"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. Truth was never put to the worse in a free and open encounter..."
~ Milton
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
~Benjamin Franklin

Reading:
A Fistful of Euros
Andrew Tobias
Angry Liberal
Archy
Bad Attitudes
Common Dreams
Fablog
Hullabaloo
Informed Comment
Madelaine Kane
Mahablog
Obsidian Wings
Off the Kuff
Orcinus
Sarah Kendzior
War and Piece
Washington Monthly

Books
The Emerging Democratic Majority (Judis & Teixeira)
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (Franken)
Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot (Franken)
The True Believer (Hoffer)
Still Being Bushwhacked

All Book Reviews
Race, Gender, and Sexuality
It's always "us" vs "them"
Women's March on (fill in your location)
Children learn what their parents teach them.
You Got My Support. But.
Even Endangered Penguins Do It

All Race, Gender, and Sexuality
Campaigns and Voting
Where do we go from here?
It's always "us" vs "them"
Some interpretations
On and on I go
Just appalled

All Campaigns and Voting
Lecture Circuit
It Was 40 Years Ago Today
July 2, 1964
Pledge
May 14-15, 1970
The Erotica of Bare Knees

All Lecture Circuit
Media
The Liberal Media, At It Again
Fairly UNbalanced
P.S.
What's this?
OHMIGOD

All Media
Big Brother
Shoulda' Guessed
Where did my country go?
You know what you never thought you'd read?
Not in his name
Sleight of Hand

All Big Brother
World O'Blog
It's Vocabulary Time!
They wrote it
Mighty-fine blogging
Other People Said....
Phillipines

All World O'Blog
Aimless Ranting
It's always "us" vs "them"
So, I'm thinking with half my brain
Do You Know Peter?
Long, Little Privacy Rant
My Takeaway

All Aimless Ranting
Archives
February 05, 2017 - February 11, 2017
January 22, 2017 - January 28, 2017
January 15, 2017 - January 21, 2017
November 13, 2016 - November 19, 2016
October 09, 2016 - October 15, 2016

All Weekly Archives


Electioneering
Open Secrets
Political Wire Exit Polls
Politics1
Polling Report

Information
American Research Group
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Public Integrity
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Congressional Report Cards
Death Row Roll Call
DebtChannel.org
Democracy Now
Economic Policy Institute
FairVote Colorado
Foreign Policy In Focus
Global Exchange
Human Rights Watch
Independent Judiciary
Inequality
Institute on Money in State Politics
Institute for Public Accuracy
JobWatch
Lying in ponds
Media Reform
Media Transparency
Move On
One World
Open Democracy
Pew Research Center
Project Censored
Public Citizen Health Research Group
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Take Back The Media
The Urban Institute
WHO Outbreak News

Connections
XML & RDF
Peevish for PDA



Blog Directory


Search








Credits
Powered by Movable Type

Site Design by Sekimori





All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

April 07, 2006
It's Not Easy, Being Green

I can't actually recommend reading this entry. Just so you know.

I bought myself one of those coffee pots with a "permanent filter" so that I'd stop tossing paper filters into the trash every day. Sadly, it turns out that, sans filter, a sludge of coffee grounds makes its way into the pot each time, rendering the last cup undrinkable. Generally I wind up making another half-pot just to get that last cup I want so badly. (So. Is it worse for the environment to use the paper filter or is it worse to waste the potable water on coffee I can't drink and to make more coffee each day?)

I'm very concerned about toxic pollution from common household items. I'm gradually switching from "miracle" cleaners to more environment-friendly substances. (But is it worse for the water supply for me to wash away 1/16 cup of "miracle" cleaner each day or the two cups full of less-toxic but less-efficient "enviro-friendly" substitutes that aren't non-damaging to the environment, just a lot less damaging?)

And then there are other cleaning supplies. Using up paper towels is a no-no, I get that. Even if I use recycled paper towels, there's damage from the processes used to reclaim the paper, not the least of which are the necessary chemicals that are released into the world's water supply. (But is it really an improvement to use "cleaning cloths" that can be washed? If I wash them every time I use them, am I doing more or less damage to the water supply than I'd be doing if I used a paper towel and threw them away?)

And, of course, there's the cleaning process itself. How often should I be cleaning my house? Does the USofA have a phobia about germs that's out of proportion to the danger? Do I really need to clean my bathroom twice a week just to keep it "sparkling" or would cleaning it once a week (or once every ten days) be enough since most of the "dirt" consists of water or soap splashed around the sink? Is it worth the extra chemicals I'm tossing into the environment to keep my personal environment shiny or, since I'm the only one using my bathroom, should I worry less about the embarrassment I'll feel if I have a guest and the porcelain isn't "sparkling"?)

What about garbage? We throw too much garbage away, we all know that. Fortunately for me, the recent (three years ago) Dietary Switch to eating a heckuva lot less than what the average USofA citizen considers a "portion" means I'm using less food overall, which leads to me cooking less, having fewer leftovers, and throwing less away. But when I do have scraps, is it better to toss them into the trash or is it better to put them down the garbage disposal? One goes into a landfill and one pollutes our limited fresh water supply. Where's the "green" alternative?

