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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

April 01, 2006
So

On a lighter note, a new study suggests that cell phones might have a connection with cancer after all.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:57 PM | Comments (2)
Doing research

In a casual, internet-research kind of way, and after this morning's Agent Orange story, I thought maybe I could encapsulate a brief history of Dow and Monsanto, the brilliant specimens of corporatehood who brought us that particular distilled poison in a can.

As you might expect, it's all too complicated to summarize.

I didfind this story of an Agent Orange dump found under a New Zealand town.

Dow, of course, is famous in recent years for the antics of now-subsidiary Union Carbide and that corporation's involvement in a massive chemical spill in India 21 years ago, not to mention Union Carbide's asbestos problems.

One does have to wonder why any rational corporation, if that's isn't an oxymoron, would acquire such a problem-riddled entity? Union Carbide has a rather chequered past, but so do both corporations.

Hiroshima, vinyl chloride, dioxin (Agent Orange), faulty breast implants, illegal re-exportation of triethanolamine (a potential WMD ingredient), asbestos, radiation poisoning of employees, and on and on.

I take it back. These two deserve each other.

So, what about Monsanto? Besides the Manhattan Project connection, I mean.

"In 1967, Monsanto entered into a joint venture with IG Farben" "It is the German chemical firm that was the financial core of the Hitler regime, and was the main supplier of Zyklon-B to the German government during the extermination phase of the Holocaust"

They say you're known by the company you keep, right?

PCB's of course. Round-Up Ready seeds...the ones that become sterile in Season Two, so that farmers are forced to go back to the company again and again and again to keep buying seeds. (I don't know about the rest of you, but I won't ever become comfortable with the idea of plants engineered not to reproduce. What kind of capitalistic insanity turns that loose on an ecosystem?)

And how about those Terminator seeds? Yep. Monsanto.

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job" - Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Playing God in the Garden" New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998.

I dunno. At this point, Agent Orange seems like less of a disaster than happened than part of a pattern, you know?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)
WMD, USofA-style

Agent Orange: the legacy of a weapon of mass destruction

Thirty-five years after the US sprayed the jungles of Vietnam with toxic defoliant, thousands of babies are still being born with horrific defects. But unlike the American veterans, no one in the war-ravaged country has received any compensation. Jeremy Laurance reports from Ho Chi Minh City

Entering it is like stepping back 40 years to the days of Thalidomide, the morning-sickness pill prescribed in Britain in the 1960s that left babies hideously deformed. In the first room, cots line the walls. In one, a four-year-old girl rocks on all fours, gently banging her head against the bars. A nurse turns her round to reveal a face with no eyes. Under a thick fringe of dark hair, there are soft indentations in the skin either side of her nose, where her eyes should be. Above her cot a printed label gives her name as Tran Sinh, and her date of birth as 27 February 2002. According to the nurses she was born in an area heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, where the land is still contaminated 35 years after the spraying stopped.

I understand that the question of "reparations" is a tricky one, but on purely humanitarian (not to mention moral grounds), we should be doing something.

Vietnam is still with us. It will be with us as long as there are war victims on the planet. And more victims are being born every year.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)
March 31, 2006
Am I Wrong?

Or is the proliferation and expansion of mercenaries for hire in our society something that we should all be really, really worried about?

I mean, some of us bitched about the government hiring mercenaries to walk the streets of New Orleans, but no one else really seemed to give a shit.*

Now this corporation of mercenaries feels secure enough to start giving press conferences and advertising that they're ready, willing, and able to go kill people for anyone who has the money to hire them.

Is there a point at which any significant number of citizens in this country are going to rise up and say enough with the killing and enough with the fascination of immature boys playing soldiers and enough with the bloated DoD budget, it's time we started to be about more than death and destruction?

____________________

* It sure didn't become a major story in the world o'blog. Which is a pity, since it's just the kind of below-the-radar precedent-making activity that y'all should have been caring about.

