Though there was an outcry over the Pentagon's terrorism futures market, a similar online exchange is in the works to predict what the U.S. government is up to.
The American Action Market will offer various Washington "futures" that can be bet upon and traded. Examples include:
•Which country will the White House threaten next?
•Who will be the next foreign leader to move off the CIA payroll and onto the White House's "most wanted" list?
•Which corporation with close ties to the White House will be the next cloaked in scandal?
The AAM will begin registering traders in September and plans to open for business Oct. 1 -- the same launch date proposed for the Pentagon's terrorism market, until it was shelved.
[Read Times article below to see exactly what this is... it's fer real! The project has just been scrapped -- about $8 million was approved for it -- but I thought it should exist here for the record!]
The DARPA FutureMAP (Futures Markets Applied to Prediction) program is a follow-up to a current DARPA SBIR, Electronic Market-Based Decision Support (SB012-012). FutureMAP will concentrate on market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events. Strategic decisions depend upon the accurate assessment of the likelihood of future events. This analysis often requires independent contributions by experts in a wide variety of fields, with the resulting difficulty of combining the various opinions into one assessment. Market-based techniques provide a tool for producing these assessments.
There is potential for application of market-based methods to analyses of interest to the DoD. These may include analysis of political stability in regions of the world, prediction of the timing and impact on national security of emerging technologies, analysis of the outcomes of advanced technology programs, or other future events of interest to the DoD. In addition, the rapid reaction of markets to knowledge held by only a few participants may provide an early warning system to avoid surprise.
The DARPA FutureMAP program will identify the types of market-based mechanisms that are most suitable to aggregate information in the defense context, will develop information systems to manage the markets, and will measure the effectiveness of markets for several tasks. Open issues that will drive the types of market include information security and participant incentives. A market that addresses defense-related events may potentially aggregate information from both classified and unclassified sources. This poses the problem of extracting useful data from markets without compromising national security. Markets must also offer compensation that is ethically and legally satisfactory to all sectors involved, while remaining attractive enough to ensure full and continuous participation of individual parties. The markets must also be sufficiently robust to withstand manipulation. FutureMAP will bring together commercial, academic, and government performers to meet these challenges.
Corporate watchdogs, poker aficionados and concerned citizens will all have reason to delight in The Ruckus Society's newest bid to expose the "War Profiteers" who benefit from combat at the expense of Iraqis and Americans alike, engagingly rendered on a harmless-looking set of playing cards.
Their tone is humorous, but make no mistake: these cards are an essential weapon. Their faux-camouflage finish makes them perfect for stealth viewing on the bus or at work. And while you may never actually come face-to-face with the enemy, they ensure that you'll be well armed.
They're an inspired spoof of the "Iraq's Most Wanted" deck, which was issued to coalition troops in April by the U.S. Defense Department and included photos and descriptions of individuals integral to Saddam Hussein's regime. Soon the flag-buying segment of the American public had another product to covet, and sales skyrocketed.
Ruckus is a well-respected progressive organization that specializes in training others in the latest in activism tools – from internet organizing to rope climbing – but its latest project is homegrown. The deck focuses on the multitude of incestuous relationships between oil, gas, military and defense corporations, government officials, and media groups, the conflicts of interest they evoke, and their lucrative involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The "shadow governments" of world policy top this stacked deck, with the WTO, IMF and World Bank as the ace of spades, clubs and diamonds, respectively. Henry Kissinger ("Architect of Evil") reigns as the Queen of Hearts, with Dick Cheney as his King, and humorous photos of Tom Ridge and Donald Rumsfeld accompany enlightening facts about their political careers. Players can learn how Monsanto and Lockheed Martin are in bed together and how deep Bechtel and ExxonMobil's special interests go. And there's only one "Jerk" (Joker) in this deck – "Petty Dictator" George W. Bush.
