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January 02, 2004
Welcome to 2004

I'm thinking it's really not a good idea to piss off the Supreme Court. Especially for this Administration, which has become known for pushing the boundaries of constitutionality.

Libya saying if we donít lift our sanctions, they're not paying reparations for the people they killed is a little irritating. The problem is, I'm not sure if I'm more irritated because they're playing games or because we're perceived as not intending to keep our word on the matter. (I just don't know enough about the agreement we reached with them.) Maybe I'm just irritated because, if the agreement goes through as it seems to have been originally planned, one of the main "benefits" is to allow UsofA, yes, you guessed it, oil companies to go back into Libya.

And, speaking of WMD, I'll bet we all sleep better at night knowing the security for our own nuclear weapons labs is so exceptionally good, don't we?

There's a video over at CBSNews ("Good" Teens Get Racial Bail) that seems to indicate Seattle has a color-coded "bail" policy for their jails. The darker your skin, the more it's gonna cost you to get out of jail.


Lloyd Garver looks back at things that happened in 2003.

A report revealed that the crime rate in the United States was the lowest in almost 30 years. Obviously, they weren't counting big business crimes. People are still stealing from us, it's just that the thieves are better dressed these days.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to commit to a "road map" to peace. Unfortunately, like most men, they refused to look at the map once they got lost.

[. . .]

The Queen of England knighted the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger. It seems so silly that England honors celebrities just for being celebrities. It would be as if the citizens of one of our states elected a movie star with no political experience as their governor.

Personally, I doubt that anything comes of the French announcement that they investigate or maybe even indict Cheney as part of their investigation into Halliburton's alleged bribing of Nigerian officials. I just have my doubts whether or not a French law passed in 2000 can be used against citizens of other countries for acts committed before the law was passed, okay?

We aren't what we used to be and it's time we faced up to that. The question is, are we going back to who we were or are we sticking with the new "us" and are we actually going to be able to go back if we want to? (Hint: A different president would be a good start.)

Could Republicans become an endangered species? One can only hope that the current face of the Republican Party goes the way of the dodo very quickly.

For some reason, the OpinionJournal thinks a good way of bringing in the new year is to re-run a 1968 editorial about how liberalism collapsed under the weight of its warmongering and an inability to deal with domestic issues.

(It must have been an interesting senstation for Bartley to write this originally. Coming up with the wording of the part where he insists "old" liberalism is dying because everyone is so prosperous under liberal governance that they don't care about liberalism any more or whatever it was he was saying there. I wonder if he felt any unease for dissing "old" liberalism for supporting a coup in South Korea, a shameful act of regime change we should never have undertaken on such feeble grounds as humanitarianism and then dissing "old" liberalism for not breaking out the guns and ammo faster against protestors located here in the UsofA?)

That's not really the point, though. As a look back at "conventional" conservative thought at the time, it's well worth reading.

Among the faults he identified among "liberals" of the time?

The naive view of man, the search for frantic short-cuts, the devotion to commitment ahead of effectiveness, the excessive materialism.

Isn't that interesting? Because if the current Administration isn't frantically searching for short-cuts to their goals and if they're not determined to go ahead with their plans regardless of feasibility and if they're not obsessed with being "on our side" ahead of any question of whether or not "our side" is able to be effective or not and if the current crop of Republican leaders aren't some of the most materialistic we've ever seen, well. . . I guess I don't have to finish that, because they are.

So, based on Bartley's reasoning, we should be waving bye-bye to the Republicans at the next national election.

Still at the OpinionJournal, Claudia Rosett offers some timely words of caution. Offering to abandon his WMD project does not make Moammar Gadhafi any less of a despotic tyrant and the current Administration should think twice before welcoming him back to "the community of nations."

Nathan Newman has a few, rude words about Republican hypocrisy when it comes to unions and massive corporate fraud.

And now, I'm off to experience the joys of housework. Blech.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)
December 31, 2003
Drat

I thought I was done yakking for the day. Honestly I did. I shouldn't have gone blogging around to see what others were talking about.

The problem with articles like this one (Via Avedon Carol) is that it doesn't distinguish between different kinds of "wealth." It's all money, you see. All stuff owned by rich people who are worthless parasites and whose family estates should be taxed at 90% or something, so down with 'em all and let 'em get real jobs!

That attitude drives me nuts.

An "estate" just isn't that easy to define and pigeonhole.

Among that tiny 5% or 2% or whatever it is of USofA citizens whose estates get hit by "estate taxes" are a lot of people that readers of this blog would consider "poor" or at least "average," okay? Owners of farms where the price of real estate has pushed the value of their land to millions and millions of dollars, but who owe corresponding millions to banks and equipment manufacturers. People struggling to live off of land that's been in their family for generations and who are still, year after year, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy - saved or doomed by a 5 cent or 10 cent difference in the price of corn from one season to the next.