And, yes, I'm bitter and annoyed about that.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:24 AM | Comments (8)
Stupid and Stupider

Color me thrilled that I have never been the kind of person who would wear really stupid styles just because of "fashion." (Although I'm willing to admit that some of the things I have worn weren't as, um, attractive on me as I might have thought at the age of 16 or 20.)

After introducing his J Brand straight-leg jeans last year, owner Jeff Rudes quickly followed with a narrower version — the "cigarette leg." Two months later, he was pushing a still slimmer "pencil leg." And, this month his "super skinny" jeans arrived at the Ron Herman store.

When the manager heard they were coming, she asked, "How big is the knee?" Rudes recalled. "I said, 'It's tight.' She said, 'Make it hurt.' "

$150 to $400 for a pair of jeans? Stupid.

"Make it hurt"? Stupid.

Stupider.

They won't make women's clothes in standard sizes because they're afraid that if we can buy clothes that fit anywhere we shop, we'll...buy clothes anywhere we shop. Yeah, that makes sense.

And yet.... I'm sitting here, wondering if it's a reflection of the extent to which I've been hypnotized by the current trial-and-error method of shopping that it makes perfect sense to me that brands don't want their clothes fitting like other brands' clothes fit? Fortunately, logic sets in and reminds me that, even inside a standardized sizing system, there will be differences in fit and cut.

While I'm complaining, let me complain about how the stripes in the fabric of women's tops are always horizontal. This is a fashion that suits only one of 100 women. It makes the rest of us look like tugboats moored to a pair of pants. Women aren't all flat-chested, okay?

(I know, I know. You're thinking...she got up early, came to the office, read the news, and this is what she felt like blogging?)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:13 AM | Comments (2)
March 30, 2006
Liars!

Do you believe this?

Making shit up is one thing, but submitting it as a true record to the Supreme Court?

Is there no limit to their arrogance?

Posted by AnneZook at 08:58 PM | Comments (5)
It's Good To Be Corporate

U.S. corporate profits have increased 21.3% in the past year and now account for the largest share of national income in 40 years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the share of national income going to wage and salary workers has fallen to 56.9%. Except for a brief period in 1997, that's the lowest share for labor income since 1966.

"It's a big puzzle," said Josh Bivens, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute. "If this is a knowledge economy, how come the brains aren't being compensated? Instead, the owners of physical capital are getting the rewards."

Despite the flood of cash coming in the door, corporations are investing comparatively little in expanding their operations. Capital spending has been below average, especially considering the strength of the economy, the level of profits and the special tax breaks given to boost investment.

Making tons of money. Spending none of it on the people doing the work.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)
Another Perspective

Just to round out the discussions on the topic, here's another perspective on those "brave" activists, peace or Christian, depending upon what publication you read, taken hostage in Iraq.

Paying for the Rescue of Western Martyrs

Lost amid the drama of the Christian Peacemaker Team hostage taking and rescue in Iraq are two sub-plots of some import. One is psychological and the other is legal and fiscal.

On the psychological front is the mental disposition of the Christian Peacemaker hostages themselves. Although they are to be admired for the courage of their convictions and the fact that they actually engage in direct action rather than just talk, the CPT workers held captive in Iraq display traits remarkably akin to those of Islamic jihadists and Iraqi resistance fighters: self sacrifice for an ideological belief. This is not inherently bad. The CPT may well see themselves as helpers and facilitators for peace, but in going to Iraq against all reasoned advice, in the middle of a combined war of resistance against occupation and sectarian strife between primordial interests, they virtually assured themselves a brush with death. This is known as the martyr complex, although to be fair, perhaps these men were unwittingly exhibiting it.

This may be due to the fact that the activists involved, including a New Zealand resident Canadian, had previously undertaken missions in Palestine in opposition to the Israeli occupation. Perhaps they thought that Baghdad would be equivalent and the risk would be the same. They were wrong.

