Hurricane Relief

Hurricane Katrina has ravaged much of America’s gulf coast. The cost of the damage, on a human scale, is incalculable. The treasure that was New Orleans may be rebuilt, but will it ever be restored?

The devasting ferocity of Katrina has opened our eyes to just how destructive nature can be. But it has also opened our eyes to the destructive agenda of an administration consumed by greed and riddled with incompetence.

For those who have suffered the loss of loved ones and livelyhood, there is little consolation in promises to rebuild. So it is in the spirit of New Orleans that I offer this uniquely appropriate method of recovery. What better way to get relief than by utilizing this ancient art to enforce accountability on a president that has never deigned to accept any.

[Thanks to Fred Johns at Something Cool News for his article about the voodoo doll and for interviewing me.]

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Tom DeLay and Time Warner: Shacking Up On K Street

The lastest marriage between big media and Washington politics was announced yesterday. Tom DeLay’s chief of staff, Tim Berry, has been hired by Time Warner. His official title is vice president of global public policy, also known as big-time, oily-palmed lobbyist. The L. A. Times says that:

The hiring of Berry is aimed at boosting Time Warner’s influence with the GOP.

I was not aware that Time Warner had a deficit of influence with Republicans. The CEO, Richard Parsons is a long-time supporter and a former aide to then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller and President Gerald Ford. Berry’s new boss is Carol Melton who was also hired this year. In her previous position as Viacom’s top lobbyist she allocated 61 percent of the company’s political action committee contributions to Republican candidates and 38 percent to Democrats. But apparently Time Warner still feels some measure of insecurity.

Perhaps it’s because Republicans have been strong-arming corporations to hire more GOP lobbyists and threatening to punish them legislatively if they hire any Democrats. An initiative known as the K Street Project was started by Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist, the arch conservative behind Americans For Tax Reform. Its purpose is to monitor the political affiliations of lobbyists at the biggest corporations so that those who don’t play ball can be targeted for retribution.

Corporate America is all too willing to pay their protection money and reap the benefits of special treatment with regard to legislation and regulation. And the media just gets further wrapped up in the interests of corporations and politicians to the detriment of ordinary citizens. The consequences of this coziness cannot be overstated. Politicians are enjoying a windfall of contributions from their wealthy corporate benefactors. And the media, whose public image is already at record lows, becomes even less trustworthy. For instance, what effect can we expect Tim Berry’s hiring to have on CNN’s reporting about Berry’s old boss Tom DeLay? With indictments of Delay’s associates piling up in Texas, and the House Ethics Committee preparing for hearings, DeLay must feel a certain sense of comfort knowing that his former chief of staff is directing CNN’s parent company’s public policy affairs.

More Paid Propaganda From BushCo.

The Department of Education has not learned its lesson about payola and propaganda. After having been caught greasing the palms of Armstrong Williams, the DOE has just been slapped by its Inspector General for improperly paying “…education advocacy groups to produce newspaper opinion pieces, advertisements, and other public materials that reached audiences all over the country without revealing that the government paid for their production and distribution.”

The IG fell short of calling this propaganda what it is because, he said, the Department did not, “…intend for these organizations and individuals to mislead the public.” Apparrently they just intended for these organizations to publish stories that promoted controversial administration policies without disclosing that they were working for the administration. That isn’t the least bit misleading, is it?

Representative George Miller (D-CA), plans to demand the Department recoup tax dollars that were unlawfully spent. He also has an impressive collection of links to other improper activities, with regard to the media, by BushCo. at this website.

I Wish I Was In New Orleans.

I can see it in my dreams.
Arm in arm down Burgundy.
A bottle and my friends and me.
Tom Waits

As much as I hate to think it, much less say it, I am coming to believe that the only thing left of New Orleans is the memory. To describe it as just another city would be like describing the Sistine as just another chapel. New Orleans was, in fact, a work of art, painted from a palette of geography, architecture, history, music, and the extraordinary people that brought it all to life.

It’s the people that are the only irreplaceable parts of this picture. Because, even if it were possible to reconstruct the historic, centuries old buildings that defined the physical character of the Big Easy, who would populate this reproduction? Thousands of the city’s residents are dead and a quarter of a million of them have been disbursed throughout the country, perhaps never to return, even if there were something to return to.

