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August 08, 2003
Things that make you go......

What was the point of taking, and publicizing, such an odd photo of Bush and Powell?

We haven't gotten to this yet, but I'm sure people I probably shouldn't name (coughAshcroftcough) might like to see it.

Things like this probably warm his little heart, don't they?

Connie M. McKee, a Harris staffer, said ethics laws made it illegal for people to distribute political information during a town hall meeting.
Because we don't want to give the impression that any political behavior is taking place at a political gathering between voters and elected officials? There's no excuse for taking a flyer away from someone except pure partisanship.

I guess it's bye bye, Afghanistan.

But, hey! On a lighter note, those crazy kids at USHomeGuard (hereinafter referred to as "HomeGuarders" or, for brevity, "Homers") finally got some content up on their site!

I think I'll boogie over and join. I mean, except for the parts where it's stupid, unworkable, unfundable, begs to be abused, and sort of entirely scary, it's not the dumbest idea I've ever seen.

What about you? Wouldn't you like to be a Homer, too?

Posted by AnneZook at 02:46 PM | Comments (2)
How odd

It would appear that I have nothing to say today.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)
August 07, 2003
Waiting for dinner

No point in going home. I'd have to turn around and drive most of the way back to the office to meet a friend for dinner. So, I'm blogging.

I'm just saying. I'd vote for Al again. Those misled by the media's demonization of him need to do the sensible thing and check his record. Yes, he's "centrist" on some things, but not on a lot of the ones I care about. His position on things like the environment is very attractive to me. The fact that he knows how to compromise with the less-radical conservatives is not, in my book, a drawback.

Besides, we want a candidate who can win, right? Well, he won once already. How much more proof of his electability do you need?

(I don't blame him for not running again but I'll be interested to see who he eventually endorses.)

For those of you in California, Kevin Drum's vote is up for grabs, but there are terms and conditions. If your plans for the fiscal future of the state involve the Tooth Fairy, don't call Kevin. Presumably anything requiring a tax on the Easter Bunny will also get a thumbs' down.

I got here via Chris Nelson and before I go commit hari kari, I'm begging someone to tell me this is an internet hoax. (Also, before you buy yours, stop and consider that the Sekrit Service is likely going to consider putting it through the garbage disposal to be a "threatening act.")

Fortunately Hesiod and Atrios are already all over the mockery thing. (Links are bloggered, scroll down.)

Posted by AnneZook at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)
I was on my lunch break, okay?

He might as well have called the article, "Unemployment Is Hell."

How bad is it? The Economic Policy Institute in Washington reported last week that "since the business cycle expansion began in November 2001, payrolls have contracted by 1 million (1.2 million in the private sector), making this the weakest recovery in terms of employment since the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] began tracking monthly data in 1939."
Coincidence? I think not. I think businesses are "expanding" their bottom lines and future plans using the salaries of laid-off workers.

The good news, of course, is that there's a limit to how far they can do down that path. We don't yet possess the resources to fully automate business. The bad news is that those already doing the work of two people are going to find themselves doing the work of three or four, and grateful to have the chance, before long.

It's also, not coincidentally, I'm sure, a perfect environment for union-busting. I'm going to be watching for the signs.

The official jobless rate, now 6.2 percent, does not come close to reflecting how grim the employment situation really is. The official rate refers only to those actively seeking work. It does not count the "discouraged" workers, who have looked for jobs within the last 12 months but have given up because of the lack of offers. Then there are the involuntary part-timers, who would like full-time jobs but cannot find them. And there are people who have had to settle for jobs that pay significantly less than jobs they once held.
For the record, this has always been my problem with the "jobless" figures. They only include the relatively recently unemployed and there's no methodology for counting the under-employed.

Why, you ask, do I have no faith in the power of the Republican party to turn this around?

Right now there is no plan, no strategy for turning this employment crisis around. There is not even a sense of urgency. At the end of July the Bush administration sent its secretaries of commerce, labor and treasury on a bus tour of Wisconsin and Minnesota to tell workers that better days are coming. But they offered no real remedies, and the president himself went on a monthlong vacation.
When the going gets tough, Bush goes on vacation.

