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May 16, 2003
Worldwide Terror

Nothing like a Worldwide Terror Alert to start your blood pumping in the morning.

And, as I check the headlines, I see a lot of terror, and terrorism, going on.

Ecological terrorism, for instance. I say, protect the Beaufort Sea from Bush and oil companies. These people have got to learn that what's really needed is an alternative to fossil fuels, and I want them to learn it before they've despoiled every untouched corner of the globe. In fact, I want the drilling and pumping already being done there stopped.

While taken as a whole, the 2003 version of energy legislation offers less than the $38 billion in subsidies to the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries offered two years ago, observers say it lays out a more ambitious strategy to ease regulatory restrictions on drilling.
Last night, by some feat of mental gymnastics, I almost managed to convince myself that Bush wasn't as bad as I've been saying. I take it back.

There are, of course, those fighting the terrorists. The Texas Democrats are home.

"It feels great. I feel great about the fact that redistricting is dead and I'm ready to go back to work and get past this partisanship," Rep. Patrick Rose said.
I wonder if the thwarted Republicans are equally ready to get past this incident?

I wish the Colorado Democrats had done something like this.

"The stupid party and the evil party: Together for the first time". Imagine my dismay on learning from Mark Shields that I'm closer to the evil party.

By Simpson's partisan divide, the GOP is intellectually challenged, but the Democrats are ethically deprived. Well this week, when the Democrats' congressional leadership gave its collective blessings to a back-door ploy to finance next year's federal campaigns by raising unlimited "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals -- after that same congressional leadership had led the successful legislative fight to ban "soft money" from politics. Democrats just might be bidding to retire the trophy as both the Stupid Party and the Evil Party.
The problem is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to combat everything Washington does. Not enough hours, and not enough information since so much of this happens on the sly.

In another déjà vu moment, I was thinking something very much like this last night. Consumption is the problem. Our economy is built on a theory that there's always more business out there, always another sale possible. So companies plan for growth to cover their constantly-rising costs and when they don't get it, unemployment numbers start skyrocketing.

Let me ask you, exactly what are we going to do if we manage to "westernize" the underdeveloped countries of the world? What are we going to do when they're all "developed" and consuming as conspicuously as we are?

(Really, it's too early in the morning for such scary thoughts.)

Wait...reading different headlines, I see that that may not be a problem.

We may not have to contend with much of a population in at least some underdeveloped countries because there might not be much population left to much worry about before long.

Some of these people desperately need help, almost any help, but all we have to do is to keep quietly ignoring them and the problem will eventually die off, so to speak.

We do protect our friends, thought, as long as "our" friends are USofA pharmaceutical companies.

Multiculturalism is tricky, no doubt about it.

I'll be back later. Right now, it's time for me to make a contribution to the world economy by getting a cup of coffee. (I think I'll buy a pound of Fair Trade coffee while I'm over there.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)
Food For Thought

Via Jeff over at CoopedUp, I found this post of Jeanne D'Arc's and, aside from the part where she tried to fool herself into believing Bush meant what he said and that they had a shared value system (I never believed it), she could be writing from my brain.

I am, by nature, both optimistic and drawn to complexity and ambiguity. I see a hundred sides to every story. I've always been fascinated by people whose beliefs are very different from my own, and especially interested in why they're different, how they came to believe what they believe, and how those beliefs shape -- and, presumably, enrich -- their lives. But those are traits I'm not sure it's possible to keep up these days.
This ability to see a hundred sides to every story has helped me in my (fiction) writing, but more and more I find that it creates problems for me on the political side of life.

And, like her, I blame the Bush Administration's conniving, lying, distorting, and political aggression with a full speed ahead and damn the consequences attitude.

I've disliked other Presidents. I dislike most Presidents because I'm a liberal and even when the President has been a Democrat, he's rarely been a liberal.

But GWBush? I don't know. It's some kind of instinctive rejection that I can't put into words.

I've disliked the man since the first time I heard him speak. He struck me, on that first occasion, as insincere, ill-educated, and dishonest. For no reasons I can put my finger on, okay?

The more I got to know about him, the more my emotions moved from "dislike" to "despise." He has been an incredibly divisive President. Since the moment he took office, he's been shedding any pretense of being a bipartisan leader and trying harder and harder to shove through a personal agenda that seems to me to have little to do with the long-term well-being of this country's average citizens.

But.

I'm going to go farther than Jeanne did.

I blame the war for the radically increased polarization of blogdom. This was such a divisive war that people who had chosen a position, for or against, found themselves almost forced into a radical defense of their own position, sometimes flying in the face of reason and facts. (And it happened on both the Right and the Left.)

Now, in the aftermath, which so far has been confused and incoherent, few if any people feel able to give up hotly defending their original position.

No matter how often the coalition forces fail to find any evidence of the hundreds of tons of WMD, those for the war now have to insist that the weapons exist. To back down now would invalidate all of the energy and emotion they invested in supporting the war.

No matter how many the mass graves or stories from civilians, those against the war now have to continue insisting that the war was unjust, illegal, and a mistake. To accept, even now that it's a fait accompli that Iraqis are happy to be rid of Hussein's reign of fear (no matter how they feel about the current USofA 'occupation', invalidates the energy and emotion they invested in opposing the war.

The post-war chaos is being cited by the Left (myself included) as evidence that the government was so over-aroused by getting their war on that they failed to plan for the most basic, and most obvious, of post-war problems.

The post-war chaos is being cited by the Right as proof that the Iraqis are the enemy, that they country is riddled with incipient terrorists, and that they're a danger to their neighbors and the rest of the world..

It doesn't matter what the event, each side can "spin" the story to suit their own agenda.

One thing I'll say is that my own, self-enforced ban on name-calling and OTT rhetoric really worked to help me regain my mental balance. Now that I'm not writing that way, I'm not thinking in those terms, and I think I'm able to approach current events in a slightly more balanced fashion. (It's not as entertaining to blog this way, though. Name-calling and telling half-truths and outright lies are easier than being calm and honest but I can't help thinking that the name-calling thing is kind of kindergarten.)

Anyhow. Getting back to my point, and I do sort of have one today. this is a huge problem for the Left. If they respond to Republican behavior in kind, then they're no better than the Republicans. I don't know how to counter emotion-laden lies except with equally emotion-laden rhetoric but the truth is frequently dull, isn't it?

The Left has an agenda and a slate of issues that even a lot of conservatives can agree with. Clean air, clean water, good education, and jobs. The question is, how would we accomplish those things in the wake of the current Administration's budget-busting tax cuts? And do any of the candidates actually believe in this agenda enough to fight for it if they wind up in the White House?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)
May 15, 2003
Sad news

Ashleigh Moore, the little 12 year-old girl who has been missing for over a month, is dead.

Jim Capozzola has the story and some links.

My heart goes out to those she left behind.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)
Clarification

I'm not sure I was clear during the me-me-me part of that last entry. It's not about comments.

I mean, yes, comments are nice to get (and I especially appreciate those that correct my errors), but my second thoughts have nothing to do with the number of comments I do or don't get.

It's about...well, it's about contributing, okay?

What I'm asking myself is, "Self, what exactly are you bringing to the party that someone else isn't already doing a better job of supplying?"

And I'm saying to me, "Well, Me, I'm not sure there's an answer for that. I link to stuff, but everyone does. I make rude remarks about stuff, but most folks do. I don't call names or anything, but honestly I think I'm less entertaining since I started taking the high road and if it's calm, rational though you're after, there are better places you could go for that, so in answer to your original question, which I haven't lost sight of in the wilderness of all of these clauses, honest, I don't see that I'm bringing anything all that special."

And I say to myself, "Well, Self, I know you do bathe regularly, but I also have doubts about whether or not that's really sufficient excuse to be airing your ignorance in public and maybe you should be thinking about focusing on your job where you're actually getting paid to fill the gaping holes in your education."

And then I say to me, "Well, Me, that's not a half-bad idea. Considering how drastically I'm overpaid anyhow, it does seem only fair that I should actually try to offer the company some value for their money. I'll give that some serious thought and thanks for the insight."

