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August 13, 2004
Friday the 13th

Food aid to to Darfur.

A column on prisoner abuse in Iraq and how the USofA is refusing to do anything about it.

You should know that I disagree with the basic premise of the argument, that we should march in and put a stop to any abuse. First, we're not exactly standing on the high moral ground at the moment ourselves. We whomped on a fair number of Iraqis and our 'leadership' insisted it was just isolated incidents. (I'm still trying to find out what happened to the 50,000 people we took into custody as we shot up the countryside. Where are they and who has custody of them?)

Second, sovereign is sovereign, okay? Either we handed actual sovereignty over to the interim Iraqi government or we didn't. If we did, then we don't have the authority to issue orders about how they should behave. If we didn't, we should stop pretending we did.

Sometimes you read an article and you realize part of it is just lies and part of it is just opinion and it makes you wonder what "news" really is.

President Bush said Thursday that America is "absolutely" better off today than it was four years ago -- on both the national security and domestic fronts.

"The world's safer. ... Libya's no longer a threat. Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror," Bush said in an exclusive interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"There are 50 million people that once lived in tyranny now living in societies which are heading toward democracies," he said.

Bush also promoted improvements at home.

"The economy is growing. We've overcome a recession and corporate scandals, a stock market decline and an attack," he said. "And yet we've recovered and our economy is getting better. The education system is getting better because of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Medicare law has been strengthened so seniors will have prescription drug coverage starting in 2006."

You do have to admire his guts, saying all of that publicly.

A Haitian refugee has been held, without charges, for almost two years. No one is saying he's a criminal. No one is saying he's a terrorist. No one is saying anything bad about him. But Ashcroft, it seems, has intervened personally to keep the guy behind bars?

If there's not more to this story than the column says there is, then getting rid of Bush/Cheney would be worth it if for no other benefit than getting rid of Ashcroft.

Playing his ever-present, all-encompassing terrorism card, Mr. Ashcroft personally intervened in Mr. Joseph's case, summarily blocking his release. According to the attorney general, releasing this young Haitian would tend to encourage mass migration from Haiti, and might exacerbate the potential danger to national security of nefarious aliens from Pakistan and elsewhere who might be inclined to use Haiti as a staging area for migration to the U.S.

The mind boggles.

Let's not go overboard. I'm okay with the concept of security. I think it's rational in today's dangerous world to take sensible precautions to keep the population safe, but I don't see the need for paranoia and rabid excess.

"On the date of the Sept. 11 attacks, the concept of homeland defense as we know it today really did not exist," he said in a Thursday interview, adding it had become "the highest strategic goal of transnational terrorists to attack the United States on our own soil."

I sort of hate to burst your bubble, but "no" okay? It's just so not even close to the "highest strategic goal" terrorists have that you're just babbling, so shut up.

Also, since when did "international" terrorists become "transnational"?

The thimerosal battle isn't over.

The UK announced Saturday they will remove the mercury preservative Thimerosal from their vaccines. The news comes days after an LA Times article reported that Aventis-Pasteur, a pharmaceutical giant, is pushing to keep the toxin in U.S. vaccines. According to the article, Aventis is "trying to rally opposition to state legislation that would bar use of a mercury-based preservative in vaccines administered to infants and pregnant women in California."

And while we're discussing healthcare, take a look at this:

Bush launches controversial mental health plan

President Bush announced on 26 July that his administration has begun implementing the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to "improve mental health services and support for people of all ages with mental illness" through comprehensive screening.

The plan states that schools are in a "key position" to screen the "52 million students and six million adults who work at the schools" and includes recommendations for screening preschool children (19 June, p 1458).

Mr Bush's announcement comes after new reports showing that increasing numbers of toddlers and children are being prescribed amphetamines, anti-depressants, and antipsychotic drugs. Concern that widespread screening will only increase the number of young people taking drugs has triggered criticism of the plan.


Victims of gas leak in Bhopal seek redress on compensation

Thousands of compensation claims relating to one of the world's biggest industrial disasters, at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal in 1984, are being taken to India's Supreme Court for revision next week.

The move comes in the wake of a Supreme Court order of 19 July, which asked the government to distribute the remaining 15 billion rupees (£176m; $325m; 263m) lying in the coffers of the Reserve Bank of India.

In the incident, poisonous gas leaked from the factory, killing thousands and injuring about half a million people. Their injuries ranged from breathlessness and gastrointestinal problems to neurological disorders. The official death toll is 5800, but campaigners say that more than 20 000 people have died from gas related illnesses.

Twenty years these people have waited.

Sometimes it seems like every time I turn around, I discover another federal government group I didn't know existed. (Common sense should have made me wonder just who supplied the guards for federal buildings, but I don't spend that much time in them.)

This caught my attention, but probably not for the reason the editors expected. The headline is, "Should Putin Fear a Kerry Victory?" and I'm all sort of, who cares right at this moment which candidate has the backing of Russia? But then I read this:

The conventional wisdom is that Democratic candidate John Kerry would be more critical of the constraints Putin has put on democratic freedoms. Bush, a Republican, meanwhile, is a fellow warrior on terror who treats Putin with respect.

I mean, you don't often read that, do you? You don't often read about Bush treating someone with respect.

