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November 13, 2003
A few more notes

Ouch. Those blogging from "on the ground" in Iraq have a pretty good perspective on how things are going.

Salam doesn't update nearly as often as he used to, which is a shame.

Heh. That "Toit" person has inspired some interesting responses. So far, I like Ampersand's response best.

Under our official "separations," I think we should include a separation between government and people's career choices. This is an important article and it what it says is true, the government may soon be deciding to take control of what can be taught, and how it can be taught, in our universities. (NOTE: Someone pointed out that I messed up the link, so I'm removing it until I find the story I was reading. The gist was that (conservative) people in the government don't approve of giving money to universities to help finance students who want to major in different kinds of Government Studies programs because, apparently, those same (conservative) people think the professors for such classes are all liberal and anti-American. Anyhow. I'll have to retrace my steps to find the link.) (11/17 - So far, no luck finding the link. If this entry disappears later, I'm not hiding anything but my lousy memory.)

I've never been a fan of Jethro Tull's music, but now I'm considering buying an album (or, I guess I should say, "CD" these days, right?) to show my support. "I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It's easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism." Precisely. (Via Cursor.)

Let's talk about school violence. Or, rather, lying about it to make your city look good. Why am I not surprised to see "Houston, Texas" attached to this story?

Via Chris at Interesting Times, Cheney's got an open mind when it comes to civil unions for gays. That's going to annoy some of his voter base.

I haven't seen anything new today on Molly Holt's death, but I'm keeping my eyes open. What I want to know is why a parent would not only chain a child to a bed but find themselves unable to remember (or whatever the excuse was) where they put the key to the padlock when the house caught on fire? In this day and age, how can anyone be psycho enough to treat (reportedly) mental illness by chaining someone up? Forget the murder charges, the parents have to be mentally ill, themselves.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)
Interesting

I don't think it's a publicity stunt, at least not in a bad way. Bad judges are bad judges and shouldn't be given lifetime appointments to the Federal Bench. And the Bush Administration should be ashamed of itself for trying to force four barely qualified judges through the system.

Senate GOP set to extend floor debate another night If only it was a debate. An honest, extended debate on the merits of the nominees would be good. I'd like to hear a few Republicans stand up and defend their defense of the indefensible.

Read this Melody Barnes column. Fascinating.

And this is disgraceful under any circumstances. It was Veterans' Day, and a Veterans' Day parade. Veterans should be allowed to march.

This report says the Taliban is taking credit for things it isn't doing. Now that sounds to me like an act of desperation.

On the other hand, if you search around, you can find stories suggesting that things in Afghanistan are a lot worse than the neglectful USofA media is letting us know.

Two years after Kabul was freed from the Taliban there's a sense of deja vu about Afghanistan. The striking comparison is not primarily with Iraq, although reminders of the trouble the Americans are having in Mesopotamia pop up constantly. Indeed, in some ways things are worse. Fighting is on a heavier scale, with US helicopters and aircraft conducting almost daily raids on Taliban groups. Swathes of the south have become no-go areas for UN aid workers and NGOs. More than 350 people have been killed by Taliban attackers or US air raids since August, a death toll greater than in Iraq."

Not good.

And yet, the news isn't all bad.

That's war, I guess.

You bet the U.S. wants a speedier handover in Iraq. We gotta get out of there before the next presidential election, after all.

I feel a great deal of sympathy for the Italians for the loss of the peacekeepers in Iraq. Although their country sends troops out, they haven't been specifically "targeted" in so long that I think many of them didn't actually believe there was real danger. Losing soldiers in a 'peacetime' suicide bombing is a hard way to find out the truth.

And, speaking of truth, if you're reading The Guardian's Blog you read truth today. There's nothing most Republican leaders love more than Nader's Green Party. Rumor has it that they've funneled significant funds toward it in the past decade or so, to keep it viable and to keep voters on the left divided and conquered. Nader has about as much chance of winning a presidential election as I do, so those who worry about his leadership are missing the point. The point is that the committed and active liberals in this country, instead of taking back the Democratic Party, are continually being siphoned off by a vocal but unviable candidate.

