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August 20, 2004

Let's all celebrate the day. It's National Spumoni Day, after all. Not to mention National Ice Cream Soda Day. (I should point out that I don't like either of those. If you're all amenable, I believe I'll demonstrate my goodwill by consuming a hot fudge sundae.)

It's Happy Birthday to the State of Hawaii, today. They made us 50 but they're only 45. (August 21, 1959) And let's celebrate Count Basie's birthday. (August 21, 1904) while we're at it.

On a more personal note, Happy 2nd Birthday to my little blog.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:33 PM | Comments (5)
For Every Drop of Rain That Falls....

Someone gets wet, okay? Cause and effect.

I believe in personal responsibility. I believe we should all be educated and encouraged to be active, participating citizens of the country on all levels, from the neighborhood to the federal government. Government should be as transparent as practicably possible and we should be raised and socialized to understand our place in it.

I think we should get rid of the pointless, "In God We Trust" and make our national motto something more akin to the Golden Rule. And then start living it.

And I believe in a lot of other things, but in moderation. I'm very moderate.

I believe in personal freedom, up to a point. I believe that your freedom stops when you start impinging on my personal space and I believe society's authority to interfere with my freedom should be limited to cases involving criminality or violations of the personal freedom of others. (Thus, I'd approve of anti-noise ordinances, but not of laws dictating whether or not my boyfriend and I can use sex toys in the bedroom.)

I believe in freedom of the press but at the same time I believe in responsible journalism. I believe that the press is separate and distinct from almost every other "business" and that it should be treated accordingly. There should be independent ethics standards and publications/stations violating them should be fined. We need to care less about airwaves transmitting curse words to the public and more about them transmitting lies or only telling half the story.

I believe the planet matters. I believe in ecological responsibility and I believe we need to be spending more of our time and energy evaluating our impact on the planet and how to minimize it. (I guarantee you, if you made it illegal, tomorrow, to cut down any more trees, manufacturers all over the country would quickly and magically figure out how to recycle the millions of tons of reusable waste we now bury every year.) I don't believe in nuclear power plants and I don't believe in nuclear bombs. I think a reasonable amount of R&D would provide us with sufficient wind and sun power to accommodate most of our fuel needs.

I believe education the population should be one of the most prominent features of government. I think we need more money for education in this country, but not blindly. (I believe in public schools because they're transparent. As long as the school is open for inspections and evaluation, we know what's being taught.)

I believe that children raised with a cultural expectation that they'll absorb a certain amount of knowledge will absorb it. I believe that children raised to believe their schools are no good or aren't treating them right, won't learn. I believe Bill Cosby is right. When children don't want an education, it's because everything around them tells them it's not important and won't do them any good in the future.

I believe we should put money into the education infrastructure because that will show children that our society respects education and the process of acquiring it and I believe we should put money into the classrooms because children are the only future and the only immortality we have.

Classrooms mean teachers. A good teacher can change a child's life, even in the face of crumbling roofs, broken windows, tattered textbooks, and mismatched school desks. Take a teacher who can teach. Take a child who has been told they can do it and we know they will do it. Put them together.

I believe in health care. For everyone. If that means some version of socialized medicine for those who can't afford any other healthcare, so be it. I'm willing to help pay for it.

I believe in self-sufficiency and I want to live in a country that can provide that for the maximum number of citizens. Reasonably satisfying, income-producing jobs don't seem like too much to ask of a money-grubbing, capitalistic society, but somehow we don't seem to be able to produce them. We're either insufficiently money-grubbing or we're just very inefficient, it's hard to know which.

But mostly, I believe we should pull our socks up and start being the country I always thought we were.

We should stop supporting crazy people around the globe for short-term political or "policy" gains. It never pays, in the end. Can someone explain that to Washington?

You know that expression; "draw a line in the sand"? I've always hated that. A line in the sand can be smoothed out and redrawn someplace else, a thousand times.

Carve a line in some granite. This is what we believe. This is what we'll support, and nothing less.

While we're at it, let's stop using military muscle to enforce the desires of USofA (or multinational) corporations. While I understand the importance of corporations to economic success, corporations' goals and aspirations rarely match the ideals of this country. I say, any time someone wants us to intervene militarily to protect the rights of a corporation, they have to get up on their hind feet and make a speech on television, in prime time, admitting it and making their case.

I believe that no USofA troops should ever be sent anywhere without that deployment being front and center in the newspapers and on the television. We're entitled to know where we're sending troops and for what purpose. We're entitled to know what and who they're defending.

Also? We should tidy our own house. We shouldn't get so busy acting superior to the treatment of minorities, women, children, protesters, gays, or the handicapped elsewhere on the globe that we forget that our own record in those areas has been and still is nothing to brag about.

I've said it before. I don't believe in grading on the curve. That we're better than the worst is nothing to strut about. That we're better than the average is nothing to write home about. The only thing that matters is that we're the best we can be.

A flower doesn't grow for every drop of rain that falls, okay? It takes a lot of raindrops. (Even some fertilizer.)

