Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Make that four million points of death

Allegedly. Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch: "As a comparison in the war in Iraq in 2003, the United States over three weeks dropped 2 million cluster sub-munitions. Israel in the war in Lebanon dropped 4 million in three days. It dwarfs any use of cluster bombs prior. You can take Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and put them together and you’re not going to come close to what happened in southern Lebanon."

"Four million" is a few orders of magnitude more than what has been reported on NPR, the NYt, and other award-winning corporate media outlets.

No one ever wins

Reports on Lebanon, Human Rights Watch

Previous note

Monday, January 29, 2007

In the interest of saving time and money

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.
- Al.

Not Sharpton. Not Franken. Not Quaeda or Cohol, but Gore.

A guy who was to the manor born and remains in some odd ways a beltway insider even as he tries to be inconvenient.

Not too long ago Gore was a feckless senator and an even more incapacitated presidential candidate. Now he's pulling out something on the minds of shitloads of Americans of various "stripes."

He's not in public office. Can we imagine Clinton, or McCain, or Obama, or Hagel, or any other fine public seat warmers talking like this? Why is it so hard for them to say it? Could it be that if this were said, the office holder saying it would actually have to do something -- hold hearings, move to impeach, etc.?

It teeters on antinomy: The people who can speak something like the truth lack power to do what the truth requires; the people in power can't bring themselves to speak anything like the truth.

Any aspirant declared or undeclared that fails to voice what Gore is saying is a coward, repugnant to common sense and, in the current environment, unelectable.

I trust that saves some time and wasted campaigning.

US off(ici)al: a million bombs - what's the big deal?

Update on cluster bombs in Lebanon (see this):

Since the end of last summer’s war, de-mining team have located 800 cluster-bomb strike areas, and they destroyed 95,000 bomblets, said Christopher Clark, program manager for the United Nations Mine Action Service in Lebanon.

“We found them pretty much everywhere — in villages, at road junctions, in olive groves and on banana plantations,” Mr. Clark said.

The casualty rate has come down sharply, he said. Right after the war, there were more than 40 casualties a week; now it is about 3 or 4 a week. NYT (emphasis added)

The bombs were supplied to Israel by the US. Reuters is following: "Several U.S. officials said they expected little further action on the matter."

There are priorities.

missing in action

"Silence is no longer an option," said Fonda.

Except when it is.

"...police declined to give an official crowd estimate."

Kia contributed one body, and this report with photos of seditious hoosier hippie freaks and pinko fringe elements.

These members of SEIU traveled by bus from Indiana to be in the march. The Service Employees International Union is, well, just what it says. They work in places like nursing homes. In other words they have some of the least appealing low-wage jobs and have had to fight really hard to be allowed to unionize. These folks probably left work Friday night, boarded the bus, rode all the way to Washington. Then after a day of standing around, waiting, marching, chanting, and beating their plastic-paint-bucket drums (really well!) they would get on that bus for the long ride back to Indiana. One day of rest then back to work. #

Somehow NPR missed them.

What counts as news is what can be counted. The rest is silence.

(apologies to Kia - more Kiefer here, here, here)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One trillion spimes, nobody home

Two hundred forty thousand gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked out of the train producing a vapor plume that floated over the town. Limited exposure burns the eyes, the skin, and the lungs. Larger doses can shut down the human respiratory system. The chemical leak in Minot, North Dakota ended up killing one person and hospitalizing hundreds. But questions remain to this day over how the crisis was handled and the role played by media consolidation.

The radio giant Clear Channel owned all six commercial stations in Minot, North Dakota. None of them broke into regular programming to provide emergency information to the city’s residents.
Democracy Now. The interview with Eric Klinenberg points up an often overlooked feature of consolidation and what is perhaps best referred to as the propaganda of corporate efficiencies of scale: namely, that drawing together lots of formerly independent local media outlets might have saved Clear Channel fucktillions of dollars, but the robotizing of local eyes and ears and voices deprived entire communities of the ability to hear and see and speak for themselves, as was seen in the Minot, North Dakota emergency, as well as in many other instances uncovered by Klinenberg in the course of researching Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media.
KLINENBERG: It used to be the case that there was no company that could own more than forty stations in the country. Now, Clear Channel owns 1,200, and others own hundreds. They have replaced live local talent, deejays, talk show hosts, programmers, with automated programming, oftentimes faked to sound like it's local, even though it’s programmed in a remote studio thousands of miles away. That night in Minot, North Dakota, there was no one in any of those six stations. They were all consolidated into two offices, and the result is that when the Emergency Alert System failed, there was no way to get the word out.

AMY GOODMAN: Where are the human beings?

ERIC KLINENBERG: That's the question.

