Sunday, December 5, 2004

Holiday Gift Picks

Time again for our annual look at the coolest gifts for the holiday season. We just ask that you keep one thing in mind while you review them: We wouldn't have picked them if we didn't want them (hint hint).

Patrick Greer – The Apple iPod (revisited)
I went through’s "Most Wished For" section this holiday and I discovered that I am not unique.Like everyone else, I think, even after 3 years, that the iPod is the coolest thing to hit the market since… well, I don’t remember what it was, but it was cool – just not as cool as the iPod. There are so many more choices now then when we last wished for it ("Holiday Gift Picks," issue 2002.12). The 60 gig model and special edition U2 model are now available. The biggest change of them all, however, is the ability to store pictures on your iPod – Apple’s sleek interface allows you to seamlessly scroll through your pictures. And it looks cool.

This review may have been more then a little influenced by waiting for a friend to traverse a long line at the Apple store and using that extra free time playing with the new iPods and the incredible new Bose headphones. So this year for Christmas I want the new iPod, or the Bose headphones, or the iPod portable speaker system, or... or... or, well, all of it. fb

J.D. Jordan – America: The Book
Technology technology technology. We always recommend fancy gadgets with the most amazing modern widgets. Well not this holiday. I’m going to buck the trend – I’m going to stand up proudly say, “No more!” (Unless it’s a Canon Proshot Digital Camera)

This years most prized gift just might be America: The Book (A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction), a hysterical look at our government by Jon Stewart, host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show, and his fake-news cohorts. The book is laid out like a textbook, with "Discussion Questions" ("Why do you think the Framers made the Constitution so soul-crushingly boring?"), "Classroom Activities" ("Using felt and yarn, make a hand puppet of Clarence Thomas. Ta-da! You're Antonin Scalia!") and chapters ranging subjects from "Ancient Rome: The First Republicans" to "The Founding Fathers: Young, Gifted, and White" to "The Media: Can it Be Stopped?"

Best of all, the book actually does go a long way to explain our government (American-style democracy, "the world's most beloved form of government, which explains why so many other nations are eager for us to impose it on them") and still remain a laugh-riot. No one evades lampooning, not even the Pilgrims, (who came to America "to escape religious persecution... create a society where they could worship as they pleased and one day, God willing, even do some persecuting of their own") or the media (including the "inspirational" story of how the media "transformed itself from a mere public necessity into an entertaining profit center for ever-expanding corporate empires."

This holiday, don’t take gift giving too seriously. And keep in mind America: The Book’s dedication to guide your way, "To the huddled masses — Keep yearnin'!” fb

Fleming Patterson – Bluetooth® wireless mobile phone headset
Possibly the most brilliant wireless accessory that you can get this holiday season is the Bluetooth® wireless mobile phone headset made by and for Motorola phones. Bluetooth technology has become a growing technology revolution that has changed the way we do simple tasks such as answering phones, unlocking doors, turning on lights, starting cars, and even adjusting your car seats. Though your home, car, or computer will need to be Bluetooth enabled, the future is near for these technologies to work everywhere. As for now, the way you answer your Bluetooth phone has changed – you no longer need to pick up your phone and hold it to your ear. Instead, you can wear this small wireless earpiece on one ear and touch its large button to answer or orally place a call – much like captain Picard would have done when talking with his crew in Star Trek.

The whole premise of this technology is to be able to use your phone hands free and to not be distracted. The head piece is voice activated and you do not have to teach it to recognize your voice. I know what I am getting this Christmas…do you? fb

A Very NORAD Christmas

50 years ago, in Colorado Springs, a store clerk put a sign in his window for a Santa hotline that children could call to learn of Santa’s location. When the first child called the number on Christmas Eve a very startled man answered the phone. Colonel Shoup, Commander of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) – the predecessor of NORAD – answered Cheyenne Mountain’s emergency hotline to hear a child’s voice wondering where Santa currently was.

Colonel Shoup knew almost immediately what had happened and didn’t miss a beat when he went to check Santa’s location, reporting back to the children his whereabouts and answering their Santa questions. A tradition was born, continuing when NORAD formed 3 years later and the Canadian Air Force joined the project.

While Santa has always had government permission to enter the US airspace, it was not until Colonel Shoup’s incident that there was any kind of actual military acknowledgement of the Santa tracking project. Nowadays, there is enormous funding for various Santa’s related projects. Santa benefits from an F-16 escort while traveling in and out of US airspace. Santa’s spokespeople recently issued this statement about the Air Force sorties: “[The escorts] are unnecessary but Santa enjoys seeing the smiling faces of the pilots and the joy that he brings to them.”

NORAD is always thinking of new ways to expand their Santa tracking program. They now have cameras positioned in areas where there is a high chance of seeing Santa. They also have cameras attaching to twelve Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. Rudolph’s nose is tracked by visual and infrared satellite feeds. All of this surveillance can now be followed online at NORAD’s dedicated Santa Tracking website.

Operators at NORAD are spending part of their Christmas Eve tracking Santa and, more importantly, answering the calls of little children looking for more information. They are watching the skies to keep us and, of course, Santa Claus safe this holiday season. fb

Puppy Politics

Just in time for Christmas, Barney, the First Dog, is back.

In his latest video, "Where in the White House is Miss Beazley" (the fourth in the BarneyCam series on, the President’s four-year old Scottish terrier is spurned for a Cabinet post. Instead, he is ordered to find his new baby sister, Miss Beazley, and take her under his wing. After unsuccessfully searching the White House, seeking help from various administration staff, Barney purchases a replacement dog online, hoping Laura Bush won’t notice the switch. The whole video cleverly presents a dog's eye view of the White House at Christmas while appealing to our basest “puppy love.”

And while children and adults alike, regardless of politics, can enjoy Barney’s frolic about the White House, the video release is no laughing matter for Web broadcasters. As of this writing, the White House has so far denied rebroadcast rights to online publishers, maintaining the video exclusively on its own Web site.

At the same time, the White House has granted TV networks broadcast rights to a pair of videos showing Barney, a playful Scottish terrier, cavorting with President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and top presidential aides. Multimedia outlets, such as the cable news networks, which were authorized to show the video on TV, were subsequently prohibited from Web release.

This double standard, and the related lost advertising revenues, continues to confound online media and has lead to a battle, led by the Washington Post, playfully called the “Free Barney” wars. Previous Barney holiday videos have drawn more than 24 million viewers to the White House Web site – about the same number of people who visited political sites in the final month of the 2004 presidential race. That the films are paid for with taxpayer dollars – and U.S. intellectual property law specifically allows the distribution of content created by federal employees on the government's clock – only compounds the issue.

The debate began during the 2003 release of Barney II: Barney Reloaded, a humorous Christmas story in which various Bush administration officials and White House workers – including President and Mrs. Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan and political adviser Karl Rove – imploring Barney to work rather than to play.

Regardless of the “Free Barney” wars, the little Scottie’s annual holiday films have become a quick and popular White House tradition. And there is something in the video for everyone, even if you’re not a dog-lover. One of the funniest moments in "Where in the White House is Miss Beazley" doesn’t even feature Barney; it features Karl Rove complaining about all the blue ornaments on the Christmas tree as a hail of red ornaments rains upon him.

And, of course, no Barney video would be complete without the obligatory soccer ball scene – reason enough for me to watch again and again.

Barney is just the most recent in a long line of presidential dogs that have captured the media’s, and the nation’s, attention – from campaign winning pooches like Herbert Hoovers' German shepherd, King Tut; Franklin D. Roosevelt's much-adored black Scottie, Fala; and Richard Nixon’s black and white cocker spaniel, Checkers. fb

Friday, November 5, 2004

Acting – Brilliant!

FDR (Kenneth Branaugh) addresses the 1928 crowdThe 1920 crowd and Tabernacle decoration1920 crowd and campaign signs
This November the boys of Cloudjammer – Patrick Greer, J.D. Jordan, and Fleming Patterson – starred in HBO’s upcoming feature film, Warm Springs. In such breakout roles as “tall man in the crowd,” “Vermont delegate #4,” and “young man in the balcony,” we stole the show from more veteran actors. We were film stars. We were actors.

We were the extras.

HBO filmed Warm Springs between Atlanta, Lake Lanier, and Warm Springs, itself, relying heavily on local talent to fill in the “background.” When Cloudjammer heard that the casting company was having trouble finding enough Caucasian males we answered the call. Unfortunately, the call was for 5:00am.