What else is happening in the Administration? Well, Cheney, aside from addressing his bunkmates at the AEI not long ago, seems to be MIA most of the time. (Since he's the one who does most of the work in this Administration, it worries me a trifle when he's not seen for a month or two.) While Powell protested that rumors of his leaving were greatly exaggerated, he didn't say he was staying on. By all accounts Ashcroft's assault on...well...the country, is spiraling out of control. The Bush Administration's pet legislature, Medicare reform, the one designed to win him the senior vote and get him back into the White House, is a hopeless mess. Other budget-cutting measures have alienated a significant percentage of the armed forces and the history of Republican "outsourcing" to their good corporate buddies is turning service life into even more of a hell than it has to be. Stories routinely surface about dissent within the Administration and between federal agencies. Diplomats and department heads have resigned, some with better excuses than others but most using the coded "more time with family" phrase. The questions we ask this Administration have shifted from, "did you lie" to "does it matter" and no one seems to notice. Afghanistan is falling apart. We're not even close to victory in Iraq, no matter how you count victory. Our contribution to Liberia consists of 2,300 people on a boat and 7 guys on the ground. (Oh. And a few tough remarks.) Iran is acting up, North Korea is polishing their gun sights and their rhetoric, and Homeland Security-sponsored commercials begging us to stockpile food and water have become common on television.

Why am I pondering these things?

Well, maybe because my blogversary is approaching. (Please, hold all applause until the end of the show.)

Yes, almost a year since I decided to spare my personal friends the tedium of my political rants and created this peevish little space instead. Checking back on that first day's entries, I see that I was saying much the same things then as I am these days. It's sad how much the world is, you know, not a better place than it was a year ago.

(So, am I happier, wiser, more content, more trusting, or more optimistic after a year spent focusing on the intricacies of domestic and occasionally international politics? Are you drinking Draino?)

I was going to have some profound thoughts on the subject of blogging for a year, but I just dribbled water down the front of my shirt and will be occupied in holding my arm strategically across the wet spot for the next ten minutes.

I'll be back. (But, unlike Arnie, I will not be asking for your votes.)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)
Don't know much about....

Don't know who or what caused it, but the recent eruption in terrorist acts has me worried.

Or is it a recent eruption? Is there an upsweep in terrorist activity or is it that the USofA media is finally starting to cover international terrorism?

I don't know if Iran is developing nuclear weapons or not. Certainly there are some things that make me suspect they are.

Nuclear experts have questioned the declared need of Iran - a country with vast oil and natural gas reserves - to produce nuclear energy.
I do know that when I read about someone from their government defending "one of the pillars of the power of the people,"" I get an odd and unsavory flashback to Nazi Germany. Something about that phrase was very evocative.

I see Dean's son is back in the news as a booze-stealer. No, not again, it's a rehash of the original story. CBS,. who linked the story from their front page, seems to have thought that agreeing to participate in a "court diversion program" was of more significance than the other news-related events they could have given front-page space to. I'm never sure...are they deliberately running this as an anti-Dean story, or are they running it because Dean-related news draws readers and they didn't have anything else to offer?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)
August 06, 2003
Medical Malpractice

From Modern Physician (registration required), comes the news that, on the average, less than 40 percent of medical malpractice award money goes to the plaintiff (that's the injured person).

Plaintiffs receive only 38% of the total dollars that flow through the malpractice litigation system, according to a recent study by the Employment Policy Foundation in Washington, D.C.

EPF says the bulk of the of the money goes to plaintiff's lawyers, expert witnesses, claims adjustment and investigating and defending claims.

I guess it's not really a surprise. Medical malpractice suits are no longer about restitution for someone damaged by negligence. They're a business, like anything else.

The only thing I'm wondering is, if they "cap" non-economic awards at $250,000 or $1,000,000 or wherever they wind up capping them, won't that just mean the injured person winds up with even less compensation for their injuries?

