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March 24, 2005
Calmer Now

Me, not the news.

Beirut seems to be hotting up.

As might be expected, others are talking about what might be and others are taking the Democrats to task for fumbling the ball.

And how about the USofA committing Cultural Barbarism? I am, in fact, serious appalled at the idiocy displayed, okay? An inexcusable misstep.

This makes me sick.

And I really do think it says a whole, huge lot about Bush that he doesn't seem to appoint anyone whose past isn't full of criminal fraud or human rights abuses, convicted or not.

The problem with this country is that most of the wrong people are in jail.

I have to stop reading the news again now.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)
Counting To Five

1. Administration Kept Mum About Unapproved Modified Corn Sold

"The whole GMO (genetically modified organism) controversy surrounds a lack of transparency on both (the part of) the companies and regulatory agencies," said Lamkey, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel in 2002 on the environmental impact of genetically modified crops. "There's too much secrecy."

That could be said about the entire Federal government these days. Too much secrecy. It's just like my rant yesterday about Administration officials who insist upon anonymity with the media, even if they're not saying anything. Sometimes they keep secrets just to keep secrets and that's childish and worrying. (What else don't we know about?)

Still. The article does point out that it's the corporation that either didn't find its mistake or didn't report it for most of the three-year period. According to this, the Feds were only told in December. Which only goes to say, again, that corporations make mistakes and sometimes run their own cover-ups and that's why we need government oversight...to help identify honest mistakes and to investigate cover-ups and fraud.

2. Buck Up, The World Hates Us More Than Ever

As far as I'm concerned, Bush deserves to be impeached for lying to his employers--us--about Iraq's WMDs. He should face prosecution at a war crimes tribunal for the murder of the 100,000-plus Iraqis he ordered killed by U.S. troops. He deserves life in prison for ordering the torture, and allowing the murder under torture, of countless innocent Afghans and Iraqis. Nothing, not even if the Iraq war sparked the transformation of the entire Muslim world into peaceful and prosperous Athenian-style democracies, could retroactively justify such murderous perfidy. I'm not convinced a Riyadh spring is about to bloom. It will take a lot more than male-only Saudi municipal elections held in half the country, in which six of the seven winners were illegally promoted by the kingdom's extremist Wahabbi religious establishment.

It's extreme, but I agree. We either follow the rule of law or we don't. We either go to war when there's no other choice, or we go to war whenever someone in power has a secret agenda for doing so. Like this time. Over 100,000 people have died because of lies we were told by an Administration that was reportedly determined to wage this war long before any pretext to do so presented itself.

3. The illegality of invading Iraq is still being debated in the U.K.. I could only wish we were doing that here. (No, it is not a fait accompli that we need to just accept. A precedent is being set and we need to all understand that. And debate wither or not we agree with it.)

4. Oh, you have got to be kidding? With all of the established voter-protection groups out there, it's this bunch that gets to go before Congress?

Warning: Reading this takes some work. I recommend copying the text and pasting it to a Word document, but it's worth reading.

(Note: The design of this blog is a perfect example of the kind of thing that does not inspire me with any desire to return and read again. Yellow on black, in 6 point type? Sheesh.)

And, while we're talking about voting, how about those provisional ballot counts?

Provisional voting "was a success in many ways in terms of what happened in 2000 when people were turned away and had no fail-safe way of voting," said Elizabeth Schneider, one of the authors of the study. "With provisional balloting in place, a majority of the people were not turned away; they were given a chance to vote."

No, Elizabeth, it was not a "success in many ways." The right to vote is a combination of casting a ballot and having that ballot counted. Unless someone is prepared to argue that up to 1/3 of such ballots are attempts at fraud, I don't find the number counted that encouraging. (And what's up with Delaware? They counted 6% of the provisional ballots cast?)

5. I haven't noticed a dearth of "conservative" books on the shelves have you? On the contrary, since the 90s, when the wingnut Right became absolutely obsessed with Clinton's bits and pieces, it seems to me that there's been a constant flood of books from the Right. (Arguably, the wingnuts aren't real "conservatives" in the same way that many of us don't consider the DLC to be L or even really D, but then Mary Matalin is hardly an "old-style" conservative.) Anyhow Matalin has a new job.

