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December 19, 2003
Some more stuff

If you like "pictures from space" (I keep hearing, "Pigs In Space!" echoing in my brain) then you need to see this.

Does the rest of the world have a better understanding of what it means to be "American" than this country possesses?

By the way, courtesy of NPR this morning, I found out why Bush's stated policy of a "strong dollar" doesn't mean his Administration is interested in, you know, keeping the dollar strong.

For those of you who, like myself, are mystified by the intrincacies of high finance, the weakening dollar means that USofA multinationals sell more in the international market. So letting the "free market" create a "strong dollar" means the dollar goes lower and big corporations make more money. (And this country becomes progressively less popular with the countries of the companies who are making lower profits because their consumers are buying USofA products, of course.)

I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but I'm frustrated by the way the paper trail of results for everything this Administration does leads directly to increased profits for big corporations.

I'm actually torn on the idea of how much we should do to stay "popular" with other countries, but I'll get to that later.

Freedom of the press is disappearing in Africa. Yes, you should care.

If I weren't at work, I'd hit the Reuters site and take a look at the footage of a USofA tanker being attacked, but I am, so I can't.

Gated communities, a concept imported from the estates of drug barons in South America (but hardly originated by them) and what they symbolize.

WaPo offers a report on K Street's influence on the government but, again, I can't play the video while I'm at the office.

From Krugman today:

The war's more idealistic supporters do, I think, feel queasy about all this. That's why they lay so much stress on their hopes for democracy in Iraq. They're not just looking for a happy ending; they're looking for moral redemption for a war fought on false pretenses.

As a practical matter, I suspect that they'll be disappointed: the only leaders in Iraq with genuine popular followings seem to be Shiite clerics. I also wonder how much real commitment to democracy lies behind the administration's stirring rhetoric.

This brings up a point I've been pondering in my daily commute. Just exactly what is our commitment to democracy around the world? And does our commitment differ from the commitment of our government?

I think our history shows that our government defines "democracy" as a country offering regular elections (for the PR value, one assumes) and a government that's friendly to the USofA. (See: Iran, overthrow of democratically elected anti-American government and replacement by religiously conservative, repressive, nominally pro-American "Shah".)*

Do USofA citizens demand that governments around the world be approved or disapproved largely by whether or not said governments are friendly to the USofA? Do they, as the government seems to do, consider being "pro-American" as being more important than things like a reasonably free market, a functioning legal system, and human rights protections?

Do the citizens of this country consider personal "freedoms" of more importance when defining democracy than bureaucratic policies regarding maintaining trade balances (or imbalances) with the USofA, or do they not?

I don't have any answers on this one. (I'm pretty arrogant, but I stop short of positioning myself as the Mouth of America.) Personally, I think democracy is more important than being pro-American. I love this country but there are days when I'd like to kick us in the shins, so I certainly don't blame other people for not loving us unreservedly. Nor, quite frankly, do I think the world would be improved in the long-term if some kind of global America-worship existed. Inside of this country, our legal system has checks and balances. I think of the international community and the shifting goals and loyalties of all countries as a system of checks and balances on each individual country.

Besides, no one is better able to point out where you're going wrong than your enemies so if nothing else, we need detractors to help keep us on the right track.

Of course, that's a long way from saying I don't think democratic institutions should prevail world-wide. I think any and every country that wants a democratic government should have one. I think every person who wants to live in a democratic society should be able to. At the same time, my worldview is large enough to encompass the concept of a society or culture that chooses not to implement a democratic rule. I wouldn't care to live there myself, but I have no issues around other people making that choice.

Just when you think you've already heard the latest in stupidity, you're proven wrong.

"Go on, throw that ballthrough this here tire" From Dave Barry, who's concerned about his incipient Rig Envy.

( * Yeah, I know, that's a pretty sweeping statement, but I'm all about crass generalizations today.)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)
Friday stuff

My job necessitates doing a lot of web research on odd topics. And odd searches sometimes pull odd results.

Murder Incorporated: Profits from Privatized Prison Health CareL is about more than just privatizing health care in prisons, it's about the conservative movement to privatize every bit of government it can lay its influence on.

You have to love a site that explores the homoerotic themes of Starsky and Hutch with a side trip to discuss the show's frequent forays into transvestitism. (Well, you do if you're me.) It's from the Encyclopedia of Television, a site that tom Mangan quite rightly takes to task for failing to discuss the immortal Gilligan's Island.

Anyhow. Other than that I was interested but not surprised to hear this morning's news that a convoy carrying Paul Bremer came under attack a couple of weeks ago in what they're calling "an assassination attempt" or an "ambush" depending on what you're reading. Nor am I surprised that they didn't report it right away. Wouldn't have been good, having to admit someone was trying to assassinate Bremer on the same tell he was telling illustrious visitor Rumsfeld that security was A-Okay.

My thought isn't so much about how prison guards were abusive to 9/11 detainees as why the report doesn't find slamming someone's head against a wall "brutal." And why the federal justice department declined to prosecute such abuses.

I'm not impressed with the new WTC tower. Mostly I think it's dumb to call it "Freedom Tower" but that's also exactly the kind of jingoistic mumbo-jumbo I guess we have to expect in this day and age.

In Niger, they've freed the slaves in some kind of formal ceremony. I don't understand the nuances of why the people couldn't just be freed but it's good to know that Niger finally got around to declaring slavery illegal earlier this year. Heck, they gave them certificates showing that they own themselves and the right to own other property as well.

Over on CBS, they're wondering if Dean is moving left and Fred Barnes thinks the big problem is that Gore wasn't nice enough to the candidates he wasn't endorsing.

Fred also says that it's going to hurt the Democratic party if it gets taken over by liberals and we need to guard against that kind of thing.

Sometimes reading the news makes my head hurt.

In any case, I have a conference call scheduled in about 2 minutes, so I'd better get my mind on the job.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:46 AM | Comments (4)
December 18, 2003
I Was A Tool Of Satan

Remember this?

