Miasma in the House of Bite Me
Grassroots journalism & current events, cyberculture, technology, privacy, with a little new criticism, feminism, postmodernism, radical pedagogy, & new media theory thrown in.
Makes you wonder why the government can spend billions to bail out the airline industry, but can't even gasp any kind of a commitment to Amtrak. A common carrier is a common carrier, if you ask me.
But no, we pay to bail out these monopolistic fuckwads, we bend over for those searches to fly, we are soon to get X-ray scanned so all the screeners will soon be able to see us naked, we leave our bags unlocked so the unscreened and no-criminal-history-check brand new federal screeners can find some new stuff to fence, and on top of that, TIA and John Poindexter will keep a database of our every movement on this planet.
Hey, I ain't getting on an airplane for nobody. I can be fucked over just fine in the safety of my own home.
Airport feds rip off travellers. The Transport Security Agency requires all fliers to travel with their luggage unlocked, so that highly trustworthy federal employees can rummage through them and ensure that they are WMD-free. And steal things. TSA employees are ripping off choice items ($1,000 binox and such) from the mandatorily-unlocked bags of America's travellers. I feel safer already.
At 9:03 AM on 11 September 2001, the second airplane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. President Bush was in Florida, at the Emma T. Booker Elementary School, listening to children read. Chief of Staff Andrew Card came over and whispered in Bush's ear, "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack."
What did the Commander in Chief do? Nothing. He sat there. He sat for well over 5 minutes, doing nothing while 3,000 people were dying and the attacks were still in progress.
Not only did the leader of the free world sit as his country was attacked, the Secret Service also did nothing. Bush was appearing in public at a previously announced photo-op. He was a sitting duck. The attacks were ongoing at that point (planes had yet to hit the Pentagon or the field in Pennsylvania), and nobody knew how much more destruction was going to happen. Were there two, three, four, eight more planes hijacked and on their way to crash into prominent buildings? Was one headed for the school, where anyone who checked the President's public itinerary would know he was located? Were other terrorists planning to detonate dirty nukes? Were they going to release anthrax or smallpox or sarin? Was an assassination squad going to burst into the school and get Bush? Was a suicide bomber going to ram a truck full of explosives into that classroom?
During the midst of the attacks, any of these things could've happened. Yet there sits Bush, seemingly unconcerned. His Chief of Staff likewise doesn't think that America in flames warrants the President's immediate attention. And the Secret Service utterly fails to do its job by grabbing the President of the United States and getting him to safety. It's truly inexplicable.
And it's something the administration isn't too eager to trumpet. They haven't released footage of the President's (non)actions during this historic moment of American history. Until now, the only available footage had been a little film put together by Booker Elementary. [See it here.] The problem is, there's a jump edit in the footage: From the time Card whispers to Bush until the end of the scene in the classroom, only 2 minutes and 10 seconds elapse.
But this new, fuller footage shows Bush sitting for a full five minutes after he'd been told that "America is under attack."
He declined to take action even longer than this, but unfortunately this footage ends before he leaves the classroom. Thanks to an amazing article by Allan Wood and Paul Thompson, we know what happened after the footage suddenly cuts off:
The only source to describe what happened next is Fighting Back by Bill Sammon. Publishers Weekly described Sammon's book as an "inside account of the Bush administration's reaction to 9-11 [and] a breathless, highly complimentary portrait of the president [showing] the great merit and unwavering moral vision of his inner circle." [Publisher's Weekly, 10/15/02] Sammon's conservative perspective makes his account of Bush's behavior at the end of the photo-op all the more surprising. Bush is described as smiling and chatting with the children "as if he didn't have a care in the world" and "in the most relaxed manner imaginable." White House aide Gordon Johndroe, then came in as he usually does at the end of press conferences, and said, "Thank you, press. If you could step out the door we came in, please." A reporter then asked, "Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there anything...", But Bush interrupted, and no doubt recalling his order, "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET," Bush responded, "I'll talk about it later." But still the president did not leave. "He stepped forward and shook hands with [classroom teacher] Daniels, slipping his left hand behind her in another photo-op pose. He was taking his good old time. ... Bush lingered until the press was gone." [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism - From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, p. 90]
For a detailed portrait of what Bush did and didn't do on 9/11, you can do no better than to read this article here. It is based completely on reports from mainstream media and statements from government officials.
