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Jaks View from Vancouver

Sunday, June 30, 2002

The World Cup On The Drive

Commercial Drive, being primarily European and South American in character, is soccer crazy. Every Saturday morning during the European season, the Italian bars are packed to sidewalk-overflowing with fans passionate for the fortunes of Roma and Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina. In 1998, I watched the World Cup Final from France at the Caffe Roma and wildness reigned. This year, with the final scheduled to start at 4am here in Vancouver, madness and fun were sure to ensue.

The World Cup has generated a lot of interest in our office, and so I was sure of a response when I offered my place as a gathering point for a group trip to see the game on the Drive. I offered to have coffee ready from 3:30am, and five hardy souls showed up. By 4 o'clock we were on our way, walking through ever thickening crowds towards the cafes.

Lynda and Lenore, June 30, 2002
Lynda and Lenore brave the dark night

Our original plan had been to try to get into the Portuguese Club, which would no doubt be full of cheering Brazilian supporters. But the place was already jammed, the doors closed and hundsreds milling about outside. The police had thoughtfully blocked off this and a couple more blocks, allowing the thousands of early risers to wander the streets. We walked on, to the Abruzzo -- impossible to see --, the Amici -- same story. Crowds everywhere, the smell of beer and matrijuana hanging heavy in the warm air. Walking on, with plans to try the Roma next, we found ourselves outside the Paris Bakery.

Paris Bakery, June 30, 2002
The Paris Bakery

The Paris Bakery is a small bakery with a small cafe out front. It is the hangout for the few young Vietnamese in the neighbourhood. I have never seen more than three or four people in there at any one time, and the atmosphere has always reminded me of what I imagine Saigon was like in the 50s after a dispiriting rainstorm. When we passed by, the cafe was full -- maybe thirty people sitting quietly at tables, watching a TV set high above the counter. Outside, only a few people were looking in the windows or the door, so our group of six took up position with great views of the TV. Within moments, our example was followed by dozens of others and the whole area was packed by the time the game was in full swing. I didn't see a German supporter anywhere.

My view of the screen, June 30, 2002
I got a pretty good view!

There was an odd time thing happening: Usually, sporting events take place in the afternoon or evening and the sky getting darker is a feature of the event. Last night, by the time Brazil scored the first goal, dawn was about to break over Vancouver. I am sure that very few if any of the thousands of real and adopted Brazilians took any notice as they ecstatically and noisily celebrated Ronaldo's strike.

Brazil's first goal, June 30, 2002
We're on our way to victory!

Technically, I suspect most would agree, the second half of the game was less accomplished than the first. But, as the certainty grew that Brazil was going to win, the emotion behind me and around me and in front of me grew ever louder and more friendly and more excited. Ronaldo's second goal was swiftly followed by the final whistle and Brazil had won the World Cup for an amazing and record-breaking fifth time. It was the cue for a massive party on the Drive.

brazil wins, June 30, 2002
Brazil wins!

I have witnessed some good times and great parties on the Drive over the years, but nothing before compared to the sheer numbers and sheer happiness of the crowd this morning. The crowd seemed to gather in the Portuguese Club block and then walked south along Commercial. We walked in the opposite direction, sampling the crowd's atmosphere as it passed around us.Whistles and rockets and horns and drums and cymbals and bells rocked the air. Brasil-la-la! Brasil-la-la! Brasil-las-la! Brazilian flags were everywhere, as was yellow and green. Everyone was Brazilian today.

the street fills, June 30, 2002
The ad-hoc parade takes over

Finally we were through it, watching the tail of the parade and the detritus in its wake.

the parade moves on, June 30, 2002
After the parade

It was a great night and one I wouldn't have missed. Soccer is the people's game worldwide, and there is nothing better than watching a great and famous game in the company of thousands of equally enthusiastic people. My friends and I went for an early breakfast and then they dropped me back home.

As host -- and not wanting to oversleep in that role -- I had decided to stay up all night. It is the first all-nighter I have pulled in an impossibly long time. I had kept myself awake watching "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without A Cause" (noticing this time that many in both casts were better in their roles than James Dean in his), with my wife falling asleep around two. At 8 o'clock, gratefully tired, I joined her in bed and slept real late.

Palestine Daily Log

Continuing the trend of targeting children for death, the IOF killed another 12-year old Palestinian stone-thrower yesterday at the al-Fara refugee camp near Jenin. And continuing their long series of extra-judicial murders, IOF killers assassinated two Palestinian militants on Sunday in Nablus.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00pm PDT June 30th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,572. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 661 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Iraq II

Has Iraq II already begun? A Lebanese daily, "which maintains close relations with the Syrian leadership." is reporting, via the Pakistani Frontier Post, that 2,000 U.S. troops are already in forward bases in Jordan. Dozens of special forces are said to be operating in northern Iraq.

I have no idea of the veracity of this report, and I pass it on in the interests of screwing the Propaganda Model.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

If I were to write that "all West Bank cities have been invaded by Israeli military forces; that hundreds of thousands of inhabitants are imprisoned in their homes by a strict curfew, and that civilians appearing on city streets are being shot at like dogs by Israeli tanks and Apache helicopters," no doubt I would be criticised by some of the commenters here that I was indulging in anti-semitic rhetoric.

If I were to add that "the suicide bombings are a product of mass starvation and humiliation of the Palestinian people," and that we have entered a situation "in which 3.5 million people have no future, no hope, no vision, other than to become terrorists and avenge the continued harassment and shelling by the Israeli army's helicopters, tanks and artillery," then the screams of complaint would be loud and vociferous. Nowhere would those complaints be louder than from those Israel-at-any-cost zealots who sit comfortably in their homes in North America and Western Europe

Those complainers, though, are going to have to deal with the fact that those words were written this week by Shamia Liebowitz, an Orthodox Jew, a lawyer, and IDF tank gunner who knows the front lines personally. Liebowitz has joined the growing ranks of IDF soldiers who refuse to serve illegally in the occupied territories. Why? Because he, knowing intimately what he knows, believes that "an Israeli soldier refusing to dominate and starve millions of Palestinians is defending his state in the best possible way. The reason is simple: If enough soldiers refuse, we will eventually force our government to relinquish its death-grip over the West Bank and Gaza. And this will save thousands of lives."
"Our Jewish sources teach us that where there is no justice, there is no peace. The idea behind the Oslo accords, namely that we could "negotiate" a peace agreement while remaining the Occupying Power, has proven to be romantic nonsense. Can you expect a rape victim to negotiate with her attacker? Can you expect a slave to negotiate with his master a 'contract of freedom'?"
In what may well turn out to be another orgy of extra-judicial killings under the guise of military repression, the IOF today blew up the security building in Hebron where at least 15 Palestinians were said to be hiding. Some sources say the Palestinians escaped from the building earlier, but the IDF Army Radio is reporting that the Palestinians are buried beneath the rubble. The IOF was willing to entertain this massacre because, as one military source stated, "there is no international interest in what is happening."

[I am not yet adding any dead from this incident to the aggregate list below until the deaths are confirmed.]

Also this morning, a Palestinian woman was killed in Dir al-Balah, in the Gaza Strip. The circumstances of her death are unclear. Palestinian sources say she was machine gunned by an IOF tank, while IOF sources cite an unexplained explosion as the cause of death.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (8:00am PDT June 27th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,569. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 658 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Flash Fiction: "Twenty Third Floor Parking Space"

They lived on the 23rd floor, the old man and her. The pair of them had been there for years and now couldn't afford to move, even though they both hated it so much. It had been fine when they were in their forties, fifties even. But now she was past seventy, and he was coming up to his seventy-fourth birthday. And so poor he still had to work each day.

[more]

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Hypocrisy Unbound!

Tom Tomorrow's latest comic is just too good to miss.
"This is true: Conservative Christians appointed by Bush to attend U.N. Human Rights Conferences have been teaming up with nations such Iran, Iraq, Libya and Sudan to oppose abortion, gay rights and AIDS awareness worldwide.

American delegate: You mean to say you're an insane fundamentalist too?
Iranian delegate: Why -- perhaps we have more in common than we realized!"
There's more. Check it out.

Poetry: "Creating Collage"

we sleep together,
for sure,
but mostly we share together,
cutting out our memories
from the bark of life’s tree
[more]

Palestine Daily Log

Having crowed about their ability to throw a nuclear weapon thousands of miles in their new missile program, Israel is now determined that they shall be the only nuclear power in the Middle East. The head of Mossad went to NATO yesterday and whined like the biggest hypocrite about other countries trying to do exactly what Israel has already done -- disturb the world's peace by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

An interesting report in Ha'aretz considers the demographic problem facing Israel. Muslim populations are growing in Europe. More importantly, perhaps, demographic estimates show that by 2050 there will be four times as many Arabs as Jews in the United States. If democracy works the way it is supposed to, U.S. policy on the Middle East will shift within the next generation or so, and Israel will be the big loser.

The article suggests that American Jews will soon join American conservatives in trying to stop the flow of immigration, thus forestalling any Arab growth in the U.S. That is a loser strategy from the get-go; there are far too many positive aspects to continued immigration for the United States economy and society. A more sensible approach would be for the Israeli government to strike a deal as soon as possible while it still has some advantages. Time is not on Israel's side, and the longer they wait, the worse deal they will end up with.