I don't suppose anyone who has been relying upon the reports in the MSM to keep them fully informed of the situation in Iraq really

In most countries such as New Zealand, individuals who ignore official expert advice and engage in risky ventures that require their being saved are required to pay the costs of the rescue operation. Perhaps it is time to do the same in situations like this.

If so, governments might sue for the costs of the operation. Legislation could be passed the requires reimbursement for rescue or ransom for those who get in trouble while conducting unsanctioned activities in conflict zones with travel advisories in place.

That sounds fair.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:07 PM | Comments (2)
How Far We Have Fallen

Yes, I do accept the reality that we are not, and never were, the country I thought we were.

But I thought we were better than this.

Or, maybe I didn't. It could be just an isolated smear of corruption. A prosecutor and a State department employee conspiring to elevate the fear of a new terrorist attack for, oh I'm sure, entirely non-political reasons.

After all they had _____ to gain.

How do we fill in the blank? I guess the prosecutor could get a big 'win' on a high-profile case, but what did the State department person have to gain?

The indictment of the former prosecutor and one of his star witnesses marked a dramatic turnaround in a case once hailed by President Bush and John Ashcroft, his first attorney general, as a major breakthrough against terrorism plotted on American soil.

Currying favor with his own bosses, back before he became disenchanted with them?

Posted by AnneZook at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)
The 7% Solution

Well, actually, Republicans are calling this one the 65% Solution.

It is to education what NCLB was to education, or the "prescription bill" was to Medicare. That is to say, an expensive boondoggle that sounds good unless you're actually listening.

If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, of course you know that the 7% solution was a drug. That's kind of what these Bush Administration programs are. Drugs to dull the public's senses so that they don't notice they're getting the shaft.

Fortunately, some of us are living drug-free these days.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)
Says It All

The headline pretty much tells the whole story

Democracy: Iraq votes, Bush vetoes

Nothing like spreading a little, good, old-fashioned, USofA-style democracy amongst the benighted heathens to give you a warm glow, is there?

Posted by AnneZook at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)
Mourn Our Loss

Caribbean Coral Suffers Record Death

A one-two punch of bleaching from record hot water followed by disease has killed ancient and delicate coral in the biggest loss of reefs scientists have ever seen in Caribbean waters.

Researchers from around the globe are scrambling to figure out the extent of the loss. Early conservative estimates from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands find that about one-third of the coral in official monitoring sites has recently died.

"It's an unprecedented die-off," said National Park Service fisheries biologist Jeff Miller, who last week checked 40 stations in the Virgin Islands. "The mortality that we're seeing now is of the extremely slow-growing reef-building corals. These are corals that are the foundation of the reef ... We're talking colonies that were here when Columbus came by have died in the past three to four months."

A dime a year. It says some of the coral onlyl grows the width of a dime a year. That's a loss that it would take thousands of years to recover. And at the rate we're going, the planet doesn't have thousands of years, does it?

That's not the only water-related ecology problem we're facing at this precise moment. There's a massive algae bloom in the Great Lakes. Again. I'm sure it's not related to this report of sewage being dumped into the Great Lakes.

And, while we're thinking water, think about the damage floodwaters draining out of New Orleans could do.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)
Well? Which is it?

Do we have an immigration crisis with hordes of wanna-be terrorists flooding over our southern borders, or don't we?

If even Rumsfeld is not willing to say terrorists are infiltrating us via that border, then it seems likely that we don't.

Does that mean it's a fake crisis and, as some have argued, thinly coded racism to appeal to the baser base of the Republican Party?

Bottom line? If you buy their lies, you will have to pay the price.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)
Deja Vu

Massachusetts High Court Rules That Gays From Out of State Cannot Come There to Marry

The state's highest court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples from other states cannot legally marry in Massachusetts.

The Supreme Judicial Court, which three years ago made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage, ruled in a challenge to a 1913 state law that forbids non-residents from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be recognized in their home state.

