They're not kidding
The mission statement of the Cartoonists Rights Network:
Our Primary Mission Is To Make Editorial Cartoonists The Most Powerful People In The World
While recognizing the obligation of sovereign governments to formulate domestic law and their constitutional responsibilities to maintain civil discipline, governments are also obligated by domestic law and international conventions to provide for their citizens the protection of basic human rights and the application of internationally recognized journalistic freedoms and privileges. Notwithstanding this, journalists must, from time to time, be protected and defended against irregular political and/or militant elements that would deprive them of their basic human and civil rights. The Cartoonists Rights Network's mission is the protection of editorial and humor cartoonists from any form of human or civil rights abuses.
When the explosion comes before you open your credit card statement
DALLAS - A Texas woman was arrested on Wednesday after a pink dye pack attached to money she is suspected of stealing from a bank exploded when she took the cash to a different bank to open a new account, police said.
You've seen the junior versions of these attached to merchandise in high-end clothing stores. When will the "exploded antitheft ink pack" look, whether applied during an actual shoplifting event or to unsullied legally-purchased clothing, become the Next Hot Thing? And when it does, do savvy retailers cashing in on it protect their merchandise with little exploding dry-cleaning fluid tags?
Imperial presidency clips, April 29, 2004
Dan Eggen, The Washington Post, April 29: "Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act":
The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now.
The lawsuit was filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but the case was kept under seal to avoid violating secrecy rules contained in the USA Patriot Act, the ACLU said. The group was allowed to release a redacted version of the lawsuit after weeks of negotiations with the government.
(The advertisements at the bottom of the online article are all links to Patriot Act compliance services for bankers; "this article about the law that prevents us from telling you about the suit is brought to you by folks who make their money from the existence of that same law," which feels a little creepy.)
"In our system, the press has the role of..." Generations of journalists spoke confident sentences like that. The press is a vital check on power. It's quasi-Constitutional. Bush, head of government, rejects this idea. That theory has gone down, he says. And you guys don't have that kind of muscle anymore.
Harvey Silverglate and Carl Takei in the Boston Phoenix: "Covering a multitude of sins":
JOHN F. KENNEDY once recounted a revealing joke told by Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier during the 1950s and �60s, in response to Kennedy�s complaints about the uncontrollable Washington press corps: a Russian ran through the Kremlin shouting, "Khrushchev is a fool! Khrushchev is a fool!" For this outburst, the man was sentenced to 23 years in prison. When Kennedy retorted that in the United States it was impossible to imprison a newsman for insulting the nation�s leader, Khrushchev explained that only three years of the sentence were for insulting the premier � the remaining 20 were for "revealing a state secret."
Government officials too often avoid accountability by sweeping incompetence and dishonesty under the rug of "national security." Yet our country � unlike Khrushchev�s Soviet Union � has a tradition of counterbalancing such secrecy by protecting a free press, allowing citizens to converse without risk, and honoring the efforts of brave whistle blowers � those who defy the culture of secrecy and leak information to the press to inform the public of governmental wrongdoing, mistakes, and deceptions. The Bush administration, however, is aggressively working to prevent such public scrutiny in four distinct ways: it has widened the range of classified and otherwise confidential (but non-classified) materials. It has expanded its ability to criminally prosecute government employees who leak such materials. It has signaled a willingness to move against reporters who publish those leaks. And, most significantly, it is using new "material support" statutes to do an end run around the First Amendment and criminalize many forms of political advocacy.
Humanities and Social Sciences Online: "Plaintiffs File Motion to Alter Judgement in PRA Case":
On 12 April 2004, plaintiffs party to the suit to overturn President Bush's Executive Order 13233 which relates to the administration of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) filed a motion to "alter or amend" the judgement entered 29 March 2004 that dismissed the plaintiffs case on standing and ripeness grounds...
...The motion was filed just days after Public Citizen was notified of a denial of its FOIA appeal on some 74 pages of materials (11 separate documents) of Reagan era records that have yet to be released to scholars under constitutionally-based privilege provisions of the PRA. Among the records being withheld: a six-page 8 December 1986 memo to the President and Director of Public Affairs entitled, "Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs"; a series of memos dated 22 November and 1 December 1988 for the President entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez"; and a two-page memo for the President from the Attorney General, "Appeal of the Decision Denying the Enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987." Other withheld memos relate to the extension of claims of Executive Privilege over the release of Justice Rehnquist's papers and materials relating to "Use of Military Aircraft by Mrs. Reagan."