Meanwhile, Israel attempts to shift the demographic balance by killing as many Palestinians as possible. Yesterday, IOF killers, firing a machine gun over open sights, shot dead a 6-year old boy in Jenin refugee camp, and crippled another pre-teen. (My pro-Israel-at-any-cost critics often complain about my use of descriptive terms. This little 6-year old was throwing stones at a tank. Shall we then call him a "militant" or a "terrorist"? Or will "civilian" do?) Just about an hour ago, the IOF shot and critically injured a 10-year old Palestinian boy in Qalqilyah. A trend? Today, another Palestinian civilian was shot dead by the IOF in Balata refugee camp near Nablus.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT June 27th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,568. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 657 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Poetry: "Snakes, No Ladders"

MONOCHROME

When the sex becomes just doggy-style
-- you know, she sits up and begs
while he rolls over and plays dead --
when the sex becomes monotonous
the mystique of monogamy is supposed to kick in; [more]

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

The big news today, of course, was Dubya's imperial speech last night regarding the rebuilding of Palestine in his own image.

Bush has adopted the model of modified democracy that we have become used to over the last fifty years from every American administration:-
You must be a democracy (no other form of government is acceptable to the US -- unless of course the corporations already have decent trading relationships with non-democracies; in which case democracy is not an issue), but if you elect someone of whom we disapprove, you have to do it all over again until you get it right (and I do mean right!) by electing the person we want for you.
This could be called the Some Democracy Doctrine. Recent examples of such "modified democracy" would have to include the failed coup against Chavez in Venezuela, and the military campaign against the elected Sandanista government in Nicaragua. Classic cases famously include Allende's Chile and Mossadeq's Iran.

In the end, Bush's speech was so biased that the spin doctors had to come out in force today to suggest that not all the onus was on the Palestinians, that there was work for the Israelis to do, too. Only not yet. And nothing that Sharon might object to. But something. Perhaps.

Of course, Israel has had a phony democratic system for years, with huge sections of the resident population denied all forms of civil rights, including that of voting. The few Arabs that can vote can look forward to their elected members being heavily discriminated against and refused all the privileges available to all other elected members. Twenty-three Israeli MKs from all parties (except Likud and the religious right) had the courage to vote against the discriminatory motion.

With far less courage stands the disgraceful Tony Blair who decided it was better to kowtow to Sharon rather than stand up for his own wife's rights to her own educated thoughts on the horrors suffered by Palestinians under the Israeli hammer. Ha'aretz's coverage of this scandal is interesting because of the wrong assumptions that underpin its point of view. A crucial paragraph says:
"But even if hers are private views, they are an indication of feelings in large segments of the liberal community of Europe and Britain who are quick to side with the Palestinians and express understanding of the suicide bombers, as a 'legitimate' response to the 'crimes of the Israeli occupation.' That line of thinking, with its elusive post-modernist view of the world, explains why Israel mistakenly regards its critics as anti-Semitic, an accusation that outrages European intellectuals.
There is a good side to this paragraph. The writer understands why anti-Israel does not equate to anti-semitic. However, for the rest, it just doesn't make any sense.

What on earth does, "That line of thinking, with its elusive post-modernist view of the world" mean? There is no definition or explanation of "elusive post-modernist view". It sits there as if the writer had just read it (without understanding) and thought it sounded interesting. What is "elusive" about seeing brutal repression of a people and saying so out loud? What is "post-modernist" about accusing State murderers of murder?

The true elusiveness is in the mind of those who support Israel regardless of what they do. They have even forgiven her for building nuclear weapons against all of our deepest desires, so what is a few thousand Palestinian lives?

Another paragraph from the Ha'aretz article:
"Leftist circles in Britain, with the BBC and The Guardian as their leading organs, have adopted the Palestinian narrative almost uncritically. For them, there's no reason to look for an "objective" truth when it comes to the Middle East. The weak side - the Palestinians - are usually right, or at least should not be criticized because they are weak and suffering, and the victim of a discriminatory ideology (Zionism, as they perceive it)"
The assumption throughout is that the "objective" truth is to be found on the Israeli side. The reality, however, would be better rewritten:
Rightist circles around the world, with CNN and Fox News as their leading organs, have adopted the Israeli narrative almost uncritically. For them, there is no need to search for an "objective" truth when it comes to the Middle East. The weak side -- the outnumbered Israelis -- are usually right, or at least should not be criticized because they have been mistreated historically, and are the victim of a discriminatory ideology (Islam, as they perceive it.)
Of course, it is the Palestinians who keep dying. Today four Palestinians were killed by IOF troops in Hebron. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (9:00pm PDT June 25th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,566. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 655 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

It is clear from published reports that Shimon Peres is fighting a lonely, and probably futile, campaign within the Israeli cabinet to stop the illegal, immoral and potentially disastrous attempt by the Sharon government to formally annex almost a quarter of the West Bank. No doubt Sharon's brutality will eventually force Peres to quit, and that might well oblige annexation to be the primary topic in the next election.

On the ground, meanwhile, Palestinian deaths continue in a steady stream. Yesterday, in Tul Karm, a Palestinian youth was killed when his house was hit by an IOF tank shell; and in Yamoun a Palestinian policeman was shot dead by IOF troops. This morning, in a targeted assassination near Rafah, IOF killers murdered 2 Palestinian militants and 4 others with helicopter-launched missiles.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT June 24th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,562. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 651 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Toxic Waste Good For Fish: EPA

For years, the U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers has been pouring toxic waste into the Potomac River. The Corps dumps 200,000 tons of "toxic sludge" into the river every year in violation of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. House subcommittee on national parks, recreation and public lands.

That's bad enough, you'd think. But now an internal Environmental Protection Agency document is trying to suggest that this toxic dumping is actually good for the fish because, as they stay away from the polluted areas, they don't get caught by fisherman there.
"To suggest that toxic sludge is good for fish because it prevents them from being caught by man is like suggesting that we club baby seals to death to prevent them from being eaten by sharks. It's ludicrous," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican and chairman of the subcommittee.
The document came to light as a result of a lawsuit lauched by the National Wilderness Institute to force the EPA to halt the discharges.

This is just another example of the mismanagement at EPA, and its kowtowing to special, usually corporate, interests. For some reason I was led to believe that Christine Whitman would be a strong defender of the environment. Unfortunately, the only thing to admire in her tenure as Secretary has been her ability to swallow her pride along with her conscience as she's bowed to orders from above and to the right.

[I am grateful to my friend Brian Day for directing me to this story]

Liar, Liar

I came across this interesting little gem at The New Republic. It concerns an anecdote that George Bush likes to quote in order to deflect criticism of his disatrous handling of the Federal budget.

He claims to have told people during his campaign that he could maintain a federal surplus even with his tax cuts so long as there wasn't a war, emergeny or recession. Then, to explain the ballooning deficit under his charge, he closes his story by saying, "Never did I dream we'd get the trifecta." The point is, there is no evidence whatsoever that Bush ever gave such a warning. It is just a story the liar uses to cover his own economic mismanagement.
"Why does the truth or falsity of this anecdote matter? Because perhaps the key policy issue that divided Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 race was the Texas governor's massive tax cut proposal. Bush claimed there was enough money to continue paying down the debt, fund any additional spending needs that might arise, and still afford his tax cut; Gore claimed there wasn't. Gore was right. Bush's budget forecasts were a tapestry of rosy predictions, accounting gimmicks, and outright falsehoods that were already unraveling well before September 11."
As the New Republic writer says, each time Bush uses the lie, it is important to remind everyone of the truth.

Kahlo, Carr and O'Keefe

Today we visited the Vancouver Art Gallery for this summer's major exhibition, Carr O'Keefe Kahlo which looks for thematic similarities between three women considered to be among North America's premier artists; Frida Kahlo of Mexico, Emily Carr of Canada, and Georgia O'Keefe of the United States.

I like the idea of Frida Kahlo.

A committed Marxist, friend of Trotsky, lover of Diego Rivera one of the great socialist painters of the age, and she herself an equally famous painter with the sort of bright palette that usually inspires me. But I saw a lot of Kahlo today, and confess I don't care for her work in bulk. Her endless self-portraits in essentially similar settings seem more like pandering self-obsession than either socialist or indigenous consciousness. While I enjoy her palette, I don't enjoy her style of painting. In fact, much of it rather annoyed me; or, rather, perhaps it is the fame of these banal works that annoys me.

Frida Kahlo

The subtitle of the exhibition, the theme that is I suppose being suggested as the link between these women is "Places of Their Own." According to the exhibition catalogue, "their work gives form to a mythos of North America, linking region and nationality to larger forces at work in Western consciousness." I can see how this works with Carr and O'Keefe; but with Frida Kahlo I always have the impression that she is donning those dresses for effect, to show off herself rather than the culture expressed in the clothes. And her work seems so mannered compared to the liquid freedoms enjoyed by Emily Carr and Georgia O'Keefe.

I did not buy the book ($65, I think) that accompanies the exhibit, and it is probably unfair of me to criticize after a single viewing a thesis that the curator no doubt spends a couple of hundred pages defending. Still, in all, other than the gender and period, I did not feel a link between Kahlo and the others.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is home to the Permanent Collection of Emily Carr. There are regular special exhibits of her work (one is going on right now, for example, coincident with but unconnected to the joint exhibition) and she is always available to us. It was especially interesting, therefore, to see a selection of her works deliberately set within a wider framework.

