John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica



 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Wednesday, August 25, 2004
YCMTSU: GOP, RIAA, and other Cat Shit


You Can't Make This Shit Up
NEW YORK - Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Bill Harris, CEO of the 2004 Republican National Convention, today announced a second group of entertainers who will perform in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention.  Country music superstars Brooks & Dunn, Grammy Award-winning Country singer Lee Ann Womack, Latin Grammy Nominee Jaci Velasquez, Grammy Award-win ning rock band Third Day, the inspirational Gracie Rosenberger, rock band Dexter Freebish, Country star Darryl Worley, and Grammy Award-winning Donnie McClurkin join a previously announced lineup of entertainers who will take the stage at Madison Square Garden.

"We appreciate the fact that these artists are lending their time and talents to the Republican National Convention," said Chairman Gillespie. "Brooks & Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Third Day and each of the entertainers participating in New York bring enjoyment to millions of fans and we are honored to showcase those talents during our convention."

"The Republican Party is honored to 'play the Garden' this month, and it will be a thrill to see these entertainers take the stage," said Mr. Harris. "Our program of outstanding speakers and performers will showcase the momentum and excitement of the Republican Party as we head into the fall."

(What?! You mean Ludicris and 50-cent turned you guys down? Meh.)


Some Twists in Music Piracy Lawsuits

WASHINGTON - A woman in Milwaukee and her ex-boyfriend are under orders to pay thousands to the recording industry.  A man in California refinanced his home to pay an $11,000 settlement.  A year after it began, the industry's legal campaign against Internet music piracy is inching through the federal courts, producing some unexpected twists.

"I'm giving up and can't fight this," said Ross Plank, 36, of Playa Del Ray, Calif. He had professed his innocence but surrendered after lawyers found on his computer traces of hundreds of songs that had been deleted one day after he was sued.  Plank, recently married, refinanced his home for the money.  "Apparently, they would be able to garnishee my earnings for the rest of my life," Plank said.  "For the amount I'm settling, this made sense. I didn't see any other way. They've got all the power in the world."

The campaign has also produced worries, even from one federal judge, that wealthy record companies could trample some of the 3,935 people across the country who have been sued since the first such cases were filed in September 2003.

"I've never had a situation like this before, where there are powerful plaintiffs and powerful lawyers on one side and then a whole slew of ordinary folks on the other side," said U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner at a hearing in Boston. Dozens of such lawsuits have been filed in her court.

On the West Coast, another judge rejected an injunction sought by record companies against one Internet user, saying it would violate her rights. So far, however, record companies are largely winning their cases, according to a review by The Associated Press of hundreds of lawsuits. They did lose a major ruling this week when a U.S. appeals court in California said manufacturers of software that can be used to download music illegally aren't liable, leaving record labels to pursue lawsuits against Internet users.

James McDonough of Hingham, Mass., said being sued was "very vexing, very frustrating and quite frankly very intimidating." He told Gertner, the Boston judge, that his 14-year-old twins might be responsible for the "heinous crime" of downloading music "in the privacy in our family room with their friends." Gertner has a teenage daughter and said she was familiar with software for downloading music. She blocked movement on all the Massachusetts cases for months, "to make sure that no one, frankly, is being ground up."

Gertner started ruling on cases again this month, when she threw out counterclaims accusing record companies of trespass and privacy invasions for searching the online music collections of Internet users. At least 807 Internet users have already settled their cases by paying roughly $3,000 each in fines and promising to delete their illegal song collections, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the largest labels.

Experts said the amounts of those settlements - compared to $7,500 or more for losing in court - discourage people from mounting a defense that could resolve important questions about copyrights and the industry's methods for tracing illegal downloads. "When you're being sued for a relatively small amount of money, it doesn't make sense to hire the specialized entertainment or copyright counsel," Gertner said at a hearing this summer.