And I say to myself, "That's cool, Self. Always glad to help a sinner find the path to virtue."

And then we get into a really big argument because me, I'm agnostic and myself is an atheist and it ends in spitballs and mudslinging.

My point, and we'll be arriving at it soon, is not that I only think this is worth doing if someone is commenting on what I say. I don't do a lot of commenting myself and I know we're all busy but those of us who take the time to surf around and read are thinking about what we see, and that's good.

No, my point is that this isn't what I'm paid to do so, considering how many people do it better, maybe I should give it a rest. I mean, look at today. It's a fairly average blogging day for me. I've made three or four entries of significant length. Those of you who also blog probably have some idea of just how much time it takes to compile these. It's a huge investment of time, and of the mental energy I'm just certain my boss thinks I'm putting into my job.

(If anyone out there would care to take a look at the things I blog about and promise to undertake to gather all of these kinds of links into one place for me, I'd be happy to just come and read your stuff, okay?)

My point is that there are starting to be forums where I could go and actually talk to other people about these things and maybe that's of more value than sitting here half the day blogging?

I'm just thinking about it right now, that's all.

In the meantime, we return you to the your regularly scheduled blogging.

There's A Hole In My (Golden) Parachute

Jeff Brown says that democracy is an illusion at a shareholder meetings of "public" corporations since the executive staff and the mega-share stockholders control everything.

On the other hand, the practice of handing CEO's tens of millions of dollars to just go away took another hit as the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) joins those voting 'no' on putting a $36 million parachute in the CEO's contract.

Give Me A Candidate!

If Democrats have such a clear view of the issues on which they can prove that Bush is not the man for the job, why aren't they getting out there with these messages? I could put together a better agenda than some of these guys are offering, okay?

"Bush is vulnerable across the board" is absolutely the truth. There is no area where this country is not worse off than when he took office. How hard can it be to say so?

(Hint: Pretty hard, if you're owned by many of the same corporate interests that own the Republicans. Almost every one of these candidates is scared to death of pissing off the money guys and winding up alone and forlorn on a liberal platform while some more "centrist" candidate walks off with the nomination. My self-imposed task for the next five days will be to dig into Dean's history and see if he's the candidate of my dreams or not.)

France's Knickers In A Knot

France thinks this Administration is involved in an organized campaign of telling lies about France because of their non-cooperation on the invasion of Iraq.

What I don't understand is why France thought this Administration would be honest about France when it's not honest about anything else.

I also see that a number of what France charges to be part of this campaign are USofA media stories and not press releases, which tells me a great deal about what the relationship between our so-called Liberal Media and the government looks like from the outside.

Media

And speaking of the media, I have to say I really like Eric Alterman when he lets go and rants.

George W. Bush deliberately misled the country to launch an unnecessary war that will embroil this country in what could be decades of chaos, mayhem and murder, and cost us hundreds of billions and quite possibly trillions, while destroying the nation’s fiscal health in the process. And Bush’s silly schoolyard boasts to the contrary, bin Laden is still free to kill our people and reconstitute al-Qaida, which remains a genuine threat to civilization everywhere. So I have to say that I wish people would pay a bit more attention to the fact that Bush’s lies actually killed people and will continue to do so.
One of the several links Alterman provides is to a story of yet another military guy saying he doesn't know if there actually were any WMD in Iraq when we attacked. It's another nail in the wall of lies.

Read Alterman's whole column today, if you don't read him regularly. It will do you good.

They PR'd us into war. We know that, but this article is fascinating anyhow.

And, Speaking Of Golden

Having read this, I'm off to dream of, not an impossibly ethical and high-minded bunch of lifetime politicians, but of an Administration populated by intelligent people who sincerely want to do right, really care about the "average voter", and don't disdain to reveal that they've read not one, not two, but dozens or even hundreds of serious books in their lifetimes.

I want a President who doesn’t think reading a briefing memo on the state of this country is really, really boring.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)
Weapons

Or the lack thereof.

"The administration seems to be hoping that inconvenient facts will disappear from the public discourse. It's happening to a large degree," said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Police Studies, a liberal think-tank which opposed the war.
Hmph. I ain't gonna say it.
[Condoleezza Rice] said Iraq appeared to have had a virtually "inspections proof" system of concealing chemical and biological weapons by developing chemicals and agents that could be used for more than one purpose, but that could be put together as weapons at the last minute.
I'm sorry. We're now basing our claims of WMD on the fact that 99 percent of all chemicals have multiple uses?

As any halfway competent, USofA-based survivalist can tell you, there are quite a number of common household products that, if mixed together properly, can be used to create "chemical weapons" making this claim look stupid before it's even hit the USofA headlines.

What's next? Is Homeland Security going to start poking around under everyone's sink and hauling people off to secret, open-ended detention because they own [chemicals I won't name]?

(Okay, I read about it in a book and I don't remember what the chemicals/products were, okay? But I remember the day the fumes from the stuff I was using to clean the grout in my shower mixed with the fumes from the stuff I was using to scrub the floor. To this day I believe I came close to gassing myself.) (Yes, I switched to more labor-intensive but more environmentally friendly products. Immediately.)

Back on the subject of political weapons (yes we're back to Texas, get over it, okay?), here's another story. In this one, the quote accuses the Dems of "undermining democracy."

I think I missed this article the other day. In this one, DeLay suggests that the Texas Democrats "may not be patriots."

I'm thinking that if the Texas Dems held the legislature for 130 years, there's probably a lot of their agenda that, well, Texans agree with, okay? And suggesting that 130 years of Texas history might be unpatriotic, well, that sounds dangerous to me. Maybe Homeland Security should take a good, hard look at DeLay.. Maybe Homeland Security should take DeLay into protective custody before those easily riled Texans figure out that he's dissing them?

And I swear I didn't read this before I made my previous post, but it confirms what I said. Everyone is watching the situation in Texas and if the Republicans win there, Dems suspect that they're likely to try and redistrict all over the place to create Republican majorities.

Me, me, me

I may have to reconsider this blog thing. Nothing, not even reading and composing entries in the evening, seems to be able to cure me of spending a couple of hours every day blogging.

I'm not threatening to leave mad in the hopes that someone will ask me to stay or anything. I hate people that do that. I'm just sort of thinking out loud, which is the usual way I compose these entries.

These are hours when I should be working. Helping this fledgling company get off the ground so that I can retire in reasonable comfort some day, as opposed to having to steal a grocery cart and live under a bridge. (Why do they live under bridges? The shouldn't do that in cold climates. It's always colder by the water.) I don't want to live under a bridge, okay?

I like indoor plumbing and I'm positively addicted to cleanliness.

There are a thousand or more blogs out there saying what I'm saying every day, and a significant number of them get more visitors daily than I do, making this blog both redundant and pointless. (After all, I could chime in on the comments section of the other blogs and add my bit to the debate, couldn't I?)

I have to think about this. I'm not sure there's any point in blogging only occasionally, unless you're an expert on some subject and people will tolerate those once-a-week updates just to get your thoughtful insight on your topic. This, as you might suspect if you've actually read any of these entries, does not describe me.

All I have are opinions, but I appear to have a nearly unlimited fund of those. What I don't have is an unlimited amount of free time daily to spend doing this.

I'm just saying. I'm on the mailing list of a number of "activst" organizations now. I can get the notices about sending my faxes and making my phone calls and a quick skim of those websites two or three times a week will keep me current on what issues they're supporting. I can read a few blogs and join the "commenting" community.

As I said before, there's no need to jump in and say you like me. That's not what this part of the entry is about.

I guess this part of the entry is just me wondering I'm accomplishing anything by putting so much energy here instead of joining in an actual discussion elsewhere. Having opinions is good, but public opinion is formed by people conversing with each other, not people shouting into the void, right?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)
Terrorism

Didn't quite a lot of people warn that an attack on Iraq would result in a dramatically increased threat of terrorism for the USofA? Looks like a few folks took that threat seriously and are keeping their eyes open. In other places, businesses haven't been so lucky, although the people were.

