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  • Monday, November 29, 2004


    Cultural Divide

    From Alternet, Blue Islands, Red Seas: We’ve all seen the map of the 2004 presidential election, with the "three coasts" of blue states parted by the red sea of conservatism. That’s fine and good if we simply want to understand electoral politics on a state-by-state basis. Trouble is, that’s not an accurate way to understand what happened on Nov. 2.

    The real great American divide is not between the red and blue states, it is between urban and rural America.

    The way I would express it: there is a cultural difference between urban and rural America. I hear all the time about the "malling" of America, the appearance of the same identical stores from town to town creating a bland sameness of shopping and brand names. I also hear about the smoothing out of regional differences when everyone watches the same TV programs and news through cable and satellite. But I don't think these things actually create or sustain cultural experience and propagation. That happens day to day, face to face.

    Although people, urban and rural, may watch many of the same TV shows, the individual interpretation of these shows comes from a cultural context and background. Someone living in the country may have a church, not just as a place they go on Sunday mornings, but also as their major social outlet/center. Perhaps they also go to Bible study group on Friday, put their children in Sunday school for religious education, etc. I'm not trying to make this into a Christian or religious thing, it was just the easiest example for a rural cultural center.

    This is part of what I think George Lakoff is getting at when he says people don't necessarily vote their interests (economic, etc.) but they vote their identity (peer group, core beliefs, etc.)

    In this way, different groups perceive things differently. So some people can watch, say, Will & Grace and see a fairly ordinary situation comedy. Others may see it as a breakthrough in gay visibility on network TV. Others still may see it as forcing homosexual values on ordinary people. Same sitcom, different perceptions.

    Sunday, November 28, 2004


    Corporate Control of Food

    The ever increasing control of biotech firms over commercial food crops is something I've been following for a while. A synchronism occurred when these two stories crossed my eyes within a few hours. From A Moral Civil War:
    Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) brings news that one American innovation in Iraq involves "a system of monopoly rights over seed." The FPIF discussion paper appeals to international rights of "food sovereignty" -- the right of a nation, "to define their own food and agriculture policies, to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade, to decide the way food should be produced, and to determine what should be grown locally and what should be imported."
    From Imperium Watch:

    Iraqi farmers will now be forced to pay American seed companies for seeds for each year's crops. American agribusiness has joined Halliburton and other Western infrastructure development companies in reaping profits from the Iraq war, which was sold to patriotic Americans as part of the war on terrorism. Last April Paul Bremer, then American administrator of the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority, altered Iraq's intellectual property law so the farmers, whose tradition of collecting seed each season for use the next is thousands of years old, will now have to buy licenses to use patented seeds that cannot be planted in more than one season. If a farmer does not plant the patented seeds, but is found with patented seed in his field because of wind drift or pollination, he can be fined by the company who owns the patent. Critics say the rule may make it convenient for many Iraqi farmers to sell out to American agribusiness companies, who gave President George Bush $4 million and Republican congresspeople $11 million in the recent election cycle.


    International Rule of Law

    This is an interesting analysis of the historical editorial policy at the New York Times. I doubt it will change things at the NYT but still worth a look. From The Case for the Global Test:

    "But the New York Times is a liberal paper, isn't it?" Howard Friel is a co-author of a book criticizing the nation's "paper of record" for being too pro-war, and this is what conservative talk show hosts ask him.

    Friel's book, The Record of the Paper , co-authored with Richard Falk, comes after a number of books of media criticism that purport to determine which way the winds of media bias are blowing: books like Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? and Bernard Goldberg's Bias. But instead of trying to place the New York Times on some sort of objectivity scale, Friel and Falk examine the editorial policy of the Times on U.S. use of military force in conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq and put forward a working theory on why the Times editorializes as it does.

    In an interview with the [Valley] Advocate, Friel, who lives in Northampton, [Massachusetts,] said that looking for bias is a faulty standard. Instead, he believes that the Times, sensitive to criticisms from the left and the right, attempts to position itself politically in a way that makes the widest distribution of people happy....

    In the book, Friel and Falk examine closely the arguments on the editorial page of the Times, "liberal hawk" columnists writing in the Times Magazine, and the news reporting -- in particular the work of reporter Judith Miller -- leading up to the invasion of Iraq and through a year of occupation. What they find is that the Times almost systematically left out the question of international law in its editorial pages and its news reporting, and failed to live up to its own standard -- set in the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 -- as a government watchdog. After holding the paper's Iraq coverage up to the light, Friel and Falk go back 50 years to look at the Times coverage of Vietnam and other conflicts to see the same pattern emerging....

    In the book, Friel and Falk focus on international law, in particular the United Nations Charter and its prohibition of the use of force by states. Friel maintains that this rule of international law is often misunderstood and misrepresented. The framers of the United Nations -- the U.S. chief among them -- wanted to outlaw wars of aggression and prevent future world wars. So it set a high standard for the legal use of force -- "For example, to stop a Hitler," Friel said. But there is an exception to the rule. If a country is attacked, it can defend itself without resorting to the U.N. "So, in other words, by complying with the prohibition to force, you're not engaging or signing onto a suicide pact, because you still retain the right to defend yourself, if that's necessary," Friel said.

    It's this right to self-defense that hawks seek to exploit, Friel said, by trying to show that an aggressive war is, as they say, defensive. At the same time, hawks attack the constraints of international law, saying they hamper the ability of countries to defend themselves. "They're just misrepresenting international law in order to overcome it, so they can in fact, initiate war unilaterally in violation of the charter," Friel said.

    Saturday, November 27, 2004


    Thoughtful Christian

    I caught this from a link on AmericaBlog and found it a fascinating piece of anthropology (for me). This guy is thoughtful and sincere. He seems genuinely interested in examining some of the systemic problems with organized Charismatic Christianity. If I came across more Christians like him, I'd have a much better opinion of them in general. The shame is that the loudest Christians often seem to be the most vehement and hateful. Check out the full text. I think it's well worth it. From Letters from a Purple State:
    The following are 25 common heresies that are being propagated in many of the fastest-growing churches in America. This signals the continuing move of American Christianity away from the historical norms of the faith, and becoming extremist personality cults. My mainline and Catholic brethren who are well versed in Church history will recognize many of them as ancient heresies such as gnosticism, montanism, and pelagianism. (The Catholics would very likely point out my own Protestantism as one (see
    for their reasons why) but I refer here to pre-Nicene stuff that was thrown out before the first churches were even organized.)


    20/20 on Matthew Shepard

    "The Laramie Project" is a moving testament about Matthew Shepard's life and death. This quote is from Pam's House Blend about a recent story on 20/20:

    It was a smear -- 20/20 on Matthew Shepard : It was about what I expected. We were treated by 20/20's Elizabeth Vargas spending the first half hour of the program describing the emotionally and physically abusive childhoods of McKinney and Henderson, even to the point of showing how McKinney was an Eagle Scout. It was just meth that made him go out of control, beating Matthew with a 357 Magnum until he was a bloody pulp for the $30 in Shepard's wallet. Henderson comes off as practically an altar boy, that "didn't even touch Matthew" aside from tying up the helpless young man to the fence. I guess that doesn't count. And he made no attempt to call for help because he was afraid of McKinney's meth-fueled fury.
    Tip of the mouse to AmericaBlog for this link.


    Sit, CIA, Sit!

    Why, oh why do I care what happens at the CIA? But I do, Blanche, I do. From Porter Goss' WIA – Worthless Intelligence Agency by Chalmers Johnson,

    Part of the background to the Goss memo is a widespread misunderstanding of why the CIA was created and what it actually does. For example, Bush apostle David Brooks writes in the New York Times that the CIA is engaged "in slow-motion brazen insubordination, which violate[s] all standards of honorable public service. ... It is time to reassert some harsh authority so CIA employees know they must defer to the people who win elections. ... If they [people in the CIA] ever want their information to be trusted, they can't break the law with self-serving leaks of classified data."[4] Brooks seems to think that the CIA is the President's personal advertising agency and that its employees owe their livelihoods to him. About Michael Scheuer, the head of the "bin Laden Unit" in the agency's Counterterrorism Center from 1996 to 1999 and the anonymous author of "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," Brooks fumes, "Here was an official on the president's payroll publicly campaigning against his boss."

