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Sunday, March 11, 2001
watched the hotel new hampshire on we (women's entertainment), a documentary on the grateful dead (on pbs) and deuce bigalow: male gigolo (free weekend on starz!). they were all really good :) btw i caught lace II on we a few weeks ago, and it was really good, too.

***
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Saturday, March 10, 2001
ultra-violence by stile

***
Every day tens of thousands of people die. If you're lucky, you'll get on TV when your turn comes. That's what it's all about, right? Getting on TV?

What the hell is wrong with this world when a kid feels he has to bring a gun to school and kill because he's so sick of life and so sick of being tortured day after day that he can no longer cope with having the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis?

There is a big ass cum stain on our social fabric, and try as we might we can't seem to wash it out.

I feel like I'm trapped watching some bad movie; the retarded offspring of Heathers and Natural Born Killers, except Oliver Stone isn't directing and I'm on really bad acid... Throw in a little Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket, and there you have today's society, all nicely packaged for mass consumption on the nightly news.

Our culture worships violence, sex and greed. You can almost hear the cheers from the audience as the body count piles up. Most people that I've talked to don't even care about the recent school shootings and just say to me that they wish they could see the video of it. Hell, I'll be honest with you, I wish I could see the video.

When we push people to their limits day after day, don't you think that they'll eventually crack? Reminds me of that kid Gomer Pile from Full Metal Jacket. They constantly torment him and beat the shit out of him, and one day he just loses it and starts to kill.

Ask most people what they care most about in life and they'll say sex and money. What else is there? Sex, sex, sex.

Kill, consume, destroy, fornicate, die. Unfortunately it's not that simple. There's always a price to pay, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The lucky ones realize that life is about much more than what we see on television and in magazines. The lucky ones realize that you don't have to be a good consumer and follow the rules to be accepted and liked by your peers. The lucky ones realize that it's OK to just be yourself.

Who knows what to make of things these days -- our culture is just one big sadistic freakshow. I think that the media is just as guilty as the murderers because they plaster their faces everywhere until the killers become household names, celebrities of death, potentially inspiring others to do the same. It's sending a message out to people that if you murder someone you'll become famous. And being famous is cool, right? The more people you murder, the more famous you'll become. The more people you shoot, the more air time you'll get on the nightly news, the more people will see your face.

With the most recent High School shooting (there have been two in the last week) two people died, thirteen injured. When the shooter was captured, he looked into the cameras and smiled. He wanted you to like him, and he was proud of what he'd done.

The audience wants blood. Like in Roman times, we are all the witnesses to the bloody battles in the coliseum from the comfort of our couches, but there are no winners here. Everyone is a loser. Our families, our society, our schools, our culture.

We always hear the same old clichés on the news when shit like this happens: "I never thought it would happen in our community" .. "I still can't believe that it happened in our own backyard" .. "He seemed like such a good kid."

I was watching CNN while they were interviewing people that went to the school. I almost threw up. The students being interviewed couldn't have been more well groomed for the spotlight and happy to be on television. They were calm, cool and collective; like they've been lying on a beach in Hawaii all weekend and just got five consecutive blow jobs. They did not seem like people who just saw people that they knew that went to their school slaughtered like a pig on a farm.

This is it kid, your fifteen minutes -- Just look into the camera and tell the world exactly what you saw. Smile -- everyone loves a smile. Tell us how you ran to get your video camera to videotape your fellow students being gunned down. Tell the world, the truth will vindicate all of us. Maybe if you're lucky you'll get a book deal!

By the way, have you sold the tape to anyone yet? I bet you could get $100,000 for it, easy! You look good kid, you know that? Everyone around the world is thinking the same thing. You're a good looking kid. You seem smart. Just relax, and when the red light starts blinking, answer the reporters questions truthfully. And smile! Let's have some fun! Oh yeah, sorry about your friends. In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

How many lives were ruined in those few minutes. The people killed, the families of the people killed, the friends of the people killed, the people injured when red hot bullets pierced their flesh and tore their bodies open. The kid who did the shooting, the shooters family, the shooters friends...

I wonder what kind of positive things came out of this whole mess. Let's see -- Shares for CNN went up, making them tens of millions of dollars. Ratings went up as well. The reporters on the scene got promotions and salary raises for a "job well done." Some Senator out there is thinking up some new law that will be named after him, and congress will bring forth new laws so things like this don't happen again...