Worries about the connection between childhood vaccinations and autism are news, we're starting to see a lot more about the problem these days. While we're at it, happily there are some also taking a good, hard look at how some drugs and drug ingredients got approved for use on humans.

Outsourcing is a success. Especially if you're in India or the Phillipines and jobs are being outsourced from another country. (Maybe not so good for the countries losing the jobs, of course.)

Apparently some members of Congress are more reliable than others. But no specific ones, you understand. Just randomly...six is better than eighteen or something. There's sensitive information that's apparently only safe to show a few people at a time since, presumably, it self-destructs if too many eyeballs see it.

Personally, I think anyone writing a briefing for a sitting President had better be offering the quality of analysis they wouldn't be ashamed to acknowledge publicly or there's something seriously wrong. Also I think that acting like Congress isn't capable of understanding the gulf between private "what if" analysis and a document ready for prime-time viewing is pretty insulting.

Now that the disaster of NAFTA is well-entrenched, we're considering adding FTAA to the problem. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

The FTAA would open up all markets and public services to transnational corporations, giving them carte blanche to run business without any government or civil-society oversight.

Admittedly, that perspective is a bit biased, but it's also pretty accurate. Fewer constraints on the power of transnational corporations to do, well, pretty much anything they can get away with, is not really what we need.

A perfect example is when Bechtel, based in San Francisco, privatized the water system of Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1999 under an International Monetary Fund structural adjustment policy. Bechtel gouged prices, making it impossible for many residents to afford basic services, such as drinking water. As a result, Bolivias civil society pushed Bechtel out of the country through mass protests.

The company is now suing the Bolivian government for $25 million in damages in a closed-door arbitration tribunal, a mechanism adopted in a clause under Chapter 11 in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which will also be included in the FTAA. The public has no access to these hearings, yet the public carries the burden of decisions levied with public tax money.

You can't just go around privatizing the things people have to have to survive and trusting to a corporation's good intentions or "free market forces" to eventually make it all work.

This legislation isn't good for us or almost anyone else. Except, of course, "transnational corporations." They stand to do pretty well out of it.

I don't think it comes as a surprise to many of us to read that Limbaugh's appeal is that he's...welll...simple-minded. Bitter sound-bites. He encapsulates hatred in two words or less. He appeals to the worst instincts of his listeners, many of whom seem to be desperate to believe that they're better than someone. And that, really, is what they get from him -- a sense of smug superiority. (Well, that, and the other thing they really need - someone to blame when things don't go their way.)

Let me confess that while I've started reading The Moscow Times in the last year, for coverage of Russian news, I've been reading Pravda for several years, off and on, because it's a lot more entertaining. And sometimes, like when it discusses the USofA's quest for a foreign policy, it's also thought-provoking.

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark joins candidates Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich in supporting latest attempt at a constitutional amendment to "prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

Thereby desecrating the flag that stands for the right to desecrate it.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:54 AM | Comments (2)
November 12, 2003
Hee. Hee.

Well, I laughed, anyhow.

Read this entry from Tom. (I somehow missed this one on the first when he posted it, but thanks to the invaluable Avedon Carol, I saw it today.)

(Also? I share Tom's enjoyment of Stephen's blog, although I read it mostly for the recipes, and also his dismay at learning that Stephen is an admirer of Rand's work. I always see Rand as the kind of thing you become enchanted with in college and then quickly outgrow.)

How long have I been sick, anyhow? I thought it was only two days, but I seem to have missed linking to a lot of worthwhile stuff. Like this one from Andrew over at The Poor Man.

