Friday, April 11, 2003
Spring is here? We turned the clocks ahead, and almost immediately got snow.
I walked around while it was still falling. It was actually beautiful. Forscythia
and cherry blossoms covered with fluffy white clots. It's all very nice before
it gets salted and covered with soot. I'm very ready for warm weather. Bring
London and Washington convinced themselves that Saddam Hussein had ruined
the economy without asking whether Iraqis shared this view. If they now divert
Iraq's oil revenues, they will be following a long tradition of blunder and
- From "Read
the small print: the US wants to privatise Iraq's oil"
Did you know that Michael Moore's book "Stupid White Men" was essentially
by its publisher for about 5 months?
His next project is "Fahrenheit 911" [the temperature at which freedom
burns]. Michael got big
backing to produce his movie this time.
of Skepticism Leads to Poor War Coverage Ever notice that TV news
never does retractions?
Andrew Tyndall, who analyzes every U.S. TV newscast, has been keeping track
of the tilt in the coverage. USA Today found his research newsworthy, reporting:
"Of 414 stories on the Iraqi question that aired on NBC, ABC and CBS
from Sept. 14 to Feb. 7, Tyndall says that the vast majority originated from
the White House, Pentagon and State Department. Only 34 stories originated
from elsewhere in the country, he says.
"Similarly, a check of major newspapers around the country from September
to February found only 268 stories devoted to peace initiatives or to opposition
to the war, a small fraction of the total number. ...
...More than two dozen journalism school deans and professors, independent
editors, journalists and authors, major media editors, publishers, producers
and reporters have signed a letter to the major media indicting the tendency
of many media organizations to become a megaphone for the Bush Administration.
Their letter cites six specific complaints over the nature of the coverage:
1. "The Horserace Syndrome & Highlighting Tactics Over Political
Analysis: Endlessly repeated news features with titles like 'Showdown with
Saddam' present a grave matter as though it were a high-stakes sports contest,"
the letter says. It goes on to highlight major news stories the media has
failed to cover adequately as they obsess over military tactics."
2. "Failing to Protest Government Control of Information: The government
has frozen out the media and carefully controlled their access to information.
Newspapers and TV news have underreported this freeze out, and failed to contest
3. "Failing to Maintain an Arms-Length Relationship with Government:
State-controlled media comes in many garbs," warns the letter, noting
the over-reliance of TV news in particular on government-approved retired
military and intelligence consultants."
4. "Failing to Question the Official Story: The media should never confuse
patriotism with obeisance and a rubber-stamp mentality."
5. "Failing to Present a Diversity of Viewpoints: There is a duty to
seek out and quote the many experts who express skepticism about claims by
the state, rather than simply to rely on the same pundits repeatedly,"
the letter states. It calls as well on editors, publishers and producers to
see that their op-ed pages, letters-to-the-editor sections and talk shows
are "open to a vigorous diversity of viewpoints."
6. Radio: "Years ago, radio actually acknowledged the concept of orderly
debates with widely varying viewpoints," the letter states. "It
should do so again."
Dances and Media Complaints"]
Language is everything here, as always has been the case with war propaganda,
wherein the goal is inevitably the rationalization of unsavory means through
the assertion of a noble end. To this end, we are on a mission to "liberate"
the people of Iraq from a cruel dictator our own government supported, even
armed, during decades of war crimes and human rights abuses. ...
How easy to forget that our own war for independence was largely fought by
"irregulars" condemned as terrorists by the British because they
would snipe from behind scattered trees rather than fight from the tight parade
formations that were the civilized form of warfare in those days. ...
As long as the meaning of "terror" exists only in the eye of the
beholder, the function of the word is to subvert the moral argument. It's
just that arrogance that led George W. Bush to believe that the Iraqi people
would be so grateful for our "smart" bombs they would rise up en
masse from the ruins to greet us. Maybe they still will, cheering the victors
in stunned relief that the terror – Hussein's and that caused by U.S.
firepower – has ended.
as the Ultimate Excuse -- Scheer's brilliant writing for the LA Times
and AlterNet have caused Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to label
him a "traitor"]
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The cover of "Z" magazine features a rendering of his Bushness. A
cartoon bubble extends from his mouth that reads "I may be a simple man,
but I've got a Military Industrial Complex."
has been on my mind today. The rest of the world knows about our dirty little
"secret," and it's probably one more reason that, outgunned or not,
the Iraqis were determined to take as many American lives as they could. A little
more searching around the web turned up this tidbit:
DU burns intensely and is very hard. DU is also much cheaper than the substitute
metal, tungsten. In effect, the U.S. military is trading off lower costs for
increased health hazards. The health dangers of using DU-munitions have now
been widely recognized, hotly debated and reported upon... Beyond just the
health consequences, DU-munitions must be considered weapons of mass
destruction insofar as the consequences of their usage are indiscriminate.
