Journalism Feed

McPalin Culture Wars Round-Up

A couple of favorite pieces:

First, there's the New York Times op-ed Running Against Themselves:

The difficulty for the Republican ticket in talking about change and reform and acting like insurgents is that they have been running Washington — the White House and Congress — for most of the last eight years.

Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News: Palin isn't making this easy
I don't think John McCain understood exactly what he was doing picking Palin. He was looking for a new face in a party dominated by old faces, a Republican who wasn't tied to the rest of the Republicans (read: George W. Bush). But what he also got was another battle in the culture wars.

I leave it to Rudy Giuliani, of all people, to give us the lesson.

It's Giuliani - not your typical Republican on issues such as abortion and gay rights and wearing dresses at New York balls - who was Palin's warmup act. And in fact, he did about 20 minutes of standup, mostly mocking - and that's the right word - Barack Obama to the delight of the crowd, but in way that had to be cringe-making for much of the rest of America watching at home on TV.

Indeed, I don't think the political strategist who have brought us to this point understand how complex and unpredictable the politics of mommyhood are. (And no, Sarah, your family doesn't have "the same ups and downs as any other.") To work full or part time or to stay home with ones kids are complex decisions about which American women pronounce judgement upon each other every day. Every school PTA is split between the stay-at-home and part-timer moms who do most of the PTA work, and the full-time working moms who (despite Palin's PTA credentials) mostly don't.

Every employed mother has decisions to make about when to work and when to drop everything and take care of the needs of a child, and mothers pass judgement on each others' choices every day. New baby, special needs child, pregnant teenage daughter, five kids -- each of these individually might cause even a suburban upper-middle class mother in a left-leaning community to be subjected to peer pressure to surrender her ambitions in favor of taking care of her family. How can this fly?

Are questions about whether Sarah Palin should be spending more time taking care of her family fair? Perhaps not, but our culture isn't fair to mothers, and worse, mothers are not fair to other mothers.

Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail has an interesting piece entitled The culture wars are baaack!:

For a while back there, I thought the culture wars would not be a big deal in this election. We had two serious men of substance who had vowed to grapple with the serious issues of the day - the staggering economy, America's shattered moral leadership in the world, the health-care mess, loose nukes, stuff like that. Silly me! It turns out the real issues are abortion, evolution v. creationism, the role of God in public life, why Sarah tried to get her no-good ex-brother-in-law fired, what's up with her mother-in-law, and whether she herself was pregnant when she got married.
In it she quotes a McCain adviser:
"Frankly, I can't imagine that question being asked of a man," snapped John McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt. "A lot of women will find it offensive."
Oh, were Sisterhood that power! Wouldn't it be nice if women didn't say terrible things about other women's mothering choices all the time?

In his speech last night Rudy Guiliani asked, "How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her child and be vice president?" They dare, Rudy. They dare. They dare all the time.

She is apparently breastfeeding. Wouldn't it have been fascinating if Sarah Palin gave last night's speech while breastfeeding her infant? (I have nursed an infant from the podium, though out of necessity, not for fun; it's a good way to keep a baby quiet while mommy talks to the audience when the expected convention childcare does not materialize.) Having her pregnant daughter hold the baby doesn't deflect the scrutiny that a new mother out in the world is subject to. And Palin hasn't really explained who is taking care of the kids. The implication of what is left unsaid is partly that the kids will take care of themselves and each other, an impression I wouldn't dare give at the World Science Fiction Convention, let alone the national convention of a political party.

Jonathan Freeland, The Guardian also discusses the culture wars theme: Who knows if Palin will bring victory or defeat? But the culture wars are back

In his stirring speech last week, Obama urged America not to "make a big election about small things". Yet here we are, discussing not Sarah Palin's record or programme but Jesus, guns, and as one feminist blogger put it yesterday, "the uterine activity of her family". This is a setback for women, especially in a year that seemed to promise a breakthrough, but it is also a setback for America itself.
For obvious reasons, conservatives would like to see this mess in a different light. Janice Shaw Crouse of the conservative think-tank Concerened Women for America writes,
The media’s frenzy over the Palin nomination contrasts negatively with the positive way that the Palin family is coping with their daughter’s pregnancy; it shows how out-of-touch the media is with the rest of America and how distorted their view is of pro-life Americans who put feet on their policy stances. . . . The media frenzy also demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of social conservatives and the importance of the social issues for most Americans.
Is the fuss all about whether Palin is alienating the very conservative base she was supposed to lock in? I don't think so.

What Palin and her complications represent is a social conservative running against a broad personalized non-political type of social conservatism concerning childbearing and childrearing; she presents an entirely new model of conservative motherhood that bears a lot of explaining in order to seem like responsible behavior.

UPDATE: See also Nancyy Gibbs in TIME: Can Palin Escape the Parent Trap? and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Making Light: Pay attention to the little man behind the curtain.

TV News gets desperate

I avoid getting my news from TV and instead try to get it from the web or newspapers. Nonetheless, I find this statistic, reported by The New York Times, startling:

According to Nielsen Media Research, the median age of the top-rated Fox News audience is 63.9 years old, nearly four years older than that of the second-highest-rated news channel, CNN, and eight years older than for the third-place channel, MSNBC.

The median age for the three evening newscasts is 60.5.

The news story concerns attempts by TV news to attract "young voters." The idea is apparently to put young reporters on TV because the young like to watch their peers. I'm 46, but my reasons for preferring to get news almost any way except TV is that I want to read immediately about what I want to know about, rather than waiting through endless and repetitive commercials and coverage of other things. Also, waiting through the crap is a gamble: most of the time you don't know if they are going to get around to your subject matter. (There are additional and obvious reasons not to watch or read Fox News.) TV news abuses the viewers patience in ways I find unacceptable.

When we were staying in a hotel in Orlando for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, for mysterious reasons, the hotel had flatscreen TVs, mostly tuned to Fox, all over the place. There were even TVs in the publicly available bathrooms: I was really bothered by having to listen to the broadcast of George W. Bush reading from the Bible while in the toilet stall. This struck me as vaguely obscene.

While I am not in the age group targeted by the strategies described in the article, I somehow don't think that what's broke about TV news can be fixed by substituting younger talking heads. The NYT article opens,

Television networks are assigning reporters to a new beat this election year: people who don’t watch the evening news.
Ohh-kaaay. And why don't they translate all those running captions into text-messaging-speak? And maybe all the male announcers should be required to have those funny little Jesus beards. And . . .

Ah, marketing. The networks' plans seem to me like new shades of lipstick for the pig.

Anna Nicole Smith coverage: How low can it go?

I was going to utterly ignore the Anna Nicole Smith story; the story of her life and those around her was bad enough. But the media buzz around her death . . . oh, my goodness. So how much lower can it go than this: Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband: I could be Smith baby's father

Von Anhalt, who is Gabor's eighth husband, said he and Smith first met in the 1990s when Smith was still married to elderly oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. He said Smith approached him and Gabor at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

"She was a very big fan of Zsa Zsa and wanted to be like Zsa Zsa," he said. "She wanted to be a princess."

He said the two started an affair soon after, meeting over the years in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. For much of that time, he said, Smith urged him to make her a princess like his wife.

