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June 27, 2003

Okay. Links! I don't do this often enough.

Read Gabriel's response to an RNC call for money.

Read Gabriel on Judy Miller intimidating our soldiers and ask yourself, as I did, just exactly how tough these guys are if one woman intimidated the lot of them. (Or maybe I should be cheering "girl power" in action?)

Read ampersand on how the darned media is still telling lies and ask yourself if following the political scene wouldn't just be a whole lot easier if our primary sources of information were less idiotic. (And it's not just the mainstream media. Buzzflash has a headline that reads, "Jerry Falwell Appears Very, Very Threatened by Homosexuality, As Does His GOOD Buddy Antonin Scalia" but the article itself, the text of a letter supposedly sent out by Falwell, is just the usual "support traditional marriage" idiocy and there's nothing to suggest or support Buzzflash's suggestive headline. Of course, to be fair, I've never heard anyone reference Buzzflash as a model of objectivity or calm, rationality.)

Read archy about withholding judgement on the lastest WMD "find" until all of the facts are in.

Read Avedon Carol comparing political lies. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but there's food for thought.

(Okay, maybe I got a little paranoid in my previous entry. Reading this, courtesy of Betaland Voice makes me promise myself, once again, that I'll stop posting entries when I'm mad.)

Jeanne over at Body and Soul was discussing favorite children's books and I'm trying to decide if it would be egotistical to write the long, passionate rant that inspired on the marvels of kid lit and send it to her?

Kevin is interesting (well, he always is) on the subject of the divide between the Republican party and scientists.

Via Chris we find that missiles found by our search teams in Iraq were sold to Iraq by...us!

Jeff Cooper on the Supreme Court is a good read.

Curtiss mentions me! But, flattering as that is, this about the Federal Reserve is more important to read.

Emma says support Kucinich but I had a problem with that anti-abortion thing except that now I read on his site that he's changed his mind and now supports a woman's right to choose. In addition, he says:

I want to work to make abortions less necessary, which means sex education and birth control. I want to work to make sure that, when life is brought forward, we have prenatal care and postnatal care and childcare and universal health care and a living wage.
I can support that.

Emma says that there's nothing to lose by supporting him at this early date, but I'm already signed up to check out the local Dean supporters, so am I being just too weird if I also support Kucinich at this early date or should I choose between them?

Someone help me with this dilemma, okay?

From Steve Perry we learn what they mean when they say it's hot in Iraq.

Dwight has an interesting conversation about forced vaccinations of infants going.

(Oh, and Elayne has gone off to a convention, so she's not blogging politics right now, but she's always mentioning me in her blog and I wanted to return the favor.)

Other Stuff

Hey, I didn't know that Eric Alterman and Mark Crispin Miller were having a fight!

The U.K. Independent has discovered moveon.org (as many other media outlets suddenly did when the Primary was announced. Which reminds me that I must pop on over and see how things turned out.)

Mercenaries think they can end the war in the Congo, and they will. For enough money. (I wish I could find the article I read that explained that the last time a mercenary organization was hired for a job like this, they went in and killed enough people to impose a fragile peace that fell apart they second they left the area. Peace, like democracy, can only be imposed at the point of a gun for as long as you're willing to keep standing there with the gun.)

And presumably I don't have to tell you that you should already have read everything on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists site?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)
War On the Home Front

Okay, so we're planning to, "go it alone" if no on else will join us in enforcing our demands on Iran and North Korea? Sigh. Where have we heard this recently?

No, I don't want Iran, or anyone else, developing nukes, but this Middle-East thing is just a nightmare.

It's like...things were a little tricky in Afghanistan so we invaded Iraq and everyone forgot about the first problem (and continues to do so) and now things aren't going well in Iraq so we're threatening to take on Iran, North Korea, or both?

(To be fair, there are those arguing that what's really happening is that all of these previously troublesome nations are now falling all over themselves to make friends with us and each other. It's a bit of wishful thinking to term the Dems as "irrelevant" but pundits get smug when they think they're being proven right.)

Right-wing pundits ignore or deny it and Congress is going the "secret hearings" route, but I think a serious, fully public investigation of whether or not we were lied to is a critical issue.

Lying matters.

I'm frustrated that a partisan and bloodthirsty Congress went after Clinton for everything but his choice of breakfast toast but there's no way for us to get even half that scrutiny on the Bush Administration.