    Leave aside the fact that the president doesn't pay any government official's salary, at least not legally, and that Scheuer was more interested in educating the public about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, on which he is an authority, than in covering up the president's mistakes; the point is that the issue of the CIA's intelligence on the Iraq war is bringing back into our political life once again the figure most feared by presidents: the truth-teller. During a previous period of falsified intelligence, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger said in the Oval Office in front of President Nixon and his Special Counsel Charles Colson, "Daniel Ellsberg is the most dangerous man in America. He must be stopped at all costs."[5] Kissinger and Nixon subsequently ordered up felonies, such as a break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, in order to try to smear and discredit the man who had revealed to the public the systematic lying of three presidents – Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson – about the war in Vietnam.


    Buy Nothing Day

    A little late with this post considering it's the Saturday after Thanksgiving now. Still I think "Buy Nothing Day" is a good idea. I find that a day of consciously NOT buying anything affects me, makes me question the basic fundamentals of our intensely capitalist society. What I did this year was not buy anything at all including food. I didn't really plan it that way but that's how it ended up. I imagine this is somewhat like more orthodox observances of a Sabbath or holy days, with certain tasks or foods forbidden. For me, doing it so rarely seems to have a large impact on me. Here's some info from

    The famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Adbuster's Magazine and the first Buy Nothing Day were both started by a man named Kalle Lasn, an advertising executive turned anticonsumerist activist. He produced the ad that the networks wouldn't run. He tried to buy air time for it over and over, but was turned down, with remarks to the effect that "there's no law that we have to" and "it's in opposition to the current economic policy of the United States."

    "I get a creepy sense of déjà vu listening to remarks like that. I was born in Estonia, where for 50 years during the Soviet era people were not allowed to speak up against the government," says Kalle.

    If you believe that people have the right to make decisions based on information instead of propaganda; if you believe that overconsumption is selfish; if you believe that shopping can become a compulsive disorder and if you believe that it is the vehicle for getting one deeper and deeper in debt, then please do participate.

    It's easy. Simply stay home, buy nothing at all. Don't go shopping. Don't buy anything. If you work, take your lunch instead of buying it. Take a snack if you usually buy one, a thermos of coffee, a thermos of tea. If you can, walk to work instead of buying gas or a bus ticket. Don't run to the grocery store for milk and bread... find a way to do without - just for 24 hours. Make bread instead. Drink water.

    Here is a link to an Adbusters Culturejammers page on Buy Nothing Day (BND).

    Of course, mainstream news organizations are typically contemptuous of BND and the tone of the writing reflects this. Considering the advertising revenue for newspapers is 50% to 70% of their income, it's not surprising. Here are some quotes from The Washington Post (subscription required). Note also the suggestion that online shopping isn't real shopping and therefore is safely exempt from BND.

    Buy Nothing Day is a 13-year-old observance in the same vein as tree-hugging or World Bank-bashing, though not as widely known, because its organizers hate advertising, too. Promulgated by the Internet and word of mouth, Buy Nothing Day is a non-acquired taste....

    Buy Nothing Day coincides each year with Fur Free Friday, giving Tom and Cheryl Kucsera of Silver Spring a chance to buy nothing and scare those who might buy fur....

    Though not formally observant, he typically buys nothing at this time every year. Except, he explained, "Full disclosure . . . . The iron broke," he said, so he was headed to Hecht's for a new one. [Wordlackey note: An iron was an emergency purchase?] "But that's it," he insisted. He will buy the iron, go straight home and buy books for everyone on the Web, "where they'll even ship them," he said....

    Jerry Holm, 50, an Arlington resident, sat at the bar. "I am anti-shopping," Holm said. He buys what he needs online, and "I'm pretty much against shopping on any day, but especially this day."


    The Daou Report

    I don't think I've mentioned this blog before. I like the concept and there are plenty of representative quotes from a wide variety of blogs on The Daou Report. However I find it difficult to read because it includes blogs from, how can I say this delicately? From the conservative and right wing end of the spectrum. I would like to think I'm open to all opinions, granting them validity on the basis of logic, on whether the opinions reflect consistancy and include the proposal of humane, effective solutions to economic, social and political problems.

    In reality, I'm not so tolerant.

    When I first start reading rightwing opinion, the first thing I do is begin fact checking. I don't give them any benefit of the doubt when it comes to their supporting documentation. I immediately believe they are either twisting the facts or misinterpreting the context. And it's not like progressives or liberals don't do the same thing; they do. But I'll give lefties a bit more leeway. Oh, I often fact check them as well, but I don't immediately stop when I come to a fact I know isn't true. I still don't know if this is a failing on my part. Is it just wanting to read things congruent with my personal views? I don't think so. I like reading intelligent, perceptive writing, left or right, conservative or progressive. I find I have less tolerance for the stupid or ill-informed opinions of the right than the left. It doesn't help that shouting has often displaced reasonable discourse. I also find some people unwilling to believe well researched information that contradicts information they are convinced of from dubious sources. These are generalizations but it's what I've observed.

    The following is from the Daou Report:

    WHAT The Daou Report tracks leading blogs, message boards, online magazines, and independent websites from across the political spectrum - providing a snapshot of the latest news, views, and online buzz.

    WHERE The Daou Report welcomes suggested news stories, editorials, blog entries, and forum
    comments. The preferred format is a link to an item posted within the preceding 12 hours with a brief quote or description.

    WHY The site was launched with three objectives: 1) to offer a diverse, unfiltered sample of online political discourse, 2) to probe the ideas, passions, and perspectives that give rise to our current political divide, 3) to examine the relationship between blogs, the political establishment and the mainstream media.

    WHO The Daou Report is published by Peter Daou, online communications advisor to John Kerry's presidential campaign. Peter headed KE04's blog outreach and online rapid response. The Daou Report is the web version of a daily report prepared by Peter for KE04 and the DNC.

    Friday, November 26, 2004


    War Profiteering in Iraq

    This is something others have written about but it's worth mentioning again (and again). An excellent place to start is the Disinfopedia entry on war profiteering. It details some of the many problems with the "reconstruction" efforts in Iraq and the astoundingly low amount of money and resources that actually get to the Iraqi people. It seems to me a fairly obvious economic principle that each layer of intermediary between the disbursement of money and the end use of the money will require maintainance and "administrative" fees. The prevalence of no-bid contracts and the sometimes several layers deep of subcontractors is a recipe for bleeding funds into the companies on its way down. In retail operations, the standard markup of items for sale to consumers is between 50 and 100%. Apply this rule of thumb to money going to Iraq rebuilding and it doesn't take long to whittle the flow to a trickle at the end. Add to this fairly well documented instances of unbelievable waste and it's no surprise there are big problems. This is from CorpWatch:

    In testimony submitted to members of Congress, one truck driver explained in detail how taxpayers were billed for empty trucks driven up and down Iraq and how $85,000 vehicles were abandoned for lack of spare tires. A labor foreman said dozens of workers were told to "look busy" while doing virtually no work for salaries of $80,000 a year. An auditor related how the company was spending an average of $100 for every single bag of laundry and $10,000 a month for company employees to stay in five-star hotels.
    And this is from the Disinfopedia entry on war profiteering:
    An "investigative team spent three weeks in Iraq visiting project sites, analyzing contracts, and interviewing dozens of administrators, contract workers, and U.S. officials. Among the findings:

    Despite over eight months of work and billions of dollars spent, key pieces of Iraq’s infrastructure – power plants, telephone exchanges, and sewage and sanitation systems – have either not been repaired, or have been fixed so poorly that they don’t function.

    San Francisco-based Bechtel has been given tens of millions to repair Iraq’s schools. Yet many haven’t been touched, and several schools that Bechtel claims to have repaired are in shambles. One 'repaired' school was overflowing with unflushed sewage; a teacher at the school also reported that 'the American contractors took away our Japanese fans and replaced them with Syrian fans that don’t work' – billing the U.S. government for the work.

    Inflated overhead costs and a byzantine maze of sub-contracts have left little money for the everyday workers carrying out projects. In one contract for police operations, Iraqi guards received only 10% of the money allotted for their salaries; Indian cooks for Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root reported making just three dollars a day.

