03 - Finally. The head of the state Board of Education - whose simultaneous role as head of the state's biggest business lobby raised eyebrows everywhere but on his own head - is resigning the schools job. The inherent conflicts in Phil Kirk's role as an advocate for business interests (keep taxes low and corporate loopholes open) and public school interests (we need more money) have been discussed across the state for years. Particularly sharp jabs have come from the anti-high stakes testing group North Carolina Citizens for Democratic Schools, which attacks "the haphazard use of and mis-application of standard business practices in the arena of public education" and "the undue influence NCCBI has already had on public education in NC." The group also wonders why Kirk routinely opposes strict government monitoring in the business world while pressing hard for it in the teaching world. Seems like a fair point, that.

Kirk survived in large part because the interests of N.C.'s big business community lined up often enough with the interests of the state's top-heavy education bureaucracy to keep him in place. It probably also didn't hurt that he's a Republican who gives conservative credibility to Democratic governors like Jim Hunt and Mike Easley. But the state will be far better off without his "ferociously closed mind" at the helm of its public school system:

Kirk's reaction to the recent Arizona State University study that criticized high-stakes testing was, "I simply don't believe them." There's some enlightened education leadership.

If Kirk bungled a business as badly as he's been bungling the implementation of N.C.'s mandatory testing program, he'd be sued out of town. See you around, Phil. [link]


3.6.03 - These Ain't Your Mommie's Commies. Loved the oddly capitalist communist propaganda at this Schickler Gallery exhibit. Nothing says "Lenin" so nicely as statist exhortations to buy lots of candy, spices and lunch at the local cafeteria. If anyone still doubts that Soviet-style "communism" was actually tightly controlled state capitalism in flaming red drag, take a look at this:

Man rejoices.
He is happy and glad
when he purchases
the cigarettes Klad
Nowhere else as at Mossel'prom.

How utterly Madison Avenue. I'm told the decidedly capitalist reforms of Lenin's "New Economic Policy" were first introduced after the 1921 Kronstadt revolt and justified as a necessary step in the Marxist transformation of peasant Russia. Whatever. The practical result was a significant opening of free market competition and small business ownership - no, really - and the formation of for-profit trusts that sold candy, cigarettes, wine and beer, among other consumer goods. Is it any surprise that cutesy ads and pocket calendars soon followed? The most famous of the NEP businesses was Mossel'prom, which was boosted by the success of a 1924 satirical film and the unabashedly exhuberant promos created by two of the 20th century's most creative creatives: designer Aleksandr Rodchenko (above left) and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Together they gave the world classic spiels like this:

Attention working masses
Three times cheaper than butter!
More nutritious than other oils!
Nowhere else as at Mossel'prom.

Eat your heart out, Vance Packard.

Why should you care about any of this? Well, maybe because it blurs lines I've always been taught are crystal clear. Or just because Rodchenko's amazing. Or...hey, shouldn't you be working? [thanks to Uzbekistan Diary] [link]


3.5.03 - Psst. Calpundit's been on a roll lately. [Er, except for his newly posted take on the mall t-shirt controversy, but hey, no one's perfect.] [link]


3.5.03 - There seems to be a lot of confusion in the blog world over the legal status of free speech in shopping malls. Here's the relevant info I found while researching the March 2002 article I linked below:

When the U.S. Supreme Court, in its most recent flip-flop on this issue, declined to recognize a federal free-speech right in shopping malls, it also declared that states can indeed claim that right under their own constitutions and can require private shopping malls to allow expressive political activity like collecting petition signatures. As of a year ago, the Supreme Courts of California, Colorado and New Jersey had all explicitly recognized citizens' rights to nondisruptive political activity in shopping malls. All of those courts accepted the argument that malls have obviously become the equivalent of modern town centers and should be treated as such, at least in regard to a few essential points.

"We are not so certain that what is good for mall owners is good for the country," wrote New Jersey Justice Daniel J. O'Hern as he invalidated a mall's ridiculously difficult restrictions on expressive activity, including a requirement that political groups buy $1 million in insurance before collecting signatures.

I think that's my new slogan. [thanks to Richard Byrnes for the link to the Pruneyard case in the comments at Atrios' site]

Update: Via MeFi, here's a great article from Shopping Center World about the state of current law regarding free speech and malls, circa September 2000. Law bloggers Volokh and Reynolds have leaped to the "it's private property" justification, but they're overlooking important points (many of which are made in this detailed overview that Reynolds linked but doesn't seem to have read). Shopping Center World notes that California and New Jersey offer broad protections while four other states "have adopted positions in the middle":

Three of these states, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington, have identified certain types of speech entitled to more protection than other types. "These states have said that speech related to registering voters and obtaining signatures to get a candidate or an issue on the ballot have protection," Schiller says. "On the other hand, although groups seeking to pass out flyers related to political issues such as gun control or abortion rights do have free speech rights, those rights do not rise to the level of overcoming the private property rights of a shopping center owner."