This bunch is leading us, not down the primrose path of illicit sex, but into war and death. You'd think even the most partisan Republican would be able to grasp that matters of life and death should be aired publicly, but no, we get Rove and a bunch of psychos in the Republican leadership using lies and misdirections and raising money by the truckload from enthusiastic corporations.

Last January, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush told the American people that Iraq had recently tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Later, of course, we discovered that the documents in question were forgeries — a low-budget hoax that the head of International Atomic Energy Agency’s Iraq inspections unit, Jacques Baute, was able to debunk with a few quick Google searches.

So when did the White House discover they were fakes?

On June 8th, Condi Rice conceded that the documents were fraudulent but told Tim Russert that the White House hadn’t known before the speech. “Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the Agency [i.e., the CIA], but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery.”

I'm just saying, okay? The Republicans would have amended the Constitution if they had to, in order to be allowed to impeach Clinton for something this serious. They'd have amended the Constitution to allow them to put the man in front of a firing squad for this.

From Bush they find it hunky-dory, and that's because the Republican leadership has told them to find it hunky-dory.

And that's what's scariest about the current Administration and their Party.

It's not just the damage they're doing to our country, okay? It's the aura of lockstep groupthink that surrounds the party leadership right now. If they had their way, we'd be faced with a Stepford Congress and people protesting against this Administration's actions would, in fact, be chargeable with "aid and comfort to the enemy" if not outright treason.

Anyone think Coulter's apology for McCarthy being published right about now is a coincidence?

Let me tell you something. We've already taken, with very little protest, one thing we swore would never happen again in our country.

In fact, we've accepted worse, because at least when we interred the Japanese in camps around the country, they were out there, in the open, where we would see what was happening. In some camps there was even a significant amount of interaction between the detainees and the townspeople.

Today people get swept off the street and held in secret at undisclosed locations for an undetermined amount of time because of secret charges against them.

I just cannot understand how people can fail to be afraid of how far we've fallen or fail to see what a slippery slope we have our feet on.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)
June 26, 2003
Today's Giggle

It's supplied by the irresistably partisan OpinionJournal who could find an Evil Librul Plot in Family Circus

I've been wondering how they'd react to the Supreme Court's decision on the Texas Sodomy law and they finally got something posted. Taranto's "Best of the Web" (which never is, but is frequently worth a snicker) tells us:

At the time the court decided Bowers, 24 states had sodomy laws; by yesterday only 13 did. By short-circuiting the political process, which seemed to be moving in the right direction anyway, the Supreme Court took away a little bit of Americans' democratic freedom.
You got that?

By ruling in favor of privacy and, well, freedom, that evil Supreme Court is taking away our liberty.

I wonder if they ever sprain their brains doing these gymnastics?

They go on for a while, but the rest of it is pedantic and not very funny or interesting. I didn't really figure out what it was they were trying to prove, I'm afraid. I got bored and stopped reading, but the last bit I read seemed to be trying to drag either abortion rights or affirmative action or both into it for some indeterminate reason. I think it had to do with the Court being inconsistent but really, once the giggline stops, who cares?

Posted by AnneZook at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)
Deep water

That’s where I am when I'm trying to discuss the intricacies of the economy. Sometimes the opposition seems to start making sense and I have to actually think and then my head hurts.

David Hogberg over at Cornfield Commentary started making some sense today. (Warning. None of this will make sense if you don't read the original post and the comments.)

As David says, you can't consume your way out of a recession. Exactly. Except that you sort of can.

There are two key failures in his argument.

(1) He fails to justify the economic impact of tax cuts for the wealthy.
(2) His view of the economic impact of helping the poor is too limited.

First, he doesn't have anything intelligent to say in refutation of Sean's speculation (in David's comments) that WealthyHarry will shelter his tax windfall in the Cayman Islands, suggesting that he (David) couldn't think of any fallacies in this scenario. This means there's no economic benefit in giving WealthyHarry a tax break.

(One person in the comments tries, absurdly enough, to portray himself as the typical WealthyHarry with his $55k salary. I'm sorry to be the one to break this to him, but he's several orders of wealth magnitude beneath the "wealthy" who are actually benefiting most from the tax cuts, okay?)

Anyhow. WealthyHarry.

By the way, in David's response, I consider that fixating on a throw-away insult about WealthyHarry having a girlfriend on the side is really just one more example of how unhealthily obsessed Conservatives are with other people's sex lives. Seriously. What is it with Conservatives and sex? The slightest mention of it and they can't think of anything else.)

