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September 26, 2003
Blogging Around

Brace yourself. Read Nathan Newman and then (it pains me to type this, yes), support the Bush Administration in calling for European countries to forgive outstanding Iraqi loans. Well, "loans" where the money was used to buy weapons, anyhow. Also read the comments on the post, where a few interesting points have been raised.

(Clicking on link on Nathan's site I see that the Bush Administration didn't "napalm" Iraq, they "firebombed" Iraq. That's a pretty tiny hair to split.)

Via John McKay, we get to the " Reagan had 'evil sex' angst story, which I mention only because of my amusement that in the "see also" column next to it is the headline, "Is George Bush following the Reagan path?"

Okay, it wasn't actually that funny. Reagan and Bush both rank about the same on my "interested in their sex life" scale, which is in significant 3-digit negative numbers.

On the other hand, I'm impressed by this Reagan letter excerpt:

But in a personal letter to Brezhnev at the height of the Cold War, he asked: "Is it possible that we have let ideology, political and economical philosophy and government policies keep us from considering the very real, everyday problems of the people we represent?"

As a matter of fact, I'm very impressed. I may buy the book.

Via Cursor, an interesting WaPo story

Some Republican aides say the numbers may be more defensible than they sound because the budget is not quite real. They suggest the administration has inflated costs, in part to avoid having to come back next year for a new emergency spending bill, and in part so they can skim some of the money for classified military efforts.

Remember that "cancelled" Pentagon spy program we were discussing just recently? The one I said the Pentagon could probably skim money from other places to fund if it wanted to?

Check out Hellblazer and be sure and click through from the link he provides to read the full text.

I'm pleased to read that someone with more expert knowledge than I have (well, that wouldn't be hard), Matthew Yglesias, thinks the "freedom of speech" connection to telemarketing is nonexistent. Many commenters disagree with him.

Over at TAPPED, John Judis says skeptics were right about Iraq. It's not news to the skeptics, but he's always worth reading.

Ezra Klein at NotGeniuses discusses tariffs. They're a tricky proposition.

The simplest illustration is that the Feds collect tax money from you to give to cotton farmers so that the price of cotton stays low. That's a subsidy.

You pay for the cotton, you understand. Whether directly or indirectly, you're paying for it.

In fact, it could be argued that because of the inefficiencies of large organizations, the amount of money swallowed up in "administrative costs" to process the tax dollars through the system and then get what's left to the cotton farmers makes the true cost of cotton much higher than it has to be.

But it's a mistake to look at economic questions too simplistically and you have to stop and remember that Dick Cheney and Warren Buffet are both paying about $3 to keep a bale of cotton cheap for every fifty cents that you pay (numbers grossly oversimplified). They pay $2 so that Pauline living in public housing and trying to raise three kids on her own and on an income of $12,000 a year, only has to pay 5 cents for her share of the subsidy. Since there are more Paulines in the country than Cheneys, Cheney's higher taxes support his "share" of the subsidy and the "shares" of several poor families. That keeps cotton cheap enough, in theory, that Pauline can afford to buy tee shirts for her three kids. A subsidy, looked at that way, is a way of spreading wealth around more equitably. It supports the cotton farmer (before the age of corporate farming, the vast majority of farms in the USofA were break-even family ventures) and gives the Paulines a little break.

Then you have to add international trade into the mix. It does no good to subsidize the price of USofA cotton to keep it within Pauline's reach if USofA cotton prices are higher than the price of cotton imported from Otherland. Pauline still has to pay her 5 cent subsidy, but with the 45 cents she saves, she can buy twice as much Otherland cotton as USofA cotton, so she does. That means the collected tax dollars are, effectively, being wasted. There's no point in subsidizing prices to keep them low unless you can keep them so low that demand remains high. There's no point in making Pauline pay five cents, or even making Cheney pay $3, if it's not going to result in a saleable crop (i.e., economic activity where the money spent and collected remains inside of and a part of the USofA economic cycle).