In Milwaukee, Suheidy Roman, 25, said she couldn't afford a lawyer when her ex-boyfriend, Gary Kilps, told record companies that both of them had downloaded music on Roman's computer. Although she denies the accusation, Roman ignored legal papers sent to her home. A U.S. judge earlier this year granted a default judgment against her and Kilps, ordering each to pay more than $4,500.

Industry lawyers said they have won an estimated 60 such default judgments nationwide. "I've got brothers and sisters and family who come here and use my computer all the time," Roman told the AP. "But as far as downloading or distributing music, I don't do that. ... I don't have any money for an attorney, let alone for any judgment against me." She said she is unemployed with two small children. Roman said that since she was sued, she hasn't talked to Kilps. He doesn't have a telephone listing and didn't return calls from AP to his relatives. Lawyers said they traced to Roman and Kilps an Internet account distributing songs by UB40, Tu Pac, Destiny's Child and Air Supply. They said the illicit music collection also was associated with an account under the name "Flaka," which Roman acknowledges is her nickname. She told AP she deleted all the files on her computer, not just any songs.

In a few courthouses, the music industry has stumbled even in victory. A judge in California rejected an injunction banning Lisa Dickerson of Santa Ana, Calif., from illegally distributing music online. Although the judge agreed Dickerson was guilty, he said there was no evidence she was still breaking the law and determined that such a ban on future behavior would violate her rights. She was ordered to pay record companies $6,200 in penalties and court costs.

Still, the California consultant who recently agreed to pay the largest settlement in any of the lawsuits, $11,000, urged Internet users not to take solace in rare procedural victories. "It scares me," Plank said. "For anyone fighting any of these lawsuits - unless they have nothing to lose - the only thing to do is settle. You have no power against these people."

(Welcome to the Bush World of Free Expression. FCC approved. RIAA funded.)


Restaurant for Cats Opens in New York

NEW YORK - Dressed in a tuxedo, Simba sat at the front of one of Manhattan's newest dining establishments and nodded at people who greeted him.  Then he yawned, began to roll on the floor and lick his paws.  That's acceptable behavior at the Meow Mix Cafe, a new eatery designed especially for cats and their human owners.  Simba, an 8-month-old kitten, was joined by about two dozen other tabbies, Persians and Burmese for a feast at Tuesday's grand opening of the cafe, which is owned by the Meow Mix Company, a Secaucus, N.J.-based cat food maker.  "Why not take your cat out for dinner?" asked Simba's owner, Leah Thompson, 19.

"There's always things for dogs, but never cats."
(Like what, exactly?  A back-alley Vietnamese restaurant?)

The midtown restaurant serves Meow Mix packets for its feline customers with corresponding dishes to satisfy human palates. "Deep Sea Delight" mackerel for cats is paired with tuna rolls for cat owners; "Upstream Dream" salmon for felines corresponds with mini crab cakes for humans. Meow Mix president and CEO Richard Thompson said the feline-friendly restaurant has two main rules: no dogs and no catnip, which must be checked at the door. "Our goal is to keep cats happy," Thompson said. "The idea is that you can bring them and start socializing them."

(Okay. Now I know why they hate us in 3rd world countries.)


Dave Matthews Band Sued Over Dumped Waste

CHICAGO - The state of Illinois sued the Dave Matthews Band on Tuesday for allegedly dumping up to 800 pounds of liquid human waste from a bus into the Chicago River, dousing a tour boat filled with passengers.

The lawsuit accuses the band and one of its bus drivers of violating state water pollution and public nuisance laws. It seeks $70,000 in civil penalties. "Our driver has stated that he was not involved in this incident," band spokesman John Vlautin said in a statement. He said the band "will continue to be cooperative in this investigation."

