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

Thunderstorms in the Imajica



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Saturday, August 28, 2004
RNC@NYC: weekend


Learn more about Bush's Iraq
Not completely unrelated to the popular grass-roots protests many groups are planning to organize during the Republican National Convention in NYC, which are many, I'd like to interject my observation about the Najaf crisis that was avoided

Did you happen to notice how quickly after our U.S. media broadcast images of the massive Iraqi convoys following the grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to Najaf, and peace was restored, you see and hear nothing now?  It's as if the media was ready for the shit to hit the fan and civil war to erupt, but when it didn't happen, they packed up and scurried back inside the green zone -- as if there's no friggin' story to be told now.

Coming up next on Fox News -- some in-depth live reporting on some excrutiatingly minute detail of the Scott Peterson murder trial -- Fox News asks the tough questions -- Did Amber Frey's hair stylist also have an affair?

Back when Moqtada al-Sadr first took his Mehdi militia into Najaf, I made a quick comment about how I thought the media, or the Bush administration, seem to scoff and call them 'radicals' and 'insignificant insurgents'.  Also, despite published material from our own U.S. Army War College, the Bush administration couldn't seem to grasp the inherent importance of Iraqi clerics to the Iraqi people they so repeatedly take credit for 'liberating' -- or the huge significance that Iraq's grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani got involved and reigned in Moqtada al-Sadr and his anti-occupation campaign.  Had al-Sistani not done so, civil war or a large-scale civilian uprising in Iraq was more than a possibility.  While time will tell if al-Sadr respects al-Sistani enough to keep his word on the cease-fire, it certainly should show anyone paying attention that Bush's occupational puppet prime minister of Iraq, Allawi, has no power with the Iraqi people.  But, at the end of the day, I said in Cooler Heads Prevail For How Long? that al-Sistani undoubtedly saved many lives, both Iraqi and U.S. military, and thank [insert-deity-here] al-Sistani has done it again.

Who dies when Bush lies?

On August 29, United for Peace and Justice will hold an impassioned, peaceful, and legal march past Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican Convention.  When the Republicans descend on New York City with their agenda of war, greed, hate and lies, they will be met by a massive, diverse, peaceful outpouring of dissent, as huge numbers of us join together in a spirit of nonviolence for a legal, permitted march on August 29 to say NO to their destructive and divisive policies.

More than 360 groups — including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and September 11th families — have endorsed the August 29 protest and will be marching with us on that day. We will also be joined scores of prominent people, including Danny Glover, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., UNITE/HERE President Bruce Raynor and Congressman Major Owens.

If you're alarmed by the direction that the Bush Administration has taken this country, and disgusted by the efforts to marginalize and stifle our calls for change, you will want to make your voice heard on August 29.

Thousands ride in NYC

According to multiple reports coming into nyc.indymedia.org, even though TIMES UP! conducts a typically traffic-slowing Critical Mass Ride every month, several thousand bikers, skaters, and pedestrians took the opportunity to voice their opposition to the Bush administration.

Unfortunately, some 264 participants in last night's event rode straight into Bush World compassionate conservatism and were arrested.





March for Womens Lives
"In a show of unity and strength, we will gather in the birthplace of reproductive freedom - New York City - to support global family planning; real sex education; accessible, safe and legal abortion; birth control options; the right to privacy regarding sexuality; and access to health care."

Saturday, many thousands of women representing a number of women's groups marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and took part in the NY Planned Parenthood March for Womens Lives.


Blog the Vote!



Friday, August 27, 2004
RNC@NYC: Naked Truth


Get some effin' Gear by JfZ
Here at Thunderstorms, I strive to bring you the news and information that you're not likely (or never) going to see, hear, or read completely on Bush World FCC-approved news media outlets.

While I do read news reported by FOX, CNN, MSNBC and many large city newspapers, I also like to get reports from newspapers outside of the United States to see how they are reporting on the same stories.  I also look to independent media outlets and press releases from the groups that are actually doing the things about which the corporate-sponsored media reports.

The things that interest me aren't always political, but when they are, it should be obvious from my T-shirt (shown) what my own bias is going to be.

