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August 22, 2003
Bah and humbug

That judge in Alabama* is just wasting everyone's time. Clearly he went looking for a fight or he wouldn't have sneaked the stupid monument onto government property a couple of years ago in the middle of the night. Arkansas needs to enforce the federal court ruling, remove the monument from government property (not just put it in a less-conspicuous place, which is their current plan), and remove that guy from office.

I am really not in the mood for people who are militant for religion, okay? Religious nuts worry me under any circumstances, but after the last year, I'm really getting to the point where I'm just over being tolerant about it. If the guy wants to believe in the Big Daddy God, then that's his choice, but the laws of this land clearly prohibit him from using government money or government space to shove his bigoted, immoral religion down my throat.

Sheesh. I am in such a mood today.

So is Molly Ivins who codifies and spreads what's been my barometer for right-versus-wrong over the last couple of years. " When in doubt, Disagree with DeLay, And you'll be OK."

I disagree with what's happening at Guantanamo, no surprise. I'm not all that thrilled to hear that 3 juveniles are to be released 'soon' and sent home. They shouldn't have been incarcerated there in the first place. From the perspective of those holding them (as told in this story), it doesn't sound as though they've been mistreated (I can't believe I have to worry about the USofA military abusing children), but there had to be a better answer than locking a 13 year-old up in a strange country.

Meanwhile, conditions in Afghanistan, the place our Administration seems to have forgotten, are reportedly encouraging young recruits into the Taliban. (Well, duh. Anyone who has ever had much to do with kids knows that they are, by nature, little savages. Civilization and morality are taught, not innate.)

Also, on NPR this morning, I heard a reporter talking about a 'terrorist' she'd interviewed who told her that "jihad" is addictive. Having lived that life, he can't imagine going back to any other lifestyle. I don't know if it's the adrenaline rush, the psychological 'freedom' that comes from lawlessness, or the intense comradeship that comes with that type of situation (or a combination of all three) but it's something we need to keep in mind for the future. We will, it would seem, have little luck in 'reforming' most terrorists. It's those boys in the paragraph above, the new recruits, we have to get to before they're turned into killers.

Idi Amin The tedious boredom of an exiled nutcase.

And speaking of psychotic despots, what is up with Moammar Kadafi, anyhow? Did he get his meds adjusted, or is he mellowing with age?

Hey, it's National Slacker Day in the U.K. Can we have one of those?

( * Ed. to correctly refer to 'Alabama' instead of 'Arkansas.' I knew that. I was just typing too fast.)

Posted by AnneZook at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)
August 21, 2003
Lunch break

There's no other word for it but macabre.

In a case of Disneyland meets the killing fields, Cambodia's Ministry of Tourism is drawing up grandiose plans to upgrade the final stronghold of the Khmer Rouge into a million-dollar theme park.

They're planning surreal little touches to add to the experience, too.

Tour guides will be selected from among former members of the genocidal regime who are not currently awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

Khmer Rouge. Theme park. Does. Not. Compute.

Here at home, and naturally completely unrelated, there's a report that the GOP is trying to expand Ashcroft's authority.

As Attorney General John D. Ashcroft begins a barnstorming tour of the country to shore up support for existing anti-terrorism laws, Senate Republicans are discussing legislation that would expand the Justice Department's powers to investigate terrorists and drug criminals.

I'm just saying. Is this stupid government department about a "war on terrorism" or is it not? Because I just can't get behind dropping another few billion dollars into the sinkhole of our "war on drugs."

I don't think calling it, "narcoterrorism" really makes it terrorism, either.

I'd really rather not see Ashcroft & Co. giving a blank mandate to, "go after bad guys" for reasons I'm sure you all understand.

(The new bill is called the "Victory Act" and I predict the self-congratulating title will get these guys into the same kind of trouble Bush is getting into for declaring victory and the end of "major combat" long before combat in Iraq was at an end or, indeed, victory was secured.)

Among other things, it's a pretty stupid bill.

The proposal, which totals 56 pages in one July 30 version, also targets alleged "interstate currency couriers" by making it a crime to carry more than $10,000 cash in a vehicle in connection with illegal activity.

