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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

March 10, 2006
Some Are Born To Evil....

Others evolve.

Reviled by workers, demonized by designers, disowned by its very creator, it still claims the largest share of office furniture sales--$3 billion or so a year--and has outlived every "office of the future" meant to replace it.

The ubiquitous cube.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:41 AM | Comments (1)
Speaking of torture

It looks like Exxon will be defending itself in court after all.

U.S. Judge rules Exxon torture suit can go ahead

And:

Company says Indonesian torture suit may set bad precedent

We can only hope.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)
March 09, 2006
Access

So. Abu Ghraib is going to be closed.

And we're building a new prison, right there by Baghdad airport.

How handy for those midnight rendition flights.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:14 PM | Comments (1)
Flying without wings

Things aren't going well in Darfur.

On Friday the African Union faces the most difficult decision of its short three year history.

Created with the idea of "African solutions for African problems" at its heart, it must decide whether to handover its first major peacekeeping operation to the United Nations.

Seven thousand AU troops are deployed in Darfur but they have failed to end a conflict that has so far killed more than 100,000 people and left millions in overcrowded camps.

I don't think anyone could fail to applaud their desire to create their own solutions for their own problems, but I don't think 7000 troops ever had a chance of squashing this war. It's not just Darfur. The AU itself is fighting for survival.

Some of the fighters make it clear they think of this as a "holy war." This is not a position people are inclined to back down from. It's not a logical, rational place from which to operate.

Maj Gen Collins Ihekire is the Nigerian Force Commander of the AU in Darfur.

"If someone hasn't got wings and you say he has failed to fly - I don't think you can call that failure," he said when asked how he assessed then achievements of the AU mission.

Once again I offer no solutions. Just concern.

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

You were raped, and now you're pregnant. Officials are bullying you and preventing you from getting an abortion.

Is this a violation of human rights or is it the law?

That all depends on whether you're in Mexico or South Dakota.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)
Still going strong....

It isn't that the Hurricane Katrina situation was handled badly; that it was a major disaster for the federal government, not to mention the people of Louisiana.

It's that today, months, later, it's still disastrous.

It's not that they weren't prepared. It's that week after week after week passes and there's no sign of improvement in the government's response.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)
Head Spinning

Everything I read about our history in the Middle East leaves me more informed, but more confused, about the whole situation.

At this point, I'm inclined to think we've been treating oil and the Middle Eastern countries that produce so much of it as plastic counters in an inexplicable game where no one bothers to look past the current round of play. (More likely, this is just another example of neo-con insistence on seeing reality as they want it to be, or think it should be, instead of as it is.)

Foreign dollar-holders began dumping their dollars as a protest against the foreign policies of the administration of US president Jimmy Carter. It was to deal with that dollar crisis that Carter was forced to bring in Paul Volcker to head the Federal Reserve in 1979. In October 1979 Volcker gave the dollar another turbocharge by allowing interest rates in the US to rise some 300% in weeks, to well over 20%. That in turn forced global interest rates through the roof, triggered a global recession, mass unemployment and misery. It also "saved" the dollar as sole reserve currency. The dollar was not a "petrodollar". It was the currency of issue of the greatest superpower, a superpower determined to do what it needed to keep it that way.

We were never who I thought we were, were we?

I wish I could believe that we're determined on global domination for good reasons, but hanging the health (and supremacy) of the dollar off the end of a gun really doesn't incline me that direction. Nor does the explanation of the way the oil industry works, favoring (corporate) banking interests and business over those of the producer or the consumer.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)
March 08, 2006
It's Vocabulary Time!

Fetusphobes.

White preservationists.

Stealth sharks.

Wingnut grudge match.

And wingnut petri dish.

Trotting out. (Or maybe, "Define 'failure'"?)

Prank.

Indispensably Devalued.

Manly men (illustrated).


Posted by AnneZook at 08:44 PM | Comments (2)
Just one?

If you can afford to give to just one charity this month, or this quarter, or this year, consider Common Ground Relief.

