the day: Yes Men Andy Bichlbaum (enclosed in a SurvivaBall)
and Mike Bonanno pose for a photo op at a Catastrophic
Loss conference in Amelia, Fla.
Sticking It to the Man
jammers the Yes Men return again to skewer corporate gullibility—and
if we don’t do something very dramatic to turn the system
around, we will all merrily tra la la la to the earth’s end,”
says “Mike Bonanno” of the prankster group the Yes Men.
otherwise known as Igor Vamos, a sometime RPI professor and
Troy local, and his partner, “Andy Bichlbaum” (also an alias),
have been at it again.
This time the Yes Men agreed their way into a Catastrophic
Loss conference held May 8-9 at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia
Island, Fla. Hosted by LexisNexis, the conference featured
seminars billed with such reassuring names as “Earthquakes
and Other Natural Disasters” and “Jumping into the Jury Pool:
Influencing the Jury After a Catastrophic Event.” It seemed
the perfect forum for oil industry and reconstruction giant
Halliburton. Or so thought one of the conference’s organizers.
But instead of inviting the Houston-based corporation, a member
of the LexisNexis hierarchy accidently stumbled across Bananno
and Bichlbaum’s phony Halliburton site—www.halliburtoncontracts.com—and
invited the Yes Men instead.
Bonanno and Bichlbaum, posing as Halliburton representatives
Fred S. Wolf and Dr. Northrop Goody, gave a presentation titled,
“What Noah Knew: Old Models for New Conditions,” based on
the principal that even the most horrendous natural catastrophe
can offer up profitable returns.
we don’t suggest that everyone make climate change the core
of their business plan, I can personally guarantee you that
level heads will always be able to turn lemons into lemonade,”
Bichlbaum said as Fred Wolf.
about the Great Deluge?” Bichlbaum’s speech continued. “This
world-ending disaster was surely seen as a terrible catastrophe
by Noah’s contemporaries, and even by Noah himself. Yet Noah
was ready to seize the day, and at the end of that day, not
only was there a whole new world, but Noah found himself with
a monopoly of the animals. Not a bad deal!”
At the core of their presentation was the SurvivaBall.
SurvivaBall is designed to protect the corporate manager no
matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way,” said Wolf.
“It’s essentially a gated community for one.”
Dr. Goody got inside a mock-up version of the SurvivaBall
to demonstrate it for what Bichlbaum described as a receptive
audience of corporate movers and shakers.
The SurvivaBall mockup used at the conference is a big, round
fabric ball that completely encloses the wearer. There is
a hole postitioned in the middle of the outfit for a person’s
face, with two round, grated openings—“SHF antenna with supplementary
antennae”— above and three sets of what looks like teats running
down the front.
all surely have contingency plans within your corporations
to deal with climate change disasters—I hope you do anyhow.
But none of that’s worth anything unless your managers survive,
and that’s what this is about: the most important form of
safety,” Bichlbaum said.
After the presentation, the duo fielded questions.
from the audience focused on whether or not the SurvivaBalls
were economically viable,” Bonanno said, and whether the balls
could protect the wearer against terrorist attacks. One member
of the audience seemed to get the joke and told them he thought
it was hilarious. He even asked Bananno if they make a living
with their performances.
But most of the audience were none the wiser, he says, a fact
that should concern everyone. “We should all be very, very
scared,” Bananno said.
Don’t the Yes Men worry about a backlash from Halliburton
or the other companies they lampoon?
worry,” Bichlbaum says. “But it doesn’t do any good. We gnawed
off our fingernails about six years ago, and then the tips
of our fingers, and then our hands . . . until now we’re just
partial heads with teeth.
all that gnawing has been utterly pointless, since neither
Dow [Chemical] nor anyone else is interested in helping us
get more publicity. We should have realized that long ago.”
Actual representatives from Halliburton had little to say
other than they were not aware of the presentation, and that
Fred Wolf and Dr. Goody are not employees of Halliburton.
Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature made
a seemingly sensible recommendation Monday: that
legislators and staff members should not be able
to drink while on duty. The idea came after Steve
Doell, president of Crime Victims United, smelled
alcohol on the breath of at least one legislator
while he was advocating tougher drinking laws.
Doell did not identify the legislator.
News reported this week that Rep. William
Jefferson (D-La.) denies FBI accusations of involvement
with bribery, fraud and conspiracy. The FBI believes
that Jefferson has been helping a technology company
(iGate) expand its business in Africa in exchange
for shares in the company and cash. Jefferson
has not yet been charged, but FBI officials say
that they have enough evidence, which includes
a videotape, an audiotape, information from his
computer and $90,000 that was found wrapped in
aluminum foil in his freezer at his Washington,
the Laws of Silence
ABC’s This Week, U.S. Attorney General
Alberto R. Gonzales announced that journalists
could be prosecuted for publishing classified
information. He said, “There are some statutes
on the book which, if you read the language carefully,
would seem to indicate that that is a possibility.
We have an obligation to enforce those laws.”
Although Gonzales did not cite which laws would
apply to journalists, The New York Times
reported that some legal scholars said that such
laws were not intended for the press, and if they
were applied, it would violate the First Amendment.
to Steve Balmer, chief executive of Microsoft,
the new Windows Vista operating system coupled
with super-security-featured Internet Explorer
7 may bring about the end to “traditional virus
and worm attacks,” as well as spyware. While that
may sound fantastic to many safety-minded browsers,
Balmer warned that hackers are always finding
new ways to use their Internet connection as a
weapon and that there will always be ways in.
“The next generation of attack vectors are more
likely to be insidious, in the sense that instead
of disrupting people it will try to steal your
money and steal your identity,” he said.
Slate: (l-r) U.S. Senate candidate Howie Hawkins and
gubernatorial candidate Malachy McCourt hope to bring
Green Party politics to Albany.
Come in Peace
Green Party slate of candidates for this year’s elections
offers an alternative to pro-war Republicans—and Democrats
The Green Party of New York State nominated noted actor, writer
and commentator Malachy McCourt to head up its Peace Slate
Saturday at Channing Hall in Albany. The party is banking
on McCourt’s name recognition (his brother, Frank, wrote the
very popular Angela’s Ashes) and a strong antiwar stance
to garner the 50,000 votes necessary to gain the ballot line.
In his bid for governor, McCourt is joined by lieutenant governor
candidate Allison Duncan; attorney general candidate Rachel
Treichler; comptroller candidate Julia Willebrand; and U.S.
Senate candidate and longtime activist Howie Hawkins.
accepting the party’s nomination, the 75-year-old McCourt
took his first foray into the political arena. “When I was
on the radio, when I would make a comment on how things are
run, people would say, ‘Well, you should run for office.’
And I would say that I am very good at evaluating what other
people should do, but I’m not so good at doing it myself,”
he said. “I was finally persuaded, and here I am.”
McCourt was born in Brooklyn but raised from the age of 3
in Limerick, Ireland. He moved back to the United States at
age 20 and still carries a thick Irish brogue. And though
he worked for years as a manual laborer, it is his long and
successful career in the arts and entertainment world that
has prepared him for his gubernatorial run. What McCourt lacks
in political experience, he makes up for in charisma. “He
is a very good storyteller,” Hawkins said.
Though McCourt’s own views jibe well with the nonviolent,
environmentally conscious Green Party, he admits that he has
been a party member for a very brief time.
10 minutes,” he joked, sort of. “I just joined. I find that
I have a spiritual affinity with them. They are thinking the
same things I have been thinking, but I have never paid that
much attention. I was always one of those less-of-two-evils
types. I always thought the Democrats would come around. But
I found that they are moving in the wrong direction.”
Bringing an end to current conflicts in the Middle East tops
need to get out these people who are using war as a means
of solving our problems,” he said.
His platform also includes the demilitarization of the National
Guard. He would like to see it as a civilian and environmental
corps, put to work cleaning up around the state. A living
wage, legalized medical marijuana, guaranteed free public
education, free subway use paid for by higher taxes on corporations,
and higher wages for teachers round out his vision for New
One point in his platform is likely to make few friends.
will declare sugar to be a controlled substance,” he said.