Anyone want to guess who the rightwingnuts were afraid would want to get married in 1913? Whose marriages would lead to the collapse of society? Which people they viewed as second-class citizens, whether they said it or not?

Posted by AnneZook at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)
Just An Opinion

I've seen a lot of stories about this in the last couple of days.

Of course, I've also read about fifty other articles on how we're all not getting enough sleep in the last ten or twenty years, so it worries me less as a stand-alone story than in combination with other things.

For instance, it's also possible that that the over-stimulation of kids' simultaneous ipod-cell phone-computer chat lifestyles are actually affecting how their brains work, and in a worrying way.

Decades of research (not to mention common sense) indicate that the quality of one's output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks. Some are concerned about the disappearance of mental downtime to relax and reflect. Roberts notes Stanford students "can't go the few minutes between their 10 o'clock and 11 o'clock classes without talking on their cell phones. It seems to me that there's almost a discomfort with not being stimulated--a kind of 'I can't stand the silence.'"

Ponder that for a moment. A generation where anyone not pretending they can do four things simultaneously is hopelessly behind. And where there are people who don't know how to function without two or three kinds of simultaneous stimulation at all times.

The damage this kids are doing to their long-term cognitive abilities could be serious.

Because, regardless of what a ten year-old tells his mother, she should actually know that no he can't actually do his homework and learn the material if he's squeezing it in between web-surfing, music funneling into his brain through earphones, and five simultaneous IM conversations. Plus which, it's just lousy training for life.

What's he going to do when he's 25 and having to sit in a two-hour client meeting? Fall asleep because he's under-stimulated? Ask for breaks every 15 minutes because he's never focused on any one thing for longer than that in his life? Get fired when they realize he's not taking notes...he's IMing with his girlfriend about their date that night and his best friend about the game last weekend, and watching a move scroll past onscreen?

What's he going to do when he's 25 and he has to spend an hour walking a colicky baby around the house at 2:00 a.m.? This is not an occupation that lends itself to multi-tasking.

Sometimes I wonder if we're overstretching our monkey-brains to a ridiculous extent. I mean, in what kind of world would processing information a split-second slower than others create as a disability?

___________________________

I'm proud of me. Are you proud of me? I didn't even hint at a connection to a population that, while preeening itself on its sophistication, seems to be becoming ever-more simple-minded and incapable of logical thought, resulting in a massive and inexplicable gullibility when it comes to elected leaders.

(I might have indulged in such a digression, but I'm at work and my lunch break is now over. Ponder the idea, though.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)
March 28, 2006
Awwww

As parting gift, Duke cut check to NRCC

Before former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) headed to prison, he prepared a small parting gift intended to help his colleagues in the upcoming election: a $2,000 check from his expiring campaign committee to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Isn't that just the sweetest thing?

That relatively small gesture, made Dec. 13 according to Cunningham’s campaign records, followed on the heels of an Oct. 24 donation of $11,684 to the NRCC. It also came about two weeks after he admitted to taking $2.4 million in bribes to direct government business to certain defense contractors.

I'm just gagging on the sweetness by now.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)
So Confused

Go ahead. Tell me how the "Medicare drug prescription plan" isn't a a confusing mish-mash.

The Bush administration notified hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries on Monday that they were listed on the rolls of two prescription drug plans and would soon be dropped from one. They will retain coverage under the other plan.

How does this happen, you wonder? How does a program largely advertised as requiring six people, an accountant, a lawyer, and a 420-page instruction manual* to get enrolled in in the first place wind up with 'thousands' of people enrolled twice?

More than six million low-income people entitled to both Medicaid and Medicare were assigned to Medicare drug plans selected at random by the federal government. These plans did not necessarily cover the drugs they needed. Many of these "dual eligible" beneficiaries selected other plans or were placed in other plans by relatives, state officials or former employers.