But short of divorcing the actress, he said the only solution would have been adopting Smith. Von Anhalt said he did consider that and even filled out adoption papers, but Gabor refused to sign them.

So Zsa Zsa has a stroke, so he tries to adopt Anna Nicole Smith? I can understand wanting, maybe, a pet, but wow. How loathsome. I feel diminished as a human being just reading about it.

So how low will it go?

How to Write an Author Bio: A Tutorial for Wikipedians & Others

We write three kinds of author bios in this household:

  1. short story introductions for year's best collections (which have tight wordage constraints);
  2. longer author notes for our larger historical anthologies. (A complete set of our author bios from The Ascent of Wonder is available online.) These give more detail on the author and are also usually used to carry on the overall argument of the book.
  3. And the occasional longer biographical essay, which usually ends up in some form in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

Because of my recent experience with Wikipedian "editing," I am considering releasing the complete set of author bios from the anthologies of both David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer to the Internet under Creative Commons in order to raise the level of author bio discourse. (There is a certain amount of hard labor involved in this, and I haven't figures out how to do it yet. Suggestions welcome.)

Since our story notes usually go with a particular story, I'm going to skip the discussion of how to position the story in the note, and instead focus on what information needs to be assembled about the author.

Here are the basic pieces of info we collect before writing a note:

  • The author's correct name and any known pseudonyms
  • year of and place of birth and death (if deceased)
  • where the author lives and minor family details
  • the URL of the author's website. Failing that, the URL of the best tribute site. If the author has a blog, the URL of the blog.
  • A brief summary of the highlights of the authors career and life. This may or may not include a summary of awards.
  • An interesting quote from the author, usually taken from online interviews but sometimes elicited in correspondence. Do collect listings of interviews,  the more the better.
  • The author's three most recent books, with brief descriptions (I love Amazon as a source for this info!)
  • The author's three most important books or stories
  • Relationships to others in the field or other notable people (Greg Bear is married to Poul Anderson's daughter; Rudy Rucker is the great grand son of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; etc.)
  • The authors significance in terms of trends within the science fiction field (Bruce Sterling was the chief spokesman for the cyberpunk movement)
  • Other interesting aspects of an author's life. Other areas of achievement.
  • I suppose I should add "in the tradition of . . ." but that is such a tried cliche of flap copy that we usually leave it out.

Lists of authors' awards and complete bibliography are usually available elsewhere. Link to them. But if the usual sources are inaccurate, provide better info. And finally, cover good new writers and cover people no one knows much about.

The most important thing to understand about writing an author bio is that this is a form of literary characterization. Details that enhance the bio by making the author a more rounded character may be crucial even if not otherwise relevant.

Prior CNN Headline: Prince Charles to Vacation in Steak on a Grill

Headline as revised on CNN this Morning: Prince Charles axes vacation in beef over carbon.
From the actual story:

Details of the prince's carbon footprint are scheduled to be published along with his annual office accounts later this year. The document will set out targets for the reduction of carbon emissions by his office and household.

First Worldwide Official Public Hanging?

Hanging Am I mistaken, or is the execution of Saddam Hussein the world's first worldwide official public hanging?

While I am certain that the world is a better place without Hussein, I am not certain that it is a better place for us having reached this particular macabre milestone. A return to public hangings, using the whole Internet as the village square, does not seem to me a step forward for humanity.

There was a time when, even in places like London, public executions were "perhaps the most anticipated and popular form of mass entertainment." From PBS:

. . . the punishment of criminals that was perhaps the most anticipated and popular form of mass entertainment. Whippings, floggings, being paraded through the streets in chains and enduring the "pillory" -- an open forum for mockery and verbal abuse -- were common punishments for petty crimes. Executions were an even more elaborate affair and quite often were set aside as public holidays. Occasionally, engraved invitations would be sent out. . . . Large crowds of rowdy, jeering onlookers - sometimes in numbers of 30,000 or more (80,000 was the record) -- would arrive in the morning to follow the prisoner to the hanging platform.

Chelwitch Are we there yet?

Of course, nothing like this can happen these days without being a carefully staged media event. If the public opinion in the US were to be that public exectutions are beneficial to the public, the State of Texas, all by itself, could have its own Execution Channel. So I wonder, out loud, what were the intentions of those who staged this media event. Clearly, this is intended as a world-changing event.

But what kind?

UPDATE: Tony Blair's response to the execution seems to me to display an acute awareness of England's own history of execution as a form of entertainment. This is from this morning's New York Times:

Perhaps the most delicately choreographed response came from Britain, whose prime minister, Tony Blair, took a lead as America’s closest ally in toppling Mr. Hussein while his Labor Party prides itself on opposing the death penalty.

In a statement issued an hour after the execution, Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, said: “I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account.”

However, she said, "the British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation."

Mr. Blair himself — who faced wide public opposition to the Iraq war, which has shaped his political legacy — refrained from commenting as he vacationed at the Miami waterfront home of Robin Gibb, a singer in the BeeGees. A spokesman for him said Ms. Beckett’s statement had been issued on behalf of the entire government, including Mr. Blair.

Technorati One does wonder if he watched the execution video with a BeeGee. Oh, the post-modernity of it!

Nonetheless, I'd say Blair's response shows an awareness of the larger cultural implications of reviving the tradition of public hanging as spectacle on a global basis.

Do we really want this sort of thing in our Internet Utopia? I don't.

I Missed the Malkin Fuss & Accompanying Buffoonery

Iraqslogger We've been frantically finishing both the Year's Best SF 12 and The Year's Best Fantasy 6 (yes, I know it's only December), plus our wonderful cat is dying: two weeks following surgery to remove tumors, she's developed some blood clots, one of which went to a hind leg, and today she seems to be losing use of her back legs.

So I completely missed the whole Easton Jordan/Michelle Malkin fuss, which culminated in Jordon graciously offering to fly Malkin and friend to Iraq. A quick review of the situation (between episodes of waiting on the cat hand and foot) is quite entertaining. Apparently, Wingnuttia thought Easton Jordan was a stuffed trophy on their club house wall. How dare he launch a blog, let alone a blog in collaboration with Robert Young Pelton.

My favorite entry into the wingnut strutting was this guy Curt at Say Anything (apparently living up to the name of the blog). Curt doesn't seem to get out much.

What has become even more curious to me is that a assistant (sic) of Eason Jordan, Robert Young Pelton, has been making the rounds of the blogs commenting on various Jamil Hussein posts.  He is basically trying to dismiss many of our worries that this is a media stunt of some kind.  But in one comment at Blackfive he made this assertion:

Hi guys, Robert Young Pelton just to clarify. The offer is genuine, nothing strange or unusual. We go to Iraq all the time so we figured if Michelle wants to see for herself why not. More importantly this is not a military embed. The iraqi in question is not part of any US project. His stated location is currently a no go zone for the US military so she will have to arrange her own security.

So Robert, or RYP as he likes to call himself in the comments, is trying to assert that the US Military cannot go into the Yarmouk district.  That make sense to anybody?  Since when has the US Military not been able to go into ANY area of Iraq?  Oh, but the AP sure could.......

If it were me, I'd take Pelton absolutely literally: Either pick up the phone and call a private military company for a security detail or cancel the trip.  Pelton actually goes places and reports back, and people rely on and trust their lives to his info.