Warm Springs
is the biography of the 32nd president of the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, directed by veteran director Joe Sargent and starring Kenneth Branaugh (Henry V, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Kathy Bates (Misery, Fried Green Tomatoes), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City). The film focuses on FDR’s pre-presidency days, from his time in the New York State Senate to his being diagnosed with polio in 1921, one year after his unsuccessful bid for the White House as presidential nominee James Cox's running mate.

For the two days we participated in the movie shoot, the film’s production company, 32nd President Productions, transformed the Tabernacle in Downtown Atlanta into the 1928 Arizona and 1920 San Francisco Democratic Conventions. Clad in vintage suits, we fleshed out FDR’s (Kenneth Branaugh) cheering crowd and on-stage delegates. We sat behind Eleanor Roosevelt (Cynthia Nixon) in the VIP box. Some extras even got to do close-ups for a newsreel reproduction and were offered higher-paying speaking roles.

As extras, we were costumed and made-up (including haircuts) in the exhibition hall of the CNN Omni hotel. From there we were shuttled to staggered holding areas in the Tabernacle itself – organized into color coded groups based on the period quality of our costume/appearance. We shot scenes in the decorated concert hall, the balconies, even backstage. But mostly we waited and watched the crew do their job – in many ways, the most interesting part of the entire experience.

We only made $200 for two 14-hour days, but the experience was both memorable and fun. We met a lot of interesting people, got to film scenes with great actors, watch a Hollywood movie I production and, while waiting between scenes, we got to catch up on our reading. And what did HBO get out of the two-day shoot? 500 extras a day and two minutes of footage.

If you’re interested in doing extra work, there is plenty of it available – from movies like Stroke of Genius and Dumb and Dumberer to myriad advertisements. Just keep your eyes on the newspapers (social publications, too, like Creative Loafing). You’ll get to see how movie magic is made, likely get a free haircut, and, if you’re lucky, actually end up on film.

See you in the movies. fb

The Project For The New American Century

This issue, Fight.Boredom will take a look at The Project for the New American Century, a political think tank that has exercised tremendous influence on our nation and its foreign policy over the last four years – and promises to influence it all the more over the next four. In doing so, we would like you to keep in mind the following question: Just whom did we vote for?

Pax Americana
Pax Americana (Latin for American Peace) is a term used to describe the period of relative peace in the Western world following World War II – a period in which the United States of America has and continues to play the role of a modern-day Roman Empire or British Empire (Pax Romana and Pax Britannica, respectively).

Pax Americana is also used by critics to describe the alleged efforts, on the part of the US government, to militarily, economically, and politically suppress those countries that do not cooperate with U.S. foreign policy. It describes a world condition in which the United States has sought, or has been forced into, a quasi-imperialist role by its status as the world's sole superpower and in which the goal of western hegemony, encouraged by the Monroe and Truman Doctrines, has expanded to include the larger world-view.

It is in the context of maintaining Pax Americana that The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) takes center stage. The PNAC is a Washington, DC based think tank established in the spring of 1997 as a non-profit organization with the goal of promoting “American global leadership.” The group is an initiative of the non-profit New Citizenship Project and, as of this writing, is chaired by William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.

The PNAC is a very controversial organization. Critics, conservative and liberal, have argued that the Project proposes military and economic domination of land, space, and cyberspace by the US to establish total American dominance in world affairs (Pax Americana) for the future – hence "New American Century." Conversely, PNAC supporters argue the project's aims and agendas are often misinterpreted, sometimes deliberately.

The source of much criticism stems from the ideological and political affiliation of the Project’s membership. Present and former members include several prominent members of the Republican Party and the Bush Administration, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Richard Perle, Richard Armitage, Dick Cheney, William Kristol, Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, and Dan Quale – a large number of which are associated with the neoconservative movement.

Neoconservatism and The Project for the New American Century
Neoconservatives (“new conservatives”), compared to other U.S. conservatives, are characterized by an aggressive stance on foreign policy, a lesser social conservatism, and a lesser dedication to the basic Republican policy of minimal government. The term is used more often by those who oppose neoconservative politics than those who subscribe to them – many to whom the label is applied reject it – and fails to address critical political differences between so-called neocons.

How well does Neocon ideology describe the platform of The Project for the New American Century?

PNAC founders believed that, under the Clinton administration, American foreign and defense policy was adrift and precious political capital was squandered. Foreign affairs and defense spending was cut, the tools of statecraft were ignored, inconstant leadership made it difficult to sustain American influence around the world, and short-term commercial benefits threatened to override long-term strategic considerations.

At the same time, conservative politicians remained indecisive and divided – allowing petty differences over political tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the 21st century.

The Project for the New American Century aims to change this perceived failure of conservatism and to make the case for American global leadership while reviving the essential elements of the Reagan Administration's success: a strong military that is ready to meet both present and future challenges; a bold and purposeful foreign policy that promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities.

As the world's preeminent power and Cold War victor, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?

In particular, the PNAC believes the US must play a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, shaping circumstances before crises emerge, and meeting threats before they become dire.

The Project for the New American Century thusly maintains the following objectives:
  • The US needs to increase defense spending significantly so it can carry out its global responsibilities and modernize its armed forces for the future;
  • The US needs to strengthen its ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
  • The US needs to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
  • The US needs to accept responsibility for its unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Several of these objectives align directly with Bush administration policy – especially on defense issues dominated by neocons Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. A 2000 PNAC document, “Rebuilding America's Defenses," lays out the foundation for the Pentagon’s Transformation military and even describes the 21st century American hegemony that has already begun to form over the disputed conflict in Iraq. Several other objectives contradict stated campaign issues from the 2000 presidential race – such as Bush’s campaign stance against international policing – but have proven themselves in subsequent action. And the neocons and the PNAC have little apparent domestic policy agenda to deter Bush’s own almost paleoconservative policies therein.

Of course, the argument can be – and has been – made that 9/11 necessitated a restructuring on national objectives to the profit of the neocons and the PNAC. That a political environment was created in which PNAC ideologies might flourish. All the more reason for the American public to be mindful and watchful of the PNAC and its advocates lest we settle for the by-products of reactionary policy.

The Critics
Several groups, liberal and conservative, are critical of the Project. One such group,, focuses on investigating, analyzing, and exposing the Project for the New American Century and its plan for a "unipolar" world with special emphasis on the big-picture plan behind the current war in Iraq and other foreign policy decisions of the current administration.

A British pundit, Barry McNamara, has recorded a very popular, if somewhat paranoid, online film, “What Barry Says” in collaboration with’s Simon Robson. The film’s animated monologue explores US imperialism and the Project for The New American Century. “What Barry Says” is targeted at a visually literate European generation that conspicuously lacked interest in the anti-war movement during the attacks on Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War.

This brings us back to our formative question: Just whom did we vote for? Several members of the Bush administration – including the Vice President, his chief of staff, the Secretary of Defense, and his deputy – are founding members of The Project for The New American Century. And, with few exceptions, the policy of the administration remains closely aligned with that of the PNAC.

And this raises even more questions: What do you call a shadow government that hides out in the open? That posts its policies and advances its agenda in the open and online? Was 9/11 merely a political pretext for the PNAC agenda? Is this political agenda a bad one?

And do they really have the best interests of the United States in mind? Certainly, they believe they do. And how much control do PNAC advocates have over the current administration? Divergences do exist: The PNAC openly opposes the actions of Putin’s regime in Russia while President Bush avoids direct criticism.

To their credit – and in opposition to many of the PNAC’s critics – The Project for the New American Century lays it all on the table (or, at least, the website). It’s all there to be read and reviewed. Their opinions on invading Iraq were posted months before the military was sent to the Near East. Their goal of political and economic hegemony is outlined.

Go look at their website. See what they, and their critics, have to say. Learn whom we put in power and, most importantly, if you agree with it. fb

Revenge of the Movie Poster

View the poster for Star Wars Episode III: Revenege of the SithView the posters for the original Star Wars trologyView the posters for the prequel Star Wars trology
This fall Lucas Film Ltd. released the movie poster of the final chapter to the Star Wars sagaEpisode III: Revenge of the Sith. For many die-hard Star Wars fans (we at Fight.Boredom know nothing about die-hard Star Wars fans…heavens no…) this poster was as much anticipated as the subsequent trailer and final film. Indeed, this expectation made the poster’s design that much more disappointing.

With almost thirty years of marketing behind it, the Star Wars film saga and its expanded media universe has an impressive catalogue of well executed and inspiring design. Focusing on the film series alone, the original trilogy and the two previous prequel films all profited from well-designed and exciting movie posters.