I don't have anything against Bugs Bunny, but wouldn't spending money to remove the land mines be at least as useful as teaching people to evaluate the risk factor?

There are interesting excerpts and a couple of links from the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Author of The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and professor of international relations at California State University in Chico, Grosscup said on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release on April 3, 2003: "The U.S. invasion of Iraq increases the likelihood of attacks against the U.S." He said today: "It would seem that this is the first shot fired from Al-Qaeda or other anti-Saudi monarchy elements since the invasion of Iraq, though it's curious that they have not claimed responsibility.... Just as the U.S. government backed Saddam Hussein during the height of his atrocities and the Taliban were deemed useful and politically acceptable business partners if they would make pipeline deals, so too might allegations of Saudi Arabia's ties to terrorist groups be used as a justification for military action against the Saudi monarchy if it doesn't co-operate with western oil interests in the future."
I'm wondering by Al-Qaeda hasn't claimed responsibility for the bombing yet. These terrorist groups aren't normally shy about taking bows. It's possible it wasn't Al-Qaeda at all. (They're not the only terrorists in the world, after all.)

Texas

I know I keep harping on this story, but it's important, okay? It may not seem that way to you if you don't live in Texas, but it is. A bunch of Democrats have taken a principled stand against the bulldozer tactics of the Republicans and the outcome of this is, I promise you, being closely watched by both parties.

This is one the Dems need to win to prove to the Republican Party as a whole that we're not weak, ineffectual, and disorganized.

Who would have thought that Texas would become the centerpiece of Democrat revolt against high-handed Republican partisanship? I'm impressed. And pleased that the people are planning to give them a hero's welcome.

They sent a letter saying that if the controversial redistricting plan was taken off the table, they wouldn't repeat their walk-out, even over other matters they disagree with during this session, which I think was the right thing to do. A walk-out is an extreme action and it's right it should be saved for extreme situations.

Of course, the Republicans aren't taking it quietly.

"Tell them to stay in Ardmore; they're getting the hell beat out of them. They are making fools of themselves," Richter said.
In fact, they aren't. And I'm pretty sure Richter knows it.

(The linked article is a good one, getting into some of the political fallout in Washington.)

This is not so good.

Republicans in Washington and Austin, Texas apparently used a Homeland Security Department agency to track Texas Democratic legislators who left the state to block passage of a GOP-backed Congressional redistricting bill.

This is the same Homeland Security Department that is supposed to be making America safe from foreign terrorists. It's the agency we were told would never be used for domestic political purposes.

Yeah, and we believed them when they said that!
Republican leaders in Texas and Washington are furious. They have called the Democrats, holed up in a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, "cowards" and "terrorists."
Sheer McCarthyism.

Sheer, frightening, probably precedent-setting McCarthyism.

Environment

Exxon is in the news.

U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil is now alone among the world's four largest oil companies in refusing to take meaningful action to lessen the growing risks to its share value posed by global warming, according to a study released Tuesday by a London-based investment consulting firm.

The report, "Sleeping Tiger, Hidden Liabilities," said that the three other major oil and gas companies--Shell, BP and ChevronTexaco -- are leaving ExxonMobil far behind in addressing the implications of global warming for their current and future operations.

The others are investigating these matters because their own corporate futures depend on them. Why is Exxon still playing blind?
"ExxonMobil is alone among its peers in continuing to deny the risks posed by climate change," said Mark Mansley, director of Claros Consulting and author of the report. "It appears to be relying on a hope-for-the-best strategy--one that works as long as the risk of climate change evaporates."
At least I've finally identified to my own satisfaction just which oil company Bush keeps denying the existence of greenhouse gases in aid of.

What a ghastly sentence. Sorry.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)
Iraq

Politicians from both sides of the aisle are worried about the state of affairs in Iraq. Hmph. I ain't gonna say it.

And the U.N. is being asked to declare the USofA as the governing authority in Iraq.

The Toronto Star argues (as I did yesterday, I believe) that the abrupt shake-up in the team supposed to administer Iraq is virtually an admission of failure for the USofA's original plan.


Get me a calculator

In the world of tax cuts, no one is happy .

The Senate's tax writers, working within a budget that limited tax cuts to $350 billion over the coming decade, wrote a bill that proved unpopular with both Republicans and Democrats.
That's not unusual when it comes to compromises.

But wait. What's this?

The new dividend plan would cost $140 billion, and Republicans propose paying for it by terminating two tax reductions in the bill - one for married couples and one that allows business to write off more of their equipment investments - in a few years.
So, the one tax that benefited rich and poor equally, if proportionately, disappears? Poor married couples still get hit with the "marriage penalty" while they don't get the benefit of any of the tax cut on stock dividends because they're not wealthy enough to own stock.

Honestly, this is too complicated for me. I had trouble following when the article was talking about Republican hopes and Democratic hopes and had to make notes on a piece of paper to keep track of who wants to end the marriage penalty tax and who wants to get rid of it.

Hide and Seek

The (Republican) Texas Governor is telling the absent legislators to come back to work

"Day in and day out, there are pieces of legislation that members don't agree with," Perry said at a news conference. "The democratic process is to debate and vote them. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. All the people of the state of Texas are asking is to let democracy ... work."
I got an idea for you, Rick. How about you and the rest of the Republicans in the Texas legislature stop trying to dink with the court-designed districts and get on with working on legislature that the people of Texas need right now?
On Tuesday, DeLay's office released a statement saying, "Texans deserve representation that reflects their values and beliefs.

"Fifty-six percent of Texas voters cast their vote for a Republican congressional candidate last fall, yet Texas sends more Democrats than Republicans to Congress. We're trying to change that," he said."

Why? You didn't care when over 50% of the country voted against George Bush and the court sent him to the White House.
In Washington, some Republicans poked fun at the walkout in Texas, but Democrats pointed to a 1988 incident in the U.S. Senate, when Republicans in that chamber boycotted a debate on a campaign finance reform bill.
Heh. Heh

And Molly Ivins speaks out about the "Texas Lockstep."

Idle Research

Was the Vinnell Corporation really a front for the CIA?

According to their website, they're a Northrop Grumman company but other than that and a recruiting offer for those who want to go be soldiers in Saudi Arabia, their website is short of details. Northrup is a well-known defense contractor, of course, but they do a lot of things (they're a conglomerate), so that doesn't tell me much.

So, I went Googling.

Here's the CorpWatch brief on the company.

"We are not mercenaries because we are not pulling triggers," a former U.S. Army officer told the magazine. "We train people to pull triggers." One of his colleagues wryly pointed out: "Maybe that makes us executive mercenaries."
Very clever.

What is this "jobs corps" thing? This looks like a government-funded program. In fact it is a government-funded program. Why have I ne ver heard of it before?

Founded in 1964, Job Corps is America's leading residential employment training program for young adults. Job Corps is funded by Congress and administered through the U.S. Department of Labor.

As a national, primarily residential, training program, Job Corps' mission is to attract eligible young adults, teach them the skills they need to become employable and independent, and place them in meaningful jobs or further education.

Why have I never heard of this before?

Another article found on-line says Vinnell was a BDM corporation in 1999.

Someone cared enough to create a website devoted to the downfall of Carlyle, which apparently was the parent company of BDM when it was the parent company of Vinnell. This site lists Vinnell as "one of the three more significant companies of mercenariat (military council) in the world" and added this:

Vinnell Corp is regarded as maintaining the bonds more quétroits with the CIA According to Ken Silverstein, the operational ones are many veterans of the CIA and special forces.
One can go up the bonds of Vinnell jusquau Vietnam where it would have achieved the dirty works of the CIA (one laurait called: "our small force mercenary")
(The weird characters aren't my fault. This is how the page translated.) This, of course, proves little more than that the CIA connection is a long-time theory for some. (FWIW, the CIA is, in fact, known to operate "cover" or "front" companies largely staffed with their own ex-agents.)

Vinnell also has a $118B contract that runs through September of this year for "overseas base maintenance."

Apparently BDM was acquired by Ford Aerospace at some point and whether Vinnell was sold to Northrup at that time, previously, or later, there's no way of knowing (without more research than I'm willing to do).