I would recomend that Mr. Curt read the section in Pelton's Three Worlds Gone Mad concerning the trip to Chechnya before taking Pelton's comments as a slight to our military.

"What we are witnessing is a political purge of the CIA."

Safariscreensnapz115Larry Johnson has a another good post on Mary McCarthy ends with a powerful passage that bears wider broadcasting:

What we are witnessing is a political purge of the CIA. The Bush Administration is working to expel and isolate any intelligence officer who does not toe the line and profess allegiance to George. It is no longer about protecting and defending the Constitution. No. It is about protecting the indefensible reputation of George Bush.

The firing of Mary McCarthy and her trial in the media is a travesty. Particularly when George Bush continues to harbor leakers who put selfish political motives above the welfare of this nation. It remains to be seen if Mary McCarthy had anything to do with the leak of secret prisons. There is no doubt, however, that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Stephen Hadley, Dick Cheney, and George Bush directly participated in a campaign to leak misleading intelligence information to the American people. Patrick Fitzgerald's court filings make that point abundantly clear. Under George Bush, America is being asked to tolerate Gulag Politics. That is something I find intolerable and unconscionable.

And it is worth noting also that this was the week in which Bush apologized to the Chinese President for a protestor during the White House welcome ceremony and pushed the issue by making sure she was criminally charged.

Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, & Science Fiction Reviewing

Safariscreensnapz063_1My husband, David Hartwell, is quoted in Ron Hogan's new Publishers Weekly article "Too Geeky for Its Own Good?" on the new New York Times science fiction reviewer David Itzkoff (pictured below):

David_itzkoffAnd some sci-fi publishers still see Itzkoff's column as a hopeful sign. Among them is David Hartwell, the Tor senior editor who worked on Counting Heads. "In these difficult days, an enthusiastic reviewer for science fiction is a gem," he notes, citing Michael Dirda of the Washington Post as the nation's only top-notch book reviewer willing to discuss SF novels seriously. "There isn't anybody like that at the Times and never has been. They just can't get beyond the modernist separation of high art and low art. I like Itzkoff's enthusiasm, though, and I'm interested in seeing how he develops as a reviewer. I would like to have somebody at the New York Times promoting the idea that science fiction might be fun to read." (Gerald Jonas's one-page column of capsule reviews, after running on a near-monthly basis for years, began to slowly disappear once Sam Tanenhaus took over the Review.)

Hogan also posted material that didn't make it into the final piece on his blog,  Galleycat.  See also Emerald City & The Mumpsimus.

Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!

From the Kenya Times, this entertaining passage:

After a long silence, Artur Margaryan, now says he has brought to his residence more dogs and crocodiles to beef up his security. This is in addition to the ten dogs he had imported earlier. Westlands legislator Fred Gumo and his Makadara counterpart Reuben Ndolo should probably be warned not to take their threats to storm his residence, lest they be devoured by the crocodiles.

There's something reminiscent of The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly here. I've been wondering where this story is going. Perhaps it will end with the the Arturs being eaten by their, er, security forces.

(Who is cleaning up after all the animals, anyway? They have how many killer dogs? Wonder how it smells in there.)

I remain really interested in finding out who these guys are and where they came from.

On a more somber note, while these clowns hole up with large but untraceable amounts of cash, famine spreads across East Africa. And meanwhile Kenya is also having an outbreak of measles because of lack of vaccinations.

See also my previous posts:

Below the cut is an abundance of related links along with what I thought was the best line from each.

Continue reading "Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!" »

The Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780)

There are two very different bills with very similar names that are sometimes being discussed interchangeably. Short version: Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780) mostly good; Global INTERNET Freedom Act (HR 4741) lame.

HR 4741 attempts to address the problem of Internet censorship, but its authors seem innocent of the fact that the US is exporting the tools to do the thing the bill's authors want combated.

On  the other hand, HR 4780, on a quick read through, looks pretty good and would sort out a lot of the Google-China type issues, and also seem to me to lay the groundwork for restricting exports of SmartFilter-type stuff, and also some of the most worrisome DRM enforcement tools that may be developed. (Wouldn't it be great to kill DRM by keeping the enforcement tools from being exported from the US into the global market?)

Before leaping into the fray, I want to have HR 4780 explained to me by someone who really knows how to read this sort of thing, but it looks awfully good to me.

Both Rebecca MacKinnon and the EFF have weighed in and have misgivings with the part of the bill specifying that would require US Internet companies to hand over all lists of forbidden words provided to them by "any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country." But I find one passage of Danny O'Brien of the EFF's discussion of what he'd like to see instead at least as problematic as what he intends to replace.

Don't Do Direct Business with Forces of State Oppression

Companies should be prohibited from providing intentional ongoing support and assistance to those who abuse human rights in foreign countries. While many products such as filtering software, Internet monitoring programs and programs to unlock protected data can have multiple uses, American companies should not be actively and knowingly providing services that facilitate censorship or repression.

This is sufficiently vague as to allow for implementation along the lines of a trade embargo in which individuals needing access to US technology to overcome their oppression might be denied it in the name of not doing business with oppressive states.

And MacKinnon remarks,

But we must act in a way that respects the rights of people in other countries as much as we respect our own rights.

These are nice ideals, but I don't see how any kind of Internet filtering technology could be meaningfully restricted without ways of monitoring what was being filtered. My preferred tactic is adding censorware and related technologies to the Munitions List such that their export would require State Department approval, which would be given or not on a case-by-case basis. This would also require a recognition on the part of the US firms creating censorware that it is in a sense a military-type technology and needs to be handled accordingly.

Even if it is not perfect, HR 4780 has a lot to recommend it. Reporters Without Borders apparently supports the bill, and I am tentatively inclined to do likewise. Also, while HR 4780 does not specifically add censorware to the Munitions List, it lays the groundwork for that possibility.

Certainly, we don't need yet another situation in which the US plays global cop, but the bill is aimed mostly at policing our own technology exports in a situation in which we are exporting the tools for dystopia.

Insitutionalizing the Kenya Media Raid: A proposed bill to turn the current self-regulated Media Council of Kenya into a statutory media council, "essentially becoming a censorship body."

Over the past few days, I've spent a lot of time combing through the media overage of the aftermath of the Kenya media raids, which were an appalling spectacle of a corrupt government attempting to choke off the Kenyan public's access to information about the functioning of their own government. The crux of the issue is whether it is proper for the press to question the actions of the government: this is one of the most basic issues involving freedom of the press and the need for transparancy. The current Kenyan government does not wish to be criticized.

What emerges from the aftermath of the media raids is that one piece of what has gone very wrong with the current government there is the arrival of two very strange Armenian investors, Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargysan, who strut around Nairobi with an I already bought this country; what's your problem? attitude, when asked questions about their business and their involvement by the media. The details are floridly jaw-dropping; really over the top. And the media raids seem to have come about not because the Kenyan media is irresponsible, but rather because the sitting government has so much to hide.

So now the Kenyan Parliament has reopened. And on that opening day, Kenya's President Kibaki remarked:

Although the freedom of the Press cannot be over-emphasised, it is clear that it must be exercised within the bounds of responsibility.