[The] cartoon that showed a man in Middle Eastern apparel at the wheel of a Ryder truck hauling a nuclear warhead. The caption read, "What Would Mohammed Drive?"

It generated the predictable outrage from Muslims. (Well, "Muslims" as represented by those mobilized by the activist, highly partisan, and not really nice Council on American-Islamic Relations in the form of an e-mail campaign designed to bring Marlette and his employer to their knees.)

Apparently it isn't the first time this Pulitzer-winning cartoonist has fallen afoul of the 'godly' of one persuasion or another.

One of the first cartoons I ever drew on PTL was in 1978, when Jim Bakker's financial mismanagement forced him to lay off a significant portion of his staff. The drawing showed the TV preacher sitting at the center of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper informing his disciples, "I'm going to have to let some of you go!" Bakker's aides told reporters that he was so upset by the drawing that he fell to his knees in his office, weeping into the gold shag carpet. Once he staggered to his feet, he and Tammy Faye went on the air and, displaying my cartoons, encouraged viewers to phone in complaints to the Observer and cancel their subscriptions.

Jim Bakker finally resigned in disgrace from his PTL ministry, and I drew a cartoon of the televangelist who replaced him, Jerry Falwell, as a serpent slithering into PTL paradise: "Jim and Tammy were expelled from paradise and left me in charge."

One of the many angry readers who called me at the newspaper said, "You're a tool of Satan."

"Excuse me?"

"You're a tool of Satan for that cartoon you drew."

"That's impossible," I said. "I couldn't be a tool of Satan. The Charlotte Observer's personnel department tests for that sort of thing."

Confused silence on the other end.

"They try to screen for tools of Satan," I explained. "Knight Ridder human resources has a strict policy against hiring tools of Satan."

Click.

Go on. Read the whole thing, even if I did excerpt the funniest bit already.

The New York Times is not the Tool of Satan and even if you find you don't have the time to wade through the 90+-page .pdf file of the Seigal Report, you should read Jay Rosen's discussion of the report.

I like the Jim Henley quote, but Daniel at Crooked Timber is right. Pot doesn't cure what ails violent people. The comments on this one are good.

From the front page of Cursor we learn that the government has spent $3 million on investigating 9/11 so far. For a little context, we spent $100 million on Whitewater and, subsequently, the position of Clinton's zipper. I've said it before and I'll say it again - for reasons we may never know, Republicans went on a witchhunt against Clinton. He wasn't the best president we ever had, although I maintain he could have done more had he not been hamstrung by a rabidly partisan Congress, but there never was any reason for the way Republicans reacted to him.

(Also? Republicans are just obsessed with other people's sex lives. That's so icky.)

Bengt is writing about goats and ear-tagging and he's no more absurd than the debate he's reporting on. (And I'm not gloating. "Old Europe" is no sillier than "New Europe" or the USofA.)

Charles at Off the Kuff is writing about electronic voting today. Seems to be something in the air.

Over at Orcinus, David is writing about yet more wing nut conservatives publicly embracing racism and racist organization.

If it's good news from Iraq, you're looking for, take look at article. "Iraqi bloggers celebrate Saddam's capture" from Ryan Pitts at the Spokesman-Review.

(I'm a bit dismayed by the casual dismissal of Riverbend as, "consistently anti-American" which I think is an oversimplification of the emotions of someone who has been living under a repressive regime and then finds they're being forcibly "liberated" and in danger of maybe being killed by a hated enemy regime, but hey, the article was about celebrating Hussein's capture so whatever.)

(Anyhow, Ryan Pitts' blog is called Dead Parrot Society and how cool is that?)

Operation USO Care Package for the troops overseas.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:28 AM | Comments (1)
Voting in the 21st century

I enjoy reading Avedon Carol, and today is no exception but there's one point that I never see anyone discuss about the dangers of electronic voting machines. ( * )

Everyone always acts like getting the machine to print a "paper ballot" is going to prove there's nothing wacky in computerland, but that's just not so. The fixation on paper ballots strikes me as naïve and short-sighted.

Even I, complete computer novice that I am, can envision a system programmed to print a ballot that reflects actual voter entries while, deep inside the system, the "votes" are parceled out between different candidates based on a pre-established weighting system, regardless of the voter's intent.

Only if you collect and count the paper ballots and compare them to the machine tallies every time will you know that the electronic count is accurate. Because a computer can be "reprogrammed" electronically if the right connection to it exists and since it seems evident that some kind of remote monitoring/trouble-shooting systems will be installed, you'll never know from one voting day to the next if a machine has been tampered with unless you count the actual votes. (Since these electronic votes will be transmitted to a central area electronically, you're also going to need significant checks and balances to prove that the numbers generated by the central area do, in fact, match the local or regional totals.)

Maybe I'm more cynical than anyone else, but my dislike of the electronic voting machine idea goes much, much deeper than my objection to the lack of a paper trail. There are times when technology is not an advantage and it strikes me that the voting booth is a moment for old-fashioned pencil-and-paper.

I mean, we've already seen Orwellian attempts to rewrite history by purging the 'evidence' of events unpopular with the government, haven't we?

And what about those electronically purged Florida voter rolls? Doesn't that worry anyone any more?

( * Ouch. Avedon Carol quite right objected that my coverage of the Sideshow's "electronic voting" post was inaccurate.

The truth is, they said they were taking our servers down for a few minutes here at the office, so I did a quick cut-and-paste of the post so I could read it off-line, and never realized that I didn't capture the entire thing.

I don't believe in revisionism, so I'm leaving this up, but I do offer Avedon Carol my sincere apologies.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:29 AM | Comments (6)
A little bit of everything

The commission studying the 9/11 attacks seems to be going on the attack themselves.

This is just wrong. I thought it was wrong when they first started talking about it and I still think it's wrong today. Religious tolerance and secularism do not mean forcing people to hide away any tangible signs of their religious beliefs.