Who is BDM?

Heh. Heh Whoever they are, I doubt they're this company.

But, not surprisingly, BDM shows up over a IraqWatch, in a 1992 document.

The U.S. Commerce Department licensed the following strategic American exports for Saddam Hussein's atomic weapon programs between 1985 and 1990. Virtually all of the items were shipped to Iraq; all are useful for making atomic bombs or long-range missiles. United Nations inspectors in Iraq are still trying to find most of them. The list is based on Commerce Department export licensing records; the dollar amount of each transaction is as claimed by the exporting company. It was compiled by Gary Milhollin, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin and director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, and Diana Edensword, a research analyst at the project.
BDM seems to have supplied computer equipment. (By the way, have you seen the reports about Bush urging the Russians not to supply Iran with the technology to make nuclear weapons? Pot, meet kettle.)

Other than being listed on a bunch of resumes, or cited in some publications, I can't find much else about BDM. And most of what I found was dated from the early 90s or before.

Bored with that for the moment, I offer more recent news. Here's another article about how the recent terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia was more anti-Vinnell than anti-American. Do read this one for the connections between Vinnell and...yeah, you guessed it...the Bush family!

The World Of Blog

Atrios is right and this needs to be stopped. (He's also right that our baseball stadium-building President isn't going to be sounding off much about the practice.)

Everyone's talking about Bill Gates. I don't care if Microsoft is a monopoly or not. The corporation is, in my mind, something separate from the man. This isn't the first time Gates has made a substantial philanthropic gesture, as the article points out, and I applaud.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)
May 14, 2003
Interesting Reading

On blogs.

On the probable changes in West Wing next season. (I don't like the idea. I don't like ER and don't watch it and don't want to see a tarted-up version of West Wing designed to appeal to a less-thoughtful audience who only wants to have to listen to a third of the words.)

Have you checked The Progressive's McCarthyism Watch site recently? Don't miss the midnight raid or the attempt to freedom of speech in schools or yet another deck of cards. (From a PR perspective, whoever thought up that deck of cards idea should get a raise.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)
Bush's Junk

I think the GAO made the right decision. I'm all about heckling when a politician does something cheesy and stupid, but spontaneous heckling when the public thinks they've gone over the line is the price of being a public figure. I don't think this president, or any other, should have to stop and evaluate their actions for the appearance of political gain. It pains me to say it, but politicians would cease to exist without making politically motivated gestures. I think it's fine if the national media and a few million private individuals mock the idiocy of something like the flyboy wannabe appearance of Bush's on the aircraft carrier.

Hey, with a little luck, the entire episode will become so infamous, and so tarnished, that Rove's undoubted hope of using footage for campaign ads will have to be ditched!

Why doesn’t the USofA media care, and care deeply, about this recent terrorist attack? Speculation ensues. (Hint: It's all about how many of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis and were not Iraqis.)

Okay, is it my anti-Bush bias speaking when I say that maybe this is the real reason why Bush came out in favor of the ban on semi-automatic weapons? The ban is set to expire because Tom DeLay, in his infinite idiocy (whoops! name-calling!) has announced there aren't enough vote to continue it. If he let it go to a vote, which he doesn't intend to do. Did Bush take a public stand, albeit a low-key one, in favor of continuing the ban on semi-automatics because he knew he wouldn’t be called on to actually stand up against the wealthy and powerful NRA?

Well, let's see.

President Bush, whose support of the assault weapons ban dates to his 2000 campaign, has drawn rebukes from NRA members and some GOP lawmakers. But several Republicans close to the White House said Bush has no plans to lobby lawmakers aggressively to extend the ban. That would allow him to officially oppose the NRA without completely turning against the powerful gun lobby by fighting to maintain a ban on semiautomatic weapons.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have a winning theory here.
Past votes and an NRA survey of lawmakers before the 2002 elections suggest that a majority of House members oppose renewing the ban, GOP officials said. But several Republicans, who requested anonymity, said some pro-gun GOP leaders worry that if members are forced to into a roll call vote, they might switch under pressure from gun control advocates.
No, let's don't let it go to a vote. Let's not do anything silly by letting citizen advocacy groups get in the way of hefty campaign donations.

You want to be scared? Read the whole article. Read this:

In a letter to Bush, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) said: "It is now time for us to stand up against the unconstitutional gun-grabbing and help our nation in this time of great need by allowing law-abiding citizens to use the weapon of their choice."
This time of great need?

What "great need" exists in USof A cities at this moment that calls for an AK-47?

Posted by AnneZook at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)
Texas

Tom DeLay, in a blatantly partisan move, thinks the Fibbies should go get those Texas Legislators and force them back into Texas.

Accusing Texas Democrats of cowardice, U.S. House Republican Leader Tom DeLay said Tuesday that if federal law allows, FBI agents should travel to Oklahoma, arrest the holed-up lawmakers and deliver them to Austin.

"It's just so contrary to what Texas is all about, to turn tail and run and not fight for what you believe in," he said.

His mistake is in thinking that a strategic retreat isn't a legitimate battle tactic. (His other mistake is in helping draw national attention to an unorthodox and legally questionable move on the part of the Texas government to redraw district lines.)

In any case, it's none of the Feds' business how Texas legislators are behaving unless they're breaking Federal laws, is it? I don't mind DeLay speaking out on behalf of his party, but saying he wants to bring the FBI in goes over the line.

Here's the history of the current dispute, by the way.

And, in one of the cheesiest gimmicks I've ever seen, they constructed playing cards featuring the faces of the absent legislators.

Makes you think doesn't it? When the Republicans equate those involved in a domestic political dispute with a totalitarian regime responsible for the deaths of thousands? Yeah, that's totally the kind of people and politics I'd like to be associated with.

The Texas Democrats wrote a letter to the Texas House Speaker.

Filibusters

And, speaking of tactics and strategy, read Ornstein on the beauties of the filibuster and the attacks the Congressional one has come under in the recent past. And not all Republicans think the draconian measures being threatened are such a good idea, either.

Making War on Iraq

As Helen Thomas points out, motives matter. Especially when murky or hidden motives lead to killing people.

The gov'mint's motives aside, Pinkerton makes a case for the idea that our "victory" in Iraq is unraveling.

Meanwhile, in Belgium, war crimes charges have been filed against Tommy Franks.

I have to go find the USAToday article quoted in that article.

Second, there's the mysterious matter of the weapons of mass destruction. A headline in USA Today said it all: "U.S. begins to downplay hunt for banned weapons." The article notes the "before" and "after" quotes of top Bush people. Before the war: chapter-and-verse specifics about the location of Saddam Hussein's WMDs. After: vague calls for patience.
I've been wanting just this kind of before and after comparison and hoping someone else would save me the trouble of putting it together.

(Hmmm...having found it I find it's less of a 'before and after' list than I'd hoped. Looks as though I may yet have to do it myself.)

Media

You want to know why consolidation of the media is a bad, bad idea? Because when the media is controlled by a few corporate giants, it becomes very easy for the voices of democratic dissent to be stifled.

But it looks like a significant number of people have spoken out against the USofA news media in the only way that really matters. They changed the channel during the Iraq war. (We watch the Beeb at home and have ever since we got access. It's amazing what a different view it gives you of the world than the USofA nightly news offers.) Our access to this alternative viewpoint could be in danger, though.

The government, or at least some representatives of it, are sitting up and taking notice of the current deregulation plan and they don't like what they're seeing.

Terrorism in Algeria

Did you know that 35 tourists had disappeared in Algeria and were discovered to have been kidnapped by terrorists? I didn't either. That's another fault of the USofA news media. If it's not about this country, or about a major natural disaster, they tend not to cover it. (I've noticed the same problem in the local nightly news. They go through extraordinary contortions to find a "Colorado angle" to every story.)

Beyond Dyncorp, Private Armies

Looks like a relative, or maybe 'competitor' would be a better word, of Dyncorp's is about to become a household name.

We were shocked and saddened to hear about the attacks in Saudi Arabia and the deaths of at least 91 people there, including ten Americans.