Dahlia Lithwick in Slate (April 27): "I've Got a Secret":
Today's case is a study in the evils of premature litigation. It's a lesson in why the cheerleader who doesn't make the squad throws everything off when she appeals to the gym teacher, then the principal, and then the secretary of education, instead of just sucking it up and joining the band. Vice President Cheney was sued by two watchdog groups—Sierra Club and Judicial Watch—for information about the outsiders who served on his energy policy task force in 2001. The watchdogs contend that "task force" was just a series of cozy get-togethers in which energy executives and lobbyists, including Ken Lay, took turns sitting on Cheney's lap, licking his ear, and requesting special favors. The final report issued by the commission sort of reads that way. When Cheney was ordered to produce the rosters and minutes of these meetings as part of pretrial discovery, he appealed that order all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dahlia Lithwick in Slate (April 29): "Cruel Detentions":
How you feel about the indefinite military detentions of Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla will turn largely on what you think life will look like when it starts. By "it," I mean the moment at which fundamental liberties are curtailed by well-meaning governments and the legal system becomes unable to offer relief.
...The crucial issue for both Hamdi and Padilla is whether the courts will hand the president the power to detain alleged "enemy combatants" indefinitely, without charges or access to counsel.
Now if they'll just set this press conference to music
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the question-and-answer portion of remarks to the Newspaper Association of America/American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 22, 2004:
Q: Mr. Secretary, I am not a correspondent for Al-Jazeera. That's the good news. I may sound like one. However, my situation is worse. I am Arabic -- (inaudible) -- journalist teaching journalism at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. My question is that in recent weeks, a couple of composers have come up with musical renditions of your speeches, classical and popular. Now that this talent of yours has been discovered, what do you plan do to do with it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: What was the last part of that?
Q: What do you plan to do with this talent that has come out?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Are you talking about that silly compact disc that some opera singer sings my press conferences?
Q: There is more than one. (Chuckles.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Are there more than one? (Laughter.)
Someone gave me a copy of this thing, and here is this woman with a wonderful voice singing my press conference. (Laughter.) Now, if that doesn't tell you something about the state of the world! (Laughter.)
They're not kidding. How did the Apple slogan go? "Rip. Mix. Burn. Have door kicked in and CDs confiscated by the 101st Airborne."
Throw a couple of bucks in the tip jar to the right and we'll see if we can get Ashcroft to record a cover version.
If it strikes out like a duck
�Really, I just think people ought to be more or less decent to one another, or failing that, entertaining about it. I am by temperament a promoter of coalitions and alliances, and in that persona I wince when I see potential allies grinding their heels into one another�s toes.�
Unfortunately, at that point I notice the following Commonplace in the righthand column, immediately adjacent to the above quote in my browser (but otherwise, as far as I can tell, unrelated):
�People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.� (Otto von Bismarck)
And I get completely distracted from the topic at hand. �Dude, Cheney's three for three.�
Of course, that may be why it's in the column, but hey, I'm easily amused.
"He felt agitated, intensely eager; now that he had opened the discussion he wished to discharge his mind. But he wished also to be superlatively gentle."
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, ch. 34
The Secret of the B-29
If you're at all curious about the legal origins of the national security state, an excellent place to start is Barry Siegel's April 18 and 19 L.A. Times series "The Secret of the B-29." The landmark 1953 Supreme Court ruling that formally established the government's "state secrets" privilege, U.S. vs. Reynolds, was based on the goverment's claim that Air Force accident reports for a 1948 B-29 crash contained "military secrets" so sensitive not even the district court should see them.
In 2000 Judy Palya Loether, the daughter of one of the flyers killed in the 1948 B-29 crash, came across a web site that was selling copies of Air Force accident reports. From Siegel's articles:
She e-mailed the operator of the website, who had bought the old microfilmed reports and started a small business selling them. In return for $63, she received 220 pages and 15 photographs. By the end of February, Judy Palya Loether held in her hands the Air Force accident report that her mother and the patrician Philadelphia lawyer Charles Biddle had so strenuously but vainly sought from the government half a century before.
For a moment, she hesitated to pull it from its large envelope, fearing what gruesome details it might contain. But pull it she did.
As she began to read, she felt disappointment. There was nothing about confidential research being done on the plane. In fact, other than a reference to removing secret equipment from the crash site, there wasn't anything about her father's project.
Shoot, Judy thought. This doesn't have what I want.
