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January 16, 2004

I think this appointment should be overturned. Using a Congressional recess to slap your political opponents in the face . . well, it's the kind of arrogance this Administration is prone to, yes, but it's a bad move. *

Who gets divorced? (Hint: Bush's constituency.)

Hee. Hee.

( * I'm just saying. I'm beginning to wonder if this Administration's complete disregard for the future fallout of their behavior doesn't have a rather obvious foundation. If the constant trumpeting of The Wonderfulness of George, complete with multiple photo-ops where he turns up wearing a halo, isn't trying to cover up one, simple fact.

The Republican leadership is trying to hide the fact that they don't believe Bush is electable.

He wasn't elected last time, and he didn't have Afghanistan and Iraq and the disaster of Medicare and tax give-aways to wealthy friends dragging at his heels then.

And now? Is the guy electable?

If they thought he was, would they have started raising such obscene amounts of money so early in the election cycle? If they think he's so beloved of the American People, just why, exactly, did they think he needed $300 million or however much he's raised in order to get re-elected?

Think about it.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:30 PM | Comments (2)
Oh, wow

Now this is something I'm going to listen to. "The Library of Congress has just placed recordings of former U.S. slaves online." But at home, via my cable modem.

I've never read this guy's blog and I don't owe him anything, okay? And yet...part of me wants to donate because it's the right thing to do and because what these Marines are planning fits my idea of how USofA soldiers should be interacting with the Iraqi people. But when I check out the website, and I see that made-for-tv photograph of the Hussein statue being toppled, I find myself pulling away, wondering if I've stumbled onto some political group.

But then...no...I read the website and it looks okay. No mention of tagging 'gifts' with little (Christian) bible versus like the Baptists are doing. No mention of tiny USofA flags or "go, George!" tee-shirts.

I have a few, selected charities and I rarely donate outside of that circle. Too few dollars, too many needy people and causes. Mostly people. I rarely give generically to "causes." But this is about people, right?

Someone tell me if these people are crazy or if they're really who they claim to be. I really want to support this if it is, in fact, a legitimate (non-partisan and religiously unaffiliated) opportunity.

(P.S. That whole, "Canadian citizen deported to Syria and tortured" story? At the time, I just wrote it off to insanity and arrogance on the part of our goverment that they'd slap Canada in the face that way. Now, as often happens, more details are coming out it seems as though the story is not what it seemed.)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)
For What It's Worth

Stories like this make me really happy for the Iraqi people, regardless of how I felt about the invasion.

Looks like the ol' Iraq Governing Council is no more popular than those damned Yankees sometimes. You have to love the bit where he swears they aren't pandering to fundamentalists because "we don't have fundamentalists in Iraq." (You're reading Zeyad, right?)

As Riverbend points out, the problem isn't actually with the original religious laws. It's with modern interpretations. Good thing that kind of rewriting of the original or discrepancies between versions or even just pages doesn't happen in other religions, huh? If it did, we'd see extremists from other religions presenting their own interpretations and trying to use them to repress anyone they didn't like.

You should start a savings account. No point in counting on Social Security for your retirement, even if you've been paying in for the last 30 years or so. They spent it.

But you do have to admire their single-mindedness. I guess. Whatever half-baked idea they have, they keep pushing it.

The media's role in elections is summed up by the LATimes as the kind of problem you get "When the Handicappers Have an Interest in the Race." Basically, now that they've "sold" Dean as a headline-grabbing phenomenon, they're bored with him and besides which, if he locks up the nomination early, they're out of headlines for months.

It's a dilemma. If you choose to break the law, should you be resigned to take the consequences when they appear? It's not always an easy question to answer, but in this case, we can hope that the court case leads to an examination of the essential unfairness of sanctions that penalize everyone except the privileged leaders of the governments they're supposed to hurt.

Robert Tagorda takes Drudge to task for quoting out of context to create a problem where none exists.

