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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

April 01, 2005
Heavier Reading

Bolton's nomination considered by Foreign Policy In Focus.

Wolfowitz, his history up until the time he was handed the Pentagon from Foreign Policy In Focus.

Thanks to Helen, I've learned that the Administration propaganda videos aren't shown by the national media as such, they're shown by "local affiliates" to fill (as I've said repeatedly) expensive air-time with free product. And she puts some of the blame for the misinformation dissemination where it belongs...with the media. (Reconsidering my position, I now also firmly believe that it's the government's obligation to mark the material as being produced by them. A little bug, like those annoying network identification bugs, that stays on-screen for the entire run of the "report" would work. But mostly, I still blame the media. If they're going to use the stuff, they really do have an obligation to say where it came from.)

The transition from a Big Business economy to one where the employees organized...and had the power. And then, the move to transition back, from The Multinational Monitor.

Bonus: The military-industrial complex.

(Actually the current issue is packed with good stuff.)

Shorter....

Republicans reach out to minority students and students decline to be reached.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:24 PM | Comments (2)
Elsewhere

Even MoJo misses the point. Everyone misses the point. The most serious problem isn't that the government produces propaganda pieces. It's the MSM's choice to run these pieces without identifying them as such.

I've been watching the turmoil in academia for a while now so I knew the graduate student union idea was out there. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Another discussion here.

And while "zero-tolerance" sounds like a good idea, no policy that's implemented without the application of common sense is a good one.

A list of headlines:

U.S. Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi Walks Free

U.S. Intelligence 'Dead Wrong' on Iraq-Report

U.S. Soldiers Arrested for Colombian Cocaine Plot

U.S. Forces Hold Suspected U.S. Insurgent in Iraq

Uncle Sam doesn't look like one of the good guys today, does he?

Also, U.S Government-created "independent" research group under contract to Pentagon says post-war planning failures are the Pentagon's. I don't know that I agree with that. If the president decides to go to war, surely he and his staff have some kind of responsibility to outline and personally approve any post-war "reconstruction" efforts? I have issues with the military being the catch-all for all of our foreign affairs, okay? They're the soldiers. They shoot people and drop bombs. I think nation-building should be handled by someone else. That sounds bad, but I can't think of a different wording. What I mean is that we're asking far too much of the military. They have too many missions, too many of which are mutually incompatible.

The last time I sneezed, analysts were watching breathlessly to see if oil was going to hit a record-setting $50/barrel. Today, a breath later, news of oil topping $56/barrel doesn't even rate major headlines.

What about if it hits $105/barrel? (Via Andrew Tobias.)

(Via the same column, remember we're boycotting Nevis now.)

Has the USofA crossed the Rubicon in foreign policy?

Okay, moving on, much about this American Prospect article on aid for college students strikes me as dishonest. The article mixes "scholarship" money with tuition aid, but these aren't even remotely the same thing. Scholarship money is awarded to, well, scholars. People who excel academically.

For those who need tuition assistance, there's a different pile o'money. Admittedly that pile has shrunk, partly thanks to the Bush Administration who would prefer the non-wealthy skipped college and got right to serving burgers, but to say that "scholarships" shouldn't be given to the best "scholars" is just ridiculous.

There's also a level of condescension in "kids from wealthier families who don't need scholarship aid but score well in standardized tests" that I find amazingly offensive. What are we saying, here? That poor children who get good grades are worthy of all support but that having money in the family turns a child from a scholar to a selfish free-loader?

Also, I doubt that colleges are able to "transfer" money to "academic superstars" since grant/aid money and scholarship money are usually regulated by different sets of standards, but if they are, can we please not diss universities for wanting to offer higher education opportunities to those who have worked for the opportunity, regardless of family finances?

Do we need to make it financially feasible for qualified applicants to attend college, regardless of family financial situation? Yes.

Is there any point in slapping around the children of the families most likely to donate alumni funds and/or help fund endowments and financial aid funds? No.

There are days...not many, but there are days when I almost suspect that the accusations of the Left's contempt for money are quite true.

Sheesh. I don't often disagree with TAP, but this article really offended me.

(Disclosure: I was not awarded any scholarship during my university years.)

To counteract that, the criminal cheeseburger affair! (WMA sound file available.)