Emily Carr

I have to confess that I have not been a huge fan of Emily Carr in the past. A lot of that has to do with the particular blue-green palette that features in most of her works. At this exhibition, however, I seemed able to get past that and see the extraordinary organic life that almost vibrates through many of these paintings. At least fifty percent of the canvasses still don't work for me, but I suspect that I will soon revisit the Permanent Collection, make myself better acquainted with them, and that I will be drawn closer to them after this experience.

And then there's Georgia O'Keefe.

It is a long time since I have seen more than an isolated O'Keefe. However, over the years, I've managed to see a lot of them, one at a time, and my view of her work has probably been influenced by the discontinuity of experience. I would tend to love one piece and then dislike the next piece or two, and love the next again. At this exhibition, there is a wide range of O'Keefe's paintings and I was at last able to put each work in perspective. And she is great!

O'Keefe

I still don't really care for skulls and such but, for instance, her explorations in that area in the Pelvis Series are magnificent. Like Emily Carr, she has the ability to create landscapes that are more like animated bodies than stolid rocks and trees. I fell completely in love with her Patio Series and her pictures of adobe churches: somehow she makes the flat planes sing with radiant joy. Magical stuff.

So, all in all, a very worthwhile exhibit. It enlightened my view of O'Keefe, brought me home to Emily Carr, and at least allowed me to make a personal judgement on Frida Kahlo's paintings. The curator's work was well done.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Polio Is Dead In Europe

When I was a young kid, polio was one of the dread diseases, the AIDS of my mother's generation in England. I had nightmares of lying in an iron lung machine staring at a tiny mirror without hope.

Yesterday, following the lead of the Americas in 1994 and Western Pacific in 2000, Europe was officially declared to be free from polio.
"The WHO's target date for a polio-free world is 2005. Massive progress has been made. In 1988 there were 350,000 cases a year in the world, but in 2001 just 480. The 125 countries in which polio was endemic have dropped to 10: Afghanistan, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.

But the last part is the hardest, because of the difficulties in reaching children in remote areas or war zones. Most of the cases (96%) are in northern India, Pakistan/Afghanistan and Niger/Nigeria. Extraordinary efforts have already been made to reach the children, including ceasefires in areas of conflict to allow national immunisation days. The WHO hopes that transmission of the virus can be halted in all 10 countries this year."
We can but hope.

Palestine Daily Log

The Israeli strategic plan is to continually break down the structures (sometimes literally) that underpin normal life within Palestine. It is why they destroy factories and government offices and police stations. When these governance structures are destroyed by Israel, Israel turns around and claims the Palestine Authority cannot rule its own people! A self-filfilling strategy that works for Israel and works against any idea of justice and the rights of the people. The latest incident involves the disruption of, and theft from, a Palestinian aid organization called Umm el-Fahm and Rahat.

Since the IOF took a hammer to downtown Jenin refugee camp, the Israelis have done nothing to relieve the misery and discomfort their actions created. In their absence, Umm el-Fahm and Rahat has organized shelter for hundreds of homeless families, and has for many years been paying a monthly allowance to thousands of orphaned Palestinian children. This is too much good work for the Israelis to stomach. Today, they raided the aid organization's offices in Nazareth, ransacked the files, took away computer data and stole 350,000 NIS.

In a separate incident, the IOF today destroyed a Palestinian police station in Gaza City. No doubt this will aid the return to law and order in some fashion unfathomable to those of us with only normal common sense.

Israeli strategy: NOTHING that could possibly be built up to create the infrastructure of a functioning state in Palestine can be allowed to stand, no matter how many innocents are damaged in the process.

Now it is reported that Israel is gearing up for an action even bigger than Defensive Shield. The best we can hope is that the media and the citizens demand that full exposure and accountability be maintained for any and all actions taken by the Israelis outside of Israel. In other words, when the next "Jenin incident" happens, we might actually get to know what is going on.

Today, a Palestinian militant and two Palestinian civilians were killed in a military firefight near the Erez Crossing in the Gaza Strip. In Gaza City, AP is reporting that IOF troops fired into a group containing children and an AP cameraman; an 8-year old Palestinian boy is reported dead in the incident. In the West Bank, Israeli terrorists attacked the Palestinian village of Burin, killing a Palestinian youth and setting fire to several houses (I wonder how long we'll have to wait to hear a condemnation of this attack anywhere that matters?).

For those of you with mathematical disabilities, that makes 5 Israeli civilians killed in the last two days with massive coverage around the globe, and 8 Palestinian civilians killed in the same period of time with silence as their epitaph.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (9:30am PDT June 22nd, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,554. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 643 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Fitness of Mind

I just watched the CNN talking heads this morning, a sad-sack bunch called "Saturday Edition." Their subject was President Bush's attempts yesterday to encourage Americans to become fitter. His encouragement took the form of a three-mile jog, and his weekend radio address today is also on the same subject.

As regular readers will know, I am not one to rashly heap praise on George W. Bush. However, it seemed to me that this was a perfectly reasonable thing for the President to be doing, encouraging fitness in eating and exercise. Bravo, George! I was almost tempted to cry.

But what did those TV talking heads have to say? Some of them actually criticized Bush because he was encouraging workers to get out during the day and exercise, thereby threatening "productivity and efficiency" in the economy! Screw the bodies, they seemed to be saying, let's keep those profits rolling! Even more, it was the Beltway-Madison Avenue attitude: we have to find something wrong, we have to confront, we have to try to be interesting.

What each of these talking heads need is a long vacation of unemployment. Only then might they get some fitness of mind.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

Yesterday, 5 Israeli civilians and 2 Palestinian militants were killed in an attack on the occupation settlement of Itamar, south of Nablus. This attack has received all the headlines. However, at much the same time, the IOF fired deliberately on the public market in Jenin, killing a 50-year old Palestinian woman and three Palestinian children under 12 years old. It was a "mistake" they claim. This hasn't been covered in network news so far as I can tell. The Propaganda Model marches on at the cost of innocent lives.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:30am PDT June 21st, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,549. In the same period, 545 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 638 Palestinians and 296 Israelis have been killed.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

The faltering Israeli economy is being required to stump up a billion NIS to protect illegal settlements across the occupied territories. This fascinating article concludes by explaining the attempts to steal even further land around Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian terrorists continued battering each other over the past 24 hours. Two IOF soldiers and a Palestinian militant were killed in a gun battle at Qalqilyah. Elsewhere, a Palestinian terrorist killed himself and seven Israeli civilians in a bombing at French Hill; and another Palestinian militant was killed in action by the IOF near Kiryat Arba.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT June 19th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,543. In the same period, 540 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 632 Palestinians and 291 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Today in Blogsville

Today I'm just too beat to blog (and, yes, capitalism is fully to blame for that), with the links and the commentary on stories, but I am in the mood to write; so I'll just do that for a while. Maybe some links will grow of their own accord.

Although I prefer the fall to the spring (the richer value of September's sky blue draws me like a magnet), it is hard to quibble with June in British Columbia. It is just about summer, and Vancouver is looking gorgeous, feeling fine, in preparation, as if stretching langorously before the bustling coming days of July and August. Cloudy mornings beg the question: jacket or no jacket? but the slight threat of rain is a limited inconvenience only, and every afternoon is sunny and warm. Each weekend seems warmer than the last. In six weeks we head to the lake for a month and I almost cannot wait.

I am in the lucky position where I have a great deal of control over my working environment and over the work that comes my way. It has usually been possible for me to break away from work at times each day to catch up with multiple news feeds. Even if I wasn't in a position to blog immediately, I could be fairly sure that I was keeping up with most items which were of interest to me, making detailed notes for later posts. Recently, my workload has grown somewhat greater and more varied, requiring my full time attention throughout most of the day. My dips into the stream of world events are therefore less frequent; and my note-taking time is gone completely. This week is proving particularly difficult.

I used to catch up for difficult weeks on weekends, cramming information for hours straight. Now I have a gloriously fun wife and kite flying, tomato growing and compost making, making art and just sitting around in the sun being happy. I do still get up at 4:30am seven days a week but that's just bad genetics and even worse habits; and, besides, the World Cup has eaten up those early morning hours this month.

I think I am keeping up, to my own satisfaction, at least, with my news reading and listening -- I'm fairly sure I have a good grasp of what's going on --, but I don't have the focus to spawn each item into a blogworthy post or even a simple link. I envy those with the time and energy to do it; they are the source and inspiration of much interesting and occasionally invaluable material. I used to try very hard to ensure that there was material on a variety of subjects each day here at Jak's View. It has proven to be very hard to maintain that ideal as the time gets squeezed. My readings -- and consequently postings -- in the arts and sciences, for example, have fallen to the barest minimum. I regret that, and I am already making conscious efforts to reverse that trend.

So, that being said, it is unlikely that I will be posting here about each and every bob and weave in U.S. Administration policies, or Central Asian politics (one of my original fave subjects for blogging), European bewilderment, global oil politics, the drugs trade, the arms trade, or international banking. I do want to write some longer essays on the poisoned heart of capitalism (its requirement for war) and its affect on Middle Eastern (and therefore global) conflict; on life in Vancouver; on the Propaganda Model. We'll see. For the moment, I want to turn some broad strokes on Israel and Palestine.