Anyhow, Sean suggests and David doesn't refute that the economy will fail to improve as a result of having given WealthyHarry a huge tax break because WealthyHarry won't invest it, he'll shelter it offshore.

Actually, to be fair, David does try to argue that millionaires don't all live lives of sinful luxury and lots of them are going to indulge in cunning investment strategies (right) that will jumpstart the economy and take us to nirvana, but he's misinterpreting reality.

With a paltry million or two like his "millionaire next door" has, you really can't get into the best places any more. Single-digit millionaires aren't the "wealthy" any more, and they're not the ones who are benefiting by this tax cut the most. (But they do benefit, don't get me wrong. Even $55k guy above, his family is getting about $1,500. He gets to buy shoes for his kid and dinner and make a contribution to his 401k with his share.)

On the other hand (that "consume your way out of a recession" thing), David makes more sense in saying that enabling even 10 million PoorJims to buy a new pair of shoes or eat at McDonald's isn't going to help the economy that much since the combined economic impact of a million PoorJims is small.


When you compare the two scenarios, the impact of the PoorJims of the country is significantly higher than that of even a million WealthyHarrys.

If WealthyHarry shelters his tax break, or (to broaden past the original example) buys one luxury item with it, the impace runs from nonexistent all the way up to incredibly insignificant. (The purchase of one luxury item helps one vendor and a small handful of support vendors. This is not mass production.)

The purchase of ten million pair of shoes helps, albeit in a small way, manufacturers and retailers all across the country.

The purchase of ten million extra McDonald's breakfast moves through the individual store and some of the money eventually lands in the pockets of farmers and ranchers.*

(*Look! It's trickle-down economics! Why don't the Republicans love it?)

Even our $55k guy is doing more to contribute to the economy than WealthyHarry. He's buying shoes, eating out, and investing (through his 401K).

Back to 10 million PoorJims, though. Other industries also benefit from additional purchases McDonald's will make of, for instance, paper cups and bags.

Employees at each McDonalds will find their jobs just a tiny bit more secure.

That's worth doing, even aside from the point that David and his cohorts consider beneath discussing, that feeding PoorJim is enough of a reason to give him a tax cut.

In the end, I also found myself unconvinced by David's argument that there's no proof that consumer spending is connected with a recession. In fact, the mind boggled.

Does he actually perceive that anyone is going to "help" the economy by investing in business unless they're assured that consumers are, in fact, going to consume and produce profit?

And if "consumer spending" and/or "consumer confidence" isn't relevant, why is that the one factor most often discussed in debating the stock market's ups and downs?

(I keep getting sidetracked today, but then that's not unusual for me.) Investment!

Yes, investment is down. I wonder why?

Could it be that major corporations and their investors are, in the wake of NAFTA, increasingly inclined to invest outside the USofA?

Could it be that investors, still suffering the painful burns from Enron's investor-singeing shenanigans, have no faith at all in this Administration's moves (such as they've been) to ferret out and eliminate corporate fraud?

Could it be that with the specter of a long stay in Iraq ahead of us and with no idea who these nuts are going to attack next, those with money to spend bought a few defense stocks and then salted away the rest of their money against potential lean times ahead?

There are a lot of reasons the market hasn't rebounded and not one of them is PoorJim's fault, okay? Give the man and his family a bigger tax cut, let the Fortunate 400 struggle along clipping coupons and watching their already obscene share of this country's wealth accumulate and stop whining.*

If the 400s' wealth accumulates .001 percent more slowly because PoorJim got a new pair of shoes or ate a couple more meals, well, they can just live with the pain.

In fact, it might be a little easier for them if they stop to remember that the odds of them being forced to choose between shoes or a meal are nonexistent.

Are we on the same page now? Also? We just had another rate cut, didn't we, folks? That's, what, the fifteenth in the last couple of years?

No one, not the Feds or the market or anyone else, believes the rhetoric and propaganda about how giving Bill Gates a huge tax cut (whether he wants it or not) is going to get the engine of prosperity humming again, so why do conservatives continue to argue about how great it's all going to be?

*In the interests of disclosure, let me say that I'm not being helped by the tax cut, nor did I expect to be. I'm not one of the poor and I have no problem at all with paying taxes.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)
June 25, 2003

Chewing my nails, scratching my head, making notes on bits of paper, staring out the window.

Who am I going to vote for in the moveon.org primary? What other candidate(s) would I "enthusiastically" support if they were nominated?

I liked Kucinich but I found out he's fervently anti-abortion, so he's out.