And I'll sit here, watching. Watching the world turn on itself and roll around in its own shit. I'm sure I'll be writing these exact same words a few months from now when this happens again. And it will happen, believe me -- the spark was ignited a long time ago and the domino effect of society crumbling in on itself is becoming more apparent every day.

Friday, March 9, 2001
omega and q values!

philip zimbardo interview on the "mean-spiritedness" of reality tv shows (via memepool)

he pisses behind
the dumpster, in cold darkness
she cannot do this

is it lifeor is it majestic? (via sherry :)

Thursday, March 8, 2001
hey, doug henwood edits the left business observer whose byline is "accumulation & its discontents" :) there's a cool review (family type as the seed of civilisations?) of empire in it and a semi-permeable archive of back issues.

update on the public netbase and austria in general at nettime and another one at sfbg.

about one year ago i picked up building nothing out of something! btw, site redesign brought to you by the hajj :) i've also added summore weblogs for easier access!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2001
clay shirky (via slashdot) on intelligent agents (via arstechnica)

In this experiment, each agent could send a binary message (a short string of ones and zeroes) to a central message board, and could also perceive the messages of the other three agents. With this rudimentary communications framework and no formal language, groups of agents were thrown into random configurations and allowed to pursue their prey for five thousand moves. The programs of the most successful agents were then cross-bred and thrown into new random situations, repeat chorus. In the early phases of the experiment, the messages on the message board were essentially random, but because the agents were designed to try different strategies, and because the ones with the most successful strategies propagated while the least successful died out, they evolved a language over time that allowed them to coordinate their hunt.

More importantly, the researchers found that successful predators evolved language more efficiently if their communication was limited in length in the beginning and grew over time, rather than being uniformly large from the beginning. Expanding the available message size after the predators learned to use shorter "words" allowed the agents to evolve a functioning language much faster. Limiting the message length also seemed to lead the predators to evolve "words" that had different meanings in different situations. (The authors compared this to the word drive, which is a noun or a verb depending on use.) Most astonishing of all, the authors of the study could not always decipher the agents' language. They knew the predators were saying something useful to each other, since they were getting better at chasing down the prey, but finding a Rosetta Stone for human-agentese proved impossible.

there was also this page (via missingmatter, and a post by me :) on the uncanny predictability of market outcomes. collectively, when people have something at stake they tend to make the correct decision(s) even though individually their knowledge of the situation is incomplete. each person "brings to the table" a little part of the solution and then (according to some undecipherable rules?) an outcome is computed. i remember reading something similar in the wsj on "market wisdom" and "independent errors." here's a paper on it (see page 4). it's sort of like the golden ratio i guess, where if you ask a bunch of people to draw their ideal rectangle the average ratio of the sides always ends up around 1.618.

started reading bernard lietaer's the future of money. i thought this sidebar was pretty neat :

[O]ur contemporary global money system plays a similar role to the autonomous nervous system of the human body because it is essential to the functioning of the whole, but has remained until now mostly unconscious, beyond the control of an individual's will-power. In this metaphor, our objective here is to bring conscious awareness and choice to the implications of using different money systems.

in the note he starts out saying how money is the oldest, most pervasive, truly global and even most universal information system devised by humans. wow!

Tuesday, March 6, 2001
some issues illustrating the political-economy of the bush administration in today's wsj.

***
Corporate Donors Seek Return
On Investment in Bush Campaign
By TOM HAMBURGER, LAURIE MCGINLEY and DAVID S. CLOUD
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

WASHINGTON -- For the businesses that invested more money than ever before in George W. Bush's costly campaign for the presidency, the returns have already begun.

MBNA America Bank was one of the single largest corporate donors to the Bush campaign and other GOP electoral efforts last year. The bank and its employees gave a total of about $1.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan clearinghouse here. Charles Cawley, MBNA's president, was a member of the Bush "pioneers," wealthy fund-raisers who each personally gathered at least $100,000 for the presidential campaign.

[sidenote:] See a list of the GOP's biggest investors and their policy interests

Mr. Cawley hosted Bush fund-raising events at his home in Wilmington, Del., last year and, in 1999, at his summer home in Maine, north of the Bush family retreat in Kennebunkport. At the Maine affair, 200 guests gathered in the early evening on the large porch of the Cawley home, situated on a hill with a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean. Guests sipped cocktails and heard a brief talk by the candidate.

The money didn't stop on election day. Mr. Cawley and his wife each gave the maximum of $5,000 to help fund Mr. Bush's fight in the Florida vote recount. Mr. Cawley gave an additional $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney inaugural committee, the most the committee would take from a single donor.