I'm afraid I don't have anything funny to post to celebrate the April 1 Foolery. I tend to be foolish at random intervals throughout the year. Mostly, after the week I've had, I'm just looking forward to going home and cleaning out a closet. Whenver my work life gets out of control, I organize something at home to within an inch of its life, and vice-versa.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)
We Was Wrong

I've been reading, with interest, the blogs of Bush voters who are beginning to see that they allowed themselves to be stampeded by the Administration's alarmist shrieks about imminent terrorist attacks prior to November '04.

An interesting number of them are now coming down off the adrenaline high and realizing that they've essentially voted for someone with whom they share no principles, no beliefs, and no agreement on how this country should proceed. (Don't even get me started on the weak-assed, "I just didn't like Kerry" arguments. The Presidency of this country isn't a stupid popularity contest and, as I've said many times before, you do not want to vote for someone "just like me" because you're not smart enough to run this country and no one "just like me" is smart enough. Of all the lame reasons for not voting for someone, having fallen for the right-wing's propaganda about how intelligent, well-informed, educated people are dangerous, makes me the craziest. Also, I've had a bad week in a lot of ways, so just don't start with me anyhow.)

Anyhow. I'm not going to link to anyone in particular because I don't want to point fingers, but I've been watching this with interest. Certainly, had the Bush Administration turned out to be less than the total disaster I anticipated, I was prepared to make my own public act of contrition and it's rather encouraging to see that others are also willing to speak up publicly.

I get dizzy and fall down if I spend too much time contemplating the reality that most of them are changing their minds because the "war on terror" is being prosecuted badly by people with no realistic plan for success. I mean...it isn't like we weren't telling them that over and over and over before November '04, but whatever. We all have these moments when the merely obvious finally makes it into our conscious minds.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)
What's the length of a nation's conscience?

About 50 years?

One way to have a well-informed populace is to teach the children honestly. This can't be done with dishonest textbooks.

The right-wing activists...are seeking to whitewash the country's militaristic past by publishing a new history textbook more distorted than the previous one..

Right about now you may be picturing the Right-wing or neo-con machine. Maybe those lunatics in the South still determined to re-write the history of the Civil War to turn themselves into noble agrarian pioneers or something. No, it's not the USofA, although the machinations of various groups to re-write history to suit their private agendas would shock you, it's Japan.

As the world in general are preparing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the victory over Fascism later this year, the right-wing activists in Japan, however, are seeking to whitewash the country's militaristic past by publishing a new history textbook more distorted than the previous one.

The new textbook, subject to the Education Ministry's screening in early April, gives yet another vivid and shocking example on how desperately Japanese right-wingers want to negate history and defy justice.
Packed with lies, contradictions and even myths, the textbook rewrites the history, particularly in the first half of last century when Japan launched aggression to many Asia-Pacific countries and imposed extended colonial rule in much of the region.

Some of the texts are sheer absurdity. For instance, the reason that the Japanese are superior to others in the world, the textbook concludes, is that the nation is endowed with a monarchy of impeccable pedigree whose royal blood has run thousands of generations.

Really, a very interesting commentary.

Again, about 50 years?

Stop and count...how long did it take for Nazism to go from being Germany's shame to a rallying point for a new wave of "patriotism?" To glorify the behavior of the German people, they have to glorify the behavior of those the populace willingly followed, yes, but the SS? My skin crawls....

I sympathize with the desire of the German populace to wipe out the stain of having incubated the horrors of Nazism, but re-writing history to make it all seem so much more noble and so much less heinous than it was? So not the way.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)
March 31, 2005
Can You Hear It?

The sound of silence.

The problem goes far beyond what's covered in this article.

Military pollution. Silence.

Dismantling Congressional checks and balances. Silence.

Significant ethical lapses. Silence.

Muzzling dissent. Silence.

The disintegration of the voting system. Silence.

Corporate coddling. Silence.

Lunatic appointments. Silence.

Squandering our future. Silence.

An appalling silence from the vast majority of citizens of this country who either don't know, or who assume these problems somehow don't affect them.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)
March 30, 2005
Blood Money

Selling high-tech war tools to Pakistan? What can we be thinking?

My bet? This is the payola we promised Pakistan in return for "supporting" us in the "war on terror." (Don't be so naive. We paid most of the countries involved in the "coalition."

