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December 12, 2003
Well?

Can someone tell me how I should feel about this?

Did he do anything wrong? Yes, especially the part about letting/watching his soldiers beat on the guy.

Was tricking the prisoner into thinking he was about to be killed wrong? If the prisoner wasn't, in fact, injured (except mentally), and the tactic worked?

Should he have gone to prison? Should the money he's fined be awarded to the "mistreated" prisoner?

Should I be appalled that I'm not more appalled?

Posted by AnneZook at 03:23 PM | Comments (2)
A few more notes

Sixty-one million here, sixty-seven million there, it adds up.

Why . . . you could fund Head Start or a prescription drug plan for Medicare recipients or HIV/AIDS treatments or give the EPA some enforcement powers with that kind of money. Isn't it a shame the government doesn't have that kind of money around?

There are a lot programs, domestic and international, that they've cut during their tenure that could use that kind of money.

Of course, everything doesn't get cut. Not publicly, that is. Some PR-motivated programs die quietly or are being starved behind the scenes.

Federal spending is soaring.

After all, increasing military spending was a campaign promise. We just didn't realize "military" was spelled H-a-l-l-i-b-u-r-t-o-n.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)
Thought Police

And there's a new story on the government trying to control what people learn.

Already-strapped institutions of higher learning are facing an ideologically driven effort to limit funding for the study of cultures outside the United States.

For nearly four decades, American universities have benefited from the U.S. Department of Education programs funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Title VI provides grants to nurture area and international studies centers and aims to create national resources for teaching foreign language and supporting research and training in international studies and world affairs. But these programs are under threat as neoconservatives seek to place conditions on continued funding.

Read it and worry?

Posted by AnneZook at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)
HAVA

Did you know that the Bush Administration passed HAVA (Help America Vote Act) in 2002, an act mandating the use of those unreliable, uncheckable, electronic voting machines? Neither did I, but they did.

More troubling, the backers of the act and the manufactures of e-voting machines are a rat’s nest of conflicts that includes Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Accenture. Why are major defense contractors like Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed-Martin mucking about in the American electoral system? And who are Accenture and EDS?

Until January 1, 2001, Accenture was known as Andersen Consulting, a part of Arthur Andersen. Despite having offshore headquarters, Accenture is a member of the U.S. Coalition of Service Industries (USCSI), an industry association that promotes vastly extending the privatization and free trade in services via the WTO and GATT. It also is a member of U.S. Trade, the coalition that pushed for fast-track trade authority. In February 2001, Accenture and election.com, the leading global election software and services company, formed “an alliance to jointly deliver comprehensive election solutions to governments worldwide. … The companies will combine their strengths and experience in the development of election software and the use of technology to offer governments new efficiencies that aid election administration.” Election.com also has a contract with the Federal Voter Assistance program to provide online absentee balloting for the armed services. It is expected to be completely electronic, that is, have no paper trail against which to check results.

Read it.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)
Hey

If you're in the DC area, read Ampersand then make a phone call or drop someone a note.

Avedon Carol is on the touch-screen voting story.

Is anyone but me wondering how Bush has any time to actually run the country in between fundraisers?

Oh, wait, I forgot. Cheney's In Charge. Well, okay then.

For anyone who cares, today Charles Pierce, guest-blogging for Alterman explains why Lieberman wasn't entitled to advance notice of Gore's endorsement of Dean. (Scroll down to "The Dean on Dean.)

Looks like today's meme is supposed to be about how Bush is unelectable. I don't understand the joke, but here's my two cents' worth.

Stupid Blogspot is giving me fits today. I could only access about half the blogs I read on their servers. Anyhow I have a conference call to go to now.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:30 AM | Comments (3)
The media, politics, profiteering, and more

The media is at it again. Not only deciding for us who is going to get the Democrat nomination, but picking which candidates they're going to pretend they're "covering" between now and nomination day.

I'd sort of wondered why Kucinich, after a strong early showing, was disappearing off the radar. I should have known.

I mean, the media admits it. They've decided who has the best chance of winning, so they're devoting all of their resources to those candidates while, not incidentally, starving the other candidates of fair and equal time and, of course, turning their initial "prediction" into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don't approve of Kucinich's stance on post-invasion Iraq, but other than that, he doesn't miss by much being the candidate of my dreams. (Unfortunately, foreign policy and certainly the Middle East are just too important these days to overlook a perceived deficiency in a candidate.)

Yes, I wrote to Peter Jennings and the folks at Nightline. I was, I hope, fairly calm but I did tell them in no uncertain words that they were a bunch of idiots. Okay, no, I didn't. It's not the best letter I ever wrote, but I hope I got my point across.

Feel free to call or write yourself.

ABC News World News Tonight - Phone: 212-456-4040 -PeterJennings @ abcnews.com

Nightline 202-222-7000 - nightline @ abcnews.com

Anyhow. Moving on.