Pointing to the near- epidemic numbers of childhood diabetes,
and other sugar-related conditions, like rotten teeth, he
said that sugar “is ruining children’s lives and health.”
Running a campaign against the widely popular Democratic candidate
Eliot Spitzer doesn’t faze McCourt.
poor man,” McCourt laughs, referring to Spitzer.
Hawkins is also facing down a popular Democrat in his bid
for U.S. Senate.
are getting a big response, especially in the Senate race,
because Clinton has been so pro-war and so many people want
to get out of that war,” Hawkins said. “Expecting the Democrats
to get us out of this war any more than the Republicans is
like asking a crack addict to turn in their dealer.”
If elected, Hawkins said he would work to “bring the troops
home immediately, bring them home as fast as logistically
Hawkins is a seasoned political organizer. One of the cofounders
of the Green Party in the United States, he was at the 1984
convention in St. Paul, Minn. He has run for statewide office
two times before and pulled 5 percent of the vote in last
year’s hotly contested mayoral race in Syracuse.
am proposing that we get very serious about making the transition
from fossil and nuclear fuels to the efficient use of renewable
energy,” Hawkins said. “I am calling for a global public works
program to rewire the world with renewable energy in 10 years.”
This is achievable, he said, by switching subsidies from nuclear
and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and by yanking
$300 billion a year from the Pentagon and investing the money
instead in renewable energy systems.
of spreading resentment around the world, we would spread
goodwill,” he said, “and secure our country better than resource
wars, which is what we are doing now.”
Building this new infrastructure, Hawkins argued, will offer
a solution to New York’s economic woes. It will generate economic
activity that will spill over into the private sector, providing
jobs in construction and engineering that will increase the
income of working people who will in turn spend money on their
basic needs, creating business opportunities for the private
At least, he said, he and the Green Party are championing
a plan that offers a positive and constructive solution for
New York state. “What is Sen. Clinton championing except for
her own campaign coffer?” he asked.
If elected, McCourt said he and his party will bring a vision
for the future that is less violent, less abusive and more
socially and environmentally conscious. “Plus we will bring
a bit of song, a bit of poetry, a bit of history.”
May 16, registered nurses who work at Ellis Hospital and their
supporters—about 150 people in all—held candles in one hand
and protest signs in the other as they called for better treatment
from the hospital. Mark Genovese of the New York State Nurses
Association said the hospital has circumvented the nurses’
union while trying to implement cost reductions to pension
and health plans that he claimed drastically effect veteran
registered nurses at the hospital. NYSNA has filed unfair
labor practices against Ellis Hospital management with the
National Labor Relations Board. “There is an element of union
busting here,” said Genovese. He said the hospital has tried
to portray the union as a greedy organization with no real
stake in the outcome. “They like to use the term ‘union bosses’,”
said Genovese. “The union bosses are registered nurses.”
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
April 27, crews from Clough Harbour & Associates,
who were hired by the city of Albany, tore through
pieces of the Pine Bush Preserve with bulldozers.
The crews were doing exploratory work for a proposed
landfill expansion [·The Garbage Burden,·
April 27, 2006]. Trees were damaged, grass was
uprooted, and trails were turned into dirt roads.
The Nature Conservancy insists that the lands
are protected because they have been dedicated
to the preserve. The Nature Conservancy wrote
to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner
Denise Sheehan, Attorney General Elliot Spitzer
and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, demanding that
further action in the Pine Bush be halted, and
asked for the DEC and the attorney general to
launch an investigation into whether the city
had, in fact, violated the law. The Nature Conservancy
also asked for the damaged Pine Bush to be restored.
The city has claimed the action may have been
premature, but ·not necessarily illegal.·
Common Council member Dominick Calsolaro (Ward
1) has said that he feels ·betrayed by
the city.· In a letter to local newspapers,
Calsolaro said, ·Until the city administration
can prove that they can be trusted and that all
legal and proper protocols will be followed, I
will not support any further action to expand
the landfill in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.·