But the fact that one of the targets was a U.S. private military corporation called Vinnell raises serious questions about the role of "executive mercenaries," and corporations who profit from war and instability. This is the second time in eight years that Vinnell's operations in Saudi Arabia have been the target of a terrorist attack. In 1995 a car bomb blasted through an Army training program Vinnell was involved with. The following year, Bill Hartung, a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute wrote this article for the Progressive magazine.

Read this article. You need to know what it has to say.

Feed me

In old news that no one seems to care about any more, that famine everyone used to discuss in Ethiopia has gotten a lot worse recently and is still killing people. For the price of just a very few bombs, we could save thousands of children. I wonder if Bush's compassionate conservatism would stretch that far?

That's all, folks

This is one of those days when the news is so varied and so interesting that I could keep this up all day. But, as I might have mentioned, I'm gainfully employed and occasionally feel the need to reward those who sign my paycheck with a little of my time and attention. This is one of those moments. (Anyhow, it could all be academic if the world actually ends tomorrow.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)
Your Government At Work Senate

Senate debates wrong tax bill:

WASHINGTON - Senators began what was planned to have been a week of intense deliberations over President Bush (news - web sites)'s biggest domestic initiative, only to discover they were debating the wrong bill.

Democrats refused to give GOP leaders an easy way out of their mistake Monday, and the Senate's tax-writing committee will have to meet again and send new tax-cut legislation to the floor.

To Your Health

AIDS is on the increase in the USofA, discouraging news when placed alongside the failure of the first Phase 3 trial of a vaccine. (The trial wasn't a complete failure, but where it didn't fail, they haven't figured out what the results mean. It's also important when you're reading the article [use peevish/peevish] to note the line about the "very committed volunteers" who participated in the trial. Sadly, this level of commitment isn't found in the general population.

Do you care about the gender of your physician? (I ask because not long ago I was in a discussion with someone, I may have mentioned this before, who claimed that the high preponderance of female gynecologists was proof of gender-based discrimination against men.)

Worthy Reading

When you have the time.

Islam and the Challenge of Democracy (by Khaled Abou El Fadl and others)

Can individual rights and popular sovereignty take root in faith? This essay explores the issue.

For Islam, democracy poses a formidable challenge. Muslim jurists argued that law made by a sovereign monarch is illegitimate because it substitutes human authority for God’s sovereignty.
I'd argue that peoples of all religions had to come to pretty much the same accommodation for whatever law their deity was said to have laid down.

I haven't finished this article yet, but it's very interesting and I recommend it.

Weapons of Mass Confusion (Owen Cote)

In response to September 11 the Bush administration crafted a national security strategy whose core mandate is to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to potential enemies of the United States, using preventive or preemptive military means if necessary. Indeed, the Administration’s public case for initiating war against Iraq was based almost entirely on Iraq’s alleged possession of some WMD, and on the possibility of its gaining more in the future. Since December, as first North Korea and now Iran have declared that they have programs underway that would allow them to produce WMD, a whole series of “WMD wars” seems likely.

Whatever the merits of the case for war against Iraq, the terms of debate about the Bush administration’s larger strategy are flawed. The new emphasis on WMD has not been accompanied by any serious public discussion of the differences among such weapons. A security strategy that fails to acknowledge those differences and their consequences for U.S. foreign and military policies is doomed to failure—in Iraq and elsewhere.

Well worth reading, the essay discusses the different kinds of weapons, compares how "destructive" they can be on a mass scale, and talks about strategy.

Less impartial but consequently more entertaining to read, is The Blame Game (by George Scialabba)

This guy doesn't like Bush, but he's not crazy about the presidency Gore would have offered us, either, so he starts by taking a few potshots at both of them. Unfortunately, after that he runs off the rails.

What is surprising, though—amazing, in fact—is how few on either side have blamed our electoral system. The American electoral system is an affront to reason. To start at the top: the Electoral College has no function except to frustrate equal political representation, i.e., to prevent each vote cast in presidential elections from counting as much as every other vote. The framers of the Constitution may have envisioned the College as a deliberative body, but it has not deliberated once in 200 years and never will. Actually, the framers were ambivalent about the Electoral College and rejected it several times, finally approving it just before the Convention adjourned. That was a mistake. In no fewer than four presidential elections, the candidate with the greatest number of popular votes was not chosen as president. Overwhelming majorities of voters regularly tell pollsters that the Electoral College should be abolished. Seven hundred proposals to reform or abolish it have been introduced in the House, the most recent of which passed in 1989 with an 83 percent majority. As always, the Senate blocked any action.
He's wrong. And that "majority of voters" is wrong, or at least under-informed. The Electoral College provides a huge and vitally important service to this country.

[lecture]

And, let me point out, if I know what it does, it's inexcusable for anyone pretending to be a scholar not to know. For those of you, if any such exist, who are less informed than I am, here's a simple explanation about population density, okay? (The rest of you can skip ahead.)

A lot of people live in Illinois. A lot of people live in New York, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, too.

Not a lot of people live in Wyoming. North Dakota isn't usually the destination of choice for graduating college students or burgeoning families. When you ask someone where they dream of living, Montana and South Dakota don't often show up at the top of the list.

Without the electoral collect, the dozen or so largest, most populated states would choose our chief executive every four years and states like tiny, little Delaware or large-b ut-under-populated Alaska probably wouldn't get much of a say in the outcome.

Essentially, in spite of the populations of California and Texas, the President would be elected by the power of the votes in the East. Anyone "taking" the eastern seaboard would be elected and it's fair to assume that the needs and concerns of those all-important voters would take precedence over the needs of the rest of the country.

The electoral college, by "parceling out" the "electoral" votes among all states makes sure that the needs of Wyoming or Montana, while not paramount to most Administrations, are at least relevant.

[/lecture]

Scialabba goes on to misunderstand the different roles played by the Senate and the House and it's a little odd to read such an ill-informed article in such a reputable publication.

Then he goes on and on about how undemocratic our systems are, but he's just being silly. We call ourselves a democracy and we talk about spreading democracy in the world, but this country is not and never has been a democracy. We're a republic and pretty much always have been.

One reform I'd be interested in seeing is the end of throwing all of a state's electoral college votes to the majority candidate in that state. If, for instance, a state with 30 electoral college votes had a population that voted 1/3 for one candidate and 2/3 for the other candidate, wouldn't it be fun and exciting if the electoral college votes were parceled out the same way? No longer could candidates ignore Utah or Arizona in the late days of a campaign. If they wanted any of those votes at all, they'd have to woo Idaho right along with California.

The lawsuits in Florida in 2000 would be a fraction of the insanity generated by this system, wouldn't they?

Or, better yet, let's have one of those quite-possible-and-quite-legal situations where a state's leaders take advantage of the fact that their laws don't require that the voters to the electoral college vote the way the state's citizens voted. Let's see Florida throw their votes 60% to Charles Candidate and then let's see the state's leadership instruct the state's electoral college voters to give their votes to Larry Loser.

I have no idea where I was going with that, but probably somewhere sarcastic.

Anyhow, in the end, Scialabba wanted to suggest we switch to a proportional system. (If you think my scenario above was complicated, just imagine how complex this would be.)

I'm not saying I didn't enjoy reading the essay though. I totally did. Even if, at one point, I became convinced that the point of the article was to let people voting for Nader run back to the polls and cast another vote after he (surprise!) didn't win.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)
May 13, 2003
Media Consolidation
Denver Post publisher William Dean Singleton pleaded before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee May 13 that newspaper owners should be allowed to own TV and radio stations in the same market.
I wonder if the "innovative informational services" mentioned here have anything to do with those infomercials designed to look like news broadcasts? Heh. Heh.

Anyhow. Their operating efficiencies are going to have to come some other way. There's nothing "archaic" about keeping multiple media voices active in a community. Contrary to what those with a financial stake in consolidation say, these independent voices are very needed, thankyouverymuch. (site requires registration)

(Glancing at the other local headlines, I see that I totally should have bought Wild Oats stock when the idea first occurred to me four months ago. The headline says, "Wild Oats 1Q net income doubles".