SO. What are those bounds to be? Hmm? Well. There is this "Media Bill" which will turn the Media Council of Kenya into a censorship body. From Embassy: Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly:

So far, a total of six Kenyan journalists have been arrested and charged in court of publishing rumours likely to cause alarm. They are two from the Standard group and four from a weekly newspaper, The Citizen.

The media fraternity is gripped with fears that it's facing a chilling period. The government has published a Media Bill due to be tabled in parliament for enactment. According to the Bill, press accreditation of those considered rebel journalists is to be withdrawn. The current self-regulated Media Council of Kenya would be transformed into a statutory media council, essentially becoming a censorship body. The Bill will also allow for the creation of a media content commission that, with a fine tooth comb, will check on content in both electronic and print media to ensure the media toe the government line. Toeing the line will also be expected of public publications published by the civil society and the faith community.

Faced with this uncertain future, the Media Council of Kenya has called for a media stakeholders meeting to be held Friday, March 24 to launch a campaign against the Bill. . . .

The Chairman of Media Council of Kenya Board of Trustees Dr. Absalom Mutere described the raid on the Standard group as "exhibition of raw power," adding "my take is we ain't seen nothing yet."

Scary stuff. In the past few weeks of combing through this stuff, I've become rather fond of the Kenyan media. If the media raids were to become institutionalized through this legislation, it would be a loss to all of us. So let's do something about it.

How about the rest of us try to find out what is going on there. Who are these Armenian "investors"? I think we can find out. What is their real business, and how is the money flowing through the Kenyan political establishment? I think we should help out by taking a worldwide interest in this.  I think we would all be better for it.

(I would be very interested in hearing from anyone with expertise on Armenian organized crime.)

Taking the Plame Wars to a Whole New Level

Now HERE's a news article that caused me to create a new tag: What were you thinking? The Chicago Tribune seems to be trying to outdo Bob Novak. Not content to out one CIA agent, they're trying to collect the whole set, or at least want us to think that's what they've done. (This reminds me a bit of the fake reports that Google Earth was being used to spy on our troop positions.) What were they thinking, anyway?

Here's the spin du jour: Forget Scooter Libby, the CIA has bigger problems. The pocket watch swings back and forth. You're getting sleepy, very sleepy: Forget Scooter Libby. Forget Scooter Libby. Got it?

Larry C. Johnson has a really good post on the subject that I'm going to mirror in it's entirety.

Well, the theater of the absurd that tries to pass for journalism has gone to new lows with a goofy story in today's Chicago Tribune. The article, Internet Blows CIA Cover claims, "It's easy to track America's covert operatives. All you need to know is how to navigate the Internet."

Oh really? Okay Mr. Crewdson (the author of this nonsense). Please search the internet and identify 100 CIA officers for me. Go ahead. Give it a shot. Oh, I forgot, first you need a name. You do not just enter a random name and come up with a flashing sign that says, "this guy is CIA". So really what you are saying is that if I tell you someone works for the CIA you can do a search and find out that someone, who is a private consultant, once worked for the U.S. State Department? In other words, you first have to be tipped off to look at a particular person.

Well, Valerie Plame was safe until the White House pointed reporters in her direction. Even if Crewdson's assertion that Valerie's cover was "thin" (it was not), what we know for a fact is that her neighbors did not know she worked for the CIA. Only those who had a need to know knew.

Crewdson insinuates, but doesn't demonstrate, that a simple search of the internet enables one to easily identify CIA employees. The true story is more complicated. Crewdson's searches were conducted after the names of individuals and companies appeared in the news. He searched on those names and found links to the U.S. Government. Nowhere on the internet will you find a list of undercover folks that says, "they really work for the CIA". Crewdson is right about one point, the CIA has done a lousy job of developing effective cover positions. But that is a failure of leaders like Tenet rather than officers, such as Valerie Plame.

But here is what is really fascinating. Crewdson says he identified 2600 CIA officers but, out of concern for national security, declined to out them. Thank you Mr. Crewdson. At least you understand that blowing someones cover, even a thin one, would be an act of treason. I am in favor of having Crewdson give Bob Novak a lesson in journalistic ethics and responsibility.

There is no such thing as ironclad cover. Whether Valerie Plame's cover was thin or deep, the basic fact remains--she was an undercover intelligence officer and expected senior government officials to protect this secret. Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney, who learned that she was a CIA officer, were obligated to protect that secret. Instead, they betrayed Valerie and helped destroy an intelligence network that was devoted to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's the real story that true Americans should be fretting over.

I share Johnson's scepticism that the Chicgo Tribune's reporters have done what they claim. If they really had, they wouldn't have published the article. (And the scenario seems to come from an alternate universe in which the printed phone book was never invented.) But it does seem that this takes the Plame Wars to a whole new level in which our intelligence agents are now to be outed in bulk and not individually. While the agency is not staffed entirely by perfect angels, and while I enjoy a good outing as much as the next blogger, if we are to have intelligence services at all, this kind of political operative gamesmanship has got to stop.

Kenya Roundup: With Press Freedom Under Seige, the Kenyan Government Hires an Ad Agency to Educate the Public about Corruption

A lot was happening yesterday with Kenya and the aftermath of the media raids, and I didn't really get a chance to get a look at what was up. So here goes:

The Independent, Saatchi hired to help Kenya's 'war on corruption'. Oh, what amazing timing. Oh my goodness you just can't make this stuff up.

The Kenyan government has hired the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency to handle its nationwide anti-corruption campaign.

President Mwai Kibaki launched the country's anti-corruption campaign in Nairobi last month. It began with the creation of a logo - an eye with a tiny Kenyan flag superimposed on the pupil - and a catchphrase which urges people to "see Kenya through proud eyes".

Saatchi says it envisions a campaign stretching over three years. The first phase aims to "change mindsets" and the second will show how corruption affects everybody. A third - as yet undefined phase - is expected to be "more positive" and will be launched sometime in 2008.

Saatchi's creative director, Samira Mathews, said one of the problems in Kenya was that people did not know how to identify corruption. "People have no idea that identity documents and birth certificates are freely available. They don't know their rights," she said.

Part of Saatchi's approach will be to try to mobilise people into acting against corruption. Cathrine Kinyany, a spokeswoman for Saatchi and Saatchi in Kenya, said: "We need to demonstrate the cost of corruption by saying these are the roads we could drive on, this is the building we could have, this is what our schools could look like. There must be a clear demonstration of the success of the campaign to keep people believing in the value of honesty."

However, the launch of the campaign comes at a time when the Kenyan government is embroiled in a series of corruption scandals.

From the Financial Times, World Bank anger over Kenya raid:

The World Bank's top official in Kenya said yesterday that a police raid on a leading media group was inexcusable, adding that the unprecedented media crackdown could affect relations between donors and the government.

Colin Bruce, the bank's country director, told the Financial Times the bank was waiting for an explanation for last Thursday's night raid on the Standard Group, which forced a tele-vision station off the air for more than 12 hours.

"I recognise there have been statements made about internal intelligence and matters of that sort, but frankly I cannot think of a scenario under which that kind of action as it turned out can be excused," Mr Bruce said. "It's very serious, and in fact we are awaiting an explanation . . . and it could in fact affect that relationship [with the donors]."

From African News Dimension: Central Bank Boss could face corruption charges

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission has completed investigations on Central Bank governor Andrew Mullei over corruption allegations and asked the Attorney-General to take action against him.

