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, October 13, 2004
Same Jack Boots - Different Day

 and the Big Brother Award goes to ...
When it comes to the principles of civil liberties in a civil society, everyone, including you and I, must remain ever watchful and forever vigilant.  In the matters of privacy and free expression for all of us, there are a number of violators of these principles in our world.

Whether it is one of many multinational conglomerates data mining your personal information for marketing purposes or government officials and bureaucrats overstepping their authority and mandate in the name of national security, examples of corporate or governmental entities violating the civil liberties and civil rights of people simply abound.

When a government official violates a person's rights and liberties (or literally throws someone in jail) for seemingly no legal reason, won't divulge the reason to that person, then throws away the key -- the only reason you and I ever know of it is because someone yells loud enough for us to eventually hear of it.

I don't have to tell you that you're not going to hear about every story involving Jack Booted Thugs on CNN or read about every secret detention, property seizure, or victim of ethnic profiling in the New York Times.  That's like looking for a slice of your mother's special home-made pie at McDonald's.  It's not going to happen.

However, in this age of hyper information, some things percolate to the top of RSS and XML news feeds quickly, and the length of time between event and outcry shortens significantly.  One thing that is sure to raise eyebrows rapidly is when the grapevine itself comes under attack.

To me, there is a difference between the heirarchy of news journalism and the foodchain of media outlets.  Think of it in terms of brain food.  The foodchain of media outlets is like the various chains of fast food drive-thru places available to you in any city in the modern world.  The names of these places occupy a rastor-burned portion of your gray matter due to the 48,156,234 times their name or logo has been advertised to you.  McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell are just some of my personal coronary favorites.  Perhaps you prefer one more than the other.  Perhaps you prefer FOX over ABC, NBC, CNN or CBS.

Unlike the fast foodchain of media outlets, the heirarchy of news journalism more resembles the mom-and-pop restaurants and diners.  You may have a favorite family-owned pizza parlor in your neighborhood or chinese restaurant around the block.  Even if you grab some chinese take-out or have a pizza delivered by the owner's teenage son, it's food they made for you.  Independent news journalism, or indymedia, is like those small, out of the way, but favorite places where I like to occasionally feed my brain.

Without indy news, all you'd have left to feed your own brain would be the fast foodchain of media outlets which are corporate owned and whose primary motivation is advertising revenue and secondary corporate mission is to bring you the news.  And it's the just the news they deem fit for you to hear.

Independent news journalism is vital to our watchful and vigilant eye on the character and activities of governments all around the globe.  Without individual journalists highlighting events about which they write, we might never have heard the name Abu Ghraib.  Freedom of expression is a civil liberty that is important to all of us.

That's why it is especially outrageous when a government agency oversteps their authority, or when law enforcement agents are just doing their job, and it violates civil liberties like free expression.  Cry out all you want; if no one can hear you, no one can tell another person about it.  The web does level the playing fields a bit.  It's difficult to act outrageously and keep it a secret any longer.

Such is the case that I read today on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) XML news feed.  I feel it highlights the character of the Bush Administration's Jack Booted Mindset:
October 12, 2004
EFF Challenges Secret Government Order to Shut Down Media Websites
Seizure of Servers Hosting Indymedia Websites Violates the First Amendment

San Francisco, CA -- The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing a coalition of independent Internet journalists whose websites were shut down on Thursday, October 7, when their servers were seized by the FBI. The two servers, which were located in the United Kingdom and managed by San Antonio-based Rackspace Managed Hosting, hosted Indymedia's Internet radio station and more than 20 Indymedia websites, as well as several email lists.

The seizure was in response to a "Commissioner's Subpoena" issued at the request of a foreign government. Citing a gag order, Rackspace has provided no further details. An FBI spokesperson has confirmed that the subpoena was issued at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities. Earlier this month, the FBI made informal requests to both Rackspace and Indymedia to remove an Indymedia news story that included photos of undercover Swiss investigators posing as anti-globalization activists. At the time, the FBI admitted that the posting did not violate US law.