The not very hard to imagine next step: if this is the fruit of corporate consolidation of local broadcast media, what will be the case if/when the FCC or its futuristic-but-equally-nimrodic clone enables widespread corporate control over spimes calling to us from our underwear:
Right now a pilot project is going on in Ginza, the Tokyo Ubiquitous Technology Project, which will see little transmitters planted around key streets, sending local information which can be picked up by normal cell phones. Presumably later on we'll all have wearable computers sewn into our clothes, heads-up displays superimposing RFID information on what we see with our eyes, or brain implants. We'll be able to pass through any environment as we currently pass through the internet, gathering incredibly precise information, leaving a paperless papertrail behind us. Click opera

Something will know something, it just won't be anyone who gives a damn about us. Unless:
KLINENBURG: This happens maybe once every twenty years, and it’s something we all should know about: Sometime in April or May this year, the FCC will open up a window allowing communities with standing in the places where they live to apply for a full-power broadcast license, to do full-power radio programming. If you're interesting in doing something like this -- and you'll have competition from organized religion, you’ll have competition from organized business -- but if you want to have your own station, get in touch with the Prometheus Radio Project. Go to their website. Go to freepress.net. Find out how you can apply. We have a crisis in our communications system right now, and the only way that we will replenish it is if Americans learn about the opportunities that are there, whether it’s in broadcasting or in the digital frontier.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The state of Katrina

via, sort of

Monday, January 22, 2007

street savvy

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll on the eve of Mr. Bush's State of the Union address underscores the extent gossips about the extent to which he has lost the nation's ear.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


What is news? the poetics of nudged attention is part; the philology of nourishing the bloodlife of words that are about to become pale headline fodder.

The New York Times with serene colonial synaptic stupor will whinge about Iran as if it knows what the word means.

Sheila Lennon is discovering Iran before Bushnews delivery systems cover its headless corpse.





Monday, January 15, 2007

Federal Republic deux.oh

I could become a trained killer easily. Six days of work in seven days, without time to take a shit in your own toilet at home and I'm ready to behead a monkey. Why a monkey? Because that's what everybody is at that point. Fucking monkeys. Saw my own head off. Wally
It is not news that democracy and capitalism are incompatible. Let's see if we can parse this:

1. Worker exchanges life, time, for wages/salary. Employer dictates terms on which life and time are exchanged.

2. Government takes portion of worker's wages/salary to be applied to cohesive, large social benefits, like Katrina rescue operations, Iraq wars, boots for Ms. Rice, etc.

3. Large corporations pay little or no taxes.

4. Elected servant of the people, headpiece filled with tax dollars, puts the victimization of a weak foreign nation above the needs and priorities of his 300 million employers.

If this is true, the good news is, in the current (fraudulent) democratic taxocracy, the government depends on Wally more than on his employer.

In a capitalist democracy, our dollars would be our votes. We could direct them to pay for housing programs, or healthcare, and withhold them from fuckturdances such as Iraq, high border walls, CIA covert ops in Latin America, Cheney, etc. Our expression would have performative power, not candyass bleat.

Alas, under the current primitive taxing powers, we can't really target our withholding of withholding tax. We have no choice but to withhold it all, because free speech without representation of taxation is neither free, nor even (thanks to the negation of voice by media) speech. It's just bedlam shits. As certain founding fatherly types went to some trouble to make clear.

Here's what you do: Tell your "representative": Not another dollar. Not another bloody monkeyhead nickle. Not a centime, until there's someone in charge who acts at the behest of the people, not at the behest of his inner moran.

I think Jon Husband enunciated something of the sort hereabouts recently.

Consider it: every tax cent that is supposed to go to the Federal Government, quietly withheld. Sort of as an act of civilized discretion. If you work for one of the infinitesimally few corporations that actually pay federal tax, go on strike. If you buy gasoline, stop driving. No tax to Washington until the national operating system is corrected to reinstate representational taxation. Honestly, I'd willingly pay more tax if I had something to say about where and how it was used.
It is inhuman to talk of a million sterling a year, paid out of the public taxes of any country, for the support of any individual, while thousands who are forced to contribute thereto, are pining with want, and struggling with misery. What is called the splendour of a throne is no other than the corruption of the state. It is made up of a band of parasites, living in luxurious indolence, out of the public taxes.

As the man says, fuck me.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A million points of death

When does a war end? When does it begin? In September 2006, a San Francisco-based videographer went to Beirut and south Lebanon, and shot some footage. He interviewed various Lebanese who had lived through the 33-day shitstorm of July; he visited rubble in the south where families had lived for generations. He's putting together a video that offers unaccustomed access - for most USians, anyway - to the aftermath of that conflict, seen mainly through the eyes of Lebanese citizens - a teacher, a businessman, a newly married couple, children.

The video moves from the personal accounts of people living through the war to footage of UN forces scouring bombed-out towns for undetonated cluster bombs, to a rally in the streets of Beirut that makes it clear that what happened in July opened a vein in Lebanon.