She kept reading though, and as she did, her consternation grew. While this report didn't describe anything secret, it seemed to involve all sorts of mistakes and negligence. It looked to Judy as if an awful lot of bad things had happened in that plane. She understood human mistakes, such as the pilot turning off the wrong engine. But the maintenance supervisors � why hadn't they complied with those technical orders? Why hadn't they installed heat shields to fix the B-29 engines' fire hazard?
Air Force affadavits claiming the accident reports contained "military secrets" had been false.
In telling the Court otherwise, the Air Force lied�. It is for this Court in exercise of its inherent power to remedy fraud, to put things right.
...By asking the Supreme Court to "remedy fraud," Judy Palya Loether and others in the crash victims' families were taking dead aim at the factual foundation of the state secrets privilege. Long ago, Judy's mother and two other widows had tried to challenge the power of the federal government. Now here came the families once again.
The article includes a history of the fatal flight, including the troubled past of the aircraft "that had spent more time in maintenance than in the air;" a telling of the midcentury efforts of a World War I ace to get the government to compensate three of the aircrew's widows, an effort that led all the way to the Supreme Court; and in describing the government's current response to the families' efforts to get the Court to reverse its 50-year-old error, a good background on the role U.S. vs. Reynolds plays in the current deference (judicial and otherwise) to "national security" concerns.
George had better be glad rodents can't vote on constitutional amendments
Parthenogenesis has been demonstrated in mammals for the first time. Japanese researchers combined the chromosomes from two mouse eggs (and no mouse sperm) to create baby mice that grow to adulthood and reproduce normally.
To paraphrase Dr. James Aoki, that's it for us male monkeys.
UPDATE: That's what I get for linking to The Onion the day before they rope off their archives and make them subscription-only. The link above is to the Onion article "Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs," with the quote from Dr. Aoki, "That's it for us monkeys."
One (half-hour time slot) for the road
Two days into TV-Turnoff Week 2004, and if you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, it may be time to step off the wagon:
Your neighbors have informed you that the next time you stick your head out the window, look around, and bellow "But what's the five-day forecast?" they're going to call the police.
You've changed the channel on the dog so many times he yelps in pain and dives behind the Ficus if you so much as reach for the remote.
At breakfast this morning you put the cat on your head, sat across the table from the kids, and informed them one by one, "You're fired." And now they want to take separate taxis to school.
When you look into the chicken
I got a phone call from International Communications Research (ICR) for a survey yesterday. Buried among the questions about credit counseling services, political affiliation, and consumption of coffee, tobacco, and fast food products, I got this series of questions.
"Do you have an Internet connection? Have you ever visited the website subservientchicken.com? Would you visit it again?"
These were followed up by questions about the BK Tendercrisp Sandwich and their low-carb menu. Looks like they're looking to evaluate the potency of their stealth marketing campaign.
This is a surprise?
Insert cheap BloggerCon joke here
...Researchers describe the drastic temperamental and tonal shift that occurred in a troop of 62 baboons when its most belligerent members vanished from the scene. The victims were all dominant adult males that had been strong and snarly enough to fight with a neighboring baboon troop over the spoils at a tourist lodge garbage dump, and were exposed there to meat tainted with bovine tuberculosis, which soon killed them. Left behind in the troop, designated the Forest Troop, were the 50 percent of males that had been too subordinate to try dump brawling, as well as all the females and their young. With that change in demographics came a cultural swing toward pacifism, a relaxing of the usually parlous baboon hierarchy, and a willingness to use affection and mutual grooming rather than threats, swipes and bites to foster a patriotic spirit.
Remarkably, the Forest Troop has maintained its genial style over two decades, even though the male survivors of the epidemic have since died or disappeared and been replaced by males from the outside. (As is the case for most primates, baboon females spend their lives in their natal home, while the males leave at puberty to seek their fortunes elsewhere.) The persistence of communal comity suggests that the resident baboons must somehow be instructing the immigrants in the unusual customs of the tribe.
"We don't yet understand the mechanism of transmittal," said Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford, "but the jerky new guys are obviously learning, `We don't do things like that around here.' "
...The new-fashioned Forest Troop is no United Nations, or even the average frat house. Its citizens remain highly aggressive and argumentative, and the males still obsess over hierarchy. "We're talking about baboons here," said Dr. Sapolsky.