Okay, so it's going to be, you know, entirely legal to carry $10k around for illegal purposes? Who thinks this stuff up, anyhow?

"The Victory Act represents a major expansion of federal surveillance, asset forfeiture and other powers under the guise of linking the war on drugs to the war on terrorism," said Tim Edgar, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "It does not address the intelligence problems that led to the September 11th attacks, continuing a failed policy of simply granting more power to the government instead of ensuring the government uses its existing powers effectively."

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of cheap sleight of hand tricks (Look! Iraqi terrorists! Ooops. We bad.) from this Administration. Let's hope the moderate Republicans and the Democrats find their spines before this one gets passed.

This is probably the most annoying article I've read in the past year. Just when Wolff gets to the interesting part of his subject, he stops writing. (Via Cursor.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:27 PM | Comments (2)
Bushwhacked

Today's the anniversary of Quantrill's Raid. For those not in the know, it's that day during the Civil War when 400 Southern sympathizers crossed the border from Missouri to Kansas, poured into the small, but fiercely abolitionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, and killed two hundred men and boys before burning most of the town to the ground.

Bushwhackers are what they called these guerilla troops in those days.

I think remembering things like this is important. For one thing, it's only been about a decade since the Kids of the Konfederate (or somesuch asinine group) demanded and received Quantrill's remains so they could bury them, with full (Konfederate) military honors in Missouri. He's a hero to those folks, you see.

It's amazing, it's painful and embarrassing, how many throwbacks in our society today are still arguing over the events of 1860 or 1865.

Few if any of these people would have the guts to stand up today and say that they think slavery shouldn't have been abolished. No one with any brains thinks the South's economy wouldn't have collapsed under its own uneconomic structure before long anyhow. Anyone who pays attention to world events understands that we wouldn't be who we are, with the comfortable lifestyles we possess (even most of the very poor in our society are a hundred percent better off than people in third-world countries), had we not struggled for and achieved unity among the states.

(We wouldn't have, and currently be squandering, the ability to make every citizen's life secure and prosperous, but that's a different rant.)

And yet, a handful of loudmouthed jackasses around the country are still acting like the North somehow did the South an injustice by enforcing the twin mandates of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

People who maybe need their brain-chemistry analyzed continue to gather together in small hate-groups where men frightened by pretty much everything and determined to make the world a place of black-and-white issues to be handled with crass brutality preach to the equally bigoted and dispossessed that they can achieve heaven on earth if they can just stomp enough of "them" down into the ground to create a platform the righteous can climb to heaven on.

It's been 140 years and there are people in this country who'd still pick up guns and start fighting the Civil War again at the drop of an opportunity. There will probably still be some of them around three hundred years from now, too.

When you hear yourself complaining that "those people" in the Middle East should stop fighting wars and holding grudges for stuff that happened five hundred years ago, remember this.

When you contemplate the current Administration's approach to foreign policy, don't forget this. And don't forget that your President is a man famed for preferring "black and white issues" to complex morality and whose solution to the problems of the world is simple brutality.

And speaking of the world, let's all celebrate. Today's Afghanistan's Independence Day.

Local celebrators marked the occasion with murder light-hearted gunfire at various targets. Not long ago, the USofA added our bit to the festivities by firing a rocket at a jeep carrying six civilians. At last count, terrorists local celebrators have sent about 90 people to that big party in the sky in the last week and bombs and missiles fireworks are going off all over the place.

Sad to say, it seems that our lackluster contributions to taming the party aren't winning us many fans in the area. Doesn't it seem odd to you that our selfless offer of democracy to the Middle East isn't getting a better reception? I mean, we went into Afghanistan and destroyed their government and large portions of the country's infrastructure, giving them a pretty, clean slate to start over on. And to make their lives fun and exciting, we installed an unpopular warlord without widespread support as their rules. Anyone would think these people would prefer to handle their own problems or something. Kids today, I swear. No gratitude at all.