Anyhow, tariffs are extra taxes imposed on Otherland's cotton so that it's not cheaper than USofA cotton. So when you considering removing tariffs, you have to consider whether or not there's any real point, in the end, of continuing in the many, many domestic subsidies that the tariffs help make economically effective.

I'd imagine that an economist would have nightmares about that simplistic explanation and of course it leaves out a lot of critical factors like the lobbying dollars of the cotton industry and, in fact, the amazingly destructive impact on the environment that processing cotton makes anyhow, but my point, which I haven't quite lost sight of yet, is that while I support doing what we can to improve the economies of third-world countries, I'm not sure I support doing it at the expense of the domestic economy which is already pretty much in the toilet, so removing tariffs or rethinking subsidies is something we should really approach with enormous care.

When I re-read sentences like the one above, I wonder why anyone tries to read this blog at all.

You'd be better off going to check out Emma who is in the midst of educating herself about a related topic.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)
Victory, Iraq, Don't Call, etc., etc., etc.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Victory Act. That's the "Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations" for those who haven't read about this drastic expansion of government power yet.

For those who still think your liberties aren't under attack, I suggest a thorough reading and some consideration of whether or not you want this Administration or, really, any government, to have this kind of authority.

Personally, I always look twice, then go find an expert opinion, on any topic where Orrin Hatch and Ashcroft agree. And it does my heart good to hear that the "limited government" convervatives who put Hatch in office are giving him the fish-eye.

Hightower is usually pretty entertaining and he's no less so on this topic.

I was wondering, by the way, where we'd get that 10,000 extra troops for Iraq that Owr Leeders are mulling over sending. Looks like the other arm of the war on 'terror' is going to provide a few of them. Handing over control in Afghanistan puts the USofA troops we'll pull out of there back in play. (No, I'm not saying we'll pull all USofA troops out, but I'll bet our force there gets significantly smaller.)

Also, for those of you wondering (don't you love these little educational features?) why "personhood" for corporations is a bad idea, one simple illustration is the current furor over the 'do not call' list. Corporations are claiming their free speech is being violated by the compilation of a list of people who don't want to hear from them, and if corporations are citizens, they'll probably be able to make a case for it. Which is sad, because the 'do not call' list in Colorado cut down the junk calls at our place by 99% and it's been a blessing. It's scary to think of the flood of calls that we'll get if the ban is struck down.

I am actually curious about this defense of "civil rights" because defending the telemarketer's right to make a living means not defending me against unstoppable, uninvited, and unwanted intrusions on my life. I mean, I'm the one who pays for the telephone, okay? And it ain't cheap.

Do I pay for this phone to give strangers the ability to call me five minutes before the end of CSI and prevent me from seeing whodunit? I do not. Do l pay for this phone so that obnoxious sales calls are guaranteed to prevent me from hearing the end of Frasier? I do not. Do I pay for this phone so that some conglomerate corporation can buy a machine programmed to dial number after number after number until it finally reaches my little machine and tries to sell it time-share? I DO NOT.

It's not that I don't sympathize with the telemarketers who have been curses, hung up on, screamed at, or otherwise abused. I do care. Just not very much.

They think people could be polite. I think that by the time you're getting your third or fourth unwanted phone call in one evening, or one hour, and your twentieth one that week, people need to understand that you're going to be a little testy.

To the telemarketer, it's just one call. To me, it's the 19th irritating, time-wasting, obnoxious call in a row I've been forced to overpay USWest to receive.

When telemarketers come to my house, pick up my phone bill, and pay it every month, they can call me whenever they want. Otherwise, I never want to hear from them.

Okay, I was thinking I was in a better mood than yesterday, but it's beginning to look otherwise.

Deep breath. Calm. I am calm.

A Constitution is a good thing. The Iraqi 'governing council' has been given six months to draft one. I approve. I don't know if this group, handpicked by the USofA, can produce a document that the majority of Iraqi citizens will approve of, but it's a step in the right direction.