Last week, MBNA's investment began paying off. The company, one of the nation's three largest credit-card issuers, has been pushing for years to tighten bankruptcy laws that allow certain consumers filing for court protection, in effect, to disregard obligations to credit-card companies and other unsecured lenders. On Wednesday, the White House announced that President Bush would sign a bill now moving through Congress that would make it tougher for consumers to escape such debts. If enacted, the measure could translate into an estimated tens of millions of dollars in additional annual earnings for each of the big credit companies.

MBNA's vice chair, David Spartin, says his firm has no way to estimate how the legislation would affect the company's bottom line. MBNA has backed the bill for years "because we think it is good for consumers," as it will "reduce the cost of credit for everyone," Mr. Spartin says. The donations to President Bush and other candidates were made because "we think they would make excellent public officials," he adds. No MBNA official "has ever spoken to President Bush about the bill," Mr. Spartin says.

'Out of the Cave, Blinking'

Many corporations feel like a new day is dawning in Washington. "We have come out of the cave, blinking in the sunlight, saying to one another, 'My God, now we can actually get something done,' " says Richard Hohlt, Washington lobbyist for several other major banks which, like MBNA, are backing an industry coalition whose members provided some $26 million to Republicans during the 1999-2000 campaign cycle.

President Clinton last year vetoed a similar bill that would have toughened bankruptcy law. Consumer groups argue that such legislation would weaken protection for working families, many of whom have been the targets of aggressive credit-card marketing.

Also in action last week were members of a large coalition of Mr. Bush's business backers who want to roll back new federal rules designed to protect workers from repetitive-motion injuries.

In a private meeting with congressional leaders last Tuesday, President Bush signed off on a plan to kill the ergonomic regulations, using the powers of the Congressional Review Act. That act, passed in 1996, gives Congress 60 days to reject regulations issued by federal agencies. But it was never used during Mr. Clinton's term because to take effect, a resolution rejecting new rules has to be approved by the president.

Repealing the ergonomic rules ranks high on the priority lists of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. The trade groups technically don't endorse candidates, but each of them mounted major grass-roots and advertising campaigns that benefited Mr. Bush and other Republicans in the 2000 elections.

A repeal would be a particularly hard loss for organized labor, which has fought for enactment of the ergonomic rules for 10 years, saying they are needed to protect workers from wrist, back and other injuries.

[insert chart here]
Bush's Top Corporate Donors
Donors to Bush, the RNC, and the Inaugural Fund during the 1999-2000 election cycle, in millions.

Enron $1.30
MBNA America Bank 1.25
Philip Morris 1.20
Marriott International 1.18
AT&T 1.13
Credit Suisse First Boston 0.97
Microsoft 0.88
Amway 0.86
AG Spanos Companies 0.82
Reynolds, Dewitt & Co 0.78

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, Federal Election Commission

On employee safety, consumer bankruptcy and a host of other issues, Bush administration officials maintain they are acting strictly on the merits, not the money. Proponents of the bankruptcy bill, for example, point out that personal bankruptcy filings reached a record 1.4 million in 1998. The bill that would toughen the bankruptcy law won strong bipartisan support in the House last week, passing 309-106.

Business advocates maintain that the ergonomics rules include an overly broad definition of "musculoskeletal disorders" and that the new standards give employees claiming to have such disorders overly generous treatment: 90% of their salary and benefits for up to three months.

But as strongly as they believe in their arguments, business lobbyists acknowledge it's no accident that, following their massive support for the GOP, Republicans are moving quickly to address some of their top issues.

Mr. Bush ran the most costly presidential campaign in American history. Donors to his campaign and the Republican National Committee contributed a total of $314 million. Of that, more than 80% came from corporations or individuals employed by them. Al Gore and the Democratic National Committee raised $213 million, receiving strong support from labor organizations and their members. But more than 70% of the Democratic total also came from businesses and their employees.

These totals can be seen as somewhat inflated because most donors to either party work for a business. But the amounts don't included separate contributions from trade associations or independent business advertising. "The role of business last year was huge, and it overwhelmingly benefited Republicans," says Larry Makinson of the Center for Responsive Politics.

As the bankruptcy and ergonomics bills move through the Senate over the next few days, business groups also will be looking for early action on other key issues. Here's a preview.

Drugs and Privacy

With then-Vice President Al Gore and many Democratic congressional candidates railing against alleged profiteering by drug companies, the industry made its biggest-ever contributions to the GOP cause.