Dean has that pro-death penalty thing going, but I waver back and forth on that issue, so that's not an automatic disqualification.

I like Braun and her letter was good, but I dunno if she has the experience for the job. I like her "get back to the people" approach, though.

Edwards? I should know more about him! Why don't I know more about him?

Gephardt? I'm not going to hold that idiotic remark against him...but then on the other hand, I remember how I scoffed at people who voted for Bush in spite of his idiotic remarks, so if Gephardt makes a few more, should I cross him off my list?

Graham? I dunno.

Sharpton? No. I can't put my finger on it, but he didn't strike me.

Kerry? Not.

Lieberman? When hell freezes over.

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi! You're my only hope! (Seriously. You didn't really think I'd be able to resist that one, did you?)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)
Aliens Among Us

Andy Rooney generally cheers me up. This time he's taking on fashion, but I think he missed the mark.

Sure, clothes are largely good for (1) keeping out the cold, and, (2) covering most people's unfashionably ugly nekkidness, but there's more going on in the world of fashion than that. He should put down the magazine and flip around the television.

He might, as I did the other day, stumble across proof that aliens are, indeed, among us, but they're not trying to infiltrate our government.

No, they're all in the world of fashion. From the 'designers' whose brains envision garments designed for anything but the human body to the stick insects that model said garments, they're all representatives of some inhuman species.

Have you ever watched a fashion show? I mean, looked at the 'people' involved without letting yourself get distracted mocking the clothing? These are not human beings. Watch how they walk.

Each of them is wearing, at a guess, two pounds of chunky, strappy sandal on each foot, accentuating the already unattractively inhuman proportions of their stick bodies. Presumably these shoes contain some kind of electromagnet or heavy metal substance to enhance gravity since these aliens walk like creatures unfamiliar with the earth's gravitational pull.

Watch them. You'll see them jerk a foot free and try to push the foot forward and then the fleshless leg inscribes a wild, floundering arc in mid-air before the magnet kicks back in and the shoe is sucked back down with a near-audible clunk.

The aliens work hard at it and they walk frantically, but they only manage to cover about six inches at a step. Makes me tired just to watch them.

And the parts move, seemingly in ways you wouldn't expect of someone who came by the body naturally. Legs twist and flail madly and shoulders keep time to some unearthly mambo while the spine...I don't even want to contemplate what musculature produces that oddly disjointed jerk in the middle of the back. Maybe that's where they wear the tank that lets them convert oxygen to...whatever it is that they breathe.

I think it must take a lot of work for these aliens to mimic human movements.

Certainly by the time they get all of those other parts in motion, they've entirely forgotten about the face. (The faces are blank masks but if you watch very closely, sometimes you can glimpse a hint of the effort it takes one of them to get its physical shell wobbling down the runway.)

I'm just asking, okay? When did "fashion design" for women stop being about clothes? And when did the rule pass that no model would be hired if her body in any way resembled that of a human female?

I know that many women compare their bodies to those fleshless examples of androgyny with despair, but let's be sensible. By the time they finish strapping, molding, and painting over the bodies of these women, they're ugly, okay?

Do we really want to starve ourselves into malnutrition so we can wear an ostrich feather vest over a snakeskin micro-miniskirt and four-inch platform clogs? We do not. The occasions in a normal human being's life when ostrich and snakeskin are the perfect ensemble choice are nonexistent. (Clogs are always ugly and no one I've ever seen has managed not to look like a strung-out drug addict walking in them.)

I know there's a cachet around "supermodels" and that young men (and, indeed, old men) crave the status that comes with dating one.

I guess at this moment, I'm thanking my lucky stars that the men I've known weren't actually ashamed to be dating a woman and that those protruding bits and other evidences of femininity weren't considered to be a defect.

I'm also thankful for my television's remote. There was something eerily hypnotic about that procession that evening and it was only the accidental slip of a finger on the remote button that saved me, as I firmly believe, from having my mind taken under alien control.

If I hadn't moved on when I did, I'd probably have found myself watching the Shopping Network next, and cooing over the opportunity to buy a "real, genuine diamande bracelet" for only $49.95.

Televison rots your brain, okay? Go take a walk or read a book.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

Where's the outcry over this situation?

Also, where's the outcry over us crossing the Syrian border and taking five Syrian border guards prisoner? Presumably the "coalition" soldiers were unaware that they'd crossed the border, but why are we still holding those men?