It's that moment after a conflict when the wounds are fresh, the feelings are volatile, the pain is ever-present, when the loss of a 15-year-old boy can inflame those who loved him with alembic power. Before July, Israel might have been a problematic neighbor; for these people, it's now a curse.

A clip from the video and some background material can be found on its website, No One Ever Wins. The producer and cameraman is Krisztian Orban from San Francisco, the editor/designer is Tony Urgo. I've known Tony for years as a co-worker and friend, and it's through him that I know about the project.

I've seen the rough cut. It is a view inside Lebanon seen without the standard filter of US mainstream media. You know, that balancing view that offers "both sides." To understand what this might mean, consider this NPR story about the cluster bombs that were left behind when Israel vacated South Lebanon at the "end" of the 33-day conflict. No Lebanese resident is in evidence. We hear from Anthony Shadid, a reporter for the Washington Post of Lebanese background, who quotes Israeli officials to the effect that the "bomblets" are not banned under international law. We hear that one million or more of these bombs, which can kill at a range of 20-25 yards, were deposited in the towns of south Lebanon in the last three days of the conflict.

Can a conflict be considered over when the departing force leaves behind one million potential acts of war? One million opportunities to take civilian lives?

No One Ever Wins offers the Lebanese without the filter. It will be seen as unbalanced, as not providing the Israeli view. Sort of like this site, which only shows destruction in Lebanon. Biased, one will hear. Unjournalistic.

On the weekend of the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis -- a gathering which is already receiving criticism for not being open or revolutionary enough:
Again, I note contradiction between the reform/policy approach to
challenging big rich media, as against the reality of grassroots, local, pirate, tactical web-based interventions. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ATTENTION TO what I call DIGITAL DISSENT in these analyses of media reform. And what about revolution anyway? And histories of pirate media? The conception of democracy seems official and narrow...
- Megan Boler, writing to the General IDC mailing list.
The Conference is seeking to keep the Net itself open. Can media reform be open to independents like Orban and Urgo, whose unprogrammed interventions fall outside certain conventions of US media practice and control?

No One Ever Wins does not pretend to being a definitive look at -- or statement about -- anything. It's a guy with a camera, about whom we know very little, talking to seemingly normal residents of a war-torn nation. What moves him? Who funds him? Why did he choose the approach he did?

But these are the same questions that need to be asked of any such representations of Lebanon-Israel, Hezbollah, the Middle East. Where are they asked? Why do we implicitly put more faith in the institutional/corporate entities that make the images we see than in this one unknown (and potentially unknowable) guy?

In a way it's the same challenge blogging has posed to traditional journalism. But in reforming that journalism, we need to begin farther back. The unreflected premises of Journalism itself require scrutiny. Mr. Shadid, a gifted writer and Pulitzer winner, needed very few words to diminish the impact of a million bombs:
They're actually remarkably small. They're probably the size of a cell phone, maybe a little bit wider. And they have a white ribbon that comes off the end of them that are used to help their descent. And their color is usually greenish brown. . ..I think you're seeing is a certain paralysis of life down there...

Mr. Shadid's pedigree should not blind us to the possibility that we -- and he -- know as little about Mr. Shadid and his institutional persona as we know about Mr. Orban.

The point is not that we should trust mavericks like Orban more, but rather that we should trust the intimately familiarized reporters and anchors of standard media less. The presence of institutional canons of credibility should be a red flag. (*)

Whatever the finer points of international law might suggest, wars perpetrated robotically are still feral, still lethal, still going. They just might be harder for reporters fluttering on the shaky pinions of balance to see.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"We need a sock puppet for this now"

"it's not a simple, you know, one-bullet-point plan." Tony Snow

Q You don't have any other details?


Q How about how the President found out, et cetera?

MR. SNOW: You know what, stupid me, I forgot to do the process stuff. We'll try to find out.


I haven't looked at it; I don't know if the President has looked at it; I haven't talked to our Leg Affairs people about it. Give us a little time to take a look.


There is not going to be sort of a roster of specifics...


I'm not going to get into the business of preemptively characterizing something that we have not released in full detail.


Our ground rules are, we don't talk about it, so I don't talk about it.

Q I'll try and make you talk about it.

MR. SNOW: You'll fail.


the President has made it clear that he's going to have exchanges of views, but I'm not taking you in the room with them.

(Cell phone rings.) (Laughter.) Does Martha have a hip-hop ring tone? (Laughter.) Play that funky music, white girl. (Laughter.)


what singular group or person has the most influence on the President in his thinking on the way forward?

MR. SNOW: The second question is unanswerable.


could you tell us how much it will cost a month to fight a war in Iraq under the President's new plan? Because I understand there's going to be a lot of initiatives to put Iraqis to work, to try to shore up --

MR. SNOW: It's a great way of trying to get me to divulge details before their time, so, no. But we'll get back to you.