The movie poster for Return of the Sith immediately stands apart from its predecessors for two reasons. First, it is far more abstract. A survey of the series’ previous posters shows few that employ interpretive design elements – they rely directly on photographic or photo-realistic representation of characters and story elements. Second, it treats the Darth Vader character uncharacteristically. While three of the five previous posters have featured imagery of the series’ most notorious villain, each had done so without as much distortion and, arguably, as much distraction.

The combination of these elements alongside the imagery of the Vader-to-be, Anakin Skywalker (played by Hayden Christianson) proves complicating. While the illustration of his inner demon finally erupting forth is conveyed, it is not executed with the same graphic simplicity utilized most of the previous film posters. The final result is an uncharacteristic and clumsy execution – one that feels unnatural in its presentation of the Anakin character and irreverent in its depiction of Darth Vader.

But it’s just a movie poster, right?

Movie marketing relies most heavily on the cinematic trailer – movie posters, print advertising, television, and Web promotions rating a distant second. But of these secondary media, the movie poster figures perhaps the most prominently. It is often the initial marketing media, appearing in theater lobbies, conventions, and publications before principal filming is even complete. The poster is often featured over the film stars’ shoulder during press junket interviews. Secondary marketing material, including newspaper ads, billboards, web sites, and licensed products, often reuse the poster’s key art and logo – it forms the design foundation for much of the subsequent media – the trailer included.

Hollywood poster designer John C. Allen was quoted in a interview on the subject, saying, “Generally, most movie posters tend to be conservative, an effort to appeal to the broadest (and lowest) common denominator. It's important to remember we're not necessarily out to create a “cool image” – we're trying to market/sell a film.”

He goes on to define two “rules” about movie posters:
  1. "Can you tell what it is if you were driving by at 40 mph and saw it in a bus shelter"?
  2. "Would your mother understand it?"
So how does this Star Wars poster fare against these two rules? While the imagery is quickly recognizable as Star Wars – even at 40 miles per hour – my mother did not understand it. Despite decades of Star Wars paraphernalia and videos in her home, she failed to recognize the Vader mask awkwardly integrated into Anakin’s billowing cloak.

But despite these grumblings, don’t think that this is Star Wars’ first marketing disappointment. I encourage anyone with access to the Original Trilogy DVDs to watch the original film’s trailers. A more awkward and disastrous three minutes of science fiction has rarely been seen by this writer (with the possible except of any three-minute selection from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes – or any one-minute selection of From Dusk Til Dawn).

And it should be pointed out that other marketing material for the film is more laudable. The film’s logo, revealed almost a year ago, is a wonderful, if sinister, reflection of Star Wars’ previous climatic film, Return of the Jedi.

One can only hope that this poorly executed film poster is actually the harbinger of good things to come. Episodes I and II both had wonderful teaser posters – it was the films themselves that left much to be desired. Perhaps this time the luck of millions of Star Wars devotees will be the other way around. fb

Sunday, September 5, 2004

An Orbitz Experience

How times have changed. There are so many different airlines, each with different prices, flying the competitive skies. For several years, the Internet has given each individual customer the power to obtain flight information online. No longer are traditional travel agents needed to order tickets, nor must we pay their fees just to make a plane, hotel, or trip reservations. We now have more convenient online services to fill their niche: Expedia, Price Line, individual airline websites, and Orbitz.

Orbitz’s online service and Delta’s check-in system are both professional and comforting. Take for instance a recent trip Cloudjammer and Fight.Boredom’s staff took to San Francisco.

Like a good price hunter, I looked up a variety of available flights looking for the best price at the most convenient time and with the least, if any, layovers en route. Reliable as ever, Orbitz’s results, which fit my specified time-frame and travel class, included flights from a dozen different airlines. Those few flights that most closely matched the itinerary I wanted were all about the same price, give or take $12 to $15. I chose a non-stop Delta flight, selected both my outgoing and return departure times, paid with my credit card using their secure system, and got my confirmation email within just a few minutes of my initial search,

Three hours before my flight, Orbitz's early wake up call – an electronic female voice greeted me with the status of my flight – gave me plenty of time to dress, grab a cab, and head to the airport. This wakeup call service is a free add-on to an Orbitz reservation and can be set to call three, four, or five hours before your flight. And the call works on every leg of your trip: a week later, in San Francisco, Orbitz woke me up early, again, and let me know about my outgoing flight’s 10 minute delay.

At both the Atlanta and San Francisco airports, the Delta check-in kiosks were fast and easy to use, sparing me from the laborious lines typical of my past airport experiences. I swiped my credit card at the Kiosk and instantly my flight reservations were pulled up, my boarding pass was printed, and a waiting attendant called my name and checked my one-pound-over-weight baggage, sending me on my way.

Orbitz’s service is efficient and fast, raising the bar for the entire online travel industry. The best way to get acquainted with Orbitz is to set up a free account online and explore the fare searching system. You can also sign up for email alerts that let you know what fares and special offers are available for your closest departure city. fb

Apples and Oranges: A Public Service

Fight.Boredom is attempting to bring something that we feel is missing from the upcoming November election: clarity. What follows are the candidates’ stances on those issues we feel are most important and are most clearly stated in their respected platforms. Policy positions we cite have been gathered from George Bush and John Kerry’s campaign websites.

Fight.Boredom does not endorse either presidential candidate. fb


George Bush

Making the Tax Relief Permanent

Many of the tax cuts - including the new, low 10 percent tax bracket, the reduction in the marriage penalty, the doubling of the child tax credit, the phase-out of the death tax, and the increase in small business expensing - are set to expire. This tax relief must be made permanent so families and businesses can plan for the future with confidence.

Making the Tax Code Fairer, Simpler, and Pro-Growth

President Bush will work with Congress to make the tax code simpler for taxpayers, encourage saving and investment, and improve the economy's ability to create jobs and raise wages.

Promote Association Health Plans and Other Means to Reduce the Cost of Health Care

Small businesses will be able to band together to provide more affordable health care for their employees. Health Savings Accounts allow small business employees to save and pay for their health care needs.

Make the Death Tax Repeal and Rate Cuts for Small Businesses Permanent
For decades, family farmers and business people have advocated repealing the death tax. In 2001, President Bush proposed and Congress enacted a temporary repeal of this onerous tax. And more than ninety percent of America's small businesses pay their business taxes at the individual rates. The across-the-board rate reduction proposed by President Bush and passed by Congress allows these small businesses to keep more of what they earn. President Bush is committed to keeping this tax relief intact by making permanent the tax relief enacted in the past three years, including the across-the-board rate relief and the repeal of the death tax.

John Kerry

Create Good-Paying Jobs

As president, John Kerry will cut taxes for businesses that create jobs here in America instead of moving them overseas. John Kerry and John Edwards will also stand up for workers by enforcing our trade agreements.

Cut Middle-Class Taxes To Raise Middle-Class Incomes
When John Kerry is president, middle-class taxes will go down. Ninety-eight percent of all Americans and 99 percent of American businesses will get a tax cut under the Kerry-Edwards plan.

Make Washington Live Within A Budget
John Kerry will cut the deficit in half during his first four years in office. He will end corporate welfare as we know it, roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and impose a real cap to keep spending in check. And when John Kerry puts forward a new idea, he'll tell you how he's going to pay for it.

Invest In The Jobs Of Tomorrow
Today, businesses are harnessing new technology to manufacture energy-efficient cars, high-grade steel, advanced plastics and other new products. And this requires a bigger, skilled labor force to make them. John Kerry and John Edwards believe we should invest in these jobs and invest in the people who will fill them.

Pay For College And Service By Letting The Market Set Rates For Loans

Today's student loan program effectively guarantees billions in profits to banks at the expense of American taxpayers. John Kerry and John Edwards will introduce market forces to overhaul guaranteed student loans, saving taxpayers billions without charging students a penny more. Their plan will reward lenders with low costs and high-quality service – not political clout.


George Bush

Improve High School Assessments

President Bush proposes extending state assessments in grades three through eleven in reading and math. More than $250 million in annual funding will be provided to help states design and administer these assessments, which would require states to add two tests in high school over the next several years.

Support Early Intervention

President Bush proposed the establishment of a $200 million fund for states to encourage schools, with the input of parents, to use 8th grade test data to develop performance plans for entering high school students and to use assessments to monitor progress.

Expand the Mathematics and Science Partnership
The President will increase funding to $269 million for a partnership to improve high school math achievement by providing professional development for teachers.