I swear I wrote this:

[...] stop treating the upcoming selection of the Democratic nominee like some kind of cheesy "reality show" that you've created in an attempt to sell advertising space.

in my letters to Nightline and ABCNews long before I saw this 2004: One big reality TV script? headline.

The Bush Administration reportedly favors Dean because he's too far to the left for most USofA voters. The mind boggles, but then we remember that they're getting a little desperate.

Al Sharpton would like to see the Democrats return to their liberal roots.

So would the Democrats, Al.

By the way, The Black Commentator has a pretty good piece on Dean, the Republican Party, and race.

Jonathan Rowe says it's important for a candidate not to be a wimp if you want the lorry drivers to vote for you. Apparently, based on the number of people who still support Bush, it's okay to be a lying, sherbet-brained idiot, but that's probably a different subject and anyhow I just remembered that I was going to stop name-calling so I'm sort of sorry I said that except that I feel sort of peevish (big surprise) today and, just to illustrate, take a gander at Dubya citing the disaster of an illegal invasion as a historic achievement, not to mention the "let's leave the problem to our kids" passage of a monstrous Medicare "reform" where the real pain won't kick in until 2006 so that most affected voters won't start hurting until it's either a different president's problem or Dubya is on his way out the door anyhow.

Oh, yeah, he claims to have brought safety and prosperity to the country, a claim I'm sure the millions of unemployed workers and the families of dead soldiers would be glad to discuss with him. Internationally, there are even more people who'd like to discuss Bush's "safety and prosperity" claims with him but, to be fair, he didn't claim to have helped anyone but USofA citizens and, of course, those "good" Iraqis, the ones who didn't die from cluster bombs or from getting too close to the DU shells littering the country. (No doubt, those misguided USofA citizens who felt it was necessary to form a human rights-abuse alert network here in the USofA just don't understand what "safety" really means.)

Halliburton May Have Overcharged Millions. Duh.

But Krugman maintains that profiteering was just a bonus of the invasion, not the whole secret behind it, and I agree. He also thinks the Administration is deliberately sabotaging any chance at reconciling with "Old Europe" and he makes a decent case for it.

If it's still there, the front page of Common Dreams has a good "Now&Then" section today.

NOW: “CDC Director Julie Gerberding said Tuesday in a briefing that the agency is investigating the possibility of buying about half a million doses of flu vaccine from the British plant of U.S.-based Chiron.”

THEN:
Just weeks ago, the Bush Administration backed the drug-industry and threatened to veto legislation giving seniors access to lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. The Administration also opposes recent efforts by states and cities to investigate purchasing lower priced prescription drugs from abroad. The Administration cites "public health reasons" despite the fact it “can't name a single American who's been injured or killed by drugs bought from licensed Canadian” or European pharmacies.

Also then and now, Blumenthal on Gore, although to my mind, the article was as much or more about Congressional Democrats' unwillingness to face the truth about the current Administration as anything else.

If you were looking for proof that Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad was more than just a cheesy photo op, you probably won't find it. The Soldiers Bush Didn't Visit on Thanksgiving are the ones a visit from the commander-in-chief could have done the most for.

Lookee here. George Will says, "Congressional Republicans must assume they will never be in the minority and vulnerable to payback. They are mistaken." (Told you so.) Anyhow, it's a good column dissecting what's been done to "traditional" conservative values over the last few years.

Dickey gives us " Intention Deficit Disorder" (Why the Bush Administration’s good ideas in the Middle East get such sorry results) and Wolff offers "Clear as Mud" (How the administration’s Mideast policy has become confused, murky and weak ), both interesting columns you should read.

On a lighter note, the Land Institute says that we can't all go on Atkins because the planet can't produce that much animal protein. Of course, they're deluding themselves by ignoring the sheer volume of food, including animal protein, that's thrown away uneaten in the USofA every day, and by disregarding the fact that most of the animal protein you're supposed to consume would be fish or chicken, and not beef or pork. But then, we're told they're from Kansas, so I guess being dumb is practically de rigeur for them.

Chrétien is out and Martin is in in Canada.

This coverage of the World Summit on the Information Society is worth reading.

Here's an update on the astonishing disintegration of the trial of that Army chaplain for supposedly being a terrorist.

The queen knighted Mick Jagger? That's almost depressing. We're getting old, aren't we? And respectable.

Give the snowglobe a shake.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)
December 11, 2003
The meaning of the season

This little girl, Makenzie, knows what it is.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)
Oh, I see.

Kevin Drum answers that puzzling question about the Halliburton gas pricing for me. From his perspective it's profiteering. To me, the story also reads like Halliburton is getting gouged by their own sources, but maybe that's the price you pay for being part of an illegal invasion force, hmmm?