On NPR this morning, they pointed out that in all of France, only 4 girls suffered suspension for wearing headscarves last year and that approximately 1,000 more cases were settled at the local level between the schools and the families. This shows that the wearing of headscarves isn't some widespread problem. It's a tiny issue that's been blown out of proportion by the media.

The wearing of religious headscarves is not going to somehow inflame religious differences. Teaching people they can exist side-by-side with someone whose beliefs they don't share would be a more sensible approach.

The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish citizens of France have my sympathy as they stare down the barrel of this proposed suppression.

And while I'm complaining, let me say that I'm pretty annoyed by the provision of Chirac's proposed law that says Muslim women will no longer be able to request a female physician in hospitals. I think the choice of physician is a pretty personal one and it's none of the government's business what gender of physician someone uses.

Ahem. Sorry about that. Persecution, especially organized, government persecution, just makes me so mad. Here's the Australian's coverage of the story.

If anyone wonders why I'm not voting for Gephardt, those commercials are why.

And I'm not sure if this story is about sports or politics, but it made for interesting reading. " A quick, slick little skater ascends to his 'taskless thanks' with cheers from his old team" is about Jim Munson.

And this was just fun.

"We read Him here, we hear Her there, We chase those true lies everywhere, Whispering scribe of the story we're in, That devilish, dastardly Doctor of Spin!"

If you haven't read Alterman's Nation column, Target: George Soros, then you should hop over and give it a read. (I do love Republican hypocrisy. Note where they've been wringing their little hands over the evil of an individual putting money into the political process.)

Has the Bush Administration really been channeling money into conservative organizations who are promoting school vouchers?

When you have some time, Mark Danner's Delusions in Baghdad It's about guerrilla attacks, warfare as we refuse to accept it, and more.

The United States fields by far the most powerful military in the world, spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, and as I write a relative handful of lightly armed insurgents, numbering in the tens of thousands or perhaps less, using the classic techniques of guerrilla warfare and suicide terrorism, are well on the way toward defeating it.

We really didn't learn anything from Vietnam, did we?

Whatever the political rewards of finding Saddam, they will not likely include putting a definitive end to the insurgency in Iraq "The Americans need to get out of their tanks, get out from behind their sunglasses," a British military officer, a veteran of Northern Ireland told me. "They need to get on the ground where they can get to know people and encourage them to tell them where the bad guys are."

However, he goes on to say that, if anything, the USofA military is moving in the opposite direction.

One of the things I learned from this article is that there was, apparently, an actual plan for fostering the growth of democracy.

After two days of intensive consultations, administration officials unveiled a new policy. They decided to discard what had been a carefully planned, multiyear process that would gradually transform the authoritarian Iraqi state into a democracy—seven clearly defined steps intended to allow democratic parties, practices, and institutions to take root, develop, and grow, eventually leading to a new constitution written and ratified by the Iraqi people and, finally, a nationwide election and handover of power from American administrators to the elected Iraqi politicians it produced.

I question the need for a "multiyear" plan for a country with as much of the democratic infrastructure (psychologically and economically) in place as Iraq has, but I'm equally confused by the Administration's abrupt decision to bail on the plan in favor of handing power over to Iraqis in six or seven months. Possibly if they'd shared this bit of pre-planning with USofA citizens and Iraqi citizens, a decent compromise could have been worked out.

(I'm also suspicious of a "carefully planned, multiyear process" for the outcome of an invasion that was supposedly put together in a month or two, but that's not as relevant at the moment.)

Anyhow. Thanks to A Fistful of Euros for the link.

And check out In These Times for a discussion of how the media historically has largely ignored the USofA's role in putting Hussein in power.

And if you read the Herald-Tribune, you probably saw Risen and Shanker writing about the "secret universe" of global detention systems they claim the USofA has created.

We may have caught Hussein, but what's going to happen to his spy network? (Far from being shocked that it exists, I know that every government in the world, and not a few multinational corporations, maintains spy networks.)

Is al Qaeda winning? "Correlli Barnett says that the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq serve as object lessons in how not to conduct an anti-terrorist campaign."

On a lighter note, as a long-time Asimov fan, I love robot stories.

And supersonic flight is not passé, not for everyone.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)
December 17, 2003
Iraqi health department declares independence

This Elizabeth Thompson Beckley story is from Modern Physician and requires free registration.

In January, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Iraq will become the first independent, accountable department in the new Iraqi government, says Health Minister Khudair Abbas, M.D.

The Coalition Provisional Authority relationship with the Health Ministry, or MOH, has been one of "a good working team," says Abbas, an expatriate Iraqi surgeon who has practiced in the United Kingdom for 23 years.

This is a good sign, I think. Health care is one of those things that, when you need it, you need it now so the fact that this department is getting up and running so quickly is good for Iraq.

Care will be paid for by the state, Abbas says, as opposed to the self-financed system under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"In the immediate and short-term, we will provide free care," Abbas says. "The poor already suffered under self-finance."

He says he has written to the Governing Council to abolish the self-financed system for the near future but acknowledges that the private sector will have a larger role to play in the future.

Hey! No fair! They're getting a better democracy than ours!

(Kidding, children. Just kidding.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)
Real news

Read about our coalition allies

I doubt if most of you waded through yesterday's aimless rambling, so let me say again that this country really needs to stop making allies of evil regimes for short-term gain.

I believe in giving people a second chance, but you have to be sensible. Hiring people previously convicted of drug trafficking, white-collar fraud, and creating/maintaining false computer records doesn't look good if you're the proprietor of an electronic voting machine manufacturer. It's no wonder there are suspicions that all is not on the up-and-up in that field. (I mean, I can see hiring an expert on computer hacking to help with your system security, but I don't see anyone at Diebold or GES claiming that's what the guy's job is.) (Via Buzzflash.)

I was going to write about the Dallas police department and the years' long scam they ran to convict immigrants of drug smuggling in a scheme, as nearly as I can tell, devised to bilk the police department out of money, but I see Kevin beat me to it.

I first heard the story on NPR last night. Apparently around 80 Mexicans immigrants were turned in (in a "nark for pay" scheme) by department informants, subsequently convicted of drug smuggling, and jailed.