Improve Advanced Placement
The President's 2005 budget provides a $28 million increase, bringing total spending for advanced placement courses for low-income students to nearly $52 million.

Increase Student Financial Aid to Help More Students Afford College
More than 10.3 million students will be able to afford college through President Bush's record $73 billion in financial aid assistance – an increase of $25.9 billion, or 55 percent, over 2001. The President's plan will provide a record $12.9 billion investment in Pell Grants, a 47 percent increase over 2001, to help an additional one million students afford college.

John Kerry

Meet Our Responsibilities To Our Schools
John Kerry and John Edwards will establish a National Education Trust Fund to ensure that schools always get the funding they need. They will also ensure that No Child Left Behind works for schools, states, and teachers by rewarding those who meet higher standards and rewarding schools that turn around and improve.

Offer 3.5 Million After-School Opportunities Through "School's Open 'Til Six"
John Kerry and John Edwards are strong supporters of after-school programs. They give students extra help, keep them out of trouble, and offer peace of mind to working parents. The Kerry-Edwards ""School's Open 'Til 'Six"" initiative will offer after-school opportunities to 3.5 million children, through programs that are open until 6 p.m. and offer safe transportation for children.

Make College Affordable For All And Expand Lifelong Learning

As president, John Kerry will offer a fully refundable College Opportunity Tax credit on up to $4,000 of tuition for every year of college and offer aid to states that keep tuitions down. And he will launch a new effort to ensure that all of our workers can get the technical skills and advanced training they need.


George Bush

Initiate Environmentally Safe Exploration

President Bush will seek to promote environmentally sound domestic oil production in just one percent of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which could provide up to 1 million barrels of oil a day for nearly 20 years.

Promote Natural Gas Production

President Bush will provide incentives to develop natural gas production from deep formations in shallow waters in the Gulf of Mexico, but not off the coast of Florida.

Build an Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline
President Bush will work to ensure construction of an Alaska natural gas pipeline to increase domestic natural gas supplies.

Utilize Nuclear Power
President Bush will ensure a future for nuclear power as a viable and emissions free energy source.

Support Energy Technologies
The President's plan will provide $4 billion in tax incentives to spur the use of energy technologies.

Help in the Construction of Energy-Efficient Homes
President Bush will fulfill his commitment to provide $1.4 billion over ten years to make homes more energy-efficient.

Improve Vehicle Fuel Economy
President Bush will advance a broad strategy to foster development of new technologies, provide a $4,000 tax credit to purchase hybrid gasoline-electric and other highly fuel efficient vehicles, and improve the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program to increase fuel economy in a way that saves lives and American jobs.

John Kerry

Explore And Develop New Energy Sources

Tomorrow's energy economy will be fueled by new energy sources. The Kerry-Edwards plan will invest in the research and exploration needed to turn ideas into fuel and develop renewable energy sources.

Develop Tomorrow's Technology Today
Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, America will take the lead in developing the new technology and production methods needed to ensure that resources such as coal and natural gas are used more efficiently and cleanly, and fully integrated into the New Energy Economy.

Make America Energy Independent Of Middle East Oil
Our security in the war on terror demands an end to our dependence on Middle East oil. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, we will strengthen our national security while growing our economy and protecting our environment.


George Bush

Clear Skies Initiative
President Bush will work to secure passage of the Clear Skies Initiative to reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury by 70 percent and help the states meet tougher new air quality standards.

Clean Air Interstate Rule
President Bush will complete the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which will require the steepest emissions cuts in over a decade.

President Bush has changed U.S. policy from one that only promised no net loss of wetlands to a pledge to create, improve, and protect at least 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years.

Climate Change
President Bush will further his commitment to reduce America's greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012; advance the science of climate change, including through the development of a Global Earth observation system; develop and deploy transformational technologies to avoid and reduce emissions, promote cost effective opportunities for near-term emissions reductions; and build on the international climate change partnerships this Administration has forged with countries responsible for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

John Kerry

Create Cleaner, Greener Communities

Together, we can improve the environment in backyards and communities across America. John Kerry and John Edwards will revitalize contaminated industrial sites, get toxins out of communities, guarantee our children access to clean, safe parks and baseball fields, and take on traffic congestion and sprawl.

Enact A Conservation Covenant With America
John Kerry and John Edwards believe that Americans are united in our respect for the land. They will enact a Conservation Covenant with America to ensure balanced protection for our public lands and adequate resources to enhance our national parks.

Protect Our Health By Reducing Dangerous Air Emissions
As president, John Kerry will reverse the Bush-Cheney rollbacks to our Clean Air Act, plug loopholes in the law, take aggressive action to stop acid rain, and use innovative, job-creating programs to reduce mercury emissions and other emissions that contribute to global warming.

Restore America's Waters

Today, approximately 45 percent of our nation's waterways do not meet the ""drinkable, swimmable and fishable"" standard set out by the Clean Water Act 30 years ago. As president, John Kerry will implement a ""Restore America's Waters"" campaign, an integrated approach to protecting our precious, limited water resources. He will work with states on the toughest water quality challenges, restore damaged watersheds, protect wetlands, invest in our waterfronts and coastal communities, and protect our oceans.


George Bush

Zero-Down Payment Initiative

Nearly 150,000 Americans each year will be helped by allowing the Federal Government to insure mortgages for first-time homebuyers without a down payment.

Supporting Rural Homeownership
The Department of Agriculture is increasing homeownership with $2.7 billion in home loan guarantees for low- to moderate-income rural residents and $1.1 billion in direct loans for very low to low-income borrowers who are unable to secure a mortgage through a conventional lender. These USDA loans are expected to provide 42,800 homeownership opportunities to rural families across America.

Regulatory Reform

By reducing development costs by as much as 35 percent through the removal of affordable housing barriers, millions of American families will be able to buy or rent suitable housing that they otherwise could not afford.

John Kerry

End The Cop Crunch

Today, too many of America's police officers find themselves with more responsibilities but fewer resources, as the Bush administration has worked to slash funding for the Federal COPS program by 90 percent. John Kerry and John Edwards believe that today more than ever, we need cops on the beat. As a senator, John Kerry fought to create the COPS program that would put 100,000 police officers on the street. As president, he will restore funding to COPS so that we can fight crime and terrorism.

Protect Gun Rights And Stop Gun Violence
John Kerry is a gun owner and hunter, and both he and John Edwards support the Second Amendment right of law-abiding Americans to own guns. Like all of our rights, gun rights come with responsibilities, and John Kerry and John Edwards support mainstream measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists: enforcing the gun laws on the books, closing the gun show loophole, and standing with law enforcement officers to extend the assault weapons ban.

Use Proven Approaches To Reduce Gang Violence
The murder rate is rising under George Bush, and gang violence is a big part of the problem. Building on successes in several cities, John Kerry will reduce gang violence with a two-pronged approach: First, send a message of zero tolerance for gang violence backed by strong enforcement. Second, offer positive alternatives to help young people get on the right track.


George Bush

Promote Affordable Health Care for Children

The President will launch a nationwide, billion dollar Cover the Kids campaign to sign up more children for quality health care coverage. The Cover the Kids campaign will combine the resources of the Federal Government, states, and community organizations, including faith-based organizations, with the goal of covering all SCHIP-eligible children within the next two years.

Expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
President Bush will propose a tax credit for low-income families and individuals to purchase health insurance, or to purchase a low-premium, high-deductible health plan and an HSA. Families will receive up to $2,000 for their premiums and $1,000 cash to put in their HSAs to help meet the deductible. Individuals will receive up to $700 for their premiums and $300 for their HSAs.

Allow Small Businesses to Establish Association Health Plans (AHPs)
While large businesses can use their purchasing power to get better deals from insurance companies, smaller firms often find that coverage is priced beyond their reach. To give small employers and their workers more purchasing power, the President has proposed allowing small businesses to band together and negotiate on behalf of their employees and their families.

Fighting for Medical Liability Reform
President Bush proposes commonsense liability reforms that will speed recovery of damages to patients, fairly compensate those who have been injured, and increase access to care. These reforms will help prevent skyrocketing medical liability premiums that force doctors to give up the practice of medicine, threaten access to needed care, and drive up health care costs for everyone.

Implementing Prescription Drug Benefit

Beginning in January 2006, all beneficiaries will be able to sign up for prescription drug coverage under Medicare. This new benefit will provide the greatest help to those in greatest need - seniors with low-incomes and those with high prescription drug bills - but will provide savings to all seniors who sign up.