I want to see this. I want the UN to step in, take the situation away from the USofA, and implement a real coalition that works for a real independent government in Iraq. The creation of the Administration's dream puppet-state isn't going to do anything but sow the seeds for the next 9/11 and if we're honest, we'll all just admit that.

When it comes to the Palestine/Israel conflict, no one is right. A Palestinian rebel suicide bomber kills 20 Israelis on a bus. Israel retaliates by killing a major figure in the same Palestinian group. Palestine rebels denounce this and announce that the "cease-fire" is over, as though they hadn't themselves broken the cease-fire first.

That's the trouble with an un-aimed missile, which is what these suicide bombers are. They've been wound up and set in motion and now the rebel groups have no control over what these people will do or when. There can be no true peace until the mindless carnage stops but I think the world mistakes the rebel leaders' contact with and/or control over their members.

Israel isn't blameless. What were they doing targeting a "moderate" among the Palestinian leadership only hours after a promised clampdown?

We're under attack. Finally.

The heads of 10 leading law bodies around the world have called on the United States to give a "fair and lawful trial" to prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay.

I wonder if the Bush Administration will be able to hear the protests over the sounds of construction on Guantanamo's new execution chamber?

Of course, it's always possible the entire problem will become moot if the prisoners continue to try and kill themselves with such regularity.

And, speaking of executions, I'm glad we got that truck before it became a big problem for us.

Seriously. I do not want to be barraged with a hundred Chevy commercials next year, showing how we can all float to the promised land if we buy the right truck.

This is the kind of thing that can ruin your day. Stories about overzealous and under-monitored "intelligence" agents who commit human rights violations, and break laws, on the same day we're publicly admonishing the world about human rights violations and the rule of law.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:30 AM | Comments (1)
Early morning anger

I heard Love and War (link to audio) on NPR on the way to work this morning.

A senior Iraqi official who was assigned to work with Hans Blix and other U.N. weapons inspectors turned himself in to U.S. troops early in the war. He is still in detention and has since been labeled a prisoner of war. His German-born wife talks about his work under the old regime and her efforts to determine why he's still in custody.

I'm beginning to think there have been terrorists in Iraq since the moment our so-called 'leadership' set foot in the country.

Also, this scientist is a "prisoner of war"? How'd he get so lucky? Everyone else is an unclassifiable "enemy" so we don't have to worry about those pesky Geneva Conventions.

If he is, indeed, a POW, has Amnesty International or the International Red Cross seen this man?

Has anyone seen his wife, who disappeared after her last visit to headquarters in an attempt to find out where her husband is?

Seems to me that we're not that far from our muddy beginnings some days.

Or maybe we are. It takes "civilization" to create this much of a mess.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:04 AM | Comments (1)
August 20, 2003
The usual potpourri

Molly Ivins seems to feel a touch bitter about the blackout.

I thought the most significant thing said in the column (although it's all good) came here:

U.S. officials quickly blamed a Canadian plant for touching off the mess. Mel Lastman, the clearly sleepless and exhausted mayor of Toronto, replied bitterly: "Tell me, have you ever heard the United States take blame for anything? This is no different."

Ouch.

On the same northern front, it's good to know we're keeping ourselves safe from terrorism. There's no doubt that keeping those Canadian newlyweds out of the country is going to make the world a better place for all of us.

The thing I think Ashcroft doesn't 'get' about opposition to the so-called Patriot Act is that people's distrust stems as much from their distrust of him and the Administration as it does from the provisions. For the record, there are parts of the Act that I think are necessary tools for law enforcement. There are other parts that, while they might provide a benefit to law enforcement, are just too close to the line. I don't see almost any law enforcement agency being able to resist the urge to step over that line in a burst of...let's call it enthusiasm...during an investigation that's not going well.

(I'm so proud. I didn't even mention the way DeLay has already abused his position and the department's mission by asking the Orwellian "Homeland Security" people to track down his political opponents! Such restraint on my part! Impressive, I think.)

For those who haven't read it, Helen Thomas also took on Ashcroft over his already-infamous requirement that judges who don't sentence strictly enough be reported to him.

Department lawyers say the new rules are in the interest of uniformity.