Apologists claim that Bush didn't leave simply because he didn't want to interrupt and upset the children, but this falls apart for several reasons:
1) America is being attacked, thousands are dying, and Bush doesn't know if we're facing nuclear, biological, or chemical attacks, as well. Couldn't he just say, "Excuse me, kids, I need to take care of something. It's part of being President, y'understand. I'll be back as soon as I can."
2) At the moment Card told Bush about the second plane, the children weren't reading to Bush. They had finished reading words from an easel and were reaching under their chairs for a book when Card whispered to Bush. Another 30 seconds would elapse before they started reading again. This pause was a perfect time for Bush to politely excuse himself.
3) By staying, he not only endangered his own life, but the lives of all of those children. Wouldn't it be better to risk upsetting them than to risk letting them die in a terror attack?
4) Even if Bush was afraid of hurting the kiddies' feelings, what about the Secret Service? Have they been trained not to attempt to save the President's life if it might bother some schoolchildren?
5) What about Chief of Staff Andrew Card, White House Spokesperson Ari Fleischer, and other officials who were in that classroom? Didn't they feel that a 21st-century Pearl Harbor and a potential attack on the President himself were worth some sort of action?
6) Finally, and most damningly, this excuse doesn't explain why Bush continued to mill around the classroom for several minutes after the children had finished reading.
Somewhere, someone has the complete, uncut footage of Bush in Booker Elementary, from the time he enters the classroom until he finally walks out. If you have this footage, please send it to me.
This video was obtained from The Education Channel in Sarasota, Florida. You can get a copy by sending $35 to:
Ask for the raw footage of President Bush at Booker Elementary on the morning of 11 Sept 2001. Specify whether you want VHS or Super VHS. (The latter is broadcast quality but doesn't play on regular VCRs.)
The most amazing part if it, if this is true, is the clearly unvarnished interest in subverting any semblance of democracy in exchange for what some undoubtably presume is permanent political power. As in, the kind that corrupts absolutely. Lest anyone think the Republicans have even the slightest interest in maintaining the heritage of the US Constitution and the intentions of the founders. Welcome to the Age of US Empire. Say goodbye to the Roman Republic.
K street antics. Welcome to the Machine This article in the Washington Monthly describes a long term project of the Republican party to change the largely bipartisan nature of K street lobbying firms and install Republican thought leaders. In return for political benefits to the lobbyists clients, the lobbyists and their clients are expected to play nice with the Republicans on other issues. K Street has been a moderating influence against drastic change, as some constituent always objects. Under this new right-wing symbiotic relationship, individual interests are somewhat subordinated to the right-wing agenda. One of the more fascinating aspects is how it dramatically improves Republican fundraising; for instance:
"For years, conservatives have been pushing to divert part of Social Security into private investment accounts. Such a move, GOP operatives argued, would provide millions of new customers and potentially trillions of dollars to the mutual fund industry that would manage the private accounts. The profits earned would, of course, be shared with the GOP in the form of campaign contributions. In other words, by sluicing the funds collected by the federal government's largest social insurance program through businesses loyal to the GOP, the party would instantly convert the crown jewels of Democratic governance into a pillar of the new Republican machine. "
Of course the whole premise of this system rests upon continued Republican control. If the Democrats can wrest back control of the House and Senate, or install another strong president some of these lobbyists and their constituents will likely find themselves closed out of the process. Oh what a lovely way to govern. (via The Filibuster) [MetaFilter]
Soon I must decide what nation to become an expatriot in, as eventually all travel will be impossible without being chipped. Oh oh, the mark of the beast!
