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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

March 18, 2005
And yet, I'm still here

It's been a long, hard week, so I went surfing.

First I was frightened by this but eventually I found myself able to move on.

To places like Avedon Carol on "Barbarians in Suits." I was disgusted, but not at all surprised to see factions on the Right moving so quickly from "torture as an intelligence-gathering tool" (no matter how thoroughly discredited) to "torture for hate." And I was equally unsurprised that this came from the side of the political spectrum claiming a direct hotline to their god. Forget what they say. Watch what they do. The faith many of them have is exceedingly Old Testament in nature.

But I don't have anything against the soldiers o'faith. In fact, I added Jesus' General to the blogroll just today.

No matter what you call it (lexicon, phrases, euphemisms), it all comes back to the same thing. It's the whole "framing" thing that's been getting the political world in a tizzy. For the record, I'm about 25 pages into the book and "Orwellian" doesn't strike me as a bad description at all.

(Since I haven't remembered to mention it recently, I have beliefs that correspond with those who are, today, calling themselves "Progressive" but I am a liberal.)

Heh. Heh-heh. Steve Clemons.

Edward kindly points out to us all that if you're a criminal, you're probably okay dying Catholic, but if you're gay, consider a deathbed conversion to a different faith.

I've never really discussed the subject and while I know it's of importance to many, even those who draw bad parallels, I have to say I'm not on the side of the music/movie file-swappers. I don't steal things, not even electronic files, and I can't really see me siding with those who do.

Via Professor Kim (Hey! Happy birthday!), The Village Voice offers a guide to A Weekend Of Resistance.

This Saturday, March 19, anti-war activists across the country are mobilizing to mark the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Looks like the world is still wondering where all the wimmin are. Via Avedon Carol, Katha Pollit joins the throngs of women waving their arms and yelling, Here! We're right here! And she names names.*

There are actually lots of women political bloggers out there--spend half an hour reading them and you will never again say women aren't as argumentative as men! But what makes a blog visible is links, and male bloggers tend not to link to women (to his credit, Kevin Drum has added nineteen to his blogroll). Perhaps they sense it might interfere with the circle jerk in cyberspace--the endless mutual self-infatuation that is one of the less attractive aspects of the blogging phenom.

I do have to say that that last bit rings amazingly true to me. I do find it a bit hard to imagine women counting coup (Can I still say that? Is that offensively un-PC these days?) over their hit stats the way I've head/read men doing.

Women want to be linked, to yes. But because they want to be heard.

For men, it's about whose is bigger. (Don't be vulgar. Readership.) Men will live for months on the pale reflection of glory cast by a link from a big-name blogger that results in 5,000 hits in one day. I get more of a sense that it's a competition from a lot of men's blogs. I don't so much get that from women's blogs. So, maybe there's one of those male-female divides going on. Men aren't linking to women because women aren't playing the same game.

_____________________________

* Okay, I originally wrote, "for those who still can't see the pantyhose for all the jockstraps, she names names."

So, it's time for me to admit that, as a woman, I self-censor when I'm writing for this forum.

Not so much because I think I should or I have to, you understand. No, in my case it's because I can hear my mother's voice whispering in my ear. "Ladies don't talk about men's underwear in public." So I'm not saying I'm being oppressed by society, because I'm not.

And yet, as a writer, I know my original phrasing was more colorful. More attention-getting. How you write is important. People go back to blogs they find lively and entertaining, or ones full of factual information arranged so that they can easily understand it. That's the quality of the writing.

This digression is going nowhere, isn't it?

_____________________________

If that's all too much, or you're tired of the subject, this NYTimes article about a bookstore in China is fascinating.

Or, probably mostly of interest to women, this entry on women working with women.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:44 PM | Comments (3)
And

In re: my previous comments on bloggers versus journalists? I should make it clear where I think I stand on that particular food chain.

Journalists and professional pundits are out there, slaving away in the hot sunshine, trying to repair the potholes in the social and economic freeway.

I'm the person sitting under a tree, a comfy one hundred yards from the traffic, sipping a cool drink and making (sometimes profoundly idiotic) suggestions for how to do it better and thinking that they really ought to provide hammocks for the spectators.

I don't really want to be a political or news pundit. I don't know enough about anything. I know four things about a thousand topics, but I don't know a lot about any single one of them.

I'd like to be a columnist of some kind, though. Imagine getting paid for writing. I could babble aimlessly for a living.

I could talk about airports. Talk about your cross-section of weird Americana.

There's the woman who looks as if she'd be more at home pushing a shopping cart down a street, heading for the line reserved for "first-class" passengers. If I tried to get on a plane looking like that, I'd wind up in a windowless room undergoing a full-body search. Money is magic.

