Saturday, March 06, 2004

Where A Kid Can Be A Kid 

While this may not be the most pressing political issue in the United States today, it is entirely indicicative, in my mind, of the direction the country is going. Two senators are trying to block slimy companies from direct marketing to kids.

"Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) introduced the Children's Listbroker Privacy Act to limit the sale of personally identifiable information for purposes of marketing to children, as part of a larger package of legislation intended to help parents combat commercial attacks on their children.

"...The legislation would make it illegal for companies like Marketing Group and American Student List to sell, buy, or lease personal information about anyone known to be 16 or under without the parent's consent. It would also prohibit list purchasers from using any data obtained without parental permission."

Why aren't these innocent children buying your products yet?!

Ungh. Can there be a lower, more insiduous case of corporate greed than this? These companies are despicable, as you can see by their glossed over banner above. I have enough of a problem with direct marketing to adults, but children-- isn't there enough for these kids to cope with (beisdes the obvious environmental, economic, racial, international and political issues)? Coke machines in schools, toys that are cartoons that are cereals, cell phones, and an incessant, almost violent barrage of advertising that would leave any average child feeling empty if s/he doesn't have that video game, those sneakers. There is a small line between advertising, entertainment and news, and this, this is the era in which the next couple generations' psyches and understanding of the world are being shaped; where there is purposefully no difference between reality and fiction, and your happiness is pegged on material and logo; where fast food and Coca-Cola is the staple. This advertising is predatory.

It reminds me of the first time I felt assaulted by advertisers, during ads for that timeless classic, Mac&Me. Remember this one? In which a young boy's best friend is an androgynous alien named Mac -- as if Mc Donald's, a mysterious and other-worldly companion, can bring you happiness and success.

(And all the kids run around in McKids clothes.)

We are becoming a complete and monolithic corporate Sparta state, in which you are defined as a citizen by your ability to consume and your level dependence on microwaveable everythings.

In the end, as with anything, it's up to the individual to take a little responsibility-- something we could all use. But these kids are starting ten steps behind.

(I originally found this article on disinfo.com)



Some great links on the Haiti mystery and other analysis on damfacrats today.

And a nice article on Democratic Underground.


Le Strife 

Besides being very upset that Explorer just quit before I had a chance to publish this last (very lengthy) post, I'm also a bit peeved about the unfolding Haiti situation.

Everybody wants Aristide to shut his mouth, especially the Central African Republic.

"Since his arrival, Aristide has raised hackles, first by saying in an interview on CNN that he had been ousted by a coup orchestrated by Washington and then complaining that he was a prisoner in Bangui.

That brought a sharp response from the government, which told him to show some respect for his host nation's hospitality and its allies, without whose help Aristide "would be dead by now," in M'bay's words. "

So why would Aristide voluntariy flee to such a hostile country? Aristide accused France of colluding with the US to remove him(which might make some diplomatic sense, given to tension between the two over that little Iraq matter). Aristide says he demanded restitution -- to the tune of 21 billion dollars -- for France's colonization of the Caribbean country, and France refused.

And wasn't Aristide supposed to go to South Africa? Well, Colin Powell says that nation couldn't take him because they were too busy with their own elections.

Hmm. Fair enough. Perhaps SA did not want to get involved with this mess.

And as for the Central African Republic. This former French colony got its independence in 1958, and has seen more coups since then than you would dare shake a stick at.

Their current leader, Francois Bozize, came to power in a coup last year.

The French government helped train CAR soldiers after the coup, too.

"The first Central African Republic (CAR) soldiers to be trained by French military instructors since a coup here in March completed a two-month course on Friday, government-owned Radio Centrafrique reported.
Army Chief of Staff Gen Antoine Gambi presided over the graduation of the 16 non-commissioned officers at the Kassai Military Barracks in the capital, Bangui.

The radio reported that another intake would begin training in the coming days. The trainees were among 300 soldiers stationed in Bangui since March."

Je sente un rat. All we hear in the press is that Aristide resigned, and then, dinging from the histerical periphery, some harebrained ideas that he was kidnapped. Of course, there are those who think he was a tyrant.