The scheme was born under typical circumstances for Ruckus. Mojgone Azemun, the group's training director, first approached fellow activist and graphic designer Innosanto Nagara about the project at a ChevronTexaco civil disobedience action in mid-April. She pitched it in the time it took for him to get arrested.
"He disappeared for a couple of days after that," recalls Azemun. "But he got out and asked me, 'Remember that idea? Let's do it.'" Together they spawned a plan for a different way to educate the public about corporate abuses, one that would probably not result in anyone's arrest.
As it happened, fellow activists Pratap Chatterjee and Jeff Conant of the Hesperian Foundation had been planning the same project. They fused their creative efforts and individual expertise with those of Gopal Dayaneni, a trainer with Ruckus; John Sellers, Ruckus' executive director, and others. Some worked nights and weekends, staying up till 2 AM; they found a local unionized print broker, used recycled paper with soy-based inks. The cards went from concept to product in less than four weeks.
But they weren't the only ones with a good idea. Several similar-minded spoof decks emerged in the meantime, including one from Gatt.org with pictures of officials they recommended be "removed from power" to ensure real world peace; sarcastic "Republican Chickenhawk" cards (officials and pundits who have avoided serving their country); Greenpeace's "Nuclear Solitaire Game;" far-out "Psychedelic Republicans;" and from the right, "The Deck of Weasels," taking jabs at The Dixie Chicks, Hans Blix, Jacques Chirac and others.
Ruckus is keeping the cards' price down in the interest of selling as many as possible through the War Profiteers website, www.warprofiteers.com, for a $10 donation to the nonprofit.
The site also acts as a portal to other activist organizations, divided up by suit (e.g. hearts for government officials – "because they love you"). It's no coincidence that many of the "profiteers" are associated with institutions that activists have been focusing on. And clicking on a card online reveals extra intelligence on companies and officials.
Compiling that information was an important part of the project for Azemun. As they were working, "I was finally being educated about the players that some people only hear about. Take Sam Nunn, for instance. A lot of people recognize his name from Congress, but now he has positions on three or four executive boards," she explained.
The cards also give crucial attention to influential but lesser-known right-wing groups, such as editor William Kristol's Project for a New American Century, or the Grace News Network, a Christian media group that was handpicked by the Bush administration to produce Arabic TV news for Iraq.
Early response to the cards has been overwhelming. Ruckus is printing 10,000 decks due to the volume of orders; the website gets 3,000 hits a day, many of which are from different countries in Europe. They've heard from art galleries, magicians, high school history teachers, and even a California woman who ordered several decks for her poker club. Democracy Now's Amy Goodman cracked up as she read them out on the air.
In short, they've become the perfect "culture jamming" tool. "We should be putting our messages on vectors of culture to exploit our message, the same way Pepsi does with hip-hop," said Azemun. Ruckus may create a new international deck featuring Tony Blair, Hamid Karzai and other figures complicit in the exploitation of the Iraq war.
There's also talk of sending them to members of Congress. Chatterjee, a journalist who created the text for the military and defense-themed cards, calls them "a good political education tool for youth" that could have a dual use in the 2004 elections. At a recent peace conference in Indonesia, he passed along several decks to activists from Afghanistan and Iraq – "To see if they caught any of the criminals."
The cards' sly, comic flavor does not detract from the seriousness of the issues they're concerned with. "If you can poke fun at something, it's no longer taboo to talk about," Sellers asserts. He says it was important to him that there be humor, which was almost too easy to do: "These are the best straight guys in the world."
At the same time, remarks Nagara, "I don't see global capitalism capitulating to humor. Ultimately, we're going to have to get people organized on a much larger scale."
While the deck can be used to play any cardgame, from "bullshit" to bridge, there is an obvious candidate.
"I've been using them to play War with my friends," said Dayaneni, who compiled the information on the oil, gas and energy companies. "Once in a while you have to stop and say, 'Wait a minute: Paul Wolfowitz is an 8 and [Boeing CEO] Philip Condit's a 9? Let's reconsider this.' It makes you think.'"