And nothing excuses Rumsfeld saying, as I heard him say on the radio last night, that he thought it was "no one's business" that these five Syrians hadn't been released, "in five minutes, two days, or five days." Considering that crossing a country's border and taking some of its citizens prisoner is an act of war by anyone's standards, I think Rumsfeld is just a tiny bit wrong about that, okay?

I don't fault the soldiers (well, not until we hear the entire story) for what happened, but I sure as heck fault Rumsfeld and his ilk for their stonewalling.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)
June 24, 2003
To Your Health

I always like reading the experience of someone who's been there. Here is the story of a nurse in Toronto who got caught in the SARS quarantine.

(This is also a pretty fair representation of how nurses are treated in the medical system.)

Also. Coffee? Continues to be revealed as a miracle brew as it now appears to cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

(Use peevish/peevish for access if you're not registered on the site.)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

How timely the media can be sometimes! Hee. Hee. Today, the NYTimes is offering an article on .gov websites! Although their article is more worth reading than the sites I linked to, since they're pointing out that the most important single piece of information you need to know about a politician, that being their voting record, doesn't seem to show up on most websites.

I do not believe there is a secret group of powerful fanatics really in charge of our government. I do not believe it. I wish people wouldn't make convincing cases for the opposite being true.

(BTW, I do not get the conspiracy-theory stories about Bush having known 9/11 was going to happen, okay? About the only thing I've heard for evidence so far is how he kept sitting in the classroom, reading to kids, after being told of the plane crashes.

The man's an idiot, okay? If no one told him he should be doing something else, he'd just keep doing what he was doing. I can't believe anyone finds this hard to comprehend.)

(I take it back. One person whose employment keeps them at an airport assures me that even before 9/11 there were hijacking security measures in place, which I believe.

The same person also assured me that scrambling jets to intercept a plane more than 3 miles from its flight path is SOP and yet that was not done on 9/11.

While that's convincing, on the face of it, it also suggests a vast conspiracy, since every control tower involved or even in the area would have had to have been full of conspirators in order to prevent the jets from being called.

It also suggests that, in case a call was placed, the receiving military base (or whoever they called) was staffed by more conspirators to insure that the wrong person didn't receive or overhear the call and take inappropriate action to save lives.

This is just absurd, okay? Completely ridiculous.

Bush is an idiot. No one told him it was a terrorist attack, Cheney was elsewhere, taking care of business, and Bush just stayed where he was. Until, of course, he was scuttled frantically around the country, fleeing madly from potential remaining terrorists.)

(Bush is an idiot. Would you make him a part of any such pinpoint precision conspiracy, even if one existed?)

I'm in a weird mood today.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

What do you know? Here's someone else cataloguing the list of Administration lies for us.

Good grief. Am I the only one getting disgusted by this Administration's blatant and clumsy efforts at manipulating us? (No, I know, of course I'm not.)

But, as if their attempts to disguise their assault on the environment by calling their protection-dismantling legislation "clear skies" or whatever Madison Avenue-inspired propaganda they called it wasn't gag-inducing enough, they seem now to be calling their Tax Relief For the Rich and Corporate legislation the "All-American Tax Relief Act."

These people are scary. Do they really think, in this day and age, people are this simple-minded? Or is it just that they know their extremist voter base and are pandering to it?

I'm just glad the press hasn't been helping them spread this piece of propaganda, that's all.

(By the way, why is there a "gop.gov" site, but no similar site for the Dems? I haven't been able to find one at all.

And, in fact, I find the fact that the Republicans have a .gov domain rather inappropriate. They're a for-profit, corporate entity and not a department of the government, okay?

And what is this "house.gov" domain, anyhow? Am I the only one who sees that big advertisement, front and center of the page for gop.gov as highlyt inappropriate?

Am I the only one who thinks this site could win an award for being the ugliest site on the net?

These are clearly not proper government sites, okay? What particular internet police do we call to turn them in?)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)
June 23, 2003
Speaking of evil

Also, I think we all know there's not a hope in hell of the Republicans not re-nominating Bush, which leaves us only with the fact that a large number of middle-of-the-road voters in this country are wide open to voting for a Democrat in '04, as long as it's the right Democrat.

Hint: Lieberman isn't the right one. He leans so far right he's marinating in Republican ideology half the time. This is not the year for a who cares? choice of candidates. It's not the year for candidates so ideologically similar that voters, once again, don't see much difference between them.