John Kerry

Cut Your Premiums

John Kerry and John Edwards will cut family premiums by up to $1,000. That's $1,000 in real savings people can use to buy groceries, pay the bills, and save for their children's future. And that will mean more jobs and more competitive American businesses.

Cover All Americans With Quality Care
The Kerry-Edwards plan will give every American access to the range of high-quality, affordable plans available to members of Congress and extend coverage to 95 percent of Americans, including every American child. Their plan will also fight to erase the health disparities that persist along racial and economic lines, ensure that people with HIV and AIDS have the care they need, end discrimination against Americans with disabilities and mental illnesses, and ensure equal treatment for mental illness in our health system.

Cut the Cost of Prescription Drugs
The Kerry-Edwards plan will reduce prescription drug prices by allowing the re-importation of safe prescription drugs from Canada, overhauling the Medicare drug plan, ensuring low-cost drugs, and ending artificial barriers to generic drug competition.

Cut Waste And Inefficiency
Today, approximately 25 percent of health care costs are wasted on paperwork and administrative processing. The Kerry-Edwards plan harnesses American ingenuity to cut waste, save billions, and take new steps to ensure patient privacy.


George Bush

Provide Extra Incentives for Teachers

President Bush will provide an incentive fund for states and schools to reward effective teachers when students achieve a higher level of results.

Expand Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
President Bush would increase loan forgiveness from $5,000 to $17,500 for highly qualified math, science, and special education teachers who serve low-income communities.

Promote the Adjunct Teacher Corps
The $40 million Adjunct Teacher Corps initiative will bring experienced professionals into the classroom and allow them to teach one or more courses while on leave from their jobs, or teach online courses.

John Kerry

Engage 200,000 Americans A Year In "Service For College"

John Kerry and John Edwards will offer a simple deal to hundreds of thousands of America's young people: if you will serve for two years in one of America's toughest and most important jobs, we will cover four years of tuition at a typical public university.

Engage 300,000 College Students A Year In Helping Our Children Learn
John Kerry and John Edwards will call on America's college students to join a national crusade to help America's children succeed in school and get to college. In return for their service, our young people will receive up to $2,000 per year to pay for college.

Continue Reform And Put A Great Teacher In Every Classroom
Great teachers are the foundation of a great school. As president, John Kerry will enact a new bargain that offers teachers more, including better training and better pay in troubled schools, and asks for more in return, including fast, fair ways to make sure that teachers who don't belong in the classroom don't stay there.


George Bush

Create a National Intelligence Director
President Bush will work with Congress to create the position of a National Intelligence Director who will serve as the President's principal intelligence advisor and oversee the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community.

Establish a National Counterterrorism Center
A National Counterterrorism Center will build on the analytical work of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and become our Government's knowledge bank for information about known and suspected terrorists.

Reform Congressional Oversight
President Bush will work with Congress to restructure and strengthen legislative oversight of intelligence and homeland security.

America Must Continue to Adapt to the Challenges of the 21st Century

President Bush will continue leading the transformation of our Nation's Armed Forces. America will develop a lighter, faster, more lethal force, with the best training for the new challenges of the new century.

American Forces Overseas Will Be Restructured to Use Existing Forces More Effectively and More Efficiently Support Servicemen, Servicewomen, and Their Families
After three years of extensive review and consultation with Congress and our allies around the world, President Bush has begun the most comprehensive restructuring of the U.S. military presence overseas since the end of the Korean War. His new initiative will bring home many Cold War-era forces while deploying more flexible and rapidly deployable capabilities in strategic locations around the world.

Continue to Strengthen Security at Every identified Vulnerability

President Bush will tighten border security by hiring additional border patrol agents, increasing unmanned aerial vehicle flights and remote video surveillance, and expanding biometric identification at the top fifty land ports of entry by the end of 2004.

Use Advanced Technology to Protect Against WMD Attacks

President Bush has already announced Project BioShield, which will fund cutting-edge countermeasures against a biological, chemical, nuclear, or radiological attack.

Build on the USA PATRIOT Act to Strengthen Communication, Cooperation, and Coordination at Every Level of Intelligence and Law Enforcement

President Bush will work to renew the critical provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act so that law enforcement has the tools necessary to defend the country.

John Kerry

Track And Stop Terrorists

Many of the intelligence problems that allowed terrorists to slip into our country before 9/11 have not been addressed. John Kerry and John Edwards will improve our ability to gather, analyze, and share information so we can track down and stop terrorists before they cause harm.

Protect Our Borders And Shores
Today, our borders, our ports, and our airports are not as secure as they must be. John Kerry and John Edwards will make our airports, seaports, and borders more secure without intruding upon personal liberties.

Harden Vulnerable Targets
Chemical industry lobbying has kept the Bush administration from strengthening security at chemical plants, where an attack could endanger 1 million Americans. John Kerry and John Edwards will always put Americans' safety ahead of big business interests and take strong measures to harden likely targets-including nuclear plants, trains, and subways-against possible attack.

Improve Domestic Readiness

Our first defenders will respond to any attack with courage and heroism-but they also need the equipment and manpower to do the job. John Kerry and John Edwards will back up their words with resources and ensure that America's first responders have everything they need to protect their communities.

Guard Liberty
We must always remember that terrorists do not just target our lives - they target our way of life. John Kerry and John Edwards believe in an America that is safe and free, and they will protect our personal liberties as well as our personal security.

Launch And Lead A New Era Of Alliances

The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale - to utilize every available resource to get the terrorists before they can strike at us. As president, John Kerry will lead a coalition of the able - because no force on earth is more able than the United States and its allies.

Modernize The World's Most Powerful Military To Meet New Threats
John Kerry and John Edwards have a plan to transform the world's most powerful military to better address the modern threats of terrorism and proliferation, while ensuring that we have enough properly trained and equipped troops to meet our enduring strategic and regional missions.

Deploy All That Is In America's Arsenal
The war on terror cannot be won by military might alone. As president, John Kerry will deploy all the forces in America's arsenal - our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas - to make America more secure and prevent a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

Free America From Its Dangerous Dependence On Mideast Oil
To secure our full independence and freedom, we must free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil. By tapping American ingenuity, we can achieve that goal while growing our economy and protecting our environment.


George Bush

Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent

President Bush will push to make the R&D tax credit permanent and propose reforms to the credit to make it a more effective catalyst for private sector research.

Increase Federal R&D Funding

The President's 2005 Budget provides a record $132 billion for R&D - a 44 percent increase from 2001. The President completed the doubling of the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to over $28 billion and increased the National Science Foundation budget by 30 percent.

Increase Support for Basic Research

The President's 2005 budget requests an all-time high of $26.8 billion for basic research.

Make the Ban on Internet Access Taxes Permanent
The President has signed into law a two-year extension of the Internet Access Tax moratorium. In addition, he has called on Congress to pass legislation to expand the moratorium to cover broadband and make it permanent.

John Kerry

Strengthen Our Economy And Fuel High-Tech Job Growth

Venture capital-backed startups have created millions of American jobs. By eliminating capital gains taxes for long-term investments in small businesses, John Kerry and John Edwards will create a business environment that encourages investment in innovation and break down barriers to future job growth and economic expansion.

Bridge The Digital Divide
Today, America has slipped to 10th in the world in adapting broadband technology. John Kerry and John Edwards will wire every corner of America and provide first responders with a secure broadband network by 2006.

Invest In The Breakthroughs Of Tomorrow
Today, Americans are discovering new ways to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. John Kerry and John Edwards will invest more in the research likely to create the industries and jobs of the future and lead to discoveries that will help us improve millions of lives and better understand the world we live in.

Let Scientists Do Science Again

John Kerry and John Edwards will let scientific findings drive scientific decisions and make scientific reports public so all Americans can make informed decisions. To help the scientists of tomorrow, they will improve K-12 math and science education and expand America's scien

The New Ballot

Remember that thing with Florida? It had something to do with a hanging chad?

Making every effort to head-off a similar disaster in Georgia, Cathy Cox's Department of State mobilized quickly after the 2000 election, ordering and installing new digital voting machines. The aim was to remove human error and inconsistency from the polling process - to streamline elections and improve the accuracy and infallibility of results.

According to Diebold, the manufacturers of Georgia's election systems, over 75,000 electronic voting stations are being used in locations across the United States. Many of them, including Georgia's 22,000 machines, have already seen action in 2002's gubernatorial and congressional elections.

Diebold's AccuVote-TS™ system, used by Georgia and several other states, is an electronic ballot box featuring a 13-inch portrait format LCD screen inclined at about 45 degrees. A voter accesses the system by inserting a memory card provided by election workers.