Who cares about Haiti, anyway?


Friday, March 05, 2004

Desperation Becoming Desperate 

More and more states jerk their knees and come up with with a ban on same-sex marriage.

"Lawmakers in Wisconsin and Kansas pushed ahead Friday on efforts to amend their states' constitutions to ban gay marriage, and a similar measure died in Idaho.

The actions came two days after Utah's Legislature agreed to put its own anti-gay marriage amendment before voters, countering efforts elsewhere to legalize the partnerships, including nearly 3,600 same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco in the past three weeks."

I truly cannot understand the mentality here. Does it not seem transparent to the rest of the country? Some sort of scrambled clawing against inevitable change? Here in the Empire State, gay couples stormed Long Island in search of marriage licenses-- the kind that were turned down in NYC yesterday.

New Paltz mayor Jason West also says he'll put off plans to marry more same-sex couples tomorrow so he can go over some legal issues with AG Spitzer.


Air Force I Part II 

I hate to throw Karl Rove's name around so freely, but the man gets around. A federal grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame has subpoenaed phone records from Air Force One. Chances are, it's Karl Rove's voice they'll be getting intimate with. It was Robert Novak, don't forget, who committed treason by naming Plame, just when it seemed that the President's lies about Niger and yellowcake might stick. Novak, it seems, is Rove's personal spigot, going all the way back to 1992, when the Rover was fired from Bush I's campaign over a leak to Novak.

Imagine, the impervious Air Force One, in court. Going straight at a Presidential symbol like that goes a long way toward demystifying the office, and especially this office. Ralph Nader, the only well-known political figure to call for Bush's impeachment, says demystification is exactly what we have to do.

"Clinton helped to demystify it. . . . You know, to me, impeachment is an investigation by the House. So what's the big deal? Republicans control the House, so that's not allowed to happen. That doesn't mean you don't talk about it. Start demystifying it, and raise the serious issue of him plunging the nation into war on a platform of fabrication and deception."

Put your guns down and your fangs back in your mouth, Dems. Ralph is actually on your side.

Though this latest poll will no doubt have our nation's defenders fuming:
Friday March 5, 2004

George Bush 46%
John Kerry 45%
Ralph Nader 6%


Even if our bodies are far apart, the distance between our hearts is close. 

Like Odysseus, Abelard, Jefferson and Faulkner before him, hot-shot terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is a man of letters. His recent cry for help put al-Zarqawi right to the top of the list, if not for officials than certainly for the consumption of the public. In this Reuters article today, he even gets top billing in the al-Qaeda heirarchy:

"US officials have named Jordanian Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s Al-Qaeda network as prime suspects in Tuesday's bombings, which killed more than 170 people, Iraq's worst day of violence since the fall of Saddam."

That's good work for a man no one had really heard of a month or so ago. So what could it mean? Damfacrats think the US sees the writing on the wall, and they're trying to spread the blame fast, before it all becomes clear that this project is a failure. This might not be too far off. It had been months since the last time we heard Osama's name, but now we get updates from the military-plumbers every week.

Yessir, we almost got that clog out. Getting real close now! Any minute now, any minute. Boy is it dug in there good!

He seems like a real bad guy who should get caught. Still, it couldn't hurt to have too many bad guys (though it definitely backfired in Batman & Robin) and being able to seesaw the two keeps the hunt in the press. Especially since there's going to be an action across the Pakistan border one way or the other this spring.

"The U.S. military is making plans for an offensive that would reach inside Pakistan in coming months to try to destroy operations of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday...

"The Chicago Tribune, quoting sources who requested anonymity, said a team of military intelligence officers would go in to Pakistan ahead of time to prepare an operation which would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and ground troops and an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea.

The operation is being called "spring offensive" in internal Pentagon messages."

Anyone remember when this little ditty came out? And since this story ran (Jan. 28), all we've been hearing is Osama, al-Zarqawi, over and over. If, Lord help us, there were to be actual action across the Pakistani border, I doubt that Mr. Musharraf and Co. would be able to keep the worm in the can any longer. There have been several attempts on his life, and, then, of course, the whole Khan affair. We really, really don't want a coup in that country.