Some of those family "estates" are ranches, too. (I don't want to hear horror-mongering about BSE and how the ranchers want to loosen regulations so they can feed us all diseased meat, okay? Don't be stupid. If we all get sick, no one eats beef, and they go out of business, so it's counterintuitive to believe they're deliberately sabotaging the food supply. Besides, owning a ranch is not a pathway to wealth. Again, they have a lot of land that's ostensibly worth a lot of money, but they owe millions and something like the current BSE problem can push the price of meat down to where, no matter how honest and upright the rancher is in his dealings, he goes bankrupt.) They have the same problems. Five or ten cents difference in the price of meat from one year to the next can put them on the streets. Ditto an estate tax. If the primary "owner" of the land dies, the family has to go into debt to pay the tax or lose the ranch. (Remember, their "wealth" is in land. They don't have money in the bank.)

Anyhow. There are a few Rockefellers and some Bushes and the like. So what? So what if they have millions inherited from the profits of manufacturing or something?

It's the freaking American dream, right? Do we want to tax these people because we think inherited wealth is iniquitous or because we're jealous that our ancestors weren't that successful?

It's not that I am against an estate tax. I just think the term is too broad. I can sympathize with wanting to keep the bad guys of the world from inheriting enough money to do damage with, but what about the guy you never heard of who comes from a family with the same amount of money as, for instance, the Cheney family, but who spends 20% or more of his annual income on charitable concerns? Would you rather let him send money to the Red Cross and donate some to libraries and museums, or would you like take the money and give it to the government who will use it to build another bomb?

Not all inherited wealth is misused, not all people who inherit wealth are unworthy, and the idea of taxing someone just because they didn't spend everything they made while they were alive annoys me.

(Of course, I'm not necessarily against an estate tax. Okay, mostly I am. But I could support the concept if there were some way of distinguishing between a character-sapping, morality-erasing amount of loose bills and "wealth" that's tied up in real property and consequently not available to spend funding recall elections in ways I don't personally approve.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:49 AM | Comments (3)
Blah, blah, blah

Of course, by now you all know Halliburton's Iraq oil contracts are in danger, so there's no point in me discussing it. I'll just say that, although I know this will make me unpopular with some, I never assumed that Halliburton was necessarily crooked and corrupt, and I don't assume they won't win a fair and open bidding competition for this project. I just like things to be done right - openly and honestly.

We all also already know that there are rumors the USofA's military didn't "get" Hussein, someone else "got" him and gave him to us. The only thing that matters to me about who "got" them is that we just be told the truth. I don't see that there's any shame in allies, even Iraqi Kurdish allies, having made the actual capture but sometimes I get the feeling this Administration would tell a lie even if the truth would sound better. They seem to lie reflexively.

Someone hacked an electronic voting company, but it was an on-line voting company, which isn't (let us hope) in the mainstream of the kind of "electronic balloting" that most states are currently considering implementing. The security problems the electronic "boxes" would have are dwarfed by the number of security problems an on-line system would have.

I've been saying it for years. They really shouldn't serve alcohol on airplanes or, for that matter, let drunks on board.

I guess all we can hope for is that, should Howard Dean secure the Democratic nomination, the ABD crowd gets over it and joins the ABBA crowd.

They're doing deals in Washington. You give us this, that, and the other, and we'll pass some of your executive nominations on through. (No, not judicial nominees. Other stuff. Ambassadors and some Homeland Security appointment, it seems.)

Well, look at this. A real reporter, right here in the USofA.

We assume Nguyen Vu Binh was 'REAL" reporter because he pissed off the Vietnamese government so bad that they jailed him on trumped-up espionage charges. (Hmmm, "trumped-up espionage charges." Haven't we seen some of those around this country recently?)

Science moment. Go read about dark energy.

Anyhow. It's not that there aren't other things I'd like to be commenting on, but I'm only in the office for a couple of hours today because I have to go to a funeral, so I'd better get some work done.

Everyone have a safe and happy new year's celebration, wherever you're celebrating it!

Posted by AnneZook at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)
December 30, 2003
Hee. Hee.

It's not as good as the Dave Barry column (well, what is?) but the David Ignatius list of stories he hopes we won't be reading in 2004 is pretty funny.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)
All Together Now....

Let's sing a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to Avedon Carol.

I don't know who this guy is, but while we're gathered together, let's have a small ovation for him, okay?

And, yes, a smattering of applause for Republicans in Congress who aren't afraid to join the, "hey, this is all going too far" camp when it comes to discussing the behaviors exhibited by majority leaders during the recent congressional session. There seem to be a sizeable number of disgruntled Republicans starting to speak out.

I don't know what to think of Dionne's column today but I think I approve. (Link fixed. Thanks, Bengt!)

Prometheus is doing a lot of talking about the perception of a growing anti-Semitic movement.