Moving ahead isn't simple. It won't happen quickly and it won't happen easily, but if we don't keep making the effort, it won't happen at all.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:26 PM | Comments (2)
A Little Rant

The Guardian also takes on the Republican campaign. Only true believers need apply

Neurotic control lies at the heart of the Republican campaign

Before attending a rally to hear vice president Dick Cheney, citizens in New Mexico were required to sign a political loyalty oath approved by the Republican national committee. "I, [full name] ... do herby [sic] endorse George W Bush for reelection of the United States." The form noted: "In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush."

Bush is campaigning at events billed as Ask President Bush. Only supporters are allowed in. Talking points are distributed to questioners. In Traverse City, Michigan, a 55-year-old social studies teacher who wore a Kerry sticker had her ticket torn up at the door. "How can anyone in the US deny someone entry?" she asked. "Isn't this a democracy?"

At every rally, Bush repeats the same speech, touting a "vibrant economy" and his leadership in a war where "you cannot show weakness". He introduces local entrepreneurs who praise his tax cuts. (More than one million jobs have been lost in his term.) Then Bush calls on questioners. More than one-fifth of them profess their evangelical faith or denounce gay marriage. In Niceville, Florida, one said: "This is the very first time that I have felt that God was in the White House." "Thank you," replied Bush. Another: "Mr President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?" In Albuquerque, he was told: "It's an honour every day when I get to pray for you as president." And this one: "Thank God we finally have a commander-in-chief." Others repeat attack lines on John Kerry's military record to which Bush responds with an oblique but encouraging "Thanks".

You know what astonishes me?

The idea that some people I'd previously thought of as intelligent and thoughtful are actually planning to vote for someone who is this afraid of an unscripted question. (And, I should add, so unable to answer one.)

This election is kind of a breaking point for me. There are those who call themselves "independent" or "moderate" but admit they usually vote Republican.

This election is kind of like an opportunity to prove their bona fides in the "moderate" department. If they've been watching the Bush Administration's failures, failings, and inadequacies, and still find that they plan to vote for Bush in November, they should stop pretending they're anything but die-hard Republicans.

Anyone whose revulsion against voting for a Democrat is so strong that they'll support this Administration...well, the mind boggles.

I mean, let's face it. Unless you're so gullible you're buying into the whole smear campaign against Kerry, when you look at his record, he's reasonably liberal but he's hardly a wild-eyed leftist. His proposals are sensible; they're even moderate. (I can tell because I'm frustrated at how they sometimes fail to go far enough to suit me.)

I loathe hypocrisy.

I don't mind so much the people who blog or comment and who have supported the Bush Administration since Day One because at least they're consistent.

I disagree with them (violently) but I admit their right to believe that organized, systematic abuse of prisoners all over Iraq could have taken place without any Administration knowledge or complicity and that invading smaller, poorer countries and killing thousands upon thousands of civilians in an attempt to liberate them from a way of life we've decided not to approve of and cutting domestic spending instead of increasing it is a way to jumpstart the economy in the face of decades of experience that prove the exact opposite, and other ridiculous things. They have the right to believe those things.

There's no law against being an idiot. You can believe those and all of the other failed policies of the Bush Administration.

But anyone who has been blogging a change in their perception of the Administration, anyone who has been, over the last six months or so, blogging about the Administration's failures on the domestic and international fronts, who pretends that four more years of unprovoked aggression, regressive tax cuts, and catastrophic cuts in domestic programs is the better choice, but finds themselves just "unable to vote for Kerry" is going to lose my respect in a major way.

I read all over the middle and the right in the world o'blog. The blogs on my blogroll are just those I check regularly. I've read a lot about people becoming disenchanted with Bush&Co over the last few months but now that it comes down to it, I'm appalled to see how many people are finding party affiliation more important than principles.

It's as though they have some delusion that a political party is actually more important than the country or something, you know? As though the political party is an end in itself.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:22 PM | Comments (5)
Nobody Does It Better

Today's lunch: Baked chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cantaloupe

Today's blogging: Light

Josh Marshall illustrates the "probabilism of innuendo" for us with this piece of typical NYPost dreck.

Robert Johnson gives us some more or the Alan Keyes story.

Avedon Carol brings us another chapter in the "campaign finance reform" saga.

Kevin Drum on the growing revelations that at least some of those "Swift Boat Veterans" have been lying, are lying, or were lying.

Via Cursor, we get the story of the co-author of Swift Boat Veterans, Mr. Jerome Corsi.

He's a charmer, too. Look what he's been sharing with the Freepers on their home site:

- CORSI: Maybe while he's there he can tell the UN what he's going to do about the sexual crimes committed by "priests" in his "Church" during his tenure. Or, maybe that's the connection -- boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press.

- CORSI: Let's see exactly why it isn't the case that Islam is a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion? Where's the proof to the contrary?

- CORSI: Islam is a peaceful religion as long as the women are beaten, the boys buggered, and the infidels killed. "

- CORSI: John F*ing Commie Kerry and Commie Ted [Kennedy] discuss their plan to hand America over to our nation's enemies.

- CORSI: Time to FREEP Chris Matthews of MSNBC. MSNBC is beginning to stand for "More Sh*t, Nothing But Communism."

I hope those of you on the Left, in the Middle, and on the Right take note of this. I have to say I pity anyone foolish enough to actually form a political opinion based on the writings of such a lunatic.