Europe Moves Toward Issuing Passports With Data Chips
By THOMAS FULLER
International Herald Tribune
ORTO CARRAS, Greece, June 20 [~] European Union governments may soon issue passports containing computer chips embedded with digital fingerprints or eye scans, according to a plan approved by European leaders today.
The "biometric" data would enable police officers to verify the authenticity of European passports, which have been counterfeited in significant numbers in recent years, officials said at their three-day summit meeting here.
The chips would also be implanted in visas given to noncitizens of the European Union, making it easier for governments to keep track of foreigners as they travel through borderless Europe.
And to think, of all the candidates, he has the least in assets and investments, as reported a week ago or so. Does this correlate? Are more middle class candidates likely to understand blogland? Is John Edward's blog any less of a joke these days? (I haven't looked in on it lately).
And more importantly, where does Howard Dean stand on this CRUCIAL CAMPAIGN ISSUE?!
"Dave Sifry says Technorati's now keeping tabs on more than 400,000 blogs: 'We hit 100,000 back on March 5, and 200,000 on April 6.'
Andrew Acker on that news: 'At this rate, there will be more than 6 million blogs by the end of the year.'
Phil Wolff: 'I expect Technorati's growth to accelerate until the blogosphere is mostly mapped; then we'll see periodic bursts as new clusters are discovered or services come online.' [Corante on Blogging]
"Anne Davis remembers how she reacted the first time she saw a weblog being used in the classroom. 'I thought, 'This is all about possibilities,' she recalls. 'It's about listening, talking, collaborating, having a dialog. And it can work for any subject....'
Working with the group for two hours every Thursday, Davis set out to make writing more enjoyable. She offered ideas for different ways to open stories and introduced activities such as news writing. 'I wanted to get them thinking about what writing could be.' She also set up a weblog for each student. That allowed for instant publishing and created a space where classmates could read and comment on each other's work.
Students' attitudes began to change. 'They saw weblogs as a place where they could have an audience. They knew that writing mattered,' Davis says. A student named Emily said 'this was something you could do as a child, without having to wait' to finish growing up....
Around the same time, Davis received an intriguing email from a high school teacher she knew. They share membership in an online network (Educational Bloggers Network at www.bayareawritingproject.org/eBN*). Will Richardson, who teaches journalism in Flemington, New Jersey, suggested that the two classes collaborate, with the older students acting as mentors to the younger writers. The teachers set up a joint Web site for their project ('The Georgia-NJ Connection' at http://weblogs.hcrhs.k12.nj.us/georgia/*)....
The teacher relayed her students' anxieties to Richardson. He brainstormed with his high school students about how they might put the younger writers at ease. 'They handled that with class,' Davis says. The older students went online to offer reassurance, encouragement, and instruction....
That reassurance was all they needed to take off. The younger writers became enthusiastic webloggers, eager to publish their work and read the responses from their New Jersey mentors. 'This is what education is all about,' Davis says. 'My students are all reading, writing, listening, thinking, reacting.' The weblog has become 'a place to share ideas. We shape it as we go. It's all about listening to students' voices.' Davis knows the project has been successful when she walks into class and hears students clamoring for her to read their work. 'Isn't that great?...'
Parents have shown an interest in the project, as well. By reading their child's weblog, Davis points out, 'parents gain a window into their student's educational journey. Where else can they get that?'
A pity, but I think the House of Representatives is more coopted by money pressures and lobbyists than the millionaire Senate. Thanks to Michael Powell and the FCC, we will find ourselves living under corporate PRAVDA.
I'm hearing it's already in the works, cuz the new "free" press isn't reporting what the US govt wants it to. There also seems to be a "problem" with Shiite imams speaking too freely, not saying stuff the US likes...
