Thursday, December 30, 2004

How to ruin a perfectly good "brand" -- America

A survey by the GMI World Poll find growing "anti-American sentiment"
among international consumers, evidently a reflection of result of disdain
for Bush administration foreign policies. This feeling "negatively
impacts U.S. multinational companies closely branded as American."

I doubt that the arrogant central players in the White House took
this backlash into account as they laid their plans for "New! Improved!
Preemptive Strike!"

Here's the story.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Seattle, Washington -- December 27, 2004

American multinational companies will need to mount a valiant effort to
distance themselves from the image of the U.S. federal government and
its unpopular foreign policies in the New Year or risk continued brand
erosion and ongoing boycotting by European and Canadian consumers,
according to independent market research solutions company GMI, Inc.

The GMI World Poll conducted an 8,000 international consumer survey
on America’s image abroad, U.S. foreign policy and American
multinational brands on Dec. 10 through 12 (representative samples of
1,000 consumers in each of eight countries: Canada, China, France,
Germany, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States). The study
found that 1/3 of the 8,000 international consumers stated that
American foreign policy, including the war on terror and the war in Iraq,
most influenced their image of America; only 17% indicated that
American movies and music most influenced their image. Furthermore,
79% of European and Canadian consumers distrust the American
government, 50% distrust American companies, and 39% distrust the
American people.

When European and Canadian consumers were asked to characterize the
American government and President Bush, they were most often
described as arrogant and self-centered; UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan was characterized as conventional and reserved. With this in
mind, when consumers were asked to characterize American
multinational brands, the data revealed select American multinational
company’s - AOL, Exxon Mobil and Starbucks - were viewed very much
like the American government and President Bush: arrogant, intrusive
and self-centered.

According to the study, these multinational American companies were
also among the top brands most likely to be boycotted; in keeping with
polls from the past three months, GMI World Poll found that 20% of
European and Canadian consumers reported that they consciously avoid
American products because of recent American foreign policy and
military action.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alas, the nation's leaders tend to take much for granted, especially the
amount of good will the USA has around the world. Right now that
"human capital" is running perilously thin.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Today's riddle: How is the U.S. Missile Defense Shield
different from a high school football team?

Answer #1: The shield doesn't operate in the rain.

From Reuters comes the story (about the shield, not the football team):

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first flight test in nearly two years of a
planned U.S. missile-defense shield has been scrapped two days in a row
this week because of bad weather, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Strong rain squalls over the Kwajalein atoll launch site in the central
Pacific caused the latest postponement, Richard Lehner, a spokesman
for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said shortly after the decision
to scrap the test. A new attempt might be made later in the day, he said.

Answer #2: The football team occasionally intercepts something.

When the skies cleared and the test finally happened, the interceptor failed to launch.

From the New York Times (12/16/04):

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - An important test of the United States'
fledgling missile defense system ended in failure early Wednesday as an
interceptor rocket failed to launch on cue from the Marshall Islands, the
Pentagon said.

After a rocket carrying a mock warhead as a target was launched from
Kodiak, Alaska, the interceptor, which was intended to go aloft 16
minutes later and home in on the target 100 miles over the earth,
automatically shut down because of "an unknown anomaly," according
to the Missile Defense Agency of the Defense Department.

Answer #3: The football team recognizes failures and adapts its strategy.

Also from the NY Times story:

But a spokesman for Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, a strong
advocate of the program, said "one bum test" would not alter support for

Indeed, despite a series of delays in testing this year, Congress has
embraced the deployment of a rudimentary system, which is favored by
those who want to field even a limited system sooner rather than later.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Outsourcing the C.E.O.? -- high tech rumor

The following press release has been circulating in Silicon Valley and
other high tech communities. Probably scheduled for 4/1/05 release, it's
here it time for holiday cheer.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Subject: Outsourcing update

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ)

News Flash: PALO ALTO. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) today
announced that the Office ofPresident, CEO and Chairman will be
outsourced as of December 31, the end of the fiscal year. The move is
being made to save $45 million in annual salary and benefits. Further
savings in air travel are expected to add to HP's bottom line. "At the end
of the day, the cost savings will be quite significant" says HP board
member, Executive Vice President, and CFO Rob Highwayman, who,
with the aid of HP's outsourcing arm, HP Services, has studied
outsourcing extensively. "We simply can no longer afford this inefficiency
and remain competitive in the world stage," Highwayman said. Sanji
Gurvinder Singh, 23, of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India, will be
assuming the Office of President, Chairman and CEO as of November 1.
He will receive a salary of $320 USD a month with proportionate
benefits. Mr. Singh will maintain his office in India andwill be working
primarily at night, due to the time difference between the US and India.
"I am excited to serve in this position," Mr. Singh stated in an exclusive
interview. "I always knew that my career at the HP call center would lead
to great things."

An HP spokesperson noted that Mr. Singh has extensive
experience inpublic speaking and has been given Ms. Fiorina's script tree
to enable him to answer any question without having to understand the
issue.Ms. Fiorina, 49, has announced that she will join the faculty of
theStanford School of Business, specializing in medieval business and the
related subject of employee motivation. No one at the Stanford School of
Business was available for comment.

The Hewlett-Packard board continues to explore other
outsourcing possibilities including HP's more than 1,200 vice
presidents. In an unrelated news item it was learned that HP was selling
five corporate jets complete with passengers thought to be board
members and HP executives. While the value of the content was not
thought to be significant it is believed that their accumulated air-miles
could be used to facilitate additional outsourcing initiatives.

Monday, December 06, 2004

St. Lawrence Cement named to prestigious "Dirty Dozen" list

It's always good to see a local company gain recognition for
the work they do. Here's the story from the Berkshire Eagle.

6 December 2004

Proposed N.Y. cement plant makes Dirty Dozen' roster

WALTHAM -- Citing health hazards to New England states from what
would be one of the nation's largest coal-fired cement plants, the New
England-based environmental group Toxics Action Center has presented
Holcim Ltd.'s U.S. headquarters with a 2004 Dirty Dozen Award.
The Switzerland-based Holcim is one of the world's leading cement
producers. Its subsidiary, St. Lawrence Cement, is seeking to build a
massive cement plant in Greenport, N.Y., less than 16 miles west of the
Massachusetts border. The plant would burn an estimated 500 million
pounds of coal annually.

"A polluting plant of this size could not obtain permits in Holcim's
home country of Switzerland," said Sam Pratt, executive director of
Friends of Hudson, a 4,000-member organization in New York that is
opposed to the project, in a press release. "Why should a Holcim
subsidiary be allowed to threaten our health here in New England?"
More than 35 other groups and agencies, from the Berkshire Regional
Planning Commission to the American Lung Association, have expressed
strong concerns about the coal-fired facility. Former Maine Gov. Angus
King and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have
expressed firm opposition to the proposal.

"The track record of St. Lawrence Cement and its parent company,
Holcim, is suspect, at best," said state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.,
D-Pittsfield. "The proposed St. Lawrence Cement Plant, just over the
border in New York, could have significant impacts to our environment
and quality of life in Western Massachusetts."

Prevailing winds and the height of the plant's proposed stack -- some
36 stories tall, sited on a small mountain -- would send pollutants
such as lead, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases and
fine particulates eastward to New England, say opponents, as well as
nitrogen oxide emissions, responsible for soot and smog.

"If all that pollution heads our way, it will wipe out a lot of the
gains New Englanders have made in air-quality improvements," said
Eleanor Tillinghast, president of Green Berkshires Inc., an
environmental group.

Nathaniel W. Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional
Planning Commission, added, "The Berkshire Regional Planning
Commission remains very concerned about the considerable increase in
air pollution we would experience from a much larger St. Lawrence
Cement Plant. ...

The fact that the commonwealth of Massachusetts was not allowed to
participate in the New York environmental review of this project only
heightens our level of concern."

The eighth annual Dirty Dozen Awards spotlight 12 of New England's top
polluters as selected from a set of nominations by a 15-member panel of
environmental and public health professionals.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

TV journalists revolt, refuse to parrot government line!
(but only in the Ukraine)

Imagine what would happen if this spread to the United States?