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 8 a bus leased by the band was heading to a downtown hotel where members were staying. As the bus crossed the Kinzie Street bridge, the driver allegedly emptied the contents of the septic tank through the bridge's metal grating into the river below. More than 100 people on an architecture tour were showered with foul-smelling waste. The attorney general's office said no one was seriously injured. "This incident may be unique, but that does not lessen the environmental or public health risks posed by the release of at least 800 pounds of liquid human waste into a busy waterway and onto a crowded tour boat," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement.

After the incident, the boat's captain turned the vessel around and took passengers back to the dock. Everyone received refunds, and the boat was cleaned with disinfectant.

(And then, the Smith family vowed never to wear their "I love Dubya!" T-shirts on a river boat tour ever again.)

You Can't Make This Shit Up!








Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Digi-Chix: Writing with 'tude


Some of the most interesting Art and Journalism I've seen on the net comes from women.  If you've clicked-through some of my links in blog entries on Thunderstorms, you know this too.  I'll save the eye-candy for another time and just point out a book of reference on the subject that I happened to name Digi-Chix, entitled Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture, and two inspiring Digi-Chix.

Amazon review: Most writing on cyberculture is dominated by two almost mutually exclusive visions: the heroic image of the male outlaw hacker and the utopian myth of a gender-free cyberworld. Reload offers an alternative picture of cyberspace as a complex and contradictory place where there is oppression as well as liberation. It shows how cyberpunk’s revolutionary claims conceal its ultimate conservatism on matters of class, gender, and race. The cyberfeminists writing here view cyberculture as a social experiment with an as-yet-unfulfilled potential to create new identities, relationships, and cultures.

Annalee Newitz is a regular contributor on AlterNet and whose articles I always make a point to read.  To me, she is the Borg Queen of Digi-Chix, and I say that in the most admiring way.  Her commentary on cyberculture is spot on and comes from her respected work with the cyber-rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group I've admired for almost a decade.

I could easily comment and fill up an entire year's worth of blog just on the issues about which Annalee writes in her articles.  I thought I'd introduce you to another new member of my Digi-Chix, first.  I found her article while doing some online research on workers' conditions in India.  Mari Marcel Thekaekara is a journalist whose insight and bravery in the face of the powers-that-be in India follows in the tradition of Arundhati Roy.  Read.

Journalist - Mari Marcel Thekaekara
Shock. Outrage. Middle-class morality suitably scandalized. The reactions were predictable. Even Mari Marcel Thekaekara wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a co-operative of sex workers – and in Communist Kolkata (Calcutta) of all places, where co-ops are usually of the Party, for the Party and by the Party.  Then she went to find out for herself.

As I enter the building the first thing that hits me is the sheer, raw woman power.  The office is a noisy, bustling, activity-filled place.  A few men, mostly behind desks – but the women are unmistakably and completely in control.  There are 60,000 women sex workers who are part of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC).  The name sums it up – durbar meaning ‘indomitable’, ‘unstoppable’.  Whoever thought that up was brilliant.  Listening to the women’s stories I am filled with admiration for their guts, their spirit and the manner in which they carry on with their lives, cheerfully and matter-of-factly.  There is no self-pity, no whining.  Theirs is a precarious, fragile existence often filled with violence and uncertainty. I see women with scars, knife slashes and burn marks.  Yet they take everything in their stride.  I am intrigued by their pride, the in-your-face attitude, especially in the context of India – a hypocritical society not known for its political correctness, much less its tolerance or sympathy.

"How did Durbar start?" I ask.

Continue reading: Sex Workers with Attitude by Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Annalee Rocks!
I decided to watch M. Night Shyamalan's latest highbrow horror-nerd movie, The Village, for reasons I can't properly explain.  I think it had something to do with the vague sense of doom I always experience when the Federal Communications Commission starts bending the electronics industry to its will by issuing gold approval stars to certain companies and not others.  In case you missed out, last week the FCC issued a list of 13 high-definition TV recorders (including several made by Sony, a new TiVo, and Microsoft's latest Media Player) that are authorized for the marketplace because they "protect digital broadcast television from the threat of mass, indiscriminate redistribution."