This is a problem that should be reasonably amenable to a solution. It is just a question of land and security, issues that have been dealt with in a thousand treaties in a thousand places across ten thousand years. But this one isn't being solved. Why not? Because there are important forces on both sides that do not want to find a solution, who in fact seek to continue and extend the conflict. For the moment it doesn't matter why these foreces choose to act the way they do, it is enough to recognise that it is so.

That being the case, and given that the danger of conflagration in the Middle East has caused utmost turmoil and death and destruction right around the world, I would [absent the anarchist alternative, of course] support a Power or Powers imposing a solution by military might. My own pet scenario would have Europe creating an impenetrable defensive shield around the land of Israel/Palestine, dumping all the leaders on all sides, eliminating by death if necessary the extremists on both sides, enforcing a complete demilitarization of the entire territory and dividing the land by consensus. The economic boost received to both countries, Israel and Palestine, by the relief from the cost of armies would bring enormous prosperity to the entire population, and prosperity will encourage peace elsewhere in the region.

The Power or Powers (Europe, the US, both, whatever) could treat the two states as colonies for a while, I guess, primarily enforcing the demilitarization. Phony democratic details can be added later once peace has been established as the normal status.

I would support this specific use of superior force in the service of a general peace (once again, absent anarchism) and I believe an excellent case of logic, morality and economy can be built to buttress the realpolitik. But I don't think it will ever happen, not even if the UN General Assembly voted 198-0 in favour. And it won't happen because it would go against modern capitalism's need for war, and Israel's iconic position within that need. But that's for another time.

Just Dropping By ...

... to say hello.

Boy, this "paying the rent by daily labour" nonsense sure gets in the way of blogging! Damn. Back soon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

This morning, a Palestinian terrorist exploded a bomb on a civilian bus in Jerusalem killing himself and murdering 19 innocent Israeli civilians. It was a bloody and stupid attack, but one that only a genuine political solution can meet; further military repression, however basic the need to hit back is felt, will bring about nothing other than the deaths of many Palestinian civilians who are as innocent as anyone on that bus. Not that that will stop it happening. However, for Israeli MK Michael Kleiner to state that "for every Israeli killed in the Jerusalem attack, we must kill one thousand Palestinians" is as evil as any Hamas bomb-master's threats.

Meanwhile, IOF killers have murdered another Palestinian militant in a targeted assassination, this time by sniper fire north of Hebron.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (11:30am PDT June 18th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,540. In the same period, 531 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 629 Palestinians and 282 Israelis have been killed.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Vancouver's Sea Bus

The city of Vancouver and most of its suburbs sit on the southern shore of a huge gash in the earth called Burrard Inlet. On the North Shore sits North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Grouse Mountain and all points north.

The Inlet is almost closed at the sea end by First Narrows over which spans the magnificent Lions Gate Bridge, built to sell Guinness-owned real estate in ritzy British Properties on the north slope mountains. Many miles to the east, the Ironworkers' Memorial Second Narrows Bridge completes the tarmaced loop that rings the Inlet. The downtown sections of both Vancouver and North Vancouver lie about midpoint between the two bridges.

The watery gap between the two cities -- two nautical miles, 12 peaceful minutes, of glorious city, harbour and mountain views -- is bridged 126 times a day by the fabulous Vancouver Sea Bus, which today celebrated 25 years of unbroken service.

Vancouver Sea Bus


The two little 400-passenger ferries -- the Burrard Beaver and the Burrard Otter -- cost just $3.7 million each when they were built in 1977, and carried their 100 millionth passenger in April of this year.

The city of North Vancouver has chosen to centre most of its recent retail development around the landing point of the Sea Bus, building a popular and successful public market right above the terminal. It makes a great afternoon on a summer's day to ride the Sea Bus over, kick around the market for an hour or two and then drift slowly back to Vancouver in the safe hands of the ferry.

I am a Sea Bus booster if you couldn't tell, and I'm glad to have this opportunity to celebrate it.

The Propaganda Model Doesn't Exist, Eh?

A new study by Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) shows that 92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed on the nightly network news in 2001 were white, 85 percent were male, and 75 percent were Republican. For the study, data was analyzed for the time period between January 1 and December 31, 2001, and covered all ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News broadcasts, which included 14,632 sources in 18,765 individual reports.

Some of the most interesting findings:

"The racial balance of all sources was firmly tilted toward the historically most powerful segment of society as well. Among U.S. sources for whom race was determinable, whites made up 92 percent of the total, blacks 7 percent, Latinos and Arab-Americans 0.6 percent each, and Asian-Americans 0.2 percent. (According to the 2000 census, the U.S. population is 69 percent non-Hispanic white, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black and 4 percent Asian.) A single source who appeared on NBC (7/26/01) was the only Native American identified as appearing on the nightly news in 2001-- 0.008 percent of total sources ...

"Among U.S. sources quoted on minority policies, whites made up 87 percent, far ahead of blacks (8 percent), Latinos (4 percent) and Asians (1 percent). Even in reports specifically on racism, 59 percent of quoted sources were white Americans, 29 percent were African-Americans, and 6 percent were Asian-Americans, with no Arab-Ame-ricans, Latinos, Native Americans or other minority groups quoted at all ... "

"Organized labor was granted even less access to the airwaves. Even as the country lost 2.4 million jobs in 2001, union representatives made up less than 0.2 percent of sources on the evening news, making company representatives 35 times more likely to be heard.

This lack of interest in labor was reflected not only in sourcing but in topic selection: The unemployment rate, layoffs, strikes, wage levels, workplace discrimination and all other labor issues combined were only 1 percent of total coverage. By contrast, other business and economic issues made up 14 percent of the total. Product reports alone were twice as likely to appear on the news as labor-related stories, making up 2 percent of overall coverage. Even on labor stories, union representatives were rarely heard, making up a mere 2 percent of quoted sources. This was far behind corporate and business association representatives (26 percent), economists (19 percent) and politicians from the major parties (15 percent). Of the partisan sources presented on labor issues, 89 percent were Republicans and 11 percent were Democrats."

The Propaganda Model works by selectively distributing the news, by simply failing to report some opinions while boosting others. This excellent report shows that the Model is working exactly as it should for the continuation of the elites.

Palestine Daily Log

In another move deliberately designed to undermine the ability of the Palestine Authority to crack down on militants, the IOF today destroyed the headquarters of the Palestinian National Security service in Yamoun. Deliberate damage to the Palestinian economy was also continued today with the destruction by IOF bulldozers of an oxygen factory near the Karni crossing. Only Orwell's "Ministry of Truth" could possibly spin these events as valid parts of a Peace Process.

In military action today, a Palestinian bomber killed himself near a Border Patrol at Mardza. And IOF killers assassinated a Palestinian militant in a targeted attack near Bethlehem. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (9:30am PDT June 17th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,538. In the same period, 512 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 627 Palestinians and 263 Israelis have been killed.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Flash Fiction: "Abode Window"

Quietly intimate now, after, still linked by a fast-fading bridge, the lovers lie languorous in each other's arms. No breeze disturbs their passion-spent rest, no gusts sway the torn cotton covering of the small window set high in the adobe wall. Slashes of sunlight cut across their tanned and sweated bodies like rivers of gold, like segments of ripe orange ... [more]

Flying

Today we flew Sherry's new kite for the first time.

two kites



It was a very good day all around.

Palestine Daily Log

The American hypocrisy over weapons of mass destruction is no more visible than in this report from Ha'aretz that Israel has become a global nuclear threat now that its submarines are nuclear-capable. That means that Israel can threaten Europe or Africa or any parts of the Middle East that it chooses. The Americans have allowed this to happen, while claiming that stopping nuclear proliferation is a key strategic aim. U.S. global domination, directly and through its colonies such as Israel, is the real key strategic aim.

On the ground, the Israelis continue their harrassing sweeps through the occupied territories and, not surprisngly, come across serious resistance. Last night, two IOF soldiers and a Palestinian fighter were killed in a military firefight near the occupation settlements of Alexi Sania and Dugit in the Gaza Strip. In addition, an unarmed Palestinian civilian was killed by IOF fire at the B'kaot roadblock.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (9:30am PDT June 16th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,536. In the same period, 512 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 625 Palestinians and 263 Israelis have been killed.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

coloured lines  (c) Jak King 2002

coloured lines

Friday, June 14, 2002

Drugs, Fairness and Sports

I am a jock. I can't deny it, I enjoy most sports. I actively follow hockey, soccer, cricket, cycling, boxing and NASCAR. I'll watch most other sports, too, believing that the television was invented primarily to satisfy the inexhaustible desires of sports' fans. I guess it is my "jockness" that leads me to read about steroids in baseball even when the game is one of the few I don't care for. And reading about steroid use in MLB brings to mind some issues I have had with "fairness" and sports for a long time.

I believe it is a waste of time and effort to try to ban drugs from competitive sports. Proponents of a ban claim is that it is unfair for one competitor to be using drugs, while the other competitor is not. Such nonsense! If the drugs are legally available (as most of them are in the real non-sports world), then the competitor should be allowed to choose to use them or not. The question of "fairness" becomes moot.

The proponents of a ban also claim that these drugs are harming our athletes. If so, they should be removed from the marketplace entirely. To make them available to the general public and only to ban them from athletes shows a callous disregard for the safety of the general public.