I can't remember where I read it, but I recently read a column where are woman was arguing that it's time for the Left, and those moderates disenchanted with Bush, et. al., to get together behind the Democrats. She argued that consolidation of the vote was the way to defeat Bush and his Administration. She's right, of course, but I disagree that we must defeat Bush "at any cost."

If Campaign 2000 taught us anything, it should have taught us that it matters who we vote for. Instead of apologizing in advance that the Democratic Party probably won't give us the candidate who fits our demands, she and others with public voices should be helping us get that candidate.

And, re my mention that the Republican Party just might not be the source of all things evil? I exempt the current occupants of the White House from that remark. Their frantic efforts to shore up support for their war (no doubt the costs of war are about to increase significantly) are an embarrassment to this country. Their dishonesty on domestic matters, and matters of global importance threatens our future.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court, not yet packed with right-wing extremists seems to be upholding social policies in defiance of the White House's preferences. Sadly, the Court was not asked about the Constitutionality of giving 30, 40, or 50 point boosts to athletes or legacy students. We can only hope someone will bring a suit on the matter.

Free speech in libraries wasn't quite as lucky.

The elderly poor seem to be getting the barren end of the pie when it comes to the new and improved Medicare coverage, too.

When the Left protested one of Bush's federal judiciary candidates, the Right put out nasty stories about how racist such behavior was. Now that they seem likely to face the same situation...a White House-nominated candidate whose position doesn't match theirs, I wonder if the Conservative Right will accuse themselves of racism? (All I can say is that anyone dissed by Focus on the Family and American Values">American Values is probably going to be okay with me.)

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia." Am I the only one who remembers that we've heard that one again and again? Looks like we may be keeping our war on in Iraq for five years or more.

And, speaking of evil, are you following the Texas Republicans' renewed efforts toward redistricting?

Looks like Kodak is evil and I didn't even know it.

But there's good news.

If the White House was worried enough about having their gifts-for-the-wealthy tax cuts repealed to put out a "highly selective" list of families who would suffer, then there must be real promise of such a drive.

And Jim Jeffords is more than worth reading on the subject of, Declaring Independence.

Tiny pinpoints of light, but they're all we've got.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)
Soapbox IV - Parties and Voters

I'm reconsidering my position on a number of issues.

No, I'm not about to come out as a right-wing conservative and support Bush, et. al., or anything crazy like that, but I've been doing a lot of research over the last weeks and comparing it with what I've read and learned over the past eight or nine months and I'm coming to the conclusion that we're being more seriously misled than we know.

The problems are not (You have no idea how it pains me to say this) the sole responsibility of the Republican Party. (Not that there aren't problems in the RP, because there are. But I'm beginning to believe that they're not the Ultimate Big Bad and anyhow, they aren't the primary topic of conversation today.)

Still. Let's consider the political parties for a moment.;

I dislike what the Republican Party leadership has become in its reliance on extremist and right-wing agitators. I dislike the reactionaries who want to turn back the clock to a mythical Golden Age when women stayed home and raised the children and white men ruled the world.

(Rant on why the men most offended by social equality are frequently those hurt least by it removed. I'm going to avoid being side-tracked this time.)

I dislike the Democratic Party's loss of identify as they try to be all things to all people while binding themselves to nothing. I can't stand their spineless fear of commitment or their increasing panic and reliance on corporate sponsorship. They lack, not the courage of their convictions, but any convictions at all. I despise that.

And how about the institution of government itself?

I, along with (if my reading is correct) the vast majority of USofA citizens dislike and distrust extremism and we like it least when it comes to the government.

We like an unadventurous government . One that's responsive to our wants and needs, but not one that blows in the wind of whatever fanatic might have the ear of an influential official.

We want a government, forgive me for the elitist intellectualism, with a sense of public duty and responsibility. (Or, don't forgive me. I don't care. Go read Dick and Jane if words of more than two syllables offend you. I'm also overheated about the anti-intellectual bias in this country but that, too, is a different rant.)

Okay, how about the voters? Where did they go, anyhow?

Well, there was Vietnam and a lot of people "dropped out" in the 60s, but in actual numbers, they were a small percentage of their generation. And, of course, there was Tricky Dick and quite a few more people got disillusioned with government during that era.

Why did the drop-outs so rarely drop back in and what happened to the generation after them? Why did they never learn the power of the vote?

Let's consider that for a moment.