Continuing attacks on the U.N. presence in the country won't help anyone, but they really won't help the USofA. I think the reports we were seeing a few weeks ago are exactly o target. Terrorists from all over the Middle East must be gathering in Iraq, just salivating for a chance to actually do battle with the foreign imperialists.

Number of People Living in Poverty in U.S. Increases Again I think that headline pretty much speaks for itself.

Oh, and for those interested in the important stuff about California's gubernatorial-hopeful debate, check here to get the psychic take on the spectacle. It seems that Ahnuld got the all-important space alien endorsement.

I'm not Ahnuld, but I'll Be Back anyhow.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)
September 25, 2003

Another reason why war is waged in Afghanistan.

For some reason, OPEC is mad at the world, or at least the part of it that uses most of the world's nonrenewable power. I dunno how it is at your house, but here in Denver, they're predicting that heating bills will be up to 73% higher this coming winter. That’s good news for the poor, marginally poor, and those living on a fixed income, isn't it? And for the legions of unemployed folks.

"Do Not Call" is is back in play.

I have to ask. Do you consider Arnold a serious candidate? I mean, I know he's serious, but I have trouble taking him seriously. Especially when he refers to traveling to Europe as, "going into the world."

Also, I have to wonder just how it is we decide who's a "terrorist" and who isn't. I mean, when asked to produce proof of claims that an organization is a terrorist front, surely we should be able to do better than to produce a handful of press clippings in support of our position?

Here's a bit more information and speculation on that alleged spy scandal in Guantanamo.

Here's Rumsfeld on nation-building. You wanna know how I know comparing Iraq to Germany isn't valid? It's because Rumsfeld uses the comparison. Also, if the Administration has such an all-fired new and creative way to create a nation, why aren't we getting some details on what it is? What is the point of all this secrecy, of hiding from the Iraqi people themselves the steps we plan to take to help them?

I'm sorry, but he's just not convincing. Especially since the government we set up in Iraq has no power and no authority to do much of anything not previously approved by the USofA military presence, the same kind of situation he cites as existing in Kosovo.

However. I'm going to go on record as saying that it would not, in fact, be nearly as difficult to try and set up a democracy in Iraq as it has been in other countries. Iraq at least has the history of being a secular state with an embryo "middle class." That second qualification is critical to establishing a democracy, a solid base of middling-successful citizens is the foundation democracy rests on. It was the development of a (merchant) middle class that allowed the concept of a modern democracy to evolve in the West.

But that's a longer essay and I don't have time for it now. I have to go back to snarling at my co-workers.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:43 PM | Comments (2)
Good to Bad to Worse

Okay, Bush did something right with that "Protect Act" if it allows us to arrest people who think they're safe when they take their pedophilia overseas. No question about it.

But. If our laws cover what we do in foreign countries, then isn't that like admitting that our Constitution is in force for our citizens, no matter where they are?

Like...things the government does in Guantanamo Bay, for instance?

Admittedly the "Protect Act" was specifically worded to include acts committed in foreign countries, but I think an argument can be made that we either have the power to enforce our laws against our citizens in foreign countries or we don't. If we do, then the Bill of Rights kicks in and the who-knows-how-many detainees in Guantanamo Bay are entitled to proper justice. And certainly we can't hold them until the "war on terror" ends, as one government official said we were going to do. This badly organized, barely effective "war" could go on for ten or twenty years.

I don't actually know, but I find Constitutional Law fascinating, so I like to speculate about these things.

I'm also interested in semantics, so I found this analysis of the phrase "tax relief" interesting. (It's also a plan for Progressives, but read it.)

Dick Meyer has a darned good analysis of political analysis. (Well, mostly he's talking to the "political elite" which is a bit arrogant since he's clearly referring to journalists and pundits and includes himself in the "elite", but his thoughts are interesting and very true.)

And, speaking of interesting, how about a bake sale protesting affirmative action? I mean, the Young Conservatives, to no one's surprise, were illustrating only half the story (it would have been more accurate if they'd offered the cut-price cookies to minorities as left-overs only after whites had had their pick of the goods first, for example) but is it free speech? I think it probably is, yeah.