So what would we have if we rebuilt New Orleans? Would it come from the imagination of speculators and developers seeking to turn a hefty profit? Would it be like the Disneyland models of Paris and New York that Las Vegas tries to pass off as authentic? The soul of New Orleans did not come from the hearts of yuppies that we might expect to snap up condos in the New French Quarter. The richness of New Orleans came, more often than not, from its poorest sons and daughters. What would be the incentive for developers to invest in housing that would lure these folks back? And what of the writers, artists and musicians that made the city such a fountain of creativity? The city can be rebuilt, but can it ever truly be restored? Not without the people that made it what it was, it can’t.

Those people, the ones who survived, are now being subjected to the cruel torture of a government that is either inept or uncaring or both. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were declared federal disaster areas before Katrina even came to shore. So no one can claim that they were unaware of the impact this storm would have. Yet six days later, they are still without food, water, medicine and shelter. It’s a painful thing to see, and a shameful thing to know that our government is responsible for it.

This evening, as I struggled to find a way to express my sadness and anger, I got some help from an unexpected source. Hip-hop superstar Kanye West made an appearance on NBC’s “Concert for Hurricane Relief”. In a fit of inspiration and honesty, he departed from the script to say:

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. When you see a black family, it says they’re looting, and you see a white family it says they’re looking for food. And you know it’s been five days because most of the people are black and even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch — I’ve even been shopping before even giving a donation.

So now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what is, what is the biggest amount I can give and just to imagine if I was down there and those are, are my people down there.

So that anybody out there that wants to do anything, we can help with the set up. With the way America’s set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well off, as slow as possible. I mean this is — Red Cross is doing everything they can.

We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war now fighting another way. And they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.

George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

This blast of spontaneous truth-telling is not often seen in the Corporate Media. It was refreshing and inspiring and necessary. Unfortunately, inspiration of this quality is viewed by the media as an accident that cannot be repeated. So NBC edited it out of the west coast broadcast. There were no obscenities or wardrobe malfunctions, only a heartfelt cry of anguish. But the defenders of decency at NBC (a division of the world’s largest defense contractor, General Electric), saw fit to protect us from this harsh reality, because, after all, we can’t handle the truth. The truth is that our leaders are leading us into the Valley of the Shadow of Death – literally for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and figuratively for the miracle that was New Orleans.

If the pessimism pouring from me is to be avoided, it can only be done by the people who made that city great in the first place. They must take the initiative to restore the city’s heart. They must demand that reconstruction be done on thier terms with a view of the city’s glorious past and a hopeful future. The leaders must take direction from the people. Developers must be constrained from blatant exploitation for profit. Regulations must be invoked to insure that the whole community is restored not just real estate and commerce. If the soul, and the eccentricity, and the hospitality, and the artistry of the city are not built in to whatever rises from the rubble, than it will not really be New Orleans. And this will not really be America.

American Legion: Fighting For The Freedom To Suppress Dissent

The American Legion has found the enemy, and it is antiwar protesters. At its national convention in Honolulu, Thomas Cadmus, the group’s national commander, spoke on behalf of a resolution that was passed unanimously. The resolution called for using whatever means necessary to “ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism.”

How do they propose to ensure such a thing? By shutting down the voices of dissent, of course. He did provide an approved means of redressing grievances, if you are unpatriotically disposed to doing so, by saying that, “…we hope that Americans will present their views in correspondence to their elected officials rather than by public media events.” In other words, you can write a private letter to your congressman, but you must not speak your views aloud or join with others who share your views (which in the case of the war in Iraq is the majority of Americans). His opposition to media events parrots the frightening and un-American position of the president that any opinion other than his own is treason. Cadmus comes right out and says it:

Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm’s way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies.”

The American Legion has not always felt this way about our young men and women in harm’s way. When the Clinton Administration had soldiers in Bosnia, the they passed Resolution No. 44, which states, in part:

Whereas, the President has committed the Armed Forces of the United States…to engage in hostilities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia without clearly defining America’s vital national interests; and

Whereas, neither the President nor the Congress have defined America’s objectives in what has become an open-ended conflict characterized by an ill-defined progressive escalation; and

Whereas, it is obvious that an ill-planned and massive commitment of U.S. resources could only lead to troops being killed, wounded or captured without advancing any clear purpose, mission or objective…

…now, therefore, be it

Resolved, by the National Executive Committee…That The American Legion…voices its grave concerns about the commitment of U.S. Armed Forces to Operation Allied force, unless the following conditions are fulfilled.