    Thursday, November 25, 2004


    Economic Armageddon

    I don't normally follow economic news much. I found this interesting because you don't generally see such pessimistic predictions from investment bankers. Caution, yes. Meltdown, no. From Economic "Armageddon" Predicted:
    Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant MorganStanley, has a public reputation for being bearish.
    But you should hear what he's saying in private.
    Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity.
    His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon."
    Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach's presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, "it struck me how extreme he was - much more, it seemed to me, than in public."
    Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that "we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon."
    The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.
    In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.
    The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.
    Less a case of "Armageddon," maybe, than of a "Perfect Storm."
    Roach marshalled alarming facts to support his argument.
    To finance its current account deficit with the rest of the world, he said, America has to import $2.6 billion in cash. Every working day.
    That is an amazing 80 percent of the entire world's net savings.
    Sustainable? Hardly.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004


    One Nerd's Opinion

    A relatively brief summation of Annalee Newitz's opinion on the possibility of hacked voting machines. As much as I would like to believe differently, my opinion is generally in accord with hers. I'm not saying there was no fraud, just that it probably wasn't the voting machines and probably, overall, not enough to swing the election.

    I just had a slight realization about the winning margin of an election. If Bush won the popular vote by 3.5 million votes, how many would have to change their vote to Kerry for Kerry to win? Half of 3.5 million or about 1.75 million. Why is this startling to me? Just the change of perspective that cuts down the actual margin of victory. It's obvious but still seems important. From AlterNet: We're Sorry:
    Granted, there may have been thousands more unreported problems. But without evidence, we can't say that for sure. Moreover, the evidence these groups do have shows a pattern of problems with the machines that looks more like what you'd expect from shitty equipment than from deliberate hacks. The devices crashed; they had to be rebooted multiple times; they wouldn't start; some had the wrong ballots. People of all political persuasions reported serious problems in every single state using e-voting machines. And these kinds of problems popped up in every type of machine being used. A hack would have to be written for one specific type of machine, so you'd expect to see the same problem repeatedly in the same make and model of device.

    That's not what we saw.

    What we saw were people who were disenfranchised because their voting machines were designed so poorly -- and the poll workers trained so quickly -- that the devices couldn't be used. And we saw situations in which people questioned the outcome of the election in states like Ohio, but the vote couldn't be recounted because most touch-screen machines don't leave a paper trail.


    Farnaz Fassihi's E-mail

    I read the e-mail by Fassihi and was, like many, stunned at the day to day life of a reporter in Bagdad at the time. I highly recommend reading it yourself. Follow the link in the quote below to read it in full. Other news agencies might have thought they were telling this story but it seems obvious they are not. From Iraq, the Press, and the Election:

    Toward the end of September, Farnaz Fassihi, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Baghdad, sent an e-mail to 40 friends describing her working conditions in Iraq. Fassihi had been sending out such messages on a regular basis, but this one seethed with anger and frustration. "Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days," she wrote, "is like being under virtual house arrest. ... I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't." Citing the fall of Fallujah, the revolt of Moqtada al-Sadr, and the spread of the insurgency to every part of the country, Fassihi declared that "despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come. ... The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."

    Fassihi's e-mail soon ended up on the Internet, where it quickly spread, giving readers a vivid and unvarnished look at what it was like to live in the world's most dangerous capital. Somehow, Fassihi, in her informal message, had managed to capture the lurid nature of life in Iraq in a way that conventional reporting, with all its qualifiers and distancing, could not.

    Other U.S correspondents in Baghdad were startled at the attention her e-mail received. "All of us felt that we'd been writing that story," one journalist told me. "Everyone was marveling and asking what were we doing wrong if that information came as a surprise to the American public."


    Lakoff Yet Again

    I still feel a little torn about my current exaltation of George Lakoff. Much of what he says makes sense on a deep level to me. Almost as if he was... (wait for it) using language to manipulate my thoughts! (Didn't see that coming did you?) See my previous post here for my thoughts on this. Yet here I am, excerpting another piece of his. Must... fight... the urge... to... Oh, screw it. More from Lakoff from AlterNet: Election 2004: The Progressive Morality:

    We came together because of our moral values: care and responsibility, fairness and equality, freedom and courage, fulfillment in life, opportunity and community, cooperation and trust, honesty and openness. We united behind political principles: equality, equity (if you work for a living, you should earn a living) and government for the people -- all the people.

    These are traditional American values and principles, what we are proudest of in this country. The Democrats' failure was a failure to put forth our moral vision, celebrate our values and principles, and shout them out loud.

    We must immediately convince our leaders to unite behind these values, express our common moral vision and hold the line against the Bush agenda because it is immoral! Bush will call them obstructionists. They must frame themselves as heading in the right direction, going forward not backward, defending the greatest of American ideals and moral principles, working against a radical right agenda that would lead our country to disaster and speaking for more than 55 million highly moral, patriotic Americans.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004


    No Comment, Pt. 3

    From JFK Reloaded:

    A new video game "allows players to simulate the assassination of President Kennedy," Reuters reports. The release of JFK Reloaded "is timed to coincide with the 41st anniversary of Kennedy's murder in Dallas and was designed to demonstrate a lone gunman was able to kill the president."

    Screenshots from the game are available.


    No Comment, Pt. 2

    From Political Wire: Only a Third Believe Darwin's Evolution Theory:

    According to a new Gallup poll, "only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say."

    Furthermore, forty-five percent "also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word."

    Well, that certainly explains a lot.


    Compare and Contrast, Pt 2

    This is obvious but does anyone else think that it's strange for it to cost more money to run for a position than the position itself pays? Yes, there are other perks and other people donate money to the campaign but it still stinks to me. From
    The place to begin to understand American elections today is with the phenomenon that convinces most would-be candidates simply to forget the whole thing: the extraordinary cost of running for office. The cost of running -- and, more to the point, the cost of winning -- have soared to the point where people of ordinary means can barely dream of holding congressional office. In 1992, the average seat in the House of Representatives cost about $543,000 to win. The average seat in the United States Senate cost $3.9 million to win.

    And from
    The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $158,100 per year.


    Turn your back on Bush

    A simple idea and catchy too. From Turn your back on Bush.:

    The election is over. The fight is not.

    Bush's election is bad for the US, and even worse for the rest of the world. But elections are only one part of democracy. We need to think strategically about direct action, learn from a rich history of nonviolent activism, and develop new tactics to take on this administration.

    Let's start from the start: Inauguration Day.

    On January 20th, 2005, we're calling for a new kind of action. The Bush administration has been successful at keeping protesters away from major events in the last few years by closing off areas around events and using questionable legal strategies to outlaw public dissent. We can use these obstacles to develop new tactics. On Inauguration day, we don't need banners, we don't need signs, we just need people.

    We're calling on people to attend inauguration without protest signs, shirts or stickers. Once through security and at the procession, at a given signal, we'll all turn our backs on Bush's motorcade and continue through his speech and swearing in. A simple, clear and coherent message.


    No Comment, Pt. 1

    From the November 22 edition of CNN's Crossfire:

    TUCKER CARLSON (co-host): And that's about the era [the 1970s] that still defines the Democratic Party, the era of Our Bodies Ourselves [women's health book collective], of solar [power], not nukes. ... You know what I mean? ... A time when grouchy feminists with mustaches controlled the party, and they still do.


    If insults were horses?

    Yah, I just feel the lo-o-ove coming through. And respect, did I mention the respect? From Media Matters for America:

    Reverend Jerry Falwell, national chairman of the Faith and Values Coalition and Moral Majority founder, labeled the National Organization for Women (NOW) the "National Order of Witches," said he was going to invite People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to Christian men's gatherings called "Wild Game Night" so that they "can sit there and suffer," and called Americans United for Separation of Church and State "an anti-Christ" group.


    Tom Shales Whips Michael Powell!

    Wow, quite the tonguelashing of the FCC and Michael Powell in particular over the fines and penalties recently meted out to broadcast TV. The quote below is just a sample. Easily the best thing I've read on the FCC and the current war on "obscenity" on TV. From Michael Powell Exposed! The FCC Chairman Has No Clothes ( Registration required, I think:

    Jeff Jarvis, TV Guide's last good TV critic and now prominent in the blogger universe, uncovered a stupefying example of how the process works and how unfair the FCC's actions are. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the 159 complaints supposedly received at the FCC because of an April 2003 Fox special, 'Married by America.' Now 159 seems like an insignificant enough number, but when Jarvis checked further into the case, he found that most of the letters were identical, produced by an 'automated complaint factory,' and that the number of authentic, actual, original letters of complaint was not 159 but . . . three. Yes, three.