It means Dr Mullei could face court charges arising from allegations concerning his management, which had caused a major split between the Treasury and the Central Bank Board.

"We did receive some complaints, allegations, which we did investigate some time back," Mr Nicholas Simani, the spokesman of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) told reporters.

"We came up with specific recommendations, which we forwarded to the Attorney-General for appropriate action," he added but refused to divulge details of the recommendations.

Mr Mullei is at the centre of a series of allegations raised in an anonymous letter by staff, which were first raised in May last year. The Treasury, which sits on the bank board, took exception to the way the complaints, were handled by other directors and suggested there was a risk of a cover-up.

IOL: Angry Kenyans swarm through streets in hordes

Nairobi - Thousands of angry Kenyans, including prominent opposition politicians, paraded through Nairobi on Tuesday protesting last week's police heavy-handed raid on the country's second largest media group.

More than 2 000 people took part in the demonstration organised by opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), a coalition of parties opposed to President Mwai Kibaki, and poured scorn on last Thursday's raid, which saw a Standard Group's printing press damaged, thousands of newspapers burnt and its television station taken off the air for several hours.

"We are demonstrating in order to protect press freedom in Kenya. Press freedom in Kenya is under siege," former roads minister and ODM leader told the crowd that had gathered outside Kibaki's office.

And from Flickr, a photo of the March 2nd raid on the East African Standard taken by Fredrick Onyango:

The caption reads:

Standard newspaper employee run past copies of the newsprint bundles ready for distribution as he flee from the security personnel called the "Kanga Squad" which raided the printing plant and destroyed copies of newsprint that was to be circulated to the public the next day. The squad destroyed newsprint worth millions of shillings and switched of a television station owned by the standard media group.

Secure Computing, Smart Filter, & the Female Breast

MbThis is part of a series on Secure Computing and SmartFilter. The image to the right is via the Got BreastMilk? Project.

Following the New York Times story Popular Web Site Falls Victim to a Content Filter, concerning Secure Computing's product SmartFilter blocking BoingBoing,  I wrote the following letter to Tomo Foote-Lennox, of Secure Computing, who is apparently the guy in charge of deciding what is smut and what isn't. He claims to be a defender of the interests of children:

In an e-mail message to Xeni Jardin, another of Boing Boing's chiefs, Tomo Foote-Lennox, a director of filtering data for Secure Computing, asked why the bloggers were starting a war. "We discussed several ways that you could organize your site so that I could protect the kids and you could distribute all the information you wanted," Mr. Foote-Lennox wrote.

One of the BoingBoing posts that Secure Computing used to justify classifying involved a shot showing a cat attempting to nurse on a woman's breast: Japanese TV show about cat that loves human milk. The image was very blurry and involved less actual nudity than your average shot of an Oscar-night dress. As a very experienced nursing mother, my hunch was that nursing, not an interspecies relationship, nor the expanse of cleavage, was at issue. So I wrote to Secure Computing's Censor-in-Chief to ask about this issue.

Nursing_1Regular readers of this blog are aware that I write with some frequency about breastfeeding issues, and may even be aware that when BBC Radio needed a Representative of American Womanhood to talk about nursing in public, they picked me. I have spent hundreds of hours nursing in public and have nursed on most major airlines and even nursed from the podium while doing public speaking. This is not a political stance, but rather a matter of pure practicality. The BBC pitted me against a man who said over and over that Public nudity is not socially acceptable, in the context of arguing that a nursing mother (Margaret Boyle-White) who refused to stop when confronted by UK police should have been arrested. I was followed on the program by Scottish MP Elaine Smith, who had introduced the bill recently passed at the time of the program making it an offense to stop mothers breastfeeding in public. (Preventing a woman from breastfeeding is already illegal in the State of New York.)

So I wrote the following letter to Foote-Lennox, to try to tease out whether what I suspected was true:

Dear Thom Foote-Lennox:

I am writing to express concern about your remarks concerning BoingBoing in the New York Times. As a long time BoingBoing reader, I am quite certain that it is by no stretch of the imagination a porn site. But I am also a nursing mother, so I am also concerned about what exactly causes you and your company to draw the conclusion the the nursing cat post was porn.

Nursing is not a sexual act. While there exist adults who sexualize children and the activities of children such as nursing, that is not what is going on in that image. The nursing cat seems to me simply a stand-in for a breast pump. Breast engorgement is a real phenomenon and dealing with it is a practical, not a sexual problem.

So what exactly about the nursing cat is sexual?


Kathryn Cramer
Pleasantville, New York

He replied:

We never called it porn.  We have categories for pornography, but we rated this as nudity.  Some of our customers want to limit the viewing of nude pictures in their schools or offices.  We give them the ability to make that choice.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

So a site that, say, depicted public breast feeding would make your list as nudity?


He replied:

Look at our categories on our web site.  Medical diagrams (women nursing cats on television don't count) are rated as nudity if they are explicit, but also as health, educational or consumer information.  Many elementary schools choose to block all nudity, but high schools usually exempt health and education, meaning if it is health or education, you ignore any other category it may have.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

You are aware that in some countries where women are not even allowed to expose their faces in public, it is socially acceptable for women to bare their breasts to feed their infants, yes?


It strikes me when I read his replies that, first of all, my basic intuition is correct. It was exposing the human breast in the context of nursing that was perceived as sexual and inappropriate, not the surreal twist given it by Japanese TV.

Nursey_1When breastfeeding in public for those hundreds of hours (sometimes even in elementary schools [gasp!]; always with at least one child present), I utterly failed to to provide health, educational, and consumer information. Here's voice-over I forgot to give: You know, dear, using breastmillk as eye-drops works as well for clearing up pink-eye as commercial pharmaceuticals! And it works pretty well in clearing up ear infections when used as ear drops as well! I assumed you knew. You did know that, didn't you? Mothers: always remember to educate the public while nursing in public, lest your public nursing be taken as some kind if sexual act!

Secondly: here I am talking to the Internet Censor-in-Chief for the US Military and their overseas contractors and for three countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar), and he has this oddly sexualized idea of breastfeeding. He's just this guy, and he's entitled to his personal quirks, but exactly how did this situation evolve to put him in charge of deciding what is sexual and what is not? What is porn and what is not? What he was giving me was distanced by being a description of how software works, but was really very close to the rantings of that strange little man the BBC pitted me against who just kept repeating "nudity is not socially acceptable."

Combining this with questions about the legitimacy of Secure Computing's claims to have found vast quantities of porn on some sites, I conclude that the awarding of these sweeping contracts to them was really quite premature, even if you accept the idea that the military and three whole countries need their Internet censored (which I don't). What exactly qualifies this guy to evaluate what is and is not nudity, porn, inappropriate, etc.? Did he have some special training? Even Justice Potter Stewart was reduced to trying to define porn by saying "I knowing when I see it." Secure Computing offers much more than a definition: multiple categories of inappropriate material, each with their own definition. So just where does this guy Tomo get off telling the world exactly the manner in which the female breast may and may not be displayed on the Internet?

What I think we have here is censorship practiced as a kind of fetishism: Secure Computing employees read the Internet with a dirty mind and then have their way with it based on what they read into what they see.