Drug companies contributed $14 million to Republican campaigns over the past two years and spent an additional $60 million to fund their own independent political-advertising campaign. Industry executives will be lobbying the new administration on a wide range of issues, such as the proposal to overhaul the Medicare program and include a prescription-drug benefit for senior citizens. The industry wants to make sure such a benefit doesn't lead to drug-price controls.

But that fight isn't likely to command center stage for many months. In the meantime, drug companies will press for a rewrite of federal rules protecting the privacy of patients' medical records. The rules were announced with much fanfare in the final weeks of the Clinton administration. The drug companies recently got a sign that they, too, were making progress with the new administration.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, in a move that infuriated consumer groups, invited additional public comments on the rules until the end of this month. The industry is hoping the move will lead to more delays and, ultimately, significant revisions.

Last December, Mr. Clinton heralded the rules as "the most sweeping privacy protections ever written." For the first time, patients would have access to their medical files and could correct mistakes. Providers, such as hospitals and health plans, would be required to get written permission from patients to use or disclose patients' health information. Providers also would have to create sophisticated record-keeping systems and privacy policies to document compliance with the rules.

Hailed by privacy advocates, the rules include provisions anathema to nearly every segment of the health-care industry. Drug makers, HMOs, drugstore chains and hospitals say that while they back the goal of increased privacy, the rules have a potential cumulative price tag in the tens of billions of dollars, much of it to overhaul data-collection and information-technology systems.

The companies warn that the new requirements mean that pharmacies would need signed customer consents on file before they could do something as simple as sending a prescription home with a neighbor. The drug industry also says that research critical to boosting corporate innovation and tracking the safety of drugs would be inhibited. Academic researchers seeking personal health information from hospitals would have to get authorization from the patient or undergo a special privacy review by a hospital panel.

Privacy advocates such as Janlori Goldman of the Health Privacy Project at Georgetown University counter that such dire predictions are inaccurate and "hysterical."

Technically, the regulations apply to the use of information by hospitals, doctors, pharmacists and HMOs. But they have big implications for drug companies, which depend on access to that data for research and marketing. Among the drug companies most concerned is Merck & Co., because of its Merck-Medco unit. Like other pharmacy-benefits managers, which obtain contracts from HMOs and employers to keep drug costs down, Merck-Medco fears it would it be hindered in its ability to track physician-prescribing patterns and other information.

Taking the lead on combating the rules is the Confidentiality Coalition, an industry group that meets at the offices of the Healthcare Leadership Council, overlooking Farragut Square, a few blocks from the White House. Dubbed the "Anti-confidentiality Coalition" by privacy advocates, the alliance has 120 members, including Merck, Eli Lilly & Co., Cigna Corp. and Medtronic Inc., the big medical-device maker. A core group of 20 to 30 lobbyists shows up regularly for strategy sessions.

During the second week in February, an industry contingent met with Sally Canfield, a senior counselor to Mr. Thompson of HHS. The industry team included Laurie Michel, a lobbyist for Merck, and Laura Gogal, vice president and chief counsel of the Federation of American Hospitals, the trade association of for-profit hospitals. Ms. Canfield was well known to the industry group because of her own past posts as a lobbyist for insurer Mutual of Omaha Inc. and a staffer to GOP Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, who often works on health issues.

Meanwhile, Craig Fuller, who served as chief of staff to former President George Bush and now heads the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, met recently with Mr. Thompson to make the case on privacy and other issues. Mr. Fuller's current constituents include such behemoths as CVS Corp. and Walgreen Co.

The drug industry provides a case study of how the ties between the new Bush administration and its business backers run much deeper than money. There is often a shared worldview among people who have been colleagues and friends in both the private sector and government.

Raymond Gilmartin, chairman and chief executive of Merck, and Anne Marie Lynch and Bill Walters, top officials at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry's main trade group, all served as advisers to the Bush transition team on health issues.

Deborah Steelman, a prominent lobbyist whose clients include Bristol-Myers Squibb and the drug-industry trade group, was sounded out for a top job at the Department of Health and Human Services, but declined. Mitch Daniels, a Lilly executive, accepted the offer he got to be director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees both budget and regulatory issues.

Tobacco Ties

When it comes to being well-connected with the new administration, few industries rival tobacco. Cigarette makers are hoping those ties help accomplish such goals as snuffing out a multibillion-dollar federal lawsuit against it.