Do you believe the government really shut down their spy lab? I'm not sure I believe it. Maybe I'm paranoid today, but I don't believe the Pentagon would give up that easily. They get billions upon billions of dollars every year. What could be easier than funneling a few millions toward this kind of project under the table? I mean, they're already admitting they're not actually stopping the entire program.

I think, by any measure, religious discrimination is religious discrimination. It's a scarf, okay? Can the world try and focus on real crimes, please?

I mean, the problem with stories like this is that you can't be sure they aren't true. We've tried to assassinate a number of world leaders in our past. We could be at it again, certainly.

If you want to know how much we care about winning the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people, take a look at the case of the USofA soldiers who shot and killed 8 Iraqi policemen who were, themselves, in pursuit of criminals at the time. Here's the verdict.

As we all know, I'm all about international cooperation (up to a point) and I'm not the world's biggest fan of the U.N. (my support tends to be around fixing the blasted organization rather than throwing out the baby with...well, pick your favorite cliché), but I understand why they're giving us fits now. *

Wouldn't you? I mean, if a bully had kicked sand in your face a bunch of times and told the world they'd swim a mile out past the barrier reef alone because you were too big of a coward to do it with them, would you paddle out to their rescue when they started hollering for help?

Not without a bit of, "I told you so" I think.

I'm just saying. Diplomacy isn't just a way to avoid action by talking things to death and creating new, semantically meaningless ways to describe unpleasant things. It's the necessary grease on the wheels of every, single, successful human interaction and just because you have more nukes than anyone else doesn't mean you can disregard the diplomatic niceties. Much as the Bush Clique would like to believe otherwise, we are not on this planet alone, we cannot do everything ourselves, and no one else is required to cooperate with us if they don't want to.

(* By the way, the way you can tell the visit to the U.N., looking for favors, did not go well, is that suddenly, on this morning's news, we hear that the USofA is now considering sending an additional 10,000 troops to Iraq ourselves. Steven Zunes fisks the U.N. speech. It's a pastime I'm not a fan of, people tend to go off the deep end dissing the rhetoric instead of focusing on false facts, but I know a lot of you like to read these things and this is today's only effort to pander to whatever readers might stop by so enjoy it. Also, Zunes does refute false claims.)

Okay, yeah, I'm in a bad mood again today.

Also, the situation in Iraq is starting to piss me off in ever-newer ways.

I mean, one good reason not to buy in to the conspiracy-theorist model that says that a Right-wing cabal has been planning world domination for twenty years is just how badly they suck at the task. One would assume that even marginally intelligent people would be doing a better job in Afghanistan and Iraq right now, if they'd had twenty years to plan this kind of activity.

Also, I want USofA soldiers and Iraqi civilians to stop dying. That doesn't seem like too much to ask. (Some decent leadership for the soldiers wouldn't come amiss, while we're at it.)

I know, I really believe, that Iraqis could be 5000% better off without Hussein and his ilk. If the USofA can't do a decent job of rebuilding their economy (Our track record on the subject stinks and don't even start with me on post-WWII Germany, okay? It's still apples vs. oranges, no matter how often you bring it up. If you want to do a decent evaluation of our skills at nation-building in this type of situation, take a look at Central America. That's a fair comparison.) then we need to hand over real power to the people who can. No, not the U.N. How about a real Iraqi government, chosen by the people, supported by USofA troops if necessary for a short time? Why not give the real power to the people of Iraq and let the civilian population know that that same Iraqi government is the actual voice in governing the country?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

Not surprisingly, I think the ACLU is right. It's absurd to keep protesters away from Bush while letting supporters crowd around. And don't tell me it's a security issue, either, okay? If you wanted to cause problems for Bush, how stupid would you have to be to not just pick up a "pro-" sign and join the throng up close? I'm just saying, okay? Keep everyone away, or be more even-handed about who you let up close. Keeping protesters out of sight and out of earshot is just politics. Do they think someone's going to shout dangerously?