The problem is that the informants, who were paid a percentage of the street value of the drugs "discovered" on any such smugglers, were in the habit of bailing up huge amounts of powdered billiard chalk and planting it in the immigrants' cars. Once "field tests" were done to "prove" that the powder was "illegal drugs" the immigrants went down.

In what's equally as bizarre and almost more distasteful, the DoJ, that's the Department of Justice investigated one Dallas police officer, cleared him of any wrongdoing, and declined to investigate or prosecute anyone else in connection with the scheme.

(It might help the Dallas investigators that the informants are in a huff because they didn't get all of the money they think was due to them under the scheme, so one or more of them might decide to squeal.)

Liberty and justice for all. If you're a citizen and you've got the right skin color and you don't live in Texas. You know. If you're "one of us."

Anyhow, here's the one link Kevin's source, Mark Kleiman was able to find on-line.

I've checked NPR's site and you can listen to the audio here under, Tuesday, December 16.

(By the way, you can also listen to the coverage of the story where the courts found the Bush Administration's desire to overturn the snowmobile ban in Yellowstone indefensible and overturned Bush's overturn. Hee. Hee.)

If you check out Cliopatria today, you'll see a conservative bemoaning the degradation (my word, not his) of political conservatism in USofA politics today.

He's also written about today's liberalism and that's well-worth reading (If the links mess up, scroll down to "The Dilemma Of Liberalism's Metaphor") by anyone who didn't read my earlier post whining that conservatives really don't understand what we mean by "equality" if they think we're trying to force everyone to finish the race at the same time.

How paranoid, or unpopular, do you have to be if you're the commander-in-chief and you're afraid to let unvetted soldiers too close to you?

Wow. This may be the best thing I've read this week. (Elayne? If you're reading, this explains me trying to rationalize those obnoxious "free speech zones," maybe? I have "an opinion" that all of my cynicism doesn't seem to dent that the federal government is essentially well-meaning, or at least benign.)

Over at Mother Jones they're talking about the worrying retirement of so many Southern Democrats.

To anyone who thinks the Bush Administration isn't obsessed with (over) controlling their message, consider that they delayed the announcement of Hussein's capture until press kits were prepared. (Via Elayne.) And that's not the most interesting thing about the article. Read it and wonder about that DNA thing.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:21 PM | Comments (2)
Happy National Maple Syrup Day!

Okay, I'm on a diet and I'm not allowed to eat maple syrup and the truth is I don't have a huge sweet tooth anyhow and I'd rather have my pancakes or french toast slathered with butter than syrup, but in the spirit of the holiday season, I'm wishing all the maple syrup ranchers a good day anyhow. Go out and lasso yourself a tree or something.

Tune in tomorrow when we'll be celebrating Bake Cookies Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day. I don't think the two events are supposed to be affiliated although I suppose you could bake cookies while your suckling pig was roasting if you really wanted to. I won't be doing that because my apartment complex has a ban on barbeque grills on balconies ever since some idjit with more lighter fluid than sense set fire to the railing outside his apartment, but I'm on a diet and I'm not allowed to eat cookies or roast pork anyhow, so it's all moot from my perspective.

Yesterday was National Chocolate-covered Anything day. It's probably just as well that I didn't know that at the time.

I've been known to get bored.

Sometimes I go read 4forums. There's an interesting history forum where they're discussing causes of the civil war that I've been meaning to read but it's more serious than I'm in the mood for today.

I always go read the Arcata Eye police log.

Thursday, November 20 12:54 a.m. He pounded on the apartment door while she screamed, but it wasn’t the standard courtship ritual it seemed. They were shooting a scene from a movie. Police asked that the production notify them in advance next time they visit cinematic verisimilitude on affordable housing this time of night.

3:13 p.m. A dumpster roamed into the intersection of Myrtle Court and Shirley Boulevard. It was persuaded to retreat to the sidewalk.

6:04 p.m. A man with a yellow towel on his head was warned about threatening people in a donut shop. An hour later he was reported threatening a woman with death near a Plaza statue, because, he said, she had lost his shoes.

And, under the heading of, "now that's what we call democracy", let's all wish happy holidays to Iraq.

Newswise, consider whether the media is conservative, not because media has become the home of major corporate conglomerates, but because top journalists make a lot of money and that makes them conservative?.

Even more importantly, what is "[p]rogrammatic politics" and is the LATimes allowed to make up its own words that way?

Anyhow, that's all. I just wasn't in the mood to wade through the saddamization of the headlines today.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:44 AM | Comments (3)
December 16, 2003
It's About Freedom

I've been thinking about the USofA and the growing perception that our liberties are being curtailed unnecessarily and unconstitutionally.

I'm going to ramble for a while and, honestly, I suggest you just go read something else if you were looking for today's news or intelligent conclusions drawn from well-reasoned arguments. (I started to use that "cut-away" feature to hide some of this very long post. I know you're supposed to because it makes your blog page look tidy, but I'm not a tidy thinker and I don't see any real point in pretending otherwise.)

Anyhow. Is what we're seeing today really post-9/11 liberty infringement and are the police under orders to smack us all into line, or are the protesters who are objecting to the treatment they're receiving actually going too far?

Or is it a bit of both?

I don't doubt that a group of protesters underestimates how intimidating a marching, screaming, banner-waving mob can look. Individually, I'd imagine that almost none of those people would dream of committing an act of violence against a policeman.

But a mob...well, we all know about mob behavior, don't we? A mob is a thing with over a hundred legs and no brain. It's a kind of contagious insanity. I don't blame the police for taking precautions to protect themselves.

I accept that police are on edge because they're expecting violence and they're probably acting with more force than they might have, say, five or six years ago.

It could be because they're worried about terrorists. Or, you know. Not.

Because based on the idiocy of "university sports fans" here in Colorado, kids at the universities who go on a rampage if their team wins (or loses), stoning storefronts, setting cars on fire, and generally acting like a bunch of criminal thugs, I'd say that the police have something to worry about when they're facing a mob, any mob, okay?