If you read Neiwert today, you might think we're not interested in home-grown terrorism. I think this is a big mistake on the part of the Bush Administration. They shouldn't be fooled by the fact that George Dry Hold Bush wasn't able to find it - there's plenty of oil under them plains!

Prometheus has a new look. Still some bugs in the system, but looking good.

Bush doesn't look good when his Administration goes to such extremes to shield him from protesters.

"He needs to make the case as best he can that people are better off and more secure than they were four years ago, and that maintaining the status quo is the better course for the nation,"

The mind boggles.

Of all the things you hear a rational, legitimate government promising, promising to kill a political opponent, even one who encourages violence is pretty rare.

But they've been taking lessons from the USofA. You know they have. That "Terror Prevention Fence" thing has the Bush Administration's fingerprints all over it

Arthur Silbur takes Santorum to task for disparaging remarks about Edwards. Mr. Santorum's knowledge of the topic (government) and his own perception of how it oughta be do not impress Mr. Silbur.

If you visit Tom Paine, you can download a scorecard of issues to use to score the SotU.

If you read Katherine at Obsidian Wings, you'll get a bit of perspective on the whole $1.5B that Bush wants to encourage poor people to get married an d stay married so that they're not eligible for federal assistance when they're starving. (Said perspective doesn't make the idea look any more intelligent.)

Look, no hands!

Looking at her, I'm feeling a little bitter myself. Avedon Carol is right. Margaret Cho looks pretty good. And she's intelligent and funny too. Hardly seems fair, does it? But that doesn't make it right for those mouth-breathers to spew venom and hate her direction just because their cult leader decreed that she was a target.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:47 AM | Comments (2)
January 15, 2004
The Great Gilded Depression Age Pendulum Who Knows Thing

(Or: Back on the diet and in a bad mood)

Only twice before in the history of this country has so much wealth been held in so few hands.

The first was the famous "Gilded Age" characterized at the beginning by industrial depression, unemployment, and large-scale strikes, not to mention a fast-growing gulf between the agrarian West and the industrial East. Beginning with the election of the "progressive" Roosevelt, voters began seeing results for their demands that they not be sacrificed or subordinated to the interests of business. The latter part of the Age brought Administrations to fight secret trusts (essentially monopolies), and to work for conservation of natural resources, regulation of industries, and labor rights.

The second era was the 1920's. Short version: The unequal distribution of wealth concentrated power into the hands of a (greedy) few who took to speculating and brought the country down with them. The problem was exacerbated by Coolidge's pro-industry Administration which passed legislation favoring industries and benefiting those with the wealth to invest in them, further consolidating wealth.

Such an extreme unbalance in the distribution of wealth makes the economy unstable, okay? In case it's not obvious, let me point out that Rickie Rich can only eat so many meals a day. If you take the money from 1000 people and give it to Rickie, then instead of the economy seeing 3,000 meals 'sold' a day, with the accompanying economic activity, the economy sees only three meals sold a day.

Because the "meals" industry isn't selling enough to make a profit, they triple the price of a "meal" and the 4,000 people "above" the thousand, Rickie-deprived in the economic chain have to cut, let's say, from three meals a day to one meal each (12,000 "meals" a day down to 4,000), and then the "meals" industry has to raise prices yet again and now of those 4,000 people, a thousand of them can't afford a "meal" at all and the next 5,000 up the economic rung, who were barely eating after the price tripled the first time can no longer afford more than a meal a day so now you've lost the economic activity for about 25,000 "meals" every, single, day and the grocery stores and restaurants go out of business, leaving yet more people who can't afford the price of a "meal" and then the farms start to go under because they're not making enough money to cover their costs so suddenly there's no food for Rickie or anyone else, even though Rickie only wanted three meals a day and he has enough money to pay any price the "meals" industry cares to charge.

Rickie only had the "share" of money of 1,001 people, but in the end, he's eliminated the food supply for all 10,001* of the people in this example.