The shrill shenanigans coming out of Washington for, let us say, the last twenty years, fall far short of what most citizens consider appropriate behavior for a government . The more scandal the public hears about and disapproves of, the more secretive politicians become in an attempt to keep their "public faces" clean and shiny so as not to offend The Voters.

So why are politicians acting up so badly behind the scenes? Why don't they just behave themselves?

(Brace yourselves. You probably haven't heard this one before.)

Actually, the majority of them they aren't, and they do.

It's the so-called liberal media who makes us believe otherwise by focusing our attention on failures, controversies, and scandals and neglecting positive accomplishments.

(I read Alterman's book and he made a convincing case that if the national media has political bias, it's conservative in the "commentary" and "talk" arenas. But as satisfying as his book was, it didn't answer all my questions, so I read more and I'm starting to see a pattern.)

Every Administration gets up to a certain number of shenanigans, as do the politicians in Congress and those in our state and local governments.. This is fact. The governments are staffed by fallible humans, so some of those shenanigans are inadvertent. The governments are staffed by politicians, so some of those shenanigans are power- or re-election-related.

And some politicians (let's be polite, to avoid derailing my train of thought) do behave very badly, indeed.

But none of them, I'm starting to believe, are the incarnations of evil that some of us have been led to believe. Not even (gulp) GWBush and his cronies.

(digression) - That GWB is of average intelligence and less-than-average intellectual curiosity is, I think, fairly well accepted. He's simple-minded (i.e., he likes 'true-or-false' answers) and largely bored by the minutiae of actually governing. His supporters laud this as 'CEO style' but this country is not a corporation and the man with his finger on the nuclear button should not be a disengaged 'overseer' of other people's activities. In this country we elect a President. We do not hire a CEO. - (/digression)

On no day is the news all 'good' or all 'bad' so why is it that there are days when finding 'good' news in a newspaper is almost impossible? And certainly it's harder to find "above the fold" of the front page.

Oh, yes, good news shows up. It's just that if you read and compare headlines and stories, you'll see that most front-page news is negative. And even not-so-negative news is frequently introduced by a sensationalistic seemingly disaster-predicting headline.

What's up with that and what agenda is behind it?

Well, as I'll no doubt be arguing for quite some time to come, there's no hidden agenda. There's no "secret government" and there's no conspiracy.

(Honestly. They're neither that smart nor that well-organized, okay? I don't doubt there are groups who would like to find themselves at the center of a web of all-powerful men, but fortunately for us this is a country of cranks and kooks and there are enough conflicting groups struggling for the same ends that the likelihood of any one group succeeding is slim as long as there are responsible voters keeping an eye on them.)

Anyhow. There's no conspiracy. There's just the media, trying desperately to make ever-larger profits and, in the process, finding itself moving farther and farther away from its original objective.

Every event can be "spun" in a number of different ways. More often than not, the media spins to the dark side. They fight for a negative, controversial slant to every story because 'bad news sells newspapers'.

(Is it some fatalistic streak in our collective, national psyche that gives us a more consistent connection to disaster than to triumph?)

Far from advocating that the media deliberately "spin" bad news into good, I'm asking that they Just. Stop. Spinning. It. at all.

My point is that things are neither as good, nor as bad, as those of us on each side of the political spectrum believe.

I don't doubt that there are (re-)election-at-any-cost politicians at work in Washington today, but I deny that that's all that anyone in Washington cares about and even if it is, keeping their campaign promises to their electorates is the best way to get re-elected, so arriving in Washington, throwing off the mask, and diving into the cesspits of the worst kind of politics just doesn't make sense.

We've been misled by a negative, scandal-mongering press (whether we read publications on the Right or those on the Left) that indulges in ever-greater reliance on unsubstantiated rumor and supposition in an attempt to boost circulation/ratings.

Overwhelmingly negative media coverage distorts our view of our political world. And, as has been argued more eloquently by others, this negativity has contributed largely to the decline of voter participation in the process of selecting government, not only at the voting booth but in the critical months or weeks before an election when people used to consider, debate, and discuss the different candidates as they chose where to cast their vote.

If they're all crooks, what does it matter which one you vote for? If they're all opportunistic liars, what does it matter which one is in office?

(I heard that from a surprising number of people back before Campaign 2000. Most of the ones who said that at that time are stubbornly sticking by their position today but some of them are noticeably wild-eyed and sweating. Seen a picture of Ralph Nader recently?)

I think that what the Left has learned in the last two years is that, negative view of politics or not, it still matters which politician you vote for. I don't blame the people who voted for Nader (except that I sort of do because a quick glance at Bush's record in Texas and Gore's record in Washington should have proven that they were not in fact, and as Nader kept saying, interchangeable parts).

