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April 26, 2006
Chicken and rice

That's what everyone needs!*

No, seriously. This story annoys me every time I read it, in whatever format it's appearing.

"Self-interest, rightly understood" is a fancy-pants way of saying, "I know what is in your interest better than you do." It is, in my view, a politically stupid and morally diseased position. Democrats, by temperament, are slightly more susceptible to it than Republicans.

It's even more annoying when these stories are alternated with stories about how the Democrats are the party of so many splinter interest groups that they're tearing themselves apart in the attempt to serve all of them, as so often happens.

I mean, which is it? Are the Dems not listening to anyone, or are they listening to everyone?

I'm only going to say this once (well, unless I get really aggravated), so listen closely.

Democrats don't want to tell people what their "best interests" are.

They don't want to dictate what people do and/or don't want.

They don't want to argue anyone out of what they actually want.

They just want people told honestly what lies behind the misleading rhetoric, the semantically empty speechmaking, and the patently dishonest policy titles.

Prescription Drug Benefit (mostly for big pharmaceutical companies)
No Child Left Behind (more children encouraged to leave on their own)
War on 'Extremists' (def. ecologists, liberals, poor people, women, tolerance, the constitution, and people hogging Our Oil)
Mission Accomplished (let the slaughter begin)
Enemy Combatant (anyone who looks at us funny and yes, that can include you, so shape up)
Immigration Reform (go away, we got our own poor folk to do the chores)
Ownership Society (they already own it, this was just a celebration)
Tax Reform (rich people need more money)

And so forth.


(Lunch break over.)


* I made it. It's lovely. Really.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:58 PM | Comments (3)
April 23, 2006
Shock and Awe

Quite a bit of the former. Nothing of the latter.

"The children seem to be the most openly enthused. They are getting a chance at a future the likes of which would never have been possible under the oppressive regime..."

Take a look for yourself if you have a strong stomach.

Up to 250,000 dead in Iraq.

Just in case anyone is in danger of forgetting what "war" means.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)
I'm such a fool

When I heard about Rove being shunted over into "politics" instead of "policy" I just assumed it was a tacit admission that he's been a disaster.

I also assume he was about to be indicted.

I'm such a fool.

It's all about the subpoena.

They're desperate to hang onto Congress because their crimes are catching up with them and only a compliant Congress (and a faltering national media) are between them and a flock of subpoenas that will make the Nixon investigation look like a pre-season warm-up.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:34 PM | Comments (0)
I'm thinking about....

1. Taxes - I'm okay with taxes being fair.

For instance, I find it fair that people who are buying houses and raising kids get tax breaks I don't get. (The house thing mostly because building, selling, buying, repairing, and furnishing houses is a nice chunk of our economic activity.) (The kid thing because, well...because kids are expensive. And I like kids. But people shouldn't get bigger tax breaks after two. Replacement-level reproduction. That's all.)

I find it fair that we "cap" the maximum tax rate at something less-than-exhorbitant, but it needs to be much higher than the rate paid by the poor. I don't dislike the wealthy because they're wealthy and I don't want to take their money away unfairly but, as I've said before, they get more out of society than the poor do, so it's fair they should pay more. They get better water, sanitation, policing, schools, parking, neighbors, noise ordinances, and a dozen other things. They should pay extra for these little extras.

2. Social support programs - I'm in favor of these.

(I hear the gasps of surprise.)

But. We need properly funded opportunity programs. Not just financial support programs. And we need a long-term commitment to these programs. We need to create them, implement them, and monitor them, making changes as required.

The poor are not, by and large, poor because they're shiftless, lazy, and incapable of success. They're poor because no matter how you fancy-dance around it, they don't have the education, opportunities, and cultural supports required for success. The rare person who "succeeds" in spite of these handicaps is the exception and their stories of how they done it aren't really that useful to those who lack that crucial, unmeasurable (and innate) single-minded focus. Human beings are mostly creatures of the herd, comfortable when milling about in the midst of like-minded/lived others.

Anyhow. If we want to raise the poor out of poverty, we have to spend the money to raise their social and cultural standards to the point where a decent job doesn't seem like a fairy-tale joke.

3. War - I'm agin' it.

Yeah, okay, sometimes there isn't a good alternative.