(I finally figured out why this "User Guide" I'm trying to edit for the new software program is such a piece o'crap. Turns out the client hired "experts" to write it. Let me point out that I had no problem figuring out how to use the software when I first saw it but after I read the "Guide" I was completely confused.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)
A king who knows not the boundaries of his kingdom

Haroon Siddiqui:

The administration, invoking 9/11 and the murder of 2,900 innocents as its licence to wage unilateral wars, has so far killed about 10,000 innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq. That's a guesstimate, since America does not count the Afghans and Iraqis it kills in the process of "liberating" them.

Looks like we're still running around making friends and influencing people. You'd think we'd have learned something from Iraq, from the way the U.N. weapons inspectors clearly did a good job finding and documenting what weapons were there, but nooo, now it's Libya and we've decided the IAEA isn't competent to find everything that might be there, so we're trying to get our own team on the ground.

Elsewhere, people ponder our unpopularity with surprise and dismay. Why don't they like us, they wonder, while ordering another bombing raid on an Afghanistan village, or ordering soldiers to break into someone's home at 2:00 a.m. and kidnap everyone they find inside.

Still elsewhere, people continut to point out that we created the problem in the first place.

I dunno who Dotty Lynch has been talking to, but I don't think her "conventional political wisdom" has much to do with reality here in the hinterlands. Still. She admits that the only one of them she believes herself is that Bush is unbeatable. Somehow, from where Dotty sits, the fantasy of Bush "presiding" over a strong economy looks pretty real. For others of us, it's a rumor.

I know I haven't said much about the earthquake in Iran, but that's mostly because I have trouble wrapping my brain around the concept of 28,000+ people dying in a few minutes and a death toll that could rise to 50,000. Sadly, they don't expect to find any more survivors and they're concentrating their efforts on helping the homeless and wounded now. Others, of course, are struggling to make political hay out of the disaster.

This kid deserves a medal. (Thanks to Amygdalagf for the link.) The thought of any kid of that age standing up in front of his peers, (former) teachers, parents, and other "authority figures" and having the courage to tell the truth is inspiring.

All the Weird of 2003.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:42 AM | Comments (2)
December 29, 2003
Stuff that matters

I disagree about the hazelnuts, because I really like hazelnuts, but I'm in totally agreement about the Brazil nuts. There are never enough of them. For what it's worth, I buy mixed nuts, pick out the ones I like (no, not with my fingers) and then bring the rest of them into the office. It's a well-known fact that people in an office will eat anything someone brings in and leaves on the kitchen counter. (There's some good food for thought in The tyranny of politically correct attitudes, so read that while you're at the site.)

There was a plumbing problem in our apartment building last week. Nothing major, they shut down the water for an hour or so and fixed it and flushed the pipes. But somehow, ever since the moment when I turned on the faucet and got no water...followed a few seconds later by a gush of smelly, brown yuk, I've been flashing back to this post from Riverbend.

In case you were wondering, this is what Canadian scientists have been up to during the past year. Recreating the Big Bang is an interesting goal but naturally what caught my eye was the gorgeous picture there on the right.

In some spots, it's a sad tale of who we are but it's all absolutely the "real" America, the one the politicians don't seem to see.

Speaking of cognitive dissonance, and Safire is, why don't some of you indefatigable letter-writers drop him a note and ask him how he can pontificate on how dreadful it is that us Great Librul Conspiraters are more concerned about the secret meetings of a group with the power to directly influence and direct energy policy in this country than we are about the routine, time-limited "closing" of a governor's records while he, Safire, ignores the very unusual step Bush took jumping back a decade or so to seal Daddy's presidential records which is a lot closer of a parallel to Dean's actions than the Cheney thing.

Okay, that got a little confusing. Basically, the step Bush took to seal Daddy's presidential papers up is a closer parallel to Dean sealing his gubernatorial records than the Cheney energy committee thing, except that it's unusual for a president to go back that far in sealing presidential records while it's quite routine for a governor (who is staying in politics) to seal his own records for a time and it's worth asking why Bush decided to take that step and don't give me that "national security" guff again.

Anyhow. Safire seems to have missed this parallel, probably because he was trying to avoid the aforementioned cognitive dissonance.

Not that I care. I mention the whole matter just so I can type, "aforementioned," a word I'm unaccountably fond of.

Maybe I'm blogging wrong and maybe I should revise my methods but since I scan over 100 news sites and blogs a day, I might need a slightly more intensive intervention program than just the gentle advice Dave Pollard is offering. (Thanks to Pacific Views for the link and to Avedon Carol for the link to Pacific Views.)

And if you want a quick review of what happened over the last year, you know, the important stuff, you'll be glad to know Dave Barry's annual review is out.