Matalin said she is already working on acquisitions for the new imprint and expects to announce some titles "within weeks." She will not be editing books "line by line," but will provide "conceptual editing" — suggestions on how to express ideas and broader concepts.

Why? To make sure every book toes the neocon party line and pitches the same concepts in the same ways?

These people really are trying to tighten their stranglehold in the future, aren't they?

She does not expect to end her political involvement, saying she will "continue to help whenever she is needed to help."

I suppose that means she can call the White House and ask Rove whenever she's not sure if an "author" is pitching some concept in the right way. Cause she's not giving up her access. In fact, she's saying quite clearly that she's willing to trade favors.

Okay, you know, I don't have any reason to believe that's all part of some deep plot, so I went a little crazy there, but still. The point is that if they saturate the market much more than they already have, they're going to succeed in making their perspective the "average" one.

I'm growing increasingly annoyed about the Democratic Party. They need to be taking big steps, now, on all the major issues, along with starting to set the terms of the debate for '08. Where are the ideas people? Those of us out here in the sticks can see what needs to be done. There must be something in the rarified atmosphere of D.C. that's clouding the brains and warping the common sense of the people there.

Come on, people. Pick a battle. Battles aren't difficult to locate.

Okay, I'm aggravated now. I was going to count to ten, but I think I'll go do some work.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)
March 23, 2005
Additional Annoyances

My thought? Any trip a politician takes that's funded by taxpayers dollars should be open to all of us.

If Bush wants to take trips where he won't let Democrats and other non-supporters attend, he can let the Republican party fund those trips.

And the anonymous source gets a little slapping around. I understand occasionally using anonymous sources, but the one quoted in this exchange is (a) pointless in its anonymity (i.e., there's nothing said that requires anonymity); and, (b) gag-inducing.

And, speaking of pointless anonymity, I found the same rant here.

I wrote in my March 18 column about a meeting of journalists at which there was a great deal of consternation expressed about "those maddening White House briefings where a senior administration official stands in front of an auditorium full of reporters, says nothing remotely controversial, and yet insists on being cloaked in anonymity."

That portion of the column is an illustration of how the USofA press continues to allow the White House to make monkeys of the media and I, myself, continue to insist that if the media in this country was honestly interested in being an independent force, they'd band together and refuse to put up with such treatment. (Of course, in my world, the press isn't quite as obsessed with sensationalism and controversy as the real media is, and is more interested in news than flashy headlines.)

And, speaking of media failings, let us consider that whole story around government agencies producing propaganda videos that are then aired as "news." ("Propaganda" may be a bit much. It's possible for such pieces to be purely informational and they have been, in the past.)

Anyhow, the point is that I do think much of the coverage of this issue is missing the point. It's not that the government, under the Bush Administration is producing propaganda and sending it out. Much as I object to having my tax dollars wasted on such junk when things that we need to do are being starved of funding, the bottom line is that they can't make the news media air the stuff without identifying it as having been funded by the government, you know.

The real problem lies there...in the news organizations that gratefully accept these freebies to fill expensive air-time and then don't tell us where they got them. It would do the government no good to make propaganda if they couldn't get it on the air, and they wouldn't do it.

So, yeah, the government is demonstrating a notable lack of ethical standards (which, under this Administration, surprises me not at all) but they have an active co-conspirator in the media.

"Intelligence" information extracted with torture isn't especially useful. Well, duh.

It's good to criticize authority. Even if you're part of the system, and especially if it's your job. Of course, sometimes there's a price to pay.

And, speaking of paying. CEO pay? Not linked to corporate profits.

And, speaking of profits. How many of us got that CAP e-mail about Democratic lawmakers voting for the "Bankruptcy bill" after profiting heavily from campaign donations from the very credit card companies that stand to profit most from the bill itself?

Looks like Podesta is in trouble over sending it out.

Nearly every lawmaker who arrived at Thursday’s meeting with Podesta, former President Clinton’s last chief of staff, voiced concern about the Sirota broadside, calling it overtly personal and unhelpful to the two organizations’ shared goal of helping the Democratic Party grow.