Is eating out more efficient than eating at home because the restaurant kitchen uses more energy, but serves proportionately more people per kilowatt? (Does a restaurant's mass-feeing practices conserve energy?)

Is it better for the environment that food is bulk delivered to the restaurant, meaning only that much gas and road wear-and-tear, as opposed to 100 of us driving to different grocery stores and buying various ingredients from a lot of different places?

If I eat at the restaurant and take home leftovers (because the portion sizes are always absurd), does that make it more efficient, that I'm eating two meals from the energy consumed to produce one? Or does re-heating the leftovers negate any potential savings?

And how about energy? I've recently learned that appliances not in use but nevertheless plugged in and ready to use suck down about 5% of our nation's total energy expenditures. So I should unplug computers and the microwave and the coffee pot and the television and clocks when not actively "in use," right?

If I want to watch Stargate: Atlantis, I can plug in the TV five minutes before time and wait for everything to cycle up. Which, just for the record, I'm not doing. Not yet, anyhow.

Also, I won't be unplugging and replugging my alarm clock every day because that would really be annoying.

But what about lamps and that little floor fan? They don't eat electricity when not in use, right? Not like computers and things that stay "ready" to be used at any moment?

And we're advised that leaving an outdoor light on overnight cuts crime. So, how many hours do I have to spend sitting in the dark, using no electronic gadgets to make leaving the (environment-friendly) porch light on all night? (Or, should I bitch out the apartment people for destroying the massive sticker-bushes that used to protect the entire base of the apartment building from anyone getting within six feet of the wall or first-floor patios?)

And what about that battery-operated things like Game Boys? How evil are battery-operated devices, even if you use recyclable batteries? (And is it a false savings since the electricity required to recharge the batteries is more than the batteries put out? Or is it a good thing because the toxic chemicals in batteries should be kept out of the environment, so never throwing away a battery is a good thing?)

Should I cease to run errands on my days off and, instead, arrange my daily commute so that I can do all of these things going to and from work (and, not incidentally, turning my 40-minute commute into a 1-2 hour saga and me into a bitter, rage-filled commuter)? I

hear you saying, "public transport"! The last time I checked, my 40-minute commute would have been an hour and forty minutes (each way) by public transport and I'm just not willing to spend an extra two hours of my life in doing nothing but moving from one place to another five days a week.

I could take the "express" bus service and walk a mile or so to my office, a thing I'm not adverse to doing, but that would require me to drive to where I could pick up the express bus, which seems a bit counter-intuitive.

Or, I could walk the couple of miles to the express bus pickup, but what damage am I doing to my health by walking next to a traffic-and-smog choked street for forty minutes each morning and afternoon? Not to mention that I'm back to an hour+ commute each way although with the benefit of some exercise twice a day unless inhaling all of that pollution is going to kill me ten years sooner in which case it's not really healthier, is it?

And if I use public transport all week, how much driving can I do on the weekends before I'm obligated to start feeling guilty again?

(Our public transport drivers are on strike right now, so the whole question is moot.)

I ask these things because I need to wash my car, but I have to drive to the car wash because I live in an apartment and don't have a hose and other things I'd need to do it here. Is it better to drive around in a filthy car and risk paint damage that will require an environment-damaging re-spray job or to use up the gasoline to drive to the carwash and then contribute to water pollution with the dirt and soap that washes from my car? Should I avoid the "hot wax" cycle? Is it evil?

If thinking about all of this makes me feel tired and discouraged and my first impulse to cheer myself up is to go shopping, does that indicate I'm already too far gone to bother with?

Would world be a more interesting place if I stopped blogging unless I actually had something to say?

Posted by AnneZook at 06:23 PM | Comments (19)
April 06, 2006
What Security?

And, last but not least, we have a system whereby Members of Congress can stay in touch with one another, so we'll have functioning government, in case of a terrorist attack.

Typically, most of them have never heard of the program and don't have the necessary card.

Where in the heck is all of that money going?

One thing I think is fairly clear. No one in the Bush Administration actually thinks we're in danger of another major attack by terrorists. Surely if they did believe it, they'd actually be procuring some security, right?

Once again, I can't decide. Are they abysmally ignorant or are they evil?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)
Late to the party

The Free Press thinks that the MSM is finally getting a whiff of the smell around electronic voting machines.

In the meantime, possibly criminal investigations continue.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)
Immigration

So, I heard a report on NPR about how success this triple-depth fence was in practically stopping illegal immigrants from crossing over from Mexico, down south of San Diego.

The report mentioned that there were two, no, three consequences.

1. People living in the area find life more peaceful without "them" tearing up fences and suchlike.

2. Men who used to cross into the USofA for a few months and then go home are now arriving with their families and staying. (Because the people who take money to smuggle people across are too expensive to use more than once.)

3. The same number of immigrants (or more) are arriving, they're just coming across the desert or the mountains. So, more of them are dying.