Thursday, March 04, 2004


Check out this ad on memoryhole. It's the one called Lies Fuel Fear.

I don't think comparing Bush to Hitler does any good, but this ad is eye-opening.


The only English words ending in -dous are


A Haunted Place 

If Haiti weren't so small and devoid of fine petrol products, maybe people would be asking questions about the hasty departure of Monsieur Aristide. I don't know much about the history there besides the very basic. But I do know that a couple days before Aristide, um, relocated, the official stance of the Administration was that the sitting president should not leave in order to maintain the rule of law and uphold the Constitution. For instance, Colin Powell said the United States and other nations "will accept no outcome that ... attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti." Then, all of a sudden, they say he should go, and the next thing we know, he's in the Central African Republic (a country whose leaders came into power in a military coup).

Aristide, of course, says he was whisked away by US operatives. He's probably not the most trustworthy witness. Nonetheless, the US announced that Marines would be sent to the country very quiclky, and they seemed to change their tune awfully fast. It all seemd a bit, shall we say, coordinated. (Not that the CIA would ever take part in a coup.)

A friend poitned out to me the other night that the first rule of a coup d'etat is you don't give the deposed leader a phone. Apparently, that's just what they did, because Aristide called some members of the Black Caucus, and spilled his guts. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel were raging mad, claiming Aristide told them he was removed at gunpoint against his will.

There are also reports that the US blocked Aristide's attempts to beef up his security. A good chunk of his security force was retired US military, from what I hear, and not loyal to Aristide.

And these guys, these thugs who fomented this whole thing, are ex-death squad commandos and alleged drug traffickers. Not only that, the two main opposition groups, the Democratic Convergence and the Group of 184, have been funded by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute. It starts to become clear that the US was unhappy with Aristide (a priest for Pete's sake) and directly or indirectly saw to his removal. At the very least, they threw some money to the "thugs" and let them run wild.

Who knows what happened. We won't learn the truth till 2024, by which time the world will be over anyway. Ahem.


See Earlier Post 

"Damn Wednesday Night Trivia"


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Spitzer for Governor 

New York's outspoken defender of everything political, AG Eliot Spitzer, came out partially against gay marriage today, joining the loud chorus of terrified pols who want to weigh in without fully weighing in. (And I thought these guys were against going both ways.) According to the New York Times, Spitzer determined that same-sex marriages are not permitted because of state laws referring to husband and wife and bride and groom. I'm no attorney, but that seems like rather thin legal ground to stand on. In typical form, though, Spitzer says there are still Equal Protection issues with the laws, and the state must recognize gay marriages carried out in other states.

Leggo my Eggo, Eliot!

Elsewhere in NY, New Paltz mayor Jason West (a Green Party member) was charged yesterday with 19 misdemeanors for marrying gay couples last week. Mr. West says he'll plead not guilty; he also says he'll perform more of the marriages this weekend.

If only Spitzer would take a stand for this important civil issue like Democratic frontrunner, John Kerry!


Plug (shameless) 

I'll be appearing Thursday on WBAI's once-monthly Christmas Coup Comedy Players (CCCP), truly one of the last best political satire sources on the radio.

Tune in at 11am (in New York) to 99.5 FM. Or you can listen to it on the web right here.

For those of you new to it, WBAI is nonprofit left wing radio -- in flux. I'll be the guy with the Indian accent, the guy with the Baghdadi accent, and the guy interviewing Ray. It's funny, and if we're not careful, we just might learn something about ourselves along the way.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

True Tales from the DoD 

- That the Military Loves Jazz?

Yes! Among other things, our fighting men and women are enthusiasts of the highest order of this particularly American invention. Besides being the most highly-trained killing force in the world, imposing a corporate hegemony and a repressive dogma of freedom and equal rights, we love to jam some classics! Read on:

"As the U.S. Navy's premier jazz ensemble, the Commodores offer the finest in America's true classical music - JAZZ! A specialty unit of The United States Navy Band in Washington, D.C., the group features 18 of the Navy's top jazz and "big band" musicians.