From the B.B.C., "Ukraine state TV in revolt" --

Journalists on Ukraine's state-owned channel - which had previously
given unswerving support to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - have
joined the opposition, saying they have had enough of "telling the
government's lies".

Journalists on another strongly pro-government TV station have also
promised an end to the bias in their reporting. The turnaround in news
coverage, after years of toeing the government line, is a big setback for
Mr Yanukovych.

Journalists in Ukraine seem to have responded to the call by opposition
leader Viktor Yushchenko for them to reject government censorship.

A correspondent on the state channel, UT1, announced live on the
evening bulletin that the entire news team was going to join the protests
in Independence Square. She said their message to the protesters was:
"We are not lying anymore".

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Does the atrocity of 9/11 justify endless atrocities in response?

The Lancet study (noted here previously) estimates there have been
100,000 Iraqi casualties since the beginning of the war in Iraq. While
the exact figures are debatable, the experts in public health who
conducted the research seem to be on solid ground. When I ask college
students and ordinary American folks about this slaughter, including the
recent leveling of Falluja, some are sickened or outraged. But a
surprising number of people say something like this: “After what they
did to us on 9/11, America can’t be criticized for hitting back!”

Of course the “they” in emphatics sentences of this kind is most peculiar.
Evidently, any brown skinned Muslim can be counted in this category.
Oh, please don’t bother us with the details. We don’t need to know the
names of the women and children or even the numbers of those killed.
America’s lapdog press, including the New York Times and Washington
Post, helps out here by suggesting that all civilians killed in Iraq are
“insurgents” and not mentioning anyone else. If you’re dead, you were an
insurgent. The logic here is stunning and its moral implications
deadening to heart and soul. Now the war comes home (as it always
does) and begins to infect our national character. The idea that the
violence is
“over there" and not "right here at home" is badly mistaken,
a lesson that will take decades to unfold.

Two recent pieces are well worth anyone’s reading. One is a brief essay
by Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University, “Iraq's
civilian dead get no hearing in the United States.” As Sachs observes,

“The U.S. is killing massive numbers of Iraqi civilians, embittering the
population and many in the Islamic world, and laying the ground for
escalating violence and death. No number of slaughtered Iraqis will
bring peace. The American fantasy of a final battle, in Fallujah or
elsewhere, or the capture of some terrorist mastermind, perpetuates a
cycle of bloodletting that puts the world in peril.

Worse still, American public opinion, media, and the recent election
victory of the Bush administration have left the world's most powerful
military without practical restraint.”

At an even deeper level of reflection is Chris Hedges piece in the New
York Review of books. Hedges is a former war correspondent whose
book, War is a Force that Gives Life Meaning, describes the hideous
attractions of war and their implications for any society, including the
U.S.A., that embraces war as central to its a way of life. (See Chalmer
Johnson’s The Sorrows of Empire for further details). Hedges writes:

“Those who cover war dine out on the myth about war and the myth
about themselves as war correspondents. Yes, they say, it is horrible, and
dirty and ugly; for many of them it is also glamorous and exciting and
empowering. They look out from the windows of Humvees for a few
seconds at Iraqi families, cowering in fear, and only rarely see the effects
of the firepower. When they are forced to examine what bullets,
grenades, and shells do to human bodies they turn away in disgust or
resort to black humor to dehumanize the corpses. They cannot stay long,
in any event, since they must leave the depressing scene behind for the
next mission. The tragedy is replaced, as it is for us at home who watch it
on television screens, by a light moment or another story. It becomes
easier to forget that another human life has been ruined beyond repair,
that what is unfolding is not only tragic for tens of thousands of Iraqis but
for the United States.”

Monday, November 29, 2004

Crackdown coming?

Writing in the journal Conservation Biology recently, I called attention to
a looming conflict. Here's a segment from the article, "Science Policy for True Believers,"

"American society is now engaged in a range of policy debates in which
standards of critical thinking and public debate are often sacrificed to
crass calculations about who wins and who loses. In this process, many
who hold power in government and business are strongly attracted to
patterns of thinking and talking more compatible with classic “closed
societies” than with open, democratic political systems. The underlying
sentiment is all-too-clear: Just win, regardless of cost. Partisans of this
insurgence feel compelled to promote corporate interests, “conservative”
social agendas and unilateralist foreign policy objectives, even when
prominent scientific findings cast doubt on the wisdom of actions favored
within the prevailing groupthink.

Attempts to dominate the content of information and ideas in ways that
advance a particular agenda to the exclusion of all others -- such
projects are evident in many key domains of social life. A notorious
example is the almost total absorption of AM radio by right wing talk
show hosts who harangue national audiences with uniform, angry talking
points hour after hour, cutting off callers who dare offer any different
views. Much the same influence is visible on cable television news and
news/talk programs in which the spectrum of opinions voiced has
recently narrowed to include only the hand picked “moderate” and
“conservative” voices favored by corporate media managers.
Widespread public unrest about these developments is evident in the
protests about relaxation of government regulations governing the
concentration of media ownership. The increasing uniformity of cable
news and news/talk programming, the penchant for cleansing discussion
of annoying dissent, looms as a major problem for the long term health
of our democracy.

Now science itself looms as a convenient target, just another
communications channel ready to be adapted to the dictates of a rapidly
moving, power-hungry social movement. Will scientists and scholars
yield to this aggressive onslaught, taking their research grants and laying
low? Or can we hope for a more positive, more hopeful, more forceful

[Conservation Biology, Page 866, vol. 18, no. 4, Aug. 2004]

My expectation has been that a Bush victory would lead to further steps
in the ongoing attempt to establish a hegemony of message content at all
levels of American society. Just before the election, I predicted to my
class of first years students in an American politics class that there
would be "a crackdown on dissidents in major institutions." I was
thinking of NPR, PBS, and the country's colleges and universities, for

Now we see the first wave of hand wringing and argument that could lead
to the ideological cleansing that, I believe, is near the top of the
far right "conservative" agenda. George Will's article, "Academia, Stuck
to the Left," begins to lay out the case.

"Academics, such as the next secretary of state, still decorate
Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has
marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have
something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell
called "smelly little orthodoxies."

Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations -- except
such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their
ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more
insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have
become more intellectually monochrome.

They do indeed cultivate diversity -- in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual
preference. In everything but thought."

* * * * * * * * *
Wills' claims are both ludicrous and pernicious. The best, extended
critique I've read is one by Juan Cole, historian at the University of
Michigan. He begins with the allegation that universities have few
conservatives in teaching positions.

"There are all sorts of social-science problems with this allegation. First,
what is the population that is being studied? Is it all tenure-track
teachers in all universities in all schools and departments? Are we
including two-year colleges? Four-year ones? Are we including
Economics Departments, Business Schools, Medical Schools,
Engineering schools?

If that were the pool, then academics probably mirror the general
American society pretty closely. There are about 1.1 million post-
secondary teachers in the United States. A lot of the ones in the Red
States are conservatives, and a lot of the ones in the engineering schools
everywhere are. So it simply is not true that "universities" are bastions of
the political left. Moreover, there are almost no leftists in any major
economics department in the United States, in contrast to Europe."

Cole's piece runs in his blog, Informed Comment, 11/28/04 (in the archives).

Coming to a campus near you: the thought police.

Note that in my comments above I've put "conservative" in quotation
marks. When I run into people who tell me they are conservative these
days I say, "Oh, that's interesting. What are you conservering?"
Embarrassing moments of silence usually follow.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Best estimate of civilian casualties due to the Iraq war -- 100.000

A Reuters summary of a recent report from The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
contains some especially dreary, but not unexpected news. Other figures I've read now count from
13.000 to 15,000 plus Iraqi casualties in the war. The Hopkins study looks at "excess deaths" over
an eighteen month period, concluding that 100,000 is a reasonable estimate. These figures and the
human realities behind them are simply tragic.