(* None of those numbers are warranted. Doing math in my head is not something I excel at.)

Wealth concentrated in the hands of a few carries an impact on the economy that's disproportionate to the actual amount of wealth involved.

Another example (stolen largely from a book I read) involves shoes.

Rickie Rich buys a pair of shoes and he can afford to buy the best, so he buys a pair of expensive, top-of-the-line shoes. Because these shoes are so well made, they last him for ten years. He doesn't, in short, do anything else to support the shoe industry for ten years and provides no further employment or economic benefit.

Adam Average buys what he can afford, the cheap, mass-produced shoes available in his local store. They last about a six months, so over the course of ten years, he has to buy nineteen more pairs of shoes. He provides a consistent, economic benefit to the shoe industry over the entire decade.

It doesn't matter that Rickie Rich paid $300 for his shoes and Adam Average paid $25 for his. Over the ten-year time-span, Adam Average provides $500 worth of stable, economic purchasing to the shoe industry. Rickie Rich provided a "spike" - a one-time purchase. Even if Rickie Rich paid $3,000 for his shoes, his purchasing pattern is an unstable one and doesn't create the consistent, long-term demand that provides the five people working in the shoe factory with jobs.

(Also note that Adam Average spends a lot more money over the course of his life on shoes than Rickie Rich does, so it really does cost more to live when you're poor, unless, of course, your can't afford health care and die young, taking your prospective purchasing power with you and doing corresponding damage to the futures market of the shoe industry. Looked at from an entirely pro-business point of view, health care is good business.)

Anyhow. Excessively pro-business government encourages the concentration of wealth into the hands of a few people who refuse to eat enough to keep the country going and at the moment, it doesn't seem feasible to sit them down and force-feed them until the economy stabilizes.

On the other hand.

If Rickie Rich doesn't have the money and resources he needs to keep his factory, Rickie Rich, LLC., open, then Adam Average isn't going to have a job anyhow and whatever amount of money he might have otherwise spent on shoes is also lost, not to mention all of those meals he isn't going to eat.

Taxing the Rickie Rich, LLC.'s profits at 60% (all tax numbers imaginary) has the net result of eliminating the money that Rickie Rich, LLC. could have used for exploration of new markets or products, expansion of the business, and increased corporate economic stability. When his job isn't secure, Adam Average is going to make those shoes last an extra month or two and he might just cut down to two meals a day a couple of days a week in an attempt to build up a little savings against possible lean times ahead and then the price of shoes and meals goes up and people can't afford to eat and some of them need public assistance and Rickie Rich, LLC. gets its taxes raised again, creating yet more financial insecurity for the corporation and making CEO Rickie decide he'd better save a little money against possible lean times ahead and so he lays off Adam Average and the four guys next to him.

(I'm pretty sure Adam is the part of the equation that is called, "consumer confidence" when economists talk. Not positive, but pretty sure. If Adam hadn't gotten freaked out, he'd never have started the saving plan and lowered his spending, creating the climate that led to Rickie Rich, LLC., thinking it needed to cut back, but then if Rickie Rich, LLC., hadn't been overtaxed, the buzz around the company wouldn't have been that they were in trouble and Adam wouldn't have been spooked into putting cardboard in his shoes instead of just buying a new pair.)

Anyhow. Demonizing business in general isn't a solution to the problem of economic stability sustained by a reasonable amount of growth.

(But you can feel free to demonize specific businesses. Rickie Rich, LLC. is a responsible corporation that supports some local charities and pays its taxes (even when it hurts) and doesn't commit accounting misconduct, but down the road there's Paul Plutocract, Inc. and they're not so conscientious. They've got a mail-drop in the Caymans that they use as their address for tax purposes and the management pays itself generously for being so clever, including a private jet so they can visit that mail box, so they don't care what the real or effective tax rates on corporations are, they give only as much to charity as will garner them positive PR, and they don't employ "people" they employ "units" so that when they have to "cut 50 units" from the payroll, it doesn't sound bad in the press release. Paul Plutocrat, Inc., is not paying taxes to help the 50 "units" that got cut from their payroll, so Rickie Rich LLC's taxes go up again to help take up the slack that Paul Plutocrat, Inc. left and before you know it, Rickie Rich, LLC. has to decide between a post office box in the Caymans and bankruptcy.)