That there be a clear statement by the President of why it is in our vital national interests to be engaged in Operation Allied Force;

Guidelines be established for the mission, including a clear exit strategy;

That there be support of the mission by the U.S. Congress and the American people; and

That it be made clear U.S. Forces will be commanded only by U.S. officers whom we acknowledge are superior military leaders; and, be it further

Resolved, that, if the aforementioned conditions are not met, The American Legion calls upon the President and the Congress to withdraw American forces immediately from Operation Allied Force

Sound familiar? That’s because if you convert references of Yugoslavia to Iraq, it is almost exactly the position of the opponents of the war in Iraq. The American Legion has obviously steeped itself in a brew of hypocrisy. But what is most troubling is that they want to tell everyone else to shut up. I propose that the time has come to start referring to them as The Legion, because there is nothing American about them.

George W. Bush: The Hardest Thing I Have To Do…

Back in June of this year, the President made an appearance before the White House Stenographers Association Radio and Television News Directors Association. Among the subjects he addressed was his obligation to visit with the families of fallen soldiers. Here’s what he had to say:

“The hardest thing I have to do is sit down as the President with loved ones who’ve either lost a soul or have a wounded person, severely wounded. I try to do a lot of it. It’s my obligation as the President. It’s an amazing experience. First of all, I’m a crier, and I weep a lot. On the other hand, when it’s all over, I feel incredibly strengthened by the strength of the parents or the wife or the kids.”

With Cindy Sheehan, and the other Gold Star Families, camped outside his vacation villa, the Crier in Chief is demonstrating just how hard it is for him to fulfill his obligations. While it may be an amazing experience, it’s one he’s demonstrating extraordinary self-discipline resisting. This may just be another example of his well-known steadfastness in the face of massive miscalculation.

Actually, this is really just an example of the most crass form of hypocricy. This President can shamelessly shed psuedo-patriotic crocodile tears before chummy audiences, but in real life, he’d rather meet with a sports hero (i.e. Lance Armstrong) than a grieving mother.

Perhaps if he met more often with the families he has turned into mourners, he could use the strength he says it gives him (ala Lestat) to renounce the members of his party who have been hurling the most despicable insults at Ms. Sheehan. They have said she is hateful, a liar, and is exploiting the memory of her dead son. Bush’s silence can only be interpreted as agreement or, at best, acceptance as a useful political tack.

The stenographers in the White House Press Corpse©, many of whom personally witnessed the speech above, have yet to even ask the President if he approves of the repugnant remarks of Rush Limbaugh, David Horowitz, Michelle Malkin, et al. The press, it appears, is also in need of a pint of strength.

It’s Hard Work
The President Says So
Harry Shearer Says So

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Enquirer Stipend Stifles Schwarzenegger’s Strumpet

American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, paid $20,000 to a woman with whom the then Governor-wannabe was carrying on an affair in order to buy her silence. The deal was executed just days after Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy. Gigi Goyette, whose name alone foreshadowed notoriety as a political harlot, entered into a confidentiality agreement with AMI that prohibited her from disclosing the affair to anyone other than AMI. AMI then pocketed the agreement and never wrote or published Gigi’s story.

Why would this gossip rag pay thousands for a juicy sex scandal and not act on it? Because AMI was also pursuing Arnold to become executive editor of Flex and Muscle and Fitness, magazines published by, you guessed it, AMI. For AMI it was inducement for Arnold to sign on, as well as a measure to protect their newest asset’s reputation and aid his election prospects, which would further boost his market value.

This is, by the way, the same AMI that was recently exposed for having entered into a secret contract with the Governor that would earn him over $13 million. Amidst blistering publicity and charges of conflict of interest, the contract was terminated, but Arnold would not return any of the funds he had already received.