Putting Humpty-Dumpty Together Again

Open Secrets has a new feature. They're documenting the contractors rebuilding Iraq. Let's take a look at everyone's favorite private army.

DynCorp The Contributions: $226,865 (72 percent to Republicans) Total to President Bush: $7,500 Computer Sciences Corp. (acquired DynCorp March 7) The Contributions: $276,975 (74 percent to Republicans) Total to President Bush: $10,250

The Contract: The U.S. State Department awarded DynCorp, now a unit of Computer Sciences Corp., a multimillion-dollar contract April 18 to advise the Iraqi government on setting up effective law enforcement, judicial and correctional agencies. DynCorp will arrange for up to 1,000 U.S. civilian law enforcement experts to travel to Iraq to help locals "assess threats to public order" and mentor personnel at the municipal, provincial and national levels. The company will also provide any logistical or technical support necessary for this peacekeeping project. DynCorp estimates it could recoup up to $50 million for the first year of the contract.
The Companies: Founded in 1946, DynCorp has long provided U.S. government agencies--particularly the Defense Department--with logistical and training support. Computer Sciences Corp. acquired DynCorp in March of this year for $950 million. CSC is one of the country's leading IT consulting firms and reported revenues of more than $11 billion in 2002.

Take a look at the rest of the site (and don't forget to make a donation, even a small one). It's an unbiased site. The political contributions are listed whether they were to Republicans or Democrats.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)
Example

In a prime example of why school vouchers should not become SOP, we turn to the latest news from Louisiana.

Committee members voted 3-2 against the bill. Only Sen. Bill Jones, a Democrat from Ruston, offered any explanation, complaining that the bill does not require schools receiving vouchers to adhere to the state accountability program. Catholic leaders oppose any effort to hold their schools to state standards.

"Accountability is conformity, and we are not going to be made into a public school," Ducote told the Senate committee.

Hey, if they're not going to be held accountable for their curriculums and for the actual level of education the students wind up getting, they shouldn't be financed with public money. That seems pretty simple.

Drugs are expensive. And not just the kind you buy in seedy alleys or from guys wearing shapeless overcoats (or however the drug crowd dresses, I'm no expert). $897 million is the figure put on developing a new drug and getting it to market.

CNN has a longer version of the Texas Legislature story and let me just say that using Texas's "Amber Alert" (Department of Public Safety) board to publicize their political woes is one of the lower things I've seen Republicans do recently. I also think it says something about the way the Republicans intend to fight this one - they're already labeling the dissenting legislators as "public safety" problems.

I guess it's not just speaking about against the war that makes you a criminal in the Republican Party's eyes any more. Now all you have to do is disagree with some action of the Parties to make the list.

Oh, look at this, from the bottom of the article.

the GOP plan is being rammed through the Legislature by national Republicans, led by Texas congressman Tom DeLay -- the U.S. House majority leader.
Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?

Those elusive Weapons of Mysterious Disappearance continue to be...elusive. We find things, but nothing we can really point to as proof.

It was unclear what purpose the first trailer would have served other than a mobile lab, but intelligence officials told The Washington Post that it was unclear if the lab had ever actually been used to create toxins and, if so, when.

The vehicle had been cleaned with a caustic substance, however, so no toxic agents were found.

The second trailer could have been for missile maintenance or agricultural work, according to experts quoted by the New York Times.

Missile maintenance or agriculture? How cool is that?
In testimony to the United Nations in February, Powell said four human sources had led the U.S. to believe Iraq had seven mobile labs, comprising around 18 trucks, capable of producing anthrax and botulinum toxin.

"We believe there are weapons of mass destruction and we presented last week some evidence of one such program," Powell said, referring to the first trailer.

Poor Powell. He keeps having to defend smoke and mirrors.

Oh, wait, on the same site, another story is saying three trailers.

U.S. forces in Iraq have located and are testing three trailers that could be part of mobile biological weapons labs, according to media reports, as some weapons hunters prepare to head home after more than a month of all but fruitless searches.
Are there two or three? If three trailers have been found that might be connected with WMD development, then the searches haven't been "all but fruitless."

The media drives me nuts.

Now the main military search team — the 75th Exploitation Task Force — is preparing to hand off the search to newly created Site Survey teams comprising some 2,000 people.

Those teams are charged with investigating everything from potential war crimes committed by Saddam's regime to alleged terrorist connections with al Qaeda.

But the change in command will not mean beefing up the size of the search teams. In fact, two officials said the field teams — under pressure from Washington and overburdened by a mammoth list of suspected weapons sites — could become smaller.

Color me so surprised.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)
I see why

I see why those Texas Democrats left town, rather than face the legislation in front of them.

After watching what happened here, and now what's happening in Texas, I'm beginning to think the states need a different procedure for redrawing district lines. The current Republican shenanigans are disgraceful.

On the other hand, some of the support the Democrats are getting is heartening.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry dispatched his attorneys Monday to ask neighboring states whether his troopers and Rangers could make arrests there. Though other states were looking into it late Monday, New Mexico's Atty. Gen. Patricia A. Madrid said no.

She said Texas authorities would need to issue warrants for the legislators' arrest. Only then, she said, would New Mexico authorities be able to arrest them — and even then the two states would need to discuss extradition proceedings.

"I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy," said Madrid, a Democrat.

Hee. Hee.

And here's more, as the media's interest in the story seems to grow:

I want everyone to notice how you have to read at least half a dozen different papers/sites to get the full story. Via Atrios, here's a rundown by Charles Kuffner.

Impeach George Bush? Max Sawicky yawns at the idea. (Don't read to the bottom of the comments unless you want to read a naughty joke.)

The Saudi bombings were...tragic. Expected (we've been hearing for quite a while that another big terrorist attack was about to happen, after all), but tragic.

And yet, I can't help pointing out that it sounds like Colin Powell has been attending the Dubya school of incoherence recently.

"It seems we have lost 10 Americans killed," Powell told reporters shortly after arriving at Riyadh airport from Jordan.

"Many other nationalities were also killed."

I'm just saying. (Hey! I was double-checking my links, and they changed the story!)

I also don't think much of the "discrepancy" between numbers of casualties being reported that that article mentions. Early information is always sketchy.

Here on the home front, the war on the environment continues.

By declaring an end to wild land surveys, the administration ruled out protection of these areas as formal wilderness — which, by law, are supposed to be places people can visit but not stay. Now, these areas, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, could be opened to mining, drilling, logging or road-building.
If I can find anyone organizing a protest over this, I'll let you know. In the meantime, nothing's stopping you from picking up a phone or sending an e-mail and protesting all on your own.

And the Department of the Interior seems to be under investigation for ethics problems.

Here's another example of how freedom works in Bush's America. (Hint: Very, very poorly.)

(Heh. Reading today's Buzzflash front page, I see that I'm not the only one who was confused by the multiple arrests of Dr. Germ.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)
May 12, 2003
Evening Gloom and Giggle

Reading the Wall Street Journal, I read that LTV Corporation is a steel company, current reorganizing and considering liquidation or filing bankruptcy.

So far 40,000 retired employees have lost their health insurance coverage. 200,000 more retired employees and dependants are probably going to lose their benefits.

International Steel Group bought the assets of LTV Corp but naturally not the liabilities. That means the jobs, and benefits, of young workers are safe, but retires who expected the pensions and benefits promised by their employer to, well, be there when they retired, are out of luck.

A similar situation awaits the retires of Bethlehem Steel Corp., National Steel Corp. and others that are now becoming parts of leaner, stronger competitors - which buy their assets but abandon promises made to former workers in better times.
This is part of the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. I don't really see why corporations who can afford $10M or $50M annual salaries for their CEOs (and, no doubt, similar salaries for other high-level executives) should be allowed, now, to cry poverty, sell their assets to themselves under a new name, and leave the workers in the gutter.

Is this country ever going to learn that the country is the people? How can we show them that corporations and the economy exist to serve the people, and not vice-versa?

In other news:

The oft-repeated liberal charge that Joe Lieberman is Bush-lite is correct in at least one respect: The stronger the president looks in the general election, the better the Connecticut senator's chances in the Democratic primary.