Eric Alterman has some handy pointers for those on the Right who think the anti-Bush crowd has anything in common with the anti-Clinton crowd. Some of it is a bit "apples and oranges" and it's not his best writing, but it's interesting reading anyhow. (I should be the last person to scold someone else for letting their bias show, after all.)

Mostly I agree with what Hesiod has to say, but I don't agree that it's Bush's fault that the situation is Iraq is so bad. I don't know who's actually calling the shots in the White House, but it's not Bush. Not in the sense that he's "leading" us, I mean. (Okay, in that sense, maybe I do agree with Hesiod. Bush is responsible because he's supposed to be "leading" the country and he's playing chairman-of-the-board instead.)

I think there have always been powerful "factions" in this Administration (natural when you have a weak 'leader') and the worse the public situation gets, the more these factions start to come out of the shadows and turn on each other. I think whoever is talking loudest at the moment is who gets their policies implemented. I also think that as successive rosy scenarios fail to materialize, Bush's "favorites" tend to change - that is, whoever he's listening to at the moment is probably whoever wasn't responsible for the last screw-up. (Again, behavior typical of a weak 'leader.')

The only thing I'm sure about in this Administration is that they lack a serious, cohesive plan for how to implement the outrageous (in my mind) policies they support. (Well, I'm sure of something else, too - that no matter how badly their cherished, ivory tower policies fail in real life, they're never going to understand that the flaws are fundamental to the design. But I'm not a famous political pundit or a scholar on the subject, so I won't bore you with my rationale.)

In the, "the mind boggles" category, take a look at John Hawkins trying to position Wolf Blitzer as a tool of the liberal media. I kid you not.

This Sebastian Holsclaw post makes uncomfortable but thought-provoking reading.

If you're feeling up to it, go read something disgusting, or outrageous (via Cursor).

Or go read something interesting, here or here.

(And let me offer sympathy to Elayne who is facing one of the perils of maturity...bifocals.)

P.S. Go read Morford. He's right.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:01 PM | Comments (1)
A few notes

I read these stories in despair and ask myself, "who thought this man was fit to be president?" but the only answer I get is, "political and economic extremists in search of a figurehead."

Krugman says they're a bunch of radicals. He also says they're getting away with it because their opponents are reasonable people who can't be brought to believe that they're as crazy as they seem. (A slight paraphrase there.) It's a fascinating interview, especially when he gets onto economics.

They say we're winning in Afghanistan, but are we? It looks to me as though that war is still being fought every day.

This is cool. Interesting commentary from the left, the right, and the (significant) fringes, all in one place. I can't imagine wanting to read a Bush Blog, though. (Actually, from what I read, there's no reason for anyone to read it, but I bookmarked it anyhow. It should be good for a laugh from time to time.)

Sometimes you read something and you wonder if the writer has lost their mind.

On the other hand, sometimes you read something and find it inexplicably charming.

Turns out that yesterday's bad mood had less to do with just being cranky than with a case of food poisoning. I'm...better today, but I'm not really feeling my best. I think I'll focus on work today and maybe indulge myself with reading what everyone else has to say about what's going on.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:15 AM | Comments (1)
November 11, 2003
10 Peevish Things

At the moment, I'm aggravated by a number of things.

#1 – People who will not drive when the light turns green at intersections. I'm not one of those who demands that the driver in front of me slam on the acceleration the instant the light changes, but I'm also not someone who views with indifference the sight of a man chatting on a cell phone with oblivious indifference to the traffic piling up behind him. Hang up and drive, moron.

#2 - Able-bodied people who push the "automatic open" button on doors, You know the buttons, the ones designed to let handicapped people maneuver wheelchairs or crutches across a threshold without having to try and hold the door open at the same time. The sight of an able-bodied person who feels unable to muster the effort to push open a door infuriates me.

#3 - People who take the elevator down one floor. Seriously. If you're in reasonably good health, take the freaking stairs. Your heart, and your butt, will thank you. Down, okay? About twelve steps. Lazy pig.