I was impressed (and moved) by the Fifty Dollars and a Dream story.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)
I Take the Fifth

I'm Major General Geoffrey Miller, and I took the military equivalent of the Fifth Amendment so I wouldn't have to testify about whether or not soldiers at Abu Ghraib were acting under orders or not.

The article insists that he used this protection so he wouldn't have to answer questions he's answered before, but I've read that about others in other stories and I'm not impressed. Getting at the truth sometimes does mean repeating the same things to different people.

While I'm awfully sorry that the Major General and other superior officers are so bored by the whole thing, I think they owe it to themselves, enlisted personnel at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and the professionalism of the military as a whole to suck it up and answer the questions as often as necessary.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:27 PM | Comments (4)
Keep Nixon Out Of Baghdad

I read this and I wonder if he's right. Is Iraq today's Vietnam, not because the wars are the same, but because our strategies for fighting each of them seem to be so much the same, even though the situations themselves are incredibly different?

I found the comparisons between Maoist people's wars and communal civil wars both interesting and educational.

The underlying dynamic of many communal wars is a security problem driven by mutual fear. Especially in states lacking strong central governments, communal groups worry that other groups with historical grievances will try to settle scores. The stakes can be existential, and genocide is a real possibility. Ideologues or nationalists can also be brutal toward their enemies -- Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge come to mind -- but in communal conflicts the risk of mass slaughter is especially high.

This certainly sounds like what's building in Iraq.

The only way to break the logjam is to change the parties' relative comfort with the status quo by drastically raising the costs of their failure to negotiate. The U.S. presence now caps the war's intensity, and U.S. aid could give any side an enormous military advantage. Thus Washington should threaten to use its influence to alter the balance of power depending on the parties' behavior. By doing so, it could make stubbornness look worse than cooperation and compel all sides to compromise.

This would be a really tough stance, but that quite probably is what is needed.

In the same essay comes the recommendation that the USofA stop trying to train and arm so many Iraqi security forces so quickly and accept that we, and our money, are going to be there for quite a while. I find that less palatable.

I've complained about our continued presence in Iraq on more than one occasion. And yet.... In the back of my mind, there was always the thought that running away while things were so bad wasn't much better than what we did in Afghanistan, and I've complained about that even more. I guess the only reason I never admitted this private thought was that I didn't have any idea at all what we could do by staying that might contribute to an improvement in the situation.

I'm pondering this essay and wondering if these might be the ideas I was looking for.

I guess the bottom line is really going to be the question of whether the neocons want a stable Iraq, or a Middle East that's a fragmented collection of little territories?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)
Watch your step

It might be slick underfoot.

If you're near Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, there just might be 798,000 gallons of crude oil underfoot.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)
How?

How can you be so stupid as to place someone on a committee if you don't know who they are?

Why would you be so stupid as to admit it?

Fifth Ill. Hate Crimes Panelist Resigns

The four others who resigned said they were leaving rather than serve alongside Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, minister of protocol for the Nation of Islam.

Criticism of her has mounted since she invited other commissioners to attend a speech last month by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in which he referred to "Hollywood Jews" promoting homosexuality and "other filth."

Okay, Farrakhan is a noted wingnut, so language like this isn't surprising from him. It's certainly surprising someone on a Hate Crimes panel would openly support him.

She was appointed to the commission in August by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has said he did not realize he had appointed a Nation of Islam official until learning about it from news reports.

Democrats sure ain't what they used to be.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)
Play Along!

Let's Play Jeopardy!

We’ve got a fellow running the country now who is undoubtedly unfamiliar with a limitless number of scholars of all political stripes. I’m here to say that hasn’t worked out so well. Maybe we need people who know things.

That would be a nice change.

(For the record, no, I didn't even get close to 15. But then, I'm not marketing myself as a candidate for public office, either. Unlike some folks, I know the limitations of my ignorance.)

Posted by AnneZook at 06:12 PM | Comments (6)
Thrilled?