A fourth state, Colorado, has found a different sort of middle ground. "Some centers in Colorado have been developed in part with public money from redevelopment authorities," Schiller says. "Colorado Courts have made fine distinctions in cases concerning those centers, sometimes, but not always, finding access rights where public money has been used."

Makes sense to me. How many large shopping centers get built without some sort of local government assistance - zoning changes, special exemptions, public dollars to build parking decks and the like? And I like that distinction between loud protesting and democratic acts such as registering voters or collecting signatures to get someone/thing on a ballot. In the end, Glenn Reynolds' former student says it best, in a paragraph that's about as diametrically opposed to Reynolds' own "it's private property, darnit!" position as you can possibly get:

...private property owners should not be permitted to exploit the nostalgia of town squares or of community on the one hand and simultaneously deny that such a marketing strategy has any meaningful effect on the other. If private owners are understandably concerned about the effects of the exercise of free speech on their profits, then they should stop trying to be the new town square and forego the benefits of associations with city, county, or state offices that provide citizens with services. If private owners continue to exploit the benefits of public space for private profit, then state courts should exercise their state constitutions by balancing free speech rights against private ownership so that the latter does not always and inexorably "settle the question." At the present time, only state courts may stop the evolutionary market process before it becomes so entrenched that it cannot be undone, leaving us in most states with a pre-themed, privately owned brand of citizenship. As the market swallows and exploits the nostalgia of public space, and as what remains falls more and more into the shadow of the commodity, we may find that, rather than enjoying the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, we are limited to undisturbed shopping in the United Mall of America.

Emphasis added, of course.

More: Volokh led me to The Smoking Gun, which has very helpfully supplied the police reports of the incident. The key bits:

1. A claim by a Macy's store detective that a customer approached him about a "verbal dispute" in the mall. The detective informed mall security "of the two individuals wearing the anti-war t-shirts." Security replied by saying it "would be sending someone down to locate the above mentioned individuals."

2. A supporting deposition from someone with bad handwriting (probably mall security) stating: "As they were walking through the common area, [the two men] were stopping customers to express why they were wearing the shirts."

Is that it? Is anyone else surprised that the police reports don't include anything from someone who, you know, actually saw the dispute in question? Looks like mall security didn't even bother to find the other folks involved in whatever that Macy's customer saw. It's worth noting that, according to the store detective's own account, the customer said nothing to him about who began the heated discussion that sparked the arrests. So where does this idea that the peaceniks had been approaching other customers come from?

Sure, it's possible that the peacenik father and son were part of some kind of staged guerilla protest (I've seen far weirder things at malls), but if that protest involved nothing more than making the shirts, putting them on and walking around to see what happened, then the outrage over the mall's action - and the issues that action raises - still stand. If the men were actually walking up and starting arguments, however, then this story is dead in the water. [link]


3.5.03 - "Extreme milk," indeed. Surely I can't be the only one in blogdom who knows that Alley Cats: The Saga of the Raging Cow was the name of a 1983 porno flick that included - I couldn't make this up if I tried - Ron Jeremy. He's the guy whose 9-and-3/4-inch schlong starred in such classic pre-teen films as Ally McFeal, The Flintbones and Fuck Holes - Gaping Anus. I wonder if the ever-so-edgy folks at Dr. Pepper who were responsible for unleashing Raging Cow Extreme Milk Drink on the blog world are aware of this fascinating development. [link]


3.5.03 - If I told you that a security guard in an Albany, NY shopping mall demanded that a consumer remove his "No War With Iraq" t-shirt simply because a mall employee had complained that the shirt was "a disturbance," would you think I was being a paranoid left-wing nutcase? What about if I told you that the consumer had been arrested after he refused a request to leave the mall - based solely on a shirt which had been made by a mall retailer? Would that be a left-wing delusion?

Think again. While you're feeling outraged, here's Crossgates Mall's main info line: 518-869-9565. You could also begin calling some of the mall's individual stores. My suggestion is to be polite as you ask for a clear statement from the management that this will absolutely never happen again. The idiocy of the mall employee and security guard is understandable. Anything other than an appalled response from the mall owners is not. Stay tuned.