You report, we kill you. Turning the tanks on the reporters The Observer's Phillip Knightley writes that Iraq will go down as the war when journalists seemed to become a target. Predicted here, discussed "in progress" here. The BBC, Al-Jazeera, and the US Committee to Protect Journalists thought it prudent to find out from the Pentagon what steps they could take to protect their correspondents if war came to Iraq... All three organisations concluded that the Pentagon was determined to deter western correspondents from reporting any war from the 'enemy' side; would view such journalism in Iraq as activity of 'military significance', and might well bomb the area. [MetaFilter]
Your ass is the airlines' business. A UK defense-lab is developing "smart" airline seats that attempt to make guesses about your terroristic propensity (and your likelihood of a thrombosis) by monitoring your buttular activity while you're flying.
The seats will contain a thicket of pressure sensors that will relay signals to a central computer to assess the seat occupant's behaviour. Are they asleep? Motionless for too long? Jumpy? Qinetiq designer Chris Thorpe says the system could have a display that is only accessible to the cabin crew - perhaps in the galley - to warn if a passenger's behaviour is out of the ordinary.
If they have been asleep or sitting still too long, say, a "DVT Warning" might flash beneath the passenger's seat number, and a crew member could prompt the passenger to take a walk around the plane.
Blogstumping: presidential candidate Howard Dean's weblog. Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont governor Howard Dean is campaigning by way of "the Howard Dean Blog" and a site called "Blog For America." He's also using Meetup forums to organize local supporters. This is the first example I've seen of blogs being used in a significant way in a presidential campaign. It's nice to see that the former governor has taken care to carry on one of the blogosphere's longstanding traditions -- blogging about the details of what you ate today. Here's the July 12 "blogforamerica.com" entry from the Manchester, New Hampshire campaign trail stop:
It has been a fun day already and the day is not even half over! This morning I drove down from Vermont to meet Gov. Dean. (The Gov. came down yesterday for his son's hockey tournament). The drive down was exciting. Tricia Enright, Bob Rogan, Tom McMahon and I drove down together. Joe Trippi met us in Manchester. (Since the Gov. is rarely in Vermont, we have to meet where he is!). We met the Gov. at lunch time and some very nice people let us join their office picnic lunch: barbeque, corn, baked beans, corn bread and the Gov's favorite strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.
As I write this, my colleagues have headed by to Vermont, leaving the Gov. and me to finish the day in NH. We have a meet the candidate reception and a health care forum before we are done for the day. Tomorrow we're off to Chicago and Wisconsin! (I want to apologize to my friends in South Carolina for not blogging about our trip. My office mates forgot to tell me how to get on the new blog! So, South Carolina, it was a great visit. Thank you!)
Tough Talking for Marines in Iraq. During Gulf War II, U.S. military planners talked with pride about a seamless communications network linking troops together. However, a recent study of Marines in Iraq paints a less than rosy picture. By Noah Shachtman. [Wired News]
The question had really dogged me after reading the print article in the latest Wired magazine. It is good to see another take on it here on the Wired News site. Also glad to see somebody get their money's worth out of those damn embedded reporters.
During Gulf War II, members of the force often had to use a helmet headset, four radios and two laptops at once to communicate with their comrades and commanders -- all while crammed into light armored vehicles crawling across the Mesopotamian desert.
During the war, U.S. chieftains and military analysts talked with wide-eyed wonder about how quick and how perfectly seamless communications between U.S. troops had become. In a matter of minutes, they crowed, a tip about Saddam Hussein's location became an assault on a Baghdad restaurant.
"They had a communication system for every eventuality, and for every issue," said Patrick Garrett, an analyst with the defense think tank Globalsecurity.org. "But they really didn't integrate them all together."
Take, for instance, a Marine riding aboard a light armored vehicle. According to the field report, he'd use a headset to talk on the intercom to his buddies inside the vehicle. When his squad leader called, the Marine would have to remove his helmet and grab a hand-held radio to chat. To speak to a group of Marines nearby, he'd have to grab another radio. And to rap with the Navy SEALs, he'd need yet another radio. He would manage all this while keeping an eye on two different laptops showing the positions of friendly and hostile forces.