In early December, Philip Coyle, a senior advisor at the Washington-based
Center for Defense Information, said that DU was being employed in Afghanistan,
though he sought to minimize it. On January 16, 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld admitted
that the U.S. had found traces of radioactivity in Afghanistan, but predictably
quickly attributed such to the nefarious acts of Al-Qaeda.
the whole thing]
Chapter 13 of PHP and MySQL Web Development deals heavily with security -- from types of secuity threats, to encryption and certificates, to authentication and firewalls. Found out that DES has been considered obsolete since 1998, Triple-DES is only twice as secure as DES, and that the patent on RSA encryption ran out in September 2000.
Flipping through old entries in my Palm V, I came across this entry from 9/26/01:
Woman on a bus with a dust mask on. Nearby, a little girl is wearing a blue
slouch hat and carrying a toy cell phone. It's a star-tac with an extendable
orange antenna. She answers the toy phone and hands it to the man sitting next
to her (an uncle?). Her dad sits nearby. A real cell phone rings. Several people
check their cell phones at the same time -- no one knows who's ringing.
Another entry for the same day: "Enterprise premier Ch. 9"
The NAACP has posted an action alert giving details
of Bush's tax cut plan. It's really amazing to see that the tax plan has
essentially sailed through Congress, considering that I remember how certain
Tim Russert was that nothing was going to happen on the domestic front with
the threat of war looming. I wonder if the rush to engage wasn't intended to
be the smokescreen for implementing the domestic policy without much public
debate or fanfare.
More music of my mind
• You're all I got tonight - The Cars
• Need you tonight - INXS
• You can't always get what you want - Stones
• 187 - Cyrus Chestnut
• Stormy [bring back that sunny day] - Scott Walker
• Deacon Blues - Steely Dan
I was really disgusted with Fox the other night. A reporter was talking about
how a pile of rubble that used to be a building might be Saddam Hussein's "final
resting place." It had been completely destroyed by 4 "bunker
busters." He said searchers were combing the rubble, and finding bodies,
but so far they had only found the bodies of women and children. Without a pause,
he went on to talk about other efforts to locate Hussein, and other war-related
The news has been so quick to point out when US soldiers rescue kids - like
the 500 that were imprisoned by Hussein, but they completely sidestep the issue
of civilian casualties inflicted by our side. Now there's a movement afoot to
further cover the issue over -- reports of how, since many of the military were
wearing civilian clothing, you can't tell if the dead are "really"
One other thing -- we knew it was a mismatch and a slaughter going into this.
The government has realized that one way to minimize public disgust, is simply
to avoid compiling statistics. You may have heard some estimates of the number
of people killed in a particular battle, but you'll never hear of any official
tallies, because none were kept.
Back to the
design of those bunker-busters for a moment - what gets glossed-over is
that they are essentially "dirty bombs." The casing is made from DU
("depleted" uranium) which makes it sound innocuous. It's not. Uranium-238,
the other name for DU, is still radioactive, and has a half-life of 4.5 billion
years. It's described as not being particularly dangerous in its solid form,
but it doesn't stay in its solid form when it's used as a bomb casing.
The interesting thing is that DU weapons are to some degree "nuclear"
weapons, although they are not thermonuclear in design the way that atom bombs
and hydrogen bombs are. There is significant debate in international circles
about the use of such weapons. I suspect that Rumsfeld's threat of using nuclear
weapons before the start of the Iraq conflict may have been issued to give diplomatic
cover in international (i.e. Britain) circles for using DU weaponry.
Denise was telling me that David Bloom had been using an exclusive technology
to bring images from the war front. He rode in a custom contraption that had
been dubbed the "Bloom-Mobile."
It has been described as a "truck-based mobile satellite transmission platform"
that Bloom had been instrumental in designing. It cost $500,000 and was equipped
with a gyroscope, which allowed cameras to stay locked onto a satellite while
the truck raced through the desert with the fast-moving unit, providing crystal-clear
pictures. Apparently, it was a very constricted space, and he would sit in the
thing for hours. That constriction may have triggered the blod clots that killed
"Three days ago, Bloom had complained of cramps behind his knee."...