#4 - And, speaking of elevators, people who dash onto a crowded elevator and then hold the door open so they can finish a conversation with someone who isn't getting on also annoy me. Inconsiderate jackasses.

#5 - People who change lanes in traffic without signaling. I've been watching this for the past year and every time someone signals they want to change lanes, the cars beside them move to let them in. Why do some fools prefer to rudely dive from one lane to another without signaling their intention? Do they want to have an accident or do they, as someone told me, feel that the rules apply to everyone but them?

#6 - Loud radios at red lights. Okay, I'm getting old and cranky, but probably I don't like your music and if I'm sitting in traffic with all of my windows rolled up, your radio shouldn't be so loud that I can't hear the radio in my own car.

#7 - People who fight with cashiers. It's not the cashier's fault if you picked up an item with no barcode, if the brand of butter you want isn't the brand that's on sale, or if your coupon expired six months ago. Shut up, pay for your groceries, and get out of the way.

#8 - Grocery carts. They're too big. I know that's supposed to make it easier for us all to buy more, but you can't fit ten items into one of those carry baskets and the new, oversized carts are too big to fit into the express lane. If I want to buy 40 items at the grocery store, I can go alone, but if I only need eleven items, I have to take someone with me to help carry them.

#9 - People who steal grocery carts.

Also? People who steal grocery carts and then abandon them on the roadside.

And people who, having finished with their grocery cart in the store parking lot, just give it a shove out of their way and drive off. Return it to the store or put it in one of those "corrals" the stores provide, you slug.

Most things about grocery carts annoy me.

#10 - Having to work when I'm in a bad mood and should be allowed to curl up at home with a novel and pamper myself. I hate being a grown-up.

If ever there was a day when I needed a few kinds words, deserved or not, this is one of them.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:19 PM | Comments (2)
Yes, I'm still in a bad mood


Hee Hee. Look at that, a Democrat with a spine!

Kick a puppy for your country!. Seriously. If this guy has been out there harassing the anti-war folks "for months" he might actually need some help. Anyone who asks an armed policeman what he's done for his country lately is clearly in need of therapy.

I was in just the right mood to read what Emma wrote.

And what Susan wrote.

And I was already mad, I didn't need to read a transcript of the press corps getting McClellan to admit that the government sympathizes with those who have been tortured, but thinks it has better uses for any money it finds than, you know, upholding the law and compensating them.

More unethical shenanigans from the people who brought us the Florida Voter Purge? For the record, I don't think renaming the disastrous and failed "Total Information Awareness" to "The Maxtrix" makes it any less frightening but it was a good PR move.

Jonas Söderström has a good entry (in English!) on McDonalds' outrage over the inclusion of "McJob" in Merriam-Webster. Me, I say that if working at McDonalds wasn't the essence of mindless, faceless, interchangeable roboticism, the word wouldn't have been coined in the first place, but that's just my opinion, of course.

Go take a look at the entry and then consider whether or not you want to support institutionalizing what is, after all, an American institution, the entry-level, assembly line job market that is, I should add, pretty much the only part of the "jobs" economy that shared in the recent and much-touted look! new jobs economic "expansion."

(Also, in spite of my grumpiness, I'm pleased to see that the informal "Swedish words and phrases" document I'm creating for myself is getting big enough to help me at least begin to understand a Swedish language blog. Obviously I'm not going to get the nuances, but it's a start.)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)
Terrible Tuesday

I'm in a bad mood, okay? Every single person I talked to yesterday was making an effort to misunderstand everything I said, so I spent most of the afternoon explaining to whiny consultants and clients that things worked, yes, exactly the way we promised things were going to work and no, nothing had changed just because they had a sudden epiphany that what they asked for wasn't what they wanted.

We understood what they wanted and that's what we gave them, so shut up and get on with it. And? If you're a consultant that we're paying to work for us, you'd be advised to be a little less obnoxious and hard to work with.