Every day, in every way, we're just more about the killing, aren't we?

The military is placing small teams of Special Operations troops in a growing number of American embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists in unstable parts of the world and to prepare for potential missions to disrupt, capture or kill them.

I'm betting our diplomats are thrilled that our embassies to be used as staging grounds for death squads "special forces."

(I don't know if they're more, or less, thrilled than they were to find out these guys were there and they didn't know it. And, you know, kudos to the Bush Administration for that little clue about their opinion of diplomacy.)

The Special Operations command reports to Mr. Rumsfeld, and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the newly established director of national intelligence, who oversees all the nation's intelligence agencies.

Rumself has his own little sekrit army? Color me not thrilled.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)
Yeah

Report: Democracy no guarantor of rights

The State Department on Wednesday said that laudable human-rights practices tend to occur in democracies, but it noted in its annual report on human rights that democracy does not guarantee what President Bush has called a commitment to "the non-negotiable demands of human dignity."

Next up: "Waterboarding Reclassified As Leisure Activity"

Posted by AnneZook at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)
Quickly

In the "drives me bonkers" category, let's add stories like the one Andrew Tobias blogged.

Hospitals charge uninsured patients three or four times as much as those who are insured. (Shouldn’t there be a law against that? Instead, the Republican Congress moved to tighten the yoke, making it harder for patients to escape devastating these overcharges when they go bankrupt.)

Hospitals do not charge uninsured patients more.

They charge insured patients less.

It may seem like semantic quibbling but it's an important distinction.

Hospital prices for the uninsured look high because of two things:

1) Those of us who are insured are accustomed to seeing the lower, negotiated prices as "normal."

2)Hospitals, facing tough negotiations from insurers, raise their "retail" prices so that they can offer insurers 50% or more discounts from "retail" and yet still make money. If they don't charge the uninsured those "retail" prices, that causes problems for them.

If we're doing to talk about issues, it really is important that we view them correctly.

For instance, the claims that healthcare costs are skyrocketing because of malpractice insurance costs because of 'frivolous' lawsuits?

Anyone else remember those studies they did showing that malpractice insurance premiums were rising at something like three times the rate of malpractice costs?

Posted by AnneZook at 12:29 PM | Comments (4)
March 06, 2006
Have An Issue?

Torture. I'm appalled that this is one of the issues we need to be addressing, but there you are. Even now, some of the louder voices from the Right, along with some prominent bloggers and other voices I've read on-line insist that it's right and necessary and a "valuable tool" that the Federal government needs.

Domestic spying. Ditto. It's not legal for the Federal government to just randomly spy on citizens of this country, okay? I don't care about your semantic twister games. Not. Legal. What happened to the Republican Party for whom issues of personal privacy were paramount?

War. How are we going to wage war from now on? Are we going to invade countries because they won't take orders from us, bring down regimes we don't approve of through both covert and overt methods (as has been our policy up until, now) Are we going to keep trying to develop our own new "pocket" nuclear arsenal while threatening to destroy any other country that looks in a nuclear direction? Ignore attempted genocides when it suits us? Or are we going to intervene to stop gross human rights' abuses, develop and use an array of effective diplomatic tools, and be an example of how it should be done?

Taxes. Yes. Taxes. They should be equitable, and, yes, the rich should pay more. I'm not all of that excited over the argument that someone who makes $150,000 a year in salary or dividends loses sleep over paying an extra percentage point or two. (Anyone making more than that probably shelters a lot of their money and pays less than I do.)

$245, 614,770,000. That's about where the Iraq war cost counter was when I looked at it.

$423,000,000,000. I think that's about where the deficit is these days and, when you set that number beside the one above, well.... That's future tax revenue the government will have to spend "servicing the debt" instead of on things that might benefit our country.

(Also? It's not true, especially under the current government, that we all get the same services and should all pay the same for them. Rich people get better police protection, cleaner streets, better schools, special legislation to protect their business interests, and even "white-collar prisons" when they get smacked for criminal wrongdoing. They deserve to pay extra.)