JANUARY

. . . which begins with traditional New Year's Day celebrations all over the world, except at the Central Intelligence Agency, which, acting on what it believes to be accurate information, observes Thanksgiving.

[. . . . ]

And things only get worse in . . .


MARCH

. . . when North Korean troops invade Oregon, prompting a grim-faced President Bush to declare that "time is running out for the Iraqi regime." But the United States continues to have trouble getting other nations to join the coalition, and is forced to bribe Turkey by giving the Turkish government an "economic aid package" consisting of $37 billion in cash, plus unlimited nighttime and weekend minutes, plus what is described as a "hard-to-get video" of Britney Spears. With Turkey onboard, the coalition now consists of seven nations, assuming you count Guam, Puerto Rico and Staten Island as nations.

More seriously, Lawrence Korb at talks about the damage an ill-defined war with no end in sight does to the all-volunteer military force. I'm no expert, but I think he raised some interesting points. (Mostly though, I got mad when reminded of the infamous Rumsfeld memo blaming the military for their failure to "change" fast enough to be used to fight a "war on terrorism." I always get mad when I read that bit. How lousy is it to blame the fighting forces because their leaders didn't "train" them to fight the kind of war we've never had to fight and that cannot, in fact, be fought along conventional lines with conventional troops? I'm no warmonger, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the all-volunteer military and every time I think of Rumsfeld dissing their results because of failures of foresight on his level, I get aggravated.)

What are ya gonna do in Iraq? Do it Right or Quick?

Anyhow. I have to go back to rewriting the User Guide for the new software, so you're on your own for a while.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:09 PM | Comments (5)
Hmmm

Hmmm.

One can argue that the President is not all powerful, at home or abroad, but this White House has shown just how focused the executive branch of government can be and how it can push its polices through the House and Senate. And the President does have genuine and real input: it is unlikely that the invasion of Iraq, the wholesale scrapping of the Kyoto treaty and the tax cuts that have rewarded the wealthy and left America with an unprecedented deficit would have happened if Al Gore had won the last presidential election, for which he obtained more votes. Howard Dean, the man most likely to take on Mr Bush, has tapped into the anger that many Americans feel about the President, but Mr Bush's approval rating has risen to about 60 per cent following the capture of Saddam. "Smeared" as a liberal by the Republicans, Mr Dean is actually a fiscal conservative and a social centrist. But, more importantly, Mr Dean is someone who has realised that Bush and the neo-conservatives have taken America to extremes, to a place outside the margins of consensus where, to paraphrase Mr Bush's own words, someone is either "with us, or against us". He is someone who realises just how important November's election is.

Hmmm

George W. Bush and his top advisers learned little from the Vietnam debacle of the Ď60s, since most avoided service in the war. But many top Bush aides played key roles in the repression of leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the Ď80s, a set of lessons the Bush administration is now trying to apply to the violent resistance in Iraq.

The key counterinsurgency lesson from Central America was that the U.S. government can defeat guerrilla movements if it is willing to back a local power structure, no matter how repulsive, and if Washington is ready to tolerate gross human rights abuses.

Some of us have gone 'round the bend.

When Robert Dreyfuss of the American Prospect asked an unspecified Bush neocon "strategist" how best to deal with the resistance in Iraq, the response he received was chilling, "It's time for 'no more Mr. Nice Guy.' All those people shouting, 'Down with America!' and dancing in the street when Americans are attacked? We have to kill them."

And here's a little condescending arrogance to round out today's picture of the USofA.

Via Tom Paine, take a look at Bush's Christmas present for Ashcroft. (I can't get the link to the actual text of the law to work and don't have time to fight with it at the moment. If I find a working link later, I'll let you know.)

Obsidian Wings has the right 'spin' on a different subject.

Avedon Carol says that "regime change" isn't appropriate for the DLC and that what we need to do is make sure everyone knows they're idiots (okay, I added a little editorial spin to that) but that's wrong. If we want to take back the Democratic Party, then we need to oust the current inhabitants of the "Leadership" council and install people with voices that reflect actual, you know, Democratic Party beliefs. Either that, or find a way to isolate the "council" itself and to remove it from any position where it can influence what the Democratic Party does, but I don't actually see anything wrong with a "leadership" group that's actually dedicated to "leading" Democrats and not to flimflamming them.

I went to look at this and after I picked myself up and put myself back in my chair, I decided not to look at it any more because I get dizzy really easily. But I am saving the link to use, as suggested, as an identifier for relentless spin in the future.

For what it's worth, I like Cliopatria's new look. I spend a fair amount of time on the HNN site as a whole and anything that improves the readability of any of it is a plus.

Which reminds me that I need to add HNN to the list of sites I should make a donation to in January. I've been trying to send a little support to some of the sites I find most useful or most interesting, but to be honest, it's getting expensive. I read too many sites, I guess.

I got a dolly for Christmas.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:08 AM | Comments (2)