    Result: Powell's FCC slaps Fox with a $1.2 million fine.


    Those Darn Republicans!

    Yet another sign of the deep divisions of our times in the US. The lack of respect for Daschle somehow bothers me a great deal. Not that I think great things about Daschle (I hardly know what he's done in Congress), but it reminds me of when a worker leaves an office environment. A party might be thrown to say goodbye. People show up. It's just the polite thing to do. Well, it is to me... From AlterNet: Election 2004: In GOP We Trust?:

    But no congressional party has governed like this in modern American history, because today's Republicans are less interested in the will of the people than in awarding their large contributors and pursuing their ideological crusades. They'll use their majority for those purposes far more than they will for thinking seriously about the will of the majority and acting on that. And they'll rub the opposition's face in it to boot, as they did in such tawdry fashion last week when not a single Republican bothered to show up during the floor speeches bidding adieu to Tom Daschle, who gave a quarter-century of his life to the body.

    Legislative action confers popular legitimacy that judicial action does not. But that's only true if the legislators are legislating responsibly. I seem to recall the idea being that the legislators were supposed to respond to the people. With this bunch, it's the other way around.


    Gonzales' Record

    This quote is from near the end of a concise article on the new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It's written by Lou Dubose, long-time Texan journalist, and details Gonzales' legal work history in Texas for Bush. I would be very surprised if he wrangled a Supreme Court nomination given his rather limited judicial history. Particularly because of the "torture memo" he wrote. From AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Gonzales' Record:

    The execution memoranda Gonzales prepared for Governor Bush were a prelude to the 'torture memos' he prepared for President Bush. In both cases, Bush needed the advice of his lawyer before moving ahead with life-or-death decisions. On Jan. 25, 2002, Gonzales provided that advice in a four-pager to the president, justifying the suspension of Geneva Convention protections for suspected members of the Taliban and al Qaeda. 'As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war,' Gonzales wrote to his boss. 'The obsolete Geneva Convention's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners renders quaint some of its provisions.'

    Bush used the memo to override Secretary of State Colin Powell's request to extend Geneva Convention protections to American prisoners of war locked up in Guantanamo. The torture techniques the Gonzales memo allowed for prisoners in Cuba ultimately found their way to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


    Why do Politicians get Bad Reputations?

    An item that reminds me that politics is a dirty game, whether a presidential race or local race. Politicians sometimes do good things for "their people" and some politicians are basically good public servants, but I can't help coming away from a story like this with a dirty feeling deep in my soul. And vowing to never, ever trust a politician with anything of importance to me. From A Safe Seat for Twenty Grand:

    What if you could pay $20,000, and for that modest sum end up with lifetime employment at a salary of $158,000 annually, with the best health and retirement benefits, frequent travel to Washington D.C., and staff and paid expenses, all on the public's dime? What a deal, eh?

    As the most recent election results show, that's the situation for California's congressional delegation as a result of gerrymandering their own legislative district lines. The 2001 redistricting in California was a travesty. The Democratic incumbents paid $20,000 apiece to the political consultant drawing the district lines -- who happened to be the brother of one incumbent -- to draw each of them a 'safe seat' where they would easily win re-election. It was like paying protection money to a Mafia don for your turf. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, knowing a bargain, told a reporter, 'Twenty thousand is nothing to keep your seat. I usually spend $2 million every election.'

    Then, to the dismay of national Democrats, the California Democrats controlling the line-drawing gave the GOP incumbents safe seats too, in return for their acceptance. The fix was in. It was a bipartisan collusion against California democracy and the voters. And it worked. In the recent November election, 51 out of 53 congressional seats were won by huge landslide margins.



    This fellow, Josh Kinniard, linked to my blog and I didn't even pay him! He seems to be a Canadian who mostly comments on current events. Since my traffic has rarely gotten out of the single digits per day since I started this blog, I figure a link back to him is in order. Go to Connector.

    Saturday, November 20, 2004


    Data Mining Consumer Habits for Votes

    Fascinating. From Taegan Goddard's Political Wire:
    In a speech described as "boastful and at times revealing," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman revealed the "unusual methods" that Republicans used to get out the vote, the New York Times reports.

    Specifically, Mehlman said the campaign "had moved away from traditional operations, adopting the tactics of corporate America to identify potential Bush supporters." Instead of "dispatching troops to knock on doors in neighborhoods known to be heavily Republican... the Bush campaign studied consumer habits in trying to predict whom people would vote for in a presidential election."

    Said Mehlman: "We acquired a lot of consumer data... Based on that, we were able to develop an exact kind of consumer model that corporate America does every day to predict how people vote - not based on where they live but how they live."

    The Wall Street Journal focuses on the GOP strategy in Ohio and finds Bush won "thanks to a pitch on morals that went beyond evangelicals to Roman Catholics, a strong effort to turn out rural voters and a last-minute tax break for farmers, small businesses and families."


    Such Droll Fellows!

    Hooray for talk radio! This is a sterling moment of compassion and understanding. From a Media Matters for America item.

    MSNBC's Imus in the Morning offered derisive, racist commentary about Palestinians during the November 12 funeral of deceased Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Regular Imus guest and sports anchor Sid Rosenberg referred to Palestinians as "stinking animals" and suggested: "They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill 'em all right now." On November 19, the program broadcast a radio segment featuring a guest -- parodying General George S. Patton, Jr. -- who said that the recent report of a U.S. Marine shooting an unarmed, injured Iraqi insurgent provided the enemy "with another cozy 'al Jazeera moment' for the Muslim masses to respond to with their routine pack-of-rabid-sheep mentality." The guest also referred to a deceased Iraqi insurgent as "a booby-trapped raghead cadaver."


    Electronic Voting Machines in Florida 2004

    Bits and pieces of a story. From a recent Berkeley study on:

    The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections


    - Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President George W. Bush in Florida.

    - Compared to counties with paper ballots, counties with electronic voting machines were significantly more likely to show increases in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004. This effect cannot be explained by differences between counties in income, number of voters, change in voter turnout, or size of Hispanic/Latino population.

    - In Broward County alone, President Bush appears to have received approximately 72,000 excess votes.

    - We can be 99.9% sure that these effects are not attributable to chance.


    Republican Ethics

    Hey, why comment? From Molly Ivins, Republican Ethics:

    In furtherance of moral values, Congress now has to raise the debt limit by another $800 billion. We actually reached the debt ceiling in early October, but obviously the R's didn't want that vote coming up before the election. Then after they finish spending a staggering amount of money, the R's will return to make Bush's tax cuts permanent.

    Now I realize that the Bushies consider it a point of pride to pay not one iota of attention to what the rest of the world thinks about us. But I would like to point out that the rest of the world is holding our paper. And foreign investors have demonstrated elsewhere that they are quite capable of taking alarm over unsound fiscal practices and pulling out completely, leaving bankrupt countries behind.


    Wimblehack: The Winner

    This contest has ended on an odd note but the apparent winner is Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times since Newsweek's Howard Fineman didn't file much in the way of post-election work. A marvelous summing of a technique used by Bumiller is in this paragraph from AlterNet: MediaCulture: Wimblehack: The Winner:

    "This is ironic again because, as noted previously in this contest, no reporter in the campaign was more consistently guilty of violating the 'Jayson Blair test' than Bumiller. In this particular campaign-journalism fixture, reporters file campaign pieces from remote state locations in which the entire article could have been written from a burned-out crackhouse 2000 miles away, using nothing but a glimpse of a photo from the event and a Rolodex with which to call friendly campaign aides."


    Power of Naming in the Press

    One of the easiest ways (to me) to follow bias and slant in media reports is to watch the evolution or use of descriptive words as applied to groups of people. The following bit outlines one example of this. Another phrase that I have always wondered about is the use of "settlers" to apply to Israelis moving into and setting up enclaves in the occupied territories of the West Bank. Since Israeli control of the occupied territories is considered to be a 35 year old illegal (in the eyes of the UN) situation, and since the mass movement of Israeli citizens into these territories is a gross violation of international law, how do these people acquire the legitimate sounding appellation of "settlers?" This is the phrase I consistantly hear in the press in the US. I'm honestly curious about this. Perhaps I'm missing something.