As it turns out, AMI paid Arnold more than money. They effectively bought him the governorship by suppressing the kind of well-documented story that could have sunk him. Ironically, this tale of sex, scandal, and deception is exactly the sort of fare upon which the National Enquirer thrives. Nonetheless, despite the fact that they still own the exclusive, I don’t think we’ll be seeing it on their pages any time soon.

Novak Cracks Under Pressure

Robert Novak, CNN commentator and Douchebag of Liberty, became enraged on Thursday’s episode of Inside Politics. After James Carville lightheartedly suggested that Novak was, “…trying to show these right-wingers that he’s got backbone,” Novak belched out that he thought that was “bullshit,” and then stomped off the set.

From my vantage point, it cannot be reasonably deduced that anything Carville said could have provoked Novak’s response. These guys mix it up much more aggressively than that on a regular basis. The explanation for Novak’s tantrum may lie in the comment made by host, Ed Henry, at the close of the show. Henry said that Novak was told that he would be asked about the CIA leak/Plame affair. Novak may have seized on this exchange in order to have an excuse to duck out before the Plame segment.

So how is the media handling this? If you visit, which recently launched its video search feature to great fanfare, you can search for “Novak,” and get a link to the clip. But if you click on the link, all you will get is this:

As usual, the only constructive presentation of this event in the media was on the fake news program, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Thank God for fake news.

Judith Miller’s “Conscience in Media” Award Revoked

According to Editors and Publishers:

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has voted unanimously to reverse an earlier decision to give its annual Conscience in Media award to jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

The ASJA’s First Amendment committee voted to honor Miller, but that decision was reversed by the full board. Thank heaven the board was not afflicted with whatever disease had stricken the committee. Anita Bartholomew, a member of the committee exhibiting a rare measure of immunity said:

“The First Amendment is designed to prevent government interference with a free press. Miller, by shielding a government official or officials who attempted to use the press to retaliate against a whistleblower, and scare off other would-be whistleblowers, has allied herself with government interference with, and censorship of, whistleblowers.

She subsequently resigned her post in protest. Her statement above, and her actions since present a superb example of the kind of courage and ethics that is so desperately needed in mainstream journalism. If the ‘Conscience in Media’ Award has not been given to someone else, I would like to nominate Ms. Bartholomew. She deserves our appreciation and respect. Feel free to throw some her way.


The O’Reilly Fear Factor: God vs. Science

Fear O'Reilly FactorWhen the anti-Darwin faction of the Flat Earth Society sought to legitimize their biblical belief that God, not evolution, produced the earth and its myriad life forms, they originally branded their sermonology as Creation Science. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough because now they’ve escalated the scientification of Genesis by dressing it up as Intelligent Design (ID). This is a peculiar positioning that is more suggestive of the development of the iPod than the origin of the species.

Common sense notwithstanding, the media is taking up this PR-incubated nomenclature and giving it parity with the time-tested science of evolution. But leave it to Bill O’Reilly to rocket this nonsense into the stratosphere.

In his Talking Points Memo for August 3, 2005, titled “God vs. Science,” he courageously takes God’s side. Presumably because he believes that God can hold his breath underwater longer than Science can.

“…the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science both reject intelligent design and don’t want it mentioned in science classes. That, in my opinion, is fascism.”

He goes on to correctly point out that Genesis should not be taught in science class, but curiously, uses that as his argument for including ID because “evolution is not a universal belief.”

Mr. O’Reilly needs to be advised that evolution is not a belief at all. It is a scientific theory. ID is a belief that has no basis in science, hence its rejection by the respected institutions he himself cites. But in his comments he contradicts himself by endorsing the view that evolution is accepted science, then insisting it be compared with faith-based propaganda.

“This isn’t a complicated matter. Public schools have an obligation to present all subjects in perspective…But if you’re going to discuss the biological procedure of abortion, for example, you have a responsibility to tell students that half the country feels it’s morally wrong.”

I wish I could ask him why there is a responsibility, in a discussion of biology, to tell students that some people have moral objections to a procedure. Many people have moral objections to vaccinations, organ transplants, or psychoactive drugs. Should medical students have to stop at the end of every chapter and be told that, “this procedure is opposed by Lutherans and Hindus?”

Such disclaimers would be mandatory in O’Reilly’s world where facts have no standing and science is fascism.