(Well, maybe they do. Free speech is a pretty dangerous thing.)

I learned this today:

While the United States spends more than $1 billion a week to support its troops in Iraq, less than $2 billion has been spent in Afghanistan in the nearly two years since the Taliban fell.

Afghanistan = Home of actual terroists – less than $2B in 24 months.
Iraq = Home of man who dissed the the US and UN - - projecting $96B in 24 months.

What does that teach us? That it's more dangerous to make rude remarks about the USofA than to actually murder USofA citizens, I guess.

Maybe the Secret Service is right. They'd better keep those shouting protesters out of the way for their own safety.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)
September 24, 2003
A Quick Blog Around

I think that what some of us have failed to figure out is that Bush's speeches, each of which is clearly intended to convey the impression that Hussein was sitting a a pile o'nukes, juggling vials of biochemical agents, were all carefully written so that he hasn't exactly said so in recent months. The phrases in a lot of his speeches are accurate. It's just that the way the entire sentences are constructed leaves an impression that he's said something that he has not, in fact, said. Anyhow, I'm still in the "the jury's not in yet" on the WMD question. I think Hussein probably had some. I think he probably sold or gave some of it away, and hid some of it. And most of it was destroyed by the U.N. inspection team.

David Neiwert has a good entry on the kerfuffle between the narrow-minded, bigoted Horowitz and the civil rights protecting Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Yeah, I know, my bias is showing.)

Jeanne, over at Body and Soul has some good links to a story about what Bush's "faith-based initiatives" could lead to. (I don't know about the rest of you, but I can still remember having to dodge Moon's peculiar acolytes in airports, so I'm not best pleased that they've found a way to tap into the public trough and take my tax dollars that way.) There are, of course, those who interpret the separation of church and state a little differently.

William, over at AtlanticBlog links to an interesting article about antidepressants. I agree they can be overused, and prescribed too casually, but a short stint (six months) on Paxil a few years ago really did me a world of good, so I'd hate to go back to the days when you were just told to slap yourself and get over it.

There's quite a discussion of suicide bombings going on over at Prometheus' site.

I've really been enjoying Tom Burka's blog. He's like on on-man version of The Onion.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)
That's just icky, okay?

Maureen Farrell brings up a point that has always baffled me. Why do conservatives keep harping on Bush's "sex appeal" and "virility" (both of which are nonexistent, as nearly as I can tell)? Why do they harp on these things when these are the exact things about Clinton that they seemed to hate the most? Why do they keep insisting that Bush's, let's be honest, less-than-impressive appearance in a flight suit in an immediately discredited appearance on a carrier ship was the epitome of USofA masculinity? (Maybe they have issues with reality. I mean, maybe they can't tell the map from the territory.) And who, who, can possibly conceive of Rumsfeld as a sex symbol?

A better question might be why it's so often conservative men who make these remarks but, unlike some people, I won't get into questions of sexuality. I don't really care except that I wish Conservatives would shut up about sex. They're voyeuristically obsessed about it. (Specifically, they're obsessed with male sexuality.)

Anyhow, you know how seriously to take the Right's attempt to lay claim to the country's machismo when you realize that Noonan is one of the chief (female) proponents of this attempt to create a cult of personality.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)
Bits of News

I'm in a better mood today, which will disappoint some of you. Heh. Heh.

I think the attempted assassination of one of the appointed council members in Iraq is newsworthy, but I haven't found the story in the USofA press yet. (I did hear about it on NPR yesterday, though.) I guess just one more gun battle in Iraq isn't that noteworthy these days.

The thing I notice about the stories about the airman arrested for spying in Guantanamo is that there don't seem to be any, you know, treasonous activities described.

When he was arrested, al-Halabi was carrying two handwritten notes from detainees that al-Halabi intended to turn over to someone traveling to Syria, the charging documents say. He also was carrying his personal laptop computer containing classified information about detainees and 180 messages from detainees he intended to send to Syria or Qatar, it was alleged.