If you're willing to go through today's short Salon Day Pass, you can read Unfit for bookstores

The Kerry campaign calls on a conservative publisher to withdraw book after the Washington Post torpedoes the veracity of a Swift boat veteran. [...] Even some uncomfortable Republicans might breathe a sigh a relief if "Unfit for Command" were to vanish from bookstores: "I don't think the Swift Boat Veterans are helping the Republican cause," Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., remarked on CNN Thursday.

And here you'll find an interesting breakdown on "US Public Beliefs on Iraq and the Presidential Election". I got there via who details and discusses some of the findings.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)
August 19, 2004
Stuff I Felt Like Blogging

Where are the Legions?

The forces of the United States military are located in nearly 130 countries around the world performing a variety of duties from combat operations, to peacekeeping, to training with foreign militaries. Some of these deployments have existed for nearly 50 years, as in Japan, Germany, and South Korea, while other deployments have more recent origins such as the current occupation of Iraq.

It goes on to talk about where we have soldiers stationed today. Is very interesting.

I didn't know this. I mean, I new that the networks were obligated to give equal time to both major parties. They used to be obliged. They aren't any more. It's also very interesting.

If you read Engelhardt's " The imperfect media storm or George Bush and the Temple of Doom about the failures of the USofA media to adequately cover Iraq, then you'll want to read Stories Missing from U.S. Media, part two of the series.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

We had some serious flooding here in Denver.


I read this and I'm pleased. It's about time we started cleaning up politics.

Of course, then I read this and I realize I'm not sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for this guy to face charges.

And, speaking of potentially criminal behavior, if the FBI is, in fact, withholding hundreds of papers, photographs and videotapes that prove the FBI had some complicity in prisoner abuse, I'd personally like to know about it.

(Also, have you read this about the bridge incident?)

Redeployment again.

The Bush administration's decision to reduce the number of American soldiers stationed abroad is a belated reaction to a U.S. military deployment that has been gravely outdated since the end of the cold war, and that is poorly adapted to the current official strategic scenario. Even reduced in troop strength, the vast U.S. global military base system will remain at odds with how the world is developing.

I find all of this so interesting.

I had no idea that the anti-Republican Convention sentiment in New York City was so...organized. Certainly I think most of us experienced a certain amount of nausea when it was explained that the Convention was being held in strongly Democrat NYC and a month late to allow Bush 9/11 anniversary photo ops, but since the public outcry forced them to cancel that little piece of nastiness, I hadn't really thought that much about the Convention locale.

A weblog at The Guardian is still asking about Iraqi prisoner abuse (warning: multiple unpleasant photos) and the reports "due out soon" that, we hope, will tell us what happened.

Polls lay out the "solid" states, the "swing" states, and some thoughts about the next few months.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)
Financing the Future

The markets are the message

Commentary: Signposts point to economic slowdown

Never mind what the Federal Reserve says. Never mind what the politicians assert. And never mind what some economists opine.

If you really want to know what's going to happen, look at the financial markets.

Opinions are fine, but unless they are backed by money, they don't count for much. In the markets, people put their money where their mouths are, so markets-based views are more important.

Whether it's stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities or precious metals, people who participate in the markets must be as close to the real world as possible or else they risk losing big bucks.

And just what is the markets' message today? The same as the one I first began giving you in these columns a little over three months ago: Namely, the economy's slowing down, not picking up as the Fed, the politicians and the pundits think.

(Requires registration, sorry.)

This is a matter of concern for all of us. While the Bush Administration's policies haven't done much to create an economic turnaround, the problem is larger than that. Jump-starting the economy is usually done by lowering the Fed's rate and by increasing domestic spending,

The Fed has cut interest rates until we were nearly at rock bottom, we've waited out the usual lag time, and we've seen little or no effect.

Increased domestic spending frequently comes in the form of extended benefits for the unemployed, an excellent economic jump-start because that money goes directly into the economy, but the little the Bush Administration did (too little, and too late for many) isn't doing the trick.

It can also come in the form of other government spending projects, but the Bush Administration can't afford to pay for those because of their repeated tax cuts and they wouldn't fund them if they could afford them.

I think it's going to be a long, hard slog to get the economy moving again. It's not going to happen under another Bush Administration because they can't and won't do what it takes. Even with Kerry in office, it's going to take a lot of work to get us back on the right track.

See also: Bush's House of Cards.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)
August 18, 2004
What I Think

I think Bush would very much like to make this campaign cycle about making war because on the domestic side fewer and fewer people believe that enacting massive tax cuts for the rich is doing most of us any good at all.

(While I'm mentioning that whole war thing, let me say that I am truly appalled by the way the prisoner abuse issue has completely dropped off the USofA media's radar.)

I know the UN and others are desperately trying to avoid the word "genocide" but when I read this, I think of Rwanda.

E-voting with a paper trail.

It was simultaneously an uh-oh moment and an ah-ha moment.

When Sequoia Voting Systems demonstrated its new paper-trail electronic voting system for state Senate staffers in California last week, the company representative got a surprise when the paper trail failed to record votes that testers cast on the machine.

(Via Avedon Carol, whose persistence in keeping this issue on our minds is much-appreciated.)