The article goes on to discuss that Kerry's foreign policy, based on what he's said so far, actually seems more Bush than Clinton, so there wouldn't really be that much of a difference to Russia, leaving one to wonder why they bothered with the misleading headline, but that's what newspapers do, isn't it? If they don't actually have an exciting story, they try to dress it up with an inflammatory headline.

I didn't read the article past the first few paragraphs. I lost interest in it.

That "green card game show" concept I scoffed at recently is catching flak from all over.

It's never too late to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Does that mean there's no hurry for me to get started?

The headline reads, "Boy Falls Out Window, Robs Death" and my first thought was to wonder if Death was going to file charges." Seriously, people. How hard can it be to write a sensible headline?

And, last but never least:

Fifty years ago, it was 1954. (Research is the heart of journalism.)

Many important things happened in 1954. Dean Martin sang "That's Amore," and the French surrendered in Vietnam (these two events were probably unrelated). On television, the new hit was "Lassie," a show about a smart dog who belonged to a family with the IQ of mushrooms. ("What's Lassie trying to tell us?" "I don't know, although the last 29 consecutive times she acted like this, it was because Jeff fell into the well!" "Well, I'm baffled! What's wrong, girl?")

Dave Barry on Godzilla. (He's right about Mothra, too.).

Posted by AnneZook at 01:10 PM | Comments (2)
August 12, 2004
Blogging the Blogs

First, let's say farewell to Jeff, although with a touch of bitterness. I know blogs come and go, but I do hate to see any of the handful of blogs I like best going. Notes on the Atrocities was on my top-ten list of favorite blogs and I miss it already.

Via Avedon Carol, we see a quote from someone who claims to work for a polling company whose "raw" data indicates Bush has zero support. Much as I'd like to believe it, I don't. Even aside from the people who honestly believe we did the right thing in invading Iraq, there are enough wingnuts in this country to show up on a decently run poll. Not to mention the people who will support anyone who says, "god" in public, disses abortion, or badmouths homosexuality.

Jane Galt at Asymmetrical Information has a post up, the meaning of which puzzles me, except when it makes me giggle.

Moe at Bad Attitudes has a story that says Republicans might just stay home in November.

Via Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof, the story of the day. The Washington Post says their coverage of the entire pre-invasion issue was inadequate. Following the NYTimes' recent apology for lousy journalism, this leads me to hope that in the future, we'll be getting less blind acceptance of Administration talking points and more actual reporting.

Jeanne at Body and Soul has the story about the upcoming Afghan elections. Warlords and criminals are running for office in the first country we "liberated" from terrorists.

Daniel at Crooked Timber has the story on how many lattes you can buy with trickle-down economics.

Cursor (still without permalinks) brings us the news of the great game in Africa. You know the one, it's the one where Western countries bed down with dictators and tyrants. We give them guns and WMD. They give us oil.

(Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that one of GWBush's campaign promises? That we'd stop doing that? Arthur Silber at The Light of Reason has an interesting post up about "supporting thugs and dictators.")

Eric Alterman fears that protesters at the RNC Convention will be infiltrated by right-wing rowdies hoping to start trouble and give the Left a bad name. Coming from the party that's working desperately to get Ralph "Sellout" Nader on the ballot in as many states as possible, that doesn't sound that unlikely, does it?

It's almost painful for me to think about. "We can't run on our accomplishments because everything we touch turns to garbage, so let's just cheat in any way we can to stay in power and continue failing for another four years."

Atrios (I like the name) is staying on the Right's lies and misdirection about Kerry's Vietnam service, as is Digby. As is Josh Marshall at Talking Points. And Andrew Olmsted has a whole series of posts on the subject.

Note: Grammatical error found and corrected.

Lawrence is talking about why he supported the war in a post I don't have time to read thoroughly at the moment but will no doubt be taking exception to later in the day.

I was going to take exception to the support for a VAT by Edward at Obsidian Wings, but there are other readers already there ahead of me.

David Neiwert at Orcinus usually offers us longer, more detailed posts. Today he's pithy.

Via Sebastian Holsclaw, I got to A Handful Of Sand and the story of a soldier whose war-experience blog was discovered by his battalion commander, whom (one presumes) is high up enough on the food chain to cause him some serious problems. But it didn't happen that way. The soldier's blog is here. (I haven't read it. The black background with gray type is just a blur on this monitor.)

The Editors at The Poor Man tell us something the national press isn't stressing much. The turnouts at the Kerry-Edwards campaign stops are huge.

And, in the "good news" department, Christopher Hayes has the story of a corporate CEO who met the environment and decided it was worth preserving.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:55 PM | Comments (7)
Oh, my

I'd heard (on NPR, on the way home today) that New Jersey's Governor, James McGreevey, had called a press conference to make an announcement.

There was speculation that he was stepping down (possibly as a result of a fund-raising scandal) but the NPR story naturally didn't know that he'd be announcing, "I am a gay American or that his affair with a man had, in his words, left the "office of the governor open to threats of rumors and false allegations".

Posted by AnneZook at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)
International Youth Day

Young and Thwarted from Deutsche Welle.

August 12 is International Youth Day. Its aim is to put the spotlight on the problems of young people and involve them in political decision-making. Society has failed the young, a member of that generation comments.