Our national tendency is, of course, to ignore such data in favor of triumphalist high patriotism.
Even publicizing the number of American troops killed in combat (now well over 1,100) is
considered suspect. In the little village of Chatham, New York, near where I live, the mayor ordered
removal of a billboard and small yellow flags memorial that gave daily updates on deaths of U.S. soldiers.

Which of these deaths -- American, Iraqi, and others -- should we remember, mourn and honor?
If the answer is not "All of them," I'd like to know the reason why.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Jobs for U.S. programmers evaporate

During the presidential debates G.W. Bush held out the promise of community
college education for those who had lost jobs to foreign competition.
Remedies of this kind have long been preferred by American politicians and
businessmen, mainly because it places responsibility for economic pain on individuals,
(the victims) and deflects attention from more basic structural causes. Just upgrade
your skills, folks. Maybe become a computer programer rather than a factory
worker and you'll be fine. What such arguments overlook, of course, is that
the competition U.S. workers now face extends to job categories across a broad
spectrum, including what are often taken to be fairly sophisticated technical

Here's a story, "Endangered Species," by David Francis of the Christian Science
Monitor about the jobs in question.

"Say goodbye to the American software programmer. Once the symbols of hope
as the nation shifted from manufacturing to service jobs, programmers today
are an endangered species. They face a challenge similar to that which shrank
the ranks of steelworkers and autoworkers a quarter century ago: competition
from foreigners. ....

"Since the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, nearly a quarter of California technology
workers have taken nontech jobs, according to a study of 1 million workers
released last week by Sphere Institute, a San Francisco Bay Area public policy
group. The jobs they took often paid less. Software workers were hit especially
hard. Another 28% have dropped off California's job rolls altogether. They fled
the state, became unemployed, or decided on self-employment. ....

"Although computer-related jobs in the United States increased by 27,000 between
2001 and 2003, about 180,000 new foreign H-1B workers in the computer
area entered the nation, calculates John Miano, an expert with the Programmers
Guild, a professional society. "This suggests any gain of jobs have been taken by
H-1B workers," he says.

"H-1B visas allow skilled foreigners to live and work in the US for up to six
years. Many are able to get green cards in a first step to citizenship. Another visa,
L-1, allows multinational companies to transfer workers from foreign operations
into the US. ....

"H-1B and L-1 visas are "American worker replacement programs," says the
National Hire American Citizens Society."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Science labs for Iraqi insurgents

A little noticed a feature of the report released last week by CIA
weapons inspector Charles Duelfer finds increasing activity by
post-Saddam Iraqi insurgents interested in creatings, oops, weapons
of mass destruction. Evidently, this intense quest for WMDs was
inspired the U.S. occupation of the county (who would have
guessed?). From the SF Chronicle story on the matter:

"Insurgent networks across Iraq are increasingly trying to acquire
and use toxic nerve gases, blister agents and germ weapons against
U.S. and coalition forces, according to a CIA report, and investigators
said one group recruited scientists and sought to prepare poisons
over seven months before it was dismantled in June.

U.S. officials say the threat is especially worrisome because leaders of
the previously unknown group, which investigators called the "Al Abud
network, " were based in Fallujah in proximity to insurgents aligned with
fugitive militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The CIA says Zarqawi, who is
blamed for numerous attacks on U.S. forces and beheadings of hostages,
has long sought to use chemical and biological weapons against targets in
Europe as well as Iraq.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday, October 10, 2004

"To practice democracy? Are you kidding?" -- eye witness Baghdad

An unsettling picture of the situation on the ground in Iraq, the most telling I've
read recently, comes in an email from Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi.
Most of the U.S. press, including Fassihi's own paper, refuses to describe the
situation in this level of detail, preferring administration propaganda about the
puppet regime and coming elections.

"Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual
house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to
see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their
ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons.
I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled
interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't
go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation
with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored
car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't
speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't
linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling.
And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb
so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing
concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure
our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a
reporter second.
. . . . . .
"Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under
Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed
to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States
for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they
reply: 'the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most
Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country
killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming
impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed
to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings.
The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days,
110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are
so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of
public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.
. . . . . .
"I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi
since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His
response summed it all: 'Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed
by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what?
To practice democracy? Are you joking?'"

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Presidential debate secrets finally revealed

The basic agreements that govern the televised presidential debates have long been held
secret from the American public. But this year the “2004 MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING"
has been published by the Commission on Presidential Debates. It shows how thoroughly limited
and controlled are the parameters for what amounts to a joint press conference. Neither side wants
any surprises. The fascinating 30 page memorandum along with a history of the debates and other
materials can by found on the Bill Moyers NOW web page.

However, it turns out that some of the agreements covering these events are still highly confidential.
I have come into possession of an interesting piece of paper that the Commission has not released.


1. The Commission shall guarantee that no spontaneous, thoughtful, free-speaking citizen will be
permitted within forty miles of the debate site. Any citizen whose question departs from the
assigned script will be forcibly ejected from the room.

2. Neither candidate shall employ photos, charts, videos or a central nervous system during the debate.

3. Both candidates will remain seated at all times. If a candidate needs to go to the bathroom, he should
raise his hand and ask permission from the moderator.

4. Prior to the debate each candidate shall have his blood removed, temporarily replaced by
a corresponding amount of embalming fluid.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Things look bright for terror profiteering!

The following two messages appeared today in my email, one just after the other.
They say something about the brave new world we're entering.
- Langdon

* * * * * * * * *
Homeland Security Technology, Inc. (OTC: HSTJ)
First it was gold, then oil, now Homeland Security is the explosive sector turning savvy
stock players into millionaires.
HSTJ Immediate Buy: HUGE NEWS this week plus a 30% Stock-Dividend
Current Price: .015
Target Price: .10 by Sept. 30
HSTJ is our Homeland Security Hot Pick for the rest of September. We are anticipating
several revenue related news announcements and a surge of activity by brokers and investors
to participate in a 30% Stock Dividend for shareholders of record at market close on Sept. 30.
Price and volume for HSTJ will be soaring as we near the deadline to receive the 30% stock bonus
which is roughly equal to a 4 for 3 stock split.
HSTJ supplies military combat gear for the US Armed Forces and was formed for this purpose
by highly decorated military leaders. Not surprisingly, HSTJ has experienced a strong increase
in monthly orders.
Any issue in Homeland Security with elite military management, continuous contracts,
exponential growth, and a Stock Split or Dividend is a launching pad for incredible profits. . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Subject heading: How can one become a terrorist?

Welcome to our web site: [deleted for this posting]
. . . .

You\'re invited to shop for large selection of bombs and different
kinds of rockets such as surface-to-air,
surface-to-surface and weaponry available at reduced price. With the
following types of rockets you will be
able to commit terrorist attacks, destroy buildings, electric power
stations, bridges, factories and anything
else that comes your mind. Most items are in stock and available for
next day freight delivery in the USA.
Worldwide delivery is available at additional cost. Prices are
Please feel free to inquire by ICQ # [deleted here] or contacting us
. . . . . . [three phone numbers listed]

Today special:
******* AIR BOMBS *******
OFAB-500U HE fragmentation air bomb
Fuel-air explosive air bombs -Not in stock
BETAB-500U concrete-piercing air bomb
ZB-500RT incendiary tank
500-KG SIZE RBK-500U unified cluster bomb
RBK-500U OAB-2.5PT loaded with fragmentation submunitions
RBK-500U BETAB-M loaded with concrete-piercing submunitions-Not in
RBK-500U OFAB-50UD loaded with HE fragmentation submunitions
Main-purpose unguided aircraft rockets
S-8 unguided aircraft rockets
S-8BM-Not in stock
S-13 unguided aircraft rockets
S-13, S-13T, S-13-OF, S-13D, S-13DF
S-24B -Not in stock
RS-132-Not in stock
******* ROCKET PODS *******
B-8M pod for S-8 rockets
B-8V20-A pod for S-8 rockets
B-13L pod for S-13 rockets
Recently received *NEW*
Hydra 70 2.75 inch Rockets
Air-Launched 2.75-Inch Rockets
FIM-92A Stinger Weapons System
Stinger 101: Anti-Air

Friday, September 03, 2004

Panda gives birth to twins after watching sex ed videos

This story from the BBC made me laugh out loud. Being a father of
twins myself adds something to the delight.