Under the heading of "stupid idea of the week," let's put this. Enough said.

I don't know if oil transparency is a good thing or not as far as the international community goes, but certainly I think our dealings with Iraq's oil industry should be transparent. As for other countries, if the government is making money from selling oil, I think citizens are probably entitled to know how much.

I think it's time and past time that the blasted government stopped approaching the USofA voter base as a consumer group. I'm sick of them wasting taxpayer money on ads and billboards to sell themselves. It's just all too Orwellian for comfort, okay?

If they want publicity, they can get all they want, free of charge, just by putting Shrub in front of a microphone. I'm not aware of a news agency or newspaper in the country that doesn't cover press conferences. Wanting to avoid answering hard questions is insufficient reason for hiding from the public. It's the Republican Party's own stupid fault for buying the presidency for an inarticulate dweeb.

This morning on NPR I heard that Bush's Veterans' Day speech, given in conjunction with laying a wreath on a soldier's grave, included a line about how today's veterans are an inspiration for the nation and encourage others to join the fight against terrorism (paraphrase) and I'm thinking that the dead soldiers probably aren't quite the recruiting tool he thinks they are. Story.

Coverage of deaths and casualties varies , depending on what paper you're reading but I'd have found this article more interesting if they'd been interested in more than just papers from towns around military bases.

The war we keep forgetting about is still being waged in Afghanistan, you know. People are fighting and dying and in some places the terrorists are winning so let's have a little attention to the story, okay?

There's no easy out for the Bush Administration on steel tariffs so let's all just wait and see which road they decide to take.

The road to "economic globalization" seems to be lined with potholes. Good.

Looks like looters have returned a couple hundred more items taken from the Iraq Museum during the invasion. I like that. I like it that the stuff is being returned and I like it that the idiots on the right who said it was all looted by Hussein years ago and had nothing to do with the breakdown of law and order when we bombed the city are having to admit that they were wrong.

The Republican Party, home of the billionaire's club for private campaign funding, thinks it's hypocritical for those on the Left to fund their own issues and campaigns. 'Sanctimonious twerps' is the phrase that comes to mind. Quite frankly, I'd rather be owned by Soros than by Halliburton.

I am so crabby.

If I were the U.K., I'd tell Bush to stay home. It's bad enough that there are No Free Speech zones routinely established here in the USofA but they don't really have the right to try and shut down London. If Bush doesn't already know that his invasion of Iraq and the bungle his Administration has made of the occupation are unpopular, it's time someone let him in on the secret. (Yeah, I know, disgruntled citizens can be dangerous, but it's London, not prohibition-era Chicago. If getting yelled at is more than Bush's bitty ego can take, he should stay in the White House residence and not answer the phone.)

Torture is bad. It wouldn't seem like we'd need to keep explaining that, but in view of continuing stories about how the USofA hands over 'detainees' to countries less squeamish about that sort of thing than we are, it bears repeating.

Also, some people need to understand that the ongoing situation in Iraq not only confirms our worst fears about how bad an idea it is to invade a nation that isn't engaged in the act of menacing you, but is part of the original protest against the invasion. It's all related, see? You invade, you occupy...it's like a series of connected events, okay?

It's apparently okay to be a peacenik if you're not talking about Iraq, though. (Actually, I approve of this one, but I'm cranky, so I ain't saying so today.)

And in an interesting and, I think, convincing parallel, Maureen Dowd points out that Iraq is not Vietnam. It's Afghanistan, we're the Soviets, and it's the 80s again. She also debates, briefly but entertainingly, the reasons Bush II and his cronies each had for lusting after this invasion.

"The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react," Bush said ... The Moscow Times doesn't think much of that and points out a few potential historical parallels to this fallacy.

And add one more country to the list of Middle East nations who have regretfully had to decline to help us pacify Iraq. The latest one is Iraq.

And maybe another nail in the career coffins of those who supported Chalabai and the rest of the DoD's handpicked 'governing council members' for Iraq.