You see, if all you ever do is watch Bush World FCC-approved broadcast and cable news, your view of the world is going to be very much like the one in the Matrix movies.  Oh, but don't worry.  You'll be happy and content, or afraid and worried, depending upon how they want you to feel that week.  Watch their news and buy their stuff.  It's really not that difficult to figure out.  There's nothing exactly wrong about watching your evening news just so you understand that the person talking to you on the television should be believed about as much as the used-car salesman that shows up in the commercial during the television news broadcast.  If you don't, then you're just a mindless consumer -- which is what other people would prefer you to be.  But, if you're like me, you prefer to free your mind.

Concerning the upcoming Bush World love fest in NYC, I thought I might also provide some details and context beyond the blurbs you might hear about in the news.  You can check out the dynamic RNC Watch XML news feed for items of interest.  I guess I get to start out with the naked truth.



With the words "Stop AIDS" and "Drop the Debt" painted on their backs, eleven activists led by Act-Up New York, laid their naked bodies on the line in front of Madison Square Garden at noon today. Marching into the street at Eigth Avenue and 33rd Street, the activists filed in line, took off their clothes and began to chant, "George Bush, drop the debt!"

Exposing the Bush administration's dangerous policies that ignore the AIDS pandemic, the ACT UP activists were countering the spin the White House is spewing about the administration's AIDS record in order to attract swing voters. "When it comes to Bush's record on global AIDS, he's an emperor that has no clothes, " said Asia Russell of ACT UP. "He's exploiting the greatest public health threat of our generation in order to get moderate voters and faith based organizations.

Bush refused to support a proposal from June's G-7 summit in Georgia requesting the complete cancellation of Third World debt. ACT UP said that poor countries spend billions of dollars annually to pay undying interest on their international debts, which are funds that should be used for social services, including money needed for AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

By espousing a "record" that says the Bush administration is contributing to the global fight against AIDS, Russel said, "The Bush administration is giving us nothing but lies and empty rhetoric." The activists stayed in the streets for about ten minutes while a banner unfurled behind them reading, "Stop AIDS, Drop the Debt." Another banner was hung on a nearby trailer. Police then cleared the media-clogged area and arrested the activists.

Legal support for the protest said the arrestees were charged with indecent exposure, public lewdness and disorderly conduct. They were expected to be released today with tickets ordering them to appear in court at a later date.

Critical Mass bike ride

The TIME'S UP! environmental group has a long history of promoting a positive message about our environment and non-polluting transportation. The 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC) in New York City represents a great opportunity to express this message to our elected representatives and the national audience that will watch the Republicans nominate George Bush for another four years in office. TIME'S UP! is planning a full week of events to coincide with the RNC, starting on Friday, August 27th, with a scheduled Critical Mass Ride.


Check out Rooftop Films

Maybe one film festival can't change the world, but on the last Friday before the Republican National Convention, Rooftop Films is going to try, showing new short films by filmmakers who don't want four more years of disgraceful leadership and can't stand to be represented by an administration that only dissembles and destroys.  These filmmakers don't just wear their partisan hearts on their sleeves—they throw those very hearts at the screen. Read more about the films being shown for the Friday, August 27th festival, Misunderestimated.

Blog the Vote!



Thursday, August 26, 2004
P2P News and Forums


Fighting Bush World
Hackers, Slackers and Bloggers aren't the first group of people you think would care what some international conglomerates, their paid governmental talking heads (Orrin Hatch, et al) or their greedy legal sharks (RIAA) are doing.  Times have changed.

When the RIAA can legally sue you and me in federal court anywhere in the United States for 'illegally distributing copyrighted material' (and they continue to sue) just because you thought it would be cool to make me listen to the latest Brittney Spears MP3 audio nightmare while I read how typically boring your day was on your blog, it's time to get off of your digital fat ass and pay attention.

I'm not going to say anything more than that.  If you use peer-to-peer software to efficiently search for and exchange information stored on other users' computers on the net, you know who you are.  You are a cluless fool if you think 'they' will never sue 'you'.

Here is a handy list of P2P News and Forum sites who have their own style and favored platform, software, or issue concerning P2P Networks.

P2P Forums
Slyck
Nap Junk
MV Group
Integrity P2P
Respect P2P
Misinformation is a Crime
The Big Hack
Slyck News Feed

Please feel free to comment on this topic.  If you have some additional information, let us know.  Remember that if you wish to comment on news items, be sure to include the static URL of the particular news story in your comment, as the news links above come via a dynamic XML news feed.


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




 
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