Saturday, September 24, 2005
Statistic of the Day
—Andrew Buncombe in the Independent
But what will the authorities say?
And here's one I love—
Probably inspired by British graffiti artist Moose, PagesJaunes (the French Yellow Pages) is using «clean-tags», to promote the launch of the 2005 phone books in Paris. The «clean-tags» technique creates graffiti by cleaning dirt from sidewalks, tunnels, walls, etc. They last only one month and have been tagged in metro station.
(See link for photo of sidewalk ad.)
I have an automobile that's dirty enough to make a great canvas. Hmmh. I wonder if I can rent ad space.
Shopdropping and Droplifting
Have you heard of shopdropping? Better that Ryan Watkins-Hughes of shopdropping.net explain—
To covertly place merchandise on display in a store. Primarily used in guerrilla ad campaigns, tactical media projects, and art installations. S[ynonyms]. reverse shoplift, droplift
Shopdropping is an ongoing project in which I alter the packaging of canned goods and then "shopdrop" the items back onto grocery store shelves. I replace the packaging with labels created using my photographs. The "shopdropped" works act as a series of art objects that people can purchase from the grocery store. Because the barcodes and price tags are left intact purchasing the cans before they are discovered and removed is possible. In one instance a store employee even restocked the cans to a new aisle based on the barcode information.
Shopdropping strives to take back a share of the visual space we encounter on daily basis. Similar to the way street art stakes a claim to public space for self expression, Shopdropping subverts commercial space for artistic use. The photographs act as a visual journal of my travels over the past few years. Displayed in nonlinear combinations the images remix the traditional narrative of the passing of time. The vibrant individuality of each image is a stark contrast to the repetitive, functional, package design that is replaced.
Ryan has issued an open call for works to be part of a collaborative shopdropping installation.
Shopdropping.net has links to sites of other groups using related techniques such as the Barbie Liberation Organization and Cement Cuddlers.
Some simply appalling furniture
A series of quotes
Of course the speech may be read from front to back. I did, and would encourage everyone to read it also. But by pulling points from it over a number of days, each idea has more "sticking power," or so it seems to me.
The presentation was made by Kevin Roberts, international CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, which promotes such giants as Proctor & Gamble and Toyota, and was presented to an unspecified group of "U.S. Defense Intelligence Agencies" in March of this year. The talk was based on concepts taken from Roberts' 2004 book Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands.
I suspect that ideas in "Loyal Beyond Reason" may form the basis for a number of posts. I'm certain that Roberts is not correct in absolutely everything he has to say, but he comes damned close. And in any case he has a perspective that must not be ignored by anyone who is trying either to understand the world or to change it.
I'll convert the speech to HTML when I get a round tuit, but in the meantime you can find it here as a PDF.
Kevin Roberts Quote I (9/24/05)
Kevin Roberts Quote I
You know that Sisomo has exploded beyond television. The web, email, cellphones, PDAs, DVDs, ATMs, iPods, outdoor video screens, instore television channels, game players, kiosks, digital cameras, home security screens...we now live in the Screenage. The screen has become the campfire of the 21st Century. The screen is universal and ubiquitous.
—Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, in [pdf] "Loyal Beyond Reason," a presentation to various U.S. Defense Intelligence Agencies
Kevin Roberts Quote II (9/25/05)
Friday, September 23, 2005
Statistic of the Day
At the ballpark ...
—Goldberger of Goldberger & Goldberger in "Baseball Fan Hit by Foul Allowed to Sue Park Owner for Negligence"
Anonymity for the masses
Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure," Julien Pain, head of the watchdog's Internet Freedom desk, writes in the introduction.
In a bid to inspire budding Web diarists around the world, the 87-page booklet gives advice on setting up and running blogs, and on using pseudonyms and anonymous proxies, which can be used to replace easily traceable home computer addresses.
"With a bit of common sense, perseverance and especially by picking the right tools, any blogger should be able to overcome censorship," Pain writes.
Download your copy here. The guidebook's available in English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian.
I can understand why they needed to print it in all those foreign languages, but why English? We don't have that problem here, do we?
Quote of the Day
The German stalemate
It has turned out to be a fine mess. The vote between the two major parties was very close and reminds me of Bush-Gore 2000 without the recount and attendant illegalities. What is significant is that the voters staved off moves toward a more "American-style" economy. (The EU constitution was approved by Germany before it was rejected by the French, but it was approved by the Bundestag, not by the people.)
On Tuesday Nicholas Kralev of the Washington Times wrote—
The political deadlock was not to the markets' liking yesterday. German stocks tumbled, and the euro fell to its lowest level against the dollar in seven weeks.