EFF has contacted the FBI to demand Indymedia's illegally seized servers be returned and is preparing for legal action in the event that negotiations with the FBI fail. EFF is also calling on Rackspace to challenge the government's illegal seizure. "If Rackspace stands behind its claim of providing 'Fanatical Support' to its customers, it will go to bat for Indymedia--one of its biggest customers--and demand that the FBI return the seized Internet servers," said Kurt Opsahl, EFF staff attorney. "Rackspace should also fight for its own rights and challenge the gag order preventing it from sharing its side of the story." A federal court in New York City recently found a similar gag order unconstitutional in Doe v. Ashcroft, the ACLU's challenge to a secret PATRIOT Act subpoena served against an Internet service provider.

"The FBI can't pull the plug on more than 20 news websites -- our modern printing presses -- based on a secret proceeding at the request of a foreign government. This is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow. "As far as the Constitution is concerned, Indymedia has the same rights as any other news publisher. The government can't shut down the New York Times, and it can't shut down Indymedia."

The Indymedia seizure bears a striking resemblance to EFF's very first case, Steve Jackson Games v. US Secret Service. In that case, the Secret Service seized the hardware and software of Steve Jackson Games, an Austin, Texas-based computer game publisher. That seizure, which shut down an Internet bulletin board and email server in addition to disrupting the publisher's business, was found to be an illegal violation of the publisher's rights.


Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

For inquiries about Indymedia:

Devin T. Theriot-Orr
Edwards Sieh Smith & Goodfriend

And don't forget, people like Dave Thomas, Mike Ilitch and even Colonel Sanders all started out in the kitchen before they ended up in the boardroom.  Indymedia is an important voice and a vital source for healthy minds.

[Headphones] :: Bush and Brando debate - JfZ

Tuesday, October 12, 2004
BlogDrive's Indoor Plumbing
Monday, October 11, 2004
Stolen Honor or Stolen Airwaves?

Swift Boys Noise redux
Random skyward weapons fire, spontaneous erections, and much praising of the lord are the reactions by forum trolls at Free Republic upon hearing the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc plans to broadcast the Stolen Honor documentary film about ten days before the presidential election, later this month.  Initially viewed by many as a Swift Boys Noise redux propoganda production, Stolen Honor was only previously available on DVD and pay-per-view basis on the internet.  In this highly charged and radically divided election season, however, indie films and videos portraying either presidential candidate are getting more attention and buzz than if Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston had released the highlights of their private sex video tape collection.

And seriously, Brad. If you have any tapes, it's high time you share the love, bud.

When I blogged about the 2nd presidential debate in Town Hall Tap Dance, I told you how the news media outlets were likely to declare the debate a tie and promote the contest in order to make money.  Subsequently, in USA Today, media columnist Peter Johnson asks the perennially question, "Are the media playing politics?" and highlights the difference between the presidential debate candidates' performance characterizations made by broadcast and cable news outlets.

Johnson handily cites a recent Center for Media and Public Affairs study showing the difference between cable news (CNN, FOX) and the broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) in a table entitled "Cable's Even Split".  Basically, this study analyzed the positive and negative comments made about Bush and Kerry.  Johnson's table highlights that the broadcast outlets favoring Kerry heavily after both presidential debates, and comments on NBC praising Kerry over Bush more that 2-1.

Rather than looking to one of its 527 corporation minions, like the Swift Boys, in order to put a tourniquet on George Bush's public opinion hemorrhaging, the Bush Cheney 2004 campaign must have made an emergency conference call to Sinclair Broadcast Group executives.

Let's not talk about Iraq
It has been reported that these fat cats whose political contributions are given 98% of the time to the GOP plan to preempt normally scheduled programming on their television station holdings for three days in order to broadcast the anti-Kerry piece Stolen HonorSinclair's television group includes 20 FOX, 19 WB, 6 UPN, 8 ABC, 3 CBS, 4 NBC affiliates and 2 independent stations and reaches approximately 24% of all U.S. television households.  This is the same corporation that stopped it's ABC affiliates from reading the soldiers' names killed in Iraq.

I am not slamming the Stolen Honor piece.  I have not seen it.  Unlike the GOP faithful at the Republican National Convention that slammed and loudly jeered Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 911 -- but then admitted they had not even seen the award-winning documentary film, like respected Senator McCain has done -- I am merely pointing out that broadcasting Stolen Honor seems like typical GOP dirty tricks.  Do you see any so-called battleground states in the SBGI sphere of influence map?  I do.