MR. SNOW: Okay, you want me, without details, to answer a question, will this move the street. You've got to be kidding me.

Q -- go into details.

MR. SNOW: Well, I know, and you know what, when we're ready to share the details, we'll share the details. I can't do it right now.


MR. SNOW: Again, wait until tomorrow night, and you'll have an answer.

Q Is he going to address the Iraqi people directly?


MR. SNOW: As I said, just wait.

MR. SNOW: As I said, on the procedural matters, I will allow you to wait and see what the President says tomorrow. We need a sock puppet for this now


Q -- and from Texas -- he's also from Texas, -- will hold a news conference about the 250,000 petitions asking presidential pardon for U.S. Border Patrolmen facing 10 year prison sentences because they shot a fleeing Mexican drug-pusher in his buttocks. Does the White House believe that the White House believe that the President's fellow Texan and fellow Republican was wrong to do this?

MR. SNOW: I think -- you know Les, I thought I brought my points on that -- why don't you ask that -- because that will be entertaining to do tomorrow, and I want to get back to you on it. I thought I had packed that with my materials today, but I didn't.


Q The AP reports that the U.S. Army sent letters to 75 officers who were killed in action encouraging them to reconsider -- to consider returning to active duty. And while General Richard Cody has apologized for this computer error, there's no report of anyone being disciplined for this. And my question: What does the Commander-in-Chief of the Army have to say about this horrendous error, and about what else such computer errors could do?

MR. SNOW: I'd refer that to the Pentagon, Les.


Q What about the change in interpreting entrance records to the White House as being the property of the White House and not of the Secret Service?

MR. SNOW: That is a fairly abstruse issue, and I will see if I can get you guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel. I don't want to tap dance around that. I'll try and get you a straight answer.

(uncontrollable laughter and thunderous applause)


Monday, January 08, 2007

build your ruin

Gianni Vattimo argues that nihilism is not the absence of meaning but a recognition of the plurality of meanings;

Justin Clements writes that "nihilism is not just another epoch amongst a succession of others: it is the finally accomplished form of a disaster that occurred long ago."[27] In the media context this would be the moment in which mass media lost their claim on the Truth and could no longer operate as authority.

How to overcome meaninglessness without falling back into centralized meaning structures is the challenge that the blogging millions pose.link via
Geert tosses off explanations for the energy of blogging with ease. And balances the gain with the loss; the individual, the mass, the massified individual, the solipsistic mass.
Can we talk of a "fear of media freedom"? It is too easy to say that there is freedom of speech and that blogs materialize this right. The aim of radical freedom, one could argue, is to create autonomy and overcome the dominance of media corporations and state control and to no longer be bothered by "their" channels. Most blogs show an opposite tendency. The obsession with news factoids borders to the extreme. Instead of selective appropriation, there is over-identification and straight out addiction, in particular to the speed of real-time reporting.
Blogging is wind perforated by arid air. Some day it could be more. It could be poker. It could be real estate. It could count.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

florid speech

This will be Florida's greatest century. This will be Florida's greatest century! Second best is no longer acceptable. This will be the time when we take our rightful place not near the top, but at the top. My friends, with your help, Florida will stand before the world as a shining symbol of all that can be achieved.


We also need to make sure that the nation, the world, knows that Florida is open for business. There is no better place in the world to work, to live and to raise a family than our Florida. After we conclude this legislative session this spring, I will lead Florida on the first of many trade missions. We will start with a trip to Israel.


Who among us doesn't believe that our students deserve to be ranked among the very best? Who among us doesn't believe that in that global society will require them to be prepared to compete against Europeans, Chinese, Indians in this century? Who among us doesn't believe we can do better -- that we must do better -- if we are to fulfill our destiny as a state?

Inaugural address of Charlie Crist, succeeding Jeb Bush as governor of Florida.

Who among us doesn't believe that familial rhetoric of this ilk, with its suggestive deployments of triumph and survivalism, flows from the European rhetoric of the gentes (see Vico and his offspring.) -- the idea that peoples, states, have encoded in their genesis a self-evident unifying bundle of sticks features that unveils their destiny with the eclat of invincible clarity?

The speech is being acclaimed as one of the greatest political orations ever delivered on USian soil. Who among us doesn't believe this? Florida Public Radio found numerous "commentators" to assure us of the truth of this. Check out the first 10 or so minutes of the broadcast.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

is he there yet?

With no actual reference to the actual Gerald R. Ford, deceased, there is something oddly apt in the awkward media repetition of the fact of his death, his myriad funerals, lyings in states, his burial. The hiccuping rhythm of a spastic, ice cream to forehead, again and again and again. Accidental paradiddle of bone on metal. Media hologram of once-living meme? Or something "in" Ford that is now in media about him?