Cigarette companies adopted a much lower profile in the last election than drug companies, in part because Republican strategists worried that featuring close ties to tobacco would anger many voters. But the money flowed liberally. Tobacco interests contributed roughly $90,000 to Mr. Bush's campaign, part of the $6.7 million they provided to the Republican Party and its candidates in the last election cycle. Democrats received $1.4 million from tobacco interests.

Beyond the campaign, industry titan Philip Morris Cos. was one of the most generous contributors to Mr. Bush's inaugural, giving $100,000 itself and another $100,000 through its subsidiary, Kraft Foods. Along with a number of inauguration tickets, these donations entitled company executives to two tables at a candlelight supper attended by President Bush and Vice President Cheney the night before their swearing-in.

Philip Morris has numerous long-standing ties to the Bush administration. Karl Rove, a senior White House adviser, worked as a political consultant for the company from 1991 to 1996. Kirk Blalock, a Philip Morris public-relations official, took a job in the White House in January as a liaison to the business community. Handling the inaugural donations for Philip Morris was Thomas Collamore, a vice president for public affairs who worked for President Bush's father, both in the White House and the Commerce Department. Charles Black, an informal adviser to Mr. Bush during his campaign, is also a Philip Morris lobbyist in Washington.

Mr. Thompson of HHS, received more than $70,000 in Philip Morris campaign-related contributions during his years as Wisconsin governor. He disclosed before his Senate confirmation earlier this year that he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in Philip Morris stock. An administration spokesman says that Mr. Thompson didn't realize he owned the company's stock because it was in a blind trust and that he planned to sell it.

British American Tobacco PLC's Brown & Williamson unit and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. are also well-positioned. Both companies are represented by Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, a lobbying firm stocked with Republican operatives, including former GOP Chairman Haley Barbour and Lanny Griffith, a former White House aide to Mr. Bush's father.

The industry's first objective is to get rid of a massive federal lawsuit, launched by the Clinton administration, that accuses cigarette makers of "racketeering" and lying about the health risks of smoking for 50 years. The case is pending in federal court in Washington.

Tobacco companies are so confident the Bush team will drop the suit that they claim to have no plans even to ask for it to be withdrawn. "We are not lobbying on this at all," says Philip Morris spokeswoman Peggy Roberts. Many in the industry say they think an aggressive push to kill the suit would be counterproductive, causing the Bush administration to worry about the perception that it is eager to do a huge favor for one of its most-generous donors.

One way to squelch the suit would be for Congress to cut or eliminate funding for it, which for the current fiscal year is budgeted at $23 million. Although skittish about approaching the Bush administration directly, Philip Morris officials say they have no qualms about lobbying this year for such a funding cut. Another possible scenario for terminating the suit is for the Justice Department to reach a settlement with the companies.

Mr. Bush has avoided making a definitive statement about the tobacco suit. But referring to the case in August, he said, "I think we've had enough suits," adding, "The lawyers I talk to don't feel they [the Justice Department] have a case."

Complicating the situation is the presence of one key person on the Bush team who historically hasn't had an easy relationship with the big tobacco companies: Attorney General John Ashcroft, who now oversees the federal suit. Mr. Ashcroft's dim view of the industry arises from having seen several friends die from cancer, aides say.

At a get-acquainted meeting with tobacco lobbyists soon after being elected to the Senate in 1995, Mr. Ashcroft damped the atmosphere with a diatribe. "Let me tell you up front that I believe you guys are the merchants of death, and I don't support your product or your industry," Mr. Ashcroft was quoted as saying by two people at the meeting.

Yet three years later, as Mr. Ashcroft was considering entering the race for the presidency, he took a different position. When the Senate Commerce Committee considered legislation to restrict tobacco marketing and raise cigarette taxes, Mr. Ashcroft was the only vote against the bill on the 20-member committee, even though he still denounced the industry. His vote was a surprise to industry lobbyists, who were even more pleased when his persistent attacks on the proposed $1.10-a-pack rise in cigarette taxes helped kill the measure on the Senate floor.

An aide to Mr. Ashcroft says that, while critical of the tobacco industry, Mr. Ashcroft concluded that the bill contained excessive tax increases and required too much bureaucracy to implement the marketing restrictions.

During his confirmation hearings in January, Mr. Ashcroft said that he had "no predisposition" to dismiss the federal lawsuit. He promised to consult with career attorneys at the Justice Department and make a decision based on a "careful examination of the facts and the law."