I'm against unilateral, pre-emptive war.

I'm against wars of aggression, and no matter how you touch up the paintwork and burnish the brass on our invasion of Iraq, this is a war of aggression.

This is illegal, by all international laws. It goes against our culture, our social standards, and our understanding of all that it means to be "an American." When you toss in mass slaughter of civilians, wanton and wholesale destruction of a country's infrastructure, and the hidden and not-so-hidden torture of prisoners of war, there is no good, there is no benefit we can reap from this war that is worth 10% of what it's costing us today and will cost us in all of our tomorrows.

It's the act of a morally stunted bunch of retards whose fascination with the pornographic violence of the battlefield (via movies, never real life!) obscures the stench of death handing over the Middle East. The brain(less)-child of a band of pie-in-the-sky idiots who excused every past failure of their policies by pretending that the problems were anomalies and not reflective of fatal weaknesses in their philosophy. The abject failure of a batch of failure-prone theorists whose acquaintance with reality is limited to the payoffs, handoffs, and tradeoffs of corrupt corporate America.

In the meantime, Afghanistan, the country we invaded with some cause and with a real chance of building a long-term success story both for them and for us; Afghanistan is sliding into chaos and destruction.

War. It ain't good for us. We ain't very good at it. We weren't ready for it. This Ain't 1864, Bush Ain't Lincoln, We Ain't Winnin'.

I'm agin' it.

4. Choice - I'm for a woman's right to ownership of her own body

There are no caveats, no exceptions, and no half-measures.

5. Equality - Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. - I'm pro and con on this one.

We have all long agreed that "liberty" is not really inalienable. If you break the duly agreed-upon laws of the land, you can rightfully be deprived of liberty for a set period of time.

Society's "right" to infringe upon the "life" bit is under debate. Not as much debate as I'd like, but under debate.

The third one gives a lot of folks a lot of problems.

If your "happiness" is a dog barking for three hours in the middle of the night, you'd better live ten miles from anyone else. You can't be "happy" in a way that infringes my actual happiness (i.e., my ability to sleep at night). Your "happiness" has a real, a measurable negative effect on my happiness.

Ditto for when you get home from work at 3:00 a.m. and decide to unwind for an hour or so by working on your Harley, which has developed this worrying habit of backfiring every fifteen seconds. If your neighbors egg your house, I will understand. I won't approve, but I'll totally understand. You can't pursue your happiness at the expense of ruining the quality of life of all your neighbors.

Your happiness is painting your house yellow? Go for it. Your happiness is living in a neighborhood of none but yellow houses? Unless you own every house in the neighborhood, it ain't gonna happen. You cannot pursue your happiness at the expense of my freedom to paint my house blue. If I want to paint my house fire-engine red, I have the right to do so (assuming I haven't signed any legal agreement not to do so).

Your happiness is pre-marital abstinence and post-marital fidelity? Go for it. Your happiness is fixed on everyone following this path? So not your right. Your right to pursue your happiness does not include a right to infringe on anyone else's happiness.

Your happiness is white picket fences. Okay, but your neighbor's preference for natural wood is equally their right.

Your happiness is heterosexuality. Fine, but your neighbor's preference for homosexuality is equally their right.

Your happiness is going to church every Sunday? Fine, but mine involves sleeping in and then reading the newspapers on the balcony while I drink coffee for two hours. To each their own. (Contrary to the propaganda you've been fed, what someone else believes does not infringe upon your beliefs unless your beliefs include unacceptable mandates on forced conversation and repression of other beliefs.)

Your happiness is hating everyone who isn't like you? It's your right to be as big a jackass as you want. In private. What you can't do is act on your beliefs in a way that infringes on the life, liberty, and/or happiness of others.

And this, contrary to what some might think, includes infringing on the life, liberty, and happiness of your children. Outside socially acceptable standards for discipline and education, your offspring have as much right to have their own minds, their own opinions, and their own beliefs, as anyone.

When I stop to ponder the subject, I fully believe that raising your children to be social misfits, raising them to be misogynistic, racist, or religiously intolerant is equal to child abuse. You are materially damaging their own right to the pursuit of happiness by teaching them that life is about fear and hate.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)
Late "News"

Economists. Wotta buncha jokers.