If the plans were just chosen at random, then what was the point? I can see if the government had tried to match people's prescription needs up with a specific plan (a project that's mind-boggling in its complexity) but why just assign them randomly?

But then, this has been a disaster from the first day, and I've been saying so.



* Made-up stuff.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)
March 27, 2006
Terminators

I've read about them, but only casually. This article about "terminator seeds filled in some gaps for me.

The commercialisation of Terminator seeds, which would make it impossible for farmers to save seeds from their harvests, would provoke enormous losses for farmers, forcing them off the land and exacerbating hunger and poverty, she maintained.

According to ECT Group estimates, soybean production in Argentina would be hit by an additional 276 million dollars in annual costs, while the cost of wheat production in Pakistan would be 191 million dollars higher.

There's this enormous tension in my brain...between the knowledge that we need better methods of producing more food in order to feed our increasingly over-populated world and the knowledge that we're turning dangerous products loose on an enironment already badly off-balance.

The United States won the award for "most despicable" act of biopiracy, for imposing plant intellectual property laws on occupied, war-torn Iraq in June 2004, making it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law.

Okay, so this story filled in gaps in more than one story.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:28 PM | Comments (4)
Say, wha?

An End Run Around the Constitution

The question of how we elect a president is up for debate again, with advocates of a majoritarian philosophy having invented a new device for moving to a direct popular vote for the chief executive.

Here we go again.

The reasons they give for making the change include the fact that in 2000 the electoral college system -- which gives all of a state's electoral votes to the winner of its popular vote, no matter how small the margin -- made George Bush a winner despite Al Gore's gaining more popular votes nationally, an offense to those who want majority rule.

It happens. None of us like it and it doesn't happen that often, but it happens. No system is perfect.

The sponsors also have noticed that presidential campaigns target battleground states while ignoring others in their advertising and campaign schedules. Thus Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin get more attention than New York or Texas. And since the number of battleground states has been shrinking, they say, more and more of the country is shut out of participation in the campaign.

So, they argue, let's move to a system in which all votes count equally, because that will force the candidates to campaign and advertise everywhere.

Not so much, no. Anyone expect North Dakota or Wyoming to be hotspots for campaigns? Anyone think the charms of Oregon will outweigh the sheer mass of voters in Florida? (To Broder's credit, he does say this.)

Instead, the advocates propose that states with sufficient electoral votes -- 270 of the 538 -- to constitute an electoral majority enter into an interstate compact, pledging to give their votes to the candidate receiving the largest number of popular votes. That action could allow the legislatures of as few as 11 states to change the whole system of electing a president.

Basically, 11 states are going to get together and agree to ignore the voters in their own states so they can bypass the constitution.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)
Had enough?

Republicans On The Run

As midterm campaigns gear up, Bush's party fears a backlash that could end its 12-year hold on the House

The midterm contests in a President's second term are almost always treacherous, but this time around, Republicans thought it would be different. The 2006 elections, coming on top of their gains in 2002 and 2004, would make history and perhaps even cement a G.O.P. majority in Congress for a generation. George W. Bush's credibility on national security and the states' aggressive gerrymandering, they believed, had turned the vast majority of districts into fortresses for incumbents. But that's not turning out to be the case. In recent weeks, a startling realization has begun to take hold: if the elections were held today, top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House of Representatives and could come within a seat or two of losing the Senate as well. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way Washington is run, told TIME that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: "Had enough?"

Reading on, it seems like the answer, more and more as time passes, is a hearty yes!

Sadly....

[....] when those surveyed were given the choice between a generic Republican and a generic Democrat for Congress, the nameless Democrat won, 50% to 41%.

Now all we have to do is hope that we can do better than a generic candidate in '08.

(Hint: The name shouldn't be Clinton.)

It's a longish article, but worth reading.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:24 PM | Comments (2)
March 26, 2006
It's Over

Costs to rebuild shifting to Iraqis

$21 billion U.S. effort to end short of goals

The head of the U.S. program to rebuild Iraq said Thursday that the Iraqi government can no longer count on U.S. funds and must rely on its own money and cash from other Persian Gulf nations to complete the massive undertaking.