If we want to make sports "fair", we don't need to worry about drugs that can be made available to everyone across the board. No, the real "unfairness" comes in athletics and swimming and similar events, when rich nations have specially-designed and equipped training facilities that are not available to athletes of less prosperous nations. These facilities are strictly limited in their availability and thus represent an acute asymmetry in the equality of opportunity. This is truly unfair; but oddly, we don't hear about them being banned.

Let's Eject Commissar Ashcroft

If, like me, you are concerned about the growing American Gulag presided over by Commissars Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, there is now a site for you. Called ExtremeAshcroft, the site includes a letter for you to write to the White House demanding the firing of John Ashcroft.

Go wild and send the letter twice!

Of more substance, is the piece at AlterNet by Joe Conason which is headlined with the understatment: "Ashcroft's Failures Deserve a Hearing." Conanson notes that, while Meuller and Tenet and the other officials the right wing loves to dump on were issuing warnings about terrorism and trying to raise interest, the conservatives' favourite bigot didn't seem to worry.
"From what we know of Mr. Ashcroft's conduct since he assumed office last year, he shrugged off the terrorist threat in favor of his own small-time agenda. He wanted to prosecute people in California who provide marijuana to cancer patients. He wanted to prosecute doctors in Oregon who assist the suicides of terminally ill patients. He wanted to prosecute pornographers. No doubt he wanted to stop terrorists, too, but that particular item got priority only when he appeared before Congress or made speeches--not when he allocated funds or issued directives within the Justice Department ...

"As of Sept. 10, 2001, the Attorney General's final budget request for the coming fiscal year asked to increase spending on 68 programs, "none of which directly involved counterterrorism." He had rejected the F.B.I.'s request for funding to hire hundreds of new field agents, translators and intelligence analysts to improve the bureau's capacity to detect foreign terror threats. Moreover, among his proposed cuts was a reduction of $65 million in a Clinton program that made grants to state and local authorities for radios, decontamination garb and other counterterror preparedness measures."
Now, go back to ExtremeAshcroft and send that letter again!

Palestine Daily Log

In the Knesset the other day, Simon Peres made an impassioned speech against the rightwingers in Israel who seek to destroy the advances made at Oslo. Peres said that rather than investigate how Oslo happened (as some ultra-rightists have been demanding),:
"a "parliamentary probe should be set up to look into the establishment of illegal settlements, or against those who stopped the Oslo process. We entered the Oslo process because we believe that Judaism is built on a moral foundation. We were not born to be masters."
It is sentiments like that that have seen Peres sidelined by the dangerous radicals who control the government today.

While the Sharon government has fixed its face firmly against any moves based on morality, they have also rejected the realistic notions of Ami Ayalon who says that
"The need to leave Judea and Samaria is not connected to the security issue but to the continued existence of the Jewish people in the land of Israel," Ayalon said. "If we don't leave the territories, either we will no longer be a democratic society, or we will not be a home for the Jewish people."
Ayalon is no know-nothing in these matters. He is a former head of the Shin Bet intelligence organization, and his policies are supported by a wide range of former military and political officers.

None of this matters to Sharon who believes that Israel's role is to be a colonialist dictatorship, dominating other peoples far and wide (so long as the U.S. taxpayer is willing to stump up the cash, of course.) This desire for domination is both cause and object of continuing violence. Security it most certainly is not.

A Palestinian militant was shot dead after an attack on the occupation settlement of Kedumim. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT June 14th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,534. In the same period, 510 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 623 Palestinians and 261 Israelis have been killed.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

A Roving Presidency?

This morning, I was re-reading the month-old New York Times analysis of the growth of Karl Rove's role in the White House. I then turned to Norm Jenson's One Good Move site and almost spit out my coffee as I read this wonderful piece!

Taxes and Stuff

Within a broader set of thoughts regarding movement toward a reduction in government, I have been sketching out my ideas for an altered tax structure. I thought I'd lay them out here in the hope that a debate is generated that will allow me to sharpen and focus my own thoughts.

[Note, although I am an anti-statist anarchist, I am also a pragmatist: I think there is little point in laying out idealistic end games without having some method of getting from here to there. The following ideas are a way of moving along that path.]

The basic principles for the tax scheme are that it should be essentially voluntary, and concerned with ensuring equal opportunities for all. Therefore, I would propose the elimination of all personal and corporate income taxes as they violate by their nature the voluntary aspect of taxation. I propose to replace the revenue with an all-inclusive sales tax on all goods and services with a few, well-defined exceptions (the figures below represent Vancouver costs of living and could be adjusted as required):

  • all non-prepared foods
  • shelter (to $12,000/year rent or the first $200,000 of purchase)
  • medical and dental services
  • educational services
  • financial services to $500/year.

    The sales tax should be a single percentage across all categories of goods and services in order to reduce accounting and bureaucratic requirements.

    My tax plan would also include a 100% estate or death tax. Those who approve of giving advantages to those who have not earned them but have merely acquired them through accident of birth (closet monarchists, all of them) can insert some other percentage into their model.

    Finally, I would also grant the government revenues from criminal fines, all of which would be levied (above a certain minimum) based on the criminal's net worth. The purpose of this is to level out the cost of criminality (the current arrangement allows, say, the same $1,000 fine on a millionaire -- for whom it means nothing and therefore no deterence -- and a welfare gasper -- for whom it may mean starvation or worse.)

    That would be it for government revenues -- sales taxes, death taxes, criminal fines. The use of the sales tax for the bulk of government revenues brings a great deal of volunteerism to the matter: The exceptions provide an important and necessary break for those goods and services which can be described as the necessities of life; above that, the more I choose to buy, the more taxes I choose to pay.

    On the other side of the ledger, also to the good, the simplicity of the scheme allows for huge bureaucratic savings in both administration and compliance.

    Now, having set up the potential revenue stream, we need to look at how much that revenue stream needs to be and, most importantly, where it should go. That will be the subject of many further posts. In the meantime, can any economists tells me how I might get a handle on what level of sales tax would be required to replace the current value of the income taxes to be discarded? Is there an heuristic algorithm based on GDP or retail sales or some such number? Any help appreciated.

  • Wednesday, June 12, 2002

    Palestine Daily Log

    The Israeli government has once again decided to divert money specifically earmarked for Palestinian aid projects. This time, the money will be used to pay for yet more bodyguards for senior Israeli politicians. Israeli policies of exploitation against the Palestinians cause the need for the bodyguards, now the Palestinians are to be exploited even further to pay for these results.

    The same Ha'aretz article is also useful for reminding us that the Israelis still have $300 million of tax receipts stolen from the pockets of Palestinian labourers.

    Meanwhile, the killing never stops. Yesterday, a Palestinian bomber killed himself in Gaza. Another Palestinian bomber was killed along with an Israeli teenager in an attack at Herzliya. Today, an 8-year old Palestinian boy was killed by IOF shooting into the village of Netzarim. The IOF claim to have been "returning fire." Later, also near Netzarim, the IOF shot dead another 5 Palestinian militants.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (11:00am PDT June 12th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,533. In the same period, 510 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 622 Palestinians and 261 Israelis have been killed.

    Tuesday, June 11, 2002

    Forget That "Freedom For All" Crap

    The Bush Administration -- or, rather, that part of the Gulag ruled over by the twin-headed monstrosity of Rumsfeld-Ashcroft -- has finally announced that it has captured a most dangerous man, an American citizen who goes by the name of Abdullah Al Muhajir. I say "finally" because Mr Al Muhajir was arrested more than a month ago and so the timing of the announcement has to be an issue.

    This most dangerous man has committed no known crimes recently other than a minor currency violation for which a fine would be the normal punishment. This most dangerous man may have been thinking about a crime, even a heinous crime, but I was always taught to believe that in the United States you could think whatever the heck you pleased and noone would dream of denying you that right. Not so, apparently. Apparently it all depends on who your friends are; pick the wrong friends and your right to freedom of thought goes out the window.

    And for all this thinking -- which all of us thought was perfectly legal -- this man has already been locked up for a month without contact with his family or any legal assistance. He has no doubt been interrogated all to hell and back. And he has no future. Commissar Rumsfeld says that there is no interest in trying him, and clearly there will be little or no interest in letting him go (Bush: "he is where he needs to be -- detained.")

    So this young man will spend the rest of his life in military confinement even though no crime has been committed, no plans were found, no material evidence, nothing. To do that, the Commissar's have declared him to be "an enemy combatant" even though he is a U.S. citizen. Is the Constitution really that dead?

    Given the Libertarians' and Conservatives' supposed grasp on the nature of the freedoms expressed in the Constitution, I went looking at sites by those folks to see what was being said. Nothing, or almost nothing. Several have reported the announcement but none have -- those I checked anyway, twenty or more -- made any complaints. In fact, the only extended comment I could find was by that noted and pacific liberatarian, Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom:
    " ... we're about to be inundated with 'concerns' over the treatment of this Padilla fucker, a guy who was working on a plan to detonate explosives laced with nuclear material on American soil (on behalf of an organization that has declared open war against us, and is bent on destroying our civilization). Of course, we should listen to such 'concerns' politely. And then we should ignore them unblinkingly."
    Well, even apart from my shock at the absolute lack of concern for the Constitution as it affects a U.S. citizen, I am sure Bush's people love people like Goldstein who will take every announcement from them as gospel without a scrap of evidentiary material.