    When misleading buzzwords become part of the media landscape, they slant news coverage and skew public perceptions. That's the story with the phrase "Iraqi forces" – now in routine use by U.S. media outlets, including the country's most influential newspapers.

    The New York Times and the Washington Post have been leading the way in news stories that apply the indigenous "Iraqi forces" label to Iraqi fighters who are pro-U.S.-occupation ... but not to Iraqi fighters who are anti-U.S.-occupation.

    .... Unfortunately, the U.S. media's highly selective use of the phrase "Iraqi forces" is symptomatic of the way that news coverage almost reflexively defers to Washington's terminology, assumptions and frames of reference.

    Attacks on U.S. troops occupying Iraq are often matter-of-factly reported to be the work of "terrorists." Along the way, American media outlets – unlike news coverage in much of the rest of the world – are apt to downplay eyewitness accounts of the civilian death toll from U.S. military assaults. In this country, such accounts are frequently ignored or discounted as "unconfirmed."

    Thursday, November 18, 2004


    White House to 'Gut' CIA

    Despite all the horrible things I know about the CIA, its history, its connection to coups and its very dirty tricks, I still find myself troubled about the recent reports of purges at the CIA. I guess that, for all its problems, I still think of the CIA as providing vital and necessary intelligence information to our government. I hate some of the methods, I hate the manipulation of other governments, I hate the coercion. Then why do I feel outrage that there seems to be a political and ideological housecleaning going on at the CIA? It's one more example of an administration making everyone in government toe their line or else. It's the same view that completely dismantled the Iraqi military, turning those soldiers out into a volatile economy to find work. (And how's that working out for us? We didn't even dismantle the German army at the end of WWII, fer .)

    I know the CIA is used to perform political actions against other countries all the time but I'm appalled to find that I also seem to have some harbored ideal of it gathering untainted intelligence so the government, no matter who is in power, can make informed decisions. I'm just extremely surprised that I feel any, what, loyalty? to the CIA. I just can't explain it. From White House to 'Gut' CIA:

    "According to Newsday, 'The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Ladin...'

    Bad Nooz. In the first place, the concept of 'purge' has not hitherto played much part in our history, and now is no time to start. Considerable pains have been taken to protect the civil service from partisan pressure for extremely good reasons.

    'Disloyalty to Bush,' or any president, is not the same as disloyalty to the country. In fact, in the intelligence biz, opposing the White House is sometimes the highest form of loyalty to country, since when we fight without good intelligence, we fight blind.

    I would not have been troubled to learn there was to be a 'purge' at the CIA of those responsible for giving bad information to the administration about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Even a 'purge' of those who caved in under pressure from the White House to confirm the dubious WMD theory might be useful. (George Tenet is already gone.) But that's not what they're fixing to do here. This is not a purge of incompetent officers or of those who have caved under political pressure - this is a political purge of those 'disloyal to George W. Bush.'"


    This is your brain on words...

    I've been seeing some critiques recently of George Lakoff and the whole cognitive linguistic approach to talking politics and issues. (Linguistics critique here and some political critique here.) I have to grant that some of these criticisms are valid. However I think there's more to "framing" issues than semantics; it's also about communication skills. Some people see this language manipulation as shallow, lacking in substance because it also evokes emotional responses. Finding a way to communicate effectively, truthfully and with resonance is an integral part of my view of politics. I figure if these methods are used to create images close to and congruent with the values of progressives, this is not a bad thing. So what is the difference between Republican "talking points" saturation and progressives reclaiming a space in the "values" discussion. I don't know. Are there dangers of using these methods, the danger of empowering some populist fascist leader? Yup, but I still hope that these methods can bring an ability to speak clearly from the heart a comprehensive progressive vision that can be easily understood. Guess I'm still an idealist despite my cynicism. From Frame Wars:

    Lakoff says that we engage frames in the simplest acts of thinking or talking. "Framing is the most ordinary everyday thing," he says. "Every word we use comes with a frame, and the conventional frames are there in your brain." Take a more political example: the word "war." In the same way that the size of an SUV resonates safety, the word "war" evokes not only battles, but also sacrifice, martial glory, and an ultimate victory. It's not simply a figurative or a poetic connection – it attaches to the way people see reality and determines how they act. Every use of the word "war" ratifies this frame.

    This is why the phrase "war on terror" has been so devastatingly effective. It's so engrained that it gathers conservatives and so effective at explaining the world that people who aren't conservatives find it appealing. The phrase can be strangely soothing. Clarity oozes from it. It subtly encodes a frame in which an intangible, terror, can be targeted and conquered, partly by recycling a Cold War frame in which we waged war on another intangible, Communism. And we won! The phrase offers the promise that we can win this one, too, because it invokes a history of military victories and strength. America, after all, wins its wars.

    ....How can you "think in terms of a metaphor," especially when the entire tradition of Western philosophy says you can't? According to the classical conception, a metaphor works by imagination, not logic, and it's simply a renaming when, for instance, you call an argument a "war of words." For Lakoff, metaphors are deeper. They underpin all language, all culture, and all thought, and in his books he's argued, to paraphrase William James, that it's metaphors all the way down. The statement, "argument is war," isn't just a more colorful renaming; we treat as real its consequences, for instance, that arguments have winners and losers, that shouting is tolerated, that defections, betrayals, and subterfuge are expected. And while some metaphorical underpinnings are common across cultures – for instance, the conception of the future as physically in front of us – others are culturally specific. Only in Dyirbal, an Australian aboriginal language, is there a category containing words that have something to do with women, fire, and dangerous things (the title, by the way, of Lakoff's most popular linguistics book).


    Informal Info on Undecided Voters

    Odd and interesting take on meeting a LOT of undecideds in Wisconsin. The observations seem obvious but they were certainly missed by many among the chattering monkeys, excuse me, the pundits. There's more than what I've quoted here and very insightful if you have the vaguest interest in the mindset of (some) undecided voters. "Lessons Learned About Undecided Voters," by Christopher Hayes is at The New Republic Online, which seems to require registration to browse:

    My seven weeks in Wisconsin left me with a number of observations (all of them highly anecdotal, to be sure) about swing voters, which I explain below. But those small observations add up to one overarching contention: that the caricature of undecided voters favored by liberals and conservatives alike doesn't do justice to the complexity, indeed the oddity, of undecided voters themselves. ....

    Undecided voters don't think in terms of issues. Perhaps the greatest myth about undecided voters is that they are undecided because of the "issues." That is, while they might favor Kerry on the economy, they favor Bush on terrorism; or while they are anti-gay marriage, they also support social welfare programs. Occasionally I did encounter undecided voters who were genuinely cross-pressured - a couple who was fiercely pro-life, antiwar, and pro-environment for example - but such cases were exceedingly rare. More often than not, when I asked undecided voters what issues they would pay attention to as they made up their minds I was met with a blank stare, as if I'd just asked them to name their favorite prime number.

    The majority of undecided voters I spoke to couldn't name a single issue that was important to them. This was shocking to me. Think about it: The "issue" is the basic unit of political analysis for campaigns, candidates, journalists, and other members of the chattering classes. It's what makes up the subheadings on a candidate's website, it's what sober, serious people wish election outcomes hinged on, it's what every candidate pledges to run his campaign on, and it's what we always complain we don't see enough coverage of.

    But the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to. (This was also true of a number of committed voters in both camps - though I'll risk being partisan here and say that Kerry voters, in my experience, were more likely to name specific issues they cared about than Bush supporters.) At first I thought this was a problem of simple semantics - maybe, I thought, "issue" is a term of art that sounds wonky and intimidating, causing voters to react as if they're being quizzed on a topic they haven't studied. So I tried other ways of asking the same question: "Anything of particular concern to you? Are you anxious or worried about anything? Are you excited about what's been happening in the country in the last four years?"

    These questions, too, more often than not yielded bewilderment. As far as I could tell, the problem wasn't the word "issue"; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the "political." The undecideds I spoke to didn't seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief - not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004


    Screw the Tactical

    The general haze that seems to be settling down over the Democrats is one of shrewdness. I'm seeing a number of discussions going on about "choosing our battles." An attitude of evaluation, of picking what are "important" issues to fight and which ones to leave as orphans. I'm sure this is considered a tactical judgement of how to best spend the D's political capital and not squander it on lost causes.