Actually, the salesmen in the story above have my sympathy. Anyone who has ever demonstrated a new product for a potential customer knows that there's always some kind of weird mishap, it's always an anomaly, and it always gives the impression that the product is buggy.

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

(Via Avedon Carol, who had her own comments to add.)

(Note: I haven't had time to read either of these thoroughly yet. I will do so this evening, but I'm linking to them here so I have them to reference if I find anything I want to add to the discussion.)

The headline is misleading, unless you see the question mark. "Bush to invite election observers?" If Bush does, in fact, personally extend an invitation, it will be because of pressure from Congress and the media.

Despite the protestations of those who claim that the need for observers is predicated entirely on the idea that the last election was tampered with, as Paul Krugman points out, it's just as important that Americans believe the election is fair as it is that the election itself actually is.

Haven't I been saying that over and over?

FCC greenlights broader wiretap guidelines.

Quoting FCC chairman Michael Powell, a Monitor article from Thursday states, “It’s probably the most significant paradigm shift in the entire history of modern communications, since the invention of the telephone.”

What is it?

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol. To Jane and John Doe, it’s doing on a computer what one would normally do on a phone, and for a number of privacy advocates, it could be the latest hot button issue surrounding the FCC since that body approved new rules governing media ownership. It’s also the latest wrinkle in the blanket of measures to come out of the USA Patriot Act, the monolithic anti-terror law promptly passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

According to the article, this isn't to make it "possible" to track terrorists on-line. It just makes it easy. (And, of course, to watch anyone else they're interested in.)

I don't actually know enough about this stuff to offer an informed opinion.

Re-deployment, by Ronald D. Asmus. The opinions are beginning to appear. Steve Celmons has an opinion on the opinion.

And did I link to this one yet?

US children 'abandoned in Africa'

Seven US children have been discovered suffering from disease and malnutrition in a Nigerian orphanage.

The children, aged from eight to 16, were reportedly left there by their adoptive mother.

The three boys and four girls were found by a visiting Texas missionary after he heard their accents, reports the Associated Press news agency.

I think someone ought to go to jail.

Kudos to Kerry for sticking by his principles and condemning the Moveon.org ad cited in the article. (I'm still having moments of cognitive dissonance about the changing view of Vietnam service in this country, but one opinion I haven't changed. If Bush was going to get a pass with National Guard service, he should at least have completed that service honorably.)

If I ever get through even half the books waiting on my To Be Read shelf, I want to do some reading on Woodrow Wilson. This article talks about parallels between it and the Bush Administration's passion for war. (Wilson's bloodthirsty foreign policy shows up again in this George Will column.

I'm glad to read that the the soccer match between Haiti and Brazil is still on. I hope it's the bonding experience it's planned to be.

The dumbing down of USofA politics. It's everyone's fault.

You say Americans get what they deserve.

It is my thesis that the dumbing down is the fault of the politicians -- but not only. It's also the fault of voters because they don’t pay attention. And of the press because we don't do a good job. I don't have clean hands. Ordinarily, a book like mine will have solutions. I don't have any. The other day, I was talking to a group of people at a Chicago library. Somebody asked me about the book's pessimistic tone. I said, "You know, if anyone is remotely suicidal, they shouldn’t read it."

There are funny parts, and I enjoyed it. But, yes, it's kind of a downer.

It's supposed to be. The people we're electing are terrible.

It's an interview with Jack Germond, author of Fat Man Fed Up. Another book to add to the list, I guess.

The person who wrote this is a lunatic. The only good thing about zuccini is its absence from my dining table.

(Because I'm not always as serious as I should be, the comments here, which should have inspired some Deep Inteleckshul Thot, really only led me to speculate on whether or not what we really need is a word to define what happens when someone has a bit of a speech or article or blog entry or whatever pulled out of context and distorted to be used against them.

Maybe we should call it "being sound-bitten". What do you think?)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:51 PM | Comments (3)
August 17, 2004
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (Franken)

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (by Al Franken)

Much more substantial than the previous Franken book I read, which is all to the good, except for the inexplicable amount of paper he wastes on discussing A. C**lter's endless lies and deceptions. (Okay, the book is about liars, but really, she's just a fruitcake.)

Chapter 7 was about the 2000 Presidential election and since that was approximately the 15th time I've read a comparison of the media's indifference ot Bush's campaign trail lies to it's piranha-like approach to even incident that could conceivably be twisted to make Al Gore look bad, the chapter did nothing to change my opinion that a lazy, dishonest media can do this country more damage than most of us care to admit.

While I was aware that Bill O'R**lly was a dishonest bully, I hadn't realized he has an almost pathological fear of hearing the truth spoken, which made Chapter 13 interesting.

Chapter 42, the Standardized Test on the calamitous No Child Left Behind fiasco, was painful but accurate.

I did not, of course, ever fall for the right-wing lie machine's propaganda about how 9/11 was all Clinton's fault, so I didn't expect Chapter 15 to be educational, but I was mistaken. I had no idea just how much the Clinton Administration had done to combat terrorism or how extensively they'd planned an all-out assault on bin Laden and his organization. I have to say I was absolutely impressed.

Chapter 16, of course, is about how the Bush Administration tore up the Clinton Administration plan and jumped on the pieces.