There's the inevitable Type A Businessman, worried that no one will understand how important he is as he shouts into his cell phone about his company's latest crisis. Forget that there are two hundred other people in this line, not one of whom cares about his widgets, he's intent on making us all understand that his company will barely make it through the day without his hand on the tiller. (I always find myself hoping that one of his competitors is standing close behind him, making notes.)

There's the conflicted 30-something woman, taking leave of her aging parents. Their fond reluctance to say good-bye is a poignant counterpoint to the mixture of love, anxiety, and relief on her face. She loves them, she's worried about leaving them, and if she has to spend one, more day with her mother, she's going to have a nervous breakdown. Families can be such a mixed blessing.

There's "real men don't check their luggage" guy, the one stretching the meaning of "carry-on" to include anything up to and including the player piano he's stuffed into his duffel bag. And if he thinks we don't notice he's getting around the "one bag" rule by fastening the guitar case to the duffel bag with a plastic strap, he's very mistaken.

We all pray he won't be on our flight. None of us want to get crushed in the aisle of the plane for ten minutes while he struggles to disassemble this contraption and store the disparate parts in the overhead bin.

"Please step out of the aisle and let the rest of the passengers board" always means everyone but him.

There's Family With Baby. We all know what that means. They're determinedly avoiding the eyes of everyone else in the concourse as they head for their gate...and we all hold our breath until they've passed our gate by without stopping.

They're calling the first group to board the plane. Usually the last 10-15 rows, more or less, depending on how big the plane is.

And...oh no! The Entitlement King is on our plane! And he's in line in front of us!. We all curse our fate.

His seat is in the back, but there's at least one man on every flight who does this. The Entitlement King boards, and then the line stops so he can shove his carry-on bag into a bin at the front of the plane, taking up all the available space that should be reserved for the passengers in those seats.

He's the center of the universe and he shouldn't be lumbered with toting luggage, so we also have to wait while he chats up the flight attendant and oversees the stowing of his garment bag in the compartment reserved for such at, again, the front of the plane.

As a woman, and a business traveler, I'd like to point out that never once, in fifteen years, has a flight attendant offered to store my garment bag for me. No...my clothes get crushed into an overhead bin next to the piano and come out looking like I've been sleeping in them since 1997.

I also get bitter when I see someone's grandfather and grandmother tottering onto the plane and heading toward their Row 5 seats, because I know the Entitlement King has crammed his junk into the space they need for their bag of "visit the grandkids" souvenirs.

Now the flight attendant will have to take their carry-on bags, haul them to the back of the plane, and put them into the bin over the Entitlement King's head. There's plenty of space there, of course. And grandpa and grandma will spend the entire flight in a fever of anxiety, constantly turning to stare toward the back of the plane, praying that no sticky-fingered fellow passenger will find themselves unable to resist that fluffy sweater grandma just couldn't resist in the concourse store window.

The problem with this country is that all the wrong things are against the law. If you're not allowed to abandon your luggage in the airport, why are you allowed to abandon it in the airplane?

I could be very witty about these kinds of things if I didn't have a Real Job that sucks up all my available intelligence.

Or I could write about the seemingly endless debate on-line (among women bloggers) over the issue of weight. My perspective might not be the same as that of other women. (Actually, I know it isn't.) I could write about women, self-image, body image, and health. I have thoughts I've never seen posted on any woman's blog.

(For that matter, I could write an entire entry on the fact that although I look around the stores, streets, and hallways of this city and see at least as many overweight men as I do overweight women, I never hear men discussing incipient heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, or even their inability to get a date based upon society's unfair characterization of them as "fat."

It's like a discussion I was having with a friend about contemporary literature. Well...mostly about the defunct Oprah book club. We both found ourselves turned off by most of the selections, not because we disdain the writings of oppressed minority women, but because all of the books were so exclusionary. I donít have time to get into it at the moment, but it was based around where you draw the line between "us" and "them".)

Failing that, this is the kind of thing I write during my lunch break when I'm determined to avoid the news headlines because I simply don't have the time for the kinds of rants they will inspire. So, you know, apologies for the lack of any actual content and stuff.

To make up for it, I highly recommend this.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)
Time Is Not On My Side

Someday, I'll have these projects under control. That's the theory, anyhow.

In the meantime, assuming you're desperate for something to read:

Anatomy of a Genocide.

Those new "humvee" vehicles, the ones that look so stupid when you see some underachiever squeezing one down a crowded city street? It's always been my opinion that they looked unstable.

Guess what? Turns out...they just might be. Looks like a few changes are needed before they're a sensible choice for a war zone. (I make no judgment about whether it's training or reengineering.)

Meet the new boss (Alterman on Powell's FCC legacy.)

And more on the blogging-journalism blur (including a link to the Rosen essay many of us read a couple of months ago.)