It's an interesting thought shallow contrast between consumer cultures and the lives of third-world youngsters, but there's some good stuff in it.

I was thinking about this on the way to work this morning. NPR was doing a story on drugs and drinking in rural communities (most particularly meth-amphetamines) and I remember one kid shrugging off the growing problem, explaining that "there's nothing to do" in a small town, so kids do drugs.

It was sad and pathetic. He described "cooking" (I'm no expert on drug preparation) his drugs in an abandoned farmhouse and, with a certain amount of enthusiasm, described how you could "sit and look around and see antiques" or words to that effect.

In response to an authority's insistence that there was hunting (yeah, go kill something, that's a hobby) and fishing and camping and all manner of other outdoor activities, the kid protested that in order to do those things, someone has to take you. Which is true.

I'm not a big fan of, "blame the parents at all costs" but the kid being interviewed wasn't some hopeless case. He was willing; he just didn't have anyone to show him the way. Parents need to spend time with their kids, doing things with them. Without adult supervision and guidance, kids aren't going to automatically do the right things. They don't know the right things, and even when they know the wrong things, they're not always capable of evaluating why to avoid them or the potential consequences.

The story also made me think of the declining voting rate in this country and the problem of drugs, crime, and alcohol in every state.

And maybe the problem is that there's no one to do the right things with today's kids?

I had it in mind to write a whole, long ramble about the importance of community for both kids and adults, but my head isn't working right today. You know my opinions by now, so just imagine it for yourselves, okay?

Posted by AnneZook at 05:53 PM | Comments (2)
Thinking of You

Dear George:

So, how ya doin' these days? Warm enough for you?

You making any money? Spending it wisely, I hope? (Anyone else making any?)

And, hey, before I forget to ask, how's that reconstruction in Iraq working for you? Not so good, huh? Bummer.

You at least winning the peace? No, you say? Hmph. I guess liberating people from scoundrels is tougher than it looks. But you're at least winning winning that overall war on 'terror' thing, right? No? (Short of good news these days, aren't you, buddy?)

(Haven't seen ol' bin Laden recently, have you? No? Maybe that rascal will turn up just before November, hmmm?)

You're not exactly Mr. Popularity these days, are you? Ah, well. It's tough all over these days.

I heard you've had a few missteps on the home front, too. Having trouble catching a break, aren't you?

How's your old buddy Tom DeLay doing these days? And Kenny Boy, how about him? You should give a helping hand to old friends now and again.

Still, reading the reports, I see Karl is coming up with some pretty creative campaign stunts. (And that money isn't a problem, but, gosh, when was it ever?)

Hey, speaking of money (and aren't we always?), anything new happening down south or is it the same old story?

Well, hope you're all staying healthy and that y'all get everything you deserve.

Democratically yours,


P.S. Look on the bright side. Maybe you'll be getting a lot of time off some day soon.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)
August 11, 2004
Voting and Violence and Stuff

I hate the way we do business these days. We actually let the German courts convict this man once, even though there were those in our government who knew he wasn't guilty.

Danger, danger, Will Robinson! That the Electoral College system could produce a tie is not good news. (And what's that about one elector casting a "blank" ballot the last time around? I don't think abstaining should be allowed. Aren't they sent there under orders to cast a vote?)

"New Violence Deepens Darfur Crisis"

Helicopter attacks, raids on refugee camps and rapes carried out by Sudanese forces and Arab militiamen have worsened an already desperate situation in Darfur, humanitarian and rights groups say.

The United Nations has told Khartoum to curb marauding Janjaweed militia or face sanctions, but Human Rights Watch said Wednesday fresh atrocities disproved Sudanese government claims that security was returning to the western region.

(Just keeping it on your radar.)

I don't feel quite so stupid now. No one else knows who al Qaeda would be hoping to help if they interfered with the USofA elections either.

"So, having another of your little psychodramas down there, eh?"

That's what a Canadian interviewer asked Molly Ivins once during the Right's frenzy over Clinton's sex life.

As if that wasn't embarrassing enough for the poor woman, now she's having to explain the whole Bush Administration fiasco.

It's good not to be famous.

It's also good to thank our country's heroes.

Left and Right have more in common than you think

The country is polarized, we're told. Bush-haters versus Clinton-haters. Mel Gibson versus Michael Moore. Red versus blue states. Liberals and conservatives read different books, watch different networks, go to different churches.

But conservatives and liberals have more in common than you might think.

Both believe in government magic. And they want you to believe in it too. They want you to believe the president can be Superman, Santa Claus, and Mother Teresa all in one, and that he can cure poverty and racism, keep kids off drugs, and hold families together. But the world is complicated, and legislative actions often fail, backfire, have unintended consequences, or disappear into bureaucratic sinkholes.

Interesting column

That Louisiana party-switcher may find himself in financial trouble. He's been asked to give back the money donated to his campaign when he was a Democrat.

And that's all.

I'm not really in the mood for blogging today, sorry. I haven't been feeling well the last couple of days (nothing serious, probably a summer cold) and since I want to get out of the office a bit early today (friends coming over for dinner), I think I'll focus on the job thing.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:25 PM | Comments (7)
August 10, 2004
Still Wondering

If terrorists want to disrupt the UsofA presidential elections, what outcome are they hoping for? Doesn't make sense to me.