What that means is the FCC won't allow the sale of H.D. recorders that don't recognize a little watermark in the H.D. signal called the broadcast flag. The flag stops the indiscriminate consumer from making digitally perfect backup copies of HDTV programs by fucking up the digital output on your favorite Sony or TiVo device. Maybe we should issue a rule to rename the FCC. We could just add a few more letters and call it the FCFCC, or the Federal Communications for Cash Commission. Then we wouldn't need to wonder why the only "approved" technologies come from giant megacorporations.

Continue reading: Fear is Good by Annalee Newitz




Monday, August 23, 2004
Swift Boys Noise


 Don't even go there, Dubya
Bill O'Reilly: "The Kerry camp blames Bush is behind it.  The Bush campaign wouldn't be that dumb."  O'Reilly's own words foreshadow the fact that he's smart enough to know the truth of the political game involved.  If the GOP, RNC, Bush campaign or related 527 group really wants to unzip both candidate's fly and measure their Vietnam-era hard-ons in some fratboy locker room fashion, George W. Bush couldn't win that contest even after the RNC drags Bob Dole in front of a national TV audience for a few soundbytes with a mouthful of veteran's viagra.

Unlike some fellow bloggers, I haven't blogged anything about the swift boat political advertisements or the muddy waters of political groups in which they seem to endlessly swirl on cable news, until now.  As University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole wrote very recently on his site, Informed Comment:
The debate that a handful of Texas multi-millionnaires close to the Bush family have cleverly manufactured over John Kerry's war record is absurd in every way .... But to address the substance of this Big Lie is to risk falling into its logic.  The true absurdity of the entire situation is easily appreciated when we consider that George W. Bush never showed any bravery at all at any point in his life .... Kerry saved a man's life while under fire.  Bush did no such thing.
So what was little Dubya doing during the Vietnam War?  Maybe the history professor can educate us further:
We all know by now that Bush did not even do his full service with the Texas Air National Guard, absenting himself to work on the Alabama senate campaign of Winton "Red" Blount.  Whether he was actually AWOL during this stint is unclear.  But it is clear that not only did Bush slack off on his National Guard service, but he also slacked off from his campaign work.

This little-noted interview with Blount's nephew Murph Archibald, which appeared on National Public Radio's All Things Considered on March 30, 2004, gives a devastating insight into what it was like to have to suffer through Bush in that period.
If I make this an open-book history quiz, you should read the entire post by professor Cole.  I haven't even bothered with the Dubya's cocaine use, born-again-on-the-wagon period, or the psychological effects that those things might bring to bear on the leader of the most powerful country in the world with a $400 billion annual budget with which he now can really play army.  Here are just two snippets from the interview.
GOODWYN: Far from Texas and Washington, DC, Mr. Bush enjoyed his freedom.  He dated a beautiful young woman working on the campaign.  He went out in the evenings and had a good time.  In fact, he left the house he rented in such disrepair--with damage to the walls and a chandelier destroyed--that the Montgomery family who owned it still grumble about the unpaid repair bill.  Archibald says Mr. Bush would come into the office and, in a friendly way, offer up stories about the drinking he'd done the night before, kind of as a conversation starter.

GOODWYN: According to Archibald, Mr. Bush would also sometimes tell stories about his days at Yale in New Haven, and how whenever he got pulled over for erratic driving, he was let go after the officers discovered he was the grandson of a Connecticut US senator. Archibald, a middle-class Alabama boy--who, by the way, is now a registered Democrat--didn't like that story.
Pencils down.  Dubya's Swift Boat Just Doesn't Float.  I'm a helluva lot more concerned with the fact that this entire GOP smoke screen hides current lies, secrecy, corruption and empire-as-usual in the Bush World administration.  Honestly, I don't care what little Dubya did during Vietnam, I care what he did to drunkenly drive the country into the mother of all quagmires in Iraq.