The only thing this makes me think is that I was right all along and that some people don't, in fact, actually understand what we mean when we say, "equality" and that Ralph is one of them. I don't know of anyone who has a real problem with " equality of the starting line and the meritorious result of the finishing line." No one of sense wants to eliminate the rewards of merit. Most actual liberals I know are a lot more concerned with the starting line, nor have I ever heard anyone sensible demand to have the race started over when the results reflected actual merit.

Oh, and for those interested in human rights while they shop, check out Katrina's endorsement of NoSweatShop.

Guest-blogging for Eric Alterman today is Eric Boehlert and he has some good stuff, including a bit about that Army Chaplain, Yee, who is being tried for adultery (!!) and having pr0n on his computer since the government seemed unable to find any, you know, terrorism-related stuff with which to charge someone (illegally) detained on charges of being a terrorist.

I missed this yesterday, but David at Orcinus is arguing that the Right isn't content to wait on marketing research to develop "thought police" (okay, no, he didn't see or connect to the story I referenced earlier), they're creating "thought crimes" already.

All over the 'net, people are debating what the "real" reason is that Gore endorsed Dean. Silly me. I thought it was the reason he gave us. Because, like Dean or not (although he didn't say that), he's the only one who has managed to inspire passion in a significant percentage of liberal voters.

Me, as I've said before, I prefer Kerry for experience and ability. I prefer Kucinich's kind of "liberal" aside from what I see as his mistaken approach to Iraq. But I'm not, by any means, anti-Dean.

Read The Non-Political Side Of Politics, because it's interesting.

If you read StoutDem, you'll see that it's too late for gay marriage to make a mockery of the institution of marriage. "Reality" tv already did that.

And in the, "this has to be a joke" category? How about a member of the Bush family, promoting faith-based prisons? I wonder if he's counting on the unconstitutionality to keep him from having to implement, and pay for, this idea and hoping that the mere suggestion will buy him points with those who vote based on religious parade? (It's not just George, is it? The whole family seems to be opportunistic crackpots.)

And Tom Paine gives us a round-up of acts of secrecy by Congress. Notice especially the slimness of the margin in most instances. One vote. Three votes. Notice even more, that each of these votes happened on a Friday. That, as most of us know, is when the government does things it doesn't want to answer for. And the arm-twisting that's gone on . . . this is a disgrace.

Of course, as Daniel Drezner points out, Australia could give any country a run for their money when it comes to badly behaved politicians and certainly the behavior of the U.K. parliament is . . . shall we say, rather amazing, but those examples seem to be about, you know, personal bad behavior and not the kind of strong-arm, political "machine" tactics our guys on the Right are engaging in.

Quite honestly, I'm still confused by this slash-and-burn approach. Do they have some perception that they'll never be out of power, that they'll never have to face the consequences of this kind of behavior? Do they have some reason to think they won't have to face the questions from their own side of the political fence from those "Republicans" who are beginning to be uncomfortable with their party leadership's approach to policy? (Do they know something the voters don't know?)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)
Random headlines

This morning, just to start my day off on a bright note, I listened to NPR's coverage of the Florida case where the developmentally disabled 12 year-old boy playing at "wrestling" with a 6 year-old friend who died as a result of injuries, was tried as an adult and sentenced to life without parole in prison. I have a lot of "issues" around this case but the main question in my head today is why the boy's mother advised the 12 year-old to reject the 3-year sentence he was offered in the plea-bargain. Was the insistence that he was "innocent" tied up with the Florida system's decision to go after a first-degree murder charge? Would she have let him accept a plea-bargain on a lesser charge?

Private armies are back in the news. Seriously. You need to be worrying about this. We spend more money on our military than any other country in the world. Far, far more. Part of it goes to these contractors and you have to ask yourself for just exactly how long you want death to be a profit-based business in this country.

Not only did we hear previously that many of the Gitmo detainees were probably innocent, turned in for the "bounty" the USofA offered, or as revenge for some private grievance, now we're hearing that the upcoming Iraqi war crimes tribunals could well be marred by people, once again, trying to revenge themselves on personal enemies.

Also, it looks like the U.K. is creating a Gitmo of their own. How nice to have allies.

Over at all AllAfrica, they're debating who should get first dibs on available AIDS treatments. With only aboiut 1% of their infected population getting treatment today, it's an important issue.

They've also completed one stage of the biggest head-to-head comparison study of AIDS treatments and found that one is significantly better than the others to begin with.

And I'm sorry, but I just can't agree with a recommendation to pass laws against the wearing of "conspicuous" religious signs like headscarves or (large) crosses. It's wrong. If there's a problem between people of different religions, then deal with the religion thing, get them to talk or agree to a truce or whatever, but don't try to shove them in the closet.

There's going to be a vigil on International Human Rights day to draw attention to the hundreds of missing and murdered women in Mexico, from near the USofA border. I've listened to a couple of NPR stories on this but there is, not surprisingly, I guess, almost zero coverage of it in the USofA media.

On the other hand, the death of one journalist has Editor and Publisher up in arms.

Avoid canned Albacore tuna.