I'm thinking that what those lawmakers fail to understand is that we don't want to "grow" with the likes of them in our ranks. They're either liberals or they aren't...and too much of the Democratic Party falls into the "aren't" category any more.

I'm just saying. If they want to live off corporate pork, they can become Republicans.

295,000. Is that a big number or a little one?

In terms of the budget deficit, it's tiny.

As a death toll, it was astonomical. My mind boggles, not only at that, but at the global response (some of which, as we know, is only "pledged" and won't all be delivered.)

Still. As far as people reaching out to offer Tsunami relief. Looks like we done good. So far.

(For the record, and because I spend a certain amount of time dissing the USofA pharmaceutical industry, I read a report (subscription) today saying:

As of January 12, 2005, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America reported that $90 million in cash, medicine, and services had been contributed by America's pharmeceuticval companies to the global relief effort for tsunami-hit Asia and Africa.

Contributions included medicines, vaccines, bandages, baby formula, cash money, and water-purifaction packets. So, go them.

After that, we turn our attention South, to a community searching for a sustainable lifestyle that allows them, and their neighbors, to coexist in peace:

Within minutes, seawater roiled in a fury of bubbles. A gray shadow came into view, inches beneath the surface. It stretched twice as long as the boat, too close to make sense of the shape. The boatman, hand on the tiller, looked nervous. He popped the outboard into reverse and began to back away.

Whomp! The bow of the dory swung wildly. The barnacled snout of a gray whale surfaced. The whale began to turn, belly up, and slipped under the boat. The dory was filled with the sound of rubbery flesh squeaking against the fiberglass hull.

"It's Valentina," Lopez said, explaining that the whale got her nickname when she showed up last year on Valentine's Day.

One flipper, raised about 4 feet out of the water, came along one side of the boat. Another flipper came along the opposite side. Gently cradling the dory between her flippers, Valentina lifted it slightly out of the water. Passengers grabbed for the rails.

"It's a whale hug," Lopez said. "Forty tons of love."

Swimming on her back with the dory balanced on her broad chest, Valentina took passengers for a short ride. Some squealed with delight, while others sat silently in awe.

Save the Whales.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)
Twelve Million Dollars

I'm just saying. That's where the lottery is at for tonight's drawing. I won't win. I will never win the lottery.

That's mostly because I never remember to buy a ticket. In my fantasies, I've spent a hundred lottery jackpot winnings but I rarely bother to buy a ticket.

Newswise, today I read the Mahablog, on healthcare. There's some stuff about the laws around the Schiavo case, including the one then-Governor Bush signed that allows a Texas hospital to let you die if you're poor, but it's a larger discussion of healthcare that's well worth reading.

Also, I read about our flawed voting process, by Christopher Hitchens. (Via Alterman.)

I see the "where are the female bloggers" discussion has flared back up. I won't link to any of it, I'm sure you've all seen it.

I've spent a lot of what leisure time I have over the last week reading women's blogs I've bookmarked. I expect to be making additions to the blogroll soon. *

I know my comments run about 50-50 between men and women, but I have no idea about my readership beyond that, so I can't speak to whether or not men are actually reading blogs written by women. (Besides, my bog isn't a fair test. I don't attract the masses, just a handful of highly intelligent and well-informed people.) (Which remains a mystery to me. Y'all are very intelligent and you're all very knowledgeable. What the heck do you come here for?)

Other than that, the aforementioned frantic busyness is keeping my nose to the grindstone. When it isn't, my brain is distracted by entirely irrelevant questions.

What makes a smell? Why can I smell a man's aftershave in the elevator when there's no man there? Why can I smell a woman's perfume from across the room? Why can I smell curry in the apartment building hallway the morning after my neighbor fixes dinner? Air currents are no doubt involved, but what, precisely, is a smell composed of? Chemicals riding along on little water droplets in the air currents? Gases of some kind? (Is "chemicals mixed with water" what a gas is?) Why do some smells linger and others dissipate quickly? Why did I not pay more attention in science when I was in school?

Do visuals matter? As I cruise the world o'blog, I see more and more pictures on blogs. I notice that these are mostly women. It's more rare to see a picture on a man's blog. Is this because women are socialized to think how they look is of high importance and men believe what they have to say is the more critical factor? Or because women are more likely to have pictures of themselves in an appropriate format? Do you notice pictures on blogs? Do you think/feel differently about a blogger whose face you "know"?