When caused by an election, that is usually a good sign.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party plus their coalition partner the Green Party came in with fewer votes than challenger Angela Merkel's party along with their presumed coalition partner. But thanks to the New Left Party, which did better than the Greens though snubbed by both Schroeder and Merkel, neither major party can form a majority—unless they join each other in what is referred to as the "grand coalition."
The five parties each have an associated color, which allows the press to refer to the various coalitions as color combinations. The current government is known as the "red-green" coalition. One possibility is known as the "traffic light" coalition: red-yellow-green.
In case you're still wondering who will be the chancellor, I'll leak the secret—Schroeder is going to retain the post despite having fewer votes. Why? Because the communists and discontented Social Democrats of the New Left Party are going to throw their support
Yesterday Frau Merkel met with leaders of the Green Party to try to sway them in her direction. Stephen Graham of the AP reported—
Green party co-chairman Reinhard Buetikofer said he had challenged Merkel and Edmund Stoiber, leader of the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, to explain whether they would drop their "neo-liberal, radical market, anti-ecological policies."
"Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Stoiber didn't give us the answer, and on that basis we said we see no possibility to recommend further talks," Buetikofer said.
How often do you see free-market policies referred to as "radical"?
Quote of the Day (9/19/05)
My detail's bigger than your detail
Latin American leftists can hardly wait. They've already begun demonstrations in anticipation of the visit. Kelly Hearn of the Washington Times writes,
The Summit of the Americas isn't supposed to take place for seven weeks. But left-wingers already have clashed with police in protests over plans by President Bush to attend, underscoring a security nightmare facing Argentine officials charged with protecting 34 chiefs of state.
More protests are expected this weekend after a melee last week during which police confronted thousands of demonstrators and several policemen suffered minor injuries.
On Friday, about 3,000 protesters pushed toward the Plaza de Mayo, the site of frequent political protests, but were contained by strong police lines.
The protests are expected to intensify as Mr. Bush and 33 other heads of the Western Hemisphere's democracies prepare to attend the fourth Summit of the Americas on Nov. 4 and 5 in Mar de Plata, Argentina, an Atlantic coastal city about 200 miles from Buenos Aires.
Also planning to attend will be Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The State Department put him and his security detail through hell during his recent visit to the U.N. But this time Chavez will be on friendly turf and intends to make the most of it—
Mr. Chavez, who has said the United States is trying to assassinate him, plans to match the size of Mr. Bush's security team.
Argentine officials estimate that Mr. Bush will bring at least 1,000 agents.
Some lawmakers think the vast size of both details could require approval from Argentina's congress, which has mandated that visiting presidential security agents dress in civil clothes and have no visible weapons.
This contest should be interesting to watch. The only thing bigger than the American and Venezuelan security details will be the egos.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
My tea leaves were wrong
I will not pretend that I know how this has come to be. I still believe the omens in March were not good for Rumsfeld. But the fact is that Dick Cheney has gone into a bit of an eclipse as Donald Rumsfeld strides about the world stage.
What's with Cheney?
I've seen various speculations on the cause of Cheney's absence from the news: (1) Cheney's health is failing, (2) Bush and Cheney are on the outs, and/or (3) Cheney is a target in Plamegate and is dropping back before the manure hits the spreader.
A few months ago, I heard of a lunch conversation that Cheney had with a political type in Wyoming. I have no idea if it's true or not, but it makes some sense. Here's the tale:
Cheney has been getting tired of being called upon to fix Bush's mistakes. Cheney said Bush is almost incapable of making any decision. He waffles and waffles. Then, once he makes a decision, he refuses to change it. Because of his born-again faith, he says "It's in the hands of G-d now" and washes his hands of it. Then Cheney is called in to repair the damage.
If this story is even remotely true, this may have been the final straw for Cheney, and he decided to let Bush try to wiggle his way out of his Katrina inaction on his own. Cheney's re-emergence this week may be the result of his fellow Republicans begging him to return to save Bush for the sake of the party.
But I also don't discount that Cheney may be in deep doo-doo of his own over RoveGate. Now, that would be something.
While I can well believe that Cheney views Bush as beneath contempt, I find it hard to believe he would allow such personal feelings to get in the way of running the world—or at least U.S. foreign policy. My vote goes to Theory #1—that Cheney's health has put him hors de combat. On Saturday Cheney is to have surgery for an aneurysm of an artery behind his knee. Such an aneurysm, a ballooning of the artery wall, cannot be taken lightly.
Another reason for my belief is this description by Mike Allen of Cheney's role in deciding whether there should be a "hurricane czar."