George Bush praises Bahrain's democratic progress while the country moves toward authoritarian rule. I knew it. He doesn't even know what a democracy looks like.

From Hotel Rwanda to Hotel Darfur. We claim to have invaded Iraq to, among other things, "protect" the citizens against their government. But what about the years'-long slaughter in Darfur? After Rwanda, the world said, "Never again!" but now no one wants to know.

Zambia. Marriage can kill you.

He's lying. There's no political price for letting the Bush Administration hang itself with its own policies. And he doesn't want to sit down with people who disagree with him. As far as that goes, he hasn't offered a plan, so why doesn't he lead by good example (for the first time in his life) and produce one?

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I posted some stuff about USofA-based vigilantes who were taking it upon themselves to patrol the country's borders and kill anyone whose accent they didn't like. (Original link now dead, of course, but plenty of information still available.

Well, we might have hoped it was a single group of nutcases on parade, but either those nutcases, or a new group, has risen from the slime. (The new group took their webpage down, but the cache is still there.)

It's always interesting to see how these bigots try to whitewash their motives by claiming that they're protecting us against that flood of illegal immigrants clogging our hospital emergency rooms and stuff, isn't it? I mean, do you see any hospital administrators in this bunch?

A bit about the conflict.

I do find myself wondering...issues of gun ownership aside, isn't vigilantism illegal? I mean, are you permitted to pick up a gun and go hunting a specific group of people?

Rendition. Explain to me why this isn't considered undemocratic, un-American, and illegal?

Oh. Yeah. It's all three. Our government just doesn't care.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)
Bananas

Some of you may have heard of draconian tactics undertaken by Chiquita to protect (and try to increase) their banana sales world-wide, but are you aware that the innocuously named United Fruit Company later became United Brands, then, still later Chiquita Brands?

An interesting timeline of Chiquita's history.

A report about pesticide spraying of substances banned in the USofA, dying workers, a lawsuit, and USofA corporations refusing to accept the judgment of the courts.

From the timeline:

1979 The United States bans the use of dibromochloropropane (DBCP) for the effects it has on human health. DBCP had been developed by Dow Chemical and Shell Oil as a pesticide to kill nematodes (microscopic worms that feed on the roots of banana trees). DBCP had used widely in the Central American plantations since the 1960s and caused damages in the banana workers' testicles. Although prohibited in the United States this pesticide continued being used in the banana-producing countries.

Emphasis, mine, but does anyone doubt that "Nemagon" is the market name of the chemical sprayed to fight "nematodes"? (Aha! I found confirmation. Scroll down to, "Workers slam US banana firms".)

1993 A Texas court settles out a multimillion dollar suit filed against several American companies by thousands of Costa Rican banana workers in the 1980s who claimed that they had been made sterile by exposure to DBCP, an insecticide.

From the story:

On January 17th, 2001, due to these efforts, the Nicaraguan National Assembly passed Law 364, which lays the legal groundwork upon which farmworkers can sue the corporations

Three U.S. corporations have been found liable under Law 364 in a Nicaraguan court; Dole, Dow, and Shell have been ordered to pay US$490 million to Nemagon victimsEach of these companies has denied the legality of the case on fallacious grounds, calling for a new trial in the U.S.

The 364 case was dismissed by a California court for "technical reasons" but some case, possibly the one in the Texas court? Was settled for $50M in 1997/98, with everyone but Dole (formerly Standard Fruit) participating.

I guess now I'm wondering...where did the $50M go and why are the people in the original story I quoted living in a plastic-tent camp? Are they all former Dole employees or something?

Posted by AnneZook at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)
Now It's Wednesday

Torture

It's policy.

And the reports just keep on coming.

Antiquated laws

North Carolina's "anti-cohabitation law" loses a woman her job. A 200 year-old law, dredged up, dusted off, and waved in someone's face.

I guess the question is...do you really want your tax dollars being spent to enforce someone's personal morality? (Yes, it's a law, but a law that isn't enforced equally across the population is a tool of repression. And it needs to be repealed, anyhow.)

Afghanistan

The Asia Times thinks Iran should be worried about the USofA's continuing push to set up military bases all around it. (We have our usual poor-quality "intelligence" on what's actually going on in the rest of the Bush Axis O'Enemies.)