Unlike ATM cards, which are read by swiping magnetic strips past a reader, these memory cards contain writable chips that need to be inserted into the Diebold machine for the duration of the polling session. This is, of course, assuming you can find the appropriate slot: It's hidden beneath and behind the screen on the right-hand side. While not a catastrophic design flaw, the card slot's location has proven hard to find and use; according to several reports and independent audits, may users accidentally insert their cards into the gap below the card slot, or don't understand that they should leave the card inserted during the polling process.

You then enter the Windows CE-based user interface and begin voting. Available in more than nine different languages per election, the terminal features a "magnify" function that enlarges the text for improved visibility and voice-guidance technology for the visually impaired. Overall, this interface is very straightforward: touch the box next to your choice and a big red X appears next to it. Changing your choice is also easy: touch the choice again to deselect it or touch another choice to switch your vote. Entering a write-in candidate is also easy using the in-line touch-screen keyboard.

Graphically, however, this voting process leaves much to be desired. The red X's indicating your selection might serve the voter better were they a more affirmative green or blue. And while the touch-select area for each electable candidate and issue are comfortably large, candidates, parties, and incumbencies well marked, the three-column format can become visually complicated when a second staggered row is added beneath. But, assuming you get through the voting process, the Diebold system nicely summarizes your entire ballot, allowing you to check the accuracy of your session.

This is where the new electronic voting process gets a little more complicated.

Your voting card, inserted into the machine throughout the polling process, is now the digital record of your vote. Unfortunately, the memory cards used in Georgia and elsewhere have no data encryption - indeed, they all have the same password (1111 in the November 2002 election). According to a former Diebold's production deployment manager in Georgia, those cards could be easily modified and used to manually change election results.

The night of the November 2002 election, sixty-seven of the memory cards used in Fulton County disappeared - the cards were left in the voting machines by forgetful poll station workers and were recovered. Had they not been recovered, the election results could have been altered in just a few hours by anyone with a memory card reader and a PC.

When the Diebold system was first used in Georgia, for the 2002 November elections, there were a tremendous number of problems that went largely unreported to the public. For instance, when the machines arrived from Diebold, every single one failed quality-assurance checks, a fifth of these judged unusable. Additionally, when Diebold's programmers wanted to update the voting-system software, they sent Georgia election officials software patches via the company's insecure File Transfer Protocol (FTP) website. These patches are easily installed using the same forgeable memory cards voters use to record their votes.

Federal certifying labs are responsible for guaranteeing that the program code is non-partisan and fair. Unfortunately, Diebold's program code is proprietary and unauditable. As are most of its patches. Likewise, the voting system in Georgia runs on Windows CE, an operating system extremely vulnerable to programmers and infiltration.

And if this doesn't have you concerned about your upcoming vote, consider this: In 2002, a group of kids discovered Diebold's unsecured FTP site and began linking to it. Google eventually listed the FTP site prominently, leading writers, publishers, activists, reporters, and hackers to the site. By analyzing nearly every line of the Diebold and Windows source code available, many ways have been found to change vote totals.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice University posted the code in New Zealand for download. Subsequently, Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins and three other scientists produced a devastating twenty-three-page report on the Diebold software. Two more damaging technical studies followed in Ohio. A "Red Team" exercise, at RABA Technologies' headquarters in Maryland, was staged to break the Diebold code - the technical director and four of the eight computer scientists on the team formerly of National Security Agency. Their conclusion: "A voter can be deceived into thinking he is voting for one candidate when, in fact, the software is recording the vote for another candidate." A security vulnerability "allows a remote attacker to get complete control of the machine." And one can "automatically upload malicious software" that will "modify or delete elections."

How does Diebold respond to these accusations? Their site features many rebuttals, and their software has been frequently patched (though the content of the patches remains unknown). Indeed, Diebold's explanation on their website, linked from "Every Vote counts - click on the Eagle to find out more" leads to a blank page.

According to a Lou Dobbs's quick poll on CNN, 85% of respondents want a paper trail to backup the nebulous electronic reporting - and several states have passed laws mandating this. Not Georgia. While Georgia may have been the first state in the union to install and operate an electronic voting system - a much touted achievement on Secretary of State Cathy Cox's government website - much remains to be done to fortify the accuracy of the system. Get out there and vote on Super Tuesday. May all our electronic votes be counted equally. fb

Thursday, August 5, 2004

In the Shadow of No Towers

View a frame from In the Shadow of No TowersView a frame from In the Shadow of No TowersThis September, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, will publish a new adult-oriented comic book by Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers. The book will explore, through a series of emotionally- and politically-charged cartoons, the trauma of 9/11 and the frustration many Americans have felt in the subsequent years.

The Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist has spent much of the last decade illustrating covers for the New Yorker, working and living only blocks away from the World Trade Center. The trauma of the attacks transformed into anger for Spiegelman, who grew increasingly upset with his own government. Resigning from the New Yorker, he returned to cartooning and, after immersing himself in the newspaper comics of the later 19th and early 20th centuries, began exploring his own political-themed cartoons.

In the Shadow of No Towers is a 42-page large-format cartoon collection, the appearance of which is reminiscent of large cardboard children’s comic books. Mixing vintage cartoon characters, Spiegelman’s own creations, and modern political satire, In the Shadow of No Towers explores the anguish of 9/11.

In the Shadow of No Towers does not depict a particular narrative, as Spiegelman’s Maus did, but instead uses individual comics to portray Americans, New Yorkers in particular, and himself in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the political climate that followed. Many comics are inspired by the author's own memories – in addition to living near the World Trade Center, his daughter Nadja had just started high school at the foot of the South Tower. Individual cartoons from the book have appeared previously in Forward and the print edition of The London Review but this will be the first time the series is presented in its entirety.

In his introduction to In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman writes, "I hadn't anticipated that the hijackings of September 11 would themselves be hijacked by the Bush cabal that reduced it all to a war recruitment poster...When the government began to move into full dystopian Big Brother mode and hurtle America into a colonialist adventure in Iraq – while doing very little to make America genuinely safer beyond confiscating nail clippers at airports – all the rage I'd suppressed after the 2000 election, all the paranoia I'd barely managed to squelch immediately after 9/11, returned with a vengeance."

Art Spiegelman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus (Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II: From Mauschwitz to the Catskills), a chilling comic-format story of the Nazi holocaust. While Maus was a key book in the development of the modern American adult graphic novel, it is most highly regarded for the refreshing approach, both visually and rhetorically, with which it tells its story; in Maus, the Jews are depicted as mice, the Nazis as cats (the Katzies), and various other ethnic groups as various other animal species (the Poles, for instance, feature prominently as pigs). Spiegelman is an editor of Raw, an award-winning anthology of avant-garde comics, has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker and various underground publications, and has published comic-art works in a number of mainstream adult titles.

Spiegelman’s Maus protagonist/alter-ego even appears in In the Shadow of No Towers as a stand-in for Spiegelman. He has said of this juxtaposition, “This was a means of representing myself at a time when I couldn't even see myself in the mirror clearly.” fb

A Dear Mac Letter

View the exView the new girlDear Mac,

There’s no easy way to say this – I’ve found someone else.
Our time together has been great. Hell, I’ve spent more time with you these past few years than with my own wife. But it’s time we ended it. It’s time we moved on.

I’ve never been in a relationship like ours before. When we met back in 1999 I would never have thought we would be together so long or that we would do so much together. We met as business partners, in those first days when Cloudjammer was just an idea. You helped me get the company off the ground, first part-time then full-time. You inspired and collaborated, frustrated and consoled. You made it all possible and never asked for anything in return.

We’ve also played – far more than we should have, no doubt. We were late night world conquerors, early morning sci-fi adventurers, and all day superheroes. We were also artists together. You helped me through years of writing, thousands of photographs, hundreds of compositions and projects. You tirelessly helped me with research. You kept me in touch with friends and family.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. You’ve been slowing down lately, unable to keep up with the changing times and changing demands of both our business and personal lives. You try – I know you try – but I can’t keep on watching you struggle to perform tasks meant for a younger generation. It hurts us both.

She’s younger, thinner, and – not to put too fine a point on it – faster. She’s stepped in great – picked up the ball right away. She likes to travel, listens to the same music, and has done wonders for my writing and art. The wife even likes her, though she is jealous of the time I spend with her.

Thank you for six great years. I hope you end up with someone who appreciates you as much as I did.