While you're waiting, here's something I wrote a year ago about the legal status of free speech in privately owned shopping malls. It just might be a more complex issue than you think. [thanks to the always-sharp Atrios] [link]


3.4.03 - A National Review columnist traces alleged al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's North Carolina connections, and in the process slams admissions standards at tiny Chowan College in Murfreesboro. "How many more Khalid Mohammeds have America's colleges and universities coddled in the name of multiculturalism and profit?" asks Michelle Malkin, without bothering to explain exactly how colleges are supposed to tell when a visiting foreign student will become someone who lusts in his heart for infidel blood. It's also worth keeping in mind that in the early 80s radical Muslims were Ronald Reagan's best friends; he armed, trained and funded them to the teeth:

By 1983, the CIA was purchasing assault rifles, grenade launchers, mines, and SA-7 light antiaircraft weapons, totaling 10,000 tons, mainly from China. The Reagan administration had them shipped to Pakistan, a country that at the time was working closely with Washington.

Then, in a move that marked a turning point in the relentless war, in 1985, President Ronald Reagan made a secret decision to escalate covert support to the mujahidin. Soon after, the CIA began to supply an extensive array of intelligence, military expertise and advanced weapons to the Muslim rebel forces. They included...covert communication technology for the rebels; detonating devices for tons of C-4 explosives for urban targets; long-range sniper rifles; a targeting system linked to a U.S. Navy satellite; and wire-guided anti-tank missiles. Furthermore, amidst intensifying debate within the CIA over the extent of U.S. involvement in the war, Reagan made the decision to equip the mujahidin with sophisticated U.S.-made Stinger antiaircraft missiles. American-trained Pakistani officers were sent to Afghanistan to set up a secret mujahidin Stinger training facility, which was complete with a U.S.-made electronic simulator.

And we're supposed to be upset at Chowan College for "coddling" Muslim students by waiving an English entry requirement so long as the students took language classes once they enrolled? Give me a break.

It is interesting, though, that Mohammed's "first glimpse of the West" was a tiny Baptist school in a place like Murfreesboro. The definitive account of Mohammed's North Carolina stay is this richly detailed December 2002 LA Times article:

Mohammed, like every student, was required to attend a once-a-week chapel service based on Christian doctrine...Groups of Arab students would gather in a fifth-floor dorm room and follow a kind of ritual: boil a chicken, share it with rice among all present, pray and commence intense discussions, before praying anew. In the Middle Eastern tradition, they would leave their shoes in the corridor. Some U.S. students could not resist the temptation: The footwear sometimes ended up in the lake. Another prank involved filling 55-gallon garbage containers with water and propping the vessels against the doors of the "Abbie Dahbies," knocking and running away. When the door opened, water flooded the room.

How delightful. More:

The Arab students were frequent recipients of anti-Iranian epithets in the years after the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The foreigners were sometimes viewed as cliquish.

Meanwhile, Malkin in the National Review uses the Muslim students' cliquishness to sneer at the notion of diversity. I love it.

Update: US vows not to torture captured terror planner. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, what counts as "torture" depends on the eye of the beholder:

Military interrogators say their prisoners can be lied to, screamed at and shown falsified documents in the hopes they might unwittingly confirm certain pieces of information. Interrogators can also play on their prisoners' phobias, such as fear of rats or dogs, or disguise themselves as interrogators from a country known to use torture or threaten to send the prisoner to such a place. Prisoners can be stripped, forcibly shaved and deprived of religious items and toiletries.

Seems ok to me to use those methods, although others (below) might disagree. Actually, there's no "might" about it - human rights groups do disapprove of the techniques the Journal's sources claim are acceptable, such as "making captives wear black hoods, forcing them to stand in painful 'stress positions' for a long time and subjecting them to interrogation sessions lasting as long as 20 hours." Even "a little bit of smacky-face" is within the lines, the military folks say. One thing, however, clearly sinks below the level of human:

The Americans have access to two of [Khalid's] elementary-school-age children...The children were captured in a September raid that netted one of Mr. Mohammed's top comrades...

Are we actually going to threaten this guy's kids? I could see telling him we have access to the kids and lying about what we plan to do to them, if we think it could work. But actually bringing the kids into the room? To coin a phrase: Not in my name, please. [link]


3.4.03 - So one of my roommates is wondering if the way I mix local and national issues might be a bit off-putting for folks who don't live in North Carolina. It's a fair point, and one I'd worry about a lot more if I thought dick size - er, I mean, number of visits - was a clear indicator of a weblog's quality. But smart girls and boys already know it ain't the meat that matters, so we'll just leave the absurdly self-serving spin about our "lack of pretension" to others, recognize that it isn't hard to get millions of people to think you're the shiznit and move on.

The concerned roomie is a sharp woman (so's the other one, btw); she helped organize one of the best visual arts shows the Triangle's seen in years, so I do try to pay attention. If she says folks would visit Monkey Media Report more often if I stuck to writing about general interest issues instead of NC stuff, it's probably true. But I'm just enough of a punk to test her theory by doing the opposite.