Once again I'd like to suggest that someone smarter than me (easy enough) figure out a kind of "tort reform" that involves reforming the system without punishing people who have legitimate claims.

You should be able to sue a physician or a hospital if you go in for surgery and they leave a scalpel in your abdomen. Unless you contracted specially for this ornamentation, they should not only have to remove it, but you should be compensated for the additional lost work time, the extra recuperations time, any complications, and "danger money" for the risk this negligence created.

You should not be able to sue the maker of a household cleanser because you accidentally poured Draino in your coffee and it made you sick. You should not be able to sue someone because you're a moron.

Don't pour Draino in your coffee, okay? If you pour Draino in your coffee, do the sensible thing. Know that you're opening yourself up to endless mockery if you advertise the fact, and keep it between you and your physician or emergency care worker.*

You should be able to sue someone who digs a hole next to the sidewalk on their property and leaves it there to trap unwary pedestrians after dark. That's negligence.

You should not be able to sue because you fell down and hurt yourself when you were burgling someone's home. You should not be able to sue someone because you're a criminal moron.

Common sense. That's what we need for tort reform. A liberal slathering of common sense.

Also, something to control the lawyers, but I really am working today, so I'll have to think about that another time.

* And I say this based upon my experience of having been the kind
of person who, quite inadvertently, poured a technically non-edible
substance into my coffee and drank it. For a week. (In my own defense,
had it been anything like Draino, I'm sure I'd have noticed more quickly.)
Did I sue? No, don't be ridiculous. You should not sue someone
because you're a moron. For what it's worth, nowadays, I drink my
coffee black.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:47 PM | Comments (1)
Lunchtime thoughts

Should you find yourself thinking that Bush's scheme to outsource most of the federal government to enrich private corporations might not be such a very bad idea, trot on over to Nathan Newman's site and see why you're wrong.

Or read him on the subject of social security privatization. (For the record, the promise (""They promised to preserve the benefits of all current retirees and those nearing retirement.") is already a lie. They've already added 16 months onto how long I have to work in order to pull full benefits and who knows how much more they'll add between now and my "retirement" age? I'm not a twenty year-old, okay? I've paid into this system since I was 16 because (a) I had to, (b) I was told the money would be there.

Let's make something else very clear while we're at it. The money was there. A lot of it was there. It's just that the Feds couldn't stand all of that surplus waiting to be paid out to the people who paid it in, so they helped themselves. Yep, they took it for other projects and, instead of paying it back, now they're crying that there's not enough money.

This might also explain why the military seems to set on military tribunals instead of civilian trials. But I understand why Jeanne just sighed and moved on after originally reading the article. I, too, expect little else from this Administration.

The entire entry is an object lesson in why we can't go on sighing and looking the other way.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)
Bits and pieces

Iraq's about to get itself an army of religious fanatics, it seems.

And it's good to see that someone has an eye on the justice system. Especially that part of it that might be tempted to strike down environmental protections to make its own personal investments a little more valuable. (I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm saying there's good reason to be suspicious.)

And we may finally be able to get some fresh news from Afghanistan. No, not from the USofA press. Don't be silly, they've forgotten all about that previous war. No, it seems that Canadian troops are headed into the country and a journalist is going with them. I look forward to reading what Chris Wattie has to report.

Maureen Dowd is pretty rude on the subject of Bush and his (lack of) control of his Administration, but she's always worth reading.

The National Conference of State Legislatures decided to oppose federal legislation on medical malpractice issues, including a bill supported by President Bush that would set a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages.
(Seems that the state governments object to the feds trying to pass legislation that preempts existing state laws.)

Bush's preferred $250k cap on "non-economic damages" isn't doing that well on the state level.

Among those bills is a Texas measure setting a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill into law in June, but Texas voters will have to vote Sept. 13 on changing the state constitution before it can take effect.

A proposed $250,000 cap has had less luck in Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush postponed a third special session on the bill, scheduled for this week, after it became clear that the state Senate would not alter its opposition to the cap.