Look, quagmire is Vietnam era term, but it's truly an understatement.  Right now, we're only one bad day away from reaching 1000 soldiers killed in Iraq.  Since the Bush administration can't seem to pull Osama out of a hat, no matter how much it pays and pressures the Pakistani ISI to produce a high value target before the election, Bush and Cheney are hoping that they can swagger into the upcoming Republican National Convention in NYC with some good news from Iraq.  Hence, another push to go after their puppet government's most vocal 'insurgent' -- 'radical' Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, in Najaf.

The reason I think quagmire is an understatement is because as far as quagmires go, 1000 dead and 6000 wounded in Iraq is just the skinned-over top of a huge pit-o-quagmire on top of which our country is currently and precariously sitting, if the Bush World political gambling goes awry.  And don't even utter the words exit strategy, because if you think the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Iraq plan looked bumbling because they didn't seem to have any plan ... it's because there never was any exit strategy ever.  Bush isn't nation-building.  He isn't pulling troops out of the Pacific and Europe to come home.  The new Bush World term -- think enduring camp.  But for today, look at the monthly numbers of KIA and wounded readily available online, like the bar graph on Global Security.  The last largest spike in deaths was the last time we went into Najaf militarily.

Just so you fathom the situation -- not the battle for Najaf, but the no-win gamble with which Bush and Cheney are playing politics -- read some of Global Security's Najaf info:
An Islamic holy city, Najaf is home to the shrine of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law and fourth caliph (656-661). Najaf also contains one of the largest cemeteries in the world. According to Imam Ali, any Muslim buried here will enter paradise; as a result, the tombs of several prophets are found in Najaf. Shia Muslims especially consider it a privilege to be buried here. Like Karbala, Najaf became an important center of Islamic scholarship and theology. During his exile from Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini lived here for 12 years prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran. In 1999, the Iraqi Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr was assassinated in Najaf, sparking clashes between Shia and the Iraqi government.

In the nineteenth century, the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala in Ottoman Iraq emerged as the most important Shi‘i centers of learning. Najaf is known for being an Islamic center for scientific, literary and theological studies for the whole Islamic world and mainly for the Shiites, therefore Najaf is attractive for a large number of people, poets, authors and other visitors from China/India, Lebanon, Pakistan and Iran which is estimated annually over half a million.
I highlighted Moqtada al Sadr's grandfather's name. The reason al Sadr wears a black turban is because he's blood-related to the assassinated/martyred Islamic high holy man, not because he thinks it's fashionable this year.  I know what you're thinking.  The U.S. is being careful not to dent the shrine.  Fine.  That's smart, but:

Shiites from all over the world, not only Iraqis or Iranians, but Shiites from Pakistan, India, Bahrain, all over the world go to Najaf and they ask to be buried in Najaf close to that mosque. And historically and religiously it's a very important city and mosque for Shiite Muslims. Shiites aspire to bury their dead in its cemetery, which stretches for miles. To the north and east of the town there are acres of graves and myriads of domes of various colors and at various stages of disrepair. The cemetery of Al-Najaf is one of the largest cemeteries in the world. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing in Najaf is the graveyard. Millions of Muslims over the centuries have been brought here for burial from all parts of the world of Islam. So Najaf is embraced by a vast semi-circle of graves- by an immense City of the Dead.

Bush may not be a beer-guzzling fratboy anymore, but he's drunk with power if he thinks that Muslims will be happy over what has already been happening in Najaf, Iraq.  Look, it's like me walking into the Vatican to arrest a child-molesting priest hiding there, but all I do is spit on the floor and put my cigarette out on the face of Jesus' shroud of Turin.  Since Bush is too drunk on something to understand that, I personally don't want him around for his next power binge.