I noticed what it said about still-chaotic Afghanistan:

One thing that is certainly not under control, and is surely the source of many threats to the region, is opium production. During the US occupation, opium production grew at a much faster rate than Washington's, and Karzai's, enemies weakened. In 2003, US-occupied Afghanistan produced 4,200 tons of opium. In 2004, US-occupied and semi-democratic Afghanistan produced a record 4,950 tons, breaking the all-time high of 4,600 tons produced under the Taliban in the year 2000.

Though the problem is known to the world, the Pentagon refuses to deal with it. It is not the military's job to eradicate poppy fields, says the Pentagon. Indeed, it would antagonize the warlords who remain the mainstays of the Pentagon in Afghanistan, say observers.

Maybe if we hadn't been in such a screaming hurry to run away from what we started in Afghanistan, so we could free up soldiers to invade a non-aggressive country, we wouldn't now be allied with drug-smuggling, war-mongering radicals in Afghanistan, you know?

$$$$

Do you know where your tax dollars go?

(Note the caveat in the article. These are estimates. The Pentagon is notoriously reluctant to share actual allocations for expenditures, partly because of the money they funnel into little-advertised "intelligence" projects and partly because keeping track of where you spend hundreds of billions of dollars every years is not a small project.) (I'm not entirely faulting them for this. On Monday, I had $82. Today I have $47. I bought lunch for $10. I gave $3 to homeless people. I have no idea where the rest of it went.)

(Note: It's been mentioned in the comments that the DoD funds quite a bit of health-related research. This is true, although the dollar amount is not large when compared to the overall Pentagon budget.

Also, I feel absolutely compelled to mention that the DoD doesn't undertake this research out of altruism but because they have tens of thousands of soldiers with health problems, from PTSD to bullet or bomb wounds to diabetes to cancer to everything else. Also that the DoD isn't doing anything that wouldn't be done by other health-care research organizations if those organizations were given the money the DoD is given.

And, having said, that, let me add a disclaimer that I've worked, briefly, with a number of DoD health-care offices and VA hospitals and have never encountered anyone who was not hard-working, dedicated, and truly committed to providing value for investment and the best possible care to their patient populations. The "DoD" I'm discussing is the faceless entity, the budgetary umbrella penciled in for $513B in the next budget.)

I refuse to get all wound up about the $345.8B budgeted for health care. First, I'd much rather spend billions on medicine than missiles. Second, I refuse to get mad again about the pharmaceutical company give-away that the new Medicare "prescription drug benefit" became. At least, not at this moment. I have other things to be mad about today.

The fuller .pdf discussion is really interesting, not the least because it behooves us all to know where our money goes.

It's our money. Our tax dollars. We need to keep an eye on where it goes.

There will be a brief pause while you all give thanks that I chose not to insert a lengthy rant about how the Republican party provides imitation Secret Service muscle to keep taxpayers out of taxpayer funded gatherings.

If it were me, and I were attending such a function, now that I know this, I'd refuse to be removed. A public event, funded by my tax dollars, and me not creating any kind of disturbance? You'd better believe I'd refuse to leave. And then I'd sue. I am not, by nature, "actively" radical, but the idea that we have a president too fragile to hear a dissenting opinion really disturbs me.

Okay, a short rant. But not a lengthy one.

I had a lot more I wanted to talk about today, but it's time to share some of my time with the folks who pay me.

Later, we'll be considering bananas.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:24 PM | Comments (1)
March 29, 2005
Equality In Action

Read this.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:41 PM | Comments (1)
Busy Day Again

I don't know if I believe the medic when he says he "spazzed out" instead of treating a wounded man or not. I do know that putting men into these situations when they didn't have to be there is wrong. The human cost even to the survivors is too high to do this to people carelessly.

Fifty-nine former USofA diplomats looked at Bolton and said no.

Let's not forget Afghanistan, okay?

Religion and the courts. Again. The courtroom is a place of law. Not a place for people to ask storybooks or Ouija boards for supernatural advise.

Krugman wants to know, "What's Going On?

Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people's beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.

This is very true. Many of us have wrestled with this problem.

Our tolerance of differing opinions is the rope our detractors use to vilify us, but the alternative is...being them. And that's too high a price to pay.