Texas and Florida, hmmm?

Do you shop at dollar stores? I had no idea they were becoming such a big thing. The only time I've ever shopped at one was when I was looking for the worst, ugliest Christmas decorations I could find. (Yes, I had a reason. No, I ain't telling you.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)
What Rough Beast?*

Again, I think we have to ask ourselves, is this who we want to be?

Considering the failure of this country to win this place as a free and open society based upon the production of useful, innovative, life-affirming technology, I'd say no. As this column makes clear, we've built our 'hyper-power' status on the ability to deliver death anywhere in the world.

I have one of those insulated holders for bottled water. It's sitting next to me right now and I can see the words on the side.

This is not the life I ordered.

From the second section of the column on, this is a compelling discussion on the nature of international power and the forces that exist, or arise, to balance it.

*

The Second Coming (W.B. Yeats)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(Note: In spite of the biblical flavor of this poem, I don't believe the "second coming" is at hand. I don't believe in those things. However, I do, however, believe that 'what goes around, comes around' and I think our hubris is headed for a fall.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)
August 05, 2003
Fascinating

A view of the Pentagon from the inside.

Maybe the Intelligence sloppiness is less a matter of venality than poor organization?

(Also, I don't know where all of you intelligent commenters came from, but I do appreciate and enjoy the feedback!)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:12 PM | Comments (0)
The Media Talks

The media on the media is worth reading. I think I'll put the two books referenced on my list.

Here's an interesting column arguing that newspapers need to pay more attention, on a daily basis, to issues of constitutionality around the country.

Also, I find myself interested by the study showing that liberal publications are critical of Democrats and Republicans, while conservative publications hesitate to criticize their own. I'm not surprised by it, since a casual reading of any national news publication over the last decade, or even the last couple of years, clearly shows it to be true. However, the article comes with some interesting examples of how partisan conservative coverage is. (The study, in pdf format, is here.) I didn't have time to read this as thoroughly as I would like. I'll have to get back to it later, along with the copy of the study I downloaded.

Editor and Publisher continues to argue in support of the importance of weblogs these days. There are some interesting links.

The Rest of the Story

Here's how the infamous, so-called 'Patriot' Act was actually voted into law. (The bottom of the story.) If I were a paranoid, conspiracy theorist, stories like this would give me nightmares.

The war in Iraq went surprisingly quickly, didn't it? I guess that happens when you don't care what kind of carnage you cause.

And Krugman is all over dishonesty in government, specifically when government departments suppress or slant reports to support Administration positions.

Those dissing the USofA for dragging its feet in Liberia might scan the landscape and wonder where Europe is. According to this article, you don't see European troops in Liberia because they don't have an "African policy" but it seems to me that since the fighting in Liberia has been going on for over a decade, they had more than enough time to formulate a policy, if they intended to. (It looks like Peel in the Financial Times has a column on the USofA's lack of interest in Liberia, but it's a subscriber-only deal, so I can't get to the full text. All I can see is, "The country that was founded by liberated American slaves can expect little help from Washington. For the US, there is no national interest at stake.)

And this could break your heart. As could this. Except that reports I've heard about Peace Corps efforts indicate that the long-term impact of this program has been...well...nil. I need to do some research and see if that's true.

Afghans on Edge of Chaos reads the headline. " As opium production and banditry soar, the country is at risk of anarchy, some warn, and could allow a Taliban resurgence."

Another headline reads, " Iran Closes In on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb." Nice thought for a sunny, summer day. Here's a column discussing the situation.*

(* Although, let me point out the idiocy of everyone, Left or Right, who speaks piously of "making contact" with a repressive regime and "encouraging" the growth of "democracy." What kind of fool thinks that's going to happen? Democracy In Regime Out, okay? Regimes change when the people foment rebellion from the ground up.)