Dr. Rice said the government had actually “picked up discussion” relating to “trying to do something in the pre-election period,” and added that information on the threat came from “active multiple sources.”

I found myself wondering if those sources are any better than those cited by Attorney General John Ashcroft on May 26, when he launched this campaign, citing “credible intelligence from multiple sources that al-Qaeda plans an attack on the United States” before the November election. Ashcroft’s warning came out of the blue, without the customary involvement of the directors of the C.I.A. and Department of Homeland Security (although the latter quickly fell in line).

In support of his warning, Ashcroft cited “an al-Qaeda spokesman,” who the FBI later was embarrassed to admit is “The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades.” Sinister sounding though the name may be, this “group” is thought to consist of no more than one person with a fax machine, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. That fax is notorious for claiming credit for all manner of death and destruction.

I'm having some trouble getting scared, here.

Also, I'm wondering, do we want to win our 'war' against the terrorists or not?

People are fighting terrorism around the globe, yes. Accused terrorists are even being brought to trial, although not in the UsofA, of course.

But there's a slight problem.

German authorities had asked the US for access to six key witnesses including Binalshibh, who is believed to be in American custody at a clandestine location. But in Tuesday's letter the US said that even information on whether a particular individual is in custody was classified information.

It's a little tough to hold a fair trial with the UsofA screaming, mine! mine! and refusing to share the evidence.

The Chalabis say the UsofA is resorting to dirty tricks to get them out of the limelight in Iraq and I find myself wondering if they really expected the farce to end any other way?

Ahmad Chalabi, once tipped to lead Iraq after Saddam Hussein's fall, said on Tuesday his former U.S. allies were pulling strings to end his political career, making him unsure of a fair trial on his return home.

Chalabi faces arrest on a charge of counterfeiting money as soon as he returns to Iraq from Iran, where he has been attending a trade conference. He dismisses the charge as ridiculous.

Formerly a darling of the Pentagon, Chalabi has fallen foul of his old paymasters who accuse him of supplying false intelligence over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and of leaking secrets to Iran.

I do find myself wondering if the Neo-cons are getting their revenge for being played like puppets.

The EU has spoken. What's happening in Darfur are "massacres" but it's not "genocide". As far as they're concerned the UN is off the hook for having to respond.

The EU said yesterday there was widespread violence in the Darfur region of Sudan but the killings were not genocidal, a potentially crucial distinction which underlined its reluctance to intervene.

"We are not in the situation of genocide there," Pieter Feith, an adviser to the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said in Brussels after returning from a fact-finding visit to Sudan.

"But it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow killing and village burning of a fairly large scale. There are considerable doubts as to the willingness of Sudan's government to assume its duty to protect its civilian population against attacks."

He said in the absence of willingness to send a significant military force, the EU and others had little choice but to cooperate with Khartoum.

I see. It's not genocide but the government of the area doesn't seem willing to stop the slaughter which leaves us no choice but to work with the government of the area.

No, I don't see.

The announcement is bound to anger those impatient for stronger international pressure on Sudan.

Last month the US House of Representatives voted by 422 votes to nil to describe Khartoum's actions as genocide, a conclusion shared by several analysts who say there is no other term for the systematic slaughter, rape and expulsions.

But the White House, the African Union and groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have so far avoided using the g-word. At least 30,000 people are thought to have died and 1 million displaced in what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Genocide is defined as a calculated effort to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, but the debate over its meaning is political, not semantic.

The genocide convention, adopted by the UN in 1948, calls on signatories to "prevent" and "punish" genocide. If governments accept events in Darfur amount to genocide they would be obliged to intervene.

Given the risk of such a logistical and military challenge, that is something few governments are willing to contemplate.

Words fail me.

I wonder if we're getting ready to bomb the heck out of Najaf? U.S. forces urge civilians to leave Najaf

American forces urged civilians to evacuate the combat zone in Najaf on Tuesday, the sixth day of clashes with Shiite militias that have restricted output from southern Iraqi oil fields and sent world oil prices soaring. . U.S. troops in Humvees drove through the center of the Shiite city, using loudspeakers to call on civilians to evacuate the zone immediately. . Residents said it was the first time U.S. troops had called for a mass evacuation, adding that they feared a massive attack on the Mahdi Army of the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr in the city's cemetery, and on the shrine of Imam Ali, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites.

Sure sounds like it, doesn't it? (Oh, wait. we've already started. Hey, if Iraq is all sovereign and stuff, why are we still shelling their population? Did we get permission to do that?)

Only half a revolution is how the Guardian is describing the feminist equality movement.

There is nothing wrong with the competence or commitment of the female medical graduates. But they apparently fail to thrive in the profession in a way that doctors seem unable to diagnose, despite the fact that the same phenomenon is present in almost every workplace in the country: they do not make it on to committees, they find the demands of advancement incompatible with family life, they opt in larger numbers for part-time and flexible working.

The bottom line of what is being said here is still why can't women be more like men? However, the problem is not that the workplace has been over-feminised but that it has not been feminised enough. If we wish families to continue to exist, to bring up children, to treat their elderly and sick with a modicum of humanity, we have to accept that the burden and costs of work that is now largely the unpaid labour of women have to be shared. We have had half a revolution - the one that lowers the formal barriers to paid employment. The other half - the one that shares the burden, is still a long way off.