Kenya: The Standard Is Back Online

The East African Standard, a paper attacked during yesterday's media shutdown in Kenya, is back online and back in business. They have an impressive video of the masked men who attacked CCTV in Kenya taken by security camera, which is available for viewing. I'm going to try to arrange to mirror it so we don't suck up all their bandwith; it is well worth watching.


Media Shutdown in Kenya

See Mentalacrobatics for excellent coverage of the media shutdown.

I went to look at a news story on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation site a moment ago, and on the page there was this ominous message, which I take to be a form of SOS:

BREAKING NEWS:  Kenya Television Network, KTN is off-air and Standard newspapers off streets after people said to be security agents conducted an overnight operation shutting down their facilities. Information Minister denies prior knowledge of the raid. KBCNewsAlert…


They also have a story on the raid on a newspaper printing plant there:

Raid on media House condemned
The Standard Group Chief Executive Tom Mshindi has condemned the invasion on the Group’s printing plant and offices, saying it was an unwarranted affront on Media freedom. seems to have the most detailed account:

Close to 100 masked men, some armed with AK-47 assault rifles, raided the offices and printing press of Kenya's Standard Group, stopping the operations of its television station and newspaper, writes Eric Nyakagwa.

The masked men staged simultaneous raids on the editorial offices of Kenya Television Network (KTN) and the group’s printing press in a Nairobi industrial area, where they vandalized machines and carried away some machinery crucial for production.
At both premises, the raiders, who struck shortly after midnight on Wednesday night, roughed up security officers who were on duty and managed to access the group’s headquarters after one of the men in the group identified themselves as a police officer and demanded entry.

The security men were all herded into a corner as the attackers demanded access to the editorial floors and the KTN transmission room where they took away a computer, some power units and interfered with cables, effectively disabling transmission.

At the printing press, they vandalised equipment and burned most of the Thursday papers, which were either rolling off the press or were being packaged fordistribution.

See also

  • African News Dimension: Kenya : Police raid, shut down KTN and burn Standard newspaper
  • Reuters: KENYA: Leading media house shut down by armed men

    The men, who stormed the media house at 1.00 a.m. local time [10.00 GMT], took away computers and transmission equipment, damaged the presses and set fire to Thursday's editions of the country's oldest newspaper. "We have very strong evidence to suggest that these acts were carried out by the police," Mshindi said.

  • The BBC: 'Police' raids close Kenya paper

    Staff say they were beaten and forced to lie on the floor

  • AP: Gunmen shut down Kenyan paper, TV station
  • The closure came after three journalists were detained without charge for a story Saturday that alleged Kibaki met secretly with a key opponent. Kibaki and former environment minister-turned Kibaki foe, Kalonzo Musyoka, have denied the meeting took place.

    Mutua said police on Tuesday summoned The Saturday Standard Managing Editor Chacha Mwita, News Editor Dennis Onyango and journalist Ayub Savula and questioned them.

    The journalists remain in police custody, and authorities have yet to comment about the detentions. Mshindi has said no charges have been filed.

Alex at Yorkshire Ranter provides more details and Kenyan diplomatic contact info world wide. See also Xeni at BoingBoing.

CnnkenyaUPDATE: The kenyan government now admits to the raid. From CNN:

The police spokesman said journalists at the Standard had been paid to write a series of fabricated articles about the government, and that police were acting on intelligence information about "an intended act" that would threaten national security.

I've been trying to parse the politics of all this on the fly. There is an interesting Flickr photostream, also featured on BoingBoing, concerning governmental hostility to journalists in Kenya. In it figures Health minister Charity Ngilu. 105418887_67db38b9cb_mThe photo to the right is captioned:

Health Minister Charity Ngilu found herself in a tight spot when journalists blocked her way. They wanted to know which side she was supporting during the referendum elections in Kenya held in November last year. She voted 'Yes' but the government lost their quest for a new constituion by more than a three million voters who said 'No' against the government two.

There are some recent articles in which she is featured. One I found intrguing was this one from the Standard: Ngilu says all parties in Narc must be consulted

The National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) chairperson, Charity Ngilu, wants constituent parties to be consulted before party recruitment and elections are held.

The Health minister, who dismissed reports that her colleagues were forming another party, said none of the partners in Narc should be ignored.

"First, we must sit down and agree on modalities before anyone calls for member recruitment or elections," she said.

A local dairy reported yesterday that President Kibaki’s allies were split on whether to form another party, Narc-Kenya, or hold elections for the ruling coalition.

Ngilu said despite the woes afflicting the coalition, those still supporting it must agree on whether to hold elections or not.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has abandoned the coalition to join the Official Opposition party, Kanu, to form the Orange Democratic Movement. The two coalitions are fielding candidates in the Kasipul-Kabondo by-election scheduled for today.

Livestock minister Joseph Munyao has backed the move to form another party.

Munyao, who is the Democratic Party secretary-general, said they were trying to find ways of "working round" the issue.

"We are burning midnight oil to come up with a solid body for next year’s General Election. If we decide that it will be the same coalition then it will be," he said.

Burning the midnight oil? Looks to me like someone's been burning the midnight newspaper. There's also this story: Ngilu, Central MPs headed for NARC showdown

I have a few correspondents in that neck of the woods and am trying to get a sense of what to make of all this. I'll let you know what I find out.

It is now March 3rd there, and the new front page is up on the KBC site:

Police admit raid on media

GREAT BLOG COVERAGE of the media shutdown from Mentalacrobatics in Kenya. I'm just starting to read it.

There is a letter being crossposted on the blogs of Kenya which reads:

Press Freedom: Letter to Kibaki
Dear President Kibaki:

On March 2, 2006 government forces raided the headquarters and printing plant of the Standard Group. In addition to destroying equipment and newspapers, they shut down the KTN news station.

This latest attack follows the jailing of three journalists from Standard Newspaper, attacks on Citizen Weekly, and ongoing harassment of journalists by government-sponsored forces.

I urge you to condemn these attacks and to support freedom of the press.

**Please copy and paste a copy of this letter on your blog. You may alter the wording to suit your needs.

The rest of us outside Kenya should also urge President Kibaki to condem the attacks and support freedom of the press.

Mentalacrobatics has a number of really fine posts on the situation. I'm going to mirror two of them to get them to the larger audience they deserve:

Raid on EA Standard

The raid was a matter of State Security. When you rattle a snake you must be prepared to be bitten by it.
National Security minister, John Michuki

I had written this long post on the illegal raid on the EA Standard this morning when this quote by Michuki a man so detached from reality he should be not be holding any position of power, lit up my screen. The man has lost it completely. He needs to go now.

OK let’s just make this official, our government has totally lost it. An elite police force, set up to fight armed robbery, carjacking, outlawed sects, illegal paramilitary militias is used to shut down a media house? Madness.

A quick read of the story has identified two areas of concern for me:

  1. The raid was led by Mr James Njiru, assistant police commissioner in charge of operations at the provincial police headquarters. Njiru’s boss the Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Mwangi King’ori, claims that he did NOT know that the raid was taking place. Even more shocking, The head of the Police, the number one guy, Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali has expressed shock at the raid on the Standard offices. Ali, who called the ‘Standard’ newsroom from Seychelles where he is on official duty, said he was unaware of the raid and said he would be issuing a statement later after getting the full report from his officers in Nairobi. It looks like the raid was timed to coincide with Ali being out of the country.
  2. The raid was aimed at a media house, yet the Information Minister Mutahi Kagwe claims he did NOT know the raid was taking place.