One of the people being interviewed said we need the same triple-depth fence all across the border. And I couldn't help it. The memory of the Berlin Wall flashed into my mind.

First, it was just a wire fence, too, you know. But they quickly realized that wire wasn't enough to keep people from passing through.

So, aside from that, you tell me. What's my stance on immigration reform? What should I be supporting right now? Amnesty? (I'm not afraid to say it, no.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)
Evolution on the rocks

Or, rather, in the rocks.

In the frozen rocks of an island 800 miles from the North Pole, scientists have discovered a group of fossils that clearly mark one of the most crucial events in human evolution: a moment in time some 375 million years ago when primitive fish first began moving from the world's oceans to the land.

The fossils show that the animals bore the scales, gills and fins of fish, but also the ribs, neck, rudimentary ear bones and primitive limbs of what ultimately would become the arms and legs of the first land animals -- the ancestors of all reptiles, dinosaurs, birds and mammals, including humans, the scientists say.

I wish there'd been a photograph or at least a drawing.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:47 PM | Comments (2)
The story grows

It was bad enough when so-called "news" outlets were revealed to be airing government propaganda without acknowledging it as such.

Now we read that corporate propaganda gets the same treatment?

The next time "journalists" bemoan the world o'blog's cynicism and wonder why we don't trust them and trust their honesty and objectivity? Someone please mention this:

The center also said that many of the 69 stations took steps to blend the fake segments into their news broadcasts. Some had their news reporters or anchors read scripts supplied by corporations, the report said, and many had altered screen graphics to include the station's logo.

The report said that a few stations had introduced publicists as if they were their on-air reporters. Only a handful of stations added any independently gathered information or videotape, it said.

When Moyers talks about "A Culture of Corruption", he doesn't go far enough.

And I don't know about you, but I don't take seriously any reports of the media feeling humbled by their failures in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. As long as their masters are wholly owned by corporations, nothing much is going to change, is it?

Posted by AnneZook at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)
So weird

I hate moving ads on websites.

I was rather interested in this article about finding an original Rockwell behind a wall, but the ad on the right that shows a man with a fire burning suggestively at his crotch was really distracting.

(By the way, I don't think the guy mentioned in the article copied those paintings from any obscure motive. He was an artist. Maybe he just wanted to?)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:20 PM | Comments (1)
Case closed? (Updated)

So, McKinney has apologized.

Not too soon. I don't know what will happen with the investigation but I hope she and the other members of Congress who previously couldn't be bothered to wear their identification pins will start doing so.

This all could have been avoided so easily and today's scuffle with the press isn't going to make it all go away any faster.

Still.

On Wednesday, McKinney had charged anew that racism was behind what she said was a pattern of difficulty in clearing Hill security checkpoints, arguing that officers assigned to protect Congress members should recognize her, even without her congressional pin.

That's just arrogance.

Update: I'm starting to be sorry I weighed in on this story at all since many whose opinions I respect are on the opposite side of the issue.

Let me say that I've read such disparate accounts of this incident as to completely confuse me.

Did she "charge" past a Security officer or enter by a side way and "get" past him before he saw her face? Did she ignore him when he called after her or did she not hear him? Did he put his hand on her arm or "grab" her? Did she hit him? Did she have her Congressional I.D. displayed or just in her possession? Does the new hairdo (which I haven't seen a photo of) change her appearance so dramatically that you might not recognize her? Has she been treated badly or is she frequently too quick to fly off the handle and scream "racism"?

Who else has been stopped by these security guards for not wearing their pins and gotten through it without creating a national media storm?

And, finally, is Tom DeLay a grandstanding nitwit?

Well, at least I know the answer to one of these questions.

From now on, I'm saving my commentary for other stories.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:13 PM | Comments (0)
Oh!

When I saw this blog post (Run from your money!), and saw the entry was about the price of gold, it reminded me that I wanted to link to The Cunning Realist's "Consequences".

Recommended by Jonathan Dresner (of Frog In A Well - Japan), this one has been bothering me for two days. He talks about the price of gold. The price of oil. And the price of the Bush Administration's determination to avoid the consequences of their policies.

I don't understand all of the economic stuff, but I got enough of it to be (even more) worried about what further damage could be done before we get rid of these nutcases.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:03 PM | Comments (0)
Stop

G. Pascal Zachary says not all regime change is bad and that while we might need to skedaddle out of Iraq because it was the wrong war fought in the wrong way, that doesn't mean that regime change itself is a bad idea.

And while he makes a rational case, however briefly, he misses two crucial points.

#1 - It's all very well to talk airly of replacing a devastating regime with one that's only a bit better, but not even my bitterness about the USofA's history with "regime change" is strong enough for me to pretend that each of our successive Admininstrations didn't actually believe they were making a change for the better. (My syntax.... I mean, while the results were disastrous, I do believe that each USofA Administration honestly believed at the time that they were doing right and that people would be better off.)

Heck...now that I've typed that...twice...I just realized I'm not sure if I believe it or not. Now that I'm considering the idea, I realize that it's not impossible that our government would install a regime that would oppress its own people. In fact, I don't think many of our Administrations would have cared, as long as the USofA's corporate interests got a break from the deal.