If the police can expect to be stoned by kids who are all beered-up and on an adrenaline high because of some sports event, then isn't it reasonable that the police would expect the same or worse behavior from a group of people waving placards and banners and screaming about something that actually matters, like a war?

Sometimes I think that much of the police behaviors protesters experience are just a sign of the rougher, more violent times. (It's television and movie violence, okay? I don't want to hear any argument about it. Whether the violence in our media reflects an inexplicably uncontrollable violence in ourselves and whether humanity's natural violent impulses are, in turn, fed by the spectacle of constant on-screen violence, it's a fact that the level of violence in our "entertainment" is worrying.)

So, no, I don't think, by and large that there's any conspiracy on the part of the police in this country to oppress protestors. I think we reap what we sow and that what some protesters are reaping today is the fruits of what has been sown in recent years.

Yes, I think we have the same mix of "bad eggs" in the police departments as we've always had and that there are some of them taking advantage of today's climate. I think there are some places where said "bad eggs" might be in a position to issue orders to others and that in those places, the police are a bit more enthusiastic about "controlling" protest than they might otherwise be.

I think we all pretty much understand that "acceptable, non-violent protest" today means you stand in a "free-speech zone" out of sight of the media or anyone else who matters, and that strikes most of us as wrong.

But is it also necessary?

I mean, I don't doubt that Rove & Co are happier if there are no photo-ops where Bush is in the foreground with a bunch of anti-war protest banners in the background, but I question whether the separation of Bush from anti-war protesters has been undertaken for that reason, okay?

It's the Secret Service's job to protect the president and other national figures. Without reference to any partisanship, it has to be understood that if you know someone is likely to be opposed to a president, the job of keeping the president safe is easier if you can keep that person separated from him. I'm not saying that's the reason for the "free-speech zones" but I'm offering it as a possible explanation.

Does it go too far? Yes, I think it does, but I'm not one of the people who is going to die if one of those "protesters" turns out to have a hand grenade under his or her jacket. I'm not likely to be in any danger at all, so am I actually the person to make that decision?

The courts are something of a different case.

Are some of the laws the judges using to prosecute protesters signs that the judges are a little nuts? Yes. Sailor mongering? I hope that judge is embarrassed and ashamed of that particular sentence. Reaching back a hundred years or more to try and find a "crime" you can convict someone of is a bit much.

When Republicans get all outraged and shout about how dreadful those libruls are and how they're destroying the government by heinous acts like blocking the confirmations of some of Bush's perfectly good and not a bit activist nominees, I shake my head. There's "activism" and there's "activism" and while I don't think any of it belongs on the Federal bench, I worry more about right-wing extremism.

It's just that, well, "activist" liberals don't seem to tend toward infringement of personal liberties the way "activist" conservatives do. I can't explain it, it's just a perception I have, but it's what I believe. It shouldn't be that way and certainly the Republican party hasn't always been that way, but that's how I see it today.

Conservatives also strike me as a bit schizophrenic these days. Bush fought tooth and nail against the establishment of a "Homeland Security" department but then he put arch-conservative Ashcroft in charge of it and accepted a repressive, liberty-infringing, potentially unconstitutional 'mission' for it. You might say he didn't have any choice and maybe he didn't about the department's mandate, but he should have been able to do better than Ashcroft if he really wasn't interested in creating a monster.

Someplace inside of that dichotomy is what I'm talking about when I talk about conservative schizophrenia. There are many "traditional" Republican party platform planks I'm actually quite in agreement with. It's the wingnut, "you're with me or you're the enemy" conservatives that bother me and I know it's not an original thought when I say that I perceive that that unsavory element from the far Right has too much power in the party today.

Much as I rail against him, Bush doesn't actually bother me. He's not...he's not significant enough to matter, not himself personally. He's a loser who got lucky by being born into the right family and attracting the attention of a man (Rove) capable of turning a nationally known name and a casual if (I suspect) superficial bonhomie into political assets. Bush was...clay. Unformed, and just malleable to be carved into something that looked like a politician. And desperate enough for "success" that he'd make a good pupil.

Unfortunately, be it through Cheney or whoever, Bush is surrounded by some fairly unpleasant (in my eyes) elements whose 'vision' of where this country should go probably doesn't match that of most citizens.

I swear, I was going to write about "freedom" when I started this post. And I'm not Bush-bashing. I am, however, "bashing" parts of his Administration. I think their extremism, like any political extremism, is dangerous. And I distrust extremism by people overly infatuated with guns, okay?

I'm not talking about domestic "gun control" at all. I'm talking about the big guns, the toys of war.

I think it's been evident for some time that there are conflicting interests at work inside of the Bush Administration. Old-school hawks who have been slavering at the prospect of creating a de facto USofA empire for decades are facing off against the reasonable, realistic conservatives who understand that the world is not our playground.

When I was younger, I didn't perceive Republicans as being stupid. I didn't agree with them most of the time (they were, well, too conservative) but it was a difference in perception of what was right and most of my attention was, I'll admit, focused much more on the social policies of this country than our foreign policies.

Today, I tend to think of the leaders of the Republican Party as both malevolent and dim-witted. Short-sighted strong-arm tactics are being used in Congress today by men who don't seem to understand that their actions will have to be paid for tomorrow. And none of them seem to learn from previous mistakes.

We supported Saddam Hussein, heck, we practically created the man. Ditto Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

Look what happened.

We need to stop and take a good look at how we form international alliances, of the potential costs of the short-term deals we make to achieve immediate goals. We need to start living up to our principles instead of hiring experts to help us get around them.

I don't object to the idea of a strong military that adds some, shall we say, emphasis to our international policies, but I think we have to be careful how we use that kind of power. And we have to stop doing deals with the devil in the comfortable security that, should it go wrong, we can always go in and find a different devil to oppose him later on. (Take a look at the people we're trying to put into power in Afghanistan.)