The United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq's political future

Imagine that. You installed a council of expat opportunists and they turned out to be, well, opportunists. Who'd have believed it? Bush&Co aren't happy with their appointees, which pretty much breaks my heart.

And it's Brooks who's naïve, not those who suspect that government contracts can be "steered" toward friends. Brooks' main point seems to be Drezner's statistical analysis that shows that political donations aren't directly connected with contracts. I believe that, but I also believe, based on my own experience with government contracts, that there are few things easier than a little gentle "steering" of funds toward a favored contractor.

However, all of that aside, there aren't many companies out there with the resources or experience to do what needs to be done in Iraq. And that's the truth, okay? There just aren't an unlimited number of oil well fire fighting experts, and the same goes with a lot of the services needed in Iraq right now. The government doesn't have dozens of choices and there's a great deal to be said for working with a firm that, aside from overcharging for some things, has a reputation for doing decent work.

You know what you should be worrying about? Worry about the legislative process in Congress, okay? I say, from now on, any bill that isn't important enough to stand on it's own and that can't take an open and public debate, should never make it to the floor. No more riders. No more wasteful and dangerous pork.

Here's a little rule-of-thumb you can all use. Any time those around you, or opposed to you, are clearly possessed by the spirit of evil, you need to understand that you're sick. No, it's not them. It's you.

And that goes double for politicians who think some deity has given them a mandate to wipe someone else off the face of the planet.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)
November 10, 2003
Aha!

Via John McKay, let me point out that this is censorship. It's also revisionism and propaganda and distasteful on all three accounts.

Pressured for time, and hoping to avoid political controversy, the Ministry of Education under the US-led coalition government removed any content considered "controversial," including the 1991 Gulf War; the Iran-Iraq war; and all references to Israelis, Americans, or Kurds.

Good grief.

Also, that "Toit" person (the quotation marks are because I don't know if this is a pseudonym or not) who wrote the whiney essay about how Real Men Don't Need Wimmen and people who renege on their car loans should be shot down in the streets? Someone at Philosoraptor, a blog new to me, coins a new word for us, "duToitified" and defines it. There's also a long entry on the Toit rant that you should read.

You become duToitified when you’ve got it so good that you lose all perspective on the world and as a result exaggerate minor unpleasantries into vexations of Biblican proportions. That is, you become an insufferable weenie.

Hee. Hee. I got there via Avedon Carol's discussion, which you should also read.

Welcome to the Machines points out that not all manufacturing jobs are going elsewhere. Lots of them are disappearing into the black hole of "improved productivity." (That means, machines are getting the work.) Susan has some thoughts on the matter, as well.

Cheney Rules, although not in a good way. But we knew that, right?

And this has been bothering me all day. On NPR this morning, I heard them introducing a deputy secretary (I think) at the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He explained that his job is to monitor what the government is doing in the 'war on terror' to see if we're using the same tactics today that we've used, and that have gotten us into a lot of trouble, in the past.

You know. Supporting repressive or terrorist regimes, turning a blind eye on dictators and despots that imprison or abuse their political opponents. The kind of thing we've done dozens of times. The sort of behavior that led to the formation of the Taliban in the first place.

It's good to know there's someone whose job it is to watch us and see if we're doing that kind of thing any more.

But. He didn't talk about it to any extent I heard. No one seemed to ask him if he saw any signs of the government doing that, how much 'access' he had to file reports on potential problems, or even if he was giving the current Administration a clean bill of health on the subject.

And all morning I've been wondering what questions they asked him before I happened to hit that button on my radio dial. So far I haven't been able to find the story on the NPR site or anywhere else. It's very frustrating.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)
We make me tired

Well, we do sometimes, okay?