Who ordered the raid? Who knew about the raid? Why wasn’t the police chain of command observed and informed? Or rather, who is powerful enough to ignore the police chain of command? All roads lead to State House as Michuki proudly boasts.

This has got to be the most stupid thing that the government could do. It is so stupid you start to look for a hidden story. There must be something else going on … but no it was just a stupid move.

What have they achieved? The EA Standard will still come out, this type of action seems to galvanise not intimidate Kenyan journalists, and with the power of the internet the whole world is talking about this story. Search for Kenya Police Raid on Google news and you will find that CNN, BBC, San Jose Mercury News - USA, Reuters, Xinhua - China, Financial Times - UK, Washington Post, Mail & Guardian Online - South Africa, United Press International, Pravda - Russia, African News Dimension, CPJ Press Freedom Online, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times, India all carry the story and those are only from page 1 of around 4 (and counting) pages on the story. 

What the hell is Alfred Mutua going to bang on about at his next press conference? How will he be able to look at his former colleagues in the eye?
Pictures from the BBC

    1 comment    March 2nd, 2006            

Press harrasement Kibaki style

Two Standard editors and a reporter were yesterday questioned and detained by police for hours  over a story, which claimed that Kalonzo Musyoka had met Kibaki at State House two weeks ago, published last Saturday … Afterwards, the three said they were not questioned but were asked to record what they knew about the story and disclose their source … they were then told to wait for instructions “from above” on the way forward.

This is ridiculous. The one thing that drives me mad about Kenya is the stupid, “orders from above” nonsense. Here we have professionals doing their job and they get harassed by police for no reason other than, “orders from above”. If anyone feels that the journalists have broken the law then let him follow due process and take them to court.  Kenya Democracy Project asks, “… how insecure can a regime be that they move in with a sledge hammer to stifle a story- especially if it is allegedly “not true”.”

Do not forget that this comes hot on the heels of last week’s move to muzzle the press when thirteen employees of the Weekly Citizen were arrested as dozens of police officers swooped on vendors and confiscated copies of the newspaper. The 43 newspaper vendors who were also arrested for selling the newspapers were behind bars for 3 days and then released without being charged. Kumekucha observers, “Reading between the lines, the whole objective was just to intimidate the poor newspaper vendors so that they’ll be frightened to sell the next issue of the Weekly Citizen.” I agree with him. All this at a time when the government spokesman is busy spending tax payers money on adverts about “Democratic Space” that President Kibaki has so kindly given us.

Kalonzo Musyoka should stand up and voice his disapproval with these latest arrests. That would be true leadership.

    7 comments    March 1st, 2006            

There is a webring of 159 Kenyan blogs. (The members of the Kenyan Blogs Webring are spread all over the world.) Links to them can be found here. Some of them are covering the media shut down. (As is usual with a bunch of blogs, many have not been upated in a while.) Poking around the in-Kenya discussions is interesting, in that there is a certain contingent saying stuff like I know where the government is coming from. I'm sorry, but that response smacks strongly of Stockholm Syndrome. There can be NO EXCUSE for the Kenyan government to behave this way.

UPDATE: From the Thinker's Room, blogging from Kenya:

Well! Whenever I say Mwai Kibaki is the type of man who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, he grits his teeth in determination and exemplifies the notion. And then when I say that no matter how low the bar is set, the Kibaki Government will find a way to slither under.

For me, this photo by Fredrick Onyango just says it all:


The caption reads:

Journalist take to task former internal security minister Dr. Chris Murungaru over the Anglo leasing scandal that has fleeced the country billions of Kenyan shillings. The minister is said to have sanctioned the purchase of Military and naval ships during his tenure as a minister.With the vibrant and libralisation of the media in Kenya, most of the government official are being put on the spot on how they are spending the taxpayers money.

I just love the expressions on the faces of the members of the press in this photo and others in the photostream.

UPDATE: Mentalacrobatics has security camera pix from the raid on CCTV which I have taken the liberty of uploading to Flickr so that they may achieve broader distribution:


Mentalacrobatics comments on the pix:

Here are some stills taken during the raid from internal CCTV cameras. The raid were carried out by a rapid response unit code-named the Kanga Squad, detectives from Nairobi provincial CID headquarters and officers from the General Service Unit. They are wearing bright orange reflective vests with “QRU” for Quick Rescue Unit/Quick Response Unit which indicates their day job of fight hardcore criminals like carjackers, bank robbers and murder hit squads.

These pictures are very disturbing. In some of them they have an employee spread eagled on the floor with a gun pressed against his/her head and a boot in his/her face. Remember these are NOT criminals being man handled like this. These are Kenyan men and women who went to work only to be pistol whipped and roughed up by an elite police squad.

Here are some very-much-to-the-point comments from au lait in Kenya:

So, surprise, surprise. 'Our' dear government has once again proven that it is hellbent on its peculiar course of self-destruction. As one person said today, this government is surely "suicidal".

Enyewe seriously, what were they thinking?

That's the first thing that came to mind when I woke up today to the news that KTN and Standard offices had been invaded commando style by guys in masks and the police.

It really comes doesn't come as news that our government is not made up of the sharpest tools, BUT did the person who ordered this attack even stop to think? At all?

Who told those guys to attack after midnight? Is that the only time that those who sit in State House can find their way to I&M or Nation Centre (invoking precedent here). And then some bright guy, decided they should wear ski masks. I wonder if they bought them from the same store Al-Qai'dah frequents.

I've come across people defending the government's action but really? I mean really people really? Those guys were thugs!!!! Common thugs. Why the dramatic ski masks if this was all a clean exercise to rein in an out-of-control media house?

Somalia & Our Two Party System: "Cut Run" vs. "Finish What We Started"? Or, Bush's Third War

Over the past couple of weeks, the meme of the "Cut & Run" Democrats vs. the "Finish What We Started" Republicans has been a big Republican talking point.

And here's a nice graph from Blogpulse showing how blogs ingested the message:


One of the key examples used in this rhetoric is the US pullout of Somalia in 1993. And there's some very weird stuff going on involving Somalia just now.

Here's Rush Linbaugh a couple of days ago:

Remember the history of bin Laden. Bin Laden only went to places that were stateless. He went to Somalia, a bunch of warlords, he could control them. Somalia. Afghanistan. All stateless. Taliban took over in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda was running Somalia. Still may be.

Is the "Finish What We Started" wing of the Republican party considering going back into Somalia to take on Al Qaeda and the pirates? Mogadishu is the locus of the psychogeography of their rhetoric, after all. What a venue it would be for demonstrating that our president is Man Enough to finish what the Democrats couldn't.

SO, are we headed for Bush's third war?

Freedom of the Press, 21st Century Style: Freedom to Stop the Presses?

From the Christian Science Monitor: British paper: Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera. And just so the press gets the idea of where it stands in the 21st century pecking order, the British government responds by invoking the Official Secrets Act. God, what a mess!

A leaked memo in Britain has once again caused an uproar. This time, the British government has acted to prevent any further publication.