(You know, I absolutely Do. Not. Get. The Right's foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of Clinton. Was it just that they'd had so many years of Republican misrule from the White House that they thought they owned the job, or what? Franken says it's because the Clintons were young, charismatic, and liberal, but that hardly explained the complete psychotic breakdown we witnessed for eight long years, okay?

I mean, I may have been largely apolitical for most of those years, but I did periodically tune in for a day or two, and read a few newspapers to check what was going on in the world. The subject during those years was always Whitewater and, if you listened carefully, it was always that no wrongdoing had been found.

Beyond that, the media's orgasmic feeding frenzy over being able to repeat the words "President" and "sex" day after day was worse than disgusting. It was unseemly.

And since I tuned in, then dropped back out four or five times a year, I noticed something the more well-informed may have missed. There was never any news. Nothing was happening.

From time to time some new almost incomprehensibly lunatic allegation would surface, be bandied about breathlessly for a few days, then disappear. None of these allegations were ever proven. None of them were ever true. And yet, people I'd thought of as being serious news reporters couldn't seem to stop reporting these lies and rumors. Publications I'd thought of as reliable and sensible were coming unglued over absolutely nothing.

And it went on, and on, and on.

I'd already been cynical about politics, having survived Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I. That spectacle made me add contempt for the so-called "news media" to my arsenal of indifference.)

The book under discussion, if you've forgotten where we were when that little rant started, is, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."

I wasn't aware that Richard Scaife has given over $200,000,000 (that's two hundred million dollars) to right-wing organizations. (Making the Right's current indignation over Soros' modest funding of the Left's issues laughable.) Nor was I aware that Scaife is alleged to have paid Whitewater "witnesses" to lie about the Clintons, in a desperate attempt to indict them.

Naturally I know the Wall Street Journal's Opinion page is populated by wingnuts, so the "revelation" that it tried to smear the Clintons with fantasy murder charges didn't faze me in Chapter 19.

I didn't know (Chapter 41) that Bush announced on national television last year that we'd found WMD in Iraq. (If you didn't know it either, it's because Bush announced this on Poland's national television and it wasn't reported by the cowed and cowering UsofA media.)

I did, while reading about the triumph of electioneering over brains in the Bush Administration, finally come across the perfect description of the Administration, the phrase that encapsulates the bizarre combination of venality and ineptitude we've been watching for the past three years.

Mayberry Machiavellis

At least...I thought I had, but now that I'm looking at it, I realize that the simple, well-meaning charm of rural-American Mayberry has no place in the Bush Administration.

I may start referring to Bush's presidency as, "The Lying Years" though.

Chapter 19 - Paul Wellstone

Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in our world. Politics is about doing well for people.
Posted by AnneZook at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)
Soldiers and Schools and Stuff

I don't understand. Joe is a hero.

The Conscience of Joe Darby

When he saw the horrific abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, Joe Darby knew he had to blow the whistle. But coming forward would change his life—as well as his family's—forever, and for the worse. Because back in his own community and in the small towns of America, handing over those photos didn't make Joe Darby a hero. It made him a traitor.

Not to everyone.

(Via Digby)

Re-deployment, again.

President Bush's plan to withdraw up to 70,000 troops from overseas bases contained few specifics, particularly about Asia. Some experts think the United States may leave much of its Asia force intact.

Although Pentagon officials have said the troop realignment plan includes pulling about 30,000 soldiers from Germany, they have said nothing about Asia.

In spite of the fact (as we learned from the expertise of Col Steve in a previous comment) that this plan has been under development for many years, I think expecting the first draft to come out complete with details is a bit optimistic.

Especially considering that any plan formulated for a pre 9/11 world is likely to need some adjusting.

President Bush on Monday said he wanted to move 60,000 to 70,000 foreign-based troops back to the United States over the next decade. The move, he said, would help make the U.S. military more flexible and would reduce costs. He gave no other details about the plan, and officials in Washington told reporters that most of the specifics would be ironed out in the coming years in talks with U.S. allies.

That's actually very sensible. Certainly those areas we're leaving are going to need some time to adjust if we intend that our allies should remain allies.

Rumsfeld has been talking to the Russians about the re-deployment and The People's Daily has opinions.

I should imagine that almost every story (or opinion piece) on the subject is going to look just like every other story for a while. It's a big event, but very little seems to have been set in stone about it.

It's very interesting, though.

Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal.*

The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.

(* Am I one of those being chastised for transient links? I suspect I am. From this day forth, I promise to make an effort to learn to use the NYTimes time-friendly links system. This story was my first try, so if I did it wrong, be kind.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)
Deployment, The Onion, China

I'm going to read this under the assumption that it's an explanation of the troop redeployment written for the average idiot :) and I'll be able to understand it.

But I intend to read the opinions of others and anything else about deployment printed in the foreign press as well.

Harkin* has a point. Cheney, of all people, should keep his mouth shut about what anyone else did during the Vietnam era.

Using tax money in the form of vouchers to send your child to a religious school is unconstitutional. I approve of that ruling. I don't approve of vouchers.

Income Gap Of Poor, Rich, Widens

Over two decades, the income gap has steadily increased between the richest Americans, who own homes and stocks and got big tax breaks, and those at the middle and bottom of the pay scale, whose paychecks buy less.