    I say, fuck it! Go all out. All this jockeying for position, trying to be reasonable and moderate-right bullshit is worthless. Standing up for principles, human rights, equality, etc. isn't just a considered and balanced stance. It shouldn't depend on a pollster's results before commiting to action. Politics may be a careful dance but it shouldn't always be so. Sometimes it's best to go with the heart, with the soul, with righteous fury. Am I talking about the Dems? Soul? Righteousness? Aren't those Republican words? Hell, no!

    The D's are a minority party in the government at the moment. They seem to be acting like with just the right words, just the right tactics, they'll eventually be back on top. That is such crap! I figure as the minority party, they gain power. Wait, GAIN power? WTF? Yes, with less to lose, they could take bigger risks rather than few risks. Repubs have been running roughshod over D's for years now. R's talk about Bipartisan but what they mean is for D's to bend over for them. Those R's have the rude values of a bully.

    And all this from me, a mild guy who generally doesn't care what the Dems do. Screw the tactical: Light the Fire!


    BlackBoxVoting finds "Discrepant Results" in FL

    Wow. This is worth reading just for the hijinks around attempted shredding of voting result tapes requested by Black Box Voting under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Essentially, the officials were trying to dispose of the information almost in front of the folks from BBV. No idea how this will play out but the telling of it is great drama. See Daily Kos :: UPDATED - BBV finds "Discrepant Results" in FL.


    Privacy: Just Press the Delete Key

    A little reminder about personal info access. Like you didn't already know. AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Privacy: Just Press the Delete Key


    Trust us, we're the government

    Another beautiful day in Patriot Act Land! The following info isn't new. What is new is the lower courts finding some provisions of the Patriot Act unconstitutional. What? Say it isn't so! Our honest government, just trying to protect us from bad, bad terrorists, using unconstitutional laws? Well, they must have a good reason! I mean look at the comfortable executive jet we transport suspected terrorists in. We treat them so well! Well, aside from a few frat house pranks. The following is from Patriot Act Speed Bumps by Nat Hentoff:

    Judge Marrero struck down as unconstitutional on Fourth and First Amendment grounds section 505 of the Patriot Act that had greatly increased the government's capacity to secretly get large amounts of personal information by sending out National Security Letters, which do not require a judge's approval.

    During one of the presidential debates, Bush flatly told an untruth – as Ashcroft often has on this subject – when he said that any action taken under the Patriot Act requires a judicial order. No judge is involved in National Security Letters under the Patriot Act.

    The ACLU, which brought this lawsuit, explains that before the Patriot Act, a 1986 law allowed the FBI to issue these National Security Letters "only where it had reason to believe that the subject of the letter was a foreign agent." Section 505 of the Patriot Act, however, removed the individualized suspicion requirement and authorizes the FBI to use National Security Letters to obtain information about groups or individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing.

    "The FBI need only certify – without court review – that the records are 'relevant' to an intelligence or terrorism investigation." (Emphasis added.)

    Who decides what "relevant" means? The FBI, all by itself. That's why its headquarters are still named after J. Edgar Hoover. You can trust the FBI.

    Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the ACLU involved in this case, told me both why the National Security Letters are so dangerous, and what the effect of Judge Marrero's ruling will be – if it is upheld by the appellate courts all the way up.

    "The provision we challenged [that the judge struck down]," says Jaffer, "allows the FBI to issue NSLs against 'wire or electronic service communication providers.' Telephone companies and Internet service providers [are included.]" As Judge Marrero noted, the FBI could also use an NSL "to discern the identity of someone whose anonymous web log, or 'blog,' is critical of the government." [my comment: So glad I've never said anything critical of the government! I wouldn't want to be mistaken for an enemy combatant or something.]

    Jaffer adds that by requiring information from telephone companies and Internet providers, "The FBI could . . . effectively obtain a political organization's membership list, like the NAACP or the ACLU, [and could] obtain the names of people with whom a journalist has communicated over the Internet."

    Furthermore – dig this – every National Security Letter comes with a gag order. The recipients are forbidden to tell any other person that the FBI has demanded this information, and can't even tell their lawyers that the long hand of the government is scooping up their data.

    As Judge Marrero said in his decision, this omnivorous invasion of privacy is so broad that it mandates this gag rule "in every case, to every person, in perpetuity, with no vehicle for the ban to ever be lifted from the recipient."

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004


    Faith-Based Initiatives on MyDD

    I've been sort of following messages on MyDD, a blog on political issues that seems to focus on changing things in the Democratic Party. This is not usually a focus for me but the I decided to respond to the following inquiry about whether it wouldn't be better if the Democrats dropped blocking gun-control laws and "faith-based" initiatives. The first paragraph is the question, the second is my response. MyDD :: Educate Me:

    The second is faith-based initiatives. Now, I am not talking about adopting the federal grants for teaching abstinence, which I believe has been repeatedly shown to be bad policy. However, I think it is a good idea to eliminate some of the barriers that prevent the federal government from working with relief and charity organizations. Certainly, we do not want federal money going to those in need only if they attend bible study, but at the same time do we really want to deny people help because of an abstraction? I think Democrats running on keeping, even expanding, faith-based initiatives is a good idea. Shouldn't we encourage the efforts of those with faith to help people? As long as the funding isn't going to abstinence-only programs, which do not work, or with strings attached about attending the church / temple / mosque in question, which would be an establishment of religion, I think it is a good idea.
    Wordlackey responds:

    As you've commented, just because a charity is sponsored by a religion isn't a ipso facto reason to NOT give them money as long as performing religious rites or prayer isn't required to receive the services. (As an aside, I think this is a very hard rule to enforce, given that some services are in church buildings, decorated with religious symbols, etc.) Of more concern to me is the equity of distribution of such funds to religious charities of various denominations. Are Muslim charities really getting "faith-based" money in proportion to their work? Suppose a Wiccan group applies for such funding? (It's against many Wiccans beliefs to proselytize therefore, in a nonpreferential system, would make them excellent receipients for funds.) And if you think it too strange to give funds to Witches doing charity work, you've already answered the question. Can distribution of such funds really be non-denominational?


    Drug Store Cowboys and Your Privacy

    This is just one reason why regulations protecting privacy are necessary. Free market proponents say that regulations on corporations stifle trade. Perhaps but sometimes individuals need protection from the unrestrained actions of corporations. Suppose your entire medical history was available for public viewing? Suppose every medication you've ever taken was viewable? You've got nothing to hide? What would a list of the drugs you've been prescribed look like? A list of medications without a list of medical conditions they were proscribed for? Just a thought. From AlterNet: DrugReporter: Drug Store Cowboys:

    Manufacturing legal drugs is a growth industry and the latest twist in the multi-billion dollar drug-pushing game is that your local pharmacy may be turning into a marketing agency for the big drug companies.

    The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a consumer advocacy group, filed a lawsuit in September against supermarket giant Albertsons in California Superior Court, for allegedly selling the private prescription drug information of its customers to pharmaceutical companies. PRC also named 17 pharmaceutical heavyweights, like AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline, as co-defendants, claiming that the companies use the information to promote their drugs through unsolicited phone calls and letters.

    According to PRC, the drug companies have been paying Albertsons between $3.00 and $4.50 for every promotional letter written and between $12.00 and $15.00 for every phone call made to unwitting customers. Albertsons, the group maintains, stands to make millions in the process. PRC says both Albertsons and the drug companies are breaking California law because customers are never given the option of signing up to receive the calls or letters as mandated by the state's privacy regulations.


    Missing Voices of Our World

    This sums up one problem of the current state of the mass media. From the Introduction by Tom Engelhardt to The Missing Voices of Our World by Howard Zinn:

    Late last August, pen and pad in hand, I joined the massive demonstration at the Republican convention in New York City and, on something of a whim, started asking people why they had come and what they hoped to accomplish. Writing as fast as I could as I walked, I barely kept up with the urge to speak. I was at least faintly aware then that, in demonstration stories, one seldom heard much from actual demonstrators. I went on to do the same for Republican delegates on the floor of the convention and paired the two pieces at Tomdispatch. Both experiences left me thinking about how little place or space there is in our news for the voices of Americans. The media invariably steps in the way.

    These thoughts returned recently when I posted the eloquent words of Teri Mills Allison, the mother of a soldier in Iraq, who wrote to me about 'the costs of war'; and, soon after, when I sent out Letters from the Home Front, a selection of some of the responses to her piece, especially from military families, which arrived (and continue to arrive) at the site's mailbox. These are voices -- articulate, thoughtful, filled with emotion -- that we simply don't have a chance to experience if they're not in our own families or among our friends.