... the idea of a superpowerful hurricane guy hit a major obstacle: Vice President Dick Cheney, who--eight days after Katrina made landfall--was put in charge of assessing whether the Administration was meeting its goals in the relief effort.This doesn't sound like a man who has fallen from power.
G.O.P. officials say Cheney opposed a czar largely out of his affection for standard operating procedure. But a presidential adviser tells TIME that Cheney was also concerned that the new office would invite more meddling by Congress and create another power center. "If you appoint a czar and he doesn't get what he wants, like if you start to tamp down the spending, all he has to do is go to the press and create sympathy for his viewpoint and make it difficult for the President," the adviser says. Bush and his inner circle agreed, with little debate, top aides said.
And what of Rumsfeld?
Asia Times ran an article today by Jim Lobe of Interpress News, "Coalition down but not out," in which he considers the current state of the Neocon coalition. Lobe notes one problem that Rumsfeld has had within the group—
Sensing that Rumsfeld, in particular, was not committed to using the kind of overwhelming force - and keeping it there - necessary for "transforming" Iraq (and the region), Kristol and Kagan, among other neo-conservatives, began attacking the defence secretary and have repeatedly called for his resignation.
Moreover, their tactical alliance with "liberal internationalists" - mostly Democrats - in appealing for the resources required for "nation-building" has, by many accounts, deeply offended Rumsfeld and other "assertive nationalists" in and outside the administration.
Lobe views other events of the administration much as I did when I was predicting Rumsfeld's demise—
Some in turn have blamed neo-conservatives for deluding themselves and Bush into thinking that US troops would be greeted with "sweets and flowers" in Iraq. The exile of Wolfowitz to the World Bank and the resignation last summer of Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith should be seen in this light.
But Lobe doesn't answer the question: If Wolfowitz and Feith were "exiled," why not Rumsfeld? He was certainly equally deserving for "misreading" the U.S.' welcome in Iraq and so far as I know is singlehandedly responsible for the dearth of troops on the ground.
Instead of resigning, Rumsfeld's roles and power expanded. Ultimately the Pentagon is taking charge of hurricane relief operations. And while Condi Rice plays wet nurse to Bush, Rumsfeld is strutting about as though he were running the State Department, or the Presidency.
In October Rumsfeld is off to China. Asia Pulse reported,
US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld will visit China next month, Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of US Pacific Command, said in Beijing yesterday.
It would be Rumsfeld's first visit to China since assuming office in 2001, but the specific timing and schedule has not been decided yet, Fallon said.
According to Fallon, Bush will visit China following Rumsfeld's trip.
The UPI gives a bit more background and shows how important a role Rumsfeld is playing—
William J. Fallon made the announcement after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Wednesday, Xinhua reported Thursday. He said Rumsfeld would meet with China's defense minister as part of a U.S. effort to ease tensions and expand military ties with China.
Rumsfeld broke off military contacts with China in 2001 following a midair collision between a U.S. Navy plane and a Chinese fighter. China blamed the United States for the incident and detained the crew for 11 days.
And last week Rumsfeld was in Berlin to instruct the countries of Old Europe on what their role as NATO allies should be in Afghanistan.
To understand how big he's gotten for his britches, consider this snippet from his Berlin news conference—
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Will Dunham with Reuters.
Is the United States considering reducing American forces in Afghanistan by about 20 percent, roughly 4,000? And do you agree with the notion that as the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan increases and Afghan security forces become more capable, the number of U.S. forces could be reduced?
RUMSFELD: This question comes up periodically and I find that the answer, I almost feel like you could flip a switch in my back and give the same answer.
The first part of the answer is that the only people that are going to increase or decrease U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan will be the President of the United States or me, and it will result from recommendations from the field commanders.
The second part of the answer is we constantly are asking our field commanders to look at the situation, see what the conditions are, and then we ask our planners in the Pentagon, in the services, to look at various levels of forces -- higher, same, lower -- and we have been increasing or decreasing them as the circumstances required for some number of years now.
If and when there is any decision to reduce forces, I will announce it. In the mean time, you're going to see all kinds of people looking at all different kinds of scenarios. I mean right now we've increased forces in Afghanistan because of the Afghan election. We did the same thing for the presidential election in Afghanistan. I think you're just chasing the wrong rabbit, frankly.
I still believe that Rumsfeld would make an excellent sacrificial lamb. And I cannot imagine that he will not fall from grace. But when? Oh when?
Wolfie to World Bank; Rummy to oblivion? (updated) (3/16/05)
U.S. ambassador to Turkey resigns, contemplates more mischief (3/22/05)
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Old habits die hard
The list of penitent criminals from those times to today is enormous, since the punishment of choice for temporal crimes was to hie to a convent. (Crimes against the authority of the church, such as heresy, of course were another matter and could result in a proper grilling.) Once you were safely in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, the temporal authorities would leave you in peace.