"He consulted military doctors and described his symptoms over the phone
to overseas physicians. They suspected DVT, or deep veinous thrombosis, and
advised him to seek proper medical attention. He ignored their advice, swallowed
some aspirins, and kept on working. On Sunday he died of a pulmonary embolism."
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
I like to get a glimpse of the stuff that other people are reading on the subway. These are a couple items that jumped out from the New York Times yesterday.
Corrected today: "An article in Business Day yesterday ["Mr. Murdoch's War"] about the influence of Rupert Murdoch on the News Corporation's properties [requires registration] misidentified the Fox News Channel commentator who accused competitors of dwelling on casualties in Iraq and misstated the term he used for them. He was Fred Barnes, not Bill O'Reilly; he called the competitors 'weenies,' not 'liberal weenies.' "
Another headline was more curious: "CBS to Cover Golf, Not Protest". I figured it was about whether CBS was going to give air time to anti-war protests at the expense of some tournament. It wasn't. It's about the policies of the golf club where the Masters Tournament is played. An editorial [requires registration] explains.
An undercurrent of ill will has begun in this golfing village, distracting the focus from bogeys and birdies to the policies of the golf club where the Masters has been played for almost 70 years. The Augusta National Golf Club has no women members, and, by gum, William (Hootie) Johnson has stubbornly declared that he will not add women even "at the point of a bayonet."
The full quote from another article [requires registration]:
"We do not intend to become a trophy in their display case... There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours, and not at the point of a bayonet."
Seems innocuous enough...
but it's not. The propagation of the xenophobia (and the simultaneous erosion
of the UN) continues in the form of "polls." Three questions presented
in this way most certainly will bias the result.
"Control" and "allowed to profit" are charged phrases.
There are no control questions. There is no "Is the US dominating the dialog
about World sovereignty?" There is no "Are France, Germany, and Russia
within their rights to argue against aggression?"
I got a great e-mail from Michael
Moore last night. This is most of what he had to say:
What I am most concerned about right now is that all of you -- the majority
of Americans who did not support this war in the first place -- not go silent
or be intimidated by what will be touted as some great military victory. Now,
more than ever, the voices of peace and truth must be heard. I have received
a lot of mail from people who are feeling a profound sense of despair and
believe that their voices have been drowned out by the drums and bombs of
false patriotism. Some are afraid of retaliation at work or at school or in
their neighborhoods because they have been vocal proponents of peace. They
have been told over and over that it is not "appropriate" to protest
once the country is at war, and that your only duty now is to "support
When "Bowling for Columbine" was announced as the Oscar winner
for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, the audience rose to its feet.
It was a great moment, one that I will always cherish. They were standing
and cheering for a film that says we Americans are a uniquely violent people,
using our massive stash of guns to kill each other and to use them against
many countries around the world. They were applauding a film that shows George
W. Bush using fictitious fears to frighten the public into giving him whatever
he wants. And they were honoring a film that states the following: The first
Gulf War was an attempt to reinstall the dictator of Kuwait; Saddam Hussein
was armed with weapons from the United States; and the American government
is responsible for the deaths of a half-million children in Iraq over the
past decade through its sanctions and bombing. That was the movie they were
cheering, that was the movie they voted for, and so I decided that is what
I should acknowledge in my speech.
And, thus, I said the following from the Oscar stage:
"On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan (from
Canada), I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited
the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity
because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious
times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious
president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's
the fiction of duct tape or the fictitious 'Orange Alerts,' we are against
this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And, whenever you've
got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, you're time is up."...
Well, take a look at my Oscar "backlash":
-- On the day after I criticized Bush and the war at the Academy Awards, attendance
at "Bowling for Columbine" in theaters around the country went up
110% (source: Daily Variety/BoxOfficeMojo.com). The following weekend, the
box office gross was up a whopping 73% (Variety). It is now the longest-running
consecutive commercial release in America, 26 weeks in a row and still thriving.
The number of theaters showing the film since the Oscars has INCREASED, and
it has now bested the previous box office record for a documentary by nearly
-- Yesterday (April 6), "Stupid White Men" shot back to #1 on the
New York Times bestseller list. This is my book's 50th week on the list, 8
of them at number one, and this marks its fourth return to the top position,
something that virtually never happens.