    In fact, until relatively recently there has been surprisingly little space in our world for real American voices, no less the voices of dissent.


    Natural History of the Talking Point

    Part 4 of 6 in an excellent series about the campaign press of 2004. This one is on the use and misuse of the "talking point" during the campaign. From CJR Campaign Desk:

    The life cycle of a talking point begins with its conception deep within the minds of campaign strategists. The likes of Karen Hughes, James Carville, Bob Shrum, and Matthew Dowd work diligently day and night to craft specific points that they hope will come to frame both the media presentation and the national debate. These men and women are not stupid; they know that if the point in question does not contain a seed of truth, it's going to be a hard sell indeed. But if it does, then the spin doctors go to work. Market-testing ensues, and labels such as "flip-flopper" and "steadfast leader" are reinforced (or countered) with carefully selected quote fragments, statistics and factoids. The seed of truth is thus both nurtured and refashioned, bolstered with rhetoric, even distorted and skewed if need be; it has become an egg, waiting to hatch.

    The bright shining egg is next presented to the candidate for briefing, approval, and clarification. If the candidate approves, focus groups group. Speechwriters prep and polish. Campaign trails are mapped out. Neckties are chosen.

    The new talking point now added to his arsenal, the candidate steps to the stump, and, one after another, TP's begin to fly: "my opponent voted to raise your taxes 350 times"; "three million jobs have been lost under the Bush administration"; "National Journal named Senator Kerry the most liberal senator of all." Research and gut instinct notwithstanding, the fledgling talking point is cast forth with more hope than confidence, for at this point it is still unproven and vulnerable to prey. This is the crucial point. The fickle press can either ignore the fresh talking point, which may then fall ingloriously by the rhetorical wayside -- or it can decide it looks like a live one and deserves feeding.

    Monday, November 15, 2004


    George W Bush is the AntiChrist

    I have always looked for a perfect obsession. I envy those who find theirs. Here, I think, is one. George W Bush is the AntiChrist

    Sunday, November 14, 2004


    Tenor of War, Fallujah

    This post is depressing in so many ways but still very worth looking at. Juxaposed with mainstream news reports from USA Today and the Associated Press are comments showing exactly how the actions described are in violation of the Geneva Conventions. And this is just from conventional news reports, not deep digging to find elusive witnesses to covert events. These are the daily tactics of the US military in Iraq. From Empire Notes:

    November 13, 6:25 pm. The way the attack on Fallujah has been conducted makes one thing crystal clear: the Geneva Convention has been overtly and specifically abandoned, not just in the treatment of prisoners, but also in the conduct of military assaults. Of course, the United States violates it in one way or another frequently and systematically violates the provisions of the more enlightened 1979 Additional Protocols (which it has never ratified), but in this case it is deliberately and systematically violating the basic core conventions themselves....

    In every way, the rules of engagement in this assault have been dramatically loosened. Any time troops come under fire, it seems, they target the appropriate building with an air or artillery strike from fearsome weapons like the aptly named Paladin (at least they cancelled the Crusader), which fires rocket-assisted shells that are wonderfully accurate, and typically land within 5 yards of their target after travelling 22 miles. Now, it just so happens that they have a kill radius of 55 yards and their use in crowded residential areas inevitably risks massive "collateral damage," but why quibble when such glorious technology is being put to use?


    Those Darn Liberal Democrats!

    I don't generally pay too much attention to the machinations of the Dems. But this commentary was so contrary and funny I just wanted to put it in. From AMERICAblog:

    Say Hello to "...a teetotaling Mormon (one of the most anti-gay groups in the country). A former Capitol Hill cop. A staunch opponent of abortion. A co-sponsor of the constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning.

    Who is it? A rising star of the 'traditional values' Republican Party? Some new young turk who came into office on the coattails of George Bush?

    Nope! It's Harry Reid of Nevada, the new face of the Democratic Party and the Senate minority leader! That's right: an anti-choice, anti-free speech, anti-gay, heck even anti-beer Senator is the spokesman for the Democratic Party. Write it down. Because with his record, that might be hard to remember."

    Saturday, November 13, 2004


    Ashcroft Condemns Judges Who Question Bush

    Let's see, who will provide the checks and balances on the President? The current administraton doesn't listen to the U.N when they don't like what the U.N says. We refuse to participate in the International Court because we are above the legal judgement of other countries. So pretty much the only remaining options are Congress and the Judicial. From Yahoo! News - Ashcroft Condemns Judges Who Question Bush:

    "WASHINGTON - Federal judges are jeopardizing national security by issuing rulings contradictory to President Bush's decisions on America's obligations under international treaties and agreements, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday.

    In his first remarks since his resignation was announced Tuesday, Ashcroft forcefully denounced what he called 'a profoundly disturbing trend' among some judges to interfere in the president's constitutional authority to make decisions during war.

    'The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war,' Ashcroft said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers group."

    [NOTE: "The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order....This entails reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law." This is who the Bush Administration turns to for recommendations for nominees for judges to the federal bench, from Circuit judges to the Supreme Court. Before Bush, administrations turned to the American Bar Association (ABA), which generally made recommendations based more on experience and skill than political considerations. More on the Federalist Society at their homepage and Media Transparency.]


    Faces of the Fallen

    This is an unusual and moving site. It is a collection of info on every American who has died in Iraq in the last 20 months. Every one. It's in an interactive format. Small pictures are arranged by the date they died. Click on a picture and you see info on the soldier and the circumstances of his/her death. Whatever your feelings about the war, this puts faces and names to every one of those deaths. Actually, they don't have photos for some of them, particularly the most recent. I think there should also be one for the Iraqis who have died. Faces of the Fallen

    Friday, November 12, 2004


    Exit Ashcroft, Enter Gonzales

    The legacy of Ashcroft:
    Ashcroft's tenure at Justice ended with a fizzle. After fashioning the 350 pages of the notorious Patriot Act (which effectively eviscerates the 4th amendment), he devoted himself to the various chores of harassing terminally ill patients protected under Oregon state law (trying to end their lives in dignity), disrupting the sale of medical marijuana to cancer patients, and ferreting through the medical records of women who had legal abortions. No effort was ever spared to ensure that his narrow view of personal morality was rigorously applied like a tourniquet. But these are just minor details in the broader Ashcroft legacy. The real meat-and-potatoes of his four year tenure was his Clansman-like zeal in rounding-up and persecuting innocent Muslims; 5000, give or take a few. It was a task for which the autocratic General was particularly well suited. As proficient as Ashcroft was in detaining terror suspects on any imaginable pretext (his favorites were material witness, immigration violations or, the favorite, no charges at all) he was much less adept at getting convictions. As David Cole of the Nation magazine points out, of the 5000 suspects Ashcroft arrested not one has been convicted of terrorism. The only conviction obtained having been thrown out by a federal judge in Detroit. The rest were settled through plea agreements; deals that were struck through coercion and threats of being sent to Guantanamo if defendants refused to cooperate. The presumption of innocence was as breezily discarded as was most of the Bill of Rights. The result is an unblemished record of failure that will be filed in the national archive as the biggest flop in American history.


    Letter from Dr. Bob Jones III

    And all the FoBs (friends of Bush) raised a joyful and terrible cry to Heaven: "Smite the Liberal! Send bears to rend them! Suffer the little childen to kill them! Praise the Lord and pass the gunpowder." Read the whole thing at Letter from Dr. Bob Jones III:

    "Dear Mr. President:

    The media tells us that you have received the largest number of popular votes of any president in America's history. Congratulations!

    In your re-election, God has graciously granted America -- though she doesn't deserve it -- a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

    Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you."


    The Perfect Election Day Crime

    Always with the strange things about this election. The hits just keep on coming. From - The Perfect Election Day Crime:

    "Across Ohio's minority-rich cities, there were fewer voting machines than during past elections, including March's presidential primary. As the number of voters grew by as much as 50 percent in some precincts, according to pro-Kerry field organizers, the number of voting machines on Election Day shrank by a third. Precincts that usually had five machines only had three.

    The lack of voting machines was a disaster.