But the rash of pedophilia and sex orgies in the churches, seminaries and monasteries has put the Church in the greatest conflict with the temporal authority since Henry VIII, especially in the U.S., though this may have something to do with the increased role of anti-Catholic evangelicals in the cultural life of the nation.
In any case the Church has resisted mightily this intrusion upon its authority, and if certain dioceses hadn't been forced into bankruptcy or near-to, it is doubtful that it could have been brought to heel at all. But just because it has given in on matters of prurience doesn't mean it has given in on the more respectable crimes of mass murder and genocide, especially when committed in the name of the Faith.
That may be the case of Ante Gotovina, a Croatian general. According to Molly Moore in the Washington Post, Gotovina
is accused of overseeing the murders of at least 150 Serbs and the forced expulsion of tens of thousands near the end of the 1991-95 civil war.
In Croatia, which is overwhelmingly Catholic, Gotovina is regarded by many as a hero who helped liberate the Krajina valley from largely Orthodox Serb rebels in 1995. He is the top-ranking Croat being sought by the U.N. court.
Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of Balkan war crimes for the International Criminal Tribunal has, in apparent frustration with the Vatican, gone public with her charge that Gotovina has been hidden away in a Croatian monastery and that the Vatican could determine his whereabouts any time it wished. (It should be noted that the Croatian government denies that Gotovina is in Croatia, but then how would they know?)
Stephen Castle for the Independent reports that
Ms Del Ponte told The Daily Telegraph she has information that he "is hiding in a Franciscan monastery and so the Catholic Church is protecting him. I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican refuses totally to co-operate with us."
The Vatican on the other hand, has insisted that del Ponte say in just which monastery Gotovina is residing. Del Ponte's position is that if she knew that, she wouldn't need to ask.
... Ms Del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, said: "We are asking for full co-operation from every segment of society: the Church, the military, the politicians. Every segment of society is obliged to respect the law. No one is above the law and we are asking for co-operation from everyone."
You just can't get more feudal than that, except for the omission of the peasantry.
A Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, .... added that the chief prosecutor was trying, improperly, to use the Vatican as an enforcement tool.
A statement released in the name of the Vatican's foreign minister said that
... the secretary of state is not an office of the Holy See that can collaborate as an institution with courts.
APB: Be on the lookout for a man wearing a brown habit with hood. May have a rosary dangling from his cincture.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Exorcism 101 - Session II
The UPI informs us that—
The Vatican is seeking applications for exorcism training at its Rome university where one can learn to talk to the devil.
The 10-week course at the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum includes sessions in exorcism rites, how to communicate with the devil and understand the tricks he uses to fight back, and signs of the occult hidden in rock music and video games.
Students also attend classes in psychology so that priests can distinguish between "real cases" of satanic possession and illnesses such as schizophrenia, the London Telegraph said.
The recruitment drive comes amid growing Vatican concern about a rise in Satanism. Pope Benedict XVI this week praised 180 of the students gathered at a secret location outside Rome.
I wonder if I could get a scholarship. Of course, I'd have to be very careful. Holy water gives me a terrible rash.
Exorcism: "A growth industry for the pastoral care business" (2/18/05)
Nun tortured to death in convent (6/19/05)
Guideline of the Day
Monday, September 19, 2005
Lessons in sovereignty - Part I
On Friday September 9 Baghdad International Airport was shut down. No, the closure wasn't the result of insurgent attacks. It was actually carried out by Global Strategies Group, a British security firm consisting of the usual assortment of mercenaries, in this case Fijians and Nepalese, who help disguise the shortage of soldiers.
Global Strategies said the Iraqi government owed it $36 million (that's $4.5 million per month since January) for maintaining airport security. The Iraqi government isn't disputing the figure; it's disputing the contract itself and wants to renegotiate it.
You see, Global Strategies' contract was signed by the previous government, the U.S.'s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). In other words the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation has developed that uncomfortable feeling one gets when being screwed up the ying-yang.
The CPA signed contracts obligating the new Iraqi government to a number of expensive commitments to foreign firms and then carefully passed laws intended to force the new government to honor the contracts. It appears, however, that members of the present government are feeling less and less bound to do so. Hence the airport closure.
A private company shutting down a sovereign nation's major airport is fairly novel even by today's standards. The only other instance I can think of is Global Strategies' shutdown of the same airport in June.