Over at Deutsche Welle, they're honest enough to admit that they very probably would have put the same restrictions on Iraqi reconstructions contracts as the USofA has installed.

No, we don't have the Thought Police in this country, but people are working on it.

It's all about the language.

Have you ever suspected a rude clerk muttering in a different language is actually insulting you? Employers worried that foreign staffers may be making customers uneasy, are turning to English-only rules. But is it fair?

No, it isn't. And if you think clerks are muttering bad things about you, I suggest you examine your own behavior.

(Okay, I've banned two or three IP addresses. Let's see if that slows down the comments spam.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)
December 10, 2003
Look

Read Orcinus today on conservatives "projecting." I think it's a bit naïve to make a sweeping statement that there are no Democrats "projecting" in what they say about Bush, and that all of the Left's objections to the Right are based on fact and objective reason. Also, my own amateur analysis of Bush's personality didn't lead me to the "narcissist" conclusion (although, after reading this, I might change my mind), but by and large I agree with what David says. Especially the part about "projecting" to sublimate anxiety.

Once again, I just have to say to go read everything on Cursor today. They link to such gems as Josh Marshall pointing out that while we're slapping France, Germany, and Russia over not contributing to our war effort by refusing to let them bid on reconstruction contracts, we're also sending Baker over to those same three countries to beg for Iraq debt relief.

The Halliburton gas pricing is back in the news, butI find myself unable to agree that 26 cents a gallon is some kind of outrageous percentage to charge for overhead and whatever "fee" they're referring to. If there's some kind of wrongdoing going on, this story didn't convince me.

Cursor links to a story claiming, again, that Cheney's in charge of the store.

And while most of the media covered the Democratic pile-up to abuse Dean for getting Gore's endorsement, one publication reveals that a few other topics did, in fact, turn up.

Cursor's been good recently. If they keep this up, I can quit blogging and just link to them every day.

Also, it's an older story, but under the heading of, "I'm glad I'm not in Kansas any more," take a look at this one.

GEUDA SPRINGS, Kansas, Nov. 7 - An entire Kansas town will soon be armed after a new law has been passed in Geuda Springs. The city law mandates "every head of household" in Geuda Springs must own a gun.

GEUDA SPRINGS, KANSAS has one paved road, about 50 homes and a city ordinance requiring all of them to have a gun.

The ordinance will go into effect immediately after it's published in the local paper. It reads, "that in order to provide for emergency management of the city, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition."

The ordinance passed here on Monday by a three to two vote. But surprisingly, or not, no one who voted for it would talk to us, not even the mayor, who we tracked down at the local co-op, would not go on camera.

"I'm not going to talk to you about it, simple as that. Just get back in your car and go home," the mayor told us.

"I think it's crazy," said resident, Nathan Cook.

Cook and Scott Ferguson were the two dissenting votes. They say the ordinance was presented and passed all on the same night, leaving even them shaking their heads and wondering why.

"The only explanation that was given that night was to show the surrounding communities around us that we weren't afraid to own a firearm," said Cook.

Still the sun hasn't set on the issue yet. The city attorney is looking over the law to see if it's even legal.

There are provisions in the law that say convicted felons and those with "religious beliefs against gun ownership" don't have to comply.

Here's the kicker: the town doesn't have a police department, so there's no one to enforce the ordinance.

Since I'm whining today, can I ask someone to go over and smack Kansas? Just on general principles, because they commit such outrageous acts of public stupidity?

Posted by AnneZook at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)
Ahem

Okay, I got a little sidetracked with that last entry.

I mean, people are dead in Liberia and yet another Bush-backed "plan" is running into serious international resistance, including a smack in the face from Taiwan, and the web itself is the subject of much discussion by international leaders these days.

There are plenty of things I could have talked about besides ABC's failure to please me with their program on obesity.

For instance, I've read coverage in a couple of places about the death row defendant released because he was found to be innocent. We really need to rethink the death penalty in this country.

James Carroll makes a case for world-wide peace eluding us because war is big money.

Germany is talking about the USofA's petulant refusal to let companies who didn't support the war help with reconstruction in Iraq and pointing out that blocking Canada puts the $190M they've earmarked for the project at risk.

I'm sort of torn on that issue, to tell the truth. Part of me accepts that those not willing to share the risk of "liberating" a country shouldn't reap the immediate economic benefits of rebuilding it. Even, maybe, if it was an illegal invasion of a nonagressive country, although I'm uneasy with that part. But part of me also accepts that there are few, if any, high-minded ideals about security really behind the Administration's behavior. They're just punishing the people who disagreed with them and there's no other reasonable way to interpret this.

And there are people who think a genuine opportunity for meaningful, lasting reconstruction exists, in Afghanistan, and is being squandered, not just by the USofA but by the world and that providing real security to the Afghan people needs to be a priority.

Editor and Publisher has reprinted Paul Simon's last column and it was a good one.