How about bios? Do you read bios if bloggers provide them?

And then there's second careers. Seems to me I'm hearing more and more about 40-somethings and 50-somethings taking on, not new positions, but entirely new careers.

Is this a consequence of the "disposable" society we live in, where corporations cut costs on the work-line and know that the remaining employees, terrified of being next after a round of lay-offs, will willingly take on the work once done by two, or even three employees? Is it that burnout rates increase, employees cease to feel loyalty to their employers,** and are consequently more ready to move on, even to entirely new fields?

Those are today's thoughts so far. Sometimes, when I'm sitting on "hold" I have interesting thoughts. Other times...not so much.


* Allow me to mention that I won't be blogrolling most of the women whose blogs I've read. My standards aren't that high, but there are some things I automatically avoid.

1 - Blogs where the front page is full of "quiz results" the blogger has taken. We all take those on-line, "what fillintheblank are you" quizzes from time to time, but I'm not interested in reading a blog where, on my first visit, I'm forced to read through the results of half a dozen of those to see if the blogger has anything to talk about.

2 - Cussing. I largely avoid blogs where four-letter words abound. I don't like stupidity and resorting to profanity twice in every sentence reads, to the outsider, like you don't know any other words. Save the profanity, so when you need it, it makes an impact.

3 - Design. I can forgive a cutesy name and, in at least one case, I'm probably going to wind up linking to a blog that's pepto-bismol pink, in spite of myself, but if you want to be taken seriously, your blog shouldn't resemble a Barbie Dream House.

Similarly, knock it off with the black backgrounds and the teeny-tiny white/gray font. Design matters. (While I'm ranting, stop already with the "parchment" template in Blogger, okay? You don't look more intelligent because your site's background mimics the Dead Sea Scrolls.) Go for readability. If you want to be taken seriously, don't make people struggle through your fancy font and creative formatting to figure out whether or not you're saying anything worth reading.

4 - Topic matters. My blogroll is politica/current events. Politics and current events have to make up the vast majority of what you're discussing. We all go off-topic (I'm off-topic right now) but keep it in check.

5 - Quoting. We all quote articles and other bloggers. It's the right thing to do. However...a page filled with huge blocks of text you're quoting where you add or analyze nothing or almost nothing? Why should I come to your blog to read that? I can read the article. You want blogrolled, then say something about the text. If I search your blog for the past week or two weeks and find 4,000 words of quoted text and 100 words written by you? I won't be back.

**How about the whole ethics thing? Is there really an increasing problem with that or do we just hear about it more? And if it's a bigger problem these days than it used to be, how much of it is employees feeling less "responsible" to their employers because they know that to said employers they are disposable parts?

Posted by AnneZook at 01:49 PM | Comments (2)
March 22, 2005
I Know You Already Saw This

But just in case....

Billmon, over at the Whiskey Bar on invading Iraq. And don't miss his link to his 2003 entry, Geography Is Destiny.

(As far as that goes, the imagery in these two pictures is worth contemplating.)

The So-Called Liberal Media myth takes another hit with this exposure of CNN's attempt to create conflict where none exists. (Thanks to CanadianCynic.)

If you missed the EditorandPublisher discussion of the comments of reporters who were in Iraq during the "war" then you should remedy that.

A sample of quotes (not chosen for sensationalism):

“In general, coverage downplayed civilian casulaites and promoted a pro-U.S. viewpoint. No U.S. media showed abuses by U.S. military carried out on regular basis.”

Color me so surprised.

“The bombing of civilian areas around Iraq.”

Probably only those of us who get our news from a variety of international sources had any idea how common this was.

“The human cost of the war has been routinely omitted from most U.S. broadcasts. The American people has definitely not gotten the entire picture of the war's devastation and the infernal conditions in Iraq today as a result of the our invasion.”
“We have heard, second-hand, that our corporate president has told producers to keep Iraq war coverage ‘positive.’"

I'm sure this happened in some (but not all) organization.

