May 2004
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Posted May 31, 2004
When the editorial policy gets predictable, the predictable get a tongue stud

Pop quiz: Seattle has opened a breathtaking new Central Library. What is the take by the alternative weekly The Stranger?

(a) "The new library is a triumphant celebration of learning, an addition to civic life of which we can all be proud."
(b) Run a photo of a homeless man standing in front of the library.

Those who feel they know the answer can continue on to the next paragraph.

When it first appeared on the scene in... it seems like the late 1950s, The Stranger was like a guerrilla 'zine written in an art student's basement apartment, photocopied at the corner Kinko's. Today it's as predictably, reflexively anti-establishment as its polar opposite, the Seattle Weekly, is in the thrall of urbane gallery openings and the newest bistro doing interesting things with venison.

Tim Keck and Knute Berger should be checking over their shoulders instead of sniping at each other in their news holes. Laptops, palmtops and wi-fi hotspots spell the end of the advantage of the free alternative weekly: cafe and espresso shop patrons now have something interactive and multimedia with which to pass the time. Even the weekly newspaper cornerstone, the personal ad, has lost its edge to the online dating service.

It's not like the duelling weeklies retain any great relevance on the culture beat either. All of The Stranger's art criticism can be reduced to this headline: "Starving artist's new work is impenetrable, and we loved it!" For its part the Weekly's review would focus less on the actual art and more on personalities of the artist, patron or venue owner.

The weeklies can still save themselves by taking a cue from the New Yorker: assume your readers are mature, have brains, possess an attention span greater than 30 seconds, and are interested in grown-up issues. Stranger: you have Sandeep Kaushik. Weekly: you have Rick Anderson. A good start would be to turn them loose to do what they do best. And for god sake, lose the I Saw U and the escort service ads.

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Posted May 26, 2004
How about a hard-boiled egg eating contest?

Today's news brings comments by Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer of the Iraq Governing Council, that Abu Ghraib shouldn't be torn down. Al-Yawer believes it would be a waste of resources that Iraq cannot currently afford. Mr_Blog tends to agree: prisons don't violate the Geneva Conventions— people do.

I still don't see how tearing down Abu Ghraib can celebrate Iraqi liberty, when we are going to turn right around and celebrate that new liberty by building a brand new prison. I wonder which American company with a name beginning with H is going to get the construction contract... Hmm...

What we really need is a symbolic act that would prove to Iraqis that Americans are sincere about punishing war criminals. How about this: (1) keep Abu Ghraib intact and fix it up; (2) put up Charles Graner and Lynddie England in the honeymoon suite for 15-20 years. Oh but wait—there is that little matter of E.O. 13303. Bush ought to have Graner and England home in time for Christmas—after the election.

Sidebar: Welcome to all curiosity seekers who have been alerted by Generik's Mass Email List to the existence of Mr_Blog. Thanks, Brother G!

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Posted May 24, 2004
Halli-Mart is open for business

The Sunday Seattle Times brought an interesting piece of fine print. I'm one of the seven readers who check the "How Your U.S. Lawmaker Voted" column, courtesy of Roll Call. At the conclusion was this little item:

Trade With Terrorists
By a vote of 50-49, the Senate on Wednesday failed to pass an amendment making it a federal crime for a U.S. company to sell to terrorist states through a foreign subsidiary. The ban would apply in cases where the U.S. firm owns at least 50 percent of the subsidiary. The vote occurred during debate on the fiscal 2005 defense budget (S 2400), which remained in debate.

The vote was mostly on party lines, only 3 Republicans voted Yea; honorary Rs Max Baucus and Zell Miller broke with fellow Democrats.

The defeat looks gift-wrapped for Halliburton by Selected Vice President Dick Cheney. As we now know, though it is rarely reported, the Big H reaped tens of millions from deals with the other Big H, Saddam Hussein, which were transacted through Halliburton subsidiaries in Europe. The deals occurred in the 80s and 90s, including the time when Cheney was Halliburton CEO. Source.

So Halliburton is off the hook, in the past and future. Is Cheney planning for his return to the private sector? His fingerprints are all over the defeat of this amendment. But he probably wore gloves.

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Posted May 12, 2004
The Usual Suspects

Cop: "Number 3, step forward and say 'evildoers'."
W: "Evildoers"
We the People: "That's him, officer! That's the man who stole the 2000 election!"

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Posted May 11, 2004

Get Out Of Jail Free Card

The shocking Abu Ghraib photos have been circling the planet for over week now,and Mr_Blog has seen fit to withhold comment, letting Seymour Hersh do that voodoo that he do so well. The New Yorker is Mr_Blog's newfavorite magazine. Yes— the New Yorker.

A number of low level military and civilian personnel have been reprimanded orare under investigation. But there is little likelihood of serious punishmentunder US law. Remember Executive Order 13303? Issued in May of last year, it waswidely reported at the time as giving blanket immunity to Big Oil for anyoffenses they might commit in the course of securing Iraqi oil, or rather,protecting the flow of revenues from oil and gas into the Iraq Development Fund.Specifically E.O. 13303 declared that,

any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or otherjudicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void

"Or other judicial process." That would seem to cover criminal acts as well ascivil torts, folks. Leaving aside for the moment the matter of Fund revenues eventually being siphoned off under legal guises such as'remibursing' the ExIm Bank, Mr_Blog calls readers' attentions to section1(b) of the order:

(b) all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein,and proceeds, obligations, or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoeverarising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and intereststherein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest,that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States,or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of UnitedStates persons.

Furthermore, section 3(c) defines "United States persons" as any US citizen,entity or jurisdiction acting under US law, "or any person in the UnitedStates."

That is: any action taken by anyone, anywhere, directly orindirectly in support of Iraq's oil industry is immune from prosecution. Anddoesn't the US occupation of Iraq have everything to do with oil?

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