Afghan Trial of Alleged US Vigilantes Halted as FBI Returns Evidence

The trial of three Americans accused of jailing, kidnapping and torturing prisoners in Afghanistan was dramatically halted after the FBI returned a "substantial" amount of evidence to Afghan authorities.

Judge Abdul Baset Bahktiari adjourned the trial for seven days to allow the Americans and their four Afghan co-accused time to study the evidence, which prosecutors said had been held by the FBI for more than 20 days.

"We received the documents 10 minutes ago," Mohammed Naim Daiwari told the court's afternoon session.

The defendants, arrested in July for allegedly running a private prison and counter-terrorism operations in Kabul, had earlier accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of withholding evidence proving their links to US authorities.

Court orders US to release torture files

The US government must start providing civil-rights groups with documents about the torture of prisoners held by US forces at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities within two weeks, a federal judge ordered on Thursday.

The Onion, how it gets written.

Honesty and transparency. That's what we need in vote counting.

Look. That story about a Chinese woman beaten up at Niagara Falls made the UsofA media. Well, at lest the editorial page. (originally blogged here.)

* I look forward to the day when I get a post up and it's not full of typos and broken links.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:31 AM | Comments (8)
August 16, 2004
Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot (Franken)

Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations (by Al Franken)

I go to each new book as a learning experience*, and what I'd learned by page 20 of this one is that anyone who takes Limbaugh seriously, anyone who thinks that what he's doing is anything other than a gimmick he's discovered to make money, that person is actually the idiot.

Granted, Limbaugh is a fairly disturbed person (who, in a better-organized society, would be getting the professional help he needs) but most of the bile he spews is just "material" for the act he's putting on.

(* I didn't actually expect to learn much from this one. I read it mainly by way of background before tackling Lies. In case you find that odd, let me point out that reading "topical" commentary and opinions on things that happened eight or more years ago is an excellent way to determine how much faith to put in what a writer is writing today. You have just enough "historical context" without having lost so much time that you've forgotten the actual details of what really happened yourself.)

Anyhow. The book.

I also learned (see chapter 30) that Pat Buchanan is a rather less attractive personality that I'd previously believed, and my opinion of him was already scraping the bottom of the barrel.

But I struck paydirt on Alan Keyes, the guy the Right has hauled out and dusted off to compete with Barak Obama.

It's one thing to be anti-abortion (and I can sympathize more than you'd suspect with that position). It's another to be an obsessive nut on the subject. I mean, in his past runs for office, has he run on any issue besides being anti-abortion? It's all about that. The loss of the country's "moral values" and his attempts to institutionalize his religion in our government and all of it. It's all mainly about abortion.

When you read that a fringe candidate has threatened to commit suicide if he's not allowed to participate in pre-polling day debates, you have to ask yourself, seriously, if the world doesn't have enough problems with lunatics being put in charge of anything bigger than a golf ball.

Anyhow. The book's a bit dated but it's certainly worth checking out of your library for a superficial rundown on some major Republican movers and shakers. If you can't remember exactly why you loathe Newt Gingrich, this book will remind you.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)
Paranoia and Politics

Allegations of fraud using electronic voting machines in Venezuela. That's just what I mean about those machines. Even if they're entirely honest and never tampered with, they don't allow for transparent vote-counting or recounting and there's no independent way to verify the results. They're just a bad, bad idea.

This is lame. The Democrats and the Republicans get together and agree on how the debates are going to be run. We should all be scared because...because...well, it's hard to say.

Because the country's two major parties are running the debates between their candidates, you see. (No, it's not that no one else could run debates. Of course they can. Provide an audience and some publicity and you're good to go.)

Color me un-paranoid about that one.

I'm too busy being paranoid about systematic efforts to intimidate voters. (If that's what's really happening. Unlike some, I don't automatically equate police activity with harassment...but I'm starting to learn that there are some segments of the population to whom that's pretty much what it means, and that they have good reason to feel that way.)

I also really get aggravated about stories like this. "Out of Spotlight, Bush Overhauls U.S. Regulations" This is the kind of thing that qualifies as "dangerous," in my eyes.

Some leaders of advocacy groups argue that the public preoccupation with war and terrorism has allowed the administration to push through changes that otherwise would have provoked an outcry. Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, says he does not think the administration could have succeeded in rewriting so many environmental rules, for example, if the public's attention had not been focused on national security issues.

Oh, I don't know. There are a lot of people in this country who care very deeply about environmental rules. Maybe it the media was doing a better job of reporting these things as they happen, we'd be hearing some of that outcry?

I'm still pondering that troop withdrawal thing. It may be time we did a certain amount of rearranging of where we have troops stationed and I can see that. And yet, there seems to be less to the story than the headlines make it appear.

The withdrawal is likely to take several years and will not start in the near future, Rumsfeld told reporters on his flight back to the US after a trip to Europe and Asia.

Are we just starting to talk about it early so everyone gets used to the idea? Maybe not.

John McKay says we first floated the idea last year and at that time it was marketed as a punitive move to "punish" the countries that wouldn't join our Coalition of the Willing To Invade Iraq and Kill A Lot Of People Who Aren't Doing Anything To Us.