Now it may very well be that Ashcroft has also demanded reports on judges who sentence higher than the average, at or near the max allowable, but if so, we haven't heard about it. So it appears that "uniformity" only means a sort of basement requirement for sentencing. We have enough, more than enough people in prison, okay?

For those who aren't sure, let me say that you do not want 'uniformity' in sentencing. Not like this. Not in some way that fails to take the facts of each individual case into account. The judge in the courtroom, if competent, is the one who has the overview of the specific case details, not some bean-counter in Washington. If a state, or the feds, feel that a change needs to be made in the minimum punishment for a crime, then let's get that issue out in public for debate, but let's not let Ashcroft impose a de facto increase all by himself.

And again I fault, not the soldiers, but their bosses for failing to adequately educate, prepare, and supervise the troops in Iraq.

And, for what it's worth, I think Bosbach is right, too. "Tourists who "frivolously get into danger just for the thrill of it, should be prepared to pay a part of the costs involved in their release..." Absolutely.

It's just a personal opinion, but blogging isn't like regular journalism, or even writing a column for a publication. A blog is something just a little different. It remains to be seen whether or not "professional bloggers" who aim to amuse and educate manage to make the cut. I'll watch with interest to see if Breaking Views makes the grade. So far, so good.

Reviews like this are usually what make me want to read a book. Or a report.

And let's close for the moment on a round of applause for McCain, who is currently going after appropriations pork.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)
August 19, 2003
Bits and Pieces

Much work, little blogging

Why don't oil spills get the press they used to get?

Saudis in Iraq 'preparing for a holy war' A headline like that is pretty much all it takes to ruin my day.

Captured in the name of terror. Yes, I'm still complaining about Guantanamo.

American voters have two choices: Bush or Bush-lite. When we say, "anyone but Bush" are we actually prepared to vote for an airbrushed version of him? Have the last three years been so distasteful to us that we'd vote for almost anyone that stands to the left of Bush, even if it's only a step or two?

For those of us willing to read more than a briefing paper, history has lessons we should heed.

Restructuring Education explains that you need more than regime change to institute democracy.

Slavery is alive and well.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)
August 18, 2003
Blogging Around

Joe Conason gets it right, via Body and Soul who offers a significant excerpt.

The LATimes (registration), via CalPundit, carries the story about the USofA giving up on trying to control Iraq's oil production.

The move could disappoint those who viewed the ouster of Saddam Hussein as an opportunity to set Iraqi oil policy on a pro-American course, open the nation's oil sector to Western companies and reduce the influence of OPEC on world oil production and prices.

And maybe this proves it wasn't All About The Oil?

The decision was prompted in part by the reluctance of foreign oil company experts and prominent Iraqi expatriates to join the board, officials said. The expatriates expressed concern they would be perceived by Iraqis as agents of a U.S.-orchestrated takeover of the Iraqi industry. Some oil companies reportedly were reluctant to assign key personnel to the effort, fearing that their participation might sour future business deals in Iraq.

Very sensible of them.

Chris Nelson has been watching that new reality television show about life behind the scenes at a restaurant. It seems he's having flashbacks. Also he seems to have some Unresolved Issues with restaurant owners.

Avedon Carol became Fair and Balanced, and then, poof! disappeared. In contrast to my earlier rant, it looks this time as though a Demon did, in fact, do it.

I think Jeff Cooper should win an award for the most bizarre blog-comments experience. (I have never understood the desperation of companies to "drive traffic" to their websites, regardless of whether or not said traffic would ever, under any circumstances, spend a penny of their products or services.)

This is one of the more entertaining entries I've read from Hesiod. (Okay, you'd probably read Counterspin without a link from me, but still.)

Via Eric Alterman, read Israel's role in bringing the butcher Idi Amin to power.

For the ultimate in narcissism, let me link to this entry where John links to me. Isn't he amazingly intelligent and interesting? Heh.

Over at off_topic, another short but telling comparison of the east coast's temporary power problem and Iraq's on-going crisis.

It's a chain reaction! Via Digby, who got to it via TBogg. Brace yourself. Here's a mind-boggling, gag-inducing analysis, by six "spunky" women, of what makes a "real man.