Dude, where is my country? (I should buy that book.)

Anyhow.

#2 - We can't afford any more democracy. Not even in a country that would actually be happy to see us. We've bankrupted ourselves in Iraq and the money hemorrhage isn't going to stop any time soon. We've bankrupted ourselves with disastrous tax cuts and giveaway programs to wealthy corporations at home, and unless someone jams the breaks on, the Right will push through legislation to make these cuts permanent.

Besides. Democracy doesn't always mean being friends. I'm trying to imagine a USofA government willing to spend the time, money, and blood to bring 'democracy' to another country and not expect a long, profitable, return.

Update: We just don't have a good track record in these matters.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)
Pick on someone else

I know this is just a case of Big Pharma protecting its obscene profits, but why do women always seem to be the targets?

If it were me, would I take a plant-derived estrogen over something made from horse urine and proven to increase the risk of stroke, breast cancer, coronary heart disease, or pulmonary embolism?

Why no, of course not. Why go "bio-identical" when you can give your money to Wyeth?

Criminy.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)
Stacking the deck?

I wonder if there's any really decent reason to have Giuliani testifying at the Moussaoui trial?

Did he know Moussaoui? Did he have any knowledge of Moussaoui's actions? Was he a witness to anything Moussaoui did? No, of course not. If he did, he'd have been at the trial trial. (Whatthehell is a "sentencing trial" anyhow?) Ever since I first heard about this, and about playing recordings from 9/11, I've been a touch disgusted with us. Again.

I'm just saying, okay? Every criminal is a terrorist* of greater or less impact.

You might think that's mostly criminals who commit violent crimes but the elderly couple who sees their life savings disappear down the rathole of some scam, and who face eviction and destitution, might not agree.

I don't think you can, or should, "try" terrorists under a completely different set of rules.

Did Moussaoui murder anyone? Was he an accomplice to murder? Was he an accessory before or after the fact? If he's guilty of any of these things, is the death penalty available in that venue to punish those things? That's all that should matter. The law. The real law, not Bush-league Law.

The families of the 9/11 victims still have my sympathy, but their loved ones are not somehow deader than the victim of a drive-by shooting or the victim of a drunk driver. It's not somehow more tragic to die from political differences than to die from social ones.

Moussaoui should pay the price for whatever crime he actually committed.

The fact that, locked up, he won't last long in any USofA prison is a different matter.

The fact that the death penalty would create a valuable marty for the 'enemy' in our Long Extremist War On Islamic Terror (hereinafter known as LEWOIT) is something the government should not consider. They should consider the law. That's all.

_______________________

* For those of us who were wondering why so many "crimes" seem to be handled by the Department of really pathetic Homeland Security these days? Maybe the Bush Administration is about to declare all criminals as "terrorists" (except the Right-wing kind)? Maybe the Right figures they can clean out the Left's voting rolls by rounding up all of those peace activists and "eco-terrorists" and suchlike?**

_______________________

** Don't get tense. It's a joke.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)
The rest of the story?

So, I'm sure we all remembering reading the stories, some time back, about how the Catholic Church was "rehabilitating" Judas? (Too lazy to go look for a link now.)

Struck me as odd at the time, but lots of religious things strike me as odd, so I just shrugged and moved on.

Now....

'Gospel of Judas' to be revealed

For 2,000 years Christianity has portrayed Judas as the treacherous apostle who betrayed his divine master with a kiss, leading to his capture and crucifixion.

According to the Bible, Judas received 30 pieces of silver for the act, but died soon afterwards.

But the Gospel of Judas puts Judas in a positive light, identifying him as Christ's favourite disciple and depicting his betrayal as the fulfilment of a divine mission to enable the crucifixion - and thus the foundation of Christianity - to take place.

So...what? The Catholic Church, unable to suppress the document, made a pre-emptive strike and started "rehabilitating" Judas in advance, just in case people started to doubt the "official" version of the story?

The ideas offered in the article offer some interesting food for thought. The hole "divine plan" that Jesus had to die. It's a sort of, "start as you mean to go on" I guess.

Christianity has managed that. Thousands of gallons of blood have been spilled to "defend Christianity" since that day.

(I'm going to have to buy National Geographic. If they keep having so many interesting stories, I'm going to have to subscribe.)

Update: So, Jesus walked on water? Anyone can do that. Especially if it's ice.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:23 AM | Comments (2)
April 05, 2006
Getting to evil

I don't remember what links I followed to get to it, but I'm glad I did. Whether you're Left, Right, or Other, go read Identifying Evil.

And don't forget to click on over and read On The Nature Of Evil, while you're at it, so you can consider the concept of "industrialized evil" along with the other things you're going to be finding yourself thinking about.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)
Wherein I show bad taste in jokes

You know the Bush Administration? The people who put anti-feminist men in charge of women's health issues? Who appoint representatives from industries to the government watchdog agencies assigned to keep those industries within the law? Who appoint lobbyists to the positions they used to lobby?