- fb

All About Kerry

With months to go before a critical national election, the presidential campaign dialogue is, more than ever before, being communicated online. The prestige of party and candidate websites’s look, feel, accessibly, and message has increased dramatically in this presidential season. Unfortunately, the dialogue the official party websites provide is particularly stilted.

The official GOP website ( has devoted most of the home page and much of the navigation to bashing Democratic candidate John Kerry – at the expense of promoting George W. Bush. And while the GOP website discusses how awful John Kerry is – how he can never make up his mind and how liberal his record is – the official DNC website ( is dedicated to advertising their candidate and his plans – or, at the very least, his campaign promises.

The net result is that you now have two party web sites devoted to John Kerry – one in support, one in defiance.

The only picture of President Bush on the GOP website homepage is at the bottom of the page, right above a larger picture of Ronald Reagan. This tactic effectively renders the promotional value of the GOP site moot. Indeed, the superficial value of the site becomes aggressive and derogatory. Instead of wasting word and homepage real estate on defaming John Kerry, the GOP should be touting the presidential accomplishments and experience of George W. Bush – what he has done and how far we have come. The DNC should be left to take the pot shots at the incumbent president, not the other way around. The GOP site almost totally ignores their current leadership equity. Instead of posturing like a champion prizefighter, they feign to be the under dog. It doesn’t work in boxing and it won’t sell in politics, either.

The GOP has not necessarily done a bad job. Visitors can quickly and easily find the platform issues and George W. Bush’s plans to address them. The site is replete with examples of policy and leadership successes from Bush’s first term It is precisely because of this Bush-promotional content that site Kerry-based homepage is so shockingly misplaced. During our audit of the site, we counted John Kerry’s name 17 times on the GOP home page – including several instances which link to a Kerry movie and five instances featured in the primary website navigation! How about Bush? His name only appeared on the GOP home page 4 times, none of which were in the navigation.

This all works out for John Kerry – he now has two websites talking about him. The GOP website strategy is preaching to the choir – legions of Bushophites already committed to the Republican cause – while ignoring the promotional marketing undecided voters are looking for. This website amounts to an online attack website, adding little material value to the online political dialogue.

And if you’re not convinced that political websites make a difference, take a look at what Howard Dean did with his ("How to Raise $200 Million Online," issue 2003.11). Not only did Howard Dean’s website focus on promoting its candidate, it drove consistent interest and participation. One can only hope that future campaigns follow this lead instead of the GOP’s example.

While wrapping up the research for this article, Cloudjammer’s J.D. Jordan walked up to me and looked over my shoulder. Seeing John Kerry prominently on screen, he started to point out the ways the DNC could improve their website. The problem? He was mistakenly critiquing the GOP website. fb

Monday, July 5, 2004

Desktop Olympics

During the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, August 13 to 29, 2004, spectators the world over will have a wider range of viewing options than ever before. For the first time the Olympics will be beamed to computers and cell phones during the games.

During the Sydney and Salt Lake City Olympics, the International Olympic Committee conducted web trials involving about 100,000 homes. As a result of the success of this trial, the IOC is now permitting more than a dozen broadcasters, mostly in the US and Europe, to show online video of the Athens Games.

But while many Europeans will be able to see live Olympic coverage on the Internet, Americans will have to settle for tape and post-broadcast delays.

Web-broadcast footage is restricted by the same lucrative broadcast contracts – which are sold by territory – that limit television media. To protect the $793 million NBC paid to secure their coverage rights, employs technology to block viewers from outside the US Likewise, US web surfers won’t be able to access BBC's live coverage. site will check computer Internet addresses to make sure they are going through US Internet service providers. The site will also measure how long it takes data to travel back and forth from their servers to the visiting computer, further weeding out visitors from afar.

US viewers must also verify their identity using a Visa credit card, though at no charge. Not a Visa cardholder? Sorry.

NBC will offer clips of key events in every sport and a daily highlights package at Broadband Olympic footage will appear online only after it is broadcast on television – NBC plans 1,210 hours of coverage on seven networks: NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA, Telemundo, and a high-definition channel.

Brief highlights from NBC will also be available to US customers of AT&T Wireless' mMode information service.

Some European broadcasters are limiting online video to broadband, as well. In the United Kingdom, the BBC Web site will simulcast five broadband television feeds and carry as many as 30 highlights at a time.

News websites not affiliated with official broadcasters can’t carry competition video at all; unaffiliated TV stations can show only three highlight segments a day, 2 minutes apiece. anticipates 20 million unique visitors in August, a record for any NBC website. The BBC Sport website, which already averages 1 million unique users per day, also expects record traffic during the Games.

The official ATHENS 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games website – the most comprehensive site, worldwide, for a single sporting event – will feature extensive video and news coverage as well. is hosted on 16,000 servers worldwide to meet the anticipated demand of 5 million visits a day.

Despite video delays for US customers, this move by the IOC and affiliate networks remains a tremendous step forward. NBC will offer, online and off, more than four-times as much coverage for these Olympic games than they offered for the previous four games. The IOC, as well, is now including Internet broadcast rights in their contracts for the upcoming 2008 and 2012 summer games. fb

A Prayer for the Beltline

View the proposed Beltline track mapIt goes without saying that Atlanta has something of a transportation crisis on its hands. Our highway system is bursting with traffic, choking to a stop in every direction at least twice a day. Our under-funded rail network – the only metro rail system in the country to operate without any local government funding – is slowly losing its battle with aging equipment and a malevolent city government that pines for its bankruptcy.

It’s no wonder road rage has become such a popular Atlanta pastime.

In this atmosphere of commuter desperation and aggravation, it’s a pleasant surprise to learn about the Beltline – a proposal to combine four disused light freight rail lines to create a European-style tram system circumnavigating the metro Atlanta area and linked to the existing commuter rail system.

Metro-area commuters unite: Hallelujah!

Imagine walking a few steps from your Grant Park home, catching a European-style tram, and zipping off for lunch at the King Plow Center. This is not a MARTA station bursting with noise and fast-paced transients, but a quaint station on the Beltline connecting you to other metro-Atlanta communities and parks, including Piedmont Park, Grant Park, and the Zoo. Imagine bicycle and pedestrian paths engaging diverse parts of the city. Imagine opening 4,000 acres for redevelopment that could accommodate 100,000 new residents – all of whom are a short walk from an environmentally friendly transit system that does not cut through historic neighborhoods but flows along the seams between them.

Sounds pretty good to us.

The Beltline concept began life as a Georgia Tech student's thesis. Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard then took over, transforming this college dissertation into a bona fide transit proposal.

The Atlanta Beltline proposes to connect over 50 of Atlanta's historic neighborhoods with a new transit line and network of parks. Bicycle and pedestrian pathways will follow the 22-mile loop, which would connect with existing MARTA stations at five locations (Lindbergh, Inman Park/Reynoldstown, West End, Ashby and Bankhead).

The promise is that intown Atlanta has a tremendous amount of neglected urban real estate ready for reinvestment, particularly to the city’s south and west. The city also has a large quantity of urban redevelopment underway, increasing density and straining traffic, particularly on the city’s north and east. Perhaps too conveniently, many of these redevelopment sites are strung together by several old "belt line" railroads. After the Civil War, these minor freight lines developed to serve the city’s expanding industrial base. Since they preceded urban expansion, bungalow streetcar suburbs were nestled up against them. The railroads, therefore, tend not to cut through historic neighborhoods, but instead lie at the seam between them, making these in-between spaces ideal sites for urban redevelopment.

More than just an improved network of public transportation, however, the Belt Line is a transportation greenway, circling the central city as a linear park, connecting big city parks like Piedmont, Freedom, Grant, Perkerson, and Maddox Parks and little neighborhood parks like Stanton, Adair, Washington, and Tanyard Creek Parks. Bicycle and pedestrian paths join light rail or bus transit, engaging parts of Atlanta as different as Brookwood Hills and Pittsburgh, Piedmont Hospital and Zoo Atlanta. It connects Ansley Mall to the King Plow Arts Center and City Hall East to the Wren's Nest in West End. Furthermore, with an influx of new residents moving closer into the City, the Belt Line accesses developable land and re-uses historic urban fabric in ways that contribute to the health of urban neighborhoods. Stations would be designed for neighbors and would more resemble bus stops than MARTA stations, eliminating elevated platforms, turnstiles, escalators and parking lots.