Read More »


Posted by AnneZook at 01:25 PM | Comments (3)
Drugs

In spite of the recent wave of publicity that shows that USofA pharmaceutical companies charge less for their drugs in other countries than they do here at home,* there are those who believe drug prices are too low here and they're suing to be allowed to raise them. Who? Pharmaceutical companies.

* Do not be fooled by those negative ads screaming about how lousy quality import drugs are going to risk everyone's health, okay? And the measures under consideration are "re-import" measures. Drugs manufactured here, sold in other countries, then sold back to the USofA. Don't be fooled into thinking that health standards in Canada are significantly lower than the ones here, 'cause it ain't so.

Also, I ask you...if this round-robin retail still results in lower drug costs than we're paying now, just how inflated are the prices we're currently paying?

Also, if these "re-imports" are, in fact, not manufactured up to safe specs, just what the heck are pharmaceutical companies thinking of when they produce these poor quality medications?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)
Think about it

Ralph Cossa is right. Even I thought, when I heard about the no-so-secret meeting, that the timing couldn't have been much worse.

Staying alive isn't as easy as it looks. There are a lot of pressures on women in poor countries. And on little girls, as well.

Will bin Laden slip through our fingers while we grapple with the mess we've made in Iraq?

Ten propositions for the Democratic Party from Walter Cronkite.

On the way to work this morning, I heard on the news that by the end of this decade (I believe it was), 1 in 37 citizens of this country will be in prison or have been in prison at some time in their lives. We spend more on weapons, MD or otherwise, than any other country in the world, and we're planning new ones all the time, our crime rate is appalling, we lock up a larger percentage of our population than anyone else. Our schools are failing, mostly for lack of money.

I don't know, okay? Some days I have just the tiniest suspicion that this isn't exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind, you know?

Warning. Rant about religion comes next.

Read More »


Posted by AnneZook at 10:22 AM | Comments (4)
Abuse

I don't want to tarnish the hospitality of the lady with the lamp or anything, but can we be just a touch more discriminating about who we let in this country? I know we've cradled more than a few deposed despots in our melting pot over the years, but if we really believe all that stuff in our constitution, then I think we need to put, "don't provide psychopaths with comfy homes" near the top of our priority lists.

I knew a fair number of unsavory characters from down south had been allowed to slip in and make themselves at home on USofA soil, but I had no idea how many. Seems to me that it's not just recently that our so-called 'foreign policy' has gone off the rails.

Terrorists, murderers, torturers, dictators, despots, and convicted felons. <-- In case you're wondering, guys, there's a quick list of the kind of people you should not be granting visas, or permanent residency status to, okay?

And while we're at it, can we not act like despots here at home? And not act like lawless thugs and torturers, either. We're setting a bad example.

We have a huge and growing budget deficit. Is this really the time to keep wasting money on doomed political agendas. And that includes the states, especially the one currently spending $3.4 million to force an out-of-turn redistricting move by a group who understand that, without such chicanery, their days are numbered. (Colorado Democrats, who failed to block redistricting here are being supportive, and being ridiculed by Colorado Republicans which is, to my mind, another sign of how worried the Republicans are. Also? I want a 2/3 majority requirement here like Texas has.)

If you're interested in the economic and political problems surrounding the world's food supply, maybe you need KickAAS.

More about the insidious censorship Wal-Mart practices that most of their customers are unaware of.

Irresponsible sensationalism by the media seems to be as big a problem in the UK as it is here.

Also in the Guardian, today's racism in the USofA.

The Right continues its campaign to label Bush's detractors as unpatriotic. Boggles the mind. (Having said that, I have a slight doubt as to whether or not a county fair is the appropriate place to pass out, "Bush Sucks" buttons. I wouldn't care to pass final judgment, though, until I found out what local Republicans did during the Clinton years. Certainly in the public mind, those tens of millions of us who don't have the hours every day to spend figuring out what's going on in this country, there's little difference between the two Parties these days.)

In other news, I've intended to watch this since I first heard about it. If you've got Showtime, tune in. It should be educational.

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