Yesterday The Washington Post reported on the growing number of pharmacists who, on religious grounds, refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or morning-after pills. These pharmacists talk of personal belief; but the effect is to undermine laws that make these drugs available. And let me make a prediction: soon, wherever the religious right is strong, many pharmacists will be pressured into denying women legal drugs.

Obviously I have to stop here to point out that there are reports that these same pharmacists have no objection to selling men condoms. Nor have I heard of any pharmacy refusing to fill a Viagra prescription. It's okay for men to be randy and protected, no matter what.

But...that's the man's choice, and should there be any consequences...the woman will be handed the bill.

Interesting how only women are targeted by the religious Right's "moral" standards. You never hear this kind of moral outrage over WorldCon or Enron, you know?

Massive corporate fraud (by men) that does serious damage to thousands of people? No comment.

A woman has sex, regardless of marital status? Society is collapsing around our ears!

And it won't stop there. There is a nationwide trend toward "conscience" or "refusal" legislation. Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to deny virtually any procedure to any patient.

This is more frightening than I can tell you. I have a vision of someone laying in an emergency room and being refused treatment because the caregiver on duty has a "moral" objection to transgendered people or gays or unwed mothers or...well, you see where this could wind up, don't you?

Segregation. Hospitals that only take certain patients...the "right kind of people."

We don't have to be any more specific than that, do we? We know who "the right sort" are.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)
March 28, 2005
Disgraceful (And, Not)

Do we need any further proof that the MSM is interested in sensationalism and conflict more than they are in serious journalism, than this? (Via AmericaBlog. who offers more about the topic.)

Crocodile tears over the Schiavo matter but no pity for the "wog". Could I be more appalled?

Not Disgraceful

Ralph Luker has an astonishingly interesting collection of links to offer today.

And, while you're at Cliopatria, don't miss a fascinating look at fossil? fuels. I've been contemplating this one for several days and I'm still amazed by the implications. (Thanks, Jonathan.)

Social Security, simply.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)
Monday's Handful of Headlines

I hope we're not heading for another massive tsunami.

The Faces of Prostitution. It's not a victimless crime.

In some places, it's far from victimless. But you don't see a lot of outraged headlines in the USofA about it, do you?

War may once again be threatening in the Côte d'Ivoire

The USofA today. What a wonderful nation. The kind of nation where you can be kept in prison even when the "evidence" says you're innocent.

And where Big Brother is watching, no matter what soothing lies they tell you.

Journalism under attack again.

And journalists learn that foreign affairs matter (although people really do need to take it upon themselves to be a little less clueless about the world outside our borders).

Some of us begged the national voices of the Democratic Party to stand up against war before over a hundred thousand people died. But it's not too late.

And a near-riot in Iraq ends in death.

CEO pay is a topic of continuing, albeit rather casual, interest to me. For instance, how about a CEO whose "salary" is $2,000,000 ($2M) annually but who actually winds up receiving $28,500,000 ($28.5M)?

This astronomical sum includes $2.2M for the "forgiveness" of a percentage of a loan his corporation made when they hired him.

That's right. It was, essentially, a $10,000,000 ($10M) hiring bonus, but if they put it in the terms of a "loan" he doesn't have to pay the same taxes on it. I'm not sure what tax shelter allows them to "forgive" him 20% of the principle plus the accumulated interest every year for five years (until the "loan" is "paid off") but I'm fairly certain that, whatever it is, it's not available to me to play tax shenanigans with.

Nor, I suspect, are any of Home Depot's estimated 300,000 employees able to take advantages of such things.

It's not even real, is it? Twenty-eight million dollars. For one year.

Home Depot, I should point out, is one of those company's whose employment practices always seem to be under investigation.

And, finally, Support our troops. And oppose war.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)
March 27, 2005
No connection

Good grief. Or...maybe, Oh, good! Or...Oh, no.

And, another old and unrelated story, this, doesn't prove terrorists are still trying to hit on USofA soil. It only proves that if anyone wants to buy black-market weapons, there are people willing to sell them. Which we already knew.

I'm just saying. Tout this as a triumph of undercover work, by all means. In terms of going after the weapons black-market, it's a win. But it's hardly proof of the kind of terrorist attacks we're constantly told are being threatened.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)