Not everyone who simply gathers information and disseminates it can be called a journalist. The craft requires skill in finding story ideas and facts, cultivating sources, and then presenting news in a way that serves the public interest.

In a way that serves the public interest. That's a dangerously vague sort of notion, don't you think?

Anyhow. I don't think people are looking at blogging the way I see it.

99.99% of the time, it's not "journalism" at all. It's commentary.

We aren't going to replace "journalists" in spite of those of us patting ourselves on the back for "breaking" stories. Frequently, that "breaking" has consisted of finding previously published stories and giving them wider circulation. Or in pulling together a fuller picture of a story from disparate (published news) sources.

Very few of us have any of the skills needed to be "journalists" but I think there are a notable few of us who might make very good "columnists."

Yes, a lot of bloggers are shrill and rabid and completely without scruples about distorting the facts. Many of us pick and choose among the facts available to make our points. Some of us just make stuff up.

Well, guess what? So do the "columnists" and "pundits" sponsored by the MSM. Every day. When they do it, the backing of the MSM gives those liars a wholly undeserved air of legitimacy.

Believe it or not, a huge chunk of the USofA population really does believe, "it must be true, or they wouldn't let them print it" and they apply that standard to a published columnist as well as to the news pages of a publication, okay?

It's not that half the country are secretly right-wingnuts at all. It's just that they think that if what Limb*ugh is saying on the radio wasn't true, or if what C*ulter is writing in the paper wasn't based on facts, they wouldn't be allowed to continue.

The fact that wingnuts are given legitmacy by being published in the national media gives them the legitimacy to be published in the national media. All of which leads gullible readers to believe the wingnuts must be telling the truth.

"The media" is a business and the "public interest" it serves is that of its stockholders. The media wants to maximize revenue and reeling, writhing, and fainting in coils attracts a lot more readers than calm, measured discussion.

But that's not the subject I started with, is it?

I'm just saying. Journalists? No, I don't think so.

Columnists? A significant percentage of us are already more honest than what's out there.

Argh. I have to get back to work.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)
March 16, 2005
Lunch Break (30 minutes)

I think some people need to have the concept of reasonable doubt explained to them before they direct the state to commit murder.

I found a hint about where to invest my retirement funds.

Stocks of publicly traded companies on Fortune's annual list of "100 best places to work" collectively beat the broader market by more than 300 percent over a seven-year span, according to a new study.

I'm disappointed in the Universal Press Syndicate. If for no other reason than to keep their name from being associated with wingnut bigotry, they should have pursued the copyright problem.

And speaking of racism. Or maybe it's not, I don't know, but the lack of diversity in positions of influence in the Federal government is sad.

The NPR report I heard about mercury poisoning in children differed from this one in at least one significant way. It said that the most common source of mercury poisoning in children is in the fish they eat, or the fish their mothers eat while carrying them. And that that fish is usually one of the less-expensive "deep sea" varieties. Ever since I heard that, I've been waiting for someone to think about it and to point out that if deep sea fish are that polluted, we're likely on the verge of having waited too long to take some real action about environmental pollution.

The Navy protested torture at Guantanamo Bay in 2002. (And a real danger exists in that pursuing investigations of torture allegations may result in perceived "persecution" of ordinary soldiers. Of course, that wouldn't be possible if the higher-ups weren't all running for the hills, but still.)

No, I'm not advocating we drop the investigation, low-level as it is. Not do I, thanks to Andrew, underestimate how serious the "administration" punishments are for the soldiers involved. I just doubt that an Administration intent on covering up having (at least tacitly) encouraged torture is going to give up any significant principal. And I really wonder if any serious investigation will be sponsored in Congress.

There are hints and rumors and suggestions that it's all the CIA's fault. Well, why not? According to some, the CIA has been a whipping boy for "hawks" for a long time. I guess they don't recommend war often enough or something. I don't know who's lying, but I know the Bush Administration created their own "intelligence" department when they didn't like what they were hearing on Iraq, which is very suggestive....

No link, but it's good to know that the $250 tax deduction for K-12 educators who have to buy some of their own classroom supplies is remaining intact here in Colorado. I mean, it would be a shame if educators couldnít afford to buy their own supplies and We, the Taxpayers started have to fund them, wouldn't it?

Federal Judicial nominees. The fight isn't over. I understand the potential consequences, but I didn't understand how much damage Republicans really are willing to do to the system in order to get their own way. This is appalling...and all the more so because party pressure, as we all know, is forcing some Republicans into line over this when they really don't approve of the nominees.

I support a "smoking ban" in restaurants, etc., but not all of this article made sense to me.

"The banning of smoking is inevitable city by city, and that creates inequities," said Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo of The Imbergamo Group. "Whereas, a statewide ban creates a level playing field for everyone."