Add this to the list. A man arrested for exposing and masturbating himself in front of a 16 year-old girl used to be the guy in charge of...wait for it...Homeland Security's "Predator." That's the agency designed, yes, to bust child sex criminals.

I suppose, in their own way, the Bush Administration thinks of this as appointing "experts in the field" to various positions.

__________________

I know. This entry is wrong on so many levels.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:22 PM | Comments (6)
Us, not Them?

House Moves to Limit Political Spending by Nonprofit Groups Known As '527' Organizations

The House moved Wednesday to limit the multimillion-dollar donations to nonprofit groups that changed the face of American politics in the 2004 presidential election. Republicans said they were closing a huge loophole, but Democrats saw an effort to undercut their supporters.

The legislation would require so-called "527" political groups to abide by campaign contribution limits.

Donors would thus be able to contribute only $25,000 a year for partisan voter mobilization activities and $5,000 a year for direct expenditures on federal elections.

The article says Repubs and Dems both have people opposing the bill. Color me confused. I though the Rebubs normally used a different kind of non-profit structure?

Posted by AnneZook at 06:01 PM | Comments (0)
Oink

I'm one of the first to say that some of the things sneered at as "pork" in the Federal Budget are actually items of critical importance to the people whose communities they will benefit.

However, when it comes to $500,000 for a teapot museum, I'm drawing the line.

In addition:

The pressure to reduce wasteful spending appears to be having some impact. Overall, the report found that the number of earmarks for particular projects in 2006 dropped to 9,963, down 29 per cent from the previous year.

That sounds good until you read the next sentence.

But their overall value grew 6 per cent.

So, fewer projects aimed at individual communities, but those who are left are getting more. That sounds about right for a Republican Administration. More for those that got some, less for those that got none.

I must go search to see if there's a website for the Citizens Against Government Waste. I'm sure there are other amusing "earmarks" in the budget. North Carolina can't be the only state with a silly season project.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)
April 04, 2006
Who's Got the Button?

The Dirty Secret Nobody Is Talking About

Summary:

Any honest and legitimate analysis of the Iranian nuclear program should include consideration of the facts regarding the role of US intelligence agents in supplying Iran with the components and technical plans for nuclear weapons in violation of international treaty obligations and US federal law, and the lack of any action by elected US government officials once they were fully informed of what had happened.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:57 PM | Comments (0)
It's good to be E

Exxon, that is.

Because they got huge, enormous profits these days.

And, speaking of these days, have you taken a look at gas prices across the country these days?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)
My thoughts

Capitol Police Seeking Arrest Warrant for Congresswoman

The truth is, I've been reading about this story and I think the Congresswoman is in the wrong.

Members of Congress are issued lapel pins that get them through security. She's run into problems time and again because she refuses to wear the pin. She's been asking for trouble and she's been getting it.

Having said that? I think an arrest warrant is going a bit far.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:36 PM | Comments (2)
Pesky laws

There are some in the U.K. (and here, I'm sure), who think those pesky Geneva Conventions are getting just too intrusive.

Time to rewrite them to let the good guys indulge in a little democratic torture when necessary.

After all, it's okay as long as it's us.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)
Another example

Calif. Levees Break, Flooding Trailer Park

It's not just New Orleans.

Yet another example of why "limited government" is a bad idea.

The country's infrastructure is disintegrating. We have to stop killing people overseas and spend some money here

Posted by AnneZook at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)
April 03, 2006
Success Story

Fortunately, not everyone in Iraq is doing that badly.

At least one corporation have been making out, you should pardon the expression, like a bandit.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:40 PM | Comments (1)
Small Goverment

Because of a limited budget.

No, not the USofA. Iraq.

The price of some staple food has increased in Iraq after the Ministry of Trade announced last week that several items provided by a monthly food-ration programme would be cancelled. This prompted shopkeepers to raise the cost of items which are being imported at a high price.

[...]

According to officials at the trade ministry, which is largely responsible for food distribution, the cut in rations is a direct result of a 25-percent, government-imposed reduction of the annual budget. In an effort to curtail state spending on subsidies and develop a free market economy, the national budget was reduced from US $4 billion to US $3 billion for the current fiscal year.

Nice in theory.

Pity about the actual citizens, though. Somehow it's never that simple at the micro-level.

“My family depends on food rations,” said Muhammad Wissam, a Baghdad resident and father of four. “I earn US $50 a month as a painter, but our rent alone is $42.”

Hey, it's his own fault for being lazy and poor, right, George?

Posted by AnneZook at 01:33 PM | Comments (1)
Death-for-hire

TomGram is all bloggy today on Frida Berrigan's "Privatizing the Apocalypse."

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan on a For-Profit Nuclear World

In addition, the Pentagon and the Bush administration have been on another kind of binge, privatizing national (and international) security. From New Orleans to Iraq, rent-a-mercenary companies are having a for-profit field day based on the woes of others. According to P.W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors, for every hundred U.S. soldiers in our first Gulf War, there was one private "security contractor." This time around, it's closer to one in ten. It has been estimated that there are up to 20,000 guns-for-hire, Iraqi and Western, working in that country, the second largest (if also motliest) force in the "coalition of the willing."