Okay, knowing this Administration as we do, "classified information about detainees" could be something as simple as a head count. I mean, that's so secret that not even the government knows the number.

Any no one says, or even hints at what the referenced messages are. All things considered, I'd suspect that easily 95% of the messages, if not all of them, are to the prisoners' families.

In one charge, they're claiming he gave prisoners baklava. Admittedly, that could be hugely damaging, but to the prisoners' cholesterol, not to the USofA. If they're really going to base an "aid and comfort" charge against him on that, well, they're going to look like idiots in a courtroom. Even a military one.

Yeah, apparently he took pictures, too although anyone flying over in a plane could do the same. (It does occur to me that we might shoot down anyone flying over in a plane, of course.) And he visited the Syrian embassy without telling his bosses, but there's still a weird lack of any substantive information about any actual spying for any kind of, you know, enemy.

Checking the international press, I find, not surprisingly, more information.

Mr. al-Halabi is charged with eight counts related to espionage, three counts of aiding the enemy, 11 counts of disobeying a lawful order, nine counts of making a false official statement and one count of bank fraud.

Ahhh...and then Reuters comes through with some details, via Yahoo.

Air Force officials said al Halabi, a native of Syria who moved to the United States as a teenager, was charged with attempting to deliver sensitive information to Syria including more than 180 notes from prisoners, a map of the Guantanamo jail, the movement of military aircraft to and from the base and the names and cellblock numbers of captives at the prison.

Notes don't worry me so much, but maps and details of security are a different matter.

I'm waiting to see what else we learn.

If you're on the national, "do not call" list, you might be disappointed to learn that a district court has blocked the law, saying the agency didn't have the authority to set it up.

And a new suspect has been arrested for Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh's murder. It seems they've released the previous suspect after determining his innocence. They're moving very quickly.

There's good news from Iraq today with the story that the priceless Sumerian sculpture, the " Lady of Warka" has been found.

Authorities estimate more than 10,000 artifacts are still missing from the museum, but about 3,500 have been recovered. Some have been found in Britain, the United States, Italy and Jordan.

You want to know who I think we should prosecute? War profiteers and organized crime. The people who move in on a chaotic situation and exploit it for personal gain.

What Iraq doesn't have, as we all know by now, is any Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Just in passing, I'd like to point out that Chirac is mistaken if he thinks he can convince any rational, informed person that the U.N.'s problems all stem around the USofA's admittedly illegal invasion of Iraq.

Here at home, it looks like thae battle is almost over. The one in Texas I mean. Can't find any updated links to the battle here in Colorado, but that's because it's currently being waged with lawsuits in courtrooms, which isn't sexy enough to grab headlines. On the other hand, the case in Pennsylvania is getting a little press, probably because it's the East Coast. I bring this up, among other reasons, to remind us all that the Republican Party is gerrymandering all over the country, not just in Texas. They're attempting to win by tricks a voting majority they don't think they can achieve otherwise. (And my disapproval also goes out to the Democrats who have done a bit of juggling with districts themselves in the past, although on a less organized, less nation-wide scale.)

We might want to mark September 22, 2003, in our calendars. According to Central Command, it's a day on which no soldiers actually died in Iraq.

And I want to say that the Compassionately Conservative Administration was undoubtedly quite right to put a stop to some humanitarian missions to Cuba. Because history in Iraq and elsewhere has certainly proven that starving the general population and denying them healthcare is going to make the despotic, wealthy rulers of those countries cave in to whatever demands we might be making.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)
September 23, 2003
Blogless in Denver

Yep, another blog-free day.

Be grateful. I'm in a foul mood and you wouldn't want to hear my opinions today anyhow.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)
September 22, 2003
Once again

This is a blog-free zone. I'll be spending the day fighting with consultants who ordered the print job from hell and then left town for a long weekend, leaving us to try and clean up the mess.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)