From the same site, Seth Porges asks, What Happened to 'Trust, But Verify?'"

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published an opinion column by a (Republican) Representative who already feels the need to defend his vote on disastrous Medicare legislation, the full effects of which won't be felt by most seniors until 2006.

(Nothing like a little unbiased blogging, right? But I do feel that the legislation is a disaster and people from both sides of the political spectrum agree. The column is just weasely, anyhow.)

Newsday says the new poll leaves Bush in the lead but something tells me that Rove isn't going to be sleeping well with a 49% disapproval ratings hanging over his boy's head. Also, the numbers for the Democrat front-runners are climbing, which looks to me like more and more people are paying at least some attention to the primary races even this early.

How encouraging. The Administration "has taken several important steps" toward resolving the problem of hundreds of interned detained "prisoners" they've taken over the last couple of years.

Last weekend, the administration indicated that it would begin repatriating some of the 660 people detained without any judicial review at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A few days later, the Pentagon announced that it would begin making arrangements to allow Yasser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen, access to a lawyer after more than 20 months of incommunicado military detention.

I'm sure those people are all excited that one guy is getting a lawyer. I'm not going to express an opinion on those "repatriations" until I understand what the Administration means by that.

The announcement on Guantánamo comes just weeks after the Supreme Court decided to review a lower court holding that the federal courts had no jurisdiction to evaluate the legality of the Guantánamo detentions. And the decision to allow Hamdi access to a lawyer was announced on the day final briefs were due to the Supreme Court, which is now deciding whether to take the case. It is difficult to see the timing as coincidental.

Very difficult, in fact.

Here's an LATimes column written by a former detainee, Maher Arar.

Looks like Arnie is finding out that governing isn't as easy as it looks from the sidelines.

Up in Canada, Barbara Kay of the National Post suggests that we add dogs to the list of terrorists that need to be muzzled. I'm not a big fan of pit bulls or rottweilers (sp?) because I think most people who get them, get them because the dogs have a reputation for aggression and ferocity, but a lot of that is in the training, okay?

Dog' aren't inherently evil. They're dogs. Don't blame them for being animals, Barbara. (She says Labrador Retrievers are the only safe dog, the only one that never bites people, and she wants everyone to get a Lab. Speaking as someone who was one bitten by a Lab even though I offered no conscious provocation, I think she's nuts.)

And, speaking of muzzling, here's a case of someone being muzzled, actually fired, for telling the truth.

Elsewhere in the same publication, William Hanley tries to figure out what it was Greenspan said yesterday.

Apparently there are officers, people high up in the military, "career" guys whom, one supposes, fit the military's rather narrow definition of "the right stuff." who think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Doesn't Work. (Big surprise.)

So, the three of them (two generals and an admiral), with a courage that's impressive, came out.

(P.S. Could the morons who keep spamming my comments section with links to medication or pr0n sites please go away? One more time and I'm going to have to start banning IP addresses, something I'd rather not have to do.)

Posted by AnneZook at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)
Not much to say today

There are a lot of dead children in Iraq, but I'm not talking about those stories. I'm sure everyone else will, of course, but I always think these situations aren't as one-sided as they look at the beginning. Besides, beyond sympathizing with the families of the children, I'm too busy feeling sorry for the soldiers involved who are, I am sure, devastated by this discovery.

I guess Iran's Shirin Ebadi smacked the Bush Administration upside the head. Good for her.

And here's the story, no doubt one of thousands today, about the petulant way the Democrat pack of contenders ganged up on Dean last night.

ABC news has an interesting compilation of some recent stories from/on Iraq.

Which reminds me that, after pre-empting the Peter Jennings special on obesity Monday evening, my local ABC affiliate did decide to show it, at 12:30 that night. Fortunately we'd called the station, so we got to tape it and watched it yesterday evening.

I usually agree with Peter Jennings about most things, but I think he (or, assuming this wasn't actually his own work, which we can't be certain of since in my youth television "anchors" were also actually reporters but that's not necessarily true today) whoever researched and wrote the piece took the easy way out.

First, they blamed our obesity on the government, because we have agricultural subsidies, then they blamed the world of advertising, a point I agree with only in the context of advertising to children, which I think should be banned.

I should point out that McDonald's didn't create the concept of "super-sizing" their food on their own - it was in response to consumer demands, both for better value for money and for larger portion sizes.

There are two ways to offer better value - cut prices or increase quantity.

There are fixed costs in any business. The heating bill has to be paid, as does the water bill. Insurance, taxes, salaries, repairs, cleaning, lighting, you name it. There's a percentage of the price of each sale that has to cover these costs, and then another percentage that has to cover the price of the ingredients, and then there's profit.

You can only cut prices so far, usually not far, before you hit the point where any more cuts means that it will cost you more to sell each item than you collect for it.

In today's food industry, as Jennings did point out, the price of the food itself is usually the smallest portion of your costs. That means that it's easier and a more sensible business decision to increase quantity. You can add five cents to the price of the item and sometimes double the amount of food provided.