Before you get your own underwear in a jumble, like the Michigan GOP did, Sinclair Broadcasting has posted this on their corporate website home page:
We welcome your comments regarding the upcoming special news event featuring the topic of Americans held as prisoners of war in Vietnam. The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill-informed sources.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has been invited to participate. You can urge him to appear by calling his Washington, D.C. campaign headquarters at:
(202) 712-3000.

if you would like to make further comments on this matter, you may do so at:
Yeah, that's just great SBGI.  Thanks for the information.  Right after I follow your instructions, I'm going to call John Kerry on his cell phone and ask him, "So, when's the last time you beat your wife?"

I think it might be more appropriate for me to send SBGI an email and simply ask them to put their money where their fair and balanced mouth is.  If SBGI and the GOP wants to further move the political discussion away from reality and talk about the Vietnam War instead of Iraq right before the presidential election by elevating the status of a film previously only seen by uber-conservative forum trolls by broadcasting it to millions of people in the country, maybe someone should be looking into SBGI's FCC license and other relevant corporate documents.

Here's an idea that's fair and balanced. Pre-empt the O'Reilly Factor for three nights in a row and broadcast Fahrenheit 911 in its place.  I'd really love to see that.

[Headphones] :: Bush and Brando debate - JfZ

Saturday, October 09, 2004
Town Hall Tap Dance

Right Click and Rip it.  I made it for you.
Predictably, the Town Hall Tap Dance was not overly impressive as a defining moment for either U.S. Presidential candidate.  I realize this sounds immediately cynical to most of you.  However, let's take a closer look at who you might actually be.

1. You have always supported George Bush through thick and thin.  No matter how many lies, distortions, mistakes, or acts of incompetence, arrogance and corruption come out of the Bush administration, he's your buddy.  You are a Dubya-defender.  You are a Bush World cultist.  You will vote for Bush.

2. You believe George Bush already stole the 2000 presidential election and you certainly don't want him to have four more years in which to run amok with his neo-con foreign policy, his clenched sphincter cultural attitudes, or his pesky way of compassionately outsourcing your job to the third world. You're hopeful that John Kerry can turn this mess of a country around. You will vote for Kerry.

If either of those descriptions even remotely characterizes your feelings, then you already know who won Friday night's presidential debate, don't you?  If you need someone in the editorial media to back you up, you can easily find it.  If you look toward the candidates' punditry, they'll agree with your own astute assessment of the debate.  That's their job, remember?

And don't forget what the jobs of most media outlets really are -- bringing in ad revenue.  If not declaring the debate an outright tie, headlines are likely to focus on the closeness of the overall contest.  They will sell the contest, make it exciting, and make money.  It would be counter-productive and unprofitable for any media business to declare that either candidate has absolutely trounced the other one.  This election, if nothing else, is an absolute cash cow for media.

If Bush fell on his face during the first debate, the expectation by any thinking person would be that he simply had to do a little better in the second debate.  His wife could likely find some happy seratonin uptake inhibitors rolling around in the bottom of her purse like orphaned tic-tacs to help Dubya turn his nervously defensive stupidity into compassionate conservative buddy-speak.

3. You are undecided.  You watched the town hall meeting where undecided people asked questions about the issues that concerned them, but you still can't make up your mind who to vote for come November.  You tend to annoy your friends while eating out because they have to wait ten minutes while you weigh your fluctuating desire for both soup and salad.  You get nervous choosing between paper and plastic.  Not only do you shop for holiday gifts the evening before, but also then spend the holiday red-eyed and listless because it took you all night choosing the perfect wrapping paper and pretty, fluffy bow combination for each gift recipient.

If you are undecided, I encourage you to decide, rather than become apathetic.  In order to help you, I've illustrated a four step plan in Homeland Security threat level colors that you can adopt.  I respect someone who votes more than someone who succumbs to their own confusion or doesn't care enough about our country to be involved in its future.  In my opinion, you're self-centered and sociopathic, if you do nothing.