Julia Scott is a San Francisco-based freelence writer and Associate Editor with Independent Arts and Media.
[Here's a site that lets you download "patriotic" cursors that run on Windows. Someone has to explain to me how some of these are expressions of "patriotism" -- you mean if you're have a flashing speech bubble coming out of your mouth you're not American? But the hard, silent stare makes you a patriot? I'm sure there's a Chomsky one out there with "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" in the bubble.]
The arrival of the two restaurants - sited inside giant trailers on a British military base near Basra - won a rapturous welcome from soldiers, whose limited range of rations lost their appeal many weeks ago.
But some officers were less keen on the new arrivals, which are due to start selling food tomorrow.
"I would prefer we got decent showers and toilets sorted out first," muttered one high-ranking officer.
Fastfood outlets are common in US bases, including Camp Doha in Kuwait, but it is believed to be the first time they have been sited inside a British military base.
Another officer, who was directly involved in the franchise process, said: "It's an Americanism, we usually have them off the base, but because it is still a war zone we have to give them protection."
Permission to open the restaurants was granted through the British Army and they will be run by existing franchise holders from Kuwait, with a percentage of any profits going to charity.
But soldiers waiting for a brewery franchise to be awarded are set for a disappointment as military chiefs have already vetoed any alcohol being sold on the base, which is home to almost 8000 British soldiers.
The Kuwaiti franchise holders provided staff and raw materials and the Army escorted them into Iraq, although it is understood it will not provide constant escorts for the supply runs.
A spokesman for the two restaurants, Atef Bassent, said: "I hope we will do good business here."
There's no need to manufacture Fark any more -- the media's already doing that for us too.
Smoking Gun posted the following on April 16:
While all news organizations prepare obituaries in advance of the deaths of famous individuals, the folks at CNN inadvertently gave the Internet-surfing public a chance to preview how the network's web site would note the demise of Vice President Dick Cheney [viewable on the Smoking Gun site], Ronald Reagan, and a few other prominent figures. Until earlier this afternoon, a CNN server housed mock-ups of web pages announcing the yet-to-happen deaths. The CNN pages, which were discovered by the intrepid folks at fark.com, were yanked about 20 minutes after being exposed (though TSG was able to grab a few of the pages for posterity's sake). The premature obituaries, housed in a publicly accessible area of the CNN server and searchable via Google, were apparently the work of Peter Rentz, a senior multimedia designer at CNN. The mock-ups are virtually identical to the obituary design currently used by CNN when a notable person dies. (Elements of the obit template that CNN used for the Queen Mum can be seen in the Cheney design.) In addition to Cheney and Reagan, CNN also prepped online farewells to Fidel Castro, Bob Hope, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Gerald Ford.
The US Department of Defense has equipped soldiers with sets of playing cards depicting members of the Iraqi regime. Ostensibly, the cards are used "to identify regime leadership". During the Vietnam War, playing cards called "death cards" (usually the Ace of Spades) had a different purpose. These official and effective tools of psychological warfare were left by GIs on the corpses of slain enemies "as a reminder".
My French isn't very good, but it appears that this ad claims that "the theories of Dr. Kellog's (creator of the cereal) have influenced Adolf H."? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
[This one's been making the rounds...]
Here's a radiant tribute to all those who serve in the United States military. This sparkling, exclusive collectible figurine portrays a brave (and adorable) defender of freedom sheltered in God's loving hands. Editions are limited, so Hurry. Order Now!
This image is from the second piece of pro-war spam I've received in two days; both were offers for crap-ass jingoistic t-shirts (presumably, this is what you wear while learning how to enlarge your penis, buy Viagra online and and invest in African pyramid schemes). I heartily recommend Spamsieve or any Bayesian filtering system for dealing with this problem (Bayesian filtering is built into the new Mac mail application) -- it kills spam dead.