"A panda in China who became pregnant after watching sex education
videos has given birth to twins.

Hua Mei was born in the US but moved to China in February.
Officials said they had determined that one of the twins was a boy,
but they could not check the other one because Hua Mei was still cuddling it.
. . . .

"We are all very excited. The cubs are in good condition," said Li Wei, from
the Wolong Panda Conservation Centre in Sichuan, southern China.
Before she became pregnant, Hua Mei had been shown videos as preparation
for a series of "blind dates" because experts feared she had little knowledge
of mating after living in captivity.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

First person shooter games – exactly what we feared they’d be

During the waves of ecstasy about “education” and “democracy” that accompanied
the rise of the personal computer and Internet, many parents and teachers who saw
what was actually going on who voiced dismay about the kinds of info products heavily
marketed to children. Foremost among these were the violent, first person shooter video
games that became the daily pastime for millions of kids. Hours and hours of
bang-bang-bang-boom-bang-bang…. So much for the “wonderful educational tool”
and improved “access to information.” Many asked: “What will become of youngsters
who spend endless hours wasting enemies on the screen?”

One answer appears in news reports about a Pentagon recruitment tool, “America’s Army,”
a state-of-the-art video game that offers more than “harmless diversion.” A story in
The Nation gives the sad, gory details.

“The universe of online computer games is home to 200,000 players at any time. It's also
where you can find the newest innovation in military recruiting. Check out America's Army, a
state-of-the art computer game featuring 3-D graphics, surround sound and the most
advanced gaming technology available. It's as entertaining as current favorites Counterstrike
or Doom, but there's a different agenda at work. Unlike commercial games designed to make
big money, the aim of this taxpayer-funded project is to generate Army recruits.

In 1999, recruitment numbers hit their lowest point in thirty years. In response,
Congress called for "aggressive, innovative experiments" to find new soldiers, and
the Defense Department jacked up recruitment budgets to $2.2 billion a year.
Hence we have America's Army, one of a number of new initiatives designed to help
the military reach America's youth. The game consists of two parts: "Soldiers: Empower
Yourself," a role-playing segment that instills Army "values," and the more violent
(read: entertaining) "Operations: Defend Freedom," a first-person combat simulator
where players engage in virtual warfare over the Internet. ….

But there is a difference between realistic detail and actual reality, and as a depiction
of Army life America's Army is, to say the least, misleading. Despite the game's
neurotic commitment to accuracy elsewhere, the small detail about killing people
is brushed over gingerly. "We were very careful on the blood thing," says Boyce.
There are no sound effects when players are shot; only a small red blotch appears,
similar to a paintball hit. The sanitizing of violence also aids marketing efforts by earning
the game a teen rating.

Players learn, in this army, that war is fun.”

* * * * * * * * *

The game sheds light on an old controversy: Do violent video games encourage violent
behavior among those who use them?

Perhaps the broader context has something to do with it. Are we talking a society
that routinely supports rituals of violence and death in its core institutions? If so,
the game is just another feature of what amounts normal practice.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Light up the Sky: an ingenious form of protest

As a way to protest the policies of the Bush presidency,
New Yorkers and vistors to the city are asked to carry lights
during the night of August 30. The idea is the brainchild of
designer Milton Glaser. As the Light up the Sky explains:

"The Republicans have every right to meet and choose their
candidate in our city without abuse. At the same time their
convention creates an opportunity for all of us to express our
disagreement with the culture of militarizations and violence
that our current leaders represent. It is time to change the
meanspirited and abrasive tone of our civic discourse. We
need an alternative to the harsh and degrading words and images
that have filled our consciousness since the war began.

On August 30, from dusk to dawn, all citizens who wish to end
the Bush presidency can use light as our metaphor. We can
gather informally all over the city with candles, flashlights
and plastic wands to silently express our sorrowover all the
innocent deaths the war has caused. We can gather in groups
or march in peaceful confrontation without violence. Violence
will only convince the undecided electroate to vote for Bush.
Not a word needs to be spoken. The entire world will understand
our message. Those of us who live here in rooms with windows
on the street can keep our lights on through the night. Imagine,
it's 2 or 3 in the morning and our city is ablaze with a silent and
overwhelming rebuke. Light transforms darkness."

The gentle wisdom of Milton Glaser can be found in his essay,
"This is what I have learned." Among his ten life lessons are these:
"You can only work for people that you like."
"If you have a choice, never have a job."

The protest with light flows from Milton's always engaging, always
positive vision of art and action.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

We are not animals

The following message was sent (as part of a group mailing)
to my son, Brooks Winner, from an Iraqi high school boy,
Ghazwan Majid. They met in July at the Hugh O'Brien
Conference on Leadership (or "HOBY") in Washington, D.C.
I have changed the original all caps format, fixed some spelling
and added some punctuation; otherwise the letter is unchanged.
It's copied here with Ghazwan's permission.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s me Ghazwan.
Well I hope that all of you are fine and having a
nice time.
Well we are fine (I meant our delegation) but the
others are not good.
Coz you know there are heavy battles taking place
right now in a Najaf and in Baghdad and everywhere
it is really bad.
To tell you about that I don’t wanna tell you but
I have to.
Our country is bleeding right now. I don’t know why
and how. The only thing that I know is hundreds of
people are dying everyday and I am writing my letter
under a heavy machine gun fire and under mortars shot
Please please pray for our people and try to tell your
people that we are (dying and bleeding). All of them
are innocent people, children and women and old men.
But there are some bad people who deserve to die. But
all of them are being killed right now and I’m not lying.
This is the truth.
I know you don’t like such stories, but I am just doing
the right thing and I am trying to stop that. But I can’t.
I don’t have the power. Please tell your people about
these facts and you have to think about us.
We are not animals (and we don’t like to be occupied).
And anyway I am not very good coz I am so nervous right now.
What have they done to be killed??????? What are the causes????
Who is responsible??????? ////And who will help????
And who will get better???? And who are dying???????
Thank you very much and I hope that this will be
thought about.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

McMurtry's "Unspeakable Propositions"

A truly free, open society would be one in which the
following propositions offered by John McMurtry
would be widely debated. McMurtry teaches philosophy at
the University of Guelph in Canada.

1. Taking more out than you put in as a regular practise—as in money
profits—is morally wrong.
2. The capitalist workplace is anti-democratic.
3. General Motors, Dupont, IT&T, Standard Oil and Ford Corporations all
produced military supplies for the Nazi armed forces during World War II
while the United States was at war with Germany.
4. Unearned wealth should be abolished as a matter of just public
5. The government needs to regulate the investment of Canadian/U.S.
capital abroad to societies with poor human rights and environmental
standards, so as to protect these standards in both North America and
the developing world.
6. The free market means that those without money to buy what they need
do not have the right to live.
7. The major player in the international drug trade since the Second
World War, using drug enforcement laws to maintain its monopoly, has
been the United States government to finance internationally illegal
foreign interventions.
8. Over 70 of eligible U.S. and British voters did not vote for Reagan
or Thatcher [in their] "landslides".
9. The arms race and international wars are very profitable for most
multinational corporations.
10. The long-term pattern of U.S. and Canadian foreign policy in the
non-white world has been alliances with fascist-type governments rather
than their opponents.
11. The "free world" is not truly free because its citizens do not have
the effective right to criticize the capitalist system.
12. The history of Western civilization is largely a history of genocide
against non-white peoples and cultures.
13. The greatest danger to Canada's l freedom and security comes from
the United States.
14. There is no correlation between people's wealth and their merit.
15. In many cases, social ownership of major industries is sound
social policy.
16. The very rich ought not to be admired, but rather condemned for
their acquisitive self-interest at others' expense.
17. A small minority's monopoly ownership of society's means of
production is an issue that needs to be carefully examined.
18. Pollution/poverty are specially advantageous to the major
shareholders of private enterprise.
19. Our major social problems are caused by the profit imperative
overriding all other values.
20. The belief that God sanctions our social order or our state at war
is a superstition.
21. There may be better alternatives for long-term sexual union than the
private property structure of state-regulated marriage.
22. The Soviet Union pays significantly more than the world-price for
imports from the countries of East Europe, and charges significantly
less for its exports.
23. Socialist revolution has been by and large beneficial for the living
standards of most citizens in societies where it has occurred.
24. Over 90 of Canadian citizens are not capitalists but members of the
working class who depend for their living on wages or salaries.
25. Unions have historically led the struggle for improvements in health
care, working conditions and social security for the population as a
26. The business community has excessive political and economic power in
our society.
27. Our schools do not train the young to think critically, but to obey
corporate or office authority without question.
28. The President and his leading advisors are provable war criminals.
29. Christianity calls for the redistribution of wealth.
30. The mass media are essentially a joint-stock company of profit and
advertising for major private corporations.