Sunday, August 22, 2004
Masked Thieves Steal Scream


JfZ - An Icon of Angst and Fear
Another theft of pricelsss works today has caused the art world to have a never-ending anxiety attack.  Masked and armed thieves snatched up two Edvard Munch paintings in a brazen daylight robbery of the Munch Museum, in Oslo, while stunned museum visitors stood watching in fear.  The brazen thieves reportedly just held museum guards at bay with hand guns and grabbed the two large 2x3 foot Munch masterpieces, Scream and Madonna.  What worries museum officals and the art world at large is the fact that the thieves reportedly dropped the two large paintings during the robbery, the frames were later found smashed in Oslo, and the priceless Munch works could never be sold anywhere on the planet due to their notariety.

Painted in 1893, both masterpieces would be worth tens of millions of dollars at a legitimate auction.  Strangely, another version of Scream -- Munch painted four -- was stolen from the nearby National Gallery during the Olympic Games by a Munch-obsessed soccer fan.  However, the UK Guardian reports:
Suspicions for yesterday's raid focused immediately upon the perpetrators of a series of armed bank robberies elsewhere in Norway this summer.  They were characterised by careful planning, frequently involving gunmen pushing their way into banks shortly after they opened and before staff had time to get organised.  According to reports, the gang was at times 15-strong and several members appeared to have had military training.

Why anyone would want to steal a painting as well known as Edvard Munch's The Scream is a mystery.  The belief that masterpieces are stolen to order for wealthy private collectors is no longer widely credited.  A ransom demand at some future date seems more likely.

"We're following all possible leads ... but we don't know who did this," Detective Chief Inspector Kjell Pedersen told a news conference yesterday.  One of the thieves spoke in Norwegian during the robbery.
Not only is Scream the most famous Edvard Munch painting, but also has since become a cultural icon used to express angst and fear.  Uk Guardian reporters may more appropiately describe it as "an icon representing humanity's existential alienation," and Adrian Searle can give you a proper art-phag analysis of the work, but I hope you can understand the symbolism from my dumb-ass-bricklayer pixel-monkey image above.


Saturday, August 21, 2004
Dear George Letters



They deserve you

Dear George:

I despise you. As far as I am concerned, you stole the last election and are not a legitimate president.

You took us into a war under false pretenses. Hundreds of young Americans have been killed and thousands of Iraqes. How can you say we are safer? You opened the door to thousands of terrorists.

You do not care about the little people only those in the upper 2% who support you. I deal every day with people who have not health care and are desperate--I actually work for your baby brother who helped you steal the last election.

Personally, I am working hard to defeat you. For the first time I am actually involved in an election--I think it is a matter of this country's survival to defeat you. I look forward to your retirement in Crawford. Having lived in Texas, they deserve you.

Jean
Age 66
Sarasota, Florida



I actually stumbled onto this interesting project via an advertisement while researching a future blog entry I wanted to do on India.  I figured since the Bush Administration and his Commerce Department are actively promoting the exportation of Bush World jobs to places like India, I might want to know something about the people with whom I'll be competing to get any available work in the service industry, for example.  I'm too old now to re-enlist in the military and work overseas for Bush World ventures.  Not that being a veteran would help.  Since the Bush World Veteran's Administration is so currently overwhelmed, I'm not able to use any VA Benefits anyway.  Maybe I can be buried in a veteran's cemetary if I lose it and drive my electric scooter into the path of a speeding citrus semi-truck rumbling down the road out front.  I imagine even there, space is becoming filled up.

Anyway, the Dear George Letters are the bright idea of Marcus Woollen of West 50th Street Productions in New York.  There was such an overwhelming response to the project, they are now limited to selecting some letters and posting them on their BlogSpot site.

There are pro-Bush and anti-Bush letters posted on the site.  Here are some of my favorites, some not for obvious reasons, recently posted in August:

What happened to my tax cut?

World of Trouble

God doesn't take sides

Results do matter

If I were to sit down, think, and write a letter to George, I think it could sound similar to this, but would end up sounding like this.


 
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