Such private companies are above the law in Iraq, and their trigger-happy hirees don't hesitate to create mayhem. In part because their own casualties can largely be kept private, such companies have done much to reduce the political costs of going to war in the United States, while raising the stakes in Baghdad. In a February 2004 New Yorker article, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner told journalist Jane Mayer, "When you can hire people to go to war there is none of the grumbling and political friction" associated with mustering a larger public fighting force.

The mercenaries fighting in Iraq (and patrolling the streets of New Orleans) have been an off-and-on hobbyhorse of mine.

Me, I think if your country doesn't support the war, you shouldn't be fighting it.

Of course, if you've lied your way into a war, you'll be desperate to keep the official body count as low as possible. Mercenaries are ideal for that. In addition, civilians slaughtered by trigger-happy mercenaries also don't count 'against' official troops. And the govenrment doesn't have to pay medical costs or death benefits (if there are any) for wounded or dead mercenaries.

So, you can see the temptation.

Privatization is reaching nuclear, so to speak, proportions.

How do you feel about nuclear weapons research and security being in the hands of private, for-profit companies?

In a world where even Google bends to the profit motive and censors the internet for China's repressive government, how do you feel about corporations with no such dedication to a "Do No Evil" mantra adding nuclear profits to their bottom lines?

At Los Alamos, the University of California has already been replaced by a "limited liability corporation," says Tyler Przybylek of the Department of Energy's Evaluation Board; and, more generally, the writing is on the containment wall. Nuclear laboratories are no longer to be intellectual institutions devoted to science but part of a corporate-business model where research, design, and ultimately the weapons themselves will become products to be marketed. The new dress code will be suits and ties, not lab coats and safety glasses. Under Bechtel, new management will lead to a "tightly structured organization" that will "drive efficiency," predicts John Browne, who directed the lab at Los Alamos from 1997-2003. "If there is a product the government wants," he concludes, "they will necessarily be focused on that. A lot more money will be at stake."

Los Alamos was the first to go. Now, the management contract for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is on the auction block as well.

Read it and worry.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)
It's time

They'd better get someone installed in FEMA's main chair pretty fast.

We're already having quite a lot of weather this year.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:20 AM | Comments (2)
April 02, 2006
Coingate

No, the scandal hasn't disappeared.

In fact, Noe's tentacles have just been revealed stirring the pot in the U.S.Mint.

(Via Raw Story.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)
Desperate mothers

Mugabe refuses to seek food aid

Zimbabwe is starving.

The dumping of babies, along with what doctors describe as a “dramatic” increase in malnourished children in city hospitals, is the most shocking illustration of the economic collapse of a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa.

Some of the corpses are the result of unwanted pregnancies in a country experiencing a rise in sexual abuse and prostitution. But others are newborns dumped by desperate mothers unable to support another child. Inflation has reached 1,000% and the government’s seizure of 95% of commercial farms has seen food production plummet.

The dead gutter babies are the most pitiful victims of a government that believes it can starve its people into compliance, or death, turning Zimbabwe into the only country in the region with a shrinking population.
So grave is the situation that even the government media have begun reporting it. “Some of the things that are happening now are shocking,” complained Nomutsa Chideya, Harare’s town clerk, to the state-owned Herald newspaper. “Apart from upsetting the normal flow of waste, it [baby dumping] is not right from a moral standpoint.”

As ridiculously repressive as the Bush Administration would like to be, at least we're not yet a country in which the abandonment of thousands of newborn babies has to be covered as a problem for waste treatments plants instead of as a humanitarian disaster.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Cancer in a Can

Fifteen years ago the Food and Drug Administration said, “Trust us.” Its scientists had found benzene, a known carcinogen, in some sodas and fruit drinks. The same levels in drinking water would have triggered mandatory action and public notification through newspaper, radio and TV ads. Yet the FDA neither sounded the alarm nor required the beverage industry to fix the problem.
Fifteen years later, the benzene is hitting the fan. Recently, Germany and the United Kingdom announced investigations and the FDA admits it is taking another look. But Washington’s drink of choice remains a heady cocktail of campaign contributions and secrecy, impairing its ability and will to regulate the safety of everything from mines to meat, from skyscrapers to soda.

Some states have circumvented Washington’s lax standards and weak enforcement. California’s Proposition 65, which requires companies to alert the public of potentially dangerous toxins in food, has sparked lawsuits over mercury in canned tuna and lead in Mexican candy.

The incestuous relationship between the FDA and the food industsry it's supposed to "regulate"? Well, I haven't seen anything like it since...well, since the last time I took a close look at the goverment and regulations on Big Pharma. (Also handled by the FDA and equally if not more incestuous.)

What the FDA needs is not just teeth to enforce its rulings. It needs the will to do what's right. That comes from decent funding. Enough funding so that this government agency doesn't have to go begging to the industries it oversees for money to do the studies and investigations that need to be done.