It's about economics, not about greed or some selfish desire on the part of the "food industry" (as though such a single entity existed) to make everyone eat too much.

You can't blame the government because high fructose syrup made from corn is so much less expensive than almost any other sweetener. Nor can you blame the government because "American ingenuity" discovered 10,000 uses for corn.

It's neither rational nor fair to blame the "grocery industry," who shares, with restaurants, the privilege of working in one of the lowest profit margin industries in this country. They just put the food on the shelves, Peter. They carry what people buy.

You can't kick about "agricultural subsidies" on the one hand and then, on the other, demand to know why our government doesn't offer more "fruit and vegetable" subsidies on the other. You can't be for some foods and against others, not if you're the government.

First, cheap food is what makes this a country where even the very poor can almost always afford a meal.

Second, oranges don't grow in Colorado, Peter. They grow in Florida and California and those two states do their best to keep us supplied with the fruit. All the subsidies in the world won't help if Florida catches the wrong weather at the wrong time and all the subsidies in the world won't make North Dakota a good place to grow oranges.

You also can't plant grape vines in Montana (at least, not with much expectation of getting any grapes), turn Arizona or New Mexico into fertile environments for the mass production of tomatoes or green beans, okay?

Also? Stop picking on the "food industry" for "creating" too many new junk foods and not enough new healthy foods, okay? What do you want them to do? Wave their magic wands and whoosh a new fruit into existence?

Also, get with the times. "Low-fat" foods aren't "diet" foods. There's more to nutrition than calories. Some fruits, in their natural states, contain half a day's allotment of sugars, so fruit isn't some panacea to the problem of being overweight.

There's more to good health than what you eat, people do need to exercise more, most of us are willing to admit it, so cutting that guy off when he tried to talk about sedentary lifestyles was just self-serving and obnoxious on ABC's part. (I do you the credit of assuming you had no control over the editing process of the final program.)

That food pyramid you kept showing us is badly out of date and being revised based on what we've learned about nutrition in the last few decades and everyone knows that but, apparently, you. (Granted, the new one won't be out until 2005, but I'm still annoyed that you didn't give the government any credit for the work it's putting into revising the pyramid.)

Quit aggravating me, okay?

Sheesh.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)
December 09, 2003
Hmmm

Charles Pierce is wrong. He is, indeed, bitter. But the bit where he releases his "inner Ann Coulter" is pretty funny. Plus which, he shares my opinion of Kerry's fitness for the job of president, so I like him. I mean, I really like Alterman's columns, but he's the only person whose guest bloggers I look forward to reading.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)
Still Tuesday

Don't you love the way our "allies" get told what we're thinking of doing, but USofA citizens have to read the foreign press to find out these things?

Jeanne has a lovely tribute to Lennon.

On the other hand, sometimes we make me sick. I think Hersh is right to warn that we may be stepping out into the same territory again. (All via Cursor.)

Really. Go read everything on Cursor today. They're on a roll over there.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:39 AM | Comments (4)
Tuesday

41 soldiers injured by an Iraqi suicide bomber. Sigh.

Molly Ivins expected to find herself supporting Kerry, but Kerry didn't happen. Nor did any of the other candidates she looked at, so she's picking Dean.

David Brooks isn't crazy about Dean and, quite frankly, neither am I.

And I don't know if I'd necessarily call the current candidate behavior "nasty" but, let me repeat, if they'd all have spent more time talking to us and less time sniping at each other, Dean might not now be scooping up endorsements.

Really, all of the shenanigans in Congress are just getting annoying. I realize that Republicans think they're clever, honing the process of partisan politics with their slice-and-dice tactics, but the inevitable backlash that's going to occur when the Dems are back in the majority is a disturbing thought. I just can't get over being simply appalled by the way Republicans are acting as if there's no tomorrow in these situations. Is there some lack of simple, common sense that prevents them from understanding that they'll wind up paying the price for this kind of behavior? Especially when they turn these tactics against their own party?

Okay, the votes are still coming in, but India's vote for the next USofA invasion is, wait for it, regime change in Cuba!

Opinions in Russia are split. Some thing democracy is a dead issue while others say it's just, you know, sleeping.

On the home front, it looks like terrorism trials aren't as much fun as the boys thought they might be. It's more fun to talk about porn and adultery. Maybe that's because, as the article points out, none of the papers confiscated from the chaplin were marked 'secret' or 'classified' so there wasn't much of a case there.

Anne Kingston salutes Playboy today, but thinks it's all a bit passé, really.

A holiday letter, the year that was.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)
December 08, 2003
Shocking tradition

It's really true that half of the world doesn't know how the other half lives. Or dies.

(P.S. On a lighter note, another good reason to admire Avedon Carol: A Discworld fan.)