There are a lot of men out there happily diving in to help raise their children and maintain their homes. I know couples who share the burden of these tasks. I know men who are delighted to have the opportunity to spend time with their growing children. (Few of these men are quite as happy when offered a mop and a dirty kitchen floor, but that isn't a task most of us approach with joy.)

On the other hand, I know a lot more families where the woman is still doing 75% of the work around the home, including child-rearing, and working a full-time job as well.

Gross inequities exist, both inside and outside the home.

(For those interested in religion, the Pope has an opinion as well.)

Krugman is talking about jobs and political spin, and putting the economy's failure to thrive firmly in context as something that started before 9/11 and can't be blamed, three years later, on fallout from 9/11.

Power blackouts aren't a preventable problem so we shouldn’t waste time on trying to prevent them, we should stock up on candles and learn to cope. That's the point of this column, anyhow.

For the record, Denver has started burying their power lines instead of stringing them around the landscape. I can't remember the last time we had a weather-related blackout. Granted, I don't imagine that's the solution for everyone (there are places where land is too valuable for that) but the point the authors should have been making is that our infrastructure is decaying and we need to deal with that problem. Instead, they're arguing that our infrastructure is inadequate and we need to learn to live with it.

The job market was a nightmare for the Bush Administration last month (32,000 jobs), so they're not talking about it any more. No, now they're all over how great 'productivity' of corporations was, instead. No jobs for the populace, but the corporations did well, hooray!


You know that fuss that was in the papers a few months ago over the need to rewrite the "food pyramid" to reflect contemporary thinking about what constitutes a "healthy diet" for a normal person? Did you even wonder how the pyramid gets designed? It's very interesting.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:58 AM | Comments (3)
August 09, 2004
Primary Problems

Computer Eat Your Vote?

Coloradoans for Voting Integrity is providing a Voter Hotline for the August 10 Primary Election.

Voters in the Denver metro area may call 303-205-7919

Voters outside the Denver metro area may call 1-866-383-7913

Operators will be available to record and document any voting concerns and complaints. Especially take notice of the following:

– Are all machines operating?
– Are there repairs or other delays before you can vote?
– Do you have difficulty entering your vote on a machine?
– Are you able to cast your vote without assistance?
– Are you confident your vote was recorded as cast?

CFVI's “Voting Concern/Complaint Form” may also be completed and submitted at http://www.cfvi.org.

Problems with the new Voter I.D. requirement?

Check out the Fair Vote Colorado website.

You can complete an on-line complaint form if you have a problem voting.

For the record, Fair Vote Colorado is the organization I'm volunteering with to ask questions at this primary and (if all goes well) on November 2 as well.

(People who have time to go looking for the world's deepest hole clearly have too much time on their hands.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:18 PM | Comments (2)
Notes During The Day

#1 I just received a receipt for another year of hosting for my blog. It happened while I was still debating whether or not to keep this up for another year, but I guess that's what I get for procrastinating, isn't it?

Two years is a long time, people. That's a lot of missed walks in the park, a lot of movies not seen in the theaters, a lot of plays unattended, and a lot of books unread.

On the plus side, of course, it's a lot of television unwatched and at least three really bad dates* not experienced.

(* You can just tell, okay? After a number of years of experience in the dating pool, you don't even have to go to know when a "fix-up" is a disaster in the making.)

#2 I have to say, I can't remember the last time I took a day off just to write. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to spend the day with a pen and paper. I'd forgotten how much easier it is to write during the day, before my poor brain is worn out by a day of paid employment. (I'm not dissing paid employment. I'm very enthusiastic about the idea of someone giving me money on a regular basis.)

Granted, today's obsession with spouting opinions on subjects I barely understand isn't really like the olden days when I used to write fiction, but I find more and more that writing is writing. It all gives me the same pleasure.

Yes, I'm a little concerned that I've done nothing but complain about the world for the last two years and there still seems to be no end in sight to the whining, but I did a fair amount of whining about bad writing before I whined about bad politics and policies, so I guess it's not really that much of a change, is it?

#3 It's also a lot of fun to have the time to read the blogs on my blogroll and the news sources I usually just have to scan at the rate of 200 wpm*.

(* As always, citied statistics are imaginary.)

#4 "Thank You" to the kind reader who wrote asking if I had a "tip jar" but no, I don't. As I hope I've made clear, I write more out of an endless fascination for listening to the sound of my own voice than anything else. The fact that this blog turned into a dialogue between me and readers smarter and better-informed than I am still astonishes me.

Granted, I don't always agree with me and sometimes I take me to task rather severely, but I'm also there to help with the gloating when I think I've turned a nice phrase or kicked someone kick-worthy in a particularly creative fashion, and that kind of shared experience just can't be replaced. I trust you'll understand when I say that I'm still my favorite audience.

The point is, I'd be complaining whether anyone else was listening or not. Thanks for the offer, but no donations required.

Besides. I want to keep my amateur status in case I decide to compete in the next Olympics.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:24 PM | Comments (5)
What Do We Have Here?

Public schools seek private partners

States look for alternatives to fund improvements

Kojo McCallum's fourth-grade classroom has been infested by mice and the window panes have deteriorated to a cloudy, opaque tint.