Originally published in Informal Logic, X,3 Fall 1988.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Save Vermont! -- State Declared "Endangered" by Wal-Mart Expansion

Following upon several successful instances of resistance
to the Wal-Martization of America, including the successful
"no" vote on the company's plans in Inglewood, CA, the National
Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the whole state of
Vermont on its list of "most endangered historic places." I
consider this an important turn of events, one that will help
people striving to save this wonderful piece of New England from
the sprawl of big box shopping malls and auto-centered development
that has made a chaotic hash of the American landscape.

Watch for Falling Prices!
Watch for Falling Wages!
Watch for Falling Environmental Standards!
Watch for Plywood Boarded-up Shops Downtown!
Watch for the Collapse of Communities Near You!

According to one news report:

"Officials for the Trust, a nationally recognized group that
helps save historic sites, said they put Vermont on the list
because the planned opening of so many Wal-Mart stores there
in the next few years threatens the state's small-town quaintness.

The state has four Wal-Mart Stores now, and seven more are
planned, company officials said, with about 1.3 million square
feet of total space. Trust officials blame the gigantic retailer,
with its vast boxy stores , for squeezing out mom-and-pop
operations and changing the character of Vermont.

'That will have a very large consequence, not just for the
communities where the Wal-Marts will be located, but for
the entire state,' said Richard Moe, president of the Trust,
a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. 'The unique small-town
character of the state and the fragile countryside will be
overwhelmed by their size.'"

* * * * *
[Of course the Wal-Mart flack, Mia Masten had a ready response
(I wonder how much they had to pay Mia to say this stuff)]:

"'Blaming Wal-Mart is a bit far-fetched,'" said Mia Masten,
Wal-Mart's community affairs manager for the Eastern region.

She said that the stores provide jobs and economic activity
in areas that need it.

"'It sounds as if we're trying to go and push our way in,'"
Masten said. "But we are asking for and getting local input.
We want a project that everyone likes at the end of the day.'"

* * * * * * * *

At a meeting in Albany recently I ran into a woman from a town
in the Hudson Valley who talk enthusiastically about Wal-Mart
"community affairs." She exclaimed, "Even before the final plans
for the store were approved, Wal-Mart managers called a meeting with
a couple dozen community groups and gave them each a check for $1,000!"

This reminds me of the kind of penny ante bribery we've seen in
battles with St. Lawrence Cement in Columbia County, New York. While
permits are pending, the company has been lavish in its "gifts" to the
community. When my kids were in Little League several years ago
they would ask, "Why are all the other teams wearing uniforms from
St. Lawrence Cement?" Fortunately, we've had some success shining
a bright light on these phony acts of charity and the risible, glossy
advertising campaigns the company has launched.

Good luck, Vermont! Give 'em hell!
Save Christiania! -- An Alternative Urban Community Avoids Destruction

Earlier this year the right wing political authorities of Denmark
threatened to dismantle Christiania, the hippie-style commune that
has existed in the middle of Denmark. Following police raids that
evidently smashed the drug selling business in the village, discussions
continued about what to do with this odd national landmark. Evidently,
a deal has been worked out that will save much of Christiania and its
alternative lifestyles. The BBC has a good report on a story not
likely to get much press in the neo-Puritan U.S.A.

"The new law, agreed on Tuesday, leaves open the possibility
for an independent committee to take charge of Christiania,
a plan favoured by many residents.

A police spokesman said the illegal drug market that had
flourished in Christiania would not be allowed to develop again.

Under the new law, several houses built on the site of an old
naval fort will be torn down, while an extra 300 houses will be
built elsewhere on the site.

The 1,000 residents will also have to pay a fixed rate for
utilities such as gas and electricity, much of which they have
been using for free.

Christiania is one of Copenhagen's biggest tourist attractions."

Monday, May 03, 2004

George W. Bush's racist comments

It's interesting that the press hasn't picked up these astonishing
musings from George W. Bush on skin color, Muslims and
self-government. His remarks came at a White House press
conference with Prime Minister Martin of Canada held on April 30.

Bush exclaims:

"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people
whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern.
I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice
the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins
aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."


Who are those who serve as the reference point for comparing "people
whose skin color may not be the same as ours"? All Americans?
No. Evidently it is people whose skin is "white." In contrast are those of
"different color" who are immediately conflated with Muslims.

I want to offer my personal apologies to anyone, American or otherwise,
offended by Bush's ignorant, confused, racist remarks. The assumptions
revealed in his words say a great deal about Iraq, the war on terror, and
a whole lot more. As a citizen of a country founded upon the view that "all
men are created equal," his comments are a profound embarrassment.

I'm truly sorry.

The global treadmill

An article from the LA Times depicts the hard edge of globalization.
Personal experiences break through to give the lie to the boosterism.

Oh, by the way, tell me again: What was it that was supposed to
happen when we all bought those nifty personal computers?

He'll Take Your Job and Ship It
Atul Vashistha's firm helps U.S. companies cut costs by sending work abroad.
Sorry, he says, but it's a case of move up or lose out.
By Warren Vieth
Times Staff Writer

April 27, 2004

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Atul Vashistha might help move your job overseas one day. He would like you to understand why.

Vashistha, 38, is one of the leading practitioners of "offshoring." His San Ramon consulting firm, neoIT, helps U.S. companies cut costs by sending work to India, the Philippines and other nations with cheaper labor. By his own estimate, Vashistha's deals are providing wages to 50,000 workers overseas. Many of those paychecks used to go to white-collar workers in the United States.

Since he was a boy growing up in India, Vashistha wanted to be a global entrepreneur. To get from there to here, he rejected tradition, devoured new information, sought out opportunities and repeatedly retooled himself to respond to changing circumstances.

If he can do it, he says, so can you.

"If you're a Web programmer, I'm sorry, you have no right to think you can keep your job in the U.S. if you're using the same technology that existed four years ago," Vashistha says. "You've got to keep moving up. You've got to keep going back to school…. If you're not going to do that, you're going to lose your job."

In the midst of the melee, Vashistha has stepped forward as an apostle of offshoring, corporate shorthand for shifting jobs abroad. In his view, it's important for workers to hear the truth — even if it hurts.

Like it or not, Vashistha says, Americans are now part of a global competition for labor. With the advent of the Internet and high-speed telecommunications, virtually any job that can be done at a computer or over the phone can be moved to countries where wages are much lower. And U.S. companies that resist the trend, he says, will be swept away by rivals.

That may spell disaster for workers who are cast aside, Vashistha acknowledges. But there is good news too: In the long term, companies that save money this way will generate new jobs, he says, which will go to workers who are willing to reinvent themselves.

For some workers, Vashistha's arguments ring hollow. Clifford Cotterill is one of them.

A software engineer for one of the companies on neoIT's client list, Cotterill, 55, managed to dodge several previous rounds of workforce cuts. But he was recently told his job would be sent to India in May, three months shy of the date he would qualify for early retirement.

"I've always taken classes, picked up new technologies. I have pages of training I can include on my resume," Cotterill says. "They're not really being honest."