Posted by AnneZook at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)
In the meantime

Eric Alterman talks with John Kerry and his description of the exchange explains why, although I haven't "picked" a candidate, I tend to favor Kerry.

I have no problem understanding how someone could have been emotionally stampeded into supporting the invasion of Iraq and I admire his honesty in standing up and saying he was wrong. I also like his liberal beliefs and I think he has the experience to handle the job.

With apologies to the Kucinich supporters, I have to say I really don't agree with his, "just bring 'em home" position on Iraq.

We've made a huge mess there. The only thing more irresponsible than the invasion would be abandoning the Iraqi people at this point.

As for the bad things said about Dean by the opposition, well, I take them with a grain of salt, the same way I take a lot of the things said in the media. The media likes to pigeonhole people, to make it easier to adopt an attitude when writing about them but, as we're increasingly discovering, the media isn't necessarily to be trusted.

Also, check out Wampum for news of one of those sneaky, pro-business, anti-consumer rackets.

And read about Blacklist.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)
Mind your manners

Good manners are important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being they're what that allows several million egotistical and belligerent people to live in close proximity without killing each other. Much.

For instance, eating people is wrong. Even if they volunteer.

Meiwes, 41, advertised on the internet for someone he could eat and apparently it took 400 e-mails before he got it right. Quite a few sites exist for people with a predilection for cannibalism, but, like much of the internet, people lie about their age - and their tastes.

According to Meiwes's testimony, several prospective meals showed up at his home, including a man who was wrapped in cling-film with the parts of him he wanted eaten labelled.

But "cannabilees" are picky: the man in cling-film found it "too cold" on the hook that Meiwes had hung him on, so he was cut down and they had pizza instead.

People are just weird, okay? Weird and scary.

And, speaking of eating, please do watch the Peter Jennings primetime special on the USofA and eating tonight. (Scroll down to "More Food For Thought") We saw it advertised this past weekend and plan to watch it. (No, it's not about cannibalism.)

In the "surely not!" category, is there trouble in the Bush - Frist paradise?

In the same category, is the USofA's much-vaunted "productivity growth" over the past ten or fifteen years not actually about traditional productivity at all?

Sometimes those arrested are criminal, sometimes they're falsely accused. The only protection for us all is open and fair trials, with unbribed and unthreatened witnesses and competent lawyers.

Along with their assault on most of the media (not the part owned by Rupert or other conservative defenders, of course), it looks like the Bush Administration has targeted Radio Free Europe for termination. Don't you love the way they hand spend billions to Halliburton in Iraq but can't manage to find a million or two here and there to fund long-term programs with a history of actually doing some good?

Bremer as the new Hussein is a bit extreme, don't you think? I'm not the man's biggest fan but let's be fair - he's in an impossible situation. He doesn't set policy, it's simply his unenviable job to implement it.

Castro's Cuba. What a wonderful place to raise children.

And is this actually the mood of the country?

How many times do we have to say it? Iraq is not post-war Japan.

When you think of "civilization" what image comes to mind first? Indoor plumbing is big on my list. And that includes bathing. Clean, fresh water is something everyone should be able to take for granted.

Terrorism cases fizzling out in US courts: study

A new study of terrorism prosecutions in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks shows that while 184 people have been convicted of crimes deemed to involve "international terrorism", defendants were sentenced to a median prison term of just 14 days and, in many cases, received no jail sentence at all.

How many millions did we give Ashcroft to create a system where grandmothers are asked to stop and take their shoes off in the airport?

I've been checking out Cliopatria and may be adding it to the blogroll when I get time to do a little updating. (I agree with Chris. The HNN blogs have always been amazingly ugly. I've never commented on it before because I do sympathize with those who need to sell advertising to stay online, but still.)

Merry Christmas from Baghdad.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:29 AM | Comments (2)
December 07, 2003
The Vanishing Voter (Thomas E. Patterson)

Public Involvement In An Age of Uncertainty

I tend to judge the value of a book by the number of Post-It flags that are stuck in the pages when I finish it.

In this 186-page book, I stuck 55 flags.

It's more than just, "Why Won't Johnny Vote?" The book covers the 20th century history of primary election reform, voting patterns in the UsofA compared to those in democracies around the world, the evolution of special interest group politics, the occasional migration of those special interests between the Democrat and Republican parties, campaign financing, "attack" politics, voter suppression, and a host of other fascinating topics. This is not casual stab at the problem of declining voter turnout; it's a comprehensive examination of voter discontent.

I don't want to spoil the ending for you, so I won't tell you if there's a reason Johnny won't vote. Nor will I tell you what such a reason might be.

The problem is, I don't know what to tell you that might entice you to read this one.

Maybe because it covers both cause and effect? For examples, on page 12, the author points out that the overall voter participation decrease means that "hard-core" partisans (the "wingnuts") are becoming an increasingly larger proportion of those voting, which contributes to the more frequent defeat of moderate candidates. In turn, Congress has become "a more divided and rancorous institution."