Outside the Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary School in Baltimore, graffiti colors the walls and drug needles have popped up on the grounds.

Told you so. Billions for bombs, pennies for education? This is what you get.

I'm not saying our school system couldn't have worse problems but that doesn't make this situation any less of a national disgrace.

(Private schools are not the answer.)

To no one's surprise, the Chalabis are officially in trouble.

Iraqi prisoner abuse: It's not just for coalition troops any more, although the support of UsofA military leadership is certainly useful.

If you've been following the story about Darfur, you might be interested in this blog entry.

Are the western powers--US, UK, Germany, France--losing the war for public opinion over Darfur and Sudan?

And a review of the Arabic press seems to indicate that that might be true, although not universally.

(Actually, The Passion of the Present is just a good blog to read about the area.)

I missed this Washington Post article about the situation when it came out last week, so I'm linking to it now.

I guess it depends what's important, doesn't it? I mean, is it good if air marshals have a dress code that they think makes it easier for terrorists to spot them? Will that maybe scare terrorists away from airports?

Or is there no deterrent to the visual presence of armed guards? Should we be worried that air marshals think they're so easy to disarm that they're a walking invitation to potential terrorists? ("Don't need to bring a gun, we'll just pick up a few from the guys on duty.")

Should they be allowed to dress just any old how so neither we nor anyone else know who is carrying a gun? Will we someday find ourselves faced with having to take the word of some wild-eyed man that it's okay if he's waving a gun at us, because he's one of the good guys?

I'm not sure I approve of "outing" gay celebrities whether they will or no.

Not even politicians. (Though I have little sympathy for someone who poses for a "risqué" photo spread and later pretends he didn't "out" himself.)

I mean, obviously I disapprove of people having to hide their sexual orientation in the first place, but that's not really a practical response in this situation.

Outing has always been a unsettling tactic and Mr Aravosis has some qualms about naming people, but President Bush's declaration convinced him it was time to "stop being nice to the enemy within". It was Mr Aravosis who was behind a recent ad in the gay weekly Washington Blade, which declared the new zero tolerance. The ad ran: "For years our silence has protected you. Today that protection ends."

It goes farther than the gay marriage thing. Someone can be gay and still not support gay marriage, I guess. I mean, I can't imagine why but people hold a lot of weird beliefs I don't understand.

I guess I disapprove of "outing" people whose sexual orientation has nothing to do with their job but maybe I don't disapprove of it if they're in a public position and working against gay rights?

Stay Calm Everyone, There's Prozac in the Drinking Water The UK has a problem.

And here's a call for intelligent intelligence reform. I don't necessarily support what it has to say, but the basic point is that we need to think before we act, and I do support that. Here's another perspective that has me scratching my head. True, gathering data is only half the battle. Translation and analysis are equally important.

We need to fight that narrowness by creating more competition for ideas in the intelligence assessment world. The competition among ideas is improved when different organizations reporting to different bosses compete for better insights and perspectives. Bringing together the entire intelligence community under a single boss who exercises budget and personnel control would further constrain the constructive competition we need within the intelligence community.

Would "competitive analysis" produce better intelligence?

President Bush chose a different path. His plan would create a relatively weak DNI, whose power would come from managing a set of interagency processes and supervising a set of ill-defined new centers. Unfortunately, if unintentionally, this approach also diminishes the bureaucratic standing of the CIA.

To be honest, I don't think the Bush Administration has a lot of interest in creating a really good, definitively reliable intelligence source. The fuzzier the analysis, the more you can cook the results.

My opinion? Electronic voting machines aren't ready for prime-time. Personally, I'll never accept them until there are ten times the safeguards built into them.

But Rubin says he is not accusing Diebold of rigging elections. "I'm just saying that they could do it and that we shouldn't allow our elections to be under control of vendors when there are ways of designing voting machines such that the vendors don't have the control of them."

Precisely. It's very nice that the decisively partisan head of the company has decided to "get out of politics" but does anyone really think his fervent support of the Bush Administration is the real point?

Keep watching Florida. Yes, a lot of minorities and a lot of Democrats were disenfranchised but there were Republican votes lost as well. A bad system hurts everyone.

As do bad decisions by appointed officials. In case labor didn't know this already, the Bush Administration is not your friend.

You're always reading about the value of gifts given to Bush or other UsofA presidents, but where are the reports of gifts going the other way?

And here is today's giggle. The man Yale wouldn't have touched with a bargepole without his family's history at the university is speaking out against "legacy admissions" at colleges. Not that he seems destined himself to add much luster to the university's educational reputation.

It's nice to have a day off. There's so much I want to read and I have another book review or two to finish up.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)
August 08, 2004
Still Being Bushwhacked

Turns out that such a brief discussion of the book wasn't enough to clear my mind. I had more to say. (Well, I usually do, don't I?)

I like Ivins and Dubose. I like their writing. Yeah, they have a bias against Bush, but they spent a number of years watching him dismantle Texas, then did a lot of research and learned more about him, so they have seem to know whereof they speak.

What follows is a bit of paraphrasing, a bit of me, a bit of quoting, and a lot of bile.

Ethics (Corporate and Bush)

Harken, GWBush said, was nothing like Enron. That's true. There was one major difference between the two financial frauds.