...the Commodores combine the best of jazz and popular music. Many of the members compose and arrange music for the group in styles ranging from the authentic sounds of the swing era to contemporary music." And all that Jazz

This is your father's military after all. Or, your grandfather's. Grandmother's too. We're not sexist.

- That the Military Loves Indians?

And How! All that stuff about Colonel Custer, and Andrew Jackson, and the methodical slaying of this great land's indigenous peoples is old news! Look! We mean it:

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Nov. 6, 2003 – A culturally diverse group of Combined Joint Task Force 180 members celebrated the kickoff of Native American Heritage Month with a Nov. 5 ceremony here.

Task force commander Army Brig. Gen. Lloyd Austin III said the event was "about diversity." He urged those in attendance to "take a moment and stop and think what we're about."

He reminded those assembled that America stands for diversity. "If you treasure diversity, then people will bring great ideas from their culture," Austin said. "Diversity makes us a better team."
Wampum & Things

Hooray! There's a whole month dedicated to those crazy redskins!

- That We Are In A State of Emergency?

True 'dat! The President said so himself: "In light of grave acts of terrorism and threats of terrorism, including the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, on the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense in the national capital region, on the World Trade Center in New York, and on civilian aircraft such as in Pennsylvania, I proclaimed a national emergency on September 14, 2001 (Proc. 7463, Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks)." President Bush's EO from 11.13.01. W milks a tragedy

A State of Emergency is no big deal, really. It just grants the President unilateral power to:
1)-Declare war Johnny (and Suzie) get your gun , even thought that's technically Congress's job.
2)- Take command of all moneys in the country.
3)- Take command of all transportation.
4)- Seize commodities.
5)- Institute martial law.
6)- Restrict private enterprise.
7)- Suspend the Constitution!

This little Act, the Emergency War Powers, has been in effect at least since 1933, when signed by the Greatest Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt. Built on an original law from the 19th Century, and the trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, it essentially gives the President monarchical power to ensure the nation's safety -- of course. It could be argued that since 9-11, we are in a (rather convenient) national emergency, but Presidents have reaffirmed it, just in case, during times when there was no imminent threat. Even President Clinton got in on the fun: On November 14, 1994, by Executive Order No. 12938, I declared a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons ("weapons of mass destruction") and the means of delivering such weapons."

The US Senate published a report in 1973 on this, and declared :"A majority of the people of the United States have lived all of their lives under emergency rule. For 40 years [now 71 years], freedoms and governmental procedures guaranteed by the Constitution have, in varying degrees, been abridged by laws brought into force by states of national emergency." Read it here

They did not dig it. Now, thankfully, our elected officials seem more open to the idea of totalitarianism. Remember the Patriot Act!

The Texas Republican Party, in 1995 (George W. Bush's first year as Governor of the Lone Star State) passed a resolution condemning the Emergency War Powers Act: "Whereas, The Republican Party of Texas recognizes that acts of the Congressional body and the Office of the President of the United States of America created an emergency condition, and that on and after March 6, 1933 and March 9, 1933 the same said Public Offices effectively impaired and suspended the Constitution for the United States of America under pretense of these same created emergency conditions, and that the impairments and disabilities yet exist and are in full force and effect throughout the Nation and several States of the Union as of the date of this resolution”; and

Whereas, there has occurred continuous breach of trust, duty and obligation imposed under authority of the Constitution for the United States of America, resulting in a continued abridgment of the Rights, Privileges, Immunities, and Liberties of Citizens and others, all committed under pretense of a continuing national crisis and furtherance of emergency conditions”
Don't mess with Texas

California's and Alaska's state legislatures passed similar statements, as well.

Yes it's good to be in America!


Monday, March 01, 2004

Darkness Descends On... Something 

It reminded me of death. My first experience in a staffing agency office. I was there this morning, in a startling black tie and a frayed (though definitely Calvn Klein) jacket whose sleeves are desperately short, in hopes of landing a management position with a reputable coffee house. Or even a disreputable one. A black couple was seated across from me, poring over their applications, dressed sharply, sitting up straight. An older man sat in the chair next to mine, staring straight ahead with an even smile. It was an open-style office, receptionist up front, two other administrative-types to her left and rear, and two mover-shaker-types in either office, speaking gregariously into their business-type phones.