Business are like people. Some of them are good, some of them aren't.

The best outcome for the people* is arrived at when there's a reasonable balance between the needs of people and the needs of business. One of the primary functions of government should be to monitor that balance and regulate it when necessary.

(* People are the only ones who count, okay? Business matters only as it affects people.)

A large part of the difference between Democrats and Republicans used to be the percentage to which each party thought business should be regulated. In the recent past, Republicans had a sort of, "only at loaded gunpoint" mentality while Democrats favored the, "hey, one person got an owie, so let's regulate ten thousand businesses to make sure it doesn't happen again" approach.

Anyhow. It used to be that as power shifted from party to party over different election cycles, the whole "regulation" process adopted a sort of wave pattern. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but no one party was ever in complete power and neither side was in control for too long, so the actual interval (is that the right word? Hooray for a college education?) between peaks (or valleys) was never too long. Also because power was most often split between parties, the valleys were almost never too low, or the peaks too high. There was...balance. Not stasis, but balance.

The country grew more "liberal" (not "Democrat") and the point of balance gradually shifted toward favoring the people. A reaction set in, pendulum-like, and now we're seeing a swing toward favoring business.

My point, if I had a point when I started this which I did but which I think was entirely different than the point at which we have now arrived, my point is that when the cycle stabilizes again, I think we're going to be hovering over a new balance spot and that I regret that my intelligence, education, and interest in abstruse, economic factors prevents me from knowing or even guessing whether we're moving Right or Left. At a guess, I'd say Left.

Because there's no doubt that the country is much more "liberal" than it was forty years ago, when it comes to the rights of people to live their lives their way, but there's also no doubt that it's a mistake to grant that same "liberality" to a corporation. Which is, in the end, why I think there are so many people who describe themselves as, "socially liberal but fiscally conservative."

It's worth mentioning that the "Left" we move to probably isn't going to look like you expect.

The Democratic and Republican parties have changed dramatically over the years as the country's primary "issues" moved from individuals to business to individuals and back, and as our focus moved from entirely internal to being a major player in the international world.

Where do gay rights, women's rights, and minority rights fit today? Are all three of these still even major issues? Where do the 'voting blocs' fit in? Lawyers, doctors, insurance plans, pharmaceutical companies, small businesses, big businesses, technology businesses, 'organized' labor, unorganized labor, seniors, the transportation industry, farmers, ranchers, and the fifty other 'blocs' that get discussed on the evening news. What do they need and which party is going to provide it?

What about the IRS? Traditionally both parties scooped in votes during hard times by demonizing this federal organization, probably the one with the least control over its own destiny. Will there be a reform or simplification of the tax code? From which side?

What about "free trade"? What does that mean today and for which side is it going to be a rallying point?

And what about the military-industrial complex? Traditionally the Republican Party was all about small government, but the military sucks down an ever-growing amount of the federal budget each year. Will the Republicans continue to insist they're, "strong on defense" after they realize the one place they can cut down the size of government and win popularity is by cutting military spending? (Can we even make significant cuts in this industry these days without damaging the economy? The military is huge. Entire industries were created to support their efforts. Do we keep a large military because of such economic concerns or at some point do we say, "enough is enough" and refuse to give the world's terrorists aid and comfort by not only conceiving of and publicly discussing the kinds of new weapons we can create, but by developing such weapons, thereby proving how feasible they are At what point does death stop being one of our #1 exports?)

Neither party today has a lock on its own identity or really understands what "issues" belong to them. I'm not sure the leadership of each party even understands where the next hot issues are going to be. Are they going to be social or economic? Domestic or international?