...Jerkiness or worse certainly seems to be a job description for ordinary male baboons. The average young male, after wheedling his way into a new troop at around age 7, spends his prime years seeking to fang his way up the hierarchy; and once he's gained some status, he devotes many a leisure hour to whimsical displays of power at scant personal cost. He harasses and attacks females, which weigh half his hundred pounds and lack his thumb-thick canines, or he terrorizes the low-ranking males he knows cannot retaliate.
...Dr. Sapolsky has no idea how long the good times will last. "I confess I'm rooting for the troop to stay like this forever, but I worry about how vulnerable they may be," he said. "All it would take is two or three jerky adolescent males entering at the same time to tilt the balance and destroy the culture."
"Hey, look! The comments link!"
Go, Ed, Go
Rep. Ed Markey (D, MA) sent letters to the EPA, DOE, and NRC on April 9, 2004 requesting:
...the immediate declassification of all documents in the possession of the [agency in question] related to the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear accident in accordance with Presidential Executive Order 13292. In addition, I ask that you provide me with a copy of all such documents.
As you know, the 25 year anniversary of the TMI accident was on March 28, 2004...
...You may be aware that Presidential Executive Order 13292 Part 3, which was published on March 25, 2003, states that "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government," that "information shall be declassified as soon as it no longer meets the standards for classification under this order," and ultimately calls for automatic declassification of documents that are more than 25 years old. The only materials that would be exempt from the automatic declassification requirements would be those that would threaten national or homeland security or those that reveal the identity of a confidential human source.
Ed's not my Congressman, but I can launch a frisbee from my front porch into his district. Let's hope his request is successful.
(Via Secrecy News)
We have the technology
...to take a 31-year-old joke and revive it in Flash. From the National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor, The Rigging of a Ship. Make sure your sound is on.
An extra ration of grog for animator Jay Naughton.
In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, regular glazed will descend from the overhead panel
Hawaii residents love Krispy Kreme Doughnuts so much that they often stock up at a new store in Maui before boarding inter-island flights back home, overloading airline luggage bins along the way.
"The locals bring so many boxes of doughnuts on board that we can't always fit them on our flights. Some people will put five or six boxes in an overhead bin," says Mark Dunkerley, president of Hawaiian Airlines.
What you've got there is the first part of the routine
From a NYT Magazine interview with David Larible, the first clown to headline the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus:
Preshow ritual: I always put my clown shoes on. Then I put on my makeup and then my pants. So you can find me in my dressing room in boxer shorts, clown shoes, with my makeup on and no pants. For years I didn't realize I did that. Someone had to point it out to me.You've seen clown shoes. You tell me how he manages that shoes-first, pants-second business.
Is that John Ashcroft hiding in the perennials?
From the AP:
HARTSVILLE, Tenn. - A garden center's nude statues proved a bit immodest for some in this small town. G & L Garden Center responded to complaints by covering up the classical-style statues with stylish, two-piece crimson velvet sarongs.
It turns out leaving a little to the imagination meant a lot more customers for the $99.95 ornaments. Six statues have sold in the past couple weeks alone, and the attempt at roadside modesty is stopping traffic.
The citizenry at its finest
From Charles Pierce, in Eric Alterman's April 9 Altercation:
The truly great thing about these 9/11 hearings remains the towering moral witness of the 9/11 widows—and shame on Bob (Coiffure By Vespasian Of The Appian Way) Kerrey for shushing them. They are doing more than standing up for their loved ones, and that surely would have been enough. They are glorious in their casual disdain for the "Intelligence Community." They are blissfully unimpressed by the Great Men who presume to tell them what the Great Men decide they should know. They leave the pundits gaping at their heedless disregard for the Governing Class. Almost alone, they have insisted that information be brought to light that will enable us to judge our leaders and hold them to account, and that's what this whole silly experiment was supposed to be about—the "most dreaded kind of knowledge," according to that impossible old blatherskite, John Adams. God save these wonderful women. They are being citizens—in the most complete sense possible—for the rest of us.
Ask not what the 'sphere can do for you
The announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes brings these comments from Dan Gillmor:
Ask yourself if bloggers, even though they do great work, could have pulled off the kind of journalism that turned into some of these winning entries...
Dave Winer challenged him:
Could one of the authors of one of the award-winning articles have a weblog? Hard to imagine why one couldn't. If so, then a blogger could pull off that kind of journalism.
Well, of course one of these journalists could have a blog. And then, in a literal sense, yes, this kind of journalism could be done by blogger.
...It's nearly inconceivable that a blogger or even a group of bloggers, lacking the resources of a major news organization (including First Amendment lawyers), would have produced any of these projects.