-- In the two days following the Oscars, more people pre-ordered the video
for "Bowling for Columbine" on Amazon.com than the video for the
Oscar winner for Best Picture, "Chicago".
I tell you all of this because I want to counteract a message that is told
to us all the time -- that, if you take a chance to speak out politically,
you will live to regret it. It will hurt you in some way, usually financially.
You could lose your job. Others may not hire you. You will lose friends. And
on and on and on.
Take the Dixie Chicks. I'm sure you've all heard by now that, because their
lead singer mentioned how she was ashamed that Bush was from her home state
of Texas, their record sales have "plummeted" and country stations
are boycotting their music. The truth is that their sales are NOT down. This
week, after all the attacks, their album is still at #1 on the Billboard country
charts and, according to Entertainment Weekly, on the pop charts during all
the brouhaha, they ROSE from #6 to #4. In the New York Times, Frank
Rich reports that he tried to find a ticket to ANY of the Dixie Chicks'
upcoming concerts but he couldn't because they were all sold out. He does
a pretty good job of laying it all out and talks about my next film and the
impact it could potentially have.) Their song, "Travelin' Soldier"
(a beautiful anti-war ballad) was the most requested song on the internet
last week. They have not been hurt at all -- but that is not what the media
would have you believe. Why is that? Because there is nothing more important
now than to keep the voices of dissent -- and those who would dare to ask
a question -- SILENT. And what better way than to try and take a few well-known
entertainers down with a pack of lies so that the average Joe or Jane gets
the message loud and clear: "Wow, if they would do that to the Dixie
Chicks or Michael Moore, what would they do to little ol' me?" In other
words, shut the f--- up. ...
Unfortunately, Bush and Co. are not through yet. This invasion and conquest
will encourage them to do it again elsewhere. The real purpose of this war
was to say to the rest of the world, "Don't Mess with Texas - If You
Got What We Want, We're Coming to Get It!" This is not the time for the
majority of us who believe in a peaceful America to be quiet. Make your voices
heard. Despite what they have pulled off, it is still our country.
I was in a couple of bookstores yesterday. Here are the topics of several of
the books I noticed:
• The impact of the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm
X, and others on the American psyche.
• How certain assassinations prolonged the Vietnam war
• How death is portrayed / used in the media, and its impact
• How big business and political corruption are destroying democracy in
on Emptiness" by John Zerzan is one of the more intriguing titles I
saw yesterday. One chapter is entitled "Why I Hate Star Trek." From
the description on Amazon: "This book deftly mixes history, anthropology,
science, cultural theory, and politics to offer a critique of society as well
as a blueprint for change."
Am I an anarchist?
They rescue babies, they liberate the oppressed, they're even entertaining!
Well, it's taken two weeks, but the press is finally getting the kind of publicity
photos the White house has wanted since the beginning. The cover of the Post
ran a shot of an Iraqi citizen hugging a soldier -- his hero for liberating
him. Yesterday, I saw that the "rapping GI story" had gotten legs.
Monday, April 07, 2003
When I heard this weekend that David Bloom of NBC had died of a pulmonary
embolism over in Iraq, I wondered about what had triggered it. I was aware
of how bubbles in the blood from conditions like the bends could cause an embolism.
I had assumed that embolism always had to do with bubbles, but it turns out
it is more likely caused by blood clots that form in another part of the body
-- typically the large veins of the leg -- that break off and travel to lodge
in the pulmonary artery.
You may have heard of the risk of dying from sitting in coach class airline
seats for too long. That's the condition we're talking about. Unfortunately,
the condition is hard
to diagnose and can be confused with heart attack.
The other thing I realize from reading a little about the condition, is that
the clots that are a precondition
for pulmonary embolism often go undetected. There's no particular reason for
suspicion that it's PE, if you're outside of common risk groups. It's likely
that Bloom was completely unaware that he had a life-threatening condition,
and just like that it was all over.
A friend of mine forwarded this story to me. Everything is a matter of perspective,
and everyone has one:
A Jewish man riding on the subway is reading an Arab newspaper. A friend of
happens to be riding in the same subway car, notices this
strange phenomenon. Very upset, he approaches the newspaper reader:
"Moshe, have you lost your mind? Why are you reading an Arab
newspaper?" He asks.
Moshe: "I used to read the Jewish newspaper, but what did I find? Jews
being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation
and intermarriage, Jews living in poverty.
So I switched to the Arab newspaper. Now what do I find? Jews own all the banks,
Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, Jews rule the world.
The news is so much better!"