Less facetiously, a higher level of prosperity across the board is better for all of us, even the rich.

And, while we're still in that neighborhood? Iraq. Afghanistan. There are wars happening in both countries. Neither of them is going well. I did, and still do, support Afghanistan. We never had any business in Iraq and nothing we're doing there is making it any better. Can the Democrats please have some courage on this topic?

Equality. You know. One of those things we supposedly revere as a founding principle of this country? Are we for it or agin it? Because if we're for it, then we ought to be for it for everyone. Even if they are named Bill and sleeping with Jim. Even if Sue is sleeping with Sara. Even if Rebecca needs an abortion.

There are more, but that will do to be going on with.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:13 PM | Comments (0)
March 05, 2006
Stand Up and Salute

I'm going to start paying more attention to local matters.

So, look at Talking Points Memo. Here and here and here and here and here.

It started here and do read this original post because it brings up some good points, not the least of which is the idea that the Republican Party could be getting government assistance on finding and targeting local active duty personnel in various places.

It's local, but it's also national.

Fearing that they're losing their rep and the go-to guys on warmongering "security" issues and building on their practice of trying to make draft-avoider Bush look like a macho man by staging warlike photo-ops, the Republicans have now decided that Republican events should be attended by soldiers in uniform.

It doesn't matter if they're stage props or willing participants, the soldiers are inviting court-martial.

Beyond that, it does incalculable damage to our military, as Marshall discusses, and it does incalculable damage to our political processes by "framing" all public Republican speakers as part of the military community and "strong on defense."

To make it appear as though the Republican Party has the full and willing backing of our armed forces is a chilling strategy.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:46 PM | Comments (2)
Rational Society, Rational Sexuality

This was not easy to read. In fact, I clicked away from the page three times in the first six paragraphs (assuming each time that the writer was a lunatic and that CounterPunch had gone mad), clicking back each time reluctantly, but with a sense that since this is a topic I really care about, I should read it.

In the end, I was forced to agree with many of the writer's conclusions. After a rather sensational opening, the article settled down into a discussion of the current trend of criminalizing "sex offenses" far beyond what any actual "criminal" behavior might warrant.

There is a hysteria around sex offenses in our society, particularly around sex and the young. It has gone to extremes, and the MSM's self-imposed task of entrapping people on the internet with the intention of turning them over to the police (And reaping huge headlines. Sex sells. Pedophiles are no exception.) does cross the line.

Enacting criminal laws that have a retroactive effect is wrong.

We have run amok with the practice of forcing offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices, sometimes for life. In what way will an electronic bracelet stop someone from thinking about sex...or even looking at sexual images in a magazine (s)he has bought, or reading stories found on-line?

And sentences for sex offenses, sometimes mandatory life sentences, are ridiculous. You can get people serving these sentences who never touched a child inappropriately. It's thought-policing, that's what it is.

There is, or should be, a difference between someone who thinks about something, even a crime, and someone who takes action. Someone who commits a crime. (And I'm increasingly uncertain about making looking at something a crime.)

(Also, consider the inequality. In child porn cases, the consumer is targeted by the law. I'm not saying that they wouldn't arrest the producers of such material if they could, just that whether or not they can find the producer, it's the consumer they're demonizing. In prostitution busts, the law targets the prostitute, usually a woman, and the consumer gets a slap on the wrist. Men aren't punished for wanting sex, but women are certainly published for providing it. If you're targeting consumers, target them in all sex cases.)

There should be a distinction between non-violent and violent crime. A big one. When I think "pedophile" I think of someone who harms a child.

The person looking at erotic photographs of underage children is not as much of a criminal as the person who took the photos. And someone who is looking at a drawing? That's a victimless crime. And the punishment should fit the crime. (Better yet, the rehabilitation should fit the crime.)

Registering children as life-time sex offenders for acts they committed when they were 16 is entirely absurd.