In general, economists do modestly better at predicting the economy than simple mathematical projections of past economic trends do. But economists often get into trouble when they try to foretell financial downturns.

Perhaps that's why most economists are cheery about the health of the US economy.
Economists and policymakers at the US Federal Reserve also have a history of upbeat forecasting. They didn't see the last recession in 2000 and 2001 until about nine months after it started

Bottom line...the economy is in trouble.

Sure am glad we got "experts" to tell us these things. Otherwise, us regular folks might not notice jobs disappearing, gas pricing skyrocketing, and those "adjustable" mortgate rates adjusting upwards like rocket-propelled grenades.

The economy sucks. Everyone is being forced to admit that.

The truth will always out, won't it?

Kind of like more and more people are saying that the Bush Administration knew there were no WMD in Iraq. Before we invaded.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)
But...It's a Dead Sea

Of what use is a Dead Sea?

In articles like this, you generally see references to biological or ecological benefits of the area being destroyed. I noticed the absence of any such information in this article. (But I am wondering why you'd spend a fortune to grown bananas in Israel? Unless you're just intent on avoiding the Chiquita deathgrip on supply and pricing?)

Posted by AnneZook at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)
A Fandom Going Too Far

Sometimes I find our culture emotionally repressed (and repressive) but I can't say that the alternative is always attractive.

Granted, this case of rioting after the death of an actor is about rather more than the death of the actor, but the news that people have actually torched themselves because some actor they liked has died, makes me a bit squeamish.

Beyond anything else, it suggests to me that these are people whose real lives are so emotionally barren and unfulfilling, whose real lives are so hopelessly devoid of interest and challenge, that they develop fixations on remote figures, living vicariously through someone else.

But then, as someone was trying to get me to admit not long ago, much of "fandom" here in the USofA and around the world is almost as excessive, if not quite as obviously and immediately dangerous.

(If you refuse to take off your Spock ears when you go to work, if you're so "in love" with an actor that you stalk them in an attempt to get them to return your "affection", if you change your name to that of a fictional character.... Well, here in the USofA, these things might eventually land you in therapy. In other parts of the world, you just die.)

Obviously I have more sympathy with the excessive emotionalism of the Kannadigas than I do with those in more prosperous countries. Their attachment to the now-deceased Rajkumar seems to have been as much or more about his defense of their culture and heritage in the face of increasing "Westernization" as about his roles.

Still. The tack the article took, starting off with the "fandom" aspect before laying out the social and cultural history of the outburst struck me as interesting.

Not the least because, as our own country's situation becomes ever-more precarious and as our own culture becomes ever-more fragmented, it seems more and more possible to imagine rioting here.

In spite of the government's reports and statistics and compliant media followers who have been trumpeting the strength and health of our economy since the neocons started dismantling it, real people know they're not better of, in fact life is a lot less secure, than they were five or six years ago.

I'm not saying we're seeing the kind of anger that leads to Joe Average deciding he's just not going to take it any more. But it's the whole flash-point thing, isn't it? Outside of an Asimov book, psychology, mob and individual, is still a primitive science.

Who knows which revelation of official corruption, corporate malfeasance, or warmongering profiteering might light the match?

I'm hoping for riots.

Not the bloody torches, battered victims, and rubber bullets and gas masks variety.

The, you know, the civilized variety. The kind where fifty million of us march on our state capitals and on Washington D.C. and give the incumbents 30 minutes to pack before they're escorted (politely and nonviolently) back to their personal residences, thanked for their presumed good intentions, and warned never to darken the doors of government again.

(I don't like spending five hours of a beautiful, sunny weekend day working. This is on the list of things that make me bitter.)

And yet....

I know you're tired of hearing this, the entire Left is tired of hearing this, the Right is mocking us for always saying this, and the Rightwing is counting on us being distracted by this, but do the Democrats have a better solution?

Well, yes, partly just by virture of being Democrats, their solutions are bound to be better.

And, yes, we need some darned catchy campaign slogans to thrill the masses and half a dozen canned talking points that candidates can safely repeat to get themselves out of tight corners.

But what about really?

How will the Democrats really help people? What will they do with a majority in Congress and possession of the White House?

(Ooops. I'm already far from my starting point, so I'll spare you the endless rambling about the points I think the Democrats should be discussing solid solutions for.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)