To my mind, the most telling quote:

“Our news organization failed to subject the administration’s various allegations to sufficient scrutiny and continues to do so. I believe this is primarily because it reflects -- and does not challenge -- the positions of those in power. The absence of opposition from elected officials in Washington created a vacuum and our organization, like many others, completely failed in its responsibility to challenge the assertions of the White House. (Emphasis: mine)

What they have to say is worth considering. It's not just Iraq (as I've said over and over), it's about war. As long as the vast majority of our population doesn't really understand what the words "war zone" actually mean, this will persist.

On the other hand, if it's Iraq we're talking about, certainly the debate about whether or not the media has been covering for the Bush Administration continues.

The U.K., although fighting with us, offered more honest coverage to their citizens.

And, while I'm already annoying some people: From Abu Ghraib to promotion.

I look forward to the USofA's media coverage of the proposed changes at the U.N. A headline we probably won't see much here? US can't go it alone.

I close (but do not slam) the door in the face of people who disturb my day trying to pitch me on joining them in superstition. At the same time, I accept that face-to-face conversation is the single best way to convert anyone from one position to another. (I especially agree with this article. The answer is not for the Left to change what it believes. It's to explain what it believes. " What profit a party if it gain a majority and lose its soul?")

Posted by AnneZook at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)
You're Out!

You're Out!

"Outing" someone gay but closeted has always been a tricky subject for me. For one thing, not being gay (well, lesbian), I'm not ideally qualified to understand the repercussions.

It's also tricky for others, it would seem.

It's sort of like those frightened, delusional women aiding in the fight to get us all back in the kitchen with no shoes on, you know? Today they're just pathetic, but 40 years ago, they were real ammunition in the fight against women's rights.

But. People, even if female (or gay/lesbian) have a right not to believe that women (or gays/lesbians) are "as good as" men (or heterosexuals). They have a right to their beliefs and they have a right to work for those beliefs. Of course, the bottom line is that they feel inadequate, and they assume all women feel as they do, so they're making gross (in multiples senses) generalizations from practically no data, but they're entitled to their ignorance, too. It's a free country.

But do they have the right to pretend they're someone they're not, while they do? If Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson was suddenly "outed" as a woman, wouldn't his anti-female rants sound just a bit different? After all...he's disguised as a man, taking advantage of the advantages offered to a man, but it's a lie.

That's essentially what "closeted" politicians who fight against gay rights are doing, isn't it? They're lying. Taking advantage of the social "norm" and fighting off any suspicions about themselves by being among the attack dogs chasing those who, with more courage or less hypocrisy, stood up and admitted who they are.

These politicians aren't saying, "my sexuality is private" because in the Bush Administration's "ownership society" our bodies and our privacy are the things they don't allow us to own. No, they're just saying it's wrong and deserves no legal protection.

I guess I disapprove of "outing" most people against their will. It's merely an invasion of privacy to "out" a businessman or an actor. But someone actively working to repress gay&lesbian rights? I dunno...maybe I do approve of "outing" them.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)
March 21, 2005

Outsourcing hits the news...but not in the way you think.

Writers' strike

Reuters' U.S. journalists on byline strike over outsourcing, exec raises.

Interestingly enough, when you read read the actual story, there's no mention of the issue.

Googling around to learn more, I found the story on Motley Fool (registration required) and dated August 13, 2004.

On Monday, Reuters said it would do away with as many as 20 editorial jobs in the U.S. and Europe -- the positions could be eliminated by layoffs, attrition, or not filling open jobs -- and replace them with between 40 and 60 new jobs in India.

I don't know why the CBS Marketwatch teaser mentioned the outsourcing but didn't cover it. Possibly it got cut for space or whatever.

Anyhow. Could be worse, I guess. They could work at the Beeb.

Brutal cuts involving the loss of 2,050 jobs - more than 400 in the newsroom - were unveiled at the BBC today, with unions branding the day the 'worst in the history' of the corporation.

Personally, I'm more upset by the BBC cutbacks. I don't know of another news organization in the world that offers the breadth and depth of news coverage that they do and the news division is taking a major hit.

With that, I have to apologize and say I have another frantic week ahead of me, so blogging will be light-to-nonexistent.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)