Rather than attempting to lay out articulate arguments for my own views on various issues that may be of common concern between us, let me make it simpler than that to assist you.  You can always read my take on foreign policy and important domestic policy issues.  You can boil the entire election down to an admittedly over-simplified, but hopefully clear, selection.

If you think you, your family, and our country as a whole is doing just great and can do no better -- you have to stay the course, break out the anal vaseline, and vote for Bush.  If you think the country deserves better leadership, some fresh thinking on the domestic and international problems that face all of us, and a change at the top -- you will vote for John Kerry.

Do vote for someone.  You know how I feel about apathy.  Even if you choose to take it up the ass for four more years with Dubya, I did remind you to bring vaseline, and I'll still respect you in the morning.

[Headphones] :: Bush and Brando debate - JfZ

Friday, October 08, 2004
Schizo Web Surfer: From Bush to Baloo the Bear

YCMTSU - Get some effin gear
Friday night, John Kerry and George Bush will debate for the 2nd time in St. Louis, Missouri.  For the 1st debate, I blogged a cynical prediction, was completely surprised after watching it and had to sarcasticly blog some post-debate highlights.  After that, I did some research about the economy and jobs, and blogged about domestic issues.  Those things are likely to come up in Friday's Presidential debate, as we didn't get very much of a preview of domestic issues from the Vice Presidential Smack Down in Cleveland.  Nonetheless, because I know you'd miss it, I dutifully percolated some of my cynicism and sarcasm to blog a VP debate parody for your personal snickering pleasure.  Let loose with a few out-loud snorts, if you feel the urge.  No one knows you are reading how Dick Cheney looked and acted like Smeagol, even if you are a hereditary Republican.

During my own schizo web surfing today, I laughed my ass off reading Saladin's call for more mud-slinging in political ads and when he started, "This is John Kerry.  He has a melty face."  I mean, honestly, develope a sense of humor about these things and unclench that right-wing sphincter once in a while.  You'll make the people around you hate you a little less and you'll be able to throw away that dusty package of chocolate laxatives I spotted the last time I snooped through your medicine chest.  Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you.  You also need a refill on your Zoloft prescription, too -- you silly, bouncing, socially-anxious cartoon bubble.

There are other things going on, besides the televised political truth-fest.  I think, as Americans, some of us are watching the debates in anticipation of a complete derailment by one of the candidates.  George Bush's last performance was a slow motion train wreck, I have to admit.  Other people are putting the debates into perspective and turning it into a drinking game.

On Friday, you could also raise your glasses in a toast because this person received the Nobel Peace Prize.  Or, if you're alone on a perfectly good Friday night, you could always advance your standing among your overly-achieving geeky friends by memorizing the list of people who have received the Nobel Prize in their field of expertise since 1901.  That might be cool.

Here's some easier Nobel trivia:

Besides the Peace prize awarded today, can you even name the five other fields of expertise in which a person can become a Nobel Laureate?

What was the last year that no Peace Prize was awarded?

Hint: The same year, 3 Americans shared the Nobel Prize for Physics, "for their jointly developed theory of superconductivity, usually called the BCS-theory."

Not much of a hint?  Sorry. That was for Final Jeopardy, too.  You go home with nothing.

If you get terribly bored tonight during the presidential debate, you could always play some of the many educational games at the Nobel website.  Some of the games are suggested for users 18 years and up, too.  So, if you're under 18 years of age, be a rebel, break the rules, and learn something.

Honestly, simply reading some of the biographies of past Nobel Laureates is an inspirational history lesson.  And, you can learn quite a bit from some of the eduational games at the Nobel website.

See?  Next time someone accuses you of just downloading porn while being online, you can stun them by responding, "No, actually, I was reading the 1907 presentation speech by C.D. Wirsen when the Nobel Prize for Literature was given to Rudyard Kipling.  Did you know that he created Baloo the Bear and Mowgli from the Jungle Book series and it was originally published in 1894?"

Besides, I download porn in the background, minimized, while I'm reading something else.

[Added] via Low Rent Rat: Take 90 seconds and Listen to Congressman Tim Ryan on the House floor during the consideration of the Military Draft legislation the other day.  He gets it.

[Headphones] :: Bush and Brando debate - JfZ

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