Airline Antitrust

When George W. Bush became president-elect, American Airlines was ready. On the Sunday after Al Gore conceded the bitterly contested election, the Dallas-based unit of AMR Corp. rolled a brand-new 737-800 onto the tarmac at the airport near Austin, the Texas capital. It had been specially painted in the airline's distinctive 1960s colors -- a silver fuselage with a bold red lightning bolt.

The triumphant charter flight, paid for by the campaign, ferried Mr. Bush and his inner circle, including aides Andrew Card, Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, from Austin to Dulles for their first round of meetings here. The president-elect and his staff were treated to a dinner of Chateaubriand, shrimp Caesar salads and hot chocolate-chip cookies, baked on board.

"As a Texas-based airline, it was an honor and a privilege to carry Mr. Bush," Don Carty, the chief executive officer, said at the time. "American Airlines is proud to have the president-elect's vote of confidence."

Mr. Carty was an early booster, and, like Mr. Cawley of MBNA, one of Mr. Bush's pioneer fund-raisers. He personally gave the maximum donation of $5,000 to support Mr. Bush's legal fight following the contested Florida vote. The company also gave the maximum $100,000 gift to the Bush inaugural committee.

What American and other big companies hope for is a change in antitrust policy. In the airline's case that would mean the government's backing off the antitrust suit President Clinton's Justice Department brought against it. The suit, filed in 1998 and scheduled to go to trial in May in federal court in Wichita, Kan., alleges that American used illegal tactics to squelch competition at its Dallas hub. The case is being watched closely as a sign of the new administration's approach to antitrust enforcement.

The Bush team must decide whether to proceed with the trial as planned, or settle. Charles James, the nominee for Justice Department antitrust chief, hasn't been confirmed, and career officials at the Justice Department say they expect the case to be pursued on its merits.

But there are already signs that the administration may view the case skeptically. Timothy Muris, who has been close to Mr. James since the two worked together at the Federal Trade Commission during the Reagan years, has openly questioned the wisdom of the Clinton suit because it relies on an expansive interpretation of antitrust law. A law professor at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., Mr. Muris helped shape antitrust policy for the Bush transition team and is expected to be named chairman of the FTC, which also enforces antitrust laws.

Mr. James won't comment on American's case but has said he generally doesn't favor antitrust cases that "make new law."

Alaska Drilling

Of all the business interests that backed Mr. Bush, oil companies have the clearest ties and strongest personal meaning to the new president. He is a former oil man who revels in his attachments to Texas, and his best friends are oil men, too. Promoting the industry is an instinctive impulse for the president that goes beyond campaign contributions.

When Mr. Bush announced Mr. Cheney, former chairman of Halliburton Inc. as his running mate, Hollywood director Rob Reiner joked that the GOP's idea of diversity is having "two guys heading the ticket from two different oil companies."

The personal connections were strengthened with money. The oil industry donated more than it ever has before: $32 million during the past two years, with 80% of it going to Republican causes. As a result, "all the stars are aligned this year," says Roger Herrera, who heads a lobbying effort to allow oil drilling in Alaska's costal plain, known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Mr. Herrera is a courtly, Oxford-educated oil company geologist, who has made more than 50 appearances before congressional committees, taken hundreds of politicians on guided tours of Alaska and built one of Washington's most innovative and influential lobbying operations, known as Arctic Power. Until now, his decade-long efforts to open up Alaska's coastal plain for oil and gas development have been consistently frustrated. In 1989, there was the Exxon Valdez oil spill; in 1991, a Senate filibuster threat; and in 1995, a veto by President Clinton.

Now, Mr. Herrera promises, things will be different. He's counting on the combined power of the new president, who favors drilling in the coastal plain, and Alaska's powerful congressional delegation, Senators Ted Stevens, Frank H. Murkowski and Rep. Don Young. All three of these veteran Republicans chair influential committees. In the White House, Mr. Cheney's energy-policy task force is directed by Andrew D. Lundquist, former staff director for Sen. Murkowski's Senate Energy Committee.

To build support last week, Alaska's Governor Tony Knowles, in town for a governors conference, took two days to discuss oil exploration with skeptical Democrats on Capitol Hill. "I am going to be in contact with people who have expressed opposition but seem to be amenable to reason," he told reporters last Tuesday. He went to the Hill that day carrying support and strategic advice from all corners of the new administration. He had met with Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

This powerful network of industry allies will face a daunting alliance of more than 400 environmental organizations determined to stop Alaska drilling in the interest of preserving the area's pristine condition. But this year, Mr. Herrera says, the industry group feels up to the task.