Sorry about your country, kids.

Speckhard's remarks signal the unwinding of an extensive rebuilding campaign intended to stabilize Iraq and neutralize insurgents after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The $21 billion U.S.-funded program set out to fix or build schools, roads, clinics, ports, bridges, government offices, phone networks, power plants and water systems

All done now, bye-bye.

•Electrical capacity is below prewar levels.

•Only 49 of 136 planned water projects will be finished.

•300 of 425 electricity projects will be completed.

As much as $5.6 billion for projects was reallocated to tackle “security needs driven by a lethal and persistent insurgency,” Bowen said.

U.S. reconstruction officials once aimed to create public-works jobs for 1.5 million Iraqis. The U.S. Agency for International Development said last week that 77,000 have been created.

Ah. So that's what Mission Accomplished looks like in the 21st century?

Posted by AnneZook at 04:28 PM | Comments (3)
Compare and Contrast (There will be a quiz.)

NYTimes Op-Ed:

Searching for Dummies

TALK of decline was old news in academia even in 1898, when traditionalists blasted Harvard for ending its Greek entrance requirement. But today there's a new twist in the story: Are search engines making today's students dumber?

His basic point is that Google makes it too easy to find information on the internet and thus today's kids aren't learning to think intelligently.

Excuse me while I run a Google search to see if I can find out when it became Google's job to educate children, instead of just organizing access to information.

Since Edward Tenner then goes on to explain how you still can't always find precisely what you're looking for unless you understand enough about it to search properly, the entire column is a bit ridiculous, but still.

"Our kids is getting dumber." (Can't be true. I Googled the phrase and it doesn't exist.)

Allow me to introduce Amy Piva and Madeleine Mason:

Shoot from the hip, hit the heart

Young writers not afraid to evoke emotions in their stories

By taking part in a weekly lunchtime writing seminar, two Steamboat Springs Middle School eighth-graders are developing creative writing skills that allow them to tackle topics much tougher than their ages suggest. The students are taking the informal seminar with Madeleine Mason, a paraprofessional at the school who has a lifelong love of writing and is spending extra time with the students at the suggestion of English teacher Amy Piva.

The time outside the classroom is paying off.

[....]

[Kelsey Butler, 13]'s macabre mystery, "Lia," tells the story of a schizophrenic woman who -- maybe -- unknowingly murders her mother after conjuring an imaginary lover who is a Mafia hit man.

"I was watching ‘CSI' before I wrote it," Kelsey said, referring to TV's popular crime investigation drama.

Drew Ruff, also 13, entered a Western story in the Tattered Cover contest. "Dell" is a tale about an aging cowboy who is forced to question where his true love lies after his horse suffers a nasty fall.

They're being educated, you see. Someone is teaching them.

search engine
n.
1: A software program that searches a database and gathers and reports information that contains or is related to specified terms.
2: A website whose primary function is providing a search engine for gathering and reporting information available on the Internet or a portion of the Internet.

education
n.
1: the activities of educating or instructing or teaching; activities that impart knowledge or skill
2: knowledge acquired by learning and instruction
3: the gradual process of acquiring knowledge

Posted by AnneZook at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)
Disgusting

This.

Lawmakers introduce bill to protect funerals, despite protests

Colorado joined the list of states rushing to limit when and where people may protest at funerals while members of a small fundamentalist Kansas church jeered and picketed March 23, arguing that Americans are dying for a country that harbors homosexuals.

Rep. Mike Merrifield, a Democrat from Manitou Springs, said he is trying to balance the free speech rights of anti-war protesters and the rights of families to mourn peacefully and privately.