That's just gibberish. Who are they leveling the playing field for? The places with or without smoking bans?

Who suffers if City A has a smoking ban and City B doesn't? Because if City B suffers because they don't have a smoking ban, they can just enact one, right?

So...logically it seems they must be saying that City A has a smoking ban and no one wants to eat/drink/whatever there because of it? One wonders why they enacted such a ban. (I do support smoke-free areas, especially restaurants. But the bar thing has always struck me as odd. Seriously. I have to think that if there was that much call for smoke-free bars, there would be smoke-free bars. But I know too many people who smoke only when they drink to believe there's really that much call for it. Seems to me that what's at stake here is the right of some people to poison their livers without poisoning their lungs, too.) (Okay, maybe I should take that back. I'm having a bad day.)

Headline of the Day: Democracy is more than a soundbite

Posted by AnneZook at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)
March 15, 2005
Our World

The army we have.

The diplomacy we pursue.

The contractors we hire.

The politics we've developed.

The government we elected.

The jobs we lost.

The loopholes we leave.

We need a better way. We need to think about some things.

The struggle we face.

The country we want.

The ideals we stand for.

The history we should remember.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:11 PM | Comments (4)
March 14, 2005
Scandals

Minimum wage is, indeed, a thing about which Congress should be ashamed. We should all be ashamed that we don't push our representatives harder on this issue.

Also, there's some debunking of that tired old "everyone on minimum wage will lose their jobs" mantra that conservatives are always throwing around.

Meanwhile, allow me to mention that what conservatives consider a "defense" of minimum wage is appalling.

And the conservative intelligentsia assures us that minimum-wage earners are not in dire straits. According to The Heritage Foundation, "One-half (50 percent) are teenagers or young adults under the age of 23. Two-thirds (66 percent) of these young workers live in families with incomes two or more times the official poverty level for their family size. Just 14 percent live in poor families. Almost 74 percent are enrolled in either high school or college. Just 5 percent are married. Over 88 percent live in families with an average income of almost $63,600 per year. The average income for single young workers is $10,000, but their average household income is $47,100 because 81 percent live with two or more people."

Notice how they figure how well-off minimum wage earners are. Half of minimum-wage earners are under 23. The study, or the article itself, by judicious editing, assures us that these people, largely high-school students, aren't supporting families.

You should also eye those "average" income figures dubiously, not the least because of the source. (Remember what we learned last year, class. "Mean" income is a much more accurate reflection of reality than "average." If Bill Gates' has a daughter working at minimum wage, Bill's multi-billion dollar net worth will skew any "averages" out of recognition. If Bill and Warren Buffet both have teenagers in the minimum-wage pool, then the "average" income of families with minimum-wage workers starts to look astronomical.)

Meanwhile, at least in this article, there's no discussion of the Heritage Foundation explaining about the other 50% of minimum wage-earners, those over 23.

"I have a concern about this phrase," Sununu said, "because it suggests that, as federal legislators, it is our job to reward work.

And yet, your body has felt comfortable rewarding their own work seven times in the last eight years, hasn't it?

Congress's accumulated raises total 18% of their current salaries.

How many of us have gotten those kinds of raises in the last eight years? (How many of us feel lucky any more to get an actual cost-of-living increase?)

Meanwhile, minimum-wage workers aren't allowed to set their own salaries.

I'm thinking...among the other government reforms we really need? We really need to take it out of Congress's power to give themselves raises. Maybe we should tie Congressional raises to minimum-wage increases, while we're at it? You can't get one without the other.

And, speaking of scandals, the dismissal of the Agent Orange lawsuit? Indefensible. (Warning: disturbing photo) To rule that the USofA government had no "malicious intent" is patently absurd.

A bit further down on the "scandal meter" but up there on the "war brutalizes people" meter, how about vidding the war?

Not scandalous, but thought-provoking. Forget "individual accounts" to replace Social Security. I'm thinking the stock market may not be where I want my money for the next few years. But...where to put it? With the Bush Administration & assorted neocon helpers desperately trying to bankrupt the USofA government, bonds don't look like a good bet. If they do manage to phase out all of government but the DoD, the Dept of Commerce, and the federal judiciary, I sure as heck won't invest in bonds. Too much of my money already goes for bombs and bullets. If that's where most of the government's money is going to go, they're not getting mine to play with. (Reading the article, I see the forecast for the "depression" hits before I plan to retire, but if we're in a "depression" for ten years, my own financial situation is likely to become problematic.

(And I owe comment responses. I know I do. But the weekend was overfilled with other things I wanted or needed to do and blogging just didn't make the cut. I'll get there. I just need longer days, or fewer hobbies, so that I have time to get to each hobby at least once each weekend, you know?)

Posted by AnneZook at 03:13 PM | Comments (5)