-- John Wilke and John Fialka contributed to this article.

Write to Tom Hamburger at tom.hamburger@wsj.com, Laurie McGinley at laurie.mcginley@wsj.com and David S. Cloud at david.cloud@wsj.com

***
also see billionairesforbushorgore.com for the "return on investment" of various campaign contributors and trust us, we're experts by sheldon rampton and john stauber about how the PR industry shapes public opinion.

Monday, March 5, 2001
finished permutation city (really good), slept most of the weekend, watched copland on usa, listened to the hendrix set, got forked playing chess. my brother and sister-in-law in seattle are okay. my parents got back from the philippines. dad's in san francisco now with my grandma. she's getting weaker. mom's in shreveport, la. my cousin's having a baby :) not much else going on, kinda just waiting for spring.

"You know, you can sit here forever, watch this forever, if that's what you want. There are Copies--we call them Witnesses--who refine themselves into...systems...which do nothing but monitor the news, as thoroughly as their slowdown allows. No bodies, no fatigue, no distractions. Pure observers, watching history unfold."

--permutation city, greg egan, page 127

i would extensively quote the theory of the dust, but it's better read in the book, i think :)

Friday, March 2, 2001
imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism by vladimir illyich lenin

a newly relevant topical antecedent, i think, brought to you (and put in context and perspective) by doug henwood who asks, "does it mean anything to be a leninist in 2001?"

(Speaking of poltiical figures, I bring some news from the U.S.: we have a new president, George W. Bush. In Washington, the Third Way is history, to use our curiously American way of consigning something to insignificance. He reads the Bible, not Anthony Giddens; thinks that churches should replace the state as service provider to the poor; and speaks only the language of national self-interest, not humanitarianism, to justify imperial adventure.)

also see hobson's _imperialism_: a defense by gregory p. nowell

This paper shall argue that Hobson's Imperialism remains uniquely relevant because it is a true political-economic theory of oligarchy. As such it is not a crudely economically determinist work. Rather, it emphasizes that there is an underlying structure of power which conditions the production of wealth on a global scale. This structure of power rests on a circular argument: economic concentration leads to a concentration of political power, and the concentration of political power serves to facilitate economic concentration. The effects of the concentration of political and economic power are expressed, in the economic domain, through the phenomenon of underconsumption. Put another way, the social production of wealth is not optimized, the distribution of wealth is skewed, and the quality of life, as measured in the power of consumption broadly defined, is undermined. In the political and social domain, the effects of the concentration of political and economic power are expressed in an erosion (where not altogether dispensed with) of democratic forms domestically and abroad, as well as an increased international propensity to war.

Thursday, March 1, 2001
an alan moore interview on eddiecampbellcomics.com (via linkmachinego!, from the idler, not this one)

MDA: I have a great attraction to theories like Sheldrake's morphic resonance - I read an interview with him, when he was talking about how there is no proof that memory is actually held in the brain. He posited a view that the brain is more like a radio tuner than a video recorder, receiving thoughts, memories - both those of the self and the collective - from localised morphic fields. These ideas are very attractive because they posit an alternative to straightforward mortality - you read it and feel that leap within, 'perhaps there might be more to life than just death'. You have to be suspicious of your own motivations for seizing at these ideas - like a dying man reaching for miracle cures.

AM: Sheldrake's idea of the brain as a radio receiver - I feel something quite similar. But I'm still thinking it through, so this is a thought in progress. It strikes me that self, not just my self, but all self, the phenomenon of self, is perhaps one field, one consciousness - perhaps there is only one 'I', perhaps our brains, our selves, our entire identity is little more than a label on a waveband. We are only us when we are here. At this particular moment in space and time, this particular locus, the overall awareness of the entire continuum happens to believe it is Alan Moore. Over there - (he points to another table in the pizza restaurant) - it happens to believe it is something else.