I protest, strongly against the mindless, hate-filled bigotry of Those People's anti-gay campaigns being characterized as "anti-war" protesting.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:51 AM | Comments (2)
MegaWeirdness

Understanding MegaChurches

To some urban progressives, megachurches represent not only an alien phenomenon, but a large, threatening citadel of conservative cultural and political views. To help separate myth from reality on this subject, the DLC and Third Way cosponsored a forum on Capitol Hill last week on "The Rise of the Megachurches," the third in a series of "values forums" aimed especially at congressional staff.

Huh? Church? State? Separation?

Ring a bell with anyone?

And what the heck is the DLC doing, sponsoring "values forums" anyhow? I don't trust them and I don't trust what they might pick as the "values" of importance.

Beyond that, all I gathered was that these "MegaChurches" aren't so much about religion as they are about socializing. These are for people who don't really care that much about what the religion stands for, they just want the trappings in their lives. With a rec center for the kids.

Many people in new suburbs not only don't know their neighbors; they don't know their own neighborhood.... Loudon County, Virginia, had 6,000 new homes built last year. One year, 6,000 new families, with no roots in their neighborhood. So they're going to find a supermarket the first week because you got to feed the kids. But soon they're going to find a church, because they need sports teams for the kids, they need child care, they have all sorts of voids that megachurches are filling.

He has a point. People have socialization and recreation needs and there's no centralized way to offer and/or identify these in a new community outside the schools or, if you're so inclined, a church.

[...] a vast menu of social, educational, recreational, and social-services activities.

Sort of like a government. Only, you know, no taxes, not much in the way of regulations, and no voters.

Many Democrats have characterized megachurches as "belonging to the Republicans," when it fact they belong to God.

Not so much, according to this guy:

[People attending megachurches] couldn't quote you the tenets of their denomination; they don't know and don't care

Or maybe it's just another step in the decentralization of religion that started with Martin Luther?

The megachurch is really a sociological phenomenon.... You have sprawling metropolitan areas and a destination culture in which highly transient, highly mobile people go where their needs are met. So they shop for churches. If you got what I want, I'm going to be there; there's no allegiance to AME, Catholic, Baptist or any other denomination...

It's religion of convenience.


Posted by AnneZook at 09:23 AM | Comments (2)
Not the right guy

Tancredo, colleague tussle in ugly spat

From March 17:

Tancredo, colleague tussle in ugly spat

A cursing, screaming, epithet-laden fracas erupted between Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo and an Illinois congressman this week after a televised debate about immigration.

What does it say about me, or about Tancredo, that I don't have to read any further to be sure he was entirely in the wrong?

(Reading on anyhow, they were both out of line.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)
Qwest Prosecutions

Looks as though things aren't going well in the attempt to bring Joe Nacchio to trial.

Nacchio's attorneys moved to have the charges and the indictment dismissed on the grounds that prosecutors have not built a solid case against the former CEO of Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q).

The judge denied the dismissal request by Nacchio's lawyers, but asked U.S. Attorney William Leone to deliver more specific evidence about what Nacchio knew and when.

Call me naïve, but I thought that that's what a trial is actually for? To, you know, make the case? (I guess they're not sure they have enough evidence to go to trial, but the CEO of a company dumping $100 million in his own company's stock right before it takes a hit because of poor performance? I'd say that's enough right there to strongly suggest fraud.)

Marc Weisberg, a former executive vice president at Qwest was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest and fined $250,000 for one count of wire fraud earlier this month.

Sixty days of house arrest.

It's good to be a wealthy, white-collar criminal in the USofA.

More details:

As part of Weisberg's deal, the government dropped 10 counts of wire fraud and money laundering that carried potential maximum prison sentences of five to 20 years. Prosecutors also dropped a forfeiture count seeking repayment of $2.9 million in allegedly ill-gotten gains.

He cops a plea and gets to keep the money he made through fraud? (And what about the "family members and friends" who also benefited?)

When I grow up, I wanna be a wealthy, white-collar criminal in the USofA.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)