Vashistha says he empathizes with workers like Cotterill. But he knows there's not much he can say about the long-term benefits of globalization that would solve the immediate problems of people who get ground up in its gears.

"It is very painful, and I understand that," he says. "To tell somebody who is 55 years old … you've got to go back to school. But that is the new reality of being competitive."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Fighting "sub-humans"? -- a sad commentary on the American
military's view of Iraqis

From the Telegraph comes an unsettling report. It brings to mind
similar sentiments among many soldiers in the Vietnam quagmire who
came to see the enemy, indeed the Vietnam people as a whole, as "gooks."
The news story is not at all surprising, given the overall attitude of Americans
about the human dimensions of the war, for example the total lack of coverage
in our media about the numbers of Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed or injured.
It is deeply assumed -- beyond any need for comment -- that those people simply
do not matter.

US tactics condemned by British officers
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 11/04/2004)

Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.

The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

The phrase untermenschen - literally "under-people" - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slaves and gipsies.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Fantasies and realities of robot war

The idea of replacing human solidiers with automated devices for
fighting wars has been an obsession in the Pentagon since the
1960s. During the Vietnam War, for example, there were elaborate
plans to build an electronic barrier separating North from South, a
network of sensing devices that would identify enemy traffic and
guide strikes from the air. Much of the technology that makes possible
today's computers and the Internet derives from decades of
government funded research, development and production originally
justified by any all out push to create the "electronic battlefield."

A recent article by Conn Hallinan, "The Rise of the Machines," comments
on the most recent steps in this ongoing, throughly deranged misuse
of American science and engineering, i.e., scientists, engineers and your
tax dollars. He writes:

The press had lots of fun with the recent robot debacle in the Mojave Desert. Competing for $1 million in prize money, 15 vehicles headed off on a 142-mile course through some of the most forbidding terrain in the country. None managed to navigate even eight miles. The robots hit fences, caught fire, rolled over, or sat and did nothing.

However, the purpose of the event was not NASCAR for nerds, but a coldly calculated plan to construct a generation of killer machines.

Sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Mar. 13 “race” was part of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) plan to make one third of the military’s combat vehicles driverless by 2015. The push to replace soldiers with machines is impelled by an over-extended military searching for ways to limit U.S. casualties, a powerful circle of arms manufactures, and an empire-minded group of politicians addicted to campaign contributions by defense corporations.

This “rise of the machines” is at the heart of the Bush administration’s recent military budget. Sandwiched into outlays for aircraft, artillery, and conventional weapons, are monies for unmanned combat aircraft, robot tanks, submarines, and a supersonic bomber capable of delivering six tons of bombs and missiles to anyplace on the globe in two hours.

. . . . The military’s interest is in part a function of the Vietnam Syndrome: lots of aluminum caskets and weeping survivors play poorly on the six o’clock news. While so far the Bush administration has managed to keep these images at arm’s length by simply banning the media from filming C-130s disgorging the wounded and the slain, as casualty lists grows longer, that will get harder to do.

The lure of being able to fight a war without getting your own people killed is a seductive one. “It is possible that in our lifetime we will be able to run a conflict without ever leaving the United States ,” Lt. Col. David Branham told the New York Times last year.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Traveling in Spain recently, I came across the audacious free software
project, LinEx, sponsored by Extremadura, an autonomous region
(state) in western Spain. Here's a story about it from the
Washington Post.

The web page for the gnuLinEx project is here, including
a link that enables on to download gnuLinEx for your personal

As Bruce Sterling writes of about Extremadura,
in Wired, "this quaint haven has suddenly become a bastion
of Tux the Penguin. Extremadura has gone whole hog for free
software: ¡Software libre para la libertad! Its government has
minted some 80,000 CDs to marinate the populace in Linux.
Social workers carry the latest open source code to remote schools,
municipal offices, and city-funded ISPs. Thanks to Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra,
the left-wing academic who became regional president and has
dominated local politics for the past 20 years, the Global Project for
the Development of the Information Society aims to give every resident
access to the knowledge gathered by humanity throughout history."

My thanks to my Spanish colleagues Javier Bustamante and Andoni Alonzo
for alterting me to this wonderful development.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Maybe it's the light -- a view from San Francisco

To hear Governor Schwarzenegger and other voices of the far right
describe the matter, California seems threatened by a total breakdown
of civil order -- a wave of lawlessness comparable to people blandishing
assault rifles in public or openly selling hard drugs to school children
on every street corner. Clearly, the marriage riot in San Francisco has
got to stop! It presents a peril to world civilization more grave than al-Qaeda
and suicide bombers. Call in the National Guard -- immediately!

For a more sane, thoughtful view of the matter, check out Gray Brechin's
"Of Course It Started in San Francisco" from the Washington Post. As Brechin describes
his stroll past City Hall last week:

"As it has been since Feb. 12, when Mayor Gavin Newsom directed the city
to begin issuing the controversial marriage licenses, the building has long
been a site of resistance as well as of unity. In 1960, police turned fire
hoses on protesters against the House Un-American Activities Committee,
forcing them down the marble stairs of the place where Marilyn Monroe and
Joe DiMaggio were married in 1954. On the night of May 21, 1979, thousands
of gays converged on City Hall to torch police cars and attack the building,
enraged by a jury verdict that wrist-slapped Dan White, an ex-member of the
Board of Supervisors, for gunning down gay supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor
George Moscone in their offices. The verdict said to the rioters that a clean-cut
family man was almost within his rights to execute a gay man, along with Milk's
liberal friend and supporter.

The mood was very different last Sunday when my partner of 11 years and I
left the Asian Art Museum that faces City Hall across Civic Center Plaza . We could
hear the commotion across the plaza, so we walked toward it, and unwittingly into history.

We had thought that Mayor Newsom's dramatic decision to issue same-sex
marriage certificates was a stunt, and that we didn't really care. Sanctity,
after all, is not a description that either of us would apply to our own parents'
marriages, and we were not about to splurge on rings in order to repeat their mistakes.

But our convictions dissolved as we watched ecstatic couples emerge from
City Hall and descend the granite steps to the cheers, tears and applause of
gays and straights alike, as well as to the affirmative honks of cars passing
on Polk Street, and to the appreciation of those people waiting in a line that
stretched around the block for their turn at legal recognition, many with their
children. Marriages were taking place throughout a City Hall kept open during
the long weekend for just that purpose, and everyone present was aware of
being party to something momentous. We knew that in the present political
climate beyond the Bay Area, Newsom's seeming defiance of state law, and
that of the thousands of couples who have filed through the building, may have
been foolish and even perilous. President Bush and Karl Rove could whip and
ride the divisive issue to another term. But events can create their own unexpected
consequences, just as the televised spectacle of citizens flushed down the stairs
with fire houses 44 years ago helped bring down the HUAC.

The infectious joy at City Hall made the risk of defiance worthwhile, because what
happened there went far beyond an out-of-step city that is almost an island
in more ways than one. It was worthy of a nation that, every July 4, celebrates
those who seek freedom more than security."

Digital democracy teach-in

While I remain largely skeptical about the prospects for digital democracy,
there have been some interesting developments in recent months -- the
success of, the flurry of activity around Howard Dean's Internet
centered campaign, the use of the Net to mobilize tens of millions in
opposition to the war in Iraq, etc.

Here's a report on the Digital Democracy Teach-in held in early February.


Former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi started off the day with the claim that "the political press could never figure out what the Dean campaign was. Now they feel qualified to comment on whether what it did worked." Much of his session, "Down from the Mountain: My Experience with the Dean Campaign," was targeted at broadcast media and the resulting political tactics.

He said, "Let's take the scream tape: it wasn't news, it was entertainment. It was the heat-seeking missile footage hitting its target. That really was damaging -- not what the governor did but the media's portrayal of it out of context. They are now apologizing."

Trippi argued, "Broadcast politics has failed the country miserably. You had no debate going into war, no debate about the Patriot Act. That debate isn't happening anywhere except on the Net."