If Howard Dean, the kindly Vermont doctor, is the candidate of Democratic fantasy, Sen. Lieberman is the candidate of Democratic desperation, the centrist of last resort once all other scenarios for regime change have been exhausted.

I was going to get all wound up about the potential that the Dems might actually field Lieberman, then I found myself laughing.

If referring to a "regime change" from the current Administration has hit the staid pages of the Wall Street Journal (not the less-illustrious Opinion version, but the real one), then it must have really settled in to public consciousness.

Regime change in '04!

(Can't provide links, sorry. I was reading the dead tree version of the paper. For reference, it was the Monday, May 12 edition.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)
Activism Works

Shareholder action is a beautiful thing.

Over the weekend Glaxo revealed that it will reevaluate and likely scale back a proposed US$36 million golden parachute before the severance package is to be voted on at GSK's upcoming annual shareholder meeting on May 19. In addition, Glaxo announced a restructuring of the Remuneration Committee of its Board following outspoken shareholder and institutional investor activism over the past few weeks on both sides of the Atlantic.
Of course, "likely scale back" isn't a guarantee, but it could be a face-saver for the corporation.

It's also a British company and not a USofA one, but let's hope it's a trend.

Last week California State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a member of both CalPERS Board and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) Board -- which holds nearly $726 million in GSK stock -- spoke out against excessive pay and pension packages by corporations. In remarks at a CalSTRS meeting in Sacramento Wednesday, Angelides noted, "Maybe it would be a good idea to dump stock in companies with excessive CEO packages -- it would send a strong message."
Maybe it would be a very good idea, indeed.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)
Mrs. Anthrax and Dr. Germ

They're the same person and that person appears to be under arrest. But wasn't this arrest already announced about two weeks ago? I'm wondering why it's splashed all over CNN's headlines today as thought it just happened?

Okay...checking...I see it was just announced a week ago (time flies on the 'net), and she was actually arrested on the 4th, but still.

CNN's article makes no mention of the fact that this headline news is a week old. My, goodness, if I were a suspicious, cynical kind of person, I'd think this sort of thing happened to boost the inattentive public's perception of how well things are going in Iraq and how well our leaders are leading us, wouldn't I?

NOTE: I've been informed that these are different women and that Mrs. Anthrax was originally arrested and mis-identified as "Dr. Germ." I knew all of that name-calling (even if this wasn't mine) was going to get me into trouble some day. Thanks for the correction, Andrew!

Posted by AnneZook at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)
And yet....

Bush Visit Could Cost Some Omaha Workers a Day's Pay

About 340 workers at an Omaha plastics factory will lose pay or have to work next Saturday to make up for time lost during a visit by President Bush on Monday to promote his "jobs and growth plan," their boss said today.
Okay, I'm just mocking. The plant's president explained.
"Since we have another shift that will have to work, it would be difficult to just give credit to the people who didn't work while they were attending the event," Crosby said in a telephone interview. "The really good option was just to offer the chance to work on Saturday. We feel that's a more fair approach."
Really, that's the only fair solution. (Of course, they could tell Bush to stay home. A presidential visit is expensive.) Unfortunately, (via Hesiod, I see that the workers complained and are now being paid for not working.

Conservatives are dissing equality again.

"Healthy, responsible nations do not send the mothers of small children to or near the front lines — that violates the most basic human instincts," said Allan Carlson, a historian affiliated with the Family Research Council.
The FRC, a very conservative organization, thinks mothers belong at home. Vacuuming in high heels and a string of pearls, no doubt.

I say, these women had a choice, both about joining the military and about having a child while enlisted. Why don't I hear Carlson and his ilk bemoaning the deaths of male soldiers who have small children at home? Why is the life of a father of less value to them? If I were a man, I'd be pissed.

For now, the cause has found few champions in Congress or at the Pentagon; politicians and commanders are pleased by the all-volunteer military's performance in Iraq and proud that three ambushed servicewomen became national heroes. But the critics — mostly from groups opposed to the feminist movement — vow to maintain pressure in hopes the Bush administration might one day review deployment policies.
Just keep an eye on these guys, that's all.

Wirtz keeps telling himself it's not about the oil, but he doesn't believe what he's saying. He doesn't believe what the government says, either.

Many people want to believe it really was about Weapons of Mass Destruction, but that's getting harder and harder, too. Maybe we should rename them Weapons of Mass Distraction, considering how conservatives have already had no hesitancy about explaining that they're going to win in '04 because we'll still be making the world safe for American corporations democracy by attacking everyone who wants weapons just like Uncle Sam has.

And yet.... When I read Kevin's coverage of the flaws in planning for post-war Iraq, and when I consider the various articles I've read, I'm starting to reconsider. Maybe the Administration wasn't always determined to go to war? Maybe there was a decenr chance this could have been avoided? Because if they'd been determined to make war on Iraq no matter what from the time they announced their intentions, they would have had "months" to plan for post-war Iraq.

Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Mostly, this time, I find myself wondering if anyone is investigating the reasons why so many people are 'escaping' into the world of Star Trek?

Someone tell the feds that homeland security should begin at home. Specifically, in their own back yard.

Brad DeLong, over at the Semi-Daily Journal takes Mickey Kaus to task, listing some of the major failures of the Bush Administration. The reason the liberal press isn't all over some of this might just be because there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to things this Administration has done wrong, or failed to do when the opportunity presented itself.

(Thanks to Buzzflash for those first four links. I find their headlines inflammatory and even misleading, but they do find good stories.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)
Monday, Redux

I'm hoping like heck that the perception of Lieberman as the Democrat best-choice is just wishful thinking on the part of the less-than-illustrious OpinionJournal. Personally, I think the next Democratic Presidential nominee should be a liberal.

Remember those smallpox injections half a million heath care workers and ten million others were supposed to get? The NYTimes does.

The prime goal of the vaccination campaign remains valid — to protect enough health workers to investigate any outbreak of smallpox, care for the victims and vaccinate others in danger of being infected. The only issue is how large the cadre of vaccinated personnel needs to be. The initial goal of 500,000 was always a bit arbitrary and now seems wildly unrealistic. With the program slowed by resistance in the medical community and fights over liability and compensation, only about 36,000 people have thus far been vaccinated.

Federal health officials are now suggesting that perhaps 50,000 vaccinated health workers will be enough to do the job. A thorough reassessment and clear public explanation of the minimal requirement is urgently needed, not only for the first phase of health workers but also for the much larger second phase.

I say this is one of those cases where the government should butt out and let the health care community make these decisions. I also say that if "50,000 will do" then whoever decided to put the other 450,000 at risk in the first place should be smacked.

The NYTimes is also dissing the energy bill currently in front of Congress. Apparently it's smoke and mirrors and doesn't do what most of us would like an energy bill to do, which is to reduce our dependence on oil (any oil, not just foreign oil) and protect the environment.

Looks like Canada is paying the price for not buying buttons and bumper stickers to support George's War.

Hmph. In spite of a clever headline ab out education and civility, this Business Journal article hints at some of the problems faced by this year's Colorado Legislature.

Facing the worst budget shortfall in decades, state legislators made painful cuts throughout their 2003 session, but they also addressed important business issues, including the drought, health and auto insurance reform and tourism funding.

Sagging state tax revenues forced $974 million in spending cuts from this year's budget and $893 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Among the casualties were health benefits for the poor and higher education. Business leaders said they understood legislators were in a tough spot but that some reductions will cost the state more down the road and hurt economic development.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Bill Owens also passed bills they struggled with for years, including school vouchers and lower-cost health plans for small businesses.

"It's a mixed year. The most success that we had came in the areas of tort reform," said Tim Jackson, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. He said health care reform was "a wash at best."

"I would call auto reform a total loss," he said. "They had a chance to create a win-win for business."

Lobbyists described the final days as tense, particularly after Republicans introduced a bill to redraw the state's congressional districts at a time when there was still a lot of work to do.

The session ended at midnight May 7, and just hours before the deadline, legislators still grappled with major issues, including reforming Colorado's no-fault system for auto insurance.