Labeling someone a pedophile because they produce artwork that depicts children in a sensual or erotic fashion is hysterical overkill.

(That is, unless we also start prosecuting all of the marketing companies in the USofA who use erotic shots of children and teenagers to sell their products the same way.

Because anyone who thinks the image on that bottle of Coppertone was so popular because of the little doggie and not because of the bare prepubescent butt hanging out of the swimsuit is just lying to themselves. And anyone still pretending that Calvin Klein's ads aren't selling sex to kids needs a reality check.)

Children are sensual beings. Adolescents and those on the brink are sometimes sexual beings. This isn't something new. It's human nature. Since each of us has been an adolescent at some point in our lives, we shouldn't be surprised by this revelation.

Since each of us is presumably a rational human being, we shouldn't decide that it was okay for us, but succeeding generations have to be scrubbed, sanitized, and turned into sexless little dolls. (Admittedly, this isn't new to our culture, but we're certainly making a fetish out of it.)

This brings me back to one of my recurring hobbyhorses and something that was only tangentially referred to in the article.

The problem is not that children are sexual or sensual.

The problem is our society that combines a prurient horror at the idea of sex (almost anyone's sex) with a constant barrage of highly sexualized imagery and content every hour of every day.

(I have a private theory that part of what drives the rightwing so bonkers about gay sex is that those gay guy don't seem to be ashamed of sex in the right way. The rightwing seems to define sex by the guilt they can hang on it.)

In a company I used to work for, the mantra was, "what gets measured, gets done." That is, what everyone is paying attention to is what they remember.

Every day, in every way, we teach our children that their youth is sexual currency. With commercials, billboards, and magazine advertisements, we teach them that what's important is sex. That everyone wants it, almost everyone is doing it, and it's what they should be paying attention to. (A corollary could be drawn between the amount of violence we "sell" kids every day, but that's a different rant.)

Sexual images of women are used to sell cars to men, men's razors, beer to men, and even Viagra. (Our society uses women to sell men on their own sex drives. Does this strike anyone but me as a little odd? I mean, if men don't care about their sex drives, why try to force it on them?) (Plus which, the human sex drive is about more than just having intercourse, but that, too, is a different rant.)

The problem is our culture, that hears of a 14 year-old girl tapped to become the next "supermodel" and applauds her good fortune in getting a chance, one day soon, to hit the SI swimsuit issue cover**, while the same culture demonizes her 14 year-old classmate who has sex with her boyfriend.

We're whores. If you're selling it, it's okay. (As long as it's mass-market, corporate profit driven, of course.) Doing it because you wanted to is just wrong.

The problem is our society that persists in insisting that children are pure and innocent while all of our advertising and marketing and entertainment drums into our brains, day after day after day, that to be truly vibrant, viable, and desirable sexually, one must be young.

Be younger! Exercise to feel and look younger! Eat right to keep your youthful energy! Moisturize for that dewy-fresh complexion! Take Viagra! Colorize! Buy thigh-master! Have surgery! Be young!

If our culture is about any one thing, it's about the sexualization of youth.

But our penal system is increasingly about the criminalization of the sexualization of youth.

It's entirely schizophrenic. You know that, right?


__________

* I should point out, for anyone who might be new here, that I'm single, childless, and certainly of age. I have nothing to gain from this particular hobbyhorse. I like seeing sexy pictures of men, even men a lot younger than I am (although, in my case, that means men in their 20s).

I approve of the recent cultural pressure on men to stay fit. I'd rather be surrounded by fit, attractive men than doughy beer-bellies any day. In fact, I approve of everyone staying fit. The health benefits alone are good enough reason.

But I do have problems with the dichotomy between our entertainment and marketing media constantly telling us all that if we're not 16 any more, we're not really sexually appealing beings, while our legal system tells us that if we desire a 16 year-old sexually, we're deviants.

__________

** No offense to SI, whose swimsuit issue causes me no offense and some amusement.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:43 AM | Comments (1)