Well, this time the Transportation Ministry decided they'd had enough and declared that the airport would be open come hell or high water. According to Sinan Salaheddin in an AP report,
Keeping the airport open has become a matter of pride for the Iraqi government.
"This issue is related to Iraq's sovereignty, and nobody is authorized to close the airport," Amer, the acting Transportation Minister, told AP. He said the Cabinet had approved the dispatch of Interior Ministry troops.
Brig. Gen. John Basilica Jr., commander of the 256th Brigade Combat Team of the Louisiana National Guard,1 said security remained "intact" at the airport.
Otherwise, the U.S. military, in an apparent attempt to play down the problem, said it had no information about the pay dispute or American and Iraqi force movements.
Apparently the Iraqi-American standoff was not very eventful. Hardly surprising when you consider that the Iraqis are barely armed, even though they're supposed to be off fighting insurgents.
In the airport dispute, cooler heads appeared to prevail after the angry threat of force from the Interior Ministry.
"We ordered the forces to pull back after American forces were deployed at the first checkpoint on the road. We did not want to create a confrontation," acting Transportation Minister Esmat Amer told The Associated Press.
The closure of the French-built airport was believed to have been the first serious public conflict involving a Western contractor since the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein two years ago.
Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri elaborate—
"We are suffering from some of the inexperienced ministers," Fadhil Mahdi, a merchant desperate to get goods into the country, said at the home of his travel agent, where he had gone for help. "They must think of the people who will be affected by their wrong decisions."
The shutdown has the potential to create major headaches for companies doing business in Iraq, said Ron Cruse, president and chief executive of Logenix International, LLC, a Springfield, Va.-based logistics firm with contracts here.
Cruse also said he was concerned about the precedent set for dealings between Iraq ministries and foreign companies, at a time when the Iraqis are taking over the management of an increasing number of contracts. "Contractors are not looking forward to doing business with the ministries for exactly this reason," Cruse said.
We are talking here about major discomfort to Bush administration cronies. If this sort of thing gets out of hand, we may need to conquer Iraq all over again.
Tomorrow: "Lessons in sovereignty - Part II: Iraq and Britain come to blows
About those Nepalese workers killed in Iraq... (10/2/2004)
Halliburton losing its ass—Oh sorry, that was our ass (11/27/04)
1It's always comforting to know that the U.S. government has its priorities straight. Your man-in-the-street might mistakenly believe that the Louisiana National Guard should have been back in Louisiana on September 9 rather than protecting the sanctity of a British firm's contract. Your man-in-the-street would be wrong. [back]
Revelation of the Day
I couldn't help feeling TB had mixed emotions about sending the boys into action. He said he did it with a "heavy heart" but at the same time, he must have known it would happen some time and maybe it's part of the coming of age as a leader.
Statistics of the Day
Quote of the Day
Liberal fantasizing ...
Sunday, September 18, 2005
The true conservative in the family?
Because of his fatal tardiness, W. now has to literally promise the moon to fix New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, driving up the federal deficit and embarking on the biggest spending bonanza and government public works program since F.D.R.
In his address from the French Quarter, the president sounded like such a spendthrift bleeding heart that he is terrifying the right more than his father ever did.
Read my lips: By the time all this is over, people will be saying that Poppy was the true conservative in the family.
To believe that George Bush is a Conservative requires a mind as vacant as Bush's. Conservatives have principles; George Bush wouldn't recognize a principle if he found one engraved on a stone tablet. Conservatives revere history; George Bush invents history. Conservatives believe in limiting government; George Bush believes in limiting the people. Conservatives believe in limited power; George Bush believes in unlimited power—for himself.
Of course George Bush doesn't actually run the government, which is handled through a power-sharing arrangement between the Neoconservatives and the Neoliberals (capitalists), neither of which is Conservative as we once understood the term. The former are interested principally in power and the latter in money, though you will appreciate that there is considerable overlap.
As for "the biggest public works program" since FDR, it's unfortunate that FDR's name is even mentioned in the same breath with Bush. The public works programs of the New Deal distributed wealth through employment, was run by the government and produced lasting benefits to the infrastructure and culture of the nation.
Bush's program will redistribute wealth to the wealthiest while removing the minimum-wage requirement for the workers, will be run by the private sector and will be lucky to build a bridge for the $200 billion-plus the Congress will throw at the problems of the Gulf Coast. The one thing you can count on? There will be cost overruns.
But as Conservatives protest the government's domestic largesse, don't be surprised to see FDR's name mentioned more and more. Don't even be surprised if some hack pundit, privy to an insider interview with Karl Rove, shocks the nation with the notion that George Bush is really a liberal. After all, they're going to have to draw their support from somewhere.