And yet, as many of us have noticed, today's "centrist" Democrats are far, far to the Right of where the Center was in the not-too-recent past, which tells you that the "wingnuts" coming at us from the Right today really are from the very fringes of our society. (And today's Left is coming from what was the "moderate Left" of my youth.)

Patterson's research also tells us that, had the non-voting voters turned out in 2000, Democrats would have captured the presidency (more than just the popular vote they did win) and both houses of Congress. That tells us that it's the Left who are staying home from the voting booths.

Why? Maybe they feel like I do about the current crop of "Democrat" candidates? The Right isn't "winning" the country so much as the Left is failing to retain it? (But would we have lost the party had we not first started staying home? The chicken or the egg?)

Patterson attributes this to the lack of clear-cut, overreaching issues of the type the Democratic party faced n the 60s and 70s. With fewer big ticket issues at stake, the Left is unable to energize itself around the smaller issues at stake. Let me say that I disagree. I don't think we lack clear "Democrat" issues today, and I find it a bit embarrassing that the "intellectual" party is so unwilling to put forth the effort it takes to grasp today's critical issues.

Anyhow . . . back to the book . . . on page 54, I learned that, contrary to what most of us seem to believe, most politicians do, in fact, tend to deliver on most of their campaign promises.

Four major scholarly studies have compared what modern presidents did in office with what they said as candidates. Each reached the same conclusion: Presidents attempt to fulfill their campaign promises and succeed in achieving most of them. Bill Clinton's performance was about average for postwar presidents. A year before his first term ended, he had delivered on two-thirds of his 1992 campaign promises and had pursued half the rest only to lose out in Congress.

Reading this book, I can see that while there are plenty of shenanigans going on in politics, politicians are neither as venal nor as unreliable as many of us believe.

Oh, forget it. Of course I'm going to tell you.

Aside from the influence of special interest groups, decreasing bipartisanship, voter suppression, the lack of grand, party-unifying issues, poorly designed campaign "reform," and other issues, Why Won't Johnny Vote?

It's the media, stupid.

The media learned to distrust what politicians told them during the Nixon Administration and clear, objective coverage of politics in this country has been vanishing, along with the voters, ever since.

The media also became addicted to the star-power of scandal-fueled ratings. They came to see themselves as the story, instead of the issues and people they were covering. Getting their "big break" became everything to them. They all want to be the next Woodward and Bernstein and you don’t' get there by plodding along, doing your job every day. You need a scandal, a big scandal.

While this does the some good in ferreting out actual misdoings (Iran-Contra), it's also true that, deprived of any actual scandal, the press becomes petty and petulant. They're the stars, don't the politicians know that? They, the Almighty Press, need to be courted and wooed and pampered, or, by gosh, those politicians are going to take a fall.

(What, after all, were the lies and exaggerations that plagued Gore except the huffy tantrums of reporters who didn’t think they were being treated with the proper reverence?)

As Patterson points out, journalists also spend more time talking about the news than they do covering it.

When was the last time you heard or read an extended, uninterrupted excerpt from a speech in a major news outlet instead of "quotes" and "sound bites" surrounded by acres of "commentary?"

Anyhow - it's all a war of journalists today and, as I'm sure I've complained repeatedly, we get so much of them and their opinions that there's simply no way to get past them and find out what the actual candidates are like.

Look at the SotU. There's three times as much "pre-game" and "post-game" coverage as there is speech. And the president, no matter who he is, is lucky with that one. It's one of the few speeches he gives in a year that gets uncut coverage by the media and even then, analysis and commentary start before the applause dies away. Newspapers, and networks demand advance copies of the speech so they can research it and prepare their "spontaneous' remarks in advance. That makes them sound smarter and, not incidentally, gives them the chance to mold voter opinion of the remarks before the voter has a chance to make their own interpretation.)

Okay, it's not just the media, dummy. There's one other major significant factor, and that's the incredibly long, drawn-out campaign timeline, especially for presidential campaigns.

It's well-worth reading Patterson's discussion of how this favors big money candidates over others, and reading his analysis of how public interest in the campaigns waxes, and wanes, during the process. (Of course, It's also worth nothing how said public interest waxes, and wanes, in response to...you guessed it...whether or not the media actually chooses to cover campaign issues at any one time.)

The one thing I questioned was on page 93, when Patterson wrote that it "...is unreasonable to expect the press to shoulder the full burden of an informed public, it is reasonable to expect the press to provide a window on the world of politics that is clear enough to illuminate that world."

My question is, "If not the press, then who? What else is their function except to keep us informed, fully informed, about what's going on?"

Are we really at the point where "news" of some actor's marriage/pregnancy/divorce/arrest for shoplifting is considered of more interest and more importance than what our elected officials, the people with the power to shape our country, are doing?

There's more, much more to the book than I've discussed. Buy it, or check your local library.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:50 PM | Comments (2)