Enron executives are going on trial. The inquiry into Harken resulted in a deafening silence. Other than that, the book-cooking, profiteering, and fraudulent cover-ups bear remarkable resemblances to each other.

Remember "insider trading," the crime for which Martha Stewart is about to do time? Too bad she didn't have a daddy powerful enough to appoint people to supposedly independent investigating committees to protect her.

The head of the SEC was appointed by George, the Elder. The man 'investigating' GWBush and Harken did work as GWBush's personal lawyer before he joined the SEC.

To be fair, I should mention that the SEC never exonerated Bush. It just...stopped investigating him.

To be completely fair, when Harken knew it was going down, it formed a "Fairness Committee" to evaluate the effects of bankruptcy on small investors. Bush was appointed to the committee and we have to assume the conclusion was that bankruptcy wouldn't hurt small investors. After all, a month later Bush dumped sold his stock for an enormous profit and 'forgot' to notify the SEC. A heartbeat later, Harken went under. (Bush claims it was essentially a "clerical error' that his stock-dumping wasn't reported to the SEC but I'm aware of no documentation that has ever been produced to support his contention that he thought the report had been filed Not a memo, a note on a phone log, or even a receipt from his lawyer when he paid the bill for the work.)

The "private purchaser" who saved GW by purchasing the Harken stock has never been identified but a look at GWBush's business history suggests it's logical to conclude it was one of daddy's moneyed friends.

It's important to know who's selling, but it can be very educational to know who's buying.

We spent $70 million investigating why the Clintons lost money on a deal in Arkansas. We spent nothing investigating how Bush made hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company whose accounting procedure appear to have been a pattern for the Enron debacle.

Let's all thank the radical Republican Congressional leadership for this example of partisan politics at its worst.

Bush to Wall Street: I barely know Mr. Kenny, Number One Individual Campaign Contributor, Lay. The market dropped 7.4%. (What? Didn't they believe him?)

Three weeks later, amid a tidal wave of information about Harken's fraudulent accounting (and Bush's massive profits), the market lost almost 400 points. (Granted, there were other factors at work, but at the time it certainly seemed that the likelihood of a sitting President being indicted for insider trading was a significant factor.)

I bring the Harken thing up (again) for one reason. To point out that this was the summer of 2001. We were headed for serious economic problems before 9/11, so take it with a grain or two of salt when Bush tries to blame the poor economy on international terrorism.

Over Bush's strenuous protests, the House passed a corporate-responsibility bill to stem the hemorrhaging on Wall Street. When Bush sprains his arm patting himself on the back for pushing through "corporate reform" you just keep remembering that that wasn't the way it happened. A Democrat wrote the bill. Representatives aware of voter anger over massive corporate fraud passed it. Bush just bowed to the inevitable.

Making sanctimonious speeches about "corporate ethics" and "accounting reform" and pretending to disapprove the exact kind of fraud that has enriched you personally is a level of hypocrisy that sickens me.

The Jobless Recovery

As I write this, lath month's 200,000+ jobs forecast has just been clocked going past the post at a leisurely 32k. I know at least three people being driven nuts by abusive bosses but who are terrified of quitting, and two more on the verge of bankruptcy because they've been job-hunting unsuccessfully for a couple of years.

It's too painful to discuss.

In summary, the 2003 unemployment benefits extension was passed with no help from the Bush White House and it offered no coverage for the most needy, those whose unemployment benefits had run out while the Bush Administration pretended that tax cuts for the rich were going to save the economy.

Class Wars

Tax cuts for the wealthy are rapidly turning a paranoid fear of irreparable class divisions in this country into a reality. The farther down people go into poverty, and the longer they stay down, the longer it will take them to climb back out. Assuming they're given the means to climb back out at all.

I didn't have to read this book to learn that.

Money given to the needy stimulates 98%* of the economy. Money given to rich people stimulates the other 2%). It's as simple as that.

(* Exact percentages were made up, okay?)

In 2003, the median income in this country ("median" not "average") was $44,000 for a family of four. If you tried to live on $11,000 a year yourself, before taxes and payroll withholding, you'd get a sense of the median level of poverty in this country.

The Bush Administration (well, much of the Republican Party) favors "averages." Let's look at the New Yorker example the book quotes.

[If] Bill Gates walks into a soup kitchen where two nuns are feeding thirty-eight homeless people, the average income of the people in that room is $1 billion per person. But it's still thirty-eight penniless people, two nuns, and Bill Gates.

If 37 of the penniless people starve to death, The Radical Right will point sanctimoniously to their "average" income and demand to know if the government is supposed to make multi-billionaires out of everyone. (If you're GWBush, you also point to the nuns and the one remaining homeless person and extol the successes of faith-based initiatives.)

When someone tells GWBush that one of the dead 37 was a homeless veteran of Gulf War I, whose physical problems prevented him from holding down a job and whose (slashed) veteran's healthcare benefits couldn't provide him with care, if you're GWBush, you dash a tear from your beady little eye with a tiny USA flag and make a speech about "taking care of our brave men and women," with your fingers crossed behind your back.

Class Wars. You're probably in one when the pay of the country's top 100 CEOs is over a thousand times higher than the pay of "an average worker."