And yet, I know a lot of diplomatic maneuvering goes on behind the scenes between countries. (Well, it used to. It's hard to say if there's anything that subtle happening under the Bush Administration's watch.)

I look at the troop withdrawal from South Korea, remember the recent spate of fussing over North Korea when we called them evil and (probably) nearly incited their psychotic leader to start WWIII, and I wonder if there isn't quite a lot more to this than we know?

More broadly, what do "the terrorists" want? Maybe more of us should be considering that question?

You can't blame the faltering public education system here. You can't even entirely blame the candidates, who always prefer garish caricatures of the enemy to detailed portraits. But you can blame the press. In the rare cases when al Qaeda's motives are characterized, the U.S. press has been content to portray "the terrorists" as a vague, "shadowy" amalgamation of "jihadis" whose horrific plots are fueled mainly by hatred for American freedoms and by whatever charities and dope pushers the Justice Department has fingered this week. The truth, as usual, is more complex, though the effort needed to explain al Qaeda is surely deserved. By default, Osama bin Laden is a major player in the election, but we know more about P. Diddy's struggle to get out the vote than we know about what drives bin Laden or what his goals are.

That's rather the sort of thing I'm always hoping to read.

Except that I distrust our media so thoroughly that I don't know if I'd believe them if they did try to explain a complicated issue to me. On the other hand there's the internet and access to media from all over the world along with privately written opinions as well, which combination does seem to give people with the time and energy to spend a good, global view of most issues.

(To those interested, I'd like to say that my cold is much better. When my roommate suggested that people who feel unwell can, you know, take medicine, I started getting better within a day. Odd how that sort of things works, isn't it? Medicine. What a concept.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:38 PM | Comments (7)
Fudging the Numbers

George W. Bush's Record-Breaking Economy

"Our economy since last summer has been growing at the fastest rate in 20 years" said President Bush in a speech last week.

Is that true?

Well if you pick the right three quarters -- the first quarter of this year and the second half of last year, to be exact -- it is technically true. Over these three quarters the economy grew by 5.4 percent, which is faster than any other 9-month period in the past 20 years. But not by much. For the last 9 months of 1999, for example, the economy grew by 5.1 percent.

But why take 9 months? If we look at the last year, it's not any record at all. Similarly for the last two years. And since the recession ended in the last quarter of 2001, the economy has grown by 3.6 percent. This not bad, but not particularly strong growth for a recovery from a recession -- when the economy usually

Trade Gap Widens, Producer Prices Tame

The U.S. trade deficit widened much more than expected in June, hitting a record $55.8 billion on the biggest drop in exports in nearly three years and record imports, the government said on Friday.

Playing the Numbers. What about those tax cuts? Who benefited and by how much? Someone who was at the White House but preferred to remain anonymous said everyone did well out of the cuts.

On the other hand....

Jackie Calmes of The Wall Street Journal also writes (subscription required) about the study, and supplies a nice breakdown of the tax-cut benefits (minus any spins).

The cuts, writes Calmes, "will reduce this year's income taxes for the richest 1 percent of taxpayers by an average of $78,460, more than 70 times the average benefit for the middle 20 percent of taxpayers, congressional analysts found."

It seems we didn't all do equally well. Especially If you keep reading:

The issue of who pays how much isn't the entire story in the debate over taxes. As liberal Times columnist Paul Krugman writes today, the Bush tax cuts have "favored unearned income over earned income -- or, if you prefer -- investment returns over wages."

He favors money you don't have to work for. (Well, wouldn't we all if we had a choice?)

They're Back: Neocons Revive the Committee on the Present Danger, This Time against Terrorism

Otherwise, what is the old USofA up to?

Well, Democracy in Venezuela is under attack from us.

Our government has funded, and continues to fund, organizations headed by people who were leaders of the military coup of April 2002. (See Appendix 2). These leaders have received, and some continue to receive, funds from the United States Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy. These are people who signed the actual coup decree of April 12, 2002, that overthrew the elected President and Vice President, and abolished the General Assembly, the Supreme Court and the constitution, and established a dictatorship.

(From hearings before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations)

Any link to a really thorough story about why we're pulling 70,000 troops back from Europe would be appreciated.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)
Go Here

Kerry. Iraq. War. Position. Kevin Drum puts it in simple words.

Go. Read. I'm not talking to you until you do.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:33 AM | Comments (3)
August 15, 2004
The True Believer (Hoffer)

The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements (by Eric Hoffer)

I've decided to start my own cult. It's handy that I just finished a book that offers step-by-step instructions, isn't it? (Well, sort of.)

I've rather given up on the whole superhero/sekrit identity thing, by the way. All the good superpowers are already taken. At one point, concerned about the ongoing Colorado drought, I did dabble with a plan for enforcing water conservation until supplies were replenished (Reservoir Girl to the rescue!) but a friend happened to mention that water-themed superheroes are really lame, so I abandoned the idea.

Besides, it started to rain.

More seriously, it's always interesting to read a book that confirms your own private prejudices, isn't it? (This, the author explain on page 105, is because propaganda "articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients.")

Almost any kind of persuasive speaking is a form of propaganda, so that means I found the book interesting and "educational" because it "taught" me what I already believed.