The Democrats are having some rather public growing pains at the moment as the party scrounges around in the seat cushions and under the couch, trying to find its identity.

While the Republicans weren't looking, some rather unusual elements (who do possess the virtue of having a vision of what they believe) have grabbed the Party steering wheel and are headed for their own destination, ignoring the rather feeble protests of a few back-seat drivers who really would have preferred it if they'd stayed on the old road instead of heading off down this uncharted lane.

They may be wrong, you know. I mean, let's face it. If you remove Bush's unconvincing religious posturing, really, if you remove Bush from the equation and take a look at what the powerful men in his Administration stand for, then you see a big, pro-business "spike," a determination not to let the country sink in a sea of anarchic individualism (or, to use words we're all more familiar with, "to protect the economy by protecting the means of production"), and a willingness to trade diplomacy for guns in order to achieve the ends they feel we should achieve on the international scene. (That sort of "muscular democracy" is very, very appealing to a lot of people.) They're pro-business, which isn't inherently evil, and they don't want to sit on the sidelines for years while tinpot dictators run amuck and stick their tongues out at us. They honestly believe wealth can be created from the top down, which makes them misguided, but not tools of Satan, and they believe democracy is a commodity that can be exported like movies or television shows, which makes them ridiculously naïve, but not evil.

If nothing else, watching to see what happens with each party, and where the new lines get drawn, is going to be very interesting.

And now I'm going to go read about Low-Wage America.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:41 AM | Comments (8)
January 14, 2004

I'm basically a sort of non-violent person, but some days, you read something and I can't think of any appropriate response that doesn't involve an AK-47.

Apparently, in spite of spiraling, record-breaking deficits, we can find $1.5 billion to 'promote' marriage with a series of leftist, touchy-feely, pop psychology initiatives designed to get everyone in touch with their inner monogamist or something because what matters is that they're married and not that they don't have food to eat or something. And because it would be absurd to spend the money on weird and extremist projects like cleaning up toxic waste when it could be used to publish a pamphlet telling us all how to listen to each other.

From somewhere, we've found the money to fight free speech, because we don't approve of unspun news.

I wanted to take Kristoff seriously, but there it was, at the beginning of his article:

One of the most unfortunate trends in the Democratic presidential race has been the way nearly all of the candidates, including Howard Dean, the front-runner, have been flirting with anti-trade positions by putting the emphasis on labor, environmental and human rights standards in international agreements.

To illustrate how absurd these positions are, Kristoff explains that someone would rather have a job than go dumpster-diving to survive and that they need healthcare in order to be strong enough to hold a job and that there have to be jobs before anyone can get them.

All of which, in his mind seem to preclude any consideration of human rights in the manufacturing arena.

Yes, the idea that $2/day in Cambodia is actually good money is something that needs to be discussed more, but how Kristoff thinks you can eliminate "human rights" from the equation when we're trying to help human beings survive, how he thinks "environmental standards" are irrelevant when his own story discusses the near-toxic trash dump these children are 'working' in, and why he thinks "labor" has nothing to do with "people who need work" mystifies me.

You'll be glad to know that our government has taken steps to stop the practice of outsourcing our torture under the label of "extraordinary rendition." Well, we've agreed to stop doing it to Canadian citizens, anyhow. Well, no, actually we're agreed to tell them before we do it.

Never mind, forget I said anything.

Broder's column on how you oughta' listen to what local reporters have to say about a governor when you're thinking of voting for the guy for president is most notable for failing, among the examples he presents, to mention how reporters in Texas tried again and again to get the national media, and the public, to pay attention to the wholesale disaster Bush II created in Texas.

You know, I'm completely sorry that I read the news this morning.

Read TomDispatch.com and learn all about the little euphemisms the government is using, or maybe should be using, to describe their policies.