Not only is it guaranteed to go wrong, boys, it rots the very foundation of our country. It's never right to ally yourself with evil, not even if you think it's in the service of fighting a bigger evil. The ends don’t justify the means. (I know, I know, I've said this a dozen times already.)

The enemy of your enemy is not your friend.

And while I'm quoting clichés, try this one: Liberty and justice for all. Not "for all if they're citizens of this country and inside of our borders and don't happen to have the wrong name or the wrong skin color." For all.

The only tool we have to protect democracy is the law, and it has to be applied, as equally as the fallibility of mankind can achieve, to all people. In exactly the same way.

(Also? A corporation, while entitled to legal protections, is not a person. The country will survive without Monsanto. Monsanto is going to have a little trouble surviving without the people. A country is the people that inhabit it, it's not the incidentally formed business cooperatives that have sprung up to service those people.)

I no longer remember where I was going with this when I started it. I know I was worried about "freedom" in this country but now I seem to be headed toward something entirely different.

Anyhow. Republicans aren't all brainless and violence-prone. Most of them aren't and they need to make their voices heard by the leaders of their party.

Being a Democrat isn't about being a shrill, ineffectual, anti-Republican nitwit or whoever those people in charge of the party today think they are.

Being a Democrat isn't about not being a Republican, which is pretty much all I get from the Democratic leadership today. There are actual principles and beliefs around being a Democrat and, instead of stomping off to a corner and forming twenty-seven splinter groups, Democrats need to make their voices heard by their party's leadership.

And while I'm at it, let me point out that most Republicans aren't racists and most Democrats aren't PCism run amok.

What's that quote? I can't quite remember it and I'm too lazy to look it up. Something about, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

For quite a long time now, the majority of us have been pretty much doing nothing. It's good that a few of us wandered around the internet and discovered the blog-related world of politics, but sitting here blogging or reading blogs isn't going the change the world. It's not even going to change your life.

You have to do something, even if it's something as small as sending an e-mail to your representatives. If you don't agree with what's happening, tell them so. If you do agree, tell them so.

Also, you know, motivate yourself to make the huge effort it takes to drag your lazy behind out to the voting booth once a year. It's a small price to pay for living in freedom but if you're not willing to pay it, don't come crying to me when they foreclose on your favorite parts of the Bill of Rights.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:07 PM | Comments (2)
Blah, blah, blah

We want Old Europe to forgive Iraq's debts. They won't because we refused to let them play in the best reconstruction games. All of those are just bargaining points, everyone adopting a 'tude and strutting around making noises until the backroom boys make a few deals. (For the record, Spain, one of our "allies" in the Iraq invasion, has yet to see any significant reconstruction contract awarded to it. Typical of the Bush Administration which seems as willing to diss its friends as anyone else.)

I thought it was my imagination, but maybe it isn't. Not if other people are experiencing it as well. Actually, no one has attacked me in a parking lot, but I've noticed over the past few years that people are becoming increasingly obnoxious and aggressive in grocery stores.

Over at IBM, another 4,700 high tech jobs may be moving overseas.

Cheney's energy policy secrets are about to be under the microscope. At least, we hope the Supreme Court decides we can take a look at how the policy was formulated.

Salam Pax thinks that now Hussein is in custody, now is when it's going to get tough.

I don't have a personal preference about the trial. I can see the advantages both in the Iraqi trial situation and in the international trial situation. I think it's pretty clear, though, that the USofA government has a lot of reasons to avoid an international court.

Apparently someone asked her and her country Zoe Williams what their favorite book was and it sent her on a tirade.

And Albert Scardino says Bush had better not let Hussein leave center stage just yet because Bush doesn't have an answer for the rest of his problems.

Progressive Democrats in Massachusetts are taking back their party.

Krugman keeps his eye on the prize and tries to follow the Halliburton money trail.

Why are all of the southern Democrats retiring? There's been, what, four or five of them announcing they're not running for re-election next time.

Coffee. Must. Have. Coffee.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)
December 15, 2003
Ethics and Money

Ethics waivers. When are they a good idea? I don't know, but maybe not when a government official is working on a major industry overhaul. I've been watching this story in the industry news and wondering if anyone outside of the medical field was going to demonstrate an interest.

Looking at CNN's main page, I see that the DOW is down 19 points. Bush's "bump" didn't last long, I fully expected to see the markets up for a few days, at least. It's odd, considering that NIKKEI is up 321. I'm not pretending I have any deep understanding of stock markets and maybe it makes sense to "those in the know."

So, I go looking for people who do understand these things. From Dollar reverses gains, hits new low."

The dollar hit another record low versus the euro Monday after President Bush reiterated his support for a strong-dollar policy and said his administration expects the financial markets to set the level for the U.S. currency.

No, I don't really understand what that means. A strong dollar means you do things to make it go lower against other currencies? I don't get that. I did understand this part, though:

In addition, Bush would not rule out new tax cuts next year. "We'll see," he told a news conference.

From the same site, I read This was a super year for tech stocks but that probably won't translate into much job growth in '04.

Was 2003 a strong year for the tech industry? It depends whom you ask. For tech investors, it was a very good year, with the Nasdaq up 46 percent.

But if you're a tech worker, times still aren't so great. According to a recent survey by tech trade group AeA, approximately 234,000 high tech jobs were lost in 2003, building on the loss of 540,000 jobs in 2002.

Also, to illustrate why people like me have trouble understanding financial things, there are two headlines on the "CNN Money" front page, essentially side-by-side:

Broaddus: No inflation worries

PPI drops, but is inflation brewing?

It's like politics, isn't it? What's "true" depends on what you want to believe? None of them actually know what they're doing? That's very annoying, you know.

Are there any grown-ups left on the planet?

Posted by AnneZook at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)
I don't want to be rude

I received a note from someone, saying that they found something I wrote interesting and pointing out that they'd written on the same topic themselves.

So naturally, all flattered and stuff that someone had heard of me (okay I doubt that, but I'm sure they googled around for bloggers who had written on the topic and I was one of who-knows-how-many hits), I went on over to read what they wrote.