    'I don't think this story has been told,' said Miles Gerety, a public defender from Bridgeport, Conn., who went to Ohio as a legal observer and discovered this trend by overhearing elderly voters talk about fewer machines. 'The press and election protection people weren't looking for this. They were looking for poll challenges. But this is the perfect way to suppress the vote.' The shortage of voting machines didn't just create long lines. It kept thousands of new and longtime voters from casting ballots in the state's minority communities -- the Democratic strongholds. The accounts of people who had to leave the polls for work or family obligations were everywhere. But on Election Day, very few Democrats realized this was happening. They just saw long lines." ....

    Protecting the right to vote is the heart of the federal Voting Rights Act. If fewer voting machines were put in African-American precincts, on a per capita basis, than were placed in the county’s whiter suburbs—and that prevented African-Americans from voting—that would violate the Voting Rights Act.

    "If this was planned and systematic and not accidental, it would be a violation," Gerety said. "If this was a means of disenfranchising African-American voters, it’s a clear violation."


    Hung Over in the End Times

    I can't help but love the parallels. No, I don't think Republicans are Nazis, I think they're, well, Republicans. Joe Bageant: Hung Over in the End Times:

    "As the elections proved for once and for all, Christian fanatics are plenty thick in the good ole U S of A these days and can no longer be written off as Dogpatch religionists. Historically, they have always been around and in about the same numbers too, just less visible. But currently they are hopped up about god giving them their own president and even their own political party. Of course in a country limited to two parties---the Republican Party of Heavy Imperialism and Democratic Imperialism Lite---this spells trouble for those of us who do not handle snakes or wash other people's feet during church services. It is one thing for them to have it in for their enemies, and quite another to have their own president, cabinet, Supreme Court, and newly established Department of Fatherland Surveillance backing them up. Not since the days of Andrew Jackson's populist hog and hominy presidency have these people seen one of their own farting at the Oval Room desk. And as usual, the fundies have blood in their eye, this time for liberal humanism, free thought, Trojan rubber products and the number 666.

    Given the near-fascist nature of U.S. governmental behavior lately, I do not think it is overstating the case to observe that we liberals seem to have become, at least to some degree, the new Jews of the rising Republican Reich. You remember the old German theme about a certain kind of people being responsible for everything wrong with an otherwise perfect white Christian society. It took a Republican mind to figure out that 'elite' liberals constituted exactly such a threat to our national way of life. Remember that the German public saw the Jews as being against its 'values' too, and that they had declared cultural and legal war on the Jews long before Hitler came along to galvanize the most nationalistic elements among the German people. Just as the Jews were used in Nazi Germany to rally Christian Germans, American liberals were used in the last election by the ultra-right to rouse Fundamentalist Christians---people who were previously uninterested in the GOP political agenda but got quite excited when it was pointed out to them that their anti-Christ was, lo and beshit! right among them. A godless homo-loving stem cell sucking liberal elite right here in Riverdale! The fact that we are at least one half of the population prevents us from being an "elite" somehow escaped everyone in the excitement."


    Worst Voter Error Is Apathy Toward Irregularities

    This is, to me, the core of the concern over miscounts. I don't really care whether investigation into the voting problems determines that Kerry actually won. I doubt that it will. I worry about the future of American democracy. If there is widespread doubt about whether the system works or not, participation in the process will go down. When people feel disempowered, they will turn to things that do make them feel empowered. That might not be such a bad thing, now that I think about it. But wouldn't riots be bad for business? Not that I'm suggesting such a thing. Not me. Nope. Voting good, rioting bad! From Worst Voter Error Is Apathy Toward Irregularities (
    "Informed that I was writing about voter disenfranchisement, a Democratic friend admitted, 'I'm trying not to care about that.' I understand. Less than two weeks after a bruising election in a nation in which it's unfashionable to overtly care about anything, it's annoying of me even to notice.

    But citizens who insist, election after election, that each vote is sacred and then shrug at hundreds of credible reports that honest-to-God votes were suppressed and discouraged aren't just being hypocritical.

    They're telling the millions who never vote because 'it doesn't matter anyway' that they're the smart ones. ....

    Much of the media dismisses anxiety over such irregularities as grousing by poor-loser Democrats, rabid conspiracy theorists and pouters frustrated by Kerry's lightning-quick concession. Some of it surely is.

    But more people's concerns are elementary-school basic -- which isn't coincidental since that's where many of us learned about democracy. We feel that Americans mustn't concede the noble intentions upon which our nation was founded to the cynical or the indifferent. We believe in our nation's sacred assurance that every citizen's voice be heard through his or her vote.

    The point isn't just which candidate won or lost. It's that we all lose when we ignore that thousands of Americans might have been discouraged or prevented from voting, or not had their votes count."


    The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy

    Very interesting. See the following link for a link to original paper in pdf format. From BuzzFlash > News Alert >buzzflash: The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy:

    "In 'The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy,' Dr. Steven F. Freeman says:

    'As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states [Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania] of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.'

    The odds of those exit poll statistical anomalies occurring by chance are, according to Freeman, '250,000,000 to one.' That's 250 MILLION to ONE.

    He concludes the paper with this:

    'Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion, but the election's unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media, academia, polling agencies, and the public to investigate.'"

    Thursday, November 11, 2004


    Republican Election Theft Clearinghouse

    I posted this link before but the links listed on this site continues to grow. The "Blogging of the President" site (link below) also has some good analysis. What I've read is very evenhanded. They seem to be resisting the strident tone taken by some other bloggers about this subject. Check it out. Republican Election Theft Clearinghouse.


    The first rule of Fight Club is...

    I know this is making the rounds but this personal on still tickles me.

    Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight - m4m

    Reply to:
    Date: Wed Nov 03 19:11:50 2004

    I would like to fight a Bush supporter to vent my anger. If you are one, have a fiery streek, please contact me so we can meet and physically fight. I would like to beat the shit out of you.


    Press Evaluation, Pt. 2

    From part two of a series evaluating the media's performance during the 2004 campaign. Grapefruits and Grapes:

    "As the election year accelerated and campaign rhetoric grew more heated, reporters found themselves in a bind. Clinging to a constrictive notion of objectivity, and looking apprehensively over their shoulders for angry charges of bias from partisan readers, they often resorted to a technique known in journalistic circles as 'false equivalence.'

    Along with failing to fact-check competing claims, false equivalence belongs in the trash heap of discredited journalistic shortcuts, but in the final weeks of the election campaign reporters began relying on the practice as a protective shield. In its most common form, it amounts to a reporter holding up actions on both sides as equally blameworthy, when it's clear that no such equivalence exists. The classic parody of false equivalence:

    To be sure, Candidate X is a mass murderer, but it's worth keeping in mind that Candidate Y is a serial jaywalker."


    Conservative Groups Denounce 'Kinsey' Film

    Conservative Groups Denounce 'Kinsey' Film. Well, I haven't seen it but there's my recommendation. Look for the posthumous cameo in the film by William Burroughs! (That's a joke, folks.)


    What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

    Tip of the hat to MyDD where I caught a reference to this essay. This is the opening of What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? by Philip E. Agre:

    Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

    Q: What is conservatism?
    A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

    Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
    A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

    These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves 'conservatives' have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.


    The Bright Side of Bush's Reelection

    It makes me sick to even excerpt something saying positive things about Bush but Joshua Frank makes some startling comparisons in this article. I haven't verified these points but what I do know lines up with the Clinton administration positions. From Joshua Frank: The Bright Side of Bush's Reelection:

    No progressive would defend Dubya's doings, though. He lacks any redeeming qualities. But has Bush really been the greater evil during the past four years? Has he done a worse job than Bill Clinton did? Sure, we have eight years by which to judge Clinton, compared to Bush's four, but let's give it a quick whirl.

    The environment? Sure Bush has been awful, but Bush's forest plan was actually re-written with the help of two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Dianne Feinstein of California. As veteran forest activist Michael Donnelly wrote in CounterPunch in December 2003, 'Perhaps the greatest irony is that the forests have fared far better under Bush than they did under his Democrat predecessor. Under Clinton's [Salvage Rider] plan, some 1.1 billion board feet of Ancient Forest stumps were authorized annually. Much to industry's chagrin, under Bush, around 200 million per year has been cut. Already, that means that 2.7 billion board feet LESS has been cut under Bush than would have been under a Gore administration with the Big Greens usual silence regarding Democrat stump-creation.'

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