Man Held at Heathrow with Suspected Ammunition

LONDON (Reuters) - A Sudanese man carrying suspected ammunition was arrested at London's Heathrow airport on Wednesday after flying in from Washington en route to Dubai, police said.

I keep wondering what the ammunition was under suspicion for.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)
January 13, 2004
There's a name for that.

Like, when you're driving along and everyone slows to a crawl around you and right before you pass them all up, you realize they're V'd up behind a police car.

Over at Obsidian Wings, Von quite rightly points out that if O'Neill carried off classified documents, he's gonna be in trouble. (As I understand it, the GAO has already been motivated to start an investigation.) It's hard to believe anyone would be that dumb, but it's certainly worth checking out.

And Katharine from the same blog has an entry (actually, two angry posts) about the whole "extraordinary rendition" thing. You can make up all the bland, confusing euphemisms you want, but we all know what it means.

I'm waiting to see if the USofA government keeps insisting they didn't know Syria tortures people. I'm waiting to see how many of those folks on the Right think this is going too far. I'm waiting...but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm also waiting for the indignation, the outrage that really should follow the understanding that if they have a slick euphemism for it, that's because it's something they talk about a lot. Because, well, because they do it a lot?

For just exactly how long have we been outsourcing our torture work?

But, hey! We found a terrorist! And one that might, unlike almost anyone else we've arrested, might have been directly involved in 9/11. There are still a few loose ends, like the lack of any proof, but there you go.

Is this adoption or stalking? Either way, it sounds like a ton of work to me. Tracking, archiving, and analyzing every word a journalist writes?

Once again I find myself wondering why the journalists are the story. Couldn't we instead put this effort into making the full and uncut words of the candidates available to everyone, instead of the cut-and-pasted headline bits? That would serve a double purpose. Anyone who cared could review the actual words against what a publication reproduced and deduce the publication's bias. And anyone who cared could read what the candidate actually had to say, allowing them to make up their own mind about how to cast their vote.

Is the Army War College giving aid and comfort to the enemy by dissing Bush's invasion of Iraq? They're probably all treasonous libruls there at the college. Everyone knows what those elitist, ivory-tower types are like.

You know what's sad? What's sad is that CNN felt it was necessary to remind their readers that the USofA invaded Afghanistan in 2001 at the end of this story. They assumed USofA readers wouldn't remember.

We all know about the Grand Canyon, though. It's a big hole in the ground carved into the landscape of the West. Apparently there's a problem with that. A long-time guide from the area used to regale tourists with the tale of how the canyon was formed over millions of years. And then he got religion and decided god created the place a few thousand years ago. All of which is fine, except that he wrote a book on the subject and the Bush Administration allows his little fable to be sold at the government-run state bookshop which is, I'm pretty sure, yet another violation of that pesky state-church separation thing, and they won't let any actual scientists sell anything that refutes the pseudo-science of the 'god did it' group which is, I'm pretty sure, yet another violation of intelligence and common sense. Whatever.

John le Carré talks about politics with intelligence and experience and, even more interesting to me, has a new book out.

Kyoto is still being hotly debated, this time in Russia.

And things may be heating up in Iran. I've been following the story of their upcoming elections when I can find anything on it.

Oddly enough, Krugman's review of Suskind's book makes Bush look good. Not, you know, in charge of anything or intelligent, but even if just tangentially, good. Well, not good. Better than if he were some evil maniac in charge of everything, though. Clearly (as we've all speculated, or at least as many of us have over the past couple of years), he's not formulating policy. (Honestly, I haven't decided whether or not to buy this one yet. I'm already working on Krugman's latest and Molly Ivins' latest, with Al Franken's latest, John Judis' Emerging Democratic Majority and at least four more waiting in the wings.)

If I were a Republican, I'd be protesting Brooks' assertion that Republicans are solidly behind the Bush Administration. Except...his poll numbers say 91% of Republicans are solidly behind him, so those protesting voices I hear coming from the Right must be my imagination.