I get the sense that if you can pull back from this particular locus, this web-site if you like, then you could be the whole net. All of us could be. That there is only one awareness here, that is trying out different patterns. We are going to have to come to some resolution about a lot of things in the next twenty years time, our notions of time, space, identity. The flowerings of seemingly outlandish concepts like Sheldrake's are what you would expect. At the scientific end of the spectrum - and I am a regular New Scientist reader - I like to balance the mad howling diabolism with a dose of scientific reality - I have noticed that the crossover is getting a bit extreme. The people at the cutting-edge of quantum physics and cosmology are trying to come up with a practical, workable model for the original expansion of the universe, and what is happening now at a quantum level. They were saying that they are having to turn to these archaic belief structures, like Sufi beliefs, or the Qabbalah. They were talking about how this idea of expansion from a single point is the core of the Qabbalah - and the most accurate description of the Big Bang, knowing what we know now, would be (Hockma Bine - er). So I was reading this in the New Scientist and I was thinking, well surely this is the sort of idea I would expect from Robert Anton Wilson. All of us collectively are fumbling towards an apprehension of something that feels like a kind of group awareness - we are trying to feel the shape of it, it's not here yet, and a lot of us are probably saying a lot of silly things. That's understandable. There is something strange looming on the human horizon. If you draw a graph of all our consciousness, there is a point we seem to be heading towards. Our physics, our philosophy, our art, our literature - there is a kind of coherence there, it may look disorganised at first glance, but there is a fumbling towards a new way of apprehending of certain basic fundamentals. In post-modern literature you can see similar things happening to what is happening, at the same time, in science with the quantum theory advances. They are trying to come up with non-linear ways of viewing things, trying to think our way outside of our own perceptions to find a new perception. Some people mistake this approaching new perception as the approach to Armageddon. In a certain sense, they might be right. There is a sense that we are reaching a critical point in the expansion of our inner worlds. For better or worse - I mean, I have no dreamy New Age notions of this - whatever awaits us up the road might not be all sunshine and smiles, pretty flowers everywhere. That all sounds a bit Yellow Submarine to me. But it will certainly be different. To me, when we talk about the world, we are talking about our ideas of the world. Our ideas of organisation, our different religions, our different economic systems, our ideas about it are the world. We are heading for a radical revision where you could say we are heading towards the end of the world, but more in the R.E.M sense than the Revelation sense. That is what apocalypse means - revelation. I could square that with the end of the world, a revelation, a new way of looking at things, something that completely radicalises our notions of the where we were, when we were, what we were, something like that would constitute an end to the world in the kind of abstract - yet very real sense - that I am talking about. A change in the language, a change in the thinking, a change in the music. It wouldn't take much - one big scientific idea, or artistic idea, one good book, one good painting - who knows - we are at a critical point where the ideas are coming thicker and faster and stranger and stranger than they ever were before. They are realised at a greater speed, everything has become very fluid. I like to imagine setting a camera up in a field in the Bronze Age, taking a frame a week, - I worked out the maths of this in a sad moment if I can just remember it - over the intervening two thousand years, you would have a two hour film there, it would be very boring and slow for an hour and half, the buildings that were appearing very slowly, staying there for a long while, and then decaying very slowly. For the last half hour, buildings would be boiling. Going up and down in seconds. Some of the more alarming possibilities for nanotechnology that people are talking about, you get that as a literal reality without needing a speeded up film. You would be able to assemble and disassemble matter at the speed of thought. As far as I know, that is the definition of fluidity. We are approaching a more fluid state. I have talked about cultural boiling. The idea of the phase-transition period which, in fractal mathematics, is the chaotic flux between one state and another. Cold water is one state, you heat it up till boiling point, then it reaches a phase-transition where there is this immense chaos - that mathematically, we still don't know what is going on, when a kettle boils, in the boiling - and what comes out is steam. Which is nothing like hot water at all. An alien could not predict steam from water, anymore than he could predict water from ice. They are three different things, each with a phase-transition dividing them. Culturally, and as a species, we are approaching a phase-transition. I don't know quite what that means, on a human level. A bronze age hunter is analogous to cold water. We, with our very different lifestyle, are analogous to very hot water. But we are still both water. There is less difference between us and the bronze age hunter than what is twenty years down the line.

 

MDA: The steam.

AM: The steam. Whatever that means. I can't conceive of vapour culture. I might not survive it. But that is where we are heading. I don't know quite what I mean by my own metaphor, but I have feeling, it may bring in an even greater, faster space of fluid transmission, where no structures, as we used to understand structure, will sustain itself - we will have to come up with new notions of structure where things can change by the moment. I'm talking about physical structures, political structures, I can't see coherent political structures in the traditional sense lasting beyond the next twenty years, I don't think that would be possible.

 

i’d also like to take this opportunity to plug birth caul. really amazing i think. (referred to) an essay he wrote on locusplus.org.uk. reminded me of this book i read in middle school, boy of the painted cave (ESL version) by justin denzel. teacher guide :)

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