For the record, there wasn't time to really deal with health care reform or the auto insurance issues because the Republicans forced the legislature to use up valuable time fighting over redrawing the congressional districts.

For the record, the redrawing in question gave Republican majorities to two additional districts, although the article doesn't mention this. Nor does it mention that this was, not surprisingly, a highly controversial measure introduced at a highly inappropriate time when the legislature had a significant amount of work that would benefit Colorado residents, and not just the Republican party, on-hand. Anyhow. They rammed it through and Owens signed it.

Colorado residents should read the article (requires registration) for the other measures dealt with.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)
Monday, Monday

This is fascinating. Is the internet destined to become the voice of the Left? (It's hard to believe, considering the number of extremist, right-wing groups taking advantage of it.) I only wish the article had been five times as long. As it is, even in half a page, it's worth reading.

Making sure every vote is counted is nice, but I want to be allowed to see the paper ballot and make sure it reflects my actual vote. No, forget that. I want to stick with paper ballots. I just don't trust the people making and programming those machines.

As soon as I've cleared the weekend accumulation of e-mails and voice-mails, I'm going to sit down and read this very carefully.

ABC has picked up the eminent domain story, so maybe this one will get some action.

Don't be fooled by the fact that the USofA is sending "thousands" of people to Iraq to look for WMD.

. . . a new team of technical experts, dubbed the Iraq Survey Team, charged with several tasks besides looking for evidence of proscribed weapons, is not due in Iraq until late May.
I expect the Administration is just hoping that if they refuse to talk about it, the WMD issue will just drop out of the news cycle. (Hey, it worked for Bush's National Guard record.)

I see Tony Blair lost a cabinet member, who is taking this opportunity to speak out on the post-war promises already being broken.

Read this. It's a nice, concise overview of some important news items.

U.S. weapons hunters — empty-handed after seven weeks of field work — are still operating without translators, have had almost no contact with Iraqi scientists and can't tell what's missing from looted sites where suspected weapons of mass destruction were thought to be hidden.
This is the kind of thing that you don't usually hear about. It's all toppling statues and a handful of cheering citizens but the problems stay off-camera.

Of course, it's possible that we're just not going about it right, isn't it?

Here's another of Bush's patented, "leave no enemy unassaulted" system of filling vacancies.

And let's have a moment of silence for Elizabeth Neuffer.

It's becoming reassuringly commonplace to hear of legislators standing up against bad legislation or bad moves by their government, but actions like this go even that one, critical step further, bringing the light of public scrutiny on the problems.

"They better be prepared to pay the political consequences for their actions, because there will be a hell of a price to pay," said Truan of Corpus Christi, who was then a state senator. "Breaking a quorum is a very, very major thing."
It's a courageous move.

I need coffee before I can face any more headlines this morning.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)
May 11, 2003
Weekend News

First, another round of gratitude that Salam Pax is back and blogging again.

In news of other places, Frank Wolf asks, "When will people pay attention?" Many of us have been wondering the same thing.

And many, many of us would disagree with this:

Not since the ado over whether Mr. Clinton held up Air Force One on the tarmac for an hour to get a $200 haircut has there been a controversy this fundamentally silly. The difference is that the Republicans scored political points with haircut-gate; here, Democrats are only hurting themselves with churlish and petty complaints. Their real gripe with Mr. Bush is that he looked great; the president pulled off his "Top Gun" act as much as Michael Dukakis flubbed his spin in a tank.

The part about the haircut was just a stupid lie, revealed for what it was, and the Republicans scored no political points except from people who didn't watch another news program for the next month and consequently didn't hear the admittedly somewhat muted retractions of the lie.

Bush's stunt, OTOH, was real, his people have admitted it was a stunt, he didn't look that good, and the questions about a "desk-bound" President assuming full flight gear and trying to look like Tom Cruise are legitimate. (Also, for the record, Bush looked like an idiot.)

(No, that's not fair. He looked like what he is. A simple-minded twit who just had great fun pretending to fly a jet.)

This guy is just bitter because the Democrats are, in fact, scoring some political points over Bush's needless and staged grandstanding.

Does it strike anyone but me as odd that CNN headlined with Bodine, identified as "the coordinator for Central Iraq" stepping down after three weeks and stuck the part about Jay Garner also being replaced down in paragraph four? A couple of weeks ago, when Garner flew to Iraq, he got headlines all over the place. Wonder what's up with that? Could it have anything to do with the reported fear of terrorist activity in Iraq?

Molly Ivins refers to the new guy as "a civilian with nation-building experience and since we haven't managed to "build" a decent nation anywhere where we've destroyed a nation, I have to wonder where her head was.

Bremer's resume worries me, okay?

Maybe not as much as this Administration admitting there are "debilitating internal problems" in Iraq barely three weeks after the first team stepped into place, though.

I wonder what the Iraqis, even the non-Shiite ones, think of this guy as a potential leader?

And I see that we're not even pretending to look for WMD any more. The WMD search team is coming home, empty-handed.

We suck as protectors of the dangerous, too. How could we "plan" to protect the Ministry of Oil but fail to protect nuclear sites? This has got to be the worst-planned invasion in modern history.

Does the NYTimes not fact-check its reporters? How could they not notice the absence of travel expenses and receipts from the other cities he was supposedly reporting from? How could they not question a guy who saved restaurant receipts but never had a hotel bill or a rental car fee?

And, speaking of publishing errors, I wish more newspapers would fact-check stuff before they print it.

Hightower celebrates gutsy, freedom-loving librarians.

Neas calls it Orwellian double-speak. I call it lying.

So far, Republicans aren't worried about any of the Democratic candidates vying for the Presidential nomination.

You know how you can tell? Because major conservative media organs are still fixated on Hillary. Now that she's announced she won't run in '04, they're trying to whip up an early frenzy over the possibility of her running in '08.

No wonder the Brits are our staunch allies. They have the same flexible morality as our current Administration.

And Strauss is right. The genome of moldy bread is both fascinating and important.

Balzar gives us an odd but interesting column on citizenship and activism and the need to communicate with each other, not just curse each other.

Personally, I think that if Wal-Mart is going to stop carrying "guy magazines" covering " a simple earthy equation of babes, beer, gear, cars, sports, abs and how to deal with aunibrow." they should equally stop carrying those "women's magazines" that cover nothing more than "men, men, clothes, make-up, miracle exercises, and men. The covers of some women's magazines are frequently as racy, or racier, than those of Maxim.

And those are my opinions so far today.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)
Stunned

Bush is agreeing to a permanent ban on assault weapons?

I don't know if this is conviction or a campaign stunt (a significant percentage of pro-gun voters oppose private ownership of assault weapons. What should scare you is the number who don't) but I guess I applaud it anyhow.

I mean, I applaud it because "assault weapons" don't have any place in the hands of non-professionals but on the other hand, how many private citizens are walking around with assault weapons? What have been the reasons, historically, for protecting these along with "ordinary" rifles and handguns?

For the first time in a long time, I'm really stopping to contemplate gun owners and guns.

How scary is it that Bush only has to come out in favor of something I'm in favor of to make me start second-guessing myself?

Am I becoming a knee-jerk reactionary?

Ahhh.... Reading further into the article, one sees that what's in question is the continuing existence of a 1994 bill, so it's a question of leaving a law in force and not a question of Bush actually standing up to a powerful lobby that no one has defeated before.

Yeah, that makes sense. It's less than the headlines made it appear, and certainly less brave and noble than it's going to be spun later.

Whew! For a second, I was wondering about myself.

Actually, it's probably good that it's not an original idea of this Administration's. Lots of their ideas have unpleasant consequences for bystanders.

It's probably less of a deal than it might be, considering the Bush Administration's usual lack of follow-through on what they start.

(What did happen to Hussein's Republican Guard?)

David at Orcinus is tracking the re-emergence of Bush's spotty military record.

As bringers of liberty and democracy, we suck. As oppressors, we have a good handle on the basics, which include keeping people short enough of food, work, safety, and money to keep them more worried about daily survival than about rebelling against us.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)