So, what's the etiquette for responding to that kind of a note with a new post of one's own that essentially disagrees with 90% of everything the other person has to say, I wonder?

I dunno, so I sent them a note thanking them for the link and warning them that my follow-up was going to take issue with pretty much everything in their post. I mean, lacking any data to the contrary, I'm going to assume that this person is one of us rational types who can be disagreed with without disintegrating into a whimpering pile o'weeping and whining, okay?

(Actually, that's really unfair. I frequently disagree with people on-line and 98% of the time I'm met by calm, rational discussion. I hear a lot about the insanity of folks on-line, but I've seen very little of it myself. The very fact that the person in question provided me with a link to a post that essentially disagreed with mine indicates they are definitely on the rational side of the scale.)

(At this point, I'm suspecting my own motives and assuming this entire introductory section to this entry is purely and simply a way for me to swank around and brag that someone sent me an e-mail.)

(For the rest of you who have dropped me a line from time to time, I promise to get a grip on my ego right now and not to drag your names into conversation and generally make myself appear to be more well-informed or well-known than I am.)

Okay, seriously, my discomfort really does stem from the fact that I intend to take issue with someone who was kind enough to send me a link. Somehow it feels...impolite.

Still.

'Way back a long time ago, I wrote a fairly typical, quick post reacting to the Bush Administration's surreptitious attempt to dismantle the rules and regs around what foods can be advertised and sold as "organic." Specifically I was concerned that an animal fed non-organic feed should not be marketable or salable as "organic" meat and that plants nourished with non-organic pesticides and fertilizers not be marketable as "organic" produce.

In that post, I made a passing reference to DDT which, as I also said elsewhere, seems to have a half-life in the environment, depending on your source, of 30 years or eternity. (Part of the debate comes from whether you're measuring the persistence of DDT in the environment or the persistence of the chemicals it breaks down into.)

(Side note: Persistent organic pollutants in the form of artificial compounds really should be of concern to everyone. It's not whether or not they're gonna hurt you today so much as what the combination of 500 or 5,000 of them in the environment is going to do to everyone and everything on the planet in about a hundred years.

And, to be fair, let me add at this point that while real scientists don't argue about the toxicity of DDT in the environment, not even those infuriated by the publication of Silent Spring, it's also true that scientists are at work on the problem of breaking down DDT and its byproducts, so it's not like "scientists" are somehow trying to ignore the problem or pretending it ain't their fault. Nor do I, personally, blame the scientists of yesteryear for not knowing all of the ramifications of what they were doing when they turned DDT loose on the planet. The short-term benefits that derived from the chemical are not to be denied.)

At this point, I've already completely lost track of where I was going with this post.

Okay. Let's start over.

I wrote a post where I referred, very briefly, to DDT.

Alex Singleton kindly dropped me a note over the weekend to let me know that he (she?) had written on the topic of DDT.

Popping over to look at the post, I find that Alex cites a link to a site with a post "debunking" Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and her contention that artificial chemicals in the environment are killing us and the planet's wildlife, a post that's well-written but fails to supply any authoritative links to back up its assertions.

I also find a quote from Michael Crichton. While I know that Mr. Crichton has a substantial reputation as an author, I'm unclear on precisely when and how his credentials as an environmental scientist were obtained and must therefore decline to accept his unsupported assertion that DDT was a jolly good thing and we should all have a little more. (Okay, that's a rude and misleading paraphrase.)

The point is that I found nothing in the body of the post to support what seemed to be Alex's main contention, that "environmentalism" is "religion" and that you just can't talk rationally to "them."

While I agree that DDT's role in helping fight malaria is important and that consideration of that needs to be given when discussing the "ban" on the use of the chemical in countries afflicted with severe outbreaks of the disease, I also find that my reaction to the inflammatory and quite useless assertion that, "Thanks to environmentalists, malaria kills one million people each year. If environmentists did not exist, malaria could be eliminated with DDT" disinclines me to discuss the topic rationally with the author of the post.

Let me just suggest that any sufficiently strongly held opinion can be indistinguishable from "religious fervor" to those who don't share the same belief system and that those casting that particular stone might want to take a good look at their own glass houses from time to time.

Anyhow. I was aware of the controversy surrounding whether or not DDT is bad for us or the environment before I wrote my original post, much less before today, but there's nothing in Alex's post that encourages me to consider the matter further.

I expect me to write off-the-cuff, knee-jerk posts about whatever topic catches my eye for ten seconds, but I don't portray myself as an "expert" on any of these topics. I expect people posting on what seem to be professionally supported sites to offer a little more depth and rationale for their opinions.

I'm going to bookmark the site and check it a few times anyhow, though. There could be some very interesting stuff there.

Moving on, and sticking (more or less) with the topic, there are some succinct and accurate facts about malaria on-line.

Among the other things we all ought to consider is the statement about insects developing resistance to various pesticides. The increase in malaria deaths could be partially attributable to that. It could, yes, also be attributable to the increasing ban on the use of DDT world-wide.

(The problem, of course, would be moot if we could take the money nations spend on guns and ammo every year and apply it to health-related research instead. The fact that malaria kills more people in a year than Saddam Hussein ever did would, in a better world, make malaria a higher priority.)

Now, let's have a little perspective on the case.

There are reportedly 2.5 million deaths annually in the USofA due to medical errors. Note that these risks are by far the highest in children and remember that these are deaths in the USofA only.

In this round-up from Cornell University, we read that:

The snail-borne disease schistosomiasis,causes an estimated 1 million deaths annually and is expanding its range as human activities provide more suitable habitats in contaminated fresh water. Following construction in 1968 of Egypt's Aswan High Dam and associated irrigation systems, prevalence of the Schistosoma mansoni organism in humans in the region increased from 5 percent to 77 percent.

Note: "Contaminated fresh water" is the culprit. What can we do about the contamination of our fresh water supply? Shall we pour another chemical in it?