It reeked, just reeked, of death. Fluorescent lights, a bad watercolor on the wall, and white white white. I filled out a form, my hadwriting devolving to the bottom of the page. Reliving old jobs and old interviews for Foot Locker, a car wash, a needleworkers' union. I sat confidently, constantly pushing my shirtsleeves back under the jacket. Look respectable, get respect. Right? The phones rang a lot:

"-- Associates. Yes. And do you have retail experience? Wonderful. Wonderful. What did you do for them? Oh great. Great. Let me transfer you to Jeff, okay? Okay, just a moment." (Over the intercom.) "Jeff, do you want Sadid, who works for Bed Bath & Beyond? Okay."

Jeff- "Hey Sadid, it's Jeff what's happening? Great. So you're with Bed Bath? Great. What do you do for them? Wonderful. Wonderful. Listen, I want you to come in and talk to me in person. Great. Tomorrow at 2? Tomorrow at 2, then. See you then, pal. B-bye."

A man named Ralph sat down next to me in a fairly ugly plaid jacket. He kept his resume on his lap as he filled out his form. He's from Stamford, CT. He used to be a VP of Something Associates. He was a manager for a bus company. He wore glasses, stooped over his form, writing deliberately. I looked at his profile, greying hair, close shave. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug him, tell him to hang in there. I could only imagine: once a VP, now sitting trying to look competent in a cheesy Manhattan office, waiting for the call from Pizza Hut. There was something about his face, a determination mixed with a kind of regret, a long sigh. And yet, who the hell am I to judge this guy? I know nothing about his life, his career, his dreams. Maybe he's coming out of retirement, and is happy just to get back in the game. Maybe he left his job. Maybe he actally loves retail. I felt ashamed but no less compassionate. Just because I am young does not mean-- but--

"Hey Stace? Do we know if Shauna ever got the job with Taco Bell? Yeah, I guess they're giving her the runaround. Okay. Yeah, Roberto's going to the open interviews at Circuit City, so schedule him for 3 on the 10th. He's gonna do it."

A receptionist yelled, Hooray!

They care? Do they care? I guess they care. Maybe they really care.

I wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as I took a look at old Ralph's penmanship, but I stuck around. Stace calls me in, Joseph, she's ready for me. I walk into her office. She's short, her eyes wander a bit more than I am comfortable with. There is a huge poster of a grilled chicken sandwich with fries and a bubbling coke leaning against a wall. She wants to know about the chocolate shoppe. I tell her. She takes a call. I stare at the grilled chicken sandwich, note some books on her shelf. I trained employees, did nightly tally reports, that sort of thing. No, I've never filled out any PNR reports in my past jobs, not to my knowledge, no. A lot, apparently, rides on these mysterious reports: since I've never laid a hand on one, she tells me, they can probably do no better than an assistant manager slot at an ice cream shoppe. With two Ps and an E, you'll note. A nice one.

Poor Ralph is still going at his forms, by the time I come back out to the waiting area. More calls, more wonderfuls. I'm waiting to talk to Jeff, the mover-shaker. He has me in and out in 3 minutes, still unclear on whether I live in Boston or New York, and tells me to call tomorrow. They'll pick something out for me.

What do I want? I didn't feel better than the good people at -- Associates, nor did I feel bigger than an ice cream shop(pe) gig. I just wanted more. I wasn't sure I was ready to resign myself to ice cream shop(pe)s, to placement agencies, to bad perfume and ugly lights. Then I felt guilty. How can I be picky when I don't even have enough cash for a taco. In the end, though, I felt good. Mostly for feeling good. I didn't bolt, which would have been a very Holden Caulfield thing to do, and the better story. I did what I had to do, which is what men are supposed to do. I remain calm and optimistic.

As for old Ralph, well, only the gods know.


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