First, UNESCO is trying to get the subject of national film & television rights and marketing moved from the WTO agenda to the UNESCO agenda under the grounds that it's as much or more "cultural" as it is a business, I guess. Makes sense to me but of course the USofA, who has a lot more influence in the WTO than in UNESCO is professing astonishment that other countries might think a binding international agreement that allows each country to promote and protect their own industries is needed. (From NPR this morning.)

Then, over in Nigeria we seem to be not only endorsing, but indulging in 'state-sponsored terrorism.' I had my doubts about the bounties we placed on Taliban and al Quaida members and reports like this make me even more inclined to believe they're a bad idea.

Guatemala had their elections. Early estimates show the turnout at over 80%. If you live in any part of the "free world" and don't vote, you should be ashamed of yourself.

(I know I am. Through a mistake, I forgot to take my ballot with me when I left for work last Tuesday. By the time I got home that evening, it was too late to drop it off anywhere. I make me crazy when I do stupid things like that.)

Pakistan's professed outrage over discovering that the U.K. bugged their building is too predictable to be interesting. Governments have been bugging the offices of foreign powers on their soil since...well, since the invention of bugs. Friend or foe, makes no difference. Every few years a story like this breaks and everyone involved expresses outrage as though it's news to them. Then it drops off the front pages and it's espionage-as-usual for a few more years.

Remember a few years ago, the Big Tire Scare, when they were recalling tens of thousands, if not more, faulty tires? Seems that there's at least a small resurgence of that problem. It's not good, not good at all that this is a tire that seems to be in common use on "rescue vehicles."

Also, once again, the Bush Administration demonstrates its deep caring and concern for the troops. Not.

And the controversy over "The Reagans" miniseries goes on. Cowardice is what the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial calls it, but they do support my view of the problem which is that economic pressure is not the same as censorship.

And who's pushing the electronic voting machines on California? Former state officials who are now employees of the folks making the machines. (Registration required)

I'm just saying. I know this is common practice in Washington and in the states, hiring people with government experience and "contacts" to push your company's good and services, but it smells. Government officials in positions of power and influence, who have the power to award contracts, should be banned from accepting jobs from companies doing business with the government for, let's say, seven or eight years after they leave office.

In the Good News Department, we have Al Gore standing up publicly and accusing the Bush Administration of using the "war on terror" as a private power grab to implement a secretive and repressive rule. It needed to be said. Whether it's true or not, there are enough questions being raised publicly that it needed to be said and it needs to be fully debated in public and under the glare of spotlights. (And none of that limiting questions to the "approved" list stuff, either.)

Also, blogdom's own Chris Albritton, of Back to Iraq 2.0 is in the news. Not only his phenomenal success in getting readers to fund his independent trip back into Iraq, but for what he learned when there.

Also, when I post incoherent rants about how we should make a few changes to what we're doing? The ones where I have complaints, but no answers? I love the internet, because if you wait a day, you can always find someone who articulates it better and has the germ of a plan.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)
November 09, 2003
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Palast)

The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters (Greg Palast)

According to Greg Palast, that list of infamously purged Florida voters (now at 90,000 and overwhelmingly Democrat) contains the names of over 4,000 "convicted felons" whose conviction dates in the official records are blank. That's because those inconvenient dates were, upon investigation, found to have been, somewhat inconveniently, located a touch too far in the future. (some of them in the next millennium) for verisimilitude.

After all, it would be difficult to explain how one had come by the knowledge that any specific voter was going to be convicted of a felony, even in so short-term a prophetic prediction as, say, 2007.

The best thing I can say about this chapter in the book is that the stories get a lot less entertaining from this point on.

Not that Palast doesn't have a humorous and engaging writing style, because he does, but that was in Chapter One and after that you get into the Bushes and the billionaires (the buying of America) which includes such gems as Shrub's first pass at a federal budget, which included a "big, fat zero for the key EPA civil enforcement team."