So, Roger Clemens is coming back to baseball. That was a short retirement.

(Also, if you're still watching Fox television? Don't. Reality television rots your brain.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:56 AM | Comments (2)
January 12, 2004
For the record

When I think of "liberal" versus "conservative" mindsets, I think of "conservatives" as the voters referred to in this article.

Karen Kwiatkowski is very outspoken.

Christie Whitman points out that Republicans aren't really the majority party. Yeah, they've managed to pull more of "their" voters to the polls than the Dems in recent races, but it's a slim margin. (Hey, in the 2000 presidential race, they didn't even manage that.) It's sad that, as she illustrates, mere "outcry" from people opposed to some measure makes it almost impossible for those in charge of the Republican party's behavior to consider altering said measure. Why does the mere idea of opposition create a brick wall of resistance? Because the party is in the hands of extremists and of those who are relying upon the more extreme members of the party as the ones most likely to vote.

And, as she points out and as we all know, extremism isn't limited to one side of the political spectrum.

William Safire needs to polish his glasses. He seems to be having trouble seeing things clearly in his column where he cites Afghanistan (where extremists and warlords are regrouping and attacking the fledgling 'democracy) as an example of how wonderfully well our policy of pre-emptive war is working. And, most offensively, he dismisses the thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq as something to be "compared to civilian losses to everyday violence in New York and Los Angeles." Could someone from one of the coasts explain to me how often your city gets saturation bombed in a day and why this never makes the national news?

I'm just saying. It's hard for me to read what he has to say and evaluate it objectively when he says something that offensive.

Putin must be very popular if his own people have to demand that people run against him to make it all look like it's on the up-and-up.

Recruitment of reservists is falling off and the army isn't reaching their quotas. Oddly enough, reservists are reluctant to be held in active service for years or to, you know, die.

If the voters seem to be all about style over substance when it comes to the candidates, maybe that's because a history of lousy media coverage has lulled them into thinking that style is substance?

Life in Afghanistan is a new series from Deutsche Welle that's kind of interesting.

For those of you who are statistics junkies, here are some numbers.

Bush is flying to Mexico from his ranch in Crawford, Tex. He will spend two days and one night in Mexico. By contrast, he has spent all or part of 220 days of his presidency at his ranch, Knoller reports. That's more than seven months, or almost one in five days since inauguration.

Go ahead and check it out. There's discussion (gossip?) about Suskind's new book, Bush and "the vision thing," links about our relationship with the world south of our border, and some other good stuff.

Frasier is going off the air. Since it's one of about three television programs I actually watch, I find that depressing.

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

I always think that part of what defines a liberal is the urge toward comprehension and understanding of others, okay? A "conservative" isn't going to reach out and try to comprehend someone else's worldview, that runs contrary to what "conservative" is all about That means it's left to those willing to read out to find common ground.

The trick is to identify that common ground and explain it in terms that also conservatives to see it exists without moving to the right, which is what I think the Democratic Party has failed at for the past twenty years.

And I'm not best pleased by the recent move on the part of the Left to try and match the Right in venom and lies, okay?

I mean, I understand the drive to do so. It's easier to talk trash, yes, there are better words to use, and we seem to be wired to respond to that kind of thing. It's as though our animal instincts to avoid danger in order to maximize our chances of survival were translated, when we developed a complex, spoken language, into a better language to discuss those dangers/evils than we were able to formulate for the less-adventurous even though preferable state of peaceful survival. If I were a semanticist (is that a word?), I'd go find the research I'm sure someone has done on the subject.

But is this matching of the Right's venom really necessary? Is it the way to go? Is it what we have to do to capture 'the public's' attention?

We're stuck with "sound-bite" politics. I don't like it, but I accept it. (My issues with the media are a different rant.)

But I'd rather we came up with a dozen positive sound-bite messages than stooping to the kind of, "Look! Gore's wearing a brown suit! He's inconsistent!" idiocies characterized by the Right in the last election.