    Finally, back to that timing thing. Why wait for a month to announce such an important capture? Politics and nothing but. This Administration needs a stream of news items designed to take pressure off the investigation into their previous missteps. The Homeland Security Department announcement was supposed to do that. But it was such a mess that it hasn't worked as the cover needed. Thus, the parading of the "success" of the capture of Al Muhajir.

    How many more rabbits does Rove have hidden up his sleeve?

    The Ridge Hits A Bump

    I am grateful to Craig's always enlightening BookNotes site for the pointer to this intriguing story about Tom Ridge's plans for the Homeland Security Department.

    Just a week or so before Bush announced his intention to amalgamate certain domestic security services under a new Cabinet-level Department, Ridge came out firmly against such a plan: "I'd probably recommend he veto it," Ridge told a National Journal Group editorial board meeting.

    Moreover, Ridge told the editors that "he plans to submit a list of recommendations to Bush 'on or about' July 1 to coordinate homeland security measures among federal and state governments. He said the plan would be a 'road map' for how federal and state governments should 'think and operate' in an age of heightened security.

    Am I missing something obvious here, or what does this all mean? Given that Bush himself tells us that the plans for the new Department have been a long time in the planning, how is it that Ridge seems to have known nothing about it on May 30th? Why didn't Bush mention Ridge's name as the possible Homeland Security Czar during his introduction of the new plan? Are these two things linked?

    Is the Administration really as dumb as this makes them look?

    Dragonfruit For Breakfast

    dragonfruit

    Palestine Daily Log

    In order to protect the illegal occupation settlements in the West Bank -- settlements which the IOF has consistently said cannot be defended by the Army -- administrators are considering the hiring of private security guards. Mercenaries they would be called in most other circumstances.

    Overnight, a Palestinian militant was killed during attacks on Israeli cars in the Gaza strip. In Hebron, two Palestinians were killed as collaborators. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT June 11th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,525. In the same period, 509 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 614 Palestinians and 260 Israelis have been killed.

    Monday, June 10, 2002

    The Ten Novels

    I have been persuaded to join with a group of similarly minded bloggers to list what are, at this very moment, my ten favourite novels. This list was different yesterday and will be different tomorrow. I'm guessing the top half dozen will always be there.

  • John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy: "42nd Parallel", "Nineteen Nineteen", "Big Money." This is a sprawling masterpiece full of invention and experiment. The first of the truly realised modern novels, it rips deep inside the capitalist nursery.

  • Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast" trilogy: "Titus Groan", "Gormenghast", "Titus Alone." Another trilogy (but that's the way it comes. In this case, the third volume was written in a different time and can be discarded if required; the first two books form a satifying gothic excavation by themselves.) Steerpike and the Twin Duchesses, especially, remain some of the most vivid characters I have ever come across in literature.

  • James Joyce's "Ulysses" I believe I love this book through sheer repitition. It is perhaps the novel I have read most often. And it certainly the novel about which I have read most widely.

  • Emile Zola's "Germinal." The grimmest starkest truest tale. Vital. Hot.

  • John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" is just a representative of a fine writer of enormous variety. I read "Grapes of Wrath" very early in my writing career and it was my strongest inspiration for many years.

  • John Irving's "Son of the Circus." It is Irving's characters that I adore. And in "Circus", Irving surrounds a glorious cast with the breadth of rural, urban and Bollywood India. A fabulous riot of sights and flavours.

  • Richard Brautigan -- the whole thing, the poems, the novellas, the essays; they are all one work anyway. If pushed to my limit, I might suggest the singular indispensable work as being "In Watermelon Sugar" today, "The Hawkline Monster" tomorrow, and "Dreaming of Babylon" the day after.

  • Dashiell Hammett's "Red Harvest." The hardest boiled of the hard boiled. Ever.

  • Dirk Bogard's "A Gentle Occupation." A glorious first novel from the actor told in a lazy conversational style. A story of mixed-race love in Indonesia immediately following the liberation from the Japanese. British Army officers, Indian troops, Dutch civilians, Indonesian nationalist. But most of all a fabulous love story.

  • Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood." By the most lyrical of wordsmiths, Thomas's radio play sings in the ear. (Not a novel, I know, but ....)


    Now, I look at the list of books and authors that didn't make it to this list and I am frankly amazed that I have had the privilege to read such magnificent writing.

  • Take It From The Sarge, Son

    Among the hate mail and the fan mail that I get here, in the comments and in emails, come requests that I add more links in stories, or take off the comments or put them back on, or suggestions about how "best" to deal with my backgrounds and permalinks and archives and images. When reading these, I always have to wonder whether this is a public service or a private enterprise.

    I was surfing this morning and found Sgt Stryker's perfect little piece about this whole issue.
    "It's not long until you get from 'this is what a blog is' to 'this is what a blog ought to be'. The little flap over Andrew Sullivan's non-linkage was an example of someone telling someone else their blog was in error because it did not fit their criteria for what a blog should be doing. I find this disturbing because what I'm basically seeing is the stifling of individual creativity and expression by those who wish to impose their own vision and rules in the name of 'community'."
    I agree entirely, and this "standardisation" nonsense was a major reason for me to oppose the Weblogging Foundation idea of a few weeks ago. The Sgt's closing remarks cannot be bettered.
    "If you continue down this route of limiting expression, remember that one day someone is going to invent another tool or resource that allows people to do whatever they want to do however they want to do it, and this whole blog thing you care so much about will be as archaic as Latin. You can sit there at the train station and rant all you want about 'tradition', 'standards', 'customs' and 'politeness' as the 18-Wheeler of human progress passes you by, or you can take part in (and marvel at) the wondrous diversity of creative expression made possible by the tools that some of you helped bring about."

    Palestine Daily Log

    In a move aimed deliberately at disrupting the first meeting of the new Palestinian Authority Cabinet, Israeli troops were ordered by the thuggish Sharon government to re-occupy Ramallah overnight. A Palestinian security officer was killed by the IOF during its initial assault. Ha'aretz reports that the soldiers "entered the PA police station in Ramallah and seized all the weapons stored inside." That will certainly help the Palestinian security authorities suppress the bombers!

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (4:30am PDT June 10th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,522. In the same period, 509 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 611 Palestinians and 260 Israelis have been killed.

    Sunday, June 09, 2002

    Palestine Daily Log

    In the previous Log I had suggested that once Arafat goes, a strongman who can consolidate genuine power over the splintered Palestinian groups would be an advance on the current situation. Commenters seem to think that being "democratically elected" is a more important criteria. Adolf Hitler was "democratically elected" and that wasn't such a great idea. Hugo Chavez was "democratically elected" and yet the U.S. is actively seeking to have him deposed. The "democratically elected" rhetoric is just another codeword for delay and prevarication, leading only to continued colonialisation and exploitation of Palestine by Israel.

    Let us for purposes of this discussion make the assumption that the Israeli government (any Israeli government) actually wants a peace agreement with the Palestinians (as regular readers will know, I do not support that assumption, but for purposes, blah blah blah ...) To achieve an agreement they have to have a unitary party on the other side with which to negotiate. That isn't the case right now (for reasons the mere mention of which would be considered argumentative.) It doesn't (or shouldn't) matter to the Israelis whether the other side is represented by a "democratically elected" leadership or whether it is Attila the Hun; the only strategically-important thing -- if an agreement is truly wanted -- is to get an agreement with a party that can make it stick on their side.

    And yet for year after brutal year, Israeli policy has been to actively attack and destroy any sign of central authority in Palestinian affairs. Moreover, the illegal occupation of more and more Palestinian land, opposed by a wide majority of Israelis, continues in the guise of religious communities. These actions encourage warlordism at the same time as they become rationales for future extremist action. These are not the actions of a party seeking agreement.

    Last night, a Palestinian militant was killed during an attack on the occupation settlement of Yitzhar on the West Bank. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (8:00pm PDT June 9th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,521. In the same period, 509 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 610 Palestinians and 260 Israelis have been killed.

    Fight Night On The Drive

    Last night I watched Lennox Lewis destroy Mike Tyson. I watched it on the multiple TV screens at the Roma Cafe on the corner of Commercial Drive and Grant, surrounded by hundreds of my neighbours and street acquaintances, shouting and cheering and spilling beer. It's the only place I'd think of to go when a big fight is on, even though I'm sure every other Italian bar along the street (with names for just about every region -- Abruzzo, Calabria, Napoli) and the Portuguese Club and the Ethiopian places above 3rd are all tuned in.

    We live on The Drive. According to the Vancouver Tourist Bureau (and the local Post Office), this is "Little Italy" although, for the decade or more I've lived here I've never heard anyone call it that. We just call it East Van, or The Drive. Don't get me wrong, the Tourist Bureau isn't really inaccurate, just behind the times. Immediately after the war a heavy influx of Italian immigrants created a vibrant ethnic society that still flourishes here. Many of the restaurants and bars and retail enterprises on Commerical Drive are still Italian; Italian is heard daily and loudly on the streets, and Victoria Park around the corner is a hotbed of bocce and Italian card games.