Also:

Bush put vice President Dick Cheney in charge of the committee to save California consumers [because of the power crisis]. Recommendation number one: Build some nuclear plants. Not much of an offer to earthquake-prone California, but a darn good deal for the biggest builder of nuclear plants based in Texas, the Brown and Root subsidiary of Halliburton corporations. Recent CEO of Halliburton: Dick the Veep.

Add some more discussion of Bush family ties with the bin Laden family and a frank and distasteful story about Bush Senior's (post-presidential) ties to a corporation accused of wholesale murder to gain control of rich Tanzanian gold fields, and the chapter makes uncomfortable reading.

California, Enron, and the deregulation of the UsofA power industry also get a chapter of their own. This is a story where there's plenty of public documentation through newspapers, magazines, and online.

Suffice to say that the story is even more dishonest, unethical, and criminal than your daily newspaper reading might have led you to believe and none of the random selection of events I chose to verify was untrue. All of the public events Palast described and that I went looking or documentation or verification on were quite true.

Next up: Globalization.

There are about a dozen specific steps, but the key ones are: cut government, cut the budget and bureaucracies and the rules they make; privatize just about everything; deregulate currency and capital markets, free the banks to speculate in currency and shift capital across borders.

Sound like the policies of any presidential Administration you know of?

But don't stop there. Open every nation's industry to foreign trade, eliminate those stodgy old tariffs and welcome foreign ownership without limit; wipe away national border barriers to commerce; let the market set prices on everything from electricity to water; and let the arbitrageurs direct our investments. Then haul those old government bureaucracies to the guillotine: cut public pensions, cut welfare, cut subsidies; let politics shrink and the let the marketplace guide us.

What this means for all of "us" around the world who didn't happen to be born into families of power, is described in this chapter. There's no way to pull out handy sound-bites from this one, you have to read the chapter which is fairly heavy on dates and statistics, so let me just copy Palast's quote from Andy Grove, chairman of Intel corporation:

"The purpose of the new capitalism is to shoot the wounded."

Sixty pages of very sobering text that I'd like to believe is exaggerated or even completely made up. I'm having a little trouble with that at the moment.

Next up is corporate America - an interesting hodge-podge of stories about how the UsofA media bows to money, the cult of Sam Walton is weirder than you'd believe the privatization of prisons, and more.

In Chapter Six, Palast exposes the money-grubbing hypocrisy of Pat Robertson and I enjoyed every word of it. (Oh, yeah, he exposes a few other things. Like Monsanto's Viagra campaign and a few unsavory details about the Exxon Valdez disaster.)

The book covers a lot of other territory as well. McDonald's, Enron's contribution to the collapse of the U.K.'s energy distribution system, Argentina (a country with perpetual problems and some astonishingly close ties to the Bush family) and more.

I meant to write a review, not the kind of content recap you could get by thumbing through the book's pages, but I guess the truth is that I'm so appalled by what I've read that I'm not yet sure how to react.

I remember that yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, when I heard yet another story of a child expelled from a school for bringing a dangerous weapon onto the premises (it was either a paper hole punch or a small paper cutter this item, I don’t remember which), I remember I got to thinking about the way kids are raised today and the world they live in and I was wondering why, instead of trying to change the kids, we couldn't change society to better serve and fit human nature.

You know. Outlaw guns instead of sex. Give violent movies an automatic X rating and not treat sexual relations like a dirty secret. Leave room for individualism and creativity and not try to straitjacket us all into little conforming, consuming robots. That kind of thing.

But now? Now, seeing what people who have the freedom provided by power and money actually do with themselves, now I'm not quite that fond of human nature any more. (Not being criminally inclined myself, I tend to discount the extent to which others are law-abiding because of the threat of punishment and not because it's, well, the right way to behave.)

Anyhow. Yeah, read the book. But don't read it all at one sitting. You might find the cumulative evidence of corruption in high places discouraging. (If you do, turn to page 343 to check out the "Resources for Action" section.)

Posted by AnneZook at 03:50 PM | Comments (1)