Maybe we need to open up our minds and consider whether, disregarding the "Republican" and "Democrat" labels, there isn't a way we can balance fairness and justice for all with the maximum amount of personal liberty and the maximum amount of personal security.

There's childhood and eventually (one hopes) maturity. It takes maturity to allow disparate worldviews to exist and, more, to accept that these worldviews have their own merits. I wish we saw that kind of maturity in our government more often.

But, back to the topic at hand. It's a mistake to characterize "big government" as a core Liberal belief. Liberals aren't married to the idea of big, expensive governments and high taxes, so can those on the Right stop spreading this meme? It's been around for decades and it's getting tired.

What Liberals, what I mean when I talk about "Liberals" anyhow, do believe in is equality of opportunity. We believe in trying to level the playing field around the starting gate. We believe, not in eliminating class differences, but in the kind of "class structure" (for lack of a better phrase) that allows movement based on individual ability and effort and, yes, sometimes a bit of luck. (Yes, even the kind of luck that comes from someone three generations back on your father's side of the family having shown political or financial acumen at the right moment. We acknowledge that some things are going to be made a lot easier with money. We just dislike it that so many things are impossible without, comparatively speaking, a lot of money, and I'm not talking about becoming president. I'm talking about decent housing and education, that kind of thing.)

What we've have in this country is a well-meaning but flawed system and basic human nature, which is to stomp on the heads of those below you on your way up the ladder. So, "Liberals" are forced to implement big government programs and to use tax funds to try and give those with footprints on their scalps a chance of getting a rung or two higher on the social and economic food chain.

(Because, cute as the current Administration's naiveté is, thinking that a corporation is voluntarily going to maximize the quality of life of the assembly line workers, or that the CEO has any real conception of the problems of the janitorial staff, it just doesn't have anything to do with reality.)

Nor are Liberals 'weak on defense.' That's another untruth. We might not choose to go to war on Iraq because there are terrorists in Saudi Arabia and Iran but we don't think we can take Saudi Arabia and Iran, but that doesn't make us wimps, okay?

(Also, yeah, to a certain extent Liberals do believe that killing a few thousand Iraqi civilians who were guilty of nothing more than sitting down to dinner at home is kind of a bad idea and that maybe we shouldn't be fighting that kind of war, but everything surrounding the recent invasion of Iraq is so emotionally charged that I've just decided to stop using that situation as an example in this post.)

Okay. Anyhow. Liberals don't, in fact, think that making war is actually a good solution to the world's problems. We accept that sometimes it's the only viable solution to a problem, but we don't like it and as a matter of fact, I think a lot of Conservatives might agree that killing large numbers of people is better avoided if possible. We all know it's not always possible, but the fact that Democrats are the ones willing to speak up against it in public doesn't make them wimps.

Diplomacy isn't a dirty word. Neither is compromise. We're not always going to be able to force the entire world to do things our way but, guess what? We're not always right. Live with it.

Our brand of "democracy" isn't suitable for the entire world, nor is our current brand of democracy all that shiny and special. There's some tarnish here and there, and we all know it. On the other hand, by gosh, we have a lot of the responsibility for making "human rights abuses" a concept that the entire world was both aware of and concerned over, so we're not entirely in the wrong, either.

I dunno.

In the end, I find myself thinking that Conservatives say we're pretty darned good because this isn't a totalitarian dictatorship and people like Anne are allowed to say all of the mean things they want about the government, and that's very true.

On the other hand, that sentiment is amazingly offensive to me because it's so...so illustrative of how low you can set your expectations.

Is your glass half-empty, or half-full?

I guess that depends on how negative your measuring stick is.

It is good enough for you that we're better than the worst we could be or is your world one where you focus on how much better we could, or even should be than what we are?

Conservatives measure how far they are from the bottom and are mostly satisfied. Liberals measure how far we are from the top and think we need to work harder.

That's how I see it, anyhow.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)