I figure everyone can relate to a story about the wife of a local Presidential contender that makes not-so-oblique references to her weight problem and notes that people who meet her for the first time "discover something very different from what they would expect from the spouse of someone whom People magazine anointed the nation's sexiest politician." Gosh, that's nice. And how about the TV weatherman with a checkered past who does drag, bitches out his boss on the air and has to be reminded to actually, um, give the weather forecast during his weather forecast? The one who just got suspended for making fun of Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, formerly of Gastonia?

If that doesn't do it, we can always focus on our capitol city's paper of record as it flails around in a bizarre, misguided attempt to fight its superficially "liberal" reputation. What else explains the News & Observer's decision to publish a gratuitous personal attack like this anti-Arianna Huffington column from veteran political reporter Rob Christensen? If any of you can find even one remotely fair point in Christensen's snide attempt to dismiss Huffington as a silly poser, please let me know. Because from here it seems obvious that Rob doesn't quite have the hang of writing opinion pieces that, er, rely on actual facts. He's obviously been straightjacketed too long in the news pages. Reading as the column lets loose with the venom is like watching a fundamentalist preacher as he goes wild with hookers in Las Vegas.

Rob, take it from someone who knows: You have to earn the right to those derisive "uh-huh's." It's done by pointing out the flaws in your target's arguments. Here, I'll show you. Somehow, you found space to comment on the "Birkenstock crowd" that made up Huffington's "adoring audience" while completely ignoring her point about the tax credits and fuel efficiency breaks given to SUV buyers. It may come as a surprise to you, but those points still stand - even if Huffington was once married to a rich gay guy. Instead of gleefully trashing a woman who's been working hard to bring a neglected issue to the forefront, you might want to consider using some of that oh-so-sharp wit to skewer an actual argument or two. (Confidential memo to Rob's editors: On what planet does addressing questions of energy efficiency and tax policy with a series of disgusting personal insults count as solid column-writing?)

Oh, that "silly" and "inane" "airhead" Arianna! I know, Rob, I know. You and your editors are looking for exactly this kind of attention, and I'm obliging in spades. But if you really think that you're going to draw new readers with half-assed insults and Limbaugh-style sneering - while completely avoiding the serious issues you're pretending to write a column about - you're kidding yourself. Sunday's cutesy offering was the media equivalent of Erskine Bowles supporting George Bush, Rob: unconvincing and utterly transparent. Next time, try not to insult our intelligence so directly as you go about your task of deliberately insulting our politics.

There. That was fun for you non-North Carolinians, too, wasn't it? I know you have similar shenanigans in your neck of the woods. [link]


3.4.03 - I wonder when local newspapers are going to tell their readers about this delightful tidbit from Colin "My boss doesn't know what he's doing please send help" Powell's famous speech to the UN:

[The] conversation, about possibly forbidden ammunition, was reported by Powell to be between Republican Guard headquarters and an officer in the field. When Powell referred to this conversation, he quoted one of the parties as ostensibly saying, "And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."

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 guess the fact that Colin Powell lied through his teeth to the United Nations isn't newsworthy enough for the publisher and editors of the N&O to acknowledge. They did find time for this editorial on February 9, however:

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday offered a strong case for the danger Saddam presents and a convincing litany of his many lies and deceptions, in defiance of previous U.N. mandates that he cooperate with arms inspectors.

And we got this analysis on Feb. 13:

Secretary of State Colin Powell used intercepted phone conversations and satellite photos to show the U.N. Security Council what he said was evidence of pre-inspection cleanups and furtive movement of weapons equipment from place to place.

What was that about a "convincing litany" of lies again? Doesn't integrity demand that Orage Quarles and the rest of the N&O op-ed crew (hi, Dennis) follow up on reports of a clear discrepancy between Powell's words and the State Department's own transcript of the conversation he was describing? The one the N&O's editors want us to believe is evidence of a "pre-inspection cleanup?" Surely that's worth fitting in somewhere between all those articles about how exciting and emotional it is to prepare for war. [link]


3.2.03 - Hey, UNC law prof Eric Muller has a good question: "The next time the Administration says it needs new powers to fight the war on terrorism, ask why it's so bad at using its old ones." Seems that 37 illegal aliens had managed to find jobs at "the headquarters of the nation's largest arsenal of intercontinental nuclear missiles." Oops. No word yet on whether they had access to "secure areas."

Muller also has his own very nice Mr. Rogers remembrance, which points out that, for a number of reasons, Rogers was one of the more courageous people we've recently lost:

...most of all, Mr. Rogers had the courage to be the sort of man that our society doesn’t usually think much of—a man with very strong feelings who was more interested in getting to know them and accept them than in hiding them and besting them.

He also links to Rogers' simple, beautiful commencement address at Dartmouth last year. Now I'm crying. [link]


Archive links:

March 2003

second half of February 2003

January and the first half of February 2003

December 2002

November 2002

October 2002

September 2002

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