The Republican-dominated House has countered with a circumvention of its own. On March 8, as lawmakers pledged allegiance to industry, and FDA officials chanted another dreary chorus of “Trust us,” the House passed the National Uniformity for Food Act. If the Senate follows suit, the FDA would control almost all food labeling, and states would be barred from posting stricter warnings on carcinogens, genetic engineering, carbon monoxide-treated meat or growth hormones.

While we're at it, a certain amount of morality (the real stuff) would be nice in our politicians.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:44 PM | Comments (2)
Acronym hell

First there was NAFTA, and we all know how that worked.

Or, do we? If you don't, decide for yourself. Do your own research.

To be honest, most of what I can find says that's it's done almost nothing when our trade with Mexico is analyzed. (For some reason, no one ever talks about Canada. Maybe it's because we don't perceive Canada as a poverty nation?) Some might argue that it's had negative social and environmental effects on that country. My ignorance on the topic is too vast for one Sunday morning's reading to cure.

Anyhow. Now there's CAFTA. I wonder how that will play out?

Posted by AnneZook at 12:32 PM | Comments (2)
Finally. Enough!

The School of Americas is losing future "students."

In the past week, the defense ministers of both Uruguay and Argentina have declared that their governments plan to cut ties with the US Army's School of the Americas. The Montevideo newspaper La República quoted Uruguay's defense minister explaining her country's position in an article published Thursday, and Argentina's defense ministry has issued a statement to The Nation confirming that the lone Argentine soldier currently training at the SOA will be the country's last to enroll there. These developments represent two of the strongest indications to date that the people of Latin America have come to view the SOA as a destabilizing force and a gateway to human rights atrocities.

That's one part of our "democracy exportation program" that other countries are finally ready to do without.

Since its founding in 1946, the SOA--now located at Fort Benning in Georgia and renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation--has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers in commando and psychological warfare, counterinsurgency techniques and intelligence-gathering. The Pentagon has acknowledged the school's use of field manuals advocating torture in the past, and UN commissions and research organizations have linked SOA graduates to many of the region's most heinous massacres, assassinations and torturous interrogations over the years. Graduates from Uruguay and Argentina figure prominently into this sordid history, from Uruguayan soldiers linked to kidnappings and torture through Operation Condor to the notorious Argentine dictators Roberto Viola and Leopoldo Galtieri.

You can call it shit or you can call it roses. Doesn't change the stink.

"From the beginning of the conversation, Minister Berrutti told us that there was no need to explain the atrocities of the SOA, as [she and the people of Uruguay] were fully aware of this reality, having experienced firsthand the horrors of the tortures, detentions, imprisonments and 'disappearances' caused by its graduates," wrote Sullivan-Rodriguez in an e-mail message from Buenos Aires.

One small step for liberty....

Posted by AnneZook at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)
A-R-M-D

Speaking of New Orleans, there's a possibly related article, The Poverty Dialogue That Wasn't

The researchers analyzed data from Syracuse University's Maxwell Polls on Civic Engagement and Inequality, conducted in 2004 and shortly after Katrina. Ryo and Grusky divided respondents based on their answers to detailed questions on their attitudes toward poverty. They created four basic categories: "activists," "realists," "moralists," and "deniers."

Activists, defined as those who support state intervention to reduce poverty, went from 58 percent of respondents in the 2004 survey to 60 percent post-Katrina; and there were small gains for deniers, who believe poverty and inequality are "neither substantial nor growing" (from 21 percent to 25), and for moralists, who see poverty as a motivator, not a social problem (from near zero to 1 percent).

That's some pretty semantically loaded language they're using to define the categories of respondents, and I say that as someone on the Left who has long been an "activist" on the topic.

Still. Ponder this. If only 1% of the population thinks that poverty is a "social problem" then why do we hear speechifying from the Rightwingnuts on the topic? (Also, anyone remember that famous college-era Bush quote where he said he though people were poor because they were lazy and deserved it, or something to that effect? That means that on this issue, Bush "represents 1% of the population.) (That's some kind of "mandate" you've got going there, George.)

I'm a lot more concerned about the 25% in the "neither substantial nor growing" category, though. I suspect those are the die-hard Rightwingers who will refuse to believe any evidence to the contrary because it's provided by government (and they don't trust government) or private institutions they see as Leftist Big Government supporters. 25% is rather a large chunk of the population to be so determinedly blind.

The most dramatic gain was among so-called realists, who don't believe in the state's ability to reduce poverty or inequality; their numbers nearly doubled to 11 percent.

First, a 5% gain in the "realists" category and a 4% gain in the "deniers" category aren't that different. They both reflect a growing belief that poverty isn't a problem that can be fixed. What we're seeing is a group ("realists") who might have tended "activist" if any workable solution presented itself, moving toward cynicism.

Further, there's no evidence that the poll considered whether or not these changed attitudes might be a reflection of disillusionment with the current government's willingness to address the problems?

I hate polls and surveys that don't drill down.

Also?