He explained that the roots of broadcast politics go back 40 years. "In the 1960s, with the Nixon-Kennedy debate, people should have realized that television was going to change everything in American politics. It became a race for money and for one-way communications. How do I find a rich guy writing a $200K check and buy time with it?"

. . . . .

According to Trippi, "We have a communications problem. The political press has no clue what this Internet community is about. The Internet community doesn't really understand the hard, cold realities of American politics."

. . . . .

[LW: Yes, but politics on the Internet does make us feel so warm and fuzzy
and involved and effective and shaking the power structure and changing
the world for the better and so virtually virtuous ....]

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Doubters take note:
At last the tax cuts are producing new jobs! (in Bangalore)

I'll have to admit that Bush and his economists were right. Those huge
tax givebacks for the wealthy -- the ones my kids will be paying for until
they die -- are working just fine!

(from the L.A. Times)

Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas
The loss of work to other countries, while painful in the short term,
will enrich the economy eventually, his report to Congress says.

By Warren Vieth and Edwin Chen
Times Staff Writers

February 10, 2004

WASHINGTON — The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar
work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich
the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation,
the Bush administration said Monday.

The embrace of foreign outsourcing, an accelerating trend that has contributed
to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections,
is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the health of the economy.

"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw,
chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report.
"More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."

The report, which predicts that the nation will reverse a three-year employment
slide by creating 2.6 million jobs in 2004, is part of a weeklong effort by the administration
to highlight signs that the recovery is picking up speed. Bush's economic stewardship has
become a central issue in the presidential campaign, and the White House is eager to
demonstrate that his policies are producing results.

[LW: And exactly where on the planet will those 2.6 million jobs be located? Hmmmm?]

"Shocked! Shocked, I say!" -- scientists catch on to Bush's science scams

Well, it's only taken three years, but finally some prominent members
the scientific community have begun speaking out against the many
blatant distortions of scientific information, abuses of the scientific
authority and outright censorship of scientific research that have
characterized the Bush administration from day one. Better late than
never, I suppose.

Seth Borenstein writes for the Knight Ridder Newspapers:

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - A group of more than 60 top U.S. scientists,
including 20 Nobel laureates and several science advisers to past
Republican presidents, on Wednesday accused the Bush administration
of manipulating and censoring science for political purposes.

In a 46-page report and an open letter, the scientists accused the
administration of "suppressing, distorting or manipulating the work
done by scientists at federal agencies" in several cases. The Union of
Concerned Scientists, a liberal advocacy group based in Cambridge,
Mass., organized the effort, but many of the critics aren't associated with it.

White House Science Advisor John Marburger III called the charges
"like a conspiracy theory report, and I just don't buy that." But he
added that "given the prestige of some of the individuals who have
signed on to this, I think they deserve additional response and we're
coordinating something."

[LW: Translation -- Damn, we've been caught! What lie do we
float now?]

Back to the story ......

"The report charges that administration officials have:

_Ordered massive changes to a section on global warming in the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2003 Report on the Environment.
Eventually, the entire section was dropped.

_Replaced a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet
on proper condom use with a warning emphasizing condom failure rates.

_Ignored advice from top Department of Energy nuclear materials
experts who cautioned that aluminum tubes being imported by Iraq
weren't suitable for use to make nuclear weapons.

_Established political litmus tests for scientific advisory boards. In
one case, public health experts were removed from a CDC lead paint
advisory panel and replaced with researchers who had financial ties to
the lead industry.

_Suppressed a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist's finding
that potentially harmful bacteria float in the air surrounding large hog farms.

_Excluded scientists who've received federal grants from regulatory
advisory panels while permitting the appointment of scientists from
regulated industries."

The full report can be found at the website of The Union of Concerned Scientists.
Same sex marriage -- a jazz musician's comment

Last Monday my old buddy Charlie took me and my twin boys
to the Jazz Standard, a wonderful club in Manhattan that features
fine barbecue and great music. The band that evening, the nine piece
Millennium Territory Orchestra, featured an exuberant, often humorous
collision between traditional tunes (including ones from the 1920s)
and avant guarde jazz blowing. Steven Bernstein, trumpet and leader
of the ensemble, peppered the audience with wry quips, some of them fairly
political. Pointing to a musician holding his soprano sax high in the air,
he noted, "Now there's a weapon of mass destruction!"

As I visited the JamBase website today, I
read another of Bernstein's comments from a previous concert. It's the
funniest thing I've heard about the raging debate about sex marriage:

"Aren’t all marriages same sex? Isn't that why you get married,
because you want the same sex?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Watch for falling wages! (and jobs moving south)

Those who've bought into the rhetoric and enthusiasm of globalization
can, I suppose, only applaud the trends noted in the Bob Herbert
column below. It's astonishing that American educators and politicians
remain so quiet about these matters.

NY Times, January 26, 2004

Education Is No Protection

The conference was held discreetly in the Westin New York hotel in Times
Square last week, and by most accounts it was a great success. The main
objections came from a handful of protesters who stood outside in a brutally
cold wind waving signs that said things like "Stop Sending Jobs Overseas"
and "Put America Back to Work." No one paid them much attention.

The conference was titled "Offshore Outsourcing: Making the Journey Work
for Your Corporation." Its goal was to bring executives up to speed on the
hot new thing in corporate America, the shipment of higher-paying
white-collar jobs to countries with eager, well-educated and much lower-paid

"We basically help companies figure out how to offshore I.T. [information
technology] and B.P. [business process functions]," said Atul Vashistha, the
chief executive of NeoIT, a California consulting firm that co-hosted the

Several big-name corporations had representatives at the conference,
including Procter & Gamble, Motorola, Cisco Systems and Gateway. Because the
outsourcing of white-collar jobs is so controversial and politically charged
(especially in a presidential election year), there was a marked reluctance
among many of the participants to speak publicly about it. But Mr. Vashistha
showed no reluctance. He was quick to proselytize.

"These companies understand very clearly that this is a very painful
process for their employees and for American jobs in the short term," he
said. "But they also recognize that if they don't do this, they will lose
more jobs in the future and they won't have an ability to grow in the
future." He said his firm had helped clients ship about a billion dollars'
worth of projects offshore last year.

Noting that he is an American citizen who was born in India, Mr. Vashistha
said he is convinced that outsourcing will prove to be a long-term boon to
the U.S. economy as well as the economies of the countries acquiring the
exported jobs. Whether it becomes a boon to the U.S. economy or not, the
trend toward upscale outsourcing is a fact, and it is accelerating. In an
important interview with The San Jose Mercury News last month, the chief
executive of Intel, Craig Barrett, talked about the integration of India,
China and Russia ÿ with a combined population approaching three billion ÿ
into the world's economic infrastructure.

"I don't think this has been fully understood by the United States," said
Mr. Barrett. "If you look at India, China and Russia, they all have strong
education heritages. Even if you discount 90 percent of the people there as
uneducated farmers, you still end up with about 300 million people who are
educated. That's bigger than the U.S. work force."

He said: "The big change today from what's happened over the last 30 years
is that it's no longer just low-cost labor that you are looking at. It's
well-educated labor that can do effectively any job that can be done in the
United States." In Mr. Barrett's view, "Unless you are a plumber, or
perhaps a newspaper reporter, or one of these jobs which is geographically
situated, you can be anywhere in the world and do just about any job."

You want a national security issue? Trust me, this threat to the long-term
U.S. economy is a big one. Why it's not a thunderous issue in the
presidential campaign is beyond me. Intel has its headquarters in Silicon
Valley. A Mercury News interviewer asked Mr. Barrett what the Valley will
look like in three years. Mr. Barrett said the prospects for job growth were
not good. "Companies can still form in Silicon Valley and be competitive
around the world," he said. "It's just that they are not going to create
jobs in Silicon Valley."

He was then asked, "Aren't we talking about an entire generation of lowered
expectations in the United States for what an individual entering the job
market will be facing?" "It's tough to come to another conclusion than
that," said Mr. Barrett. "If you see this increased competition for jobs,
the immediate response to competition is lower prices and that's lower wage

We can grapple with this problem now, and try to develop workable solutions.
Or we can ignore this fire in the basement of the national economy until it
rages out of our control.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Why didn’t I think of that?