I also hope the press is realizing they have a responsibility to their readers/viewers, but I doubt it.

In case anyone is wondering, what we need to know isn't whether or not one candidate wore a brown socks today or another gave someone from NBC News a cutesy nickname.

We need the press to let us hear or read what the candidates are saying (all the words, not quoted out of context or "cleaned up" for those candidate who can't form a coherent sentence), give us their voting records so we can compare their words to what they've actually done in the past, and then get out of our way so we can make our own decisions.

I, for one, am sick of "coverage" of major political speeches where the yakking anchors and "specialists" talk for longer than the politicians did. The echoes of the speech are still hanging in the air as the various pundits start spinning the "message."

I'm also sick of having information about presidential candidates sandwiched into the evening news, given the same ten seconds they'd give a feel-good story about a lost raccoon, and then dropped. I'm sick of say-nothing campaign ads, too.

Okay, I'm a little cranky this morning. Maybe I'd better find some coffee.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)
June 22, 2003

With apologies to the intelligent conservatives who stop by, I have to say I figured this would happen. Others are discussing it intelligently but I, as always, have my own opinions.

I have to say that most of the conservatives I've gotten into discussions with on-line are just like those freepers. They're...well, they're trollish. They think spamming a discussion with irrational, biased insults is a legitimate debate technique. They use suspect numbers and unreliable sources when (as so frequently happens), they don't have facts to back up their assertions. They're confused about the line between reality and on-line bullying.

But this is more than just a rant against the loudest and least intelligent of the conservatives online. After all, I link to the intelligent conservatives whose blogs I can find and am always willing to link to more. I'd like to encourage the intelligent members of both parties to not only think about and share their thoughts, but to discuss them with each other. Political process in this country is the process of compromise, after all.

No, this is about the new style of activism.

The group I've linked to above symbolizes most of what I dislike about on-line activism.

These guys, who just happen to be on the right, aren't interested in intelligent discussion of the future of this country. They're not even that interested in politics, okay? It's just a forum for them to troll around, causing trouble in. They're out to "win" some imaginary "war" against...well against no one but other web denizens.

I fully expect to see the left-wing version of the freepers band together, sign up at that forum, and start wars. And the sad thing is that almost none of the advocates of this behavior have any idea that they're not actually accomplishing anything.

(Okay, in that context, I hope the lefty version of the freepers does go start haunting the freeper boards. If we could isolate all of the nuts and keep them in one place, fighting smoke and mirror battles against each other, that might be a good thing, right?)

I doubt that most of these types would ever get out and physically do something to support their candidates or their beliefs (assuming they're able to formulate their beliefs in their own words, which I doubt) and they're misled into thinking that organizing a trolling campaign to derail someone else's efforts is actually what is meant by "political activism."

There are people like this on the left as well, okay? Let's not pretend there aren't.

It used to be said that Democrats were the "intelligent" party and what I've seen of mixed discussions on line, discussions that feature both conservatives and liberals, supports that theory.

There are those on "our side" whose support rather embarrasses me. I've participated in discussions where those on the left were quoting sources even I knew were biased and skewed. I've heard of those on the left who troll conservative blogs purely for the pleasure of the disruption they can cause.

The scary thing is that these are, for better or for worse, a vocal percentage of those today willing to actually think about and spend time (even if it's just online time) on politics. These are the people who are going to be in charge of who our next candidates are if the rest of us can't each recruit one, two, or three friends, online or off, to actually invest a little (real) time and money in the political process.

This does not bode well for the future of this country. I don't have a slam-bang conclusion. I just hate getting up in the morning, surfing around to see what's happening, and finding the nuts trying to take over the asylum.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)
Um. No.

The title of the article is, "Should Christians Convert Muslims?" and if you have any doubt about what the answer should be, let's take a look at how John Ashcroft says you should go about explaining the superiority of Christianity.

"Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you."
That's not exactly religious tolerance, is it?

(I know Ashcroft tried to backpedal this statement, I remember the fuss at the time, but like all pieces of propaganda, it's taken on a life of its own, which is all the more reason why those in power in our secular government should keep their mouths shut about religion. In any case, a cursory study of Ashcroft's background suggests that this reveals his true beliefs.)

(I wish someone had asked him about the Crusades, when rather a lot of Christians were sent off to die for the greater glory of their deity.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)