There's something charmingly circular about that, isn't there?

I'm tempted to digress a bit and ponder the "success" or otherwise of advertising campaigns in light of this idea, but I won't. (Hold onto the thought, though. I may return to it later.)

It's even cooler (we're back to True Believer now) when a book articulates your own unarticulated beliefs and then uses them to explain things that previously mystified you.

I mean, why did a substantial portion of the UsofA population turn their back on Bush so relatively soon after 9/11? (It's too long to go into now but it's a all around the Bush Administration having no idea of how to respond to a mass movement and their complete contempt for the actual voters in this country that constantly leads them to behave as if we're the enemy.)

Why do so many of the "working poor" vote against the traditional labor party of Democrats? It's the "conservatism of the destitute." When you are utterly without power, change is terrifying. Balanced on the high wire of destitution, any change pushes you toward disaster.)

What is the continuing hold organized religion has on some people's minds? (The desire for immortality, to be part of something "mighty, glorious, and indestructible." It's the same impulse that drives patriotism, support for your local sports team, and generous donations to your alma mater.)

Why do some Southerners persist in holding on to the fiction of their glorious "Lost Cause"?*

Okay, that last one is why I bought the book. It's one of the handful I picked up to help me understand that whole situation, but the book turned out to be interesting on a lot more fronts than I'd expected. Published in 1951, the book doesn't claim to predict the future, but the author's thoughts on the future of China, Japan, and Communism (the issues of his day) are surprisingly prophetic in some ways.

(* For what it's worth, the fervent belief in a mythical "lost" South is probably a substitute for their lost faith in themselves.)

From the excesses of the French Revolution to the motivations of "suicide bombers", the book explains the psychology of mass movements in terms of the individuals attracted to them

What makes a fanatic? What draws someone to a radical movement? What pushes someone over that edge, from frustrated individual to radical activist?

(I think the psychology is valid even for those groups not involved in a "mass" movement involving large numbers of people. Any group, no matter how small, if sufficiently insular can give its members the illusion of being caught up in a "movement" with the resulting benefits.

That probably explains why it felt to me as if so many of the neocons' self-deceptions were being described as tactics adopted by members of mass movements.

It might also explain how I wound up with so many pages flagged with post-it flags and the name "Bush" attached. Organized religion itself being a mass movement offering ultimate self-renunciation and identification with a glorious and eternal "cause," well, I wasn't surprised to find Bush 12-stepping through the pages of the book.)

Along with discussions of dissatisfactions that draw people to mass movements, there was plenty about the positive, inspirational aspects of mass movements as well. A mass movement, as a concept, is neither good nor bad. What's interesting are things like the similarities between different "movements" when you lay aside moral judgments and values. Psychologically, the Reformation and the rise of Nazism in Germany have some amazing similarities.

There are a lot of factors and the author touches on all of them.

There's the abdication of personal responsibility so desired by the failures and the misfits. The role of boredom, the need for a purpose or a cause to draw people away from the barren trap they've made of their own lives.

There's the role of "hope" in altering people's responses to a situation.

What makes the difference? Why do some situations flame into mass movements while at other times, people just endure misery or injustice beyond all reason?

The key is hope. People who glimpse, or are promised hope of change, those are the people who break through the barrier to rebuild the world.

"Those who would transform a nation or the world . . . must know how to kindle and fan an extravagant hope.

Hoffer discusses the interchangeability of movements. A personality ripe for joining will choose one or another, sometimes almost by chance. Someone who views themselves and their life as a failure can be desperately in search of something outside themselves to cling to - a greater cause or purpose they can lay aside personal responsibility (and the struggle for individual 'success') in favor of.

There's more in the book than the ostensible title topic. For instance, why do so-called "Third World" of "developing" countries resist the world's efforts to "modernize" them?

The author argues that it's not our patronization (my word) that inflames developing countries when we try to "help" them; it's the contemporary Western emphasis on individualism.

Those unaccustomed to the idea of "standing on their own two feet" and socialized to share burdens and responsibilities with an extended family or tribe resent the necessity of "going it alone."

Hoffer also has interesting things to say about the importance of tribes in "developing" countries successfully. (It's a pity the international community didn't consider such things when redrawing much of the developing world map in the early 20th century.)

I remember posting some time back on an NPR interview where an older African-American woman mourned that in gaining "equal rights," she felt that African-Americans had lost a valuable sense of community and identity. Her point was that whatever economic gains some individuals had made in the past 40 years weren't worth the price "the community" had paid by its loss of a cohesive identity.

A minority which preserves its identity is inevitably a compact whole which shelters the individual, gives him a sense of belonging and immunizes him against frustration.

Hoffer goes on to argue that members of minority groups (racial, ethnic, or religious, he makes no distinction) are more content when in the embrace of their community, even if that means segregation from the larger population.

Race and religion aren't actually things I've ever thought about much - not in terms of an individual's "identity." (Racially I'm sort of a mongrel; religiously I was largely indifferent until GWBush started getting on my nerves.) Now I find myself wondering if there's some kind of "assimilation" compatible with both real equality and preservation of "community" or "culture."

None of which has anything to do with mass movements, but the book make me think about a lot of things. The good ones do, don't they?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:16 AM | Comments (9)