Speaking at the very important World Economic Forum held in Davos
recently, Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, delivered an uplifting talk
on how to rid the planet of one of its most persistent ills – Internet spam.
He noted:

"Lots of mail you get is from people on your contact list. So what's the problem?

Filters could do a lot to sort spam from real mail, Mr Gates said: "Does the
e-mail say it's about 'enlargement' - that might be spam."
- - - - - - - - - -

Wow! It’s easy to tell why he’s a billionaire. It takes someone with a keen grasp
of techno-social problems and innovative solutions to come up with an
incisive analysis of that kind. Gates went on to suggest some other remedies
for this menace (which the software he peddles has so greatly fostered – oops!).

Personally, I have my own approach to spammers. When I find that I’m
running low on cash from buying all the better-than-viagra and “enlargement”
products, I just send away for several million dollars from one of those nice,
deposed princes in Nigeria.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away ....

Alas, the same Internet that helped propel Howard Dean to prominence is now helping devour him alive. See the LA Times story below. Videos and images of Dean’s shriek are proliferating on the Net like crazy.

The best philosophical account of this phenomenon is Hannah Arendt’s discussion in “The Human Condition,” describing public life as a “space of appearances” in which no one can ultimately control the impression people have of his/her identity and character. As someone who finds Dean basically appealing, I regret he gave today’s image shapers the very ammunition they need to shoot him down. It’s possible, but not likely, that he’ll recover. Setbacks like this – e.g., Edmund Muskie tears -- tend to be terminal, a verdict endlessly echoed in the hollow, mocking spheres of propaganda.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - -

Dean's Late-Night Battle Cry May Have Damaged Campaign
By Mark Z. Barabak and Faye Fiore
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

January 22, 2004

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Howard Dean's overheated concession speech in Iowa may have inflicted irreparable harm on his campaign, intensifying concerns that Vermont's former governor is prone to outbursts and fits of pique that make him unqualified to be president, analysts said Wednesday.

The image of Dean repeatedly punching the air in a performance some likened to an emotional meltdown has played endlessly on cable news networks and offered instant fodder for late-night comedy monologues.

"He's a very rational, pleasant human being, but he looked like a rabid dog," said Charlie Cook, publisher of a nonpartisan Washington political newsletter. "To say he appeared unpresidential is an understatement."

The damage was immediately quantifiable. Surveys showed a fall in Dean's approval ratings and a tightening race in New Hampshire — where he faces a major test Tuesday, when the state hosts the nation's first presidential primary.

Adding further insult, the medium that had been the most powerful force for delivering his campaign message was being used to mock him Wednesday as samples of his Iowa speech were turned into shrieking soundtracks on the Internet.

Dean, who has been criticized for his peevish personality since his days as Vermont governor, abruptly shifted his style to a more measured approach since arriving here after his third-place finish in Iowa.

Conducting a series of television interviews from Burlington, Vt., Wednesday, the former governor was asked repeatedly about his caucus night speech. Dean defended his tenor, saying he was reaching out to his tireless volunteers.

"There were 3,500 screaming kids in that room who'd worked their hearts out for me in Iowa, all of them waving an American flag," Dean told KWTV in Oklahoma City. "I thought I owed it to them to buck up their spirits and I was pleased that I did."

But the price could be one of those frozen-in-time moments that forever defines his campaign. The round-the-clock broadcasts of that isolated appearance come at a time when many voters nationwide are just tuning in to the election now that the balloting has actually started. . . . .

Monday, January 12, 2004

The promise of nanotechnology clarified

It's time for me to apologize for all those years I spent as a
technology skeptic. The moment of contritition came as I watched
a Hewlett-Packard advertisement during a football game on
television last Sunday. The HP commercial clarified the promise of
nanotechnology (and a great deal more):

"These are nature's building blocks, and they can be used to
build some amazing things. Like a cell phone so small an ant
could use it, or a tiny computer that can hold every book ever

My only remaining question -- will the ants have those
nifty cell phones that take and send digital photos?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Citizen participation included in nanotechnology legislation

Readers of last spring's "Technopolis" may recall news that the
House of Representatives version of a bill funding nanotechnology
research included provisions for occasional evaluation of this research
by citizens panels. As the legislation passed through the labyrinthine
corridors of capitol hill, this feature of the bill encountered some
criticism, especially the mistaken claim that attempts at citizen
participation in technology assessment had not been effective.
The last I heard during the summer was that language about
citizens panels and consensus conferences had been cut from the
bill the Senate passed. Oh well....

Now it turns out that Public Law 108-153, the 21st Century
Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, restored some
of the content. The relevant text from Public Law 108-153
which Bush signed, is given below. I believe that reference
to citizens panels and consensus conferences in these matters
is something of a first in U.S. lawmaking!

Public Law 108-153
108th Congress

An Act

To authorize appropriations for nanoscience, nanoengineering, and
nanotechnology research, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,
. . . . .
[Here is the passage:]

(10) ensuring that ethical, legal, environmental, and other
appropriate societal concerns, including the potential use of
nanotechnology in enhancing human intelligence and in developing
artificial intelligence which exceeds human capacity, are
considered during the development of nanotechnology by--
(A) establishing a research program to identify
ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate
societal concerns related to nanotechnology, and
ensuring that the results of such research are widely
(B) requiring that interdisciplinary nanotechnology
research centers established under paragraph (4) include
activities that address societal, ethical, and
environmental concerns;
(C) insofar as possible, integrating research on
societal, ethical, and environmental concerns with
nanotechnology research and development, and ensuring
that advances in nanotechnology bring about improvements
in quality of life for all Americans; and
(D) providing, through the National Nanotechnology
Coordination Office established in section 3, for public
input and outreach to be integrated into the Program by
the convening of regular and ongoing public discussions,
through mechanisms such as citizens' panels, consensus
conferences, and educational events, as appropriate;


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dick Sclove has pointed out that the National Institutes of Health
has been using what it calls "consensus conferences" for a while,
but that these are a far cry from the open, deliberative citizens
meetings used in, for example, the Danish model of technology
assessment. Hence, an important challenge now is to make sure that
the real promise of democratizing this dimension of science and
technology policy-making is accomplished in authentic ways, using the
best practices available, not a counterfeit that merely consults the
"experts" and special interests for their limited, self-interested views.

During these dreary times in U.S. public life, this novel provision
of the nanotech law can be counted one small step for American

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The meaning of the WTC "Freedom Tower"?

At the same moment that public officials and architects proudly
unveil the ghastly, twisted, windmill-powered 1,776-foot 'Freedom Tower"
to be plopped down at Ground Zero in New York City, we're regaled
with a steady stream of news stories about the freedoms lost since
the 9/11 attack. Is there a subliminal message here?

See the visual commentary, "Two Symbols of Freedom," by reclusive
New Hudson River School artist, Frederick Clinker.

A story from the New York Times describes the latest assault on
what's left of the Bill of Rights.

* * * * * * * *
January 8, 2004, NY Times

U.S. Reasserts Right to Declare Citizens to Be Enemy Combatants

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 ? The Bush administration on Wednesday reasserted
its broad authority to declare American citizens to be enemy combatants,
and it suggested that the Supreme Court consider two prominent cases at
the same time.

The Justice Department, in a brief filed with the court, said it would seek
an expedited appeal of a federal appeals court decision last month in the
case of Jose Padilla, jailed as an enemy combatant in 2002.

The divided Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled on
Dec. 18 that President Bush lacked the authority to indefinitely detain an
American citizen like Mr. Padilla who was arrested on American soil simply
by declaring him an enemy combatant. Mr. Padilla has been held incommunicado
at a military brig in South Carolina. American authorities say he plotted with
operatives of Al Qaeda overseas to detonate a "dirty" radiological bomb in
the United States.

But the Justice Department said in its brief that the ruling was "fundamentally
at odds" with court precedent on presidential powers.

The decision "undermines the president's constitutional authority to protect
the nation," Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson wrote. ....