Atlanta Beltline planners point to the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon as a flourishing example of this type of light rail project. Portland has developed an urban streetcar that now runs through an old warehouse district. Since the Portland project was finished, $1 billion in real estate sales along the streetcar’s path have been grossed and business growth in the newly connected communities has surged. The Atlanta Beltline may have a big price tag – almost $600 million – but the Beltline may encourage an amazing amount of growth and help revitalize vacant land through the metro area.

But as many metro Atlantans can tell you, this is not the first public-transit solution to step up to the plate only to be knocked flat by local bureaucracy and the overpowering almighty love of the car.

So far, only $100 million of the estimated $583 million the project needs will come from guaranteed sources. And three large sections – nearly a fifth of the Beltline's proposed path – are currently impassable for passenger travel. Owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern these tracks see as many as 15 freight trains a day. Other sections are owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation – the GDOT doesn't agree with Beltline's planners on how the project should proceed.

But the project is moving ahead. As of this writing the Beltline proposal has made the short list of transit projects that will get millions in funding over the next seven years – beating out four MARTA line extensions and every commuter rail proposal except one. On May 12, Mayor Shirley Franklin announced the formation of a steering committee to guide the Beltline through the quagmire of transportation planning's bureaucracy to completion. A feasibility study is underway to be completed in Fall 2004. The project has been included in Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan and received a funding commitment from the PATH Foundation. A nonprofit organization has been founded to support the project, “Friends of the BeltLine,” and discussions have begun with CSX and Norfolk Southern, who still use a few miles of the anticipated beltline network for freight, and GDOT.

And revisions are being made to the original plan. Engineers with the Beltline's feasibility study are designing alternative routes to bypass CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks, leading the beltline down Moreland Avenue, from the Carter Center, through Little Five Points, and past the Sembler development now under construction on the old Atlanta Gas Light property. A plan also has been suggested to lay light rail tracks into Marietta Boulevard and Northside Drive, a route that would swing by the new aquarium, the proposed World of Coca-Cola mixed-use development, the Georgia Tech campus, the Georgia Dome, and the new developments – including the massive Atlantic Station development – on the west and northwest side of downtown.

Keep your eyes open next time you drive around the city. The kudzu-shrouded tracks are plainly visible across town, beside the Park Tavern and through Peidmont Park, by the MLK center, inside both Ansley and Inman parks. There is even a driving tour of the Beltline course that you can follow at

Is this the ultimate solution to Atlanta’s commuter woes? Far from it. Would it go a long way to alleviate our persistent traffic headaches and improve the quality of our metro lifestyles? Absolutely. fb

How Terror Markets Online

View a screenshot of Hamas' official websiteView a screenshot of Hezbollah's kid-oriented websiteView a screenshot from Hezbollah's online game, Special ForceA note from Fight.Boredom’s editors: The writers of Fight.Boredom in no way endorse any group defined by the United States as “terrorists.” Nowhere in this article are terrorist group websites linked to or are their addresses specially mentioned. The following critique is intended to be objective.

Terrorists have entered the information age with a vengeance.

The West is already familiar with some of their techniques. They use the Internet to communicate their demands and to distribute grisly videos of hostages and beheadings. They use the Internet to threaten and intimidate while protecting their hidden locations.

But the marketing of terror and terrorist groups is far more sophisticated than most Westerners realize. With many of the same goals as our own political organizations, terror groups in the Middle East and elsewhere use the Internet to distribute propaganda, to find and profile potential recruits, and to raise funds. They also use the Internet to research and coordinate upcoming attacks and to communicate – often anonymously – with one another.

"The messages on the beheadings spread out worldwide in seconds," said Professor Gabriel Weimann of Haifa University, Israel, a communications professor who monitors the activities of terrorist organizations on the net. Indeed, the distributive power of the Internet has alleviated one of the terrorist’s greatest complaints about modern media. Before Internet distribution, terror groups criticized the presentation of their video footage. They claimed the Western press focused too much on the suffering of the victims, not on the political or ideological message of the terrorists. With greater control over their electronic media, terrorists now control how much, and what, the audience sees of its message and crimes.

And this communicative power is being used the world over. A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that nearly a quarter of Americans online turned to the Internet to view some of the graphic images of the war in Iraq that they could not find in mainstream media coverage. Images, in many cases, provided by middle-eastern militant groups.

According to a BBC interview with Professor Weimann, over the course of seven years the number of terrorist websites has blossomed from 12 to 4,000, maintained by hundreds of militant groups. These sites include conventional information websites, chatrooms, forums, and bulletin boards. Some groups, including Hamas – an anti-Israeli Palestinian Islamic organization established in 1987 during the first Intifada – have separate websites aimed at adults, potential recruits, news outlets, and even children.

Al-Fateh, Hamas’ monthly children’s magazine, routinely decries the Americans, the Jews, and the English. Aimed at an average audience of 10 years old, al-Fateh publishes short editorials against Hamas’ enemies and features cartoons and other youth-oriented content. In describing the US-led war in Iraq, al-Fateh editorials remark that “Americans are ‘barbaric rapists and murders’” and that “The blood of Iraq was forsaken … They have murdered elderly, women and children and have sent Ba’sra, Mou’sul and Baghdad up in flames … may the curse of Allah be upon them all.”

Hezbollah – an anti-Israeli Lebanese group of Shiite militants opposed to the West that seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran – has even created a downloadable video game called Special Force based on the battles fought between the group's fighters and Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. Special Force is a first-person shooter military video game created using the open-source Genesis 3D graphics engine developed in the United States.

Special Force puts the player in the role of an armed member of the Islamic Resistance to the Israeli invasions of Lebanon. It also allows players to attack Israeli positions and Israeli politicians. It carries a deliberate and specific pro-Arabic and anti-Israeli political message. The Special Force website describes the purpose of the game as “Educational for our future generations and for all freedom lovers of this world of ours.”

The entire design of the game is expressive of Hezbollah’s ideals. A row of burning Israeli flags marks the time while the computer loads a "training session" where the player shoots targets of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – 10 points each. "Victory comes from no one but Allah," exhorts the screen before the mission begins. The opportunities for martyrdom, from exploding land mines and snipers, are rife.

Special Force is the hottest selling video game for the teenagers of Beirut's southern Shiite neighborhoods and can be played in Arabic, English, French, and Persian. The game quickly sold old its first run of 100,000 copies when it was released in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates in early 2003. A subsequent, more sophisticated version allows multiple players to link up on a network.

Some Internet cafes in Beirut have wholeheartedly embraced the game’s popularity. In one café, bamboo partitions, intended to evoke the Vietnam War, and red sandbags line the walls. Camouflage designs and rows of plastic Kalashnikovs adorn the walls. Photographs of Sheik Nasrallah and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sit on a display shelf.

And, while Western critics may decry the game as propaganda, Arab consumers embrace the game for its positive depiction of Arab warriors. And in much the same role that the US military’s video game America’s Army is designed to express the ideals and values of the US armed forces, so too have the designers of Special Force designed and targeted their product.

Since the war in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, too has moved to cyberspace. They use the Internet for communication and online training. Indeed, Al-Qaeda regularly moves between approximately 50 different web addresses to provide online training. Since January 2004, the group has also maintained an online spiritual magazine, called the Voice of Jihad, and al-Battar, a training periodical. According to Professor Weimann, issue number 10 of al-Battar was devoted to kidnappings. Its release came just before the wave of kidnappings and executions that recently swept Iraq.

This online trend is certainly not limited to Middle-Eastern Islamic groups. According to BBC, several groups scattered across the globe maintain strong web presences as well: The Peruvian Marxists, Tupac Amaru (MRTA); the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc); Kahane, a Jewish group designated as a terrorist organization by both the US and Israeli governments; the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers; and the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

How can these groups maintain these sites with impunity, given the West’s dominance of the medium? A fair question to ask when you consider where these sites are hosted: The official website of Hamas, for instance, is registered in Sofia, Bulgaria and hosted by Hurricane Electric in Fremont, California, and Powersurge Technologies Inc. in Cedar Falls, Iowa; Hamas’ children’s website, al-Fateh, is registered in Beirut, Lebanon and hosted by Corbina Telecom in Moscow, Russia; the Website of the Hezbollah Secretary-General is registered in Beirut, Lebanon and hosted by ServePath LLC in San Francisco, California; the Hezbollah Special Force website is hosted in Longboat Key, Florida.

Sophisticated groups like Hezbollah – which also maintains TV and radio stations – have at their disposal myriad off and on-line media with which to communicate their populist militant messages. In the war on terror, the Internet has become as valid an ideological battleground as the nebulous “Arab Street.” fb