And:

Lack of sanitary conditions contributes each year to approximately 2 billion diarrhea infections and 4 million deaths, mostly among infants and young children in developing countries. In the United States, inadequate sanitation accounts for 940,000 diarrhea infections and about 900 deaths each year.

It's not a huge problem here (although 900 is still too many), but it's a major problem in developing countries.

Also, from WHO, we read that deaths from food poisoning could be at over 3 million a year.

In the world today, it's estimated that about 176,525,312 people suffer from type 2 diabetes today. In 1985, that number was 30,000,000. Some have blamed this burgeoning epidemic on diet and lifestyle. (We eat wrong and don't exercise enough.) On the other hand, there are those who suspect a link with PCBs and dioxin, both POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants).

The point Alex (and the rest of you), is that while a million deaths is painful to me, considering that most of those malaria deaths are children, there are not only bigger health problems in the world today, but we need to know that the DDT we're using to get rid of the insects that carry malaria aren't going, in the end, to cause more problems than the malaria.

When you ruin the cake mix by pouring bleach in it instead of vanilla, you can't fix it by dumping chocolate syrup into the mix and masking the taste. The bleach is still there and it's still likely to kill anyone who eats the cake.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)
Blogging Around

Go read David about the furor around Hussein's capture.

And maybe Chris is right. I'm not more relieved by Hussein's capture because I bought no duct tape, stocked up on no bottles of water, and ordered no MRE's from survivalist websites to protect myself from the evil that was Saddam Hussein.. I never believed he had the resources to make him a huge threat to the USofA. (Now bin Laden's organization is a different story - but since there was no connection between it and Hussein....)

Ouch.

Via Jonas Söderström, comes this suggestion that Hussein wasn't hiding. He was a prisoner.

Understand that I've never seen this website before, make no claims as to the accuracy of their reports, and wasn't really convinced myself by the story. But I always like to offer a number of sides to a story if I can.

In that spirit, let me point out that , via Elayne, I got to Billmon making similar speculations.

Sebastian Holsclaw is a good read today.

Via Jeanne's quote of the day, we see that Human Rights Watch thinks that as a consequence of Hussein's capture, things will either get better or they won't.

Watch out for splinters, Kenneth. That's a pretty rickety fence you're perched on.

Via Kevin, what I think might be an even better "quote of the day." From Iraq: "American is very good but we still want salaries," said one man.

To the list of people I find myself agreeing with today, I'm adding David Korn.

It's sad to see that Matthew Yglesias apparently suffers from occasional delusions. How else to explain his assertion that in the "largely monopolist US newspaper scene [...] papers don't fall all over each other to print bogus stories the way they do in the UK"?

It comes as no surprise to most of us that the Bush Administration has secrecy issues.

And Bengt says maybe we ought to put those neo-McCarthyites to work investigating the Administration.

In a post from skippy on Saturday, but still worth reading, I find that many of my suspicions about the supposed "job recovery" were justified. Except for the part where I still suspect a lot of those jobs are temporary, seasonal ones.

Unganisha has a new entry up.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)
Sheesh

We're having a minor snowstorm here in Denver. "Minor" in that it hasn't resulted in much snow accumulation but there's been some major winds. I usually sit my morning cup of coffee on top of my car while I stow my laptop, lunchbag, and purse in the seat. This morning the wind blew the cup onto the ground.

I mention this because I'm bitterly regretting the coffee I didn't get to drink.

Also, the roads that were pre-treated (no doubt with some heinous chemical) were fine to drive on but the ones that weren't were sheets of solid ice.

First it was a small bunker. Then it was a hole in the ground. Now it was a mudhole. Over at ABC it's alternatively a spider-hold and a cellar.

It's not that I'm not interested in the capture of Saddam Hussein, but almost as fascinating has been listening to the story evolve over the last 24 hours or so.

Do you think the USofA really made him shave off his beard?

Are we supposed to understand that he's rolling over on his cohorts already? It certainly sounds that way.

(Someone please explain to Safire that Hussein's failure to fight when he was discovered wasn't an act of bravery and he wasn't planning a noble stand at his trial. He's a coward who is terrified of dying.)

It's not out of the question that Palast's story is the only one I'll remember a year from now.

Some are already asking, "a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1215/p01s03-woiq.html " target="new">will it really matter and ooverseas, it looks like the post-capture glow didn't last long.

And, maybe it's because I was listening to NPR and not Fox or whomever Scheer listens to, but I didn't hear anyone anointing Bush for the 2004 race because of what happened on Saturday. I don't doubt there were a number of conservative or just obedient pundits doing just that, though.

This is no longer a simple world, which may prove to be a problem for the tunnel-visioned Bush Administration.

I notice that CNN's "front page" this morning makes no mention of the two suicide bombings in Iraq today. Nor do most of the major outlets, although the story can be found if you look. (It's worth noting that "experts" predicted a short-term increase in violence in Iraq following the capture of Hussein this weekend.)

Anyhow, the rest of Scheer's argument pretty much matches what I was thinking on the way to work this morning. (In the intervals when I wasn't mourning my coffee, of course.) It's great that Hussein has been captured, but it's not a solution to the problems in Iraq.

Nor does it solve the growing PR problem the Bush Administration has around that ban on war dissenters profiteering from reconstruction in Iraq.

And from whence comes this perception, unspoken but present in most of the news stories I've read, that the capture of Saddam Hussein in some way "vindicates" the Bush Administration? Is the invasion suddenly more legal, have the dead soldiers and civilians been magically returned to life, and is the international community abruptly thrilled with being treated with disrespect?

I'm thinking not, okay? I'm hoping that the jubilation over Hussein's capture doesn't get the Bush Administration off the hook.

German coverage has been interesting.

Hmmm.

I'd also like to know the details of the actual $87.5 billion appropriation Congress passed in a sudden flurry of enthusiasm.

Don't forget the other war, okay? U.N. May Leave Afghanistan If Security Does Not Improve.

I hope Colin Powell makes a full recovery.

And someone still cared enough about political gerrymandering to discuss it with us today. I'm grateful.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)