There's more I'd like to complain about today (Well, isn't there always?) but I really should be working.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)
Idiocy

As I've said before, I wasn't that impressed with Ehrenreich's book, Nickel and Dimed. I thought she barely touched the surface of the real problems the poor face on a daily basis in this country. I found her coverage...tepid. Quite frankly, I felt that she was so appalled by the situations she found around herself that she distanced herself emotionally very early in the book.

Which means that I find it surprising, even astounding, that she's the Cheap Labor Party's new pick for North Carolina Anti-Christ.

I know I commented on an earlier story about "student protestors" objecting to the book's liberal bias but this is absurd. The mind continues to boggle as I wonder how you could write such a story with a "conservative" bias. In any case, the book doesn't have a "liberal" bias unless the Right is willing to say that caring about people is a 'liberal thing'.

Honestly. What's wrong with teaching college kids that there are poor people in this country? Really, heartbreakingly poor people? Who can barely afford to eat? Who don't have medical care, dignity, or any hope of a decent future?

Are these parents afraid their kids' tears are going to mess up the leather seats in the Rolls?

On second thought, I'm glad this whole subject came up. I'd like to see someone stand up and publicly defend the position that writing about the lives of the poor is some kind of liberal trick to...I don't know...fool kids into believing that there are a lot of poor people in this country and that with some work we could help most of them to better lives.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)
August 04, 2003
Monday. Blech

I'd like to discuss my perception of the importance of Powell not serving in a second Bush Adminstration and, indeed, Bush having to assemble an entirely new foreign policy team, but for one thing, I hate to contemplate getting Bush for another four years and for another, I'm having one of those no time for blogging Mondays.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)
August 03, 2003
Tell me about it

How did I miss this before? (I'm working too much.)

A US department of energy panel of experts which provided independent oversight of the development of the US nuclear arsenal has been quietly disbanded by the Bush administration, it emerged yesterday.
Reason tells me that these continued efforts to dissolve the government have some rationale behind them besides a vague and inane belief in "small" government, but I'm having trouble fitting the disbanding of really critical groups like this one into the mix.
The decision to close down the national nuclear security administration advisory committee - required by law to hold public hearings and issue public reports on nuclear weapons issues - has come just days before a closed-door meeting at a US air force base in Nebraska to discuss the development of a new generation of tactical "mini nukes" and "bunker buster" bombs, as well as an eventual resumption of nuclear testing.

Is that it? What government they don't intend to erase, they want done secretly?

I'm all for open hearings on these things because I think it's time and past time a few hundred thousand of us (if not more) stood up and said that in the future we do not want our country's primary export to be death.

The Republican Party's image just keeps degenerating. It's the quality of followers they seem to attract, of course.

Not that I don't think racist, homophobic, small-minded, petty reactionaries aren't entitled to a political voice. I'd just prefer it if they were in some fringe party instead of infesting (and, at times it would seem, controlling) the Cheap-Labor Party. Should any conservatives find themselves accidentally on this site, I recommend you go burn a candle to Nixon and thank him for his conscious efforts to swell his own support by courting this class of voter.

My objection to spending government money on the conservatives are reactionary nitwits study is more practical than those I've read. I object to spending public money to document the merely obvious.

And don't look now, but Ashcroft is at it again. This time, he's cuddling corporations. It has to do with pre-trial diversions and the requirements to file public papers on deals the government makes with corporations. (Actually, that's not quite right. It has to do with allowing government to avoiding filing papers on sekrit deals it makes with corporations.)

I heard about the tour through Wisconsin and Minnesota, the one where a few Administration shills were forced to promote economy-killing tax cuts as the best thing since Viagra. Didn't we all? Via too many bloggers to remember, John feels differently but the so-called liberal media didn't cover his part of the Shortbus tour. Nor did I hear, even on NPR, about any of the other protests organized around the stops.

And what's this all about? (Via Talking Points, who calls it, "a very interesting view into the struggles taking place behind the scenes in the US government over Iraq.")

Also, Popular Mechanics may have gotten it wrong, but I still find their 50s-era predictions, via Kevin, amusing to read.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)