Then - Now -- Category
58% - 60% -- "Activists"
6%  - 11% -- "Realists
21% - 25% -- "Deniers"
0%   - 1%   -- "Moralists"

How can a poll go up in all categories?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:50 AM | Comments (2)
Vague Memory

Suspected Taliban Kill 5 Afghan Police

Suspected Taliban militants shot dead five policemen and wounded three others in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, a hospital doctor said.
Earlier Sunday, an official said a Taliban rebel posing as a traveler shot dead four policemen as they slept at a remote checkpoint late Friday in the southern Helmand province.

Taliban.... Taliban.... Hmmm.... Weren't we going to wipe them out at some point? I vaguely remember we invaded Afghanistan and killed a lot of people and then announced "mission accomplished" and went off to invade some other country, right?

We seem to have the invading thing down pat. We should work on that "mission accomplished" thing, though, because there's still a few bugs in the system.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)
Vote?

A truly astonishing effort to find New Orleans' voters.

Snaking his Mercedes through a cluster of low-income rentals in a corner of Houston densely packed with Hurricane Katrina evacuees, Eusi Phillips stops at each complex and makes two deliveries: a stack of absentee voter forms for the front office, and fliers he tapes above washing machines urging tenants from New Orleans to cast their ballot in the April 22 election back home.

In the laundry rooms, Phillips hopes to find Louisiana's newest power bloc of voters.

"It's a matter of circling the wagons," said Phillips, 27, who has been canvassing Houston apartments each weekend and has built a voter information Web site. "In communities like the Lower Ninth Ward, how are they going to have a say in what happens there if we don't reach these people and get them to vote?"

It's heartening that people do actually care that the citizens of New Orleans be able to have a voice in their city's future. And care enough to help them have a city to go back to.

What's disheartening is the lack of success. Where are the people of New Orleans? Is their faith in "the system" that weak?

Or is it just because, as in so many elections across the country year after year, the one issue many of them really care about can't be put on a ballot? Maybe they just want to go home, and no one is running on a "come home, we miss you" platform?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)
Thanks, but no way in hell

FEMA Calls, but Top Job Is Tough Sell

The calls went out across the nation, as Bush administration officials asked the country's most seasoned disaster response experts to consider the job of a lifetime: FEMA director. But again and again, the response over the past several months was the same: "No thanks."

Unconvinced that the administration is serious about fixing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or that there is enough time actually to get it done before President Bush's second term ends, seven of these candidates for director or another top FEMA job said in interviews that they had pulled themselves out of the running.

"You don't take the fire chief job after someone has burned down the city unless you are going to be able to do it in the right fashion," said Ellis M. Stanley, general manager of emergency planning in Los Angeles, who said he was one of those called.

It's a shame the Bush Administration has such a lousy reputation that they can't convince anyone with experience for the job that they're serious about doing it right this time. It's the people of this country who are likely to suffer most.

Now, with the next hurricane season only two months away, the Bush administration has finally come up with a convenient but somewhat embarrassing solution. Mr. Bush, several former and current FEMA officials said, intends to nominate R. David Paulison, a former fire official who has been filling in for the past seven months, to take on the job permanently.

I actually feel kind of sorry for the guy.

And even before a permanent new director is nominated, and confirmed by the Senate, the agency is moving quickly to try to fill some of the approximately 550 vacant positions among its full time staff of about 2,500 employees.

Numbers like that tell you just how bad it got inside the Agency.


Posted by AnneZook at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)
Congressional Record

So, for those of you following the story of Senators Graham and Kyle submitting court testimony about a debate that never happened.

First, upon more reading, I find ample discussion of the topic (being, for those not following the story, an attempt to prove what Congress meant by a piece of legislation by presenting a record of a conversation that never happened as fact).

Okay, so it wasn't specifically fraud. And it's good to read that there may be consequences.

Still. As I've argued before, it's just wrong to let people insert discussions, debates, and speeches into an "official" record when they didn't happen.

Wonkette said it and I agree The Congressional Record was a Wiki long before Wikis were invented.

The briefs filed in support of the government do not make clear that the Graham-Kyl debate was manufactured. In their friend-of-the-court brief, filed in February, Graham and Kyl note that the "Congressional Record is presumed to reflect live debate except when the statements therein are followed by a bullet . . . or are underlined."

The Graham-Kyl exchange is not marked in either way, although a C-SPAN recording and other records make clear that the discussion never happened.

It boggles the mind. You can submit this stuff to the Supreme Court with a note that it is "presumed to reflect a live debate" even though you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it isn't....and you're not lying.*

Typical of the semantic jiggery-pokery we see far too much of these days.

We can keep this from happening again. Amend the rules so that only errors and omission of fact can be changed in the Congressional Record before it goes to print (and mark even such changes).

(Law.com weighed in on the case itself, if you're of a mind to read about it instead of the kerfuffle.)



_________________________

* And now you're thinking, how fortuitous for them, that the staff at the Congressional Record didn't mark this fictional conversation as fiction, so that these guys could later use it in testimony before the Supreme Court to prove what everyone else intended by the vote they were taking.

Yeah. Right.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)