Workplace Safety

As near as I can tell, the only 'repetitive motion' that GWBush has ever experienced was playing video games and he could stop whenever he wanted. Also? He has the entire Secret Service to keep him safe while he's at work. (On his own time, he falls off of things.) (<--Cheap shot)

Workplace injuries He doesn't care and doesn't want to know about it. The ergonomics legislation passed by the Clinton Administration didn't quite make it onto the books before GWBush moved into the White House. Deciding it might hurt the feelings of his corporate campaign donors, he tossed it out.

While we're at it, let's take a quick look at how the Bush Administration views the law, shall we?

No activism here, this is "strict constructivism." Bush's Department of Labor Chief, Howard M. Radzely, made a ground-breaking 'discovery' about labor laws when he took office. He discovered that rules required employers to provide adequate restroom facilities for workers, but did not require employers to let employees actually use the facilities.

When the Bush Administration disses "activism" by the courts, this is the kind of liberal coddling of labor they're partly referring to. Some activist Liberal would have insisted those whiny workers actually be allowed to use the facilities, even though the law specifically did not say they were entitled to.

GWBush has never been cold, poor, or hungry in his life and there's no possibility he ever will be. He has no sympathy, empathy, or understanding of people living on an hourly wage or on a salary because he's never done it himself. His imagination and conscience are too barren for him to understand the majority of problems citizens of this country face.

(Removed - undoubtedly actionable passage about people reaping the rewards of graft while defrauding small investors.)


Let's Leave No Child Behind in our rush to dismantle this country's social structure and replace it with a tiered system consisting of a moneyed aristocracy supported by a diligent, thrifty, voiceless underclass.

The segregation of those destined to succeed versus those destined to live in trailer parts starts with education. First, you cut school funding. Books, well-paid teachers, buildings with complete roofs and working plumbing are luxuries.

Then you pass a law saying that any school that fails to coach students to pass standardized tests loses even more funding. This weeds out the chaff of those destined for subsistence living and saves a fortune. (While you're at it, it's good to underfund that law, so schools don’t' get any help meeting the requirements. No point in wasting a lot of time and money helping the wrong kind of people try to succeed, after all.)

(Worried about bad PR from those short-sighted voters? Don't be. Just link school "success" on the new scale to school administrator jobs and bonuses, then sit back and relax. Administrators with one eye on their jobs will bury the bad news for you.)

But let's be fair. I always like to be fair. Not everyone hates the implementation of standardized tests and assessments. Companies that specialize in school testing (and that can only benefit from the economies of scale provided my national tests) are sure to be thrilled.

(But don't go all paranoid on me. I'm sure no one would be more surprised than GWBush to learn that the McGraws, with whom his family has had a 70-year relationship, are the McGraws of McGraw-Hill, of one of the biggest standardized school textbook, testing, and assessment corporations in the country. Probably when the families were vacationing together or when Harold McGraw III was serving on Bush's "Presidential Transition Team" the subject just never came up.)

Food Safety

Just shut up and eat it. The planet is overpopulated anyhow. (Warning: Reading this chapter can be detrimental to your appetite.)

USDA inspectors? They've been stripped of the authority they need to do their jobs. Smaller government, you know.

Women's Rights?

You have the right to bear children.

The Bench

Abortion, gay rights, executing minors, and worker's protection? No, thank you.

Protecting corporate "citizens"? You betcha.

If you want to see how bad it can be, read the stuff on Priscilla Owen, a Bush nominee to the federal bench. I tried to write about it but I couldn't find any way to express an opinion that wouldn't get me sued.

Another wanna-be Bush candidate for a Federal Bench appointment denied a request filed by a condemned prisoner for a new trial on the grounds that the law says the defendant is entitled to a lawyer, but nothing in the law says the lawyer can't sleep through most of the trial.

That's "strict constructionism" courtesy of the Far Far Right.

It's not scary just because there are some nuts on the Bench in this country. It's scary because these are the kinds of people Bush appoints.

Foreign Policy

Might makes right.


The Lie: Rich people unfairly pay more taxes than anyone else.

The Truth: "Income" taxes plus "payroll" taxes take a bigger percentage bite out of the majority of American's incomes than rich people pay on their "income" taxes. Most tax revenues are payroll taxes, of which the handful of rich people in this country pays only a nearly invisible fraction.

State of the Union

Bush sees the presidency as a license to do whatever he wants. Before he ran for the office, someone really should have explained that he was running to be the country's #1 public servant.

[That's] what we do in this country, over and over. Get so scared of some dread menace--of communism or crime or drugs or illegal aliens or terrorists--that we hurt ourselves. We think we can make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free. It never works. When we make ourselves less free, we're not safer, we're only less free.

Remember the brief flurry of concern over Patriot II, the Patriot Act's bigger, meaner brother?

If there is, in fact, another terrorist attack on UsofA soil during Bush's watch, the authors predict we're going to become very familiar with Patriot II.

I'm just saying. We need to kick out the current Administration and then roll up our sleeves. November 2, 2004 is only the start for what needs to be done to clean up the mess Bush & Company have created. And while we're at it, let's see if we can't arrive at someplace even better than we were when the neo-cons started in dismantling the country.

For some suggestions on what we might do, check the last chapter of the book.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:59 PM | Comments (14)