    But that doesn't tell half the story. The neighbourhood has been enriched and layered over the years with every group of new immigrants to Vancouver. The Chinese have always been the majority non-white population in the neighbourhood, and their public presence is maintained today with vibrant vegetable markets and pungent pastry stores. In addition, East Indians and multi-national Latinos and Eastern Europeans and Africans have all opened restauarants and stores on The Drive and their languages and smells and rhythms punctuate our every walk down the street. Last night, everyone was out and about.

    By the time I arrived at 6:30 the Roma was already full. With a ten dollar cover and beer at five bucks a pop, the owners were about to make another killing. Not that they looked too happy right then. The owners, the barmen, the waiters and the odd little guy who always collects the cover and stamps your hand, they all looked dead tired. Italy's World Cup soccer game against Croatia hadn't finished until the early hours of the morning; and Italy's shock 2-1 defeat didn't help make the sacrifice of sleep more worthwhile for them. The bar was busy but luckily I was by myself and single seats at well-positioned tables were still available. I grabbed two beers and sat down.

    To say the bar was full when I arrived is really to misrepresent the ingenuity of the Roma's owners and patrons. By the time the big fight started, more than twice as many had been crammed in. I've paid for a lot of fights at the Roma over the years. This time the crowd seemed noticeably younger and generally less Italian than usual. Which didn't stop the lively trade in pizza slices (some say the worst on The Drive) and sizzling hot Italian sausages in buns. I tuned in to a half dozen conversations in a half dozen different languages, and then tuned into the fights on TV.

    No matter the business behind it, boxing is honest money. Two consenting and generally eager adults agree to pit themselves against each other in a purely physical contest; and both get paid according to how many people are willing to pay to see them. The first two fighters had dot.com addresses painted across their backs ("Wallstreet.com" beat up "Golden Palace.com".) Why not -- it's honest cash in the bank for otherwise poor black men with few other opportunities to escape their poverty.

    In the second fight, the champion probably didn't need the money so he fought bare-backed, while Golden Palace.com had once again purchased the back of the challenger. Unfortunately for their marketing strategy, the challenger's back graced the canvas more than it did the big screen. It was over before the second bell in a very another impressive performance by Manny The Destroyer Pacquiao, the best pound-for-pound puncher in the business today. I hope he now moves up from 122 to 126 where he can make some real money.

    The undercard -- those fights used to generate interest before the main event -- was surprisngly lacklustre and finished early. Both Lewis and Tyson had clauses about not appearing before a certain time (ten Central, I think) meaning that the network was left with a huge amount of empty space to fill. So we were treated to a couple of rich black guys (Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding jr) hamming it up with another rich black guy, presenter James Brown, about how the brothers were gonna put a whipping on each other. It was kind of embarrassing. They were followed on by LL Cool J who was polite and articulate and who made the previous clowns look like mugs.

    Still anxious to fill in time, Smokin' Joe Frazier was called in. In the general view of the bar around me, he came across as a punch-drunk, or just drunk or stoned, old man. But I watched him closely and he followed every question carefully and his answers were always appropriate even though they didn't follow the arc the interviewer would have expected. It was as if Joe still had an articulate mind trapped inside his wrecked body. His difficulty of speech is considerably less than Ali's, say, but detailed muscle control doesn't seem to be Smokin' Joe's greatest asset right now.

    Finally, Evander Hollyfield -- who always deserved his Real Deal nickname -- came on to call the fight for Tyson ("because he'll take more chances than I was willing to") and then the time had arrived.

    The entrances were considerably tamer than we have become used to for these events. Boxing's heavyweight champions are the celebrities of a celebrity-saturated planet. No individual in the world makes as much money for a single event as the heavyweight champion of the world. No-one. Not Tom Hanks not Bono not Paul McCartney not Michael Jordan not Michael Schumacher. Not even Tiger Woods comes close to the singular earning power of these athletes. Usualy, their entrances to arenas are occasions for splendour and extravagance. Not last night. Security personnel allowed only 6 people to each corner (a move that seemed to surprise both camps) and the music for each boxer was unsurprising and low key.

    There were, however, theatrics in the ring itself where the square was partitioned by a line of a dozen burly security guards. The hype for the fight had the two fighters eager to tear each other apart at the slightest opportunity. The Commission had decided to make sure that only happened after the bell had sounded. To be honest, though, both boxers looked calm and unperturbed by events around them, and neither showed any inclination to break the rules. And then, at last, it began. I felt myself drawn to the edge of my seat and I could sense the same expectation across the room.

    The first round was even, with Tyson the aggressor. That was it for the fight really. From round two it was clear that Iron Mike had no answer to the champion's extraordinarily long and extraordinarily hard straight jab that crushed its way remorselessly into Tyson's face over and over again. The crowd at Roma had been overwhelmingly in favour of Tyson before the bell began. By the third round they were shouting at their man to make a fight of it. By round four it was clear Tyson was dead meat, a bully made to look inelegantly amateurish, and Lewis was just waiting for the right opportunity. When it came in round seven it was a relief to everyone. The real Champion had pounded the Animal into chump steak.

    In the close warm evening it was still almost light, and more people outside than in were trying to see the TV screens through the closed blinds and from odd elevated angles. The smell of pizza and marijuana flooded my nose. Crowds poured from every storefront, laughing, talking, music everywhere; the sounds of carnival. It's gonna be a great summer on the Drive.

    Saturday, June 08, 2002

    Palestine Daily Log

    Arafat is making it very difficult even for friends of Palestine to continue supporting him. While intensive diplomatic moves are afoot to ensure that the Palestinian Authority and the bombing groups are separated in the public mind (which, inter alia, would allow legitimate protest against illegitimate Israeli attacks on the PA and its organization), Arafat has been wooing Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join his administration. Dumb move strategically, and an even dumber move politically once it became clear the necessary groundwork had not been done and both groups spurned his invitation.

    In addition, Arafat's unwillingness to properly reform his security apparatus is simply ridiculous. The current setup works against central coordination of the resistance, encourages warlordism, and has no up-side except, of course, for Arafat who holds his place by being perhaps the only Palestinian figure that can herd the cats into any form of coalition.

    Yes, it is time for Arafat to go. He needs to be shown the door by the other Arab states in a way that protects his dignity and his historic position as the leader of the Palestinian people (if only, from a cynical political point of view, because any other method will bring inconveniently immense bloodshed.) But who on earth can replace him? It cannot be a politician because the central Palestinian problem right now (having gotten even the U.S. to publicly support the establishment of a Palestinian State) is an internal military one, getting control of the violence, and bringing the full weight of the available security forces to bear on the question of resistance to IOF incursions. No, it needs to be a strongman. The Israelis won't like that, but if they give some thought to the problem they might understand (beyond the rhetoric for public consumption) that the PA does not control the bombers right now, and it might be a really good thing if someone took hold of all the reins in Palestine, making sure that all forms of resistance to the occupation are made amenable to political control.

    In the meantime, continuing numbers of dead people are the result of the political failures on both sides. On Friday, three Palestinian militants were killed in a bombing incident near Rafah. Another Palestinian militant was shot by IOF troops during an attack on Dugit occupation settlement. This moning, three Israeli settlers and at least one Palestinian militant were killed in an attack on the occupation settlement of Karmei Tsur on the West Bank.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (8:00am PDT June 8th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,520. In the same period, 509 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 609 Palestinians and 260 Israelis have been killed.

    Friday, June 07, 2002

    Two Good Links

    Norman Jenson's work over at onegoodmove just gets stronger and stronger. Here is a link to a short and bitterly accurate piece about the FBI.

    Over at Objectionable Content, Jim has a long absorbing piece about the net economy and Bruce Sterling. I haven't digested it all yet, but well worth the visit.

    A Cabinet-Level Circus

    OK, hands up all those who really think the U.S. will be safer under the Department of Homeland Security?

    What a joke this is. The Department will have no new personnel and no new money. It will disrupt agencies (such as the National Institutes of Health) that work rather well right now, and doesn't even cover important areas such as the U.S. Marshall's Service and the Postal Inspection Service. It includes agencies that have missions outside that of homeland security (such as the Coastguard, which handles fishery controls and search and rescue activities) without any plan as to how these missions are to be handled.

    Most importantly, the new Department will have no intelligence gathering abilities: Its intelligence analysis unit will simply be a consumer of intelligence that will still be gathered by the FBI, CIA, INS and others. In order to pass the information to the new Department for its analysis, the FBI, say, will have to consolidate the information it collects within the agency. Isn't this what it continually fails to do? And how does simply having a new recipient solve those problems? It doesn't, whatever Bush might claim.

    The White House -- for all its spin that this is a plan long coming -- has not thought through these problems. But then it doesn't really have to. The value of this plan to the Administration is that it takes the focus off the Congressional hearings on the Administration's pre-WTC failures. This is "Wag the Dog" played out domestically. Moreover, the final shape of the Departrment of Homeland Security will now be hammered out in bruising public battles between and within bureaucratic and Congressional satrapies. When the final result doesn't work too well, the Administration can point to these turf wars and blame them for future failures.

    He has no heart or soul, but that Karl Rove sure has a good eye for the political edge.

    Hello World!

    At 11 o'clock last night a surfer from Vancouver used the Canadian version of Google to look up "axis salon Vancouver." Following one of the links (the 8th out of 380), they arrived at this place, becoming the 10,000th visitor.

    Welcome everyone!

    Thursday, June 06, 2002

    frame  (c) Jak King 2002

    frame

    RFK

    The epitome of youthful liberals was Robert Kennedy.