"I personally saw that every 'shelf' was taken up by a radio and seat space and floor spaces were taken up with open computers," the report's anonymous author said.
The problem may be more about logistics than technology, however. Any single system to talk or share information would have worked fine. But "units never seemed to receive enough of one communications asset, forcing them to rely on a 'hodgepodge' of assets," according to the report.
To share text messages and digital files, one unit of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force would have the Blue Force Tracker communications system. Another would have the MDACT (Mobile Data Automated Communications Terminal) program. The two have the same functions, essentially. But they can't talk to each other. So when the Marines sent reconnaissance photos to their commanders, they often would use a courier with a Memorex hard drive to carry the pictures by hand to headquarters.
Satellite-based systems, on the other hand, don't have such limitations. Rather than send their signals directly, these systems bounce them off of "birds" in space. As the war progressed, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force increasingly turned to Iridium satellite phones to talk. They also used Blue Force Tracker for text messaging and positioning information. They were the "only consistently reliable means of communication," according to the report.
THE Segway Human Transporter, a high-tech scooter, already has a little place in history [~] as a marketing phenomenon, an Andy Warhol product of fleeting fame. For a few weeks, starting in December 2001, the Segway and its creator, Dean Kamen, were celebrities.
The man and his machine did turns on "The Tonight Show" and other television programs. They were the subject of lengthy magazine articles and countless newspaper reports.
Mr. Kamen and his backers said the machine would change the world by transforming urban transportation over the next decade or so. Its impact, they said, is likely to rival that of the personal computer. Think of the traditional automobile as a mainframe computer, went the seductive theory, and the Segway as the transportation equivalent of the personal computer.
In "Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World" (Harvard Business School Press, $27.95), Steve Kemper explains what the fuss was about.
The Segway is a very cool machine [~] an inventive combination of advanced gyroscopic technology, electronics, software and mechanics. Powered by electricity, it is controlled by the standing rider leaning forward or backward, and tugging left or right on the handlebars.
But it costs about $5,000, and its practical value to most people is, well, less than obvious.
Mr. Kemper, a freelance journalist, was offered an open door by Mr. Kamen to witness the secret Segway project in Manchester, N.H. The author was expelled late in the project after his book proposal was leaked to the news media. Yet Mr. Kemper used his access well to write a fascinating account of the messy process of invention and bringing an innovative product to the marketplace.
The book's great strength, however, is its deft depiction of the craft of engineering, and the engineering mentality. I would have preferred a deeper look at the animating technology behind the Segway and its lineage, and a few drawings to help visualize the technology. But Mr. Kemper excels in describing the engineers and their passion for the job. "Engineers love parts the way chefs love ingredients," he writes.
The superengineer behind Segway is Mr. Kamen. He emerges, in Mr. Kemper's rendering, as a complex and contradictory character, brilliant, passionate, focused and profoundly insular. Movies, novels, sports and newspapers hold no interest for him. "My hobby is thinking," he tells people. He lives in a 32,000-square-foot hilltop house on a 38-acre estate.
His closest employees find working for Mr. Kamen exhilarating but often exasperating, as he throws out ideas and changes plans and designs. "Deaned" is a verb at his company. Management, clearly, is not his life's calling.
FindLaw.com's Legal Commentary: By John W. Dean, Friday June 6, 2003
President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. Before asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of American military forces in Iraq, he made a number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation can undertake - acts of war against another nation.
Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) go away - unless, perhaps, they start another war.
That seems unlikely. Until the questions surrounding the Iraqi war are answered, Congress and the public may strongly resist more of President Bush's warmaking.
Presidential statements, particularly on matters of national security, are held to an expectation of the highest standard of truthfulness. A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson's distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from reelection. President Richard Nixon's false statements about Watergate forced his resignation.
Frankly, I hope the WMDs are found, for it will end the matter. Clearly, the story of the missing WMDs is far from over. And it is too early, of course, to draw conclusions. But it is not too early to explore the relevant issues.