The Times of London reports that the attorney general of Britain has warned British papers that they will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act if they publish details of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush in which Mr. Bush is alleged to have suggested bombing Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite TV channel based in Qatar.

Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, informed ... editors including that of The Times that “publication of a document that has been unlawfully disclosed by a Crown servant could be in breach of Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act.”
The Guardian reports that this is the first time the British government has threatened to use the Official Secrets Act to prevent publication of the details of a leaked document. "Though it has obtained court injunctions against newspapers, the government has never prosecuted editors for publishing the contents of leaked documents, including highly sensitive ones about the run-up to the invasion of Iraq."

On Tuesday, the British paper the Daily Mirror published the details of a government memo, marked Top Secret, that recorded a conversation between Bush and Mr. Blair that took place in the White House last April 16. The Daily Mirror's editor said he informed Downing Street that he was going to print details of the memo, but was not told at the time to stop. That order did not come until the day after the first story appeared in the paper.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Freedom to Stop the Presses?

Dawn at the Bird Cathedral

OK: It's 5:28AM and I'm bright-eyed awake. Now I know why my kids woke up at this time yesterday. It's when the birds start chirping and it begins to get light. Because of a nearby rock wall, sound has interesting properties in our back yard, and we have some very tall trees. At dawn at this time of year -- between now and late July -- our back yard becomes a bird cathedral; there is a choir of birds and the patches of bright orange sky through the trees are like stained glass windows.

SO here I am. I've made coffee and switched on one of the ambient space stations available over the cable modem which plays music I won't even notice while concentrating on what I'm doing.

I jot down stuff that was kicking around in my head during the night:

ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: (1) Is anyone actually running against GWB for the Republican nomination? ANSWER: It's not allowed; forwards into Man and party are indistinguishable. (2) Does Santorum have a dog? What kind? Are there any pictures of man and dog on the web? ANSWER: Though Santorum wants his constituents to know that he is deeply concerned about dog breeding, I have found no information available on the web about whether he has a dog.

NEXT, I go to Breaking News at to see what other people (mostly to the East of me, given the time) think is important in this morning's news cycle. Technorati is quite handy at this time of day. Topics haven't yet been beaten to death. Also, there are a lot of smart bloggers who have an eye for important stories, but who aren't writers (lowercase 'w'). They either make links without comment, or their comments read like this: Disgraceful and disgusting acts of atrocities are ignored. So provides first readers for the slush pile of the morning's news. I'm a morning person.

Speaking of morning people, baby's awake. David brings her to me and goes back to bed. I nurse her and type with one hand.

The moment's top story is from the Independent: The allies' broken promises:

Tony Blair: 'We don't touch it, and the US doesn't touch it'  MTV, 7 March
The reality: Yesterday's draft UN resolution gives total control of Iraq's oil revenues to the US and UK until an Iraqi government is established

etc. Glad someone's keeping track. I've been exploring this general theme of shifting political realities, but have nothing immediate to say -- brief mental flash of the cover of Philip K. Dick's MARTIAN TIMESLIP. I'm not sure what to do with it yet. So I put this shiny infopebble in the bucket and move on down the beach.

The #2 technorati item is a fairly hard-hitting editorial in the Guardian, also on the proposed UN resolution: The new caliphs; US and Britain seek a free hand in Iraq

The new joint draft resolution is in other respects a deeply unsatisfactory document. Common sense again suggests that the UN should be afforded a leading role, as in Afghanistan, in facilitating the creation of a post-Saddam system of governance. Impartial UN mediators would be far better positioned to instil confidence, among Iraqis and in the wider region, in a process that will at best be complex and arduous. The contrary US-British intention to direct political reform via a new legal entity, the "Authority", controlled by them, and with only an advisory, non-executive role for a UN "special coordinator" is ill-conceived and potentially divisive. 

The resolution envisages a similarly tight US-British grip, also for at least one year, on exploitation of and revenue from Iraq's oil once UN controls, specifically the oil-for-food programme, are phased out. The proposed international oversight by a board of absentee luminaries drawn from the UN, IMF and World Bank is no real safeguard against the sort of abuse EU commissioner Poul Nielson warned about yesterday. Nor is it responsible to assume that the 60% of Iraqis who rely on UN-administered food aid will soon be able to do without it. While the US and Britain now - finally - accept their obligations under international law, what this resolution boils down to is legitimisation of an illegal war and of an open-ended occupation. It gives them a free hand in Iraq. What it will give Iraqis is much less clear.

Story #3 is Bush unveils Mid-East trade plan. I check it out. After reading it, I'm still not sure what Bush's plan is, but I have a few sacrcastic thoughts: What does he want to trade it for? To which US corporations does he want to trade it? I click on some of the blog links to see if anyone else understands it, but I find something better at a site called Nurse Ratched's Notebook, which she saw via atriosPresident Bush's Movements and Actions on 9/11 by Allan Wood and Paul Thompson. I skim it. This is real historical reseach, important stuff, a must read. It's full of things I didn't know.  I'll read more later.

Baby Elizabeth gets tired of playing with the toys on the floor by my feet and trying to learn how to crawl and starts to fuss. I turn on the TV and put on an infant stim video: Newton in a bottle: Physics for kids! For children 3 months and up.  I turn off the space music because it competes with the music-only soundtrack of the TV. (The bird have piped down by now, and the sky is between the trees is pale yellow. It's quarter of 7.)
Skimming down technorati, I see various stories I've read already from different sources . . . . Now here's a lurid one! Doctors 'stole brains for research': The brains of thousands of mentally ill people were illegally removed after their deaths. But this is really just a variant on a story I've read before about body parts illegally removed in UK hospitals, yes? Nonetheless, it's going to confirm the worst suspicions of some poor paranoid schizophrenic out there: His doctor really is trying to steal his brain! Whoopee!

Now here's someone who needs his brain removed for examination:

But John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "Without committing to deployment, research on low-yield nuclear weapons is a prudent step to safeguard America from emerging threats and enemies."

Newton in a Bottle ends just as I find out that army ants are a truly ancient species originating over 100 million years ago on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Sunbeams are coming in the window now. I put on Baby Einstein and get a refill on my coffee.

Checking out CNN, I don't find much new . . . except, here's something:    fly fossils in Antarctica. I was wondering about the fossils of Anarctica just the other day, wondering what they might find if all that ice weren't in the way:

The tiny fossil of a fly discovered 300 miles from the South Pole could help scientists figure out what life was like millions of years ago in Antarctica.

Peter just woke up and brought me two books he wants me to read, one about aliens, and the other about jellyfish. So I'll stop here.    

8:43AM: Here's a few things I missed:

Washington Post: Med Students Performing Unauthorized Pelvic Exams on Unconscious Women

When Zahara Heckscher went to George Washington University Hospital last month to have an ovarian cyst removed, she asked her surgeon if medical students would be practicing pelvic exams on her while she was unconscious. She was shocked that the answer was yes.

Medical students, interns and residents at teaching hospitals across the nation routinely learn how to perform such examinations by practicing on patients under anesthesia, medical educators say, and GWU Hospital officials say their program is no exception.

Also from the WP, Seven Nuclear Sites Looted. I took this for an old story, but there are more sites than previously reported.

MEANWHILE, Arthur Hlavaty directs our attention to this marvelous graphic by Edward Tufte: Thinking With Bullets.