    Representing the tortured passion and moral ambivalence of an entire generation, he was assassinated on this date in 1968. To an aging boomer like me, it sure doesn't seem like 34 years.

    Franco Must Be Smiling In Hell

    In a move certain to raise fears for the fate of democracy in Spain, the Spanish parliament has voted to ban the Basque party Batasuna because it is claimed to be a front organization for the violently militant Eta Basque nationalists. This profoundly anti-democratic proposal (Batasuna receives about 20% of the Basque vote, it has representatives in regional and European parliaments) was a personal project of the ultra-rightist Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

    The move has been rejected as a backward step by moderate Basques. Josu Erkoreka, of the Basque Nationalist party, said: "A democracy that distinguishes between first-class, second-class and third-class democrats has a one-way ticket to nowhere."

    Aznar and others in similar circumstances in other countries have condemned political violence, saying that militants should turn to regular politics to solve their grievances. And yet, in Spain, the banning of Batasuma follows the closing of the Basque radicals' daily newspaper, Egin, and the elimination of both its youth wing, Segi, and prisoners support group, Gestoras Pro Amnistia. In other words, by cutting off all legitimate poilitical activity and disallowing political violence, the government says that what you are supposed to do is just sit there and take whatever we dish out to you without making a sound. Sounds like fascism not democracy.

    The banning of Batasuna is part of a continuing move to actually foment the terrorism that Aznar is claiming to try to curtail. A genuine political solution does not suit Aznar. Only with an active terrorism in the background can Aznar push the kind of anti-democratic social surveillance policies so beloved of the right. In this desire, Aznar follows Bush policies to the letter.

    Palestine Daily Log

    In another example of the extraordinary discrimination that Arabs have to suffer each day in Israel, the Israeli parliament has approved a law that removes child allowance payments from families that do not serve in the armed forces. Three groups routinely do not serve in the IDF -- religious Jews, new immigrants and Arabs. The new law only affects the Arabs because the other two groups receive family allowances through other sources. Combined with the refusal to fund Arab child care facilities, it appears the Israeli government is determined to punish the innocent children of Israeli Arabs.

    Meanwhile the cycle of violence continues. A Palestinian security officer was killed by IOF soldiers during an attack on Arafat's Ramallah compound and an Israeli was shot in an incident near the occupation settlement of Ofra. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (11:00am PDT June 6th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,515. In the same period, 506 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 604 Palestinians and 257 Israelis have been killed.

    Look Out!

    Don't get too close to the monitor -- I have a horrible cold!

    Wednesday, June 05, 2002

    Lessons From Capitalism #1073

    Halliburton Corp. was a successful oil services company until the late 1990s. In 1998, Halliburton's CEO went on a quail shoot with the CEO of Dresser Industries and pretty soon a deal was cooked up for Halliburton to buy Dresser. Dresser Industries had a long involvement with the Presidential Bush Family. As the Bostom Globe has it:
    "Prescott Bush, the father of the former President Bush, was the banking representative who helped finance the deal that established Dresser and served on the company's board. The former president wrote in his autobiography that Neil Mallon, the former president of Dresser Industries, 'was a mentor second only to my father.' It was Mallon who helped former President Bush get into the oil business, and Bush worked for Dresser for 21/2 years. The brother of the current President Bush, Neil, is named after Mallon."
    Trouble is, Dresser also came with a major liability for asbestos compensation suits. Halliburton's CEO knew about the liability ("''That would be part of his due diligence. If he didn't know, that would be total incompetence") but went ahead with the merger.

    Pretty soon the real cost of the potential liabilities was being recognized. Since the merger, more than $10 billion has been wiped from the value of the company, nearly all attributable to the asbestos suits. Now, the SEC is investigating the tricky accounting practices put in place by the CEO. The share price, which was over $52 when the CEO quit in 1999, is below $19 today. More than 10,000 people lost their jobs in the merger due to "synergy".

    The CEO -- Dick Cheney -- cashed in his stock options at the top of the market, raking in more than $18 million on top of his other severance benefits, and became Vice President of the United States under George W. Bush. During the campaign he claimed: "''I've been out in the private sector building a business, hiring people, creating jobs.'' Hmmmmm.

    [Previous lesson]

    Comments on Comments

    After a couple of days of comment-free blogging, I have been persuaded by certain regular readers whom I respect highly to put back the comments box.

    I have always enjoyed reading the comments (mostly) but I was becoming distracted by them. I will now continue to read them but the chances I will respond directly are slim. If interesting appropriate points are made, I will write a new post incorporating them.

    Thanks for your continued interest.

    The Hidden Persuaders In New Guise

    When Vance Packard used the title “The Hidden Persuaders” in his 1950s expose of Madison Avenue’s manipulative ways, he had no idea of some of the tricks they would be playing come 2002. For example, TV talk shows were hardly known then, but now they can become the vehicle for serious but unannounced corporate messages.
    "An NBC-owned talk show is offering marketers the chance to buy guest spots for their products and executives, further blurring the line between programming and advertising. The sponsored segments were included in about two dozen shows appearing during the 2001-02 season of the entertainment program "The Other Half," which is owned, produced and distributed by the NBC Enterprises division of NBC, part of General Electric. The show — which is modeled on ABC's "The View," but with male hosts including Dick Clark — has had representatives from advertisers like Clorox, Hyundai Motor America and even Tan Towel, a "self-tanning towelette," appear on the show as part of the regular programming.

    During the Clorox-sponsored segment, for example, the hosts, who also include the actors Danny Bonaduce and Mario Lopez, faced off against members of the studio audience in a make-believe game show about housekeeping. And on the segments paid for by Hyundai, a company marketing executive offered tips on buying and leasing cars. A Hyundai vehicle was on stage for each of the four segments and on the final one, which appeared Wednesday, the company gave away a vehicle to the winner of an online sweepstakes. While the executives were identified as being from Clorox and Hyundai, the hosts made no mention that the visits were part of an advertising arrangement or that the segments were of a different nature than the show's usual fare like "Pajama Streetwear Fashions" and "The After-Sex Wish List."
    That this isn't a one-off experience is confirmed by one of the show's sponsors.
    "It was a great opportunity for us and gave us terrific exposure," said Paul Sellers, director for marketing communication at Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, Calif., a division of the Hyundai Motor Company. "You're going to see more and more of this."
    Frankly, I don't mind this too much: Any adult who doesn't understand that TV is purely an advertising-driven medium, that the programs are really only there to give us a brief break from commercials, is missing more than the point. On that basis, I cannot agree with Michael Jacobson, executive director in Washington at the Center for Science in the Public Interestthat "[t]he networks are betraying their viewers with such blatant commercialization."

    However, I can and do complain when corporations and their "public interest" fronts pretend they are something they are not. George Monbiot has written a great deal about this.
    "Two weeks ago, this column showed how the Bivings Group, a PR company contracted to Monsanto, had invented fake citizens to post messages on internet listservers. These phantoms had launched a campaign to force Nature magazine to retract a paper it had published, alleging that native corn in Mexico had been contaminated with GM pollen ... Bivings sent me an email fiercely denying that it had anything to do with the fake correspondents "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", who started the smear campaign against the Nature paper. Last week I checked the email's technical properties. They contained the identity tag "bw6.bivwood.com". The message came from the same computer terminal that "Mary Murphy" has used. New research coordinated by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews appears to have unmasked the fake persuaders: "Mary Murphy" is being posted by a Bivings web designer, writing from both the office and his home computer in Hyattsville, Maryland; while "Andura Smetacek" appears to be the company's chief internet marketer.
    Bivings attacks on behalf of the chemical corps spreads far and wide.
    "Bivings is the secret author of several of the websites and bogus citizens' movements which have been coordinating campaigns against environmentalists. One is a fake scientific institute called the "Centre for Food and Agricultural Research" ["The centre appears not to exist, except as a website, which repeatedly accuses greens of plotting violence. Cffar.org is registered to someone called Manuel Theodorov. Manuel Theodorov is the "director of associations" at Bivings Woodell.] Bivings has also set up the "Alliance for Environmental Technology", a chlorine industry lobby group.

    Most importantly, Bivings appears to be connected with AgBioWorld ... CS Prakash ... set up AgBioWorld with Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the far-right libertarian lobby group funded by such companies as Philip Morris, Pfizer and Dow Chemical ... AgBioWorld is perhaps the most influential biotech site on the web. Every day it carries new postings about how GM crops will feed the world, new denunciations of the science which casts doubt on them and new attacks on environmentalists."
    The use of phony front groups is widespread.
    "Another US company, Berman & Co, runs a fake public interest site called ActivistCash.com, which seeks to persuade the foundations giving money to campaigners to desist. Berman also runs the "Centre for Consumer Freedom", which looks like a citizens' group but lobbies against smoking bans, alcohol restrictions and health warnings on behalf of tobacco, drinks and fast food companies. The marketing firm Nichols Dezenhall set up a site called StopEcoViolence, another "citizens' initiative", demonising activists. In March, Nichols Dezenhall linked up with Prakash's collaborator, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to sponsor a conference for journalists and corporate executives on 'eco-extremism'. "
    The message is, I am afraid, that one can no longer trust any output from any group unless one knows exactly who is behind them. That has always been true, but email, computer-based mailing lists, sponsored web sites and the anonymity of the net have increased the level of danger.