I have to agree with Dan on this. The use of a tool (a weblog) by a particular group (investigative journalists) does not magically bestow the skills or resources of that group upon anyone who picks up the tool. Substitute "ball-point pen" for "weblog" and this becomes more obvious:
Could one of the authors of one of the award-winning articles use a ball-point pen? Hard to imagine why one couldn't. If so, then a ball-point pen user could pull off that kind of journalism.
It's easy to imagine why award-winning investigative journalists might not use weblogs: for a given investigation, a weblog might not be the most effective tool for the job. The available resources (reporter time, for example) might be better spent elsewhere.
That's a "might be," though, not a "will." My favorite example of relatively early use of the web as a reporting tool is Mark Bowden's original Philadelphia Inquirer Blackhawk Down series, particularly the Author Q&As. While, technically speaking, the Q&As were not a weblog, they appear to have greatly enhanced both the later articles in the original series and the book that followed. Primary sources Bowden had been unable to reach read the articles online as they were published and contacted Bowden through the Q&As.
I imagine that's not the first time the web was used as an effective investigative journalism tool, and it certainly won't be the last. I'd be interested to know how important and/or helpful Bowden considered the Q&As in relation to the rest of his investigative work for the series and the book.
And no, Bowden didn't research this on the side. He had exactly the kind of support Dan referred to above:
Q: [John Plaster] You've done a fantastic job. Why was this published as a newspaper serial rather than a book -- the story of these brave men deserves wide exposure.
A: [Mark Bowden] Very few newspapers are willing to undertake something as extensive as Blackhawk Down. The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of the few. For a writer to be able to work on a salary and be paid expenses (like, for traveling all over the US to interview soldiers, travel to Mogadishu), doing the work for a newspaper is the best deal imaginable. Then, to be able to expand on the topic in book form ... well, it's hard to beat.
It diminishes Bowden's accomplishment not at all to suggest that his editors deserve credit for their support and encouragement of his research.
Seven years later, has the newspaper environment changed enough that he would find it significantly more difficult to get such institutional backing? I imagine Black Hawk Down readers would deliver funds by the carload were Bowden to start a blog and solicit support for a project in development. But would the blogosphere recognize the possibility of the next Black Hawk Down in advance, and provide the support needed to bring it into the world? Maybe that's what Dan's really asking.
The FCC Chairman's day job?
The byline on the Washington Post story "Liberal Talk Radio Bumps Black Station in New York?" Michael Powell.
Surely not that Michael Powell.
The small details are everything
But Law and Order has made us all into forensic investigation junkies, after all. This article in Saturday's New York Times left me wondering what "dry" meant: had the bombers neglected to "just add water," or was the article missing other important details?
MADRID, April 2 — A partly assembled bomb containing 26 pounds of explosives was discovered Friday during a routine track check on a high-speed rail line linking the Spanish capital to Seville. The explosives were thought to be the same type as those used in the March 11 terror attacks in Madrid, officials said.
The device was dry and lacked an initiator, Spanish authorities said, leading investigators to suspect that it had been placed under the tracks on Friday morning and that the bombers had been interrupted while putting it together.
(Emphasis added.) From Sunday's Washington Post:
Because the bag containing the bomb was dry after a night of rain, authorities said they believed it was placed on the track early Friday.
Was the weather information removed from the NYT article in the editing process, or was it just plain missing?
(No conspiracy theory here, folks, just curiosity.)
Well, OK, some of the glamour and danger
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
A small New Zealand town reached for some of the glamour and danger of the Spanish bull-run city of Pamplona yesterday - by running 2,000 woolly sheep through the middle of town.
No one was chased, trampled or gored by the animals in the inaugural "Running of the Sheep". And instead of seeking cover, most spectators helped stop the shaggy mob from scurrying everywhere but the right direction.
...The sheep were supposed to do a quick circuit through the town centre.
But the 2,000 ewes lacked the instinct of Spanish bulls, as they split into puzzled groups and flocked in all directions.
Your Venn diagram wears combat boots
Just in time for the Final Four, this handy chart, Bad Language Mapping and Tolerance Levels:
The Language Mapping diagram...will give new Referees a starting point, in trying to understand the differences between issuing a Red card, a Yellow card, or giving a verbal warning to players who use bad language or show dissent. The main message of the Language Mapping diagram is that there is no definitive listing of which words should appear where. And it is not just that words themselves that count.
From Boing Boing.